The Power of Om

Got pain?  Skip the pills, try some yoga.  An article posted on CNN.com this morning by senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen relayed the power of some classic yoga poses on common medical conditions.  She quotes well known doctor Dean Ornish who tributes its benefits to lowered stress levels and whole body relaxation.  “Your arteries begin to relax so there’s more blood flow everywhere, so everything is better.”  Studies show that yoga can help everything from headaches to depression.  So just how do you start a yoga practice?  Like anything else in the fitness world, baby steps.  Yoga can be an acquired taste for some.  As a personal trainer whose favorite pastime is jumping up and down, I had a hard time initially realizing the positive in yoga.  I spent my entire first class frustrated and wondering when we were actually going to do something.  Instead of relaxing into the final meditation I rued my decision to take yoga instead of the make-you-vomit boot camp that was held at the same time.  I was convinced that yoga was a crock (it had only been around for 1000’s of years, what did they know?).  I went back to my apartment, poured myself a big glass of wine, and vowed never to take yoga again.

Flash forward a few years to an older, wiser (though some might debate that) woman.  No longer searching for the miracle workout, I went back to yoga to supplement my current routine.  Instead of focusing on attaining the famed “yoga butt” I released any and all expectations and took the class for what it was.  I played the role of student instead of skeptic and was better off for it.  It took a few classes, but now I am able to use yoga as a great tool to enhance my training routine as well as the routines of my clients.  The breathing focus helps with cardio, the bodily awareness helps with strength training, the balance helps with neuromuscular control, and the focus and relaxation help with life in general.  Never having been one to partake in massage frequently, I find that yoga relieves the muscular tension I so frequently build up.  Performing yoga just 2x a week has been shown to produce the positive benefits mentioned above.

To get started, check out this article from Oprah’s favorite doctor Mehmet Oz about starting a  yoga practice  (I thought I might give them some much needed notoriety by putting this article on such a famous blog)

Seriously though, it’s a great little start up program.  Give it some time, it will grow on you, and if that doesn’t work there is always that glass of wine….

Exercise Hard, Eat Right, Die Anyway

A few years ago my mother gave me a magnet that said “Exercise hard, eat right, die anyway”.  On the magnet was a picture of a mad little bunny rabbit, sweat band around his head, beads of perspiration running down his little face, decked out in gym clothes with his hands in tight fists.  In my years of being a personal trainer I have seen many clients resemble this woodland creature (not that they looked like rabbits, but the body language was identical, sometimes followed by a medicine ball tossed in the general direction of my head).  Hell, I have resembled him a few times myself.  You are on a nice, balanced exercise routine and then decide to turn it up a notch.  Maybe you have a reunion looming in your future or bathing suit season suddenly sneaks up on you in a fashion eerily similar to last year.  It starts innocently enough, maybe an extra cardio session in the evenings or an extra plate or two on the bar.  You were never a runner but suddenly decide to throw yourself into a marathon training routine.  Who needs carbs, and while you’re at it, protein for that matter?  Just another workout, another dinner of baby spinach,and you might reach your goal weight when hold on a sec….did that pop you just heard come from your knee?  Are those bags under your eyes or did you get hit with a two by four and have no recollection of it?  Isn’t exercise and eating right supposed to make you feel great?  What gives?

This may sound funny coming from a personal trainer but yes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.  Pushing yourself into complete overdrive will only lead to a major crash.  One of my favorite yoga teachers once said “Yoga is important, but it’s not serious”.  I like to think about exercise the same way.  Life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon and you need to pace yourself.  Working hard is great, but you need to find some kind of balance.  In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle it has to work for the long haul.  Slow and steady wins the race, be a fitness tortoise instead of a mad little bunny rabbit.

Variety is The Spice of Life

You wouldn’t watch the same movie over and over, read the same book, or go to the same restaurant.  So why have you been doing the same workout for so damn long?  Aren’t you bored yet?  The fitness industry is well known for constantly coming up with “the workout to end all workouts” every time you turn on the television.  Though innovation is a good thing, shunning everything you’ve ever done and joining a Kettlebell cult is not the way to go.  I love Kettlebells as much as the next trainer but would not put my client on a strict Kettlebell only regimen.  That goes for any piece of equipment, class, or routine.  Look at the variety of ways to move your body in this world and realize how lucky you are.  Even in small towns nowadays the options are endless (especially with the wonders of the internet!).   Find something you enjoy and do it!  Strengthening, stretching, sweating, anything goes.  When it comes to exercise, it’s hard to over do it, easy to under do it, so at the risk of plagiarizing one of the most famous outfitters of athletes and average joes alike: Just do it!