Health

Holiday season is quickly approaching. That means it’s time to pull out those cocktail dresses and festive tops. This 10-minute workout will help you get those cocktail party arms that you’ve always wanted, while also working your abs, butt, and legs. You only need a mat or towel and 3-5 pound hand weights. If you don’t have hand weights, grab some canned vegetables or bottled water. Go through the series two times, aiming for 3 non-consecutive days, a week.

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1. Forearm Plank

To do:

a. Start by getting onto your forearms and knees

b. Make a fist with one hand, and clasp the other hand around it

c. Extend your legs back to get yourself into a plank, keep legs together, shoulders over elbows, and heels over toes (as shown in photo)

Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute

Tips:

Press into your forearms to prevent yourself from sinking towards the floor, and simultaneously pull your heart towards the wall in front of you

Work your pubic bone towards your forehead to engage your abs and protect your lower back

Press backs of thighs together, and make sure they don’t sink to the floor

Think of your body being pulled in two directions with your head going one way and your heels the other

Modification:

Do with your knees down

Challenge:

Hover one leg off mat for 15 seconds, then switch to other leg for 15 seconds

bridge-tricep

2. Bridge with tricep extension

To do:

a. Lie on mat, knees bent, legs shoulder-width apart and feet flat

b. With a weight in each hand and palms facing one another, extend your arms to the ceiling

c. Lift hips to create a straight line from knees to chest (as shown in photo)

d. Bend and straighten elbows

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Keep chest open

Imagine holding a little beach ball between the inner thighs to keep energy there

Make sure elbows are reaching up to the ceiling when the arms are bent

Reach the tailbone towards the heels and pubic bone towards the head to keep the core active

Modification:

Keep butt down

Challenge:

After last rep bend elbows to 90 degrees (forearms parallel to ceiling), with butt still lifted, hold for 30 seconds

bicep-corrected

3. Bicep curl

To do:

a. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, while holding a weight in each hand, arms long by your side, shoulders down and back, and palms facing out (as shown in photo)

b. Bend elbows to bring the weights to your shoulders, then slowly lower to start position

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Keep elbows glued into ribs

Keep shoulders on your back to isolate the biceps

Imagine a corset around your waist to engage the abs

Gaze forward and stand tall

Challenge:

After you complete your reps, hold the forearms parallel to the floor for 10 seconds

tricep-swing

4. Tricep and shoulder swing

To do:

a. Stand with legs together, a weight in each hand, raise arms to shoulder height, palms face one another

b. Bend knees in to a squat, hinge forward, and press arms back so that palms face the ceiling, pulse arms up 3 times (as shown in photo)

c. Return to standing bringing arms to start position

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Keep shoulders down and back

Keep spine long when you hinge forward

Picture a corset around your waist to keep your abs engaged

Make sure palms face up to ceiling when pulsing

Challenge:

As you return to standing bringing your arms to start position, as draw one knee into your chest

lunge-twist

5. Lunge with twist and bicep curl

To do:

a. Stand tall with a weight in each hand, raise arms to shoulder height, palms face one another

b. Lunge forward with right leg, twist torso to the right, bend elbows (as shown in photo without the bent elbows)

c. Extend arms, untwist torso, step back to meet left leg while keeping arms raised

Repeat 8-10 times, switch sides and repeat

Tips:

Keep shoulders down and back

Press through the heel of the forward lunging leg to step back

Twist from ribcage, making sure to keep arms in line with shoulders

Modifications:

Lower arms a little if shoulders are tight

Take out the twist

flye-26. Bent Over Flye

To do:

a. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart and a weight in each hand

b. Bend knees and hinge torso forward from the hips, keeping weight in heels

c. With a slight bend in your arms, lift them up to shoulder height, lower with control (as shown in photo)

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Focus on the back-side of arms and mid-upper back when doing the work

Keep shoulders on back

Picture a corset around your waist to remind you to keep

abs engaged

Make sure you can see your toes and watch that the knees track over second toe

Challenge:

Add an extra set of 10 pulses at the top of the last repetition before you lower arms back down

 

roasted-arctic-char-fore296

Last week I wanted a change from my chicken filled dinners, so I looked through some magazines I have at home, remembering I had recently seen some yummy meals in one of them, and I came across a few fish recipes that looked simple enough for me.  I like fish, but not fishy fish, and I’m not a fan of cooking it.  Once I poached salmon, and felt like my place smelled like fish for days.  Anyway, beyond the meals looking easy enough they also are supposed to not make your place smell like fish.  So, I ripped a few out, picked one for that night, and went shopping.

Unfortunately by the time I got to Santa Monica Seafood, they were out of char (the fish the recipe called for).  I asked them to give me something closest to it, which ended up being some type of salmon.  I bought it a bit hesitantly as the last time I cooked with salmon was the time my place smelled like fish.  I just decided to suck it up.  I was determined to make myself something that didn’t consist of chicken, quinoa, and veggies.

It ended up being so easy to prepare, and the salmon only took  12 minutes to roast in the oven.  Seeing as how I found it manageable, and very good, I wanted to share the recipe, which I found in Self magazine.  Next time I’ll have to go to the market early enough to get some char, which is eco-friendly, low-mercury, and less fishy than it’s cousin, salmon.  Luckily, my place didn’t smell like fish at all.  And I had leftovers that I ate for lunch the next day.

Roasted Arctic Char, with orange-lentil salad:

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1 tsp finely grated orange zest

5 tsp olive oil, divided (if you don’t know what that means, which I didn’t, you use some in the mixture of lentils, and the rest on the fish when you roast it)

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 package (17 oz) steamed lentils (or 3 cups canned, rinsed and drained)

1/4 cup chopped mint

2 tbsp finely chopped red onion

4 arctic char fillets (5 oz each), skin removed

Orange slices and mint sprigs for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl, whisk orange juice and zest, 4 tsp oil, vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, mustard and t/4 tsp pepper.  Gently stir in lentils, chopped mint, and onion.  Arrange fillets on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Brush with remaining 1 tsp oil; season with remaining 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Roast until fish is opaque and just cooked through, 10 minutes.  Spoon lentil salad onto plates; top with fish.  Garnish with orange slices and mint sprigs.

 

stockhealth

A few weeks ago I completed a 3-week cleanse. I didn’t do it to lose weight, but to get myself back on track with eating healthy. As much as I love food that’s good for you, I also love chocolate, fries, and it’s pretty easy for me to finish a bag of pita chips in two days. So, after indulging myself a little too much with my favorite unhealthy treats, I decided I needed to press the restart button. What better way to do that than with a cleanse.

After the 21 days were over, the thing I noticed most was that I didn’t feel sluggish. Without that sluggish feeling, I feel like I have more energy to get things done. I’m also happy to say that I’ve picked up healthier eating habits, which is exactly what I set out to do.

For anyone considering doing a cleanse, below are 9 realizations and tips I thought I’d share:

1. Pick a cleanse that works for you. The reason I chose Clearvite-SF, which was recommended to me by my chiropractor/nutritionist office, is because I was able to eat full meals and snacks the whole time. Juice cleanses have never appealed to me because if I go a few hours with no food, I can’t function. But I have plenty of friends that don’t need to eat as often as I do. During my research phase I found this website, Green Lemonade, pretty interesting and helpful.

2. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of dishes I accumulated throughout the day, but made sure I cleaned them all before going to bed. Since I needed to use some of them every day, using the dishwasher (the most eco-friendly way to wash dishes) wasn’t an option. So I looked up ways to be eco-friendly with hand washing dishes and found this site helpful www.tipsonhomeandstyle.com/home/the-greenest-way-to-hand-wash-your-dishes.

3. Something I wasn’t expecting was the judgement I got from people when I told them I was doing a cleanse. I couldn’t really figure out why it offended people so much. In turn I started defending myself, for something that needed no defending. I was eating healthy for 3 weeks. After a few days, I realized less was more in my explanation.

4. The weekdays, not weekends, were much easier for me to stay on track with my meals, which surprised me. But what I realized was that there was much more structure to my workdays. The weekends were a free for all, and I would forget to eat or not drink enough water throughout the day.

5. For one week of the cleanse I had to cut out all meat and fish. This concerned me the most before I started, as I eat turkey or chicken almost every day. I survived though, and it wasn’t the end of the world. It made me realize that I don’t need to eat meat every day. I have found this site (http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=158) helpful in giving me other ideas for ways to get enough protein.

6. Even though my reason for the cleanse had nothing to do with weight loss, I did end up losing a few pounds. For those looking to lose weight, remember a big part is what you eat. You don’t necessarily have to do a cleanse to drop the lbs. Just be more mindful of the foods you are eating.

7. When I decided to do this, I thought I’d save so much money from not drinking and going out to eat. I definitely didn’t spend as much as I usually do, but I spent more than expected. Buying organic and only shopping at Whole Foods certainly didn’t help. However, there are ways to be more frugal, and this article can shed some light on that as well as ideas on smart food shopping http://www.MindBodyGreen.com/0-4570/Top-10-Tips-for-Food-Shopping.html. I just wish I found it sooner.

8. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I wasn’t worried about a caffeine withdrawal. When I started having headaches I was a bit perplexed. I quickly realized it was from sugar withdrawal, but luckily it only lasted a day or two.

9. Last but not least, it’s important to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day. It helps to flush out toxins, and keep you hydrated. This article goes into detail on why hydration is important www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283. It’s nothing new, but it’s good to be reminded.

 

mzlyobgxtdk175x175-75

I love January, the beginning of a new year, and a time for reflection. While I’ll forever live in the world of semesters where September is the start of a new year, January is always the time I look at my life, make resolutions, and feel excited about it all. I’ve learned to make my resolutions very specific, and I try to cover different areas of my life like work, health, and relationships. However, even with all my good intentions, I let life get in the way. One day goes by then another, and all of a sudden months have passed without me working towards most of my goals. It happens every year.

In my quest to break this pattern, a friend suggested I check out Livifi, an i-phone app (also available on the web) that helps people set and track goals related to mind, body, and relationships. My curiosity was peaked, first because it sounded exactly like something that could help me, and second because the CEO & Co-founder Lowell Winer, came up with the idea while fighting cancer. I’m always motivated by inspirational stories. With endless questions bouncing around in my head, I decided to call up Lowell and get the 411, not only about the company, but also about his story

In 2006 Lowell was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a type of blood cancer. Treatments like chemo, stem cell transplants, radiation, and multiple drug trials failed to show positive results. When told he may have only 2 years to live he made the decision that he wasn’t going to accept the status quo, and wanted to be proactive about how he chose to live, which was as healthy and happy as possible. This path helped him discover yoga, become a vegetarian, start meditating, and stop drinking, and also to eat better, get more sleep, and spend more time with family and friends.

Then in 2010 he began taking a drug that on average was giving people 6-7 months of remission. 18 months later he is still in remission himself, and contributes this greatly to the lifestyle changes he made along the way. While Lowell is slowly recovering from his treatments, he has learned to live with the uncertainty about whether the cancer will return, however he says, “I’m not sure I would change anything—cancer has been my guru.”

On Lowell’s path to become a healthier and happier person it wasn’t enough for him to accept that all he had done was good for him. He wanted to know the how and why. And he wanted other people to as well. What came from all his research was the idea of a science based life coach in your hands, to help you take strides to healthy living. Something to keep you accountable, help to create healthy habits, and improve your health and well-being. In his quest to help himself and other people, Livifi was born.

If you’re an i-phone user you can get the app for $4.99. I recommend checking out the reviews on i-tunes. For such a new company, they’re very impressive. The web version is in beta (for the computer illiterate like me that means it’s new and still in testing, and free for now). The site is easy to use with plenty of instructions. There are 40 plus science-based healthy behaviors to choose from for your body, mind, and relationships. Each behavior has a summary of how to achieve your goal, why it’s important, and references. The goals will default to daily or weekly based on scientific research, however you have the ability to change them depending on your needs.

Remember to set realistic goals for yourself so as not to get too overwhelmed or feel defeated. Livifi has plans to add a social feature down the road because according to Lowell, we are social creatures and enjoy the encouragement and support of others as well as the ability to collaborate with one another. While I don’t have an i-phone yet, I’m excited to use the web version to help me track my goals. This is my first step in breaking my pattern of giving up. I highly recommend getting online to read more about Lowell, the company, and all it has to offer. Make yourself a priority this year.

 

what-would-laura-do

“In my world, in my vision, the hero always defeats the villain, the boy always gets the girl, and cancer is no more.” Laura Ziskin (1950-2011).

When I was younger I may have been unsure about many things, but one thing I was sure about was that I wanted to be someone who made a difference, who inspired people, who got things done. I aspired to be someone like Laura Ziskin. She was a woman who exuded inspiration, and a fighter like no one else I have ever known. Even at her sickest I felt like she would be around for a long time. Maybe that was naïve of me, but it’s what I believed. She had endless determination in everything that she did. Laura’s daughter Julia said it best, “Cancer f-d with the wrong woman.” Even though Laura died following a 7-year battle with breast cancer, she has set the groundwork for great things to come.  The cancer community is lucky to have had Laura on their side.

I was fortunate to have met Laura 3 years ago through her husband Alvin, whom I teach Pilates to. And every now and then she would sneak in a lesson. I did not spend a lot of time with Laura, however Alvin was so proud of her, as he should be, and shared stories about her accomplishments. While I was impressed to hear she produced movies like “Spiderman“ all 3 of them, “Pretty Woman”, and “As Good As It Gets,” what stood out most to me was her involvement with Stand Up To Cancer, a non-profit she co-founded. Their goal is to encourage collaboration, not competition, with the best and brightest in the cancer community. As Laura said in a CNN interview last year “the problem with cancer research in this country is that the scientists are siloed, and the system promotes competition, not collaboration…Stand Up To Cancer’s funding model mandates that the scientists collaborate, and compete against the disease instead of each other.”

Through knowing Laura I learned that 1500 people a day die of cancer. And 1 in every 2 men and 1 in every 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer, which means that either you or someone you know will be affected by the disease. Realizing something different needed to be done, Laura drew from her producing experience to help her with the biggest fight of her life. With her ability to bring the right people together, make a plan and see it through, and knowing what needed to be done to raise money, Laura helped organize two major fundraising telecasts for SU2C that aired in 2008 and 2010. The star studded events raised over $180 million combined. And as long as research continues, so must funding. So please visit the Stand Up To Cancer site to learn more about the organization and consider donating if you can. Every little bit helps.

Laura may have left this world too soon, but she has left an imprint that no one can ever erase.  I have only touched on one part of who Laura was as it’s the part that impacted me the most. However if it’s not obvious from how I spoke about her, there is so much more to know. I suggest googling her, and be prepared to be inspired.

I WROTE THIS FOR LAURA, AND I STAND UP TO CANCER.

 

Single leg stretch

I made the decision to become a Pilates instructor because I wanted to help people. I fell in love with Pilates the moment I was introduced to it, and felt like I’d found the most ideal job when I made the decision to teach. I never could picture myself sitting behind a desk at a corporate job. With movement-based activities being a big part of my childhood, Pilates seemed to fit perfectly into my life. I truly felt that I had found my calling. What I didn’t expect were the thoughts that surfaced one day of “I’m only just a Pilates instructor.”

After eight years of teaching I found myself wanting more. I kept thinking to myself, “Am I doing enough?” “Am I making a difference?” After 20 sessions with a client who still was not able to set up for footwork, I would wonder, “Am I getting through?” “Are they learning anything from me?”

I took time to speak with instructors whom I respect to pick their brains on what it means to them to be a Pilates instructor. The talks helped momentarily, but in the end I still had the same feelings. I even toyed around with going back to school to get a master’s degree, but decided that I wouldn’t be going back for the right reasons.

Who knew that one comment from a student would change my outlook on what I do? Recently a client told me that teachers are teaching even when they don’t realize they are, and that I have been one of those teachers to her. She’s learning Pilates, yes, but because of my influence she’s also now getting massages, seeing a nutritionist and is very aware of changes she wants to make in her life. It was an “a-ha” moment for me as a Pilates instructor, realizing that what I do goes beyond the 60 minutes I spend with my clients. Our influence goes beyond the actual technique that we teach. By instilling the work of Joseph Pilates and his principles, we are instilling life-changing benefits in other ways as well.

Joseph Pilates wanted his work to be integrated into people’s lives, and it’s clear to me that he was talking about more than the actual act of doing the movements. We all know the benefits of having a strong core, as well as what to do to get the core strong. The principles that we use to guide our clients through a session can be applied to their day-to-day lives as well. In an hour we may teach them how to breathe, concentrate, get centered, find control, work on precision, or flow. Each and every one of these bleeds into life outside of their lesson. Think about the mom of three kids who comes for a lesson. The obvious reason she is exercising is to look good. But maybe she needs the hour for herself to get centered, to breathe or just flow. I strongly believe that when people take care of themselves they are better prepared to care for others. So maybe my client after 20 sessions has no idea how to set up for footwork. That’s OK because I do know that she feels great after an hour of Pilates.

There’s also the client who, because Pilates starts to make her feel so good, wants to continue down that path. She may seek out ways to do that and look to you as her teacher for guidance. This is what happened to my client, and how in turn she told me I was her teacher even when I didn’t realize I was. Because of the path I have chosen to go down, which has been very influenced by my experience as a Pilates instructor, I inadvertently helped guide her down a healthier path. I was very aware of the information I was giving her, but never thought what that actually meant.

I am very grateful for this “a-ha” moment and that I realized that we, as Pilates teachers, are in a position to pass along this amazing methodology and what goes along with it. I have made decisions in my life that propelled me down a path I didn’t necessarily see for myself, but I say this in the most positive way. I am very lucky to be in the position that I am as a teacher. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

 

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I recently took a workshop on “The Science of Pilates.” We discussed the parallels and differences between Personal training and Pilates, and how we (Pilates instructors) fit into the gym world. Pilates has been around for many years, but it’s really only been the past few that it’s become more mainstream. With that being said, it can sometimes be a challenge making gym members see the benefits of Pilates. My goal is to help people realize that Pilates can be an important foundation to any type of physical activity. Both Pilates and PT take clients through workouts that are based on their level from beginner up to advanced. And in both you work on hypertrophy (changing the muscle), muscular endurance, and muscular strength. The goal in any type of exercise is to change your body and variety in your workouts will help to reach that goal.

Personal training focuses mostly on concentric motion, which occurs when a muscle shortens in length and develops tension. An example of this is the upward movement in a bicep curl. In a training session you typically tear muscle fibers, which creates muscle soreness, lactic acid build-up, and degrades flexibility. On the other hand, Pilates focuses mostly on eccentric motion. This is the development of tension while the muscle is being lengthened. Picture the lowering of the arm in a bicep curl. Pilates typically stretches muscle fibers because of the focus on eccentric motion and the goal is to find symmetry between strength and flexibility. Pilates will restructure your body from the inside out, starting at your core. It’s an all over workout, with many muscle groups working for each exercise.

When putting together your own workout schedule, think about how you can vary it. As much as I love doing Pilates I’d get bored pretty fast if that was the only type of physical activity that I was doing. I mix it up by going to yoga classes, hiking with friends, and working with my Personal trainer, Laura Hebert of Santa Monica Sweat. In every one of those activities I am engaging my core. My yoga is stronger because of my Pilates practice. The training I’m doing with Laura is helping me see weaknesses that I wasn’t noticing when doing Pilates. And hiking is a way to get my cardio in and spend time with friends. Who said working out should be boring! Remember that the more you do something, the faster you will see results. If you’re thinking of adding Personal training or Pilates to your routine, aim for doing each two times a week. You can even start with doing Pilates two times a week and training one day a week or vice versa. Your body will thank you and so will your health.

 

Swan on LB version 2

When I was 22 years old a massage therapist told me that if I didn’t do something about my posture I would be hunched over by the time I was 30. Now at 34 people think I am two inches taller than I am and I owe it all to my Pilates practice. It’s one of the reasons I chose to become an instructor. We live in a society where most of our days are spent in flexion. Because of this so many people struggle with poor posture, neck pain, and back problems. I’m sure everyone who sits at a desk all day knows exactly what I am talking about. No one needs to look like the hunch back of Notre Dame, thanks to Pilates.

I spend my days using the phrase “open your heart” in order to counteract all the flexion in my clients lives. Think of your body as a box with your hip next to your hip and your shoulder next to your shoulder from the front view. From the side view you want your ear over your shoulder, your shoulder over your hip, and your hip over your ankle. This applies whether you are standing, on your side, or lying down. One of my jobs as an instructor is to help clients get their symmetry back. What I love about Pilates is that there is no lack of extension exercises in the repertoire. I get to teach them and have fun. From pulling straps or chest expansion on the reformer, to swan or swimming on the mat, to teaser on the wunda chair, you are constantly working on opening your heart.

In extension exercises you need to work your shoulder blades towards one another while widening your collarbone and engaging your core. Once you are able to put them all together effortlessly it’s such a freeing feeling. Strengthening the muscles in the upper part of your back is an important step in standing taller, along with stretching the muscles in your chest. Being able stand tall and look life in the face is a great accomplishment. Pilates can be so much more than just a workout when you are able to enjoy life more because you’ve gotten rid of aches and pains. So open your heart and let Pilates in.

 


Swan on ladder barrel

People often ask me “why should I do Pilates” and I think, “why wouldn’t you do it.”  Whether you’re a runner, a cyclist, a dancer, a weight lifter, or even a yogi, Pilates can only benefit you.

I personally don’t see it as just exercise, as it’s become part of my life.  Yes I know, it’s my job of course it’s part of my life, but I love Pilates as both a teacher and a student.  If I don’t do Pilates for a week, I can feel the difference.  Pilates might be a core-focused type of exercise, but you will work your whole body.

Ever since I started doing Pilates, eight years ago, my posture has improved, my low back pain has lessened dramatically, my flexibility has increased, my arms, legs, and butt have become more toned, and I love showing off my back.

I have also witnessed these changes in my clients.  I get a smile on my face when I see one of them stand up tall with their shoulders over their hips and their hips over their ankles.  Who doesn’t want to stand tall?  I might appreciate it more than my clients do, but I know the positive changes that are going on in their bodies.

When you practice Pilates you strengthen your core, which in turn improves your posture and lengthens the spine, which helps the blood flow through your body.  Do you see where I’m going?  The benefits are endless, which brings me back to “why wouldn’t you do Pilates.”