The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

Massage Your Back with a Tennis Ball

Posted by thearrow on July 21, 2010

Do you spend a lot of time cramped up in front of the computer or on the bike (or both)? Me, too! Don’t have money for massage? Me neither!

But you can loosen up those nasty knots in your upper back without paying a penny. Grab a tennis ball, lie down with your back flat on the floor, and put the ball under your back where it hurts most. Yup. It really hurts. Now lift your butt and roll your body on the ball in small movements. Yup. It hurts even more. And that’s what will untie the knot.

At some point the pain gets dull, your back gets numb, and your brain gets comatose (kidding). Do this for 10 minutes and you’ll notice a big difference in how your back feels.

You can do the same with your calves, triceps, etc.

(This is actually a tip from Steve, who sometimes does this with gulf balls. Yes, he’s a masochist.)

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Exercise to Get Rid of Stress

Posted by thearrow on November 19, 2009

OK, people. Enough navel gazing; back to business. With the wedding frenzy now over, I finally got to my favorite gym class again this Monday. To my surprise, I wasn’t the bag of potatoes I expected after a three-month break.

And a couple of days ago I came across this NYT blog post on how profoundly exercise improves our ability to cope with stress.

Phys Ed: Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious

I *can* make the fonts bigger, but you get the idea.

For those of you who think first of the hassle of exercising and give up before trying, start small, with something that is enjoyable and do it regularly. Set your own pace but keep it. It does take discipline to get into an exercise routine, but it’s possible. Find out what kind and length of exercise suits you and establish that you’ll do it no matter what. Ignore the fact that you’re not in the mood, you’re tired, you have other things to do, etc. There’s always a reason not to do things. Turn a blind eye to all those distractions and do your exercise routine. Before you know it, your body will demand it.

And you’ll see the wonders your own endorphines can work. It’s like a drug, but one that your body produces.

Go forth and exercise!

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Biking Addict

Posted by thearrow on August 22, 2008

This is becoming serious. I’m in my third week of biking to work and have never imagined I would get so hooked. I’m panicking at the thought that I might not be able to do this beyond September unless I get some special clothing; I’ll probably have to do that. I panic when I think of getting back on the bus. I wasn’t even tired after the spin class any longer; the hills seemed just fine. I know I’m used to them by now, but have thought that I’d always be exhausted after the spin class. Speaking of the class, I chatted with Susan (my favorite trainer) briefly yesterday and told her about biking home after spinning and she exclaimed, “You’re an animal!” I thought that was hysterical.

Read a story in the paper recently about a guy who started biking to work and discovered he liked it so much that he moved farther away only to have a longer commute. First I thought that was a little extreme, but now I completely understand, particularly since the commute from the town where he moved is an absolutely gorgeous trail. I’m not there yet, though. I have to figure out the clothing stuff; it can get quite expensive since cycling gear is very high-tech. And I should get special shoes, too, for the spin class; Susan has been pestering me about it for more than a year now. My meager budget feels very threatened :).

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Biking to Work

Posted by thearrow on August 7, 2008

I’ve started biking to work every day now and, in addition to saving money on transportation and to exercising, I think I stumbled upon an unexpected cure for my difficulty with falling asleep, too. Quite the jack pot. Yesterday and the day before I went to bed at 9:30, which for me is great because the sleep I get before midnight is the best. Today I went to my spinning class, too, which is always very intense, so I’m completely wiped out now (which means no Little Britain tonight). I do expect to sleep like a baby :).

I plan to do this at least until the end of September, which is really a summer month in DC. With a little bit of perseverance, I might do it for part of October, too. The morning breeze on the tree-shaded trail is wonderful. Why on earth haven’t I done this on a regular basis until now? I know: because I was a chicken and thought I’d be too tired to bike after going to the gym, which really left only two days a week to do it and for the most part there either was a rain forecast or I had to dress up for work those days. Not any more! I’m decided to make the effort of packing my work clothes every day.

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Most Intense Push-Ups

Posted by thearrow on March 28, 2008

Someone came across my blog by searching for this term. Great minds :). I was just planning on writing about that.

To take push-ups one notch up, do them with one leg up in the air.

For a greater challenge, put your feet up on a solid base about one-foot high (30 cm.). This will put even more weight on your upper body than a regular push-up and will work deeper muscles in your chest.

Another option is to put one of your arms up on a solid base about 6-in. high (15 cm.) and do sets of push-ups alternating the right and left arm up.

The hardest push-up for me is to put one arm on a medicine ball, which adds keeping your balance to an already-challenging exercise. Whenever you need to keep your balance, you’ll work way more muscles than you normally do.

Enjoy 🙂

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My Trainer

Posted by thearrow on March 22, 2008

I gave Susan, the instructor I’ve been raving about here, a printout of the NYT article about push-ups. I’m glad I brought it to her attention; she didn’t know about it. Then, at the spinning class on Thursday (yes, she teaches that, too) she said the article was great and that she was going to make copies for everyone in her class. And then she added: “We’re way ahead of the curve, sister!”

😀

P.S. – Amaryllis  update later today. Now I’m going to take pics of frogs at the National Geographic.

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Push-Ups Are Your Best Friend

Posted by thearrow on March 11, 2008

I’ve wanted to write about this for some time but The New York Times beat me to it :). I actually kind of promised myself to do that when I wrote a while back about the two trainers whose classes I take at the gym. Well, the Times article sums up pretty well why push-ups are so great: they engage the whole body and especially your core. You can’t really do them unless all your muscles are tense. What the article doesn’t say but it’s not hard to figure out, it’s that push-ups are great for one’s chest, too. So there’s an incentive to do them. And, as Susan, one of my trainers, says, you can’t cheat with your own body weight. Yes, they say that in the article, too, but wanted to give Susan some credit :).

What I want to add is my personal testimony that you can start from being able to do zero push-ups and slowly build up your endurance — to quite a few, actually. The most I could do was maybe four, on my knees, and then I’d be breathless. I never imagined I could do a full-body push-up. But I persevered and did what the trainers had us do in class. If something is challenging, that’s what really matters. Not that you can’t do a certain number of exercises or do them at the highest level. Just do whatever you can, as long as you’re challenging yourself to a reasonable extent. I didn’t do any extra at home either. With let’s say 10 minutes two times a week, I think it took me a little over a year to get to 10 full-body push-ups. It’s a slow progress, but it’s so worth the effort.

Now I’m a huge fan and, when you can do them, they’re actually quite fun, too. But I do remember how frustrating it was when I couldn’t. Don’t let frustration get in your way. If you can only do one or two on your knees, just do what you can until it becomes easy. Then you can add one more and so on. They help you get rid of your upper-arm “dingle-dangle,” to quote Susan again.

Even harder than the push-ups is the hoover, which I still can’t do. From the push-up position but with your elbows close to you, you lower your body until your chest becomes parallel with the floor and you keep it there. As long as you can :). Well, good luck with that one! Yet, a woman in her 50s in Susan’s class does it. Susan is 56 and she does it, too. So the rest of us in that class don’t have much of an excuse and she keeps making that point every time :).

American gyms are a great thing, I have to say. I’ve been bitching about quite a few American things, so it’s high time I talked about something I really like. Trainers show you how to do an exercise correctly, so that you don’t injure yourself and you get maximum results. They explain why doing it a certain way is important, what muscles you’re working, why you should do it. And I really like the competitive, gung-ho, push-your-limits approach to it.

Also very important, trainers motivate us to work our butts off. Everyone comes half dead from work and, even if the trainers have day jobs just like the rest of us, they’re always in a good mood and manage to put a smile on our face. I can’t tell you how many days I almost dragged myself to the gym and how changed I was afterwards.

Strength training is the way to go for weight loss, too, not cardio exercises (like running). After age 30, we lose 1% of our muscle mass every year. When we lose muscle mass, our metabolism slows down, too, so we can’t eat as many cookies without them showing on our butt :). So the trick is not that you will consume a lot of calories when you exercise, which you really don’t. I don’t even consume 300 calories — or the equivalent of half a chocolate bar — after half an hour on the elliptical trainer at the most intense level. The trick is to build muscle mass, which keeps your metabolism high, so you consume more calories in a passive way, if you will. Throughout the day, not just when you exercise.

So go start your push-up routine :).

LATER EDIT: Here is a blog entry by the article’s author, with reader comments: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/11/the-art-of-the-push-up. A lot of people well in their 60s and one even at 93 can do push-ups. Pretty impressive. More on How to do a Proper Push-Up.

Posted in American culture, endorphines, fitness | 10 Comments »