Archive for Wellness
Can you stay fit when you are on vacation? A growing trend in the hotel/resort industry is to offer fitness programs, such as Yoga, as part of the experience. ”Yoga is becoming a must have amenity on the order of internet access,” according to Chekitan Dev, a professor of marketing at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.
This is good news. Staying fit (or starting a fitness program) is probably the last thing on your mind when you head off on a vacation. But this is probably the ideal time to make a change, reduce your stress level and get started on a fitness program.
I just got back from two weeks in Jamaica where I was the guest Fitness Professional for the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica. (That’s me in the photo on the top step leading an Aquafit class.) It was great to experience the warm sun and it was fun to work with the guests at the resort.
My experience tells me that you can go to a resort and do the relaxing fun things you like to do on a vacation (sit by the pool or on the beach, read a book, enjoy the food, take a tour, enjoy an evening cocktail with family and friends) and still participate in some fun fitness activities.
Here are some guidelines that you can follow to see if the vacation facility you are choosing will be fitness friendly:
- Look for a facility with a range of fitness activities to accommodate your tastes and the preferences of your family members. You may like going to the fitness centre to do weights (or mix weights with group activities), some family members may prefer group activity classes such as Yoga, Tai Chi, spinning, aquafit, step, etc, while the younger members of your family may want to participate in games such as volleyball, tennis and basketball. For many people the key recreational activity while on vacation is golf. But many times golfers like to supplement their golf with other fitness activities. Many resorts realize that they need to offer a wide range of fitness programs and activities, and I expect to see more of this in the future.
- Ask if the facility has a Fitness Professional. Some have resident Fitness Professionals. A growing trend is to invite Fitness Professionals from different parts of the world to run the programs at a resort. That was my arrangement with the Hilton Rose Hall in Jamaica. Just keep in mind that the quality of Fitness Professional can vary. The industry has not figured out how to establish quality controls just yet.
- Check the schedule for the activities. I noticed that morning classes are popular and that when the mid day sets in, people are reluctant to participate in a class. I am not sure why that happens. My guess is that when the afternoon comes around people are focussed on relaxing by the pool. My suggestion is to ask about the timing of the classes and see if they are concentrated in the morning.
- Check on how demanding the activities are. Several years ago I was the Fitness Professional at a small resort in Montego Bay and the Power Walk was a leisurely stroll along the beach. This time, at the Hilton Rose Hall in Montego Bay, the Power Walk was a rigorous 5 kilometre hike of the back nine on the adjoining golf course. I had to advise several guests (who I was concerned about) that the Power Walk may be too strenuous.
If you come across any resorts that you think are doing interesting things in the area of fitness and wellness, drop me a line or comment on this blog post. Maybe I will see you at a resort in the near future!
This is the second part of my video presentation on how to build strong hand grip. Part 1 focussed on flexibility exercises for your hand. In this second video, Adrian Das brings us through his exercise program to build strength in your hands and massage techniques to reduce pain and discomfort.
Since posting the first video, I have had several clients approach me about exercise programs for their hands – in other words a personal training or Physiotherapy program for their hands. Many people experience hand problems because of extended use of their hands when gardening, working at the computer, or playing their favorite musical instrument. Repetitive activities can lead to imbalances and injury. That was why I asked Adrian to show me his program and share it with you. I hope you enjoy both videos and start using some of the exercises, stretches and massage techniques.
We use our hands everyday of our lives in our work and play. Hands that have a strong grip, are flexible and mobile can significantly affect the quality of what we do and the quality of our lives. I asked Adrian Das, an Ottawa Massage Therapist and rock climber, to share with me (and you) his workout routine for his hands. The video is the first of tow that I have for you. Part 1 is focussed on exercises that promote flexibility of the hands and Part 2 is focussed on exercises that promote strength of the hands and hand massage techniques.
As a Massage Therapist, Adrian’s strong hands are his livelihood. As a rock climber, Adrian’s strong hands allow him to enjoy what he loves, safely. Adrian calls his exercise program a “pre-hab” program that promotes flexibility, mobility and strength in the hand.
Although many of us will never need the hand grip strength Adrian has, we all can learn from his program. Your work or play can cause imbalances in your hand. Repetitive strain through activities such as golf, tennis, gardening, piano and guitar playing, computer keyboard use and other hand intensive activities can lead to problems down the road.
I highly recommend that you look at these videos. You probably not use all of the exercises, but I can guarantee that there are a number of them that you will find will help you improve the quality of your activities and reduce your chance of hand injury.
Happy viewing. And if you are in need of Massage Therapy in Ottawa, I strongly recommend Adrian!
I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink.
I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink.
- John Lennon
Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep is a health problem that affects a large portion of the population (and yes, John Lennon did have problems with insomnia). Following a proper exercise program is a foundation to establishing a regular sleep pattern and I work with many of my clients to get them on the right path to a good night’s sleep.
The first step is to diagnose the source of your sleep problem. You should consult with your physician if you regularly have problems getting a good night of sleep. Your sleep problems could be due to conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or restless legs syndrome.
One of my clients was recently referred to the Royal Ottawa Hospital by her physician where they have a Sleep Disorder Service. She spent a night at the clinic and the diagnosis was OSA. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) system was prescribed and now she is able to sleep through the night.
If your sleep is a result of insomnia, there are several options available to you. A client of mine has tried Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and has successfully reconditioned his sleeping pattern back to normal. He had chronic insomnia for over five years and was unable to conquer the problem until he followed a CBT program.
One of the challenges with a CBT program is finding a qualified therapist in your area. In addition, a long therapy program can be quite expensive.
My client was able to follow a program developed by Dr Gregg Jacobs, an insomnia specialist at the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr Jacobs has written a book “Say Goodnight to Insomnia” and offers an online therapy program (for a fee) at his web site.
If you were wondering about the effectiveness of self administered insomnia treatment programs using an online service, several recent studies have confirmed that they do work with patients and can change sleep patterns in a positive fashion.
I have read Dr Jacobs book and basically his message is this:
1. Medication is not the long term solution to insomnia.
2. You need to create the right conditions to encourage sleep
3. A regular exercise program is critical to regular sleep.
4. Change your Negative Sleep Thoughts (NST) to Positive Sleep Thoughts (PST)
5. Use stress reducing techniques like Relaxation Response
Let me know your thoughts and experience with sleeping problems and treatment options.
The holiday season is magical. It is a time filled with family, food, gift giving … and, at times, stress. Learning to manage stress during the holiday season (and throughout the year) is an important skill. Many people consider starting meditative activities like Yoga and Tai Chi.
But taking on a new activity this time of year can add to your already elevated anxiety level. Instead, I encourage clients to take on an easy stress reducing activity such as breathing properly or practicing the relaxation response.
I wrote an article earlier this year on the benefits of breathing properly. The article also described how to become an effective breather. I prepared it because so many of my clients have “forgotten” how to breathe.
When you have the opportunity, look at how an infant breathes. The breathing motion comes from their abdomen. As we tense up, we breathe from our chests. This is inefficient and compounds the anxiety. Many times, you can breathe out and reduce your stress level by following the steps in my article.
The Relaxation Response
The Relaxation Response is a technique developed thirty years ago by Dr Herbert Benson, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, to improve the wellness level of his patients. He describes it as “a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional response to stress and is the opposite of the fight or flight response.” I took his course a number of years ago and have found it to be very effective. He has posted the Steps to Elicit the Relaxation Response on his web site.
During sessions with my clients, issues associated with their stress levels and sleeping patterns occasionally come up. High stress levels and poor sleeping patterns will hinder their fitness goals. The guidance I give them will be addressed in later blog posts.
I hope that you and your family have a safe, happy and low stress Holiday Season.
There is good news for those of you wanting to attend a seminar but unable to attend my event in December: I plan to have a number of these seminars in 2010. I will be posting my schedule on my web site when I have finalized the dates. Hope to see you at one of these future seminars.
Here are some more details on what is covered during the Stop the Stoop seminar. The seminar lasts one hour and I limit the number of attendees to ten people. A limited number of students allows us time (and room) to try a few exercises and provides time for questions and answers.
During the seminar I cover:
1. What is happening to your bones? – An easy-to-understand presentation on bone physiology, what happens to bones when you have osteoporosis and why fractures occur.
2. Osteoporosis risk factors.
3. Achieving optimal peak bone mass through diet, chemical balancing, nutrition and (of course) exercise.
4. Exercises (and day-to-day activities) that can cause fractures.
5. Safe Yoga/Pilates for people with osteoporosis.
Stay tuned for my 2010 schedule!
I feel unsteady when I walk on uneven surfaces, is there something I can do?
Yes, with some testing Margaret will be able to identify what areas you need to work on to improve your balance. As the saying goes, unless you use it you lose it! Just 5 minutes of balancing exercises a day will make a significant improvement in our stability.
How does my balance system work?
In order to balance, we rely on three systems in our body:
- Our vestibular system or inner ear.
- Our visual system or our eyes.
- Our somatosensory system also known as our joint and muscle position sensors.
The exercises listed below are to help train your joint and muscle sensors. These exercises use very little or no equipment and can be done in the comfort of your home. Margaret can do testing to determine if you need vestibular training.
How do I prepare myself for working on my balance?
Stand in stocking or bare feet. Keep the arch of your foot dynamic and not flattened out. Keep your knee over your feet. Stand with your ear, shoulder hip and ankle all in alignment. Imagine your tucking your belly button into the small of your back with your pelvis in a neutral position. Maintain this position whenever possible throughout the program.
Can you take me through some exercises that work on my balance?
Start by standing between two chairs.
1. Place your feet together holding the chairs, let go of one and then the other chair. Hold this position for 20 seconds.
2. If you feel steady with your feet close together then do the following steps a – c with your feet together otherwise stand with feet shoulder width apart to do the following:
- Sway your body side to side; keep your body straight and do not pick up your feet or bend your knees – move as though you were a solid structure from your ankles to the top of your head.
- Sway your body forward and backward (onto the balls of your feet then onto your heels).
- Imagine that your body is cone shaped with the point of the cone at your feet and the round part at your head, keeping your feet still – see how perfectly round you can make the circle- circle in both directions.
3. Holding the top of each chair transfer your weight to one foot and pick up the opposite foot. You should not let your raised foot rest on your supporting leg.
When you feel confident release the chair with one hand, then the other and hold this for up to 30 seconds with your eyes open. Repeat the test standing on the opposite foot. If you are successful you can go to exercise #7. If you cannot hold for 30 seconds go to exercise #4
4. Staying between the chairs you can now take a full step forward and hold that position. Repeat with the other leg forward.
5. Step forward with your feet on a line but several inches apartas if walking a tight rope, with one foot directly in front of the other. Repeat with the other leg forward.
6. Now bring your feet closer together so that your heel of your forward foot is touching the toes on the back foot. Repeat with the other leg forward.
7. Keeping your left foot in place during first half of the exercise; step forward onto the right leg as if to take a step, transfer weight onto the right leg and then step backward onto the right leg; repeat the motion 6 times. Repeat on the other side
8. Repeat as in #7 but now step in line—as if walking a tight rope.
9. Standing on one foot as in the 2nd exercise; move the opposite leg in slow controlled movements forwards, return to your side, sideways, return, backwards return. Build up to repeating the sequence 6 times on each leg.
How do I make the exercise program more challenging?
You can modify any of the exercises and create new challenges:
- On a softer surface such as a thick carpet, an exercise mat, out on the grass or in sand!
- Keeping your arms crossed in front of you.
- You can also train with a partner and toss a ball back and forth, under hand, overhead, from the right, from the left.
- You can cover one eye or close your eyes.
Are there Gym Ball exercises that can help me with my balance?
The following exercises should be done once you have received personal instruction and have been fitted for the correct size ball.
- Sitting pelvic tilts, pelvic shifts, pelvic circles on the ball.
- Sitting knee lifts.
- Sitting leg lifts with extended leg.
- Four point balance on the ball.
- Three point balance on the ball.
- Kneeling on the ball.
Nothing comes more natural to us than breathing. The first thing that we do when we enter this world is to breathe. Many of us need to relearn this most natural of activities since it has been altered by the stresses in life. If you watch a baby sleep you will notice that his/her breathing originates from his/her diaphragm. Do you have the same breathing pattern?
What is natural breathing and why is it important?
When we are anxious, nervous or stressed with day-to-day living our breathing patterns are quite often shallow. Stress tells our body to get ready to fight or run and so we start to breath with our upper chest and neck muscles.
By taking time each day to focus on natural breathing we can recalibrate ourselves, address the stress and anxiety we feel and improve our outlook on life. You will also be relieving tension from our neck muscles. Your goal should be to breath naturally and completely from your diaphragm like a child.
How will correct breathing make me stronger?
Your diaphragm is your largest respiratory muscle. It divides the space between you thoracic cavity and your abdominal cavity. It makes up the superior portion of your inner core. The other key muscles that make up your inner core include your back muscles (multifidus), your deep abdominals (TVA) and your pelvic muscles.
Aside from getting more oxygen to your working muscles, when you use your diaphragm correctly, your completing the team of muscles that keeps your spine stable, assisting in your overall stability.
How are breathing and meditation related?
Breathing is an integral component of the meditation process. In order to achieve a meditative state your breathing needs to be rhythmic and full.
Can you describe a breathing exercise that I can use on a daily basis?
If you have never practiced diaphragmatic breathing, a good place to start is laying on your back with a pillow under your thighs and a small pillow under your head and neck.
Once you are in a comfortable starting position:
- Bring one hand to gently rest on the area of your abdomen just below your rib cage and above your belly button.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose or mouth. Your breathing pattern should be natural and relaxed.
- Allow your diaphragm to come down and pull air into the bottom of your lungs. You should feel your hand rise with each inhalation and fall with each exhalation.
Who doesn’t like to take it easy every once and while, especially after working all week, attending to your domestic affairs and working-out on a daily basis? However, you should view rest as an important part of an overall health regimen, encompassing specific programs that allow your body (and mind) to renew itself on non-workout days
What kind of activities should I do on my rest day?
The following activities help your body to prepare for your next workout and recover from the last one.
Remember : Work + Rest = Success.
1. Hot / Cold Contrast: If you do not have access to a hot tub you can get the same benefit by switching the shower settings. Alternate between 2-3 minutes of hot and 30 seconds to 1 minute of cold. Repeat 3 – 4 times. If you do this at the end of the day you may want to end with the hot setting. However, if it’s early and you are looking to start the day invigorated you can end with cold.
Why it works: In a hot tub or a hot shower your blood rushes towards your skin and away from your internal organs to help keep the internal organs from overheating. By contrast, a cold shower or plunge will cause your blood to rush away from your skin to keep your internal organs warm and safe.
2. Active-Isolated Stretching: Your rest day is a good time to spend extra time on your flexibility. This will optimize your muscle length, reduce your chances of injury and assist with recovery. Remember that AIS stretches are only held for 1-2 seconds and that you exhale with each assistance portion of the stretch. The rope should only add 10% range to your stretch. The movement should be very active.
Why it works: Improves oxygenation and nutrition to the muscles promoting growth and repair; stimulates your circulation and lymphatic drainage which helps eliminate metabolic wastes. Improves flexibility and health of muscles, tendons and ligaments.
3. Foam Roller: As per instructions use the foam roller for your quads, IT bands, quads, gluts your back and your lats. Talk to me about this if I have not covered it yet!
Why it works: Rolling your muscles acts as a gentle massage helping to increase the blood flow to the muscles, nerves and connective tissue.
Should I avoid all physical activity on my rest day?
No. I recommend that you have an active rest day: Go for a walk, an easy bike ride or a light jog. And remember to sleep and eat well to support your goals!
After writing the article entitled “Menopause: Your Change, Your Life”, I received some feedback from Mary Wood, an Edmonton based Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) and owner of CURA Physical Therapies. Mary offers services related to pelvic health.
The following is a summary of Mary’s comments.
Within three years of menopause, women may begin experiencing the symptoms listed below. Pelvic floor exercises known as Kegels, can help with all the symptoms when done correctly and regularly. If you have been doing them and they have not helped or you are unsure if you are doing them correctly, you should consult your physician or a Physical Therapist who works in the area of pelvic health.
- Bladder urgency
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful intercourse
Bladder urgency and recurrent urinary tract infections
Good bladder habits can limit or eliminate both potential problems and include:
- Drinking adequate fluids (toilet water after voiding should be a light lemon yellow color)
- Check for and limit bladder irritants in your diet (caffeine, citrus, aspartame, spicy foods). By eliminating the possible irritant for 5 days before reintroducing it in your diet, will allow you to determine the impact that it has on you.
- Normal voiding is 5-7 times in 24 hours (1 time overnight). Usually going every 3 hours.
- Should be able to hold 2 hours but don’t wait longer than 4 hours
- ALWAYS sit on the toilet (don’t perch or hover). Let nature takes its course, don’t push or strain.
- Don’t void (pee) just in case or if it has been within an hour.
- Limit the possibility of constipation by obeying the first urge to have a bowel movement.
- Talk to your doctor if the symptoms persist.
Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
To reduce the symptoms of vaginal dryness you could try avoiding harsh soaps, over washing, dampness (hanging out in a wet swim suit), wearing non-chafing breathable underwear, using antihistamines and smoking.
We mentioned the three important key points to help with vaginal dryness and painful intercourse but got the order wrong! Moisturization should come before lubrication. Both of which will make utilization easier!
Several non-prescriptive moisturizers include:
- KY Moisture Beads
- Vitamin E (before you go to bed at night)
These products can and are often used throughout the rest of a woman’s life.
2. Personal Lubrication (non-prescriptive)
Personal lubrication can be considered for any genital sexual activity. There are numerous products on the market which include:
Some individuals have experienced negative reactions to the warming lubricants. It is recommended that you use them cautiously.
Some of the prescription products available include:
- Estring: contains estradiol; one ring lasts 3 months
- Premarin Vaginal Cream: contains conjugated estrogens; to be used cyclically, i.e. 3 weeks on/1 week off or as directed by your physician
- Vagifem: estradiol in vaginal tablet insert form; insert daily for 2 weeks, then twice weekly or as directed by your physician
Regular sexual intercourse helps maintain pelvic health. However it may not be possible for a variety reasons affecting either partner or the lack of a partner. Some women experience vaginal shrinkage. Options include manually stretching the opening on your own, use of a vibrator or use of devices like epi-no.
Women experiencing pain or bleeding during or after sexual intercourse should talk to their doctor.
As health care professionals we should ensure that our female clients are healthy in all aspects of their lives!