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!
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.
I am a big believer in the benefits of Tai Chi. I practice it everyday (that’s me in the photo last week in San Diego) and I encourage my clients to try it. When I run my MelioGuide Level I course for Physiotherapists across Canada and the United States on treating and preventing osteoporosis, I always include a section on Tai Chi.
Even though it is a low impact activity, it is an excellent form of exercise. A study published in Age and Aging showed that regular Tai Chi practice had a greater impact on lower body strength, balance and flexibility in elderly women than did brisk walking.
Studies have shown that people who practice Tai Chi regularly have less bone mineral density (BMD) loss at the hips, have higher BMD than age-matched sedentary control groups. Tai Chi practice leads to reduced fall frequency, increased strength, improved balance, improved body awareness and coordination, and enhanced mental clarity and concentration. Research has also demonstrated that Tai Chi has the same cardio-vascular benefit as brisk walking.
I have been practicing Tai Chi for a number of years. I started with learning the Basic 24 Step Tai Chi Form and have progressed to Tai Chi Fan. I was introduced to the art by an elderly Chinese man I met when I was living in Kanata. I was lucky to meet him and learn from someone with a lot of patience.
For those of you who are interested in learning Tai Chi, I suggest the Ottawa Taichi Chuan Association. They run classes and host various events. I attend their Saturday morning Tai Chi Fan class.
They just announced a new 10 week class on the 24 Tai Ch Form. The class starts on January 9th, 2010. I have attached the course brochure. I have not taken this course but I encourage you to check it out and see if it is for you.
Stay tuned for more postings on Tai Chi. I plan to have more material for you in the near future.
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!