While today is Mother’s Day, I prefer to focus instead on the fact that it is finally spring. You see, my mother has been in a nursing home for the past 20 years, and now has advanced dementia to the point where she doesn’t recognize me anymore. She is also in hospice care, showing the signs of jaundice that are a prelude to liver cancer.
In the years leading up to her institutionalization, Mom suffered with the demons of bipolar disorder, putting both of us into severely inappropriate and dangerous situations. She would hallucinate, have delusions of grandeur, and throughout my teens would steal me from my father to go to bars, bingo halls, and restaurants where we would smoke endless cigarettes and drink whiskey sours.
So I focus on Spring – warmth, sun, flowers, and less clothing. Yay!
Two Great New Fitness and Pilates DVDs from Boston-based Pilates Pilates teacher, Lisa Johnson
Social media has been one of the most effective Pilates networking tools I have ever used. In the past I joined professional collectives, forums, and training organizations to meet other trainers, and none brought me as many solid, practical, and talented connections as Twitter. One of my Twitter compatriots, and a fellow blogger of fitness and food, is Lisa Johnson (@lisajohnson), an established (15 years) Pilates and fitness instructor, and owner of Modern Pilates (@modernpilates) in Brookline, MA. When she put out a call for reviews of her new DVDs on Twitter and Facebook, I answered.
Note that even though I teach at a fabulous Pilates studio, and certainly do many of my workouts there, I do on occasion workout at home, and I prefer having an audio and/or video guiding me through. Seriously, after creating other people’s exercise programs all day, the last thing I want to think about is my own!
Body Physica: Intense
I’m starting with my favorite of the two, the high intensity interval training segments on Body Physica: Intense. Four short, but really intense, workout routines that combine many variations on body weight exercises and cardio. Lisa’s use of a chair as a workout bench is brilliant!
I find Lisa Johnson to be engaging and informative without sounding too cheerleader-like. The exercise routines were safe but challenging, with modifications given. I give this one 5/5 Stars.
The older I get, and the longer I teach Pilates, the more I return to the Classical work. While I used to love the latest redesigned Pilates equipment with smooth ball bearings, extra light springs, adjustable ropes, and all kinds of bells and whistles, now I prefer a good old Gratz or Basil reformer with no ball bearings, leather straps, and four heavy springs.
And while I used to do lots of mat warm-ups and such, I now prefer to get right down to business. The concessions I do make to contemporary theories are significant, however. I limit most legs over head movements, such as roll-over and jack-knife, since they become compressive for most people and are completely contra-indicated for osteoporosis, and I will often introduce spine extension earlier than normal in the classical series, since people seem to need more of the back strengthening.
In general, Lisa’s style is clear and conversational, with little background chatter. Her two assistants, who demonstrate the beginning and advanced versions of the exercises while Lisa does the pure intermediate, have great form and a clear knowledge of the exercises. I found the introductory comments on neutral pelvis and safe technique to be useful. But for a home video, I had issues with roll-over being taught, instead of something safe, functional, and in the same vein, like bridging.
Lisa comes from the more contemporary side of Pilates, and so her Pilates mat series is slightly different from the classical. Not huge, but doing the Pilates abdominal series (single leg stretch, double leg stretch, scissors, double leg lower/lift, and criss-cross) out of order was disconcerting.
That said, this is a generally safe and effective home Pilates routine. Advanced home exercisers will find this challenging, but it is still approachable for beginners. Just note that if you are expecting the stritctly classical Pilates series, you will not find it here. I give Modern Pilates 4/5 stars.
I don’t take a lot of supplements beyond a basic multi-vitamin (since I do believe that we get less nutrients out of our food that is either grown in depleted soil or has been fed nutritionally-deficient plants), some calcium, and Adapten-All, and adrenal support herbal blend. But I do take fish oil supplements and niacin to help control cholesterol, support my healthy heart, and keep my skin more lubricated from the inside.
We all know that fish, and particularly oily fish like salmon, anchovies, and sardines, is really good for us. The infamous Dr. Perricone advises salmon three meals a day for those in search of a skin makeover, and we used to offer that program to guests at Parrot Cay. I only know of a handful of people who successfully completed the three days without dreading the thought of yet more fish.
If eating that much fish also makes you queasy, try a good quality fish oil supplement at a high enough dose. My 11 year old dog takes 3000mg of fish oil a day for heart, liver, and kidney support, and her coat looks better than it has in years. I take 4000mg a day and my skin and hair look great, plus it appears to be helping my cholesterol.
Basically, fish oil won’t hurt you, so it is worth a try.
Sometimes it is hard to picture ourselves as the intricate biological machines that we are. Similar to any machine, we run on electricity (our nervous system) and, like any electrical system, we need water to run properly.
Lack of water can lead to mental fogginess, muscle cramping, dry skin, eyes, and hair, cardiac arrhythmia, loss of muscle function, and ultimately death. We who are lucky to live in areas where our water flows freely and cleanly from our taps, as well as from various office water coolers and retail water bottles, are typically dehydrated.
How? Well, we also tend to live in climate controlled environments where we sweat very little. we drink lots of diuretics in the form of coffee, alcohol, and sodas. We also eat tons of salt, and tend to be pretty sedentary. I have watched grown men get off of a bike at Soul Cycle and pass out due to dehydration. When we lived in Turks and Caicos, my husband passed out while frying chips in a restaurant kitchen, and ended up home for a week, due to dehydration.
Drink 6-8 full glasses of water a day. While the food we eat does contain water, the diuretics we ingest with the food negate that water. So do yourself a favor, drink more water!
As an educated, junk food eating consumer, you must have this book.
Andrea Domsky and Randy Boyer, founders of NaturallySavvy.com, have outdone themselves with their handy reference book, Unjunk Your Junk Food. Seriously, I was not expecting to love this little book as much as I do.
I now look at it every few days to check out healthier alternatives to my favorite packaged junk foods. Every alternative has been taste tested by people who love the original version, so everything is good and will pass muster with friends and family.
And in addition to the food items, Unjunk Your Junk Food is packed full of recipes, definitions of hard to pronounce ingredients, and the actual negative side effects of eating the preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and flavor enhancers packed into most conventional junk foods.
Love Klondike Bars but would like your ice cream free of polysorbate 80 (an emulsifier linked to cancer), artificial flavors, and high fructose corn syrup? Try Julie’s Organic Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches.
Many of my personal favorite natural brands are represented, including Kettle Brand Potato Chips, Brad’s Chocolate Chip Cookies and Oatmeal Cookies (so good!), and even the conventional Breyer’s Ice Cream.
There is a tear out list of the worst offender ingredients, as well as a detailed glossary defining each along with side effects.
Stop wasting money on bad natural alternatives for the junk food you crave, They don’t satisfy the craving anyway!
With this guide you know you are buying an alternative that will satisfy that craving and give you the satisfaction of knowing that you are feeding yourself and your family healthy food. Highly recommended!
I received some fabulous products for review this month, and I can’t wait to tell you about them!
1. Essence of Vali Essential Oils
I like to consider myself somewhat of an essential oil snob. My first aromatherapy experiences were with Young Living Oils, then I continued with Bach essences, and immersed myself in the COMO Shambhala line for a few years. I can tell a cheap fragrance from a quality oil, and my sensitive skin will let me know if something cheesy makes it past my nose.
When the folks at Essence of Vali contacted me about their all natural, vegan, high quality aromatherapy healing oils, I was excited. And I didn’t expect to receive a sample of every single blend! My baths have been luxurious and healing, and even my scent-sensitive hubby can handle the smell.
My favorites are Sleep, Balance, Calm, Revive, and Fortify. Just two tiny capfuls of oil in my epsom salt bath does the trick. Perfect, effective, and nice on my nose and my skin.
I can’t start the day anymore without the breakfast smoothie and its blend of fruit, flax seed, yogurt, coconut milk, honey, peanut butter, vanilla, and cocoa. Seriously makes me feel great and stays with me for a while. Ditto the spicy Mexican chicken soup and the oatmeal breakfast cakes.
Great body weight exercise program that takes little time and is easy to do.
Too much dairy (I am lactose intolerant, and luckily found lactose-free yogurt), too many raw fruits and veggies (my body handles cooked food better), and too many beans. I ended up gaining weight in bloat.
Once I modified the plan per The Bad above, I lost weight without hunger. This is a win if you can modify the plan to work for you. The Digest Diet Cookbook recipes are great whether you strictly follow the diet or not, and the exercise plan is effective and easy to follow.
3. Lisa Johnson’s Pilates DVDs
My friend and fellow Pilates teacher Lisa Johnson asked me to review her already well-reviewed DVDs, Modern Pilates and Body Physica: INTENSE. I am writing a separate review post for these, but wanted to make sure to mention them here because they are really good! The Pilates mat is well taught and the high-intensity interval training in Body Physica offers several great, safe, and intense workouts.
Those of you who know me, and who have read the unflattering things I have written about Tracy Anderson, must be seriously wondering whether I have lost my sh*t. Why in the world would I be thanking Tracy Anderson?
Surely not for her focus on training women to be “teeny-tiny”.
Or for her positioning herself as a seasoned and trained fitness veteran, when in actuality she is a dancer without even a fitness certification.
Not even for her unsound training practices and her use of baby food as a diet measure!
No, I thank Tracy Anderson for being a constant reminder to me of what NOT to do to my clients.
Back in December 2012, I read an new article about Tracy Anderson in my Sunday Times’ Metropolitan Section. You may know Tracy as Gwyneth Paltrow and Kim Kardashian’s current trainer, and Madonna’s former trainer. She is known for her focus on making women “teeny tiny” through two hours a day of high impact dance aerobics and low-weight high-rep “muscular structure” exercises.
There is one paragraph of this article that says it all,
“Ms. Anderson has not sought certification in fields like exercise physiology or teaching, she said, because, ‘I am so hard on myself with not deviating the amount of time that I have for research and development of the method.’”
Really? You don’t have time to do a little study and get a basic fitness certification? ISN’T THAT LIKE NOT GOING TO MEDICAL SCHOOL AND GETTING A PHYSICIAN’S LICENSE BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO BUSY PRACTICING MEDICINE? Have I mentioned that most of her claims about what her method does are dubious?
I teach in a Pilates studio that is near Tracy’s NYC studio, and so have the chance to work with people who have tried her method, and found themselves in pain from the repetitive motions. And never lifting anything heavier than three pounds? That only works if you can afford to pay other people to carry your stuff, and even then it will leave you with brittle bones. I carry grocery bags heavier than that!
Osteoporosis and osteopenia are not fun. Only weight bearing resistance exercises build bone. This woman has the characteristic dowager’s hump that is a sign of spinal fractures from osteoporosis.
My clients do not walk away with weak joints and brittle bones. In fact, they are strong, flexible, reasonably pain-free, have great posture, and are able to take on strenuous physical challenges when necessary. Why should they expect anything less?
Crucial reading for any Pilates or Fitness teacher working with osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone density) patients! Learn more about osteoporosis, which exercises not to do, and which Pilates mat exercises are helpful to build and maintain bone density.
Alycea Ungaro Pilates
Golf Pilates Manual
If you teach Pilates or Fitness and teach Golfers you must buy this manual! Learn more about the game, swing faults, and golf-specific Pilates exercises.