150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2

150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2 

There are different styles of Tai-Chi, some are more aggressive than others and involve faster paced movements. Those most commonly practiced utilize gentle slower motions that are suitable for everyone.

As with anything in life there are positives and negatives in the practice of Tai-Chi. The pros seem to outweigh the cons though in these respects:

  • The movements are self-paced and non competitive, which to a competitive person may be a negative attribute.
  • The physical space requirements are negligible as well as the attire. You don’t need a lot of space or fancy gear to take part in Tai-Chi. It’s easy to do; you can do it anyplace and anytime either alone or with others. Once you become accustomed to the activity and more proficient in the art then you can add in your own to make it even more individualized and specific to your needs.

The negatives are almost non existent but do include the usual warnings of possible soreness if the first few sessions are overdone beyond your current physical fitness levels.

Beginning a new activity starts with learning how to do it correctly. In the case of Tai-Chi this will mean seeking out a competent instructor who will guide you in the technical aspects of posture and movement. Pay strict attention to your breathing and body position throughout the training session. Develop the ability to perform the motions effortlessly and without conscious thought. Doing so helps avert muscle strains and damaged joints.

Tai-Chi classes are taught throughout the world. In the United States contact your local senior center, the YWCA or YMCA or check with the gyms in your area. You can even look it up on the internet; there are scores of sites listed.

121217 Balance out your exercise program

121217 Balance out your exercise program

It is well established that exercise benefits us in many areas such as increased self confidence, improvements in our moods, and longer healthier lives. Simply being able to do what you want to do physically and mentally may be made easier by engaging in a long term pattern of running, weight training, stretching/balance, and recreational sporting exertions.

During spring time the runners start hitting the road, especially those who are getting ready to run Bloomsday here in Spokane, Washington. While running is an admirable endeavor, it is not enough to keep your body in top physical condition. Our body needs physical and mental stimulation which is only achievable through the use of a variety of methods.

Cyclic exercise, similar to running, stresses the cardiovascular abilities thereby increasing the capacity to engage in lengthy activities through enhanced oxygen transfer to the working muscles. However, exercising in this manner will not increase the lean muscle mass composition of our body. In order to do that resistance training is necessary.

Weight training helps build strong bones.

Bone density responds directly to increases in intensities of load and site specifically to the greater pressures required to move the load. Adaptations take place within the structures of the bone that make it more resistant to the imposed loads and thus stronger.

Women in particular need this load bearing weight on their long bones, the spine and hips to stave off and help prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis from occurring. Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that progressively decreases the bone density which in time leaves them weakened and vulnerable to fracture.

 

It is well established that exercise benefits us in many areas such as increased self confidence, improvements in our moods, and longer healthier lives. Simply being able to do what you want to do physically and mentally may be made easier by engaging in a long term pattern of running, weight training, stretching/balance, and recreational sporting exertions.

Flexibility

Getting stronger helps in other ways too. The strength to recover from a slip may prevent a bone damaging fall. Postural muscles that are strengthened through weight training inevitably lead to improved posture and a reduced potential of lower back problems. Even though strength training is high on the list of maintaining a strong fit body other pieces of the equation are important too. For instance being flexible enough to tie your shoes or even scratch your back is an important part of living a full and healthy lifestyle.

Work the joints normal range of motion each day by following a stretching program. But be cautioned that static stretching performed before a strength training session has been found to lower the power output by as much as 8%. If you are a sprinter, thrower or recreational handball or tennis player stay away from these at the start of your activity. The proper place for a static stretch is at the end of the workout when the muscles are warm and receptive to change. Doing so before hand, is an invitation to injury.

Find a good stretching book; read up on the proper way to stretch and start applying these to your exercise program. Brad Walker’s Stretching Handbook or Bob Andersons Stretching are two of the premier ones on the market and each one has stood the test of time. Even though flexibility is important it is not the end of the line. Maintaining your balance becomes harder as we age.

Balance

Prevention begins with daily practice. Standing on one foot or with heel to toe for multiple seconds at a time (60-120) will help stave off this decline in balance. Leaning toward the floor on one leg with arms to the side or rear will change the center of gravity and will change the feel of the exercise. In each instance it is important to have the ability to catch yourself on something solid to prevent a dangerous fall from happening in the event you do lose your balance while doing these.

Of course there are many other ways to practice balance training but this article is not being written to list them all. Suffice it to say balance is a critical part of living a healthy life.

Bodily balance. A physical state or sense of being able to maintain bodily equilibrium

040317 Checking your posture

040317 Checking your posture

Did you notice irregularities in symmetry from side to side? Perhaps you have one shoulder lower or one hip higher than the other, maybe there is more space between one arm and the body compared to the opposite side. Do your knees turn in or out? If you answered yes to any of these, then here is a short self-check for you to examine your posture a bit closer.

Stand with your back to a wall, your heels about 6 inches from the wall. Place one hand behind your neck, with the back of that hand against the wall. Place the other hand behind your lower back, with the palm against the wall. If there’s enough space between your body and the wall to move your hands forward and back more than an inch the curves in your spine may not be in proper alignment.

If you found your posture lacking a bit here are three posture practices that just may help.

This exercise is a demonstration of correct standing posture. Try practicing it two to three times a day.

  1. Stand with your back against a wall. Place your heels about 6 inches from the wall and about 6 inches apart from each other. Keep your weight evenly distributed. Arms are relaxed at your sides. Keep your ankles straight, your feet pointed straight ahead and your kneecaps facing front.

    2. Bring your head back to touch the wall. Tuck your chin as if a string were attached to the middle of the back of your head; pretend the string is being pulled up. Pull up and in with the muscles of the lower abdomen, trying to flatten the stomach and bringing your lower back closer to the wall. Gently straighten your upper back by lifting your chest and bringing your shoulders down against the wall.

    3. Hold this position for 10 seconds, breathing normally. Relax and repeat three to four more times.

This exercise is a demonstration of correct sitting posture. Try practicing it two to three times a day.

  1. Sit in a straight back chair, with both feet flat on the floor and with your back resting against the chair. Arms are relaxed with hands on your lap or on armrests. Hold your head erect. Tuck your chin in as if a string were attached to the middle of the back of the head; pretend the string is being pulled up.

    2. Pull up and in with the muscles of the lower abdomen, trying to flatten the stomach. Gently straighten the upper back, lifting the chest. Bring the shoulders back and down against the chair.

    3. Hold this position for 10 seconds, breathing normally and keeping the rest of the body relaxed. Relax and repeat three to four more times.

One final practice is also the most old fashioned. Simply balance a small pillow or book on your head as you go about your normal activities such as walking, working or doing the dishes.

Lastly, as you lay in your bed try placing a small pillow under your knees if lying on your back or between your knees if you sleep on your side. Both practices help keep your spine aligned correctly.

 

230117 General Upper Torso Stretches

230117 General Upper Torso Stretches

Shoulder front

Standing upright with good posture put your hands together behind your back, keeping your arms straight raise them slowly upward to the rear. Hold for a moment then lower back down and begin again.

Shoulder rear

Continue standing with good posture in an upright position. Take one arm and hold it horizontal and parallel to the ground. Now move it across your upper chest so the hand is on the opposite side. With the opposing hand hold the elbow of the horizontal arm and begin pulling in a gentle manner toward your chest. Hold the stretch for a moment and release then repeat.

Favorite shoulder stretch

Stand facing a wall with outstretched arms. Lean into the wall and rest on your hands now look between your arms and lower your head toward the floor. Feel the nice stretch in your shoulders. This can also be done by placing your fully extended arms onto a bench or chair and leaning downward toward the floor.

Floor stretch

Get on your hands and knees. While keeping your arms straight set back on your calves with your buttocks touching them. Put your head between your arms and touch the floor with your head.

Towel stretch

The old standby for working the shoulder range of motion is the towel stretch. Starting with a bath towel or dowel rod slung over your shoulder and dropping toward the floor hold the top with one hand the bottom with the other in your other hand. Now you can go one of two ways: either pull down with the back hand or pull up with the hand at the top. In both instances, the pull should be gentle as your shoulders are in a vulnerable position and easily damaged. A soft pull is what you are looking at achieving, just enough to stretch the shoulders. The ideal is to be able to touch your hands together in the middle of your back. This may be nearly impossible if you are heavily muscled.

Chest
In a standing position interlace your fingers on top of your head. Now move your elbows and hands to the rear.

Chest favorite

Standing next to the wall, a door frame or better yet a power rack, reach behind and hold onto the surface. The stretch begins as you turn your shoulders and upper torso away from the wall, door or power rack. This works really well with the power rack.

140117 Maintaining range of motion

140117 Maintaining range of motion

Strength training and stretching go hand in hand towards increasingly better fitness levels. A loss of flexibility brings with it a loss of functionality in daily living activities as well as in the weight room.

Stretching is not meant to hurt unless you are in the active stages of recovering from a surgery to one of your joints or muscles. In which case the stretches will hurt, but a successful outcome depends on regaining the lost range of motion.

This involves loosening up the areas around the surgery and daily motion of the joint or muscle. It should not swell afterwards because if it does, then you have pushed it too far, too fast. Back off and get the swelling under control and then work the movements again being careful not to cause swelling again. Ice and compression are important tools to use after surgery and after exercising the area.

Prevention of the loss of joint range of motion depends on following a pattern of stretches that follow these minimal guidelines.

1. Static or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation general stretching programs involving the major muscle and tendon groups such as the shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, and the legs.
2. Do your stretching two to three times a week or after each strength training session.
3. Hold each stretch to a point of mild discomfort unless working past a surgery limitation then it will be a bit tougher and deeper into the discomfort zone.
4. Each stretch needs to be held a minimum of ten seconds for each static stretch and up to six seconds for each PNF contraction and then immediately followed by the assisted stretch.
5. Perform each selected stretch for three to five times each.

A little bit each day will produce amazing results in a very short time.

171216 Sport and lifestyle activity-range of motion exercising

171216 Sport and lifestyle activity-range of motion exercising

Your joints and muscles are meant to function within standardized degrees of movement, commonly referred to as the range of motion (ROM). The stronger you are within these ranges, the better protected you will be in preventing injuries from occurring. Therefore when doing your exercise routine keep in mind the following two guidelines:

1. You gain the most strength within the range of motion (ROM) at which you exercise.

2. The smaller the range of motion you in the joint, the less will be the carry over strength throughout the rest of the movement.

The basis of every quality strength training or fitness program relies, in part, on these two premises. As an example, let’s look at the squat while explaining these principles.

Many lifters do short range squats, known as high squats, in the gym. They get into a machine or in rare cases under a bar and drop down a few inches and call it good. In many instances this isn’t even to a parallel position, let alone below parallel where they should be before starting back up again. Depending on the load of the bar or on the machine, strength may be increased within this small range of motion but its unlikely this will happen.

This range of movement is too little and does not support normal living activities such as sitting down in a chair and then getting back up. If the strength is not developed within a range that is vital to living an active lifestyle then it is not useful. This group of fitness enthusiasts would be better served by going deeper in their squats, thereby getting a transfer of useable strength into their daily lives. This naturally leads in to the second principle.

An individual or strength athlete will become stronger when training the full range of motion. This expands the strength curve and transfers more useable muscle activity across greater degrees of the joint angle. Greater degree angles of strength protect the joint from injury, especially at the far ranges of motion.

The take home message is don’t cut yourself short with limited range of motion exercises.

141116 Working out at home

141116 Working out at home

It’s nice to walk into a well-equipped gym and be able to hit your session with unbridled enthusiasm. Normally the costs are within reason and if it has highly qualified trainers all the better. But what if you don’t have the money, the transportation or even the time to go to one of these places for your daily exercise? The solution can be found right in your own home.

If you are just starting out you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get into shape. And you certainly don’t have to have the latest in workout clothing. Sweats and an old Tee shirt complement one another perfectly. I would recommend, however, investing in a good pair of cross trainer or basketball style of shoes.

Next, start saving a few plastic milk containers. These make ideal adjustable weights and setting them up is easy just put a ruler along the sides and measure and mark out inches all the way to the top.

Before you exercise add water or other material up to any of the marks and weigh it. Both containers should weigh about the same. Now you’ve got a set of dumbbells.

I’d suggest getting a skip rope. Buy a length of half to three quarter diameter sized nylon rope at the hardware store. The right length is about twice your height off the spool. It’s long enough when you can stand in the middle and each end comes up to your shoulders. Cut it off and then have the ends sealed to prevent it from fraying. You’re all set to go for the cardio portion of your exercise program.

If you have the inclination, then buy a set of exercise tubes. An alternative is to go to a medical supply store and get a few lengths of different sized latex surgical tubing. Make certain you aren’t allergic to latex.

Grab a big juice container of plain water and get started because every day wasted is one you’ll never get back.