To awaken the faith, courage, insight, and creativity in me and those around me.

Posts tagged ‘creativity’

What’s New in the Fitness Industry

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Oops, I’ve been absent from the blogging world for a little while, and I’m blaming a bad case of spring fever. My garden’s been calling me. But during my absence, I’ve also been busy learning more about some of the latest trends in fitness. One wonderful opportunity that presented itself to me was to attended a four hour class explaining Ageless Grace.

Ageless Grace is a fitness strategy aimed at restoring neuroplasticity. In other words, waking up old neuropathways and creating new ones to the muscles and within the brain itself. This is not entirely new, though. I’ve been doing what I call proprioceptive work with clients for 12 years now, consisting of PNF exercises (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) that I’ve learned from attending the physical therapy sessions of some of my clients. Ageless Grace, however, takes it to another level, and makes it fun. It’s no longer work, but play time involving creativity and imagination. It takes you back to your childhood, when most of your neuropathways were first developed. And, any trend that makes exercise fun is a good trend.

When we were kids, we made faces, hung upside down, shook, and moved our bodies in every way imaginable. In doing this, we developed coordination, balance, reflexes, and recovery, as well as imagination, memory recall, and problem solving skills. As we got older, some of these skills weren’t used as often. Like a path in the woods that doesn’t get traveled much, these neuropathways became “overgrown” or sluggish. The ability is still there; it just needs a little “path clearing” through use.

One of the exercises that I really struggled with was one that involved clapping and tapping on different counts as the numbers were called out to us.  This uses our respond, react, and recover abilities, that as kids were quicker, because everything was new to us, and they got used more frequently. As adults though, we’ve learned to avoid and/or anticipate surprising situations, so they’re not used as often and our neural processing speed slows down. I was amazed at how difficult it was for me.

Adding to the problem of slowing neuropathways, is the fact that now as adults our brains have to sift through more information in order to recall or respond. According to the New York Times article The Older Mind May Just Be a Fuller Mind, researches are now thinking that a slow memory is not necessarily a product of getting old, but one of having more experience. Since most of us don’t want to get dumber (although there are a few memories I wouldn’t mind forgetting), I think speeding up neural processing through exercise is preferable.

The “tools”, as they’re called, in Ageless Grace are functional exercises in that they improve strength in every day skills as opposed to isolating specific muscle groups. They are never performed the same way twice, so the body doesn’t adapt. You have to imagine different scenarios each time you do them, and this is where the fun and creativity comes in.

Another benefit from these tools is myofascial release. Much of the stiffness and joint pain we feel as we get older is actually the stiffening of the fascia, a thin layer of tissue that encapsulates muscles and joints. Rolling with tennis balls and foam rollers, called self massage, is another new trend in the fitness industry, and facilitates myofascial release. Ageless Grace does it through shaking. The theory is that the friction created between the layer of skin and the muscles when we shake massages the fascia.

It reminds me of all those housewives in the 1950’s, who stood in machines that shook them hoping to lose weight. Even though they probably didn’t lose much weight from it, it turns out there were some other benefits. Along with myofascial release, it also helped produce collagen and reduced cortisol.

Did you know that most adults over 40 are oxygen deprived? We all hold our breaths several times a day. The Ageless Grace tools are very vocal, improving respiratory function. My clients laugh, because I’m constantly reminding them to breathe. We joke about having to pay someone to remind us to breathe and drink water. Well, if you’re counting, humming, singing, whistling, or just making silly noises while exercising, you’re forced to take deeper breaths, because the diaphragm contacts when we exhale.

There are many other benefits to this program, that you can read about if you click on the link above. These are a few of the ones that interested me most. PFP Magazine, a professional fitness magazine, recently published an article stating that the industry is shifting toward medically supervised fitness facilities. I think we will start to see more programs like this one, designed to improve both mind and body, which is exciting news to me. I’m looking forward to it.

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Morning Pages

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I awoke this morning to Errol Flynn making fun of me for being melodramatic. How ironic! The next half hour was spent arguing with him in my morning pages. This poor misguided drama king has not been properly trained for his role and has been given the wrong script. He’s supposed to keep me real, yes, but not to the point of blocking my writing. After three pages, I believe I have won round one. – Day 15

I’ve been reading a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that was written to help people unblock their creative side. The author refers to the block as a little voice in your head that tells you there are more important things to do, and you’re not good enough to be wasting your time on these creative endeavors. She calls it the “Censor”, and says that it’s part of the “Logic” brain. Some people may be more familiar with the term “left brain”.

One of the exercises she recommends is the “morning pages”. You’re supposed to write three pages of whatever comes to mind when you first wake up. It’s not supposed to be good. It’s supposed to be a release or vent of all the whiny anxieties that “stand in the way of your creativity”. I call it getting-all-the-crap-out-so-I-can-focus-better.

It’s interesting to note that writing requires the use of both sides of the brain. The left brain or logical side is needed to put words into a logical order of structured sentences, and the right brain or creative side is needed to find the right words to convey the thoughts. The act of writing helps unite the two sides for a common purpose, creating more of a balance between the two.

I am not a morning person. My mind is anything but peaceful when I first wake up. Sometimes, there’s an entire army of negative thoughts marching around in my head. I usually try not to pay attention to them; try to force myself to focus on positive things. When that gets too difficult, I daydream; dream up happier places to go to. All of this is done without realizing it. The morning pages have made me more aware of my thought patterns and habits first thing in the morning.

On some days, I write 3 pages of rants, on others, it’s a 3 page pity party. On my better days, it becomes a list of things I need to do that day or hope to accomplish sometime in the near future. I find that I am able to think more clearly throughout the day, and remember things better, since I’ve started this.

Not long after I first started writing morning pages, I had a weird dream with Errol Flynn over-acting a scene where he was supposed to be relating a sad childhood story. He was dressed as one of the Three Musketeers with a sword in his hand. The acting was so bad it was funny. While I was writing about the dream in my morning pages, I realized he was making fun of me, especially the sword-pen connection. At that time, I was still putting this blog together, and still writing my personal weight loss story. My “Censor” was trying to tell me that all of this was a waste of time.

Those 3 pages became a lecture to my censor, which I have named Errol. I spoke as a boss to an employee, or a director to an actor. I said things like: “Your role is a necessary role, but you have become confused about your job description. You are overstepping your boundaries. Stop blocking my writing!”

Therapists call this self talk. Affirmations are a form of self talk. There are some rules to remember with self talk. For example, the subconscious doesn’t recognize negative words like “don’t”, “not”, “no”, and “never”. If you say, “Don’t block my writing.” It hears, “Do block my writing.”

Another is that you can’t deny a part of yourself, because you don’t like what it’s telling you, which is essentially what I had been doing by ignoring the negative thoughts. If your finger was broken, you wouldn’t cut it off. Likewise, the negative voice or censor shouldn’t be cut off (or told to get lost), but redirected to function in a healing capacity. If I say that it has become confused about it’s job description, then I need to redefine what I want it’s job description to be, which is what I tried to do that morning.

It was a struggle first thing in the morning to find the right words to tell Errol what I thought he shouldn’t be doing. I kept wanting to use negative words. And then, I had to figure out what I thought he should be doing. It took a couple of mornings to get it right, and may take a few more. Hopefully by putting it in writing, I’m forcing both sides of my brain to work together on this. I think it’s paying off.

At the end of each day, I write a random paragraph about anything that comes to mind as an exercise for a writing group that I belong to. The paragraph in italics above was that day’s paragraph.

Why the Name “Awakening The Sleeper”?

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Faith, courage, insight, and creativity, like a muscle, need to be exercised. As a personal trainer, I can appreciate the importance of exercise. There is a group of muscles referred to as core muscles that act as stabilizers for the skeletal frame. They’re usually smaller in size and atrophy faster than the larger muscles, like hamstrings or quads. Most injuries occur when these muscles get weak and fail during physical stress. Faith, courage, insight, and creativity are part of our emotional core. We need them to endure during mental stress to keep our emotional frame work healthy. Anyone that is wanting to be successful at making life style changes in diet and exercise to improve their physical health, will need to have a healthy emotional core.

What does emotional health have to do with whether or not we’re successful at loosing weight? Well, let’s start with faith. Obviously, you need to have faith in yourself to succeed, but you also need to believe that this endeavor is worthy of your best effort, a worthwhile cause. Next you need to have courage to overcome the doubts and set backs. “But, I’ve failed so many times before.” is one example. Insight is needed to be able to see what your potential shortcomings will be, like “I crave sweets and hate doing cardio.” And creativity is how you will find ways to get past these hurdles, like “I love dancing and will try new desert recipes that use fruit rather than sugar.” This formula can be applied to anything you want to be successful at, not just exercise and weight loss.

There are more important areas of life that will require the flexing of these mental muscles, – relationships, family, spirituality – so exercising them is vital. The more successful accomplishments you have, the stronger they become, but first you have to start with the easier exercises and build them up, just like your workouts.

A client said to me the other day after finally being able to do a certain exercise she couldn’t do before because of weak core muscles, “I really like how you say we’re waking the muscles up.” There are neuro-pathways to muscles that get “sleepy” and sluggish when not used regularly, and my job is to find ways to wake them up.

As I was thinking about what to name this blog, I remembered what my client had said earlier that day. I thought about how we have to wake up the mental core sometimes, too. It prompted me to go back to a series of life coaching exercises that I worked back in 2008, and found this “mission statement”: My mission is to awaken the courage, insight, and creative abilities that have always been in me, and use them to communicate the things I’ve been learning along my journey. Six years ago when I wrote this statement, I knew that these abilities were weak and needed to be exercised, but I feel like my client who was finally able to “find” her muscles, that I’m just now starting to “awaken the sleeper.”

This blog is a continuation of my exercises and mission statement. The drawing of the emerging butterfly was created at the same time as my mission statement, and has now become my business logo.