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Types of Exercise That Foster a Healthy Lifestyle and Greater Happiness

Types of Exercise That Foster a Healthy Lifestyle and Greater Happiness “In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these means, man can attain perfection.” ~Plato

Would you like to improve your thinking, memory, motivation, mental wellbeing, physical health and even reverse some diseases? Well, you can by elevating your heart rate on a regular basis. Yes, I’m talking about exercise!

John J. Ratey, M.D., author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, and researcher on the mind-body connection, has found that exercise is our best defense against everything – mental disorders, addiction, mood swings to mention a few. “Moving our muscles produces proteins that play roles in our highest thought processes.” Ratey says.

The wonderful thing is that we can feel an almost immediate change in our brain after a workout. Why is that?

First, regular exercise helps your body optimally use energy. For example, food is broken down into glucose – the body’s energy fuel. Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which regulates the amount of sugar in your bloodstream by letting glucose into the muscle, fat and liver cells. “We think of insulin as a ‘key’ that opens doors to the body’s cells, so glucose can enter,” said diabetes educator Gary Scheiner. 79 million people in the US are pre-diabetic because their sedentary lifestyle has made them insulin resistance. The insulin key can’t open the frozen lock, so glucose can’t get into the cells to fuel your muscles. The resulting increased blood sugar makes the pancreas crank out more insulin, which causes you to become very tired. It’s a vicious cycle! Exercise can reverse this process and give you your energy back. That’s just one of the many mind/body systems that your body needs regular exercise in order to function properly.

Regular exercise also builds a sustainable cycle of wellbeing. Regular exercise builds strong lifestyle patterns that support mental wellbeing, which in turn motivates you to keep exercising regularly. It’s a win-win-win! And when you are physically active, you’re more social, which boosts self-confidence. It alleviates anxiety, stress and depression. It improves focus and helps you replace addictive behaviors and bad habits with healthier choices.

How much and what types of exercise will help you achieve your peak performance? It’s recommended that you exercise 30 minutes per day/5 days a week at the minimum. That’s only 2½ hours out of 168 hours of your life every week. Isn’t that a small investment for the greatest return – a long, healthy, and happy life? (Note: If you have any medical problems, consult with your physician before beginning a new exercise routine.) Here are some suggestions:

Aerobic Exercise. This type of exercise gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat and can be sustained over a long period of time. Work up to doing aerobic exercise four days a week, at 60 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. Try running, swimming or biking.

Anaerobic exercise. This is high intensity exercise that can only be sustained for a brief time period, like sprinting. For example, after you’ve warmed up and have walked for about 10 minutes, break out into a sprint for 5 minutes, then go back to walking until your heart rate slows again to where you can comfortably talk, then repeat the sprint/cool down cycle.

Strength training exercise. Use weights or resistance machines twice a week. Do three sets of your exercises with weights that allow you to do ten repetitions in each set. Personally, I love my Cross Fit class!

Balance and flexibility exercise. Focus on this twice a week for thirty minutes. The Feldenkrais Method® (which relieved my chronic pain too), Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, Aikido, martial arts, archery, and dance are all good choices.

Brain exercise. Never stop learning. Numerous studies show that the more your brain continues to learn, the more likely you are to keep your thinking abilities and ward off dementia.

Doing a mix of low, medium, and high intensity exercise is important as each does beneficial things for your mind and body. If you need to split it up into 10-minute intervals, 3 times per day, that’s still effective. Your brain and all your muscles needs to be used in order to keep your quality of life at its best.

I recommend you read or listen to the audio of: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey. It will get you up and moving as it changes forever how you look at the connection between brain health and exercise.

Are you motivated to try some of these types of exercise, but you need someone to keep you accountable and on track? Contact me and let me support and challenge you each step of the way as you activate your inner abilities to achieve and maintain your motivation for total wellness and fitness.  Let’s get started as soon as possible!

If you haven’t you received your free copy of The 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment yet, download it right now. It will help you get started on the path to a healthier you.

How to Improve Self Image and Fitness with Cutting-Edge Mental Strength Training Techniques

improve self image by mental training“A strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success.” ~ Joyce Brothers

Did you know that how you see yourself in your own mind has a great impact on your fitness level? Scientists and sports coaches have found that when you imagine yourself as fit and healthy, the brain believes it, which encourages you to make choices that consistently support your self-image as a fit person. To reinforce this positive shift you can definitely benefit from mental strength training.

That’s right! To improve your physical fitness you need to strengthen your mental fitness. Why? Because mental strength training will help you shift your self-image so you are empowered to reach your potential. Imagine how your fitness will improve when you can…

  • Focus and deal with distractions. Rather than having a result-oriented focus, you’ll be able to focus on the present moment rather than becoming self-conscious.
  • Develop a fearless mindset. You know that one event doesn’t define you as a person so you’re not afraid of embarrassment or failure.
  • Control your emotions. You’ll be able to deal with setbacks and errors as you stay composed under pressure to perform.
  • Improve endurance. You’ll be able to perform at your peak for a longer period of time when you are able to work in the “zone”.
  • Find your true motivation. You’ll be able to deliver your optimal performance because you’ll be doing things for the right reasons.  

 

What mental training techniques can you use to create a better self-image and boost your fitness level? Here are a few techniques I like to use with my coaching clients:

Relaxation: Calming your mind and body relieves tense muscles, which is essential to allow your muscles to stretch without tearing or pulling your skeletal frame out of alignment. By relaxing and contracting mindfully through all of your muscles groups you create deeper mine/body awareness that allows you to move more freely.

Visualization: Imagine yourself enjoying the benefits of reaching your goal. Do you want to reduce one size? Visualize how great that feels…how much better your balance is…how much stronger you are…how much more stamina you have…how well your clothes fit…how happy you are with the renewed energy to take that mountain hike or play ball with the children. The more engaged you become in this, the more your brain actually believes it to be true.

Anchoring: An anchor is a preset response to a specific stimulus. To help you feel like working out, recall a time when you had an awesome workout. Visualize the experience fully, and at the peak moment set an anchor or cue that makes your brain relive this feeling each time you employ the anchor.

Reframing: Identify your unhelpful thoughts and replace them with positive statements that support a positive self-image. Remove the phrase “I should” from your vocabulary. Instead use “I can do X now, which is so much more than when I started.” Also, get rid of the all-or-nothing mentality by refusing to personalize or over-generalize each event. One event does not define who you are as a person.

Mental editing: Whether you perform an exercise routine or only picture it, you activate many of the same brain connections that link what your body does to the controlling brain impulses. It also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which increases the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. For example, Jack Nicklaus excelled because he practiced each shot in his mind before taking it.

You’ll get the best results if you enlist the assistance of a trained coach who can teach you how to do each of these techniques correctly. Mental strength training is all about taking you from where you are now and enhancing your fitness and self-image incrementally until your mind/body health transforms you into a top performer. Contact me and we’ll schedule an appointment so you can get started on your path to an excellent self-image and improved fitness.

Do You Feel Centered or Off-Balance? Discover Centering Practices That Promote Excellence

“Be strong then, and enter into your own body;     
there you have a solid place for your feet.   
Think about it carefully!    
Don’t go off somewhere else!      
…just throw away all thoughts of     
imaginary things,     
and stand firm in that which you are.” ~ Kabir

archery is one of the centering practices that promote excellenceCan anyone achieve excellence? How do high achievers attain their success? Is it because they’re born with some special power? Not at all! They achieve excellence because they are able to channel their energy effectively under extreme conditions.

Many would say that they consistently tap into their inner strength, their self-control, or self-discipline. I like to think of them being very intentional and deliberate. Rather than getting caught up in checking emails or social media, watching TV, surfing the web, they choose to use their time for developing what really matters to them, enhancing their skills, improving their health and inner being.

Being centered undoubtedly helps you become more intentional. However, don’t be surprised at the beginning if learning to center yourself is challenging. It will involve some effort as you develop new muscle memory. You might be used to being slightly off-balanced!

Also, once you are centered you can’t expect to stay centered for very long! You deplete your energy resources throughout the day, especially during stressful situations. This is why you need a committed practice that keeps you refueled and replenished. Over time you’ll even expand your reserves so you can live life more richly. Consistency is essential to your centering practice.

To illustrate: What happens if you center yourself at the beginning of the day and then stress arises? Will your early morning centering carry you through? It will help, but consistently centering yourself throughout the day is essential to maintaining your balance. Even when you are not feeling particularly emotional or in need of centering, you’ll find that it deepens your practice.

What can you do to begin a steady centering practice?

Anything that helps you feel still and aware can become your centering practice. It’s a way to connect with that space within you that is always calm and at peace. This space is often referred to as your “calm center”. Decisions made from this calm center will be more in alignment with your values; actions taken from this place will be more deliberate and purposeful.

I personally have several practices that help me with centering. A few times a week I practice Aikido at a local dojo. The name Aikido is composed of three Japanese words: ai, meaning harmony; ki, spirit or energy; and do, the path or the way. Aikido is the way of the spirit of harmony. Through this weekly practice, I continue to explore ways to stay centered in my body, to use my center to interact with others and to harmonize with the world in ways that are both self-promoting and life enhancing.

I also practice archery. I’ve done so for the past four years and just recently I’ve started training as a horseback archer. To me horseback archery is not just a cool and fun sport. It’s the harmony of four elements – horse, rider, bow, and arrow – into a powerful center. It’s about moving forward with purpose. It’s a centering practice and a metaphor for life.

My daily Feldenkrais practice also aids centering time to my life. When I lay on my mat or table and I sense into my self through slow, mindful movements. I cultivate that center that’s so useful when I need to be calm, resourceful and perform.

What these three practices have in common is that, in order to perform them, you have to find, develop and express your center. It’s not necessary to spend hours cultivating a centering practice. You can start small, exploring what you enjoy and can practice consistently with ease and pleasure.

Would you like to develop your own customized centering practice to help you cope with stress and live more fully? If you live near Ashland, Oregon, please contact my office and learn how somatic coaching helps you engage your whole mind and body in achieving excellence. 

Teaching the Body How to Program the Brain for Health

The Feldenkrais Method® teaches your body to program your brain for optimal mental and physical health, self-confidence and enjoyment of life.“We act in accordance with our self-image.” ~ Moshe Feldenkrais

According to the latest report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. That’s a staggering amount of human suffering and lost productivity. Are you one of them?

Pain and mobility issues typically come from two sources — an underlying physical condition (like an injury or inflammation) and the subconscious way you hold your body and your movement (like tension or habitually walking with your head down). It becomes a vicious cycle of inflamed muscles aggravated by poor posture, which inflames the muscles more.

While medical treatment addresses physical conditions, they often neglect the subconscious choices. How can you find the most effective solution if you’re ignoring a major component of the problem? That’s why the Feldenkrais Method® teaches a person to uncover the underlying way your brain and body are working, or not working together.

Let us be clear – The Feldenkrais Method® is a learning process, not a treatment. It helps you learn to better understand what your body is telling you and to improve your movements and interactions with the world around you. Through it, you engage muscles you’ve not used for quite awhile or didn’t even know you had – in a non-invasive, very gentle way. Many people, after trying it, marvel that so much can be accomplished with such little movements.

What are some of the benefits, besides pain relief, of Feldenkrais? You will…

  1. Improve the Basics: Achieve better balance and higher performance by learning to sit, stand, and walk with dynamic stability and balance. Learn skills for improving your sensory acuity and self-awareness.
  1. Move Smarter: Recover from injuries faster and understand how the whole body participates in the process of recovery. Encourage the development of new neuro-pathways.
  1. Sleep Better: Teach your body to rest well, improving sleep function for restoration, relaxation, and repair.
  1. Improve Posture: Learn to move more efficiently, with less effort and highest skeletal support
  1. Improve Your Self-Image: Moshe believed that our self-image is smaller than our potential capacity. Awareness Through Movement creates a favorable training ground for enhanced learning, improved thought processes, more efficient movement and positive learning, which in turn, improves the awareness of the person in relationship to self, others and the world.
  1. Have Fun: Feldenkrais is fun! Learning is fun! Feldenkrais is a way of learning how to learn rather than a therapeutic method to fix aches and pains.

There is an indisputable connection between the mind and body. And it is only by engaging the whole person that you can become aware and make mindful choices that support you. Are you ready to learn what you’re body and mind have been trying to tell you all these years? If you live near Ashland, OR, please contact my office to discuss the best option for your situation.

How I Eliminated Chronic Pain and Began Teaching The Feldenkrais Method® of Somatic Re-education

Maria Connolly teaching Awareness Through Movement® from The Feldenkrais Method®Six years ago, before I decided to sign up for The Feldenkrais Method®, a 4-year intense course in Eugene, Oregon, I often suffered from lower back pain. It seemed as if it would come up all of a sudden with no warning and no clue as to how it happened. At times, I would have to clear my schedule because the pain was so intense and debilitating. Perhaps many of you with high stress jobs where you sit in front of the computer all day can relate to having intense back pain for no apparent reason.

During the training, I learned to sense into myself more accurately and deliberately. The daily practice of body awareness through movement was a delightful discovery, an opportunity to know myself through my body in motion. Feldenkrais has enhanced the perception of both how I move and why I move. I loved it so much that the student has become the teacher. That’s me in the above photo teaching some of my clients an Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lesson.

What is The Feldenkrais Method®?

I realize that many haven’t heard of this method, so let me give you a little background. It was developed by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli physicist, engineer, judo master, soccer player and gymnast. After a knee injury, he began to pay attention to his own movements. Opting out of surgery, he turned to his knowledge of physics and using his own body as a research subject. Feldenkrais created a means of learning to move beyond habitual patterns of movement.

He believed that the central nervous system plays a key role in a person’s comfort, so he focused on encouraging awareness of the skeleton, muscles, and joints. This new awareness allows each body part to participate more fully in every action so that no one part is stressed more than another.

The skeleton is able to provide its intended support so the muscles feel more relaxed. This leads naturally to a decrease in tension and an expanded range of motion and flexibility. This new awareness helps a person understand their customary negative patterns of posture and movement and learn to create more functional ones.

He developed his discovery into a program called The Feldenkrais Method®. It allowed him to increase efficiency and range of movement, reduce stress, improve posture and flexibility, function and self-image with greater comfort and ease. After helping himself, he went on to help many others experience that same relief. Is that something you’d like?

How can you learn The Feldenkrais Method®? There are two ways of learning this technique:

Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) lessons. Generally these are group lessons. In a non-judgmental learning environment, the Feldenkrais teacher verbally guides the students in gentle and easy movement sequences. Students are supported in accepting themselves and their bodies by moving only within their ranges of ease and comfort. The emphasis is on curiosity, discovery and exploration, attending to the quality of movement, and especially observing one’s own internal process while performing the movement.  The above photo illustrates one of these lessons.

Functional Integration® (FI). This is done in individual, hands-on lessons.  The client lies fully clothed on a low table while the teacher uses gentle touch to explore ways that she can move more comfortably. The lessons are tailored to the individual and will be different each time. The quality of presence and touch in an FI lesson reassures the nervous system and can help restore inner balance.

Are you interested in exploring how this easy-on-the-body method can bring lasting pain relief and increased personal confidence? If you live near Ashland, Oregon, please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can work out lessons that help you become more aware of movements that support you as a person.  If you know someone who could benefit from this, please refer them to me so they can benefit, too.

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