Posts Categorized: fitness

This Week I Love …

jessica smith tv

Jessica Smith TV.

Although I have frequent meetings and commitments out of the house, I have found working from home to be even more sedentary than working at an office. I don’t hustle around to other peoples’ cubes or meet colleagues for lunch across campus. I just sit. And write. And sit some more. While writing. So since the day I became self-employed, I’ve made sure to carve out some time for exercise each day. My preference is to take a brisk walk around my neighborhood while listening to podcasts or books.

HOWEVER. My personal temperature threshold is -10, and last winter passed that mark many, many times. So I started looking around for workout videos I could do in my living room on days when it was so cold outside that my eyelashes froze together. I tried a couple of the store-bought DVD systems and found them to be pretty dull as ongoing fitness tools, and a bit too focused on “getting thin and sexy” or “losing weight fast!” for my taste. Which led me to YouTube. Which led me to Jessica Smith.

Smith has an extremely popular channel with dozens of videos – all of them free – at a variety of skill levels and covering the gamut of fitness topics. She posts a new video each week, including full 30-minute workout routines, shorter workouts for those in a hurry, and a few single-exercise demo videos. She’s developed a walking/weight loss program that she sells on DVD, but never hits her YouTube subscribers with the hard sell. Her channel is a robust and valuable resource.

But the real reason I love Jessica Smith? She never harps on getting thin or losing weight as the obvious end-goals, she clearly enjoys making these videos, and she is meticulous about offering modifications for anyone who needs them. She jokes and encourages and talks you through every movement patiently and carefully. She emphasizes the importance of stretching and talks frequently about avoiding new injuries and accommodating existing ones. Her videos are clear and easy to follow, but pretty low-fi – they’re all filmed at her house, which is probably an intentional choice meant to illustrate that anyone can work out at home in a room with some clear space. And the white French bulldog in her banner is Peanut, her dog, who wanders in and out of most videos. Or just sleeps on her mat the entire time. If you’re a sucker for animals like I am, this is a delightful bonus.

On her website and channel, Smith says, “Our goal is to help you find movement that you enjoy (and actually want to keep doing) so you’ll never have to ‘work’ out another day in your life! You won’t find any crazy exercises, revealing outfits or negative energy here; just common sense fitness, advice and support from a friend and certified fitness professional (and her French bulldog).” Some of her video titles focus on weight loss, sculpting, and other concepts that circle around thinness – likely for SEO reasons – but her banter and narration are always neutral or even body-image-friendly. I’ve never heard her harp on the importance of a bikini body, describe anything as a quick/easy route to getting thin, or say anything that set off beauty-standard alarm bells.

I’ve actually kept up with the videos through the year, adding them to my daily walks and exploring a variety of routines and topics to keep the boredom at bay. When my back is acting up I choose from her knee- and back-friendly workout playlist. When I’m in a rush, I choose a 10- or 15-minute targeted workout. If you can’t afford a gym or can’t motivate yourself to go, if fitness classes make you self-conscious, or if you only have a few minutes a day to yourself, peek at Jessica Smith TV and see if you can find a video or two that suit your needs.

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Move Your Body

Exercise is recommended for everyone


Land sakes, it’s like a DIRTY WORD, isn’t it? There’s so much angst and anxiety, social tension and expectation piled into that one word that it hurts to even ponder it. Which is a real shame because, exercise? It’s really good for you. Yes, you. All of you. Pretty much without exception. In fact, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and use the S-word: To keep it in good, working condition for as long as possible, you should find ways to regularly move, groove, and exercise your physical form.

There are studies – oh, are there ever studies – that talk about how fat people can be fit and thin people can be less fit, and we can argue all day long about the finer points of those studies. But let’s not. Let’s instead focus on the fact that – aside from the physically fragile, infirm, and extremely elderly – exercise is recommended for everybody. That doctors, nutritionists, fitness instructors, wellness coaches, scientists, and experts of all stripes want EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US to incorporate regular movement into our lives. They don’t care how much or little we weigh, how old we are, what we do for a living, if we’re differently abled, pregnant, or woefully uncoordinated. They want us to exercise because it keeps our systems strong, keeps our bodies in good repair. There are no studies recommending sedentary life or advising the avoidance of exercise.

And those experts? They also don’t care if we’re new mothers, working multiple jobs, suffering from depression, facing new or difficult physical challenges, or any number of other factors that may make exercise seem even more difficult, daunting, and chore-like. They still point out that cardio is good for our hearts and lungs, and women are more likely to suffer from heart disease. They still remind us that weight training is especially important to women because we lose bone density with age. They may even gently suggest that regular exercise can help with mood and stress levels.

And here’s the thing: Exercise doesn’t have to mean three sweaty hours in a humanity-packed gym. Exercise doesn’t have to hack a giant chunk off of your already-scarce free time. Exercise doesn’t even have to be “exercise!” Think of it this way: Make sure you move your body – vigorously and enthusiastically – a couple of times each day. Forget exercise, just move. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Park further from your destination and get a little walk in. Do some wall push-ups. Go out dancing on Saturday night instead of hitting a bar or restaurant. Bench press a toddler and watch her giggle with glee. Plank or do a few sit-ups during your favorite TV shows. Check these recommendations if you’re facing a physical challenge or healing from an injury. Exercise can be a burden, but movement can be easy and fun. It can! No, I’m serious, you guys. And besides all that, it’s a key component to long-term self-care.

How do YOU incorporate movement into your life? What’s your favorite way to move your body? I’d love to hear about some non-traditional exercise options!

Image courtesy ian

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Guest Post: LynnAnn Covell on Fitness Options

This post was inspired by an e-mail from reader Beth. She wrote:

I would love to hear about some resources for people who are trying to get physically fit, yet may have some circumstances which means they just can’t go “bust a move” like everyone else. I do a lot of yoga but need cardio badly, and walking doesn’t fit all that great into my schedule (or, currently, climate). I have knee tenderness and scoliosis (30% curve that starts at the base of my spine, so my lower back can be wonky). Everything I check out seems to be made for people who are younger and/or can do exercises I can’t do; you’re not really even given ways or examples to build up to something. I think this really hits at diversity and health–for people who really want to try to get healthy, it’s hard to find good resources unless you’re already really into it.

Since this is a question that I felt ill-qualified to tackle on my own, I enlisted the help of a pro. LynnAnn Covell is a senior fitness specialist at Green Mountain at Fox Run, and I worked with her during my visit there. She was SO FABULOUS at customizing exercises and workouts for those with physical challenges, while simultaneously reinforcing the idea that “your pace is THE pace,” and I knew she’d be the perfect person to tackle Beth’s question. Here’s her response:

* * * * *

Fitness Soul Search: Finding Your Cardio Match

It is an exciting and hopeful moment when you find a physical activity that works for you and your body. One that feels good. One that feels right. When you’ve decided after a period of being sedentary that you want to get moving again, you might need to try several things until something clicks and you want to keep doing it. But, the number of options when you have schedule or physical limitations can be … well … limited. So, you might need to get creative.

When time is getting between you and your fitness, one solution is to break down activities into shorter increments. At Green Mountain at Fox Run, one of our favorite quotes is, “Something is always better than nothing.” If your schedule prevents you from taking a one-hour class or going for a longer run or walk, think about breaking the activity down to, say, three times/day for 10 minutes each. It all counts!

Another solution when time is scarce is to incorporate more movement into your “everyday life.” No class or fancy equipment necessary. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you typically drive to the store, try walking. Instead of watching TV with the family after dinner, play a game of badminton instead. You can even find inventive ways to fit strength training into your daily routine – like at your desk or while you are on the phone.

When physical limitations are your primary concern, there are more cardio options than you might realize. First, the classes where you think you might have to “bust a move” and therefore might bust your knee, may be able to be modified for you. Let’s say you want to try Zumba®, but are afraid that it’s just going to be too much for your body. Talk to the instructor before class, let her know what you are dealing with, and ask if she can show you modifications for your knee, hip, shoulders, etc. If she can’t, then move on to another class or another instructor.

Also, consider new activities where there is much less impact on the joints, like swimming or aquatics. Or, how about using an exercise ball? Not only can it remove pressure from the knees, but it can also support the lower back. FitBALL® offers several beginner DVDs that you can try at home, including one I recommend for under-active adults. Of course, you should ask your physician before you try any new workout.

Lastly, don’t forget about online resources in your fitness soul search, where you can learn from others who found what worked for their bodies and their lives. Some of my favorites include Curvy Yoga and MizFit Online.

LynnAnn Covell is a senior fitness specialist at Green Mountain at Fox Run, a retreat helping women find health and their healthy weights since 1973. LynnAnn was named one of SpaFinder’s Spa Professionals of the Year in 2011 and 2010.

P.S. Since LynnAnn was too modest to mention it, I will. The Green Mountain blog, A Weight Lifted, often has tips, suggestions, and occasionally videos that can be helpful to those who face workout challenges.

Image via The Big C.

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