Alter, Tweak, Modify, Tailor

Thursday, January 19, 2012

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I got an email this week from a person who had bought my book.  She was super excited about getting going on the exercises, but she had gotten stuck.  One of the early exercises (exercise #2 in fact) was entitled rock the block.  This exercise (which is also available on my website) suggests that you walk around the block as many times as you can to determine an accurate starting point for your fitness efforts.  On the surface, this seems like a great idea.  You'll never be too far from your front door, you can just keep a water bottle on your front porch and you know the neighborhood.  All good except for one thing.  What if you can't do it?

What do you do when you come up against an exercise that you simply can't do--one that just doesn't fit?  Do you just give up?  No!  In the tradition of the best Academy Awards red-carpet gowns, you tailor it.  You alter the gown to fit the star, you don't alter the star to fit the gown.  It's the same thing with exercises.  If the exercise doesn't fit, just change it!

There's no law that requires you do a particular exercise.  Most of the time you can find a simple change or substitution that will get you past the roadblock and on your way.  Can't walk an entire block outside?  Okay, walk 1/2 or 1/4 of a block.  Or do laps inside your house from kitchen to living room to bedroom and back again.  Does walking hurt your ankles, knees, or hips?  Try walking laps in the local pool.  The water will remove most of the force of gravity off your joints while offering greater resistance than air.  You can get the same level of physical exertion walking slowly in the water as you can get walking much more quickly on land.

Sure, you say.  It's relatively easy to modify moves when you're all by yourself.  But what about when you're in a class?  The answer is the same.  Tailor the moves to you.  You're not a member of the Rockettes.  There will be no dire consequences for doing things differently than the other folks in the class.  If a particular move or exercise hurts, scares you, exhausts you or causes you to lose your balance, DON'T DO IT!  It's as simple as that.  Your teacher should be willing and able to help you figure out modifications for virtually any movement in your class.  If your teacher isn't friendly and accommodating about finding modifications, maybe you need a new teacher.  This is your class and YOUR exercise time.  You shouldn't feel exhausted, deeply frustrated, scared, unbalanced or in pain.

While there are specific modifications for nearly every kind of movement in the universe, there are some typical modification tools you can call on when you're having trouble:

1.  Slow down:  If a move is going by too quickly to do it properly and comfortably, just do it more slowly.  In a dance class you could do the move at "half-time" (meaning that you take twice as long to accomplish the move as those around you).  In yoga classes, you can also choose to flow more slowly from posture to posture.  Just make sure you have space around you so that you're not banging into other folks who are not quite in sync with your movements.

2.  Make movements smaller:  if you're finding that you can't quite keep up in class, you can simply make your moves a little bit more contained.  In dance class,  you can keep your feet closer together and closer to the ground.  If you're doing a step-touch, narrow your stance.  If you're doing kicks, just kick a little lower or do a point or a tap instead of a kick.  Also if you suffer from hypertension, you should probably keep your arms at shoulder height or lower most of the time.  It may raise your BP to work out for extended periods with your arms over your head.

3.  Simplify movements:  If you're finding yourself overtired in class, you can simply do the leg movements and drop the arms to your sides.  Or you can sit in a chair and just do the arm movements.   You can also use this strategy for pain management.  Legs hurt?  Just do the arms.  Do your arms hurt?  Just do the legs.  Is your right arm killing you?  Just use the left one.  You get the idea...

We could go into a lot more detail about this, but here's the key point.  It's YOUR body.  Nobody knows more about how your body feels than YOU do.  So take charge!  Apply some simple modifications, ask for help, speak up, and be the boss of your own body.  Just make sure your fitness FITS you.

The Fat Chick

Surviving the Holidays: Making a List

Monday, January 9, 2012

So, I was making a list and checking it twice.  Wanted to find out if there's a Psychiatrist willing to prescribe emergency Xanax and trying not to hyperventilate.  Seriously at this time of the year the list gets a little long and out of control, right?  Last time I sat down to do my holiday to-do list, I got to page 3.5 and burst out into tears.

But after I blew my nose and medicated myself with a small amount of premium dark chocolate, I was able to address the list again.  And I realized something.  I really didn't NEED to do everything on the list.  The list was more a wish list than a highly prioritized, realistic list of the most important stuff I absolutely needed to get done.  So I took my list and put it through triage.  I sorted out the stuff that MUST get done, from the stuff that I really WANTED to get done and the stuff that would be NICE to get done.  And here's the thing about triage, you have to be brutal.  You have to make tough choices.  The stuff that MUST get done is the things that would result in severe consequences if you don't do them.  On my list this included: get medications refilled, get gas in the car, deposit check into the bank, pay bills that are due, get the food I promised to bring to Christmas dinner, find somebody to care for our dog while we're out of town and keep up with my client demands enough to keep my clients.  Then there are the things I really wanted to get done: send presents to out of town friends and family, do laundry, pack clean clothes for the trip, bake some cookies to bring to the party.  Then there was a long, long list of things that would be nice to get done: decorate the tree, clean the house, wash the car, look for new clients, find a new outfit to wear for Christmas, sort the garage, clean out the closets, send Holiday cards to acquaintances, and on and on and on.

The result of my holiday triage, is that less than 1/4 of my list counted as stuff I MUST get done.  Another 1/4 was things that I really wanted to get done, and half the list was in the would be nice category.  So I told myself: okay get through the must, then see how much time you have for the want and if you don't have time for the would be nice, then just don't sweat it.   I got through everything on the list that was absolutely necessary.  My suitcases were packed and near the door.  The food was organized and the cooler washed and standing by the door.  The car was gassed and ready to go.  Dog sitter standing by all before bedtime.  All I had to do was get up in the morning, put the stuff in the car, post this blog and GO. What a relief!  I went to bed with a smile on my face.

And then both me and my husband got violently ill with the flu.  At that point, I had to just throw the entire list out and start over.  I couldn't go to my parents on Friday or even Saturday.  Christmas Eve dinner was a few saltines and some ginger ale.  The food I assembled to bring to my family had to be stored in the freezer.  We finally managed to zip our suitcases and stagger to the car on Christmas Day. 

This is really an extension of the previous post about setting holiday expectations.  Our lists are so long because we are trying to be perfect or achieve a holiday story that is just not realistic.  What if we could stop spending so much time worrying about what other people will think about us at the holidays, and spend more time just being with them?  How many wonderful opportunities for love and communications have I missed because I was in the kitchen just whipping up one more thing or washing another dish or cleaning the house?  And here's the thing, the dirt always comes back, but sadly, our friends and family are only with us a limited amount of time.  And that's why I decided to focus on getting to my family on Christmas, and didn't sweat it that this blog post is about 2 weeks late.

Since then, we passed one of the great list making holidays of the year, New Years.  That's when we move away from our holiday lists and towards lists of resolutions for the whole freaking YEAR!  That's when we decide we're going to reorganize the house and only eat organic foods and run a marathon and run for Congress and heaven only knows what else.  And here again, I think a little list triage is in order.  In fact, let's not make a list.  Want a New Year's Resolution?  Okay, pick ONE.  Not 5, not 20, don't make a list.  Just pick one thing.  Close your eyes, listen to your heart and choose one thing that you think will make you happier and make your life better this year.  Got it?  Good!

And since it's technically not too late to say it: Happy New Years my little chickadees!

The Fat Chick