All posts by andreaexerciseblog

Andrea is an fitness instructor, registered physiotherapist, a blogger and vlogger with a goal of motivating everyone to be physically active in their daily life.

Hips: Love em or leave em?

I love my hips. I’ve never had a bad relationship with them. I have never had any chronic pain as an adult. I do recollect deep groin pain as a youth in ballet class. In any case, I care about my hips and want to keep them in the best shape possible. Without their health, I know my life would be significantly impacted. I want to stay ahead and not get behind in their abilities.

My hips are not symmetrical. They move differently. I’ve gotten to know them well through years of dance and physical activity. They are twins but with unique personalities. I don’t love one more than the other. They have their individual strengths and relative weaknesses (credit: wise yoga instructor).

Lately, I have had some knee cap pain. While I am recovering from my knee dysfunction I have placed a special emphasis on knee and hip strengthening because they are kind of best friends. Can’t treat one without the other. They are intricately connected and when one suffers they tend to commiserate together. Maybe not overtly to the untrained eye. You have to look for it. And sometimes not.

Why hips are important

Back to our star pupil. The “biggest” joint in the body. Lost in the depths of the body but not forgotten. Buried in mystery and sometimes esoteric associations. We are obsessed with our “hips” for lack of a better term. It includes the hip joint proper(the ball and socket), housed in our pelvis and all of the musculature surrounding it. Together they act as a fulcrum connecting the upper and lower body folding us in half. Unilaterally, they balance our torso via the pelvis, allowing us to translate ourselves from point A to B.

When you think about what happens when we walk, its pretty complicated. The hips are a major component in the balancing act of walking, alternately suspending ourselves on one limb at a time, propelling ourselves forward, backward or side to side. Through our connection with the ground we generate forces that move our bodies in the direction we choose. We would have a very hard time doing this with out the health of our hips.

Taking the mystery out of hip pain and joint imbalances

What happens when the hip joint is unbalanced? The balance of the ball and socket and all of the muscles surrounding them, both deep and superficial, sometimes seems too complex to decipher. When the hips are unbalanced we may shift unintentionally in the wrong direction which then requires even more energy to redirect our momentum. We create alternate strategies that overtime may be even more detrimental to our posture and mechanics.

It’s a special joint that gets a lot of attention. Rightly so. When the hip is unwell there can be a chain effect upwards towards our spine and downwards towards the soles of our feet.

So given our apparent focus on our hips, why the mystery? There are several popular hip muscles that are frequently associated with having great importance. Just as frequently, these muscles are labelled as critical links that once uncovered will reveal the solutions to all of our problems. The ones that come to mind are psoas, gluteus medius and piriformis. Hamstrings and gluteus maximus? For some reason they don’t get the spotlight. I guess they are boring and too obvious. The reality is that we need every part of our hip musculature to work in optimal lengths with optimal strengths, and we need them to be in use on a daily basis.

When I am trying to figure out a hip problem, I look for the “gross” imbalances. Front versus back. Side versus inside. Deep fine tuners versus superficial power houses. Some groups of muscles become more dominant than the other because of habitual postures and repetitive activities. It could be that our exercise program is a little biased and doesn’t “round out” our hips’ basic needs.

The pelvic floor and hip joint stability

There are also hip joint muscles that are very closely associated with the pelvic floor. Dysfunction in one area may affect the other. Maybe we consider the hips to be so precious because of their proximity to our sexual organs. The hips’ close association with the back can also make the pain picture sometimes confusing.

But the hips are not fragile unless you have osteopenia or osteoporosis or another bony pathological condition. They are required to take on a significant load and when injured often require extensive retraining to restore the normal length and strength of the musculature. We often need to re-learn how to stabilize the pelvis on the femur via the hip joint. There are rarely any quick fixes involving a single muscle that will ultimately eliminate hip pain or restore ideal function.

Keeping our hips healthy.

Keeping our hips healthy should be a focal point of everyone’s day. And one simple way is too get off of your buttocks and stop sitting for prolonged periods. We have all heard about how our sedentary lifestyles which involve prolonged sitting have replaced cigarette smoking as a major lifestyle factor that is detrimental to our overall health.

A great suggestion is to get out if you chair every 20 minutes. Set a timer so you won’t forget. Stand up and straighten your hips. Get them out of that passive folded position. Take a short walk around your space. Walk forwards, backwards and sideways if you can. Tighten your glutes and remember that they should not feel anything like pancakes i.e. flat and soft.

So, love your hips. Don’t leave them unattended. Intend to keep them in shape and they will thank you by keeping you moving with ease and accuracy. Love thy hips as they are incredible and special joints. Keep things simple by giving them what they need on a regular basis. If you are not sure, find someone to help you figure it out. Don’t give up on them. They are worth the consistent time and the effort to keep them lubricated, flexible and strong.

Upward (from the chair)

and onward (propelling yourself through space)!

Let’s go!

Essentrics with Andrea

When exercise doesn’t feel good: 6 reasons why and how to overcome them

Sometimes exercise doesn’t feel good. If you are like me, I exercise for a release. But what happens when that release or elevated state after exercise doesn’t occur? What if it is just the opposite?

I recently did an online class with my favorite instructor.  But I will admit, I wasn’t feeling it.   Until we got to the side leg lifts.  More on that later.  Maybe it was because I had a kink in my neck that was distracting me, and a resolving shoulder tendinitis on the opposite side. I was in a bit of a funk. Probably even before I started. I left class on a neutral to grumpy note. I didn’t experience my usual lightness of being.  My focus was also a little scattered with concerns unrelated to the class.

Let’s start with the obvious:

1: Pain or injury. Sometimes we can manage to do what we like to do despite a little niggling irritation or pain. Sometimes after exercising that discomfort is gone. But sometimes its worse. If you are in the habit of feeling more pain after exercise, you are doing the wrong thing. Switch your intention to releasing versus tensing. Go “loosey goosey”(credit : Essentrics). Go through the range of motion without visiting the painful limits. This may be enough to nudge you back into balance.

The other thing is try something completely different. Give that unhappy area some relative rest. Do an activity that focuses on another area of the body (stationary cycling instead of upper body activities for a shoulder injury). Focus on ideal postures and positions for the area involved. If you can’t figure it out, consult with someone who should know how to approach injury and exercise.

The exercise itself may not be the reason for your pain. It could very well be how you spend your day (sitting, slouching?) that is the main contributing factor to your malaise. Start paying to attention to more of what hurts and what helps. This may inform you as to what activities may be beneficial and what is harmful.

2. Illness. if you are sick, you are sick. Some of us know when we are about to get sick. This is the time to back off so your body can focus its energy on your immune response. Taxing your body at this time is a bad idea. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a short walk, if you are truly up for it. You still need to move but bring it down several notches so nature can take its course, getting you better sooner than later.

3. Self criticism. Sometimes we enter into exercise with a less than positive attitude. Find the spaces where you know you have felt uplifted before. If you are just getting started, can you create or find an environment where you feel the desire to thrive? Where can you find some positive encouragement for your efforts? Try not to compare yourself to others, even if just for the next 20 minutes. Be present for your own benefit.

4. Over training / overexertion. This is again where the ego’s desires exceed the physical ability or capacity. Yes, you may have run a marathon, but the boot camp isn’t a run-a-thon, so take yourself through new activities with several ounces of caution. What’s the hurry? What’s the point of exercising beyond your tissues’ limits?

I like exercise that I can sustain everyday. I no longer want to train so I can barely walk the following day or two. It depends on what your goals are. If you are directing your efforts towards a specific goal, are you starting from a base level of fitness or are you starting from square one? A different approach will be required for each circumstance

Overtraining can lead to chemical imbalances that can can be more destructive than constructive (long term elevation of cortisol) , leaving you feeling lousy instead of energized.

5. Not enough fuel/water/sleep.

Fuel. We need food to maintain our basic human processes. If we are exercising, we need more. This doesn’t mean you should eat the McDonald’s cheeseburger because you ran for 1.5 hours. Look at what you eat and drink as your building blocks to success. Not eating enough to sustain your activities may result in increased cortisol levels and decreased recovery.

If you are pairing exercise with reduced food intake for weight loss, try not to be too extreme. Look for the nutrient dense food (aka healthy) so your body gets what it needs. Cut out the junk food. We can eat crappy food on occasion when we are fitness focused. But feeling dizzy during exercise because you haven’t eaten or drank enough shouldn’t be an option.

Water. I don’t derive a lot of pleasure from drinking water. I feel the same about eating green vegetables but at least my body recognizes that they are important and sometimes craves them. Water? I am rarely thirsty and hate the taste. I just know I need water. So I try to choke down a a cupful or two during exercise. I use a cup instead of a bottle for easier access.

Sleep. If you didn’t sleep at all the night before, should you be doing that morning routine? Sleep is a tough one if your are having trouble finding it. If you like to keep your exercise schedule regular, switch up your workout that day and try something calming or meditative. Maybe do a light stretching routine. Get in tune with yourself instead of maxing out that day.

6. You are too hot or too cold. This is very important but often overlooked. I am guilty of this, having noted my ability to overheat seems more likely than ever before. Peri-menopausal? We need to exercise at a temperature that allows us to cool off when needed, and to be warm enough to encourage soft tissue extensibility.

I am particularly sensitive when it comes to my feet and ankles. I think that I have beaten up my tender tootsies one too many times. The result is that I can’t function well with cold feet. It hurts. If it’s cold, dress warmly. Move around gently in anticipation of more complex movements later in the workout.

To summarize:

Getting on the fitness train isn’t as difficult as staying on the train. I think if you focus on the big picture, and keep reminding yourself that it is a constantly evolving process, you will have more reasonable expectations. You will judge yourself less if you don’t follow through on the exact prescription you created for yourself that day. Accept the reality that movement will result in a healthier and longer life. Daily small successes are way better than none at all.

If I am in pain, I need to modify. If I am sick, I have to take it easier. If I am sad, I have to give myself a mental break. If I am unrealistic, I have to redefine ground zero or reconsider what level of elevation I am aiming for. If I am too cold or hot, I bring on the layers or expose a little more skin.

All of these perceived barriers have answers. No need to struggle. Just be a little better than yesterday or just maintain your gains. You are in charge. Ask for help if you need it. You are stronger than you think (credit: favorite fitness instructor).

Essentrics with Andrea

COVID and Jogging in the city: the pros and cons

Jogging in the city is definately an option. It really does push the body, increasing your heartrate and improving your cardiovascular fitness. It can increase the strength and endurance of your lower body, but really involves the entire body to some degree. It doesn’t require much more than a pair of shoes and requires little to no planning. You can easily vary the intensity and frequency. It can include others if you choose. It can make you feel stronger and more energetic. It can give you an endorphin high and zen like focus. It gets you outdoors and into nature.

But I will have to say, in the early stages of the COVID era it appeared that everyone including their dog and their cat were out jogging. At one point the streets of Toronto were rampant with joggers! No joke.

“Might as well go for a jog”. I remember feeling that way a very long time ago.  Actually, about 25 years ago.  When I was younger and my joints were more resilient to effects of pounding the pavement.  My reasons were I wanted to get fit.  Superfit to be exact.  Jogging can get you there. Lose fat.  Increase tone. A run could shake off whatever negative stuff I was feeling, and yes, I benefited from the endorphin high.  That was a given.

But then I might see several patients in pain as a result of running, and they couldn’t stop. My job was to help them mediate the balance between regeneration and degeneration. I have pushed myself to my own physiological limits several times in the past. A more calculated and reflective approach is now needed to stay clear of injury.

Back to the COVID jogging phenomenon. I will note that the volume of joggers on the streets has dwindled with the re-opening of gyms, and people likely returning to work, changes in schedules, etc. But now that the gyms are closed again, I am wondering if the jogging population will rise yet again?

Winter is also coming. Toronto sidewalks in general are not that great in terms of snow and ice clearance, so where are you going to take this jogging phase?

With the first round of COVID, there were actually fewer people on the streets, so there was indeed more space for the increase in joggers. Now we are essentially back to normal street capacity so it might get busy! Watch yourselves!

I have already been re-evaluating my COVID exercise routine. I think I may spend more time learning and creating new Essentrics routines or something similar of my own, with a strong emphasis on music. I have also been focusing on accomplishing true HIIT routines now that I have a heart rate monitor.

Just keep moving. The more variety you have to choose from the more likely you will keep up a physical routine, regularly. Having options already built in is great. Just think about the bends in the road that are no doubt going to present themselves (including the ice and snow). Have your back up plan ready so you don’t loose the momentum you’ve created.

Onward and upward!

Cheers joggalicious movers! See you on the street! 

Essentrics with Andrea

Body fat, weight loss and exercise

There are many connections that can be made between exercise and weight. Exercise keeps me in a healthy head space even when the scale has tipped one way or the other. I use exercise as a tool to: promote a positive body awareness, re-enforce healthy eating habits, gain or maintain muscle mass, increase self efficacy and increase my resolve to continue on as healthy a path as possible for the rest of my life.

It is hard to discuss over fatness or obesity because of the pain and suffering people have been subjected to because they may have been considered outside of “normal’. The stigma that is associated with it is so powerful that it is easier not to talk about it, even when someone is asking for help.

I checked out the Canadian Obesity Network many years ago. My interest is in helping those who would like to improve their body composition as a means to improve their health. Finding the most constructive and compassionate way of doing so is essential. Movement is definitely a factor in my experience along with what we consume. I can address the movement factor but I will leave the nutritional counselling to those who understand it best.

On an even more personal level, I have had experience with disordered eating. But as of late, let’s say the last 2 years, I have adopted a more stable outlook. This perspective has minimized the need for negative self talk when I have not been “perfect”. I am not perfect and don’t try to be anymore.

Some say we should never comment on someone’s body weight. The one place where weight is addressed in my profession is when it comes to joint health, particularly the knees ( i.e. for every extra kilo or 2 pounds, the joint load increases 3-5 times). Exercise and weight are two factors that can be addressed when it comes to the health of our mechanical body.

How I associate exercise with weight:

Increased body awareness

Exercise for me increases my body awareness. It brings me to a place where I am focusing on my body’s sensations, the good and the bad. The good would be ease of movement, positive energy, clothing fitting comfortably and a sense of tone and firmness in my muscles.

Resetting the stage

If I am feeling overfat, a change in my exercise program can help set the stage for a new start, kind of like a change of seasons. It helps to renew my resolve to make healthier eating choices, and helps increase my vigor to stay on track. I have to be careful at these times and try not to be too radical or restrictive. This is because it is usually a waste of time, leading to negative talk and potential downward spirals if not kept in check.

Using exercise to elevate your mood

When you are feeling good about yourself, self love and forgiveness comes easier. A favorable outlook makes its easier to accept the process of self improvement without worrying about the length of time it will take to get there.

When I am in a range that I feel best at, exercise actually becomes easier. The focus is purely on health and longevity. I know that what I do physically on a daily basis means more than bouts of maniacal training and dieting.

I have rarely been underweight. It has occurred when I have restricted myself considerably. It is never sustainable and takes a lot of mental energy, and rarely leaves me feeling better. The nutritional deficit ultimately takes a toll on energy levels and general sense of well being.

Gaining muscle mass

One other reason to look at the interplay of exercise and weight would be if you are trying to gain muscle mass, or it you have low muscle mass. In this case, I have gained weight with weight training programs, and would consider this again if I was debilitated after injury or extended illness.

I also realize that with aging, my muscle mass will naturally deplete if left to its own devices, so some form of muscle strengthening to minimize sarcopenia is important (the stats may be different depending on where you look but after age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade).

Finding stability

I actually credit becoming a fitness instructor in Essentrics for developing a more stable body weight. My weight in general has stayed in the same 10 lb range for the last 2 years. My range previously was approximately 40 lbs since my teens. I think the frequency with which you focus on your body on a positive level, it becomes easier to manage the weight. I luckily have found something that once again, like dance, requires regular reflection of the body’s fitness. Exercising has been the best part of my day for a very long time.

Exercise or DIPA (daily intentional physical activity) goes way beyond burning a few extra calories. It’s a process that has its ups and downs, tons of variety if you look for it and new adventures if you are open to it. It can be used to self regulate on many levels and ultimately helps one be comfortable in their own skin.

Let’s get DIPA into the process!

Essentrics with Andrea

Group exerciser: My evolution and why group exercise

Unintentionally, I have evolved into being a group exerciser.  Maybe I always was one.  Now I identify as one.

There are many benefits of group exercise that can make the effort required seem less daunting and some added benefits that can only be experienced in a group setting. Now with COVID there has been an apparent online boom in options so you can do it anywhere without leaving the comfort of your home or workplace. Gyms re-opening with the possibility of live classes is still on the horizon. Even if you are not inclined to try that out, the livestream/ virtual options can provide many of the same benefits and will get you moving.

Early development as a group exerciser

My initial exposure to group exercise was virtually through some old technology called the television. It was The 20 Minute Workout and I always hoped my favorite back up instructor Bess, would be part of the trio.  Despite not actually being in a class, you were exercising along with others.  Sometimes my primary school friends and I would do the lunchtime workout together.

I was inspired by these aerobic exercisers, their confidence and showmanship.  Their integrated and unique combinations of fitness attire were always fun to decipher.  I was a little young and a bit conservative for the high cut leotards with the g string backs but I really thought these women were amazing. The sleek look of the  production and its sense of modernity at the time were unique.  

My first formal in person group exercise experience was at a gym called Lady Fitness.  It was an extension of the Superfitness brand.  I joined Lady Fitness with expressed intent of using the seated inner thigh (adductor) machine. Group exercise wasn’t my initial focus. I really thought that the weighted inner thigh squeeze machine was the answer to all of my problems.  I couldn’t wait to get my chance on it.  

The group classes were generally “aerobic classes” with varying levels of difficulty.  I remember being a little judgemental of one of the instructors huffing and puffing during her own workout.  Now I know better that the apparent effort did not necessarily mean lack of fitness.  It was just exertion, physically and vocally. 

Since that time I had tried multiple other gyms and fitness centres but nothing ever really stuck.  Frequently I was intimidated and extremely self conscious so l stuck to what I was used to which was mostly dance and cross country running.

Middle and later development as a group exerciser

My middle stage was going back to dance training in my late 20’s. It is almost all group physical activity in a dynamic group atmosphere. The final stage of my development included an intro to Essentrics at a fitness conference and then my first live class as a participant. I was fully engaged and left ready to go.

You are not alone

In retrospect, most of my exercise and movement experience had a social aspect which at the time I did not recognize its importance.  I loved it so much that I got started on a group fitness certification. Essentrics brought me back into the social aspect of group exercise.  

Feed off the energy of the other participants

Long before Essentrics, I decided to become a dancer again. I returned to the studio and group physical activity.  I loved being in class and feeling the energy generated by the musicians and fellow dancers! It was so stimulating! Essentrics classes have also provided me a similar encompassing experience as a group exerciser. Your focus is heightened by the group dynamic.

I can do that too!

…back to group exercise or group physical activity.  It really is the best thing for me whether a participant or teacher.  Either formally organized or just a duo after work.  It’s so much easier doing intentional movement when there are others around doing the same thing.  I think part of the motivation is to match your peers and a little competitive spirit.

Not enough time? Finances?

Sometimes there is a financial constraint to group work but the time spent is really just about prioritization.  Its truly up to you and what is it worth to you.   And in the advent of our recent world crisis, there are multiple online options to participate in with the instructor and modality of your choice.  You could even create your own group for that matter and choose someone to lead. The cost of online classes may be cheaper than in person. If you can get a group together likely it will be worth some instructor’s time with everyone making a smaller financial contribution.

Watch and follow someone else. Get out of your head and into your body.

I did an online class this morning for $10 with one of my favorite instructors.  It was totally worth it.  She has amazing energy, and I can see the other participants if I choose(as on Zoom). I stick some earpods in, set up my computer, clear some space, have a mat ready, runners on, and voila! In home training without a significant cost.

I prefer the live streams over recorded where the instructor is actually watching the participants to give modifications and specific cues. You really do feel like a part of a class, and it’s definitely more fun for me than doing my own workout.

Find your peeps. They are out there. Structure a class into your week and make the commitment. Take advantage of the abundant energy that is already out there to get you moving.  Are you ready?

Then LET’S get set and GO! 

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise acoutrement: tips on making it work

Exercise acoutrement: do clothes matter when exercising?  Have you ever exercised naked? If you are wearing exercise clothes are they clean or lightly worn? 

Does your exercise outfit make a difference as to how you feel and perform?

I can be motivated by a cool outfit.  Despite being relatively cheap and over-wearing certain pieces, I had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with active urban fashion.  My new threads were from a store that was totally my style. A mixture of sporty, fashion and quality i.e. a small investment.  Not earthy but unencumbered.  I ended up spending a few bucks over two visits at RYU.  It did include a winter coat so it wasn’t purely sweat wear. I really enjoyed the next couple of months feeling pretty cool in my new threads that screamed exercise but urban chic. 

I used to really love clothes.  Little Miss Fuss Budget was an early childhood nickname. If I thought something was ugly on me then it was ugly.  There was no amount of talking that could sway my mind.  I am still like that now but I care a little less if the clothes do not fit perfectly or if they are maybe a little big. Too small?  Never.  I can’t stand wearing clothes that constantly need to adjusted or feel like they are being pulled the wrong direction.  Freedom of movement is essential. 

I also can thank Essentrics and getting a job at Framewrk.  Because I wanted to look my best I splurged a little.  I went out and bought multiple slim track pants and bike shorts, skipping the tights. Way too revealing for my body.  I may as well be walking around naked because that is how I feel in tights. That is just me and my personal preferences around exercise acoutrement.

Steps to success

Its always stimulating to be wearing something that you know is flattering.  But should it be an excuse not to exercise if you are lacking the current exercise acoutrement?  If you are exercising solo in your home you can really get away with anything.  If you are exercising elsewhere, it can be its tiresome to have to change or shower for that matter after a workout. Sometimes carrying around what you need is a pain so just plan to do less when time is limited, i.e maybe you don’t need to do a hardcore workout just before a dinner outing? Or maybe you will just do a light warm-up and some stretches to reverse the posture you have been in all day. No need to sweat it, every time.

Plan your day and your outfits to minimize the dress change.  Wear your sports bra under the work clothes and change to the regular later.  I have minimized my underwear needs by wearing shorts where underwear is built in or optional.

Include your change time time into your workout time

This will leave you feeling less rushed and allow you to plan your intentional activity to be successful in its completion.  For example, I have 25 minutes and I need 10 to change, so that leaves me 15 minutes to focus on me. Be reasonable.

Be prepared

Maybe wear the used clothes once in awhile so you don’t have to carry clothes back and forth everyday if that’s an option. Hang them up to dry in unusual ways (my overhead desk cupboard that is not air tight).  They just need ventilation.  If its a morning workout get your stuff out the night before. Better yet, get it packed the night before for tomorrow’s workout. Buy a few extra outfits so you don’t need to do the laundry as often. Maybe even plan the weeks worth of clothes if you have enough and bring it with you on Monday or whatever day you start your week. If you only have one outfit you like then hand wash it nightly. Fitness gear generally dries faster than the rest.

Be open

We are often very creative when it comes to reasons not to exercise. Be more creative with reasons to exercise. Then empower yourself to do the things that you know will only benefit you. Is it a sweat day or a light day to rebalance? Colour is great at elevating your mood. Add your touches to make it individual. When I had to tape my ankle I created homemade ankle warmers made from socks with the toe and heel cut out. One of my group exercise clients actually asked me where I bought them from!

Reduce, reuse and take simple proactive steps to ensure success

Choosing to exercise is hard enough at times so reduce, reuse and take preventative actions to ensure that you don’t do the “I can’t” because you are not prepared. Make it inevitable. Get your gear on without contemplation. Once you start the process its much easier to get it done. You know you will feel better at the end. The movement is what matters. Not what you wear. If what you wear impacts your decision making, then don’t leave the options open. Exercise acoutrement: close the deal before its done. And then, get her done.

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise and injury and why I exercise

Why I exercise

I have been not sedentary for my entire life.  This doesn’t mean that I have been running around in circles but almost.  I can’t sit still.  But where does this come from.  Anxiety, nervousness, boredom?

When I do move, whether it is intentional or not, it distracts me, redirects my mind, allows my thoughts to wander OR if it is intentional, I have almost 100% of the time felt some sort of release following exercise, both physically and mentally.

While exercising/moving I get to zone in on my body and zone out of any current mental pre-occupations.

One of the things I like about exercise the most is the kinesthetic feedback I get from my body.  I like the feeling of a good muscle contraction, control over the limb involved, and the resting tone that remains after.

I am very aware of when I have some new soreness, swelling, bump or other various body asymmetries come up.  My hands are just drawn to the area and then voila!, There is something there.  Gratefully never serious.

When I do have pain, I can usually deal with it and complain very little on the outside.  On the inside I do get irritated especially if it lasts a little longer that I anticipated, resolving slower than expected.  I don’t ever lose the hope that it will get better.

Getting a taste of your own medicine…..

Exercise and injury

I actually sprained my ankle on a Thursday many weeks ago.  It was simply from running across the street and turning my ankle over on the streetcar track.  Initially, I knew I was injured but I could still walk.  The limp reduced over the next several steps but I had to walk very consciously and with awareness the rest of the way.  It was not until the end of the day, as my ankle swelled and the pain increased, that I realized this was not a mild sprain and would preclude my exercise activities.

So I did something out the ordinary for me.  I asked for help to cover my Essentrics class the following evening and I spent that evening and the next with my foot elevated with intermittent icing.  I taped my ankle for work and sat as much as possible during my workday.  The relative rest really helped.  By the second morning following the sprain, I noted further improvement in my range of motion and continued to rest it for the day.  I decided that I would be able to teach my Sunday morning Essentrics class, with taping and a few modifications.  I made it through the class with some mild arch pain that subsided over the course of the day.  I continued to tape it daily until it is fully resolved to prevent accidental re-injury.

So I was amazed at the effect of REST.  Historically, I have had multiple sprains, but rarely if ever, reduced my activity level to promote healing.  I usually just kept up with the maximum level activity possible, allowed pain and swelling to occur, and waited several weeks for the strain to resolve.  This time, I continued on a moderate path, of relative rest (not walking to work, not stationary cycling and not teaching my usual number of classes). 

The benefits of relative rest shouldn’t be a big surprise to me, but despite my knowledge, I am like many people, who tough it out, thinking that less is not better.   I don’t like to bring attention to myself, and frequently suffer quietly under wraps.  I am not exactly sure exactly where that pattern has stemmed from but ultimately, I am on a new path, to a more sustainable body, hence Sustainablebod.ca has birthed itself as my perspectives, knowledge, and desire to maintain a healthy ‘older’ body has come to the forefront more than ever. 

Take your number one reason for exercising and think about where you are now and where you want to be.   Are you already there?  Do you need to maintain or improve?  Is it an emotional, physical, physiological or cognitive reason for exercising? Is it realistic?  Maybe you just want to have fun? 

Wherever you are on your fitness journey there will be many moments when you question yourself.

For example, why am I doing this and should I be doing this now?  Is there something else I should be doing in addition to what I am doing? Is this enough?  Is it too much?  Why is my (insert body part) hurting?  It really is not that easy to know how much you need,  how often and what type of movement is best for you.  It no doubt will be an ongoing process of re-evaluation.  There is no one size fits all.

But I am almost positive that if you begin with the less complex activity as a starting point you will likely find something that is useful and safe to do.  When your goals become clearer the path should also become clearer.  It can be a fun ride if you don’t get hung up on details.  Unless you have already done it before.  But even then, bodies and circumstances change.

My suggestion is to be willing to question but don’t let these questions stop you from deciding to move.  Its always better to have completed the simplest of tasks than nothing at all.  You can’t reflect unless you have recent up to date experiences to reflect on.  Give yourself some new information to work with.  And that information comes from your body and your experience inside it.  

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise in times of elevated levels of stress

This is a blog that I wrote some time ago during the early COVID days. I am not one to succumb to the pressures of stress.  Generally, I feel that I can handle stress well but recent world developments have had an impact on my current primary occupation and financial sources of income.  I would like to think that I can do it all, but as of late, I have allowed myself a bit more flexibility in my exercise expectations than I normally would during a regular week. Exercise in times of elevated levels of stress can be challenging.

To exercise or not to exercise.  That is a question.  I last put in a “formal” workout 3 days ago.  It is not a long time, but long enough to trigger some guilt for not doing my usual (Essentrics) exercise workout at a rate of 3-4 times per week.  On the brighter side, I have been walking twice daily for 25 minutes for the purpose of transporting myself to and from work, a safer option than taking public transit at this time.  So I am getting some DIPA (daily intentional physical activity).  All is not lost.  The daily walks give me the time to refocus and distract myself from the ongoing foreboding threat. 

I know tomorrow that I will without a doubt add in a formal workout in addition walking.  But for today I am giving myself a relative break.  Relative rest is what I like to call it. 

Trying to balance the equation

When it comes to immunity, we know that the balance between stress and exercise can have an impact on our body’s response to fight infection.  There is no exact prescription.  It will be different for everyone depending on your starting point. Exercise in times of elevated levels of stress needs to challenge you and not degrade you. 

I have benefited from exercise so many times that I could never truly give in.  But it’s tempting.  What is less tempting is to reduce my level of fitness to a point that my energy levels change.  I am not worried that I have fallen off the wagon.  But it really makes you think about what is important. It’s easy to make excuses so I will keep these periods in check, when intending to promote the preservation of energy through decreased movement, because at some point the equilibrium is lost and then you have to build it up again.

I’ve decided that my strategy tomorrow is to start my day with a workout when my energy level is higher.  I know I can do it.  I am looking forward to it.  These times will always pass, its just that this one is truly out of my control.

Keeping it simple

I am setting my goals at a level that I know I can accomplish.   Sometimes its a day to day assessment.  I personally can depend on myself but if that wasn’t the case, who or what would I turn to, to help motivate me and keep me on track?  For the last 2 Saturdays at around 1pm I have been doing an IGTV workout with Jillian Michaels.  I think it really helps to know that you are not alone, and there are others working out with you at the same time.  I’ve also considered giving my own Zoom class to private clients(my colleagues) to replace their weekly Wednesday Essentrics.   I have also started using the Nike app again combined with some cycling.  

Options

Exercise in times of elevated levels of stress means that I will always go with my flow.   This means that I will do some form of intentional activity but there are no hard set rules, just options.  The more options you have then the more likely you will just get started and then see where your flow takes you.  For example, my options could be stationary bike, treadmill, stretching, Nike app, Essentrics TV, or learn new Essentrics choreography. I also have Zoom Essentrics and HIIT class options with a preferred teacher. 

My only “should do’s” are actually cardiovascular exercise where my heart rate is elevated, either in a fat burning zone long duration or HIIT.  Keeping the VO2 max healthy is all about our capacity to perform.  If only I could accurately assess my VO2 max, that would be wonderful.

Exercise in times of elevated levels of stress can be challenging.  Trying to find balance in my self when the world is full of unpredictability is all I can do.  Keeping it simple and allowing myself to have options decreases the internal pressure.  Keeping the heart and lungs healthy are key in maintaining energy levels.  Its almost always worth the effort.  Picking the right level of effort will ensure that I will follow through, finding myself on the other side of having fulfilled the need to move my body.  Approaching each day individually with unique DIPA goals have made it easier to say yes to today. I will intentionally move my body for the betterment of my current health and future quality of life. Onward and upward!

Essentrics with Andrea