My Resolutions for 2017

30 Dec

Season’s Greetings, folks! It’s that time of the year again, when we reflect on the year that is about to end and look forward to the one which is about to begin. It’s also the time when we make our New Year’s resolutions as we try to turn over a new leaf. Here’s a list of resolutions I’ve made for 2017:

 

 

  • Take my yoga teaching to the next level. This includes not only teaching more classes, but also being a student in other people’s classes and learning from their teaching styles. It also includes improving my hands-on assisting technique, and continuing my general education in order to deepen my knowledge not just of the physical aspect of yoga, but also of the mental and spiritual facets of the practice.

 

  • Get more involved in group exercise and boot camps. I took a semi-hiatus from these things for the past two years in order to put my focus into my 200-hour yoga training and to spend more time at home with my wife. But now I’m chomping at the bit to get going again. I miss the energy of being at the gym, and I miss the many wonderful friends I’ve made at the various health clubs I’ve been fortunate enough to teach and train at. As with yoga, I’d like to not only teach more classes, but also take more classes taught by other people in order to learn from them.

 

  • Write more. A former personal training client and Group Centergy student of mine who is also a professional editor (and a good friend to boot) once told me once that I have a gift after I showed her a sample of my writing. She also told me that I should be using that gift and sharing it with a wider audience – and she’s absolutely right!

 

  • Get more organized around the house. As I started spending more time focusing on my career in the health and fitness industry, one casualty of the long hours I was putting in is that the upkeep around the house suffered greatly, and it hasn’t recovered since. But it’s essential for both Cathy’s and my peace of mind, and it also ties in with my next resolution:

 

  • Get more face time and social interaction in general. As I took my semi-hiatus from personal training and group exercise instruction, I found myself dearly missing it. I spend my entire work day alone in front of a computer, and I spend the majority of my weekends by myself in an empty house, because my wife works in retail. And the isolation has taken a toll on me emotionally: To be perfectly candid about it, I’ve found myself feeling lonely and depressed over the course of this holiday season, and I’m making a conscious effort to reach out to other people in order to lift my spirits.

 

  • Learn more about the business side of the health, fitness and overall wellness profession. This piece, more than any other, is going to require that I step out of my comfort zone. But it’s also critical if I’m going to take my career to the place where I want it to be.

 

Please feel free to weigh in with your own New Year’s resolutions. I would also ask you to hold me accountable for each and every one of the resolutions I’ve made, and I’ll gladly do the same for you. Happy New Year, everybody!

 

Your Wellness Goals for the Week

22 Apr

Brain Benefits of Exercise

What fitness, health and general wellness goals do you hope to accomplish for the week? It could be anything: Perhaps you’d like to lift more weight, increase the intensity of your cardio workouts, or try a group exercise class for the first time. Maybe you want to get into the club on a more consistent basis, or maybe you just want to get yourself back into the habit of going after a long layoff. Sport-specific goals like training to improve your golf swing are valid too, as is eating more healthfully. Think about your intention and post it here. Then check back at the beginning of next week and see if you were able to accomplish what you had hoped.

Your Wellness Goals for the Week

8 Apr

What fitness, health and general wellness goals do you hope to accomplish for the week? It could be anything: Perhaps you’d like to lift more weight, increase the intensity of your cardio workouts, or try a group exercise class for the first time. Maybe you want to get into the club on a more consistent basis, or maybe you just want to get yourself back into the habit of going after a long layoff. Sport-specific goals like training to improve your golf swing are valid too, as is eating more healthfully. Think about your intention and post it here. Then check back at the beginning of next week and see if you were able to accomplish what you had hoped.Image

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Quoted for Truth!

5 Apr

Quoted for Truth!

Your Wellness Goals for the Week

18 Mar

Physical Activity

What fitness, health and general wellness goals do you hope to accomplish for the week? It could be anything: Perhaps you’d like to lift more weight, increase the intensity of your cardio workouts, or try a group exercise class for the first time. Maybe you want to get into the club on a more consistent basis, or maybe you just want to get yourself back into the habit of going after a long layoff. Sport-specific goals like training to improve your golf swing are valid too, as is eating more healthfully. Think about your intention and post it here. Then check back at the beginning of next week and see if you were able to accomplish what you had hoped.

Your Wellness Goals for the Week

11 Mar

What fitness, health and general wellness goals do you hope to accomplish for the week? It could be anything: Perhaps you’d like to lift more weight, increase the intensity of your cardio workouts, or try a group exercise class for the first time. Maybe you want to get into the club on a more consistent basis, or maybe you just want to get yourself back into the habit of going after a long layoff. Sport-specific goals like training to improve your golf swing are valid too, as is eating more healthfully. Think about your intention and post it here. Then check back at the beginning of next week and see if you were able to accomplish what you had hoped.Image

Your Goals for the Week

25 Feb

What fitness, health and general wellness goals do you hope to accomplish for the week? It could be anything: Perhaps you’d like to lift more weight, increase the intensity of your cardio workouts, or try a group exercise class for the first time. Maybe you want to get into the club on a more consistent basis, or maybe you just want to get yourself back into the habit of going after a long layoff. Sport-specific goals like training to improve your golf swing are valid too, as is eating more healthfully. Think about your intention and post it here. Then check back at the beginning of next week and see if you were able to accomplish what you had hoped.

Your Goals for the Week

11 Feb

What fitness, health and general wellness goals do you hope to accomplish for the week? It could be anything: Perhaps you’d like to lift more weight, increase the intensity of your cardio workouts, or try a group exercise class for the first time. Maybe you want to get into the club on a more consistent basis, or maybe you just want to get yourself back into the habit of going after a long layoff. Sport-specific goals like training to improve your golf swing are valid too, as is eating more healthfully. Think about your intention and post it here. Then check back at the beginning of next week and see if you were able to accomplish what you had hoped.

New Year, New You!

1 Jan

2013

What are your fitness goals for 2013? One way to increase your chances of staying on track with your New Year’s resolutions is to write down your goals. Take a moment to think about what you’d like to accomplish during the year. Would you like to be able to do 100 pushups on your toes without any rest in between? Perhaps you’d like to run a 5K in less than 8 minutes per mile. Maybe you just want to take a few inches off your waistline so you can fit into that pair of jeans you haven’t worn in a few years. Or your goal might be more sport-specific: for example, to become a better tennis player or golfer. Those are just a few examples, but it can be anything. Whatever it is, please take a moment to think about it, and then write it down and share it with me. Happy New Year!

Don’t Let Your Lower Back Be Your Achilles Heel

1 Dec

Important: Always consult your physician before starting an exercise program

A common pitfall, even among people who are otherwise strong and fit, is to neglect the lower back and the other muscles that support and stabilize the spine. I know, because I was one of those people, and I paid for it.

In my late twenties, I was in the best shape I’d ever been in. My body fat was around 8%, and I was proud of the fact that while my chest was measuring at 43 inches, my waist had shrunk to a mere 32 inches. I was routinely completing 5-mile runs in well under 40 minutes, and could bench press about 250 lbs., well in excess of my body weight of 175 lbs. I was also on top of my game when playing goal in my Monday-night deck hockey league. I often wore shirts that were sleeveless and/or just a little snug, all the better to show off my arms and chest, and I relished every chance I got to go to the beach, where I could show off my physique with no shirt at all. I had worked hard to get in the shape I was in, I reasoned, so hadn’t I earned the right to flaunt it just a bit? All in all, I was feeling pretty good about myself, and like many young fitness enthusiasts, I had begun to think of myself as being bulletproof.

But that illusion came crashing down as I was performing a heavy barbell deadlift. I had performed this exercise many times as part of my strengthtraining routine without incident, but this time was different. As I was completing a repetition I suddenly felt a sharp pain shoot up my lower spine, and I realized much to my frustration that I had to stop. I assumed that I would need some rest and ice, and perhaps some ibuprofen, and that I would be up and running in about a week. Instead, I had chronic back pain for weeks that eventually turned into months, and I grew frustrated and a little worried. Once it became painfully clear that my back pain wasn’t going to go away by itself, I finally went to see my primary care physician. He told me something that surprised me: While the rest of my muscles, including those of my upper back, were well developed, the muscles in my lower back lagged woefully behind. This became a bigger issue as I began to train with heavier weights, because the muscles in my core simply weren’t strong enough to keep my spine in alignment. As it turned out, my back injury wasn’t a freak occurrence; it was a time bomb waiting to go off.

My problem was that my idea of training my core muscles was to do crunches, and perhaps a few side bends. These are great exercises from an aesthetic standpoint, because they strengthen and define the surface muscles that give a well-trained set of abs their “six-pack” look. But they don’t address the muscles that lie deeper in the core, which are more important from a functional standpoint because they’re responsible for maintaining stability in the spine. I first learned about this concept when my doctor sent me to work with a physical therapist. The exercises she prescribed worked wonders: The pain in my lower back diminished, and eventually disappeared entirely. I’ve been doing those exercises faithfully ever since and have picked up some new ones through my own research and education.

Here are six exercises that will help ensure that you don’t experience a similar lower-back injury.:

1. Prone Pointer

The prone pointer specifically targets the muscles in your lower back. Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands and thighs situated directly under the shoulders and hips, respectively. Be sure to avoid locking the elbows by keeping them soft (slightly bent). Contract your abdominal muscles, and draw your navel in towards your spine. Lift one arm straight out in front of you, and then lift the opposing leg, creating a straight line from your fingers to your toes. Lengthen as much as you can through your fingers and toes while keeping the elbow and knee soft. Keep your gaze on the floor. The key to this exercise is to maintain the contraction in your abdominal and lower back muscles in order to keep a neutral alignment in the pelvis and lower spine. Be sure not to allow the pelvis to tilt forward, which will cause the lower back to sag. Hold this position for a ten count, and then repeat the movement with the opposite arm and leg. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Prone Pointer

2. Bridge Pose

The bridge pose targets the muscles in your buttocks in addition to the lower back. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles and aids with digestion. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet pressed flat into the ground. Knees and feet should be shoulder width apart. Contract your abs, lower back, and buttocks, and press into the ground with your heels to lift the hips until your body is forming a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this position for a ten count, and then gently lower the hips to the floor, resting briefly before pressing the hips up again. Repeat 10 times.

Bridge Pose

3. Shoulder Pinch with Resistance Tubing

The shoulder pinch strengthens and stabilizes the upper as well as the lower back, and is excellent for improving posture. Wrap a piece of resistance tubing around a closed door handle and hold on to the ends with each hand. Contract the abdominal and lower back muscles, and pull the resistance tubing towards your body, bending your elbows to 90 degrees and pinching your shoulder blades together. Count to 10 as you hold this position, and then gently release tension in the band by bringing your arms forward again while maintaining stability in the core. Repeat 10 times.

Note: As you become more proficient at this exercise, you should be able to hold the contraction for longer counts: 20 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute or even longer. Whereas holding for 10 seconds at a time was challenging for me when I first began to do this exercise, I can now hold through a 5-minute song without stopping.

Shoulder PinchDoorknob

4. Front Plank

The front plank is an excellent strengthener for a deep core muscle called the transverse abdominus. Begin by lying flat on your stomach with your forearms on the ground and your upper arms snug against your rib cage. Contract the abs and pull the navel in towards the spine, leaving a gap between your abs and the ground. Then press the elbows and knees into the ground to lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Use the muscles in your abs and lower back to maintain a neutral position with your pelvis and lower back. Avoid allowing the pelvis to tilt forward, which would allow the lower back to sag, placing unnecessary stress on the lower vertebra. Hold for a count of 10, and gently lower yourself to the ground, resting briefly before you lift your hips again. Repeat 10 times.

Note: as your core muscles get stronger, you may do a more advanced version of this exercise by lifting your knees and performing this exercise on your toes. You may also begin to hold this pose for longer counts in order to present your core with a greater challenge.

Front Plank 1Front Plank 2

5. Double Leg Extension

The double leg extension is another great exercise for the transverse abdominus. Lying flat on your back, lift your knees above your hips. Drawing your navel in towards your spine, slowly extend your legs up, as though you’re trying to make a set of footprints on the ceiling. From there, slowly lower the legs until you feel tension in the deep core muscles, but it is critical to maintain a neutral curve in the spine in order not to place undue stress in the vertebra in the lower back. If you feel your spine arching up and away from the ground, slowly raise your legs again until you reach a point where you can keep the spine under control. If you’re a beginner, you may want to perform this exercise with your hands placed under your lower back until you begin to gain more body awareness. Hold for a count of 10 and return to the starting position, giving yourself a brief rest between repetitions. Repeat 10 times.

Double Leg Extension

6. Side Plank

This is a great exercise for strengthening and stabilizing your internal and external obliques. Begin on your side with your hips on the ground, your knees bent to 90 degrees, and your elbow placed directly below your shoulder. Press down with your elbow and knees to lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your knees all the way to your shoulders. Hold for a count of 10. Gently lower your hips back to the ground to give yourself a rest between repetitions. Repeat 10 times.

Side Plank 1Side Plank 2Side Plank 3Side Plank 4

As you become stronger, you may choose a more advanced version of this exercise by extending the top leg. A yet more advanced version would be to extend both legs, stacking one on top of the other. Holding for longer counts is another way to continue becoming more proficient at this exercise.

Andy Sullivan is an AFAA-certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor in Group Power, Group Centergy, Cardio Kickboxing, Boot Camp Challenge and Spinning. Once a sedentary, overweight smoker, Andy used a combination of exercise and healthier eating habits to transform both his mind and his body. His mission is to inspire others to do the same, working with clients in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. As a highly sensitive person (HSP), Andy uses an approach that is empathetic, caring, and patient in addition to being motivational, which works exceptionally well with HSP clients.

In addition to fitness, Andy’s other interests include sports (especially hockey and baseball), singing, playing guitar, reading, and writing. Helives in Shirley, Massachusetts, with his wife of 14 years, Cathy.