12 Hacks of Fitness, Holiday Style

Why add stress to an already stressful season by feeling guilty about getting to the gym? While you are out running errands or getting ready for the holidays, you can still get your body moving and, who knows, you may even enjoy time with your loved ones with these exercise hacks.
1. Take Those Stairs
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it a million times that you get a quick, heart-pumping workout by taking the stairs. You also get to avoid elevators with all awkward social interaction and people couching and sneezing in an enclosed space.

2. Park in the Boonies
Here’s the choice: (1) Park close to the lot exit and walk to and from the store then have an easy escape from the lot. (2) Waste time looking for a parking space close to the store then wait behind a line of cars to get out of the parking lot. Jogging while pushing a loaded cart is a great strength/endurance combo. You might even giggle a little.

3. Speed Shop
With your shopping list in hand, set a time limit to get everything on your list. If you have company, give them part of the list and set a rendezvous time. Since strategy and quick thinking are required, your brain gets some exercise too.

4. Catch That Train
Add cardio into your daily routine by setting up mini-sprints or speed walks. Metro pulling in just as you swipe your farecard? Make a dash for it. Is time running out on the “Walk” light? Put some hustle on it. Last call for boarding your flight? Hug that carry on tight and go for it.

5. Puddle Jump
Leap over puddles, balance on the ice, walk into the wind. Foul weather provides some great training tools.

6. Clean Up the Joint
Leaf blower be damned, a sturdy rack is a better piece of training equipment than any infomercial abs apparatus of the week. Break out the vacuum and the feather dust to get you stretching, reaching and lunging in no time. Clean house + good workout = peaceful night’s sleep.

7. Add Some Sparkle
Pull those boxes filled with holiday decorations and lights down from the attic. Pick out the biggest Christmas tree in the lot and carry it to the car. Get out the ladder and give the body a good stretch putting up the outdoor lights…or, keep the ladder in the garage and hone your climbing skills.

8. Deliver Goodies
Load up your kids’ wagon, stroller or rolling school bag with the treats you made to deliver them to your neighbors. You get fresh air, a little cardio and some big hugs. Caroling is also good, but not as appreciated as cookies.

9. Desk Chair Race
If your office party is lacking spontaneity and fun, instigate a desk chair race. It is great balance of workout and “Weeee!” factor. To increase difficulty, wear a pencil skirt and stilettos or add obstacles, like co-workers or your boss.

10. Play Hide the Presents
Do kids even know how to play Hide-and-Seek or Tag these days? They sure know how to search for hidden presents. Make a game of it. Hide presents in places where you and your kids have to stretch, crawl and climb to reach. Everyone gives a workout and has a bit of family fun.

11. Dance the Night Away
Your office lined up the sweetest dance floor with an amazing light display for the holiday party. Grab your date and hit that dance floor with a fury. Don’t shy away. Go into the light! You might not be dancing with the stars, but you’ll be the smoking hot star of the party.

12. Get It On
The stress of the holidays can smash the life out of anyone’s libido. But you have tried some of the other 11 holidays hacks, so your engine is revved (Especially, sine you were the tango stars of the office party.). Nothing incorporates all aspects of fitness—-strength, flexibility, endurance maybe even balance–like Sex. You get the extra benefits of total relaxation, endorphin and dopamine release and, you know, intimacy. Love on!


Mentors, Teachers and Crushes, Part II

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind. ~Kahlil Gibran

Where did you get that exercise from, Jen?  Did you make it up?

How do you know all this?

I get these question from my clients quite a bit.  Sometimes, I do make movements up, though I’m sure someone else thought of it long before I did.  Other times, I can point to where the exercise came from.  Usually, it came from or was inspired by one of mentors or someone whose work I admire.  Who are these people?

I’ll tell you a bit about the people who have profoundly influenced me in creating Spitfire Fitness Arts in this series of posts called Mentors, Teachers and Crushes.

  • Mentors– People that I trained under for many years and shaped who I am.
  • Teachers– I have taken courses from, learned from their work on me.
  • Crushes– I never met them, but their work heavily influenced or inspired my own work.

Part II-Teachers

Colette Yglesias Silver: Through theatrical movement classes at Studio Theatre, Collette taught me about posture and alignment in movement, not just sitting or standing upright. She also taught me about the qualities of movement.

Dr. Sean Woods: My chiropractor for 8 years, Dr. Sean helped me get to know each vertebra of my spine and how to perceive when they are out of alignment. This helps me understand clients’ injuries and health issues caused by spinal problems.

Paul Chek: When I first started as a trainer, I struggled with training program design. I took Paul Chek’s course on the subject and it was never a question again. I first came across the idea of primal movement patterns from Paul Chek. Probably, the most significant, albeit gross, understanding I gained from him is the relationship of intestine health to core engagement and development.  If you’re full of crap, your core muscles cannot move.

Polina Gregory: Co-Founder of Elements of Motion Resistance Training Studio, Polina Gregory is a Muscle Activation Technique Master Specialist and personal trainer. Polina taught me that muscle imbalances aren’t always about tightness or strength. Often it is about the communication between the muscle and the nervous system.  Polina’s passion to help her clients feel better reminds me of the importance of what fitness professionals have to give.

Chuck Wolf: The gold nugget that I got from Chuck Wolf is that the feet are important.  The feet are important but we take them for granted.  Through a series of exercises during a seminar, Mr. Wolf demonstrated that you can change what is going on in the knee, hip or anywhere else in the body by changing how we stand on our feet.  In essence, he reminded us that every part of the body is in relationship to every other part of the body.  With this knowledge, I could help a client figure out that her knee pain was actually a symptom of hip problems.

Megan Davis: I have taken a few workshops in yoga therapy from Megan Davis. She has a vast knowledge of anatomy and alignment in posture.  She gave me an even deeper understanding of the importance of healthy, stable feet.  Megan also teaches undergraduate philosophy and religion.

Shiva Rea: Shiva Rea is a rockstar in the yoga community.  I have taken a couple of her workshops and practiced some of her yoga videos.  I think I really like her because she looks like one of my favorite cousins and she surfs, but she certainly deserves her rockstar status. She has a deep understanding of yoga and our relationship to nature and the Universe.  I particularly appreciate the ebb and flow of her practice.

Pete Egoscue: Reading an article by Egoscue gave me a tool to give to clients to discover the source of their pain by tapping into their body’s innate wisdom.

Clifton Harski: I took a one-day MovNat workshop with Clifton in Spring 2011.  He has such a great sense of humor and fluid way of teaching that we were all a little sad that the day was over.  Didn’t matter that we were tired, wet and dirty from 7 hours of playing in woods and on the playground.  From Clifton, I got a good sense of the MovNat principles laid down by Founder, Erwan Le Corre, as well as a slew of fun things to do in the woods.

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Mentors, Teachers and Crushes, Part I

om ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah

I offer my respects unto my spiritual master, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance, with the torchlight of knowledge.

Where did you get that exercise from, Jen?  Did you make it up?

How do you know all this?

I get these question from my clients quite a bit.  Sometimes, I do make movements up, though I’m sure someone else thought of it long before I did.  Other times, I can point to where the exercise came from.  Usually, it came from or was inspired by one of mentors or someone whose work I admire.  Who are these people?

I’ll tell you a bit about the people who have profoundly influenced me in creating Spitfire Fitness Arts in this series of posts called Mentors, Teachers and Crushes.

  • Mentors– People that I trained under for many years and shaped who I am.
  • Teachers– Those I have studied, worked and/or shared knowledge with.
  • Crushes– I never met them, but their work heavily influenced or inspired my own work.
Part I- Mentors

Mead Andrews: Through her teachings in Alexander Technique, Mead Andrews gave me a strong foundation for understanding posture and alignment.  She also taught me to stay open, relaxed and observant through improvisational theatre.  The idea of listening to the body initiated with my time with Mead.

Kristin Horton: Along with Mead, Kristin Horton was the fearless leader of the Full Contact Improvisational Company of which I was a member.  She taught me so much about emotion and how it lives in the body.  She inspired me to take risks and embrace intensity.

Naoko Maeshiba: I worked with Naoko Maeshiba for 7 years.  Her influence on me is deep, which makes it nearly impossible to express in words.  To express what she has given me, I will use Naoko’s words from her website, “…a new form of perception.”  I perceive the Human Being, its relationship to Nature and its Self differently.  I know that compartmentalizing the Human Being into “mind,” “body,” and “spirit” is not helpful. Neither is the believe that humans are separate from Nature.  This is the greatest influence on the movement teacher I am, but it is the least tangible.

Dale Buchanan: Dale Buchanan was Head Trainer when I was a Personal Trainer at Results the Gym.  He helped me realize that I actually knew a lot about the human body, how it moves and how to help it function better.  That gave me confidence.  He also taught me a basic foundation for building fitness programs for anyone.  That structure continues to guide me today.

Chuck and Suzie Jeffreys: Chuck and Suzie are family to me.  The first time I met them at the Combattitude Fighting Fitness Academy I felt like I had come home.  They have taught me that the keys to human potential are observation, freedom of choice, adaptation and, of course, training.  I have also learned from them that sometimes we learn something quickly but our need to understand something intellectually hinders us for seeing that we already do understand.

Gopi Kinnicutt– I have studied yoga off-and-on since I was 17, but I never got serious about it until I decided to participate in a 30-day yoga challenge fundraiser in 2010.  The biggest reason I didn’t dive into yoga was that I never really felt like I found my teacher.  During that 30-day challenge, I took a class from Gopi.  I knew I had found my yoga teacher.  I feel my studies with Gopi will tie together what I have learned from the theatre, dance, personal training and martials arts.  I am currently taking her yoga teacher training.

Fitness Cleanse Program

As part of Ellen Kittredge’s Fall Forward 21-Day Cleanse Program, Spitfire will offer the Cleansing Through Movement Program.

The movement program is meant to multiply the effects of Ellen’s program with gentle exercises that assist your body’s natural cleansing processes.  As inflammation reduces from the food-based cleanse, it is easier to affect change to the body’s movement patterns and posture.  This makes it a great time to shift to a more active lifestyle by starting with gentle cleansing movements.  Anyone that is already active will enjoy moving in new ways.

This program is complimentary, but only offered to participants of Ellen’s Cleanse, which begins October 3.

Receive daily tips on ways to move your body to get more out of the cleansing process through the groups’ emails.  Each email also include a link to an exercise routine, one for each week of the cleanse.

This program especially benefits participants of Ellen’s 21-Day Cleanse who:

  • Have been sedentary and would like to ease into a fitness program
  • Already works out but is not sure how to slow down during a food-base cleanse
  • Practice yoga and would like to add some movements that enhance cleansing
  • Experience back pain, hip pain or sciatica
  • Wants to strengthen the core and improve posture

Last day to sign up for Ellen’s Fall Forward Program is Tuesday, September 27.

Read more about the Spitfire Cleansing Through Movement Program.

Solar Massage

The Sun, as seen from the surface of Earth thr...

Image via Wikipedia

We receive so many mixed messages when it comes to health and fitness.

Eggs are bad for you.  No, eggs are good for you.  Low fat, high carbs–no, high protein, low carbs are best for you.

I think all this mucking around contributes to cultural neurosis.

We don’t know how to trust the intelligence of our own bodies.  If it feels good, it’s ok.  If it feels like s**t, it probably is.  If we tap into what our bodies are communicating, we can better moderate what we consume or expose ourselves to.

Sun exposure has been relegated to evil status for a couple decades now.  According to popular belief, at best, it wrinkles and dries your skin to leather.  At worst, it causes incurable melanomas.  Hhhm, so how have cultures and tribes that live outdoors in little more than loin coverings managed to survive the onslaught of skin cancer they must be experiencing?

At heart, I am a summer girl.  I love the sun and the water.  From age 4 until a couple years after college, I was outdoors most of the day during the summers.  I spent hours upon hours swimming and sunbathing (Lucky me got paid for it as a lifeguard/swim instructor in college.).  My butt became a blinding moon in comparison to my tanned skin.  My hair bleached to a golden blond.

My face does show some of the damage done by so many years of staying in the sun.  That is because I did not moderate.  Sunscreen was not a priority.  In fact, I preferred to baste in Hawaiian Tropic or Panama Jack tanning oils.

For a while, I fell in line with all the hype and avoided the Sun.  Maybe, it kept me from turning into a prune but I was definitely missing something–that sun-kissed feeling.

The weather is truly incredible here in Southern Miss. right now.  It feels criminal to be indoors.  I decided to lay out for a bit this morning.

Lying on my belly, the Sun’s heat seeped into my shoulders.  I felt the tension there relax and I drifted into that state between waking and sleep.  Lying on my back, the Sun hit my solar plexus and recharged it like a battery.  I was only out there 20 minutes.  My body told me when I had enough.

Even after coming inside for a bit, I feel the Sun’s warmth sink into my bones.  Maybe that’s the Vitamin D soaking in.  Whatever it is, it has changed me a bit.  I vibrate a little more.

Do not fear the Sun.  Celebrate it.  Enjoy it’s life-giving energy.

Just respect its power and your body’s ability to know when enough is enough.

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Q&A: Can You Recommend a Nutritionist?


In an email, Jane asked if I could recommend a nutritionist, “A woman I work with who is only about 30 years old has high cholesterol.  She is into yoga but has terrible eating habits (at least until she had a 260 cholesterol number last week).  She is looking for a nutritionist to help her get better eating habits and working with her schedule. She is a busy woman, she is a (project manager for a busy building company), does yoga a lot, and goes to graduate school at night.”


I highly recommend Nutrition Counselor, Ellen Kittredge.  She understands that changing eating habits can be challenging, even monumental.  She has her clients make small changes at a time, rather than having them completely revamp their fridge and pantry.  Ellen understands there is no one-diet-fits-all and everyone responds to food differently.

Some people do want to make big changes to their nutritional habits.  For them, Ellen offers a 21-day cleanse twice per year.  I have participated in 3 of her cleanses myself.  During my first experience, I discovered I have intolerances to gluten and cow dairy.  My eating habits have changed quite a bit from that experience.

Ellen works with clients in person in the DC area but she also offers counseling by phone.  She understands that people have busy schedules but she also encourages her clients to take time for their health.

Ellen will offer her 21-day this fall.  In fact, I am creating a movement program to coincide with her cleanse.  We will make the announcement in the next couple weeks.

Ellen will also make some guest appearances here on the Spitfire Blog.  To contact Ellen, visit her website at ellenkittredge.com.

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The Aha Moment

Have you given up on your training practice because it seems too hard?

Is there something you have been practicing for a long time but progress seems illusive?

Get back to it.  Keep at it.  Find support from a friend, teacher or coach.  Surprise awaits you.

The culmination of practice often brings results when you least expect.

I see this all the time with clients. After I show them a new exercise, I see the battle within their minds. They say, “You make that look so easy, but I’ll never get there.”

My reply is always, “I’ve been practicing this for a long time.”

We’re Building Something Here

When a client struggles with a new exercise, I break it down into steps or modify it. We break it down to build it back up with a strong foundation. The body often gains understanding of how to do a movement while the mind stays occupied with judgment and comparison. I believe that is why the Aha Moment seems to come out of nowhere.

In Combattitude, the Aha Moment comes up all the time. We practice and break down a movement, practice and break down, practice and break down. The mind quiets down because it can’t keep up. When we stop thinking and just move, the Aha Moment smacks us like a Dharma stick. We’ve got it and we’ll never lose it.

At age 17, I taught myself to do headstand by following the Sivananda Companion to Yoga. It was a lesson in patience. Without the book’s guidance, I would have practiced headstand throwing my legs up in the air and hoping they would just find a way to stay in the air.

The book specifically broke down the steps to getting into headstand with the instruction to practice each step for a period time before adding the next. It was to teach the body to build a strong foundation then align and stabilize the spine on top of that foundation.

It took months but the “Aha! I got it!” moment, when I actually held a headstand for over a minute, did come. It never left me. Those headstand lessons became so ingrained in my muscle memory that I can get into headstand as easily as I can get out of bed.

Break down what you are trying to accomplish into smaller steps or phases.  Repeat them until they become second nature.  Then put the pieces back together.

Same Lesson Years Later

I have spent time this summer building my handstand and forearm stand practice, just as I did my headstand those years ago. Coincidentally, my six-year-old nephew recruited me last night into helping him do handstands and headstands.

After each “failed” attempt at standing on his hands or head by throwing his legs in the air, he proclaimed, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard.” and angrily threw his arms down by his side or across his chest. Like his aunt, he wants to be brilliant the first time he tries anything.

Once the emotional storm blew over, I showed him the steps I learned to build the headstand.  I showed how to use the wall for handstand.  In playfully demonstrating a forearm stand, I found my legs hovering overhead without the support of the wall. Aha! I had never done that before and I’ve practiced quite a bit in the last year. What a pleasant surprise!  I got it because my mind had let go of expectations.  I was just goofing around.  Without the pressure of getting it right, my body was free to do what it had learned.

My nephew is well on his way to his Aha Moment with his headstand. The handstand is not far behind. In my opinion, he is quite a yogi in the making. I look forward to when his stance changes from arms down in defeat to arms up in victory.

If you have been working really hard to get something.  Put it away for a while.  Let it steep.  When you come back to it, just play.  You might surprise yourself.

  • What do you wish you could do but think is out of reach?
  • What are you working on but can’t quite get?
  • What do you wish you had help understanding how to do?

Leave a comment and let’s see what we can accomplish together.

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