How to Make Tangible Goals Out of the Intangible

Setting goals is hard, especially when it comes to fitness.  Unless you are a competitive athlete trying to make weight, break a record or win in your sport, it can feel like making something materialize from thin air.

One of my clients is working through this right now.  She knows she wants to feel and see changes in her self.  But what exactly does she want to see and feel? A certain number when she stands on a scale?  The feel of a bit more room in her jeans?  The sense of strength of picking up a weight she never thought she could?

Thinking it might help, I sent her the Spitfire goal worksheet.  After working with it a bit, she wrote a post on her blog about it.  From reading her blog post, I realized that I have left something off the worksheet or just left it vague.  What makes us want to have or do something?

In striving for an Olympic gold medal, an athlete may seek to push the boundaries of human potential, love from family, fame and fortune maybe even enlightenment.  Fear can also move us though it is about moving away from something than towards something.  I am sure there are Olympic athletes that train and compete to avoid shame, guilt and pain.

I believe Love is the ultimate motivator. Without getting too woo woo, I’ll just say that we humans accomplish tremendous things for the Love of a person or Love of the Divine.  You might run a little faster when you know the person you have a crush on is watching.  You might work extra hard to drop two clothing sizes for your wedding.  You might choose to practice yoga everyday for a month to deepen your connection with the Divine.

So whose Love is your goal for?  What do you want to do or have for them? Do you want more strength to protect your kids?  Do you want to lose weight for your honey or potential honey?  Do you want to learn to change your nutrition for the health of your family?  Do you want to run a 5k to feel a sense of accomplishment and self-Love?

Exploring why you want to do or have something makes creating tangible goals out of nothing much easier. When I was a kid, I worked on my jump shot in basketball every afternoon, because I wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter and loved by fans.  I practiced my camel turn on roller skates, because I wanted a handsome prince to see me perform in an ice-skating show and fall madly in love with me (I blame Disney for that one.).  I concentrated on trying to levitate objects with my mind to gain Jedi powers and experience the flow of the Force in, through and around me.  I was crystal clear what I wanted, why and for whom.

Let Love lead you to your goal.

Lotus in Koi Pond

Certified Yoga Teacher In the House

Lotus in Koi PondYes, I completed my yoga teacher training with Gopi Kinnicutt this past weekend. What a journey these last six months have been!  It is difficult to articulate the changes I have experienced, except to say I am so much more awareness of my patterns now.

I know my edge now.  Instead of going to it, looking over, thinking, “Holy S**t! That’s scary.” and backing away, I linger to notice the landscape.  I still feel the pain and the fear but past that I see the wonder and possibilities.

I have made friends with poses that I have struggled with since I was a teenager.  Through understanding the breath and function of poses, I found a deeper place past the physical practice of asana.  I see that it’s not about the poses.  Yes, the poses serve a purpose.  They serve to link us with something greater within ourselves and to each other.

Gopi insists that we students understand that humility, tolerance, respect and compassion are the qualities we are responsible for cultivating as yogis and yoga teachers. We are but channels passing along what we have received from our teachers.  In this day of copyrights and marketing, it is a challenge to remember that.  Though, at some point, I may have to package the knowledge I wish to share and give it a name, I am just here to it along.

To experience some of what I have learned, come play:

Flow Yoga Level 1
Saturdays
10:00-11:15am
Sport & Health Tenley
4000 Wisconsin Ave NW
Members: Free
Non-members: $20 all-day guest pass

5 Reasons Your New Year's Fitness Resolutions Will Fail

This year I resolve to:

  • Lose weight
  • Start a fitness program
  • Workout more
  • Eat healthier
  • Stop smoking, drinking, etc.

It’s likely you have had one or more of these resolutions on your list in the past.  It’s also likely you made it a few weeks, maybe even a few months, into the New Year then gave up on your resolution.  Why?

Why do most resolutions fail?

We ask too much of ourselves, we make a job out of reaching our resolutions and we aren’t very nice to ourselves when we slip up.  We become our own overbearing, micro-managing boss.  So, of course, we eventually rebel against ourselves.

Too Many Resolutions

The New Year brings excitement about the possibility of the future.  You may find yourself pumped up to accomplish lots of big and bold goals, so you make a huge list of resolutions.  That’s fine.  It’s good to get things you want to do in life out of your head and onto paper.  That’s the first step to bringing them to fruition.

Once you’ve made that list, prioritize it.  If you could only accomplish one resolution this year, which would you choose first?  Write it on a separate sheet of paper and post it somewhere you will see it everyday.  Honing in on one resolution helps you to get some real traction.  If you accomplish it before the year is up, you may find you have the confidence and motivation to accomplish a few more on your larger list.

Resolution Is Broad, Vague or Complicated

Losing weight is probably number one of a lot of resolution lists every year.    The problem with it as a resolution is that’s too vague.  How much weight do you want to lose?  Losing 50 lbs requires a different strategy than losing 5 lbs.  Losing body fat involves putting on muscle, so your scale and BMI index may indicate that you haven’t lost any weight for a while.

The other factor with the goal of losing weight is time.  When do you want to achieve this goal?  Is that realistic?  How much time to you have to give to your fitness program?

Diet is yet another factor.  Are you willing to change your eating habits?  That takes time too.

When clients don’t see the scale tip 5 pounds in the first week, they get discouraged and want to quit.

Losing weight is a big goal that needs to be broken down into smaller steps, benchmarks and goals.  Instead of resolving to lose weight.  Try a resolution that is specific, tangible and measurable like resolving to walk for 30 minutes/3 times per week or to eat your last meal of the day before 7:00pm.  At the end of each week, you can answer yes or no to whether you have accomplished what you resolved to do.  You may even lose weight as a result.

Resolutions Go Against Personal Values

You know that refined sugar is bad for you, so you resolve to cut all refined sugar from your diet.  Then you are invited to a good friend’s house for dinner.  She made her famous chocolate cake because she know you love it so much.  You value enjoying yourself, supporting friends and accepting hospitality.  You are now faced with a dilemma.  Do you indulge and break your resolution or do you go against your values and risk hurting your friend’s feelings to keep your resolution?

Whatever you decide that day, you will be left feeling bad in someway.  This bad feeling can erode your will to continue to pursue your resolution.  If it doesn’t erode it completely, you may decide to make exceptions or compromises to your resolution.  In any case, you lose your enthusiasm about your resolution.

When you make your resolution, check it against your personal values.  Think of circumstances where there may be conflict between your mind and your heart.  Factor that into your resolution plan.  If my resolution conflicts with my values, then I will _____.  You cannot predict every conflict but you can prevent that conflict from completing throwing you off your resolution.

Willpower Becomes Depleted

There are many theories about why willpower wears thin, but we do know that if you are trying to resist many things at once, your willpower depletes.  That is why having too many resolutions going at once becomes overwhelming.  Also having a resolution that continually denies you of something depletes willpower.

If you resolve to cut out grains completely from your diet, for example, you may find yourself drawn into daydreams about the popcorn that you smell someone microwaving in the office kitchen.  You may not even particularly like popcorn or ever had a craving for it like that before.  Because you are denying yourself of carbs, your brain will trick you into thinking you are depriving your body of something vital.

Maybe your resolution is too severe.  Try weaning yourself from grains.  You can decide to only have grain when you feel like you need them.  Maybe you absolutely have to have toast or oatmeal for breakfast.  Allow for that, but just remember to ask yourself if you really need it or if you think you do out of habit.

Negative Reinforcement

We are so hard on ourselves when it comes to resolutions.  We talk to ourselves in ways that we would never tolerate hearing from other people.  We call ourselves names to coax us into finally doing that resolution this year.  We look at ourselves so critically in the mirror.  One slip up and we call ourselves complete failures.

Before you finalize your resolution, look at what it’s saying to you.  Is it a resolution that’s fun, meaning that it’s challenging and novel?  Are you just creating my burden for yourself and becoming your own task master?  Will you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment with this resolution?  Does it enliven your sense of curiosity?

Let’s take the resolution, “I resolve to workout more.”  Jeez, really?  You already work 50 plus hours each week.  Do you really want more work?

What if you changed that to “I resolve to try new activities until I find one that I really love doing and is so much fun that I cannot wait to do it.”?  You’ve created a challenging adventure for yourself to start looking at sports, recreation and fitness activities of all kinds and trying them out.  You can enlist friends to join you. Who knows, you may find you are natural Parkour Traceuse/yogini.

If you are tired of making resolutions every year only to give up on your list mid-January, join Spitfire’s New Year’s Fitness Resolution Renovation Program.  In this program, you get to the heart of what you want to accomplish in 2012, creating a blueprint to get there, get rid of what’s holding you back, and build a fitness program that suits you, your schedule and your lifestyle.

Learn more…

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!

Tap Water, Bottled Water, Filtered Water?

What’s the safest to drink, and why?

Guest Post by Ellen Kittredge, CHC

“Water, water everywhere, and nary a drop to drink.”

You may recognize this quotation from the famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The line refers to being stranded at sea, surrounded by water, yet with no drinkable water left on board the ship.

These words have been oft-quoted since the publication of the poem in the late 1790’s, usually to refer to a situation in which clean drinking water has been hard to come by. While in this country we are lucky enough to have ample drinking water, sadly it may not be as clean as we’d expect. I’m not saying that there is “nary a drop to drink”, however accessing clean and safe drinking water is not just as simple as purchasing a bottle of “spring” water from your local convenience store or turning on the faucet at home to fill up your glass.

Two questions I am frequently asked by my clients are: “Is bottled water better than tap water?” and “If I’m using tap water, what filter should I use on my tap?”

These are great questions, and ones I think I may finally be able to answer with some surety, thanks in a large part to the great investigative work done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.

EWG’s most recent recommendations around safe drinking water boil down to the following: “Drink filtered tap water.” This may come as a surprise, as bottled water seems to be a better choice, given claims that you read on the bottle, such as: “pure”, “crystal-fresh” or “pristine source”. However, it turns out these claims don’t have any real verification or substantiation, so it is impossible to know if you can trust the claims you read on a bottle of water.

While federal law requires that municipal water suppliers identify the source of their water, the FDA does not require that bottled water companies disclose this information. Additionally, suppliers of tap water are required to not only test their water supply, but also share these results with consumers.  Bottled water companies don’t have this same requirement. In fact, 4 out of 5 bottled water companies do not publish the results of their water quality testing. And according to the Environmental Working Group, there were 38 contaminants found in 10 popular brands of drinking water.

Interestingly enough, consumers will spend up to 1,900 times more for a bottle of water, yet can not be confident that what they are buying is any safer than what might be coming out of their tap. This is not to say that tap water is pure. There are, unfortunately, contaminants in most of the public drinking water supplies, ranging from agricultural fertilizers to lead, to trace amounts of pharmaceutical medications. Since 2004, testing by municipal water facilities in this country has turned up more than 300 contaminants in public drinking water supplies.

This is why filtration is so important, and is the top recommendation I can make for ensuring that your drinking water is safe to drink. When choosing a water filter, it is important to do your research, read the fine print, and choose a brand that will actually remove contaminants. Carbon-based filters are good at removing many common water contaminants. A reverse-osmosis filter, while a little more expensive, will remove even more contaminants, and may be a better option.

To get a full understanding of the variety of different water filtration options and their effectiveness, I’d recommend checking out the in-depth recommendations EWG has made available online: http://www.ewg.org/tap-water/getawaterfilter. There are a wide variety of brands, filtration methods, and prices, and there is no one best choice. It is just important to choose one that will work for your home space and your budget. It may take a little research, but you should be able to find a brand that will work for you.

Water is essential to life: clean, pure water. Now that you know that filtering your tap water is the best way to ensure a safe water source, it is just a matter of determining which filter is the best option for you. Enjoy the process of learning more about the variety of options, and make a commitment to investing in a pollutant-free drinking water supply for you and your family. It’s worth it! Plus, it’ll be a lot cheaper than bottled water in the long run.Ellen Kittredge, CHC, is a Nutrition and Health Counselor offering individualized in-person and phone sessions, as well as group cleansing programs and other group services.

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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Mindful Eating: A Contributing Factor to Weight Loss

By Ellen Kittredge, CHC (www.ellenkittredge.com)

I’m sure you’ve heard that old saying: “Where attention goes, energy flows.” If you concentrate on your food – what you are eating – you will absorb and assimilate the actual nutrients in it – and thus need to eat less food overall.

The opposite, of course, is also true: the less awareness you bring to the table, the more you’ll need to eat, thus leading to excess weight gain.

How often do you eat your meals in front of the computer, checking emails and shoveling food in at the same time, or mindlessly watching TV, and going back for seconds on that bowl of ice cream before you realize that you didn’t even taste the first bowl?

There are two specific examples I’d like to share that will explain how lack of awareness of what we are eating leads to weight gain. It is my hope that this information will inspire you to have more awareness around the actual consumption of food, thus making it easier to lose any weight you are looking to let go of! Thanks to Marc David, and “The Slow Down Diet” for inspiration for this topic.

Examples:

#1 is something called the Cephalic Phase Digestive Response (CPDR). CPDR is the pleasure of taste, aroma, satisfaction and visual stimulation of a meal. 30-40 of the total digestive response to any meal is due to CPDR – our full awareness of what we are eating. So, if we are distracted while eating, we are metabolizing our meal at only 60-70% efficiency.

And why would this lead to weight gain? It’s simple. We need to eat more to feel satisfied. To see weight loss, our metabolism needs to be functioning optimally. That means we want to be metabolizing our food at 100%, all the time.

#2. In a test where subjects were given a mineral drink to test for absorption of sodium and chloride, when in a relaxed state, the test subject absorbed 100%. At different session when given the same mineral drink while exposed to dichotomous listening (two people talking to them at the same time) the results showed that participants had a complete shutdown in absorption of chloride and sodium for one full hour afterwards. Basically, they completely lost the ability to absorb these nutrients when they were not focusing on the food and were in a heightened state of stress where they were trying to listen to two stimuli at the same time. Perhaps you could imagine a scenario where you just sat down in front of the TV to eat your dinner, and your child or partner is calling to you from the kitchen…

Consider bringing more awareness to the table for your next meal. Not only will this benefit your health and your waistline, you’ll probably enjoy your food more too!

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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?

Question:

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.”

Answer:

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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Secure Your Own Mask First

American Airlines 757 1

Image by aomd88 via Flickr

The kid was panicking and trying to use me to climb to higher ground.  The water was too deep for me to have any foothold.  Before I could catch a breath, the kid would push my head under the water.

I loved the swimming hole near my uncle’s house in Arkansas.  It was cool, deep and really clear.  At some point, while just a few of us kids were swimming, I found myself holding onto a kid that was younger than me and didn’t swim too well.

I was only 9 or 10, but I knew the kid would drown me, if I didn’t get away.  Don’t ask me how I figured out what to do next.  I just knew that if I didn’t make it, neither of us would. When I was able to steal a deep breath, I went feet first under the water.  The kid, not wanting to go with me, let go.

I found a way to push off the bottom with my feet and give the kid little shoves toward the shore.  Fortunately, I was a strong swimmer and regularly practiced swimming as far as I could on one breath.  We both made it with little damage, except bellies full of water.

Yes, I did go on to work as a lifeguard.  One of the first things you learn in lifeguard training is to protect yourself from the person you are trying to save.

A metaphor from the airline safety speech that I often find myself referring to with my clients, who are parents, is, “Secure an oxygen mask on yourself first before you try to help someone else.” Every day, things come up in a parent’s life that can prevent her or him from sticking to a fitness routine.  Parents would do anything for their kids.  So often though, I see clients, who are moms, sacrifice their fitness time because something comes up with the kids. Given the stress that families experience day-to-day, this can easily become a habit.  Parents can find themselves drowning in their kids’ schedules or the wind knocked out of them by family problems.

I think that so many women understand this now. Moms are taking over the gyms from the body builders, especially in the mornings, when kids are in school or day care.  Most of the yoga classes I go to are filled with women.  While I lead my outdoor camps, I see groups of women running or walking together.  They understand that the health of their families is dependent on their own health and well being.

Because they have a fitness practice, these women stay healthier for their families. When they catch some illness that’s made its way through the family, they bounce back quicker.  During stressful times, they are better able to manage.  They make healthier meal choices for their families because they understand and feel the difference when they eat right.  They also set an great example for their kids.

It’s difficult for me, even as a trainer and single person, to prioritize physical activity sometimes.  I cannot say I truly know how hard it is for parents.  That is why I so admire anyone, who is a parent and makes time for their own health, fitness and well being.  You are the saviors of your families.

  • Has fitness helped you be more available to your family?
  • Has your practice helped you manage stressful family situations?
  • How has your own fitness program affected your family’s health?
  • What tips for other parents do you have about managing time for a fitness or training program?

Please leave a comment below.

Share your thoughts with other parents on Twitter or Facebook.

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