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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Q&A: Thoughts on Crossfit

Today’s question comes from Michael on Facebook.

Question:

What do you think about Crossfit?

Answer:

Crossfit can be very valuable, as long as function and safety are the main objectives of the Crossfit organization you train with. It is fun and challenging.  It’s popularity continues to grow as both a fitness program and a sport. ESPN 2 just broadcast the Crossfit Games in September.

According to Crossfit Founder, Greg Glassman’s “Foundations” in the Crossfit Journal:

“CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.”

The signature of Crossfit is the WOD (Workout of the Day).  A Crossfit WOD incorporates a few or many of what Glassman calls “fitness domains.” This challenges the body to adapt, as it shifts from one to the next. You might go from squats to overhead press to sprints to ab work to gymnastics.

Crossfit is designed to be scalable to any fitness level. For anyone, who is curious about it, I would recommend trying it. Just do some research about the organization and the instructors/trainers. There are many exercises in Crossfit that can cause injury, if either the participant or the instructor takes safety for granted.

Know and understand for yourself the function and purpose of each movement and exercise. If you do not understand why you are doing something, ask! Make sure you and your instructor know the body mechanics and intention of what you are doing.

I enjoy jumping into a Crossfit workout from time to time. It challenges my body and shakes the cobwebs out of my brain. I have learned quite a bit about Olympic style lifting from my Crossfit experience.

Crossfit is great for women, especially if your trainer understands how to adapt movements to the female body.  You get strong and lean.  Your confidence grows as you continue to top your own personal record.  There is also a strong sense of community in Crossfit organizations.

For more information, a list of Crossfit affliates and video demos of WOD, visit the Crossfit website.

For folks in DC- I love the good people at Crossfit DC and Crossfit BalancePrimal Fitness also has a great reputation.

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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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Go Upside Down for a New Perspective

Inversions, Climbing and Hanging Around

[Keating stands on his desk]
John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
John Keating: No!
[Dings a bell with his foot]
John Keating: Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

Dead Poet’s Society, 1989

Having trouble thinking of new ideas?  Is there a problem you can’t quite solve?  Are you stuck in a rut?

Maybe you just need to change how you see the world by changing where you see it from.  Give one of these ideas a try:

  • Take a yoga class and practice headstands, handstands and inversions.
  • Try out the climbing gym or an outdoor rock climbing class.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Play on the monkey bars at the playground.
  • Hang from your knees on the Smith Machine at the gym.
  • Do some crunches on the inversion bench.
  • Find an AcroYoga or AntiGravity Yoga class.
  • Get a TRX Suspension Trainer.
  • Talk your honey into testing out those new positions on that app you downloaded on your Android or iPhone.
  • Swing on that pole.
  • Dust off those gravity boots in the attic, closet, under the bed.
  • Fly on a trapeze.

Getting more blood to your brain could help 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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