The Foam Roller Method

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Whether your goals are to grow your muscles, strengthen your core, improve your posture, or simply exercise for health related reasons, it’s important to find a method that physically takes care of your muscle tissue before and after your workouts.

There are many preferred methods available for the purpose of stretching and healing your body. I’ve always enjoyed getting a nice massage, seeing the chiropractor, and even tried acupuncture. But because it can become costly, I’ve found that using a foam roller also does the trick. And it can be done from home on your own time!

Also, Amazon is the place to get an effective and inexpensive foam roller.

Try these 3 exercises next time you need a good stretch!

Chest opener:

Do you sit all day at work, drive a lot, or lift heavy weights? If you answered YES to any of these, you’d benefit from this stretch.

Instructions – Lay long ways on the foam roller, with your head and tail bone supported. Set your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent. Reach your arms out to a T-shape and press the back of your palms to the ground with your elbows slightly bent. Hold down for 30 seconds then reach your arms across your body and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-4x.

Variations

1. Keep your knees bent and feet wide on the ground. Circle your arms up, down and around 5 times then reverse. This is great to loosen shoulder joints, especially if you experience popping noises in your shoulders.

2. Keeping your knees bent and feet on the ground, place your arms out wide in a T-shape, slightly roll your body side to side massaging the tissue around your spine. Position your arms lower towards your hips, or higher towards your head to roll different parts of your back.

Lower Back and Hip Opener:

Great for anyone experiencing lower back tension from frequent sitting, driving, or running.

Instructions – Set the foam roller on the ground horizontally and sit your tailbone on the roller. Place your hands behind you on the ground, then lay back until your head and shoulder blades touch the ground. Open your knees wide and glue the soles of your feet together in a prayer position. Lay with your hips open and your pelvis parallel to the sky for 1 minute.

**Focus on keeping a natural arch in your spine and avoid over extending your low back. Keeping your abdominals contracted helps protect your back.**

IT Band stretch:

Runners, joggers, walkers, weight lifters, leg crossers. This is seriously beneficial for EVERYONE. If you experience pain in your hips, knees, or have a tight lower back, you will appreciate this painful exercise šŸ˜‚

Instructions – Keeping the foam roller in a horizontal position, lay on one side of your hip with your legs straight and your palms on the ground to support you. Option to come down to your forearms for more support. With your legs glued together, pull your abs in and lift your feet a few inches off the ground. Using your body weight, roller your self up from your knee towards your hip on the side of you outer thigh. Focus on going slower where it hurts the most. Do this for 1-2 minutes on each leg.

Modification – If you experience tension or pain around your knees, keep your bottom foot on the ground for extra support.

4 ways to get committed

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I’ve always believed that getting the body you want takes a lot of hard work, healthy eating habits, and mental strength.

Working out has been something I’ve enjoyed for quite some time now but like anybody else, sometimes finding time is the “hardest” part. And when I say finding time, I mean not finding excuses to skip my workout and stay consistent. We’ve all been there., “I have work.”, “Gotta feed the kids.”, “I have errands to run.”, “Tired from working late.” We’ve heard them all before. But following those excuses, we’ve also heard, “I want to get in shape for summer.” “I want to feel and look healthier.” “I’m tired of the body I have.” If you want results, you have to be mentally committed to the grind.

Mental awareness has played a huge influence on my ability to commit since I started practicing Pilates in 2012. It’s helped me help my clients achieve their goals, while reaching my own. Mental awareness has kept me positively engaged to getting the results I want, mentally and physically.

Here are a few tips to help you achieve the results you want by being mentally committed:

Choose something you enjoy

Don’t settle for an exercise that you get bored with quickly, and doesn’t challenge you. Do something you enjoy. Maybe running isn’t your thing, but you love dancing. Take a Zumba class, or rent a home video and do it at home if you have stage fright.

Working out shouldn’t be a hassle or a task you check off a list. You should feel good when you’re working out, and if you don’t you probably need a new workout. Sometimes taking a group exercise class helps open new doors and expose you to different workouts. Try ClassPass to try out local studios in your area. It’s affordable and a great way to get out and try something new!

Make a plan

Now not everyone likes to write like me šŸ™‚ but I believe that note taking helps you remember to do things when they need to get done. You’re probably already use to note taking at work, or setting reminders for events/work meetings. Treat your workout plan like a work meeting. I even pretend I’m getting paid for the workout. And trust me, the payout of the body you want is much more valuable than any $ amount.

A great way to take notes is through your phones notepad. I use my iPhone’s NotePad and Google Keep to help organize my workout plans and check off what I’ve accomplished. This is a great way to see how far you’ve come and give yourself pats on the back along the way šŸ–šŸ¼.

Be realistic

Set small goals for yourself that are achievable. Many times, people have unrealistic expectations and go through extreme measures to get instant results. Cutting out all “bad” things out of your diet isn’t realistic to do overnight. And expecting to lose 50lbs in 2 months is also not something most people can achieve. So set a timeline for yourself. Use apps like My Fitness Pal to keep track of your progress like I do.

Practice the note taking approach in my last tip, and write out the small goals you want to meet within the next year. Give yourself reasonable timelines to meet these goals, and hold yourself accountable to revisiting this list as much as possible! I always find a few minutes in my day to open up my notepad and read through my goals. It helps me remember that the small bits of progress matter most.

Take picture of your progress

I always take pictures to help me track my progress. I have them stored in a hidden folder so I don’t have to worry about others seeing them if I want them to stay private. This way, I can look back to see how I’m doing and not worry about sharing my progress until I’m 100% confident.

Taking pictures also helps you appreciate the work you’ve been putting in to reach your fitness goals. Since the beginning of 2018, I’ve been working out more consistently and keeping track my my progress while also eating a well balanced diet. By doing these things and simply following the tips I shared with you above, I’ve maintained staying mentally aware and motivating myself to reach my fitness goals. The small steps I’ve taken over the past year have helped me tremendously, and I hope you’ll try them and share how they work for you!

What do YOU stress about?

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Stress is so inevitable and it can consume the life out of us if we don’t face it.

Over the past few years, I’ve found that keeping myself grounded and being present has helped me deal with stress. But this past summer when I turned 30, I became very self conscious and judgmental of myself. I started to create my own stress, and that’s when my anxiety levels SKY ROCKETED šŸš€ I began to question my previous education and career moves, what I’ve accomplished, how many times I’ve failed, and focused on the negative versus appreciating how far I’ve come. We really don’t always realize how much pressure we create for ourselves, and how outside channels like social media can impact the way we look at ourselves.

Now that I am beginning a new month, I’ve decided to let go of my fears and my negative thoughts. I’ve caused myself a lot of stress trying to impress myself and set expectations that I knew just weren’t for me. So, I’ve decided I’m just going to be the best version of myself, and appreciate it while I can.

So how can you deal with stress when it hits you head on?

Face it! Accept what’s happening and ask yourself why it’s happening. Is there something you can do to avoid creating stress for yourself? If you are unhappy with what you’re doing, is it because you aren’t good at it or are you just forcing yourself to do what you’ve “thought” you’ve always wanted?

If you keep running out of money, have you sat down and made a plan to save? If you think someone or something is causing you to feel insecure, have you tried talking to them about it and finding out why it’s affecting you the way it is? Could you be burying things inside and being passive with your own reactions because you think eventually things will just be “normal”? Are you avoiding tough conversations because you expect them to go completely wrong? Majority of the time, our minds are what stress us out the most.

Finding the root or cause of your stress is important. It might be the fear of leaving a job that you thought you always wanted, or maybe the thought of accepting that happiness is right in front of you and you don’t need to search any longer. But are your thoughts geared towards happiness and being the best version of yourself? I find that being present and taking time to breathe, look around, and inhale everything that’s around me is what helps me feel less stressed nor worried about what could’ve been (past) or what could be (future).

I heard it once before, “Depression stems from living in the past, anxiety rises from living in the future, and happiness comes from living in the present.”

So stay true to looking at situations in a more positive light while staying present. For tomorrow really isn’t promised and yesterday is long gone. It’s something we all hear but how many of us actually believe it?

How do you find gratitude?

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The human brain is very complex. As much as you’d like to have control over it and stay positive to keep stress levels at a minimum, sometimes it’s just impossible. Or so it seems. Your brain can literally treat you like its puppet and take over your mind. And before you know it, you are flowing down a negative river and feeling bad for yourself for whatever reason(s).

It’s important that in times like this you find a way to ground yourself and be grateful. It’s not easy to do it, and I know I personally have a hard time being grateful when all I can think about are the things going wrong in my life.

Haven’t you ever sat back and thought, “Ugh, why me?”

Many times, it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself over things that you can’t control. For instance, if your car breaks down (uncontrollable), you typically get to fixing it right away because you know you need transportation to get to work or school the next day. I mean of course, I personally break down, cry, and wonder why this is happening to me. That something like this would happen to me! And I’m a jinx, and so on. But after the initial break down, I start figuring out ways to repair my car and figuring out how much it’ll cost me to get it done ASAP.

It’s very easy to get wound up in those initial negative thoughts. It’s easy to be negative when anything that isn’t going “your way” happens. But it’s important to remember that negative thinking is also something we, as humans, create and have control over. Instead of crying that my car broke down, I started to laugh at myself and smile really hard because I knew that in reality, I was lucky to still be alive!

So to help you find gratitude, think about this.

What are 3 things you’re grateful for today? Regardless of where you are in your life, just think hard about why you are grateful for being alive today. I am grateful for having a roof over my head, a family who loves me, and the ability wake up and walk with my own two feet, every single day!

Now remember those things you’re grateful for? Write them down. Email them to yourself and take a screen shot. Revisit that screen shot as often as possible. Life will continue to happen, and there will be situations that are out of your control, but your reaction to them is everything. Ask yourself every morning, “What am I grateful for today?” It’s so important to train your brain to be positive because without positivity, it’s a spiral down the negative river.

March Matness coming to an end…

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This month has been filled with so many exercises benefiting the spine. From flexion to extension, and a little bit of twisting, March Matness is officially coming to an end.

To wrap the month up, I’ve included a few of my favorite exercises for you below. Check out the benefits of each and what to look for when you’re performing these exercises so you get the best results.

šŸ’«Swimming – Spinal extension is super important for everyone. Do you sit all day? Drive a car for work? Text? If any of these sound like you, do a little swim at the end of your day. Swimming opens up your chest and helps release tension in your pecks. Focus on anchoring your shoulders away from your neck and ears and reaching through the crown of your head. Only lift your chest and quads up as high as they need to go to keep your lower back in a neutral state (natural arch in the low back). Try to avoid over extending and focus more on targeting the mid back muscles – your thoracic spine. Kick your arms and legs, alternating in opposite directions while keeping the torso still.

šŸ’«Rocking – Similar to swimming, rocking helps open up the chest and extends the spine. Challenge yourself to keep the legs as parallel to the ground possible. Rocking is accomplished mostly by breathing and small shifts of the body forward and back, activating your abdominal and back muscles. The ribs will naturally want to expand wide, but by engaging your abdominals try and control the ribs from popping out.

šŸ’«One leg kick – Glutes and hamstrings will definitely fire up if you perform this exercise correctly. Keeping your pelvis and hips slightly tucked to protect your back is super important here. If you can challenge yourself to lift your quads, you’ll feel the hamstrings fire up even more. Again, watch the ribs and turn on those abdominals to find control. Don’t forget to keep your shoulders anchored as they will naturally want to creep up into the neck area. Kick each heel back two times towards your glutes and switch.

šŸ’« Side bend – Probably one of my most favorite Pilates exercises, and it only gets easier with practice. Strengthening your shoulders, back muscles, and oblique abdominals, the side bend also stretches the side body. Focus on keeping your palm directly under your wrist and creating as much space as possible between the wrist and shoulder. As you lower your hips, keep them squared off and avoid letting your weight shift into your neck. Pull up with the belly and hips while still lengthening through the crown of the head.

šŸ’«Side kick – This exercise focuses on the control from your belly while strengthening your butt and thighs. You can see in my video, my hips start to sway a bit. Try laying on your side in a straight line from your shoulders to ankles and use your bottom hand to prop up your head for more support.