If your feet were on your face would you take better care of them? Our feet are a marvel of architecture, each one has 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.  We shove them into all manner of shoes, some narrow and unaccommodating, pound them endlessly and on occasion adorn them with nail polish. They need more than a pedicure! 
Our feet are what connects us to the earth when we stand.  I believe that when we have strong, malleable feet they become the foundation for a strong and stable body.  If our feet are weak, immobile or out of alignment, it can have adverse affects up the kinetic chain to our ankle, knee, hip and even spine.

You’re never too old to improve your foot health. Even if your feet are stiff now, studies show that your flexibility can be improved at any age. Give your feet a breather and walk barefoot in your home. Make daily outdoor walks a regular habit and include foot strengthening and flexibility exercises into your routine. All 3 of my DVD’s include standing and resistance band exercises that improve the strength of your feet and the malleability of your ankles.  

In my first DVD, BoneSmart Pilates: Exercise to Prevent or Reverse Osteoporosis, I introduce myofascial release of the feet using custom cut 1/2 tennis balls. The goal is to improve blood flow, circulation, resilience and to enhance proprioception (the body’s ability to tell the brain where your body is in space).  This is particularly helpful for improving balance and decreasing your risk of falls. The reason I use 1/2 tennis balls and not full tennis balls is two-fold.  The 1/2 tennis ball is pliable, has give, and will compress when you press your body weight on it making it tolerable for those with sensitive feet.  A full tennis ball, has less give and is more resistant to compression so it may feel more painful than using a 1/2 tennis ball.  The other important reason is that since it has a flat underside surface, it won’t roll and will not pose a trip hazard by slipping out from under your foot. That is a risk when working with a full small round ball.

BoneSmart Pilates AGING STRONG VOL I,  introduces you to the Myofascial release ball (affectionately referred to as the “purple pickle”). 

This prop kicks up the stimulation to your feet with a textured surface and an oval shape that molds to the longitudinal arch of your foot. We focus here on both a light, stimulatory massage and a deep kneading motion that heightens sensory awareness of the soles of your feet, shuttles blood back towards your heart and helps prevent conditions like plantar fasciitis. In addition, we introduce inversion and eversion of the forefoot, a gentle twisting motion, that is helpful for preventing ankle sprains and maintaining a resilient foot and ankle. 

Show your feet some love ❤️. Start your day this way and you’ll feel energized, connected and grounded!

 

 

Falls are a concern for many of us, particularly for my readers with bone density concerns and those living in cold climates with slippery conditions. With 2 million preventable fractures occurring every year, don’t be a statistic. Pick up some quick and easy helpful hints here!

Do you want to improve your general fitness and wellbeing?  One way to do that is to track how much you’re moving.  I have to admit I use a Fitbit day and night and love it!  Keep in mind these are not just for “athletes”.

Awareness is Key
I often say to my clients that awareness is the key to change. If you don’t know something is off, you won’t recognize a need for change.  When you start paying attention, you can more easily make changes in your lifestyle and behavior. For instance, I didn’t realize how few steps I was taking on a regular basis.  A Fitbit (or whatever wearable tracker you prefer) will give you measurable information that can inform and motivate you to make the changes that can have a positive impact on your health.

I happen to have a Fitbit Charge 2 and couldn’t be happier with the sleek design, easily interchangeable watch bands and the data it provides. (full transparency-I have no vested interest in this product-just sharing my experience.)

Steppin Out
I love that it tracks my steps.  I didn’t realize until I started using a Fitbit, how few steps I was taking on a regular basis.  It was a rude awakening but knowledge is power. If I’m working on the computer for too long, it will remind me before the hour is up, that I need x number of steps to complete 250 for the hour. Just that little reminder gets me off my butt and doing a quick chore that has me on my feet. I have to admit I enjoy the positive feedback of the cheering icon on my watch face as it acknowledges I hit that small goal.  Who doesn’t appreciate a little pat on the back from time to time?!  It is the motivator that also has me walking more in general and parking farther away from store entrances to get more steps. Reminder-don’t let trying to get your 10,000 steps in, take you away from your other fitness goals like strength training, flexibility, and balance training.  Steps are just one spoke on the fitness wheel.

Cardio
It also tracks how much cardiovascular work I do.  That is more difficult for me since I really don’t like to run but with a good brisk walk, hike, Zumba class or Bikram yoga class,  my tracker will tell me when I’ve hit the desired 30-minute minimum cardio mark.

Multimodal Sports Setting
I can easily select different exercise modalities like yoga, hiking, running etc to track my data.
Con: Unfortunately, though it has a Pilates setting, it doesn’t accurately track the benefit of mind-body exercise like Pilates and won’t reflect the benefit of mobility and balance work, but my body, how it feels, registers the benefit!  Con: It’s not waterproof (don’t swim with it). Pro: I have unknowingly worn it briefly in the shower and even plunged into the hot tub before noticing quickly. In both instances though, like the energizer bunny, it kept on ticking.

Resting Heart Rate
Resting heart rate (RHR)  is a reliable indicator of fitness and recovery. As we get older, our RHR tends to increase. To reduce the impact aging can have on your cardiovascular system, you can improve your health by exercising within your target heart rate zone to help lower your RHR.  Keep in mind that stress, sleep deprivation, and dehydration can all increase your resting heart rate.  RHR norms for the average adult is 60-100bpm and for 40-60bpm for a conditioned athlete.

Sleep Tracking
I find this really valuable to understand not only the quantity of my sleep but the quality as well. Sleep is when the restorative processes in our body happen. Without sufficient quality sleep, our weight, our health and our ability to focus are compromised. An added perk, I set a silent alarm on my watch and a gentle vibration wakes me up in the morning.

Charging
Hooking it up to my laptop USB port to charge via a provided dongle is quick and easy.   I’ve never had it go dead or run out of charge. It warns me well ahead of time and charges in a short amount of time.

Which Fitbit is right for you?  There are lots of styles of Fitbits with different bells and whistles. The Charge 2, which is middle of the road, seemed to fit what I wanted the best. A Charge 3 has since been released but I don’t feel a need to upgrade. Compare the different trackers side by side on the Fitbit.com website to pick the features most important to you. If you or someone you care about would benefit from healthy incentive by the data provided as well as the gentle reminders and celebratory fireworks, I’d encourage you to give it a try!  You’ve got nothing to lose and better health to gain.

Studies show that just 5 minutes of daily balance training will significantly reduce your risk of falls. Practice this unique exercise designed by Teresa Maldonado Marchok, licensed physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor.  Improve your bones, balance, strength and mental acuity!

I was excited to present my workshop, Aging Strong Pilates® to Pilates instructors from around the world at the annual Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) Conference last week in Las Vegas. This is THE big Pilates event for instructors worldwide. I’ve had the honor of presenting my work at this conference over the last 7 years AND I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to learn from other colleagues in the field and share their insights and knowledge with my clients.

In this short video clip, I’m teaching Dennison Laterality Repatterning, also known as Cross Crawl from Brain Gym® which draws on movement patterns learned in early life. This sequence integrates right and left hemispheres of your brain as it improves neuroplasticity (building new neural connections which we now know occurs across our lifespan), coordination, posture, core strength, hip and leg strength, and balance! Give it a try both fast and slow. Performed slowly it mirrors the qualities of Tai Chi. Peter Wayne, an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School found that “across multiple studies, Tai chi appears to reduce the risk of falling by 20 to 45 percent and is considered one of the best exercises available for ambulatory older adults with balance concerns”.  For that reason,  I integrate this technique into all my Aging Strong Pilates classes.

For those reading this blog that attended my workshop, thank you for being so open, curious and engaged!  One question I received was why I use ½ tennis balls rather than a full round tennis ball, for the initial phase of myofascial release of the feet. Here’s my reasoning.  First, it’s more malleable and has more compressive give, which is helpful for those with sensitive feet or minimal fat pads on the balls of their feet, a common by-product of aging.  The second, and even more critical reason is that you could trip and fall on a round ball!  According to the National Council on Aging, people over 65 have a 25% risk of falling. For that reason, introducing a fall hazard like a round small ball would be a poor choice to have underfoot, particularly in a group class.

I welcome any questions you still might have that we didn’t get to. I’d also love to hear what components of the workshop resonated for you as a teacher and also what didn’t work. Please share below or email me.

For my dedicated clients/students at Stanford Univ, El Camino Hospital, private clients and BoneSmart Pilates® DVD users, I shared with the delegates the results of what you told me was important for you as an active ager in a Pilates class. The essential elements you shared included:

  • Safety (both physical and emotional)
  • Avoiding pain (use modifications, remain within pain-free ranges)
  • Humor
  • Music for the standing portion of class and for our closing meditation
  • Alignment corrections (it was important to you that you are seen and matter)
  • The use of vivid imagery
  • Branding: don’t ever call it a class for “seniors” or the “elderly” as that’s definitely an attendance deterrent.

Upon reading this, if there are other factors that you feel are important to be included in the survey results that are missing above, please comment below or email me. I’d love to know so I can include your input in future presentations.

Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to really explore for myself, what is at the core of my Aging Strong Pilates class, what makes it unique and why do I love teaching it so much? It hit me like a brick. Having a special needs daughter with autism has opened my eyes in wonderful ways, to the necessity of inclusion and connection and to the pure joy that comes with unselfconscious movement. I realize that my relationship with her is what informs really everything I do and who I am. It is at the core of my instructional focus on connection, acceptance, my integration of techniques that promote neuroplasticity, my use of inclusive circle formations for much of our standing work and at times, if I happen to have a small class, I even configure our mats like spokes on a wheel so we can all see and be connected with one another.

I’m blessed with my 19 y/o daughter who experiences life with unbounded childlike energy and joy. She is kind, does not understand the meaning of evil or a lie and is the essence of total innocence and love. Her existence makes the world a brighter place and the people she meets, kinder, better people. So I wanted to end with deep gratitude during this season of gratitude, for my special daughter Katelyn, my Thanksgiving gift, born on Thanksgiving Day, 1998.

Get rid of flabby upper arms with this toning exercise that also includes core strengthening, balance and a stretch for your pecs/front of shoulders! Presented by Teresa Maldonado Marchok, licensed physical therapist, PMA certified Pilates teacher and creator of the BoneSmart Pilates® method and DVD series. You can purchase the door anchor and resistance bands on our site www.BoneSmartPilates.com under the pull-down menu “Shop”, then select “PROPS”. Subscribe to our channel for more free videos and the latest updates!

 

Of all my DVD’s, I’m most proud of Aging Strong Vol 2. It speaks to the busy professional/overextended mom/grandma who is short on time and wants a comprehensive workout that can be done between all the other commitments in your life.

Two 25 minute time efficient full body workouts will challenge you, yet keep you safe. The workouts move at a challenging pace with modifications offered. They include standing weight-bearing sections with resistance bands and loops to improve your strength and balance, mat sequences for core/spine strength and flexibility and a fun bone building stomping flamenco-inspired dance. All workouts are preceded by step by step tutorials to ensure your safety and maximize benefit. With this DVD, Movement Becomes Your Medicine.

Julie is a longtime member of my Aging Strong Pilates® class, a class I’ve taught at Stanford University through the School of Medicine’s Health Improvement Program since 1998. I count on her in class as a seasoned veteran as she exemplifies the principles that I teach.

In response to requests for streaming of my DVD’s, I am so excited to share that we have just launched our streaming offering of all 3 BoneSmart Pilates DVD’s!