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!

 

This is when your butt muscles basically forget how to fire correctly.  How does this happen?

It’s actually a common problem today. People are spending inordinate amounts of time sitting behind their computers, driving their cars, sitting on couches etc.  Sedentary, lifestyles often driven by work environments, tend to be more the norm than the exception these days. 

With all this sitting, the muscles around the hip joint experience something called “reciprocal inhibition”. That’s when the muscles in front of the hip, your hip flexors, become short and tight from being in that shortened position of sitting and the opposite muscles, the butt muscles, are neurologically inhibited and become overstretched, weak and inactive.

Why does this matter to you?

Well besides developing a saggy weak butt that’s beginning to head south, there’s another concern.

Your Gluteus maximus, your largest butt muscle, is your strongest hip extensor and external rotator muscle. If it’s inhibited from doing it’s job, the Piriformis muscle-a smaller external rotator, may have to jump in to take up the slack.

If the Piriformis muscle does more than it’s designed to do and over fires you can get something called “Piriformis syndrome”. This is when the Piriformis muscle becomes irritated and inflamed and may press on the sciatic nerve. This can result in sciatica which is pain, numbness and tingling down your leg.

In general you want to avoid gluteal amnesia because you don’t want other muscles jumping in to take up the slack, as that can result in injuries.

How do you fix it?

First you need to stretch those muscles in front of the hip that are short, tight and inhibiting gluteal action. Then you want to strengthen those gluts!

Watch the video for the exercises that combat gluteal amnesia, normalize the relationship of the muscles in front of and behind the hips and get your glutes firing!  You can fast forward to the 2 min mark to see just the exercises or watch from the beginning and see the explanation with visuals.

 

Upper back-or Thoracic rotation is necessary for life activities like twisting to back up your car, golf, tennis… This video demonstrates a rotation exercise to improve your mobility in this area and avoid taking up the slack in your neck or low back.