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Exercise should feel good,...and be fun!

Being healthy is NOT a chore, is a privilege and a choice we make to improve our quality of life.

If you are unsure what this phrase means, a physician in 1966 was trying to clarify 'quality of life' when doctors noted that the various ways to treat a disease improved, but the patients were not necessarily enjoying the way they felt afterwards:

"(Quality of Life) not just the absence of death but life with a vibrant quality that we associate with a vigorous youth. (Elkington JR. Medicine and quality of life. Ann Intern Med. 1966;64:711–714. )

So, if you find yourself dreading your next workout, perhaps not feeling 'a vibrant quality' in your body, take the time to step back and figure out why your body is making you feel this way. Because the body wisdom does speak to you and it may be stating loud and clear, "Stop! Let's try something else because I am not enjoying this." What could some of these body messages be?

* Maybe you are staying muscle sore for 3 days, not just one,...

or a joint decided to swell,...

or, maybe you are chronically tired and not sleeping well because your body was pushed to fatigue?

Only your brain, consciously, listening to your body's messages, can make an intelligent choice about your activities and the results you are noting.

Meanwhile, is an important Exercise Guideline I would like to share with you, which 40 years experience and wisdom in providing physical therapy, has proven helpful to avoid causing pain and strain in my clients, and myself:

Warm up!

I know, everyone says, stretch first, but what is really needed is not just a muscle awakening,... you've got to get the heart, lungs and brain a jump start, too. One of the best starts to any exercise program is deep, diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing. There are may techniques through the ages (some ancient) that focus on slow, controlled breathing starting with expansion of the belly, meaning you are using your diaphragm to fully inflate your lungs. The diaphragm is a huge sheet of muscle that sections off your chest cavity from your abdomen, and it performs an amazing feat of pulling life-giving air into your lungs via suction-it contracts creating negative pressure in the lungs sitting on top of it,...which makes your belly expand out. Its an exchange in space within your also magically massages your internal organs with needed circulation, helping digestion, moving lymphatic fluids and overall fighting off disease. Yep! Breathing,...give it try!

Here's the basics of Diaphragmatic Breathing~

Place one hand on your belly button and the other on your chest. Close your eyes and gently let your belly drop,...release the tension and let it pouch out. This may sound very un-American to not hold your belly in, but this is where the difference lies between letting your body move naturally and pain-free, ...or guarded and uncomfortable.


Now,...breathe in through your nose, into your hand on the belly button so your belly expands a bit. Your chest shouldn't move and your back should not arch. Only your belly should move. As you exhale from your mouth, you will note your abdominal muscles contract, a mini sit-up. Good stuff, right?

Keep doing this pattern of belly breathing, as the rest of your body stays out of the movement. After about 5 or 6 repetitions, start challenging your new breathing skills and take deeper breaths,...keep filling the belly, not the chest,...feel your ribs start to stretch out to the sides and back. You will also start to note your brain is getting a good dose of oxygen! Be sure to exhale firmly to allow the next breath to be deep. Continue for 8-10 repetitions, then resume lighter breathing, trying to keep to the belly, but not forcing the depth. So, do you feel now? A little more awake? Looser through the chest, ribs and back?

Now, you can add more muscle movements to your warm up, timed with your belly-breathing technique to get the most control over energizing your body. Try this one:

Stand with one foot slightly ahead of the other and the width of your shoulders. Rest your hands in front of your shoulders, palm facing outward.

Exhale, pushing both hands forward away from your chest,...pause briefly.

Inhale, slowly drawing your hands back to position in front of your shoulders.

If you pushing both hands forward away from your chest,...pause briefly.

If, you focus on keeping the rest of your body still as only your arms move, you will be surprised with the number of muscles you will feel activated. Simple, pain-free, I think so!

Yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi are all techniques for you to explore in breathing techniques and muscle movements that look easy, however will challenge your balance, coordination and strength.

My own morning routine combines deep breathing expansion techniques from Qi Gong and then I add my yoga stretching and strength poses. 10 or 15 minutes of these movements release any stiffness present and allows my muscles to cooperate better. It sets me up nicely for the more advanced strength moves that my 62 year old muscles prefer not be forced to attempt without a smart warm-up.

Hopefully, this little reminder of the need to warm- up helps you feel more empowered to take your time in your exercise approach to avoid causing pain and injuries.

Seek that ultimate 'Quality of Life' which balances activity with rest. Employ Wisdom in how you place demands on your body and allow yourself to feel good, have energy and enjoy your day's Journey, wherever it may take you!

Best Wishes in Health,


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