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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why You Should Get a Basic Facial!

Last week, I posted about different ways a person can deal with the stress in their lives. Stress wreaks havoc in our lives whether we mean for it to or not. It is just a part of life and I want to let you know that there are some perks to relieving it especially in the salon!

Each salon's menu is a little different. Some specialize in relaxation, like your day spas, while others might not offer such an extended variety. If you are stressed, I would recommend a trip to a spa specific salon and "go get a basic facial!"

Why You Should Get a Basic Facial

Basic facials, as much as they have so many benefits to your skin, offer you so many other health benefits.

1. Facials help purify the skin. When you feel a blemish coming up to the surface, a facial can help alleviate and draw it out. The basic facial uses the process of cleansing, exfoliating, massaging, applying a cleansing mask and finally moisturizing the skin. This will help your skin appear like it is youthful and glowing. Each step has a specific purpose in aiding in the overall product: brighter, clearer skin. Not only do facials open your pores, but they awaken your face to an experience of cleansing, relaxation, healing and purification. You would be amazed at how, if received regularly, a facial will improve the condition of your skin.

2. Facials can help increase our circulation and blood flow. Not only will a facial open your pores, it will get your blood flowing. Because you have so many blood vessels, the use of light massage portion of the facial will promote this blood flow even more so. When you get the blood flowing it actually will give your face more color and give you the glowing affect. This increase in circulation will also help your Lymphatic System get jump started as well.

3. Facials can help flush and purify body through also increasing flow of the lymph fluid through the body. Lymph nodes can be found everywhere in the body. In your lymphatic system, the body has a network of nodes, vessels, and fluid that help promote good health and immunity in the body. It is our defense system against intruders such as viruses, bacteria, and other such invaders. When the face and neck are being worked on, especially when receiving a facial, it helps awaken and stimulate the nodes and circulating the lymph.  This will help push out any unwanted toxins present. This is why some individuals might be sore after a facial. It is always important to drink more water to help assist in the soreness factor.

4. Facials can aid in alleviating headaches, sinus infections, and other similar ailments due to stress or tension. A good facial will hit on the points of the face that will help alleviate tension. Your face is very vascular and contains nerves and muscles to which play a large role in feeling pain/pleasure or experiencing movement. When we are tense, we may throw our body into a tension headache. OUCH! During the massage component, relief will be seen in relaxing the tense area, soothing the sore spots, and applying brief pressure in the general sinus cavity areas which will help release the toxins present while relaxing you.
I personally enjoy receiving a facial now and then especially when my stress load is high. This is one way to help alleviate stress and help you feel better in coping with your day to day work load. I have found it makes me happier, more focused, and my head aches less. Since I have been receiving facials on a semi-regular basis, I have had less sinus issues and haven't had a sinus infection in a great while. (knock on wood!) Who would have thought all of that from a facial?

—     Catie Manning

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pilates: Know Before You Go

Greetings, Blog Friends!

I've been addressing these posts to the Pilates novice. My hope is that if you've not tried Pilates, you'll give it a try. If you're terrified of trying Pilates, I alluded to the fact that you should absolutely do your homework when searching for a teacher, and that you should take a few private lessons with a well-trained teacher prior to joining a group class.

I'm including a link to a fun news clip from this past weekend, featuring my mentor teacher, Rael Isacowitz, and my friend, the amazing Lisa Hubbard. In it, Rael makes mention of these two things, namely being afraid to try Pilates for the first time, and the fact that finding a well-qualified teacher is paramount to your enjoyment of and success in Pilates.

As I've mentioned, it took me many years of research, study, practice and teaching to find what works for me. My earnest hope is that you will TRY Pilates. It rocks SO MUCH and makes you better at everything else you do. Please let me know if you have specific questions regarding the work. I am a teacher; I thoroughly enjoy answering questions!

Before I close, there is one other thing Rael mentions in this clip: Pilates was invented by a man, originally only for men! Stay tuned - there are some surprises coming up in June (just in time for Father's Day)! You'll going to hear from more men who do Pilates!

Happy practicing!

P.S. Click here for some of Rael's videos available on Amazon, and here for Lisa's!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Dreaded Scale

I remember in high school at my parents' house the scale was in my siblings bathroom.  Every morning when I woke up I would run down the hall to weigh myself.  The agony of the number and the worth it gave me or didn't give me.  The knowledge of when I woke up could I feel my hip bones sticking out enough?  How did I feel?  And the number on that scale.  Those 6 months of my life where my world revolved around that scale and the number were more than enough for living that lifestyle.  I was not eating and exercising far too much. I was in a state of exercise anorexia. I was unhealthy.

Since that year of high school I have not allowed a scale in my bathroom.  In fact, I limit myself on the amount of times a year I weigh myself because it very quickly can become an unhealthy obsession.  I know when I gain weight by my clothes, my energy, and my overall feeling.  Sadly, because I got on the scale so many times I can pretty much tell you spot on how much I weigh at any given time.  I can also give you an exact number of the amount of pounds I need to lose to get to my comfort point.  So why do I a personal trainer, nutritionist, and nurse not keep a scale around?  For many reasons.

1.  The scale taunts me because even when I'm at a healthy weight, I don't like that number and I want to keep that number going down. I want that number to be a number that isn't healthy.  After those  months of my hair falling out, my nails breaking, my period stopping... I'd much rather have a few extra pounds on me then to go back to the way I was when the scale ruled my life.

2. The SCALE does NOT define my beauty.  My beauty comes from what is inside.  The first place when I'm feeling self conscious that I need to go is on the inside and to those around me who will build me up.  In the last year and a half because of going on and off night shift my body has had a mind of its own.  One month I'll be trying to gain weight and the next month I can't seem to get weight off.  No matter what that scale says right now, I want you to know you are beautiful just the way you are.

3.  Your body can fluctuate in water weight throughout the day.  I see it every day I work in the hospital.  The number on the scale is not as accurate as some may hope.  Can it give you a good warning sign that you are unhealthy or headed towards an unhealthy zone? yes. But day to day, your energy level, your clothes, and how you feel overall is a much better assessment of the direction your headed!

So my advice?  If you have a scale, hide it. Limit the amount of times you weigh yourself.  Focus on loving yourself from the inside out. Focus on being healthy.  As your focus on being healthy increases, as your outlook on where your beauty comes from changes, your confidence will soar.  Confidence that can't be shaken by a few numbers on a scale.  

As one of my favorite sayings right now goes "Focus on being healthy and the weight will take care of itself".  My dear friends, healthiness is not limited to that number on the scale but how you daily view yourself. YOU are beautiful. YOU are incredible. YOU are intelligent.

What words describe you?  Show us your pictures with what you are going to see when you step on that scale!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Invite Mr. Sandman Over for a Night Cap!

If you hare having sleep issues, or are feeling physically tired lately-- this is for you! :) (Just as a disclaimer, I am not writing this for new parents' that are not sleeping because they are up at night with a new baby-- unfortunately, that is something that will only get better with time... haha). 

For those of you with children, you know firsthand just how important and valuable "nap time" is in your household. For those of you without children, you may or may not get to bask in the glory of taking the occasional nap for yourself. Being twenty-five, I can say that I am sadly having to say goodbye to the days of taking naps regularly. Granted, I wouldn't have dreamed of taking a nap in between the ages of five and fifteen-- but as soon as I turned sixteen, I began to remember just how excellent they were. So from then until now, every single time I am home in the afternoon and get an opportunity for a siesta, I grab it by the horn and hold on tight!

Are you having difficulty falling asleep at night?
Of course, it is extremely rare for adults to get in a good nap during the day. Whether it's due to work (usually the case), having to take care of children, or cleaning up while your children are napping, it isn't exactly common for two hours to open up every day for us to say, "YES! My naptime is here!" So what does that mean? Hit up Starbucks for a caffeine boost? Sometimes, and only sometimes, that is the best solution - we are all guilty of relying on heavy amounts of caffeine to keep us going on certain days. But is that really the solution? Definitely not :) All I know, is that in this day and age, we expect a lot out of ourselves, and sometimes keep ourselves awake by worrying that we didn't do enough in the day. I honestly blame it on our overly busy schedules, not getting enough quality sleep, and too much sugar/caffeine. All of those things combined together are a recipe for sleeping disasters :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Staying Healthy While Traveling

In less than two weeks I will be hopping on a jet plane on my way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a family vacation. Words cannot express how excited I am to spend time together with my family and to have a whole week away from work! I love my patients, but everyone needs a break every once and a while. Yesterday my mom called me and said "can we be healthy this vacation?" How many of us like to let go on vacation? I'd say likely everyone. I'd also say that quite a few people worry about sticking to their diet or health plan while on vacation. I've been there and will be there. 

To help you (and myself) out, here are some key pointers for staying healthy while traveling:

Photo by Leslie Nicole
1. When possible, get a condo so that you can make your own meals. You will spend a little extra on where you are staying, but a lot less on meals! 

2. Pack snacks for the car/flights. Apples, oranges, carrot sticks, healthy snack bars, nuts, etc. are great for traveling with. Opt to by water and keep away from sugar filled drinks. Make sure you stay hydrated! I know it is not fun to keep stopping on a road trip or to go in the small tiny airplane bathroom, but your body does need water! And when you stop at fast food, choose wisely :-).

3. When you do eat out, be conscious about what you are eating. Allow yourself that one cheat night, but don't keep cheating. Be aware of how much alcohol you are consuming and remember that alcohol temporarily turns the liver into what is called a "fatty liver" which slows down your metabolism. Slow down on the free bread or chips and salsa.

4. Make it a goal to be active for at least a half hour each day. Even if it is just a walk down the beach, just get your blood pumping!

5. Have healthy snacks around like broccoli and hummus, carrots and gauc, healthy protein powder, greek yogurt not packed with sugar, nuts, etc. so that when you have the munchies you have something healthy to grab!

6. Don't get over hungry. Plan your meals out and eat around your normal times. Also, research ahead of time restaurants where you will eat.

7. RELAX. Let your rest and the stress hormones come down to normal levels!

Happy summer travels everyone!

- Erica

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pilates Principles: The Power Behind the Work

The “core” of the Pilates method made up of the principles behind the work. There are theoretical principles and movement principles that permeate the all of the movements within the Pilates repertoire. These principles give the method it’s efficacy and power, and are what separates Pilates from other forms of mind-body fitness.

The following are lists of both sets of principles. Today I'll speak a bit to both groups, and in later posts I'll explain each in a bit more detail.

First, the theoretical principles:

1. Awareness
2. Balance
3. Breath
4. Centering
5. Concentration
6. Control
7. Efficiency
8. Flow
9. Precision
10. Harmony

These principles support, infuse and bring to life each Pilates movement and lesson. When you begin to practice Pilates regularly, you will experience physical manifestations of these principles within your practice time, and over time, they will begin to permeate your movement and your being, outside the studio.

The movement principles, on the other hand, are purely physical, and are largely the reason why Pilates is found to be such a wonderful complement within traditional rehabilitation and athletic training programs. The movement principles are as follows:

1. Neutral pelvic positioning  and pelvic stability
2. Abdominal and deep core muscle activation and strengthening
3. Posterior lateral breathing
4. Full range of motion of joints
5. Scapular stability
6. Spinal mobility
7. Stretching and myofacial release

In every Pilates lesson, many or all of these principles should be emphasized. Greater importance may be placed on one over another, depending on the needs of the student, the lesson plan or the teacher’s “pet principle” and training background. Each of these principles is powerful and complex, and once grasped can effect profound change.

Happy practicing!  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Learning the Art of Stress Management

Stress is something that affects us all.  Whether it is physical, mental, or emotionally dragging you down, it is important to remember we need to try to maintain composure and keep stress to a minimum if possible.  How you deal with your stress is very individualized and important.

There have been several studies done that link high stress with aging.  To me, it seems like common sense.  Stress affects us on a cellular basis.  Stress affects our organs.  Stress affects our brains ability to process and can negatively affect our health on a number of fronts, so why wouldn't it affect the aging process too?

In an age where it seems that we all need to find the "fountain of youth" through the stress of our daily lives, I find that awareness plays a key role in our ability to cope and manage stress minimizing its negative impact on the quality of our life.  Stress management could be the best answer to our anti-aging needs!  Just a thought...

When you feel stressed, do you recognize it?  Your heart rate might increase, tension in your muscles might also increase as well as just over all feeling drained.  I would like to suggest taking a few moments to write down what is causing you immediate stress.  Draw your awareness to the situations that cause you the most stress and find a ways to cope.  Most of the time stress affects us whether we know it or not.  If we become aware of what stress is negatively affecting us, we can make smarter decisions to cope and our overall wellness will be better off....AND we might save ourselves the bags under our eyes as well as a few added wrinkles.

I have compiled a list of helpful stress coping activities that may help you deal with what life throws at you day to day:

  1. Keep a journal at work or your office.  Every morning before you start your day, take 5 minutes to write down everything bothering you at the present moment and once you close that book--you are not to visit the topic again.  This has been extremely helpful to me.
  2. When you feel something is causing you stress, take a 5 minute walk around to cool off.
  3. Breathe in.  Breathe out.
  4. Learn the art of perspective.  Keep the major problems in perspective to minimize the stress of the situation.  It is a hard practice to keep, but once you realize what you think is a big deal really isn't that big of a deal your stress will decrease.
  5. Allow yourself to take regular breaks.  This will ensure you are not overloading yourself.
  6. If one project is starting to get to you, stop in your tracks.  Switch to something else for a little bit, then revisit the other.  This will allow your mind to breath before being crazy sets in and you are stressed out.
  7. Practice yoga...I am not kidding, it will help your mind focus and begin to block out the stress.  Focusing in your energy, stretching, and allowing for peaceful meditation will help you cope with the physical and mental stress.
  8. Learn to say no.  Most the time I think stress is brought on by my inability to say, "I am sorry, but I just can't do it today!" As a whole, then it makes you feel bad.  Don't allow saying no to make you feel bad.  Learn not to over extend yourself.
  9. Make time for you.  Whether it is working out, getting a massage, or your nails done you have to make time for yourself to breathe.
These are just a few activities that I practice to help with daily stress.  I challenge you to become the master of Stress management!  You can do it!

Remember to make time for your mental sanity through it all.  It doesn't do you any good to stress yourself out.  It has a negative affect on you and on others especially if you are in a job to which you deal with customers and people all day.  I would rather know I am coping and dealing with stress to the best of my ability and not passing the stress on to those I encounter throughout the day.  :-)

-Catie Manning, Hairstylist

Friday, May 17, 2013

Party for Two

Think back to your first few days of school in kindergarten, and try to remember your first initial fears. "What are we going to do next? Where should I sit on the reading carpet? Why does my teacher's hair look like a clown wig?" I can distinctly remember feeling exceedingly overwhelmed with all of these new changes, and so many new faces to experience these changes with. All of the little girls looked the same to me; we all wore tasteful department store dresses, had barrettes in our hair, and wore saddle shoes. While we all looked similar, I began to understand the ins-and-outs of being social at age five. And let me tell you, it was not a fun ride for this little girl.

I'm not entirely sure why, but as a child, I was exceedingly and painfully shy. Well, that's not entirely true; I know why I was the way that I was. We all have a memory of what it feels like to be rejected, so fasten your seat belts because here is MY first experience of rejection: It was probably the second week of kindergarten, and I had gotten to know who most of my classmates were. Two stick out in my mind, and are pertinent to the story. There was Katie, who I especially enjoyed being around and loved coloring with. And there was Kellie, who I wanted to shove into the nearest black hole. Anyhow, one day we were all getting ready to go out for recess. We had the option of staying inside and playing with the toy kitchen, the puppets, and other indoor toys, or going outside to run and play. At the time, I must've been a conformist, because my mindset was, "Whatever Katie wants to do, I will do". So I approached Katie as we were released to go play, but I saw that she had gone over to the rest of the girls - where Kellie was standing. In one or two weeks, this little monster had become the head honcho - everyone was listening to her commands, demands, and expectations. She looked around the circle of girls, judging each of us-- who would she play with that day? "We will all play together", Kellie announced. "Well, you, and you, and you, and you-- but NOT her." Who was "her"? You're looking at her. Apparently, I was not cool enough to play with the indoor girls. I wanted to cry, but was too proud. I hoped that Katie would join me as I began to drag my feet outside, but she did not. Don't worry, though - I had an EXCELLENT time outside that afternoon. I played with the boys, who all ended up liking me better all throughout elementary school anyways. Everyone else ended up hating Kellie by grade 3. It happens. 

Why the story? Simple: I just wanted to show you how far back social problems can extend in our pasts. It's uncanny; shouldn't a few five-year-old's be able to play nicely together without making one another feel inferior? Apparently not. So you might be asking, "What does that have to do with me?" I'm glad you asked. Whether you are in your 20s, 30s, or 40s - we all have one thing in common: we NEED to have a social body that we can turn to. Not just in times of trial, but in times of happiness. Especially for women, we generally have the strong need to feel affirmed by others, as well as supported. We owe it to ourselves to have at least five or six gals that we can call or text whenever we want to. Hopefully, each of you have those five or six people coming to mind and are thinking of them as you read this paragraph. But I am a realist, and I do know that there are those of you that do not. And whether you think so or not, you do deserve to be loved well by friends, and you were made to be in relationship with others - life is not about being alone, but walking through things together.

Maybe today you feel the way that I felt that day in kindergarten when Kellie made me feel about two inches tall - perhaps you have been screwed over by others, and have a hard time trusting these so-called "friends" that you've had. Well let me encourage you by saying this much-- there are, in fact, decent ladies out there who have a huge capacity to love you well. You do not need to feel alone, and you never should. The best way that I can think of to get rid of the loneliness blues is to do one simple thing-- get together with others. If you have an acquaintance at the office that you'd like to get to know, ask her to go out to lunch. That lady that has the adorable puppy at the end of the block, ask her if she'd like to go for a walk together sometime. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there, because you have a lot to offer. We all do; we are all coming from different places in life, and have life to pour into others. Our experiences didn't happen for nothing; we go through things so that we can get through them, and help others when they are going through something similar. We have to learn to be there for one another.

Obviously, we all have different social preferences. Some people enjoy and thrive in large groups-- parties are their scene, and a one-on-one coffee date with someone they barely know makes them want to hurl. There are others who are the polar opposite, one-on-one gives them a glimmer of hope, where the party scene gives them a glimmer of nausea. Me? I see the importance of both, and the importance to be able to embrace both types of situations. I think the best feeling I can have in a day is walking away from a situation, knowing that I made a deep connection with another individual. If there are several individuals, even better! But the only way that can ever happen for any of us is if we put ourselves out there, and learn to love each other well.

The bottom line? You are human, and humans need each other. In this day and age, it's so easy to get caught up in social media and ignore the importance of real time together. Unfortunately, I don't think Facebook chats and text messages really do our hearts much justice in comparison to the sweetness of being face to face with someone who cares about us. So step up to the plate, put yourself out there, and start making some great connections with others. Even if you have a Kellie experience, which we all will, don't be afraid to get back up on the horse and try again. There will always be people that some of us just don't connect with, and that is completely okay. I can think of three people off of the top of my head right now, thinking to myself, "There really wouldn't be much of a friendship there" or "We were friends, but that season has come to a close." The main goal is to be peaceful with everyone, but connect with those who you feel the closest to.

My challenge to you this week: look through your phone contacts or Facebook friends, and find one person who you would like to get to know better. If she is someone that you've met at social gatherings but don't really know too much else about her and would like to, send her a text and ask her if she'd like to get coffee this week. I personally don't know of anyone in my life that has ever told me "No thanks" to that proposal, but I'm sure there will come a day. But let's put it this way: it's VERY unlikely. We were all made with the desire to be connected to others, so you would be doing both yourself and the other person a lot of justice by stepping up to the plate and initiating a connection. Building strong one-on-one friendships is what it's all about, so don't be shy about it! And if it is rejection you fear, take a deep breath and talk yourself through it. You can do it. Just remember that you have a lot to offer, and are a rich gift to many!

On that note, get to scrolling through your "friends" and make someone a real friend! You will do your mind a world of good to be in community with others, and that feeling of goodness will carry into all other walks of your life. Think of the possibilities: someone to go for walks with, someone to do Pilates or yoga with, someone to share recipes with, someone to cry with, someone to laugh with, someone to talk with, and someone to encourage and be encouraged by. It's a win-win situation, ladies! Go out there and love on others, and be ready to be loved on! Love your mind, your heart, and your soul will each thank you for it.

Melissa Mancini, pre-counseling student

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Self-Appreciation: Best Gift ANYONE Can Give

Today, as I was going through my daily ritual of reading the news as it comes through my news feed, I came across an article to which the subject matter really made me disturbed. This is a positive response of removal of a "new image" of Princess Merida, the beautiful red-headed young woman from Disney's movie Brave. Disney created a "Sexy Merida" for a coronation ceremony late last week to which caused some major grief, rightfully so.

'Brave' (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)
"This one character may not do any damage to a girl's psychological development, per se," said Dr. Robyn Silverman. "But Merida joins a barrage of thin, sultry characters for girls, making her yet another facet of our sexed-up, thinned down messaging." 

As a human (I cannot just say one gender faces this more so than the other), as men and women alike, we are faced with so many body image perfectionist ideas to which we can majorly lose sight of what makes us unique. Everyone is shaped differently. Everyone is colored differently and not one person is like another. Comparison is unfair and how boring of a world this would be if you looked like every other person! BOOOOORRRINNGG!

Take a look at this campaign that Dove created a while back. It illustrates a good point: how we perceive ourselves is not always how others perceive us.

One step in health and wellness is shaping, molding, and being honest with our skewed perception of ourselves. It is embracing our flaws and imperfections as much as it is realizing what our needs are to feel good about ourselves inside and out. Health and wellness is full body endeavor to which takes an extreme amount of honesty, heart, perseverance, and dedication to embrace everything God made us to be. So what if we have large thighs, bags under our eyes or our rear end is "too big". This is what makes YOU uniquely you. Instead of looking negatively on what you don't like about yourself, why not say one thing positive about yourself?

Next time you are brushing your teeth and look up into the mirror to clean the excess toothpaste off your lips, try saying something you love about yourself in a positive fashion. This is not to be a vain attempt as much as it is to recognize qualities you possess that have a positive impact. If there is something you do not like about yourself, it is up to you on whether you want to change it. There are means to do so if that is your choice, but before you go changing yourself, appreciate who and what you are first.

I want to challenge each and everyone today to really find self-appreciation. To me, that is more important than trying to look and act like someone you are not. Appreciate who and what you are. There is only one you in this world. Be yourself. Allow it to be so! That is simply the best gift that anyone can give to themselves!

Catie Manning, Hair Stylist

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Working Out Barefoot

I still remember standing in my boss's office at Rutgers as she explained barefoot workouts to me. This is before Vibrams were popular or it was all over fitness news about people running around barefoot. Her interest in barefoot workouts started from the class WillPower & Grace. It was here my interest was sparked and I was hooked on this barefoot concept. I began my research and as a science brain I really liked what I saw!

For the general public, working out barefoot can be a great addition! However, if you have had foot problems in the past make sure to consult a podiatrist on whether or not it is a good idea for you (1).


Shoes have not always been around, and it is this idea that appears to be at the core of working out barefoot. Without even researching I thought about it, so why do we wear shoes? In the medical world we wear shoes to protect us from a lot of things, including needles and random flying bodily fluids. On the street we wear them to protect ourselves from the many random objects lying around. While running we wear them to support our feet. But why do we insist on wearing shoes all the time? In one foot alone there are 26 bones (or one quarter of all the bones in the body in both feet), 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments (2). So as a personal trainer who is BIG on training all the muscles, especially the small forgotten about muscles why was I NOT focusing on training all those muscles in the feet?

That was a good question I started to ask myself. So after some research and making sure it was safe for me to try working out barefoot because of an abnormality in my back, off I went to try barefoot training. You want to know what I found out? I LOVED it and still do to this day!

What are the benefits I have found from it? As I strengthened my feet outside of my 13 hour shifts in my workouts, not only did I have the support up my supportive shoes as I walk 6+ miles per shift, but I also have the support of all those strengthened muscles in my feet. Barefoot workouts is something I highly recommend for anyone who is in a job that demands them to be on their feet for long hours! I have found that my back that has always hurt, hurts less because of the support that is provided by my feet now that I have strengthened the muscles in my feet. I also love the feeling of working out without shoes or with my Vibrams. It is so nice to not feel completely constricted!

It is recommended that when you can, take off your shoes to continue to strengthen those muscles. If your feet are in poorly fitted shoes for too long, it may even weaken your arch (3). The best way to strengthen your foot is to take away the support and allow it to strengthen from within (4)!

Some suggestions I have for if you are thinking about going barefoot:

  1. Make sure it is safe for you as an individual.
  2. Do it with your safety in mind. Don't go running outside without shoes in a place where there could be sharp objects.
  3. Start slowly. Don't just jump right into an hour workout without shoes, start with 10 minutes and continue to work your way up.
  4. Stretch out your toes and feet and do exercises that focus on strengthening your feet. Here are some examples of Feet Exercises. As your feet get stronger don't be afraid to do things like jumping squats, burpees, and mountain climbers barefoot! Also, look at your local gym for barefoot classes!
  5. I recommend getting a pair of barefoot shoes such as the Vibrams so that as you advance in your barefoot training, you are not limited to places where your feet will not run into sharp objects.
  6. If you're lifting heavy weights, please where shoes. We don't want any of those many bones broken!

Erica, The Mastermind


Pilates: Like Yoga, Only Different

If You're New to Pilates or Yoga, This One's For You!

In last week’s post, I introduced you a brief history of Pilates, and what you might experience in the first 5-10 minutes of your first lesson, and I promised that in this post, I’d continue in that vein. However,I have been hearing the same question quite a bit this week, and think it would be best addressed at this time.

The question is:  “Pilates is like yoga, right?”

Well, yes and no.

Yes, in that apples, like oranges, are fruit, have skin and seeds, are in similar biological classification systems, may grow in the same climate, but usually don’t, and in most circumstances, the two fruits are quite compatible. They are very different, but are both very nice.

No, in that their history and the purpose for practicing each is very different. I often explain that yoga is a sacred practice that has been around for thousands of years, and it is primarily focused on using the body and mind to pursue and open to the spiritual. Pilates has only been around since the early part of 20th century, and it's primary focus is on the mental controlling the physical.

When discussing Pilates and yoga, they tend to be lumped into the same classification system, which is that of mind-body exercise. More on that in a later post. What you need to realize is that the history of each method is vastly different and though they share similarities in movement and benefits, at their “core”, (great word, huh?!), they are as different as an apple and an orange. Practicing either method should be based on personal preference and the needs of the individual. Both practices are valid, beneficial, and very enjoyable, but they are not the same, and can have very differing benefits.

The following are some things to think about if you're new to Pilates or yoga.

When you’re exploring the methods for the first time, it is very important to consider safety. Both methods are like swimming: Neither should be attempted by yourself or in a crowded class the first couple of times you practice. If you didn’t know how to swim would you jump into the deep end of an unattended swimming pool and hope for the best? Along the same lines, would you jump into the same pool in the middle of a really crowded class with only one teacher present and no lifeguard and hope for the best?

I am speaking from personal experience. I am a student of both Pilates and yoga, but a teacher of only Pilates. I have also been teaching for almost half my life, and spent a portion of that time teaching in physical therapy clinics where I worked with patients who had been injured in both methods. I’ve been injured in both methods. I’ve also been tremendously helped by both.

The key to success in both modalities is research, especially when you’re starting out. There are a myriad of different schools of thought in both the yoga and Pilates communities. I researched and practiced several different methods of Pilates before I became certified to teach. I kept up my studies and research, and realized a few years into my career that there were other teachers and methods that resonated more with me, and felt better for my body, so I pursued studying with those teachers and practicing those methods.

The same goes for yoga. I've studied and practiced several methods and enjoy and benefit from some more than others.

In closing, each discipline is beautiful and beneficial and both are a great compliment to any fitness regime. Practicing one or both will give you so many rewards. Do your research. Invest in learning and in your health and you’ll reap the benefits. Be safe, be smart and be strong!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Catie's Confidence Check-list

"Confidence is the only key. I know a lot of people who aren't traditionally 'beautiful'-- not symmetrical or perfect-bodied or perfect skinned. But none of that matters because all that shines through is their confidence, humor and comfort with themselves. I can't think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself."   Emma Stone

I am a firm believe that true beauty is found on the inside and radiates through the being to which the beauty is possessed. That is the "glow" affect some people possess. Their beauty radiates! What people deem beautiful is what they see on the outside as that is our first impression. We all make assessments regarding one another's looks, styles, fashions, attitudes or lack thereof, but I will be the first to tell you – if you look and feel good about your outer appearance it will boost your confidence and allow you to feel as beautiful as you can be!

For many young women and men alike, this world is about comparison. We are always trying to measure up ourselves to the next person. Well we shouldn't do that. We should really spend some time getting to know ourselves, our likes, our dislikes, what clothes we feel best and look the best in. Since everyone is created individually with our own personalities and designs, it is simply unfair to think you should be like someone else on this earth! Embrace who and what you are then let your confidence speak.

Something that pairs with your confidence and builds your credibility would be attention to your outside appearance. Since first impressions happen daily, draw awareness to your outside. This will reinforce your new found confidence and help you approach life in a new way. When you look your best you too will feel your best.

Here is morning check list that I use to make sure I am looking/feeling my best. I encourage you to make a check list of your own and boost your confidence! This shouldn't take you more than an hour. My Confidence Check-list is down to a half an hour. I do some prep (like making sure your bag and clothes are laid out the night before) and that cuts down on my time spent pulling myself together in the morning.

Catie's Confidence Check-list:
1.   Shower: wash hair, body then face – ask yourself, “do I need to shave?”
2.   Analyze your face: do you need additional eye cream today? If not, continue with your face cleansing routine
3.   Analyze your hair: where do you want to part it? What hair products should you use today?
4.   Blow dry your hair (if necessary)
5.   Apply your make-up
6.   Brush your teeth and apply deodorant
7.   Apply lotion to your arms and legs
8.   Get dressed and flip on some music to jam to!

If I don't go through my check-list fully, I don't feel my best or if my morning gets rushed: it starts everything off on the wrong foot and I feel less confident. Or perhaps you are guilty of my favorite step skipped – forgetting the deodorant (you know the whole 'sure' or 'unsure' thing)! What can you do? You freak and everything is off...sigh.

Whatever you do for your "Confidence Check-list" remember to keep it simple and realistic. Accents are best whether it is wearing a headband, scarf or light make-up...these accessories accent your reflected inner beauty. Don't be afraid to do your thing and let that confidence show. There is only ONE YOU in this world and you owe it to yourself to shine. :-)

Catie Manning, Hair Stylist

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An Introduction to Pilates

When someone enters the studio for their first Pilates lesson, they often quickly become quite overwhelmed. Most new students enter the studio with absolutely no idea of what they’re getting into. This means I need to begin the first lesson by trying to make them feel as comfortable as possible in an environment akin to a sadomasochist’s “playroom.”

Wide eyed, people enter the Pilates studio and ask if it is a torture chamber. Well, yes, it does look such. Leather straps. Metal frames. "Safety" chains. Beds with bars...

The equipment cannot be explained without telling you about the man behind the magnificence. The following is an abbreviated history of the life of Mr. Pilates. I will add some links below to his two books, which are really manifestos. Yes, manifestos. I should write a manifesto. That would be interesting.
pilates, health, exercise, wellness, body, mind, spirit
Joseph Pilates
Anyway, Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in Monchengladbach, Germany in the late 1880’s (for those of you wondering, that’s about 70km, or an hour and some change, on the autobahn according to Google Maps at the time I checked, from the town where Heidi Klum was born!.). He had rickets and asthma and was a sickly child, who was told he’d never amount to anything physically. 

He decided to prove everyone wrong, and began studying ancient forms of Greek fitness, Roman gladiator training, wrestling, marital arts, boxing and gymnastics. He joined the circus with his brother in a Roman gladiator act. He toured with said circus, and was captured and put in prison camp during World War 1. 

Based on his aforementioned studies, he had developed a series of mobility exercises, which he performed for daily physical maintenance. These exercises were the foundation of modern mat work. 
The guards in the camp saw him performing his daily exercises and put him to work with the injured soldiers. These men were unable to do his exercises, and though he manually assisted them at first, it was too waring a thing to continue. Thus, the modern equipment was formed from the hospital beds, springs and traction equipment being used by the injured.

So there you have it. Quick and painless introduction to Pilates equipment and history; the primary things I cover with new students on their first visit. In the next post, I’ll give you the second part of what we would discuss with you on your first lesson. It involves fire and liquor.

-- Amie Avi, Pilates Instructor

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Run, Ride and Relax

Hello everyone! I'm Courtney, a social media publicist, exercise nut and healthy eating (re: food-loving) twenty-something contributor/behind the scenes girl for Erica Smith Fitness and Lifestyle. I live in downtown Indianapolis, IN and enjoy all kinds of physical activities - especially those that take place outside. I'd consider myself a runner and a cyclist, but I'm also a TurboKicker, a spinner and a wannabe weightlifter.

As a contributor (and good friend of Miss Smith) I felt compelled to share a bit about myself and my story. 

Without further ado, a VERY little bit about me: 

Some call them goggles, I call them bug deflectors.
I was overweight/borderline obese most of my life. I attribute it to lack of knowledge regarding nutrition and exercise. I grew up playing volleyball and softball, but because of our busy schedule (both of my brother also played sports), meals were generally on the road/from the freezer section.

After college/circa 2011, I decided I had had enough of being "the big girl." I started counting my calories and exercising every day. I was amazed to see how simply being conscious of what I ate and consciously exercising changed my body. Within a year I lost 75-80 (+ or - depending on the season/what I'm training for).

In the place of the 80ish pounds came an addiction to exercise and a very disordered eating mindset that I still battle every day. Physically I looked amazing (to a point) but emotionally I was crumbling. Through the help of friends and family (particularly Erica) I was able to find the strength to get myself out of that pit and recognize that my worth isn't in my body, but in my heart and actions. My biggest fear was becoming fat again. Now my biggest fear is not living a life worth remembering.

I still work out most every day - because I love working out. I'm still conscious of what I eat - because my body is my future. A few weeks back I did the Spartan Race in Laural, IN and came in 6th among women, second in my age group! I went home and had a cookout with some friends and cocktails - there's balance! I also attempted my first 100 mile bike challenge last weekend (The Three State Three Mountain Century in Chattanooga, TN - it was cut short because of the weather). I run half marathons and finish sprint triathlons. Exercise is a joy to me. I love to have something to train for, and to be honest, I still have trouble treating my body well (nourishment and rest don't come easy...yet). It's a process and I wouldn't be where I am today without Erica's help.

I also LOVE encouraging, coaching, supporting, helping/butt kicking anyone who needs it. If you're feeling down or need a boost, please feel free to friend me/message me - sincerely!

-- Courtney Skells, Publicist and adventure junkie

Monday, May 6, 2013

An Incredible Weight Loss Story

I met my friend Megan in high school, but it wasn't until freshman year at IU when I moved in across the hall from her and Emily that they then became 2 of my best friends.  I was the annoying across the hall neighbor who woke up far too early in the morning without an alarm.  Years later they told me they would lock the door and pretend to still be sleeping so I couldn't bother them.

I remember the day many years ago when Megan called me and said "Erica I need to get healthier." It was this day I noticed a change in her attitude about her health, and this day I believe is the beginning of an incredible journey in her life that brought her to this point.  At this point she was a new navy wife which brings on all sorts of stress and trials.  She was also at her heaviest non pregnant weight. Shortly after this phone call she found out she was pregnant.  While she couldn't start to make extreme changes at this point, her view on health started to change here.

Shortly after Meg found out she was pregnant, her incredible husband Steven left for deployment.  The strength and courage Megan has amazes me.  They had their sweet little girl Mady.

After Mady was born Meg started again to focus on losing weight and being healthier... then came pregnancy number 2 and sweet Brynn!

As you can see, Megan's weight loss story was exactly a straight and narrow path but had many detours... 2 pregnancies, deployments, and 2 children at one point under the age of 2.  You could understand why after the 2nd pregnancy Megan could have easily given up, but she didn't.

With the support of her husband, Megan started to make an effort every day to be active and to eat healthier as a family.  It started out with just walking, but she kept working up her stamina and now has even completed P90x.  When I asked her how she does it Megan said:

Don't get me wrong though, every morning when my alarm goes off at 5:10am I think of excuses. I am tired. I am sore from yesterday. I just need a little extra sleep. And some days I give into those excuses. Those are usually the days I struggle with having energy. I tend to be shorter with the girls, and I eat crappy.

For the most part, Megan kept her efforts quiet until one day on facebook she posted this incredible before and after shot:

Such an INCREDIBLE change!  I am SO incredibly proud of her for so many reasons.  Her strength and courage amazes me.  For those of you looking at making lifestyle changes here are the words of advice Megan has for you:

My best piece of advice would be to get out of your own way and just do it.  You can keep making excuses for as long as you want as to why you can't do this, why you can't make the changes needed, but in the end you just need to take the first step.  Just start doing 1 thing different toward making yourself healthier and you will see changes.   And figure out what works for you.  Just because everyone you know is doing one thing and it works from them, does not mean it will work for you.  Each person is different, so each diet and exercise regimen has to be different. 

As this incredible family faces another deployment, lets join together in encouraging them in their strength and courage all around.  I am so blessed to have this family in my life and am daily encouraged by them! Thank you Whitsitt family for letting me be a part of your journey!

Want to read more about Megan's story and new exciting news? Visit her blog here The Long road to Cake

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