Valentine’s Day is all about loving others and being loved. But it’s also a good time of year to put the focus of you and loving your health.

Loving your health is something you can do every day. It doesn’t have to be a special time of year. This weekend I’m one sunrise away from grabbing three sunsets and sunrises for me. Not only am I delivering on my promise to myself to get a mobility flow in at each, I’m also technically getting three weekend days and it wasn’t even a holiday!

Ways to do something about your healthy daily:

⁃ it takes courage to say yes to rest and play. We think of exhaustion as a status symbol don’t you think? Got a date with some chill time for you planned today? Can you plan it in now?

⁃ Maybe you’re not sick, you’re thirsty? How much water have you drunk today? Go and have a sip now.

⁃ Don’t have time to eat healthy today? Research a healthy cafe near you and treat yourself in more ways than one

⁃ Got some movement planned today? If you haven’t time to get to the gym, maybe get up and down off the floor (no hands) during ad breaks in your tv watching tonight. And sit on the floor throughout. Make yourself keep moving instead of slumping.

⁃ At work now? Get up and stretch your calves, front of your thighs and open your shoulders. Often our bodies must feel as though we’re sitting even when we stand – reverse it!

Simply start with the basics before you supplement or go for the superfoods. A supplement is something to make up the whole, and super foods are only super if they’re adding to food you’re already getting right?

⁃ you’ve three opportunities to vote for your health each day. Start with the next meal and go from there. Even just one component and you’re stepping towards healthier

⁃ When you’re thirsty drink water. The best you can – see last blog for why I don’t drink tap water. Coffee, tea, juice, soda are not water. They’re the opposite and actually make you thirsty. Get enough water first before you look to medicate – you’re probably having to much of the other

⁃ First move well then move often. Daily. Hire someone to help you if you don’t know where to start but one place is always – where you’re stiff, stretch, where you’re weak, strengthen. And have fun doing it. It is. It’s not a chore. If it is, choose again.

⁃ Rest as hard as you play. And make sure you do both. Do more of what makes you feel alive and give yourself the time to reflect and recollect on what you’ve done. You might enjoy it.

You know when you’re sick or injured and you can’t do what you love? Your determination can be next to none for what you’ll do when you’re back. How good is that bowl of freshy made soup, a cup of warm broth, fresh fruit, salad, veggies? What about that fun run you’ll do, that fitness class you’ll take, that new healthy cafe you’ll try. Why can’t we do the same when we’re healthy and then uplevel?!

If you’re still not sure where to start sign up to register your interest for Fitbynature’s online coaching coming soon – bodyweight fundamentals you can tailor to you as simple as you would choosing dinner off your fave menu 🙂

We all can use better shoulder, rib, and waist mobility for optimal breathing. And we could all use better breathing for better shoulder, rib, and waist mobility! While breathing is an automatic function in our body it’s also within our manual control. The quality of the way you breathe has the potential to transform everything about your health and your body.

Breathing is the key to core and postural strength

Breathing improves your posture and your abs. Your ribcage position is dictated almost entirely by the quality of your breathing—essentially your ability to properly move your ribs during breathing is to make room and best allow your diaphragm to move.

Your shoulder blades ride on your ribcage, so they’re along for your breathing quality ride too. If your breathing is consistently chest-oriented, your ribcage will be lifted. Muscles in your chest, neck, and upper back will be dysfunctionally recruited. This, of course, causes chronic tension, pain, and limitations in neck, back and shoulder mobility, while making you more susceptible to injury. All because of poor breathing!

Our diaphragm is king of our core. If our diaphragm isn’t working optimally, either is the rest of your core. If it isn’t used functionally for breathing, it won’t work functionally for posture either, wreaking havoc on your ability to move.

A properly functioning diaphragm feeds a properly positioned ribcage, which feeds properly positioned core muscles. When the ribcage is lifted and flared for chest-oriented over-breathing, the core muscles are pulled long and inhibited. This is why you can never truly strengthen your core without addressing your breath. Also, when your ribcage is lifted and flared along with an anterior pelvic tilt, your pelvic floor is no longer underneath them. So the anything necessary for pelvic floor strength and overall core integrity is out of the question.

But breathing just happens right?

We assume we know how to breathe properly but modern living has made that a challenge. Our innate way of breathing has been warped by our sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating, over-heated and over-cooled houses, poor air quality and lack of fitness.

By poor breathing I mean over breathing. It has become a habit that leads to lethargy, weight gain, sleeping problems, anxiety and probably heart disease and other diseases resulting from poor transportation of life giving oxygen in our body. All because of less than optimal breathing.

Quick tips for better breathing:

You can stretch out all the short, right breathing related muscles in your neck, shoulders chest and back for temporary relief, BUT if you don’t permanently correct breathing mechanics, the pain and mobility limitations will remain. Instead, spend just a few minutes working on breathing mechanics and immediately, significantly restore mobility.

When you’re exercising (daily so it’s a daily reminder that way too!) do so with intent: the breathing, twisting, reaching, driving, and rotations. Keep your breath smooth and mindful, within each movement.

Breathe thru your nose. Make it quiet effortless and rhythmic. Belly breathe, gently pause before exhale. That’s it.

The more I understand about the human body and its ability to function optimally, the more I realise how important it is to feed my body water more optimal than tap water.

Water is the most important nutrient in our body. We’re about 70% water. Without water, our organs would lose their ability to purify and we would simply reabsorb all of our body’s toxins. Water is really our body’s (naturally) optimal detox.

But what about the quality of the water we’re drinking?

The need for safe drinking water devoid of antibiotics, bacteria and heavy metals is a given. But it’s not enough to remove what’s bad.

Then we fluoridate and chlorinate to make our water extra clean. However, adding extra salts will push the balance of our own body’s salts out of balance. If we think about distilled water in the body (water devoid of its minerals/electrolytes), your body must donate its own minerals (electrolytes) to be able to absorb and utilize it. So drinking distilled water STEALS minerals from your body’s own mineral reserves to process the distilled water, brining about multiple mineral deficiencies. The same goes for adding in extras like fluoride and chlorine: they displace other needed minerals and change the way our body’s function.

We’re healthy, and by healthy I’m mean hydrated, to the level of our cells. The requisite plumpness of each of our cells (and not just the collagen ones for our aesthetic anti aging needs!) determines the metabolic functioning of each cell and their relation to each other. A plump cell means the concentration both inside and out (mostly water but also the right balance of particular salts, namely calcium potassium sodium and magnesium) is in balance. These are what are displaced by fluoridation and chlorination. An unplump cell looks a lot like a raisin, dehydrated. Chemical reactions, wastes and communications cannot travel into and our of the cell well at all because the wrinkly surface makes it’s harder work for messages to move over hilly surfaces which could and should be smooth sleek and fast.

And that plumpness (or raisin-ness) affects every cell chemical reaction, all cells shape and sizes, and helps each cell regulate temperature. It helps to break waste and nutrients down in the cell so that they can be moved through the various membranes and natural filters in the body. And a lack of water affects the cell’s enzymes too. Water really is (especially, cell) life.

When it comes to drinking the most optimal water for your body it’s not just the cleanest, most sanitized or safest. If you want an optimally functioning body, the healthiest water you can drink is all in the balance.

Note:

Getting the right amount of water is also a must. Drinking too much will simply flush every nutrient and mineral out of your body as you pee constantly. The general formula is 1/2 your body weight in ounces per day or 0.03 for kg, not exceeding 3L and replacing diuretics like coffee, tea, soda and alcohol 1.5x their fluid quantity.

Then considering what you’re drinking with meals. Drinking too much water dilutes your stomach juices (affecting your food digestion). Yet drinking about 1/2 a cup is necessary to activate digestive enzymes, moisten foods and shuttle nutrients around your body.

If we want a body that is always able to move, surely we should always move it?!

So much joint inflammatory care and prevention involves foods and food supplements but what about movements to nourish joints in the very ways we want them to work? And while so much of this area is aimed at older adults or pain relief, maybe no matter our age we should choose a joint menu for movement. 

There’s a realm of physical training that exists beyond fixating on sets, reps, weight lifted, and racing the clock to set new P.R.’s.  

Fitness is evolving quickly. Today’s baseline movement standards and practices are much higher than they were even 2 or 3 years ago. And then what is our highest standards today are only the lowest we could attain in the future? Taboo training methods such as rope climbing, moving odd-objects, locomotion, spinal waves and bodyweight-based training are now in the spotlight. Gymnastics strength training. Mixing traditional strength training with body-weight based exercise is a potent combination. Multi-planar strength and movement freedom.

Much like managing joint health, a movement based one requires a willingness to experiment, a certain amount of patience and a healthy dose of self awareness. A mirror, videoing yourself or hiring a movement pro will help you help yourself!

Handstands, leg-less rope climbing, ground-based movement flow training packed with locomotion patterns and bodyweight movement patterns are here. Our bodies are designed to move freely.  And freedom of movement is the backbone for movement – my backbone especially. 

Unfortunately as we age, most of the time we begin moving more thru our lower spine than anywhere else.

Now just hold that thought.

In gymnastics the movement in image above a bridge, yoga a wheel, functional movement, thoracic extension. Ok definitely not the latter. And a bad one if the first two.

However, the first thing I love about this pic, apart from my friends’ awesome house in Suffolk Park we stayed in over Christmas this year, is that every attempt used to make me so dizzy! But not this time. I could actually stay and hold it. Yay.

I also like how much my hips actually allow me to open up my low body but that my low back also stops them from over arching and crushing into my low back. As a gymnast I used to be great at that, which is not great. Trust me.

Now back to aging and low spine movement more than anywhere – can you see my glee. If not, hold that thought one more time then.

Chiropractors (and when you study under Paul Chek @chekinstitute) learn about something called the Lovett brother relationship. It’s all about noticing and bringing changes to your body. Thru dysfunction at one end of your spine problems are reciprocated at the other end.

In the most simplest of explanations, when there is a rotation in L5 there will always be a rotation in C1, its ‘Lovett Partner’, even in the absence of symptoms of pain or lack of function at C1. And they can work both ways. For example, a dysfunction at L5 can cause a C1 dysfunction and a C1 dysfunction can cause an L5 dysfunction. When one is out of neutral so will its partner.

So back to my bridge, aging and low spine over use. And thanks for your patience but if you know me then wrapping my head, particularly my brain, with punny reference to my now tennis ball sized whole following brain tumor removal (yes, I’m laughing at myself!), then the relationship is being addressed (!) and not running it’s aging course! Having had such a large tumor, I experienced severe displacement of c5 in my neck and would expect to see the partnered dysfunction in L1. Following ten years as a gymnast, all my L (lumbar, low back) vertebrae were and are very mobile. So this could be a double whammy! But core strength has had to be more than mere aesthetic: it’s held things in place!

So my bridge. I know. I’m slow getting there. But I am slowly getting there in my bridge too. Thoracic extension, shoulder mobility, the breathing that goes with those changes as I open up directly over my lungs at my back, the release, especially emotional of the opening up of my chest (think heart). This is exciting. This is why despite, let’s face it a crap bridge pose, I’m feeling like there’s definitely an upside in my future here!

Eating well is my baseline. It’s one of the ways I know I am nourishing my body into the knowledge all is ok. 
I think our body tells us just how this nourishing is coming along. This isn’t like full gossip sessions over too many wines kinda thing but definitely conversations of symptoms both daily, acute and chronic. You know what I’m saying. Tired. Hungry. Craving. Bloated. Nauseated. Satiated. Salivating. It also tells us through stress: stress comes into our body in so many forms but on the inside it’s all the same to our body. And when there’s too much, something’s gotta give. 
So we gotta listen to our body. This is our health and wellness journey in a nutshell. Unless you’re allergic to nuts. Then it’s just in as few words as possible. 
Because whether it’s as few words or few ingredients or few steps it’s simplicity and making the smallest steps with the greatest impact that gets you there. 

Wherever you are on your health & wellness journey, the ‘next step’ could be as simple as cutting out sugar or eating more greens. So often clients go the all or nothing approach and their bodies are just not ready for such huge changes, no matter how healthy. With small inspired steps, you’ll soon look back and see that you have those habits on autopilot. 

Start simply with one meal, even one ingredient, maybe not slacking off and trying harder, recording what you eat, getting a friend to be accountable with, getting inspired on Youtube, or hiring the help you need. 

Whatever you do, try and stay forever learning and a student of health for life!

Ways to uplevel your nourishment

Write answers to these prompts:

1. Where are you now?

Do you have much sugar?

Do you have grains/gluten/dairy? 

Do you eat out or have fast food? 

How frequently do you eat?

How do you feel after you eat, energized, bloated, is something not quite right? Is eating how you think you should hard to stick to? Any cravings

2. What is the next step you could make to up-level your nourishment?

Pick just one. Try it. Feel how you feel. Hungry? Bloated? Satisfied? Thirsty? 

For instance, eat less processed food or no packaged ones, think in terms of nourishment rather than calories, eliminate grains, see a naturopath to screen your gut flora or hire a health & wellness coach to guide and tailor a program for you.

You know your body better than anyone. Now you know you can, what will you do to uplevel your nourishment today? 

Join Fitbynature on our seasonal Sugar Intervention to uplevel alongside like minded peeps. It’s really a mini nutrition course disguised as a sugar detox because we all know we’re over carbed. Start ‘Back to Basics’, get into ‘The Skinny on Fats’ or maybe get some ‘Digestive Strengthening’. PM for details. 

I can see (& know) I have significant asymmetry. Particularly between my left and right thoracic (ribcage) rotations in these pictures. And a lot of that is post brain surgery over my right cerebellum and right neck (considering how far they had to cut to remove a tennis ball sized tumor but also the displacement to my brain down my spine). I am also very much right hand dominant. These will only tighten as I age if I do not work on their mobility.

And as an exercise coach, I was taught and teach that the first predictor of future injury is previous injury. The second, asymmetry.

But is symmetry actually achievable?

⁃ One of our hips is anteriorly tipped and forwardly rotated, creating a rotation in the lower back towards the right hand side.

⁃ At the ribcage we have three lobes of lung on the right, two lobes on the left effecting the airflow between sides.

⁃ Just below we each have more of a domed diaphragm on the right, our liver is then underneath that. On the left we have a smaller, flatter dome compressed by the heart above!

These asymmetries, both spatial, mass and pressure, have widespread effects in our ability to control and enable airflow between sides of our lungs and the way we breathe!

Yes we make poor training and lifestyle decisions and choices, dysfunction occurs and the bodies homeostasis becomes shaken, normal is no longer normal. Even exercise coaches! As a result, opposing muscles can become chronically lengthened and neurologically weak as their impact on position and posture changes. But that seems to point to the fact that I need to contact my neurosurgeon to know how I can improve how to move and prevent injury!

Rather, you can and should do this yourself. Use your body’s mobility as an anchor, a framework to have sense of familiarity with your body. Explore left and right rotations, extension, flexion, anything-ion! And daily. You’ll know your asymmetries. Some will be your strengths, others clear signs of weakness.

No one can do it for you really, but you can do it better than anyone else.

(And Fitbynature can help of course for those first few steps in seeing how you’re really moving, as you should, as you could, so you can go forward and kick ass from there!).

I always stretched. Especially as a gymnast. Then it was ingrained into my mind and body.

But watching clients (albeit not gymnasts but just peeps trying to live a healthy life), I’m more of the ‘do good or don’t do’ camp now.

A lot of research has come out about both sides of the story. You hear of athletes who did static stretches, and their performance often suffered: many couldn’t jump as high, sprint as fast or swing a tennis racquet or golf club as powerfully as they could before they stretched. I think it was something about static stretching causing the nervous system to react and tighten, not loosen, the stretched muscle.

So back to considering the rest of us, the latest findings show, we’re unlikely to sustain any harm from brief spurts of static stretching — but equally unlikely to gain much advantage. Except those who feel the benefits of stretching to psych themselves up!

In my personal and client experience too, stretching end ranges of muscles of non professional athletes isn’t really purposeful, a tad boring and time consuming, and there are just other and better ways! You might have guessed that, yes, it’s movement.

When real movement is pursued – it will take care of your needs in terms of ranges of motion. Just go as far as you can. Often. And your ranges will change with need. Being more often needs. We often get impatient and dissatisfied with what we should have and hence get what we deserve!

The one thing I will say about stretching that perhaps some yogas and definitely daily meditation can take care of instead is the indispensable value to your body in relaxing by allowing it to be dead weight. It’s so good for the mind and the body.

Allowing your nerves to relax and not fire so frequently so fast so all the time. They’re going to be working all the time of course. Your muscles are always on. But at the same time letting your body relax and just be. Now that’s the kind of stretching I’d be into.

The ‘your body is a barbell’ is clichéd but about bodyweight training. And you can leverage it anywhere. Like at the beach. Even the living room floor during ad breaks!

A lot of people stop at basic bodyweight training: push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, etc. but what about the world where we’re moving without being restricted to reps and sets and time: twisting, turning, reaching, pulling, pushing, shifting, flowing.

While lizard crawling is the ultimate ‘crawl’ in the movement world, I’m a big proponent of getting brilliant at the basics. Yes, this is similar to the crawling we do as infants. Funny how we (need to) regress back to our earliest forms of movement as a reset later in life.

‘Just’ crawling is not by any means easy. It trains the body to handle unique body positions, transitions and upper extremity loading. It’s tough on wrists which we don’t train enough and it’s just gold for core activation.

The ability to handle your body while performing uncommon movement tasks (like crawling) beyond standing and walking gives quality to your years.

– the most important tip is to find neural spine (look in a mirror by going too high and low in cat & camel yoga moves) then do everything you can to not move it whilst crawling

– oh, and relax your neck. Your using your arms and legs, not your neck!

Oh, and it’s fun. Especially when your toddler wants to race you. Omg, try crawling fast! My legs!!!!!

Being upside down does weird things to my post brain surgery balance. I have to look at the ground: you can see the over compensation in my neck and thoracic (upper) back here. My low back takes all the weight and strain.

But I still want to be able to do handstands. I still try to do them, a zillion sloppy handstands, I can be stubborn!

So I made a new goal: of just being good at the foundations of groundwork and flow… I’m still not sensational at them yet but now I’m getting more comfortable on my hands and upside down because I:

1. Adjusted my current goal, and let it lead me to the next:

And even more important, I’m appreciative of where I’m at the moment. The more I move, the more I have a new current goal.

Tip: Play with your wrist strength and feel how your back and hips move as you invert. Begin with just putting your hands in the sand at the beach and do some donkey kicks.

2. I try to have a clear picture of where I’m at, and my why:

Why do I want to do a handstand. Because I can’t! And life is about now, more so in motherhood than ever. And I want to be with my boy where he is. Why physically is a lot of jumping screaming running and you guessed it handstands.

Tip: try taking taking small steps up the wall to a height even minuscule you feel ok. Start with your back to the wall, put your hands on the floor, look back (or down if you’re me!) and go.

Which leads me to my next step…

3. Create daily habits:

I’ve been told it takes 1,000 reps for a movement to be able to be performed on command by the brain. 10,000 reps for it to be an automatic response.

So I’ve got lots of reps to do I hear you say? Nah, I’ve got lots of time right now. May as well use it!

Once you create the habit your body will run on autopilot. Full disclosure: I can’t go more than a couple days without working out or doing my mobility flows. Perhaps because I’ve always made them a daily habit. In fact even on days I don’t feel like doing anything at all I do something, anything! Even if that means turning up the music and dancing. And luckily my boy loves to dance too!

Tip: try what you want to be able to do daily! #handstandeverydamnday

Join us in January for ‘Brilliant at the Basics’ online classes.

“The difference between good and great is being brilliant at the basics, the daily practice of being able to control yourself.”

PM for details or to join waitlist

#fitbynature #brilliantatthebasics #dailypractice #spineyouth #movetomove