What Makes An Athlete?
The dictionary says, an athlete is “a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport or exercise, or game requiring physical skill”.
FOR SURE. When I watch an elite athlete perform, I am AMAZED at their physical ability. Since becoming a personal trainer, Cirque Du Soleil is a whole new experience for me!
However, I believe this definition lacks some intangible aspects of what the admirable title of athlete conveys.
Beyond the work displayed by the body, it takes determination, dedication and will power to be an athlete. It takes someone who is willing to START. Who will give as much as they can from the very beginning. An athlete also recognizes the need for growth and is willing to get help when needed. An athlete is open to learning, recognizing that it will only make them better.
The amount of effort an athlete puts forth in order to not just do everything needed, but to do everything needed correctly and to the best of one’s ability is crucial. Stopping when you need to, but ALWAYS willing to start up again. Giving as much as you can each time, no matter what form of exercise.
An athlete has to want to improve and perform. Even on days where you would just rather go out and get some poutine.......you come to class.
Or maybe you can't get to class.....so you go for a walk. You take action.
The strength and drive it takes to come back to class after being away from it for awhile....AMAZING.
The steps you took to finally get to a class - that is your Inner Athlete at work.
Deciding to exercise, signing up and then showing up.
Once there: working as hard as you can, yet respecting your limitations and knowing that you will simply get better and better at what you do.
You all have an INNER ATHLETE.
Inner, because you are not professional athletes.
But, inside - that athlete is there. I've seen so many come out!
Never forget that.
I see your Inner Athlete at work.
I admire your Inner Athlete!!
(Never forget that, too.)
Your Inner Athete: Strong, Fabulous and Smiling
You love her or hate her (or perhaps could care less?!)
I am thankful to her - well, her team, I suppose - for coming up with this versatile fresh herb dressing. You can use it in salads, as a marinade, as a spread on crusty bread (put it under the broiler and add some feta. Yum), or toss it in with your veggies.
You just shake it up in a mason jar. Simple.
Refrigerated, it lasts 5-6 days.
This makes one cup:
In a mason jar, place 2 teaspoons of lemon zest and the juice of 2 lemons. Add: 2 teaspoons of honey (I used just a bit more), 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoons chopped chives, 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon (my favourite). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Tighten lid (duh), and shake to combine. Add more of whatever ingredient you think it needs - salt? honey? Dijon? tarragon?
Shake it up again if adding anything and keep tasting until it is to your liking!
Adding fresh herbs to your meal is one of the best things you can do for your health. Herbs are packed with vitamins, minerals, flavanoids and antioxidants - all of which help your body fight disease. The high concentration of chlorophyll purifies your blood, liver and kidneys. Parsley has 3 times the Vitamin C by volume than an orange. It is an excellent source of Folic Acid which helps regulate blood pressure. The Vitamin K in parsley is essential for bone health and blood clotting. Basil is known for it's anti-inflammatory benefits. It helps to ease joint and muscle pain. Basil is also very good for asthma. It helps remove phlegm from bronchial tubes and mucus from lungs. Basil has been known to sharpen memory (I am now going to add basil to my salad tonight - I need all the help I can get).
Start experimenting with these awesome gifts from nature! Throw a bunch in your salad, sauces, soups, guacamole, salsa, potatoes or rice.
Add parsley to your smoothie!
Here is my daughter's favourite bruschetta recipe. Toast up some delicious, clean bread and enjoy. Dollop some on top of your chicken or fish....toss it in a salad! :)
PS: Please don't omit the oil. Your body needs it to gain the benefits of lycopene (antioxidant) from the tomatoes. Some fats are good for you!
6-8 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup fresh basil - chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley - chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil
1 Tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
2-3 good pinches of salt (start with 2, then to taste)
a couple of rounds of freshly ground black pepper
COMBINE AND DIG IN!
I am fortunate enough to not be spending a great deal of time sitting at a desk.. Multiple back and posture issues stem from excessive sitting, even with good posture in the chair. When seated, your low back is in constant, low-grade flexion. Continuous or repeated flexion in the lower back will eventually lead to the outer collagen rings of the lumbar discs wearing away. This will then lead to painful conditions such as bulging or herniated discs.
Another issue with continuous sitting is the shortening of your psoas (hip flexor muscle) and the weakening of your gluteals (bum). Your pelvis becomes misaligned and your low back will then be in permanent flexion, even when standing. All of this makes standing upright very difficult and leads to our shoulder rounding forward - your upper back muscles then become weak and overstretched and your chest muscles become very tight. When the shoulders are rounded forward our necks are forced to extend more than usual to look straight ahead - compressing cervical spinal discs.
You can see how one thing will lead to another and it all ends up with tension, pain and immobility.
It is so important for those of you who do a great deal of sitting during the day (at a desk and/or travelling by planes, trains or automobiles) to TAKE A BREAK EVERY 20 - 30 MINUTES. Stand up and, if you can, walk around. The core musculature that supports the lower back shuts down after approximately 20 minutes. Moving around will help reactivate it.
It sounds so simple, but it is very important. Make sure you take the time to do it!!!!
Here are the other important moves for you:
1.. The lunge stretch. Yes, it has the evil word "lunge" in it, but it helps to stretch out your shortened hip flexors and then allow for greater flexibility in the hip joint.
2. Shoulder shrugs. Stand up and try to relax your shoulders. Then squeeze your shoulder blades together by pulling your shoulders back as much as possible followed by shrugging your shoulders halfway up towards your ears. Hold it here for a couple of seconds and then - keeping the shoulder blades together- lower your shoulders down. Then release the squeeze.
3. Stand in front of a door way and bring your arms up as if someone yelled: 'Put your hands up, this is a robbery!!" Then place your hands on either side of the door way and slowly lean forward until you feel a nice stretch in the chest muscle and shoulder.
4. See if you can lift your computer monitor up to eye level so you aren't looking down all the time.
The stretches can be done 2-3 times a day and will greatly improve your posture and your comfort.
Although this image really does say it all, I have added 5 reasons to pump up the jam with weights - just as a reminder of why we do what we do!
1. Increased Metabolic Rate – adding new muscle to your body increases it’s ability to burn calories even at rest. Muscle is WAY more metabolically active than fat and, as you can see, takes up far less room. As you replace fat with muscle you become smaller. Just remember, muscle mass is dense. You can see from the photo that you can fit more than 5 lbs. of muscle into the space that 5 lbs. of fat fills. Never judge your improvement by how much you weigh! Get off that f**cking scale!!!
2. Increased Tone & Bone – Lifting weights will start to create new muscle definition - ready for you to show off any time!
Adding muscle stimulates the body to build new, stronger bones in order to support your new muscle mass. You will increase your bone density and be less likely to develop osteoporosis as you age. Strength training is your best defence against osteoporosis.
3. Better Posture – As you build muscle strength you are more able to hold your body in the upright, tall position it should be in. Eventually, your will feel your supporting muscles tighten as you stand, sit, walk, get up from a seated position, and exercise. You are able to fight gravity with strong muscles holding you up - no more leaning forward and slouching!
4. Increased Functional Strength – By increasing overall strength you will be able to perform the activities of daily living better. Laundry, grocery shopping, lifting the kids, dogs pulling on the leash, shovelling, lawn mowing......these all become so much easier.
5. Decreased Chance of Injury – Your body will instinctively know what muscles to fire when needed after you have taught them, using proper form during strength training. For example – you’re out for a walk in the winter. You slip on some ice and feel your knees buckle, but - you don't fall down!! This is because you have strengthened the muscles in your legs that provide stability in the knee. You have built a strong core to keep you braced for any sudden jolts. Compare that to someone with poor muscle development and they will likely have torn a ligament in the knee and done some more damage to themselves as they hit the ice.
So there you have it. And, of course, we can't forget the great feeling we get after working out with weights - strong and fabulous!!!!