SKINCARE- THE BODY

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This week I am going to be random and just talk about products that I like for the body. It is so important to keep the skin on your body matching the luxuriousness of your face. Especially after you put so much time, effort and money into it.
All of us deal with different skin dramas- dark spots, freckles, spider veins, crepey-ness. Here’s a list of some of the things I have found to help with these problems and also a list of tanning products I like since you HAVE to stay out of the sun, or all of those above problems just get much worse.
1. Exfoliating bath gloves– Here’s your first step. Exfoliate a few times a week. These are so effective and easy. Just pop them on and take your shower using your favorite body wash. They will get rid of all the dead skin cells making your arms and legs smooth, less crepey and ready to absorb your products or to self-tan.

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2. Moisturizing Body Lotion with a sunscreen– These, luckily, are becoming more available now. There are a few that I found recently at the drug store and one that is a higher end product that’s been out for a while. These products are not greasy or sticky, which is a pet peeve of mine. I hate getting all ready for the day then putting on a sunscreen that makes me feel sticky, hot and dirty. These leave you feeling soft and smooth and protected from the sun. Save your Bath and Body works fragrant lotions for the winter since they do not protect your skin from sun damage.

3. Two Items for “Crepey-ness– Not sure how to spell this since auto-correct doesn’t show it as a word. BUT it’s definitely a thing as we age. My favorite products for this are The Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter and Coconut Oil. I use a recipe that I have made myself that I whip with solid coconut oil, or I use fractionated coconut oil that is in liquid form (not the cooking stuff). The fractionated oil for the body you can get at Amazon or at a health store. These products applied nightly and regularly help to plump the skin and help it retain its natural oils. The fractionated coconut oil is a carrier oil so if you would like your regular products to absorb a bit better put a layer of that on first then your regular lotion. It will absorb a lot better.

4. Tanning products– Want that glowing tan but not the damage? I have tested so many self-tanners high end and low end. Truthfully the one I have found recently is now my current favorite. It’s Jergens Instant Sun. Apply this mousse with a tanning mitt and rub in well. It dries in 60 seconds and then over the course of a few hours develops into a nice glow. I use the deep tan since I have found that the fair skin ones always look orange. If you have that problem I would try the darker ones. Do a test patch somewhere that’s hidden. Keep this tan looking good with their gradual self- tanning daily lotions or the Jergens BB body cream that hides small imperfections. These products are all affordable. In fact I will apply the self- tanner and then after it’s dry, apply the BB Cream for the body. Together my skin looks even and glowy.


BONUS- Here is my special recipe for……
DONNA’S WHIPPED LAVENDER BODY BUTTER (Top Secret)
1 Cup of Coconut oil
1 tsp Vitamin E oil
1 tsp Jojoba Oil
¼ tsp Grapeseed oil
40 Drops Lavender Oil
Put everything in a Kitchen Aide Mixer and whip on high for 7-8 minutes. Use the whisk attachment.
For larger batches- you can get giant jars of coconut oil at Sam’s club. Containers can be found on amazon as well under beauty product containers. Other oils can be purchased on line or at Better Health. (Vitamin E oil you can find at the drug store)

This will be a fluffy whipped cream. It will harden up a bit depending on the temperature of its surroundings. This makes a great gift.

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Make-up Problem Solvers

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So continuing on with our Pilates Beauties- Series Week 3. I think its time for my secret tips to help with common problems that all of us girls struggle with.
After being a glam-life girl for a while now, I have found several items that help to solve problems that we all experience. Does your foundation breakdown during the day, eye shadow crease, do you have large pores, dark under eye circle or get goopy globs in the corners of your mouth with lip gloss? Many of these problems can be solved by using the right prep and the right products. Sometimes though it is just trial and error until you find the right product for your skin type. Here are a few of my holy grail items that I have to have to keep my glam going all day- EVEN while doing Pilates. Don’t judge- I do like to look pretty while working out.
1. Face Primer– First things first. Just like your walls you must prime your face. Face primers go on after you moisturize. They help to keep your foundation IN PLACE all day, without breaking down. Apply your moisturizer let set and then you can apply your primer. Usually you should let that set too for a couple minutes. I have tested MANY of these primers to help deal with my oily T- zone problem. There are sooooo many to choose from when you go into the store- oil control, brightening, color correcting (for redness). You may have to test a few. Ask for samples. The ones I have found that work great are the Smash box Photo Finish Foundation Primer
(available at Ulta and Sephora) and the Boots No 7 Photo Fix Wrinkle Filler and Primer (available at Target and Ulta). These both work great to keep make up fresh all day. There are also spray primers. A highly recommended one by make-up artists is Skindinavia Make- up primer spray (available on line). It’s a bit pricier but it works. So if you have a wedding or special event you need to go to and have your face last all day, it’s worth the investment.

primer

2. Eye Primer– SO just like your face you need to prime those lids. Eye shadow primer does a few things- smooths out your lids (if crepey lids are a problem), allows your shadows to go on with full color payoff, and keeps your eyeshadow from creasing all day. My favorites are Urban Decay Primer Potion. I use the anti-aging one or sometimes a tinted one called Eden. Eden hides blue veins if you have those. I also like the Tarte Clean Slate 360 Creaseless 12 hour Smoothing Eye primer. Both can be found at Ulta and Sephora. Since beginning to use these years ago I absolutely cannot live without them. Your eyeshadow will stay, and won’t budge all day. I even got dipped in the ocean while para-sailing in the Caribbean and my shadow was still ON.

eyeprimer
3. Bye Bye Under-Eye (by IT Cosmetics) – Do you have dark circles under your eyes, age spots, scars? This stuff is amazing!! You can even hide tattoos with it. You only need a TINY, and I mean TINY bit of this to conceal any redness, blueness, or darkness anywhere on your face. I used it,after having a spot removed on my face, to hide post-surgery redness and it worked like a dream. This product has won many awards by the beauty magazines for how good it works. Use a brush to dab on and then you can either pat in with your finger or beauty blender sponge. Set with a light finishing powder. You can get this at Ulta or my preference QVC. At QVC it will come with the brush which is a huge bonus.

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4. BUXOM Lip gloss– I love lip gloss but hate STICKY lip gloss that clumps in the corners of your mouth after talking for a bit. You’ve been there right? I usually will use a lipstick and put a bit of gloss in the center of my lip for a highlight. My favorite gloss, and it happens to be a plumping formula, is by Buxom. These lip-glosses are available at Ulta and Sephora and are great! I talk A LOT in a class and it keeps my lips moisturized and never leaves me feeling dry. You will get a slight tingling sensation when you apply, that’s the plumping happening. Give them a try. I think you’ll like them and there are TONS of colors to choose from. I’ve tried others but always go back to these.

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5. Bye Bye Pores— As we age many of us will begin to notice our pores getting larger. This product from IT Cosmetics is a great finishing powder and also causes pores to disappear. It comes in a loose formula and a pressed (to take with you) The best way to apply a finishing powder is with a puff. I know – you’re thinking WHAT? Not a brush? Try it. Use a small bit of powder on a puff and press/roll it into your problem areas. This is available at Ulta and QVC or the IT cosmetics website.

byebyepores

6. Finishing Spray– Okay so you did all this beautiful make-up application. Now what? Your last step. A finishing spray. Much like the primers this last step helps lock in your foundation, powder and blushes for the long run. I have found 2 that work amazing. Urban Decay- All Nighter ( available at Ulta and Sephora) and Skindinavia- Finishing spray ( available on line) I don’t always use these sprays, but if I have a day when I know I do not have time for touch ups or I will be at a special event, I will use them.

allnighter

7. Rose water spray– An alternative to the finishing spray could be a Rose Water spray. This is not only refreshing but will keep your skin looking dewy. If you’ve over done it with the powder, give yourself a spritz and it will make your powder melt into your skin and look natural again. When traveling, I carry a small bottle of this on the plane with me to mist my face and refresh my makeup. It also smells great and makes you feel like you just cleansed.
You can find Rose water sprays at Whole Foods, Better Health, and on line. Buy smaller containers at the drugstore for your purse and just fill.

rose water

PILATES BEAUTY SERIES

INTRODUCTION

During this 7 –week series on BEAUTY we will be discussing many different aspects of taking care of yourself on the outside. We have been and are consistently focused in Pilates on the inside- the bones, the muscles, fascia, posture and the systems. Now it’s time to see how we can up our game on the outside. Since I have a lot to say, I figured I would write it down and then just do a quick overview in class. I welcome ANY and ALL contributions on items that have worked for you.

“TOOLS I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT”

There is an arsenal of tools out there for maintaining your beauty and youthful appearance. Lord knows I have tried them all or at least most of them. Some have been life savers some have been a waste of my hard earned cash. Here I’ve compiled a list of items that I feel I have to have to keep me looking and feeling great- my holy grails.

1. Silk pillowcases– ok, I know I sound like a princess here but these have really been a huge help with several things:
 It helps you to keep your hair smooth and untangled while you sleep. I actually find that my hair is smoother the 2nd day after washing when I sleep on these pillowcases and you don’t get crazy kinks and rooster tails.
 These pillowcases keep you cool all night. No sweaty faces.
 They don’t absorb all your costly anti-aging creams like cotton does.
 They help to eliminate sleep creases and help reduce wrinkles. If you are a side sleeper this is important. Just a warning. When you go to buy them at a store you may get steered to the satin sheet section. Do not buy satin! I’ve done that. You will sweat all night. Your face will stick to the pillowcase. You need to get 100% silk. You can find these on Amazon or at SoftSurroundings.com on-line. They are a tad costly but well worth it. They machine wash and then you hang dry. They do last a long time! http://www.softsurroundings.com/P/Silk_Pillowcase

Pillow-On-Bed

2. Great make-up brushes– If you are a painter you know the importance of good brushes. Each brush has a purpose and the size and bristles are key to a great painting. Now your canvas is your face. Use the right brush for the eyes and for the face and your makeup can look flawless. You will get the products you to work at their best. There are many brands out there, and you can find some that fit your budget. (beware of the cheap sets at target, Walmart, Costco etc.) some of my favorite brands ( and I’ve tried many) are “It Cosmetic” brushes available at Ulta. These are amazing quality and do not shed. They wash up very well and last.
A more budget friendly version is the “Real Technique” brushes-available at Ulta, Walgreens, and Meijers. Clean your brushes regularly too. Use a brush cleaner like Cinema Secrets (http://www.amazon.com/Cinema-Secrets-Brush-Cleaner-32oz/dp/B002HMYF8W ) antibacterial soap or baby shampoo.

3. Beauty Blender– So you don’t care for using brushes to apply foundation? Try a Beauty Blender sponge (http://www.sephora.com/beautyblender-P228913 ) This amazing sponge will give you flawless application. You use it DAMP. That’s a must. Don’t try to use it dry. It won’t give you the same finish. Wet and then press in a hand towel. NO water should come out when you are ready to use it. It’s pricey -$20 for a sponge and all the makeup artists use them. DO NOT BE FOOLED. This sponge is patented and is NOT the same as all the cheap versions out there. If you want a dupe for beauty blender, one that is more budget friendly, try the “Real Techniques” sponge. I use this one. It works exactly the same to me (and a lot of the beauty gurus agree) and is only $6.99. http://www.ulta.com/ulta/browse/productDetail.jsp?productId=xlsImpprod5960824&skuId=2265607&CPMID=CSBING&CAWELAID=330000200000039737&catargetid=330000200000529015&CADEVICE=c
To clean these use Dove soap bar. I’ve tried everything to clean these so they aren’t stained and the soap that works the best is Dove bar. Rub the soap in with warm water and squeeze out the excess foundation and water.

4. Clarisonic– This hand held facial cleaner is the best! I do not feel like my face is clean without it. It’s an investment but will last a long time. I purchased mine from QVC. I’ve had mine for years with no problems. They come in a large version that you can use on your face and body and a smaller version the MIA that is easy to travel with. You just replace the brush heads every 3 months. You can get these at Ulta, Sephora.
The charge lasts for weeks. It gently yet deeply cleanses pores without abrasion or harsh chemicals, removing six times more makeup than manual cleansing so that products absorb better and your skin is more receptive to skincare ingredients. With regular daily use, it reduces dry skin patches, oily areas and blemishes and immediately leaves skin feeling and looking smoother. It’s even waterproof so you can use it in the shower.

So let me know if you use any of these products or if you have others that I NEED to know about. Coming up in the future weeks– Nails, Skin care and more. I can’t wait to share with you.

Preventing Polar Posture

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Polar vortex, polar invasion or just plain winter. No matter what you call it, it’s HERE already and I am beginning to hear and see what this cold weather does to people.  Living in the north I hear the best excuses on why people can’t come to exercise classes- ” it’s dark outside when I get home”, “it’s snowing “, ” I just feel sleepy in the winter “.  Crazy or arctic hysteria I don’t know, but when we give in to those thoughts we sabotage our continued fitness efforts and this can lead to what I see and have now started calling-POLAR POSTURE.  Here’s what it looks like- forward head, rounded shoulders, flexed low back, tight hip flexors-  basically the couch sitting, Snuggie wearing, cocoa drinking posture we assume to hunker down and hibernate in front of our TVs for 5 months. Ughhhh. From lack of sunshine, prolonged sitting, to changes in eating habits all of these winter behaviors can really take their toll physically.

Musculoskeletal imbalances from posture changes result in back, shoulder and neck pain, and can be impacted by our postural hibernation habits. These imbalances can increase our risk for injuries. So let’s talk about why.  First off,  with the days being shorter and weather worse we spend too much time indoors mostly sitting. Our bodies are designed to stand not sit, and the more we sit, the worse our posture gets, as our spine rounds forward, neck protrudes forward and shoulders round forward. These postures result in increased upper neck tension, stiffness in joints, increased risk of disc protrusions, referred pain like sciatica, shoulder impingement and even more shallow breathing due to the forward posture restricting rib movement.

The cold temperatures do not help.  When we are cold, the body’s response is to curl up to conserve heat. What do we do again? Round our shoulders, round our upper back, flex forward and breathe more shallowly. Sound familiar? Again the same posture as sitting on the couch.

Abdominal core strength is also impacted by this winter postural position. When the core is not used to support the spine in a neutral posture it becomes weak. It weakens from the inside out. So the deep postural muscles are no longer supporting the bony structure as needed to provide stable movement.

In the winter we eat differently too. Summer salads and fresh foods are replaced with warm cozy comfort foods.  We are less active. This combo leads to weight gain and reduced muscle tone. Our muscles lose some of their elasticity from the disuse, making it harder to cope with the above mentioned postural imbalances. This then makes us more prone to strains and injury when we finally do roll off the couch and out from under our fur throw.

So what do you do?  Be aware of all these issues first. Know that you have complete control and the power to make the right choices.  Keep up with your regular fitness schedule. Don’t make excuses because of the weather. You cannot control the weather but you can control your fitness routine.  If you cannot get out of the house because you are snowed in there are many quick exercises you can do to keep that posture in check.

Here are a few exercises that only require a chair and a foam roller.  If you don’t have a roller, you can get one at http://www.optp.com. I like the black axis foam rollers best.

1. Deep lateral breathing exercises- Sit up tall on the edge of a chair. Place your hands on your lower rib cage. Inhale for 10 counts and let your ribs expand. Exhale for 10 counts and feel your abdominals pull your rib cage down compressing all the air out of your lungs. Repeat 5 -8 times

2. Chest Stretches– Open up your rib cage and shoulders by laying on your foam roller vertically with your arms open to a 90 degree angle. Breathe into the pectoralis muscles and feel the chest stretch. Allow the muscles to relax and lengthen. Repeat breathing at your own pace for 3-5 minutes.

3. Chin nods– While laying on your foam roller, inhale and tuck your chin towards your chest as if squeezing a small ball between your chin and chest, exhale and let the chin resume it’s normal posture.  Repeat this 10 times.

4. Upper Back Stretch– Place your foam roller horizontally in your upper back. Place your hands behind your head with your knees bent and hang backwards over the roller stretching your upper back and reversing the thoracic curve. Hold for a few breaths, then lift your pelvis and roll on the upper back muscles to relieve any tension.

5. Hip flexor stretch–  Stand up, hold onto a stable surface, reach back and grab your ankle while bending your knee and pull your leg back. Hold for 15 seconds to stretch the front of you hip and thigh. If you just have to lay down at this point 🙂 you can do this while laying on your side.

These exercises can be done daily to help keep you out of the “Polar Posture”. Remember to keep up with your regular classes for flexibility , strength and cardio too and you should make it out of the Arctic weather season unscathed.

If you would like more foam roller stretches. My e-book-” On a Roll@Home, Stretch and Massage” has all the exercises you need to get you through that long winters night.  Visit my website store page to view retailers.

Need more ? Classes and private training is available , just be warned. You must leave your house during the winter to attend!!

Straighten up Girls !

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Being a 6′ tall woman, I have always been particularly aware of my posture. There is nothing worse when you are tall than to slouch. It draws even more attention to yourself. So I have always worked to keep from “slunching” ( combo of slouch and hunch) forward to hide my height. Afterall, I really couldn’t hide it by slunching. Much like the girl who started to blossom earlier and more voluptuously than the average girl, they rounded their shoulders and slouched forward to hide their ample bosom. Or were you the girl who felt self-conscious, not one of the “in” crowd. Did you try to hide behind your forward posture to get lost in the crowd? Or did your posture problems begin with motherhood? Carrying heavy children around on your hip, hauling large carriers around.
Many of our poor postural habits began when we were developing and growing, some reflect our state of emotions, and some have started as we go through our adult lives raising families. Now we are faced with muscles that are lengthened and weak and other muscles that are tightened and short, a spine that has shifted or changed it’s shaped. Postural pain and syndromes are directly related to the way we hold ourselves to face the world and it’s challenges.

Besides sapping your energy and making it more difficult to accomplish everything you’ve got packed into your day, poor posture has a slew of health consequences that can put a damper on your fit lifestyle; back pain, neck tension, disc herniations, arthritis, headaches, digestive issues just to name a few.
Learning to perfect your posture, can boost your active life and also your efforts in the gym. Why? Because it’s ALL about alignment ladies. The better your posture, the greater range of motion in your joints and spine, the better your muscles are able to work efficiently. When the spine and joints are in their optimal alignment, the muscles can respond without strain. If you are working out in poor alignment you will encourage and strengthen that poor alignment. If you are in good alignment then you encourage and strengthen GOOD alignment. If aligned you will prevent pain and injuries, boost your flexibility, improve your breathing, and after a workout feel more energized.
So how do you do it, how do you change years of poor posture? Well,first you need to have someone evaluate your posture. A licensed physical therapist can do this. They will be able to tell you where your problems are, which muscles are weak and which muscles are tight, and what position your spine is in. This way you can streamline your workout to focus on only strengthening the muscles that need it and stretching the muscles that need lengthening so you can balance your posture.
Once you become aware of your postural habits you can work to improve them during your daily activities and during your workouts. The therapist will be able to tell you exactly how to strengthen your form and which exercises specifically will be effective.
It’s not too late once your posture has changed. Most of the time with the right program you can stop or even reverse these postural changes. So what is this program? Well, I am knowledgeable in many programs and the reason I felt inspired enough to confidently leave the clinical setting and pursue a new career in Pilates is because it’s the best. I saw changes in clients posture and pain that I never saw with any other exercise program. It is really the most efficient exercise program there is for postural changes and back/neck pain issues. Pilates exclusively focuses on alignment, core strength and breathing that can help change alignment like no other. It will not happen overnight OR if you do not practice and follow through with your exercises at home. TRUST ME ON THIS. You cannot change posture by just doing one class a week with no follow-up exercises. Seriously? You know that right? So if you have done 6 or 8 classes and expect miracles they will not happen. Postural change happens with continued practice and dedication. YUP.

So are you in a class? Once you are upright again in fabulous posture you’ll not only look better visually, but feel better and feel more confident.
Interested in an evaluation and possibly a class? Visit http://www.infinityhealth.org for current classes and to register. You won’t regret it.

PREVENTING BACK PAIN AT HOLIDAY TIME !

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Christmas can mean increased back pain for those of you who have a history of back injuries.  Christmas time is loads of work for YOU- Santa’s elf.  As you are decorating trees, climbing ladders, hanging lights, baking cookies, shopping, and traveling it can all lead to increased strain on your spine. Preventing back pain at holiday time means not only being extra careful and using good techniques (or what we therapists call body mechanics) when lifting and decorating, but also incorporating exercises to help prevent back pain at Christmas time.  According to the Product Safety Commission, 11,000 people end up in the emergency room every Christmas due to decorating injuries, which include broken bones, cut, burns and falls. In the therapy clinic I would see many new patients the first of the year for low back strain due to straining  while holiday decorating.  As someone who loves to decorate myself ( yes, I have 5 trees) I have 13 tips for preventing back pain, as well as falls at holiday time:

1. Lift with your legs, when hoisting up packages and boxes of Christmas decorations.Try specifically not to bend, twist and lift all at the same time. Exhale when lifting. This helps to decrease disc pressure that could lead to a herniated disc and also helps to engage your core, which will help keep your back stabilized.

2. When carrying boxes and packages, keep them close to your torso. Don’t try to carry too much.  The lazy mans load does not apply here. If you are shopping, unload some of your gifts into your car during your shopping visit so you are not trying to carry too much and then engaging in awkward postures- as you lug around 15 shopping bags, carry a purse, text and drink a latte.

3. When picking up grandkids, etc, lift with your legs. Do not swing kids around or even sit for prolonged periods of time on the floor playing with new toys. These positions can strain the back. Also trying to shop, cook and decorate holding a child on your hip can be very tiring for the back and the arm. You are unbalanced when lugging a kid around. Put them down and give them a job to do instead.

4. When handling boxes of Christmas goods that are on the floor or on low shelves, kneel or squat, rather than bend and hunch over. This position increase disc pressure and makes you at risk for a herniated disc.

5. When wrapping  Christmas gifts, don’t do it hunched over or on the floor .  Put the gift up on a countertop or table so that it is at waist level and  you can maintain correct posture while having the gifts at this comfortable height.  Standing or sitting on a high stool is best since sitting on the floor usually causes you to strain the upper body and low back.

6. Don’t force yourself into contorted positions while reaching or use a prolonged awkward position to decorate Christmas trees or hang Christmas lights. Find someone taller, or use a stable stepping stool.  Straining to reach as you flex forward can really strain your back  muscles, put increased pressure on your discs and increase your risk for falls.

7. If you must use a ladder, make sure it’s stable and have someone hold it at all times. The most common fracture that occurs when falling off the ladder is heel bone (calcaneal) fractures. Trust me on this one, I have personal experience.  Not an easy injury to heal from.

8. When carrying packages outside, first scan the path you’ll be walking to make sure there’s no ice or anything else you might slip on. If you can’t see over your packages or out in front of you, make two trips.

9. If driving for long periods, stop every 2 hours for some stretches, walking and water. While  sitting for extended periods in your car, be conscious of good sitting posture; no persistent slouching or leaning. Use a lumbar support pillow to help keep your lumbar curve in a healthy position. Feet on the dashboard is not a good position for your body.  Perform some of your Pilates exercises like chin tucks, shoulder shrugs and rolls,  seated pelvic tucks, gluteal squeezes, and spine stretches forward. This will help to keep your postural muscles happy.

10. If traveling by air, get up every 30 minutes and walk around and continue to use your lumbar pillow. Perform the exercises above as well to keep the back from getting stiff. Add in some toe tapping and ankle pumps to keep the blood flowing in your legs too.

11. Watch what you eat: Christmas time weight gain can add strain to the back and cause pain. ( Are you listening Santa? Go easy on the cookies)

12. If you will be standing in your kitchen for a long time baking and cooking, try to either stand on a shock reducing mat or wear supportive shoes to help alleviate  strain to the back while standing. The support of the shoes will help you to stand taller and decrease strain on the legs. Ho, ho, hold in your core to help keep postural muscles in check.

13. Do not skip your workouts. Make time to take care of your body with a PILATES CLASS,  a roller workout, gym visit , or walk. You will feel so much better if you just take 30 minutes a day and move your body.

Happy Holidays and may all your backs be pain-free —  Gift Certificates for Pilates classes or private sessions from Infinity Health are available at www.infinityhealth.org

FALL LEAF RAKING TIPS

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I know what all of you are going to do today !!!  Same as me- rake up the messy yard !!

 So here are some tips using your Pilates Principles to stay back pain free !

  1. Warm up – Take a 5-10 minute brisk walk to warm up your muscles. There is no scientific evidence that stretching before an activity prevents injury BUT Lay on your roller and loosen up your fascia/connective tissue.
  2. Choose the Right Rake – Use a rake that is proportionate to your body size. Using a rake that is too long or too short will cause you to alter your posture and strain your muscles. Consider the rake width. Narrow rakes may make the weight of the leaves lighter but they can also make the job longer. Extra wide rakes gather more leaves but can put more of a strain on your back.
  3. Watch Your Posture – Like any exercise, proper form is important. Muscle pain and strain occurs when you put your body in awkward positions and then try to contract or extend muscles in these odd positions. To maintain proper posture while raking keep your legs slightly bent, your weight centered, and reach with your arms and not your back. ENGAGE your CORE while pulling the leaves toward you. Meaning, exhale as you pull or push anything.  Make this an ab workout.  After every 20 minutes of raking activity stand up, place hands on hips and gently stretch into a back bend ( like swan dive or swimming) for a few seconds 3-5 times especially before lifting anything.
  4. Switch Hands Frequently – You exhaust your muscles with repetitive motion. Switch your lead arm frequently while raking to prevent, or alleviate, muscle exhaustion. ALSO switch jobs occasionally. If you are raking with a partner. You rake for a while, while they do the pick up and then switch.  Take walking breaks to break up the raking repetitive motion. This will give those muscle patterns a chance to relax.
  5. Bend With Your Knees – When lifting leaves keep your back straight and bend with your knees and hips, not your back, when reaching down. The power for your lift comes from your buttocks and legs and abs. Exhale as you lift to decrease disc pressure.  Make the piles small to decrease the weight.
  6. Rake With the Wind – Let Mother Nature give you a hand if possible. Rake leaves with the wind, even if the spot in the yard is different from where you wanted to rake the leaves. Rake them on to a tarp and drag the tarp to your desired destination. 
  7. Use a Tarp – Leaves are lightweight and can easily be moved on a tarp. Rake the leaves onto the tarp and pull one end of the tarp to move the leaves to your desired location. Doing this can save your back constant bending over to pick up piles of leaves to put into a garbage bag or wheelbarrow.
  8. Drink Plenty of Water – Muscles need water to function optimally. When you maintain your body’s water levels during use, you allow your muscles to coordinate with each other properly and support your physical activity.
  9. Wear Good Shoes – Wear supportive shoes with good arch support and skid-resistant soles. Standing on your feet and raking all day can put a lot of strain on your feet and legs. Good foot and arch support can stop some of that strain from reaching your back and skid-resistant soles can minimize the risk of slipping on wet leaves and falling. 
  10. Consider a Leaf Blower ( or handsome lawn boy)  – There are some lightweight gas and electric leaf blowers on the market that are hand held or can be worn like a backpack. Blowing all the leaves into one large pile or onto a tarp can save time and lots of energy.
  11. Wear Gloves – Give your hands a break and wear gloves to prevent painful blisters.
  12. Take Frequent Breaks – Taking your time will make it less likely for injuries to occur. Pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion can cause you to get sloppy with good posture and lifting techniques, setting you up for injury.
  13. AT THE END: Lay on your foam roller afterwards to encourage your spine to come back into its normal neutral posture !!!  Lay there for at least 10-15 minutes.

What can you do if you follow all of these tips and still wind up with low back pain?  ( besides having hired the handsome lawn boy?)

  • Heat and/or ice treatments.
  • Ibuprofen for pain control
  • Epson Salt bath
  • Massage
  • Deep  foam rolling on all the large muscles of the legs and upper back, using a foam roller or tennis balls
  • Propping pillows behind your back and under knees when resting to take pressure off of your lower back.

And when all else fails, see me for a private session to assess your problems, or come to class to work out the kinks.  Movement heals !

Why Not Modify?

My goal during most mat classes is to get most of you to be able to make the proper connections in their muscles, keep proper alignment and to be pain-free while doing so.  Usually this all works out well……I say usually because some times I can see that people are struggling out there on the mat with trying to master a Pilates move or they are grimacing with pain.  Okay– there I am standing in front of you cueing and cueing- not only every inhale and exhale but also modifications for every fitness level  and injury need.  I sometimes feel like the comedian that is not getting any laughs ” hello, is this thing on?” 

Modifications are not a bad thing, they do not mean you are “wimping out” or not performing Pilates.  As a physical therapist, I have trained and rehabilitated people with numerous injuries and dysfunction.  The way they get back to full function is by doing modifications and gradually re-training the muscles, nervous pathways and bony alignment.  Learning a new movement is a process. Much the same as learning to dance, walk, throw a baseball etc.  If not done correctly or in proper alignment things hurt and if you already have injury or inflammation it’s going to hurt worse. 

The learning curve of Pilates is much the same, especially if you have low back pain, neck pain or shoulder impingement problems.  I will instruct you in the proper way or the modified way to perform the move to gradually ease your body back into a movement or to help prevent further injury.  SOMETIMES– due to your body structure or just the way you are made by the great designer, you may never master a move. That is okay. I will say that again— that is okay !  I will never be able to do a back flip due to my height.   You may never be able to do a roll-up due to your increased, immoveable lumbar lordosis.  No biggie.  You can master another move and be great at that.  There are over 500 moves that I can teach you:)

Most importantly – you should NEVER work through the pain.  If you have pain there is always, ALWAYS a modification that I can give you.  When you come to physical therapy we don’t cancel your appointment because you have pain— we modify and find a way to allow you to get the same benefits just in a different way.  So know that you are still gaining something from a modification, you are still teaching your body something, you are still progressing– you are just doing it in a smarter way for your specific needs.  So come to class when you have pain, come when you are stiff, come when you feel strong….. all are welcome on the mat since Pilates and your highly trained instructor can meet everyone’s needs by giving you MODIFICATIONS.   To quote my idol– They are a good thing.

By infinityhealthmi Posted in Pilates