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My Fear Recipe

While out on the lake yesterday, I stepped out of the comfortably sized launch.  That may not seem like much.  But to be clear, we were out on the lake, I was in a boat, AND I GOT OUT OF IT to get into a different boat.

As I’ve mentioned, my greatest fear has everything to do with water – but in this moment of navigating from one boat into another boat and completely surrounded by deep dark water, I was not afraid.

How is this even possible?Boat_bow

Fear is a protective response to a threat or danger – and threatening situations come from life experiences.  We are only born with two fears, I wrote about them in this blog post.  All other fears, whether it be spiders or small spaces,  are learned fears.  Water is not one of the two…

A small part of the brain, the amygdala, captures sensory information and elicits immediate behavioral responses. Interestingly, it is considered the part of our brain directly involved with emotions.  So, fear is an emotional response.

Fear triggers physical reactions that are specific and predictable AND happen before we have fully assessed the source of danger.  This is because the amygdala is part of the limbic system, located in the middle of our brain, and processes environmental input *before* the awareness centers are piqued.  Fears are stored in our memory, having been formed from two vital components:  A deep emotion attached to an experience.

Because the amygdala can be triggered well before our rational mind even has a chance to analyze, we can steer clear of fear inducing situations without us evening knowing or recognizing we have a fear.  This describes my behavior for years and years.  I wouldn’t go into the deep end of pools unless I could touch the sides.  I wouldn’t swim in lakes or oceans past where I could touch the bottom.  I somehow justified that I wasn’t afraid of water because I had no trouble playing with my cousins in the shallow end as a kid or later, playing in the shallows with my own kids.

Our brain has the incredible capacity to hold within it many details of a bad experience.  These impressions serve as the ‘ingredients’ that cooked up to make the bad experience.  If in a later situation, our brain recognizes the ingredients from the bad experience ‘recipe’, the amygdala sounds an alert of the ‘pending doom cake’.

The telltale signs of the recipe for our fear are immediately recognizable:  Our heart begins to beat faster shunting blood to our muscles, we may sweat, our eyes dilate to take in more visual information, and our reflexes become heightened.  This is our brains way of getting our body prepared to take an action dependent on its survival.

Rowing_oct_1The experience of being on a boat rocked by shuffling bodies and lapping waves, wearing a life vest, and surrounded by rowers are not items from the ingredient list for my fear.  This is a different recipe.  A recipe for ‘move your body better cake’.

Taking a float test in deep water, floating on my back, eyes open and looking up *is* on that ingredient list.  My amygdala definitely knows I’m baking ‘pending doom’.

This is a practice in observation.  Investigating the source of my greatest fear, I’ve come to realize:

1  Fear is a normal, natural safety mechanism
2  Fear can completely paralyze both physically and mentally
3  One may never be rid of fear

Yet, fear can be a sort of prime to getting the engine started, to taking forward moving action.  Using it in this way can improve your presentation to that large crowd.  It can get you to make that difficult phone call to your family.  It can get you to sign up for a class requiring a float test.

I’m living my life more fully now that I ever have before.  Understanding my fear has demonstrated where I have fear in other parts of my life.  Identifying how fear shows itself in my thoughts is permitting me to make different choices.  Seeing my fear in an open light, allows me to help my children to handle their own fears.

How will you use your fear?

 

Little Boat, Big Fear

I learned quite a bit about my own big fear after spending 3 hours at an event yesterday called Row For A Day (RFAD). This, in preparation for the month long Learn To Row I signed up for at the Sammamish Rowing Club which starts June 7.

After registration, there was a brief introduction to Rowing terms and parts of the boat. We practiced the Rowing motion on erg machines and went down to the dock.

I lowered myself in an 8 person shell with 4 other novice Rowers. I was shown how to keep my single oar snug to the lock, told Never let go of it under any circumstance, and how to use it to keep the boat balanced. As we pushed off, I noticed the shell wasn’t really that much wider than my hips.

Oar_in_water

The winds were high. The water was choppy. The bow rowers were having trouble getting us out of the sleugh and onto the lake. I was seat 7, one of the stern pair. For obvious reasons (that I hadn’t clearly understood before), rowers always work in pairs. Because I was paired with an experienced rower and the boat needed more power to prevent it from being blown into the shore, we were called by the coxswain to row.

Not realizing it, I had been preparing myself for this moment. Rowing is, in actuality, a pushing sport – the leg push is the motion that gives a stroke its power. I had been lifting heavy weights in virtually the same way, by pushing my legs really hard. In a boat, all I needed to do was push against the foot plate in the same way I pushed against the floor to lift weight.

Number 8, the rower with his back to me, set the pace. All I had to do was follow, but of course, pushing is not the only movement to master – the water has a way with one’s oar. 1. Left in too long, the oar continues to push its smooth end directly into your ribs (and could potentially break them). I felt the beginnings of several rib-crusher strokes and I quickly learned to avoid them. 2. An oar with too little depth wastes the strong stroke from the legs and throws off your timing, not to mention how it completely off-balances the boat and steers it off course.

Oddly enough, during this whole experience I didn’t feel any gut-wrenching, forehead-sweating fear. Instead, I realized the importance of many transfer-to-life things like

A. Focus on the current stroke – one can’t worry about the last one because you end up with two bad strokes in a row. Or worse, a stack of poor strokes.

Forgive the mistake, learn from it, and focus on now.

B. The boat needs you – you must row when you are needed to row. You can not stop to catch your breath or take a rest. When the coxswain calls you to action, you must take action because the boat will not move forward without all rowers rowing.

Every seat has a role and is necessary. Life is a simplified form of rowing.

You an important contributor – will you be ready when you are called?

I choose to be afraid

I’ve been studying fear lately. Fear can be paralyzing or it can be motivating… Too often, I choose the former and give in to the fear – unaware of its power or its source. There is a book entitled “The Gift of Fear” which describes how fear is a tool we can leverage. Oddly enough, I’ve been afraid to read it.

What’s the best way to use fear to move ahead? Here are two suggestions:
1. Be aware. Notice when you feel it, pay attention to what triggers it.
2. Make a choice. Realize that fear doesn’t have to dictate your actions.

Oar_in_water

I’ve been doing specific things to prepare myself. Workouts have had a singular focus. Thoughts have been unwavering.

Tomorrow is my big fear debut: I start Rowing. In a boat. In deep deep water. Without a life jacket.

My desire to learn to Row is greater than my fear of water. I’ll carefully step into a rocking boat tomorrow wondering if that intense, gut wrenching fear of water will ever really go away. I do know, however, that my longing to Row will propel me onward, to become greater than the fear that grips me.

Find your fear. Let it be a source of growth for you, too.

If you need help moving past a fear, try moving your body with a BODYWISE workshop or one on one programs. It will change you for the better.

Feet don’t fail me now – National Foot Month

FeetFeet go mostly unnoticed… until summer when sandals and nail polish come out in full force.  There are some who show off their feet and some who consistently hide them. 

It’s National Foot Health Awareness Month and feet problems are all over the internet, from bunions to hammer toes to fasciitis to heel spurs, you can read about everything.

But why do we have so many problems with our feet?  Katy Bowman, Biomechanist, says that feet are not healthy because of a chronic pattern in our society that decreases circulation, contributes to weakness, and even negatively effects the joints in our knees and hips. 

The chronic pattern is wearing shoes.  Shoes to the feet are like, oven mitts to the hands – they may protect to a certain degree (degree fahrenheit, of course), but worn all the time seriously limit mobility and dexterity.  

Pink kitchen gloves isolated on white background.

And it’s not just that feet are in shoes most of the time… it’s also that we walk around on surfaces that are uniformly flat.  What the nervous system does between our feet and our minds is pretty astounding.  It’s constantly measuring how far away the ground is and it measures the distance between steps on a set of stairs, too. You’ve felt this when you expected a step that wasn’t there or didn’t expect a step that ‘was’ there.

Take a quick look at your own feet.  Notice the shape and health of the nails, the joints, tendons, and muscles (can you even see any muscles?).  Do you have an arch when you stand or only when you’re sitting?  Do you walk pigeon toed or duck footed?  What pattern do you wear into the tread on your shoes?

All this provides information about what’s happening in the structure that is the foundation of your body.  Without a strong and stable foundation, the rest of the structure suffers.  Buildings are constructed with specific guidelines for materials based on the environment and stressors to ensure value and long term usage. Think about houses for a moment – a house you want to buy may appear in great condition.  However, you need an inspector to determine if the foundation is crumbling.   Everyone knows that investing in a house with a suboptimal basement is a poor choice because the rest of the structure will eventually follow suit.   House foundation

Why don’t we think that way about our feet, too?   Unlike buildings, our feet require more than stability to function well – they also require mobility which adds to the complexity of keeping them healthy.

A woman I know  broke her left foot recently.  After limping around in a boot during recovery, she developed knee pain on the non-injured side.  It turns out that she tore the meniscus in her right knee after favoring her left foot for so long.  Unfortunately, the meniscus was injured because of a problem in her right foot that was identified years ago but not resolved.  

If you suffer from pain in your knee, hip, low back, shoulder, or neck, it just may be your feet to blame.  Improve your foot health and reap the rewards a set of strong feet gives the rest of your body. 

Start off on the right foot by trying movements like these:

1  Open and close your toes

 Toe abduction

2  Walk around on the balls of your feet

 Walk on toes

If you find them difficult or you want even more practical tips on how to move your body well, join us at the
‘Don’t Exercise, Move’ workshop, April 16, 2016
www.bodywisebodywork.com/exercise-move-workshop

Do we sit because we can’t walk?

Falling, TrippingAccording to this study done by Purdue University, the high fall and injury rate of students reflects the inherent instability of bipedal locomotion (walking).  Students are falling 58% of the time while walking, so it must be that humans weren’t meant to walk on 2 legs. 

 Seriously? 

Humans have been walking for a very long time… and because students at Purdue are tripping and falling over half of the total time they spend walking, the study concludes humans aren’t designed to walk.

Let’s look at other pieces of information that may have been a contribution to the problem.  Most individuals studying in a college setting are between the ages of 18 and 26.  It is very fascinating and interesting to note that, by 1988, the United States adopted the law requiring children to be in car seats (a full 10 years after Tennessee made car seats mandatory).

Hunh.  1988 was… 28 years ago.  My my, could there be a correlation between these young adults current ability (or inability, I should say) to walk and the environment that directly effected how, how much, and to what degree, they developed during their initial attempts to learn to walk?   

And by the way, has anyone looked at the connection between the increased use of automobiles and human mobility via walking or equestrian riding? 

Is it possible that cars and the use of car seats are the cause of the current trends in human walking incompetence?   

We’ve all seen ‘those’ parents who don’t take their children out of the car seats when the drive is over.  And now we even accessorize car seats:  They snap into the stroller, fit into the grocery cart, and even come with a curved base – all the easier to ‘rock’ the baby to sleep.  By the way, years ago a friend shared with me that these kids are called ‘Bucket Babies’ and tend to have a flat spot on the back of their head.

The truth is bodies are meant to move! 

Since car seats have become so versatile, children aren’t getting the same stimulation and opportunity to build movement patterns.  They are delayed, under-developed, and less coordinated.  Review the following growth markers considered basic development:

  • At 1 month, a baby should begin lifting their head and turning it to the side while lying on their stomach – in recent years, parents are told to give their kids ‘tummy time.’  No tummy time happens in a car seat.
  • At 3 months, a baby should begin lifting his chest as well as head and perform pushup like movements while lying prone.  They also push down with their legs if you stand them up.  Babies can’t push their legs against the curve of a car seat.
  • At 7 months, a baby should be able to roll over, sit unsupported, and bounce on her legs while supported.  Children at this stage have not developed the same strong network of motor nerves that more independent babies have.
  • Between 8 to 12 months, children should be crawling, pulling themselves up to standing, and walking with help.  If kids aren’t mobile by this point, they really scream about it!

Humans have been raised in an upright world for much longer than they’ve been placed in car seats.  There is more research to be had on this issue.   For now, understand that car seats are just the beginning of a life of limited movement.  With trends as they are, no one is likely to have a future of tripless walking – not with the average American sitting 9-12 hours a day.

Combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle!  Walk more, Move more, Sit less!

If you need help or want to learn more ways to accomplish optimal health, attend the
‘Don’t Exercise, Move’ Workshop
April 16, 2016 at 3pm
rsvp dawn@bodywisebodywork.com

DON’T EXERCISE – Research supported!

man looking down cliffThe ‘Don’t Exercise’ blog has brought up several questions, multiple comments, and even emails questioning it’s validity.  From ‘Do you really believe this?’ to ‘That’s great news!’, from ‘What *should* I do?’ to ‘That’s a relief!’

Nearly all of the people who question the truth of ‘Don’t Exercise’ have one thing in common – they just read the blog title and didn’t read the content of the article.  The title is such a controversy and caused such a fuss that lots of readers unsubscribed from the newsletter, even a chiropractor!

A little while ago, another well known doctor and posture specialist, wrote a note disagreeing with my article about ‘The New Sit’.  Guess what?  He hadn’t read the content either, he just saw the image and figured I had bought in.  It turns out, we actually agree that the New Sit is NOT beneficial.

Where do you stand?   

Having read the title, ‘Don’t Exercise’, would you agree with the statement, or disagree?  Are you someone with an opinion and time to write an inquiry?  Are you someone who looks at the evidence or takes time to read up on the subject?  If you read a subject line that says ‘Don’t Exercise’ wouldn’t you want to know what in the world it was about?

I’m writing about it because it’s in the news and it’s not easy to read everything there is to know about sitting or exercise or health – this is your opportunity to get the low down on what the issues are and decide what to do for yourself.

I’m going to come completely clean here – research has found that SOME exercise is better than NO exercise.

This statement is a lot like saying some eating is better than no eating.  Or some water consumption is better than drinking no water.  If you read the following statement, would you understand what it means?

    ‘Cessation of pulmonary respiration is linked to higher mortality rates.’

Yep, I know that.  You know that.  I think everybody knows that.  Maybe not though.  If you don’t know it’s meaning, don’t sweat it.  There are professionals in the field to help translate the science-ese.  Here it is again:  ‘If you stop breathing, you die.’    

What’s the point, you ask?  It’s about understanding what the research has found about EXERCISE and HEALTH.

The American College of Sports Medicine says that the evidence in support of the beneficial effects from performing exercise outweighs potential risks against exercising (eg cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, joint damage, muscle tears, etc) in most adults.  This is a fact considered indisputable because exercise has been shown to support the following list of changes in sedentary individuals:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves lipoprotein profiles
  • Enhances insulin sensitivity
  • Manages body weight
  • Preserves bone mass in elderly
  • Reduces the risk of falling in aging populations

These are all good changes for people who spend most of their time SITTING.  By today’s standards, most people don’t consider themselves chronic sitters. 

However, Sitting is the new Smoking, remember?  Sitting is a health hazard.  A study from 2012, linked inactivity to over 5 million deaths worldwide every year, which is more than the deaths caused by smoking.  The new study by the Annals of Internal Medicine, found sedentary lifestyles increase the chances of developing conditions that contribute directly to dying prematurely, even for those who do the minimum recommended exercise. 

TVThe average American adult sits 9.3 hours per day not including commute times or meal times.  In addition, most people watch 3-4 hours of TV each day.  Potentially, you could be a 12 hour sitter, Monday through Friday.

Here again is the list of what may develop in the future (or you may have one or more already) that makes sitting such a hazard.  Sitters are still likely to face:

  • Higher risk of developing depression
  • Greater risk of developing cancer – colon, endometrial, and lung
  • Greater risk of developing heart disease
  • Increases the risk of obesity
  • Increases the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes
  • Susceptibility to muscular issues (immobility)
  • Interference of LPL, lipoproteinlipase (fat breakdown for fuel)

As a reminder, this is the same list of problems for both categories of people:  Sitters who Do Exercise as well as Sitters who Don’t Exercise.

EXERCISE in and of itself is not the solution, therefore, Don’t Exercise!  If you only have so much time in a week, why bother stressing about getting in exercise if it doesn’t positively impact your Sitting health anyway?

The takeaway:  Time to make a Plan about your Sitting Habit. 

As a non-exerciser, add the minimum weekly recommendation – 2.5 hours of moderately intense aerobics, OR 1.25 hours of vigorous activity, OR combinations of both types.  This does not include muscle building activity two times weekly.

What will you do?  How will you do it?  When and How often should you do it?

If you don’t know, I can help with creating that plan – it’s my specialty.  Contact me at dawn@bodywisebodywork.com.

As a current exerciser, here is a very important reality check:  The minimum recommendations of exercise do not counteract diminished health from prolonged sitting.

Let me prove it to you with this simple test!  Stretch your calves for 30-60 seconds each side – I recommend a piece half-foam for consistency and portability.  Sit for the average amount of time you spend in that position.  For me, it’s about 70-90 minutes at a time.  Re-check your calves by stretching them again.  Hopefully, you’re convinced… Please send me feedback on what you experienced!  Calf_stretch

Here’s another reality check:  The body you take exercising, is the same body you use for sitting.  If you do more sitting than exercising, you strengthen ‘sitting’ body patterns.  The test is the same!  If your calves stretch-ability changes while you’re sitting, that’s the movement availability in your calves during exercise.

What will you do to transform to a non-sitting body pattern?  How will you do it?  When and How often should integrate the tools?

If you don’t know, I can help with creating that plan, too – it’s exactly my specialty.  Contact me at dawn@bodywisebodywork.com.

Til then, Happy Sitting!