Tag Archives: austin

Women’s Wellness Through the Decades

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For most of the past decade, I’ve worked as a personal trainer who specializes in women’s fitness.  I have a special affinity (and specialty certification) for working with prenatal and postnatal women, as I think that the perinatal period is one where women should spend extra time and focus taking care of themselves.  Whether a woman always been an avid exerciser and just needs a little extra expert direction about the dos and don’ts of working out while pregnant or she’s never had a consistent exercise habit, I can help keep both the mom-to-be and the baby healthy.   I love supporting new moms during “the fourth trimester,” especially working to ensure that the core muscles work efficiently and effectively again after pregnancy.

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That said, I’m getting older.

(Sigh.)

Now the far side of 40 and feeling the changes of my body aging, I decided to invest some time into educating myself about the body’s changes during menopause.  While it’s been societally  taboo to discuss “The Change,” I find mass ignorance unacceptable.  If I can learn more about supporting women through menopause– and approach my own transition more happily and healthfully– then I think that’s a worthy goal.

In late summer, I undertook a certification course offered by Burrell Education, a leading women’s wellness organization based in London.  Its founder, Jenny Burrell, is well-known and highly respected for her science-based, practical fitness and wellness education.  In the course focusing on “The Third Age Woman” in peri-menopause and beyond, Burrell partnered with Jessica Drummond of the Integrative Pelvic Health Institute and Irish physiotherapist Michelle Lyons.  The trio delivered a twelve-week course that covered everything from shifting hormones to optimal nutrition to ideal workouts and even the importance of rest for women who want to not just survive menopause but actually THRIVE during the “third age” period of life.

I am confident that I can help women learn real, practical, and do-able strategies for creating a well-balanced life.  By addressing nutrition, exercise, health screenings, and how daily habits affect physical health, I can support women through the small behavior changes that will result in improved health and greater ease of living.  My peri-menopause POWER program has me all fired up to help third-age women feel fierce!

So while I continue to work with perinatal clients– and am honored to be part of the excitement of motherhood– I am eager to share my new-found knowledge about surviving and thriving during menopause with clients.   Because this work is more holistic than my previous personal training, I am looking forward to working with women in Austin and well beyond.  There is much good work that can be achieved through phone coaching, virtual training, and other digital support.

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My work has always been focused on helping my clients find and maintain balance.  Never is it more important to feel balanced than when riding the hormonal rollercoaster of menopause.  For some women, this period can last a decade– that’s a really long time to feel “off” or “not myself.”  There are strategies that can be employed to regain a sense of balance that will let women live boldly with both mental and physical strength.

Please do let me know if I can support you.  Regardless of your life stage, feeling healthy and strong shouldn’t be a luxury.  You’re worth it.

Good health and great happiness to you.

 

A Child’s Wellness Wisdom

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“Mama,” she said,  “my body is telling me it needs to be outside in nature.”

My four year old daughter said that to me when I picked her up from preschool recently.  I was so struck by the clarity of her expression of her needs and by the wisdom they represented.  How many adults do I know (myself included) who can articulate what their body needs at any given moment?  Not many.

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And so we headed off to “The Peacock Park” (officially Mayfield Park), a 21-acre nature preserve very near our home, to spend some time outside.  I had been meaning to get to a local hiking trail all week, but busy-ness and stuff kept getting in my way.  It took a four year old to get me to do what my body had been telling me it needed for days.

“Mama,” she said, “let’s go into the woods where we can walk, walk, walk and breathe, breathe, breathe.”

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Whether through intuition or experience, The Stowaway knew that walking in the woods helps her breathe deeply.  My kids hear a lot of talking about the importance of breathing deeply, but to hear my child make the explicit connection between walking in the woods and expansive breathing made my heart leap….and not because I need a parenting pat on the back, but because she is wise all on her own.

“Mama,” she said, “when my feet are on the earth my insides calm down.”

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Obviously, flip flops do not good hiking shoes make.  But this child of mine prefers to be barefoot in almost any situation.  Her ability to relate this feeling of literal groundedness and the peace it brings made me gasp.

“Mama,” she said, “I’m feeling a little tired.  I’m going to rest on this bench.”

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Rest?  You mean, like do nothing?  By admitting she was tired– and having no shame attached to that state of being– and devising a plan to let her energy stores rise again, The Stowaway displayed the wisdom of rest.  For all of the time and effort people put into good nutrition and vigorous exercise, we forget about the importance of restorative rest.  You owe it to yourself  to slow down when your body needs you to do so.

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There they were: in the span of an hour, four giant Truth Bombs Of Wellness were dropped on me my by a four year old.  Maybe if we adults stop overthinking everything and tune in to the wisdom of our mind-body connection, we’ll all be better for it.

Good health and great happiness to you!

 

 

Aqua Yoga: Pranyama in the Pool

This is the final post in my five-part series about aqua yoga.

Before you read this post, take a deep breath.

If you’re one of those people who is interested in yoga but feel intimidated by all of the buff and bendy folks you see on the slick yoga magazines and the internet, I have a fabulous secret for you.

Yoga, at it’s heart, is about breathing.

It doesn’t matter how long your legs are or what the scale says or even if you can touch your toes; if you can breathe, you can do yoga.

(And since you’re reading this, I know you can breathe.  So no excuses!)

The yogic breath practice is called pranyama.  I must admit that I practiced yoga for years– mostly in fitness-oriented studios– and never encountered pranyama.  It was only when I started studying to teach yoga that I learned about pranyama.  And now it is one of the key parts of my practice.

But what does all of this have to do with aqua yoga?

I find pranyama practice in the pool especially effective at settling my mind and cooling my body.  Because I teach aqua yoga outdoors during the summer in Austin, integrating the cooling practices of pranyama are a key part of my classes.

Here are two types of cooling pranyama I use regularly:

Sitali breath

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  • Form a “taco tongue” and inhale through the mouth.  (If you can’t make a taco, purse the lips for the inhale.)
  • Place the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth, close the lips, and exhale through the nose.
  • Aim to make the exhale longer than the inhale.
  • Repeat for 10-20 breaths.

I usually stand with my feet about 6 inches from the pool wall, back to the wall, and my fingertips lightly pressing in to the wall.  This helps me keep my shoulders low and chest open.

Single-Nostril Breath

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  • Stand with your feet grounded under your hips
  • Use the right pinky to close off the right nostril.
  • Inhale and exhale with the left nostril only.
  • Repeat for 10-20 breaths.

The left side of the body is associated with the lunar tendencies.  The left nostril is considered the subtle channel, responsible for cooling the body.  I like this pranyama for the pool because water is also a lunar element.

Hey, Swimmers….

You’re well aware of the importance of breathing while you’re in the water.  Pranyama can help you become even more in tune with the inhale-hold-exhale-hold pattern we always have while breathing, but getting the timing right in the pool means breathing air rather than choking on water.

If you’ve ever tried lap swimming but struggled with regulating your breath, take a yogic approach.  First, establish a breathing pattern that feels comfortable to you– that may mean breathing every other stroke (so you’re always breathing to the same side) or every third stroke (alternate-side breathing).  Next, ensure that you’re exhaling into the water–aka blowing bubbles– when you’re swimming.  Finally, add a “hum” to your exhale.  Not only does this give you something to focus on to keep your rhythm steady, but it also creates a bodily vibration similar to chanting “om” in a yoga class.  The vibration is steadying and centering.

I hope you’ll take some of these ideas and play around with them next time you’re in the pool.  Breath work is one of the few silver bullets in the wellness world– breathe deeply and fully, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

Aqua Yoga: Finding the Goddess

This is the fourth post in a weekly series about Aqua Kriya Yoga.  You can read about aqua yoga and how it’s great for buoyancy and balance work.  When you change the planes of your yoga practice, good things happen.

 

Amy Cuddy, Harvard Business School professor, has research that demonstrates a fascinating link between holding the body in a “power position” and building confidence.  Cuddy’s research is often cited as a way to pump yourself up before a big presentation or job interview, but the same ideas can be applied to running the gauntlet of everyday life.

 

 

 

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One of my favorite yoga asanas is Goddess Pose, as it requires concentration on many of the physical elements of my every day life: strong legs, a long, tall spine. and an open chest.  With a lifted heart and ready hands, I can get through even the toughest day, knowing that I have the strength within myself to do so.

The challenge of Goddess Pose is that it can be hard to sustain.  Even in the above photo, I could be lower into the squat to feel more of a release in the tailbone and lengthen the spine.  Let’s try again:

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Better here, especially with the consciously-raised chin, but I can see my legs are working so hard here that I’m collapsing the tiniest bit forward into my chest.

Yoga can be simple; yoga can also be hard.

There are a lot of moving parts–so to speak– even in these static poses.  Taking them into the pool can help get all the parts into the right place.  Remember how I talked about the great benefits of buoyancy and balance with regard to aqua yoga?  Goddess Pose is one of the asana that, when done in the pool, can be held for longer (thanks to the water bearing some of the bodyweight).  It can, therefore, give you time to better organize your body and appreciate the full expression of the posture.

Even more, the water can help you push the asana into deeper bodywork.  For example, because it’s easier on the big muscles in the low body to do the work of Goddess Pose in the pool, it can be held long enough to transition into a side body stretch.

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The knees are still bent, the glutes are still working hard, the feet are still bearing equal weight, the chest is still open and lifted– but now the side body receives a lengthening, too.  Breathing deeply in this posture, one can feel both strengthening (in the legs) and relaxation (in the chest and side body) at the same time.

I particularly like taking Goddess Pose into the pool because of the benefits women tell me they feel when working in water.  The freedom of movement we feel in the water allows one to feel confident in her body in a way that we usually do not on land.  This confidence creates a deeper breathing pattern, re-energizing the body on a cellular level.

Also, our bodies are primarily made of water.  By holding Goddess Pose in the water, we are connecting our outer and inner strength in a physical way.  For perimenopausal women, expressing the Goddess in the pool builds muscular strength and internal heat without the annoying side-effect of sweating.

What can be greater than feeling confident and strong?

I dare you to try Goddess Pose aqua yoga style and NOT feel like you can take on the world afterwards.  Check out the nationwide aqua kriya yoga class listings, or if you’re in Austin, leave a comment to join in my Wednesday evening class.

Note that the deep squat of Goddess Pose is contraindicated for women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy unless the baby is known to be vertex.

GIVEAWAY: Go Cheer on the Austin Aztex!

Austin Aztex (Photo credit: Carlos Barron)

Austin Aztex (Photo credit: Carlos Barron)

It’s no secret that the OnBalance family is a soccer family.  My experience playing soccer is limited to one year as a Honey Bear– a team which scored only one (own) goal all season, but we sure were cute.

That's me in the back row on the far left. You're digging my yarn-bowed pigtails, right?!

That’s me in the back row on the far left. You’re digging my yarn-bowed pigtails, right?!

My husband’s soccer experience is even less than mine.  But that hasn’t stopped him from coaching The Monkey’s team for the last three years.

Our kids have been the reason we’ve become fans of The Beautiful Game, and it’s been one of the great surprises of my adult life:  Being soccer parents is actually fun!  Having kids involved in the sport has also given us the chance to host coaches from Brazil and England.  All of this while the kids get some exercise, learn teamwork, and enjoy one of the most world’s most social sports.

While the popularity of professional soccer lags in the US as compared to other parts of the world, we are lucky to live in Austin, the home of the Austin Aztex.  The Aztex play in the USL now, which means we have the opportunity to watch quality soccer, close to home, at family-friendly prices.  Our kids have learned so much about the sport by watching live games.

Want to catch a game?

For FREE?

I’m giving away two tickets plus a parking pass to the Saturday, August 22nd Austin Aztex match!

All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below.

To receive bonus entries, you can also follow the Austin Aztex on their social media channels:

Twitter: @AustinAztex
Leave a note in your comment for each follow.

Even if you don’t win the giveaway, you’re invited to come Pack The House and watch the Aztex take on Orange County Blues FC at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex! Gates open at 6:00 p.m. First 100 fans that go to the Aztex Team Store receive a collectible poster. Enjoy the pregame festivities and get ready to cheer on your Aztex.

Hope to see you there!

Entries close at 5pm Central Time Thursday, August 20.  I will notify the winner immediately thereafter, so please use an email address you check regularly!  Thanks to the Austin Aztex for donating the tickets for this giveaway.

Coach is in the House

The Monkey (now age NINE!) has gone to British Soccer Camp for the past four summers.  He enjoys the drills, the skill-building games, and the team-based “World Cup” competition that goes on throughout the week.  As a parent, I have been pleased with the balance of learning and fun.

For the second year in a row, we offered to host a Challenger Sports coach for a week.  Last year, we hosted Thiago from Brazil, who was in Austin coaching the older kids’ Tetra Brazil camp.  This year, we hosted Shannon from Portsmouth, England, who was a coach at the British Soccer Camp my boys attended.

When I told the boys we would be hosting Shannon, they were immediately excited to meet her and hear about her soccer experience (she plays for Portsmouth Ladies FC) and her “regular life” (she’s a university student studying sports coaching and management) and things she likes (films, especially musicals, and most certainly “Frozen”…much to a certain four year old’s delight.)

I was thrilled to have a female role model for my boys, who learned quickly that they could learn a lot from Shannon, on and off the pitch.

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In addition to backyard games of footy, we took Shannon out and about.  We had to contend with our very rainy Austin summer, but at least we were able to sneak in a round of mini golf.  The Stowaway  remembered we had done this with Thiago last year, and she was insistent on taking Coach Shannon as well.

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It turned out there was a bit of a housing shortage in Austin, so we volunteered to host Shannon a second week.  That meant we had a full weekend in between work weeks to go to the movies, do some shopping, eat Tex-Mex, and play in the pool.

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We even found time to go for a run over to and up Mt. Bonnell.  (Race final: England 1 – USA 0)

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During Shannon’s second week, she coached camps in the morning and in the evening, so we didn’t see her as much.  She was a considerate houseguest, and it was really no trouble at all to have her in our home.

Before she left, the kids wanted to take Coach Shannon bowling.  (And knowing that she likes films, I had to let her know our local bowling alley was the one used in the Oscar-winning “Boyhood.”)  After much protestation about not being good at bowling, Shannon managed to get four (or was it five?) strikes in the game.  But thankfully my husband came through in the end to give the win to the USA.

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One of the most fun things about hosting a coach is letting the kids come up with ideas for what to do to show the coach around town.  It’s fun to see what your kids think is a big part of your city or your family’s culture.  The boys taught her how to play Ticket to Ride and other favorite board games.  The Stowaway loved having a “big sister” around.  For our family, a trip to Kerbey Lane Cafe on our final morning together was a must-do, as it is our weekend breakfast spot.

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If you’re looking for a low-commit way to introduce your child(ren) to another culture, I highly recommend hosting a Challenger coach.  We’ll certainly be doing it again next year.  Three times makes it a family tradition, right?!

I did not receive any special compensation for this post.  The opinions expressed here are mine. 

Spring Has Sprung

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Today was the first day of swimming lesson registration, which is as sure a sign of Spring around these parts as the bluebonnets popping up all over.  I’m honored by the positive response I’ve received already– working with children (and adults!) as they learn the essential skill of swimming is such a thrill.  I can’t wait for it to warm up just a bit more and get in the pool.

Check out my website for the lowdown on my private and semi-private swim lessons.  You can always shoot me an email (karen at balancepft dot com) if you want to register or ask questions.

As I mentioned last week, registration is also now open for the Spring 2014 offering of Balance Virtual Bootcamp.  If you’re looking for a way to fit efficient, effective exercise into your busy life, this bootcamp delivers.   Three times a week for eight weeks, a workout arrives to your inbox.  In just 30 minutes per session, you can gain strength, improve your cardiovascular fitness, and improve body confidence knowing that you’re doing something healthy for yourself.

Are you a blogger or fitness trainer?  Interested in promoting Balance Virtual Bootcamp in exchange for a free registration—either for you or to give away on your blog?  Shoot me an email or leave a comment, and we’ll see how we can work together.

The excitement of Spring is invigorating.  Hope you’re feeling it, too!