5 Full-body Stretches for Flexibility and Feelin’ Good!

Flexibility

Stretch is my absolute favorite part of health and exercise, so why is it so hard to make it a priority? Flexibility is only one of the many benefits of stretching! But in our everyday, busy lives, something is amiss when it comes to making stretch a priority.

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Oblique and Lymphatic Stretch

As I write this, I am hunched over a computer working busily to help people with my passion and can get so engulfed in my mission that I forget to look after myself! Sometimes I actually have to set a timer to remind myself to get up, walk around and stretch! Nevertheless, stretch is a remarkable way to get the blood pumping to your brain, to deliver the life-giving oxygen to your muscles and organs via the lymph and blood system, to release feel-good endorphins from deep breathing which also cleanses the body and mind! The fact that you become more flexible in the process is just icing on the cake!

Why do we need flexibility? When muscles tense or tighten, they shorten. Muscles are

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Arm and Shoulder Stretch

connected to bone, so think about how that must affect the skeletal system! Simply put, tight muscles will pull on the bones, causing your body to come out of alignment. In other words, hip joints get jacked up closer to the ribs, sometimes on one side more than the other causing pain in the SI joint or sciatica. Shoulder muscles reduce their range of motion, making it easier to tear or injure from a quick sudden movement. Tight quads or hamstrings pull on the pelvic bone causing it to tilt excessively in one direction. This not only affects your posture and messaging system, but also causes low back pain and may even progress into serious back injuries. Tight chest muscles from texting or computer work creates a hunched posture which then obstructs the airway, creating a lack of oxygen to the cells in the brain, muscles and other organs. These cells need oxygen to produce energy. Without going to into the whole science of the brain and neurons and a very scientific process, let’s just remember, our cells, neurons and the entire nervous system requires oxygen to function optimally. Breathing and stretching are a superb way to help increase that flow to the system.

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Arm, Shoulder, and Back Stretch

Here are a few simple stretches you can do in just a few minutes to hit the major muscle groups. If you can hold these for 30 seconds each while breathing, even better! And remember, never stretch a cold muscle! Always move a little before to warm it up and if it hurts, it is your body’s safe way of telling you, “That’s enough, don’t go any further!” Heed it. 🙂 Happy Stretching!   — <3 Stacy

Note: To receive free education on simple nutritional ideas to improve the immune system and reduce inflammation, or to receive stretches for a particular problem area, complete the form below.

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Runner’s Stretch
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Hamstring Stretch

Stacy’s Soup for Colds

(NOTE: This is a pretty easy recipe…mainly chop and throw it in…it’s just a lot of ingredients! But that’s also what gives this recipe it’s POWER! Take short cuts if needed (i.e. roasted chicken added towards the end), but at least try to use the fresh veggies–garlic and ginger especially)

POWER FOODS AND THEIR EFFECTS:

Cayenne: increases blood flow, speeds up metabolism!

Rosemary: improves lung function 

Scallions: thins mucous secretions, helps sweat out cold   

Jalapeño, red pepper flakes: open nasal passages

Onions, garlic, ginger: contain antibiotic properties and help thin mucous secretions.

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil
4 stalks celery -diced
2 med onions -diced
3 large carrots -diced
2 jalapeños- diced
4 T Fresh Rosemary, minced
2 T “better than bouillon” chicken flavored paste (optional but…yum)
4-6 whole cloves allspice
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 large bay leaves -fresh or dried
6-8 boneless chicken thighs
6-8 cups water
4 stalks of scallions (as a garnish)
chopped parsley or cilantro (as a garnish)
2 cups dried egg or rice noodles (cooked separately at end)
Add Olive oil to the stock pot
Add the veggies (remember to reserve one celery, one carrot, scallions, and parsley or cilantro for the end),
Add chicken, and water.

Simmer for about an hour or more.
Towards the end, cook noodles separately, drain and add to soup.
Spicing it up by adding more cayenne pepper, jalapeños, or red pepper flakes will OPEN UP THE NASAL PASSAGES!
Just be careful to remember not to overdo it for children who don’t like things too spicy. (Mine were ok with the given recipe amounts)
Add a squeeze of lemon juice to add more Vitamin C.
Enjoy! 🙂

Hippocrates said, “Food is thy medicine, let medicine be thy food.” If you find it difficult to get enough fruits and vegetables in your diet daily, fill out the form below and we’ll send you simple ways to ensure you get in that nutrition every single day!

What is Zumba and What Do I Wear?

One of my favorite group exercise classes to teach is ZUMBA! As an instructor, I love using Zumba to help the community get active and moving! They’re so busy having fun and following the moves they forget they’re actually exercising! 
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What is Zumba exactly?

It is an amazing full-body, cardio workout dance party!  People of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and ages gather together, crank up the music and dance their hearts out for a dance fitness party! Zumba is an aerobic fitness program created by Miami-based dancer and choreographer Beto Perez and two entrepreneurs, Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion.

Zumba Fitness uses Latin- inspired music and choreographed steps to form a fitness “party” atmosphere. While many of the types of dance and music featured in the program are Latin American inspired, classes can also contain everything from jazz to African beats to country to hip-hop and pop. Since its inception in the mid-’90s by creator Alberto “Beto” Perez, the Zumba program reaches 10 million people in more than 90,000 locations across more than 110 countries, according to its website.

Who Should Take Zumba?

Zumba is truly for anyone who loves to move or dance. And “dance” is a very liberal term here, as no dance experience or skills are necessary. People of all ages, shapes and sizes are welcome and encouraged to attend classes. We’ve seen Zumba classes with everyone from a 70-year-old man to an obese woman starting her weight-loss journey, to a high school cheerleader. There are even wheel chair zumba classes available in certain locations! If you can shake your booty or like fun music, then this class is for you.

What to Wear to Zumba Class

It’s important to wear clothing that is moveable, breathable and will wick sweat away. Because of how popular the classes are, the room can heat up fast – so consider dressing in layers that you can remove. Also, sport a pair of supportive fitness shoes that allow you to pivot your feet easily.

What to Bring to Zumba Class

Bring a towel and a water bottle because you’ll need them! Unlike some fitness classes, you’ll have ample time to use these items.

What Else Do I Need to Know for Class?

For your first class – we suggest that you introduce yourself to the instructor. Let her know that you are a beginner, or if you have any specific issues she may need to know about (knee problems, etc), ask what you can expect in the class, and where you should stand so that you can see the instructor. Then – enjoy the experience! Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t worry if you are unable to get all of the steps the first time around: no one does. The steps will come easier after a few classes.

Zumba is one of the highest energy workouts, and it’s the most fun, too. Most of the time it really doesn’t feel like you’re working out at all—you just get caught up in the fun of the music and the moves. Before you know it, a whole heart-pumping hour has passed!  If you like a good sweat, then you’ll love Zumba!

Staying on Track with Exercise…6 ways to self-motivate!

1) Find a GREAT Reason

If you don’t know WHY you need to work out, likely you will not stick with the goal. Here are some great reasons to consider:

  • To reduce stress that is making you sick or fat.

  • Remember…to love yourself well first can help you love others better. (Think about it. I could write a novel about this!)

  • So you’ll be fit to ______ (perform- sport or other), get married, for the next reunion, to play with grandkids when your old, to go skiing next winter, etc.)

  • So you won’t feel like a burden to anyone in your family because of poor health (i.e. to love your family well).

  • So the small things you do around the house or work won’t be so difficult. (stairs, carrying boxes, luggage, holding children, even getting out of a chair!)

  • So you’ll have more energy at night.

  • So you can sleep better.

  • So your body can activate that “internal” pharmacy (i.e. less dependent on drugs).

2) Bring Your Workout Clothes to Work

The night before work make sure you pack your gym bag with your workout clothes and take them to work.  The effect of this is really powerful on your subconscious mind.  It helps you develop the mindset that you will go to class/gym straight after work.  Create the habit.  It’s best to avoid sitting down before you work out, you do not want to give yourself to engage in any thoughts about whether to work out or not to work out!

3) Schedule Your Workouts

Put your workouts in your diary/calendar and treat them like a business meeting.  By having them scheduled in, you are thinking about them and mentally preparing yourself for them, making exercise a priority.  Try to work out at the same time on the same days to create a habit!

4) Get a Class Buddy

Personally I’ve seen this work in my class. Working out with other people can help keep you motivated to exercise. When you’re alone, you really need that inner motivation, but exercising with a group of people will help you push much harder.  The great thing about my Zumba class is the friendships that have evolved from it, not only does it give people group support but there is also a social aspect to it!

5) Create a Rule

Make a rule and stick to it!  Create a workout target, make sure it is realistic.  If you plan to workout 3x a week make sure you have a rule that no matter what the week throws at you, you “will” complete your workout.  You’re not going to “try” to workout, or say you “should” workout, you “must” workout!

6) Reward Yourself

Reward yourself for your hard work, maybe it’s going to the cinema, buying some new clothes or a massage.  Rewarding yourself can help you stay motivated.  While you certainly can reward yourself with treats without working out, the reward feels much better and more deserved after a good workout.

People often quit working out is because they choose the wrong class or they try to do too much too soon, or perhaps they aren’t fueling the workout properly! Remember the best exercise is the one you’ll do! If you’re just beginning, choose classes that don’t involve quick sudden movements, a lot of jumping (high impact) or require a lot of weight like barre, yoga, pilates, or Zumba.  Go at your own pace and build up to trying out those higher impact/heavy weight resistance classes. Keep it real! Finally, be sure to fuel workouts for success to supply the energy to perform and to allow for better recovery and less soreness from the workout!

–Stacy Shannon is a CPT, Cancer Exercise Specialist, and passionate Fit Barre and Zumba instructor.