Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Gift of Good Health: Pregnancy and Pilates

There's always so much focus on actresses' exercise routines, particularly before, during, and after pregnancies. Sarah Jessica Parker and Julia Roberts are among the stars who have raved about practicing Pilates right through their pregnancies. I started wondering if Pilates was as good for the average, everyday pregnant woman as it is for pregnant celebs?
I am so fortunate to know Maurine Joy, owner of MidCoast Pilates Studio and a certified Power Pilates instructor. She recently added pre-pregnancy classes to the spring schedule at her studio, and plans to offer prenatal classes this summer. Maurine was kind enough to answer some of my questions about Pilates during pregnancy, and I'm delighted to share her wisdom with you!

Lots of people think of yoga as a good form of exercise during pregnancy. Why should they consider Pilates?
Pilates is a great form of exercise. It strengthens your pelvic muscles, increases shoulder stability, helps you maintain correct posture, and improves balance during pregnancy. Pregnant women have found that the Pilates method helps them develop good breath control, carry their pregnancy more comfortably and strengthen their body for a smoother delivery.

If you are practicing yoga while pregnant you must take care not to over stretch your tendons and ligaments. The exercises may seem easier because of the hormones that are flooding your body while pregnant, so it is very tempting to push even further. This can lead to injury. This is a time to go easy--don't push yourself!

For women planning a pregnancy, when should they start Pilates?Six months to a year before you actually get pregnant. You want to build good core abdominal muscles before you get pregnant.

What if you're already pregnant—should you start Pilates?
You hear good things about Pilates—it's non-impact, tones your body, and strengthens your abs —so you think, "I'll do Pilates!" This is NOT an exercise program to start in pregnancy. If you're shopping around for a program several months prior to pregnancy, then Pilates is a good choice.

How often should I do Pilates during pregnancy?
I would suggest at least 3 times a week. With the low number of repetitions for each exercise, it is easy on the joints, so you can do Pilates every day without overdoing it. This does not mean you have to take classes 7 days a week, but doing classes twice a week would be great.

Better yet, spend some time with private instruction especially in the beginning and towards the end of pregnancy. Private instruction will include working with the machines which is easier especially with the big belly.

What are the benefits of Pilates during pregnancy?
  • Strong abs support a growing fetus.
  • The exercises strengthen your back muscles which can relieve lower back pain caused by carrying the extra weight in your belly.
  • As the baby grows your posture changes, shoulders may roll in, back arches, etc. Pilates helps to decrease the impact these changes make on your body.
  • As your stomach grows the exercises will be modified to accommodate these physical changes. As your delivery nears, working out on the machines will be recommended as it is easier than the mat work.
  • Regular exercises during pregnancy helps to overcome some of the physiological and emotional changes. They can also reduce many of the aches and pains of pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a time in your life that your deserve flowers, romantic dinners and gifts from the guy who did this to you! You can give yourself and your baby the gift of good health.

How does Pilates help prepare you for labor?
The exercises help develop strong abdominal muscles before you get pregnant and maintain them during pregnancy. The exercises keep the pelvic floor muscles toned for delivery and help you to get them back after delivery. The breathing in your Pilates exercises will also be helpful in your breath work during labor.

How about the benefits after delivery?
Being fit during your pregnancy will speed up your recovery. The upper body strengthening will help during the hours of nursing and holding your baby (not to mention lifting all the baby stuff, car seat, diaper bag, etc.). The abdominal strength and awareness you developed prior to delivery will help you to rebuild the core connection much faster. And you will get your figure back so much sooner.

What should I look for in a Pilates instructor?
With the popularity of Pilates growing by leaps and bounds, many "Pilates training" schools have popped up. Unfortunately, most do not require more than a few days of training in order to teach this very complex exercise program. Pilates Method Alliance is a non-profit that oversees reputable training centers. Visit the website and check to see if your future teacher or the training program is listed.

Talk to your future Pilates teacher and ask how long they practiced Pilates before they started training to become a teacher. Where and when did they complete certification? How much time did it take them to complete the Pilates training? The answer should be between 400 and 600 hours. This process can take 1-2 years. What method do they teach? (They should be able to tell you.) Do they have experience teaching pregnant clients?

About Maurine Joy

Maurine started as a student 9 years ago and within a year knew that she wanted to become a Pilates teacher. She started the process at Power Pilates in NYC and completed her 600 hour apprentice training in 2004. She continues to attend numerous continuing education courses including "Empowering your Pregnancy." Her studio is also a participating training center where future teachers can come to apprentice and learn.

Maurine's new Prepare for Pregnancy class will begin on March 2 at 7 pm. Each session lasts 45 minutes, and the class runs for 8 weeks. This class is a prerequisite for the Prenatal class, coming in summer 2009. For more information, visit the MidCoast Pilates Studio web site, or contact Maurine at (207) 373-0872.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Guilt-Free Indulgences

A friend recently shared this Weight Watchers article about using beauty products that smell and taste like food. They recommend it as a calorie-free way to indulge in "dessert," with several reviewers talking about whether the products made them crave the real thing or satisfied their cravings.

I found this interesting because many of the new seasonal and custom fragrances I've been adding have been desserts...Sugar & Spice and Gingerbread at Christmas time, Champagne & Strawberries and Chocolate Truffle for Valentine's Day, and the new Cupcake fragrance. I shared some cupcake hand cream with a friend and she took it to work with her, where all of her coworkers proceeded to comment on how "yummy" it smelled. Some of them said it made them hungry. I use the cupcake balm every day and it doesn't have that effect on me. It seems like along with most things related to fragrance, this is very personal.

Kayla Fioravanti, an aromatherapist, formulator, and co-founder of Essential Wholesale, has an amazing series about aromatherapy at her blog. In one post she talks about the physiology of smell, in relation to the way essential oils work to affect the body. She says, "Smells trigger a memory response. Scent memories can trigger changes in body temperature, appetite, stress level and sexual arousal." I know that certain fragrances certainly do affect my appetite, though I haven't personally noticed this with beauty products. Should we be looking to our hand cream or sugar scrub to decrease our appetite for certain foods? Do more people experience an INCREASE in appetite? And is this happening even when we aren't aware of it?

What do you think? Do you find that using food fragranced and flavored products increases your appetite for those things, or does it satisfy your cravings in a guilt-free way? Does this influence the types of fragrances you choose to wear? I'd love to know what you think! Please leave your comments below.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Secrets of Online Retailers

I was just reading this article, which I find interesting as both an obsessive online shopper and a retailer. I was really surprised to read #9, Loyalty will get you nowhere: "...less than 15% of online retailers offer exclusive deals through their e-mail lists, according to the Email Experience Council, an e-mail marketing company." Wow!

When I am a repeat customer of someone's company, I admit, I kind of expect special treatment. That's nice to lure me in with a special deal or coupon, but if those things don't continue, I'd be wondering if they still wanted my business. E-mail lists are the perfect place to offer those deals, as far as I'm concerned. I'm delighted to be in the minority of 15% of retailers who offer exclusive deals to my own mailing list customers. If you want to get the special treatment, join our list!

What do you think? Should companies reward repeat customers more than new customers? What motivates you to go back to a retailer? Share your comments below!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Makeup Minder

Every so often I get these emails that give me useful info about the shelf life of common products. You know the ones I'm talking about: throw out pickles after 2 months, don't keep leftovers longer than 4 days, etc. The one that's always nagged at me was the makeup: mascara should be tossed about every three months. The wands introduce bacteria back into the bottle, so they need to be replaced more frequently than your lipstick, for example, or even eyeliner.

Maybe you're better about this than I am, but I never label my mascara when I buy it. So I can never remember how old it is. Here's another New Year plan for me: Toss the old mascara and buy a new one in January. Then it'll be easier to remember to replace quarterly.

Remember to always check the labels on beauty products and toss by their expiration dates. If they smell funny or change in consistency, throw them away promptly!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Honeymoon Deals

Lots of couples are feeling the pinch (or squeeze) of the economy and may be scaling back their wedding celebrations. The honeymoon is one area that lots of couples are hesitant to forego. This article gives tips on how to save on your honeymoon, including off-season destinations, off-peak times, and using frequent flyer miles or other points or credits.

The article does mention putting off the honeymoon to save extra money. I'd love to know what other ideas couples are coming up with to save money on their honeymoon! Would you be willing to postpone a honeymoon in order to have a bigger, better trip? Please leave your comments below!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Women's Self Empowerment Week

I didn't realize until right now that we're nearing the end of Women's Self Empowerment Week (January 5-11). If I'd realized sooner, would I have "celebrated" the week differently? Probably not. Several months ago I started incorporating terror into my everyday life. Okay, maybe not terror, but I took Eleanor Roosevelt's challenge to “Do one thing every day that scares you.” And, okay, maybe this hasn't happened every day, but many days. More days. Working through scary things makes me feel empowered.

I think I have always been more afraid of NOT doing things: the fear of becoming complacent and just "settling." What I'm reading online about self empowerment week makes me wonder if other women are doing this. "What's all the fuss about? Why a special week for 'empowerment'--I'm empowered!" And sure, it is sort of like waiting for Valentine's Day to tell someone you love them, or appreciating your secretary one day of the year. Ridiculous to think of empowerment one week of the year, and yet those who think that women are already empowered all of those other weeks aren't thinking of the women who have no access to health care or birth control, adequate child care, or equal pay. Are we ready to get complacent when these basic needs aren't met?

I feel extremely fortunate that I'm not someone else's possession, that I can work hard at a business I'm allowed to have, and I can keep the money I make. That, too, sounds ridiculous, but these were not "givens" at all times in our society. In my mother's generation there were no girls' sports teams in her school. If you wanted to participate, you were a cheerleader. A friend of hers wanted to become a scientist, but understood that women could only be nurses or teachers. So she went to nursing school. People told their children, "You can be whatever you want to be," but that only really applied to the boys. My aunts both got masters degrees even though my grandfather believed that advanced education was wasted on women. (Just before his death he allowed that it was okay to educate women because they could, in turn, "educate their children.") This man was a doctor. He was not alone in holding this opinion.

Earlier this week I noticed that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is back in the House, along with the Paycheck Fairness Act. Both passed the House last year but didn't make it through the Senate. Both would ensure equal pay for women doing the same jobs as men. (Last year President Bush threatened to veto the legislation.) I can't understand how a woman making 78¢ to a man's dollar can consider herself empowered, in ANY week. According to The Institute of Women’s Policy Research, this amounts to "$400,000 to $2 million in lost wages over a lifetime." Over 40% of women are the sole income providers for their families, with single female heads of household twice as likely to live in poverty as single male heads. Why is this still acceptable? Part of my "celebration" this week included messages to Congresspeople encouraging support for this legislation.

To me, any "celebration" should include appreciation and gratitude, and Women's Self Empowerment Week is no exception. Appreciate what we have and how far we've come, and be grateful that so many worked hard to make it possible. But understand that you can't take something for granted until you have it. The empowerment that comes with being equal members of society is still not ours, and there are many things left to do to make this happen. Write to your Congresspeople and Senators. Speak out about issues that affect you and your families. Do something scary every single day, not just this week. It's not time to get complacent yet.

Did you celebrate Women's Self Empowerment Week? What makes you feel empowered? Please share your comments below!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My favorite new online tool

Here it is.

This is my new favorite tool. I have this (bad) habit of checking Twitter and staying on for two hours, logging in at Facebook and chatting endlessly, surfing through blogs until the kids get home from school and I realize I've lost the whole day. I am addicted to my computer.

I have legitimate reason to be on my computer for countless hours a day, but let's face it, there are other screens to be stared at, books to be read, children to be fed, ten loads of laundry piled on my couch upstairs just waiting to be get the idea. Hence my New Year's Habit, and my new tool (which incidentally is just so much nicer than WEARing a timer. I mean, it's right on my computer!)

So I used this all afternoon. I set the timer for countdown in ten or fifteen minute blocks, each one for a different task. Check email. Tweet. Update status at Facebook. Print invoices. Pay bills. And I actually got all of those things done. My desk is completely empty, everything lined up for work tomorrow. I'm amazed.

There's all kinds of time left in 2009 for me to get sloppy, but for right now, I'm organized. And I'm liking it. I'm bookmarking this stopwatch for tomorrow.

How are you doing with your Habits? (or Resolutions). Enjoying the way a New Year gives you the chance to turn over a new leaf? Share your comments below!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Habits

A friend of mine often says, "I blame myself." If she is in trouble, or she finds herself in a regrettable situation, she'll say, "I blame myself." She says it so often that I wonder if she really DOES blame herself. (I always thought accepting blame should lead to change, so these regrettable situations don't come up over and over again?)

I think this is my problem with New Year's Resolutions. They feel like a blame game, where we lament how much thinner, richer, and happier we could be if we'd done the right things, and make lists of all the things we regret about last year and ourselves. But we always seem to stop at "officially" accepting the blame and making the list, and rarely follow through and make those changes.

This year I'm not going to make any New Year's Resolutions. They don't work. The only way I've ever changed anything is by making it a habit, so I'm going to choose some new New Year's Habits, instead.

You're probably wondering what I'm talking about! Here's an example: if you have ten pounds that you'd love to lose, I'll bet that's at the top of your list of resolutions. (I personally had 15 pounds at the top of my resolutions list for years.) How do you turn "Lose 10 pounds" into a habit rather than a resolution?

Ten pounds is equal to 35,000 calories, or about 100 calories per day of this year. If you change something about your daily routine that either burns an extra 100 calories or drops 100 calories, in a year's time you will have lost 10 pounds.
Make it a habit by:
• Leaving the whipped cream and sugary syrups out of your coffee to save 100 calories.
• Walking up and down your stairs for 15 minutes to burn 100 calories.
• Trading your plain doughnut for a handful of baby carrots to save more than 100 calories.
• Riding your bike for 20 minutes to burn 100 calories.
Here are more ways to burn 100 calories and calorie content information for lots of foods.

My new habits for 2009 will not involve calorie counting, but I do plan to log more minutes on my treadmill. And probably I'll have to resort to wearing a timer to limit the hours I spend on my computer. (Hey, it's a hard habit to break.) I'm going to add a weekly trip to my local library to start tackling that reading list. I haven't done enough reading in the past few years, what with the computer habit. As my friend would say, I blame myself. But I'm hoping these new interests can be just as habit-forming.

I have a few other ideas for 2009 Habits. What about you? Do you make resolutions every year? How many of them do you keep? Want to join me in choosing New Year's Habits, instead?! Please share your comments!


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