written by Carol Crincoli, Pure Pilates Director
Last month I spent a long weekend in Arizona – a working trip with plenty of fun and friends added into the mix. I couldn’t wait to leave New Jersey and the winter temps and soak in 80-degree days loaded with sunshine. I mean, who doesn’t feel better with the boost of vitamin D? And for sure, that’s what I thought I needed. But, even if it rained (and it does rain sometimes in Phoenix), my feel-good vibes that continue to nourish me today here in the garden state didn’t come simply from the perfect weather. Part of my trip was to get guidance with my knee injury but more importantly, I realized I needed to figure out how to reset my thinking.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to read my February post “What I’ve Learned by Lying on My Back”, I discuss a knee injury and the shift I had to physically make when swimming and the wisdom I learned during the shift. In early March I thought I had figured out how to rehab the injury, but the 1 step forward, 2 steps back was taking a toll on me.
So, I scheduled a visit with the Wizard. No, not the one from OZ but from AZ. Many years ago, when I started my search for anything that had to do with neurological work and movement, I met David who is a teacher from Kinesphere Center, for movement education. I needed guidance and reassurance from David. Like the Scarecrow, I believed the wizard could help me find a new brain or at least help improve my neural pathways so my brain could improve communication with my body. The physical changes were so dramatic, that I had to write about it.
I walked into my 2-hour appointment with my usual on-and-off-knee discomfort and an open mind. I humbly acknowledged to myself that while my job is to help clients with their bodies, I wasn’t finding the best answers to help myself. My heart was committed to my healing but maybe I not only needed a brain reset, and the courage to ask for help. I was becoming disillusioned with my ability to move through life well. Was this just the aging process I was fighting to accept?
Before I continue, here’s the spoiler alert – I walked out of Kinesphere sore, but with zero pain in my knee. I am writing this 3 weeks after this amazing visit, still without pain and this is what I know to be true:
- Just like Dorothy Gale from Kansas, I had the answers all along to help myself.
David turned out to be part Wizard and part Glinda the Good Witch. Everything he taught me, I knew how to do. He pushed me to places I would never go with my body (because of my knee) and it reminded me that I would not break. He was part cheerleader, part coach, and part collaborator in my goals. All characteristics of a great teacher.
- Pushing yourself physically and mentally is the way to increase strength.
Let me start by stating that I do NOT believe the slogan No Pain, No Gain. But while my strength goals may be defined differently than yours, everyone must find “their edge” physically and mentally.
Trent McEntire of McEntire Pilates taught me The Edge of Ability. If you think of a scale from 1 to 10, the sweet spot to find your edge in an exercise falls around 6 to 8. From 1 to 5 is a perfect place to learn a pattern and get comfortable, but you can’t stay there long because nothing changes. Jump to a 9 to 10 and you’ve gone too far. Pushing past the edge can cause fear, startle, and pain. Finding your edge of ability in the 6 to 8 range engrains movement patterns and builds strength. I was playing it safe, rehabbing my knee and staying in the comfortable, “don’t want to hurt myself zone” which was probably a 5. My work in AZ brought my edge to a solid 8, safely and with confidence.
- Your physical body is absolutely only as strong as your neurological system.
In the studio, all the teachers and myself play neuromovement games to light up our neurological system in addition to moving your body. Exercising your eyes and your inner ear will absolutely 100% improve your sport, your daily activities, your concentration and your coordination and balance. And using the Edge of Ability Scale for Neuromovement games must be applied just as I mentioned above. We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable when it comes to strengthening our bodies and brains.
- Being physically strong reduces physical pain.
In a study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, it was found that People Who Do Strength Training Live Longer – and Better. Aerobic exercise is great for your health and the researchers showed that people who engage in one hour of moderate to vigorous (there’s that Edge of Ability again!) aerobic activity a week had a 15% lower mortality risk. Increase to three hours a week and your mortality risk was 27% lower.
Now add in strength training. Those who also took part in one to two strength training sessions per week had an even lower mortality risk – a full 40%!
Being physically strong is part of healthy aging, which includes maintaining a high quality of life. By improving my strength training routine and pushing my edge, I have no pain.
- I don’t believe that feeling “old” has anything to do with my actual age.
I am a fan of @drmarkhyman and while I don’t agree with everything he believes, I am convinced that while we can’t avoid getting older, we can reduce biological aging. Building strength, fueling my body with whole foods, getting quality sleep, connecting with people and community and continuous learning are my building blocks for successful aging.
So while there’s no place like home, I recommend you visit a technicolor world, like OZ, where the unknown and uncomfortable is where your mind, body, and soul should visit often.