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Inspirational Quote

“I had finally ‘got how to do yoga.’ It finally became clear. It’s internal. It’s a way of listening inwardly and of being guided within. The basic technique is to go within and listen and then do as the within is prompting you to do.” ”


Erich Schiffman, one of my yoga teachers


Deep Twist

Deep Twist

Recently I had the privilege of giving my mother a workout.


She is 74 years old.


I was quite proud of her. She had a great attitude even when things were somewhat challenging. She listened. I showed her how to stretch the areas that needed lengthening and do strength work. I taught her how to correct her neck and shoulder pain as well as her knee pain.


Does my mother like working out? Not exactly.


For awhile, my mother, who lives in Savannah, Georgia, worked out with a trainer. Then she suffered an injury to her lower back. My mother asked me about it, and I realized that the trainer did not really understand the body all that deeply because my mother’s sacroiliac joint was totally locked and the trainer had been asking her to do squats on a smith machine with a weighted bar on her back…Done.


No more trainer. She still walks, but the search to find a decent replacement is still on.


My mother’s gym had closed about a year ago, so she and I went to work out in a new gym in a hospital. While we were there, a man was working out a woman. He had her doing dynamic step ups bouncing off a high bench, and then doing dynamic chest presses rounding her back off a Swiss ball that strained the woman’s neck and upper back.


Although I had been encouraging my mother to find another trainer, I said to her, “Please don’t work out with that man, Mom.”


“That’s my doctor!” she said.


“Well, he may be a great doctor, but he certainly doesn’t know what he is doing in a gym,” I said.


Having a great trainer can literally add years to your life. A good trainer is worth their weight in gold.


Most people try to find a good fitness person to help them lose weight or look good, but if you find the right person – someone who is highly educated about the body – they can help you alleviate back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain – and the list goes on. And they can help you so that you never get those things.


I told my mother that I wished she lived in Atlanta so that I could work out with her regularly. I knew I could really help her add years to her life and quality to whatever years she does have left.


One of my clients had asked a friend to come to my yoga class.


“I was sore afterwards,” the friend complained to my client.


The friend was not a regular exerciser, so my client was trying to get her friend to come and see me one on one. The friend wanted to go to a commercial gym where she could find a trainer for $20 an hour. This friend flies all over the world first class, but she did not want to spend good money finding someone who not only would not injure her, but actually take her body to a whole new level in an easy, healthy way.


“Nobody is really ever a failure,” I told my client, “because you can always serve as a bad example. Your friend is teaching you something here. She is being your bad example.”


My client is miles ahead of all her friends her age in practically every way – mentally and physically – because she has kept herself strong, healthy and drug-free from years of exercise and healthy eating.


If you want to keep yourself young, I recommend the following program:


Eat five little meals every day. Balance your protein with lots of fruits and vegetables, the fresher, the better.

Stay hydrated.

Do strength training, even or especially if you don’t want to. You will appreciate the results and eventually get to the point where you see the value of being able to handle your own body weight, lift your own boxes, have good balance, maintain decent muscle tone and look good while your friends are falling apart.


Go to bed by 10 or 10:30.

Learn something new and keep challenging yourself mentally. Even if there is a subject you enjoy a lot, whether it’s golf, yoga or the Middle East, keep learning about that subject from different angles.

Stretch. I don’t know how anybody ages without yoga.

Develop a stress management arsenal. Everybody has stress these days. That is just a fact. But do you have at least one drug-free, legal and healthy way that works to get rid of your stress? Or several?

Stay connected to a meaningful community. Whether that is your church or synagogue, book club or social organization, connect to like-minded people who get you.

Be a giver. When you give, you realize it’s not all just about you. You get the big picture, and then all of a sudden you have meaning in your life, which makes you a deeply happy person.

I hope that when I am 74, that I am as good as my mother, Jane Espy. She is president of the Colonial Dames of Georgia – about 1,500 other women her age. She is very self effacing about it. She volunteers at the Telfair Art Museum and was their volunteer of the year. She is treasurer of her church. My mother is always giving somebody something. She also needlepoints, which contributes to her kyphosis as well as her neck and shoulder pain, and is forever creating something even better than what she did before. She stopped smoking some years ago after years of trying. I just wish my mother could find a really good fitness trainer who could add many years to her life.


That’s what somebody wishes for you when they really love you.



Book Review: You Are Your Own Gym

by Catherine Carrigan, catherine@totalfitness.net



All true fitness enthusiasts love body weight exercises. You can do them anywhere, anytime. You don’t have to join a gym, pay membership fees or buy fancy equipment in order to do them.


Because body weight exercises only require YOU, you no longer have any excuses to work out. You can do them when you are traveling, in your office, in your bedroom or anywhere you have a few free square feet of space. And you can accomplish these exercises with any level of athlete. For example, in my beginner yoga class yesterday, I taught everybody how to do warrior pose correctly. Today even my legs and rear end are sore because I taught everybody how to engage their muscles by lifting their kneecaps and powering their back foot into the floor.


Mark Lauren and Joshua Clark have written You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises For Men and Women.


This is a great book and it comes at a great time.


The back cover claims, “Lauren’s simple program builds more muscle than weightlifting, burns more fat than aerobics and is safer than both.” I agree!


The authors have a section in the back that lists home equipment if you really actually feel like you need a few toys to get the job done. You probably have a heavy phone book or dictionary. Maybe you have a backpack you can load up and use as a weight.


What’s great about this book is that it includes photograph of body parts, explains the names of the basic muscle groups for average folks, and then proceeds to educate you about which body weight exercises can work out each part.


Too many women are afraid of strength training, when strength training will actually make us girly girls look the way we actually really want to look.


And too many people think that strength training involves going to a gym, sitting down and strapping themselves into endless rows of machines. Fitness purists turn up our noses at this section of any gym.


Even if you can’t muster a one-arm pushup, you might actually enjoy a bear walk, which is a developmental movement that babies integrate on their way to learning how to walk upright.


Even if your bad knees make you think twice about side jumps, you might enjoy a static side lunge.


Even if you would never think of a hanging leg raise, your back would probably get much stronger if you started with a side hip up.


Mark Lauren was a military physical training specialist for the U.S. Special Operations. These people know how to build practical fitness – in other words, when you have to be strong, flexible, fast and stable because your life depends upon it.


Many in the general public believe that body weight exercises are only for the elderly or infirm. I do body weight exercises with all my clients. With photographs and explanations, the authors of this book show you why body weight workouts are for the truly ripped.

Book Review:The Gluten-Free Fat Loss Plan

by Catherine Carrigan, catherine@totalfitness.net



I have personally been gluten-free for over 18 years. For more than 15 years, I have also been helping my clients identify food sensitivities.


I use both kinesiology and lab tests to get to the bottom of why my clients have digestive distress and also what critical factors are interfering with the proper functioning of their metabolism so they can finally lose body fat.


The fact that gluten and food sensitivities or allergies could affect people’s weight is not new information.


This subject has been covered extensively in classics like Your Hidden Food Allergies Are Making You Fat by Roger Deutsch and Rudy Rivera, and Breaking The Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall, which, in my estimation, is probably the best book ever written about gluten sensitivity.


My own book, Healing Depression: A Holistic Guide, which was published in 1997, included an entire section about food sensitivities, including gluten, that affect not only weight but also brain chemistry, since 90 percent of our serotonin is produced in our G.I. tract.


In my own practice, my average client probably drops an average of 8 pounds after I help them identify which foods, which may include gluten, they are reacting to. It is not uncommon for me to identify clients with numerous food sensitivities, in which case I put them on a gut healing program so that they do not have to maintain a highly restrictive diet for the rest of their lives.


This subject was also discussed with naturopath Dan Kalish in 1997 on my radio show, Total Fitness, in a discussion you can still listen to for free at the following link: https://www.totalfitness.net/radio_show_past_shows_nutrition.htm


Just click on “Are Your Food Allergies Making You Fat?” Dr. Kalish explained that when you eat highly processed refined carbohydrates, your body produces chemicals that make you addicted to them.


Exercise physiologist Allison Westfahl has added to this existing literature by publishing The Gluten-Free Fat Loss Plan. She claims this is a “revolutionary new diet plan.” Not hardly.


What’s good about Allison’s new book is that she includes menu plans, photos of suggested exercises and discussions about why she feels that even someone who has not been tested to have gluten allergy may benefit from a gluten-free diet.


Allison says:


Gluten foods are usually highly processed

Gluten foods are usually high in calories and low in nutrients

Gluten foods are usually high in sugar

Gluten foods usually trigger food addictions, bingeing and craving

I agree.


Allison’s blind spots:


Her menu plans recommend soy products. Soy has a similar chemical makeup to wheat, and most people who react to gluten also react to soy. In this country, soy is not treated as a food crop, so most soy is loaded with chemicals. Finally, soy food products, including soy protein powders, are usually made from the byproducts of soy oil production and are a very common food sensitivity.

She recommends that everybody get a minimum of 48 grams of whole grains every day. The truth is, your carbohydrate requirement varies with the health of your metabolism. If you have a damaged metabolism, you are best off limiting your total carb intake, according to Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, M.D., endocrinologist (I am a certified Schwarzbein practitioner). Dr. Schwarzbein recommends that most people get their carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and beans and limit their intake of so-called man-made carbohydrates from grains. Whether or not you can tolerate any grains at all is determined by the health of your gut, and many people with severe gluten intolerance won’t heal unless they go on a no-grain diet for a period of time, according to Elaine Gottschall.

Many people who are suffering from gastrointestinal distress have other things going on over and above food sensitivities. I use both kinesiology and lab testing to discern parasites, h. pylori and other intestinal infections. Many times, people have intestinal upset that has absolutely zero to do with what they are eating. On top of parasites and infections, there is simply the emotional piece. Many people who have digestive disorders are taking on energy and emotions. They are empathic to the point they are making themselves unwell and need my guidance to become emotionally and spiritually stronger.

What’s great about Allison’s new book is that it is simple and easy to read and will continue to take this message to a regular audience. Allison tried gluten-free after one of her aunt’s was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2004. She then took the approach with her clients in her personal training clinic in Colorado.


When I went gluten-free, there were limited options in the grocery store. Gluten-free store-bought bread tasted like cardboard. Now that gluten-free eating has gone mainstream, you can easily find gluten-free pasta, bread, cakes, cookies, pizza mix, etc. It’s still pasta, bread, cakes, cookies and pizza, but at least you can find gluten-free versions when you have to have a treat.


All the recipes on my website, www.totalfitness.net, are gluten-free.

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