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Beautiful Ecology

04/29/2008

Ok…So I don’t want to rain on anyone’s eco friendly parade, but I just could not help but add my unwanted two cents about the overwhelming recent popular concern for the environment. Come jump off the bandwagon with me for a moment.

Now, I do not want to go down in the annals of history as the only CEO of an ambitious company, just as desperate to be universally liked as every other small company out there, that didn’t give a rat’s ass about the environment. I give a rat’s ass about the environment. Really. I know some facts and am appropriately troubled by them. However, at the risk of sounding like a total sourpuss, I strongly question the deeper motive behind a certain amount of the new yahoo spirit that surrounds the greening of everything around us, all of a sudden.

Let’s take Earth Day for example…have you ever seen so many white collar employees rolling up their french cuffed sleeves to hug a tree in a nearby community garden ever before? Community gardens have been bleak places in desperate need of attention throughout my entire New York City lifetime…Where were these folks a decade ago? It sometimes seems to me that if Kick a Puppy Day were as popular with celebrities or the super wealthy, many of the same folks would be rolling up their tropical weight wool gabardine pant legs to do their bit there too. But maybe only if their boss was watching.

Though, really, it has always been my belief that in good causes it is actually not the thought that counts–but rather the work or the cash. And the truth is, the community gardens are finally getting the attention they should, and kids in those neighborhoods will not have to tiptoe around Coors cans the way they did a week ago. And that is very positive progress.

But I think some of the Eco-madness is not so benign as just people doing something good that they might not do if no one was watching…I believe that there is a certain amount of fear mongering, that is actually quite damaging–particularly to the younger generation. And my concern here is a bit more personal.

My children’s nice, normal, liberal, elementary school in NYC, over the last few years, has been taken over by folks wearing green and proselytizing about the environment. Most of it is just great. Concerned moms talking about recycling? Great. Planting stuff? Terrific. Reusing things? Awesome. Destruction of rainforests? Liking that less. Destruction of rainforests and the obliteration of the natural habitats of helpless  little animals like the ones our children may still sleep with at night? Not loving that at all. Posters throughout the hallways, painted by impressionable, and quite young children, with pictures of the earth in black shroud saying things like ‘Please Stop Killing our World’. Or ‘Please Don’t destroy the Earth’. Ok. That’s enough. And this is where I risk becoming famous in a not such a good way. For the record, I wish they’d knock it off. 

I understand that this behavior is well intentioned, and overall I am a big believer in talking pretty frankly with children about potentially scary or confusing things they may have heard about in the news or in grown up conversations. But the conversations I am hearing in my children’s school are often more than that, with a tone of quite grown-up concern, and dialog about very adult sized issues. I think that there has been a bit of blurring of the good old fashioned "That’s a grown-up conversation dear." brush off that was once considered part of being a parent, that has given way to a certain strange pride in having children that are not only precocious in Math and English but in their political fears as well.

OK–enough about my beefs about all that. I could go on all day, grump that I am, and thank you for letting me get that off my organic t-shirted chest (no lie, the cotton in my tee shirt is organically grown) and onto a list of some good eco-friendly fitness tips.

One, use your bike. Ok, I hear ‘ya, New York with a bike is a little dangerous. Definitely not for everyone…however The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (which I used to think of as the city agency that was the equivalent of the Phys Ed department in most schools) has changed much for the better, and is really making huge strides to create Greenways to help you get safely around certain parts of the city on a bike. Information about parks that allow mountain biking off road too! http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_things_to_do/facilities/af_bike_paths.html

Two, think more about ways we can bring eco-consciousness to the fitness industry. One idea that seems like a total natural is to find new ways to convert all that running on treadmills and bopping around in classes into electricity. Check out this You Tube segment about a club in the Netherlands that is powered by people dancing…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzb3VFi3Sew

Three, drink New York City water. Filter it if you must. This one’s easy. Now I am not saying that you should never buy Evian. You should do what you want–without guilt–pretty much all the time as far as I am concerned, but a few less of your plastic bottles living out there forever and ever is good for everyone. My favorite bottles to reuse and house nyc water are not actually the one’s purchased in stores, nor are they the metal one’s that look so cool and are now very popular. The plastic ones nearly always leak and the metal ones are actually quite heavy when filled with water. I prefer to just reuse plastic mineral water bottles with screw on tops. I have all different sizes for different water-drinking occasions.

Four, buy your stuff responsibly. Now I could make a list for you (maybe I’ll go back and edit this later to include it) of fitness companies that are famous for their incredible responsibility. This is one of the things I love so much about the fitness industry. It is full of total outdoor geeks, who really only got into it because they could never manage a normal kind of day job because it interfered with snowboarding, or boxing, or biking, or surfing. These folks start companies organically from a place of profound love of the earth.  Do a bit of research, when you can, before you shop for gear. Overall the companies who are working the hardest to keep eco friendly and responsible have become savvy enough to include that fact all over their websites. Pick them. The ones with pictures of the CEO kissing whales.

That’s all folks–I’ll try to come back and include that list of companies I recommend. Thanks again for reading!

Oh yeah, and for anyone who’s preggers or recently postpartum (or even just interested in that kind of thing) in the NYC area we’re going to be doing a great one hour workshop on Prenatal/postpartum fitness at a Park Slope, Bklyn maternity store called boing! on 461 7th Avenue near 16th street, on Sunday May 4th, at 12:30! Hope to see you there! Feel free to give us a call at 212-380-1277 for more information.

Alix Florio President/CEO Beautiful Fitness  

Beautiful Back Exercises

04/09/2008

Beautiful Readers,

Back strength is critically important. Unfortunately, in day to day life, your back gets very little exercise. The front of your body gets it’s share of interesting activities every day. You pick things up with your arms and pectorals(chest) and trapezius (upper shoulder near the neck), you type or write (a fine finger workout), you open and close doors (arms again, and a little deltoid (shoulder), you walk around, (mostly quadriceps, some limited glutes). Not a lot going on with what’s behind you.

so let’s cut to the chase and offer three leveled back exercises, one for beginners, one is intermediate, one is advanced. No harm in doing them all. Start with the easiest, and puh-lese be sure to engage your abs (feels like sucking in your lower stomach, or pressing your navel towards your spine) and relax your shoulders away from your ears and down your back while you do them. I always like to start by rolling my shoulders to the front (stoop shouldered), up (towards your ears), and down the back, and then locking them into that place throughout the exercise.

BEGINNER EXERCISE: Lying face down on the floor, arms outstretched in front of you (if you are very tight in the shoulders, this alone may be challenging, feel free to separate arms apart as much as you may need to). You now look like Superwoman (or man) flying. Now (this is subtle) s-t-r-e-t-c-h your feet as far away from your hands as you can, elongating your spine, from this position, raise your right arm and head approximately 4 inches off the floor, while raising your left leg (knee straight) 4 inches off the floor as well-focus your gaze on a point on the floor. Hold for a count of 5. Lower arm and leg. Lift left arm and right leg off the ground and hold for count of 5, keeping back elongated. Good. Now do this ten times. Aaahhh.

INTERMEDIATE EXERCISE: Lying face down on the floor with arms and legs outstretched (same as the BEGINNER EXERCISE), raise your right arm, head (focusing your gaze on the floor, not in front of you), and left leg 5 inches off the floor, now (here’s what makes this one intermediate) still keeping the r arm and l leg (and head) off the floor, bring up your left arm and right leg approximately 5 inches off the floor. You are now (sort of) balancing on your stomach, with all four limbs, and your head, off the floor (be sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears-and keep breathing). Now, raise your right leg and left arm slightly higher, then return them to their starting position (never touching the floor) and bring your left leg and right arm a little higher. You are now alternating the height of the opposite arm and leg in a swimming motion. Flutter your arms and legs in this way for a count of 5 and repeat 10 times.

ADVANCED: Now this one is challenging in a few ways…and is best done with a ball or off the side of the bed. What we are going to do is a reverse sit up, and that requires a prop of some kind so that we can get an adequate range of motion. Let’s describe the ball version because it is a little more complicated. Leaning over with the ball at your stomach and your legs outstretched behind you and toes flexed onto the floor, try to support your torso with just your legs in this position. This alone is challenging.

Once you have gotten into a relatively stable position, bend your arms at the elbows and place your hands in front of your forehead, now allow your torso to lower towards the floor (you are a ‘v’ over the ball), and then, with your stomach engaged, raise your torso (feet stay on the ground to support you) back up to parallel to the ground (gaze is on the floor). Lower. Repeat this motion 10 times, or more if you like it, and you feel comfortable. Breathe. Shoulders away from your ears.

Spring is a great time for developing a stronger back—Preventing back pain and improving your posture can allow you to do more of the exciting warm weather activities you want to do!

For more back strategies and some expert individual attention to your personal back concerns and interests, give Beautiful Fitness a call at 212-380-1277, or check us out at www.beautifulfitness.com

Feel free to call just to chat or for a free consultation too. Really. No strings attached.

Enjoy,

Alix – president/Beautiful Fitness