Archive | June, 2012

Just Dance

25 Jun
I love to dance.  I’m 30 years old, and STILL dance around my room with my headphones on to drown everything out.  I have visions of myself dancing skillfully in a modern/ballet style, bringing emotions to the surface of those watching as I communicate to them stories and emotions that stir up their souls.  While this may never actually happen, I don’t have to forgo the sweet freedom that is dance.  When I dance – letting go of thoughts, feeling and moving with the music – there is no feeling that comes close to that.  I feel like my spirit inside is moving right along with my body outside.  I can’t describe it better, I just feel completely united with my soul.  Granted, this is probably not the case for everyone, but do you know if it is for you?  Our bodies are gifts given to us for the time while we’re on this earth and they are strong and capable; they were created to move!
I was recently reading about Miriam, older sister of Moses, in a devotional and was really struck by the authors’ words on dancing.  With regard to the Bible, most of us probably don’t think of dancing.  It seems uncharacteristic.  Maybe a little risque.  The passage below, however, tells us that dancing is not a bad thing, it’s a way to celebrate and express emotions, to give glory to our Creator.
“In biblical times, people danced to celebrate happy events and to praise God. Dancing in Scripture is always linked to joy and happiness.  The presence of mourning means the absence of dancing (Lamentations 5:15), and there is a time for both (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
The very first mention of dancing in Scripture is when Miriam led the Isrealite women in a dance that celebrated God’s miraculous defeat of the Egyptians at the Red Sea.  Imagine, if you can, the emotions of these women as they walked (perhaps ran?) between the walls of water of the Red Sea, Egyptian chariots right behind them.  Fearful for their lives, they breathlessly reached the eastern shore, turning around to see the waters come crashing in to drown the Egyptians and their horses – a narrow, frightening escape.
Then, quickly, fear gave way to a thrill of excitement.  They were FREE!  When Miriam went by with a tambourine, singing a song of praise to God, the women’s feet moved to her rhythm, their voices joined her song, and they danced!
The Hebrews danced in worship, often in praise of God for his deliverance from enemies (1 Samuel 18:6, Psalm 149:3).  They danced to celebrate happy events, like weddings and the return of loved ones (Luke 15:25).  Hebrew men and women didn’t dance together.  The men usually danced alone, as David did before the Ark [of the Covenant] (2 Samuel 6:14), while women danced together.
There is some evidence that dancing was a part of the worship of the early Christian church.  But according to several early Christian writers, it soon degenerated and no longer expressed a pure praise of the Lord.  Before long it was banned.
Just as Miriam and the women couldn’t help but dance with joy, so when God does a wonderful work in our lives we sometimes respond in much the same manner: our faces break into smiles, our hands are lifted up, and our feet can’t remain still!  Certainly the God who created the human body delights in the pure use of that beautiful instrument to offer praise to him.”
Dancing has taken a lot of heat in past decades, even centuries, as something that compels us towards lusty behavior.  For this reason, lots of us don’t participate.  Or maybe we are nervous that we’ll look silly or fall over or step on someone.  I would challenge you to find a deeper reason to dance.  Dance to celebrate, to express gratitude, to praise your Maker.  If it’s not dance, find the mode of expression that ignites your spirit in a way that you can’t help but do something about!
If you are local in the Seattle area, you should check out my good friend Whitney’s women-only, community dance class Surrender Dance.  It’s donation-based, all levels and LOTS of fun 🙂

Summer Slam

17 Jun

In the Pacific Northwest, I have learned, summer doesn’t really start until July, sometimes late July.  So while most of the country is already running around in shorts and bathing suits, we’re sittin pretty up here.  Some may think we have an advantage because we have an extra month or so to get ourselves ready to bare that extra skin.  But something about that just doesn’t sit well with me.

As a fitness professional, I see SUCH a push for summer slim-downs from both clients and trainers.  While having that extra motivation is helpful, I get that, it mostly sounds like yet another yo-yo, quick-fix attempt that is not long-lasting.  Stop and look around, it’s on every magazine cover and diet website.  It frustrates me, because often the squeakiest wheel gets the grease, and those campaigns are LOUD.  But what if you didn’t have to slim down every summer?  Seriously, consider that.  What if you made small changes, and then built upon those with other small changes so that by the time next summer rolls in (whenever that may be), you’re happy and healthy and confident in your skin?

The first thing I will say is that there isn’t a nutrition and exercise blueprint because we’re all wonderfully different.  BUT there are a few basic pieces that can be tailored to most people.  Consider these your foundational “small changes”.

  • Portions.  This one can be tricky because often how much we eat isn’t based on how hungry we are, but what we are feeling or doing while we’re eating.  When we aren’t paying attention to how much food we’re consuming, we end up consuming 2-3x as much as we would if we were sitting down having a meal!  There are a few different avenues to go about portioning, but some of my favorites are:
    • Eat less, more – smaller meals spaced throughout your day keeps your body running well and not weighed down with too much food which often results in what we call a “food coma”
    • measure your servings and eat only that amount – on a plate, not from the bag/bowl/etc.
    • write out what you are going to eat for your meal – you can use an app like My Fitness Pal or Lose It to see how many calories you’ll be consuming and then tailor it BEFORE you eat it.  (this is one of my favorites) – In fact, you can do this for the whole day or week if you like
    • Don’t eat if you’re swimming in feelings.  Stop.  Sit down and journal or call a good friend.  SO many of us turn to food for comfort and we end up feeding our body food that it doesn’t need to burn, so it stores it.  And you know what it stores it as?  Yup, that awful 3-letter word: fat.  It’s hard to reach out and be vulnerable, but food isn’t going to actually address what is going on inside you.  Consider who can help you, who can you call on?
  • Composition.  All calories are not created equal – maybe you know this.  So in an effort to not emulate a broken record, I will say aim for a few simple things within each meal:
    • Eat lots of vegetables – you can’t overeat on these and they contain SO many nutrients your body needs. Just try to vary them
    • Eat fruit, but don’t go crazy.  DO try to replace sugary/dessert type foods with fruit.
    • Protein is important, if your body doesn’t get enough from what you eat, it will use what you have stored – your muscles.
    • Make your grain choices whole – aim for brown or wild rice, quinoa, oats, etc. instead of bread and pasta
  • Heavy Breathing.  You gotta move!  This is where people differ most, I think.  But unless you are in a very active job (construction, professional athlete, etc) you need to make some effort to get moving.
    • Hire a Personal Trainer – if you can afford it, this type of one-on-one training will address nutrition and lifestyle as well as walk you through personalized, effective workouts.
    • Take a class – if you need someone to instruct and push you or want to bring a friend, classes are great.  These are nice too if you’re not sure what you like – you can often just try a bunch of different things over a month and decide what your favorites were – that’s actually really fun 🙂
    • Ditch your car – any time you can walk or bike instead of driving, do it!
  • Who’s Got Your Back?  Do you have people, or a person, who will motivate and encourage you?  Seek out a partner or a few friends and confide in them that you desire to make a change.  Tell them how they can encourage you and keep you accountable, maybe they’ll join in with you!  It is a FACT that you are far less likely to quit something if you have others doing it with you (this is why programs with community, like Weight Watchers, are so effective).  I think we’re inherant people-pleasers, but whatever the case, you’re not going to ditch the workout if you know you’ll be called out on it or worse, if you’d be standing up a trainer or friend!  Another side of this is that you can invite this person to be the one you work through emotional struggles with – like those mentioned in the Portions section.  We’re relational beings.  If you embrace that as part of your “small changes” you will see that it actually makes the other ones considerably easier.

Well that was a lot of writing for a few simple things… 🙂  Hopefully you made it through and found a bit of it helpful or motivational.  I just want to encourage you to look a little further into the future and know that while instant gratification and drastic changes feel good right now, lasting change is what will … well, last!

Happy Sunday (and Father’s Day)

O