101 Video: Cardio Tips!

Cardio exercise by nature is a highly repetitive activity. If our form is off, we can easily aggravate our joints or pull a muscle, etc. In no way should that be a reason not to exercise! However, we can all get more benefits from cardio activities if we assess our alignment. In this video, I share tips on how to check patterns, how to practice ways to improve form and how to feel more confident with whatever cardio exercise you are pursuing! I hope you enjoy and would love to hear from you!🙂

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Genetics? Hell No! :-)

I have had high cholesterol my entire adult life. Ever since my father passed away of a heart attack almost eight years ago at the age of 59, I have felt that my clock was ticking. None of my grandparents lived to see their 80s. No matter my diet, healthy weight or how much I exercised, my total cholesterol has lived in the mid to upper 200s and my LDL has consistently been well over 100.

About six weeks ago, my total cholesterol measured 296 and LDL was 201. For me, this was utterly depressing. My family felt it was due time to discuss going on a statin. I have resisted this recommendation from different doctors for well over a decade due to fear of side effects. Historically, I experience side effects from just about any medicine. But, I was starting to think I would have no choice.

Discussing all of this with my wonderful friend, Carol Dengel, I knew what she would have to say. She has been espousing the benefits of a 100% plant-based diet for a couple of years and I’ve been dismissing the concept.

My defense:
I already eat a ton of veggies and fruits. I rarely have red meat. I eat salmon and lean poultry. I have olive oil, coconut oil and other healthy fats. I haven’t had any dairy for almost 20 years due to an intolerance. My body doesn’t seem to tolerate gluten so I already gave that up. Even gluten-free grains make me bloat. I don’t want to have to eat a lot of them and I don’t want to gain weight. In the last six months, I have reduced my egg consumption (but the verdict has been going back and forth with eggs anyway). What about protein? What about having enough energy? I have been following a Paleo-style diet for the last few years and it has been simple enough to follow. At 5’3″ and 120 pounds, my weight is healthy and stable. I don’t like to cook. I don’t want to spend my time cooking. I want to feel healthy. I want to eat healthy foods. I want my lifestyle to be as convenient and simple as possible.

Just one lingering thought:
During college, I was a vegan. I was a junk food vegan but still a vegan. It was the only time my cholesterol numbers weren’t awful.

Carol said, “Then, Shanna, you know what you have to do.”

I felt so skeptical, resistant and frustrated but the idea of going on statins was enough to make me give it a go. Carol told me to watch the documentary “Forks Over Knives” which was on Netflix and quickly brought two books over to my house.

  1. “The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds” by Rip Esselstyn
  2. “The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health” by T. Colin Campbell

I gravitated toward “The Engine 2 Diet” because it was a more accessible read. Some things were easy. No dairy. Check. No processed or refined foods. Done, I haven’t eaten white stuff for a long time. No meat. No big deal. No chicken, fish or eggs. Hmmm, not sure about this. No oil. Say what?!! How on earth? Say yes to vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. What about protein? What about healthy fat? What about having enough energy?

I decided to try the diet for six-weeks but also gave myself permission to abandon it if I felt tired, had digestive issues and / or gained weight.

Within a few days, I realized I was less tired. My brain felt clearer. Within three weeks, I had lost four pounds. I was pretty darn regular but my digestion was happy! It was also around this time that my husband, Matt, joined me on the eating plan. Matt participating took it to a whole new level.

I was actually excited about cooking. Matt and I spent a lot of time grocery shopping and cooking, but it was fun. Yes, we ate stir-fry and veggie burgers. But, we also enjoyed lasagna! We made desserts. The experience was transformative. I decided regardless of the numbers, this diet was right for me. I was hooked. And, I was tremendously hopeful.

Everyone in my life worried that I would be disappointed with my numbers. Family and friends alike kept mentioning genetics and that I might have to surrender to medicine. Hopes for a moderate decrease were realistic. But, I was hoping for a dramatic drop. I kept staring at page 19 in my copy of Rip’s book. This page listed participants’ before and after numbers in his 28-day study. Their results were dramatic and I wanted mine to be too.

I wept when I saw my new numbers. In six weeks, my total cholesterol dropped 120 points! My LDL dropped 110! I am within range! I know it sounds melodramatic but all I kept thinking was, “I am going to live. I am really going to live.” Heart disease is not inevitable. Barring any accidents, etc., I actually have a chance of living into my 80s and beyond. I have a chance of living well. It is an entirely new paradigm. It is life changing.

Before & After

Before & After

I am not yet done. The books list heart attack-proof numbers as total cholesterol below 150 and LDL below 80. But, I am not far away! And, such a dramatic shift in six weeks is highly motivating. Starting October 1, Matt and I are taking an on-line cooking course through Forks Over Knives. Next on the docket will be a plant-based nutrition certificate through T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. It is so exciting and I’ll continue to share recipes and updates in future posts.

Before I sign off, I just have to say that I am so grateful to Carol Dengel for being so persistent and for sharing the wonderful resources of @forksoverknives @engine2diet and The China Study! Rip Esselstyn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and all the contributors are such inspiring role models of health. It feels amazing to feel so hopeful!🙂

Until next time,
Shanna

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101 Video: Shoulder Rotator Exercises!

An inflamed or injured rotator occurs so easily and we are all vulnerable. We move, carry, and reach habitually. Moving the arm while in a slouched position means the arm bone is ungrounded. This kind of injury is easily irritated over and over again or we tend to avoid movement all together. Many students find a well organized plank position helpful & comforting because it grounds the arm bone.

Today’s 101 video has three separate exercises done with a resistance tube that can help strengthen, protect as well as aid the healing process. I hope your shoulders feel good!🙂

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101 Video: Tricep Kickbacks! :-)

One of the biggest hindrances to strengthening the triceps is neck tension. Most people inadvertently let their shoulders shift forward and up when they hinge forward into the tricep kickback position. If they saw themselves upright, they would notice the obvious misalignment and correct their position. However, hinging forward can skew our view and potentially makes us vulnerable to increased neck tension and shoulder injuries.

The shape of a tricep kickback (when the elbow is bent) is the exact same shape of Chaturanga or Four-limbed Staff pose in yoga. Chaturanga has the same potential harm if the arm bone shifts around ungrounded in the shoulder joint. Many people have injured themselves in the transition from Chaturanga to Upward Facing Dog for this very reason.

Both the tricep kickback and Chaturanga can be done safely if we incorporate the best posture possible into the exercise / pose. Allow the position to not only strengthen the tricep but also the abdominals, back, glute and leg muscles.

Over time, this exercise can actually decrease neck tension by teaching muscles below the shoulders how to engage in a supportive, spine lengthening way. Every exercise has the potential to be a total body strengthener with a specific emphasis. I hope you stay safe and enjoy!

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101 Video: Shoulders! :-)

I learned this exercise as “nasties” and that is how I refer to them in my strength training classes! But, the official name for the exercise, as far as I know, is single-arm lying lateral raises. Who knew?!🙂

This is an excellent exercise for strengthening the relationship between the shoulder to the back muscles and obliques. The key is to keep the working arm bone nice and snug in the shoulder joint. This way the back and sides can wake up and participate in the exercise. Also, be sure to keep your neck position nice and neutral.

I hope you enjoy and would love to hear from you!

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101 Video: Pullovers!

Pullovers are a wonderful exercise for lengthening the spine in a supportive, strengthening way. I love to do this on a foam roller but it can easily be done on the floor, bench, fitness ball, etc.

I hope you feel strong and tall and would love to hear from you!🙂

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101 Video: Skull Crushers!

Gearing up for my “Strength Training 101” workshop series this October at the Blue Valley Rec in Overland Park, Kansas, I hope this video is helpful on your journey to feeling more comfortable & confident with strength training.

Skull Crushers are a great move for strengthening the triceps as well as helping the body access better alignment in plank & forearm plank since they share the same shape!

If you live near the Overland Park area, I would love to see you at the 6-week workshop series! Mondays at 4:30 p.m. starting October 5th! Please let me know if you have any questions and have a great day!
Shanna🙂

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101 Video: Low Abs Focus

Probably the most requested type of exercise I receive revolves around strengthening the abs. Even though we have been told many times that we cannot spot reduce, I think it is still a hope that if we simply exercise an area more, it will inevitably lead to weight loss where we want it most (which of course is not the case).

I appreciate and always empathize with the request and simultaneously think about my ongoing intention in teaching yoga and fitness is to focus on integrated awareness and alignment. Therefore, we always have the potential to strengthen the abs as well as any other part of our body regardless of the exercise. Every exercise (any movement) has the potential to enhance our awareness and our life.

So, as you explore this particular exercise, and all exercise in general, please focus on total body strength and awareness. Are you breathing? Do you feel taller, longer? Let go of how high your legs reach or how high your butt lifts off the floor, especially if it is at the expense of your neck length or ease of breath.

Let’s let go of self punishment and embrace empowerment and compassion whether it has to do with our abs or any other part of our body, our life. I hope you enjoy the video and would love to hear from you! Hugs and gratitude!
Shanna

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101 Video: Lunge! :-)

Lunge is a fundamental exercise done in most strength training classes and has many variations. Yet, it can be very challenging to organize and integrate as a total body move. It is best when slightly more weight & emphasis is placed in the back, stabilizing leg than in the front leg. Our body tends to want to put more weight in the front leg — which makes balance unnecessarily tricky.

I hope you find this video helpful and would love to hear from you!

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101 Video: Squat! :-)

Squat is an excellent functional exercise with a lot of room to determine your right depth. It is also very informative for feeling safer during many cardio activities. If something feels “off” while walking, running, cycling, etc. reference the squat and tweak your form so that you feel more lengthened and powerful.

I hope you find this video helpful and would love to hear from you!🙂 #feelstrong

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