Mighty Gumby and the Importance of Flexible Strength 

Ouch! Traveling can be painful. Three weeks of planes, rental cars and unfamiliar beds have wreaked havoc on my back muscles. Plus, I was foolish and did not heed my own advice which is the key point of this article.

Flexibility and Strength are not mutually exclusive and should be worked on in tandem as much as possible. I am thinking of tattooing this reminder on my arm.

Are you one of those naturally flexible people who can do touch your toes without too much trouble? I have always admired this ability since I am not the most limber person in the world. When I was seven years old I struggled more than the other girls at the bar in ballet class. My muscles just didn’t seem as gumby-like as the graceful ballerinas. I was envious and realized that I wouldn’t be joining the circus as an acrobat anytime soon.

After my traumatic dance class experience I longed to be a combination of Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman. The power, adaptability and super hearing abilities were alluring to me. I also longed to possess a “Truth Lasso” for obvious reasons.

Though I wasn’t able to touch to toes as a child, I did have strong leg muscles so I gravitated towards sports like soccer, track and cycling. I started weight lifting in college and ultimately joined the army where the goal was to do as many push-ups I could in a two minutes. Strength trumped flexibility because it was easier. Little did I realize how this one sided focus could cause imbalance, restriction and injury. Why did my lower back always get pulled into a painful knot? Why would my neck become so tight that I couldn’t look up?

Photo by Nancy Martch who is pictured below

Neck strain and back pain are so common in our stressed out and hectic world that Yoga centers are popping up everywhere to help unwind, relax and balance the masses.   This year in Austin I’ve been practicing yoga with a steady frequency and I was feeling great. In retrospect, my vacation plans to visit friends and family for my birthday should have included stretching and breathing exercises to keep me in balance. Oh when will I ever learn?

Many people don’t fully understand and appreciate the importance of balancing flexibility and strength. Here’s a good, simple way to think about it:

  • Increasing flexibility without strength results in joint instability.
  • Increasing strength without flexibility results in soft tissue tears, sprains and postural changes.

Thankfully three strong, lithe friends came into my life over the last 15 years and introduced me the power and healing benefits of the ancient practice. What Heidi started in San Diego in 2002, Nancy and Clarissa continue to inspire me to reach for my toes and beyond.

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Photo by Barry Staver

Elastic power leads to balance and stability, helping us physically and mentally in our personal and professional lives. Being grounded and level headed makes you a confident more assertive speaker and leader.

Here’s some great advice I received in yoga class: Flexibility needs to be supported by strength and stability.

Now I happily compliment my push-ups with the all -important child’s pose. My weight lifting reps are interspersed with the ever helpful downward facing dog.

Over the years I have come to marvel at how much yoga has improved my bicycling skills and strength and how my core strength has made my yoga poses so much more grounded.

Too much of any one good thing can lead to trouble and a wonderful blend of complimentary things can launch us to higher levels of achievement and satisfaction.

 

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Strong and flexible muscles are happy and less prone to injury.

So be like a mighty Gumby- your back and neck muscles will thank you!

 

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Knowing What We’ve Got

Being sick while on vacation has put me in a philosophical mood.  Yesterday I reflected on the labyrinth.

Today I was well enough to fully appreciate an easy jog on a cactus-lined trail.  My senses were heightened as I savored every minute of my normally routine and bland morning exercise.    The old adage “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” kept repeating in my formerly stuffed head.


Then I started branching my thoughts and thinking of other things I have taken for granted and don’t appreciate enough.

Things like Integrity.

Honesty. Liberty.  Respect.

Things like Health, Happiness and Serenity.

Priceless things like Gratitude, Friendship and Honor.

I take none of the things for granted and cherish them more each day.   It’s amazing what a clear head in the desert can do for you!

Robo Koko: Confessions of a Dashboard Junkie

I must confess, I’ve become a dashboard junkie!

In the last six months, multiple aspects of my life have been tracked and monitored by an automated, “robo” tool.  From fitness workouts and calories burned to sleep and step activity to financial investing, I have gadgets aplenty tracking a plethora of performance and personal progress statistics.

Last month I joined Koko FitClub, a digital gym and have been religiously wearing my Fitbit to capture my steps, stairs climbed, and sleep activity.  The Koko experience has been positive and it seems I’m becoming addicted to the online dashboards.  I enjoy the SmartTraining aspect of having my workout plans preloaded in a thumb drive and the visual display of each exercise and rep count on the floating screen in front of me.  After each workout, I run home to check out the website to review my numbers and progress.  I’m like a little kid who wants to see the grades on her report card at school.

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One meaning for the word koko in Japanese is “individually” and that is what this type of fitness program gives you-  help and guidance from an intelligent machine with minimal human interaction.

I’ve watched this trend toward more personalized and internally focused electronics, apps and interfaces over the past fifteen years starting with iTunes, the iPod and the iPhone and moving on to Google Glass, the iPad, the Fitbit and now the Apple Watch.  It seems that more and more we humans want our experiences with the world to be custom tailored to our exact needs and desires.

Here are some of the reasons why I like robo and koko-like tracking and interfaces:

    1. Awareness and Accountability- both are increased.
    2. Motivation.  I respond well to the visual achievement of goals.
    3. Charts and graphs excite me.
    4. Encouragement and recognition on meeting objectives. Fitbit is very good at this.

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The Economist magazine recently published an interesting article entitled “Ask the Algorithm”  which highlighted the recent trends in automated wealth management tools and the rise of the “robo-advisers”.  There a donut charts aplenty on the dashboards of these new applications.

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Asset Allocation Dashboard

So welcome to the machine ( one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs) and kick back and enjoy the lovely and colorful dashboards!