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15th August
2011
written by Sarah Loewen

The first time I walked into a studio full of Pilates equipment, I was afraid. One look at all the racks, ropes and springs and I was quite sure I had walked into entirely the wrong place.  I had no idea it would change my life.

I’m not a fan of acres of expensive equipment, preferring simple outdoor putsuits, and I don’t like anything with a guru type of focus, so it still surprises me that I love Pilates as much as I do, but its because it works. Initially designed for patients in hospital beds. Pilates exercises focus on strengthening the core, the abs and back in a way no other exercise does. The full body functional movements are all about quality, not quantity, and the results are profound.  Atheletes and the average Joe (Pilates inventor – Joe Pilates) can benefit from Pilates.

For more on the benefits of Pilates, and how it was developed, please check out Balanced Body’s About Pilates Page.

You can practice Pilates Matwork in the comfort of your own living room, but I have to tell you that I am so jazzed about working on the Reformer that I recently purchased five of them. I am super stoked to be offering Reformer classes in my very own funky studio this fall.

I’ll be posting my schedule here on my website, but by all means if you’d like to know more send me an email at sarah@loewenbehold.ca

Pilate On! :)   Classes start the week of September 6th.

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4th June
2011
written by Sarah Loewen

Help me out here. I’ve been working with many of you for over twenty years, yet after endless squats, crunches, curls, and copious amounts of kale, lettuce and spinach you still tell me you don’t feel like you don’t measure up?  Why?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m right there with you, Together, we must stop measuring our fitness levels with measuring tapes, scales and calipers, or comparing ourselves to others, and instead guage our health by how we truly feel.

At the end of the day no one cares what we weigh or what our percent of body fat is.  We all want those we love to be healthy, vibrant and happy, so why can’t we want the same thing for ourselves?

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30th April
2011
written by Sarah Loewen

I looove fitness toys. At least the ones that work. I figure whatever gets you moving, from boot camp to belly dancing, is a good thing. They add variety, as well as an element of fun, and can also make movements more functional in terms of improving our ability to do every day things.

At the same time, I have seen all too many exercises bikes functioning as clothes hangers. And let’s face it pretty much every garage sale on the planet features some sort of near-new-all too-fabulous, and often ineffective exercise device. How many Thighmasters can there be?

I sometimes look around the gym and add up the environmental impact of all the equipment and activity. A huge hunk of metal and paint for every body part. Fans blasting and TV’s blaring over the sounds of the treadmills humming. I often can’t help but wonder if there is a better way.

My new mini studio (formerly my garage) has forced me to be creative in a small space, and so I was thrilled to discover the Mini Stability Ball by STOTT Pilates.  My new participants are loving them.  Okay I think they are hating them, but because they are working so hard.  Its the ultimate love hate relationship.

For only $10 bucks and almost no space, you can have your own dymanite abdominal training tool. Its not quite as versatile as a full sized stability ball, but is easier to use. I highly recommend it – small, cheap and amazingly effective.

If you want more on how to use it, just ask! :)

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10th April
2011
written by Sarah Loewen

I was asked to speak to a group of Times Columnist 10K clinic runners early this morning. They wanted some strategies for keeping moving beyond race day. Here’s a summary of what I think I said. :)

1.  Be whole in your approach. Consider body, mind and spirit. Maybe bootcamp or kickboxing isn’t the best choice after a day of traffic and tension at work. Stress and our ramped up lifestyles have a profound physiological affect on our bodies. Yes, those activities are great, but find ways to also soothe your soul and quiet your mind.

2.  Variety is the spice of life. Your body physically needs a variety of activities including cardiovascular, strength and flexibility. By mixing it up you can prevent boredom and help keep yourself moving, uninjured, in the long term.

3. Be active for all the right reasons – because of how it makes you feel, not how you HOPE it will make you look. If you are sweating and grunting in the hopes of looking like one of those perfect genetic freaks of nature you see in a magazine, then you’ve got a lifetime of disappointment before you. Exercising to feel great and improve the quality of your entire life is a guaranteed route to success.

4. Use the KISS (Keep It Simple and Sensible) principle when it comes to nutrition and weight management. I once had a client come running up to me proudly pronouncing how a certain diet forbade eating carrots because of their sugar content. Pleeeease, I think we all know carrots are not the problem.

Eat lots of fruits and veggies and drink lots of water. Chances are the rest will fall into place. Let go of the complicated, nonsensical, fad diets. They don’t work.

5. Remember the Fun Factor. I don’t know about you, but running on a treadmill indoors while watching CNN does not bring me great joy. I love gyms when I am injured (like now), or when there is a foot of snow outside, but if this is all I did, I’d loose my marbles. Okay maybe I already have.  Running it the forest, beams of light piercing through the branches of Douglas Fir, varied thrushes calling to each other… the feeling of my feet on the earth… that brings me great joy, and keeps me coming back, time after time. Take the time to find something you love and give up on the things you don’t.

6. Pay attention to your body. It has all the answers.

You know those times when you ate too much? Sitting there wishing you could undo a button, or change into some sweats? Had we really truly listened to the signs earlier, we would have known we were about to overdo it. Or for me its those times I am running down the road with an ache in my IT band, insistent despite the discomfort.

Why is it I don’t hear the signs until my body screams so loudly I am stopped in my tracks? When you figure out how, let me know.

7.  Your commitment to a healthy balanced life should be a way to build not berate. NEVER use exercise as punishment for something you ate or didn’t do. You will inevitably turn it into something to dread, a penance for your sins.

8. Make sure to balance action and performance goals. Performance goals, like running a 10K in an hour, can be great motivators, until your performance is less than what you hoped. Twice I have missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon by less then 2 minutes and both time the fact I had just run 42.2 KM was lost in my disappointment. How stupid is that?

9. Use the ‘argument’ as a cue to get moving. How much time do you spend arguing with yourself about whether or not you should exercise? Oh I have to. But its raining. It will be good for me. But now its pouring. This is important for my health. The puddles are ginormous and my feet will get wet.

The very instant you find yourself doing this is the exact moment you need to lace up your shoes and head out the door. You will never look back and regret the fact you exercised. Expend your energy moving, not debating.

10.  Move Your Body, Move Your Life. Your body is the vehicle for living your life. It is the home of your mind and your soul, without it you have no life. Its the greatest gift you’ll ever own. Use it every chance you get.

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1st April
2011
written by Sarah Loewen

Thunder Thighs. Buffalo But. Hippo Hips. That’s me.  Truly.  I come from generations of farming women on both sides of family, and it shows. Who needs a horse when you can pull the plough yourself?  I’m not even joking.  I’ve cursed my California-Redwood-like legs all my life and literally ached with envy at the pictures of women with long thin legs that seem to go on for days.

I’m learning this is shallow thinking.  If I only focus on what my legs look I will never be happy – particularly at 43.  If instead I appreciate what they do for me, I realize what an amazing gift I have been given.  Truly.  I’ve run eleven marathons and still run 10 KM most days of my life. I’ve taught thousands of fitness classes and trained thousands of fitness professionals. For close to 20 years, this was how I made my living in the world.  I’ve climbed mountains, and walked beaches on five continents.

Try it.  Think about that part of your body. You know the one.  The one you think about hiding.  The one you curse under your breath.  And then pause.  Ask yourself, what has it given me?  What does it enable me to do?

Did it work?  Care to share?

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24th March
2011
written by Sarah Loewen

My daughter makes the yummiest chocolate chip cookies in the whole World, and pretty much everytime she bakes them I ask her to throw in some ground flax seed. She raises her eyebrow, like only a teenager can and proceeds to make them her own way.  Invariably they turn out better than ever before.

Today I had a hankering for a chocolate chip cookie, but my healthy fitness pro (used-to-be, -want-to-be-again, maybe still-on-the-side-fitness-pro) voice, you know the one in your head (well maybe its only in my head), insisted I find something with flax seed in it.  After all heart disease is rampant in my family.

So, I bought some ultra healthy thing that really was some form of cardboard masquerading as a cookie. Terribly dissappointing. Not at all satisfying. And it cost like four bucks. What a rip.

I have come to the conclusion there are times for flax seed, like in my morning smoothie, or in bananna bread. There are even times for hemp hearts, particularly on yogurt, or cereal. But there are also times for purely wonderful delicious, ultra satisfying cookies sans flax, or other grains.  And if I have a yen for one of those, then I best eat one and enjoy every crumb, rather than trying to turn it into something it isn’t.  (Isn’t that a good metaphor for life?)

There is an 80/20 rule in eating. If you eat the right things 8o percent of the time, then letting ‘er rip a little 2o percent of the time is probably not going to kill you.  In fact it might even save you from devouring an entire chocolate cake, or something like it, at two A.M.

I am coming to believe the solution to satisfaction is three fold. Pay attention to the signals.  What do you really want?  Ask yourself, how are you going to feel after?  Pick the very best of whatever it is and enjoy.

Look at it. Touch it. Smell it. Hold it. Bite it. Roll it on your tongue soaking up every delicious moment of having it in your mouth. Revel. Save the flax for another time and let go of the guilt.

Life is precious, and all too short.

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15th March
2011
written by Sarah Loewen

Its Spring here.  Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.  In part because I spend inordinate amounts of time preaching about how winter here is really only a couple of days, not an entire season, but mostly because the snow has thankfully changed to rain.  Perspective is interesting; Isn’t it?

And so today I’m walking (No, that’s not a misprint.  Will someone please convince my Illiotibial Band to stand down from its valiant protest) through the forest tiptoeing on rock islands in a running steam of water that’s normally a trail, when it occurs to me this avoidance dance is ridiculous.  Particularly given rain is falling from the sky, and dripping from the canopy of Douglas Fir.

So I decide to screw it and begin walking like I normally would in the absence of liquid sunshine.  I feel myself smiling, and not just my face.  The feeling of grinning way deep inside is soooo worth the wet socks and shoes, and far surpasses any sterile satisfaction I have found whilst pumping away on indoor cardio equipment.

In what ways can you use fitness as a training ground for fun and play in your life?  Go ahead – tell me. :)

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12th December
2010
written by Sarah Loewen

I completely fell off my yoga mat in September. As in falling off the wagon kind of falling.  I started a new job with a commute long enough for two travel mugs and a thermos, consequently somehow over 20 years of practicing nearly every day just vaporized. 

I have to tell you it hurts in ways I never imagined.  It hurts in my hips, the sides of my legs, my neck and my back.  Its as though I aged 10 years in three months.  I swear.  I have come to believe all people over 40 should do some sort of yoga every day, and so today is my first day back.

Coincidentally, I had two different conversations with two different people today about beating themselves up over falling off of the exercise wagon.  I am here to tell you it happens, and its no big deal, you just get back on. Life is not over.  You are still a good person and people will still love you.  Just stop the berating voice in your head, you know the one (and if you asking yourself which one, that would be the one) and get back at it.  Channel the energy you want to use to beat yourself up into building yourself up.

On that note, I am about to go unroll my mat…

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9th December
2010
written by Sarah Loewen

 

Sometimes the Fitness Movement is dumb, says the consummate fitness professional.   Dumb because in the myriad of options and gimmicks available, the joy of moving for its own sake gets lost.  If complex periodized programs, fancy gyms or expensive equipment work for you, then great, keep it up.  If not, simple unstructured activities like blasting  Santana and boogeying around the living room, running through every puddle you can find, or yodeling like tarzan atop a big hill are fun, cheap, easy and great exercise.  Plus it feels great to let ‘er rip.

What about you? How might you bust a move?

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5th December
2010
written by Sarah Loewen

Earlier this year I wrote about the joys of running at 5:00 AM in the dark with my Petzl headlamp. Yes, I was serious and yes I did admit to being a wee bit mad.  Sadly, :(   its all irreleavant now anyway as I started a new job this past September – one that involves a commute long enough for two venti-sized travel mugs full of good strong tea – and  my whole life has been turned upside down.

I love my new job, but the culture where I work highly values commitment and dedication.  So much so that booking an hour a day for lunch, (which for me means exercise) has been a real struggle, and I find myself often feeling as though I need to defend it.

The past few weeks have been chockablock full of meetings (which means way too much time sitting) with no time to think, reflect or plan, except when I am exercising. And so it has struck me that this one hour a day I set aside has become extremely valuable not just for my own personal health. Its also enhancing my work productivity significantly by creating space where I can think, sort through things, really consider options, proritize, plan and reflect. Consequently, I feel way more vibrant and alive in the afternoon. Well until about three anyway, when my chin inexplicably and involuntarily finds its way to my chest.  Coincidentally, it seems to happen at the same time my eyelids close. In a meeting no less. :)

I”d like to tell you that I take off out running out the door and immediately loose myself in the sky, the trees and the fresh air, but the truth is I do some of both. I sort, file, organize and create space in my work brain, and I have some truly zen-fully-present-fully-alive Eckart Tolle moments.

The bottom line is my time huffing and puffing on the exercise bike, rowing maching and trails actually makes me better at my job.  Its not only good for me, its good for my work.  Nevermind that no one would work with me if I didn’t exercise an hour a day because I’d be so intolerable.

I miss starting my day off feeling like a  Bering Sea Crab Boat Captain, but I am finding real joy and relief in exercising midday to. Our bodies were meant to move, and God knows my brain can use all the extra oxygen I can circulate. I think we should celebrate some form of exercise or movement as a necessary part of our work day, don’t you?

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