Shelter in Place

COVID-19 still has most of us homebound these days with no definite end in sight. With my water exercise classes cancelled, I need projects to keep me busy. I’ve done the spring cleaning, hand washed my heavy sweaters and weeded my garden, so now what?

One project has been creating exercise videos and learning how to post them on YouTube (with the help of Jim, my husband). I did one exercise routine using for equipment items that we all have around the house (canned goods and a chair) https://youtu.be/xtGvywsYY4g.

I did a second video using exercise bands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwXrroDRaOc&feature=youtu.be

And now I have a third video with stretches. Our muscles are organized in pairs, and in order to stretch one muscle we have to contract the opposing muscle. Therefore a stretching program improves not only flexibility, but also strength. Besides that, stretching feels really good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oebXv3aByiI&t=33s.

Others are also making workout videos. Some of the best I’ve seen are from Rotha Crump at https://www.yourtimeandyourway.com/videos. She’s got five Balanced Bodies routines, plus aerobics, strength training and Yoga. Wave Makers have a number of videos including Balance Training Exercises for Fall Prevention, a Daily Core Strength Routine, Yoga for Core and Hips, and the Best Warmup Exercises to Do before a Walk. Walking is of course one of the best ways to exercise, and Jim and I are doing lots of walking around the neighborhood, crossing the street when necessary to maintain social distancing. Once we saw a woman on a bicycle with a cockatiel on her shoulder!

Of course we all need some entertainment to take our minds off the news once in awhile. If you like country music, check out WUSJ 96.3 FM in Jackson, Mississippi on Tune In radio, where my son “Fisher” is on the air from 3:00-7:00 PM Monday-Friday. Deejays have to acknowledge the difficulties our country is facing during the pandemic, share some personal experiences to let his audience know that he is in this with them, and still keep it light. Fisher does a good job of walking that fine line.

If you are into birds, the BBC series “The Life of Birds,” available on Amazon Prime, covers the history of birds, flight, migration, feeding and mating habits, bird calls and more. And the photography is so amazing, you’ll be left wondering how in the world they got those shots! This is spring and if you ever wished you could secretly watch birds raising chicks in their nests, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has bird cams that let you do just that. You get a close of view of several nests as well as bird activity at feeders on one of their web pages. Click on Bird Cams to view.

No one knows how long we will have to remain homebound, but I hope you will find projects to keep you busy, ways to continue exercising, and entertainment to make you smile. I’m looking forward to when we can get back in the pool!

Chris Alexander

Maintain Your Flexibility

Some of my water fitness class participants enjoy stretching at the end of class and a few leave the pool before we get to the stretches. Are they missing anything important?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends incorporating stretching exercises into your workouts 2-3 days a week but notes that daily stretching is most effective. They recommend that stretches be held for 10-30 seconds. Stretches that are held for 10-30 seconds are called static stretches. Stretching can also be dynamic. This means that you move a joint slowly through its full range of motion.

Stretching is a way to improve flexibility. Loss of flexibility results in a slower walking speed, smaller steps while walking, back pain and increased risk of falls. Improving flexibility reduces your risk of getting injured during physical activity. Muscles that are less tense are likely to have fewer aches and pains. You are less likely to have muscle cramps. Increasing your range of motion helps with balance. Flexibility and strength are two sides of the same coin. Stretching lengthens the muscles while strength training contracts the muscles. Performing both types of exercises makes you more physically fit.

There is a type of dynamic flexibility training that involves both stretching and contracting the muscle group being targeted. It is called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or PNF for short. In PNF an arm or a leg moves in a diagonal pattern. In the first illustration above, the right arm starts at the upper left front corner (left shoulder) and moves to the lower right rear corner. In the second illustration, the right leg starts at the upper left front corner and moves to the lower right rear corner. The opposite motion from the lower left front corner to the upper right rear corner is also performed. PNF stretching improves range of motion and muscular strength at the same time.

Ai Chi is another form of dynamic stretching. It was developed in Japan in 1993 by Jun Konno and introduced to the United States by Ruth Sova. Typically performed in shoulder depth water, Ai Chi moves arms and legs through a full range of motion while focusing on breathing patterns. You can find a video of Jun Konno performing Ai Chi on YouTube. A number of variations of Ai Chi have been developed. I find Ai Chi wonderfully relaxing and created a variation to use with my deep water classes. Ruth Sova is compiling the variations, including mine for deep water, which she will publish later in 2020.

Static stretching, dynamic stretching, PNF and Ai Chi can all be performed in a water fitness class to meet the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations on flexibility exercises. If you would like some ideas for stretches for various muscle groups to get you started, see pages 18-19 for shallow water and pages 175-176 for deep water in my book Water Fitness Progressions.

See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander