Wednesday, June 23, 2010
A couple of days ago I asked Anne Burnell a question that had been niggling at me for a few days – I thought her answer was worth posting for others to see – particularly for those who are mobility challenged and finding holding stretches for the advised time difficult even painful – as I was!!
Anne Burnell’ s qualifications
I am Faculty Presenter for the National Council on Aging and an Education Provider with the American Council on Exercise, the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America, the Aquatic Exercise Association, and Stott™ Pilates.
As an Instructor Trainer worldwide for Stott™ Pilates I am involved in certifying personal trainers, many of whom work with Seniors. Other certifications include: Seniors Group Instruction, Nia Technique (Black Belt), Kickboxing, Cycling, Aquatics, Pre & Postnatal exercise.
Seniors institutions across the country are practicing the Stronger Seniors® Chair Exercise Program, which I developed in 2003.
I teach at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the University of Illinois at Chicago, The Center for Older Adults, the Peninsula Spa, , Core Pilates, and Elements in Motion, a Stott™ Pilates Certification Center Chicago
On stretches - the Curves staff state that stretches should be held for 15 - 30 sec until the slight discomfort goes and you feel that slight release in the muscle (not tear!!)
SP states that stretches need holding for 15 or so sec
But in your "Stretch" DVD you only spend a very short time (3 - 5 sec) on each stretch, then repeat the stretch 3 times!! When I do the DVD at the speed you do - I'm fine and this week that has worked well to sort out the pain from my muscles!!
But what is correct - or is it - whatever works??
There is lots of debate over stretching, and of course the experts disagree.
Whether it is wise to try and change the resting length of a muscle,
or to relieve tension that is held. The rule of 15-30 seconds is due
to protective tendons that relax after about 8-10 seconds and allow
muscles to stretch. The 15-30 second stretch will not really change
the length of a muscle.
When you repeat a stretch as in our video, muscles and tendons
have a kind of memory of how far they went before,
and upon repitition they can release further. It's like your body
knows it's safe, so it allows more range of motion. We use this
moving stretch, rather than static or held stretches in our videos.
It is my opinion, it causes less micro tearing in the muscle and is
actually an active way for you to increase range of motion.
There is no single opinion on this subject. Listen to your body and stretch with an objective.
I would add a proviso here to this – as was pointed out by another friend -
but always be cautioned against "bouncing." It is unsafe to "bounce" into a stretch. ex = some people cannot bend & touch their toes with their fingertips, so they will "bounce" into it to gain distance - - - this is NOT a stretch & can harm delicate muscle groups by yanking them all at once beyond their comfort zones.
The trick is to gently but regularly stretch the muscles and they will begin to respond more & more as each exercise session is followed up by others. Within a month one could really be doing good stretches - - - and then, if you wanted to lengthen them a bit, that would be ok. HOWEVER, the best part of a stretch (and an exercise move as well) is to HOLD it slightly and in good form to get the full benefit.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
This week I have , as some of my readers will know, been trying Curves out!! They gave me a week trial, but I felt I needed longer before signing a contract and paying, what seems to me, a lot of money!! So I suggested a month trial off contract they have agreed!!
I am happy because I feel ready to make this change however it is a huge leap from the sedentary, handicapped 65yr old of 16 mths ago!!
OK – so what is the history to this??
Some of you will know that I joined SP 16mths ago as a totally sedentary person – one who hated exercise and would not even move unless it was necessary. This had been going on for several years.
I read a lot of SP’s ideas and decided that maybe a little movement would be good – so I tried a couple of the exercise videos!! No go!!
I have severe osteoarthritis in my knees and signs of it developing in hips and ankles of both legs!! In case you doubt this – I will tell you I have NO cartilage in my knees, just bone grating on bone and both knees have collapsed inward giving walking and stability problems!! I was also on strong pain killers.
My doctor suggests a 2 leg transplant!!
This makes exercise difficult – however not impossible.
I could find no suitable water class in the area – nor gym work – so where to go next??
Fortunately a friend from SP recommended Chair Dancing – I got the DVDs and tried – only doing 1 exercise at the start, then working up to the whole 20 min DVD.
Then the warm up from the aerobic DVD and so on – and now I sail through 45 min Chair dancing, use 3kg weights for strength – and have a DVD library of 12 or so that I rotate.
You will gather I knew NOTHING of exercise – had no idea about Warm up and cool down or stretches and their importance to the body!!
And I suffered – I was so sore at the start – but I didn’t give up – I actually decided that either the exercise would kill me or the weight I was carrying would kill me!!
This week I have started a totally different form of exercise at Curves – far harder on my muscles, but I needed the challenge that it has bought. I was getting stale – my Spark was getting dimmer!!
And I have been sore!! But this time it was different – I knew why – I knew that I had made mistakes and I knew how to correct this mistakes!! And best of all – I knew it was just muscle soreness from different work – that it WILL go over and that I can, hopefully, work through it!!
Wow!! From knowing NOTHING about exercise 16mths ago to knowing that I need a longer warm up, cool down and stretch session, and to being able to feel my body to know that I am not doing any injury but that I will probably be able to work through the pain!!
I have done 3 days there now and yesterday I put the ideas into practice, I did a longer warm up (15 mins), and then repeated the machines at full pace, but taking my time on each machine that I did and taking care over technique, then I did a longer cool down on the recovery station, 3 periods at least – I don’t worry about the call to move on – I go at MY pace, then I spent 15 mins stretching – doing the stretch circuit 2 times!! and was fine, and no one said “boo” to me – they didn’t try to rush me – they let me do it at my own pace!! – I also came home and spent 45 min doing extra stretching.
I have learnt that stretching is sooooo important – that proper stretching increases the effect of the exercise by 29%
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, long before he became Governor of California, when he was known for his body building said something like: ALWAYS REMEMBER TO STRETCH - - before AND after - - and if you do not have time to do the exercise, at least do the stretching. The stretching is the key to full benefiting of the exercise – this was told to me by a dear friend this week when I said how valuable I was finding stretching!!
Today I did 45 min stretching and only get pain if I stand for an extended time in one place – so things are getting better!!
That is a quantum leap!!
However I should add that I still don’t enjoy exercise – but that I acknowledge that it is an essential part of sensible weight loss!!
Not only of sensible weight loss but of regaining flexibility and mobility and best of all – of being pain free in my legs – as I was before I started the different exercise, and am almost again now!!.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Those of you who have read my first blog on my trial period at Curves will know that I had a second visit on Friday!!
After a single circuit on Wednesday I had gone home and on the day after done a 45min dvd on stretches - I felt good!!
Well - Friday went really well - I thought!!
I did the circuit leaving out 2 machines and did squats (very, very small squats) at the back of the machine (which I noticed a lot of other people also do!!) and even tried the stepper!!
Maybe this was a mistake!! I was following another lady round who has either had a stroke or has ceribral palsey - she uses a rolator to go from station to station, and backs very slowly onto the recovery pads, BUT she does the circuit!! She has so much courage - I am in awe of her!! She did the stepper so I thought "OK, if she can do it then so can I!!" WRONG!!
I did 4 steps - mind you this is better than the first time when I couldn't move the machine at all!! But each step was pain - jarring on my knees (well what did I expect??!!) I did discover that their HRM and mine read the same though!!
Anyway - I felt good after 1 circuit so went round again!! This is encouraged if you feel capable!! This time I missed the stepper as well!!
Then on to the stretches, - I find I can only do a few of the stretches!! Those I do seem very harsh too, so I tend not to hold them long!!
Then home and heaps to do!! I felt good, proud of myself that I had acomplished that much!!
On Saturday - my legs told me they were there!! It wasn't pain, more ache - but I could well and truely feel the muscles!! by afternoon my knees were starting to chime in with the muscles!!
Then this morning (the second day after) I was really sore!! Both legs and it even hurt to sit down!!
So I did my 45 min stretch DVD!
So far my legs are eased greatly!! I'll see by tonight if this continues but intend to take it easy the rest of the day!!
I am really annoyed with myself - I made 3 basic mistakes -
1) I should have left it at one circuit - at this initial stage - I KNOW i need to take it easy!! I got "seduced" by the calories I was burning (519 on Friday but only 220 on Wednesday, however 220 cals 3 times a week is better than a sore body)
2) I KNOW the value of stretches and KNOW that if I don't stretch fully I get sore!! Yet I short cut the stretches!! Duh!!
3) I am thinking too - that I need a better warm up before hitting the machines!!
I have another trip tomorrow - we'll see!!
My trial finishes tomorrow - I have put to them a suggestion that I pay for the next month but don't sign a contract, in this way they will find out if I am too slow and they get complaints and I will see oif my knees and legsa are going to hold up or not!! To break a 1 year contract in the first month seems rather silly when there are definately questions on whether my body is ready for this transition from Chair Exercise to Gym!! If they won't agree to this idea then I will leave them - I have no real alternative in this area so its back to my Chair Exercises - but they are proven and I know they are ok on my legs!!
Saturday, June 19, 2010
The route we took is highlighted in RED on the map—from Lusaka in Zambia, to Douala in Cameroon, Lagos and Kano in Nigeria, Accra in Ghana, The Gambia, Dakar in Senegal, thence to Paris and London!! Travel was, of necessity, by air, mostly!!
Map from http://geography.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/X
At the start of December 1974 my contract with the Zambian Government finished—and it was time to return to UK to see what else took my fancy.
I thought this might be the last teaching contract I would do in Africa so I decided that I need to try to see a bit more before I got back to UK.
So where? I had some British friends who were now working in The Gambia, W Africa—and my Aunt worked in Nigeria for many years—so W Africa it was!!
I flew to Douala – the biggest city in Cameroon. I had to stay there a night and until after lunch the next day to get my next plane. We arrived in the evening of the first day and transferred straight to the hotel, with the other passengers who were also in transit.
The next morning I wandered up the street to have a look—Cameroon has a French influence, that was very obvious. The people understood French rather than English and prices in the shops were in both French Franks and the local currency, and very expensive. There are a lot of French workers there working on the offshore oil rigs. I had a cup of coffee and pastry in a very French little café and then headed back to the hotel ready for the transport back to the airport.
I was catching the “milk plane” - a plane that went up the West African Coast from country to country landing in each country it passed!! There are a lot of countries on the West African Coast and the plane was rather like a rubber ball, up, down, up, down!! The advantage was that it flew low and there was lots to see!!
My mother wanted me home by Christmas day so my time was a bit limited—and (as he had so many times before) my Father flew out to join me on the trip.
My first stop was Lagos in Nigeria—where, somehow in a frantically busy chaotic airport, I met my Father. For many years after we were still wondering how we had managed to meet in those conditions.!!
A scene typical of Lagos!!
We took a taxi to our hotel, and soon discovered that the place was chaos!!
Traffic went every which way, there were hundreds of cars all going in different directions, people shouted, they walked across the street dodging traffic, there were beggars on every corner and sometimes in between, and the place smelt unclean!!
From this you might deduce that it was honestly the worst place I have ever been to!! And you would be right, and I have been to a few!!
We were both wondering about our hotel, but since it was a 4 star hotel recommended by the airlines—I thought it would be ok!!
The hotel looked OK from the entry—but the room we were given, and all other rooms too, had no windows, or at least windows that opened and no air-conditioning and it was very hot and humid!! The bedding and shower area looked and smelt clean enough— and the bedding was fresh and clean, - then I heard the rats in the ceiling!! To top things off the electricity came and went for fairly long periods, and when it was off the rooms were dark, having no alternative lighting, and there was no water—also the “hot” water didn’t exist!! Good job it was warm enough for cold showers—the water being sort of tepid in any case!!
We did stay there—what was to say anywhere else was better and it was only a couple of nights!!
The next day we had a look round Lagos—
Over the bay, a quick taxi/ferry ride away, it was much calmer, there was a lovely beach and a view of the city, but the city was chaos and you got no where fast!!
That night we decided to try a restaurant (we were feeling quite brave!!) and a Chinese Restaurant had been recommended. It was in a quieter area—if anywhere in the city could be called quiet!!
We went upstairs to this well furnished in pseudo Chinese style—red upholstery, Chinese lanterns etc.
Then we were shown to our seats, by a local African person.. Then the waiter came to bring the menu—and we saw all the staff were African, Somehow a Chinese Restaurant with African staff seems incongruous!! But the food was good and even better, we weren’t ill after it!!
After another night at the hotel we took a planre to Kano—in North Nigeria. We went there since that was where my Aunt had lived and worked for so long. We wanted to take pictures home to show her if there had been changes and were ourselves curious as to what she found so good there that she stayed for over 20 yrs!! We never did discover!!
At Kano airport we found out why the airports were so incredibly busy!! It was the time that Muslims all try to go to Mecca!! Thousands of them. There were a lot of planes on the tarmac and lines of people waiting to board.
Apparently they get every plane they can for this and as many as they can—as thousands try to go—every Muslim man believes they should make the trip to Mecca once in their life time at least!!
The airline staff hate the trip—most of the people are totally strange to flying, to even leaving the country having lived in their towns or villages all their lives. There have been incidents of them trying to light a charcoal stove in the aisle of the plane to cook their food!!
But as well as the thousands flying, every woman and child seemed to think they should go to the airport to see the one member of their family off, and weep and wail as they were sure thay wouldn’t get back—so it was havoc, and the weeping and wailing was incredible.
Kano was in lots of ways, similar to Lagos, but smaller. However there were far fewer cars and people either walked or cycled every where—there were lots of bicycles.
We found the local busses fascinating as they swayed along, obviously very overloaded!!
The old part of Kano had some fascinating houses in it—built from mud!! They would actually be well insulated against the awful heat and humidity!!
There were a number of Mosques in Kano—I think it was a predominantly Muslim city, and they were mostly quite attractive.
The towers are where the priest calls the faithful to worship from and 5 (I think) tims a day the call rang out. Loud and clear. It’s a very recognisable sound.
From Kano we flew back to Lagos, and changed planes back to our “milk plane”!!
We used one run by Ghana Airways for the rest of the trips in Africa, hopping off and picking up the next flight through!!
We were both extremely glad to leave Nigeria, but are still wondering what my Aunt liked about it to stay there for so long!!
Our next stop was Ghana—again on the coast. The capital is Accra and is just so different from Lagos that it was a relief.
Our hotel had a balcony and windows and no rats!! It was a very clean and friendly place, and the traffic was organised and obviously followed rules, as did pedestrians.
As we drove in from the airport—this was the entrance to Accra!!
I just love local markets so we thought we would see what they were like here—we decided it was too crowded to even think of going in to look!! Obviously other people liked markets too!!
From Accra—we headed to The Gambia—where my friends lived.
The Gambia is a fascinating country—very small , the smallest country in mainland Africa, set within Senegal. on three sides with a very small coast It is very narrow, 30 miles wide at the maximum, that being the width that a cannon can fire each side from the central river!! Everything revolves about the Gambia River . It is a very poor country, with over a third of the population living below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day,
Coming in to land was “interesting” - the plane has to completely descend over The Gambia air space—so it corkscrews down rather than making a straight smooth approach!! We got a very good view of the country below us as we cork screwed, since it covers the whole country during the descent!!.
Our friends met us and drove us to their house—at the other end of the country—about a 2 1/2 hr drive. We crossed the river several times, by bridges.
And stopped to watch the local children wash their goat.
And watched the local car ferry taking vehicles down the river.
Then we came on the local butcher’s shop and Cynthia decided to buy some meat!!
That night—at the local agricultural college where my friends worked—they had a gathering to welcome us—and the had cooked a wonderful meal. It was a true Cacciatore with tomato and wine in it and some of them had been hunting so there was Quail, . Deer, and a few other different wild game in it—absolutely wonderful!!
Now whenever I have Chicken Cacciatore—I think of that!!
After a couple of days there catching up on news, we went back to catch our “milk plane” and for the short hop down to Senegal.
Senegal is very French, but very different from Cameroon, Dakar was almost like being in Paris—very sophisticated —and we had a lovely couple of days there!!
The hotel we stayed in was a 5 star—and wonderful—big, well furnished rooms and very splosh!! It was a lovely farewell to Africa after all that we had seen over the last 5 years.
On the first evening we ate in the restaurant—there was a cabaret on and a fire eater, among other things—good fun!! I had lobster that night—and really enjoyed it—so much so that when I had finished every scrap of a whole lobster (it was not so big though, and a huge treat after the limitations to my diet that I had had) the head waiter came over and asked if I would like another!! Of course I said “yes please”!! So they bought me another whole one, that my father dug into as well—and a bottle of rather nice white wine—and then told us that the whole meal was complements off the management. That made it taste that much better, but I honestly have no idea why they would do that!!
We had a couple of lovely days sight seeing in Dakar and enjoying the pool—remember this was only 3 days before Christmas!! We were heading back into a UK winter, but weather in Senegal was beautiful
The view from the hotel pool—the beach was for hotel guests!!
General view of the covered market
The wonderful covered market—I was able to get a lot of Christmas presents there.
Unfortunately all good things must finish, and we had promised my Mother we would be home for Christmas. So we headed to the airport for the plane to Paris. It was 24th Dec. 1974. When we got to check in—we were asked if we wanted the first or second plane—there was only 30 mins between them anyway and we had 3 hrs in Paris before our connection to UK!! So we took the second plane!! That was a great decision!! Most people took the first plane—and we had this huge plane with a complete crew between about 15 of us!! We were allowed all over the plane, ate 1st class food, used 1st class facilities and we had a ball!!
There were 2 planes because, being the Xmas holidays a lot of people had gone to Senegal from France to escape the European winter for the Xmas period!!
We arrived safely in Charles de Gaul Airport outside Paris, which had only been open a very short time so there was lots to see as it was a very modern airport then with a huge duty free area!!
We then got the plane to UK—a short hop over the Channel and arrived home the evening of 24th December. We had kept our promise to my Mother—and had seen more of a wonderful continent that still draws me back.
I never returned to Africa—however I would drop everything to return now should the opportunity present—though that is unlikely!!
This is my final African Travelogue—and maybe my final Travelogue—certainly for a time—but I do hope I have bought a glimpse of the wonderful people, scenery, animals and excitement to you from a time in history. It may not seem so long ago but things tin Africa tend to change very fast and in so many cases they have changed greatly from when I was there.
The animals are far less in quantity, harder to see and far more wary of humans, and the political situation has changed, making things more unstable than when I was there—but the scenery will never change—its as old as history itself!!
Also—thank you, my readers , for walking through memory lane with me!! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!!
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