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 10:00 AM-3:00 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

Home Workout

COVID-19 has most of us homebound these days with no definite end in sight. What are you doing to fill your time? There is probably a lot of Netflix movie and TV binge watching going on. But it is important to stay active as well. Here are some ideas to get you moving:

(1) Spring cleaning is probably not on the top of anyone’s list, but it is spring and house work is exercise. It is recommended that you regularly clean door knobs, light switches, faucet handles, toilet handles and seats, computer keyboards and cellphones, all of which you touch frequently. For the cellphones, use a wipe for cleaning glasses. Get more ambitious and clean the refrigerator, wash the curtains and deep clean the bathrooms. Since my grandchildren are not coming over during this time, I took the opportunity to wash all the toys in their toybox and replace all the batteries. Cleaning supplies can be hard to find. You can order safe, bio-degradable cleaning supplies online from Branch Basics at https://branchbasics.com/shop/

(2) If you enjoy gardening, that is another great way to get some exercise. You can create a container garden for your patio or work in your backyard garden. There has been a lot of rain in Plano, Texas which is good for the flowers; my verbena and bluebonnets are especially beautiful. The rain has been good for the weeds too, so weeding is one of my projects. If you want to plant something, Calloway’s allows you to make phone orders for curbside pickup.

(3) Walking is the perfect exercise for everyone and the spring weather has made walking around the neighborhood especially enticing. Explore those side streets that you usually just drive past in your car. Remember to maintain social distancing, since many of your neighbors have the same idea.

(4) You can do a strength training workout in your living room. I’ve got two home workout videos on YouTube that you can check out for ideas. The first video uses household items that you already have for equipment. Go to https://youtu.be/xtGvywsYY4g to view it. The second video uses bands. Go to https://youtu.be/DwXrroDRaOc to view that one. Other Plano instructors have also created videos. You can find them on the Plano Parks & Recreation Facebook page.

The pools may be closed but we still have to keep moving. Stay safe!

Chris Alexander

Protect Yourself from the Coronavirus

The Coronavirus is spreading across the globe and there is a growing fear of the disease showing up in our backyard. The Arthritis Foundation included some common sense information about how to protect yourself in their most recent newsletter:

Wash your hands. We can’t stress this enough. Wet your hands with clean, running water, then lather them with soap. Scrub both sides, between your fingers and under your nails for at least 20 seconds – about as long as it takes to sing the alphabet song (or Happy Birthday) twice. Be thorough and follow the WHO technique.

Use hand sanitizers on the go. Don’t rely on them, but when soap and water aren’t an option, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Keep a bottle in the car, at your desk and in your purse or pocket.

Disinfect surfaces regularly. Clean high-touch surfaces like countertops, light switches, doorknobs and the inside of your car with disinfectant. Use a mixture of 60% isopropyl alcohol and 40% water to kill germs on high-touch objects and surfaces like your cell phone, computer keyboard, remote, doorknobs and faucets. Wash eyeglasses with soap and warm water every day.

Cover your mouth and nose when you cough. Throw away all your used tissues immediately.

Practice your fist bump. Try to forgo handshakes and hugs for the time being.

Skip the mask. Standard surgical face masks won’t screen out viruses in healthy people, but if you’re sick, a mask can help block droplets from sneezing or coughing so you won’t infect others. The U.S. Surgeon General has asked healthy people not to stock up on masks because the priority is that health care providers have them and they may experience a shortage if the general public buys them.

Call ahead. If you have cold or flu symptoms call your doctor instead of rushing to urgent care or the emergency room. If you don’t have a doctor and are sick enough to need emergency care, call ahead and let the hospital know you’re on the way.

Keep up to date with reliable sources. Follow major news outlets and health authorities such as the CDC, WHO, and the New York Times.

Follow this sound advice and you will go a long way towards minimizing your risk.

Stay healthy!

Chris Alexander

Keep Your Balance

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The components of physical fitness are cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition. The skill related components of fitness are balance, agility, coordination, and power. Balance is the ability to maintain equilibrium both while standing and while moving. Balance is important for athletes in gymnastics, football, baseball and other sports, but it is also important for older adults who worry about injuries they may sustain from falling.

Fall risk is the result of deconditioning, not age. To assess your fall risk, stand on one leg without the support of the upper extremities and without bracing one leg on the other. Count the number of seconds you can maintain this position. Time is up when the foot touches the floor or an arm touches something for support. Your chance of falling and sustaining an injury is double if you are unable to perform the one legged stance for 5 seconds. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, balance training may reduce the risk of falling and fear of falling and probably reduces the number of falls. It is recommended that balance training be performed at least 3 times a week, and daily is better. Balance training can be performed either on land or in the pool.

A sample fall prevention strength program on land might include the following exercises: (1) Resisted row with a band, focusing on squeezing the shoulder blades together, to strengthen the upper back and core. (2) Toe scrunches to strengthen the toes. (3) Standing heel lifts to strengthen the calf muscles. (4) Deadlifts, focusing on avoiding bending the trunk, to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings. (5) Chair squats, that is sitting in a chair and standing back up again, and lunges, to strengthen the quads. Also work on walking fast. since the faster older adults can walk, the lower their mortality rate.

Ruth Sova wrote an article for Akwa magazine that described multiple exercises for improving balance in the pool. Here are a few examples: (1) Sit on a noodle like a swing with the feet on the pool floor; turn eyes to the right and hold 10 seconds, and then left. No head movement, only eyes. (2) Sit on a noodle like a swing with the feet on the pool floor and bend to the right further than is comfortable and recover. Notice what is used to recover (legs, head, jerking movement?) and try to use only the core muscles. (3) Sit on a noodle like a horse with the feet on the pool floor and walk forward with feet rolling heel to toe, and nothing moving but the legs. Stop and restart. Stop and walk backwards. (4) Squat with the feet together, with the feet apart, with one foot directly in front of the other, or in a lunge position. Add various arm movements using both arms or one arm. (5) Stand and lift your toes off the floor then roll up on your toes as the chin lowers. (6) Stand with your right heel on the floor and roll the outside edge of the foot to the tips of the toes while turning your head slowly to the left. Repeat with the left foot. (7) Weight shift from side to side and from front to back. (8) Walk on tiptoes, or on heels, or with toes out or toes in. (9) Use unpredictable commands, such as marching in place on tiptoes while circling the right arm. (10) Cross-country ski with the hands on the hips and travel sideways. If you are an AEA member, you can check out the article for more exercises.

The goal is not to be able to perform on a balance beam like Simone Biles. The goal is to avoid becoming one of the 2.8 million seniors who visit the emergency room each year because of a fall. And beyond that, balance training is good for the brain. Memory, language skills, problem solving and decision making are coordinated by the cerebrum. Balance, posture and fine motor skills are coordinated by the cerebellum. The cerebrum and cerebellum are connected by a direct neural link. When an older adult trains for strength and balance, cognition improves.

My resources for this article are Ruth Sova’s article “Seated and Standing, Static and Dynamic Balance” in the October/November 2019 issue of Akwa magazine and Exercise Etc. Inc.’s 2019 webinar “Balance & Fall Prevention.”

See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander