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Mutu SystemThe Mutu System by Wendy Powell.

This is not technically a book, but an on-line exercise and eating program designed for mothers. I found it after looking for a program that would combine the short intense workouts from The Women’s Health Big Book of 15-Minute Workouts with the diastasis protection and healing found in Lose Your Mummy Tummy. You pay your fee, and get a 100-page pdf right away, a new video link each week for 12 weeks, and email and phone or Skype support from Powell as needed. The exercise components include four levels of 5-minute core workouts designed to strengthen and heal a diastasis to be done daily; three different 20-minute intensive routines for aerobic and strength training, to be done five times per week; and two different yogic healing breath routines to be done once a week. There’s also a posture section and a diet portion, because as Powell often says in the booklet and the videos, if your abs are covered by a layer of fat, you won’t be able to see how toned they are. Full details of the program and my results included.
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Suddenly, a few months ago, it felt like time to try exercising again. Little things kept cropping up – more trouble with the tendinitis in my wrists (typically a sign of overall weakness), feet that were pointing farther and farther out, and more and more people asking me when I was due, despite my being at a healthy weight and definitely not pregnant. This review is therefore both a review of one book and a Quest for the Perfect Fitness Program.

The Women’s Health Big Book of 15 Minute WorkoutsThe Women’s Health Big Book of 15 Minute Workouts by Selene Yeager.
I had to wait several months for this book, as I was not the only person in the library who thought that 15 minute workouts were a fabulous idea. For my own benefit, and for yours, dear reader, once I got my hands on the book, I decided to follow their program for the full three weeks that I was allowed the book (there is still a wait list on it, so I couldn’t keep it longer.) Their program is to do their workouts every other day for a total of three days in the week, alternating with light aerobic activity and/or stretching on days 2 and 4 – I chose hoop dancing for my light aerobic and my old standard Postnatal Yoga with Shiva Rea for my stretching. Day 6 is high intensity aerobics from the book – I did jump roping, as it was the only one I could do from home with equipment I already have. I developed a love-hate relationship with this book. I will share with you the good and the bad:

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All in all, I had a lot of fun with the book. I was able to stick with the program, which is in itself amazing, and am already noticing benefits in my increased strength and fitness. Now that I’ve been without the book for over a week, trying to still stay active, I find that I miss it. I’m still debating whether or not to get it. You might enjoy it if you want a book with a good choice of intense but short work-outs with clear instructions


And on to the fitness quest - the diastasis thing is big for me – part of the benefit of having a book of routines rather than a book of individual exercises is having the workouts put together for me already. If I then have to substitute a lot, that takes the ease out of it. I know, I’ve talked about the diastasis issue before. I even bought Lose Your Mummy Tummy, and still do the basic Tupler Technique exercises (almost) daily. (As long as I’m making a linky post, I might as well link to her site, too.) Why not just go on with her full workout? Well… partly because I hadn’t read the book in some years, partly, sadly, because her very detailed instructions with little black-and-white photos are harder to follow than the instructions in the 15-Minute book, and partly because she recommends a 30-minute low intensity workout. 30 minutes is harder to come by than 15, and I found that, despite my normal aversion to sweat, I was enjoying the intense 15-minute workouts and the challenge of exercises that I couldn’t do right away but got closer every time.

This sent me out on a hunt – could I find someone who combined the fabulous 15-minute workouts with diastasis healing and prevention? It turns out that this thinking on diastasis seems to be pretty much in the minority. Even Shiva Rea does several exercises that Tupler says would worsen or create a diastasis – notably the cross crunches and the bridge pose. What my quest turned up was the Mutu System, founded by a British mum. It’s not a book or a dvd, but a more expensive 12-week online (if you’re not local to her) total fitness program with 15-minute workouts, including diet advice (which I don’t need, but of course many people do.) The program includes email support (again, I think phone if you’re in the UK), which I think increase the odds of success over a simple book… even if watching a computer video in the presence of my daughter will have her begging for “Elmo’s Ducks”. At this point, I am seriously considering this program. On the surface, it’s a lot more expensive than the 15-Minute book, but I think that the 15-Minute program is more expensive in the end, since it uses more expensive equipment, where I already have everything I need for the Mutu System.

I am still trying to keep up with the 6-day a week fitness program, sometimes doing something like that from the 15-Minute book and sometimes doing the Mummy Tummy exercises, which do feel very effective. I’d say I’ll follow up with results, but since this is a book blog, not a fitness blog, I’ll probably follow up only if there’s interest expressed.
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book coverSneaky Fitness by Missy Chase Lapine and Laryssa Didio Everyone knows that kids need exercise, and that the only thing more certain to make a wiggle-worm hold still is to tell him or her that they need to get some exercise to be healthy. Lapine of Sneaky Chef fame joins with exercise therapist Didio to create this book of fun ways to make fitness a bigger part of your kids’ lives. The first part is an introduction on why kids need fitness and why it should be fun. For me, the best part of this was a list of equipment for active play that every kid should have, including some items that I need to look up as I’ve never heard of them. Then, the rest of the first half of the book is games for fitness. They are roughly organized by the age group they’re designed for (preschoolers, early grade-schoolers, tween and teen), and include when and where they should be played, equipment needed, time frame, and (rather unnecessarily in my view) the calories burned. In my opinion, the game ideas were not really earth-shattering – things like taking a parade through the house or jumping during tv commercial breaks. The book suggests a lot of activities for commercial breaks, which I notice particularly as we watch only dvds. I really feel that it’s better to cut down on overall tv time than to rely on commercial breaks. Still, the ideas sound like fun, and it’s often helpful to have a list of ideas to turn to when your brain inevitably freezes under pressure. The index lists the games organized by type – rainy day, beach, snow, inside, etc. The second half of the book contains new Sneaky Chef recipes. These seemed to focus on snacks and treats, with fewer regular meals. I would be especially interested in trying out the strawberry cupcakes, even if cupcakes are supposedly no longer the thing. I don’t think too many people need convincing that fitness is important for kids, and this is a good source for simple ways to keep kids active.

Crossposted to http://sapphireone.livejournal.com and http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org .
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When I put together my pregnancy bibliography earlier this year, I wrote about a couple of prenatal fitness things I hadn’t tried. Now that I have, I thought I’d do a fuller review.

dvd coverPrenatal Yoga with Shiva Rea I heart this dvd! I’ve found myself neglecting all the other fitness things I was doing to have more time for it. There are three workouts of about 20 minutes each, followed by a four-minute guided relaxation, so I can do one, two, or all three sessions, depending on how much time I have. There is a model for each trimester, each wearing a different jewel-toned outfit, demonstrating adaptations of the poses for each, though they are still explained verbally as well. The moves seem to hit everything that gets achy or needs extra help during pregnancy – lower and upper back, leg stretches, side stretches, squats and Kegels. To borrow the words of the friend from whom I’m borrowing the dvd, after doing the workout, I go from feeling like I just can’t live in my body anymore to feeling comfortable in it again. The beautiful music and visuals help in making the whole thing feel like something special I’m doing for myself rather than the dull but necessary time that exercise can so easily be.

book coverMaternal Fitness by Julie Tupler, by comparison, covers most of the same bases, with a lot more explanation, but telling you to do a 1-2 hour workout every other day – difficult with a first pregnancy and pretty much impossible with a second. The big difference is the Tupler Technique, Julie Tupler’s special abdominal exercises, the same in both Maternal Fitness and Lose Your Mummy Tummy. These I find really valuable and do just those, and the prenatal yoga. Maternal Fitness comes as either a book or video/dvd. I borrowed the book and video from a friend. They both have a lot of useful information on preparation for birth and selecting a health care professional, though this is available many other places as well. I disagreed with her philosophy on belly breathing – she seems to want a lot of active pushing in and out of the breath, which doesn’t sync well with my Alexander training, but this is easily skipped and the idea of paying attention to breath might be more valuable for someone less musically trained than I.

The video that I saw was the first of two, the first explaining her 15-minute basic daily routine and basic health things and the second about the full hour-plus workout to be done every other day or so. While the information was good, I was frustrated that the exercises in the video were all intercut with lengthy information. I understand the need for explanation, but on a day-to-day basis, I don’t want the 45 minutes of explanation to be talked through the 15 minutes of workout. Perhaps the dvd version would have just a workout segment, and would certainly make it easier to skip, but I found the video version frustrating to work with in this regard. Between the book and the video, then, I’d go with the book.

The book includes both the long and short workouts, and charts to photocopy with pictures and brief explanations of the exercises. It is deeper than the yoga video in that it goes in depth into why she’s having you do what she is, and exactly what bad exercises will do for your body. That’s useful information to have, and makes it easy to modify your own favorite workout for pregnancy. The abdominal work is unique and useful, and the rest of the information in the book is good to read through. The workouts looked to my midwives and me to be good workouts – they just looked to me like less fun than the yoga and perhaps too time-consuming. As that’s entirely a matter of taste, you, gentle reader, might want to look at both.
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book coverBody, Breath and Being: A New Guide to the Alexander Technique by Carolyn Nichols I’ve studied the Alexander Technique myself for over a decade now, and credit it for pulling me out of chronic tendinitis in my wrists and keeping me free of back pain during my pregnancy. But what the technique is and does and how to explain it to the vast majority of people who’ve never heard of it before has always been a challenge. While common in Australia and Britain, it’s relatively unknown here, and that, too, makes it difficult as it’s really best to work with a teacher and those are hard to come by here. This book does an excellent job of explaining both the theory and the practice of it. It talks about how to recognize and inhibit unhelpful habits and gently encourage your body towards better use. Nichols profiles several of her students from their own points of view, explaining their difficulties before starting the Technique and how it helped after they started. I’ve seen other similar books use fictional, overly-easily resolved examples instead of real people; hearing the real stories, including where there are still difficulties, and including pictures of the people doing their work, was very helpful. While I could feel my body improving just by reading the book, it also includes an audio CD with guided workshops for each chapter. I didn’t have a chance to try them myself, but have heard from another Alexander student that they are very good. While there’s obviously no substitute for a trained teacher working with you personally, as your own bad habits feel right to you, this is the first book I’ve seen that looks like it could help you improve on your own. The Alexander Technique is traditionally used by those in the performing arts, but anyone whose life or work causes physically tension or pain will benefit from this book.

Mummy Tummy

Aug. 6th, 2006 04:56 pm
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This book was recommended to me by my good friend M-, who has at least a brown belt in karate and is also a professor and so into researching everything. I am a little wary of postpartum exercise books right now – the one dvd I tried didn’t seem to differ much from a standard exercise dvd, and there are a lot of books out there to help you start dieting as soon as you get out of the hospital. A very bad idea, in my opinion, since you need the weight to breastfeed and (at least in my case), it went magically away on its own. Even if it doesn’t, I don’t think right after giving birth is the time to start fasting. Anyway, the first time I saw this book, I misread the title as “Love your Mummy Tummy.” I was all prepared to love it because of that, since my mummy tummy stubbornly persists despite my lack of fat, according to the scale. Then I got frustrated, but now that I’ve actually read it, I love it anyway.

Lose Your Mummy Tummy by Julie Tupler She’s hoping to hook you on the vanity of having a flat tummy, but the real purpose of the exercises in this book are medical. The goal is to correct a diastases, or muscle separation, which occurs in 98% of mothers. This separation lets the organs hang out, creating that lovely “mommy pooch” so many of us know and try to love. She’s got a lot of exercises, some to do while nursing or driving, a 15- and a 30-minute exercise routine (no unreal expectation of a whole hour to devote to fitness!), and lots of things to do to use your body more gently during everyday life. (There’s some nice correspondence with the Alexander Technique here, which is nice and familiar for me.) There’s a dvd, too, which I haven’t seen yet, but hope to soon. Tupler has the creds, too – she’s an RN, a trained doula, and a mother. This is a beautiful, focused and practical book.

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