May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! How do you like to stay active? There are many ways to engage in physical fitness. But one of the most important aspects of exercise is enjoyment. If you don’t enjoy an activity, it will be hard to keep it up. And let’s face it…exercise can be hard to enjoy at times. The sweat, the aching muscles, the recovery time.
If you’re looking for a workout that is effective and fun, consider water aerobics. It’s a great workout, and the pool helps keep you cool when the tempo picks up. It can be done in a solo session or as part of a group and requires little to no equipment. If you have a community pool and a swimsuit, you are set! Some pools offer classes as well. When you do decide you want to dive into a class, keep in mind there are two primary types of water aerobics. One is the classic version, which takes place in the shallow end with some added deep-end exercises. Deep water aerobics, on the other hand, takes place in the deep end of the pool.
With classic water aerobics, you can expect a balanced workout that encourages full-body toning. Much of the time the exercises will be done standing in the shallow end, with some activity in the deep end. Deep water aerobics is a little different because the ground is probably deeper than you are tall! So be prepared to do some treading or kicking. Deep water aerobics is a great choice because even when you are focusing on building arm strength, you’ll also be building up strength in your legs, sometimes without even being aware of it.
Most pools have water aerobic equipment available for use, but simple kicks and strokes are also a staple. Equipment can be as basic as a noodle or as specialized as a foam barbell. Kickboards and pull buoys are also used. Most exercises depend on water resistance. Another great thing about water aerobics? You control the workout. You can push yourself as much, or as little, as you want. And after the workout, you’ll be tired but happy. And ready for more.
Qigong: An Introduction
Exercise is not just about physical strength. Though it’s certainly a large component, exercise also involves mental strength and the ability to control how the body moves. The slow, graceful movements of Tai Chi and Qigong involve all aspects of exercise and are gentle ways to engage the mind and body. Studies on the benefits of these exercises are more and more common, but not everyone has a clear idea of how they work, or what they are. Find out which practice is right for you with this overview.
Qigong breaks down into two words that describe the practice as a whole: “Qi” (pronounced and sometimes spelled “chi”) means vital life force or energy. “Gong” means cultivation, practice, or development. Thus Qigong translates to “energy cultivation.” The term is a broad one that encompasses practices like Tai Chi, but unlike Tai Chi, Qigong does not include a martial arts component.
The practice of Qigong focuses on movements that promote the smooth circulation of blood and energy throughout the entire body. Mentally, it is the practice of learning to pay close attention to what the body is doing through measured, intentional movements. Qigong can be done standing, sitting, lying down, and walking. The freedom to choose how a practice is performed makes Qigong great for people who experience limited mobility and for people who love to always be on their feet.
Qigong involves moving the entire body, but the connection of the feet to the earth is very important in establishing a solid foundation for one’s practice. Some Qigong sessions begin with a foot massage that works to invigorate the foot so that it can move fluidly throughout the various stances. The foot is also where energy transfers from the ground into the body, and having it be able to connect squarely with the earth is essential to the practice. The measured movements of Qigong strengthen and tone muscles. The discipline of continued practice strengthens the mind.
There are many different forms of Qigong. Many mimic the movements of wild animals.
Dayan or Wild Goose Qigong, for example, is based on the graceful movements of wild geese. Instructor Lita Buttolph of Wen Wu School Portland recognizes the power of this extremely gentle form of Qigong, which “improves energy and aids in relaxation and is perfect for people who desire a low-impact exercise.” Each movement works to align specific acupoints, which can help with a variety of ailments by strengthening the movement of energy within the body.
Tai Chi: An Overview
Tai Chi is a type of Qigong that has three essential elements: the physical, the intellectual, and the martial. The martial aspect focuses on the fighting or war portion of the practice, which Qigong does not have. One hallmark of Tai Chi is constant foot shifting. The simple but pronounced weight shifts build strength throughout the body. If you’ve seen Tai Chi being practiced, you might have remarked at it’s slow speed. The primary reason Tai Chi moves slowly is so the practitioner has ample time to pay attention to what the body is doing. When movements are too quick, there isn’t time to tune into the body. Slow movements create a fluidity that is easy to spot.
Anyone can practice Tai Chi. The practice is almost always immediately renewing, but it has long-term benefits too. Though it is not necessary to train for a long time, and it does not require obvious physical effort, a person must be ready in order to truly reap the benefits of Tai Chi. Being ready means being willing to commit and focus on the practice. Instructor Joel Fraley at the Portland Shaolin center says the ultimate goal of Tai Chi is daily practice. Aside from that, there should be no specific destination in mind. You can’t skip a step and leap forward to mastery. Fraley says that “it’s incredible what Tai Chi can help with. Don’t give up on it too quickly. The hardest thing is to do a little bit every day. Be smart and focus.”
Tai Chi and Qigong give a framework for movement that can be applied to everyday life and reduce stress in the mind and body. Because of the gentle movements and poses that make up each practice, the hardest part is cultivating the discipline to do it regularly. But for those who do, the rewards can be tremendous.
Getting into Qigong and Tai Chi at Home:
Before diving into a full practice, you can start on your own with some fundamentals. Both Qigong and Tai Chi are based on the harmony between the two opposing energies of yin and yang. For the purposes of Qigong and Tai Chi, yin=earth and yang=sky, or heaven. These two energies meet within body and Qigong and Tai Chi help balance them. The feet are very important to yin in Qigong and Tai Chi. This practice helps ground the body, starting from the feet: Take a few breaths and feel the soles of your feet. Where is your weight? Try to get in touch with how they feel, shifting as needed. From there, move to your knees, hips, and upward. But don’t forget about the feet! Check in with them again. The goal of this stationary standing pose is awareness–one of the building blocks of Qigong and Tai Chi.
The mental part of Qigong and Tai Chi can also be accessed outside of a traditional practice through meditation. Lie on your back on a yoga mat or blanket and slowly spread awareness across your entire body, starting with your feet. This practice works well with a partner dictating which parts of the body to focus on but can also be done alone.
Dylan – Spokane Fitter
How long have you been with Good Feet?
Eight and a half months.
What difference has Good Feet had on your life?
The biggest difference working for Good Feet has had on my life is that it has opened my eyes to how many people need help in the world. One of my biggest passions is education, and in my position, I get to go out and educate people daily on foot health and help people get back on their feet and get back to doing the things they love. Good Feet gives me the opportunity to do this.
Favorite Good Feet story?
An elderly woman that had lost 6 toes due to diabetes came into the store using a walker, she could hardly walk at all without it. The moment she tried using the Strengthener you could see how shocked she was to immediately be feeling less pain, and that was only after trying the first support. She cried because of the relief she felt. By the end of fitting she was running around the store without her walker — she didn’t need it at all.
What are some of the challenges you face on the job?
Finding a way to connect with each individual that comes into the store is very important. Everyone has a different background and story, and you need to be able to relate to them in a way that makes them feel comfortable and make sure you meet their needs. You need to be able to demonstrate how our products fit into their lives and let them know that you are truly there to help — not to sell.
What are some of your hobbies?
I like to spend time hanging out with my girlfriend and friends. Also, I like to go snowboarding, hiking and I’m an avid video-gamer. I actually play one video game competitively.
Favorite place to visit?
My family cabin in Montana. We have an acre lot on Georgetown Lake. The cabin has been passed down from generation to generation. It’s where I grew up.
What inspires/excites you?
Everyday challenges inspire me and my passion for education excites me. Finding a way to help improve other people’s lives any way I can excites and motivates me.
What else should others know about you?
I have been unbelievably happy working for this company; it has a wonderful culture. The team all brings something different to the table. I love seeing how our personalities mesh together to support each other and the store.
April is foot health awareness month, and if you’ve stopped in to The Good Feet Store for a fitting or have Good Feet arch supports, you probably have all sorts of information to help keep your feet healthy. But some folks aren’t familiar with the how the arch supports can alleviate foot pain and improve balance. Those of us who own arch supports have a duty to our friends and family to speak up, and let them know how much better their feet and bodies could be feeling! After all, wouldn’t you have wanted the same done for you?
Chances are, if you’ve worn your arch supports for a while, you take them for granted. You probably don’t think about how the Good Feet Strengthener supports the metatarsal rise, lifting and un-cramping the toes. And you probably don’t spend too much time thinking about the Relaxers in your house shoes.
One of the great things about Good Feet arch supports? Because the supports fit in just about any shoe or sandal, they are invisible to everyone but the person wearing them. So don’t be selfish! Let your family and friends in on the secret: arch supports can improve lives, two feet at a time! Hopefully they are already improving yours.