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Introduction

Your Journey to Becoming Forever Fit and Flexible

     Imagine waking up every morning with a spring in your step and an eager anticipation of the day ahead. Consider what it would be like to get out of bed and be able to move with ease and elegance as you glide around your kitchen to prepare for your day. Picture yourself stepping out of the shower and liking what you see in the full length mirror before you get dressed. Now visualize that you can engage in any activity you want to do (and love to do) with grace, strength, and confidence. Think of what it would be like to hike without hip pain, golf without back pain, dance without knee pain, or get down on the floor (and back up again) to play with your grandkids. Imagine a new sense of energy and vitality that you never thought possible as you move into your fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond. Yes, this could be your future, and yes, it is possible. As a matter of fact, the possibilities are endless, and you have already taken the first step by opening the pages of Forever Fit and Flexible. As you move through the sections and chapters ahead, here is a glimpse of what you’ll discover.

     Part One introduces the foundations of the Forever Fit and Flexible program. In Chapters One through Three, we will address the power of using your attention and your awareness to help you achieve your goals and accomplish the maximum benefit from the movement lessons included in later chapters. We also discuss the impact of positive thinking, including having the right mindset and surrounding yourself with positive people.  Along those same lines, never underestimate the power of your imagination and visualization. After all, what we believe is what we become.

     Several years ago my husband and I were traveling to Atlanta to visit his family. We were on the train from the concourse to the baggage claim, and I was practicing a technique I learned in martial arts. I stood with my knees bent, my eyes closed, and without holding on to anything, I practiced finding my balance while I sensed the movement of the train. As I was getting into a meditative state, I heard a loud voice say, “I have to sit down, because I’m an old lady! When you’re an old lady, you can sit down, too.” I opened my eyes and saw a woman squeezing into the last available sit and talking to a little girl standing near her. I closed my eyes again and went back to my musings and practice while the woman continued her litany about being an old lady. When we got off the train and moved toward the escalators, I automatically went to the stairs while the woman continued, “I have to take the escalator because I’m an old lady!” Good grief, I wondered, how old is this lady, anyway? I turned around to look at her and almost fell the rest of the way down the stairs. The woman had to be at least ten years younger than I was at the time! What kind of message was she sending to herself, not to mention the little girl, who was clinging to her mother’s hand and staring at this woman with eyes as big as saucers? Getting old is inevitable—being old is a choice. With Forever Fit and Flexible, you have the opportunity to grow older gracefully without becoming old    

     In Chapter Four, we focus in depth on the principles of each of the four movement arts—Pilates, Feldenkrais, dance, and martial arts—including the powerful health and fitness benefit of each method. I share the foundations of each method and weave them into the movement lessons presented. I invite you to take your time as you go through each chapter and work each method and the various techniques. Some of these movement lessons will work for you and some of them will not.

     Chapter Five outlines the eight fundamental principles of the Forever Fit and Flexible program for you to follow. There are also strategies for how to work through the movement lessons to best accommodate your learning style.

     Incorporating the principles of Pilates, Feldenkrais, dance, and martial arts, I have developed the system Forever Fit and Flexible and designed a variety of movement lessons for you to do at home. Each movement lesson in the program is founded in one of these remarkable movement arts.

    The chapters presented in Part Two address the individual components that are essential to your journey to fitness and flexibility. Each chapter provides specific movement lessons related to that component, such as posture, core strength, flexibility, balance, and strengthening. You will learn why each is important and the role it plays in your process.

     Once you have established a solid foundation by following the building blocks in Chapters Six through Nine, we progress to the next steps by adding the bricks and mortar to your structure, which include functional strengthening and movement. I use the term “functional strengthening,” because you will learn how to use basic functional activities that you can engage in multiple times a day to incorporate into your Forever Fit and Flexible program. 

     After you have developed your posture, core strength, flexibility, balance, and functional strengthening, we will look at the many opportunities you have to start moving and stay moving. You can engage in a variety of different activities that you actually enjoy, so that it feels like you are playing and having fun, rather than digging ditches. When you participate in activities that you enjoy, you are far more likely to keep up with them.

     The final part of building a Fit and Flexible program is the area of nutrition. You can’t have a strong, healthy body if you don’t provide the proper fuel to keep it running smoothly. There are plenty of gimmicks advertised that are easy to fall prey to, just like my clients who were replenishing their workouts with high calorie and sugar-loaded “health” drinks and “fit” bars. Beginning from this point forward, I encourage you to put the emphasis on self-education. Start reading labels very carefully when you go to the grocery store or try a new product such as protein bars or other “healthy” snacks. Our focus within the Fit and Flexible program will be on nutrition, not diets. Just hearing the word makes me shudder and conjures up the memory of my client’s weight loss group. Going on a diet is not a recipe for success, but having a good understanding of healthy nutrition will lead you to success. It is also much better for your health.

     As you go through this process, I encourage you to keep a journal and take notes to help you track your progress. Not only will this practice slow you down, it will help you integrate the mind-body connection that the Forever Fit and Flexible program is based upon. When you write down your observations and experiences, your brain has the opportunity to take in and process the information. Your brain then activates the motor and sensory pathways associated with your experiences and accelerates your progress.

     I learned about the benefits of recording what happens, and my responses, reactions, and “take-aways” from what I learned during my martial arts training; however, I didn’t realize what a powerful tool this was until later in my training. As a matter of fact, in the beginning, when I first got on the mat, I wasn’t even sure how to keep a journal or why I would possibly want to. When I began my training, I honestly thought I was embarking on a new form of recreation—until I realized how serious these people were about their training. I mean, they had notebooks, for heaven’s sake!

     I wondered why they needed notebooks until I was given a few sheets of paper that listed the techniques I was responsible to learn before I tested for my yellow belt. I still didn’t connect the dots, but I put the papers in a thin binder so as not to look out of place or appear disrespectful. I brought the binder with me to each class, but I never made a single note inside, because I didn’t have a clue about what I should write down or why—not even when I took my first three-day martial arts seminar.

     My teacher brought his Sensei out from L.A. to help us train. He had previously talked me into attending the seminar, even though I was only a yellow belt. Hr assured me that it would be fun and that Sensei was just like a great big teddy bear. Unfortunately, on the first day of the seminar, the great big teddy bear yelled and screamed at us all day about everything. Just when I thought he had surely run out of things to yell about, he screamed at us for not taking notes. All of the upper belts whipped out their notebooks and began frantically writing. I pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and stared down at the piece of paper. My mind was as blank and empty as the paper. I had no idea what to write about. I tried to sneak a peek at the notes of the brown belt sitting next to me, but as far as I was concerned, he could have been writing in Japanese. Then I realized that he was. I was at a complete and utter loss.

     I was ready to throw in the towel and put my notes aside until I noticed the great big teddy bear scowling at me. That wasn’t a good sign, so I picked up my pen and paper and nervously began to write “bread, eggs, milk.” After all, I didn’t want to be the only one staring of into space, especially after that lecture. I figured no one would notice that I had started my grocery list because my handwriting is so bad that I was certain that no one could possibly read it. I looked up from my list, thinking enough time had passed, but everyone was still scribbling notes, so I started planning my menu for the following week. Since I was already working on my grocery list, it seemed like a natural segue. Finally, the notetaking period was over and we started practicing our techniques again. Every now and then, one of the guys would step off the mat, pick up his notebook, and jot down a few notes. Not wanting to be outdone, I walked over to my notebook and wrote down a few more items that I needed from the grocery store.

     That was twelve years ago, and since that time I have learned to record my thoughts and personal experiences in a variety of different classes and activities. I keep a small notebook in my purse, because I never know when I will have an aha! moment or inspiring idea. I keep my notebook beside me in ballet class, because the practice of making notes has greatly improved my dance technique, and I can’t help but wonder how many injuries I might have avoided if I had kept a journal all along. As a result, I now have copious notes that I can refer to whenever I get stuck or need to review a technique or a concept. I have also discovered the value of putting things down in writing. It certainly gives a person a lot to think about.

     As you learn and practice these new techniques, check in with your mental and physical responses and record them. Never underestimate the power of the written word, especially when you put them down in your own voice. If you’re not sure what to write down, start with your grocery list and go from there. Believe me, you’ll figure it out.

     Take time for mindful reflection and record those thoughts as well. Evaluate where you have been prior to beginning the program, where you are at the present moment, your progress and your experiences with the movement lessons, and how they are working for you. Identify and continue to work with the movement lessons that work for you and toss out the ones that do not. I encourage you to experiment with designing a program of your own that is customized to you, your body, and your needs. No matter what you modify, however, remember to stay true to the basic principles you learn within the Fit and Flexible program, because they are what make this so effective.

     Along with keeping a journal, I suggest you record the movement lessons in your own words and your own voice. First, read the directions and try the movement lessons a few times until you begin to get a feel for them and discover the points that are most relevant to you, including areas that you want to emphasize. Then, record the lesson. In this way, when you play back the recording, you will be able to focus more completely on your movements and your sensations as you do the lesson, instead of trying to simultaneously read the instructions. It’s another way you can light up your nervous system and be more attentive to what you are doing, as well as making the lesson your own. The Forever Fit and Flexible program is a blueprint for you to use “as is” as well as to expand the concepts and ideas to make them your own.

     There is a lot of misleading and confusing information in the marketplace today regarding health and fitness, especially for people over fifty. Yet I know from personal experience and from working with others that as we age we can continue to enjoy a healthy, active, and vibrant lifestyle. We just have to be a lot smarter about how we go about it by paying attention to what we’re doing and by listening to our bodies. It is the difference between exercising with brute force versus moving with finesse and an artistic quality. I often tell my clients that is is like comparing a work boot to a ballet slipper. A work boot is functional and definitely has its purpose, but a ballet slipper commands a level of delicate skill and sophistication, which requires you to work smarter, not harder.

     As a result of working with the Forever Fit and Flexible program, you will get stronger and more limber and move with an ease and grace that seems effortless. You will discover the artistic quality of movement rather than mindlessly pushing through movement patterns that can injure your muscles and destroy your joints. My goal is to help you avoid some of the most common traps and pitfalls along the way as you also learn how to become a movement artist and pay attention to your movements and listen to your body. I also want to spare you some of the expense, frustrations, and disappointments that I experienced in my own journey.

     I invite you now to turn the page and begin your personal discovery of the knowing that it is possible to be fit, flexible, and fabulous well into your fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond. Believe it or not, it is easier than you may think, and it can be a lot of fun as well. Everything you’ll discover within these pages will guide you to find your own way to be Forever Fit and Flexible. That is my hope and prayer for you.