It’s Tuesday.  Three pm.  I’ve just finished returning my emails.  All of a sudden I hear Mia crying at the front door.  No, Mia isn’t my roommate, she’s my dog.  I figure, I’ve got a few minutes, why not go outside and take her for a walk.  Well, Mia was particularly frisky that day, so it felt more like she was  taking me for a walk.  She was pulling me along at a pretty good pace.  Then finally she stopped to say hello to a Siberian Husky who  was walking toward us with his owner.  As I talked to his owner, I noticed I  was breathing pretty rapidly.  This wasn’t unusual.  Mia always gets my heart rate up whenever I take her for a walk.  But it made me stop and realize that taking her for a walk was an activity that actually burns a lot of calories.  It’s also something that we both enjoy.  You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all of this.  Don’t worry- I’m about to tell you.  The activity of taking my dog for a walk is something that could be described as active rest.  It may seem like a simple little thing to do, but it can actually be very powerful.  And there countless forms of active rest.

Active rest is truly just another form of exercise.  But often, most people don’t see it that way because they’re doing something they really enjoy doing!

Let’s face it.  Working out is hard work.  We put a lot of sweat into our workouts, and often the muscle  soreness we feel afterward feels worse than the exercise itself.  Some people really enjoy that intensity of exercise, but others simply do not.  It is for those people, that active rest can be very powerful.   Simply put, active rest is any activity that involves increasing heart rate and  caloric expenditure, but is also enjoyed by the participant.  It can also, be described as the “rest phase” of interval  training, which I will explain later

Many “hard  core” athletes and  fitness enthusiasts become so  focused on their workouts, that they never give themselves a break.  The fear for many is that if they stop going to the gym even for a short time period, they will start to lose progress.  While it is true that stopping traditional exercise for two weeks or longer can decelerate the body, it does not mean that we can never take a “vacation” from the gym.  In  fact, we can and should take a break from the gym every so  often.  The body benefits physiologically from time off of rigorous exercise as long as   it only for a limited period of time (about two weeks).  But it is within those breaks, that active rest is most  encouraged.  The body is still active, still burning calories, still exercising, just in a different way.  It’s not as intense, and it is enjoyed by the participant.

Whenever a client of mine goes on vacation, they usually ask me what exercises they should do while they’re gone.  They’re usually surprised when I tell them not to exercise in a gym.  Rather, I try to encourage my clients to participate in active rest- activities that they enjoy.  Some examples might include sports (of any kind), hiking, skiing, swimming, and yes, even dog walking.

As I said before, active rest can also be used to describe the “rest phase” of interval training.  Interval training is aerobic exercise that is characterized by periods of high intensity training followed by periods of low intensity or “active rest”.  For example, if someone runs as fast as they can on the treadmill for one minute, and then they bring the intensity down to a brisk walk for three minutes, and they  repeat this several times, they are performing interval training.  The three minutes of brisk walking is the active rest phase.  They are still working and burning calories, but they are not working near as hard as they were when they were running as fast as they could.  This type of activity optimizes calorie burn and also improves speed.  It is a great form of exercise as long as it is not over done.  Interval  training should be performed no more than once a week.

Active rest can also be looked at as the reward for all of the hard work that is put into rigorous exercise.  As I said before, training our bodies is hard work.  We deserve to reward ourselves.  And what better way to do that than to perform the activities that we enjoy.  Having fun and burning calories at the same time!  What’s not to enjoy?

So what’s all this buzz about meditation?  Why are so many celebrities doing it, and what is it that makes it so great?  I’ll admit, I had my reservations about meditation in the beginning, but now I can honestly say I’ve come to accept it as a very therapeutic practice.  For those of you who may be confused as to what it really is, there are several different types and definitions.  Essentially, meditation is the practice of allowing the body and mind to remain in a state of deep relaxation for a certain amount of time.

The practice of mediation puts a strong focus on the breath.  By focusing on deep breathing and allowing all other internal voices to fade away, both the body and mind are allowed to relax.  This practice can involve visualization and imagery, but can also be limited to just the focused breathing.  The goal is to relax the mind and body while staying alert and focused at the same  time, to avoid falling asleep.

Time and again, studies have shown that this simple practice can reduce stress, promote a positive mental attitude, and even lower blood pressure!  It can be done in as little as ten minutes a day!  This is a short amount of time and has an incredible positive impact that allows us to stay focused and calm throughout the day.  I use this practice and can honestly say that I think we could all benefit from a little meditation.

OK, so nobody’s ever going to come up to you and say, “Wow!  You’ve got a rippling infraspinatus!”  Nevertheless, this doesn’t take away the great importance of performing resistance training for the rotator cuff.  The rotator cuff muscles (muscles involved in internal and external rotation of the shoulder) are not going to be muscles that can be easily shown off.  However, they are still very important to train, because the tendons of these muscles are what surround and protect the shoulder joint.  The shoulder joint is one of the most often injured areas of the body.  And many of these injuries are a  result of weak or unstable rotator cuff muscles.

Resisted internal and external rotation movements are exercises that all of my  clients have come to know and love.  OK, not really, but they do understand the importance of it.   In our every day lives, shoulder actions such as pressing overhead are not  typical.  This is why the shoulder becomes so vulnerable and is easily injured in the untrained person.  By performing strength training for the rotator cuff, we reduce the chance of injury by enhancing the support of the shoulder joint itself.  In my opinion, these are “must do” exercises for everyone, especially those who  exercise a lot.

OK, so they may not be glamorous muscles.  So what?  These exercises function to protect you.  Nobody wants to end up with their arm in a sling.