Tagged: Learn

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‘Obese’ mannequins lend weight to emergency service training


ITV News

‘Obese’ mannequins lend weight to emergency service training
ITV News
These are the outsize mannequins are helping UK emergency services train to cope with the UK’s growing obesity problem. Fire services have been spending thousands on each of the 25-stone bariatric models – nicknamed ‘Barry’ – to learn how to handle …

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HardPuppy Fitness Gym 0

Narragansett studio offers mind, body workout to ‘older dancers’

NARRAGANSETT—It’s Thursday, 9:30 a.m., and most of the businesses at Mariner Square Plaza in Narragansett are not yet open. One, however, is already filled with life: The Studio. Behind its signature red door and handcrafted wooden sign on the window, several middle-age women have gathered for their ballet class. They are not destined to dance at the Bolshoi, nor are they practicing for a recital. But they are devoted and ready for class every week—motivated by their love of ballet and inspired by the passion of their teacher, Marilyn Smayda, owner and artistic director.

“Let’s go, let’s go,” Smayda beckons the women in the dressing room, who are eager to chat and catch up with each other’s lives. “Leave five minutes earlier next time,” she warns them with the smile of a good friend and the discipline of a drill sergeant. 

Dressed in everything from shrugs to leggings, each dancer dutifully rushes across the large wooden dance floor to her spot on the barre. Melodic strains of a waltz by Shostakovich fill the room and immediately the plié warm-up begins. “Motivational arms,” Smayda calls out. “Shoulders down, elbows up, follow your hands.” Ballet class has started, and Smayda is right where she belongs—at the helm.

Owning a studio with a niche for older dancers was not what Smayda had envisioned when she embarked on her ballet career at the tender age of nine. “I never wanted to teach,” she said. “I wanted to dance.”

In fact, Marilyn Miller of Snug Harbor wanted so desperately to be a professional dancer, that she dropped out of South Kingstown High School in 1959 to join the fledgling ballet company ‘American Festival Ballet’ (the seedling for Festival Ballet in Providence). My father was not happy, but my mother thought it might be good life experience,” recalled Smayda, whose exceptional talent had caught the attention of the company’s director. Sixteen-year-old Smayda boarded a plane for a 15-hour flight to Germany, her first time away from home. But Smayda soon realized that the chaos of performing throughout Europe left little time for her to develop her own skills as a dancer. The company was ill-prepared to nourish its dancers artistically, despite its talented corps de ballet and accomplished prima ballerina Sonia Arova, who had danced with Rudolf Nureyev. “The reality was awful,” said Smayda who, with the wisdom of a 74-year-old, believes that she should have gone to New York City to study ballet. 

One year later, Smayda came home disheartened. “I returned to Lydia Pettine’s [the Providence studio where Smayda had trained]. I went to the barre and said ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ ”

For 17 years, Smayda turned her back on dance. She finished high school, worked as a flight attendant, married and had a son. She earned her degree in Wildlife Management from the University of Rhode Island and settled in Jamestown, where she still resides. Although she had stopped dancing, she never stopped moving. 

While taking an aerobics class, Smayda met jazz dancer Erja Fischer, who noticed Smayda’s dancing skills and urged her to teach at her studio. After much coaxing, Smayda said, “I was dancing again and it felt great!”

Smayda took ballet seminars in New York City and completed the prestigious Vaganova course on the Russian style of ballet at Bryn Mawr College. 

With four women she had met with Fischer, Smayda formed a dance ensemble which performed in Rhode Island. But when Fischer closed her studio, Smayda knew she couldn’t stop again. She and her fellow dancers pooled their resources and incorporated a new business; The Studio was born in 1994.

Converting an old furniture store in Mariner Square was a concerted effort. “We all used our skills to re-furbish it,” said Smayda. The dance studio flourished, with each woman teaching her own specialty. Smayda focused on ballet and pointe, while her business partners each taught jazz, modern and tap. From children to adults, The Studio trained many aspiring dancers and coordinated dozens of recitals.

Eventually Smayda’s colleagues decided to pursue other interests, but Smayda retained full ownership. “I wanted to keep it going,” she said. By 2000, Smayda recognized a gradual shift in her student population. Children’s enrollment declined, but adults were steady. Ballet and special tap and jazz workshops all attracted diverse, mature dancers. From 20-somethings who wanted to continue their training…to middle-age women who had left dancing to start families…to older dancers who had always wanted to learn but had not had the chance—Smayda’s studio fits the bill.

“I think it fulfills a need for all of them that is hard to find elsewhere,” Smayda said. 

For 53-year-old mother of five, Connie Lind of North Kingstown, that need is both physical and mental. After a ballet class I am a new woman. I walk into class tired, harried and physically tense and when I leave I am relaxed and free,” said Lind.   

Lind, who started dancing at The Studio 10 years ago, has found that ballet in her middle age has been therapeutic for her problematic hips—affording her a “deep stretch” that other exercise could not achieve. “Ballet is a wonderful complement to my weekly exercise,” she said.

Lind has seen firsthand the all-encompassing benefits of dance in her life. “Ballet is good for my posture, my strength, my flexibility my focus and my peace of mind. It keeps my feeling younger and happier. And I love the camaraderie with my fellow dancers,” she said. “My life often seems too busy for ballet, and then I remind myself, I cannot imagine my life without ballet. So I pack my ballet bag and head out the door.”

Narragansett resident and Lind’s classmate Ann Zarrella did not begin dancing until she was 62, but like Lind, she has come to love the mind-body connection that dance enhances. 

“I had taken a yoga class, but it was not the right fit,” said Zarrella. “I called The Studio and told Marilyn I had absolutely no ballet experience. She encouraged me to try the class. I was hooked.”

Zarrella, who will turn 80 next month, believes that ballet gives her a complete workout. “We all know how important movement is to help slow the aging process,” she said.

“The Studio has provided a wonderful outlet for expressing my love of classical music,” said Zarrella. “The experience of meeting wonderful people is frosting on the cake. Marilyn is an outstanding dancer, teacher and an inspiration to those of us who are relatively new to the art form.”

Smayda is humble about her studio’s appeal. “We have wonderful teachers and the students work hard,” said Smayda. She is proud that her studio still promotes classical ballet in an era where many facilities have turned solely to competitive dance. “We take dance seriously. I think adults are drawn to teachers who have a passion and respect for what they’re teaching,” said Smayda, who jumps, pirouettes and stretches with the agility and flexibility of someone half her age.

Although The Studio still offers a handful of classes to young children, its mainstay is the older student. “It’s technique, music, conditioning for the whole body, mental therapy, a support group…it’s tough and it’s fun,” said Smayda. “Ballet has everything. I love all parts of it. And I don’t plan to stop now. I need this.”

The Studio offers ballet, pointe, tap, jazz and fitness classes for dancers of all levels. Visit thestudioatmarinersquare.com[1] or call 789-3029 for schedule and registration information. 

 

References

  1. ^ thestudioatmarinersquare.com (thestudioatmarinersquare.com)
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Push-Ups for Real Strength

Nowadays, push-ups are either mocked, considered useless, or worse, forgotten about altogether. That’s a huge mistake, and one that we need to address ASAP.

Why Do Push-Ups?

  1. They’re great for the shoulders. Push-ups not only improve timing between the scapulae, shoulders and elbows, but they also work to open up the upper back. One of the reasons we have so many shoulder problems today is because we don’t put a strong enough emphasis on proper push-up technique.
  2. They’re great for the core. If you want to get stupid-strong, you need to bench press. But one of the downsides to the bench press is that it’s performed on your back. In a push-up, you have to unify or tie together your upper and lower body. Your core is the tie that binds, and if it’s weak, unstable, or imbalanced, it’s going to affect your ability to do the push-up correctly.
  3. They can be done anywhere. There’s always enough space to get a quick and dirty push-up workout in.

How Do You Do Push-Ups?

I can’t tell you how many “experienced” lifters I’ve worked with who have absolutely no clue how to perform a proper push-up. Seriously. No clue. Here are some areas that need focus:

1 – The Upper Body

Too many people want to think in absolutes. Either they want the elbows flared out to 90 degrees, or they tuck them in hard by the sides. Neither option is great for your shoulders.

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With the elbows flared excessively, a ton of stress is placed on the shoulder joint. It’s also an incredibly disadvantageous position biomechanically, so not only will it feel like crap, but you’ll perform like crap, too.

On the flip side, tucking the elbows in hard to your sides isn’t a great idea, either. While most do this with the intent of sparing the shoulders, what ends up happening is that this excessive tucking causes the humerus to glide forward in the glenoid fossa. In normal people talk, you start to get an “owie” in the front of your shoulder.

Instead, find a balance. Make a 45-degree angle with your elbows, or simply “make an arrow.” This cue works like a charm for shoulder health and performance.

2 – The Lower Body

This part is easy. Just keep the lower body tight. Sure, you can squeeze the glutes and flex the quads, but you don’t need to go full-blown high-threshold when you’re doing a standard push-up. Instead, find a normal amount of tension for the task at hand. Save all those high-tension strategies for when you’re doing those single-arm, blindfolded push-ups on a medicine ball.

3 – The Core

This is arguably the most important part of the body when performing a push-up. After all, tying together the upper and lower body is the reason we perform push-ups versus bench presses. Find and hold a neutral spine position throughout. If you laid a PVC pipe or broomstick on your back, you should have three points of contact:

PVC Test
  1. The back of the head
  2. The upper back
  3. The buttocks

If you want extra credit, make sure that you only have a slight (1 inch) space in between your lumbar spine and the stick. This will make sure your abs are optimally engaged.

Now getting into this position may be relatively easy, but the hard part is staying there when you actually do the movement. What you tend to see is a lowering of the body, followed by deepening lordosis, a caving of the upper back, and a head that droops towards the floor. Instead, lock the spine in throughout and you’ll not only get a great upper body workout, but a great core workout as well.

4 – Natural Movement

Most people make push-ups unnatural and unathletic. If you’re thinking about “pulling” your shoulder blades together when you lower yourself down, stop!

When most people think about pulling the shoulder blades together, they inevitably slam them together at the beginning of the movement and run out of motion at the scapulae. At this point, they continue to lower down, and all of that movement (and stress) moves to the shoulders.

To remedy this, think about making the movement athletic again. Don’t think about pulling the shoulder blades together. Simply think about moving the scaps, shoulders, and elbows at the same time.

But if you’re really patterned to first pull the shoulder blades together, you may need to think about the opposite: bending the elbows first. It sounds counterintuitive, but thinking about bending the elbows first will typically clean up the movement in a matter of reps.

5 – Reaching

The second critical element of a great push-up is to focus on reaching at the start and the finish. Many athletes are locked into a poor position through their upper back and thorax:

  • The thorax is pushed forward, which doesn’t give the scapulae a place to rest.
  • The scaps are looking for stability, so muscles such as the rhomboids become overactive and “pin” the shoulder blades back and down.

Push-ups are a great tool to help remedy this, but only when done correctly. You may have seen that bro on Instagram cranking out sets of 50, 75, or 100 push-ups, but you’ll note that he never actually finishes a rep. Sorry, but that’s making things worse.

Instead, think about finishing each rep. Keep the chest out while simultaneously reaching long through the arms, or thinking about pushing the body away from the floor.

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When done correctly, it should feel like you’re stretching the area in between your shoulder blades at the start and finish of each rep.

How Do I Make Push-Ups Harder?

It’s funny when someone says, “Push-ups are easy! Can’t we find a way to make them harder?” Then when you actually watch them do some push-ups, their hips are dragging the floor, their shoulders are all over the place, and their neck is protruding like an 80-year-old with osteoporosis.

Push-ups aren’t the sexiest exercise, but first learn to do them correctly before seeking new challenges. Once you do that, there are three routes you can typically take to make them harder:

1 – Strength-Focused Progressions

Chain Push-Up

Use these if you want to go full-blown meathead and just get super strong. These include anything that increases the external resistance:

  • Bands
  • Chains
  • Weighted vests
  • Plates loaded on your back

2 – Stability-Focused Progressions

Ring Push-Ups

These are great options if you want to bulletproof your body and make sure things are in balance. It’s not uncommon to see super strong guys who have shoulder or lower-back problems, so doing stability-focused progressions can clean up those weak areas and fix them up for the long haul.

Stability-focused progressions would include any exercise where there are elements of instability involved: unstable surface push-ups (TRX, Blast Straps, Jungle Gym, gymnastic rings, etc.) and push-ups with the hands on medicine balls.

3 – Rotation-Focused Progressions

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Strong and explosive athletes have a tendency to get locked in the sagittal plane (driven into extension). If this becomes excessive, they lose access to their frontal and transverse planes, which can cause injuries up and down the kinetic chain.

To remedy this, offset push-up variations can be crucial in getting trunk rotation back. Push-up variations in this category can include: offset variations off a box (see video), offset variations with one hand on a medicine ball, and push-ups to a single-arm support.

Based on your needs and goals there are tons of different options at your disposal. And if you want the best of all worlds, simply rotate your emphasis every 2-3 months to help build a strong, well-balanced, and bulletproof physique.

Related:  The Very Best Push-Up for Pecs[1]

Related:  Push-Ups: You’re Doing Them Wrong![2]