by Benji Williford, Chain Reaction Fitness

After what seemed like a never-ending polar vortex, it’s finally time to “spring” into action! You probably have plans to landscape, travel, and spring clean. All of these activities will entail lifting objects such as flowerpots, landscaping blocks, suitcases, and various other heavy items. Anytime you pick up an object from the ground, you are performing a deadlift. Proper form when performing a deadlift will strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and core, and can eliminate back pain. Conversely, rep after rep of poor form will incur injuries such as back pain, potentially causing you to be out of commission.

Here are some deadlifting guidelines to keep you injury-free:

Place your feet (hip-width apart) on either side of the object so that it is centered between the arches of your feet. (Place yourself to the side of objects with handles such as a suitcase so that the handle is lined up with the arch of your foot.)

Really root both feet into the ground.

Tilt your pelvis by pulling the top part of the butt toward your heels. This shouldn’t be confused with an excessive “scoop” of the butt as that would strain the back.

Pull the lower ribs inward while you pull your navel in toward your spine as if you were trying to lift it up under your ribcage.

Your midsection will feel very strong and “engaged” while the lower back lengthens out (below).

Sit back in your hips, keeping your midsection tight and your back straight.

Keep your knees over your ankles and bend your knees until you can grab the object.

Your shoulders should be in front of the object/your hands.

Your glutes, hamstrings, and midsection are tight.

Now tighten your armpits as if you were holding a newspaper under each arm (below).

Keep your arms straight and stay tight in the armpits.

Push into your heels and straighten your legs. Really use your glutes and keep the abs tight!

Fully open your hips/straighten your hip flexors at the top of the rep.

The path of the object as you lift it should be straight up (not in an arc). Think about working with the pull of gravity (below).

Be sure to add deadlifts using equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and sandbags to your workouts. This functional exercise will ensure that you enjoy being strong when it matters!

Benji is a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer (PFT), a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) and Owner of Chain Reaction Fitness LLC.  www.benjiwilliford.com

Hula Hooping for Fun and Fitness

by Ilona Udvari

With the onset of warmer weather, we are all dying to get outside, shed our layers of cold-weather clothing, and kick up our heels a bit. The parts of us that were once well hidden are begging for sunlight, and the secrets of our winter and holiday indiscretions are soon to be front-page news. I used to be disheartened considering the number of crunches it was likely to take to get me looking and feeling good for summer, but now I just smile. Though not for lack of trying, I could never sustain a love affair with ab work, but I started hula hooping several years ago, and not only was it easy to tone up, I could hardly wait to do it!

The history of hooping pre-dates the emergence of the beloved Wham-o hula-hoop of the 1950s, by several thousands of years. But its evolution has taken us from the small, lightweight child’s toy into a whole new era. Such children’s hoops are often the perpetrators misleading us all to believe we cannot, and never could, hula-hoop. But times have changed, and adult-size weighted hoops are available for a full range of activities from weight loss to hoop dancing. A long list of health benefits has also made hooping grow quickly in popularity. But the greatest lure by far is the fun! Imagine the idea of looking forward to your workouts. What a difference it makes in your success!

Hooping can burn up to 100 calories per ten-minute session and up to 400–600 in an hour. It’s a great low impact, aerobic, cardiovascular workout that melts away unwanted fat at the core and tightens the stomach. Plus building up your core muscles also helps you to burn more calories. It’s a win-win situation!

The new larger and heavier hoop is easier to control and a greater benefit in toning the body. In fact, it sculpts and builds muscle in the glutes, back, thighs, hips, legs, knees, as well as in the abdomen. This in turn increases your range of motion, flexibility, and balance. In doing so, one can actually prevent back problems.

If you’ve had commitment issues in the past, fear not. You can see the benefits from working as little as ten minutes a day using a weighted hoop. But believe me, stopping after ten minutes will be the farthest thing from your mind. Hooping helps to reduce and manage stress, and it generates a magnificent feeling of well-being.  Devotees will tell you that it works as a powerful means of meditation to calm one’s self, clear one’s thoughts, and process the day’s stresses.

As we hula, learn tricks and routines, and have fun playing, the hoop gently massages our vital organs and improves their integral function, particularly those in the digestive system. There is an increase of blood flow to the brain, oxygenizing the blood and increasing vital energy. It can be as equally reviving as a short nap! Dopamine is also released by the body, improving our ability to focus and raising our attention level. And if that isn’t enough, studies show that the gray matter of our brain also expands and improves.

Hula hooping can be done by people of all ages, genders, and shapes. It’s a fantastic activity to do with kids and encourages healthy lifestyle choices. Whether you are reliving the simple joys of childhood or cashing in on the amazing health and exercise benefits, you will find yourself smiling and laughing. So buddy-up, get a hoop you like, remove breakables from the hoop area, and get fit and stay fit! It just takes a little practice and the right equipment.

Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis

by Linda Foster,  E-RYT500

The practice of yoga originated in the distant past, but it’s completely relevant to daily life in the twenty-first century. As Western science has begun to acknowledge, yoga’s repertoire of stretches, twists, and postures accompanied by conscious awareness of your body and mind may be more than an “exercise routine.” In a recent study, people with MS who practiced yoga experienced, among other effects, a reduction in MS-related fatigue and depression.

Yoga uses unhurried movements, slow stretching, and breathing to reduce stress and release muscle tension. This allows you to address your individual needs and proceed at your own pace. If you’re having a bad day, you can modify your program and do something less intensive. On better days, you can challenge yourself to enhance your yoga capabilities.

Yoga can be beneficial to people with MS as long as they find the appropriate class, teacher, or video.
• Start slow and simple.
• As you progress, working toward advanced poses will help you gain strength and confidence.
• Restorative poses are very slow, relaxing, and refreshing postures.

There’s no right or wrong way to react after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—everyone responds in their own natural way. It might reassure you to know that many people with MS have been able to successfully manage their symptoms. With the right support system, information, and treatment, you may be able to manage your MS successfully, too. It all starts with the right information.

How can someone with MS find the right type of yoga, the right class, and the inspiration to try it?

Different Yoga Styles

Some programs emphasize detail of alignment by holding poses (such as Iyengar); others run positions together in sequences (Flow and Ashtanga). Some are meant to be aerobic; others stress meditation. A teacher of one mode may not say that there are other kinds of yoga that might be more suited to your needs.

You’ll have to learn to ask questions.

All styles have qualities in common:
1. They use breathing techniques to focus the mind on the body (“union”).
2. They are individualized, non-competitive, and adaptable.
3. They emphasize alignment, which benefits posture and balance.
4. They educate about where muscles are and how to strengthen and stretch them.
5. They release tension so the body feels more energized.
6. They teach relaxation techniques to reduce stress.

Now for some background information about yoga: The word yoga has its roots in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit. Literally, it means to “yoke” or to “unite.” It was created thousands of years ago to help practitioners feel “whole,” uniting mental, physical, and spiritual aspects.

Today, the yoga practiced in the West consists of poses, called “asanas,” and breathing techniques, called “pranayama.” Modern yoga is also deeply influenced by modern science—all of the things that have been learned about the body in the past one hundred years. Indeed, yoga-like postures, stretches, and positions are used today by athletes, in rehab programs, and in physical therapy. Today, in many classes, the spiritual aspect is left to the individual.

Yoga for MS? Yes, give it a try! But, as with any exercise program, check with your physician first.

To get the most out of a yoga class:
1. Look for an instructor who has experience teaching people with MS. If you can walk without assistance, try a regular class, but ask what will be expected and explain your condition. If the instructor doesn’t really listen or provide individualized attention, this is the wrong place.
2. Ask about an instructor’s experience. The Indian names don’t mean nearly as much as the length of time the person has taught.
3. If you use a cane or walker, try a class for seniors. Or try a class offered for people with special needs, such as arthritis. Many yoga stretches and poses can be done sitting down. Again, take the time to explain your MS to the instructor before taking a class.
4. Although groups are great, beware of peer pressure during class. If something doesn’t feel right, stick up for yourself, and stop. Sometimes your mind may be holding your body back. But your body may also be giving you signals to stop, which your mind wants to ignore! So, when in doubt, stop. If you feel pain, STOP!
5. Have realistic goals. Yoga won’t cure MS. But it can help you live more comfortably in your own body.

With MS, it is important to be proactive. Stay connected with others who are walking your same path. Give yoga a try. (And bring your spouse—he/she needs it too!)

Chair Yoga classes are a perfect place to start and are regularly offered at New Day Yoga & Wellness in Chippewa Falls on Fridays, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. If you have any questions or would like information regarding the Chippewa Valley MS Support Group, please contact Linda at 715-861-5545.

National MS Society
My MS Yoga, Baron Baptiste, Dr. Elliot Frohman

Don’t Let Pregnancy Deprive You: 6 Natural Ways to Improve Sleep

When it comes to pregnancy and sleep, it’s safe to say you’re fighting an uphill battle. During the first trimester pregnant women are faced with ridiculous hormones causing the worst fatigue they’ve felt in their entire life, and once the baby starts moving, they can forget about sleeping soundly any time soon. As bellies continue to grow, it just gets worse and worse.

If you feel like your lack of sleep is just a mean joke to prepare you for when your baby arrives, think again. There are actually plenty of ways to improve your quality of sleep naturally, keeping you and your baby healthy and happy.

Avoid Light

It is no secret that light inhibits melatonin production, making it harder to sleep. You should create an environment that blocks out all of the light so you have the highest odds of actually sleeping (blackout curtains are worth every penny). For those multiple-times-per-night pee breaks, Babble.com suggests the use of a dim night-light to avoid having to expose yourself to full lights that may wake your body up.

Drink Water Early

You know that you have to drink a lot of water while you are pregnant, and you also know that when you do this you have to pee every five minutes (or so it feels like). To help yourself sleep for longer stretches, try to drink the majority of the water your body needs in the morning and afternoon.


As your belly grows, every body part is affected, especially your legs. Restless leg syndrome is very real during pregnancy, and so are leg cramps. If you stretch before hitting the sack, these problems may be eliminated or at least lessened.

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows

When you are trying to get comfortable at night, it all comes down to how many pillows you have. TheMayoClinic.com suggests getting a pillow to rest underneath your stomach when lying on your side (the only way you can rest once your stomach reaches a certain diameter). Place another one between your knees, and another behind your back. If this seems like too many pillows to try to coordinate every time you switch sides, you can always get a body pillow or pregnancy pillow.

Get a New Mattress

Still not comfortable? Maybe your mattress is to blame. It would be a wise investment to get a high-quality mattress that will conform to every curve of your body. If you can’t afford a new mattress, you can always look for a topper mattress for any size bed. If your significant other enjoys your firm mattress and you need a soft one, just look for a nice twin-size topper to keep you both happy.

Watch What You Eat

It is true that you are eating for two, but you are also eating to keep your body happy. Heartburn is another culprit when it comes to lack of sleep. To help eliminate it, BabyCenter.com suggests that you do not eat for 2-3 hours before bed — unless you suffer from morning sickness — to give your stomach time to digest the food. You should also avoid spicy, acidic or high-fat foods if heartburn is an issue.

Slumber Tricks: 8 Ways to Catch Better Z's

Your need for an afternoon pick-me-up in the form of a strong espresso may be the result of a lack of sleep the night prior, yet ironically, that afternoon jolt of caffeine is what hinders you from falling asleep later. The National Sleep Foundation reports that more than 20 percent of adults have difficulty concentrating on tasks due to sleep deprivation. If you’re having a hard time focusing on your work or struggle not to nod-off during a drive, read these eight tips to get you out of the Starbuck’s drive-thru and into a restful slumber.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol will put you to sleep for a short time, but leave you sleepless a few hours later. Caffeine’s effects last long after you consume, meaning even your afternoon latte could prevent you from getting enough shuteye come nightfall. If you can’t avoid these, at least avoid them in the evening whenever possible.

Reserve Your Room for ‘SoS’

Sleep or sex. These are the only things you should be doing in your bedroom if you want it to be a restful. Remove the television, ban the laptop and resist using cell phones as alarm clocks if you can’t fight the urge to stay off of them.

Create a Blackout

Darkness promotes good sleep, so invest in curtains that create a blackout effect so you aren’t forced to drift off to the sight of the neighbor’s high-wattage Christmas decorations or wake as soon as the sun slivers over the horizon. Keep lights off at night and shut your bedroom door so no other light can be seen.

Prepare Your Bed for Sleep

Having a comfortable mattress and bedding are key to sleeping well. You can check out dozens of mattress options online to find the one that best fits your personal needs. For bedding, go feel the different fibers of sheets such as Egyptian cotton, cotton-polyester blends, jersey and silk. New pillows — less than two years old — are essential since they offer more support and won’t contain allergens that can be found in used ones.

Don’t Save Exercise for Last

Getting your exercise done by 7 p.m., presuming you don’t go to bed before 10 p.m., will sufficiently tire you so you can sleep soundly. Just remember to avoid exercising within two hours of sleeping or else your “workout high” will interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

Get a Good Soak

A leisurely bath will soothe your tired muscles and help lower your temperature, which will tell your body that it’s time for bed. Add a drop or two of lavender oil for added relaxation.

Eat a Protein-Rich Snack

Enjoy a piece of lunch meat and slice of cheese or a glass of milk and some nuts to give your body some sleep-inducing protein. One of the amino acids in milk promotes the production of melatonin and serotonin, two hormones that are needed to get high-quality sleep.

Get there by 10, No Excuses!

Psychology Today notes that practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, believe that the two hours between 10 p.m. and midnight are the most valuable and one of these hours is equal to two hours of sleep later in the night.

Pick a few of these tips to start with and follow them regularly. As you have time, add in more until you feel like you’re getting the amazing sleep your body so desperately craves.