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Dance Today, Smile Today

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Recently I have been asking people a question as they leave our BCS dance classes, “Why do you dance?”

I get the many expected responses, “Dancing is an excellent form of exercise. It burns calories and tones my muscles.” “I love the music and the movement.” “I have danced for years.” “I have always wanted to learn.” But today I had someone pause after I asked the question. She looked up, looked around, and then turned a happy face back to me and said, “I dance today, I smile today.”

I am not sure if it was her words or the infectious grin that gave me a warm feeling inside. I too smiled. It made me happy just to hear her response…“I dance today, I smile today.” I wondered; if she didn’t dance today would she not be smiling? Would she be smiling regardless of the activity? Somehow I didn’t think so.

I started to wonder why dance can create such an overall sense of happiness. I know that exercise involves movement and that all exercise releases endorphins. But I also know that when I finish a 5 mile run, while I might feel good about my accomplishment and experience a relief from the stressors in my life, the run itself doesn’t cause me to light up my world with a smile. No, it’s more than just the physical activity. Is it the music? Well, I know that as soon as I hear music playing it’s not long before my foot starts tapping. Turn music on in a room full of children and they naturally start to move. Yes, music is also known to stimulate pleasure. But music can ignite other emotions as well. I wonder if the blending of the two, movement and music together could be the key. There is extensive research that gives evidence that both music and dance make us happy. Our brains are stimulated and we are overcome with a sense of well-being.

Today, however, I prefer to set aside the scientific data and lean on how I feel. When I watch movies such as Happy Feet and Madagascar, I feel good. I catch myself smiling. When I watch children dancing to music it makes me happy. Today I caught myself smiling as I looked into the faces of the people leaving a dance class, most with a big grin; some even laughing out loud. Hmm…if being an onlooker can bring me such happiness, imagine the heart of the dancer!

You too could dance today and smile today.

Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School offers dance & fitness classes for adults 7 days a week. Come smile with us! All ability levels welcome.

Close Your Eyes and Stand on One Foot

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Can you stand on one foot for 15 seconds with your eyes closed?

Before you even think about answering, try it. 

How did you do? Were you able to last 15 seconds without opening your eyes or holding on to anything? Were you surprised that it was more of a challenge than you thought? Here’s the facts: After age 25, our sense of balance slowly begins to decline. Standing on one foot may seem fairly simple. At age 45 the ankles start to shake and you may find this a bit more of a challenge. When we reach our 60s, balance declines rapidly. Standing on one foot for 15 seconds with eyes closed without holding on is tough.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States and 20 to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries.

September 22 kicked off Fall Prevention Awareness Week. Why set aside a week to bring awareness to falling down? Because preventing a fall is much more effective than treating a fall; a public health problem that is largely preventable. A fall can change an individual’s life instantly and although associated with getting older, a fall is not a normal part of aging.

Our bodies have an amazing and complex balance system that requires attention throughout life to keep it healthy and maintained. Most of us don’t think about exercising our balance when we think about healthy aging. In fact, balance is the most overlooked element of fitness; overlooked until we have a problems.

So what’s the easiest way to reclaim balance and prevent falls? For the most part, it’s child’s play. Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember challenging friends to see who could hop the longest on one foot?  Or who could walk on the edge of the sidewalk the longest without falling off? Hopscotch, jumping rope, tossing balls…we didn’t call it exercise or balance training as children, but that is exactly what we were doing. Those activities helped us develop our balance and stability as children, and similar activities can help keep the brain and muscles working together as we age.

A favorite part of my week is teaching the Better Balance & Movement Workshops here at Ballet Austin. The participants range in age from about 40 to 80. I love it! Together we challenge our brains and our muscles to do what we want them to do. And then we laugh when they don’t always cooperate. I especially love to see people coming back each week sharing how they practiced at home, and the improvement they notice in their balance.

Thanks to partial underwriting from Scott & White Healthcare, Ballet Austin is on a mission to bring better balance to adults as part of its core value to encourage lifelong health and well-being. We desire to provide programming that will motivate and encourage people of all ages to be active! I once read this quote, “Movement requires balance. Sitting does not.

On September 13, 2012 the US Senate passed a resolution declaring September 22, 2012 as National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, a day set aside to promote and increase public awareness about how to prevent and reduce falls among older adults.

Keep moving!

There are many ways for people of all ages to stay active at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School. Interested in the Better Balance & Movement Workshop? A new session begins October 31.

Standing in My Capezio Tap Shoes

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

The best stories come from real people who take classes at the Butler Community School. I recently heard from Rebecca Persons who has enjoyed tap classes at the BCS. Rebecca graduated from UT Austin with a degree in journalism in 2009 and has been dancing for 14 years.

Standing in my Capezio tap shoes, worn with age and stress from years of dancing, my gaze follows a man dressed in knee-high socks and a fedora hat as he enters the dance room. His feet move rhythmically as bee bops and doo-wops emit from his mouth in euphony with his fast-moving feet. You won’t have had to take a tap class from Ballet Austin to know that this is the Rhythm/Swing Tap instructor.

Tony Merriwether instantly reminds me of swing dancers I’ve seen in the past. But this is different. He marries basic tap techniques with The Charleston, Lindy Hop, and many other great swing variations. And to my delight, he’s just put on “Pickin’ the Cabbage,” by Dizzy Gillespie on the sound system.

I don’t usually consider tap a workout, but Merriwether brings energy and technique to the class that gets us all sweating and nostalgic for some of our favorite jazz trumpeters. I feel my shins begin to burn as we do various footwork exercises and my Achilles tendon tightens from moving my feet in ways they aren’t use to.  And the choreography is great. You can’t help but leave the class feeling like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers.

Swing Tap is now my most loved class I’ve taken at Ballet Austin, as well as one of my favorite types of dance. Broadway Show Tap is also on the BCS schedule this fall, taught by Broadway veteran Vincent Sandoval. I recommend tap dancers at any level to try out these classes. Whether you’re like me and can’t help but click your feet all day, or someone who’s always wanted to try it out, shuffle down to Ballet Austin and try a Rhythm/Swing or Broadway Show Tap Class. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Get started any time at the BCS. Check out the variety of dance classes offered each week. Tap not your thing? Ballet, Jazz, West African, Bollywood, Zumba®, and much more to get you moving and having fun!

Moving Downtown Has Increased My Opportunities For Fitness

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

I’m a bit envious of my colleague Pei-San Brown, Ballet Austin’s Community Education Director. Besides being able to walk down the hall from her office to take a class, in the evenings and on weekends she just walks across the street for a great workout! No excuses for her! And as you will see, she takes advantage of every opportunity to take a class. See what Pei-San has to say about living downtown and working out…

Pei-San Brown, Community Education Director

Moving downtown was the best thing I ever did to increase my opportunities for fitness. Everything I need on a daily basis is within a 15-minute walk of either work or home, and because I’m a person who prefers taking dance and fitness classes to working out on my own in a gym, having access to classes and workshops at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School is absolutely ideal. There are so many different kinds of classes and workshops at various times of the day, I’m always finding new ways to challenge myself and to work out muscles that I never knew I had…I get to do so with my neighbors, who are a lot of fun!

It’s hard to pick my favorite class. I love Ballet Fit, Zumba®, Turbo Kick®, Below the Belt, and Arms & Abs. The best part is that because they are drop-in classes, anyone can attend them at a moment’s notice! Ballet Fit appeals to me because I can take a basic ballet barre and get my abs, arms, and glutes worked out at the same time. I love Zumba®  and Turbo Kick® because of their strong emphasis on choreography (although they’re easy because you don’t have to memorize anything – just follow along!). Turbo Kick® is especially good for increasing my stamina – it’s my new favorite class! And I’m a die-hard fan of Below the Belt and Arms & Abs! I would NEVER work out these groups of muscles by myself for 45 minutes straight – it’s so much more motivating to work out with a great group of folks like my fabulous neighbors, and an instructor who pushes you to challenge yourself!

I also love all of the Pilates workshops, which are offered in 4 to 6 week increments. Pilates Mat Workout, Pilates Theraband® Stretch, and Pilates Ballet Barre Workout are staples in my weekly fitness routine. The great thing is that they are offered 4 days of the week, so just like the drop-in classes, I can pick the workshops that fit my schedule and simply walk over to Ballet Austin just a few minute before class starts.

My personal fitness goals are to walk everyday for at least an hour, and to take dance or fitness classes five times a week. Because of my proximity to the BCS and the dynamic class and workshop schedule offered at the BCS (including Saturdays and Sundays), I’ve found that fulfilling (and sometimes exceeding) these goals is a piece of cake and a lot of fun!

Do you work or live downtown? Join me for a class!

I Was Triple Dared But Accepted The Challenge!

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

We are going to be wrapping up the Ballet Austin staff “Get Moving Challenge” soon. Several of my colleagues have already shared their challenges with you. It’s been fun and motivating to read their stories! Next on the agenda is Ballet Austin’s new Marketing Director Tim Dillon. Quite an initiation for Tim! Check out his blog…

Tim Dillon, Marketing Director

I am one of the newest employees at Ballet Austin and the staff challenge is the first time I’ve taken classes at the Butler Community School. After agreeing to participate, I found myself staring at the expansive list of drop-in classes available, wondering where to start.

As someone who is not a fan of the typical gym workout, I tend to find the repetitiveness of lifting weights and running on a treadmill a bit boring. As a result, I’m always looking for a workout that mixes cardio along with building muscle. So, I was immediately drawn to the class offerings of Pilates, arms and abs conditioning and below the belt.

With the clock ticking on my assignment due date and no decision made on my part as to where to begin, my colleague Eric Caruthers walked past my office one day and asked, “Jazz Fit class tomorrow night?” Without really thinking about it, I responded, “Sure!” What I didn’t think through was the fact that I have never before danced to choreography. Of course, I’ve spent many, many nights “cutting a rug” on a nightclub dance floor, but have never followed dance steps to the instruction of someone else. This was going to be interesting.

The very experienced Meghan Gill Bowman leads the 60-minute Jazz Fit class. We started with a 30-minute warm up  similar to a fast-paced Yoga class. We did a lot of full-body stretching and lengthening in yoga-esque moves, and went from twists, to push ups, to lunges and beyond so fast that I worked up a sweat immediately. Just when my body was giving in and tired, we started the choreography, dancing to one of Madonna’s most recent releases “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” (One of my least favorite Madonna songs of all time, but that’s commentary for a different blog.)  I learned one thing really quickly: I’m not very good at remembering choreography., and sometimes had trouble remembering what was supposed to come next… Was it a kick, or turn or a shimmy? But it didn’t matter that I couldn’t remember. I was laughing, sweating and thoroughly enjoying the class. Later, and especially the next day, I could feel the results in my tightest muscles, the hamstrings.

My second class was chosen mostly out of convenience. I normally find myself being fairly lazy on Sundays, but Ballet Fit at 1:00pm seemed like a perfect fit. Being late enough in the day makes it easy to take care of errands and eat a full meal beforehand. And it’s fairly low impact so I didn’t expect it to wear me out. Plus, I was also excited to learn some of the ballet lingo that is so often used around the office.

The very graceful Kaitlyn Moise leads this fun class that again had a very familiar feel to Yoga. Kaitlyn had us go through fast rounds of stretching and warming up, much of which I found myself unable to keep up. When Kaitlyn would call for and count 10 push-ups I could make it through 6 or 7, but it was okay. Again I was laughing and sweating, and felt the burn again in my hamstrings, so I knew I was getting a good work out.

For my final class in the challenge I thought I better get back into my comfort zone and steer away from choreography this time, so I took Arms and Abs Conditioning – a very popular weekday morning class. Led by the sweet and passionate Brittany Harpole, the class uses a lot of props including a rubber ball, weights and various tensions of Therabands. Brittany led the 45-minute class on a fast-paced round of various exercises that focused, of course, on our arms and abs, but I also felt the workout in my back, shoulders, and legs. It was high energy and fun. Again, I found out there were some reps that I could not complete, but it just gave me motivation to want to come back again and again until I can do it all.. It wasn’t until two days after the class that I felt the effects… Especially when I coughed or laughed.

This staff challenge was the perfect motivation to throw myself into classes that I may not normally have considered. I encourage you to think outside your comfort zone and come try a drop-in class at BCS soon.

My Motivation: Easing Into The Golden Years Gracefully

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Ballet Austin’s Director of Operations & Finance has become famous during the Staff “Get Moving Challenge“. She has been to many of the classes. I love it! See what she has to say…

Gail Romney, Director of Operations & Finance

First class – Turbo Kick. I am alive. That is good news because there is a chance now I can finish the Staff Challenge. You know me, I’m the busy downtown professional who is in the second half of a century of life and would like to ease into the golden years gracefully. Ha. I am motivated by the fact that my mother and mother-in-law are in their 90’s and, as my mother puts it, still running around loose. My mother-in-law is 95, can walk 3 miles without breathing hard, and takes Pilates once a week. Who needs a staff challenge when I have her around? I tell myself there is an outside chance that if I exercise and keep in shape, the reward will be a long and mobile life and perhaps I won’t lose my marbles too soon. So, back to Turbo Kick…this is a fun and energetic 45 minutes and if you take it for the first time, don’t worry about the jabs and hooks, punches and kicks. If you keep moving, you will sweat – and that is a promise. I can see that after a few classes, the moves become second nature, as evidenced by the synchronized movements of everyone but me.  And instructor, Tara Shakleford, is adorable (in sort of a drill sergeant way). But it was fun, and I will definitely come back to it when I am done with all my other adventures at the BCS.

Second Class – Zumba. A terrific class and again, a great cardio workout. Rebekah Fowler is a fantastic instructor and makes all the steps easy to follow, although I am sure I dislocated both hips with all the sultry Latin moves!

Third Class – Elementary Contemporary. I took this even though I wasn’t exactly sure what I would be getting into. The description sounded intriguing but I was a bit leery of the hour and a half class time since I nearly expired in the previous two classes that were half as long. Not to worry, there was a lovely warm up involving aspects of Yoga and ballet along with abs and arms work. Then instructor Dane Burch got us moving with choreography that was challenging, but doable, in a jazz/lyrical/modern style. It was great fun and Dane was very patient with us newbies.

Truly, all the classes at Ballet Austin’s BCS are wonderful, my favorites over the years have been Ballet Fit, Arms & Abs, and Body Sculpting (love this one), as well as doing the Pilates Reformer classes. The Staff Challenge was a blast and I even got my picture taken several times – I could get used to this paparazzi thing…

Yes, Gail found herself in front of the camera several times over the past week or so. Check it out on the BCS facebook page! You too could win a FREE class. Staff sightings are everywhere! Love the “Get Moving Challenge“!

Never taken a class? Get Started!

Working Moms and Working Out

Monday, June 25th, 2012

I asked several of my colleagues to join the Staff “Get Moving Challenge”. Two of them are busy working moms of young children. What I love about both of them is that they don’t pull the ’mom card’ as an excuse to not work out. Look what they have to say. Can you relate to their story? Besides finding classes during the day that fit their busy schedule they seem to have figured out the “buddy system”!

Brooke Holmes, Senior Development Associate:

I fall into the category of ‘like to work out, but don’t have much time for it’. I’m a mom of a 3-year-old, work full time, commuting from Cedar Park to downtown Austin. I leave my house before 8am and don’t get home until 6:30pm. It’s then my second job kicks in. I begin the evening routine of making dinner, a little playtime with my daughter and then get her ready for bed. By the time she is asleep and the house is cleaned up, it is 10:00pm. I am tired.

Working out is important to me; it makes me feel good. I have to find time to make it happen. Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School daytime classes are perfect; a mix of cardio and strength training which I love, and both are available during the day. My favorites are Arms & Abs, Below the Belt, Pilates Ballet Barre, and for cardio I like Pilates Cardio Workout and Turbo Kick® (love, love, love this one!).

I think it is really important to take care of yourself even when you are a mom, especially when you’re a mom; really busy and working a lot. When I don’t work out, I feel more tired and more stressed out. When I do work out it makes me a better person and a better mom. So, I make the time during times when I can, and am always glad when I do.

Christi Cuellar Lotz, Development Director

As the mother of an 18-month-old daughter, working out has found its place in many different places on my priority list over the last year and a half…including the bottom of the list. Last summer she loved riding in a jogging stroller and was up early enough in the morning to allow me the opportunity to get a good 30-45 minute walk in before work. NOW, however, she’s a fantastic sleeper, and you know what they say…”Never wake a sleeping baby!” So, with a travelling husband, those early-morning walks are a thing of the past.

Though I’m not opposed at all to a post-work-day workout, as we enter the 100+ degree days of summer, I’m also not crazy. There are times I’ll brave it, but mostly not. The Butler Community School daytime fitness classes are such a blessing! I try to take at least 3 per week, and my favorites are Arms & Abs, Pilates Ballet Barre, Below the Belt, occasionally Turbo Kick®, and Pilates Cardio. All allow for a great work-out, targeting various sections of my body, and don’t get me too sweaty to get back into work clothes 20 or so minutes later.

I also find, like my colleague, Brooke, that I feel more alert and less stressed when I work out… Sometimes when that 45 minutes is the absolute only gap in my day, and I feel like I should sit and answer email instead of take the class, Brooke talks me into going and I don’t ever regret it!

Join Christi and Brooke in a class soon. Working mom near downtown? Check out some of the dance and fitness classes and workshops offered at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School.

Now I’m Afraid

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

I place all the blame on my colleagues here at Ballet Austin. I was doing just fine with the Staff Get Moving Challenge idea, and even scheduled my first class for this Sunday. Turbo Kick®. Then I had a conversation with my colleagues Gail and Brooke. Now I’m afraid.

I like to exercise. I feel good after I work out. I love to run. No matter how tired I get, or how much I sweat on a 6 mile run, nobody sees me. I die alone. That’s how I like it. Now I’m worried.

Gail and Brooke probably don’t have any idea how much their comments affected me; comments like, Turbo Kick® is the hardest class I have ever taken,” and “I am so sore. Every muscle in my body hurts. I was dying!” While I don’t mind pushing my body, I struggle with the intimidation factor of doing this in a group setting.

Seeds of doubt poison my mind so easily…. “What if I look stupid because I don’t know what I’m doing? What if I can’t keep up? What if I look totally out of place? What if my sweat drips everywhere? What if a BCS student has a “Staff Sighting” and takes my picture for social media? What if…?”

Between now and Sunday I have to conquer my fear, and I will conquer it! I am saying to myself, “Just do it! Commit!” I am going to attend the BCS Turbo Kick® class on Sunday at 2:00. I have butterflies in my stomach. That “do you really want to do this?” feeling is nagging me. Of course I know it is not based on anything aside from a fear of the unknown.  So I won’t chicken out. I will go. I will not die.

Want to join me? You could be rewarded for your attendance!

Reward Offered for Ballet Austin Staff Sighting

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

This week Ballet Austin kicks off the staff Get Moving Challenge!

I have rounded up a few of my colleagues at Ballet Austin to begin a fun and friendly summer fitness competition to encourage and promote active life; more specifically…to challenge us to get moving right here at the BCS in the 60 plus dance and fitness classes we have to offer on site 7 days a week.

During the challenge, which runs June 18 through July 12, participating Ballet Austin staff will be challenged to commit to taking a minimum of 3 different BCS classes, and to set their own personal goals; and what they hope to accomplish through this challenge. Every one of us has a story that you can relate to. Working moms, busy executives, commuters, not motivated, to look good for a daughter’s wedding, too many excuses, and so on…

We will each blog about our participation and experiences in the classes. Keep reading the BE ACTIVE! blog over the next few weeks for some fun and funny stories about how the challenge is going; how our bodies are feeling.

But here’s the best part. You can participate in the challenge and win free classes! Receive a reward for staff sightings! That’s right! You could win single classes (up to 3), enrollment into a BCS Workshop, or up to 10 FREE BCS classes when you sight a Ballet Austin staff member in a BCS class…and report it to me!

Wanted! Photos of staff, dead or alive, tweeted or emailed to me, or posted on the BCS facebook page. Sight a staff member in a class? Take a picture with your phone and send it to me. Each legitimate staff sighting sent to me will reward you one free BCS drop-in class (limit of 3). At the end of the challenge, if you have sent a photo, you will be entered into a drawing to win 10 BCS classes or a BCS Workshop.

Sound like fun? Of course it does! But one more thing…who are you looking for?

The wanted staff are: Gail Romney, Director of Finance and Operations, Christi Cuellar, Development Director, Brooke Holmes, Senior Development Associate, Pei-San Brown, Community Education Director, Timothy Dillon, Marketing Director, LuAnn Glowacz, Communications Manager, Eleanor Bartosh, Digital Media Manager, Eric Caruthers, Schools Registrar, and me, Vicki Parsons.

See you in a class soon…I’ll be watching for the camera!

Vicki

The Cost of Inactivity

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I subscribe to the Harvard School of Public Health newsletter and recently read an article that gave some staggering statistics regarding the cost of inactivity. The article stated that “according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, inactivity was associated with more than 9 million cases of cardiovascular disease in 2001, at an estimated direct medical cost of nearly $24 billion.  Another CDC analysis suggests that because individuals who are physically active have significantly lower annual direct medical costs than those who are inactive, getting people to become more active could cut yearly medical costs in the U.S. by more than $70 billion.” Take that to the bank…or should I say Federal Reserve.

The definition of being sedentary or physically inactive is this: expending less than 1.5 kcal/kg per day in leisure physical activities. This is the equivalent of walking a little over two kilometers or 1.3 miles, or approximately 3000 steps in one day. For most people, that is a walk of 25 minutes or less.

I find it interesting that despite all the promotion in this country to get active, “only about 30 percent of adult Americans report they get regular physical activity during their leisure time—and about 40 percent of Americans say they get no leisure-time physical activity at all.”

Yet according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. That’s quite a contrast!  And while many of us may feel perfectly okay with an evening in front of the TV, as long as we got our workout in, the article published by Harvard School of Public Health challenges our defense. It is not only important to to exercise more, it is actually more important to sit less! And in an article appropriately titled Meet the Active Couch Potato, Dr. Dunstan writes, “It is important the general public become more conscious about what they do in their nonexercise time. Almost everybody should look for opportunities to reduce their daily sitting time and move more, more often, throughout the day.”

I plan to give some thought to this. While my solution to inactivity is to go run for an hour, and then invite you to come take a class or try Pilates at the Butler Community School, it’s what we do with the rest of our time that appears to be even more important.

Check back next week. I’m quite intrigued with the possibility of saving 70 billion dollars a year.

 
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