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What is a Calorie and Why Should You Care?

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Calorie is a household word, it’s heard around the office, at the gym, but if I ask the question, “exactly what does a calorie do” people have a hard time answering. In fact, most answer, “the thing in food that makes me fat.” Seems to me calories have gotten a bad reputation; are considered to be the enemy. Or it may be like many things in life…too much of a good thing can be bad. So here’s the question. How much do you really know about calories? (Yes, go ahead, take the quiz) Because, actually, calories can be your friend.

Funny…with all the talk about calories, few people truly understand what a calorie is and why it is so important to their bodies. Calories aren’t bad for you. Your body needs calories for energy. But eating too many calories — and not burning enough of them off through activity — can lead to weight gain.

By definition a calorie is a unit of measurement; the energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. When you read that a food contains 100 calories, it’s a way of describing how much energy your body could get from eating or drinking that food.

Calories are energy that fuel our bodies; much like gasoline fuels our cars. Without sufficient calories our heart would not beat, our lungs would not function, and our brain would not work. Note: I am certainly not claiming that if you eat more calories you brain will work better.

On average, most adults need at least 1000 to 1400 calories to have enough energy to fuel their key organs. This minimum number of calories is called your resting metabolic rate (RMR) and it varies quite a bit depending on age, sex, weight, and muscle mass. In order to have enough energy to live your day and be active you need more energy than what’s required from your resting metabolic rate (RMR). About 400 to 600 additional calories per day is recommended. This is the energy needed to move versus just lying or sitting still all day.

It’s really quite simple math to understand why you gain or lose weight. If you exceed the number of calories your body requires each day you will eventually gain weight. For example, if your body needs 2000 calories a day to maintain its current weight and every day you consume 2500, in one week you would gain 1 lb. And by the way, one day of overindulging does not cause instant weight gain.

To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume. Example: If you eat 2000 calories a day, and are maintaining your weight, you would need to burn 250 calories (30 minutes high impact aerobics for a 150 lb. person) per day to lose a 1/2 lb. in one week. If, in addition, you decreased your caloric intake by 250 calories a day, you could then lose 1 lb. per week. But one note of caution…you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

Research backs up the The Simple Secret Of Weight Loss: Eat Less, Move More

Yes, you should care. My advice: Know the content and calories of what you’re eating. Get up and get moving. Make sure your physical activity is enjoyable and you will stick with it!

Looking for a way to get active? Check out the many adult dance & fitness classes offered at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School.

Grab a Workout Buddy

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Unless you are a highly motivated self-starter and aren’t prone to giving up when it comes to working out, your chances of sticking to a long-term fitness plan without a friend are significantly lower than they are with a friend. So grab your friend and buddy up for fitness!

With a friend, the time goes by faster, you won’t be as tempted to cancel a workout or cheat, and you have someone to celebrate with when it comes to your progress and successes!

I recently read a great article on one of my favorite fitness websites called Get Motivated: The Workout You Won’t Cancel. It makes sense! The buddy system has proven itself in just about all areas of life.

At the Butler Community School one of the things I love is the sense of community. If people don’t come to take a class or workout with a friend when they first come to the BCS, it’s not long before there is a sense of camaraderie. Everyone’s in it together. I see it in drop-in classes, during the workshops, and in the Pilates Center. It happens! It’s accountability and encouragement at its best.

Here’s my challenge. Bring a friend, strike up a new friendship with someone in a class, or get a group together. Prove me right! i’m convinced you’ll stick with it! Try working out with people you enjoy being with, in a class that you enjoy.  Meet new people! Give it enough time to test it. If it helps, if you experience the benefits of the buddy system, I want to hear your story! If it does nothing for you let me know that too…but I will want to know why!

So grab your workout buddy and get started today!

I Take Pilates with Robots

Friday, December 14th, 2012

…Or maybe Energizer Bunnies. My class is full of women and men of all ages and body types and they do.not.stop. I asked one woman how she was able to keep up without her abs bursting into flames, and she explained that she’d been taking Pilates here at Ballet Austin for a while. As the class continued, I realized I too felt more confident in my movements and the transitions became easy (well, easier), which got me thinking about my normal excuses and how Pilates seems to be the exception to my many rules.

No Energy
I’m having one of those just on my first cup of coffee, don’t talk to me type of day. I’m not sure if it’s the gloomy weather or all the calories I burned Christmas shopping at the Domain this weekend, but I just didn’t want to get out of bed. So of course, the last thing I wanted to do was shimmy into a pair of yoga pants and hit the Pilates studio. Honestly, my desires were to stay in my baggy sweatpants and hit the couch for an all-day marathon of Friends reruns. However, after an hour of Pilates, I have a burst of energy, especially on the days when we do Pilates Cardio. I can also tell a difference in my metabolism throughout the day.

Joint Issues
I was born with dislocated hips, so I’ve always had lower back and hip pain. This is my #1 excuse. High-impact classes tend to hurt my hip flexors and mat classes are uncomfortable for my lower back. However, as today’s Pilates Instructor Alex explained, if it hurts or just doesn’t feel right, let your instructor know and modifications can be made. I’ve learned in my appointments that if I am restricted from a move, it doesn’t mean I can’t still target that specific muscle group. The Certified Pilates Instructors are able to make the proper adjustments or teach a completely different move to still get the same results without the pain – well, not completely pain-free (remember the abs bursting into flames comment?)

I Cheat
I’m not trying to brag, but I’m an awesome cheater. Years of evil gym teachers made me a fantastic exercise cheater.  I can cheat, cheat, cheat without the instructor ever knowing; I can do the same move as you and feel nothing just by turning my arm a little bit. One problem, if the instructor standing over you can’t tell you’re cheating, the reformer sure can. I cannot cheat on the Pilates Reformer. If you don’t do the movement, it won’t move. It’s that simple. It’s impossible to leave a Pilates Apparatus class feeling like you didn’t get a great workout. The machine adds just enough resistance and forces you to do it right.

That sums up appointment # two in this four part series, and so far I’m sticking to my original statement: Pilates may be the workout for the girl who doesn’t work out.

Jodi

Buddy Up!

Friday, October 12th, 2012

As a couple of old sayings go, “time passes much more quickly when you’re having fun” and “there’s strength in numbers.”

Right off the bat some of you might argue that there is nothing fun about a workout. I counter that thought with the fact (yes, there is research to back it up) that friends who exercise together get better results together.

So if you are one of those who considers exercise the “necessary of two evils” (better than being dead), and the fun of Bollywood or Zumba® isn’t enough to get you off the couch, buddy up!

A study of 3,000 women revealed 61% find it near impossible to find enough motivation and energy to exercise alone. However the same proportion enjoy working out with a friend, and say they actually push themselves harder if they have company.

Having a friend who is interested in keeping fit and toned can help keep motivation high. Workouts becomes less about the sweat, or how many calories you burn, and more about catching up on the latest news, and sharing time together. Social support encourages physical activity, provides feedback, and makes the exercise time more fun. I think that’s why the fitness apps are so popular today. They challenge us, motivate us, encourage us, make our workouts more interesting, and give us the feedback we need to keep going. I just wish I had an app that kept me from reaching for the white chocolate chip cookie!

So buddy up! Grab your friend and get started this week. It’s $5 Friend Week at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School! Bring a friend to any BCS Drop-in class between October 15 and October 21 and both you and your friend can take that class for only $5!

What are you waiting for? Over 60 classes are offered 7 days a week! Buddy up and experience the positive side of peer pressure!

See you in a class with your friend this week!

Calling All Zombies!

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

One hour of total Thriller! Join the Zombies of Austin on the scariest night of the year and dance it out in this ever popular graveyard dance.

Ahhh…the 80′s…

I remember the birth of MTV in 1981. Music videos have come a long way, but over three decades later Michael Jackson’s Thriller just doesn’t go away.  In fact, it remains the bestselling album of all time, with 72 million in worldwide sales. Wow! And then there’s Thrill The World, an annual worldwide attempt to break the Largest Simultaneous Dance with Michael Jackson’s Thriller. And I just found out that the Library of Congress added Thriller to its National Film Registry in 2009, the first music video in their registry. And did you know that the video won for Best Performance Video, Best Choreography, and Viewers Choice at the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984.

How’s that for a little trivia? Needless to say, Thriller remains a popular favorite. What could be better than combining Michael Jackson, dance, and zombies for Halloween

Halloween just wouldn’t be Halloween without this ghoulish anthem.

If you’re a Michael Jackson fan, love Thriller, love to dance, or want to be a part of this “mob” of zombies, STOP! Take note! Save the dates!

Videodance™ instructor Kody Jauron is always game for some crazy fun, and that’s just what you can expect from October 16-31. Are you in?
  • Thriller choreography will be taught prior to Halloween at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School during Videodance™ classes October 16 – 30. Videodance™ is held every Tuesday & Thursday night from 7:30-8:30pm.
  • If you attend any or all of the Videodance™ classes October 16 – 30 you will be invited to participate in a surprise (and secret) Ballet Austin BCS flash mob on Saturday night, October 27. Email me if you’re interested! vicki.parsons@balletaustin.org
  • Halloween Thriller Dance Party! Just want to dance it with a bunch of zombies? Head over to Ballet Austin for a special Thriller hour of dance. Halloween night, October 31 from 8:30pm to 9:30pm. Just maybe you can take it to the streets at the end of the hour! Wear your Halloween costume to the class on the 31st and get $12 off the regular $17 single class rate. Just $5 for an hour of Zombie fun!
You may be a fan of The Walking Dead…but are you a fan of The Dancing Dead? The zombies are waiting…

Ballet Austin is on the corner of 3rd and San Antonio. Will we see you there?

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.

A Conversation Between My Brain and My Body

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Vicki Parsons, Director of Schools Operations & BCS Program Director

You have heard from several Ballet Austin staff members about their likes and dislikes and challenges when it comes to working out. Now it’s my turn.

Let me go on record. I do like to work out. My story begins with a quote I posted last month on the BCS facebook page: “Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body will. Feel the fear and do it anyway.” 

The quote was for me. While my body loves a good workout; needs to be challenged physically, my brain and my body don’t always agree. My brain has a mind of its own. My body loves to move anywhere. My brain knows the importance of a good workout, but has a people and group exercise fear. The staff fitness challenge to get Ballet Austin staff into BCS group classes was my idea. I went into it knowing that I am not a fan of group exercise. I love to run and hike, but I go solo. I exercise for the physical benefit, the stress relief, and time to get away and think. I don’t need people around when I sweat.  It’s out of my comfort zone. But…I had committed to this challenge.

Dreading it for a week, I finally went to Turbo Kick®. And that’s when the conversation began between my body and my brain.

Brain: “Will they wonder why I am there, try to talk to me?” Out of my comfort zone; I felt the fear.

Body: “Do it anyway! Yes, there were other people in the studio, but stand in the back and nobody will notice you.”

I tried hiding behind Kody Jauron, Ballet Austin II dancer and BCS instructor. Music started, instructions were shouted out, and there we went…hard core cardio-burning 45 minutes!

Body: “Doing okay…although this is a mean workout.”  I discovered I am a bit uncoordinated (my colleagues might laugh at the phrase ”a bit”) I was definitely challenged!

Brain: In intimidation and resist mode, assuming that everyone already knew what to do, “Turbo Kick® is easy for them; they are probably laughing at me.”

The intimidation factor is why I dragged not only Kody, but my husband Mark to the class. We could all struggle together; I would not be alone in my inadequacies. Brain winning the battle? Almost! But Brain begins to come around…

Brain:  “Everybody else in the studio is far too busy worrying about getting it right to notice me. No one is trying to talk to me. Maybe if I am so self-conscious, imagining every eyeball is focused on me, somebody else might be thinking the same thing.”

About halfway through the class I looked around and realized that everyone was sweating and breathing hard. We were all in the same place…sweat dripping, muscles screaming, dying!

Brain overcoming! “WHO CARES what other people think?  Maybe in their heads they also hear, I’m embarrassed! I think I may throw up! I can’t do the moves right. Is everyone staring at me? Why am I here?’

Brain and Body: “In the end it doesn’t matter. I got one of the most awesome workouts of my life! I felt the fear. I kept kicking and boxing and pushing my muscles. I burned hundreds of calories.”

The 45 minutes flew by and at the end…I was ready for the end…I walked away with memories of the fun music, the encouraging and challenging words of Tara, BCS Turbo Kick® instructor. I survived! And I felt a sense of camaraderie with my fellow survivors. Admittedly tired, my body felt great. When I stepped outside and felt the 100 degree heat hit my face it crossed my mind that an indoor workout is a great thing during summers in Texas.

Whatever your challenge, find the workout that fits your fitness personality, your interests, and your schedule. The workout where your brain and body will agree.

Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body will. Feel the fear and do it anyway.” 

Do You Listen to The Voice in Your Head?

Friday, July 27th, 2012

I do not have another colleague at Ballet Austin who has more enthusiam than Eric Caruthers. Eric worked in the Schools Office at Ballet Austin as the Registrar for several year before recently joining the Production Department, but not before winning the staff “Woo Hoo” award! But Eric is the first to tell you that the spirit of “woo hoo!” is not enough to conquer his many excuses for not working out. As a participant of the ”Get Moving Challenge” Eric figured out what it would take to get his workout in…

Eric Caruthers, Ballet Austin Production Assistant

“I am too busyI don’t have a clean workout outfit…I just ateI’ve done enough exercise this week…I’ll start tomorrowI’ll start next week…”

These are my excuses. I own them. I use them daily to tell myself to avoid or put off exercising.

Funny thing is, if I don’t listen to myself, and I actually do workout – whether Zumba®, running, yoga or biking – I love it!
I especially love group exercise. This might be partially due to the fact that I am an extreme extrovert. A room full of people completely energizes me. But if that’s true, then why is it I’m hardly ever in class…a room full of people exercising? Because there’s a voice in my head. It feeds me excuses – and I listen! It’s that voice that stops me from getting my move on.

So knowing what I know about myself – that I love people and that when I actually begin my workout I have a great time – I have figured out how to conquer the voice. People! If I invite a friend to go with me (or 2 or 3 – the more the merrier) it not only makes it a whole lot more fun, it adds accountability to the mix. I am not going to let a friend down!

That became my strategy during the staff “Get Moving Challenge“. I roped in Melissa, Tim, and anyone who would join me to take a class. And it worked! I went and had a blast!

Now I have figured out that is what makes the BCS a perfect place for me to exercise! It’s full of people! I have taken Beginning Ballet, Feldenkrais®, Theater Dance, Zumba®, Jazz Fit, Body Sculpting, Ballet Fit, and Turbo Kick®.  My personal favorites are Zumba® and Turbo Kick® because of the energy and sense of fun.

I am not the most graceful person when it comes to dancing, but that’s ok because for me it isn’t about grace – it’s about moving! It’s about having fun! It’s about moving and having fun with friends. I love it! That’s what I love about taking classes at the BCS.

It is time to STOP the excuses, call a friend and commit! Dial 512…

Want to come take a class with me?

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!

 
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