Wellness Wednesday: Why Being a Friend is Good for your Health

There’s a new bounce in my step. Part of the feeling comes from some good news: A cyst that cropped up on my pancreas has disappeared. Good. Moving on.

But most of the bounce in my step comes from a new energy. Maybe it’s that I’m swimming again. Or maybe it’s that I’m spending more time with a good friend.

Supporting my friend

My dear friend and neighbor C. took swimming classes this summer, taking the plunge at the urging of her husband to overcome a life-long fear of the water. In just three weeks, she progressed from a panicked doggie paddle to this, which I recorded when I got up earlier than usual to attend her graduation day swim. (Yes, I do testament to the 50’s with my exclamations of ”Holy mackerel!” Another one I seem to use a lot is “Phooey.”)

C swimming class graduation day!

C invited me to help her continue to practice her newfound skill by joining her at our community pool a few mornings a week before her work day.

It was a big ask: being fully retired, I’ve gotten very accustomed to sleeping in, waking slowly over breakfast and the newspaper, and doing some writing before getting out the door for a two-mile walk with our dog.

But C. had made so much progress — not just the crawl, but backstroke, breaststroke and sidestroke! — that I simply couldn’t say no. Swimming alone is not a good idea — although I usually do water exercise once or twice a week, it has been a long time since I’ve done any serious swimming for lack of company.

So, I set my alarm, organized breakfast and the dog, and started showing up.

Helping a friend got me healthier

That was a month ago. Three mornings a week, I am up early, knowing that C. is doing the same, and we meet at our community pool. We catch up and goggle up, and then we’re in the water.

I have watched C continue to develop her new skill. As her arms and legs settle into their rhythm, she is finding freedom in the water and emerges into the warming air with a huge smile on her face. Swimming is a joyful exploration.

My old swimming routine was just waiting for me. The slow ten lengths of freestyle, my body gradually releasing the night’s tension. The mix-up of breaststroke, freestyle, backstroke, and a sort-of butterfly, the variety entertaining my mind and challenging my body. The hypnotic burble of breath and bubble. The final laps bring me home, panting.

We stretch and talk, or talk and stretch. And talk some more on the walk back home. Then we each disappear into the requirements of the day, knowing that, in a day or two, we’ll do this all again.

My friend’s company was just the support I needed to reclaim an old habit. And swimming has become another vehicle though which our friendship blossoms.

Friendship and exercise, what a great combination

The happy buzz of endorphins percolates through my body all day long. I feel stronger, more connected, and more committed to my health. And grateful for a friend’s support.

I thought I was doing her a favor, when in fact it was I who received the blessing.

C and me in the pool
C and me in the pool

Wellness Wednesday: How I Built Back Better

Regular readers will know that I am a huge advocate of water exercise. Last month, I wrote about what water exercise can do for you. In May, I wrote about how water fitness helped me survive a 2019 ruptured aneurysm and to recover and rehabilitate as I celebrated my second anniversary of that trauma. At the end of 2019, when I was strong enough to resume taking classes and before the pandemic had shut down LA Fitness, I wrote that water keeps saving my life.

Heel pain prevented me from jogging

One of the reasons that I became such an advocate of water exercise years ago was that I had developed plantar fasciitis, heel pain that did not permit me to continue to jog as my cardiovascular routine. Although I purchased orthodic inserts for my sneakers, iced my heels, and stretched as recommended by the physical therapists at FYZICAL, nothing really improved. Blame my high-arched dancer’s feet, too tender for the hard world of running.

Buoyancy allowed me to run in water, and resistance improved my overall strength. I even put my old orthotics in my water shoes, — mine are from Ryka.

I didn’t think I would ever jog again. It never occurred to me that I might have to re-learn how to walk, or that starting over would rehabilitate the old injury as I built back better.

I had to re-learn how to walk

July 2019

When I was released from the Amsterdam ICU after six weeks, most of it intubated and inert, I had lost 30 percent of my body weight and the ability to move. Returning home to the United States depended on my ability to walk. Weeks into recovery in the hospital’s 7A unit, I finally stood, but my legs felt as empty as cardboard tubes. Weeks of additional work with my awesome physiotherapists, and I flew home.

Better alignment

My dance background and my American Council on Exercise personal trainer certification helped me be aware of keeping my ears over my shoulders, my shoulders down and back, and my knees over my hips. As my body slowly came back into its own through physical therapy at FYZICAL, there were weeks when I felt like a Transformer every time I slowly stood up, my parts slowly clicking into place.

Better body mechanics

I used the audio workouts from WeightWatchers, aaptiv, to keep me focused and motivated on my outdoor walks. For the first time since my days as a barefoot modern dancer, I was super conscious of how I used my feet in propelling my weight forward. As much as I thought I knew about how to move, I picked up tips like landing mid-foot instead of on my heel. That single tip probably helped more than any other in keeping plantar fasciitis at bay.

Fall 2020

Better strengthening

I continued to do the exercises I had done at PT to strengthen my legs (particularly squats and monster walks), adding resistance bands when my old Lycra water bands gave out. Mine are Fitfort, no longer under that in Amazon, but they look very similar to these. My daughter’s hand weights came out of the closet, too.

Better stretching

The two things I missed most about moving my body while I was hospitalized were relaxation — when you’re lying in bed all day, you never get that “ahhh” release — and stretching. As I recovered strength and movement, I regained the need to relax and the ability to stretch. Water gave me back loads of stretching, and my weekly yoga class with Jade Wonzo has facilitated even more.

Et voilá! I’m jogging

Bit by bit, walking became trotting became jogging, without any heel pain, and now I’m jogging — not running every day but doing a steady 15-minute mile several times a week. I’m swimming or biking the other days. And doing weights and stretching too. Our rescue Lab and I walk every day.

Someone said, “Oh, you’re cross-training!” Guess so. A little bit of everything seems to be a good balance for now. As I continue to build back better.

September 8, 2021 running in my Ryka water shoes

Wellness Wednesday: How the Fitness Habit Helped One Journalist Recover from COVID

My devotion to fitness aided in my recovery.

Jorge Milian, Post reporter’s hellish month with COVID-19, The Palm Beach Post, April 10, 2021

I recognized the gratitude in these words. My exercise teaching experience gave me a whole lot of helping hands when I pulled myself up from post-Intensive Care syndrome following my lengthy hospitalization in 2019. Although my illness pre-dated COVID, I felt a sort of kinship with Jorge Milian’s experience. I wanted to find out more.

Here is what I learned in my research, including a telephone conversation with Jorge a few weeks ago.

Palm Beach Post reporter Jorge Milian

In his coverage of the COVID pandemic’s impact on his beat of Lake Worth Beach and Boynton Beach, Palm Beach Post reporter and journalist Jorge Milian has written tributes to fallen community leaders and other victims of the virus, stories on the verbal attacks on the city’s Central American migrants, and articles on the eviction moratorium. What he never expected to write was a story on his own hellish encounter with COVID-19 at the end of January.

Hellish month

I had a raging fever, my head felt like it was on the verge of exploding and each of the 206 bones in my body ached.

That began around 4-5 weeks of unpleasantness that, at its worst, had me wondering if I would wind up like some of the people I’ve written about since last March in the Palm Beach Post who died after getting COVID-19 (and if would I have time to alert the Post’s editors not to use the headshot that makes me look 20 pounds heavier in my obituary?)

I can joke about it now. But there’s nothing funny about running a high fever for days and feeling like you are trying to breathe under water while your doctor is wondering aloud whether you should check into a hospital – a thought that terrified me even more than the unexplainable nightmares and hallucinations that dogged me for around 10 unrelenting, miserable days and nights.

Walking from one side of the house to the other seemed like a marathon. The worst of it was at night when I would wake up gasping for air, almost as if I had forgotten to breathe.

Fatigue was another big issue. For around two weeks after getting sick, I would sleep for 10 hours then spend the rest of the day feeling like I needed a nap.

My doctor told me I should seriously consider going to the hospital if my oxygen level fell below 90. My oxygen level never dropped under 92, but still low enough for thoughts of ventilators and doctors in space suits to cram my thoughts.

Jorge Milian, Post reporter’s hellish month with COVID-19, The Palm Beach Post, April 10, 2021

Exercise habit

In a recent conversation, Jorge told me that before being bedridden by COVID-19 for 15 days, he had not been sick in his 26 years with The Palm Beach Post. He is an active 61-year-old, a diligent gym-goer (“a little bit of a maniac”), and former runner. He credits his lifetime fitness habit with his quick comeback.

As sick as I got, I still feel kind of lucky. My devotion to fitness aided in my recovery. [Still], it’s only been in the past couple of weeks that I can go for my hour-long bike ride or complete my daily strengthtraining routine without stopping every 15 minutes to catch my breath.

Jorge Milian, Post reporter’s hellish month with COVID-19, The Palm Beach Post, April 10, 2021

His body struggled though what had been comfortable workouts.

When I returned to the gym, it felt like a fever would suddenly rage through my body, heating up like crazy, although my temperature would be normal. But my muscle memory was there to see me though.

Jorge Milian, reporter and journalist

Fitness advice

Jorge is happy to be on the other side of his COVID-19 illness. He is not a long hauler, having been able to resume his full activity routine. And what does he recommend to help others build up their strength?

Find something you like to do and do it. Every day. Consistently. Work up to being active for an hour a day.

Jorge Milian, reporter and journalist

Staying well

Follow the public health recommendations: get vaccinated, wear a mask, and practice social distancing.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying that contracting COVID-19 was no worse than catching the flu, but the virus put this 60-year-old through a physical and mental wringer like I haven’t experienced before.

What I had, you don’t want.

Jorge Milian, Post reporter’s hellish month with COVID-19, The Palm Beach Post, April 10, 2021
Reporter Jorge Milian, photo Thomas Cordy, The Palm Beach Post

Wellness Wednesday: What Metabolism Myth Was Just Busted?

Although people gain on average more than a pound and a half a year during adulthood, they can no longer attribute it to slowing metabolisms.

Gina Kolata, The New York Times, August 12, 2021

Metabolism steady through adulthood

My friend Marlo Scott, First Class Fitness and Wellness, brought this new information to my attention.

In a recent New York Times article, What We Think We Know About Metabolism May Be Wrong, science reporter Gina Kolata writes that a recent study published in Science Magazine opens to question the belief that the rate at which our bodies burn calories slows as we age. Instead, the study found, adult metabolism holds steady from age 20 to 60. So much for blaming middle-age spread on our slowing bodies.

No difference between men and women

The study also found no significant difference between men’s and women’s metabolic rates.

Everything changes at 60

On a more sobering note, there is a big slow-down after 60, with a 20 percent drop by age 95.

There is a myth of retaining youth. That’s not what the biology says. In and around age 60, things start to change. There is a time point when things are no longer as they used to be.

Rozalyn Anderson, a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, quoted in What We Think We Know About Metabolism May Be Wrong.

So, there’s no blaming a slow metabolism before you’re 60, and then everything falls apart. Great.

What can we do? Move more, eat better, and sleep longer.

Move more

Exercise is the key!

Marlo Scott, First Class Fitness and Wellness

Getting off the couch immediately improves our body’s ability to burn calories and break down body fat, and to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. Get a fitness tracker to see how many steps you take each day. Information is power! Challenge yourself to do a little more and see if you can get to 10,000.

Eat better

USDA myplate.gov
USDA myplate.gov

Remember the old food pyramid? It’s now been simplified (and assigned portion control) as a small dinner plate. (Yes, plates have expanded in size along with our bodies!) A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean protein is the key to good nutrition. And drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Find out more at myplate.gov.

When deciding what to eat or drink, choose options that are full of nutrients. Make every bite count.

Myplate.gov

Sleep longer

Getting enough sleep is an essential part of a well-rounded health routine — We’ve all had those sluggish mornings that just beg for breakfasts loaded with sugar and fat, which send us crashing hours later.

Establish a screen-free bedtime routine to help you disengage from the day. I drink a calming cup of Sleepytime tea and take a relaxing bath before I turn in. And I sleep more deeply since I began using a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine to reduce apnea interruptions. Martin Sheen’s character, Robert, now sports one on Grace and Frankie. Here’s why. A short Season 7 is up!

Family Friday: Why Small Talk is Big Time

Neighboring builds neighborhoods

In an interview years ago, the actor Ellen Burstyn told me, “When you mother a child, a relationship is formed. You become the noun by doing the verb.” The same can be said for building back supportive, strong communities. You become friends by befriending. You strengthen neighborhoods by neighboring.

Anna Sale, host of the podcast Death, Sex & Money and author of the forthcoming Let’s Talk About Hard Things

Small talk builds connections

During the 2020 lockdown phase of the coronavirus pandemic, the thing I most missed was the random opportunities for chit chat with strangers, like the fellow airplane passenger years ago whose mane of bobbed silver hair I stopped to admire as we were boarding. “Thanks,” she said, lifting the wig like doffing a hat. “I’m a cancer survivor.”

As I told my mortified daughter when we got buckled into our seats, that completely unnecessary exchange had built a deeply meaningful, though fleeting, connection.

Pandemic increases neighboring

My engagement with the outside community is still constrained by the virus. Our brief emergence (our 23-hour vacation) in July has reverted to home-based life. Florida is the American epicenter of the pandemic this summer.

So the pandemic has emphasized the importance of our neighbors, who I wrote about in Lend a Hand, Find Common Ground. I stop and chat with our neighbors outdoors every day, usually while walking our rescue Lab, Kumba.

Our dog makes engagement easy

The small boy down the street,H, feels akin to our dog because they’re the same age, and almost the same height. Another neighbor boy “plays Kumba” when he pretends to be a dog, his father tells me. How lovely to have been made part of these families’ stories.

H and his pal, Kumba.
H and his pal, Kumba.

Reese, an adorable and unlikely mix of golden retriever and dachshund, was Kumba’s first neighborhood friend, proving that our dog-aggressive rescue could have a social life.

Nala the German Shepard is Kumba’s biggest friend. Cookie is one of his smallest pals. Their humans are kind neighbors, complimenting Kumba on his transformation from skinny, scared pound dog to hearty community canine.

Kumba and Cookie

B, a gentleman from Jamaica with a very formal long name, is afraid of dogs and so gives us a wide berth when he takes his daily walks. I hadn’t seen him in months and worried that he’d taken ill, or worse. But, no: his son, B, Jr., is now a father to B III, and proud grandpa spent a month with this new little person with the very big name. I get a huge smile when I ask after the baby.

Pool buddies support each other

Now and then I get more than a couple of minutes to catch up with neighbors. This morning, one of my pool buddies, E, and I chatted while doing our deep water workout, a half hour of slow jogging without touching the pool floor. While the calories burned and our shapes became sculpted (at least in the water!), we caught up on each other’s health. It was nice not to be rushed in exchanging support.

Perhaps it was more than endorphins that I felt as I drifted back home.

Building community is to the collective as spiritual practice is to the individual.

Grace Lee Boggs

Wellness Wednesday: Jade Wonzo’s Inside Out Approach to Yoga

My yoga teacher’s three-year-old son joined in our Zoom class one Saturday morning, sitting quietly in the opening poses. When he took off around the patio on his Big Wheel tricycle after a couple of minutes, I was admittedly relieved — it seemed so out of character for a little boy to be still — but I was also impressed that he stayed mostly quiet as Jade Wonzo of Jade Light Yoga maintained her focus on leading us through the class.

I spoke with Jade about it afterwards.

It’s amazing what kids absorb. He watches what I do and we talk about not letting feelings control you. He’s learned to say what he feels instead of letting emotions get to him most of the time.

Jade Wonzo of Jade Light Yoga

Breathing can change how you feel

An even bigger lesson revealed itself when her son was at his grandmother’s house one evening.

My mother-in-law called to tell me that he’d helped her through a kind of panic attack by suggesting she take some deep breaths. I was so proud of him for knowing that breathing can change how you feel. I hope that he carries that knowledge with him as he grows.

Jade Wonzo of Jade Light Yoga

Changing from the inside

Changing from the inside out is part of Jade’s approach to yoga.

You will get more flexible. You will get stronger. Maybe you’ll even lose weight. But when you connect inside of yourself, you will leave a yoga class feeling different. Through this physical practice, we can change from the inside out.

Jade Wonzo of Jade Light Yoga

That would be me. If my Apple watch doesn’t give me credit for the activity, it’s as if I’ve done nothing.

Sitting with the stillness

Jade asks us to bring our thoughts in from the day as we gather on our mats, and she suggests that we stay in our final resting pose, or shavasana, for a few minutes after class ends.

Let yourself simply sit with yourself in stillness. Listen to the silence and let your soul whisper to you in those moments.

Jade Wonzo of Jade Light Yoga

Letting go your grasp on outside things

She understands how challenging this can be, especially when life overwhelms us and we feel at sea. The pandemic, family, health, finances, we all have real stressors to deal with.

I know this is hard. Sit down, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Then, do it again, for as many times as it takes for you to surrender. Let go your grasp on outside things and return to the very thing you need most: your self.

This is the most important part of your practice. Don’t skip it. Be aware of the breath, relax fingers and toes, relax eyelids over the eyes. Remember that whatever you have to do will be there when you’re done with your own practice, your own self-care, your own time. Just allow the stillness to be OK.

Jade Wonzo of Jade Light Yoga

Shanti, shanti, shanti. Peace, peace, peace.

Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga
Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga

Read more of my posts about Jade Wonzo: Meet Jade Wonzo, the Teacher Who Wants Yoga to be for All.

Wellness Wednesday: Why I Celebrated My Two-Year “All Clear” With New Shoes

Of all the tools I used to strengthen my body over my two-year recovery from a ruptured aneurysm, my trusty Skechers were the last to go.

I had three pairs of them, all army-issue grey, in sizes 7, 7.5, and 8. My husband bought them for me in Amsterdam during my hospitalization. It wasn’t that he didn’t know that I wear a 7. It was that my lower legs and feet were puffy from lack of use.

A long period of immobility with the legs dependent (below heart level) can lead to a build up of fluid, since we rely on the movement of the muscles in the leg to move the blood and fluid up out of the legs towards the heart.

The Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland

From May into June, I lay immobile in the ICU, my feet flexed against a pillow at the foot of the bed to prevent them from curling into each other, pigeon toed. For four weeks, my body battled its way back from the systemic-shut down that followed the ruptured aneurysm.

When I finally emerged from the fog of illness, I noticed how thin my arms and legs were (my puffy feet came later). My immediate thought: “This is fantastic! I can fit into my wedding outfit!” My second thought: “But I can’t move.” The ICU nurses strapped my flaccid thin legs to a bed-mounted motorized bicycle, and I began to work my way back.

It took another month to regain the ability to stand. There was no question about trying to get my unresponsive feet into even the bigger Skechers — if you’ve ever tried to put a shoe on a baby, you get the idea. Instead, I slid into a pair of pink plastic Crocs a roommate had left behind. Here I am taking the Crocs for a spin with my jazzy blue Rollator about 10 days before flying back to the States, with my very proud husband narrating for our daughter. (Yeah, I was pretty exhausted by the whole process, as my flat affect shows. Easy to forget that.)

At the end of July, I left the Crocs behind in Amsterdam and wore my size 8 Skechers when we flew to Shands Hospital in Florida before continuing my recovery back home. Those sturdy gray shoes took me shuffling down the neighborhood sidewalks and through my paces in FYZICAL therapy. My feet and calves stayed puffy, even with the compression stockings the therapist recommended. (They’re basically SPANX for your calves, hard to squeeze into and a relief to roll off.)

In November, the doctor at Shands suggested that the lower legs might not recover any further. “This may be it,” he said, matter of factly. “Maybe,” I said, and walked up two flights of stairs to our daughter’s apartment.

In February, we added Kumba, rescued by Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida, to our household, and he kept me company in my morning walks, the two of us slowly gaining confidence in our frail bodies. My feet unswelled. I fit into my proper size of my battle-grey Skechers. I kept going into the pandemic, past a telehealth Shands checkup that showed continued progress, aiming at the two-year, in-person checkup that I hoped would release me back into the civilian population.

That day came at the end of July, and I threw out all three pairs of my illness-weary, pandemic-worn grey Skechers and replaced them with these Akk memory foam sneakers. One day, I might even update to heels! It’s a new day, a new year, and life awaits!

Wellness Wednesday: Did I Have a Lethal Disease or Just Rotten Luck?

I am well. For the first time since May 5, 2019, I am not a hospital patient.

A healthy patient

Before our 2019 transatlantic cruise to Europe, I considered myself our doctor’s most boring patient. I was a fitness instructor. Apart from having our daughter nearly 30 years ago, I’d never been hospitalized, and I had none of the diseases that creep in as we age. My husband has not been quite as lucky, but he was cleared to travel.

Off we went on our two-week journey across the pond from Florida to Amsterdam, with one additional roundtrip week from Amsterdam to Norway tacked on. We had booked an apartment in Amsterdam’s canal district for a month to end our trip on solid ground in one of our favorite cities.

Three months in the hospital: May 5 to August 9

Saying that I was a boring patient was simply too tempting for The Fates to let lie, but they did give me a chance to make it.

In the single day we were in Amsterdam, I was felled by a ruptured arterial aneurysm, and my heart stopped as I was wheeled into the OLVG Hospital emergency room. They got me back and quickly sealed the leak, but my body struggled to keep going for nearly six weeks in the ICU, leaving me wasted and weak. It took me another six weeks to recover my ability to move and the strength to survive a flight home. I was transferred to a Florida hospital with the savvy to take over my treatment, the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital, where I was an inpatient for a week before being discharged to return home. Tomorrow is the second anniversary of that wonderful re-entry into our palm-and -lake-laden neighborhood.

But hanging over my head was Amsterdam’s diagnosis: the ruptured aneurysm had been surrounded by other aneurysms, symptoms of an extremely rare vascular disease: segmental arterial mediolysis. According to the Mayo Clinic (Jacksonville FL), SAM carries a mortality rate of 50 percent. If the SAM diagnosis was correct, I’d need to be carefully monitored by all-too-rare specialists for the rest of my life. Although Shands was five hours from home, I needed to remain their patient. Maybe forever.

One-month check up: August, 2019

On our return, Shands identified a pseudo aneurysm near my ER incision and fixed it while I tried not to hyperventilate. God bless the nurse who understood what was going on in my head. She stood right next to me chatting about children and dance lessons, keeping me distracted while the rest of the team worked away.

Four-month check up: November, 2019

This time, there was nothing to see. Apart from the evidence of the clamped tear, my blood vessels looked healthy. No aneurysms. Not even any pseudos.

One-year check up: virtual, 2020

It was out of the question to travel to Shands as the pandemic raged. Instead, I ventured to a local facility for the scan, and Shands had a look. Still healthy. No aneurysms.

Two-year check up: July, 2021

We were fully vaccinated mid-winter, and I scheduled my next checkup at Shands before Florida became ground-zero for the delta variant of the Coronavirus. However, by the time we traveled, cases, transmissions, hospitalizations, and deaths were all soaring. We kept on our masks. We sanitized our hands. We drove.

Shands’ CT scan showed no sign of disease. I do not have the terrible, rare SAM. I had some rotten luck, is all.

Go live your life. Follow up with someone closer to home in a year or two, and we’re here if you need us.

Dr. Thomas Huber, Chief of Vascular Surgery, Shands Hospital, University of Florida Health

Discharged

I will always feel deeply grateful to the staff in Amsterdam and at Shands who carried me through the days, months, and years since May 5, 2019, but it feels darn good to be a civilian again.

This time, however, I am taking nothing for granted. I am working hard every day at being strong, well-nourished, and engaged with life.

To life!

Jane Kelly Amerson Lopez
Jane Kelly Amerson Lopez

Wellness Wednesday: What Water Exercise Can Do For You

Water saved my life

On Christmas Eve 2019, I wrote that water keeps saving my life. My work as an instructor of aquatic exercise had me fit enough to survive a ruptured arterial aneurysm and six weeks in an Amsterdam ICU in May of 2019, and I recovered the ability to move in water long before I could replicate those moves on land as my recovery continued back home in Florida.

Boynton Inlet, Palm Beach County, Florida

Today, I’ve tapped into two friends who are water fitness instructors — Janet Weisenford, who teaches at the Boca Raton YMCA, and Marlo Scott of First Class Fitness and Wellness — to help explore why water is such a great environment to exercise in, and what specific moves are the most useful.

Water gave a runner new legs

I discovered the wonderful magic of water fitness after being a distance runner for many years. I suffered from arthritis and needed to find another way to keep physically and mentally fit. At my massage therapist’s suggestion, I decided to check out aquatic exercise.

Janet Weisenford, Aquatics Exercise Association certified instructor at the Boca Raton YMCA

The water fitness class she took opened a new chapter for Janet Weisenford, a long-time teaching buddy. She discovered that she could get a great total body workout — cardio, strength training, and flexibility. Janet was so captivated that she became a certified instructor through the Aquatics Exercise Association, where she learned more about the water and its properties. Here is what Janet says about why water is such a great exercise medium:

  • Water’s buoyancy cushions our joints, allowing former runners like myself to run in the water with minimal impact.
  • The water also offers resistance, not only building muscle but also building or maintaining bone density.
  • Water workouts can also improve flexibility. The reduced effects of gravity allow you to move through a greater range of motion.

Flexibility, Janet says, is important for doing everyday activities, especially as we age, and it is often a component of fitness that is overlooked.

I can attest to that. There is nowhere better to stretch than in a pool, supported by the water.

Water exercises for core

As I learned during my recovery, core muscles bear the burden of holding us upright, ready for life. So focussing on these torso workhorses is an excellent idea. I asked Marlo Scott, with whom I’ve published posts on posture and on weight loss, for her favorite core exercises.

Core is a no-brainer: The plank, the push-up, and the bicycle.

Marlo Scott of First Class Fitness and Wellness

Notice how the old-fashioned sit-ups aren’t on Marlo’s list? The bicycle works not only the mid-section abdominals but also the obliques, back muscles, gluteus and hips while improving coordination, stability, and flexibility. The plank and push-ups add work for the chest, back, and arm muscles.

In the water, I love cross country skiing and then anything that involves a twist — even better, a twist with a noodle. I also think pull ups at the pool’s edge are fantastic. And front and rear leg kicks (as in doing the backstroke and the crawl) are great, too.

Marlo Scott of First Class Fitness and Wellness
Jane Kelly Amerson Lopez pool demonstration: jogging, plank, bicycle.

Try it for yourself

If you haven’t tried a class or a water workout at home, please do! I am sure that you will become a fan!

Janet Weisenford, Aquatics Exercise Association certified instructor at the Boca Raton YMCA
Marlo Scott jumping for joy in her new water exercise gear!

Wellness Wednesday: Meet Jade Wonzo, the Teacher Who Wants Yoga to be for All

I left my first yoga class halfway through feeling pretty defeated.

Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga

I was not expecting my yoga teacher to admit this right up front in our interview. How refreshing!

It was hot. It was hard. I was uncomfortable. But I went back. And back. And back. Because it gave me this feeling of peace and calm all the way home.

Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga

Jade Wonzo was working in the corporate world when she discovered yoga as a place that she could, as she puts it, “shut down.” Within a few years, she had quit her job to train as a yoga teacher, a skill she hoped to put to use in the gym she and her new husband were opening in Palm Beach County. 

Jade never did end up teaching there, but was picked up by LA Fitness and pop-up studios here and there, becoming part of the yoga community. As she was training and teaching, however, she noticed that she stood out.

Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga

I was often the only person in the room who was brown and curvy.

Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga

In addition to being bi-racial, Jade has struggled with her weight, topping off at 240 pounds at one point. She knew that there were others like her, just waiting to be invited into the calming practice of yoga.

How many people have shown up at a yoga class only to be the only one who looks like them? It’s a lonely and frustrating place to be.

Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga

That’s when Jade quit trying to fit in and started teaching yoga the way she wanted to be taught. Her mantra is Yoga For All.

Everyone wants to be seen, to be heard, to be loved. And I think people see me and can identify with me — as a woman of color, as a large woman, as a mother.

Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga
Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga

Jade’s son is three. The gym she began with her husband struggled through the pandemic intact, but the marriage did not. Jade is honest with her students about her struggles.

I’m in the process of a difficult divorce and my son recently had brain surgery. If it wasn’t for this practice, what I’ve gone through would have broken me.

Jade Wonzo, Jade Light Yoga

Instead, Jade gets on her mat and comes back to herself, showing up and sharing her journey with her students and her thousands of social media followers. Check out the stunning pictures and her candid posts on Jade’s Instagram and Facebook pages, and sign up to receive emails on her website.

And come join me in Jade’s 11AM Saturday morning class through the Palm Beach County Library, which runs through August. To register, click here.

Next time: tips from Jade Wonzo on how to get the most out of yoga.