Welcome ladies, gents, and joints. I've decided to start the Knee Too Movement. The Me Too Movement has had some good results, so it seems a good choice for a beleaguered joint. Knees are harassed all the time, but instead of calling out the lazy hips, ankles, and buttocks that aren't doing their jobs, knees are called bad. “I have bad knees.” “My knees are just bad.” “Bad knees, no donuts.” Yet knees are the ones getting hurt. Butts are sitting it out, letting knees take the bad rap, denying any role in this at all.
Unfair. A few butt squeezes can allow knees to get in line. In fact, a few butt squeezes can allow knees to align themselves with feet and hips. Let's face it, a move towards an equalitarian system throughout the body--tummy, tush, knees, ankles, feet—works better for everyone.
Momentum in the Knee Too Movement may really allow knees to feel freer to stand up for themselves. It'll help us stand up too! Rocking your torso back and forth to aid in standing really takes some weight off of the knees. And putting your feet down solidly and pushing down supports those victimized knees. Speaking of support, those low abdominals need to be behind the knees standing, they can't just flop around if there is truly to be change!
Say 'Knee too!' to be a part of this movement. Even if you aren't part of the official movement—and there are, literally, an entire handful of Knee Too-ers--you can still follow along with videos to support and strengthen your knees to stand up and walk around. If you have a computer, it can be in the privacy of your home. You don't have to tell anyone. You can find videos at Rougemusic.com/knee-too or Facebook.com/FitnessLifeLongRecreation.
Janet Elle Rayor, a former professional dancer, teaches “Juicy Joint Aerobics” at Bitterlake Community Center and no longer has knee problems.
© December 2018, published in 3rd Act Magazine
Undercover Exerciser Uncovered
BY JANET RAYOR ©2019 /Published in "3rd Act Magazine"
I do undercover exercise. Sometimes it is so undercover that even I don't know about it. No, really, when I wake up in the chilly morning, I ask myself, “Why should I get up?” The answer is almost always, “To pee!” So I do that and then leap back under the covers. That is the best time for undercover exercises.
First, I lay nice and flat under those warm covers. That gets me in the mood to stretch through one ankle and then the other. My ankles are flexed, so I push long through my heel which invites my whole side slowly to get involved. My cat thinks this is very interesting, which gets me more interested.
Then I bend my knees and stretch away from my head through my knees. I do this with my knees-out-in-frog pose, railroad-track pose, and cross-my-body-and-hope-not-to-die pose. Without moving my feet, I stretch away with one knee repeatedly, then the other, or, if I'm feeling lucky, both at the same time.
Then I pull out the big guns. Okay, they are just my toes. And they aren't that big, but they can cause a lot of pain! I turn my long legs out, flex my ankle opening my toes up, and then point and curl my toes. I continue this as my legs slowly turns inward. Then I pretend to pick up marbles with my toes. My physical therapist says this will strengthen my arches.
On my belly, I stretch my leg away from my head until my leg has to come up, then I alternate. My sheets are tucked in, so the sheets resist my legs coming up. I have tried this with sheets loose and bunched and became a picture of bondage. I know what you may be thinking. “Kinky!” Please don't. Falling to the floor with sheets tied around your feet, hair akimbo, teeth unbrushed, and Pooh pajamas twisted isn't pretty to even the weirdest kinkster.
Now I am ready for the big finale. It is circus time! On my back with feet planted on the bed and knees bent, pointed at the ceiling, I stretch my knees away from my head, which makes my pelvis come up in the air. “She flies through the air with the greatest of ease.” Well, it is just my pelvis going up and down, but it feels pretty goofy to the cat who has decided to climb on my belly! This makes for a great knee exercise. Without the cat it is still good, though sometimes this means she is peering under the covers and trying to go through the bridges I'm making.
Then I get to the big hoopla: I lift my pelvis and place it flat, the headlights of my hip bones straight across horizontal, but closer to my right side, then to the left. Then I change to placing it down with my hip trying to touch my shoulder! I feel like a vamp, all be it, a very awkward vamp. Can-can music rolling now, “Da-da, da-da-da-da, da-da, da-da-da-da! Da-da, da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da!”
Before I know it, I'm up! But keep this to yourself. Nobody else knows except for my cat and she's not talking!
Janet Rayor is a professional singer and former stilt-dancer who leads Rouge, a Parisian ensemble with accordion, violin, and piano. She teaches "Juicy Joints Aerobics" at Bitterlake Community Center in north Seattle when she is not singing or exercising undercover!
I Love Lines!
I'm waiting. Again. I'm feeling calm and productive. Boy, my body feels better! The Post Office line has ten people in front of me. Earlier, the grocery was packed. Leg-lift time. Up goes my leg carefully to my side so my new neighbors aren't thrown to the floor. I hate it when that happens. On to toe and heel balances. Lovely chance, also, to stretch my calves. Keep my comfort space in tack. But no time like the present to get that bun-cheek over one leg. What the heck, this is a great time to pretend I'm a flamingo! Well, a very discrete flamingo with hands in my pockets.
Yes, I look a touch goofy, but who's enjoying the waiting experience! Me! Of course, there's the chance this might incite some other poor fool to do a few side windmills. And another to bring home a story about the loonies at the Post Office.
Janet Rayor also leads the band Rouge and teaches voice. She's been known to squeeze her buttocks in public.
Be Like a Cat--Stretch!
My cat is a dancer. She turns her head, flexes her back every which way, and puts her leg up behind her ear. Cats and dogs stretch all the time. Their stretching looks full of pleasure and grace. Have you ever seen a kitty bounce to stretch out its back? It is absurd. Have you ever seen Fido hold a stretch for 30 seconds? Of course not.
So why do people bounce to touch their toes and hold static hamstring stretches? Well, probably they were taught it is good for you. But who looks more flexible and graceful-- you or Miss Kitty?
Bouncing can cause small –-or large-- tears in the muscles, or worse, in the connective tissues. Ouch. Newer thinking suggests better ways to maintain flexibility. Proper stretching helps prevent tears and joint problems. It aids circulation, your sense of well-being. It helps prevent and ease arthritis by making more space in your joints. Fido and Miss Kitty have got this right!
Sooo. . .be like a cat. Whatever stretches you do, enjoy the movement. Be languid. Kneed and caress your own muscles. Turn in an out. Change directions. Shift your weight. Never stop moving, never stop breathing. Yes, turn your head, rock your pelvis, arch and round your back. Explore different directions. Turn your head, rock your pelvis. Approach as if just waking. Breathe into it all.
Just don't hiss, yowl for dinner, or serve-up hairballs. There are limits to your modeling, Fido and Miss Kitty!
Janet Rayor teaches 50+ fitness at Bitterlake Community Ctr. with Seattle Parks' Life Long Recreation. You can hear her sing at Maximilien in Pike Market first Thursdays.
Fighting Couch Potato-ism
Gaining strength and endurance would be good. It might even be pleasurable. I write about and teach fitness, but I could easily be a couch-potato.
I get it but just go. Go to exercise class. Use it or lose it. Yes, one might initially feel embarrassed, imperfect, achey. One might feel too tired. One might have so many other things to do. Exercise class will help your health and you feel better about all these things.
Teachers can correct your form, helping bad joints get better and stave off injuries. Here are some tools that I teach to ward off aches, pains, and the urge to never, ever return!
Insure that blood is circulating into all your joints. Exercise classes can feel like a race. That may be fine for 20 year olds, but not for 50+. Even classes that are specifically for older adults, often begin with marching in place and no warm-up for joints. Take a preventative 5 minutes to warm-up before class. Rotate all your joints including your hips. Turn, twist, arch, and pleasurably push into space. Don't shove or bounce. Nobody likes to be shoved. Avoid dropping your head to the back, or your torso over forward. Then lightly stretch as though you are waking up in the morning.
Encourage juicy joints. No flinging limbs! Slamming your joints together and risking tearing muscles is not great. If that gets your leg higher or elbows further back, who cares? Imagine moving through thick warm water. Stretch through all your joints as you lift your arms, legs or back. You will be building the muscles to keep vertebrae off vertebrae, bone off bone.
Variation is the game!
Repetition for strength is important, but avoid repetitive motion when you aren't warm enough, it is too fast, or you feel any pain. Extended marching--one of my hated moves especially to begin class--can be transformed: turn your legs in, out, and kick back a bit with your foot. 15 repetitions of bicep curls (no weights) can be 5x's palms up, 5x's palms down, 5x's palms facing each-other. Vary movement or go slower when your body is crying, “Too much repetition!” Your brain will thank you for it, too! This goes for cleaning and gardening as well. Warm-up and vary your movements. Try changing which leg is forward and its position. Alternate which hip is higher. Try different directions of your hands.
Know yourself. Take care of yourself. Slow down or bend less if needed. Encourage your teacher's personal instructions.
Many classes are inexpensive. Check Life Long Recreation through Seattle Parks & Recreation, Enhance Fitness classes (free if you have Group Health Plan B Medicare), and gyms which include older adult rates and classes.
Exercise helps improve your weight, health, balance, and out-look on life. So the couch can wait. See you later, couch.
Janet Rayor teaches 50+ fitness [through Seattle Parks & Recreation's Life Long Recreation], professional singer, and stilt-dancer. Her classmembers proudly call themselves “The Juicy Joints.”
Photo by Peter Shaw and Kristen Denney
Some stretches that go with Cat article:
Sit in chair. Stretch left leg straight forward, heel to floor. Stand right leg. Bend with straight back to massage long leg. Caress it with back of hands. Breathe. Nine out of ten doctors recommend it!
Push to upright. Press heel to floor vigorously for a 6 count. Relax. Repeat 2xs.
Bend with ironing-board back forward. With hands on standing thigh, turn from your hips to look right, left, right, left.
With straight back and hands on thigh, belly facing floor, slide torso right, left, right, left.
Staying forward, flex and point foot. Circle foot.
Arch and round back by rocking pelvis. Breathe into it.
Check if you can bend more easily forward!
Repeat above on second side.
Adventures with Gravity - How to Fall
By Janet Rayor © September 2020, published in 3rd Act Magazine
My knees and hips are forward, my head and shoulders cantilevered backwards, and I am falling. It's New Year's Eve at Tacoma's “First Night” and we've just begun my three-person musical. I'm strapped into 40” high stilts, sick as a dog, have slipped on a metal outlet, and need to think fast. But before I can think, my shoulder bumps the ground and I flip onto all fours. I'm okay! Years of doing modern dance falls and Aikido rolls have come to the rescue! Falling well is as vital as developing strength and balance as a dancer, actress, and physical comedian.
We know it is important to maintain and increase our strength and balance as we age. These efforts minimize falls, but since adventures with gravity will find us, know how to avoid and reduce their effects. Injury is not a given if you fall. “Good” falls, though, take nurturing and rehearsal. It helps to study with good teachers and build your core muscles. But you don't have to be a pro to pursue handy reflexes! Here are some tips from a professional faller. As usual, check with a doctor before starting.
Begin “falling” explorations by standing on the floor, 5 inches from a raised bed landing pad!
How Low Can You Go!
• The lower you go, the less far to fall. To practice quickly lowering your center of gravity lower your pelvis as you reach your arms forward. Squeeze and lengthen your lower abdominals at the same time. Gently squeeze your buttocks to ease pressure on knees. * You’ll be bending your knees into a 135° to maximum 90° angle. Do not bend at your waist. Your knees and upper body are counter-balancing your bum. Now try faster.
Release & Fold
• Don't fight the fall. Straight, rigid arms can break wrists and arms. Stand facing bed. Drop pelvis as you reach out. Fold elbows and wrists, turning your head to the side to gently cushion fall. Now try against a wall to build strength in your arms—just keep knees lightly bent.
Go For the Cushion!
• Aim for the meaty part of your hip and buttocks to avoid vulnerable bones and joints. Practice standing in different directions, turning your derrière to sit on the bed. Don't worry if you end on only one cheek.
• Spread your weight by pulling your body in opposite directions. Bend sideways, your hip towards the bed, arms stretched away. When your hip touches, slide your arms down the trajectory of your body to cushion the fall. Try it slower by lengthening your abdominals. Less weight, less hurt.
Tuck & Roll
• The rounder your body—not by eating donuts—the happier you'll be in an accident. Tuck your limbs and head to save elbows, wrists, fingers, knees, and that vulnerable treasure, your head. Lie on bed on your back. Tuck everything in and rock forward and back, then side to side. From standing, the back of your legs against to the bed, fall backwards into the bed as you tuck your limbs and head.
When my boomer fitness-students trip, they automatically counter-balance, by arcing or extending their arms forward and extending a leg backwards. Many tell tales of slipping or tripping, but not falling. Others have lowered, rounded and landed on their portable “cushion,” only sustaining a bruise.
I fell eight times in 30 years stilt-dancing. Yet I never broke, strained, or badly hurt myself. Now if I can only stop running my head into doorknobs!
Janet Rayor is a singer, dancer, Juicy Joints fitness instructor, gardener
and really bad accordionist.