Sunday, September 26, 2010

Improve Your Posture, Improve Your Workout

For some of us growing up, our mothers stood behind us and pulled our shoulders back every time we slouched. And so we attributed a good posture to being proper. And then technology took over, and with it came computers, promoting the round-back and neck-squishing syndromes. So it has just become normal to walk or sit with a slouch. But apart from an improper appearance, bad posture has two very big negative effects. For one, more strain is places on your spine, your muscles, and your supporting ligaments promoting strain, backaches, muscular pains, and stress on the joints. Secondly, if your posture is not right, you are not getting the most out of your workout.

Here are a few tips for fixing your posture to get the most out of your workout:
  • Do it ALL the time: Don't just stand right. Sit right, lie down right, drive right. Try working on your posture in everything you do.
  • Balance: Ever do the switcharoo? I sometimes put all of my weight on one foot, and then move all of my weight to the other while I'm standing. This really messes up our postures. Rather, try balancing your weight equally between your two feet.
  • Don't curve your shoulders in: Mother said it best; stick your shoulders back. Pulling your shoulders forward is somewhat of a defense mechanism we learn when we are young. It's like we're subconsciously trying to protect ourselves from our environment. 
  • But don't overdo it: In pulling our shoulders back, we sometimes overdo it, and instead of being straight, we notice that we are pushing our bums out as well. This is bad because it curves the lower back into a forward position that is very difficult to get out of. So as you pull your shoulders back, try to tighten your stomach as well so you don't stick your stomach forward or your bum back.
  • Sit upright: I think most adults are guilty of curving our shoulders forward while we stare at the computer. Instead, pull your head up like a string is attached to it from above, and pull your shoulders back. If your chair has a back, rest on it. Trust me, you'll see just as clearly if you sat back in your chair as if you put your face right in front of the screen. And if you don't, you probably need glasses.
  • Walk around: If you find yourself standing or sitting in the same position for hours, you need a break to walk around and get your joints and muscles out of that stiffness. Maybe even stretch out every hour to increase the blood flow.
  • Car mirror alignment: I know most of us are used to our car mirrors a certain way and we don't like to introduce change. But moving your mirrors just a little could improve your posture by a lot. Try out different angles and see which works best for your neck, shoulders, and back.
  • Move things around: From your work desk to your couch to your TV screen, try moving things around once in a while. You may notice that you have to slouch less if you just move your TV screen an inch higher or puff up your couch cushion. So introduce little changes around you consistently to break the stagnation and you may see changes in your body as well.
  • Lift well too: When you want to lift an object, do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight. Rather, lower your knees and hips and keep your back straight.
  • Babies don't know it all: Unlike what is recommended for babies, do not sleep on your stomach as it causes strain on your neck. And do not sleep on your side hugging your knees like most of us do. Lie on your back with some support for your knees and lower back, or on your side with only a slight bend in your knees. The key is to keep your lower back straight.
And here are a few exercises to help improve your posture:
  • Mid-Back Makeover (from 'Better Homes and Gardens'):
    Extend your arms out and up to about shoulder height, bent at elbows with palms pointing up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. You should feel a stretch along your chest and the front of your shoulders. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times. If you feel sharp pain, ease off until you feel only mild tension. If this hurts, hold your arms a bit lower; after doing this exercise a few weeks, gradually raise them.

  • Port de Bras (from 'Womens Health Magazine'):
    Stand with your heels touching and your toes turned out. Brace your abs. Keeping your shoulders down, raise both arms overhead. Bend forward, reaching your hands toward your toes while keeping your back flat. Go only as far as you can without losing your form. Brace your abs again, stand up, and, with arms still raised, arch backward slightly. Repeat 8 times.

  •  Extended side angle (from 'Yoga Journal'):
    In the standing position, open your legs until your feet are about 4 feet apart. Turn your left foot in slightly to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Rotate your upper torso back to the left. Firm your shoulder blades against the back ribs. Extend your left arm straight up toward the ceiling, then turn the left palm to face toward your head palm facing the floor. Stretch from your left heel through your left fingertips, lengthening the entire left side of your body. Release your right shoulder away from the ear. Press your right fingertips (or palm) on the floor just outside of your right foot. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Come back up and repeat on the other side. 

Having a perkier posture definitely makes you seem more energetic, more approachable, helps you exercise better, and keeps you looking younger and healthier. Try working on your posture this week and give me feedback on how much better you feel.

Cheers 'Eights' and 'Weights'!

PS. If you are in Nigeria, buy a copy of Y! magazine this week. I have an article in there on body odor.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Twelve Questions with Omawumi (and My Weekend NEA Style)

Yep, I thought we could take a fitness break this week and recap the Nigeria Entertainment Awards a little bit. The night before the awards, I got a chance to catch up with the NEA hostess herself, Omawumi. We know she's gorgeous, we know she's talented, so is there anything we do not know about Omawumi? I sat down with the hostess to talk about some little things that you may not have known about the rising star.

Suzanne: What’s in store for you next professionally?
Omawumi: Well, I’ve done a little bit of acting recently so I think I’m going to do a little bit more. I started out with theater and I’ve done a couple of cameo appearances in movies. But I will take my time because I want to do really “gen gen” feature films.
I have also started recording my next album. Again, Cobhams is going to produce a couple of tracks. There are a lot of A-list artists I want to feature, but I will also work with one or two great artists that people don’t really know. The album will have a new direction this time, but I won’t stray too far from the ‘me’ that my fans know.
On the business front, there are a few businesses I’m going to be putting out there, but it’s all a little evasive right now. So I will let you know more as I know more.
I am also working on a big production, which we are calling ‘Chics for Christmas’. It will be a Christmas concert and comedy show like what we usually have in Nigeria, but with a full female cast. We plan to bring on some International Nigerian acts to headline the show. The Ministry of Women Affairs is getting involved too, and we are working to build that relationship. It is a process and though it’s still in the planning stages right now, it will definitely happen.

Suzanne: That is a long list of great stuff you are working on. We will be following your progress and supporting you all the way.
Are you also involved in any charities?
Omawumi: As a matter of fact, I am getting involved in a few NGOs. One of the major ones I am involved in right now is the Pink Pearl Breast Cancer Foundation. We are working together to create awareness about the issue so that women can go and get regular breast screenings, and load themselves with knowledge that could help them possibly prevent breast cancer. We do have a breast-screening awareness event coming up in October.

Suzanne: Yes, October has become recognized as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So readers out in Nigeria will definitely be trying to get as involved in this event as they can.
Now, we all know you are an entertainer, and usually, there is a long list of people that have inspired entertainers to get where they are. But if you could name one person who is your inspiration, dead or alive, who would it be? And if you could meet them what would you say?
Omawumi: Wow! I could go on and on. If you had any idea about the kind of person that I am, you would know that I take things from different people. So it would not be entirely fair for me to name some and leave some. She smiles and pauses. But I will anyway. Someone I really look up to is Nelson Mandela. His life, his story, his leadership qualities are just amazing. Understanding that he is also human, but he always wanted to try to make a difference is what makes him one of my role models. But to be honest, if I met him, I would be completely dumbfounded and not know what to say.
Aside from that, my mother is a very big inspiration in my life. And God. This may sound cliché, but my life, my direction, most of the decisions I make, everything I do, is directed by God.

Suzanne: So do you have any special talents that the world does not yet know about?
Omawumi: Well, I like to cook. And I think I cook fairly well. I didn’t use to say it, but before now I used to cook a lot at home, and also do what people refer to as ‘Consultancy Cooking’. This is where you help put together a menu for someone to organize a party, and get people to do the actual cooking. But it’s just a hobby.

Suzanne: So what would be your favorite dish to cook then?
Omawumi: One of my strong points is native dishes. I love to cook Nigerian food. I think I can probably cook almost all the delicacies in Nigeria. But especially banga, starch, and ovwo. And yes, the Urhobo girl in me came out the moment she talked about starch and ovwo. If you don’t know what that is, Google is your friend. Immediately we started talking about usi, our vibe changed! Food does bring people together!

Suzanne: What is your guilty pleasure? Something you know you shouldn’t do, but you do it anyway.
Omawumi: Ah! I can’t tell you. If I tell you, it’s no longer a guilty pleasure now!

Suzanne: Hahahaha! I get that. That’s okay. So what is your favorite pastime? What do you do when you are not working?
Omawumi: I read a lot, I do a lot of research, I watch movies. I think that’s pretty much it.

Suzanne: What kind of things do you read? Like magazines, fiction, biographies?
Omawumi: I read a lot of novels. I think I’m the kind of person that goes from horror to fantasy to romance to courtroom drama. Basically, a lot of variety really for fiction novels. But for non-fiction, I mostly read autobiographies. All those political books don’t interest me. Nah.

Suzanne: Nah. So what is your biggest beauty secret?
Omawumi: I ‘baff’. If you don’t know what that means, it means bathe.
She laughs. No, but seriously I don’t joke with water so I baff and drink a lot of water. I’m very comfortable moving around with no makeup, and not a lot of fussiness. If you had seen me earlier today ehn! I just don’t have that power to be doing all that sprucing all the time.

Suzanne: So the wig isn’t one of them?
Omawumi: The wig is part of the comfort-promotion. So I can just chill and get ready very quickly.

Suzanne: In that spirit, what is the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard about yourself in the news?
Omawumi: Oh my good God. I can’t tell you. There are loads of them, but it would not be fair for me to push all these types of stories. I’ve heard a lot of stupid stories about myself. But one thing I want to say is that I always encourage people to concentrate on my music and the part that enlightens them rather than seek out the things they will not learn anything from. So they should always remember that I am a human being. Lean on me no be kill me. I’m going to start using this saying now. I love it.

Suzanne: I really like that. Lastly, what achievement would you grade your success on? What’s one thing that would make you say you’ve arrived?
Omawumi: At every point in my life. I feel that the reason I am doing what I’m doing is because someday God is going to use me to minister to somebody’s life. Because if na garri I dey soak, I’m okay. My disposition is that as long as I’m alive and my head is working, I’m fine. I mean, really, what is the yardstick? How do you measure success? Is it when you have amassed all the wealth in the world? In fact, let me rephrase my answer, I will say that I have arrived when I have affected the lives of a lot of people.

I thought that was rather insightful.

I also got a chance to catch up with a few other nominees before the event. Here is a recap in pictures.

2 Face



Jesse Jagz

Lara George

Tope Adeyoju from View Naija and Modele

For a full recap of the awards, follow me on Twitter (@eightsnweights) and review my tweets from the show. And also check out my interviews with the other nominees above on and later in the week.

Let me know what you think of the interview. Have a lovely week ‘Eights’ and ‘Weights’!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Swing your Mood

First off, tomorrow is my birthday. Happy birthday to me!

Last week, I was reading a great article in SELF magazine about what makes people happy (This is the second time I’m promoting these people. Where’s my own cut?). I really want to share this because with the 9 to 5 and all the crazy things going on in our lives, sometimes we need to take a minute or two each day to do something that can improve our moods, and our mental/physical strength.

Here are a few of the takeaways from the article that can make us happier people:
  • Charity work: When you help someone else, it can drastically change your view of the world, and make you a much happier person. And if you’re doing something physical, you can build your strength as well.
  • Calling mum: This requires that you have a good relationship with your mother. But when you’re having a terrible day, a phone call to your mum can give your mood a 180 degree turn. Whether it’s because she gives great advice or because she is the one person that believes in you the most, I’ll never know.
  • Take a walk: In the corporate environment, we are beginning to carry our work everywhere with us. It’s literally on our minds 24/7. But if you take a walk without the constant reminder of work around you i.e. the papers, computers, etc., you’ll clear your mind and be more refreshed (and burn some calories too!). Take the walk with your significant other, and you’ll even use the time to both clear your mind and recharge your relationship.
  • Wash your hands: Okay, this was new to me too. But apparently washing your hands helps you feel more certain about a decision. Maybe because we feel like we’re wiping the slate clean. Certainty equals less anxiety.
So what are some of the things that make me happy?
  • Prayer and meditation: There's nothing like that feeling when you've aired your mind out to God, and you're at peace. 
  • Talking to my brothers: My brothers are like my best friends. So when I have had a bad day, I call one of my brothers because they are guaranteed to say something that would cheer me up.
  • Dancing: Sometimes, I can just get home, take off my clothes, and start doing some ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ moves. Dancing always clears my head, and hey, it burns some calories too :-)
  • Exercise: You didn’t think I’d skip this, right? How long have you known me? There’s nothing like that feeling after a run or a yoga class. It may hurt while I’m doing it, but the rewards are so worth it.
  • A hot cuppa: Tea calms me. So if I’ve been running around, and I can’t find my bearing for some reason, I sit down and drink a cup of tea. Twinings Earl Grey with some honey is my favorite. And the aroma is fantastic too.
  • My telly: I love TV shows because I can get invested in a character and watch him/her (mostly him) for years. By the way, this excludes reality TV (if I have to hear one more Big Brother tweet!). My favorite funny TV shows on right now are White Collar, How I Met your Mother, Royal Pains, Cougar Town, and since most of the others are on hiatus, I won’t blow up your screen with the list (but can I just say White Collar again?). 
  • PBJ without the J: I love peanut butter. And on this lovely wheat bagel I’ve discovered? Yum. My colleague calls it a choke sandwich. It’s just too good.
  • Good food: Funnily, I decided to mention this right after peanut butter. But bad food, although good for an instant, actually affects my mood later on. When I eat healthy, I have more energy, and feel more satisfied with myself, which equals a happier me.
  • Music: I love music, anything from Eminem to Chrisette Michele to Ingrid Michaelson to Paramore. Someone told me a few days ago that if you hear me speak and then hear me rap along to Drake, you would never ever guess it was the same person. What can I say? I just love music.
What are some of the things that make you happy?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What I Want to Know Is… Where Can I Find Gyms In Nigeria?

A few readers have asked me where they can find gyms close to them. So I thought I could do some research and share what I find. I’m picking out specific places for the people that made this request. If you’d like additional information on gyms in your own area, let me know. But I’ll be focusing on Nigeria since those outside Nigeria have an advantage here. I only picked one in each city because I wanted to highlight what I thought was the best in terms of the equipment I reviewed. It doesn’t mean there aren’t much more in each of the cities listed below.

Name: Proflex World Class Gym
Address: 20-24 Ozumba Mbadiwe
                   Victoria Island
Phone: (+234) 1-261-8696

Name: Bodyline Fitness and Gym
Address: 163 Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent
                   Wuse II
Phone: (+234) 9-413-1810

Name: Oasis Stay Fit Gym & Spa
Address: 5 mm Col. Lawan Jafaru                                          
                   Off Isa Kaita road                                                   
Phone: (+234) 8023758471 or (+234) 8036000283

Port Harcourt
Name: Charlies Total Fitness
Address: 57/59 Stadium Road
                   GRA Phase 4
                   Port Harcourt
Phone: (+234) 8038710538

I hope this is helpful for those in Nigeria. If you want to share addresses of gyms in your area as well, please feel free to do so. I’m sure the readers from that city would appreciate it.

Cheers ‘Eights’ and ‘Weights’!
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