New Apps Help Create New Habits

1.  Stanford professor BJ Fogg teaches classes about habits. ” I’m fascinated with how habits form. I believe that to design new habits for ourselves or for others, the best starting point is to do what I call “Tiny Habits”. His goal is to help you practice the skill of creating new habits.” I believe you can get better at creating new habits. Much like a pianist who practices scales, or a chef who practices knife skills, people can practice the skills of creating habits. I was hooked when BJ suggested after brushing your teeth, floss one tooth. For me, flossing is one more thing that keeps me from getting into bed sooner.The criteria is that you choose a behavior that you do at least once a day ( brush my teeth ), takes less than 30 seconds, and requires little effort. The habits don’t have to be earth-shattering, but simple ordinary things that are useful in your life. By anchoring the new tiny habit behavior after an extremely reliable habit, you succeed in creating a small change ( teeth flossed -bed sooner )

2. This goal-setting website began with a group of Yale economists to help users achieve goals and increase productivity with commitment contracts. They point out that for many of us who want to be on time, eat less sugar, lose a few pounds, or stop procrastinating on a project, it’s not always that simple. The site is based on two principles of behavior science. 1. People don’t always do what they claim they want to do. 2. Money talks, as you put money on the line.

3. is a game where you choose your own rules for the month and compete with other players.Choices can be anything from taking a multi-vitamin a day to limiting alcohol. You’re encouraged to experiment with what works best for you and deciding on which challenges are better suited for you. You can post self-created rewards and punishments, such as donating to a charity or eating a head of lettuce if you didn’t do what you said you would. The site challenges you by asking how important or difficult the rule is and whether you think you can pull it off, so you have accountability.

Before committing to a new app or site, make sure it’s a good fit for you, so your time will be well-spent. Let them inspire you in the coming New Year.

Connie Aronson is an ACSM Health & Fitness Specialist located at the YMCA in Ketchum.Visit her

Nice butt! How to get strong gluteals

Who doesn’t appreciate a nice butt? The buttocks, or gluteals is a group of 10 important muscles that allow us to stand and move. Less fat located anywhere on your body, not just the buttocks, is mostly due to two primary actions on your part—eating sensibly and being physically active However, aside from  appearance, the gluteals affect your ability to walk, run, play sports, rise up from a chair and stand on one leg. In particular, the showy gluteal muscles are at the core of movements of the hip joint. The gluteals play an important role in maintaining a level pelvis, extend and externally rotate the femur, and prevent the legs  from rolling inward.
The gluteus maximus, taking up a big portion of the shape of the buttocks, and the gluteal medius, located more laterally on the outside of the thigh, are muscles worth strengthening. You are less likely to suffer from tibial stress fractures, low back pain, iliotibial band syndrome, anterior cruciate ligament injury, knee problems and leg-related strains and  pulls if you have proper alignment of the pelvis and femur. Unfortunately, it usually involves an injury that sends you to a physical therapist for rehabilitation where you learn the best exercises to improve gluteal strength.
Three top gluteus  medius and gluteus maximus exercises used in rehab stood out in a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. In rank from the highest maximum voluntary isometric contraction value to lowest, these exercises were front plank with hip extension (106 percent), a single leg squat, (71 percent) and a side plank with hip abduction (73 percent). All of these exercises require no or minimal props, and can be done at home as part of your routine.

Front plank with hip extension: Start on elbows in plank with trunk, hips and knees in neutral alignment. Lift one leg off ground, flexing the knee, and extend your hip past neutral hip alignment by bringing the heel toward the ceiling for one beat and then return to parallel for one beat.Front plank with hip extension ( Photo 1 )

Single leg squat: Stand on one leg and slowly lower buttocks to touch a chair 18 inches in height for two beats and then extend back to standing for two beats. ( Photo 2 )

Single leg squat

Side plank with hip abduction: Start in a side  plank position, keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line, then rise up to plank position with hips lifted off the ground. While balancing on elbows and feet, raise your top leg up (abduction) for one beat. Maintain plank position throughout all reps.

Side plank with hip abduction

Side plank with hip abduction: Start in a side  plank position, keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line, then rise up to plank position with hips lifted off the ground. While balancing on elbows and feet, raise your top leg up (abduction) for one beat. Maintain plank position throughout all reps. ( Photo 3 )

Photos used with permission from the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy

Aim for 10-12 repetitions for all three exercises.

Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine fitness specialist. Visit her at

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express Friday March 1, 2013

Slouch No More

Over time, slouching can be a pain in the neck. At any given time, neck pain affects about 10 percent of the adult population in the U.S. Our heads can be a heavy load, so much so that many of us have lost proper alignment because our heads are too far forward from the rest of the spine. The consequences of your head hanging off the front spine, called forward head syndrome, can result in shoulder and rotator cuff problems, neck aches, headaches, back spasms and poor breathing patterns, all fixable problems.
Forward head syndrome is the first sign that muscle imbalances are present. This causes the front muscles, pectoralis and subscapularis, to become tighter and the muscles around the shoulder blades to become lengthened, both factors limiting the muscles’ functioning. You can assess forward head posture by having a friend look at your posture from the side. A neutral head is rooted firmly, like a tree, in the “ground” of the upper back with the ear aligned with the center of the shoulder.
Now face a mirror. Are your palms, or one more than the other, turned inward? If so, your shoulders are most likely slouched. Opening your hands so that the palms open in front and you can instantly correct some of your slouching.
The key to change is to become aware of old habits creeping in again.
As much as sitting in front of computers and television can be blamed for our heavy hanging heads, the root of the problem isn’t just that. Of course we would want to also look at the rest of the body to see if the cause may be coming from somewhere else. But overall, weak, tight muscles can inhibit moving well, as there is a rich dynamic inherent in the control of posture so that it is relaxed, not work. Ideal standing posture places the body’s joints in a state of equilibrium with the least amount of effort to maintain this upright position.

RX: Sitting upper-back strength exercises:
The cervical neck, seven vertebrae, blend into the thoracic region of the spine. This area supports the head and is an important attachment point for several muscles that support the middle back. You know them, as this is where stress builds up, in the levator scapula, rhomboids and the upper and middle trapezius. The following exercise can improve neuromuscular control and stabilize the spine:
Sit against a wall with your knees bent and firmly press your back, buttocks and shoulders into the wall. Pull your abdominals in to brace your core. Raise your
arms to shoulder level, bending your arms so that they are parallel to the floor and the backs of your upper arms rest against the wall. Gently press the back of your head into the wall, keeping your chin level. Exhale and firmly squeeze your shoulder blades together while
pressing the backs of your arms and shoulders into the wall. Hold for five to 10 seconds, relax, and repeat four times. You can also do this exercise lying on the floor, or advance it by combining it with a wall squat.

RX: Imagine this (sitting, standing or supine) (adapted from “Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery” by Eric Franklin )
Try resetting what standing or sitting straight feels like by visualizing the spine as a chain of spotlights. Turn on the lights and observe their focal directions. If they shine in many confused directions, adjust them so that they all focus in an even plane. Now adjust them so that they shine with equal brightness.

The key to change is to become aware of old habits creeping in again. Healthy shoulders require proper posture, good flexibility and good strength about the scapular region.

Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine health and fitness specialist.

Visit her at