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Working with a personal trainer

I never did run the 2005 Clifton High School Alumni Track Meet. But I have started working with a personal trainer.

In the May-June Heartful Touch newsletter, I announced that I had started running a few days a week in order to compete in a 1,500-meter race at Clifton Stadium. Trouble was, a month into my very light training and after 11 years of not running, I discovered that I just couldn’t step out my door and go for a run — at least not without my legs feeling weak, and leaden, and disliking the pounding on slanted roads.

So when I saw on the free Internet bulletin board an offer for two free sessions with a personal trainer in nearby Little Falls, I signed up.

It was a bargain, and just what I needed. I do balancing exercises, strengthen my core abdominal muscles, train on weight machines and lift free weights — even bench press. Given my slender build and lack of experience, I lift only light weights and limit the number of reps on each exercise, but my trainer, Russ Teitsma (973-931-8206,, increases both when he sees that I’m able to handle it, and he’s quietly encouraging, which fits both our personalities. He also varies the muscles targeted so that I rarely do the same exercise twice in two weeks.

After the initial freebies, I signed up for 20 sessions, which gave me a discount of $20 at $45 a session. Having paid for them and having scheduled the workouts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays gives me the discipline to do the workouts — forces me, in effect, since I don’t want to waste my money.

Even though I’ve given up on the running for now, from the sessions with Russ I’ve been reaping the immediate benefits of a better-toned body and more strength when I swim. My long-term goal? Run the 2006 Clifton High School Alumni Track Meet.

I’ll keep you posted.

CranioSacral technique of the month

Temporal decompression

This is a simple yet effective self-help technique that can reduce the stress of temperomandibular joint (TMJ) Syndrome brought on by jaw clenching or sleeptime teeth grinding.

Whether sitting in a chair or lying on a bed, bring left hand to left side of face and right hand to right side of face, the middle fingers of each hand touching the bone between the cheek bone and the middle of the ear. Gently press the skin and what’s underneath toward the feet, breathing deeply as you do so. Gently hold for 10-20 breaths and release.

Strengthening exercise of the month

A very simple, very effective exercise. If you’re at a gym and have access to a small medicine ball, use it. If not, use a small round weight or other weighted household item that can be grasped in both hands.

Sit on the floor, legs in front of you, knees bent, abdomen taut. Grasp item with both hands, lean back as far as you can while maintaining balance, twist torso toward one side and bring item to rest on the floor on one side of your body, keeping hold of the item. Hold for one beat, then twist torso the other way and carry item and bring it to rest on the floor on the other side of your body. Do slowly, methodically. Do at least 20 times or more, feeling the burn in your lats and abdomen, until you feel too fatigued to go on. Rest for minute or two and do another set. Rest a few more minutes and do a third set.

Stretch of the month

Stand, feet slightly more than shoulder length apart. Raise right arm straight overhead, and grasp the back of right elbow with left hand. Twist torso slightly back and toward the right, raise right arm a bit higher and bring right arm overhead and slightly toward the left side, feeling the stretch of the right lats. As you enter the stretch, breath out and hold stretch for two seconds (one one-thousand, two one-thousand). Return to starting position and repeat 10 times. Relax.

Do opposite side. Raise left arm straight overhead, and grasp the back of left elbow with right hand. Twist torso slightly back and toward the left, raise left arm a bit higher and bring left arm overhead and slightly toward the right side, feeling the stretch of the left lats. As you enter the stretch, breath out and hold stretch for two seconds (one one-thousand, two one-thousand). Return to starting position and repeat 10 times. Relax.

Hike of the month

For a more meditative weekday commute that’s 10 miles shorter but 15 minutes longer, I’ve been getting off Interstate 287 in Riverdale, N.J., and driving into the heart of lake country, up through Bloomingdale and West Milford, N.J., before descending into Warwick, N.Y., and heading toward Middletown, N.Y., where I work my day job as a newspaper copy editor. Along the way, I drive on Otter Kill Road by the border of Norvin Green State Park and intersect the 150-mile Highland Trail.

Maintained by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, the Highland Trail extends from Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River in Orange County, N.J., to Phillipsburg, N.J., on the Delaware River in Warren County, N.J. I’ve hiked part of the trail on Schunemunk Mountain in Mountainville, N.Y., and in Stephens State Forest near Hackettstown, N.J. I’ve also intersected the trail while driving along Laroe Road in Chester, N.Y. And I’m looking forward to traversing the trail on the hills of Warren and Hunterdon counties when its end sections near Phillipsburg are selected and laid out.

For now, with my commute so long and my time so limited, I find it comforting to look out my window and see the blazes of the trail and know that, at some point in this hectic life that I’ve constructed for myself, I can stop the car and venture into the woods and enjoy the sights and solitude that the trail has to offer.

Two links that describe the trail:

Recipe of the month

Quick cool pinto bean puree

Enjoy this tasty no-cook soup while the warm weather lasts. The recipe is from Nava Atlas, author of “Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons.”

Two 16-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
One 16-ounce diced tomatoes, undrained
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
One-fourth cup fresh cilantro or parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into large chunks
One-half cup pitted canned black olives, drained
One-fourth cup chopped mild green chilies (fresh or canned), optional
One and one-half cups water, more or less as needed

Combine the beans, canned tomatoes, scallions and cilantro in a food processor and process until pureed, leaving just a bit of texture. Transfer to a large serving container.

Stir in the lemon juice, chili powder and cumin.

Place the green pepper and fresh tomatoes in the food processor and pulse on and off 2 or 3 times.

Add the olives and pulse on and off quickly 2 or 3 more times or until the vegetables are chopped into approximately one-fourth-inch pieces.

Take care not to overprocess.

Stir into the bean puree, then add the chilies if desired.

Stir in enough water to give the soup a medium-thick consistency.

Serve at once or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Variation: Garnish each serving with diced avocado and extra scallions.

Makes 6 servings.

Until next time … keep in Heartful Touch.

Dennis Sprick
The Heartful Touch
Massage and CranioSacral Therapy