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Earthly Goods: Get Fit, Feel Better

Strengthen Your Core

I have a friend in her late 80s who has more pep in her step and sparkle in her eye than ever — and she attributes it to her thrice weekly Pilates sessions that she enjoys with a trainer in the comfort of her home. As an exercise method beloved by dancers, there’s no doubt that Pilates is one of the most effective ways to build endurance and flexibility, while strengthening the abdominals and back, and toning and sculpting long, lean muscles.

Joseph Pilates, a German man who firmly believed that mental and physical health go hand in hand, developed the method in the first half of the twentieth century. He created his special method (which he originally called “contrology”) as mat exercises, while using various pieces of apparatus. Today, you can practice Pilates on a mat or on the elaborate Reformer machine. I recently tested the new CorePlus Reformer Resistance Band workout from Gaiam and really enjoyed it. This innovative band, with its four-loop design, resembles a butterfly and mimics the functions of a Reformer machine. It’s easy to use — and better yet, easy to toss in a suitcase for on-the-road, anytime exercise — and comes with a 45-minute DVD program created by Pilates expert Mari Winsor. There are three short segments that you can customize to whatever best suits your level and desire. ($29.98, shopgaiam.com)

Be Heart Smart

You can now turn your smartphone into your all-in-one training partner with the Wahoo Fitness Blue HR, the first Bluetooth smart heart-rate monitor, introduced this past January. The device wirelessly relays heart rate info to your iPhone 4S and other Bluetooth Smart Ready devices, generating heart-rate info in real time. The handy high-tech gadget also is compatible with the most popular fitness apps, including MapMyRun, Runkeeper, and the free Wahoo fitness app. ($79.99, wahoofitness.com)

Soothe Sore Muscles

Apply one of these natural products, loaded with healing herbs and essential oils, to sore muscles for a refreshing fix:

  • Herbal Cool Sore Muscle Spray from Elemental Herbs is a healing menthol formula created from organic, wild-crafted herbs and essential oils, including arnica and St. John’s wort. ($11.99 and $14.99, elementalherbs.com)
  • Juniper Cypress Body Oil from Primavera is full of potent essential oils and is ideal for both pre- and post-sports use. It not only helps improve circulation and helps to tone, but it also eases and relaxes sore muscles. ($37, primaveralife.com)
  • Tension Relief Gel from Pevonia is a refreshing and stimulating blend of camphor, menthol, and rosemary oil, and it works wonders when applied to tired, swollen legs and feet. ($16, pevonia.com)

Wrap and Run

This practical wraparound band is perfect for stashing small personal items when you want to hit the trails or the gym or just want to walk the dog. The SpiBand easily holds personal items, like car keys and gym membership cards. Just wrap it around your ankle, wrist, or arm for a worry-free workout. Available in small, medium, and large and in black, reflective black, black and hot pink, and hot pink and lime. ($19.95, spibelt.com)

Practice Your Pose in Style

Wearing comfortably fitting yoga wear makes all the difference in the world. Be Present, a family-run company out of Denver, Colorado, makes a terrific line of tanks, long-sleeved tees, and super-comfy pants for yoga enthusiasts — or anyone who likes to move. The new Modal Racerback Tank ($45, available in black, concord grape, and graphite), with subtle ruching details along the neckline, is made from eco-friendly fabric derived from sustainably produced wood pulp. The long Versatility Pant ($69, available in a multitude of colors, including dusty rose, lavender, mint, mustard seed, and wheat) features four snaps at the side for excellent range of movement — it comes in a longer version for taller yogis, too. (bepresent.com)

Great Fuel, No Sawdust

There are more energy bars than imaginable on the market right now, and many of them claim all kinds of healthful wonders — but taste like sawdust. So I was pleasantly surprised to bite into a Raspberry Pomegranate Energy bar from Rise Bar. The USDA-certified organic bar is loaded with antioxidants and fiber and is gluten-free to boot. There are other tasty flavors to choose from, including Blueberry Coconut, Cherry Almond, and Apricot Goji. The company also makes a good protein bar (try the Almond Honey) and has the right intentions behind it. (12 bars for $22.68, risebar.com)

Learn How to Massage

Health, relaxation, and a connection to loved ones — these are just three of the wonderful benefits of massage. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all learned the basics of massage and applied them to our family and loved ones on a regular basis? The book and DVD Home Massage: Transforming Family Life through the Healing Power of Touch, by Suzette Hodnett and Chuck Fata, brings the healing gift of touch into your home. Written for the layperson, the authors teach three simple principles that make learning massage fun and easy, while emphasizing the innate healing power of touch to reduce stress and improve the immune system. ($19.95, findhornpress.com)

Work Out at Home

No matter what your fitness level, there’s a workout waiting for you. Here are four new releases that gently help you get and stay in shape:

  • Ageless with Kathy Smith: Total Body Turnaround

This DVD is made up of three 20-minute workouts — Total Circuit, Total Balance, and Total Energy — that target physical changes that come our way as we grow older. The circuit segment trims and firms, the balance segment helps to improve balance and flexibility, and the energy segment refreshes and awakens new energy in the body. ($16.99, acacialifestyle.com)

  • Seane Corn: Detox Flow Yoga

Activist and philanthropist Seane Corn offers a fresh approach to yoga that focuses on cleansing the body from the inside out. ($14.98, shopgaiam.com)

  • Shiva Rea: More Daily Energy

A follow-up to the award-winning Daily Energy workout, this inspiring DVD features a new set of seven 20-minute practices. There are three beginner (lunar) and four intermediate (solar) sequences, as well as the customizable Yoga Matrix that allows you to tailor workouts, depending on your energy level, mood, and schedule. ($19.99, acacialifestyle.com)

  • Trudie Styler: Strengthen & Restore

She’s a film producer, environmentalist, organic farmer, UNICEF ambassador, and more — and she embodies living one’s life to the fullest. A yoga practitioner for 20 years, Trudie Styler has produced a number of mind, body, and fitness DVDs for Gaiam, the most recent of which is Strengthen & Restore. It gently shows you how to find inner strength, calm, and a renewed outlook through yoga. ($14.98, shopgaiam.com)