Jayah stretching with poles on Mt. Tamalpais
  • Function
  • Balance
  • Posture
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Strength

On this page, we look at categories of fitness & suggest a few of our favorite exercises. We embrace exercises that produce significant benefits for the amount of time invested. For instance, one favorite has 10 benefits, (warm up, cardio, balance, posture, flexibility, strength, function, coordination, agility & proprioception) 11 if you consider that it’s FUN!

Most all of our recommended exercises produce benefits in many categories. We’ll start with the categories and then continue to specific body parts.

Have you started an exercise program without focusing on building a strong & sustainable foundation? For instance, learning to stabilize the shoulder joint before beginning a strength training program is important to help prevent injury.

One goal of this page is to get you thinking about your fitness foundation & how to build incrementally to your optimal health and wellness. Review this page before taking our Fitness for the Trail class, a class designed to help you more fully enjoy your outdoor adventures.


Categories of Fitness



Health, Diet, Weight, Body Issues

  • Know your contraindications & limitations.
  • Learn modifications, build on little victories – NO PAIN!
  • Use breathing to build muscle memory and to help you connect with your body.
  • Aging bodies, active brains – learn to accommodate to prevent falls & injury.

Function (F)

  • Function is being able to do what you want to be able to do.
  • Wake up warm-ups help start your day
  • Spine Health: Flexion, Extension, Lateral Flexion, Rotation AND Elongation
  • Joint Health: ROM (Range of Motion) Lubrication, Space
  • How to create a new habit (important for maintaining function)

Walking (W)

  • Walking is the ultimate functional exercise. Focus on form & attitude.
  • Foot pumps to help prevent tripping
  • Heel slides for balance & warm up
  • What is scanning and how does it help improve performance?

Balance (B)


  • Start balance exercises before you need them. We choose exercises that produce noticeably fast results and help with uneven terrain.
  • Foot circles (ankle clocks)
  • Ankle ABC’s
  • Pencil exercises

Posture (P)


What is Neutral Posture?

  • Posture helps with balance, endurance and well – everything. Strong, long spines = healthy, young spines. My Yoga teacher say: “Lengthen your spine, like a string of pearls.” ☺
  • Shoulder Rolls
  • Scap squeezes
  • Anatomical position
  • Dorsal glide
  • Bird watching/Stargazing stance

Endurance (E)


Endurance Tips

  • Whether it’s getting up the mountain or around the block, endurance responds to training.
  • Interval Training
  • Small steps on steep terrain
  • Biofeedback near top of hill (Focus on breathing)

Flexibility (FL)

  • Arthritic joints generally respond well to rhythmic, gentle stretching & movement.
  • Low back stretch for tired back (post-hike)
  • Calf stretch on uphill (long climbs)
  • Finger/wrist/forearm stretch/mobilization (for pole and computer users)
  • Doorway stretch for posture
  • Functional stretches like: Shoes & Socks

Strength (S)
& Bone Density

  • Strong bones, strong bodies
  • Once you have function, are working on good balance & posture, enough endurance & flexibility to get thru the day, then it’s time to start a strength training program.
  • Bench or sink planks & pushups for core and arms
  • Quad sets for strong knees & hip flexors
  • Poles for hiking & walking
  • Side planks for clearing obstacles
  • Modified Squats/Public Toilets

Motivation, Progressions, Goals

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

~ Louisa May Alcott

  • Short, Medium/Long Range goals
  • What does a “base” program look like?
  • How many times per week? Alternate days?
  • What will I do today to facilitate my health/wellness/fitness so that I can continue to enjoy the outdoors?
  • Like the layers of an onion, learn incrementally and thinly layer as you improve and progress in each category.
  • What might stop me?
  • What could motivate me?

Recommended Books

Our favorite general fitness book:

Our favorite book for staying healthy during the pregnancy year:




Here are the abbreviations we’re using

F: Function R: Rehab W: Walking B: Balance
P: Posture FL: Flexibility ROM: Range of Motion WU: Warm Up
S: Strength C: Circulation CO: Coordination PR: Proprioception

Body Part



(Work only in a comfortable range – NO PAIN!)



5 Part Series on Plantar Fasciitis

F, W, B, FL, ROM, WU

Metatarsal Roll

  • More than half the bones in your body are in your hands & feet
  • Plant the ball of one foot next to the heel of the other foot
  • Lift heel high & move in slow, round, smooth circle
  • Great release for after balance poses
  • This is my favorite part of my FlexMent (Flexibility & Movement) Routine

Feet & Lower legs

F, R, W, B, FL, ROM, WU, S, C

Foot pumps

  • Seated or supine or standing
  • Pull toes up toward knees (dorsi-flexion)
  • Release - Action is the pull – this stimulates the tibialis anterior and helps prevent tripping
  • Also, when one muscle works, the other stretches – so the back of the leg – calf, etc, get a nice stretch when you pull toes up
  • Do until you feel a gentle burn in the front of the lower leg, then press foot down (plantar flexion)


F, R, W, B, FL, ROM, WU, S, C

Foot Circles

Seated or standing

  • Ankles are largely ignored, incredible responsive to minimal attention and very important for balance
  • Draw a large circle with your big toe, imagine a clock and don’t miss any number Moving the leg is cheating. Do this slowly and smoothly. 5 to 10 times each direction, each foot. In about 2 weeks, you’ll notice a difference


F, R, W, B, FL, ROM, WU, S, C, CO

Ankle ABC’s

  • Draw large capital letters, all the way thru the alphabet
  • Imagine using your big toe to draw the letters and keep the leg still


F, W, B, P, FL, S, CO, PR

Pencil exercises

  • Imagine a pencil on your head pointing towards the sky
  • Move your body gently forward to feel the weight in the balls of your feet
  • Move your body gently back (stand in front of a wall) just to feel the weight in your heels
  • Then move side to side feeling the R edges of your feet, then the L
  • Then slowly move in a circle feeling the edges of your feet like a clock
  • Great exercise for hiking (edging is something the feet do without us having to think about it)
  • Great exercise for people with challenged balance to handle terrain like driveways

Body Part



(Work only in a comfortable range – NO PAIN!)



One of our favorite tips!

F, R, W, B, FL, ROM, WU, S, C

Heel Slides

With Foot Painting

  • Supine: both knees bent
  • Slide one leg away from you, gently & slowly, keeping foot on the floor or bed as if painting a swath of color
  • At the end of the movement, press thru your heel
  • Slide knee back up paying attention to tracking (straight, smooth line) again painting the floor with your foot.
  • Foot painting stimulates nerve endings on bottom of foot – good for balance
  • Great rehab movement. Helps with circulation, ROM, warms up ankle, knee & hip Press at end helps stretch the back of the leg and strengthen front of leg
  • Work only in a comfortable range


F, R, W, B, S

Quad Sets

  • Another good exercise for progression. Anyone who has rehabbed a knee knows this one


F, S, CO, PR

Modified Squats

  • Inhale and sit up straight – lengthen spine
  • Exhale and rise, shifting weight forward. Press gluts as you rise
  • Inhale at the top to lengthen spine
  • Exhale to slowly sit down
  • Make sure knees and feet are lined up
  • Slower is harder. Strong exhale recruits abs



Hip Swings

  • Standing on R leg, slightly elevated (as on bottom stair, holding on)
  • Lift out of R leg from core (press into R hip), find neutral position
  • Swing L leg gently forward and back, foot relaxed
  • Switch sides, then do gentle small circles



One of our favorite Joint Tips!

F, R, W, B, P, FL, ROM,stretch

  • Lovely, after hike stretch
  • Seated, hinge forward from hip (keep spine neutral)
  • Put forearms onto thighs
  • If easy, keeping forearms in same place, pull elbows towards torso, feel spine lengthen and gentle low back stretch


F, B, FL, ROM, WU, C, CO

Happy Baby

  • Come into Happy Baby pose, great for low back release. Dig fingers into outside edges of feet for a happy foot massage
  • Here’s a modification shown to me by a 85 year old woman:
  • Bring soles of feet together into Flutterby, heels to pubic bone
  • Extend R leg, roll R, look R, return to flutterby and repeat on L
  • Rhythmically move R to L


F, R, P, FL, ROM, WU, C

Shoulder Rolls

  • Move shoulders up, around and back, like a clock (12:trapezius, 1:posterior deltoids, 3:scapular retraction & 4:30:scapular depression, 6: release)


F, R, P, FL, ROM, WU, S, C

Scap Squeezes

  • Scapular Retraction & Scapular Depression
  • Foundation move for upper body strength training
  • Email for detailed directions


F, R, FL, ROM, C

Wrist Traction

With Articulation

  • Interlace fingers
  • Plant flat, interlaced hands below sternum, elbows out
  • Gentle pull hands apart without releasing interlace
  • Feel traction in wrists and fingers
  • Change interlace, repeat
  • When comfortable, progress with gentle forearm articulation
  • Wonderful movement for people who use a computer and/or use poles.

Thumb Joint


Gentle traction

  • If you have thumb joint pain, ask your physical therapist how to gently traction this joint. It feels wonderful to mobilize the thumb joint


F, W, B, P, ROM, S, C

Dorsal glide

  • Lengthen the cervical spine gently
  • Very small lift of the head with extremely gentle chin tuck
  • This can be done on the floor to feel the movement, then on the trail for posture




  • Rub palms vigorously together to create HEAT
  • Place hot palms over eyes (open or closed) and feel heat permeate and relax eyes
  • Wonderful movement for relieving computer monitor fatigue

Aqua Aerobics

I teach a class called Sing-along Aqua Aerobics.

  • Water workouts benefit almost everyone – from athletes to rehab.
  • Shoes protect your feet and provide resistance. Use water shoes or a retired pair of tennis shoes that you use only in the water.
  • Use gloves if your shoulders are healthy; this transfers the energy from your hands to your core.
  • Water stimulates the lymphatic system. For those of us with Lymphedema, it’s therapeutic & fun.
  • Our movements alternate between flexion and extension (see spine notes above). We focus on posture, balance, flexibility & strength.
  • We coordinate movement with focus on the body part and then sing a song that works well with that movement.
  • Stay tuned for more info on Water work.
  • Our loosely choreographed songs include (suggestions welcome ☺):
    Take me out to the Ball Park, I’ve been working on the Railroad, Oh what a beautiful morning!, You are my Sunshine, American the beautiful, all the patriotic songs and all the holiday songs (seasonal), Zippity do da, Jeremiah was a bullfrog, You ain’t nothing but a hound dog, Blue Skies, I’ve got rhythm, Do Re Mi, Sentimental Journey, Summertime, Dream a little Dream of me, Singing in the Rain, I’m a little Teapot, Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Raindrops keep falling on my head, Let’s go fly a kite, Daisy/Daisy, She’ll be coming round the mountain, Shall we Dance?, I’ve got you under my skin, Do Wa Ditty