In most of the United States, the holiday gluttony ends with the arrival of the New Year. In New Orleans, the momentum continues as we roll into Carnival Season. We feel it is our duty to indulge in king cakes, and survey each parade with drink in hand while competing with the other parade-goers for the best throws.
While rationing our intake of king cake is strictly an exercise in discipline, we would like to suggest that you use your parade time to guide and possibly improve your health. Here are our “Five to Thrive” for Carnival season:
Japan has a national exercise routine. Why can’t we do the same? We New Orleanians can establish festival exercises to keep us in shape for our unique celebratory requirements. While this idea germinates on Louisiana soil, we invite you to check out the Japanese routine here.
Start your parade regimen early by going to some of the first parades of the season to build neck strength. Start with fewer amounts of beads around your neck, and build up to that full collar of beads. A full strength progression would include carrying your friend/child/neighbor on your shoulders. The same progression can be established for carrying your loot home. Don’t wake up with neck pain or shoulder pain on Mardi Gras day. Instead bring a wagon for your throws, or distribute them among your group of friends. In any skilled exercise prescription, your ideal perceived rate of exertion ranges from “somewhat hard to hard.” The good news: getting your beads home can be considered exercise, but if you rate carrying your beads as “very hard” or “extremely hard”, back off! You might be causing tissue damage. Choose your lift partner carefully as well.
While catching a Muses shoe is a challenging goal, so is choosing optimal footwear. If you find yourself choosing footwear for style rather than comfort, then look out; our city streets present our feet with some unique challenges. Some typical (yes, really) scenarios include wearing high heels while pulling a cooler into a Mardi Gras Ball, navigating uprooted sidewalks and potholed streets in platform boots, or standing on a moving vehicle while throwing beads in jester shoes. Even in sensible shoes, standing on a ladder or folding chair while catching beads is a balancing exercise, and chasing floats can be like doing wind sprints. If you have been on your feet all day, and/or enjoying alcoholic beverages, consider keeping your high heels in a bag and wearing sparkly flip flops so your tiara remains perched elegantly on top of your head.
Can you simultaneously walk, talk, catch beads, and hold your beer without spilling it? If so, you are a skilled multi-tasker. The quantity of beer that sloshes overboard when you move indicates whether or not your movements are smooth, and how well you are multitasking. If you have to slow down while walking to preserve your beverage, or put your drink in your ladder’s cup holder to catch those beads, you might have a problem. It could be a simple matter of cognitive limitations, alcohol induced or not, or some difficulty absorbing shock. Possible solutions: walk softly, and practice doing a cognitive task while doing a motor task. For example, count backwards from 100 by 7’s while waving your arms above your head, preferably while sober.
How adept are you at avoiding a smack in the face from tossed beads, or a head injury from a full bag of beads hurled from the top of a double-decker float? Parades can often seem like a contact sport, but they also lend insight into your reaction time, protective reflexes and peripheral vision. Use teamwork to protect each other from these kinds of injuries. Accessorize with a Viking shield that includes a box secured to the bottom of it (to catch the deflected throws), or if you know your reflexes are slow, consider a helmet.
If you perform sub-optimally on any of our Carnival ‘Five to thrive’, consider investing in professional physical therapy treatments to help prepare you for next Carnival season and for day-to-day quality of life. We want you to keep your personal good times rolling!
Featured image: Ann Larie Valentine
Melanie is the owner of Age Spans® Life Quality Consulting and TREAD Systems™, LLC, and has over 16 years of experience in her industry. After specializing in treating patients who have failed other interventions, she created the TREAD™ as a systematic approach to preventing injury and illness for individuals and businesses. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California. Melanie is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties in Orthopedics, a Certified Athletic Trainer, and is credentialed by the Geriatrics Section of the American Physical Therapy Association as a Certified Exercise Expert for Aging Adults.
Carol is the owner of TREAD Systems™, LLC, and has over 25 years of experience in a variety of clinical settings including home health care, outpatient, and pediatrics. She specializes in treating patients who have not achieved success in other interventions. Carol created the TREAD™ System to help individuals and corporations be proactive in their own health. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut in Allied Health and was credentialed by the Geriatrics Section of the American Physical Therapy Association as a Certified Exercise Expert for Aging Adults.
These are great tips! My sister works at a physiotherapy office in Toronto and she is always showing me exercises that I need to do. The reflexes idea sounds really fun, especially to play with my kids! Thanks for sharing! http://www.physioatdonmills.com
Ha! I just had this conversation with a retired co-worker. She is on St. Charles avenue and talked about getting her arms in shape to keep them above her head for hours at a time. Gotta love the spirit of the hardcore 70+ carnival veterans.
@blathering1 That sh*t is tiring! I bet she could beat me in an arm wrestling contest.