Aqua Yoga: Summertime Stress Relief

2013-06-13 19.14.19

This is the first in a five-part series about aqua yoga.  

The dog days of summer are upon us.  Even though this has been a tolerably hot summer in Austin (read: not 100 degrees every single day), I find myself drawn to the water.  Even when it’s too hot for many people to want to be outside– much less exercise outside– aqua yoga offers an opportunity to move your body, still your mind, and relieve stress.

Ask anyone who has a regular yoga practice, and they’ll likely tell you that yoga helps them feel balanced.  Because yoga emphasizes the link between breath and body, most people find that they are more calm and focused with a regular practice.  The science behind the yoga and stress relief connection is starting to be documented, too.  It turns out all of your friends who claim yoga makes them feel “centered” aren’t just making it up!

0619141905

For many people, though, a standard mat practice can be challenging or intimidating.  Aqua Kriya Yoga, however, offers a practice that allows people to feel buoyant, enjoy the hydrostatic pressure against the body, take pressure off of joints, and experiment with balance through familiar and slightly-modified asana.   Individuals who often feel otherwise marginalized by traditional yoga or fitness classes can be confident that aqua yoga is an inclusive, supportive way for them to establish and cultivate their mind-body connection.  What is possible in the water is incredibly encouraging.

Over the next four Thursdays, I’ll be exploring some of the highlights of aqua yoga.  I’ve been teaching classes for more than two years now, and what I’m going to share with you are the nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned from both my personal aqua yoga practice and feedback from students.  Make sure you’re subscribed to OnBalance so you can try this introduction aqua yoga for yourself.

While an aqua yoga practice is refreshing in hot summers, it shouldn’t be limited to just one season.  It’s a fantastic year-round compliment to any busy lifestyle with wellness at the center.  I’m hoping to add an indoor location to my outdoor, summer aqua yoga offerings starting in September– stay tuned!

0619141923a

Not in Austin?  To find an aqua yoga class near you, check out Aqua Kriya Yoga’s class listings nationwide.  There are now classes in many states, and it’s going international!  Come see why so many people find their mind-body bliss with the combination of water and yoga.

You’re Driving Me Nuts!

0716150740a

It’s midsummer, which means I may or may not have said shouted this phrase at my kids once or twice (a day) recently.

It’s midsummer, which also means that it’s picnic and potluck season.

Lucky for you, today I have a recipe roundup of salads that will make a fantastic healthy addition to your next smorgasbord-focused event.  And each of these salads has a star ingredient in common: almonds.

  • Fancy a recipe that even salad-averse kids will want to eat?  (Or at least pick the toppings off of?)  Try the Mandarin Almond Salad from Sweet Treats & More.

  • Looking for a salad that puts a veggie other than lettuce front and center?  The Healthy Foodie’s Broccoli, Apple & Almond Salad offers a tasty option.

  • Feeling a bit highbrow/lowbrow?  The Crunchy Asian Slaw from My Homemade Life is not only a crowd-pleasing recipe but one of the funniest food posts you’ll read.  (Though when I make this slaw, I sub olive oil for vegetable oil.  And I do feel a bit awkward buying ramen at 40 years old.)
But why almonds?

They are the tree-nut with the highest density of protein, Vitamin E, B vitamins, and calcium, and they are also high in fiber.  Almonds contain concentrated monounsaturated (good) fats that can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Aside from being a nutritional powerhouse, almonds have other positive benefits for the hair, skin, and immune system.  All this in a delicious little nut!

And because we live in Texas, where the surface-of-the-sun hot summers makes it challenging choose healthy portable snacks without schlepping along a cooler, almonds always make the cut.  When my kids get whiny and wingey in the afternoons, I often say shout: “Are you hungry? Do you need protein?  Go eat some nuts!”

I admit that my very favorite way to enjoy almonds is the dark chocolate-covered variety.  I mean, really…where else can you find such an anti-oxidant rich protein punch?  Nowhere!  These little superfoods are just the treat I need on long afternoons.

Happy Summer.  Hope the ones you love aren’t driving you nuts.

I was invited to write a post about almonds by the good folks at nuts.com.  All opinions are my own.

Running the Cape Cod Rail Trail

0721151406

Last week I took you with me on my favorite everyday run during my summer stay on Cape Cod.  Today I want to take you on a new-to-me run along the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

As the name indicates, this pathway follows the disused Cape Cod rail line.  In total, it is 25 miles long, running from South Dennis (on the bicep of Cape Cod) to Wellfleet (in the forearm).  There is also a spur, the Old Colony Rail Trail, that runs down to Chatham (Cape Cod’s elbow).  It is this spur I’m going to show you today.

The plan was to drop me off along Queen Anne Rd. in Brewster where I would pick up the trail.  My husband and kids would continue on to Chatham, my final destination 5 miles (or so I believed) away.  There is a great playground and train museum there, so it was a good outing for them while I got to do my run.

I started off and ran south the Harwich bike rotary.  That was about 0.75 miles.

0721151414

From the rotary, I headed east toward Harwich Center.  This was the busiest section of the trail, with cyclists, several families out walking, and locals walking their dogs.

There was a horse farm….

0721151449

….and a solar farm.

0721151458a

The scenery was classic Cape Cod beautiful.

0721151511

I loved the silence of the trail.  I could go for a half-mile or more at a time without seeing anyone. (Granted, I was running at 2pm on a weekday.)  I really loved how the trail was marked every quarter-mile, and the signposting was reassuring to me.

0721151422a

There were also maps along the trail every time it crossed a roadway.

0721151422

At one point 45 minutes in to my run, it was clear that I was a) wrong in my estimation that this route was about 5 miles,  b) nowhere near to my planned end point in Chatham, and c) stupid for not carrying water with me.  Temps were in the mid-80s, but humidity was high enough for a short, blessed rainshower to break out for 2 minutes or so.

I called my husband to let him know that I wouldn’t be rounding the bend at any moment; in fact, I looked at one of the maps and concluded I still had 2.5 miles or so to go.  I told him I’d get there, it would just be a bit longer than planned.

Five minutes later, my phone rang.   It was my husband saying the kids had enough of the playground and it was now raining heavily in Chatham.  He found a place where the trail crossed a roadway a little over a mile away from where I was, and we agreed to meet there.  I just had to get to the other side of the Chatham air field.

0721151508

While my run didn’t exactly go as planned, I really enjoyed it.  The scenery was lovely, the trail was empty, and my legs appreciated running on a mostly flat route for a change.

I am always grateful to my husband, who supports me when I have a crazy idea like “You can take the kids to Chatham, and I’ll run there to meet y’all.  It’ll be great!”

0721151517

Good health and great happiness to you!

Comrades Update: Planning a Year-Long Training Program

0708151730a

This post is one in an occasional series about my plans to run the 2016 Comrades Marathon.  

A few weeks ago, I wrote an update about the logistics involved in my plan to run the 2016 Comrades Marathon in South Africa.  This 90K race through “the valley of the hills” (cough, oxymoron, cough) takes place next May 29th, and both my dad and I plan to toe the start line.

In addition to the financial and childcare logistics that must be sorted, I’ve already devoted a lot of time to planning out my training program.  While I’ve run many marathons and ultramarathons, I have never endeavored to undertake a full year-long training cycle before.  I’ve looked at all kinds of magazines and blogs and websites for ideas and to read about others’ experiences.  It’s enough to make my head spin.  For mental tidiness, I am dividing this training into two phases: July-December 2015 and January-May 2016.  I’m terribly old school and do this by printing out monthly calendars, grabbing a pencil, and working backwards from target dates.

0713151709

Because Comrades requires a sub-5 hour marathon run between August 1, 2015 and May 1, 2016, I am aiming to run my qualifying marathon in December.  While I have no doubt that I can run a sub-5 hour marathon even if I had to do it this weekend, the start of Comrades is seeded based on your qualifying marathon finish time.  And because Comrades is a gun-timed race– with a strictly-enforced 12-hour time limit to finish and other sweep times along the course– having a faster qualifying time means precious minutes aren’t wasted getting to the start line.

Also, I was very well-trained for my marathon last fall and wound up having a terrible run in New York.  I was hoping to qualify for Boston– and was in shape to do it– but things just didn’t fall my way.  If I follow the same training program again this fall, I am optimistic I can run a BQ at the Dallas Marathon on December 13th.  This is the first target date from which I worked backwards to fill in my training schedule.

(Aside: I was chatting with a woman at a local road race a few weeks ago, and she downplayed my desire to run Boston.  I mentioned to her I’d run it four times before, but that was back when I was in my 20s and qualifying didn’t require so much work.  It’s nice to work hard for something and earn a precious reward.  It’s also a good lesson for my kids that just because it didn’t work out last year doesn’t mean I should give up on it.)

0713151710a

I will once again be using the Doug Kurtis training program— I reviewed it in this post  as part of my mental pump-up in the week before New York.  Like I said, I feel like it had me very well prepared to run a strong race. I know I can run sub-4 hours, which would place me in seeding batch D, the fifth of nine corrals.  This is a very achievable goal.  If I can run sub 3:40 (which is my goal that would ensure not just a BQ (sub 3:45) but actually getting to run in Boston), I’d move all the way up two corrals to C.  (Confusingly, there is a corral CC between C and D for charity runners.)  This could mean the difference of 2-3 minutes, which doesn’t seem like much in a 56 mile race, but I’d like all the time I can get!  At any rate, I plan to stick to my summer running plans and start my marathon training in earnest in August.

I will take off a full two weeks in the second half of December.  Knowing that break is out there gives me confidence I can press on for eleven months straight.

0713151710

For my January-May 2016 training, the target date from which I’ll plan is the BIG DAY– May 29th, Comrades Marathon. To shape this phase of training, I’ll turn to the expert: Coach Lindsey Parry is the official coach of Comrades, and he writes the training plans available to all runners.  There are several plans from which to choose based on projected finish time, but all of them focus on running about 600 miles between January 1st and race day.  I will likely follow either the Bronze Medal plan (finish time between 10-11 hours) or the Bill Rowan Medal plan (finish time 9-10 hours).   I will wait and make my determination after my fall training and qualifying marathon.  I also want to wait and see which seeding batch my dad is in and gauge whether or not we’ll run together on race day.

Regardless of which plan I follow, I’ve started to research ultramarathons in Texas for the winter and spring.  I am quite good at the lone wolf training method, but I think for the longer training runs I would like to have some on-course support.  I do have the kooky idea of hosting a DIY 40-miler as my final long training run, wherein I propose to do ten four-mile loops on a very hilly course right outside my front door.  In my head, I will cajole ten friends in to joining me for one lap each.  I’ll keep you posted how that works out….

Good health and great happiness to you.

Summer Running on the Cape

0716141720

When you live in Austin, summer running is about maintenance.  The heat and humidity make it nearly impossible– or at the very least unadvisable– to train to the seek great improvement during June, July, and August.  (And in some years, May and September, too.)   Even though this summer has been refreshingly cool in Austin, I still love my annual escape to the Cape because of the cooler temperatures I enjoy while running.

Want to join me on my favorite 5K route, from my  in-laws’ house to the beach?  Come along!

Here we go:

0712140758

The first part of the run goes through a neighborhood of traditional Cape-style homes, where many year-round residents live.  The streets are wide, not heavily traveled, and mostly rolling hills.  Then I hop off the paved road an onto this shaded dirt road:

0712140803

Last Summer, I saw a fox run across the path about 50 feet in front of me.  I was a mix of thrilled and scared.  Thankfully, it was pretty intent on going from the forest on one side of the road to the other, and it had no interest in me.

I cross the Old Kings Highway and start running past some impressive old estates.  This home is from the early 1800s…I assume the tennis court off to the left was added later.  :)

0712140811

Then I pass one of the most quintessential Cape sights– an old stone wall with a barn on the land beyond.  What you can’t see is that Cape Cod Bay is just on the other side of the barn, down the cliff.  If there are any animals in the barn (which I doubt), they’d have an awesome view.

0712140812

Up and down a few more rolling hills, and I pass one of the most– no, THE most– spectacular estate I’ve ever seen. You can’t tell from the photo, but this is at least 20 acres. Again, the Bay is just on the other side.  In mid-summer, the hydrangeas are bursting with color along the fence line, and there are daylilies lining the roadside.  The whole sight is one of genteel old money.

0712140815

Adjacent to the impressive estate (which I refer to as the Ralph Lauren Estate, even though it is not) is an old cranberry bog.  It is still active in the autumn, but in summer it is a beautiful mix of reeds and wildflowers.

0712140819a

This home, one of my very favorites anywhere on the Cape, was one I got to see being built over two summers just a few years ago.  I love the modern interpretation of classic Cape-style elements.  It’s beachfront location doesn’t hurt, either.

0712140821

Finally, I can see our family’s favorite spot, which we’ve nicknamed “Little Beach.”  You can see that it’s not so big, but it’s also not crowded:

0712140822

In fact, on this morning, there was only one family there when I arrived:

0712140824a

And it was my family!

0712140826

Look what they brought me:

0712140827

What a great way to start the day.

Product Review: HOKA ONE ONE

0517151142

This post is one in an occasional series reviewing various fitness products.  These are not sponsored posts. 

Only two times in my two-and-a-half decades of running have I dared to change shoes from my trusty Asics.  Once was when I had just started running marathons (gulp, 17 years ago, gulp) when I was talked in to some Nikes (and wound up with plantar fasciatis that took more than eight years– and a pregnancy-induced running break– to get rid of) and once a few years ago when I desperately wanted to love Vibram Five Fingers.  Both times I returned to my Asics, switching models as the shoes changed over the years, and I have no real reason to stop loving them.  Asics have been good to me.

But I get curious when something new hits the market, and with the current swing of the shoe pendulum away from minimalist shoes over to “maximalist” styles, I’ve been reading a lot about HOKA ONE ONE shoes.  Easily identifiable by the super cushioned, high stacked sole, HOKA has become the savior shoes of many over-40 runners I know.

Also, my favorite local running legend, Leo Manzano, is sponsored by HOKA.

2013-03-23 12.17.40

Not usually one to be swayed by celebrity endorsements, my respect for Leo and his running made me even more curious about HOKA shoes.  When a friend of mine told me about a screaming deal on HOKA Conquest shoes, I decided to try them out.

0517151141a

I got my shoes, and then they sat on my shelf for nearly two months.  I was afraid to wear them…but I finally decided I had to give them a try.  From the outset, it was a challenge.  The slide-lock tie system makes it hard to open the shoe wide to put my foot in; then once I got my foot in the shoe, I immediately felt my right outer foot rubbing on the lip of the shoe.  Granted, I have particularly bony feet, so this is likely a particular-to-me fit issue.  One of the things I love about Asics is their straight out of the box comfort.  It’s like they were meant for my feet.  Sorry to say, I did not have that same experience with my HOKA’s.

I decided to take them out for a run anyway, and after just three miles my outer foot felt really bruised.  I’m sure my gait was off, though, as I kept skimming the bottom of the shoe on the asphalt.  I don’t know whether it was the thick sole of the shoe, the build up of the footbed, or the heavier weight of the shoe.  I did enjoy the super-cushiony feel while running in the HOKAs.

Not one to give up easily, I continued to run in the HOKAs.  My feet seem to be settling in to the shoe a bit better, and the bruising on the low ankle is lessening.  I have learned to pick my feet up higher,which is probably better for my stride anyway.  I like the feeling of stability that the large sole provides, and that’s useful to the significant over-pronation in my gait.  I haven’t worked up the confidence to try them on a long run (10+ miles) yet, nor did they make the packing list for my annual summer vacation.

Despite my initial disappointment, I can see why the HOKAs would be worth getting used to, particularly for a marathon or ultramarathon distance event.  I’m going to continue to wear them as an alternate shoe to my tried-and-true Asics Gel Kayano.  We’ll see who gets to the starting line of my fall marathon with me.

I was not asked to write this review.  All opinions are my own.  

Health at Every Size

haes

I received an inquiry from a potential client a few months ago asking if my personal training philosophy was aligned with the Health at Every Size movement.  I had to admit that I had never heard of HAES, but I would investigate it and get back to her.

According to the website:

Health at Every Size® principles help us be at peace in our bodies, supporting people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves. It includes the following basic components:

  • Respect, including respect for body diversity.
  • Compassionate Self-care
    • Eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite;
    • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active.
  • Critical Awareness
    • Challenges scientific and cultural assumptions;
    • Values body knowledge and people’s lived experiences.

— An edited excerpt from Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Leave out, Get Wrong and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, by Linda Bacon, PhD., and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD.

As far as making peace with body size and developing compassionate approaches to thinking about how we view and treat people of various body sizes, I wholeheartedly embrace the pro-tolerance message that recognizes that weight is not an indication of personal value any more than it is the sole contributor to a person’s health matrix.  Just like there are plenty of people who are considered “normal weight” who lack fitness, people with larger than socially-accepted body sizes can have a positive health profile.

As a personal trainer, my job is to support people on their wellness journey. Fitness is one of the components of a healthy lifestyle, but it is only part of the puzzle.  Sound nutrition, quality sleep, and maintaining a low-stress outlook on life also contribute to overall wellness and good health.  Knowing that my primary role is to help people build healthy habits through meaningful exercise, I want to support people of any size.

I’m pleased to say that I have been working with the woman who introduced me to HAES since May, and she is determined to create a healthier lifestyle for herself.  Incorporating regular exercise into her week and intentional movement into each day, these habits are building blocks to greater wellness.  Like anyone beginning a new exercise program, she is reaping internal health benefits through the increased workload on her body.  Whether or not this translates into a change in body size isn’t the point– it’s that going up and down stairs and taking the dog for a walk are now pleasurable activities that help her to feel vital and strong.

Fat shaming may be popular– particularly in the media– and even seen as en vogue in certain social circles.  But if we truly care about people as individuals, we must see them for who they are and value their health, just as we do our own.

I urge you to read through the Health at Every Size website and sign the pledge!

Good health and great happiness to you.