Category Archives: healthy living

Plank Circuit v2.0

How did you like the plankety-plank plank plank circuit from last week?

I have a few more plank variations for you this week so you can continue to challenge yourself.  If you’re not feeling like you’re ready for these harder variations, keep at the other circuit for another week or two.  Bookmark this post, and come on back when you’re ready!

Grab a yoga mat or get to a rug or carpet, and let’s get going.  There are modifications described in each of the four videos.

All levels: Start with 2 circuits.  Add a 3rd if you’re up for it.

If you’re a beginner, I suggest starting with 30 seconds per plank, with 30 seconds rest.

If you’re an intermediate, go for 45 seconds per plank, 30 seconds rest.

Advanced?  Give yourself a challenge: 1 minute per plank, 30 seconds rest.

 

 

 

Happy planking!

Let me know how it goes!

 

 

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Camping in the Village

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Last week a woman who was just starting out on her entrepreneurial journey asked a group of seasoned mompreneurs what their Number One Challenge was when launching a business.  Nearly without exception, each mom replied: “Reliable childcare.”

For many women (myself included), starting her own business was fueled by the desire to have a flexible schedule.  Rather than working in a traditional job with traditional hours, the flexibility can (ideally) allow women to have more satisfying work-life balance.

You know, that old unicorn you’ve heard so much about.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes every single villager to get the moms through Summer vacation.  While many of us designed our work lives with the intentional benefit of having more time with our children, school holidays throw a real wrench into the finely-tuned works.  It’s impossible to keep the work side of life moving forward and be a full-time parent and 24/7 entertainer, referee, chef, chauffeur, and snuggler to each child. As someone with three kids at three very different stages (preschool, elementary, and adolescent), I kind of want to tear my hair out trying to do the algebra of how I can keep them all safe, happy, and motivated in the summer while I’m working my odd-hours job.

Enter Nurture My Child, and Austin-based resource that presents a single site to help families find options for all of their child-related camp, class, and childcare needs.  The database is updated consistently and is the only place where a large majority of camps in Austin and the surrounding areas are listed and families can search by multiple criteria like activities, schedule, location, or ages.  The ease of use and reliability of information takes a lot of the investigative drudgery out of the parents’ hands.

If you’re in my village of Austin, put Sunday, February 28, 1-5pm  on your calendar.  Nurture My Child will host the annual Austin Summer Camp Fair at Norris Conference Center in north-central Austin.  Come by and meet representatives from Austin’s “best of” camps, including The Thinkery, Kidventure, Creative Action, Ballet Austin, and the Art Garage— there’s something for every kid!

This kid-friendly event will include booths from over 70 local camps, arranged by location of venue.  Two thumbs up from this mom who is more than willing to give her kid any great opportunity….so long as it doesn’t require a soul-beating, traffic-laden commute.

So as you’re pulling together your summer plans (I know it’s only January, but you can’t say you aren’t already starting to plan….), know that Nurture My Child can make your life easier.  Invite them in to your village, and let your kids go camping.

I was invited to attend a blogger’s launch of Nurture My Child.  I received no compensation for my time, and all opinions are my own.

 

Comrades Update: Easing Into Strength Training

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Photo by W_Minshull

It’s no secret that I really dislike strength training.  I find no joy in lifting weights.  I know how important being lean and strong is for runners, but it all feels tiresome and pointless to me.  Where running is The Force, strength training is from The Dark Side.

One of the main pieces of advice I hear repeated by Comrades veterans is that strength training is critical for the down run.  I’m not surprised.  I have run the Boston Marathon four times, and I know that the last four miles (which are a glorious downhill) can be a nightmare on the quads if you’ve gone out to fast in the first seven miles, which are a not-so-obvious downhill.  I can only imagine the quad screaming one experiences in the second half of the Comrades down run.  I want to be prepared.

I have to trick myself into the strength work, though, or I won’t do it.  Although I could easily outline my own program, I know myself well enough to realize that I will have better adherence to someone else’s program.  Why?  Because if I’ve planned a particular exercise or set of exercises, and I just don’t feel like doing them that day, I’ll go off-script and do something else.  (Nine times out of ten, it will be something easier or something that won’t serve me as well.)  But if someone else is telling me what to do, I’m much more compliant.  Thus, I’ve chosen two 30-day programs available free on social media to do for the month of January to ease my way in to regular strength training.

The first is UK-based James Dunne’s Kinetic Revoultion 30-Day Challenge.  In the short videos (available via an email subscription or instagram @kineticrev), James presents two daily exercises.  The body-weight exercises are targeted to runners, so there’s lots of work in the glutes, hamstrings, abductors, adductors, and quads.  What I like about the program is that it’s well-balanced, with core exercises and stretches interspersed into the program every few days.  Each day’s workout takes 8-10 minutes, and it’s something you can do without breaking a sweat.

The second way I’m easing into strength training is with Yoga With Adriene‘s Yoga Camp on You Tube (also available via an email subscription or a pay-as-you-wish download). I’ve had a regular yoga practice for 13 years, but this is the first time I’ve done guided yoga for 20 straight days.  With a great mix of standing postures, pranyama, relaxation days, and challenging vinyasa sessions, the videos (most of which are around 30 minutes) are adding an important counterpoint to my workouts.  I feel more confident in my balancing postures, more supported in my low back, and more appreciative of what my body can do.  I must admit I have a fan-girl crush on Adriene– I love her attitude, and I find the way she describes what she is doing to be so clear that I can move through the entire practice with my eyes closed.    I’ve been doing the Yoga Camp videos in the evenings, sometimes with my kids alongside me and sometimes right before bed.  Either way, I’m really loving the positive contributions they bring into my day.

If you’re looking for ways to sneak some strength work into your workouts, I recommend both James Dunne’s Kinetic Revolution and Yoga With Adriene’s Yoga Camp.  These free programs are worth your time, and they’re led by reputable people who know the body well.  I can’t wait to see how they help with my running when I hit the road for my first 50K in six years at the end of the month.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Active Kids Reap Life-Long Benefits

I’ll be honest. I am a fan of Title IX legislation. I benefitted from it as a teenager, participating in small-scale sports of cross-country and track. Certainly without the push to equalize opportunites for girls and boys, there would not have been funding for the sports I loved. And my interest in fitness has obviously carried over into adulthood, becoming an integral part of who I am.

Several years ago, the New York Times published an article about the benefits of participating in sports as youths. The article cites a study that rigorously assessed the socio-economic backgrounds of youths across the US and linked their success to participation in organized sports. Sure, we have long touted the intangible benefits of being part of a sports team– character building, teamwork, and feeling part of a something larger than the individual– but the study takes things a step further to demonstrate that kids who participate in sports also go on to higher education, have fewer incidences of negative life-changing events like drug use or teen pregnancy, and higher levels of meaningful employment.

It was timely for me to re-read this article, as I volunteered recently in my son’s elementary PE class. Not only was I impressed by the coach’s arsenal of activities to keep the kids moving, but he worked hard to really educate the children at the same time. For example, rather than just playing a simple game of tag, the kids played “muscle group tag”: when a child was tagged (by me or the other parent volunteer), s/he had to freeze and take a pose to show off a particular muscle group. To be unfrozen and join the game again, a classmate had to stop in front of the frozen child, make the same pose, and name the muscle group the frozen child was demonstrating. In the course of the 6-8 minutes the kids played the game, there were shouts of biceps, triceps, pectoralis, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus. What a great way to get kids moving, teach them about their bodies, and have a blast while doing it.

As a personal trainer, I know that having fun with fitness is the key to adhering to an exercise program. I applaud our school’s coach– and the thousands of others like him around the country– who work hard every day to educate and encourage our children to a fit lifestyle.  With news reports that frequently remind us that recess and PE are being slashed from the school day, it’s important for parents to know what is happening at their child’s school.  Does your child’s PE program have an Open Door policy?  Encourage one!

After 45 minutes of fun-filled, fast-paced physical education the kids recited a poem (with motions, of course) in unison. It was awesome to hear and watch 22 kids so enthusiastically deliver a lesson that we can all benefit from, whether our fitness journey started as a child, a teen, or an adult:

Eat right. Stay fit.

Work hard. Never quit!

Brain wise. Safety smart.

Live strong for a healthy heart!

The Beauty of Simplicity

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I’m going to give it to you straight: I’m old school.

No fancy equipment.

No GPS-tracking.

No headphones.

Just shoes.

For me, it’s the simplicity of running that is so appealing.

As a lifelong runner, I got hooked on the sport long before technology came along to ‘improve’ it.  When I started racing, finish order was determined by giving each runner a sequentially-numbered popsicle stick as they came through the chute, then a person with a clipboard taking the stick and asking for the runner’s name.  Seriously.  In bigger races, volunteers would pull tags off the bottom of number bibs and keep them in finisher order to match up later.  I even ran my first marathon before chip timing.

But it’s not (only) old lady crotcheyness that keeps me running without all the newfangled gadgetry.  Ditching the crutches of technology can improve your running.  Your body will run at its natural pace, and your brain will learn what number to assign to that pace.  Running without your GPS—or even a watch—forces you to pay attention to your body and your effort level.  You are able to tune in to yourself without the external chatter of your technology telling you how you should be feeling.  My PR at 10K was run on a course with no mile markers or split times; had I known how fast I was going, I would have slowed down because “I can’t run that fast!”

I’m also old school in tracking my training.  I still log my runs on paper, despite reviewing and recommending fitness and tracking apps to clients on a weekly basis.  I take comfort in going back through my logs—over 20 years of them at this point—and seeing my handwriting, reading the comments, and revisiting the feelings I had as I moved through the highs and lows of my life.  Running is therapy, and my log books are the journals demonstrate my progress.

There’s also a democracy of running that keeps me loyal to the sport.  How many other sports have elite athletes and regular folks competing in the same event on the same course (field, court, pitch) at the same time?  To be able to participate in such a unifying way is quite remarkable in our increasingly-stratified society.  And when I remember that I can strip away everything but me and the movement, the simplicity and purity of running is real joy.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Need Some New Year’s Inspiration?

I’ve long-held the belief that just because your friend/spouse/parent loves to run/swim/play basketball/go hiking/lift weights, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your thing.

I’ve also long-held the belief that there is some form of exercise for everyone.

And here’s the beautiful part: your figuring out what you love to do and how your body wants to move is a wonderful journey.

Some people know instinctively that they love to play team sports.  Others might try a pick-up game of soccer and find out that they really enjoy the quiet of the golf course.  You may also try spinning for a year or a two, and then decide that a pilates class will challenge you in a new and different way.  There is no one path.

The only rule is that you do something that feels good and makes you feel confident in your body.  If you get to the point that you feel ‘off’ when you miss a workout, you’re on the right track!

When you find your fitness groove, it’s like magic.  For some people, it creates a lifetime habit of movement, flexibility, balance, and grace.  And sometimes it comes together most unexpectedly.

Here’s to finding your fitness groove in 2016.  May it be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Comrades Update: Phase II Planning

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Of all the differing opinions about how to best prepare for Comrades, there is one piece of advice that everyone seems to believe: Comrades training begins on January 1st.  Popular opinion also says that training should include at least 1000KMs (620 miles) between January and May.

Comrades offers a training plan written by their official coach Lindsey Parry.  There are options for every goal finish, as different medals are awarded for different finish times.  From what I deduce, this plan will get you to the start line without an overuse injury and will prepare you to finish.  It relies on the strategy of double-blocking long runs on the weekends pretty much every weekend January-May.  Nearly every run is to be done at a slow pace.

There is another popular free training plan written by Norrie Williamson and sponsored by Old Mutual.  This program has more speedwork included, both in the form of tempo runs, intervals, and hill work.  There is more variation in pace for different runs, although the majority of the training is not surprisingly long,
slow distance.

I was surprised that neither training plan takes runners past 50KM in the build up to Comrades.  In my mind, that seems not far enough, as it leaves (nearly) a full marathon between the longest long run and Comrades itself.  I think the logic is that it is better to be underprepared than overtrained (and injured).

Neither training program specifies strength training, although most coaches and Comrades runners profess that strength work is non-negotiable for the Down Run.

So with these two training plans and the seven decades of collective running experience– and a little bit of hubris– between us, my dad and I spent some time over his visit at Christmas to devise our game plan.  We looked at both the Old Mutual plan  and the “official” plan.  We looked at our calendars to determine what races we’d like to use as supported training runs.  We noted when we’d both be in the same city so that we could plan a long training run together.

We decided on three races to enter so we can practice our race day pacing and fueling: Waco Miracle Match Marathon 50K at the end of January, Ft. Worth’s Cowtown 50K at the end of Feburary, and the North Texas Trail Runners Grasslands 26.2 in mid-March.  We won’t be racing at any of these events; rather, they are long runs that will offer some of the excitement of race day and break up the monotony of solo long runs.

We will also be hosting a DIY 40-miler at the end of April.  Using a super hilly 4.5 mile loop that starts and finishes at my house, I’m planning on running 8 full laps plus a final 4-mile loop to knock out a 40 miler as my penultimate long run before Comrades.  I plan on enlisting the support of my running friends to join me for a loop (or more) as I get nine hours on my legs.  Stay tuned for more info about how you can come join me!

All in all, my training plan will bring me to about 880 miles if I run the four-days-a-week as planned. That gives me wiggle room to hit my 1000KM in case I get sick or injured or just need a mental break one week.

In addition to the running, I’ll ride my FitDesk bike one day a week.  I have one day of yoga-for-runners and two days of strength training built into my plan.  I have one day of full rest each week.  All in all, it seems like a lot of work but in a very manageable way.

I’m going to chew the elephant one bite at a time.

If you’re interested in seeing the excel spreadsheet that details my training plan, leave a note in the comments.  I’d be happy to email it to you.