Tag Archives: active lifestyle

Four Minutes to Feeling Fab

There are some days when a little warm up and shake out are just what you need to get moving.  Just a little movement can get your blood flowing and also lift your spirits to get you ready to go do great things.

And, look…I know you’re busy.

But what I have here is a four-minute full body warm-up routine.  Everyone has four minutes.  Maybe you can do it right now.  Maybe you can do it while you wait for your kid’s basketball practice to wrap up.  Maybe you can do it while you’re waiting for the water to boil while you make dinner tonight.

Maybe I should stop writing so you can get to it…..

Try it out!

Let me know how you feel!

Marathons and New Motherhood

I recently visited London, where my husband and I lived from 2002-2004 and where our first child was born.  My visit stirred old memories and emotions, as this was the first time my husband and I had been in London without kids since August 9, 2003…the day before our son was born.  

There I sat in the runners’ staging area at the start of the 2004 London Marathon, attempting to express breastmilk as discreetly as possible.

I’d gained entry into the London Marathon via the “Good For Age” qualification standards that allow runners to bypass the notoriously unfavorable lottery.  I had a qualifying time I earned at the 2002 Boston Marathon.  Between my qualifying run and London race day, I’d gotten pregnant and birthed my first child.

Running was the one constant in my life as I transitioned into motherhood while living in a foreign country.  I had a fantastic group of friends, but it was the daily ritual of running that kept me connected to my familiar, pre-mother self.  Every day, I’d settle my son into the BabyJogger and set out for Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.  We became a fixture in the park, our big blue running chariot quite an anomaly.

Of course, many of the park regulars had witnessed my very un-British behavior, as I had run nearly daily all throughout my pregnancy.

“Oh, dear love, what are you doing?” one well-meaning older woman inquired as I finished up a two-mile jog on my due date.  She would not have been more surprised if I birthed the baby right then and there.  After she admonished me (I’m still not sure for what exactly), I set off for home, running high on the happy endorphins.

When my son was two months old, I was surfing the internet during a middle-of-the-night nursing session and learned about the Good For Age bypass into London.

“That’s it!” I thought.

It was just the goal I needed to set for myself.  More specifically, I needed to set the goal of finishing the marathon in the same 3:45 time limit that allowed me the Good For Age entry.  I didn’t want to be a fraud!

Over the next six months, I ran hundreds of miles, most of them with my son sleeping in the big blue chariot in front of me.  When I would stop to walk or take a water break, he would wake up and cry.  As soon as I ran again, he’d nod off to sleep.  He was an incredibly effective training partner.

Race day brought a mix of emotions, as it always does.  Would my husband survive without me for the day?  Would my baby drink milk from a bottle?  Would these annoying rainshowers last all day?  Would the course be empty of crowds because of them?

I didn’t question my ability to complete the race;  I knew my goal was challenging but achievable.

Once the gun went off, the worries fell away.  I wanted to soak in the experience of the race, the multi-national crowds out in force despite the weather, cheering us on as we ran by.  I managed to find myself running slightly ahead of three men in sarapes—The Three Amigos—who both endearingly and annoyingly played mariachi music at each mile and half-mile marker.

In the final mile of the London Marathon, runners stream toward Buckingham Palace before making a U-shaped turn onto The Mall and finishing about a quarter-mile later.  As I entered the stretch just before the turn, a man in a horse costume—complete with giant plastic horse head—galloped past me.

“Oh, no.”  I thought.

“If I can birth a human, be his entire source of sustenance, and still train for a marathon, I will not be beaten down the homestretch by a horse.”

This was, quite honestly, the first twinge of competitive drive I’d felt since becoming a mother.

I managed to outkick the horse and finish in 3:44:45.

Goal achieved!

The eight hours from the time I caught the train to get out to Greenwich for the start until I returned home to our South Kensington flat was the longest time my baby and I had been apart in his entire eight months and eight days of life.  That tiny baby is twelve—TWELVE—now, and I still run marathons because nothing else makes me feel so fully myself.

Product Review: Quick Strength for Runners

0706151415b

Like most runners, I am way better at finding time to run that I am at finding time for strength training.  I’ve made attempts in the past to strength train regularly, but I always find myself forgetting to do these workouts. And any workout that gets forgotten before it gets done isn’t very useful, is it?

I came across the book Quick Strength for Runners by longtime running coach and Runner’s World writer Jeff Horowitz.  I took a look at it on Amazon, and I thought it was well laid-out, simple to follow, and (most importantly) succinct.

Here’s the deal: most runners want to run.  They don’t want to strength train.  If you write a runner an exercise program where they need to spend 2-3 hours a week in the gym, they aren’t going to do it.  But Quick Strength gives runners 16 workouts, each about 30 minutes, that can be done at home with minimal equipment.  A set of dumbbells and a stability ball are all you really need.

The book does a good job assuming that runners need to start at the beginning:

0706151415a

Once a basic overview of muscle groups and their locations and roles in the running body was given, there is a big section devoted to the individual exercises that make up the workouts.

0706151413b

The exercises focus on hips, core, and legs, which make sense for a runner’s workout.  Each exercise is clearly explained with helpful photographs. The form cues were clear and easy-to-understand.

0706151415

 I really liked that advanced forms of most exercises were included, which allows the book to be useful well beyond its 8-week program lifespan.

Finally, the exercise program is laid out.  It is two workouts per week for eight weeks.  The workouts are easy-to-follow.  In fact, there are times where the workouts repeat exercises in short circuits.  Rather than saying “do exercises 8-11 again”, they are written out in full.  It makes the book incredibly user-friendly for even the most novice exerciser.

0706151413a

In all of my years of trying to be good about including strength training, this is the first program I have followed start-to-finish in the prescribed time-frame.  I admit that some of the exercises were on the easy side for me, but I never finished a workout feeling like it was a waste of time.  Certainly, I could have chosen the harder versions of exercises or used heavier weights to give myself more of a challenge.

I was so impressed with the book, especially in its usability thanks to clear photos and clear workout layout, that I bought my dad a copy for his Father’s Day present.  I recommend Jeff Horowitz’s Quick Strength for Runners to any runner who wants to add some quality strength training to their workouts without feeling like you’re taking precious time away from your running.

Good health and great happiness to you!

I was not asked to write this review, nor was I compensated to do so.

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!

Review: Fit Desk

0615151607

The evidence is mounting: being sedentary, even for people who exercise regularly, is detrimental to health.  One day I was doing a little internet research about treadmill desks and came across the FitDesk.  It is a stationary bicycle with a desk attached.  I was intrigued.  I did a little more research, read some reviews, and decided to buy it.  That was nearly six months ago, and I’m here to report that it was one of the better purchases I’ve made in a while.

I ride using my FitDesk almost every day.  I use the time I’m riding to answer emails, plan client workouts, surf Facebook, and buy way too many things off of Amazon.  (Like the FitDesk itself, which I picked up when it was a Deal of the Day.  Woo Hoo!)  Basically, if I’m going to be sitting at my laptop, I’m going to be using the FitDesk.  Even this post was written while pedaling.

One of the things I love most about the FitDesk– and there are many great qualities to choose from– is that it’s so so so quiet.  I can ride it without driving myself crazy by the noise, and my kids can watch TV in the same room while I’m riding without turning up the volume.  The other nice feature of the FitDesk is that it’s easy to adjust, so 5’3″ me and my 5’9″ work-from-home hubby can both use the same FitDesk.  I’d resisted buying a piece of exercise equipment because I didn’t want something noisy or something that takes up a lot of space– so the Fit Desk has been a perfect fit in those regards.

Now, I’m not out to convince myself that riding and working is the same as going for a run.  And that’s okay.  I bought the FitDesk to insert more movement into my day, and it certainly achieves that goal.  I can ride very comfortably (16-18mph, resistance set at 4 of 8) without breaking a sweat, and the seat is comfortable enough to ride for an hour.  That sneaky workout burns about 500 calories– not bad! The FitDesk can be used more like a traditional stationary bicycle, with higher resistance and just holding the handlebars rather than typing, and using it that way does provide a high quality cardio workout.

If you work from home and have thought about a treadmill desk, give the FitDesk a look.  It would also work great for someone who finds it hard to fit exercise into the day but likes to watch TV at night.  It’s a small footprint and quite affordable for quality exercise equipment.  And the benefits of more movement are priceless!

Good health and great happiness to you!

 I have not been compensated to write this post.  All opinions are my own.

Throwback Thursday: Packing for the Inca Trail

Last week I wrote a post for those of you thinking about trekking the Inca Trail.  Today’s post is for those of you getting serious about undertaking the adventure!

Depending on the company you trek with (we used and LOVED Alpaca Expeditions), you may or may not have a company-supplied bag to give some of your items to a porter, leaving you only with a daypack.  We had 7KG each of items we could give the porter, so we were really careful before we left about separating out items before we left the US so we wouldn’t have to deal with reshuffling items in Peru, or even worse, at the weigh in.

DSC_0100

In fact, we went one step further and put individual outfits/days of clothes into gallon ziploc bags and sleeping clothes in another bag.  We put these ziplocs plus most of our toiletries, extra shoes, and headlamps into the porter’s bags.  The sleeping bags and air mats we rented and pillows we were loaned also went in the bag.

0607151137

In our daypacks, we had raingear, cameras, bug repellent, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toilet paper (in a small baggie), lip balm, passports, a small bit of money, a few energy bars, gloves, arm sleeves, and caps.  I very quickly figured out a system to tie my fleece jacket to the outside of my daypack so I could take it off and put it back on as the weather changed…which it did quite frequently.  I wore a 12L daypack (the bare minimum I’d recommend), and my husband wore a 30L pack.  Both had padded straps on the shoulders and chest & waist straps.

But here’s what you really came for…..

What do you need to pack for the trek?

  • 1-2 pair zip off/convertible hiking pants (I took 1, husband took 2)
  • 4 s/s shirts (tech fabric so they don’t get stinky)
  • 1 l/s shirt (to layer)
  • rain jacket/pants
  • waterproof gloves
  • arm sleeves (I wore mine, husband didn’t)
  • thin gloves
  • fleece jacket
  • PJs– fleece sweatpants, a l/s tee, clean/dry wool socks
  • fleece jacket
  • wool hat or beanie
  • sun cap
  • sunglasses
  • 4 pr good hiking socks
  • headlamp
  • hiking shoes
  • extra shoes (nice to have, but not totally necessary)- we wore keens around camp
  • bug repellent
  • sunscreen
  • toilet paper
  • hand sanitizer
  • lip balm

What you do NOT need to bring:

  • binoculars
  • clean pants for MP (I didn’t, husband did)
  • camelbak– refillable water bottle works just fine
  • excessive snacks– Alpaca gives you two each day.
  • camping towel (unless you plan to use the nasty showers on Day 3; I didn’t, husband did)

If you hike with Alpaca Expeditions, they provide:

  • sleeping bag liner
  • daypack rain cover
  • big poncho (we had rain jacket & pants so didn’t use this)
  • pillow
  • hand towel
  • portable toilet with tp

You can rent from Alpaca:

  • sleeping bags
  • air mat
  • hiking poles

Look how cozy he is!

DSC_0126

If you take only ONE thing away from my review, please let it be this: RENT HIKING POLES.  You will be so.glad. you did.   If you have any fear of heights or exposure, hiking poles will really help you in the steep downhill sections of the trail (of which there are many).

1103142014

I won’t even bother to tell you to have fun.  You’re going to love it.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Summer Running Plans

beachbeacon

We had a blessedly cool and wet May here in Austin, but now June is here, the sun is out, and it’s hot, hot, hot.  In order to keep myself motivated through the heat (plus having kids at home, plus going on vacation, plus the extra work of swim lessons), I decided to enter one of the great American summer road races: Beach to Beacon 10K.

Similar to my experience when I ran Falmouth Road Race two years ago, I wanted to run Beach to Beacon because of its important place in American running history.  It was founded by inaugural women’s Olympic Marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson as a way of celebrating running in her hometown of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  And what started as a small race mostly for locals nearly two decades ago has grown into a race that attracts all of the big names in US distance running.  I never tire of the thrill of racing on the same course on the same day as the best of the best.

Last week I kicked off an eight-week training program in preparation for the race on August 1st.  I chose Hal Higdon’s 10K training plan, blending the intermediate and advanced plans to suit my current state of fitness and my goals for the race.  I’m using the Jeff Horowitz  book Quick Strength for Runners  as the strength component of the training plan.  I’m hoping that these plans will help prepare me to run under 50 minutes….that’s a stretch goal, but why not go for it?!

As part of my training, I want to race a 5K to gauge my progress about halfway through the eight weeks.  I’ve registered for the Freedom 5000 on July 4th, and provided it’s not blazing hot, I’ll be ready to run a respectable race.  I don’t think I’ve raced a 5K in more than 5 years.  While it’s certainly not a challenge to cover the distance, I haven’t tried to run anything with real speed on my legs for a long, long time.  It’s hard to force myself to train faster, but it’s essential if I want to see results on race day.

So far, I’m enjoying the training, and I’m definitely looking forward to my overnight in Maine with my husband later this summer.  To run around picturesque Cape Elizabeth– with some of the best runners in the country– and to enjoy some lobster afterwards…what a great day it will be!

Good health and great happiness to you!