Tag Archives: attitude

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!

The Power of Potential

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This is a post that’s been brewing for a while.   Last April, I went to California for a intensive weekend retreat to complete my Prenatal Kriya Yoga instructor certification.  The retreat was held at an absolutely stunning hacienda-style home in the hills of San Jose, where we were treated with the stunning spring display of rose bushes in bloom all around us.

While the full, weighty blossoms were undeniable in their almost in-your-face beauty, I was struck by the perfection in the rosebuds.  The colors were bold and striking.  The form was compact but impressive.  The petals perfectly cuddled each other as the sepals fell gracefully down and away.  The little rosebud was just as beautiful as her big-blossomed cousins.

Maybe it’s the same with us.  To be constantly thinking about (or, more accurately, worrying about) how we are going to look, feel, think, or act once we are in full bloom, we miss out on the peace of contentment in our current life.  If we can learn to rejoice in the way we are now, celebrate what we can do, and feel grateful for our current capabilities, we can best embrace the power of our potential.

True growth happens when we can take a thorough stock of our strengths as well as our failures.  By accounting for the positives we have right now, we can give ourselves an honest appraisal of what we need to do to reach our full potential.  If we acknowledge the beauty in our various parts right now, we can use them to push ourselves even further.  After all, if we believe that we are made of goodness, strength, beauty, and wisdom now, imagine how much more we have to offer as we continue to grow!

We have all of the potential within us to be the best, most impressive versions of ourselves.  By recognizing the value in our life day-by-day, we set ourselves up for the exciting unfolding of our potential.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Find a New Path

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For most of the last eight years, I’ve had a child in preschool.  Fortunately for me, the fantastic preschool my children have attended is close enough to our home that I can run.  Granted, it’s not really a very interesting route, and it has a lot of bumpy curbcuts, uneven sidewalks, turning traffic to be aware of, and there’s some significant maneuvering required on garbage day.

But we get it done.

I freely admit that I’ve always been proud of this efficiency.   One of the hallmarks of my personal training philosophy is helping people find ways to insert exercise into their days when they feel so pressed for time that it’s easy to squeeze exercise out.  Modeling this healthy behavior through the running commute has always been a way I demonstrate that I walk-the-talk.

So, eight years I’ve been patting myself on the back for my boring but efficient run.  This is my final year of having a preschooler, and after the hundreds—thousands, likely—of trips with the BabyJogger to preschool, I made a realization.  If, after the first half-mile, I make a right turn and jog one block, I can run parallel to my old, unpleasant route for most of the way to preschool.  Doing this adds only about a half-mile to my overall distance, but it completely changes the experience.

But what do I get by veering off my well-trod route?

A wide open street with little traffic.

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Homes that are seasonally decorated, giving The Stowaway fun scenes to observe and comment on.

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The neighbors who are in their front yards or driveways  proffer a friendly “good morning.”  (This is much nicer than the cars who would honk at me when I would cross the side streets– despite pedestrians having the right of way.)

It’s really unbelievable how this little change has added so much happiness to our commute. 

As I was running home a few days ago, I got to thinking: what other things do I do out of habit that I could change ever so slightly and increase the gentleness and pleasure in my day?  In what ways am I stuck in patterns that, while necessary to get the stuff of life accomplished, aren’t adding joy?  Can I tweak them a bit?

My mind is racing with ideas. 

Most people think running is about strong legs and a solid cardiovascular system.  But this revelation demonstrates what I’ve always loved about running: it’s so much more than what’s happening in your body.  Whether you’re able to see an old idea in a new way or you have a wildly productive brainstorming session on the run, running stimulates creative juices in a way that nothing else does for me.

Hop off the well-trod path.  Hang a right and see what new—and improved!—path is waiting for you right around the corner.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Go Pro, Young Man!

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Like many of you, I spend a lot of time supporting my children and their sports endeavors.  I do this happily, as I believe strongly in the value of kids playing team sports.  I believe in learning the importance of teamwork, working at a skill to develop proficiency, and enduring challenging situations.  I also believe in getting plenty of time running around outside.

I’m a soccer mom.  I never would have predicted how much I enjoy watching my boys play soccer.  I never thought I’d open our home to a young man from Brazil and a young woman from England in support of my kids’ interest in soccer.  I certainly never thought I’d spend so much time in the car, driving hither and yon to practices and games, all in the name of sport.

But I do.  And I do it willingly.  I do it without thought to any payback.  I don’t say that in an attempt to be a mama martyr; rather, I say it because I want my kids to know that sometimes you do things because they are fun.  And sometimes you do things because they support people you love.  You should never believe that you’re going to get anything other than the joy of playing or watching the game.

There was a recent NPR story about the likelihood of a child becoming a pro athlete and how many parents have a skewed belief that there is some payoff in their child’s future.  Maybe if we just practice a little more, invest in better coaching, or devote more time and attention, that scholarship is just around the corner.  Or, even better, you’ll turn pro and the big league bonus will make you set for life.

Maybe.

But probably not.

And by narrowing the focus of sport on the infinitesimal chance that there may be money in it, we adults do a whole lot of damage.  Not only do we suck the fun out of sports, but we put way too much pressure on our children to take every moment seriously.  While I certainly advocate developing a strong work ethic and honoring the commitment to the team by doing their best, it is our responsibility (and privilege) to allow these children to develop a sense of satisfaction just from playing the game.

Sure, I’d love for one of my kids to earn an athletic scholarship.  But I would hope that by the time that opportunity presents itself, my son is still in love with the game.  By allowing him to play at a competitive level but keeping a recreational focus, I hope that I’m fostering this passion without putting pressure on him to make it pay off.

And if I’m ruining my boys’ futures by not putting them on the athletic fast track, I’m okay with that, too.  For now, I have children who love to play the game, and I love to watch them.  That’s a balance we all appreciate.

Good health and great happiness to you.

GUEST POST: My Great Cycle Challenge

Today OnBalance readers have a real treat: my friend and fellow women’s wellness advocate Darline Turner has written a guest blog post.  Just read the story, and you’ll know why I asked her to share.  She’s a real go(al)-getter!

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So what would cause me, a nearly 50 year old woman and mom of two busy kids, to cycle 1000 miles in four months?

I got divorced on December 21, 2012, “The end of the world” according to the Mayan calendar, and I have been trying to figure out what to do with myself ever since.

I have a Master’s Degree in physician assistant studies, but I really had no desire to return to the clinic after 12 years. So I decided to grow the small business I had started, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond.

Growing a business is about as easy as getting divorced! My focus is community outreach in Maternal and Infant health and I have spent the better part of the last three years getting entrenched in the Austin medical and public health communities. In April of this year, after a particularly frustrating day, I uttered this off-hand prayer:

“God, I feel like such a failure! I need a win!”

I felt like I could do nothing right, and every door I knocked upon remained unopened, or was quickly slammed shut after opening.

A few days to weeks later, I saw an ad for “The Great Cycle Challenge”. Cyclists were preparing to ride and raise money for children with cancer. I had just asked family and friends for money for other campaigns, so I didn’t want to ask for more cash. But I decided to do the ride anyway.

I had been out of the exercise loop and this was just the inspiration and accountability that I needed to get going. The challenge was for the month of June, and I set a goal to ride 150 miles in 30 days.

June 1st rolled around and I set out. I rode 8 miles that first day. Those first 8 miles were tough as it had already begun getting hot in Austin. But I got through the ride and lo and behold, felt great the next day! So I kept riding, gradually increasing my mileage every few days. Midway through the month, I was riding 15-20 miles at a shot and realized I was very close to my 150 mile goal.

So I increased my goal to 200 miles; my total mileage for June was 207 miles.

Funny thing about exercise: it’s kind of addicting! My body literally began craving my rides! I noticed that my mood improved, I lost weight and I was happier than I had been in a long time. So I decided to continue. In another very off-handed comment I told my Facebook friends, “I think I’ll see if I can ride 1000 miles by October 1st.” I have never ridden that much in such a short amount of time, and coupling that with the hottest days of summer in Texas was really going to be a challenge!

Like all good challenges, this one had its ups and downs. I got a flat tire one day while riding at the Veloway and had to walk home about four miles. I got a nasty cold/allergy attack and rode the last 6-8 weeks often congested. But by then I was committed and nothing was going to stop me!

On September 27 I completed 1013.9 miles with a 25.08 mile ride. On September 30th I rode 15 miles and completed the challenge with 1029.15 total miles cycled
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I learned so much about myself during this challenge.

  • I can set a goal and achieve it.
  • It is never too late to start an exercise program.
  • Exercise really is medicine. My cycling boosted my spirits and lifted me out of my depressed state. The added benefits of weight loss, muscle tone, improved sleep and lots of support and encouragement from my Facebook family and friends were icing on the cake!
  • Sometimes, you have to create your own “win”.
  • No matter what, I now know that I am “good enough”.

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This challenge was so much more than a bicycle ride. It was a HUGE self esteem boost, a huge physical health boost and a huge connector to my friends and family! I had been moaning and lamenting the fact that I am so far from friends and family (I a from New England) and yet, each day, with each ride, family and friends were right there to cheer me on! In today’s cyber world, we can remain connected.

I invite any of you who are feeling down, shy, unsure or even really great to challenge yourself to do something different, something “abnormal”, something totally out of your comfort zone! You will learn amazing insights about yourself and experience a tremendous boost of confidence as you attack and achieve your goal.

Whatever it is, I wish you good luck.

Feel inspired by Darline’s awesome example?  Her next challenge is raising $2500 to start a chapter of The Birthing Project in Austin. The Birthing Project is a non-profit organization that supports Black women through pregnancy and childbirth to have term pregnancies and healthy babies. Black women in Austin have 2-3 times the risk of delivering a premature, low birth weight infant and those infants have twice the risk of dying before their first birthdays. Please consider a donation towards this challenge and thanks so much for your support.

 

 

A Child’s Wellness Wisdom

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“Mama,” she said,  “my body is telling me it needs to be outside in nature.”

My four year old daughter said that to me when I picked her up from preschool recently.  I was so struck by the clarity of her expression of her needs and by the wisdom they represented.  How many adults do I know (myself included) who can articulate what their body needs at any given moment?  Not many.

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And so we headed off to “The Peacock Park” (officially Mayfield Park), a 21-acre nature preserve very near our home, to spend some time outside.  I had been meaning to get to a local hiking trail all week, but busy-ness and stuff kept getting in my way.  It took a four year old to get me to do what my body had been telling me it needed for days.

“Mama,” she said, “let’s go into the woods where we can walk, walk, walk and breathe, breathe, breathe.”

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Whether through intuition or experience, The Stowaway knew that walking in the woods helps her breathe deeply.  My kids hear a lot of talking about the importance of breathing deeply, but to hear my child make the explicit connection between walking in the woods and expansive breathing made my heart leap….and not because I need a parenting pat on the back, but because she is wise all on her own.

“Mama,” she said, “when my feet are on the earth my insides calm down.”

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Obviously, flip flops do not good hiking shoes make.  But this child of mine prefers to be barefoot in almost any situation.  Her ability to relate this feeling of literal groundedness and the peace it brings made me gasp.

“Mama,” she said, “I’m feeling a little tired.  I’m going to rest on this bench.”

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Rest?  You mean, like do nothing?  By admitting she was tired– and having no shame attached to that state of being– and devising a plan to let her energy stores rise again, The Stowaway displayed the wisdom of rest.  For all of the time and effort people put into good nutrition and vigorous exercise, we forget about the importance of restorative rest.  You owe it to yourself  to slow down when your body needs you to do so.

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There they were: in the span of an hour, four giant Truth Bombs Of Wellness were dropped on me my by a four year old.  Maybe if we adults stop overthinking everything and tune in to the wisdom of our mind-body connection, we’ll all be better for it.

Good health and great happiness to you!

 

 

Let Loose the Lion

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In my recent series about aqua yoga, I focused one of my posts on the benefits of pranyama in the pool.  Truth be told, pranyama– yogic breath work– is a relative newcomer to my regular practice. Much of my yoga experience is in fitness-based studios, and it was only when I deepend my practice by becoming an aqua yoga instructor and then undertaking a certification as a prenatal yoga instructor did I really learn about this important component of a yoga practice.  After all, without the breath, yoga is just stretching.

Today I want to focus on one of my favorite asana– Simhasana or Lion’s Pose.  As someone who has suffered from TMJ facial stress and its accompanying headaches for nearly two decades, the breathwork that is part of Lion’s Pose gives me release and relief.

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  • While sitting with my hips on my heels, I splay my hands on my knees as if flaring my claws.
  • I take a deep inhale to grow the spine long, and then I exhale forcefully (and loudly!), trying to open my mouth and eyes wide.  My gaze focuses just beyond the tip of my nose.
  • My tongue hangs down.  Shoulders fall heavy.  Spine stays tall.
  • I am fierce!
  •  Continue the “roar” until the inhale naturally begins.

I like to repeat the lion’s breath 3-5 times, seeing if I can roar louder and longer each time.

Practicing Simhasana at the beginning of my session allows me to begin with a clean, clear head.  It also helps me to feel strong and capable as I begin my practice.

Lion’s pose has a benefit for those concerned with vanity and aging.  The deep, forceful exhale with mouth open and tongue extended engages the platysma, a muscle on the front of the throat.  Working the platysma keeps the skin of the neck firm and youthful in appearance.

Mostly, though, roaring like a lion with a tall, strong torso makes you feel like a beast who can conquer anything.

Good health and great happiness to you.