Tag Archives: positive action

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!


Marathoning Made Complicated


About six weeks ago, I got the good news that my name was drawn in the lottery to run in the New York City Marathon this November.  This is a dream come true, as I turn 40 this fall and wanted to mark the milestone with something to prove to myself that I’ve still got the fight, drive, and fitness to run a decent marathon.

I’ve run 10 marathons, including the Boston Marathon (four times) and the London Marathon.  Adding New York to my list is a real thrill.  But it also throws me back into the study and research phase of preparing for a big race.

In the 10 years since I’ve run a marathon, the science of running (and writing about running) has become a huge niche market.  I decided to get a few of the books outlining several of the more popular marathon training programs and see which one I thought would work best for me, my current fitness level, the time I have to devote to training, and my goals.

The three main sources I consulted were Smart Marathon Training by Jeff Horowitz, Run Less, Run Faster by a group of Runner’s World writers, and Hanson’s Marathon Method by Luke Humphrey with Kevin & Keith Hanson.  Each of these experts delivers a plan that is part science and part art.  I respect this approach, as my experience has taught me that all the training in the world can save you from having a Bad Day on race day.  Sometimes it just happens.  But each of these three training programs purports that following their plan will get you to the starting line ready to run a high-quality race.  And they have the runner’s testimonials to prove it.  (I’ll be back in a later blog post to talk more about each of these approaches.  Stay tuned!)

Of course, being a historian by training I also had to go back and look at my original training plan from my preparation for the 1998 Austin Marathon:


Following that plan prepared me to run a 3:53 maiden effort, so it has to have some merit to it.  All the science and thinking and writing about running between the fall of 1997 and now can’t argue with the success I had following this simple, straightforward program.

And then there’s all of my old running logs and calendars.  Here’s just one from March 1999, as I was preparing for my first (and slowest) Boston Marathon:


I liked looking at this log because it reminded me that any training plan has to be flexible….a week off of focused training due to a trip to England just one month before my race, for example.

In the end, I’m still working on picking through each of these plans and pulling out parts I like and discarding the rest.  The plan has to be personalized to my life, or it won’t happen.  And then it’s just not very useful, is it?

Have you followed a training plan for a big race before?  What were the positives and negatives of the plan you used?

Good health and great happiness to you.



Water Bottle Blues


This post is a total first world problem.  I’m not even going to pretend that it’s not.

But I’m a first world gal, gratefully so.  And I have a drinking problem.

No, not an alcohol problem, a water problem.  A problem with drinking water.  As in I don’t do it.  Not nearly often enough.

Honestly, for someone who talks about hydration a lot  and reminds other people several times a day how important it is to stay hydrated, I stink at doing it myself.

You see, I don’t have a thirst mechanism.  Or it’s so far broken that I don’t ever recognize or register that I’m thirsty.  I can go hours with nothing to drink.  And those hours will include exercise and eating– and I still don’t drink.  It’s not even that I don’t like water– I do!  I don’t really drink anything except water.  I just don’t often think of taking a drink.

Earlier this year I posted that I was going to try to get to the bottom of some nagging health issues.  One of those issues is a 20+ year battle with tinnitus– ringing in the ears.  I’ve had it for so long that it’s part of my ‘normal’ life, but in the last year or so it’s become really distracting and disruptive to my daily activities.  On the advice of an ENT, I’m having acupuncture to try to get some relief.  I was amazed when the acupuncturist asked if I have hydration problems.  She told me that in Chinese medicine, the ears and the kidneys are strongly linked.  Perhaps my chronic dehydration is one of the causes of my tinnitus.

At the acupuncturist’s suggestion, I’m making a concerted effort to drink more regularly.  Although I have always filled a water bottle at the beginning of the day to keep in my car and sip on between clients, I’m now trying to drain the bottle several times throughout the day.  And now that my water bottle and I are going to be besties, I’m looking for a good one.

That’s where you come in.  What type of water bottle do you have that you like?  I’m looking for something at least 24 ounces and prefer something with a flip top or sport top.  No BPA plastic, and I’m a bit unsure of how a stainless steel water bottle would fare kept in a car in Austin during the summer.  Any ideas for me?

I’ll be back in another few months to report how the acupuncture works in regard to my tinnitus.  I’m happy to take whatever health benefits I can derive from the acupuncture, and if it can help lessen the annoying ringing in my ears I’ll be incredibly grateful.

Good health and great happiness to you.

Sugar-Free Me


I’m three weeks in to my annual sugar-free period.  As the proud owner of a whole mouth of sweet teeth, I dedicate January to resetting my taste buds and giving my gut a cleansing break.

While I thoroughly understand the health benefits of being sugar-free all the time, I am a realist.  I know that I enjoy things like baking with my kids, a quality Italian latte with real sugar once a week, and anything chocolate.  To give these things up permanently would cause me far more sadness than whatever health benefits I would enjoy.  And I’m totally okay with that.

But for a month or so at the beginning of each year, I cut out refined sugar.  In years past, I’ve gone for six weeks, during which time I did not lose the sweet craving at all.  This year, I’m pleased to say that my sugar beast was tamed quite easily.  The first week absolutely flew by.  The second was fine, too, with the notable exception of all the cute girls at my boys’ school who were hawking Girl Scout Cookies left and right.  The third week had me surfing Pinterest for birthday cake ideas for The Stowaway, and I don’t recommend that in the middle of a sugar-free period.  But I’m committed to my goal of at least a month, and if I’m still going strong, I’ll stay sugar-free until after my half-marathon at the beginning of March.

The first thing people ask me when they hear I’ve given up sugar is, “How much weight have you lost?”  I hate to say it, but I don’t think I’ve lost a pound.  (Longtime OnBalance readers know I’m not so much a fan of the scale, as weight is a lousy measure of fitness.)  I do follow up my sad reply with the more positive news that my jeans are looser around the waist.  Again, I don’t think I’ve lost any weight, but I definitely think sugar is related to bloat, and without the sugar, the low belly bloat disappears.  That’s always good news!

As with any kind of healthy eating plan, the best way to ensure success is to be well-prepared.  My fridge is stocked with fruits and sweet vegetables; my pantry is full of a variety of hot teas.  I don’t consume any artificial sweeteners during this time, either.  (I try to avoid them in general, but it’s easy for people to think they can just swap out sugar for sugar-free artificially sweetened foods and receive a health benefit.) The objective is to truly eliminate the sucrose-y taste from my cravings.

I know from my Facebook feed that I’m not alone in my sugar-free start to 2014.  Are you in on it, too?  How’s it going for you?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/swamibu/1881207586/”>Swamibu</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Guest Post: Designed for Activity

As a follow-up to last week’s post where I lamented that few children walk to school in my neighborhood, I asked an urban planner friend to give me her take on the situation.   Mallory Baches joins us today at OnBalance.


As an urban designer, I have a responsibility to people’s relationships with my work, so I took note when another study attached community form to public health.  Published in the upcoming issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, you might mistake the scientific findings for common sense: children who live in more walkable communities tend to walk more.  Go figure!

The study, Smart Growth Community Design and Physical Activity in Children, measured the physical activity levels of children in a California neighborhood designed according to principles known as “Smart Growth” within the planning industry, comparing them to children living in more conventional cul-de-sac subdivisions.  Promoting a mix of land uses and open spaces, a diversity of housing types within a compact neighborhood, and an interconnected street network that allows for a variety of transportation choices, smart growth communities not only tend to look different from their counterparts but also tend to live differently, too.

And so the study found: children living in the smart growth community had a 46% increase in daily neighborhood moderate-to-vigorous levels of physical activity (MVPA).  Put simply, the kids in the smart growth community tended to use their neighborhood as a playscape much more.  And while the potential added impact of community design identified by the study might seem slight at only 10 daily minutes, those minutes do add up.  With a daily recommendation of 60 MVPA that many school-aged children simply don’t get, the increase that community design might prompt is a welcome contribution.

I live in a smart growth community myself, in addition to designing dozens throughout my career.  I am also a parent who chose to raise my daughter here in Habersham in no small part because of the benefits that our neighborhood’s design provide to her.  There are dozens of parks and open spaces, some with intentional play structures or swings and others with open space or nature trails for exploration.  Most streets have sidewalks and everyone knows each other by name, promising both a watchful eye and reassuring help for whichever my daughter and her friends might need when they have wandered to the far reaches of our neighborhood.

The walkability of our community allows me to encourage that wandering.  It means that, while my husband and I are busy making dinner, she can play a quick pick-up game of soccer with the neighborhood kids in the park a block away.  It means that, on the weekends when she has inevitably become bored by the entertainment offered at home, she can ride her bike and rally some friends so that they can race each other down the biggest hill in our neighborhood.  And in that wandering, she’s getting the physical activity I know her growing body benefits from, without structure or planning or carpools or chaperoning.

Most days, we manage to wander as a family too.  We are all able to enjoy a healthy level of physical activity as a natural part of our daily lives, and what could be more common sense than that?

Mallory B.E. Baches is an urban designer and civic specialist certified by the AICP, LEED, and CNU.  She is the founder and director of The Civic Hub, a civicism incubation firm that blends her design and implementation skills with her passion for small towns and the community-supportive systems that help those small towns thrive.

Full Moon, Full Heart

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I blogged a few weeks ago about how fortunate I feel that my personal training business has made it to its fifth birthday.  Not only am I still here, but my business is expanding.  The people that I meet through this work of are what really keep me looking for new and interesting ways to teach the importance of wellness for everyone.   Sharing my education and experiences in a way that helps others is gratifying beyond measure.

Last week I told you about my participation on the Boston Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles team at the upcoming Falmouth Road Race.   While beating the drum for your hard-earned funds isn’t the point of my business or my blog, I do know that finding a good cause to support is an important component of one’s overall wellness.  If you feel moved to read more about why I have chosen to become involved with this charity, please visit my personal fundraising page.

I wanted to offer one of my new Aqua Kriya Yoga classes as a fundraiser, and I felt that coming together on the eve of the full moon would provide the perfect setting for our heartfelt class.  We were a small group– just four women in the water and me on deck– but each person brought a desire to breathe deeply, move intentionally, and enjoy the gorgeous summer night.  Watching the women move through modified sun salutations in the water was like watching ballet, the poses strong yet graceful.

I was so moved by Saturday night’s class that I have decided to host three more by-donation Aqua Yoga classes this summer.  Each of these classes will be held on the night of the full moon, and all donations will go to charity.  The July & August dates will benefit my Miles for Miracles team.  The September charity is TBD.  As always, I just ask that you email me (karen at balancepft.com) to reserve your place.

Monday, July 22nd– location TBD (either Plymouth, MA or Cape Cod, MA), 7.45pm

Tuesday, August 20th– Central Austin, 7.45 pm

Wednesday, September 18th– Central Austin, 7.30pm

If you can’t make the full moon donation classes, check out my regular Aqua Kriya Yoga teaching schedule to see if another class will work with your schedule.

Good health and great happiness to you.

Hey, Mom

I just wanted to write you– yes, you– a quick note to let you know I’m thinking of you.

With Mother’s Day on Sunday, I’m thinking of you and all the other mamas I’ve had the privilege of working with over the last five years.  Many of my clients have been women pregnant with their first child.  The anticipation and excitement is always thrilling, and to be a part of the growing family’s well-being is a real honor.  To walk with these women as they transition into motherhood, to hear their stories of changing bodies and priorities, is one of the real joys of being a perinatal trainer.

Ten years ago, I was awaiting the birth of my first child.  I had just met a group of women in an NCT class who would become my family through the first year of motherhood.  There is no Mother’s Day that goes by that I don’t think of these women, half a world away, and how they shaped my mothering.  Having a community of new moms to share our experiences galvanized our friendships for life.

I also think of all the moms of my friends growing up.  There was the mom who let us do whatever we wanted to, the mom who always seemed tired and grouchy but wanted us around anyway, and the mom who always seemed to have it 100% together.  Now, as an adult and mother, I have a tremendous appreciation for those women, who were undoubtedly balancing their own interests and struggles with the needs of their kids (and their kids’ friends) just as I am now.  I am mindful of how my friends’ mothers influenced me and recognize I can have the same powerful effect on my kids’ friends.

So, Mom, this Mother’s Day, let’s be nice to ourselves.  When we get that feeling that we aren’t being a perfect parent for our child, let’s remember how many other mothers are helping us in our childrearing journey.  Taking time to be ourselves– honoring our own interests, separate from our children, and taking care of our bodies– will ensure we can offer our best selves to the mothering community.

Take a deep breath, Mama.

You’ve earned it.

Good health and great happiness to you.

Photo credit: Shannon Cunningham of Photo Frolic

Photo credit: Shannon Cunningham of Photo Frolic