Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful.



Just kidding. #notkidding

'Tis the season to be thankful. Here's are a few fitness-related benefits that make my list of things to be truly grateful for this holiday season.

1.     Working out on Thanksgiving Day. Or not.
Right now I’m planning to go to the Interval Fusion class at Jazzercise at 9:30 that morning. I love the format and it feels good to torch calories and fuel my metabolism early in the day. I’m not hosting dinner but I do have some cooking and baking to do so a good workout sets  the stage for getting it done.
However,  truth be told, there’s a chance it might not happen. I might end up drinking coffee in my jammies until noon.  #sorry #notsorry

2.     Options. I like to try it all and it keeps my workouts fresh and fun. Sometimes it’s Jazzercise and Pure Barre.  Sometimes it’s yoga. Sometimes it’s an invented boot camp that I make up as I go or just a walk with my dogs. I'm just thankful I have access to a variety of fitness options.
Beach Boot Camp while on vacation in Texas.
3.     Pumpkin. I’ve been putting it in my oatmeal in the morning and my yogurt in the afternoon. I can’t get enough of it. It’s a high fiber, low calorie food, packed with vitamin A, potassium and beta-carotene. And on Thanksgiving, the pumpkin I eat will be in a pie and slathered with whipped cream. Bring it on.
Today

Tomorrow

4.     Comfy, stylish activewear. How great would it feel to wear pajamas all weekend? It's SO tempting to stay in and be a hermit. While I won't succumb to total sloth-itude, comfort is key so I will definitely be in relaxed mode. Yoga pants, anyone?

5.     My health. I can dance my way through class, do ten pretty good push-ups and a decent chatarunga. I hauled my suitcase on and off trains and up and down a gazillion stairs in Italy. I have a strong heart and lungs, lots of stamina and energy – the rewards for all that sweat poured out during countless workouts. My good health extends beyond the body. There are days when I’m grumpy, tired and whiny but I also experience my share of joy and contentment. Exercise helps keep me grounded and sane. It’s my therapy and my daily meditation. Namaste. 
Planes, trains and automobiles.

Serious stairs everywhere.
6.     Food.  Geez, I love to eat. When I was in Italy, I could have lived on lemon- marinated anchovies, bread, gelato and wine. Oh, and coffee. And pasta. Isn’t food wonderful? I’m thankful for the delicious (mostly) healthy food on my table and the friends and family I get to share it with. I haven’t QUITE learned to love kale yet, but I’m working on it.

7.     My Fitness Gurus. I’m looking at you Jazzercise Instructors, Pure Barre and yoga teachers. You keep me motivated and moving. There are days when I’m swearing at you under my breath, but believe me, you guys are the bomb!


8.     My Fitness Friends. We’re all at different places on the same journey and it’s encouraging to look around and know I’m not alone.
Sweat together. Shop together.
9.     My Family. I love it when one son goes with me to walk the dogs and the other agrees to take a climbing wall class with his mom. My sister meets me at barre classes and inspires me by running a half marathon. My mother has been a role model all my life because she always takes care of herself. And these are some of the people we work out for, right?





10. Wise words. Rachel, a friend and personal trainer, once told me you should think about why you exercise and that will help keep you motivated. I exercise to control my weight and look and feel better. But the main reason I pursue fitness and health is because I want to live and long and happy life with the people I love.

Happy Thanksgiving!


       

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Shake Happens



I have to admit, the first time I stepped into the Pure Barre studio, I was skeptical.

I took one look at the shelves of three and two pound weights and snorted contemptuously.
Weights, ball, tube. That's all you need.
Because, ya’ know, I’m a superior athlete, a beast in the gym and all that. This just isn’t going to be challenging enough, I scoffed.
No way.

Way.

By the end of the class, my muscles were quivering and I was a puddle of sweat. And the next day, I cursed that smiling instructor every time I walked up the stairs or sat down or stood up or just basically tried to move.

Fast forward a few months and, although the class hasn’t gotten easier, I’m hooked.

Here’s why I love barre.

In an inch, out an inch.
These are tiny, tiny moves and contractions. The teacher gives  a series of precise instructions that move your body into the perfect form to isolate the muscle you’re working on. Like this:
Stand facing the barre.
Left foot back, quartet bend in the leg, foot flexed.
Lift your leg up an inch, down an inch.

So, it starts out innocently enough. But intensity increases because of a layered effect where each exercise builds on the one before it. You’re goal is to work the muscle to fatigue and make it shake. And it does.

It’s personal.
The instructor demonstrates the exercise but after the first few repetitions, she walks around the class, observing and correcting form or offering encouragement. And they know customers by name.
Instructor Sydney Chase demonstrates and coaches.

It gets better, not easier.
There’s a learning curve with the terminology and the precise movements take awhile to understand and master. Over time, you learn terms like “tuck” or what’s meant by the Pure Barre Ledge. You learn how to make the most of each exercise, how to tuck and plank at the same time or how to work deeper and  move effectively. Does it get easier? Not exactly. By the end of a series of challenging exercises, I’m inwardly screaming, “Where’s the final ten?!” But my strength and stamina have improved greatly since that first class.
Shake happens.

It’s head to toe.
By the end of each class, my body really hums because I’m quite sure I’ve worked every muscle. There’s satisfaction that comes with working that hard and not quitting. It’s a total body workout. Barre also helps improve flexibility and posture, two important aspects of fitness that I don’t think get near enough attention.


Mind/body.
I’m all about that connection. I love the hypnotic effect of the music, the instructor’s voice, the sheer concentration and effort. I think my favorite part of class is the last two minutes when the lights are turned off and it's just the movement and the music. (Well, that and the fact that I only have two minutes until I can collapse on the mat!) Barre has a certain “yoga” feel to it that turns the workout into a meditation. Good for the brain and the spirit.

Stretching.
It doesn’t happen just at the end or the beginning. You do a series of exercises, followed by a stretch while your muscles are still warm.

It complements other workouts.
One woman in class told me she’s training for a half-marathon and barre workouts complement her training by improving strength and endurance in a low impact way.
I have occasional knee issues and barre helps strengthen the muscles around the knee that help prevent that pain. It’s also a great core workout.
And, by the way, the class isn't just for wanna-be ballerinas. It borrows some moves from ballet, as well as Pilates and yoga. No toes shoes required.

Have you tried barre classes? What do you think?



  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lowering the Bar


After two weeks on vacation, I’m finally getting back to routine. I won’t make you jealous by telling you where I went (Italy) and how Fabulous it was. (Very!) But I WILL tell you how hard it is to get back to the gym.

How hard is it, you ask?

Here’s an example. I went to yoga class and the preliminary stretching about killed me. Every muscle was screaming because I was so sore from my Jazzercise Strength class the night before. (Thanks, Fara.)


Then my yoga instructor said something that hit home. She told us to dig a little deeper – or don’t push as hard, depending on HOW YOU FEEL TODAY. She gave me permission to back off. Ease up. Lower the bar.

In today’s high powered, push through the pain, take no prisoners world of exercise, lowering the bar sounds like blasphemy. What we usually tell ourselves is:  

Just do it.
Be stronger than your excuses.
The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen.

I know, I know. There are times when you have to push yourself and ignore that little voice that tells you to go home, flop on the couch and watch The Bachelor.

But I’m here to tell you that sometimes its okay to Lower the Bar. 

·      When you need to sleep. Lack of sleep is linked with all kinds of chronic diseases and health issues. When I don’t get enough sleep I get cranky, unfocused and depressed. One decent night of sleep makes me feel like Superwoman again. Never underestimate the power of sleep.
 
·      When you’ve over-trained. When your workout feels stale, you’re starting to drag through it or you’ve stopped making progress, it might be time to back off. It’s not true that more exercise is always better. Your body needs time to repair itself so it’s okay to take a rest day or follow an intense workout with something a little less rigorous. 

·      When you’re sick or injured. That seems obvious but I often see people who should be home in bed trying to push through it. Sometimes, you just have to give yourself time to heal.

·      When you’ve been in Italy eating, drinking and taking it easy. In my defense, I also did a ton of walking so I wasn’t a total sloth. But it’s going to take awhile to get back to get back to where I was before I left. It’s okay to lower the bar a notch and ease back into it.


 When do you think it's okay to take it easy?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Trade in the Corset for the Core Class


I thought the Victorian corset was a tradition that’s long gone. I mean, who in her right mind would want to wear an instrument of torture that cinches your waist to the point that you can barely breathe?

Turns out, the corset is back. It’s called the “waist trainer” and it’s a favorite of celebrities like Kim Zolciak and the Kardashians. Believe it or not, this is a thing. 


Of course, it’s not a permanent fix and your waist will go back to its normal shape the minute you take the thing off. An article in Health magazine reports there's no evidence that the waist trainer delivers anything more than temporary results. Doctors have also sounded the alarm about potential health risks associated with not being able to breathe (like passing out!) and squeezing your ribs and organs that tightly. 

In other words, pain but no gain.

What does work to shape your core? Eating right and exercise. There are no shortcuts.




Jazzercise offers a special class format that focuses on the core, from the warm-up to cool-down. I tried a Core class taught by Lindsay. (By the way, she has a tiny waist. No corset involved!)
 
Even the cardio portion of the class features choreography that emphasizes core work: twisting, leaning, rotating, reaching. As usual, you’re working hard but you don’t realize it because the music makes it feel like the dance floor, not the gym. If you pay attention, you realize you’re challenging the core, far beyond planks and crunches.


Every single move is planned by some clever choreographer. One of these days, I want to find out how they work their magic behind the scenes and I'll blog about it. 


 

But if you just want to get carried away on the dance floor, rest assured that your core is working hard even while you're workin' it.

 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Partners in Training


Biker Babes

Mary Andelt remembers hitting her low point while training for the long distance bicycle ride, Tour de Nebraska. She calls it "The Meltdown". It happened during a regular Tuesday evening ride with her training class from the YMCA. She had two flat tires and then accidentally drove off the trail into a ditch.

“I picked up my bike and threw it in the weeds,” Mary remembers. “And then I called it an f-ing piece of s#*@. In front of the instructors. Need I remind you the C in YMCA stands for Christian?”

Mary rode back to her car crying. And there was her friend, Lee Anne Von Seggern, waiting in the dark for Mary to get there. Lee Anne gave Mary a big hug and helped get her bike back on the car.

And that might be the key ingredient in meeting a challenge like this one– a supportive training partner.

The cycling class met twice a week for indoor spinning and guest speakers. When the weather improved, they moved outside with trips to Pioneers Park, Cortland and Eagle. Lee Anne and Mary pushed each other through dark nights, long hills and early Saturday mornings. As Mary says, they “ham and egged it", a golfing term that refers to partners on a two person team trading good shots.

“I wanted to quit about every other class,” said Lee Anne. “In all honesty, Mary and I kept each other going. We were never on the same page at the same time. One class, Mary would be saying, ‘We can do this!’ and I’d be saying, ‘No way!’ and then we would flip-flop.”

They started the class as a way to fill the long winter hours, with no plans to actually join the Tour de Nebraska, a five-day ride through the Sandhills. But as the hours of training started to add up, the idea of joining the Tour began to gel. In March, Lee Anne and Mary loaded their dogs in the car and drove the route to see what they’d be in for. They were at once encouraged and terrified – but ready to sign up.

Mary had another motivation. She had seen the movie, Wild, the story of Cheryl Strayed who hiked more than 1000 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail after losing her mother, her marriage and her confidence. Mary had lost her husband Bob to cancer and joining the Tour de Nebraska was her Pacific Coast Trail.

“I saw the movie on Christmas Day with my mother and I bawled like a baby all the way through it,” said Mary. “It moved me. I wanted to be the person Bob and my dad would be proud of.”
 

The day before the Tour, Lee Anne says she felt sick and almost had a panic attack. But the next morning the jitters were gone and they were ready to go. Over five days, they rode a total of 245.8 miles, between about 50 and 68 miles most days. And loved it. In fact, they’re both ready for next year and maybe another ride in between.

Lee Anne’s favorite part was making it up the “big ass hill” on day 2 before reaching Ord. They made new friends, visited a winery (of course) and enjoyed the beauty of the Sandhills.
 
Big Ass Hill
Here are a few things to remember if you decide to try a similar challenge.

·   It’s an investment in time and money. Lots of both. Lee Anne and Mary  bought new bikes, tires, clothing and other equipment. And they spent hours training.

·   It's Nebraska so the weather doesn’t always cooperate. Be prepared for wind, rain, cold.

·   Many of the Tour participants camped out along the way and food was provided by local groups. But others, including Mary and Lee Anne chose to stay in motels. That would be my choice, too. There’s nothing like a hot shower and soft bed after a long day.

·   Get a training partner!

Do you find it better to workout with someone or alone?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fit Fashionista Rant



Amy Schumer
Quit telling me how to talk and what to wear.

There’s been a spate of articles lately on women’s voices, how we should or shouldn’t sound when we talk and words we shouldn’t use such as “sorry” or “like”. Then there are lists of things we’re not supposed to wear ever or over a certain age.

I’m here to tell you that I’ve been talking on my own for years and I actually communicate just fine. As far as what I choose to hang in my closet, I’m an adult and I can make own decisions, thank you very much.  

In fact, I’m an offender in at least six of the categories on this list of 24 Things Women Should Stop Wearing After Age 30 (hello, hoop earrings and leopard print!) and if I can find some sparkly pants like the ones in the article, it’ll be seven.

If I want to speak in a low voice or a high voice while I’m wearing my furry boots, that’s what I’m going to do. The author can kiss my lovely, Jazzercise-sculpted, leopard print and 
bling-covered rear.

Okay. I’m stepping off my soapbox.

On to fun stuff I saw this week.

It's all in the details, like the patch of lace on this top.
Strong but soft.

 These green and black, leopard print shoes from Nike. (Worn by a woman over 30.)
Because they're so cute.

This tote bag. 
I'm sort of into the animal print thing.



So what theoretically age-inappropriate items do you have hanging in your closet? 








Friday, July 10, 2015

Fit Fashionista Friday

I can't wait to go to Jazzercise this weekend because I have new clothes to dance in! And you know how very happy that makes me. :)

I've been lusting after the new tops that have interesting back views and the activewear pieces with mesh details. This month, I ordered two items from the Fabletics website and they just arrived last night. I'm posting a few pictures but keep in mind, I had just finished working out  and my hair shows it.

The green top is Plain Jane from the front but get a load of the back! Yowza. Obviously, this isn't good for yoga because it will just fall off in downward dog. But it's perfect for Jazzercise and the price is right at only $19.95.

It's harder to see theme mesh in the crops but here they are. Fun, huh?


The crops are a little pricier at $44.95 but the fabric is sturdy and they feel like they'll last forever.  You can order pieces individually off the Fabletics website or join as VIP member. Every month they send you their "picks" and you can order complete outfits starting at $49.95. You can skip a month anytime you like.

My weekend will include at least one Jazzercise class in my new duds. It's also supposed to be blazing hot so I'm going to plan on pool time as well?

What's on your agenda?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Climbing out of the July 4th Food Coma


Move over, Thanksgiving. July 4th is turning into the new king and queen of food coma-inducing holidays.
Me at work on Monday. :(
Yes, I indulged. Juicy burgers, potato salad and ice cold beer. S’mores around the fire, cookies and a delectable cake that we fell on like a pack of wild dogs sometime around midnight. It wasn’t pretty.

Sunday, I could barely move. My brain was foggy and all I wanted to do was sleep and watch TV.

According to Scientific American, a large amount of any kind of food causes that lethargic, sleepy feeling known as a food coma. Common table sugar found in desserts causes the biggest crash.

Your body breaks food down into glucose, which is used for fuel, causing an increase in blood sugar. As that process happens, the hormone insulin is released and begins mopping up the excess glucose. That process causes your brain to produce serotonin and melatonin, and that makes you feel drowsy.

Here’s what I’m doing this week to get back on track.

  •  Get moving. In addition to all the goodies I ate this weekend, I skipped my workouts and opted to float in a lake instead. I don’t regret it because it was glorious way to spend a hot, humid weekend. YOLO. But it feels great to get back to my regular workout schedule.
  •  Eat nutrient-rich foods: lots of veggies, lean protein and fiber.  Yesterday’s menu included oatmeal, a mixed greens salad with carrots, cucumbers and avocado, a little chicken and some broccoli and grapes Greek yogurt for snacks.
  • Water, water, water. And more water.
  • Sleep. When I’m tired, I tend to opt for what’s easy and fast. Like cold pizza eating standing up in front of the refrigerator.

I’m feeling better already. And my motivation is strong. Or it will be until someone brings cake to the office.

What are you doing to recover from the holiday weekend?