Friday, December 19, 2014

Fast Friday: Cold Weather Workouts

I know I live in the South and shouldn't really complain about the weather, so I'll keep the moaning to a minimum in this post....but today it was only 33 degrees Fahrenheit when I went for my run. And I only went out to run because my day was so booked up that I couldn't wait for it to warm-up any further or else I was just going to have to skip it all together. And that is why I bring you these tips today about exercising in the winter time.
  1. Always Warm-up! I recommend warming up gently indoors as it's much harder to warm-up a cold muscle in the cold. Do you have a long hallway in your house or some serious space in your living room? Do some drills back and forth to prepare for a nice ride, walk, or run outdoors on a chilly day. Then ease into it when you get outside. Don't expect to go 100% (see #4).
  2. Bundle appropriately. The biggest risk to participating in outdoor activities when the temps are low is hypothermia. You want to make sure that you're wearing the right kind of layers and enough of them. This morning I wasn't quite on top of this. I had on shorts (should have gone with something a little longer despite the fact that I've avoided my razor for the last 5 days), a t-shirt and a performance long sleeved shirt, and that was IT! I did wear a visor, but more about that in a few. I should have also had on some running gloves because my fingers were getting icy while holding Truffle Shuffle and my ears too could have used some good cover. Try to pick layers that you could easily remove if you're going to be working hard for a long time and your body temp will go up (hence two shirts). Make the layers light weight so that you can also carry them with you to replace as you slow down or for rest intervals. Choose fabrics that will trap some air inside against the body (the performance shirt) and avoid things that will get too wet with the sweat you release as the sweat can get cold and make you colder. Keep your head, hands, and feet warm too so that you retain the body heat you need to keep blood circulating away from the core and out to the extremities.
  3. Look at the temp before you go out. Choose your outdoor exercise activities wisely and at the appropriate time of day. While snowboarding is a great activity during most times of the day when the sun is up (because you already wear a ton of gear to keep warm), running just might not be best even at 9am if your temps aren't high enough. Check out the windchill chart here that references what temps (and windchill) are safest to exercises in. Note that it also states that the green zone ("Safety Zone") is also where there is the greatest sense of false security from the dangers of hypothermia and frostbite.
  4. Be prepared. This is both a mental and a physical thing. First let's tackle physical...if you haven't been exercising regularly, the cold months are not the time to take up outdoor exercise. There are far more dangers involving slips, falls, accidents with a car in the dark, as well as the frostbite and hypothermia that happen in colder months. And dehydration, which we'll get to in a moment. If you've only been exercising indoors, this is also not the time to switch to the outdoors. Save switching for the milder months of spring and fall to adjust. And mental preparedness means that you have to understand that your body does not function the same in the cold as it does the warm, so you may not go as fast or as far as you'd like. For instance today I did a 1.89 mile run around my neighborhood and I am blanking on why I skipped one part of the run that would normally have been about 2.14 miles. My pace this morning was 10:52/mile! Earlier this week I went for a run that was 2.11 miles and it was chilly out (probably low 50's or high 40's) and my pace was 8:49/mile. Huge differences in time because of the cold. I also couldn't mentally get settled into pushing myself in the colder weather on today's run.
  5. Gear. By gear I mean a few things including the clothing that we talked about in #2. Ideally you should have some kind of reflective gear if you're going to be running, walking, cycling etc at any time of year, but with less sunlight in the winter I highly recommend wearing it now. Make sure lights on your bike have good batteries. Be cautious if you use your ear buds in the cold, as I am constantly reminded by mine. The plastic and metal get cold and they will make your ears cold too. If I had known (remembered to not have a false sense of security) that I would be suffering from a headache post run due to cold ear buds in my ears, I would have remembered my ear band to keep the buds and the ears warmer.And bring water with you if you can. I'm also a fan of these little numbers and I got them for my ex's mom one year for Christmas because she lives and runs in Iowa year round.
  6. Cool Down, but don't rush inside to do it. Your body needs to come down slowly and that means slowing down outdoors. You are sweating and running inside all sweaty can only make you sweat more. I'm not saying stay outdoors for a long time after you finish running, but I like to walk around and finish the song I'm listening to before I head indoors. It gives me a chance to catch my breath before I enter the hot zone that is my house.
  7. Rehydrate and refuel. The cold is a good deceiver when it comes to fluid loss. We rarely think we've done any sweating when we workout in the cold, but the rules of re-hydration still apply. And just because you exercised doesn't mean that you can gorge yourself on Christmas cookies. I'm being moderate in my intake and I hope you are too. Make smart choices about what you're putting back into your body so that you can get the most out of these winter workouts. Here's a great article about Winter Superfoods.
Okay, so I know that this was a little long for a Fast Friday, but even if you just skim the list maybe we can all have a little more fun exercising outdoors this winter and stay a little safer! Happy Friday!

Do you exercise outdoors?
In the winter?
Do you do winter sports?

Also read:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How Many Do You REALLY Need?

Can you believe that Christmas is just ONE WEEK FROM TODAY?! Well, here's a big shout out to one of my favorite bloggers, The Bloggess, because she's doing something really great this holiday season and I hope that people do not abuse it. Please go here and read this and help out if you can. I can't this year because I fall somewhere in between those who need the help and those who can help and that is the whole reason behind this totally random list for the:

Remember how all I've been talking about for the last few weeks (off and on that is) is MODERATION? Well, with Christmas approaching I've kind of got myself upset over gift giving and shopping and being American and commercial. Basically, I hate getting gifts and usually just tell people it's not necessary. Well, this year I actually came up with a list of things I kind of needed and that was the first frustrating thing for me. When someone asked me what I wanted, I actually had something to tell them and I would be lying if I didn't tell them what it was. Here are some things that were on my "list":
  • A new address book because mine is currently the back of a date planner from 2010 and has run out of spaces long ago so that now people share. It is by no means organized and hardly legible. To my friends: Please stop moving! ;)
  • A new camera because our family one gave up after over 4 years of regular use back in June. My children now think that every time I pick up my dilapidated cell phone that they should smile and say cheese so that I may get a grainy snapshot of their existence. I don't need anything fancy, my old one was a clearance point and shoot from Target.
  • A Pilates ring and small hand weights because my fitness center consists of a yoga mat and physio ball. My husband also built a pull-up bar and dip station in the garage, but I'd like to expand my regimen a little this next year.
  • Oven mitts, a skinny scraper, and a hand mixer. I set the first item on fire and now have barely a pair and they kind of let the heat in. The second item got cut and I didn't think it was safe to keep using it because I wasn't sure what was growing inside. And the third item also gave out in June while making my youngest son's first birthday cake. It has been replaced (generously) with my in-laws' stand mixer that they were not using, but I'd still like the small hand mixer for back-up.
And then came the clothes discussion. I do the "selfless mom thing" a lot and buy for my children and not for myself. My husband works full-time so I don't ask for a lot of new clothes for me unless I really need them. This year I asked for some more pj's because I'm down to five pj bottoms (3 shorts and 2 pants). One pair of shorts I've had since 2007 and the oldest pants are from our honeymoon in 2011. Maybe I have enough and that should have stayed off of my list, but then I started looking through the rest of my clothes and thinking that I'm kind of scarce. How many is enough of the following items? Answer in the comments section please. The number in parenthesis are what I currently have.
  1. Bras (2 regular and 2 sport)
  2. Pair of shoes (1 pair of running shoes, 1 pair casual shoes, 1 pair sandalls, 5 pair dress shoes/dress sandalls/heels)
  3. Jeans (1 pair of beaters, 1 pair that fits nicely, 1 pair that I may never get into since having the second baby)
  4. Sweaters (None)
Finally, I have a random question about sheets. We have two sets for our bed and I always take one set off, put a clean set on, and proceed to wash the dirty set within the next 24 hours. Yet, everyone I've asked says you need 3 sets of sheets. What is so magic about the number 3? My husband also says we need another set. Am I crazy here? How many sets of sheets do you have?!

In other news, I did push-ups 21-40 yesterday and it only burned a little bit. I'll tell you more about why on Tuesday when we discuss DOMS. How is your pillar going today?

Thanks Amanda for letting me unload my brain!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Push, Pull, Squat, Core

Welcome back from a long weekend spent with relatives galore! I hope you, like myself, have been trying to stick with your training plans over the holiday season. Many times people make a list of rules for themselves for this time of year and more often than not they fail to follow the rules. Let's try just one: Don't change a thing if it's working. Or, if you like Beauty and the Beast references...
Well, today we are going to talk about the Four Pillars of Resistance Training. Hopefully you all have some kind of resistance training program going on in your life at this moment. And if not, here's a great place to start. The Four Pillars of Resistance Training is a way to measure if you've got a complete training program that's hitting all of your major muscle groups. Ideally your program should include 8-10 total exercises that fall under these four categories. Not 8-10 under each category!

Exercise that require your upper body to make a pushing motion.
  • Bench press
  • Push-ups
  • Shoulder press
  • Triceps push down
Exercises that require your upper body to make a pulling motion.
  • Pull-ups
  • Lat pull-down
  • Biceps curl
  • Rows
Exercises that require your body to bend at the knees.
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Leg press
Exercises that work muscles in the middle of the body and not an appendage (see here).
  • Planks
  • Bridges
  • Crunches
  • Wood choppers
  • Bird-Dogs
If you don't have exercises from each of these categories, let's start small and start today. Pick one exercise that's not in your tool box and do 10 today. Today is the 16th (an even day) and Christmas falls on the 25th (an odd day). If we do 10 each even day from now until the end of the year we've added one new exercise and performed it 80 times! That's not a whole lot of time spent on a new exercise, but it can round out our training and change things up for us.

It had been a long time since I did push-ups, but yesterday I did 20 modified push-ups (from my knees). I stopped at 20 because despite my strength at holding a plank and my ability to do a million down-planks in yoga, I wasn't training functionally to PUSH in a push-up. So, I started small and went until I was done doing them correctly. Then, I stopped and I'm waiting until tomorrow to do 20 more. I started on an odd day and so I will end up doing 180 (at 20 each time) before the end of the year. But we'll talk soon about how and when to change up the number of repetitions you're doing. I'm curious as to how easy those 20 modified push-ups will be in two weeks from now.....

Which category is your training program lacking in?
What's your favorite pillar?
How are you doing on sticking to your training regime this holiday season?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fast Friday: Choosing a Fitness Professional

It's Friday again and today I gave the final for my yoga classes. It was sad as I've really enjoyed having those students in class each Friday morning. It was an activity that got me out of the house and made me feel less like Mom and more like Me again....and now it's done. :(

But enough about that and on to the Fast Friday Tip for you this week. This week we're going to talk quickly about two things. The first being the Day 43 reading in the Gates' book because he makes an interesting postulation regarding the regaining of weight after weight loss. He says, "that many obese people find their efforts to lose weight thwarted because, as they return to a healthy weight, they also return to their former selves - to smaller selves, selves that were in ways they found intolerable. At some unconscious level, the pain of obesity can be preferable to the pain of reexperiencing those old selves, and so the weight begins to come back on." (p.57)

This, and my workshop this past weekend got me thinking about how daunting of a task it may be for people in need of a fitness professional to find a good one....and more importantly, the right one.
So, here are some tips:
  • Look for a trainer that, at a minimum, has a Nationally Accredited Certification. Click on that link and choose Fitness and Wellness to find out which ones fall under that category through NCCA. They should also be current in their certification as well as CPR and hold personal liability insurance. This tells you that they're serious about their profession and have the right tools to start with.
  • If possible (and if you are a person with a special condition like pregnancy, osteoporosis, someone who has suffered a cardiac event, etc) I would highly recommend finding a trainer who is certified and also has a Bachelor's or higher in any of the following fields: Exercise Science, Exercise Physiology, Kinesiology, Health and Human Performance, Athletic Training, Physical Therapy, or Biomechanics. If I'm missing one there I'm sorry. I would also take a trainer who has one of those degrees as a stand alone because they should have a strong enough basis to train you, but again, look for CPR and liability insurance.
  • Look for the trainer with the most experience and who your friends and family recommend. Make sure that one or both of the first two qualifications are met, but you want someone that other people trust and enjoy working with.
  • Look for a trainer who has a similar philosophy as yourself. If they are only into one type of training and it's not your thing, don't choose that trainer. Remember that it is PERSONAL training that you're signing up for, so it should meet your personal wants, interests, and needs.
  • Finally, remember that more expensive does not always equal better. Some trainers are in it for the money and others to help people and most are somewhere in between the two. Find someone who won't break your bank, but offers you the most of what you're looking for.
There is only one thing I didn't put on the list here because it's my only DON'T for finding a personal trainer:
Do Not hire any trainer who pushes supplements or promises to write you a diet plan. Personal trainers are not licensed nor certified to act as nutritionists or dieticians in any of the 50 United States unless they hold a Master's Degree in Dietetics and/or Nutrition and have passed their state exam to act as such. It is out of their scope of practice to write you a meal plan or prescribe any kind of supplement and is illegal to do so, label themselves as such, or give advice that could be construed as medical advice.

With all of that in mind, here's a great post from Fit Feminist on a similar topic you should check out: On Athletic Teachers: Finding Your Coach(es) 

Have a great weekend! 

Have you ever hired a personal trainer?
What was your experience like?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Walk the Line

Okay, so before I write my post for today, I should totally say that I am not very good at reading directions all the way through the first time. So, all of the Thinking Out Loud posts I've done this far have not linked to the desired location and I have since had to go back and figure out how to do this now that I've got it, let's talk some more Gates in my random thought list for this week.
Day 42 reading covers more of that dreaded immoderation vs. moderation concept of brahmacarya. But my favorite part of it all is that it reminds me that taking the middle path of life will create more balance on my life, whereas if I veer off the path too far I will become side-tracked and my life goals can become compromised. So, as I meditated that day I said to myself....walk the line. Now because meditation is a sorting of the thoughts, here were things that came to mind during this meditation as displayed in random pictures from the internet for your enjoyment.

I Walk the Line
What Goes Around, Comes Around
Laws of Motion
The Golden Rule
In summary...YUM! Whee! Watch Out! Hahaha! and Read that book to your kids; it's cute.

Do you veer to one side or the other?
Do you believe in Karma?
How have you practiced the golden rule lately?
Did you like physics class?

Thanks Amanda!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Is your Fitness Routine too Rigid?

Gates' Day 41 reading asks the question: "Am I practicing yoga as a means to show up for my life, or to hide from it?" (p.54) He then goes on to talk about how routine or rigidity is usually driven by fear. So I ask you:
Is your fitness routine rigid and inflexible?
What drives you to do the exercise that you do?

I started thinking about my own answers to these questions in preparation for this post. In regards to the yoga question I think a lot of my yoga practice is dedicated to becoming a better teacher. I wish that it were a means to hide from my life, but I find things about myself in my practice which I must always confront. I have not yet met the moment of blissful zen in yoga at which all of life just exists and I am at full peace. This time of year it would be particularly helpful if that were the case. My yoga practice often revolves around need and is squeezed in where it fits. I hate that I don't have designated times for expansive practice outside of teaching. I feel that that makes me not as great of a teacher as I once was and also, many times, disconnected from my practice. I can honestly go through the motions of the pose and feel only what my body is telling me, but not connect it to my brain as an enjoyable experience. This disappoints me.

My fitness routine is rigid in the sense that it is limited. Earlier this year I was offered an opportunity to start teaching classes at a fitness center here in town. I jumped at the opportunity. Since that time my relationship with that company has dissolved and I no longer get contacted to teach. I'd like to say that it's through no fault of my own, but I have prioritized feeding my children and paying off debt over owning a smart phone or other digital music player which I can program for teaching purposes. I am old school and use cds and this has limited my options for teaching. I was so excited to teach there for the opportunity to get a free membership (something I cannot readily afford to any place in town at the moment). It would have offered me the option to work out more freely on cooler and rainier days as the kids could have gone to the children's area. I would have been able to sit in on other instructor's classes and learn different styles of teaching. (This is a good thing for instructors to do from time to time.) And it would have allowed me to break free of the few things I can do at home with my limited fitness equipment. Mostly I walk, run, or now bike (with the kids). I also do Pilates, yoga, other body weight exercises, and some things with the physio ball. I have no weights to lift and no pool to swim in. I get bored with my options sometimes and also get frustrated at the lack of freedom to workout by myself. In the spring I will not be teaching at the college for the semester and can reallocate "work hours" to workout for mom hours. This may create some more consistency again for me and perk me up some, but it will still be limited and thus feel very rigid. 

And the honest answer to number three is that a long time ago I decided that I didn't like the fate I saw in front of me. Many of my family members struggle with weight and health problems associated with excess weight. I got into this industry to prevent that from happening to me and to help anyone else who wanted the help. So, my workouts are driven by a desire to stay healthy and not just lean.

Why is all of this important on a Tone It Up Tuesday? Because of one of the training principles I was just teaching about this weekend and do on many weekends....Variability. The variability principle basically states that occasionally we need to tax our bodies in ways that we don't normally tax them in order to see adaptations. So, if all you ever do are body weight squats, you will eventually plateau and never get any stronger in your glutes and quads. But remember when I showed you all of those different ways to do squats and planks? That's variability. Try to think of your favorite exercise and please list it below. Then, think of 3 different ways you can do that exercise to change it up and please list your ideas for that too. Then, give it a try and see what happens. Break free from the mold now. Don't wait for a new year's resolution to try out something new, let's do it today!

Monday, December 8, 2014


It's Monday evening after a long and tiresome weekend. I traveled to Vermont this weekend via Connecticut and stayed in New Hampshire. You have to love how close and small the New England states are. But after the holiday it was hard to be away from my family for another weekend. I am happy to know that I won't be traveling again without them for at least a month. But it's back to Meditation Monday today and I actually have a whole week planned out for you that links well with Gates' book and more on the study of the fourth yama, Brahmacarya.

The Day 40 reading (where we're starting the next five days of passages) pairs perfectly for my thoughts today. And it says that in much of his research Gates came across Brahmacarya in regards to bravery and courage. Remember that this yama or moral restraint is that of moderation. I'm sure that many people in our society would associate being able to live a moderate lifestyle by choice with some kind of superhuman strength of will. However, his examination of this idea took me somewhere else entirely. He asks, in a sense, to consider what it is that you are in need of courage to do in life?
My workshop this weekend was at a very nice facility and I would be very happy to find out that any of the participants had stumbled upon my blog. I really enjoyed their company and would love to keep in contact with them. But, overall I had lower participant reviews than I usually receive. I know I can't get all top marks 100% of the time, but as a type A person this is what I expect for myself and eagerly strive for. As much as I'd like to say that I'm 100% intrinsically motivated, that I'm finding a few situations in which I want recognition. However, I also feel that I want top marks because that reflects that I have helped someone and that is what I feel is my ultimate goal in life....Help.

So, I spent some time reflecting on this question of what I need courage to do in my life and tried to get over my self-doubt as quickly as possible. And my meditation brought me to this: I need to find the way to stop procrastinating and to go after my dreams. Because, what am I really waiting for? I have pretty much a 4 year plan in order at the moment. But what happens at the end of that 4 years and what I do with some things I've been working on at the moment are keys to answering the question on courage. The simple gist of it all is that I want to teach at the college level, but in more than a physical education class. I want to wear real clothes to work some days instead of just gym clothes. I want to be looked at as a faculty member and not a staff member. The question of it all is as follows:
Do I wait until the baby is old enough to start school and then start applying for jobs that may move us away from here?
Do I hope that the current school I work for works out and eventually I become full-time there or at the other school in town where we end up staying in Wilmington?
Do I work on securing us financially so that when it's time for the big man to go to school that I can foreseeably head into a Doctoral program?

I think I am asking myself to find the courage to finish projects in the next 4 years and to push for my voice to be heard when I am ready to switch my career from full-time mom to full-time professional again. I need courage to put myself first at that point and time and to know, truly in my heart, what my path will be. I need courage and strength to know how hard to fight to reach those dreams, but at the same time, courage to be accepting of the great life that I have and the amazing family that we have created. I need courage to trust my judgement that I had before I started considering (and really only focusing on) others in my life.

Four years may seem like a long time from now, but the days go by as quickly as minutes. I won't doubt my ability to affect change and to help. I won't look to others for the answers. I will live in moderation and see, truly see, the beauty of what my life has to offer me at every turn.

What do you need to find courage to do in your life?