A Mid-day Ride to Central Park

On the Queensboro bridge

Last Thursday I got the wild idea to ride to Central Park from my home in Queens. Now many of you know that I run everywhere, so no big surprise if I had planned on running there, sure it might’ve been a bit of an endeavor with the impromptu nature of my decision, but not impossible. However riding to Central Park is on a whole other level given that I have never ridden in the city before and that I have only started cycling about 3 months ago, a shirt while after the pandemic started. Add to that the run-in I had with a car about a month after – scars still visible – and you’ll perhaps understand my delayed incredulity that I actually never second guessed myself when, in a moment of desperation to get out of Quarentine and see the city I missed fiercely, I opted to hop on my bike and go the way a newbie cyclist had never gone before.

Queens Boulevard

That I’m in a position to retell the tale bodes well for newbies everywhere. Though I will say I think second-guessing is a killer. Do not indulge. I’ll even go so far as to say that upon deciding that you’re going to do something, realistically speaking, then just do it. There’s nothing more dangerous to success that doubt or lack of belief in oneself. And the fact is the longer you spend in the valley of indecision, the more unlikely a positive outcome seems. If, per chance, I needed the impetus to get going, then there it was. I was not going to be left wondering if I could have had I been courageous enough to.

Long Island City

In hindsight, it’s wild that I started out in the afternoon. I would never choose that time to run so it must have been the promise of overcast skies that made me so adventurous, that and the knowledge that only hotter days were ahead. I set out on a Google searched and pre-planned course hoping that it didn’t include any freeways and highways. While it didn’t appear so, I couldn’t be sure. I have many anxious moments when I think about riding on roads with big trucks and vans etc that show little care for cyclists that dare to venture onto what they perceive as their domain. Imagine my surprise to find that I had the use of bike lanes and paths the entire way! There has never been a happier cyclist, except for those in the Tour de France I’m sure. You would have to know New York City and Queens in particular to understand my elation. I was all kinds of ecstatic to be cycling down Queens Boulevard after going through Kew Gardens, the back area off of Flushing, through Forest Hills and unto the boulevard. I then made my way through Elmhurst, Woodside, Sunnyside, then into Long Island City, and over the Queensboro bridge (a bit of an upward climb that eventually went down all the way into the city) and finally spilled out unto 1st Avenue in Manhattan. It felt super amazing to be finally back after my almost 3-month hiatus. Here’s the thing, each time I return to Manhattan, after a holiday or break, there’s always this feeling of returning home. It’s the oddest yet familiar feel of the crowded and often-time dirty-bright streets that offers a weird welcoming feeling that’s really difficult to pen. One of those things that just is I guess.

The MET Museum

That said, this time around there were a lot of locals about on 1st Ave. For a New Yorker it’s pretty easy to point out the locals, they’re the ones on a mission and under no threat of getting run over due to idyllic strolling and gazing about. I was surprised at how easy it was to get around on a bike there, and I shouldn’t have been really given that I’ve seen lots of cyclists in the city before – often riding at breakneck speed through traffic. I always imagined that I could never be a part of that and I still do. I think the reason I was able to get away with it this time around was because of the reduction in traffic about. Not saying I’m glad for “Covid-19,” absolutely not. But less foot and vehicular traffic does make room for wonders otherwise impossible. As I moved over to 5th Ave, on the Upper East Side, it was easy to see the effects of a city denied its ability to shine. It also made me quite sad as I had never seen the city so quiet and lack luster before. Now I understand the governor’s comment about the pandemic bringing this city to its knees. How apt. I rode to the Metropolitan Museum and reminisced for a few before heading into the park for a brief sit-down in the fields off the boathouse (restaurant and lake) area and in view of the popular Cat Hill, a running favorite of my run group for hill repeats.

@Central Park

It’s not often I ride into the city, never before actually, so I had to lie on a rock, take some pics, and get on a call to give credence that this was really happening. I was not alone in my jubilation as there were many others about on picnics, exercising, walking or laying about. One might be tempted to think sunshine was missing because of the overcast nature of the skies but that didn’t stop the humidity and brief specks of sunlight that made me glad for the clouds. I eventually got up and made my way to the mall area, famous for being featured in a few movies. The Mall It’s another favorite interval running spot for my run group and an overall favorite of many park goers; that day so green and uncrowded. From there I meandered my way through the East Drive, where the NYC Marathon exits out the park onto its final leg on West 59th Street. There I stood at Grand Army Plaza with 5th Avenue off to my left and the famous Time Plaza Hotel to my right. Straight up ahead on 5th Ave was the opportunity for a shopping experience the likes of which you’ve only seen in the movies, only not that day, they were all closed, well almost all. From my precarious perch, camera in hand, I could see the Apple store open while practicing social distancing with people lined up outside. Apparently, iPhones are “essential”. Still, there was more traffic in these parts and I was getting nervous so my hands went to the handle bars and my eyes to the roads as I made my way back over to 1st Ave and onto the bridge once more for my return to Queens. I didn’t feel so nostalgic then, where there was a will, there will be a way.

East Drive

It’s funny how much faster the return route is. After taking forever to get to a location because of an unknown route, the return is always so much more seamless and quick. It seemed in no time at all I was back in my neighborhood. In actuality, it was about 2 hours and that was because I took a wrong turn somewhere as mass confusion abounds when it comes to me following the street rules. I finished up with a total ride time of 3 hours, 59 minutes. Not too bad for my first long ride in unfamiliar territory I think. Now I know I can do anything! Kidding. Sorta. 😜

The East River from the Bridge
Queensboro Bridge

Who Run the World; Not a trick question

img1592225938848In the words of Beyonce, “Who run the world…” I don’t think it was a question as much as it was a rallying cry for women everywhere to stand up and take their place. I’m happy to say we are responding in ways, means, and numbers like never before. Pretty cool but we’re also having everyone along for the ride, it’s a wonderful thing to see. Of course I’m using the song as a metaphor of sorts to the movement for change that is sweeping across this nation and around the world. But the truth is we’ve left the song behind awhile back when the protesters became bigger than any one group, class, or segment of people, when people everywhere decided that injustice is a humanity problem and a call to be our brother’s keeper. The irony of ironies is that while we’re marching in our cities together, we’re still, for the most part, running and working out alone.

Here in NYC, we’re in the initial phase of reopening since the March shutdown due to Covid-19. Major solo runs are still my thing and I’m also cycling every which way in an attempt to discover the borough of Queens and, if I’m being honest, stave off boredom as well. I’m heartened to see some of the local running organisations coming up with various challenges to keep people motivated and running in and around the city these days, God knows we need all the motivation we can get. This way many have the opportunity to run wherever they can and  get a medal for their efforts if they’re so inclined.  I, too, would like to encourage you to set some running intentions for yourselves during this summer. Only make sure to run smart – for me this means running early mornings and late evenings in order to minimize heat and sun exposure, and please, hydrate properly.

I wouldn’t ever suggest something that I haven’t already done or that I didn’t think has some measure of interest or value. Because I know these times are challenging enough as it is and we, meaning me primarily, need to stay running or else, I think it’s a good idea to set some intentions with the least amount of stress involved. During these times it’s primarily up to us to motivate and hold ourselves accountable. How or if you implement any of these ideas is really up to you. Only be sure to have fun, be safe, and stay healthy.

  • Set a mile/distance challenge – a fix number of (uncommon amount, it’s a challenge after all eg. 100) miles you want to run in the next few weeks, say 6-8 weeks, and make sure you have a comfortable pair of running shoes and log your milage on Strava. 
  • Set a bridges challenge. We have lots of bridges here in NYC, pick some or pick all. Log your miles, take photos and post them.
  • Choose various places of interest to run to and make it a discovery run – maybe one per week. Take pictures. You can even journal your runs and discoveries. I’m only recently coming to know my neighborhood and environs and I’ve lived there for over 5 years!
  • Train for and run a marathon distance. I would go so far as to say if you live here in the city to run the NYC Marathon route if possible. Obviously, if you’re a newbie runner I wouldn’t recommend this, I recommend working towards a half marathon distance instead. There are numerous training plans online to help with training or you can always ask me!
  • Forgoing the NYC Marathon, you can run the 5-borough  challenge if you live in or around the city. Running Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island is no easy feat. You can divvy it up and choose your milage and where and when with the goal of completing a run in each borough in the decided-upon time. It’s also an opportunity to discovery your city! You can totally customize this idea to wherever you are and add a local twist.

Since you’re running solo, it’s important for you, the runner, to make an effort to include others in your efforts to help motivate yourself but also you just might inspire someone. I encourage you to post pictures, share insights, stories on your discoveries,  your mileage, and any other information you might have learned or found useful, which can be helpful to others. Another idea might be to start a running blog – of sorts – to share your running journey during these momentous times. Where that may lead is anyone’s guess. But you’re bound to have something to share – a story to tell even – and it might just inspire someone to start their own journey.

What In the World of Running😳

In any other year we would be chatting about summer races and all the fun things that come with the swing into warm weather. Things like adventure racing; extreme, obstacle, and themed races anyone? Hello Spartan! Tough Mudder! Rugged Maniac! Color Run, Zombie Run, Run for Chocolates, Run for Wine, Hot Dog Run, Run for a good Cause or run in a Costume. Run for every and anything. For most of us it didn’t matter what we were running for as long as it was fun. If you’re anything like me, you’re missing running around with friends, and running buddies, and run groups, and the gang, and whoever. I’m missing the freedom and community feel of all of that in the worst way!

Hindsight, they say is 20/20. Well darn it, they’re right! How often did I give thanks for those unassuming, reckless, taken-for-granted, always-complaining-it’s-hot days. I don’t think I ever stopped to appreciate how they consistently showed up year after year till it became a forgone conclusion. There was little need to wonder why or how as I gulped it down, ignorant in my entitlement, for soon enough the cold would come and then the pastime of complaining would take on a slightly different tone. But we kept that under wraps for the then minute as much as we could because..well..we were just too busy taking it all for granted. And as I switch from I to we, I recognize it’s a human condition to feel and act entitled, I mean who has time to think about these things, there’s a world to run quite literally. But oops, I kinda have that time now – we all do. So think about it and as you do, I’m not asking that you allow nostalgia to hoodwink you into lamenting “those days” but really just allow the past to inform current perspective and assist with future plans.

Last week I saw that the Boston Marathon got cancelled from its earlier postponement to September. They will now have a virtual running event where you can run 26.2 miles, wherever you are, and submit your time – officially in ≤6 hours to get your medal. What in the world! Never saw that coming. Even after the bombing in 2013 and the worst weather in about 20 years in 2018’s race, and with my running four of them back-to-back where they singularly had unique circumstances and crazy experiences as a result of which I opted to give it a break this year. I still couldn’t have anticipated its cancellation. It had never been done before! Now it feels like eons ago, but back when I stood at the cusp of 2020 and decided to break my “unicorn streak” I was all gung-ho on just one major marathon this year, the Chicago marathon, while I explored other possibilities. As of now Chicago’s still on, but I rather doubt it’ll happen. And as for NYC Marathon, and London, and others, I just don’t know what’s gonna happen. They all seem highly unlikely to occur as of now but we’ve just established how much I know. Sadly, not much. For sure I had big plans to be back on Bolyston Street next April at that much-celebrated finish line, but the jokes on me cause right now, with the kind of year that 2020 is showing up, I’ll be the first to say that I have no clue about Boston 2021, or Chicago 2020, or about Global Running Day this week and how I’m going to celebrate it, or how our world will celebrate it “together, alone” – our current normal, no clue on when I get to buddy up for a run or if I’ll even get to run with my run group again. For social media or anyone who wants to know my status is “clueless” aka my current state of mind.

If our present circumstances has taught me anything, it has taught me that I really don’t know as much as I think I do. Am I ok with that? No. But I have to be since it looks like we’ll be here a while. As the saying goes, it’s time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. In truth, getting to a place where you’re willing to learn and adapt as necessary is a major learning curve for anyone and more so for this runner who loves people. So as I run and ride all over this City, day after day, I’m learning to shed myself of expectations and ideology, I’m feeling the scales fall off and pushing aside projections and predictions, and I’m allowing myself to run in the moment, run by run, day by day, learning to appreciate right now as I leave the future, even as soon as tomorrow, in the hands of the One Who quite literally holds the future in His hands. I know I’ve said it before, but God really is in the details.

Running, Jogging, Walking, and Cycling – Variety Workouts

So we’re stuck – of sorts – and we’re bored – no question – well, Summer’s approaching – what does that even mean nowadays – and is it even possible to stay true to my fitness intentions now? Some of us are fumbling with the questions and juggling the options while trying not to run out of steam both mentally and physically. There’s good news. Exercise is made for such a time as this. It is possible to jerry up things a bit to get you some focus, me-time, and address the pressing look good – feel good factor. As always, I’m sharing based on personal experience and what I may have come across that appears interesting and reasonably safe.

Running

Discover Runs – Google Maps can actually take you places. Who knew. You can look for interesting landmarks in your area via Google maps and plan a weekly workout run to a preselected spot and back. I’ve recently come to know a few undiscovered lakes, parks, and sites of interest in my area of Queens, NY that I have never visited before now. Thanks Google!

Tempo Runs – Choose a short distance to run at a steady upbeat pace, 3-5 miles is a good place to start. This run can be done in your neighborhood, a nearby park or on a running path.

Early Morning / Sunrise / Sunset Runs – Warmer weather is here and it’s perfect for either time of the day. Run with your phone to capture these awesome moments that will ignite your heart and social media feed. Running with nature is as good a hashtag as any and better than most.

Long Runs – In times past, I would save my long run for the weekend. These days weekends are everyday and it’s easy to pick a day after deciding on a destination with noteworthy views. A bridge route always offers some good views and the opportunity to run into new territory or, as in the case here in New York City, another borough. Hey to know your city or town.

Jogging and Walking

Nature Walks – I love going to the larger parks in the area and walking or jogging the trails. Pay attention to the trail colors, which determines the level of difficulty and keeps you from walking in circles. Though, that’ll work too.

Hills, Stairs, and Track Workouts – These are really good options for those of us looking to up our fitness level through conditioning, repetition, and consistency. Power walking or jogging in any or a combination of these locales two to three times a week for 30-40 mins each time is a good workout any day. Pretty soon you’ll be running and you won’t even know it.

Hiking – One of my favorite things about the good weather is the opportunity for hiking. These days there are limits to that – the nearest park with trails – for those of us limited to public transportation. Butt for others, who can drive out to a starting point, there’s nothing like climbing a mountain with the reward of some incredible vistas for your effort. Hiking in the mountains along well known/ travelled paths are just about the best way to get your walking and exercise in. Here in New York, we have the amazing Catskills Mountains which is a treasure trove for newbies and veteran hikers alike.

Walk-Jog Intervals – This is a good anaerobic workout for those wanting to work on skill or getting into running. Choose a distance of say 1-2 miles and alternate between jogging and walking. For example; jog 2 minutes, quick walk 2 minutes. Repeat.

Cycling

Cycling is still somewhat new to me and while it was in the plan from the get-go, I didn’t really jump on – pun intended – until this pandemic forced us into isolation. Thank God for knowing, before I did, what I needed because it has turned out to be a blessing. For the most part, I’ve been going on long-ish discovery rides of my neighborhood and its environs while learning the rules of engagement on the roads. I’ve discovered some new areas and found that I can take my bike hiking – of sorts – where I ride to the park and then walk the trails, bike in tow. Turns out that is a great way to get a workout in too!

Do your due diligence folks and vary your workouts. Chances are very good that they can be fun and learning experiences. Quite so!

 

Queen of Running In Quarentine

Looking back to January this year, I have to say I wouldn’t have predicted this even if you had paid me to come up with the most bizarre outcomes for the year. These days, even though I’ve been living in this twilight zone, of sorts, for about seven weeks now. Pinch me! By now I’ve been home six weeks, every day, all day – save for the times I go running or riding, which by the way has saved my life, and no matter the distance, is all home by now surely. They say, staying home saves lives; Is it just me or is that the irony of all ironies? Because in all honesty, had I not been able to run (away), well let’s just say I’m super thankful that I can.

Irises in Bloom

Back to January’s intentions and my decision to do away with goal setting and focus on doing things with intent. LOL. Right! Look how that turned out. This isn’t to say setting intentions aren’t beneficial, only that we could be armed with the very best intentions but there’s no accounting for unforseen circumstances. No matter that we’re set about the path with all the right tools and are in full kick-ass mode. Today it’s Covid-19, but really it could be anything outside of our control and then it’s so long intentions, for then anyway. At the end of the day we have next to no control over external factors, which can affect the outcome of our intentions. So what am I saying? Is it pointless to go about making plans and setting intentions with so much unknown and outside of our control? Absolutely not. When has the future ever been certain? And who on earth can predict outcomes with absolute certainty anyway? We can only do that which we can do, with the right perspective, accepting our God-given, not human-set, limits. And leave the rest to the One Who holds all our tomorrows in His super capable hands. May the odds be ever in our favor.


So, in true roll-with-the-punches, or more likely do-or-die, form; I’ve rebounded with a plethora of fitness endeavors that’s second to my regular fitness schedule only due to the missing gym component. The truth is I’m extremely self-motivated in the area of health and exercise and that’s been to my advantage. Thank goodness too, for I have a hard time thinking how I would manage without the ability to escape into whatever form exercise takes on any given day. Francis Lewis Blvd @Sunset
For the record, I’ve found that running away – both literally and otherwise – is by far the most beneficial, though not always the most enjoyable, method of exercise these days. To my credit, I’ve thrown some variety in there with the the type, distance, and course, while divving up the days to mitigate against routine and boredom. So far, so very good. The important lesson in this season of “solitary confinement”, and I’m learning this as well, is that being open, adaptive, and flexible are valuable assets.

Queens Run
Neighborhood Street

In fact, this running-away technique/exercise method has been going so well that I’ve oft been hit with a sense of “I live here! Who knew!” To be clear, running has always been a way to clear my mind and focus outside myself, more so now where the emphasis is freedom from the confines of this self-imposed prison, which my home have now become. Of course, it’s only a prison because I have to be there, and I’m sure it won’t always be that way but for now there it is. And so running in my neighborhood and in surrounding Queens, New York is apparently a learning experience I don’t mind at all.

St Pascal Baylon Church



Neighborhood Street


I’ve run down neighborhood streets, up main streets, across bridges and county lines, on boulevards, near parkways, in parks and wooded areas, to the airport, by churches, around playgrounds, before sunrise, into sunsets, to the grocery store, the pharmacy, to and from home and everywhere in between. It’s been interesting, satisfying, informing, tiring, purposeful, useful, and mostly pretty, which is really the best part for me after the finish line satisfaction I get each time I’m through. My best runs are those with the loveliest views even if they’re on a mountain top or in a canyon. For me, the view is always worth the run. It really is the simplest things that bring the most joy.

Queens Moonlight

Life’s Where you are & What you eat 👄🍴🥢

Vegging out @Home
Vegging out @ home

In previous posts we’ve established that exercise and running 🏃‍♀️ are not just good ways to embrace this season of imposed isolation but that they’re really beneficial to our overall health. But what in the world of Covid-19 have we been eating! Science doesn’t have to tell us that locked inside with nothing to do but binge; whether on a Netflix series🎞️, reading 📖, cleaning, or even exercising, it’s all happening in close range of food🍝. Unless the Pantry’s empty, we’re eating. Since there’s no running away, pun intended, we’ve got to figure out how to eat smart so that when we get to the other side of this we don’t end up worse off than where we started. In fact, there’s hope that we could come out of this with a more balanced and healthier approach to life beginning with our diet and the right perspective. ➡️

Recall at the beginning of this year how I talked about setting intentions as oppose to goals. It’s a tad foggy right now, since it seems like such a long time ago, but it is also possible to eat with intention. Ding💡. And it may be easier than it sounds, given anything coupled with intention sounds like it actually requires additional effort. Intentional eating is just like any other intention really, it simply requires one to act with forethought🤔. That would mean deciding in advance what you hope to achieve – let’s say maintaining a healthy weight and remaining fit and active during Quarentine – and then setting about the wheels🎡 of everyday eating etc to fall in line and help you do it. Easy right? Truth is, it’s really not too difficult. Of course it all depends on what your intentions are. But I’m willing to bet that most of us want to be alert, energized, focused, stress free, and forward looking and thinking. The stats say that when we exercise, we eat better and sleep better, and this in turn helps us look better and feel better. When we have a general sense of well-being; we communicate better, work better and live better. Post-Quarentine goals anyone?

If the above is true, and the science says it is, then eating motivation gets a 10 on any scale of 1-10. So here’s what I do to help with my healthy, fit, and active intention when it comes to food and eating during these difficult times. 1. I stock up on healthy foods to include lots of whole grains🌾, veggies🥦🥬🥕, organic meat🥩, poultry🍗, and diary🥛. 2. I choose fresh or frozen over canned and packaged. 3. I pick organic fruits in place of packaged chips, and store bought cookies🍪, cakes🍰, and ice cream🍦. 4. I purchase Yogurt, sorbet, and ingredients for homemade smoothies and juices. 4. I prefer Homemade 🍞 and cakes tailored to my health needs (gluten free is a healthy option I like). 5. My must-have ingredients include: Olive oil, a butter substitute like Country Crock, my one trusted seasoning spice – Mrs Dash, homemade blended green seasoning. 6. I limit store-bought sauces and choose organic ketchup, mayo, and bar-b-q sauce when necessary. 7. I buy organic as much as possible, which is costly but I weigh my options. It means sometimes giving up something I don’t need to put toward this option. 8. For me, nuts🥜 and dark chocolate🍫 are always healthier options than their counterparts. 8. I cook for 2 days at a time to stretch my meals and maximize my efforts. 9. Oatmeal and fruit🍌🍓 is my go-to breakfast, it’s cheap, filling, and healthy. 10. I’m learning that having a well thought-out daily schedule🗓️ will mitigate against being at odds with time on my hands to be bored as boredom can lead to eating/snacking🍿. Also, I limit eating at night🌌 before bed 🛏️ and when necessary eat foods that are easily digested and low in sugar and fat content.

The truth is there is no hard and fast rules when it comes to eating well and I’d be lying if I said I am always good about following my own advice but I have found that I am my best when I try to stay within the parameters of a healthy diet. All of the suggestions I have outlined above are habits that I practice daily and I will say, more often than not, I follow through. What I have found easy is to surround myself with healthy choices, which are a bit limited these days I admit, but in so doing, I have little option for anything else. This is a great way to adhere to any intentions of staying fit and healthy this year.

The question then is not if we can do this but how badly we want to see our intentions come to pass.✊

Sources: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/keep-active-eat-healthy-feel-great#eat https://www.eatthis.com/diet-butters/

Why Running & Why now?

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Source: New York Times

I always loved running… it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs. – Jesse Owen

I’m currently sitting in the sunshine writing this and it strikes me how crazy it is that it took a stay-at-home order for many of us to finally get what has been staring us in the face all along; It really is the little things. Little things like sunshine, and sunsets, and birds chirping, and cherry blossoms, and spring time, and family time, and quiet time, and prayer time, and good health, friendships, date night, girl time, basic amenities, and yes even our jobs, are really blessings that all too often go unnoticed and underappreciated because of our too-busy-getting-ahead lives.

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Yet here we are, not of our own violation obviously, finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory – with time on our hands. And it’s not just time we have; some of us have families, and God help us, kids at home, and wait it gets worse, to navigate online schooling and even homeschool. Others may be be able to work from home, which can go either way and could be good or not-so-much, depending on the home situation. Even if you’re alone, without dependents or family drama, being alone could be the issue. Whichever way you figure it, there’s some type of stress involved – whether it’s emotional, financial, mental, and/or physical, we’re all feeling something that is, more than likely, not super positive these days. We need help! An outlet, an escape, a break – whatever you want to call it as long it’s a positive way to channel the negative energy that’s certain to arise from this new “normal.” Lucky for you, I know just the thing, and whilst it’s nothing new, it’s one of those things that many of us, myself included, have been taking for granted all along. 

Running, my friends, is the most underrated and one of the most underused form of exercise there is. While there are more people exercising today than ever before, folks are more apt to find a gym of which there a wide variety with dozens of specialties. The basic gym with regular equipment is almost a thing of the past with many incorporating various types of classes and programs to cater for a diverse membership in the hopes of staving off the competition. And believe me the competition presents a real threat with its modern ideas, tech savvy equipment, and tailored-to-you approach. With all of this vying for one’s attention, it is not difficult to see why the unmotivated, reluctant, or unaware would-be runner may be more apt to stick with the masses and do what is popular and perceivably “easier.”

To be clear, I think that most people of the aforementioned persuasion are either misinformed or misunderstand the nature of running and its benefits to them and thus unwittingly place themselves at the mercy of these corporate gym giants in the hopes of perhaps finding all the answers to their exercise, and sometimes health, needs in one place. Gyms, in my opinion, are a great resource that can provide additional support and even cross training to the runner and is not, nor should it be, a replacement for what is a natural, cheap, and relatively easy form of exercise. Given the situation we’re dealing with these days, I want to suggest that now may be a good time to think about exploring some ways to harness your exercise possibilities and potential outside of the gym. In my last post, I explored several exercises we can indulge in at home and included running in the list as I described exercises and workouts I utilize on a typical day. Here I want to talk a little about some of the science and benefits behind Running as a means to getting you to appreciate its simplicity and practicality.

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Making the case for running is pretty easy with the list of positives far outweighing its  critics who often point to the stress factor on the knees as a drawback to running. The argument can be made that while knee pain can quickly sideline a runner, It’s often a sign of overtraining or a need to improve one’s form or flexibility. (Business Insider)     On a very basic level, running is appealing to most runners because it’s relatively cheap, can be easily adapted to suit your ability, and can be done almost anywhere and at a time convenient to you. You can do it for fun, for competition, for fitness for companionship, and for weight loss. 

Studies have shown that running can help prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers, and a host of other unpleasant conditions. What’s more, scientists have shown that running also vastly improves the quality of your emotional and mental life. It even helps you live longer. (Harvard Health) In the Journal of American College of Cardiology researchers find that even five to 10 minutes a day of low-intensity running is enough to extend life by several years, compared with not running at all.       researchers find that even five to 10 minutes a day of low-intensity running is enough to extend life by several years, compared with not running at all.

Running can significantly improve physical and mental health by improving your mind and fight age-related cognitive decline.
• As a form of aerobic exercise, running can reduce stress, improve heart health, help alleviate symptoms of depression, help you sleep better, improve your mood and ability to focus.
• Running is a great calorie burner and is one of the main forms of reducing and maintaining a healthy weight coupled with a healthy diet.

Here are some recommendations for newbie runners under current conditions: 1. Get checked out by your doctor to get the go ahead before starting. You may be able to do a call in or video call with your doctor to get suggestions and recommendations. If not, see #4 and I encourage you to read some literature on starting out and listen to your body for signs on how to proceed. 2. Visit a running store and get fitted for a good pair of running shoes. There is an option to call and discuss with shoe specialist at some stores like Jack Rabbit/ The Running Company during this time. 3. Consider joining a run club for accountability and support when the current conditions improve. 4. Start slowly, consider jogging the first few times and slowly increase pace and distance. 5. Always run in areas where you have a clear view of others and are within range to be safe. 6. Keep social distancing guidelines by running at non-peak times like mid mornings and afternoons. 7. Warm up before your run to avoid injury. See my last post for warm up exercises and cool down when you’re done. 8. Lastly, don’t forget to hydrate. Run with fluid if you plan on going out for a bit or hydrate before and after a short run.

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Source: Pinterest

Sources: Harvard Health Publishing/ Harvard Medical School, Business Insider, Runner’s World, Better Health Channel

Exercise Your Way to a Strong Mind & Body “Alice”.

I woke up yesterday to April 1. What in the world! How dare time keep moving on as if my life hasn’t been turned upside-down and reality isn’t now likened to a scene from Alice in Wonderland; except then, who am I? Shrinking Alice, the Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts? And where the heck am I? Where is the comfort of my life – my everyday routine of busy days and never-long-enough-weekends, my complaining and grandstanding of never enough time to do..well..anything. Ironic, though it is, time is all we have these days amidst the craziness of a virus hellbent on upsetting our routine and leaving disquiet and unsettling changes in its wake. But one thing is becoming quite clear, whomsoever we choose to be may very well determine who we are when this is all over.

Under normal circumstances and in the routine of our everyday, it’s oftentimes a challenge to juggle the many interests and day-to-day activities we engage in to maximize the best use of our time and resources. These days may be the “new normal” but they are anything but normal. Time, one of our most valuable resources on any given day, is in endless supply these days. However, this has in no way diminished its value; In fact, I want to stress on the importance of seeing time, in these “not normal” days, as an opportunity to invest in ourselves with the benefits/returns to be derived in the not-too-distant future. Let’s dive into how.

Exercise is what I do and in the most challenging of times I run to what I know for comfort and a sense of wellness. If I can catch my breath, work up a sweat, release some feel good endorphins, and stimulate my senses, then the world is still on its axis and there’s hope yet. This is not unique to me, there are a lot of literature on the effects of exercise on our physical and mental well-being and there are many people who benefit from adopting a healthy exercise routine. So allow me to share with you a variety of simple exercises you can use as a template to inspire your endorphins rush as our world goes through this crisis alone but together.

Running, Jogging, Walking – a relatively easy, cheap, and safe way to enjoy the outdoors alone. Spring is the ideal season, minus the wet days, to enjoy the chirping birds, budding leaves, and flowers in bloom in neighborhoods and parks. Nature is awakening and so will your senses. Just be mindful of doing so in daylight and keep your social distance. New to this form of exercise? Start slowly and with shorter distances that you can build upon as time goes on. For example; start with a goal of a 1 mile walk, which you can increase to a jog, then to a run, or feel free to utilize a combination of any two or even all three. Remember, it’s your body and your journey. Listen to it, and take pride in your daily accomplishments.

Cycling – another great calorie burner and a great way to get your exercise outside of the four walls of your home and to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is great. This is of course for those who have bikes. It’s become my newest crave and I like to think I’m a Cyclist-in-the-making. It’s so much faster on the bike than on foot too!

Yoga and Stretching – Stretching should ideally be performed before and after your workout, whether its an at-home workout, or before or after a run or jog. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints (Harvard Health). Pre workout, it serves to warm up the muscles so as to prepare for it’s use and works to keep you free from injury. After that run or workout, post workout stretching benefits are much the same and helps with releasing muscle tension.

Yoga can be different things for different people. For me, it is an excellent way to get my stretches in and practice my breath or breathing. This is really important, not only for me as a runner, but for all of us as per the usual stresses of life and especially now under present quarantine conditions. Practicing deep breathing can bring you calm, energize you, and reduce health problems. The best thing about stretching and yoga is that you can follow a guided video at home or on a mat in the quiet area of the park/ outside (my favorite) and use this as a meditative form of relaxation. There are many videos online, I especially enjoy Alo Yoga from which you can choose, short or longer, sessions particular to your taste.

Ab Workouts – Ideally targeted to that area of the body that makes us crazy with envy when we see a person boasting a six-pack. I mean, yes please! Of course much of that has to do with our diet but some is attributed to exercise and a minute amount to age. Again, thank God that we can do these alone, at home, in the park, or in the backyard. There are tons of YouTube videos and many exercises we can do on our own as well. You can make a list of your favorite, most challenging, or an ideal combination and set up a schedule to workout. If inside, it’s best to clear a spot in your living room for those days when you’re stuck in and designate it as your workout area. Stack up your mat and any workout additions in that area and allow it to work as a reminder of your intention. Some common and simple core exercises include: sit ups, crunches, Russian twists, planks, on the back leg raises, V-ups, and leg sissors.

Dancing – a fun way to release stress, burn calories, and enjoy yourself. You can do this alone with just a dance playlist in the privacy of your own home or join an online class. Virtual dance classes present a fun opportunity to let your hair down and shake “it” off.

Photo Credz @Pinterest.com

Swimming – A great cardio workout, which sadly many of us will be unable to utilize during this time with all the restrictions in place. But it’s a definite plus for those with access at home where you can work on drills and laps to develop technique and build endurance. It’s something I had planned on taking up this year for my triathlon training, now we’ll just have to wait and see. The intention is still there. Hope springs eternal.

Gymnastics movements – I’m limited here by the fact that I have no bars at home. But hey, I have a wall; so while I can’t do pull ups, toes-to-bars, knee or elbow raises, I can manage some wall walks, practice my handstands and handstand push-ups, which helps with shoulder strength and mobility. Since this is a movement that requires demonstration, and YouTube is a treasure trove when it comes to learning a new skill, check out a beginner video to help you get started.

Cardio Exercises – outside of running and cycling there are many other easily accessible exercises we can do to get our heart rates up and release those endorphins. 1. Jump Rope/ Skipping is a favorite of mine and doesn’t require much technique unless you want to graduate to a more advanced skill level like Double Unders. In the CrossFit world we use the term Single Unders for when the rope passes under your feet once and Double Unders for when it passes twice in one jump. 2. Burpees can be done easily by dropping to the floor facedown and using one’s hand in a push up motion to jump straight up as you feet leaves the floor and your hands meet overhead. This is repeated as many times as you decide. It’s an exercise we love to hate for it’s constant movement and high intensity. 3. Jumping Squats are almost self explanatory except remember that squats need to be below hip level to maintain proper form. 4. Jumping Jacks, high knees and butt kicks on the spot are also self explanatory. 5. Sprinting is short distance running at high speed with short recovery efforts after each Sprint (100 meters is my favorite). 6. Lunges: walking, jumping, and reverse are great glute exercises and a great addition to any cardio workout. Begin with feet hip width apart and step forward with the preferred leg and lower your body until the front knee is over your shoe while your back knee bends until it touches the floor in a straight L while you balance on the back toes. Stand and alternate legs and repeat. You can include a jump or do them in the reverse with a step back and knees back approach instead of forward. 7. HIT workouts are high intensity exercises that combine short bursts of different exercises like mountain climbers, push ups, squats, and burpees. They are great sweat-it-out workouts with constant and rapid movement.

The ideal workout would consist of a combination of warm up exercises, strength, and cardio. And could look like any variation of my daily workout these days: stretches, running/ sprints/ cycling/ jump rope; some combination of strength – these days I make use of books, backpacks, resistance bands, and other safe household items to add some weight and challenge – and could include weighted sit-ups, weighted squats/overhead squats, hip thrusters, deadlifts, plank rows, man makers, and some ab exercises. Some days I switch it up to emphasize yoga and core workout or sometimes, like today, I have a cardio day: 1500-2000 jump rope – a combination of Single and Double Unders and a 10 minute Ab workout. Go me!

One thing I’m super thankful for during this time is technology and the ability to vary workouts and generate new and refurbished ideas into tailored workouts because of the tons of resources that are available online, and on YouTube particularly. Technology has given us the added advantage of doing these workouts alone, but together. Who’s not thankful we can “Zoom” in with our friends anywhere, or Skype, or FaceTime, or do a live video call to share our time and workout with others if we so choose. Because, I’ll be honest with you guys, I’m not digging this solitary confinement at all. Praise the Good Lord for technology and our tech gurus!

March Madnes, Spring Fever: life lessons in a new season


March means the new year is officially over – no more happy new year greetings. We’re marching into spring, whether we feel it or not, and making crazy plans to overcome the winter malaise that has shrouded us for the past two and a half months; hence my “march madness” concept. The actual concept has everything to do with American college basketball and nothing to do with my take. LOL. But let’s go with my spin for a second as I was heaven bent on sticking with it but for our new reality. You might say, that’s what March used to mean and you may be right. A normal year ago that could be what it meant. What we’re currently facing today is challenging that entire premise.

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Never, in a hundred years, would I have thought I’d be discussing or writing about a virus, on this platform. But our world climate has changed, and the reality has now taken on a somewhat sci-fi feel that has left me and everyone else grasping at the remnants of a world we use to know. A virus that was non-existent in these parts of the world just 10 weeks ago now seems to have the world in its grips and have left millions of Americans and people all over the world grappling with a “new normal”. What do you do when all you have known is suddenly taken from you? To whom do you turn and where do you go? If and when those questions have been answered you may then get a glimpse into the why of it all, but even that is not certain. The only certainty we’re dealing with these days is that life as we once knew it is over. That is the chilling truth. Chilling because while change is anathema to us humans when you add uncertainty and illpreparedness to that, what you have is the making of a perfect storm fanned by the waves of fear.

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People are dying, others are fearful, many are losing their jobs and livelihoods, some are in constant danger and exhausted (our healthcare workers that are on the frontline battling this virus), while there are others still who are tasked with the job of governing and administrating this global disaster. Let’s not forget the sick and vulnerable members of our society like children in foster care and our elderly. And those are only the ones I’ve listed. There are so many other members of society who are also being affected in a very real way by the Covid-19 virus. It’s almost certain that at the end of this no one will escape unscratched. We can only pray. The truth is since little is known about this strain of the coronavirus, its origin,  development, or mutating ability, and certainly there is no conclusive information on how it spreads, or even its most susepctible targets – information appears to be evolving quite rapidly – this leaves many of us in the least favorite and very discomforting position of having little answers and trusting in that which we cannot see. What!

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Humbling and scary as heck to suddenly find ourselves in a position of ignorance with no control over what’s unfolding before our eyes. What to do? Anyone? Since our very lives depend on the actions we take, I want to suggest that we cannot possibly take this lightly. Our next steps could mean anything from gaining hope, perspective, a new understanding, developing a new and/or healthier appreciation for life, faith, health, a new or different habit or may just mean changing our thought patterns and actions to align with a stark new reality. Whatever we do, and decide we must, it will mean embracing a new normal that will forever alter the way we live. My purpose is not to dwell on the fear factor and what may or may not happen or any other “scary” elements of the unknown, that would be an exercise in futility. I’d rather focus on working with what I have right now – the present – and allow the future to take care of itself. In fact, let me be clear, I prefer to let God take care of that for me.

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Since I’ve always been about good health, exercise, and overall well-being, I’m left with the overwhelming sense that these are essentially the things that I must fight for now. It all appears under attack at this time and I dare say it’s both a physical and spiritual battle. How can we respond? Well unarguably, we have more time on our hands these days than we’ve had in some time, with so many people here in the United States, and around the world, facing lockdowns and stay-at-home guidelines. Since we are a people who love to stay busy, it is actually a good thing that we now have to slow down and take the time to intentionally do things that matter for our well-being. There is no better time than now to spend quality time with each other within the family, to incorporate an exercise routine into your day, to focus on cultivating healthy eating, thought, and lifestyle practices, to develop a new hobby, business idea, and/or to build or develop a faith base and spiritual relationship with God. The physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and even financial benefits to be derived from spending time on each of these aspects of, or involving, you, is immeasurable and is worth every moment of your very valuable time. Since time is money, you can be sure you will see the return on your investment in the not-too-distant future.

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Mindful that some of us need to be motivated and encouraged in the area of exercise, in my next post I’ll look at some ideas on how we can take advantage of the time we have now to develop an exercise plan that will allow us a healthy avenue to channel our energy and avoid stress during these challenging times. Stay tuned!

My 2020 Running Bucket List

It’s true that I’ve scaled back running this year to attend to my knees but I’m not dead yet! I’m still all up in running news and on the look out for some sure ways to get the interested or curious reader or runner-to-be to lace up and hit the streets and trails. Who knows? You might even see me there! 

Destination Runs have always been a favorite of mine for combining two things I love doing: running and traveling. They present the best opportunities to discover new places, take a mini vacay, and feel super accomplished all at the same time. The following is a list of ten races/ runs that are giving me itchy feet this year. I may or may or may not have done a couple on there or a variation of sorts. Nonetheless, I’ve got my sights set on them all.

1. The Carlsbad 5000 – dubbed the world fastest 5K – there are individual races for Masters, Age Group runners, Party People, and Elites, the Carlsbad 5000 is a full day of road racing on the scenic, coastal streets of Carlsbad, California. I’ve always wanted to record an official 5K time so I’m in it for the record and bragging rights!

2. The Poconos Sprint Triathlon – a bit of a newer race, the Pocono Triathlon Festival is nestled in the Pocono Mountains, Lake Wallenp aupack, North East Pennsylvania and plays host to a weekend of racing with crystal clear water,a challenging bike course, beautiful runs and fantastic post race activities. I’m super excited about considering this Tri as oppose to my initial idea of the one in St Petersburg, which is way to soon for my knees as well as way to far for my first time. I’m in it for the experience and bragging rights of course!


3. Ragnar Team Relay Trail Run – likened to summer camp for adults with trail running and race medals, this is similar to the road races except it’s on trails – sounds a bit more scary (the woods at night anyone?) – teams of 4-8 divvy up about 120 miles for a continuous day/night race to the finish. I’m open to any fun new area like New Hampshire or even Twin Cities, MN for this one but I prefer a summer experience. I’m in it for the adventure!

4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon – happening on November 14-15 this year in this run-the-strip-at-night series. It sounds super fun and while I’m not a big half marathon fan, I will totally make an exception for this one. I’m in in for the fun!

5. Empire State Building Run Up – 5/12 – the world’s first and most famous tower race—challenges runners from around the globe to race up its famed 86 flights—1,576 stairs. The fastest runners cover the 86 floors in about 10 minutes. Leaders in the sport of professional tower-running converge at the Empire State Building on May 12, 2020, in what some consider the ultimate test of endurance. I’ve entered the lottery but I’m leaning on the side of doing it for a really good cause – The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), official charity of the run-up. If I do decide, knee issues under consideration, I’ll be in it for the charitable cause and don’t mind the bragging rights!

6. Kaua’i Half/ Full Marathon – September 6, 2020 – this run has all the makings of a running vacay and is known as one of the most beautiful and scenic destination races in the world. I can’t even! Who doesn’t want to go Hawaii and run. I’m in it for the destination!

7. Spartan/Tough Mudder – Obstacle type races that are run throughout the year from February and are the rave these days. I’m not immune. I’ve had the Rugged Maniac experience and aside from the water bit, I need more. I’ve heard Spartan races are tougher but still crazy fun. As a semi first timer, I’m open but take me somewhere fun. From Montana to Florida I’m in and in it to earn [Spartan] badasses bragging rights!

8. Ultra/Endurance Race – Jay Peak Trail Running Festival – 53.1KM Ultra Labor Day Weekend, September 5-6. I’ve only ever done one ultra running event in the vicinity of 32 miles, and while it was tough, I didn’t train for it so I can’t really give a fair assessment. I’d love to see what time I can do with training though. For this one, I’m all about pushing limits. What limits!

9. San Francisco Marathon – July 26, 2020. Usually one of the few marathons around in the summer months and probably so because of its location. I did this race a few years ago. It was awesome; very scenic with a versatile course and the priceless Golden Gate bridge experience. For all the good, there were two major drawbacks: the hills, more so the descent, and a big loop around the half distance, which included a major incline. I’m in it for the views and a better time!


10. Trail Run – I’ve always wanted to take part in the North Face Endurance Challenge. Recently, I was disappointed to learn that they are discontinuing the series and pushing off with something new. No details are as yet available but I’m hoping it’ll still involve Bear Mountain State Park here in New York and various challenges along its trails, which used to be an early summer event in May each year. Fingers crossed they announce something soon!🤞

I know the list is a bit ambitious, but it’s right up my alley and if I only get to do a few on there this year, it’ll still be an awesome running year. Do you have any running dreams this year? Don’t give them up. Modify and adapt all you have to but never give up. Here’s to a great chance that I’ll see you out there on one of these amazing runs.✌️

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