Fostering Healthy Habits for Running and Life

The current political and social climate being what it is has led to more and more individuals preoccupied with family life, health, and personal achievement to the point that there seems to be very little room left for much else. Add to that the complexities involved in varying lifestyle choices and these days the average person is just concerned with trying to balance their hectic agenda with minimum intrusions and affect to their standard routine. Many people like the “idea” of fit and healthy and will often do the minimal amount to maintain somewhat of a proper diet and exercise to warrant no ER visits without many realizing that fit and healthy is so much more than food and the odd exercise session. It is a conscious decision to live in harmony with nature while maximizing the gifts (physically, spiritually, and opportunities) we have been blessed with. Things can seem even more exhausting for a runner and fit fanatic like myself, for whom constant diet and exercise is par for the course as healthy living is a prevailing occupation.

The challenge to juggle a regular daily schedule topped off with training, which is often the case for a runner, means that some area of life almost always ends up being neglected. Over the years, I’ve learnt by trial and error that finding the right balance often means the ability to compromise and sacrifice the things we want for what we need. Of course I’m a work-in-progress and learning new things everyday, but in the event you’re open and constantly striving for healthy perfection, as I am, here are a few things I’ve learnt over my running years:

  • Goals are as necessary as breathing. They provide a basis or template to guide your actions and hold you accountable, ensuring that you’re not here, on this earth, just taking up space. List them, update them, revise them and accomplish them.
  • Recognize each day as an opportunity to gain headway in your pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. First things first. Wake up with intent, put your plans before God and allow Him the space during the day to help you carry them out.
  • Determine to love yourself and treat you with the love and care you deserve or no one else will. This means making a studied effort to eat foods that contribute to your physical health and overall well-being. Particularly, snack healthy.
  • Rest well. Getting between 6-8 hours sleep at night allows you to be rested and ready to face the day. A quick power nap during the day, for those who can’t quite make the necessary 6-8 hours, works wonders to help you finish the day strong.
  • Exercise daily. A quick run or slow jog or any other type or combination of exercise (at least 30 minutes) that strays from your routine and increases your heart rate, gets your adrenaline pumping and engages your core muscles encourages good health, engages you productively, helps you sleep better, and leaves you feeling positive and empowered.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things, which has the power to draw you out of your comfort zone, shake up a boring routine, and cause you to engage and develop new skills and abilities. In fact, challenge yourself ever so often to explore your limits and boundaries in the areas of sport, exercise and adventure. This will add variety and fun to your running and/or journey and keeps life interesting.
  • Contribute to and/ or invest in what you are passionate about. Whatever form it takes, make it meaningful and beneficial to those less fortunate. There are few things more important that letting others know they matter and nothing more rewarding than being a blessing wherever you can.
  • Enjoy running or what you do. While it may be hard and challenging a lot of times, remember nothing worth having ever comes easy. Stay committed by constantly giving yourself pep talks; becoming a member of the community (eg., join a running club or group) who will provide encouragement, support and accountability; educate yourself on the sport; and sign up for some short races and fun runs. It’s like getting indoctrinated into a lifestyle and will change your life.
  • It is often said to surround yourself with yay sayers and it’s true. Giving yourself the best support network there is can help you to realize your true potential. This can take the form of people in your circle, activities, and things; for example, running gear, sneakers and running- related paraphernalia take up a huge junk of my closet space and can be seen throughout my apartment. It speaks for what I’m about and keeps me focused on what matters to me.
  • See failure, and it will come, as an opportunity to try again only with a better idea or a better plan. Don’t allow it to define who you are or what you do. Ask yourself what was the lesson learnt and go out there next time and crush it.
  • Finally, it is often said we are our worst critic; while it is necessary to hold yourself to a high standard, don’t be afraid to recognise and reward yourself when you’ve earned it. Yes there will be, try as you might not to, those berating sessions and self-recriminations but also be the one first one to clap yourself on the back, give yourself a high five, or a hug, and take the credit when it’s due. Reward yourself for your achievements and for a job well done. Be your number one fan (but don’t go crazy). Stay humble and real and above all else, like Shakespeare says, “to thine own self be true.”

In closing, I’d love to tell you that all this is easy and will just get itself done if you say it often enough but the truth, and most of us know this, is that nothing gets done without application, commitment and an overall can do attitude powered by gratitude for who you are, what you have ( ie., your abilities) and the opportunity you have to make a difference in your little corner of the map. An attitude of gratitude will go a long way in cultivating an environment of growth, success and personal excellence.

It’s July… birthday, running, racing. Where have I Been?

Me @ Central Park

Wow! Hot days and Summer are moving full steam ahead while I have been preoccupied with various non-running essentials. Sometimes life can get in the way of your plans and you literally have to fight your way out and double down on your efforts to stay on course. That has been my struggle this last month or so, but no more. I’m welcoming July with the full intent of racking up those miles and getting totally physical with my workouts. Plus, it also happens to be my birthday month, which adds a bit of extra motivation to my grand scheme of becoming the fittest version of myself.

Me and the pro’s @ nyrr mini 10K

A brief look back saw us celebrating international running day in June, people all over the world joined in and got their run on and shared about it on social media. For my part, that was one of the days I made sure to get out there and celebrate our sport with other like-minded people. It was awesome to see and be a part of a world community committed to running for every reason you could think of. Then there was the mini 10K, the only women’s race in the city, certainly the first of its kind in the world, where we show a lot of woman power and even international presence. About 8,500 of us ran this year and though that was a slightly lower number than last year, it was a totally well-executed run by NYRR. Surprisingly, I had my best 10K time in a few years. I never run particularly well in the heat so it did kick my butt in the latter miles, but somehow I was able to do it in a time in which I was satisfied, 46:31, and made me 198th overall, which  means there are some really fast runners in this city.

Yep, I soul cycle.

Not much happened after that as I got bogged down with work and had to slow down, not stop, my plans. I’ve been spending most of my running time in the gym, splitting between runs on the treadmill, body pump classes, spin classes, strength training and doing core work. Therefore, it hasn’t been all bad just less running. Like I said, I plan on upping my mileage this month and hope to do a bit more running outside, either early in the mornings or late in the evenings on account of the heat. This is also the month I plan on starting cross fit training. Happy Birthday to me!

A Case for Cross Fit

image

Source: gethellthy: “Neyxi Barraza by Pedro Matute ”

I should be enjoying some downtime. Ideally, freeing myself up from training for any long-distance event should see me enjoying some kickback time, a snooze fest or two and some down right lazy days, no doubt designed to get me just that- lazy. Only, I haven’t really gotten round to breathing much since getting back from that Ragnar event two weekends ago far less to get lazy. Sure I haven’t been running as much, but that only means I’m doing a hundred other things. In fact, I’ve been so elbow-deep in a project, I haven’t even had time to write on here; it didn’t help that the project was sort of writing-related. Thankfully it’s over and I can get down to some fun, i.e., exercise fun. I mean, my body really knows no other way and I don’t do lazy; what I do is get antsy, anxious and a tad crazy.

So I’m changing things up a bit and because I can, I’ve decided to explore my limits and push my boundaries, well kind of, with CrossFit training. If you’re wondering, why CrossFit?  Well, aside from the fact that I love a challenge, I’ve been slowly building a curiosity about it for some time and it’s not so far out of the left field given my passion for exercise and fitness. In addition, it is on my new year resolution list this year inspired by the stories I’ve been reading and hearing from others who have dived into this sport/lifestyle.

CrossFit, according to Stacie Tovar, CrossFit athlete and co-owner of CrossFit Omaha, is varied, functional high intensity movements meant to help people become more physically prepared for anything. Many people hear CrossFit and think weightlifting and more weight training but according to Stacie and others like her, who enjoy the sport, CrossFit is so much more and its participants exist along a wide spectrum from the curious, young, adventurous and self-motivated to the student, business owner, competitive athlete and everywhere in-between. Many, while touting its biggest challenge, that it’s hard, have talked about the benefits of getting you to a fitter and stronger level, if not your fittest and strongest. It goes without saying that this does not happen overnight, as with any sport it requires commitment, motivation, a desire to succeed and the ability to stick with it.  Beyond that, it encourages a healthy lifestyle as exercise is wont to do and, if anything, even more so than other forms as persons become aware real quick of the time, effort and sacrifice that is being applied to achieve the success they desire. Then it becomes a matter of course to pursue a lifestyle in keeping with that goal.

I am beyond inspired by the determination, commitment and pure mettle of those who pursue this course to achieve their desired results. While I can promise I won’t ever be a pro, let’s just say faint-hearted I’m not.

Downtime Running in my Shoes

It’s not very often that I get to run just because – with no marathon on the horizon. You heard right! No deadlines, no training, no Saturday long runs, or crunch-time cross training, or speed and tempo runs. Things are just happening on a slightly ad-hoc basis, though runs and workouts are pretty consistent across the average week.

Gotta say, it feels different, and strange, and good, and uncertain, all at the same time. Earlier in the year, I had plans for a repeat summer marathon in San Francisco, but things have changed and I’m planning a few fun/adventure runs with the possibility of a longer run at the end of summer now. One of the things I prize about myself is my ability to be flexible as circumstances change and/or different opportunities present themselves; so while I’m holding fast to my larger goals, I’m open to changing things up a bit in favor of unavoidable circumstances, adventure, opportunity variety and so on. The situation, as is life, remains fluid and since I’m a keep-your-overnight-bag-packed kinda girl, I’m pretty much stuck in a rut proof. But for now, I’m cool with chilling and not having to sweat the details and complexities that come with the long run.

Meanwhile, there are lots of running and running-related things keeping me busy and I’m reveling in it. I have a few running events lined up, cross-fit training on the horizon, swimming in the summer and then there’s my regular workouts and fit classes at the gym. Next stop – Ragnar, Cape Cod. It’s happening this weekend. Stay tuned to hear all about how it went down next week!

Running Benefits to having a Strong Core

The muscles involved in the side plank. Theagonist (active) muscles are highlighted.

Most of us when we think “core,” we think abs (abdominal muscles) and envision the ideal six-pack and harbor dreams of tone, ripped, lean stomach muscles that make us proud and others jealous. I mean who doesn’t want that? I’ll tell you who..no. one. ever. And while I’m super crazy about ripped abs, core muscles are much more than that and I’m more crazy about what they can do; what amazing powers or secrets do they hold. Word on the street is that they’re magic to your running and really that’s all a runner girl needs to hear.

Before we dive into the magic stuff, let’s get rid of any misinformation as it pertains to your core muscles. The core consists of the abdominal, hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes, hip flexors, obliques and lower back (active.com). I know! I wasn’t quite aware it was all that but the truth is you can see how it makes sense, since all these muscles can work together to make you stronger and faster. The aesthetics is purely a pleasant by-product of paying attention to these areas.
Thus, the main benefit of having a strong core is a stronger body with less potential for injuries.  Workouts targeting the core areas outlined above strengthen the muscles, which translates into better performance or running efficiency. The concept of a well-oiled machine can be applied here as the body, tried and tested, continuously strives for optimal performance. A number of the injuries that runners fall prone to such as : Achilles problems, Hamstring issues and lower-back pain, result from bad pelvic alignment (runnersworld.com). Additionally, there are issues of over and under pronation and inefficient cadence; a strong core can help to greatly reduce your risks, if not eliminate these issues altogether resulting in increased running economy.
So enough already with trying to get you on board, if you’re not there by now.. let’s just say you’re missing out on some sexy summer pics 😉 . On the other hand, if you’re sold, here are five of my favorite core exercises that you can include in your daily workout:
Planks – Basic and Side Planks can be done in separate workouts or can be alternated. On your toes, legs a few inches apart and elbows resting on the floor (below shoulders) hold position. Start small and work your way up increasing reps and duration. For example, from reps of 20 seconds to 1 minute with rest intervals in-between from 10-30 seconds depending on length of rep.
Abdominal Crunches – The basic crunch with feet planted on the floor or hyper-extended at right angles to the floor with a twist to do what is termed the bicycle twist gives you two options. You can start with 4 reps of 15 with 30 second rest intervals, gradually increasing reps each workout.
The Superman Pose – Lying stomach to the floor extend arms and legs full out raising first one leg and opposite arm about 4 inches off the floor, hold for an initial 10 seconds and rest, alternating sides and increasing the hold position slightly each workout.
The Bridge – Lie on the floor, hands extended in a cross position with feet planted on the floor right below knees. Slowly lift torso and upper legs until it’s in a straight line and you’re resting on shoulders and pressing down with feet. Extend left leg straight while keeping back straight, so it’s off the floor and hold for about 5 seconds. Repeat with right leg. Do 5 or six reps with the option to increase duration and reps each workout.
Russian Twists – Using a ball or weights, I use 10-15 pound weight, sit  straight up on the floor with legs extended and slightly raised, lean back until abs are engaged and twist and pick up weight, keep twisting right to left with weight and reaching as far behind you on the twists as you can. Do 4 reps of 10-15 to start.
What’s super cool about these is that you can work them into any workout, on any given day, and they can be done indoors or outdoors with minimum fuss. You can also combine as few as or as much of these core exercises as you like. Pretty flexible right? Feel no pressure to get a crunch on..only that summer in all its bikini-clad glory will soon be here. 😜
Sources: active.com, competitor.com, runnersworld.com

Love Beautiful, Love Healthy, Love Happy, Love Running

 

Source:Core Body Fitness

Source: Core Body Fitness

My body and I have been through it all. But recently I have been liberated. I am healthy, I treat myself well, and for that I’m happy. I’ve looked in the mirror and been able to LOVE the things about my body that beauty norms deem ‘undesirable’. I now have grown to know that my body is worthy of so many great things. I don’t need to be a size 0 to believe in myself. My body carries me each and every day, it loves the people i love, it holds what makes me healthy and strong, it bends it shakes it runs and it CHANGES. That is okay and that is beautiful.                ~Sailor Brinkley Cook

Last week there was a CNN opinion piece by Peggy Decker about Christie Brinkley,  a 63 years old former Sports Illustrated (SI) model, who appeared on the cover of SI once again, after many years, alongside her two daughters, Sailor Brinkley Cook and  Alexa Ray Joel. While the article has many merits, I take issue with its attempt to delegitimize Christie Brinkley’s love, validation and pride in her body.
Decker argues that Brinkley’s “sexagenarianism” or youthful beauty and implied good health is an impossible ideal for women to strive for and is therefore unrealistic and unattainable. I hardly agree. Those of us who embrace a healthy lifestyle expect to see the results of our dedication and commitment to same. We are under no illusion that we hold the key to eternal youth or any such fallacy, as that is well within God’s design,  but we do believe that such a path allows us, as far as it is within our power to do so, to minimize the risks of sickness, aging badly and other negative conditions associated with getting older. The idea is that if we love our bodies, regardless of color, size, age and or type, and take care to treat it well, we will be rewarded with a healthy and beautiful life within the limits of this realm of course. It’s a fact, we live in an imperfect world and so we’re privy to all the imperfections that come with that, however we have a responsibility to value greatly this gift we have been blessed with and while it may not always be the case, at least 75% of the time we are guaranteed success.
Our part is clear and easier now than ever before: eat healthy meals, snack healthy, drink lots of water, exercise daily to include running of course (wink), moisturize and use sunscreen, visit your doctor regularly to ensure your necessary checkups and be happy. Those are the things within our purview, things we have every right and responsibility to attain. It will go a long way in refuting the supposition that a long, beautiful, healthy and youthful life is unrealizable.

Stay Inspired and Running this Winter

Source: Rush University Medica Center

Source: Rush University Medical Center

Winter has to be the hardest time to stay committed to a running plan. I mean, there are so many challenges facing the inspired-new-year-goal-oriented person. There are those brutally cold and snowy days: days when all you wish for are PJs all-day long. Then there is the issue of shorter days: less daylight hours means less time to run especially if you’re going solo. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s still the issue of getting all cloak and dagger like and layering up, which is such a bother really. Add to that much more extreme weather and/or a fluctuating weather pattern, which is uncertain at best, and your chances of catching the flu or a virus become highly probable. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

There isn’t much more one can do but stay focused and committed. Sure there are a lot of hurdles weather-wise and many personal and physical adjustments to consider but this is one instance where the grass is really greener on the other side. During this time, more than anything, a runner needs to embrace his or her strengths and be flexible with the intent of adapting: time, effort, pace etc., to remaining on point for the duration. It can only help that lacing up and getting out is hell on the dreaded winter blues and puts runner’s joy on a whole new level.

As is often said, this too shall pass. Below is a video clip I discovered on YouTube by “Just Another Runner”  that explains why running is my happy place and may help to keep you inspired. Take a look.

Happy New Year: 13.1 reasons to stay running

new-year-2017-fitnessTwo Sunday’s ago despite my best intentions and feelings that day I couldn’t pull of the goal time needed to qualify for NYC’s marathon next year. Off the top, I could come up with a few reasons as to why – as there are always excuses when a run doesn’t go our way. However, this time I’m owning my failing and moving on. While I have yet to figure out how I’m getting into said marathon – you didn’t think I’d just give it up, did you? I’ve already set my sights on ways/runs to keep me on point with training for my next big goal in 2017. I figure if I ever needed to keep my running mojo happening during winter, then now is the time to focus and get my game face on. Perhaps you too may have found yourself stranded in the valley of indecision as it pertains to running in the cold weather. Here’s why you need to stay strong and focused:

  • Running this winter provides an opportunity to add cross training and other versatile methods, encompassing the treadmill among others, to improve performance.
  • Less crowded streets and parks to get your workout in. Amen!
  • Easier and more flexible schedule over the holidays to employ a training plan that will bring about the desired results.
  • A consistent running schedule and/or plan ensures maximum fitness for racing in the Spring.
  • Running is a great way to off-load those holiday calories and then some.
  • Running is convenient and mostly accessible to provide stress relief or as a means of getting away or even when seeking inspiration.
  • It’s a good way to meet people and make new friends, especially now to help carry out your new year goals.
  • If you ever needed motivation to get outfitted and be fit and healthy running is it.
  • Despite the cold weather associated with winter, running generates enough heat to give you a good sweat and keep your temps at a comfortable level leaving you better off than when you started.
  • They say summer bodies are made in the winter, they’re right. Put in the work now and reap the rewards when it counts.
  • Running is a great escape for winter blues. What better way to give it a well deserved kick than getting some miles under those shoes.
  • In a time that often comes with so much change and ups and downs, running can provide necessary routine and balance to your life.
  • Just in case you didn’t know it, people who exercise and run are known to be, aside from healthier, happier, more confident, driven and successful. Now this definitely is the way you want to step into this new year.

There’s no denying challenges abound, in society, our lives and the world at large. Our best chance at getting this right and making the most of life is to give it our best shot and we can only do so if we’re healthy and happy. Don’t think me bias if I say running may be the way to get you there.

How Exercise and Running can help with the stresses of life

Source: WebMD.com

Source: WebMD.com

This past week a monumental shift occurred in American politics, the people elected a new president in the person of Donald J. Trump. Now this in and of itself while big news is no cause for concern as elections are held every four years. But, unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, you know what has transpired in the last sixteen months of American politics. Thus, the results of the election has underlined a deep divide in the electorate and catapulted a seemingly generally unpopular and controversial person into the role of president elect. Many are calling for boycotts, protests, cessation and are even threatening to leave the country and this is only locally. Internationally, the backlash has many governments and people weighing in with many expressing negative emotions, chief among them uncertainty as it pertains to US policy and relations with international counterparts. Amidst all of this life continues for the average man or woman. He or she must continue to rise with the sun and cope with life as it unfolds.

Whatever side you end up on, there’s no denying that life is enormously stressful for some people right now and extends a ways into the foreseeable future. With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, and Winter looming, there’s enough going on to keep you in stress mode for some time. The runner and opportunist in me sees all that’s happening and is determined to use it as a platform to make necessary and positive improvements to myself, and to encourage the same of others. If you’ve never given thought to pursuing a health strategy before then there has never been a better time. A good exercise plan is a great idea to begin the holiday season and an excellent way to channel all negative emotions and energy in a positive way.

Exercise has been shown in countless studies to effectively treat stress, depression, anxiety and even the common cold (active.com). It is a universal remedy that is natural, relatively low-cost and pretty accommodating. Here’s how:

(1) It has been known to increase endorphins which lift your spirits and promote your feel good receptors. It’s why you often hear people talk about how great they feel post a run or an exercise session even if they had reservations about doing it in the first place.

(2) A good workout can cause you to sleep better. It reduces your chances of tossing and turning and affords you a more restful sleep which translates into less irritability and moodiness and promotes a more alert, driven and positive attitude.

(3) Running can provide an avenue to let go, block out and/or clear one’s head. Lacing up a pair of sneakers and going for a run engages your entire body system (muscular, cardio & respiratory) in getting on board in a cohesive response to stress which develops this ability for future responses.

(4) A group run or exercise class can promote healthy relationships and friendships that can provide encouragement, validation, accountability and forge solidarity while providing a host of avenues to engage in stress-relieving behaviors.

(5) A good exercise plan that promotes excellent health can give you focus and purpose and engages your time wisely thus providing less time to worry and dwell on things that are stress-inducing.

(6) Having a schedule or routine is a marvelous way to organize and take back control of your life especially during uncertain times or in times of political upheaval such as this. It gives one comfort to know that he or she is taking positive steps to get desired results.

(7) Running with new people, exploring a new route or trail, or taking on a new race distance or cross-training activity can provide stimulation as the element of risk or trying something new produces excitement and challenge; this channels our flight or fight responses into engaging in new methods to preserve self and sanity.

(8) Choose an exercise you love and you’ll get the best results. Life is challenging enough as it is without trying to take on something that will just add more stress. There are a variety of exercises to choose from. There is no rule that says you have to choose this or that. Find what works for you; whether it’s running, walking, cycling, yoga, kickboxing, swimming or any or all of these or one on the endless list of exercises out there. There is an exercise for you that will leave you happy and satisfied. Discover your niche, run with it and leave stress behind.

Getting into the zone where you appreciate that exercise or any of these activities provide a challenge yes, but is offset by your ability, focus and energy can be pretty liberating and empowering. No case has ever been made where stress allowed to thrived have produced anything but more stress, a decline in health and chronically negative attitudes and behaviors. The onus is on you, the individual, runner or not, to seize the opportunity before you and rise above current circumstances – just as the american patriot chooses to rise above partisan politics, for the greater good – in this case, for your greater good.

Sources: themayoclinic.com, active.com, runnersworld.com

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