July Thoughts and Things: summer nights, heat waves, running, at-home fitness, black lives, birthdays, beach time, and spiritual & educational growth.

My mind’s running a marathon these days and Chicago’s not. Yep, they finally cancelled the marathon, along with NYC’s..darn Covid.. yet it’s all I can do to catch a breath myself and turn it off when it’s bedtime. No matter where you are, I  imagine it’s the same for most of us. How on earth..in these crazy times..does one keep it all together? In previous posts, I’ve talked about running everywhere, at-home fitness, varied workouts, and caring for our beloved minds. In this post, I’ll share how all of that is coming together – kinda – in the reality of my life, Covid-19, and summer- time in New York City.

Let me be clear, this summer is no walk in the park or walk on the beach, or even anything like an easy run. In fact, I’d have to liken it, if I can make use of a physical anology, to an intermediate hike of marathon distance with increased elevation. So despite the things that I have going on, and of course I’ve managed to find things to keep me from dying from isolation, it is by no means easy and requires deliberate daily steps, one foot in front of the other, to see the results desired. What are those results? Well, some are: keeping a sound mind, staying fit, cultivating a healthy lifestyle, and growth and development. Man, that sure sounds different from those intentions I had at the cusp of the New Year. Sad joke, but I guess the new year went with intention (mine).

July came with all the sunshine, heat, and yes, thunderstorms – with a jump into the hurricane season, that’s meant we’ve been sitting in  90°F+ for the past week or is it weeks, hard to keep track with everything else going on. America celebrated July 4th – independence day – the likes of which this generation had never seen before. I mean we had fireworks in our neighborhoods unlike anything, in terms of its aggressiveness and duration, it went on for weeks at all hours of the day and night, which initiated unprecedented complaints and reports and made national news that got the powers-that-be attention and eventually tempered the insanity. Could it be, like many were insisting, that it was an outlet for a people tired of Quarentine? Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter protests continued, though it has simmered down now, and in a final twist to highlight the issues of African Americans and the social unrest bubbling, John Lewis, a main figure in Congress and representative of the struggle for equality and justice for African Americans, died a few days ago. This is amidst the continued restrictions in American society aka social distancing, wearing masks in public, outside dining, many small businesses going belly up, and others, like gyms and health clubs, remaining closed.

The reality sometimes presents a bleak-ish picture but eternal optimism is something I subscribe to and so I’ve continued my workouts to varying degrees to accommodate the heat that’s been, let’s just say, WOW. I’ve always preferred summer over winter, now I’m realizing it has been more about the freedom, travel & adventure, and vacation aspect, which is really more suited for summertime than this crazy humidity. Worse yet is that even night runs are becoming overwhelmed by the heat. No siree, that is not good. When I work out at home, I’m usually operating on heat overload and try to take it outside when I can, even at night – late night. Night runs, always are one of my favorite things about summer, is turning into a bit of a fiasco these days. I’m finding myself out and about at 9/10pm just barely keeping from combusting. This year, I have the opportunity to cycle at night too, and I’ve started going out to the beach in the evening time. Who am I kidding? It’s not just because I would totally wilt away in the daytime, even thought I would, but it’s also been therapeutic and helps me get a much-needed break from the monotony of routine, the news cycle, and the four walls of my apartment. Praise the Good Lord for beaches that are within my proximity!

In the midst of the surreal-ness of what is now my life, and probably that of many others,  I celebrated a birthday. How surreal (insert roll my eyes)! July, the month of birthdays: America, mine, my brothers, my roommate. Seems I couldn’t get away from it even if I tried, and try I did, I took myself off to the beach and even did a run while there. An escape it was. Beautiful, exhilarating, a welcome change of scenery, from the waves to the sunset and moonlight, that’s right, I stayed until nighttime. It was absolutely wonderful. Props to my friends and family, who, though we were apart this year, managed to be a tremendous blessing through the gifts they sent my way. I was gratified with all the love and dare I say it saved the event from being  an abject disaster. God is truly looking out for me. I’m now able to include some new “tricks” (equipment) into my workouts – variety my friends – and I started my personal training certification! Totally cool, totally online, and totally overwhelming. I’m still trying to navigate my way and figure it all out so my excitement is tempered with caution.

I’m convinced though that this season, while full of uncertainty and numerous stresses, is one of growth and personal development. I’m learning and growing in my relationship with God, the most important area of my life, and thank God too, He’s had to hear me pray about that for years. And true to form, nothing good comes easy, but it’s a daily walk that I’m needing right now to help me balance everything that’s happening. I remain very grateful. And there’s now the opportunity to delve into an area I have a genuine interest in and heart for. I’m happy to learn more about the world of fitness and now have some idea that I can make this more than my lifestyle by working in the field I love with the most rewarding benefit of helping others realize their health goals. Cool huh? Don’t I know it. Except, I have to get through this (focusing in this unlikely season) to get to the other side to that goal. Truth is, God is always in the details, always has been, always will be.

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

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!

2019 Running Pains amidst CrossFit Gains

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. – Hebrews 12:1

Photo: guvendemir / Getty Images

I’ve had a bit of a wild ride this year! For the first time in forever, earlier on this year, I intentionally didn’t set myself any goals per se, not in running or in any other area of my life. I had a couple runs that were forgone conclusions because of pre qualifying criteria I had met but in general I opted to be an open book, pen in hand, ending unplanned, as the song goes. From the beginning, I invited our Good Lord to write our story together and I have to believe I’ve been holding up my end of the bargain (though I’m almost certain He doesn’t do bargains..maybe agreements?) because I know He’s certainly been keeping to His. So it’s any wonder that I’ve been having an eventful year then! I mean, I did ask and all.

As it is I’ve run four major marathons this year, three of which are World Marathon Majors, and one other which was a bit of a destination run. My times were moderate with the there majors happening under 3 hours and 45 minutes and one being a Boston PR and qualifying time. The three major races were also all Chicago qualifiers and aided my decision to register for the Chicago Marathon 2020 – the only Marathon that is on the books for next year. Amidst all of this I indulged in a major hike of distance, elevation, and difficulty I had never done before and as a result of which I ended up with some knee complications that I’m still struggling with. Of course I think it’s a combination of the running and the arduous hike, in which there was some downhill running, which possibly made matters worse, and resulted in weeks of discomfort and pain especially with the the last two races I had in the last two months.

Anyone who knows me know that the chances of getting me to stop running is slim until or unless it is becoming unhealthy to the point of affecting other areas of my life. Unfortunately, such is the case: walking, climbing, sitting, squatting, and lunging has become very painful – even exercising and cross training presents a difficulty that I didn’t foresee . And so when my normal exercise routine is being turned on its head I have to pay attention. I’m forced to press pause and heed my body’s warnings and take off running and other extreme aggravating knee movements for the next 4-6 weeks. Way to end the year right! Even so, I’m ever so grateful for all that I’ve been able to accomplish this year – I even took part in my first in-house CrossFit competition – and look forward to stepping into the unknown and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

I already have some ideas for the duration of this year and have started PT exercises to repair my knees. My CrossFit workouts are going amazingly well and no wonder with so much focus on my upper body I’m becoming super sculpt LOL but more importantly, stronger and more skillful with my gymnastic movements. I’m also finding out alternative and challenging exercises to minimize the impact on my knees, which has propelled me to finally give attention to one thing I’ve been thinking and talking about for the past three years. The opportunity has presented itself and I’m super stoked to talk about this new year challenge in my next blog post. Stay tuned! Cliffhanger or no? 😉

Running & The Charm of Small Town America

Impromptu, unplanned, random, and direction-less runs is turning out to be the best kind of running these days. Over the past two weeks I’ve had the good fortune to find myself with time, mornings, and some country roads. It’s not hard to guess what’s been going down. In fact, I feel quite stranded this morning in the city. Like, what? Am I really having to deal with all the city smog, noise, and standard mayhem that is New York City life already? I fear I’ve been irrevocably spoiled in only a matter of days.

While Long Island is not that far away from New York City, the two-hour train ride sure does serve to transport one away from the hectic pace of coperate life to the simple charm of small-town America in a click of wheels so-to-speak. In fact, so much so that 40 minutes outside the city has one already believing in fairies as highrises and the ceaseless hustle of pedestrian and vehicular traffic give way to a panorama of greenery amidst the cacophony of rural life. A study in contrast, I thought as I sat staring out the window gleefully contemplating the next few mornings. Then I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt as the thought raced through my mind that there I was all too eager to disassociate myself from the city I claim to love. The truth is it’s not disassociation as much as it’s restlessness and a desire for variation. City life is a bit of a rat race and it’s all too easy to get stuck in the rut. Fortunately, I’m not good at sticking.

For the most part, I cherish morning runs. After the initial pull on the covers and attempt to burrow deeper comes the sudden start and realization that I need to get out before the sun rises. My next thought is a vision of me laboring in 90° weather dodging the sun as I wrap up a run. That’s all I need to jump out the bed and into my sneakers.

Suffolk County, New York is rural and vast and reminds me of southern countryside with a town every few miles and in every direction. I spent a few fun mornings heading out in random directions at different paces with a mind to discover, get some views, pics, and beat the sun.

I succeeded for the most part and cherished the quiet, dewy mornings, the fresh air, the squirrels, rabbits, ducks, geese, the birds, the farms, churches, shops, the Marina with the boats, various ponds, and lakes.

It was all so natrual and untouched and so much more attractive as it all just sat there being, awaiting the world as it slowly awoke.

At some points I meandered a bit, at other times I powered up to do some tempo miles. So fun with the only pressure being the heat from which there really was little escape. Wet, tired, and oh so very hot was my default post- run state and I revelled in it. Yes, I’m telling everyone, countryside runs is the life, at the very least this summer and quite possibly every summer thereafter if I have anything to say about it. My reasoning is simple, life is short, you cover a lot more ground if you get off to a running start 😉.

Celebrating One Year of CrossFit and 10+ Years of Running 🎊🎊🎊

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be an avid Cross fitter and runner, approaching my sixteenth marathon in a week’s time, and living in New York City for seven out of those 10 years, I’d probably have believed you on everything but surviving seven winters here in the Big Apple state. It’s a testament to my spirit of adventure, and, I might add, survival skills, that I have lived here this long despite vowing to the contrary when I was younger. It is that spirit of adventure, with which I credit my athletic proclivities and the propensity to push and redefine so-called limits.

One year ago, after much ado, and yeah I had a few misgivings with my running in full swing, I started CrossFit. I didn’t know then if I would be able to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to, what seemed back then, such an aggressive form of fitness training. I mean by all accounts it was tough and demanding. Did I have the time and ability to commit to that type of thing? I didn’t know. But dammit I hoped so, since the buzz was it could help my running. So yeah, I was a bit trepidatious, actually a helluva lot. After all, those guys lifting looked mad strong in all the pics I’d seen, and I’d seen a lot combing the internet and other media images. A year later, I can safely say that you should never let apprehension get the better of you.

These days, I like to say, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to go back to a regular gym. I now know all gyms are definitely not created equal. But while CrossFit boxes might hold the edge in the exercise arena, which is possibly because of their badass reputation and commitment to High Intensity Training and Olympic Style Lifting/ Weight Training, I’m also aware that there are many competing fitness ideas popping up all over the place. CrossFit’s ability to maintain their edge will depend on their ability to diversify, develop, and reinvent their core concepts in the coming years. In the meantime, it’s been pretty interesting, challenging, and invigorating.

Those who know me know that I have never been one to back down at anything , even less so when it came to exercise. So that CrossFit was or rather is a challenge means only that you can be sure I’ll give it my best. Thus far I’ve enjoyed the competitive but encouraging spirit among gym members and the variety in the programs offered at my gym. The comraderie among athletes when we do class WODs (work-out of the day) and at in-house competitions have been truly inspiring as have been the coaches’ knowledge, experience, and willingness and ability to impart said knowledge. The CrossFit environment is one where one can thrive with the right attitude no matter their level. We can all agree that you don’t pay a lot of money for someone to kick your ass and have nothing to show for it. The gains are where it’s at people.

So yes, I’m feeling the gains some: I’m already so much stronger than I’ve ever been, my lifts are getting better all the time, though I do struggle in a couple of areas..my damn humanity..and I’m developing a host of existing skills while learning new ones and new ways to do old ones. Next Monday I’m running the Boston Marathon, yet again, and I’m hoping that, weather aside this time, I can possibly see some of those gains extend itself to stronger running, better endurance, a lot more confidence, and the absence of injuries. Yay! Go me!

Running 2019: A Formula for Success

Source: Pinterest.com

Bang, went the door shutting unapologetically on 2019. For many it was too soon, while for others it was non too soon. Regardless, the new year is here, and for many it has arrived with expectations, pressures, hopes, and fears. More so for those who felt crippled last year by circumstances and fear. For those of us who tarry here, this year is an unerring reminder of perceived limits and weaknesses. This should not be. Each day, in and of itself, is an opportunity to begin, to redo, to try again, to take advantage of the moment – here and now – with the resources, the knowledge, and the abilities we have in hand.

Let’s forget last year for a minute and what didn’t happen and focus on what we can do today. It’s worth pointing out that the ability to live in the present is a worthwhile pursuit, which allows us to channel our energy and resources into what can benefit us today. What if you made one goal – just one – for this year that involved daily tactical steps to make sure its realization. It is possible this may ensure that at the end of 2019 you are in a better place than when you started, and you might just kick ass doing so. The idea is to eliminate division in your ability to apply your yourself, your time, and your resources, thus allowing you to channel all of the above into one major area for growth, change, and/or accomplishment. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing this new year resolutions/goal setting thing for a few years, and try as I might, I have yet to accomplish everything I set forth to do each year. So much so, that I’ve decided that a change is necessary. If I want different results then I must do things differently.

And so, here I am, resolution-less, and finally figuring that maybe, just maybe, I’ve been going about this resolution thing the wrong way all along. Thank God for second, and third, and fourth chances; and that’s what this new year represents to me, another opportunity to get it right, or at the very least, to try differently to accomplish something of immeasurable worth, something that will not only add value to my life, but to someone else’s as well. You see the world is filled with people wanting some inspiration, motivation, a bit of hope, a reason to change, to move, to do, to become something that will in turn impact someone else. The easy part is deciding what to do – making the resolutions – the challenge lies in actually carrying out those plans. I posit that with one goal in sight your chances of running 2019 and getting to the finish line increases exponentially.

Whether you’ve determined to run your first marathon, hike The Andes, participate in your first triathlon or iron man, or even just begin a new health or exercise plan, I encourage you to keep it singular, have someone hold you accountable, do quarterly reviews and necessary realignment, and keep company with those who will support and champion your vision.

The door swings wide open on 2019 and there you stand: one goal, one mind, twelve months, and you determined to succeed.

CrossFit and Running Update

“So how’s that going?…” is the question on many a mind I’m guessing since I’ve been asked it over a dozen times since I started CrossFit back in March. What if I told you, “It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!” That to this day, since March, I’ve adopted the lifestyle of the over-zealous gym chick who covets her workouts and cannot conceive of the idea of a regular gym. In fact, regular anything no longer exists – is it even a thing – and if so the idea is simply unthinkable.

Right away let me point out that this method of exercise is not just something I do. It is, for all intents and purposes, a way of life I’ve adopted into and I couldn’t be more pleased. As with everything I do, I dove in fully prepared to give 100%. After all, anything less would have been unacceptable and surely wouldn’t have worked in an environment where giving 110% is routine. The term “bring it” well describes my daily workouts as each one seems designed to have you leave it all out there on the floor dripping, exhausted, and hurting, but oh so good. As it is I’ve become rather good at complaining aloud at the demons that drive our coaches when in reality I’m really struck with their ingenuity and creativity in coming up with varied WODs (workout of the day) that keep us interested, excited, and eager to return.

My only complaint is that of there not being enough hours in the day. I find the days slipping away so quickly and I have yet to figure out a sustainable workout schedule that will merge CrossFit workouts, running, and my relatively infrequent but necessary yoga and soul cycle sessions. The truth is now that marathon training has begun and it’s smack in the middle of Summer, I have to schedule my workouts around my job, which has intensified things somewhat and leaves me with but one option of training runs in the morning before work, CrossFit workouts in the evening, and long runs on the weekend. This of course is based on the premise of being well rested ie. getting to bed by 10pm so I can be up and ready to go at 4:30-ish and getting my mid-day nap. At this point, I’m still struggling with making this my reality and know that I will eventually figure it out.

Meanwhile, the jury’s still out on the physical impact CrossFit is having on my running. This is of course largely due to my inability to find a fixed schedule to maximize both workouts. On the other hand, my physicality has improved tremendously: I’m stronger, more flexible, certainly more skilled and adept in the gym, and I’m told I look fit and strong. To that point, I feel great and look forward to the time when I’m able to combine the best of both worlds. For now, I remain chasing dreams and perfection.

February Is Heart Health Month

img1519497740564_1.jpgFebruary brings to mind: hearts and flowers, and hugs and kisses, and endless mushiness. Cute and necessary I think, but ideally it’s how we should live everyday, receiving and sharing love with those in our lives and those we have the opportunity to meet. Before and beyond that though is the notion of loving ourselves. Just what does that mean anyway. Aside from pampering oneself and giving others the permission to treat us with dignity and respect, how can we engender love for ourselves that has a multiplying effect that extends beyond us to make a lasting impact on our world? I posit that how we treat and care for our bodies, minds, and spirits speaks a helluva lot more to how we care about ourselves and in turn determines whether we can truly care for others.

Every February we celebrate Heart Health Month. During this time we talk about physical matters of the heart (monitoring our cholesterol & sugar levels, diet, exercise, and other risks factors) all super important..but what if we paid equal attention to the emotional and spiritual aspect of our hearts as well. What if we approached the heart as more than just an organ that beats and transfers blood throughout the body, but one that is intrinsically linked to the very nature of our existence. After all, there is no life without it.

So with just a week left, it’s not too late to encourage you to consider:

(1) A healthier lifestyle this year. Give some thought to embracing a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lots of greens and color, whole grains; reduce your intake of unhealthy fats and oils, processed foods, refined sugar, and sugar additives.

(2) Visiting a doctor. Get all your vitals checked including your cholesterol and sugar levels and for heart and breathing irregularities, and blood pressure levels. Use the opportunity to take all the necessary annual blood and other tests that are recommended to make sure you’re healthy and whole physically.

(3) Exercise. Not over rated, exercise has been proven to have positive effects on your heart and reduce your chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or to have a stroke if you are physically active. Some experts recommend at least 30 minutes per day of some time of exercise that accelerates your heart rate, while some cardiologists even suggests running ( particularly interval training) as a means of achieving cardiovascular fitness. Most often getting involved in group exercise to motivate and support you can work to get you started and keep you going.

(4) Volunteering, giving back, and embracing our spiritual selves. Engaging in individual or community efforts that relates to reaching out and cultivating and building relationships with the aim of encouraging and uplifting others works to create feel-good endorphins and empathy in us and toward those we engage with. It also opens us up the reality of our place and purpose in life to being a blessing to others. We begin to recognize that there exist a common thread that links all that we do. Our desire to be healthy and whole individuals is tied to our need to live with meaning and purpose, which helps us in our pursuit of happiness. Ultimately, and altogether, it all has an over reaching positive impact on our mental, emotional, and thus, physical health.

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 the old Bard 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.

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