Summer’s Running Don’t Get Left Behind

Gothamgirlchronicles.com

Gothamgirlchronicles.com

If this Summer came with directions it’d be “ENJOY!” We know so many clichés that could tell us exactly how to do that – tomorrow’s not promised, live for today etc., –  but all too often, come Fall, we find ourselves wondering what the hell happened with the time and why didn’t we do “that thing” we promised ourselves we would do.

magazine. fox news.com

magazine. fox news.com

Last evening, I went running as I’m wont to do – shocker, and imagine my surprise to find myself running for consecutive days in the mid-seventies with a forecast of much of the same or even lower in the succeeding days.  Mind you, it was perfect running weather, I, more than anyone else, appreciate that, but it got me to thinking how much I’m truly thankful for these summer months. Effortless months I call them, that time in life when you let go and go a little crazy and it’s ok because you’re not alone. You’re not alone in running two times a day..just because; in committing to as little clothes as possible, in going to the beach every weekend, in keeping some crazy ass hours which leave you with a hangover like the worst drunk, not alone in taking on adventures like a marathon, an endurance or fun extreme racing event, or some such challenge that will cause you to remember this summer with glee and a what-the-heck-was-I-thinking-but-I’m-glad-I-did feeling. The rest of the Summer world salutes your ingenuity, your sense of adventure, your crazy passions, your desire for challenge, your wanton disregard for the boring and ordinary and your limitless craving for sunny days and warm and starry nights.

theodysseyonline.com

theodysseyonline.com

As it presses on, so do we; searching out our next thrill. What form will it take? A city cruise, boat ride and party, street festival, summer concert, rooftop fashion show, smorgasbord and drink fest,  outdoor exercise and activity on summer streets, a mountain hike, swimming in the lake, volleyball on the beach, surfing, a day trip to the lovely Hamptons’, horseback riding, biking the boroughs, picnics, water fights or soccer in the park, an outdoor movie and/or a play at sunset or a Yankees game? With so much yet to do, will there ever be enough time? I don’t know but I promise to do as much as I can and I know you will to. Runner’s honor.😊

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In Honor of Heart Month

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Most of us think of February and think Valentines: cards, chocolates, romance, flowers. How many of us see it as an opportunity to love on ourselves and others in a lasting way? I believe the commercializing of this day has reduced our focus on its true meaning as we get caught up in a shopping frenzy that really amounts to very little left with us beyond the day itself. The American Heart Association (AHA) dedication of February as Heart Healthy Month gives us the opportunity to correct this wrong and create a lasting relationship between our bodies and ourselves.

I like to think that people who are active are aware of the importance of the heart and the necessity of caring for it as well or even better than they care for the outward person.  To think that the minute it stops beating, that it could be your last, is food for serious thought not just for the active person but for all of us. This month we are reminded of the number of deaths caused by heart disease, the number one cause of deaths in the US.  According to the AHA, 1 in 3 americans die of this silent killer, more than all cancers combined.  This should give us pause, cause us to consider among other things what we are doing to give to this unnaturally high rate. Put another way, how can we help reduce our risks and that of those we care for.

There are five ways in which we can help reduce our risk of heart disease:

1. Don’t smoke.  For years now we have known that smoking causes lung cancer. What some of us may not have known is that it contributes to many other types of cancers and chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, as well. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and reduces the health of smokers in general (Center for Disease Control).

2. Exercise.  The benefits of daily regular exercise cannot be overstated. Whether it’s running, aerobics, a cardio workout, whatever it is to keep you moving, breathing properly, sweating out toxins, burning unnecessary calories, generating good blood circulation and producing the endorphins and energy you need is good for your heart and good for you.

3. Eat a Healthy Diet.  The AHA is recommending a mediterranean diet: plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil. Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month and eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
Drinking red wine in moderation is optional. The diet also emphasizes enjoying meals with family and friends (Mayo Clinic).

4. Reduce Stress.  Stress can influence the risk factors to many types of illness such as high blood pressure, over consumption of alcohol, smoking, physical inactivity, overeating. This can create havoc in your body resulting in all sorts of pain and ailments. Exercising, not smoking, reducing coffee intake,maintaining a positive outlook, a healthy diet and a healthy weight are good ways to deal with stress.

5. Educate and Empower yourself with the latest research and findings that has bearings for your health. Also share your knowledge with family and friends to encourage and empower them as well. Knowledge has no power if it remains in a box.
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Dress for Success in Confident, Goal-getter Running Gear this Year

exerciseDuly noted, our goals remain the one thing that stands between us and us being persons of our word.  It is not enough that we’ve made a list, written it down and stuck it somewhere; it remains our greatest challenge to realize those plans of ours.  How do we remain fitted in the zeal, confidence and enthusiasm, that surely had us in its grip on the onset of planning, during the succeeding months of reality which can oftentimes be brutally harsh and unyielding.  I posit that there are a few key ingredients to realizing a successful 2015.  While a big part of success in any area of life depends on planning and execution, another just as or some may argue even more important part, depends on our attitude and perspective.  In running and exercise, attitude really is everything.  It is the one thing that will keep you going when everything else and everyone says you can’t.  The course of history has been changed on the account of its movers’ and shakers’ attitudes.  Your health and lifes’ ambitions are no different nor are they any less important in terms of their ability to change your world and thus impact the larger world.

Dress for success with:

  • Preparedness; there is no goal killer like having a plan without preparation.  By definition it is what planning entails and so it is super important to not only dress the part but be mentally, physically and emotionally ready and able to carry out your plan.  If you’ve decided to join a gym for example, then getting gym oriented and learning about the services, classes, equipment etc. that are available will put you in a better position to plan your activities and time around what you decide to do thus affording you the opportunity to maximise your participation and the benefits which can be derived.  Talk with a personal trainer, an instructor or even sign up for a trial to see if it’s a good fit.  If it’s running, then start of with small goals and even a running group, get a couple of books and read up on beginning running techniques or even watch a couple of videos.
  • Confidence; a big part in carrying out any physical goal is how we perceive ourselves.  We are sometimes our worst critic, while this is not always bad, it is our worst attribute when directed at our perceived flaws and shortcomings.  It is important to be able to face yourself – take a long, hard look in the mirror – and like what you see.  It is because you love yourself, you want better for you. Don’t chaff at that.  Meet your eyes and tell yourself what you are going to achieve together..yes it’s a mind and body effort, one you must continually be engaged in encouraging and uplifting.  While it is important to get this affirmation from others as well,  it would mean nothing if you didn’t believe it first.
  • Passion; I’m sure you’ve heard it said that if you like something it’s easier done.  Discovering your passion, something you really enjoy, is a key part to realizing your potential and being successful.. whether it’s running, a cardio class, yoga, swimming, whatever you decide to love -sometimes it has to be a decision- do with passion, enthusiasm, commitment and diligences, you will reap the benefit.
  • Focus and Wisdom; it is better to stick with what you know and apply yourself to perfecting it than to be divided among competing interests where you can’t get anything right.  Let’s say for example co-ordination is a challenge, then skip the dance class for a spin or yoga class.  That being said, there’s nothing wrong with challenging yourself to try different things and acquiring different skills, on the contrary, more power to you.  In all things apply wisdom so you never end up biting off more than you can chew.

A Happy, Successful and Goal-Achieving new year is up to you.  Have so much fun!

At the Heart of Running

The Heart

At the heart of running is a fragile yet strong, complex, judicious, and vital organ upon which our entire being depends. The human heart is as critical to life as air and it goes with little saying how dependent we all are on its proper functioning to live enjoyable lives. Yet it could be, that it is the least appreciated and understood of all our body organs in-so-far as how it works, how we should care for it, and even maximize its efficiency.

The Heart: How it Works

Your heart is an amazing organ. It continuously pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body to sustain life. This fist-sized powerhouse beats (expands and contracts) 100,000 times per day, pumping five or six quarts of blood each minute, or about 2,000 gallons per day.

According to an article written on – How Does Exercise Affect Your Heart – on Active.com, Over time, with chronic cardio training, our resting heart rate drops because each beat delivers a bigger burst of blood, and fewer beats are needed.  This takes work off your heart and is why cardio exercise is recommended for heart health. However, cardiovascular exercise can also produce stress. If we get into over-training, we may hit a point where we are drowning in cortisol.  This eventually leads to immune-suppression and fat gain around the abdomen and face.  People who spend a significant part of their day in stress, who have poor digestion or other sources of physiological stress, should not further their stress levels by over-training.  It’s recommended that one should always think of their goals, moderate exercise if necessary, and work to reduce stress level.

As a runner, I have a deep appreciation for the role my heart plays in assisting my natural ability.  But even so, there are times I can take its steady beat for granted and cause it unease and unrest.  In this I know I am not alone.  There have been much debate and discussion about the dangers and or benefits of running, more so long distance running, on the heart.  Dr. Paul Thompson, a cardiologist who specializes in heart disease in athletes, says most élite athletes have hearts that are enlarged by exercise.  Scary right. I’ll step out on a limb here and say that our lack of education on the issue is even scarier.  Doctors, researchers and various writers on the issue seem to believe that there is no one-size-fits-all.  There are runners who’ve run 50+ years without any incidents and then there have been the 1/ 50,000 who have met with disastrous results. For example, a recent study showed that while regular exercise does indeed benefit the heart, some experienced marathoners past the age of 50 had significant calcium deposits in their arteries, thus increasing their likelihood of suffering a heart attack.

imageCaring for The Heart

Our hearts are so complex, there remain many unknowns but what is known is that family history and dietary habits play as critical a role–if not a greater role–in heart health than exercise. This puts your own risk factors high up there on the things to look after when deciding to pursue an active lifestyle. Consider the gene factor, do you have a predisposition? Is there anything in your medical history that could contribute to an onset of any heart issue? These are just two of the many questions that you should consider.
It’s worth the time, effort and money to invest in seeing a doctor about your exercise and or running plans and have a complete check up done, which should include an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)) which is able to measure the electrical activity of the heart and in most cases would show up any abnormal activity. As with most things, this is not fool-proof and a lot is left up to you the runner to ascertain your body limits. Learn to read and listen to your body; know when it’s calling out for rest and when it needs a work out and provide it with a proper diet and nutrition thereby maximizing your chances of being an effective runner while minimizing your risks of injury or even death. The thing is, even with all the advances in technology, knowledge and medicine, no test is infallible, it’s a matter of assessing your odds and going with your gut to pursue something you love. Your chance of dying in a marathon is far slimmer than that of a car accident. That is to say, risks are inherent in everyday life, at every turn and in all impracticality, it is the risky stuff that challenges us, causes us to dare to dream and extend ourselves beyond our human limitations. The joy comes when we discover the hidden potential within and a strong and healthy heart to boot.

Skinny vs Healthy

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At no time in our history has it been more pertinent, so debatable or misunderstood. Studies rage as do diet fads and exercise plans, all in the name and search of Skinny, Perfect, You.  Maybe it’s the media hype, the crazy celebrities we are wont to emulate, or could be it’s the mixed messages we get from society at large, who knows or even cares, fact is we are so messed up with the idea that we all have to be a ‘perfect’ size 2 or is it 1, that people have been literally running in circles trying to fit in.  Now I’m all for running, but you may have noticed that in this race there’s no finish line – no one wins. That’s because when it comes to human beings, there is no one-size-fits-all.  So then, why are we of the mistaken belief that size 2 is the standard for beauty, happiness, well-being and perfection, when in fact, beauty comes from within, happiness is a state of mind, your well-being embodies physical, spiritual, mental as well as emotional health and as for perfection, well..a pipe dream really.

One can assign blame to various sources, but the truth is there is enough blame to go around. However, I am convinced we are our worst enemies.  Use to be, we could have gotten away with the saying ‘Ignorance is bliss,’ but in this fast advancing world, that is just plain lame.  It couldn’t be further from the truth anyway, ignorance is just that, ignorance, and bliss is bliss; In the end, we remain responsible for who and what we are. We’ve been told often enough that what we put in, is what we get out.  That should apply across the board; food, exercise, study, family et al.  The time, effort and resources we assign to those areas determine the results we get.
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Really, there are no reasons we can claim ignorance as information abounds on healthy eating practices, exercise, health & wellness and just about any area of interest we can imagine.  It behooves us to acquaint ourselves with this superb human machine God has gifted us with, to learn and appreciate it inside out, to love the skin we’re in, only when we do, will we find balance and enjoy what is the healthy and right size for each of us.  People often say – you’re so lucky, you’re so skinny – as if luck has anything to do with it or as if skinny is my desire.  Not so at all.  So what if I’m small-boned.  Does that make me healthy? Should it mean that I get to eat crap and not exercise; that I get a pass on practicing healthy living? Definitely not.  We need to get that we’re all unique.  Therefore, we will not, nor should we aspire to be, the same.  A size 2 on me maybe healthy, if I live it out correctly, but maybe totally wrong for your built and stature, which may be a size 4 or 6 or even 8.  If you can’t fit my shoes, you shouldn’t try to wear them.  Find your own and wear it beautifully and well.  Now does this mean that it’s ok to be overweight? Heck no! Obesity is a big problem, and it shouldn’t be because of image but because of the potential hazards inherent in living with it.  It is therefore very important that we pay attention to our health, this is the reason we eat right and exercise; to be healthy and fit. The rest is just a sexy bonus.

  

Tools for the Skeptic Runner: Beginner Tips

One of your New Year goals may have been to start exercising or running; to lose weight, be fit or just because. Well, it’s been twenty-two days and counting already: Where’d the time go? I’m so not ready for this. I still haven’t found the time! I’ll start next month. These may be some excuses that’s been running around in your head while your feet have been going nowhere fast. Well I’m here to remind you. I’m a big believer in a person keeping their word. The way I see it, when it’s all’s said and done, that’s all you have left and it defines you.

So I found this video on YouTube and it’s really great for those starting out, wanting to start or even if you’re still in the debating-which-form-of-exercise zone. The key is really just starting, putting aside all reservations, making time in your busy schedule-just as you would make time to do any of the other very important things on there – cause really, you have to want it badly enough, and putting one foot in front of the other and stepping up and out. You look at others who are fit and you admire that, you want what they have, then you have to be willing to do the work.

First off, you have to commit to it, do whatever is necessary to get what you want; go to bed early to be well rested so you feel good. Get out there – if you can’t make running to start, then walk. You walk until you can run, never mind others and what they’re doing. This is about you and your don’t-give-up mentality because you want to look better and feel better. Like I always say, running is no easy feat sure but it’s not just for talented runners, who by the way, have the same natural ability you have, they’ve just cultivated it more and so it’s only natural and fair that they reap the benefits..they did the work. No BS excuses. They had a goal and saw it through. Now how about you?

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Yikes It’s Winter!

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Summer bodies are earned in winter!

You take a Caribbean gal accustomed to tropical and warm temperatures and you place her in average 25 degrees Fahrenheit weather and what you get is me, cold and cranky as heck.  These are the days you just wanna curl up..fetal position preferably, with your favorite book and blanket; christmas music playing softly in the background and a steaming cup of hot chocolate peppered with marshmallows and/or Jim Bean.  Yep, winter is just about here with its oh-so-short days and cold and wintry nights.  So how do I beat this – it’s too cold to run – truth be told, there is no easy way.  These are the days we’re gonna have to dig deep down and find the inspiration that has brought us thus far.

That being said, there are some external things that can inspire that move from fetal position to running form.  For nature lovers, like myself, a lot can be said for experiencing the changing seasons first hand; your winter runs are much more quiet, there is less traffic in the parks and on various running routes as others seek warmer alternatives, and who doesn’t enjoy some extra quiet and the chance to run without sidestepping strollers.  Also, sweat becomes a thing of the past; you can actually run without breaking one, well at least not the wet, drenched-looking kind, just remember to drink a lot.  Layered and mittened up, you’re on a determined path to success and nothing beats the feeling of super-accomplishment post running; you’ve braved the cold with determination and tenacity – nothing says you’re a badass quite like that.  And of course you can always rely on the calorie factor to get you out the door.  You want to deserve the extra treats you give yourself and since we know that nothing in life is free, that extra piece of pumpkin pie means extra calories to burn.  Additionally, running in cold weather, causes you to exert more energy and effort and you’re likely to burn more calories on your average run.

Of course, now is a good time to get some cross training in and sign up at a gym so you have some variety to spice up your workouts.  While it isn’t the average Joe that decides to run in winter wonderland, anyone who has a serious desire to stay healthy will see winter as a challenge and either embrace it or look for ways around and through it.

Smart & Fun Running

imagesSome people have the wrong idea..they look at running and think, “I can never do that! It’s too boring, to difficult, too tiring and in sme cases, even dangerous…” “Did you hear of tht guy who collapsed after running the marathon…” Propaganda and truth abound over the subject of running but whatever side of the spectrum you’re on there’s one over-riding truth that stands out: running can be and is beneficial to your well being.  However, as with every good thing, there is always the opportunity for abuse and its subsequent consequences.

It is true tht running can become monotonous, that is, if you run the same course, distance and races all with little or no variation.  For that matter, I have a hard time thinking of any activity tht wouldn’t afford the same result if done the same way all the time. If one is to assume the maximum benefit from this “mind sport,” variation is key.

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Today there are so many forms of running and so much fun attached to the sport that it is impossible to maintain an air of indifference or even incredulity. You have the traditional track & field and long distance races such as marathons, and now there are decathlons, urbanathlons, iron man, cross country racing, trail running (my favorite) and so many other shorter fun-type races like mud runs, color runs and obstacle races among others.  Also, if you ever needed a reason to run, there are races for just about every cause you care about.  Running to advance literacy & cancer are two important ones for me, with these races, you get to make an important contribution to society while getting your exercise on.  How’s that for a bonus! I mean that is so FUN! Somewhere among the lot is a run for you, cause you have to believe me when I tell you that YOU were born to RUN!

Now all you have to do is find a running buddy: join a club, find a meet up group or get your friend involved cause it’s so much better to have a reason to run and others to share your running adventures with.

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