The Journey Of Ordinary

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Ordinary ~  noun~  what is common place or standard.

It had been one of those whirlwind days for me when I realized it was already midafternoon. My morning was behind me and I was full speed into the rest of my day. I received a message from my husband that at first seemed, odd.

“I rarely say anything about your blog other than to discuss the content of what you wrote on that day, nor do I ever really disagree with you on something you wrote. But I’m going to disagree with you on this…”

Well obviously, he had my attention. He is pretty much the only one who’s opinion I want or care about and of course I was wondering what he had issue with in regards to my writing that day.

I waited for the rest of his message to come in…..

“You wrote that you’re an “ordinary” athlete.  I disagree. You are far from “ordinary” as an athlete.”

Obviously, I wasn’t expecting that. Obviously, he couldn’t have said anything cooler to me.

Of course, he was picking it out of the entire context of my post that day. I was simply using myself as an example of someone who wasn’t like… you know… an elite athlete or even one who had been an athlete through school or something like that.

I got what he meant. I know that I do a lot more athletically than the majority of people my age, heck, even those a lot younger. I guess I’ve become so accustomed to doing what I do, I forget that normal people think it’s weird 😛

Here’s where I’m going.

I used ordinary for a reason.

I wanted ( and still want) people to relate to a woman who had no athletic back round,  and who had no interest in any kind of serious athletic events. A woman who was literally smack in the land of “middle aged” who had taken care of everyone around her but herself for the longest time. Middle aged, carrying more weight than she needed, out of shape, with a family history of (potential) health problems in the future if she didn’t change up her ways.

It’s a standard thing to tell people I really started off as a “reluctant walker”. I knew I needed to do something so I dutifully logged my 2 mile walk every day. No matter what, I did it. I did it till it got into the pattern of a new habit.

I grumbled. I complained. I whined.

An over weight, middle aged, ordinary wife, mom, sister, daughter, jack of all trades, woman just kept at it each day.

I had no lofty athletic goals dancing anywhere in my mind… at all… in any direction. If anyone told me I could be a strong athlete, I would’ve laughed. The idea seemed preposterous.

Funny thing about making new habits….

They stick.

New habits turn into new desires. New goals. New plans.

What I didn’t know as an ordinary woman, out on the road, building that new habit, not only was it changing my body, it was changing my mind.

I was learning more about myself than I previously understood.

~ my body could go farther!

~ it could walk faster!

~ that walk could be turned into short runs!

~ those short runs could be turned into longer runs!

When I’d come back tired, I’d think about what I had been able to do. I developed a new appreciation for what my body was capable of, that I hadn’t given it credit for. I saw how it over time, began to adapt and change from the activities I put it through.

My weight dropped off.  I got stronger. Muscles showed up that hadn’t been there. I developed a great endurance capacity.  My mind was getting stronger. ( that, is where the real playing field is boys and girls)  you get your mind strong, you can own the world.

Somehow, I managed to sign up for my first race which was a half marathon ( #overachiever) I found out later that most people start with a 5K.

I just kept moving forward. It’s safe to say at this point I was getting hooked. I actually liked what I was doing.  I looked forward to exercise.

Year, after steady year. New goals, new plans, new dreams.

They didn’t come all together, those goals.

Heavens no.

Safe to say I would’ve felt enough fear? uncertainty? to cause me to run the other way if those things all were presented to me at once.

I was just, you know, an ordinary woman, turning into an athlete.  That’s not said with any vain thought…. it’s just an acknowledgment of where I am now.

I am strong. I am capable of doing more physically than I ever would’ve imagined. I am an athlete.

If I look at where I am today, and where I’ve come from, and what I can do now, then yeah, I guess I’d agree with hubby that I’m not “ordinary”.

Becoming a good athlete has been born from hours and hours of work, sacrifice, dedication, tears, tired muscles, frustrations, down right stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give up.

This is your reminder…..

This is what I want you, others, anyone I interact with, to remember. If an “ordinary” woman like myself can accomplish goals and events she never would have imagined, you my dear reader, can do anything you set your mind to.

If you’ve entertained ideas on doing something specific, write down the steps you need to move that direction. If you just think you’re only goal at this point is to get off the sofa, well, go you! Do it. You never know where the path from the sofa may lead to.

Don’t let your thinking be crowded with thoughts that only certain people can do certain things.

Extraordinary things can happen when “ordinary” people get to work.

Tell me something cool you’ve accomplished that seemed impossible or that you never thought you’d see yourself doing. Did you ever feel to “ordinary” in the sense you thought you didn’t have what it would take to do it ?

 

The Athletes Body And Food

girl veggie runner

 

“With all of the exercise you do, I guess you can eat whatever you want?”

This is one of  several questions I  often get asked and the answer is, no, I don’t eat whatever I want.

I’ve tried these past few years to build a different relationship with food. Specifically, food in regards to exercise.  Maybe you need to build a different relationship too or maybe you’ve hit a balance with it.

The question I’m asked of course, is merely inquiring.

If I’m investing so much physical energy I should certainly be able to eat whatever I want. This naturally means freedom to eat all perceived “off limits” foods since I will burn them off.

Of course the game changer for me if you’ve read previous posts, is the fact I’ve set nothing “off limits” so I don’t necessarily feel the need to eat forbidden foods because I’m exercising.

I know it’s there, if I want it.

Since I started on my athletic journey a few years ago, I’ve made it a point to never treat exercise like a free card to eat poorly. I guess the idea of pouring myself out, working hard, and then coming in and wolfing down a donut and chocolate milk ( although chocolate milk can make a good recovery drink 😉 ) seemed rather, pointless and negating to all I had just done. Not only that, if I was training to get strong and healthy why wouldn’t I feed my body good stuff ?

So I learned to train my thinking, essentially reshape, another aspect of my relationship with food.

Our food relationship

I wrote about that in a post recently. Our relationship with food. We all have one. For many of us we will need to continue to define this relationship in regards to our athletic activities. We cannot treat it as a free card to eat extra or eat badly.

About eating extra…..

there’s a bit of a disclaimer to that. When my training has kicked up and I have days that I’m heavily invested on a physical level I know my calories will need to increase to support what I’m doing. This is where learning about my body, listening to it, and feeding it accordingly come into play. This isn’t eating extra just because I feel like it. Learning to support my body depending on my physical output that day is very different.

Same goes for you. If you are involved in physical activities, listen to your body, know your needs and eat to sustain your body for what you do. Eat accordingly on days you invest more physical energy and be more conservative on your non-exercise days or light training days.

Don’t use food as a reward for exercise

Yeah, I’m going there. I honestly cringe when I see posts or hear someone talk about getting to eat because they exercised.

Stop it.

Food and exercise both nurture your body. You don’t have to earn your food. On the flip side, you don’t have to abuse your body ’cause you had a burger and fries for lunch and feel you have to “work it off”.  As if.

Food isn’t a reward and you aren’t a dog being thrown a treat because you worked out.

Food is fuel for your activities

When our relationship with food is in a place of understanding that it not only nurtures us, but fuels our activities we can look at it in a different way. If we want to perform well we can’t expect our bodies to operate on food that isn’t optimal. It can shift from a mentality of  ” eating what you want” to “eating food that rebuilds your body and gives you energy”.

By all means, eat enough

Long endurance training sessions can seemingly kick my appetite in over drive for not only that day, but sometimes the next as well. I’ve learned to eat healthy foods to satisfy my appetite. Again, I listen to my body and feed it as needed. I try and eat enough, but not to much.

Listen to your body. Learn to feed it what it needs after your training. Focus on healthy foods to support recovery.

I will admit after heavy endurance sessions, food is often not on my mind as those workouts tend to kill my appetite for awhile. Intellectually, I know I need to get something in me.  I’ve learned I can at least get some protein and carbs in with milk in a protein drink, I also add a banana as well, this gives me a good blend of carbs and protein for recovery.

Eat what you like that satisfies you and gives your body what it needs for repair and restoration post workout.

Keep in mind that the goal is about caring for yourself, before and after exercise. Food should be used to maintain your health and wellness, but hey, if you need some chocolate in there at some point, go for that too 😉

How have you viewed exercise and food? Do you or have you, used it as a reason to eat more or eat lesser quality food? Do you think exercise is a reason to eat “whatever” you want? Have you changed your thinking on that? How did it help you?

 

The No Pain No Gain Myth

no pain no gain

“No pain, no gain!”,  “Train insane or remain the same!”, ” Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going”, “Pain is weakness leaving the body”, “If it’s not hurting it’s not working”, and one of my “favorites”, “Don’t quit. You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it.”

Sweet mother of heaven.  Stop. It.

I won’t go on with these anymore, but let’s just say these types of quotes abound. And it’s not just that they are quotes, but also ways that many in the health/fitness world live by.

If you aren’t in pain, then you aren’t working hard enough, doing enough. This thought translates to telling you that you aren’t really getting anywhere.

First though, I’m not talking about working hard because I know what that’s like and I know how to push myself. I love a good challenge and don’t mind waking up the next day and knowing I worked hard.  I know when to push and when to back off, especially if it’s pushing to hard that could potentially cause injury whether it’s on the road running or lifting weight that might be out of my zone.  I do myself no favors working in a place my body isn’t used to. I get no extra points and I’m certainly not going to do it for bragging rights and what does it prove to myself, or anyone for that matter, if I derail my workouts because it hurts to move my body?

We have limits. We all do.

And yes, I understand I need to constantly be moving out of my comfort zone and I think anyone should have that mentality if they want to continue to get stronger, faster, and improve their athletic performance.

You just won’t make progress if you can’t get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

However, It’s important to know where you are and how much you can press into that, and then back off when you need to allowing your body time to adapt and adjust to the new demands you put on it.

The danger of the mentality of working out till you’re fainting or in pain or having other physical issues is that you can cause more damage than “gains”.

Do you really want to push yourself to a point that you are injured and then get sidelined and can’t do anything? Do you really think being in real pain and continuing a work out is a smart move?  Do you want to do so much you can hardly walk the next day?

I think not.

Let me be clear here. There is great value in working hard, getting our heart rate up and letting the sweat roll and the general population should be doing it regularly.

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to do a killer workout every time you are out there.

Athletes don’t do it, so why are trainers preaching this gospel to the average person wanting to get fit ?

It can be a dangerous game to play . I mean, no pain means no improvement to us, right? Isn’t that what all those little fitspo quotes mean ?

Nonsense. Consistency and regular movement will yield results.

The important thing is to find balance that works for your body, mind, and lifestyle.

So if the idea of pain and suffering for gain is not where it’s at, what should you do?

Learn to turn it up

Know where you are, know your limits, and be willing to turn it up from there. Don’t be afraid of working hard and pushing outside your comfort zone.

Understand that working outside your comfort zone doesn’t mean suffering through pain that hurts you.

If you’re in real pain, for goodness sake, stop! If you’re in pain and hurting the only “gain” you risk is getting sidelined from an injury.

There’s no heroics in that.

Work hard, but know your goals

Obviously, we are all on different health and fitness paths. The most important thing is to know what you want.  Where are you going? Is it for health that you are working out? To walk a strong mile and not feel like you’re dying? To be able to run some? To improve your daily life? Keep up with your kids?

Do you want more?  Are you wanting to train for an event like a half marathon or a Crossfit competition?  Then your goals will look different.

Perhaps you are wanting to do something related to fitness competitions. Again, a new set of goals to get to your destination.

No matter what your reasons or goals, there should never be the mentality that it’s not a good workout if you aren’t fainting, in pain, and hurting all over.

There’s a fine line of a body that has worked hard, and one that has been pushed beyond what is it capable of at that point in time.

Work hard, but work smart.

So how should you train?

You know yourself better than anyone. If you’re just getting off the sofa and starting to move, you need to be sensitive to the fact your body is going to protest! Go easy and be moderate in what you do. Allow time to adapt to your new plan. It can take a couple weeks to ease into a new program.

If you’re already in some type of activity or training for something, don’t be afraid to keep pushing out of your comfort zone. Just listen to your body.

Pain, or any feelings of not feeling well, should be respected.

Rest days are when gains are really made

I will admit, I’m at the top of the charts at chomping over rest days. If you don’t know what that means, it’s usually a scheduled day/days off to allow the body to recover from it’s activities.

Exercise is such a habit for me now, that taking a rest day can make me feel like I forgot to brush my teeth.

I have however, learned more about the importance of taking some and know that rest days don’t mean “lazy” ( do nothing and eat pizza days)  but more of an active recovery time.

I may do short walks, or focus on stretching and foam rolling my muscles.

During those rest/recovery times our muscles rebuild and that’s when they grow and get stronger. These days allow us to hopefully, head back to what we love, stronger and feeling more energized for what we do.

You get no extra points for skipping rest days. In fact you do your body a disservice by not allowing it that time.  Rest days allow your muscles, bones, nerves, and connective tissues time to heal and rebuild.

Rest days can also help prevent burn out, mentally and physically.

Schedule rest days as a part of your workout regime.

I know this doesn’t fit into the ” no pain no gain” ideal, but you’re not participating in that anyway, are you ?

Keeping it healthy

If you want to enjoy whatever your fitness path may be, then you will learn to:

~ work hard, but listen to your body. Pace yourself.

~ push out of your comfort zone but stop if you have pain that is hurtful. Discomfort is different from pain.

~ set realistic goals for yourself and know and understand the limits of where you currently are.

~ schedule planned rest days to allow your body ( and mind) some rest and recovery time.

By having a smart mentality you will be able to do what you love, hopefully without pain or injury, and get stronger in the process.

Tell me. Have you ever been a part of the no pain, no gain club? How did that work for you? Do you have any healthy training tips to offer ?

 

 

The Lessons Of Discouragement

It’s a quiet Friday afternoon and I’m taking some time to work on this post which you, my faithful 1.5 readers, will be seeing Monday morning when you open your eyes and are tripping over the dog on your way to get  the lovely black gold we call coffee.

The day just cannot start without the stuff, can it? Oh let’s be real, the whole day is fair game for coffee. 😉

I’m much cleaner now than I was a few hours ago, sweaty and salt crusted from my time out on the road doing my brick training this morning ( bike/run)

Clean AND fed. It’s a good place to be.

Oh and coffee. Yes I have that too so I’m ready to get on with todays topic now….

As I’ve shared in previous posts I’ve taken on the lofty athletic goal this year of a duathlon ( a run/bike/run event) Some of my training days involve brick work because well how else am I going to make my body do that stuff on race day?

I’m going to share a few thoughts? A life reflection? learned on the road today. Perhaps you’ll relate or maybe at best and hopefully, it might encourage you.

It goes without saying  based on where I live, that my training during the summer will be hot. Not just hot, but hot and humid. I’ve been on the road at 6:30 a.m. and still manage to be a sweat fest. So pretty much no matter the time I can simply know the workouts will be hot and sweaty.

I’m ok with that, really. Fortunately, I’m pretty well acclimated to it. However, even in that condition some days are just flat out harder than others.

As I geared up to hit the road this morning there were a few things already going on with me. The biggest being,  half my head felt like it had cotton balls in it from some sinus stuff that came out of nowhere. Add to that, all that junk going into my stomach ( gross. sorry. it is) but it does a good job making me feel queasy. Add to that, the little food I had eaten pre workout had settled like a rock in my belly.

Even with that…

I got my gear on, grabbed the bike, and took off. It always amazes me at how things seem to fade away as soon as I clip in and take that first stroke hitting the road. I let the bike settle in under me and let my body get into the rhythm of the ride.

As the miles unfolded both the day and I were getting hot. I did 25.25 miles on this ride. Not flat roads but also with lots of big hills thrown in. Most of my ride is on the actual duathlon course.

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Somewhere out on the course….

 

 

I wrapped the ride, landed where my car was parked, quickly put my bike in, changed to my running shoes and was back on the road a few minutes later.

My legs have adapted well to the change from bike to run but it still takes a little time to let them settle into a new activity…especially after coming off a long hard ride.

My run is only 2 miles with more hills… but have mercy… when I’m already hot from the ride and the sun is beating down…. all I want to do is move quickly to get back.

I sometimes wish I had some shirt on that passing cars saw that said something like…

“Be nice to me I just crawled off my bike and now I’m running”

But I did it, (even if my GPS for some reason decided on my last mile to not pick  up parts of it even though I knew the exact distance) I Knocked out the run and as always that great sense of satisfaction from doing both of those activities settled over me.

Tired. Sweaty. Thirsty. And appreciative of my body for what it could do.

As I cool down one of the things I do is check my stats from my ride and run. Strava is great to track all of my athletic activities as well as the fact it lets me see what others do and how I stack up against them on those routes.

It’s like that proverbial carrot dangling in front of me 😉

As my numbers came up, I was admittedly, a little frustrated. My frustration as it does when I’m upset, can turn to tears. Where my segments certainly weren’t “bad”, I had no new PR’s.

I should say, the last time I did all of the course, I had multiple PR’s. Having no new ones  sorta fueled my fire of frustration.

Although I knew I hadn’t been a 100% physically on top of my game, and that the heat also affected me, I was still frustrated to have not done better.

I probably should interject here… I’m a wee bit competitive with myself …and have high expectations whenever I step into any of my athletic activities.

I sat on the warm pavement next to my vehicle,  looking at those numbers, clutching my recovery drink and choking back those hot tears.

What was it going to take? How long did I have to work and push to get over that next hurdle of being a little stronger, and  faster?

I questioned being out that morning and maybe I should’ve just stayed in or done something a bit less physically demanding.

I looked at some numbers with only seconds separating me from the times I had been previously. I never thought much about “seconds” but I’ll tell you, in the athletic world, they count for a lot. One second can drop you into a new category or move you into first place from second.

They matter a lot.

As I felt that weight ( and I’m sure being wrung out and hot from everything didn’t help my mood) settle over me the more sane part of my brain began to speak to me…..

The fact alone I had just ridden over 25 miles and then run 2 was an accomplishment not many kick started their day with! Regards of my ideals for my times, I had still done it.

The training counted and it mattered that I was out there.. even if I didn’t think ( in my mind) that it was one of my best workouts.

I realized that my stubbornness and grit to be on the road was an asset that served me well in the rest of my daily life.

Life takes a certain level of stubbornness and grit to get through.

I hadn’t quit.

We’ve all been there, right? Something seems tough. There’s something we know is going to require a lot from us and it seems easier to find a reason to not do it. Quitting seems like an easy way out.

You’re nodding your head… you’ve been in the same boat too…

But that’s when you dig deep, sometimes really deep, and pull out all you’ve got to do what needs to be done.

Making an excuse to not be out there would’ve made me feel worse than not doing it. I never finish a workout that I haven’t been happy for doing it.

Even if my times weren’t as impressive as previously.

That’s when it hit me.

How far I’ve come.

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How much progress I’ve made. The changes I’ve gone through. The strength and speed I have gained.

What I’ve learned through the process.

Each step moves me towards my goal and those steps are made up of good and sometimes not so good moments. But they all are leading to my goal.

I learn more about what I’m made of when I have to work harder or push myself out of my comfort zone.

The lesson for you.

I’m thinking as you’re sitting there reading this, sipping from your now tepid cup of coffee, that you may have been or be in a similar place.

You are pursuing a goal, working towards something important, have a new vision.

Discouragement, weariness, self doubt, feelings of inadequacy, questioning your sanity… all of those things might creep in on you.

It’s in those times my friend, that we learn more of what we’re made of. If we’re strong, we push back and reset our focus and continue our forward movement. If we don’t feel so strong, new strength can be born in us, giving us more confidence in our abilities.

It’s a time of growth and change… if we allow it to be.

Don’t give up and don’t give in even if you get discouraged.

And me? How am I ?

After those truths settled over me, I wiped off my sweaty, salty face and made my way home to shower and plot my next training session.

Are you doing something now that sometimes frustrates you? Do you get discouraged when you feel like you haven’t done your best? How do you handle it ? Have you learned lessons out on the road ?

 

 

 

Muscle Building 101

“How to get a toned body!” the title screamed at me from the magazine cover. Maybe I shuddered a little.

I don’t like that word. Why? I’m not sure exactly.

Maybe because it’s vague? What is “toned”, really?

Ok I know what they mean. I’ve even had people use it in regards to my physique.

What it really implies is having muscle under your skin so you are filled out, sleek or have shape and definition.

Through conversations I’ve learned it’s a look many women want but aren’t quite sure how to go about getting there.

I’m not talking body builder status here. That is an entirely different animal that requires a whole lot of weights,  food micro managed and discipline to get to that point.

No, I’m talking about having some muscle on your body that gives shape or the “toned” look that people often reference.

I want to offer some encouragement and suggestions in this post if that thought has crossed your mind on occasion.

Maybe a starting point for you.

I’ll tell you this. When I started on my journey, having some muscle was probably the last thing on my mind  at the time.

I mean initially, it was all about losing some fat.

I never gave it a thought, having muscles. Well, I should say,  having more muscles than woman usually are wearing.

Weirdly as my athletic endeavors continued along, the muscle, almost became a side effect from much of what I was doing. Meaning, I wasn’t spending long hours a week in an attempt to build it. The growth came from activities I was pursuing and enjoyed.

And it has taken time… understand if your an average person plugging along.. it takes time. I have taken photos in my fitness journey.  For example, I can look at my arms in a photo for one year, but compare a photo from a year or so later and the difference is quite apparent.

I should maybe make a little disclaimer here that my body seems to respond well to adding muscle. It’s important to know if you start, what body type you have. This will give you a bit of understanding if it takes you longer than a friend to see results.

I remember when I did Crossfit one of the trainers teasing me I was a freak ’cause she’d been intentionally working on muscle building and I wandered in off the streets with really no formal training or work with weights and carried more muscle than pretty much most people who were already there.

Know your body type

There’s a reason why. My body type is a mesomorph ( that kinda sounds like a Power Ranger, doesn’t it ? 😉 ) it’s really just a fancy way of saying I’m a bit more predisposed to gaining muscle than maybe some of my leaner, slimmer counterparts.

body type
Do a quick check to identify your body type

 

Because of my body type, I’m already genetically wired to build on it. Now if I never applied myself, obviously I wouldn’t change. But with exercise and weights I can make that work for me. And basically, I might not have to work as hard to see results as someone with a endomorph or ectomorph body type.

Once you understand more of what you’re working with you can decide how you want to train or what you want to work on. You can build muscle with body weight exercises as well as weights. I personally love and prefer free weights over machines.

I sometimes get the “oh, where do you train?” question and I love telling them in the back of a barn with yard equipment and old furniture 😛

Seriously though, my body has no idea if it’s in a fancy gym or at home. It just knows the work it’s put through.

Yours will too. You don’t need to get fancy to yield results. You just need determination, dedication and consistency for results.

Ready to get started ?

if you’re going to be at home, you’ll need some type of weights, whether you buy them or make them. I’ve found sites where people sell items purchased  full of good intentions, that they are getting rid of, and you can get them cheap. Try and get some free weights that are heavy enough to make you work… think 6-8 reps before you can’t lift it. You can go to a sports store and test them there.  And heaven help me.. if you buy those little tiny pink or blue ones that weigh less than a shoe… I will find you…. and beat you with it hahaha

Think about items you lift in your day. A jug of milk. Grocery bags. A heavy bag of dog food. Baskets of laundry.

Don’t get weights that aren’t heavy enough and expect results.

** on the cheap**…. save milk jugs… fill with sand or water… weigh them to get a idea of what you are lifting. You can increase as needed.

What can I do with my fancy weights?

I find a lot of people want to work on their arms/shoulders. And why not? Nothing looks stronger than rocking some solid arms and shoulders and they can be an easier body part to train.

I heard a line on a TV show as I was preparing this that made me laugh.. but it’s also true.

“Why did you purchase a sweater with no sleeves?!”

The response?

“Because my arms look amazing!”

I’ll be honest here. Most of my wardrobe has no sleeves. I love having strong arms and I don’t hide them.

With some work and consistency you can have strong arms too.

Below are some of my favorite go to moves for a strong upper body. For the sake of space in this post, my commentary will be limited. I strongly encourage you to learn more about these moves and variations that come with them 🙂

bicep-curls
Bicep curls
bent over row
Bent over row
shoulder_press
Shoulder press
overhead-extension
Overhead tricep extension
bent over flies
Bent over flys
tricep kickback
Tricep kickback
chest press
Chest press

Once you determine the weight you will use, you can begin with sets. Usually a “set” can have anywhere from 8-12 reps. You then repeat the sets 2-4 times depending on your level on fitness. It’s best to start low and let your body adapt and then increase reps and sets.

What about the rest of the body?

I will admit, I don’t over work my legs on strength training days. Between running and cycling it keeps them in pretty good shape. I do incorporate some moves though that cover the whole legs and butt area and also helps to keep me loosened up.

Here are some body weight exercises that will work the legs/ glutes area.

Again, I will encourage you to learn more about each move and then you can make your own “plan” to use.

The squat, jump squat ( weirdly one of my fav’s to do), the lunge, jump lunge, side lunge, sumo squat ( this always feels so powerful to me) are all body weight moves you can do anywhere.

The glute bridge ( perfect for those who might physically not be able to do squat type moves) I love adding a 25lb weight plate to my belly when I do them.

glute_bridge
Glute bridge

 

I do believe what has become one of my favorites is the single leg dead lift. Not only is it great for your balance it also isolates one hip/glute area at a time which is helpful for making sure each leg is strong. Your core should be tight and engaged as you do this.  If you’re a runner, you want to learn this one.  Oh yeah… are you wanting a rounder bottom? This is one of the best things you can do 😉

Single-Leg-Romanian-Deadlift

I use a 35 lb kettle bell doing this exercise.  You can use nothing at all in the beginning, work on keeping your balance (keep your eyes fixed on something directly in front of you to help balance) and having good form. If you want to add some weight to your hands as you get stronger, even better.

Note: almost all of these exercises can be used with dumb bells as well to make it a bit harder.

Abs, please ?

I get it. Some people will never care in the least if they see a defined muscle in their belly or not. For others, it’s a pursuit and a reward of our labors to have some obvious muscle in that place.

Not all abs are created equal. Some will effortlessly attain them, others will have to work like crazy ( hint, remember your body type)

Then there’s the obvious. If you have to much fat over them you won’t see them no matter how many exercises you do.

I’ll tell you there is truth to the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”. What you eat has a huge impact on the leanness of your belly and those hidden muscles. A diet high in veggies, fruits, and lean meats can definitely help reveal them.

And crunches… forget those. Our abs ( our “core”) are made up of many layers and need to be worked in different ways for results. The muscles that make up our abs are the rectus abdominus, with several other core muscles, including the obliques, transversus abdominus, and serratus.  You can see where just the age old “crunch” isn’t going to work all of those groups.

Here are a few body weight moves to consider

The plank and side plank

Russian twist ( again I like using a weight plate doing this)

russian twist
Russian twist

 

 

ok… another for you…  the bicycle crunch

bicycle crunch

And one of my favorite ones. I usually do them till I can’t do them anymore.

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the butterfly crunch

This was a move I took out of Crossfit. You really need to suck your bellybutton into your backbone as you come up. Keep the move very controlled on the way back down. Your core should feel tight and engaged. For extra fun, yeah, here comes my standard 25 lb weight plate I hold while I do them.  Again, the focus should be on knowing where you are and what you can do and doing it in good form. Don’t push for more than you’re ready for.

The bottom line ?

Man or woman, for great abs you need to be lean and have good core development.

In summary a little head to toe movement using just your body ( hey we all have that!) or some free weights is a good way to start working on those muscles.  Use these ideas to start or feel free to look up your own and build a plan.

Remember the biggest key to success and building a little muscle is time, consistency, and discipline. With some patience there will come rewards for your efforts.

Do you have any favorite exercises for muscle building? What has worked best for you?

Aging And The Fountain Of Youth

Botox. Creams. Anti-aging serums. Plastic surgery. Lotions and creams that promise to restore youth or keep you young looking are all over the market and you don’t have to look further than magazines or the tv to find numerous products being offered to help you look younger.

The question that begs to be asked is this…. “is there such a thing as the fountain of youth?”

Is there some secret, magical potion that will keep us looking young and vibrant ? Is it to be found in bottles or jars? Is that secret lurking in our medicine cabinet for us to discover?

The skin care industry is a booming business and lots of it comes from products promising a youthful appearance.

But… what if it isn’t found in a  jar? What if it’s something that’s free and you always have it available to you? Would you want to use it?

My childhood friend accuses me of voodoo or some kind of witchcraft telling me I’m not aging and in fact appear to have gotten younger. She proclaims to not love me for that but I think she’s lying 😉

Where that is a flattering compliment, the reality is, of course I’m aging like anyone else. However, it’s what I do and how I live that might be actually slowing that progression down.

So what is this secret formula? How do you get your hands on it ?

It’s already in you waiting to be used, every single day, and it’s exercise.

grow old

Now wait! Don’t check out on me here. Not yet since I’m fixing to share some scientific(y) stuff with you about exercise, our bodies, and the whole aging process. I’ll try to keep it basic and to the point but of course I’d encourage you to do your own research if you want to learn more.

Exercise cannot change our chronological age as that is set in stone. We were born on a certain day and year, our “age” hinges on that. It’s immovable.

Our biological age boys and girls, is a whole new game, and exercise fights against aging by protecting cells from the ticking clock.

Our biological age, can be changed.

Say what ?

Exercise can fight against a cellular level and staying healthy means you can keep your cells young.

Keeping cells young allows tissues to function properly.

Exercise boosts muscle levels of a compound  called NRF1 which impacts telomeres at the ends of each of our chromosomes.

Yikes! What is NRF1 and how does that work for me?

As simple as possible, it stimulates the production of proteins that are needed for cellular energy production and proteins involved in the making of new healthy mitochondria.  If you don’t remember from biology class ( cause I didn’t ) mitochondria are the powerhouse of our cells and are responsible for creating more that 90% of energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function.  Their function typically declines with age but with vigorous exercise mitochondria function improves ( and you can grow a lot more)

Exercise boosts muscle levels of the compound called NRF1 which impacts our telomeres at the ends of each of our chromosomes.

Hang on with me here ok?

Maybe you forgot what telomeres are. They are basically like little biological clocks on the ends of our DNA.  When in good shape, our DNA (cells) stay young. When they get damaged the cells get old. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of our chromosomes that keep them stable- think like plastic at the end of shoe laces. Every time a cell divides telomeres get shorter. Eventually they become to small to protect chromosomes and cells get old and die resulting in aging .

Unfortunately, telomeres get eroded with time.

Pay attention now boys and girls…….

the speed of erosion is not fully fixed which explains why you can impact biological age! This is where producing NRF1 is helpful. when activated by exercise it can produce protective molecules for telomeres, like varnish on nails. This all works on an anti-aging level, biologically.

Not all exercise is created equal for these benefits…

where as all types of exercise is good for our bodies, relieves stress, keeps our health balanced and leads to overall fitness, the type of exercise to reap the biggest anti-aging results is HIIT or cardio exercises done for at least 30 minutes or more 5 times a week.

Strength training is good for building muscle and overall body strength but it won’t have the same benefits for cell renewal as cardio or high intensity exercises.

In a study done by Newsweek in May 2017, it found of 5,000 adults in a research study that those who exercise regularly are younger on a cellular level than their sedentary or moderately active counterparts.  The study also compared telomere length with levels of physical activity. The study showed significant differences between those who did vigorous exercise and those who did not. The adults who did strong, vigorous exercise were biologically 9-10 years younger. ( for the study a high physical level was considered to be 30-40 minutes of running at least 5 days a week)

Why exercise appears to preserve telomere length is not known but it could be linked with inflammation and oxidative stress over time.

To see a real difference in slowing your biological age it appears a little exercise won’t do the trick, you have to work out regularly and at high levels.

Of course other benefits that come with strong level of exercise is reduced inflammation in the body that comes with aging, which can also help decrease your risk of developing related diseases and conditions like heart disease, depression, muscle loss and decreased memory.

Skin deep…..

Why do some of the fittest 60-plus women look younger than their age? The answer lies in the question. A recent study from McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, found that women over 65 who worked out for a minimum of two hours a week for three months had the skin composition of women 20 to 30 years younger. It seems that sweating it out at the gym leads to pumping myokines, a group of proteins secreted by muscle cells and diffused throughout the body. (Best Health Magazine)

and it’s true…some of the fitness women I know don’t look their age.  ( I’m not leaving the guys out… vigorous exercise can yield similar health benefits).

The Game Plan….

Don’t worry about fancy creams, instead, get on a consistent, regimented exercise plan and stick to it.

Don’t look for instant results but keep in mind all of the great health benefits your body will reap by being active and sweating a lot.

Don’t forget other factors that can help keep your age a secret too. Make sure you’re nutrition is focused on whole, healthy foods, skip the smoking and drinking, watch your sugar/processed food intake, hydrate well with plenty of water, get adequate rest, protect your skin, laugh a lot  and get your exercise in at least 5-6 days a week.

And then… hey…go ahead and share your age… no one will believe you 😉

Has exercise helped you maintain more than just being fit? Have you noticed results in your health and appearance  from consistent exercise?

The Accidental Cyclist

It came up again in casual conversation as it almost always does….

“So, when did you start cycling? I guess you’ve been at it awhile?”  ( you can also interchange “running” as well with these questions)

Ok, I’ll admit I love the opportunity to share sports I’m passionate about especially if it encourages someone to want to get out and try it. It’s obviously  fun for me when the person is involved in whatever activity  and we can “talk shop”.  I use those times to pick brains and learn more from someone who might have more experience in the field than I do.

So when the question came up I shared  I had only gotten my “real” racing bike a year ago but there was a catalyst that propelled me to that because before then I felt like…

A Wanna Be Biker Chick

I usually back up to the fact that running is my passion, and as passions go I had thrown myself whole  heartedly into my love and also picked up an injury that had majorly side lined me from my passion. (Heavy training for a marathon, straight into a 50k… but it was so worth it)

I had a bike, a cheap little mountain bike, that I used for cross training days when I’d give my legs a break from running. There were honestly weeks that went by I didn’t see the bike. I loved running. I didn’t consider myself a cyclist. I was a runner.

bike pic
My mountain bike that would start it all…

 

I was at Walmart one day and realized they had cheap little “road” bikes for sale.

Ahhhh perfect I thought. This will get me moving more on the bike and I can maybe start training for “something”.

A road bike was, for me, an upgrade from a mountain bike.  I still did not see myself as more than a casual bike rider. But none the less, I started packing some miles on it. About my only nod to looking like a cyclist was wearing a helmet ( for heavens sake…always…wear a helmet no matter what)

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See. I told you. Nothing but running gear, a helmet, and my trusty road bike from Walmart.

 

I’d see “real” cyclists flying down the road in their sleek clothes, bright helmets, feet clipped into pedals, on bikes that were the price of a good used car and think those are REAL cyclists….

I still felt like a wanna be biker chick.

I took my trusty new road bike to a local shop in town for a “tune up” before I started pushing more miles on it.

The tune up cost me what the bike did.  Seriously.

By that time I had been logging some real miles, using it as a substitute to fill my craving for all the  miles I wasn’t getting on the road running. I was already entertaining the very lofty goal of the duathlon if my feet would just heal up already.

I shared this tidbit with Mr. Knowledgeable Bike Shop Man … he nicely said..” I don’t think this bike is going to work for what you’re wanting to do.”  He then of course started showing me nice pricey little bikes he had available and I just thought he was trying to upsell me and make some money.

Ah. Little did I know.

A year rolls by…..

I had been seriously abusing my little bike. I was logging anywhere from 45-55 miles a week on it. I was getting hooked. I still had my duathlon dreams lurking in the back of my mind and the bike gave me the adrenaline of miles without beating my body up.

As things happen in life I came across a nicer road bike for re-sale. I had taken it in to another bike shop to have them look at it and to see if it would fit me (when you have a long body and long legs you gotta consider these things!)

Of course, the bike was to small for me.

As luck would have it, he had a bike that would fit me perfectly. He wheels out this bright, shiny red  Cannondale that looked like the equivalent of a sports car to me. With a few tweaks and adjustments he hands it over to me telling me to “take it out for a spin”.

20160603_202200
So pretty… just waiting for miles….

 

I am hardly dressed to ride that day in slim fitting black pants and combat boots but he didn’t have to tell me twice. It only took minutes in the saddle to feel the difference and know this was a game changer.

This would help me get to my goals.

As I came zipping back in feeling like a kid with my hair flying everywhere ( the only time I rode without a helmet) I knew I had to have that bike.

Yet still nagging in the back of my mind… you aren’t reallllyyy a cyclist….

The bike was on sale. He had a limited number. I left that day and basically started selling random possessions no longer needed and squirreling that money away. Within a month I had not only the money for the bike, but also for cycling shoes ’cause I was doing it all.

I was getting the racing bike and shoes to clip in.. geez I thought running shoes were expensive!

As luck would have it, when I got to the bike shop he had one left. He has told me over and over how glad he is I got it, that it was still there for me.

He (still) tells anyone in the shop when I’m in… “DUDE! She was riding 50ish miles a week on a Walmart bike!”

To which I get looks that you would receive if you said you had just hiked the Himelaya mountains… one does not simply ride that many miles on a Walmart bike.  I have sense learned… things fall apart on them at the most inopportune times… like when my handle bars started turning every which way but loose and I had like 5 miles to keep riding back trying to hold them in place. Good times. They are designed for spins around the neighborhood with your kids but not beating the life out of them 25+ miles at a time.

Maybe I am a cyclist…...

Hanging out in a bike shop talking with like minded people who don’t think you’re crazy, who are ridiculously smart on the topic, and push you to your athletic goals is a cool thing. I realized that they completely considered me one and were willing to help and teach me things ( as in learning to change a tire)  I was in recently talking about my training and he referred to me as a duathlete and I looked around thinking he meant someone else.

I told hubby later and he was like… “uh… you ARE a duathlete.”

 

We just celebrated our one year anniversary together.

No. Not me and the hubby, me and the Cannondale that is. I’ve put over 1500 miles on it which compared to some riders, isn’t a lot, but for me it represents lots of training miles, lots of discipline and learning new things. I’ve become stronger and more confident in what I’m doing. I take it in frequently for it’s free tune ups and to talk bike stuff with people who still know more than me. Since I have (officially) signed up for my first duathlon which is in November, I have a team at the shop that will make sure my bike is in top condition for the event. That’s kinda cool, I think.

So I’ve been burning up the road. A wounded runner turned cyclist…turned duathlete…maybe I really am one now….

But I’m more of a rebellious, nonconforming cyclist……

First, I break all cycling rules by acknowledging another cyclist who’s sailing by me. I mean… we are passing each other… can’t miss one another… but I’m always blown away at how many seemingly look right through me. Runners are so different on this score… in the cycling world I think it’s some unwritten law to not acknowledge each other…

I do have more gear now. The helmet of course. I just got a cool new Giro a few months ago. Of course I have their cycling shoes as well and even though learning to clip and unclip and all that goes with it was a learning process, it definitely helps deliver a lot more power on the bike. Now I can’t imagine not riding clipped in.  A lot different than riding in my running shoes from a year ago!

20160720_131510
Ok, maybe I do get a little excited over new gear 😉

 

But you will most likely find me on these warm days in nothing more than my sports bra and my running shorts. Yeah, my running shorts. I do have cycling shorts but training for a duathlon and having to run, I find my running shorts work better. So I’m training like I will race. Although, November is gonna come around and change things up 😉

IMG_20160711_110858
A lesser known thing about cycling, learning to perfect your selfie skills on the bike 😉

 

Cycling can get crazy expensive so I invested into the stuff that matters ( a good bike, shoes, helmet) and I fly on the cheap with the rest of it. I love some of the cute cycling kits available but prices on them are crazy so… until I get a sponsor for my fav’s … I’ll keep trolling Ebay for cute ones with good deals 😉

I am a cyclist.

20170716_091024
Cycling girl. And in my most recent acquisition from Ebay. How cute is this jersey??

 

 

The “wanna be biker chick” idea left a long time ago.

Even if I accidentally stumbled into the world of cycling, I’m here. I’m in it. I’ve found another sport I actually enjoy and it turns out, I’m pretty good at.

As the guys at the bike shop tell me “You wanna be better? You spend more time on the road. You ride. You push yourself. You learn.”

So I continue the journey, on foot and bike. constantly grateful for the opportunity to do both and excited to see where I can go from here.

With open roads, the challenges are unlimited.

Tell me, have you accidentally stumbled into something only to find a new passion?