General Fitness

Exercising For A Cause

While I believe motivation to exercise or to work towards a fitness goal is best achieved when it comes from within, sometimes that isn’t always possible. Sometimes you need that extra kick in the pants from outside sources to get you going.

Races that incorporate donations to charities are quite popular. There are many walks and runs that people participate in to raise awareness and funds to hopefully help cure diseases. Personal experiences and connections to these diseases, such as breast cancer or leukemia, give people the motivation to get out there and get moving in hopes of making a difference. It’s a smart idea, both from a marketing perspective and decent human people perspective. Find something people are passionate about, and get them out walking or running, talking and fundraising, while connecting with other people around them and making the world a little more hopeful and helpful.

When I was training for my first marathon I dedicated my run to ten soldiers who had died in war. I had a shirt made with their names on it. I read their stories several times, and I donated money to charities I had either read about in their death notices or thought they would have had a connection to, and would have appreciated me donating to. Let me tell you, when you’re running and thinking about young men who died for their country and no longer are able to run themselves, you keep running! It was exactly what I needed to keep me motivated. To keep me realizing that my pain was nothing compared to what they had experienced. That I was truly fortunate to even be able to move my legs at all.

If you don’t think you can last on internal motivation along, what can keep you going? Is there a cause you can make a promise to? One where you raise money for every mile walked, or every lap swam? What can pull on your heartstrings enough to make your hamstrings not give up?

For those who want to spend energy, but not your own money, there’s an app for that – Charity Miles – you exercise, they pay the charity.

Your dog can even join in on the fundraising fun with WoofTrax.

Remember that exercise is not just about burning calories and losing weight, it can be about so much more.

Stay active, my friends!

Fit Mom

The Jogging Stroller: A Love/Hate Relationship

If you’re a parent who has even the slightest care towards staying active, you likely have a jogging stroller. They’re not cheap, but they do often come in handy, even when you’re not jogging. I have run many, many miles with mine, with both of my children (separately, I don’t have a double) but I have never learned how to fold it down. It’s been 5 years with that thing, why bother to learn now?

It’s a serious love/hate relationship with this stroller.

I love that it gives me the option to still run when I do not have childcare for my children. I love that it shows them from an early age that being active should be a regular part of life. After watching my husband and I run through the park, stopping occasionally to do push-ups, my son would ask to get out of the stroller so he could run and do push-ups, when he was just two years old. Teach them while they’re young! They are watching! I love that when I haven’t been able to convince my kids that a nap is a great idea, I’ve put them in the stroller and eventually the motion makes them fall asleep. Dual purpose – fitness and nap accomplished!

I hate how much harder it is to run when pushing a heavy human in a heavy stroller. You might as well throw time and distance goals out the window. I can’t run as fast as I normally can. Mine doesn’t have a swivel front wheel, so while it is is sturdy, it does require a smidgen of extra work when making turns. It also helps if you make sure the wheels are totally pumped up. I’m pretty sure I’ve run with half-flat wheels most of the time. I don’t recommend that. However, if I can run several miles with a stroller, how many can I do when I’m not pushing one?

Moms (and Dads – though I’m not a dude so I can’t truly speak for you), don’t let kids be an excuse for a lack of exercise. Put them in a jogging stroller and let them get some fresh air while you sweat like a pig. Don’t forget their water and snacks! Be prepared to stop frequently. Be prepared for it to not go totally as planned. Know that it’s okay to walk. You can even make it an exciting game – have your kid squeal and cheer you on when you do sprints, then walk for a bit, and repeat. Don’t go past a playground unless it’s near the end of your run. Embrace the difficulty, but know you’re doing something great for you while being a great example for your child.

Keep running, friends!

 

Exercise Motivation

Tips For Staying Focused On Exercise

I’ve been asked before, “What do you when you’re in an exercise slump?” I have to be honest with you (and I promise I’m not saying this to sound snobby or better than thou) but I don’t really have slumps. There’s times when life is crazy busy and I don’t get to work out quite as much, but that’s referring to exercising two or three times a week instead of five. I don’t have long breaks from exercise.

How is that possible?

We all have our daily tasks, and each are given their placement of priority – whether we write it down or not. If there’s a time crunch or a lot to get done, we know which will be handled before others. Often times I believe “exercise” is put on the “If I can get to it” list for a lot of folks. I understand that. I’ve had to do that. If my child needs to go to the doctor, or we’re almost out of essential groceries, obviously that needs to be handled first. Exercise can wait. But it’s the how long does it have to wait that becomes the problem.

To me, exercise isn’t an added chore, it’s a mental and physical necessity. If I don’t get a bare minimum of exercise in a week, I am one cranky person. I am stressed. I feel gross. It’s just not good. So for me, it’s high on my priority list. I need to fit it in so other aspects of my life can be successful. I can’t exactly be a good mom and wife if I’m cranky and feeling gross, now can I?

So we’ve established that exercise should actually make the list of daily priorities instead of being an extracurricular that would be nice to get to, but how do we stay focused once it’s on the list? Consider these tips and ideas:

  1. Think about your current mood and how exercise can fit with it. If I am super busy and having to make a lot of decisions, I don’t like to lift weights. I don’t want to have to count reps. I don’t want to come up with exercises and ensure I hit key target areas. I want to hit the open road, just me and my music, and zone out while I’m running. But then there are (rare) days when running is the last damn thing I want to do. I don’t have the patience for it. I don’t want to deal with monotony. I need to lift to keep my mind off of something stressing me out. Figure out what you’re in the mood for, and choose that exercise. Otherwise, if you start out not in the mood, you’re going to have a hard time getting into the mood, and giving up is right around the corner.
  2. Figure out what you like about exercise. Exercise should be a happy experience. If you focus on the pain, or disappointment you may feel if you don’t lift enough/run fast enough/swim enough/squat enough, then it won’t be so happy. Do you like exercising with other people? Do you like working out in the morning or the evening? Do you like having a pre-planned workout all setup for you? What about exercising makes you happy you’re doing it? Figure that out and write it into your daily planner, and then it switches from being a chore, to a happy task.
  3. Always have a goal or a mission. I have run in a lot of races. I’ve done a couple full marathons, several half marathons, a couple Spartan Races, and various other events. In November I’ll be doing my first duathlon (biking and running). These events keep me in check. I know I have a race coming up and if I don’t prepare properly, that day will kick my butt in a very bad way, so I have to run/bike/lift/hate life while doing burpees. What’s your goal? Is it just, “I need to work out” because if so, that’s not a long-lasting goal. What are you trying to get out of your exercise today, tomorrow, next week, next month? Do you want to get rid of saggy arms or inner thigh fat? Don’t worry about someone else’s goal, make your own. That will give you a mission for going to the gym and hopefully keep you going so you can reach your goal.
  4. Remember that exercise can be your “thing”. So many times in our lives we are focused on doing things that help other people – meetings to please clients, playground adventures to please kids, delicious dinners to please spouses. But how often is just you doing something that makes you happy? I often have to bring my kids along to the gym with me while they play in a little kid area, that’s in the same room as me……………. They have been yelled at many times as I have listed off all the things I have done for them that day and, “I. Just. Want. To. Exercise.” so they need to shoosh and get along. But when I do get to exercise without them, I enjoy my break from the kids/spouse/friends. It’s MY thing. It’s MY time. It’s all about ME and I like it.

Tell me — What keeps you focused? What takes your focus away?

Stay active, friends!

Fitness Guides and Gear

Let’s Focus On Running (even if you “hate” running)

Hello August!

I’ve done the Zone Diet. I’ve done a month of weight-lifting (though I’m not satisfied with how that month went, so we’ll go back and try that again). I’ve done the Paleo Diet. Now here we are in August and the focus is on…. Running! If you hate running, don’t go darting away from this page. Stay with me a few minutes.

A lot of people love to run. A lot of people hate to run. Putting aside serious ailments and health issues, I think one of the big reasons people hate to run is because it’s not easy. Even though our bodies are designed to do it, and as a kid we likely ran around the neighborhood playing Tag and Manhunt, it’s still not easy. If you’re not in great cardiovascular shape, after five minutes you might be huffing and puffing, ready to quit. I get it. Training to actually be decent at running is one of the reasons I actually continue to run. I don’t want to get out of running shape and have to re-teach my body to handle it again. It sucks! So I just keep running…

Exercise isn’t meant to be easy. It shouldn’t bring to the brink of death or serious injury either, but it should challenge you physically and mentally. Every single run will make you question how far and how fast you can go. It will test how easily you will quit, or how strong you are to keep going even if you are hating life at that hot, sweaty, moment.

Running – as well as many other exercises – is often a big mental game. Everyone comes up with a number in their head. It may be the number of minutes you want to run, or the number of miles, or the speed at which you run. Then if those numbers are not met, negativity and disappointment set in, ultimately leading to quitting. Why? Aside from you, who is keeping track? Who is paying attention? Isn’t any number above sitting on the couch at least worthy of some joy?

If you’re not a regular runner, don’t come up with an unrealistic number. If you have never run 3 miles in your life, or haven’t in the past 10 years, don’t make that your number. Obviously failure is right around the first bend. And when it comes, can you handle it, or will you give up and declare, “I hate running” because that’s just easier?

Again, our bodies are made to run. There is not a ton of equipment needed to get it done. An open road, pathway, or a treadmill at a gym. A decent pair of shoes meant for how your feet are designed. Regular comfortable exercise clothes. Nothing fancy needed. It’s on the cheap end of all possible sports to partake in. I challenge you to really think about why you hate running (if you do). Is it because it’s difficult when you don’t regularly do it? That can easily be improved. That whole feeling of failure when you suck at it can rapidly be turned into a feeling of achievement when you see how quickly you can go from running half a mile to two miles, nonstop. It is because you compare yourself to other runners and feel a sense of inadequacy? That’s nonsense, don’t do that to yourself. The world of exercise is supposed to be a happy, encouraging place. Cheer on the faster runner and keep going.

If you haven’t run in awhile and decide to get out there and go for a run, tell me how it goes! I’d love to hear about it.

Happy running, friends!

(Hey Jen, what’s up with that painful looking picture up above? That’s me running the Marine Corps Marathon back in 2015. It hurt, and I was tired, but I was damn proud!)

Dieting

How To Successfully Diet The Paleo Way

For the month of July I took on the challenge of trying out the Paleo Diet. It’s a pretty popular diet most people have heard about, but may not totally understand. Nerd Fitness says it’s pretty well, “If a caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you.” Now don’t confuse that with thinking everything must be eaten raw or cooked over a campfire. It just means stay away from processed, man-made, fake food creations. You do have culinary freedom to be creative with the caveman ingredients, and put together some fun meals that will satisfy your taste buds, and make a caveman jealous.

Once you get past the negative connotation that this diet can give off – it’s no fun, it’s not realistic, it’s too difficult – and you sit down and actually give it a try, it’s not that bad. Really. I’m being serious.

What I like about a structured diet is that it has a list of foods that are acceptable to eat, which makes grocery shopping a heck of a lot easier. Here’s the list, and thus that I is what I buy. As this diet does not require you to measure or weigh food, you can literally just throw a bunch of stuff together in a pan or pot and voila, dinner is served! If you struggle with coming up with recipes on your own, and having to switch from your typical go-to meals, simply head on over to Pinterest.

So how does one get started and actually succeed at this diet?

  1. Do a quick read online and understand what the diet entails.
  2. Go in with a positive, excited attitude. If you’re a downer and skeptic from the start, then you’re going to last about two days and likely complain a lot.
  3. Stick with the list, but be realistic. I know hardcore paleo dieters would likely give me grief about this, but if you can’t find (or afford) the organic or grass-fed version of a food item, the regular item is fine if it is still healthier than whatever other alternative you used to eat.
  4. If you don’t want to give up alcohol, switch to red wine. If you don’t like red wine, well there’s more than one type, and likely there is something out there that’ll satisfy your drinking urges.
  5. Prepare for future meals. You don’t have to do an entire meal prep, but for instance, today I will take out meat or fish from the freezer and put it in the fridge so it is ready for breakfast or lunch tomorrow. I don’t want mealtime to come and I’m left with minimal choices, or only bad choices, simply because I didn’t take 15 seconds to thaw out something the day before.

How did my challenge go? After having done the Zone Diet strictly in May, and then semi-strict in June, my body is pretty used to this type of eating now. I had lost several pounds in May and June and my body has stayed the same in July. I think it is now sitting comfortably and I need to give a swift kick to get it going again.

Note: This diet did not have a negative impact on my ability to exercise. I still have plenty of energy. I know for many active folks that is always a concern, but I did not find it to be the case for me. Now if you are completely changing your diet, it may, but in just a short period of time, your body should adjust positively.

I have decided my August challenge will be all about running. I have a half-marathon to run later in the month (that starts at 4:30 AM, ugh!) so my focus will be on discussing tips to get started on a running program, how to stick with it when it sucks, how to improve your endurance, and so on…

Stay healthy and active, friends!

Exercise Motivation

How To Stay Motivated When It’s Flipping Hot Outside

Today the heat index is 104* F/40* C. It’s a scorcher! As life would have it, mid-afternoon was the only time I could go for a run today, so I embraced the heat. I don’t recommend this for new runners, or anyone not used to this type of climate. I was equipped with my running belt, sunglasses, heatgear shirt, and GU pack. It is possible to go for a decent run in less-than-ideal conditions, but one must be smart about it. I made it 5.15 miles before calling it quits.

So how does one stay motivated to not only sustain a run, but actually go outside and get started on a run when it feels like you’re entering the gates of Hell?

  1. Prep beforehand. Don’t drink a bunch of coffee that elevates your body temperature and heart rate, and then go out into the heat. You will sweat your tail off. The same goes for beer, or even the morning after a booze binge. Drink water, water, and more water.
  2. Don’t leave home without the key survival essentials. Because I live in an area that is always hot, I rarely run without my water belt. I just absolutely need it, or I start daydreaming about water and lose all motivation, plus I could put myself at harm. If you don’t want to wear a water belt, put a water bottle inside your mailbox and take laps back to your house for quick water breaks.
  3. Dress smart. This is pretty obvious, but just in case… You do not need to wear extra layers to sweat more and lose more. Please don’t do that in hot conditions. Wear something that is breathable and comfortable to wear when wet.
  4. Think shade. An open road or path might be great for solidarity and lack of noise, but it also sucks for keeping you shaded. Find trees, tall buildings, wherever you can to keep you out of the sun as much as a possible.

Ok, so these items will help give you a successful run, but maybe they won’t be all you need to motivate yourself to run. When the weather app says “it feels like death” outside, how do you get yourself to say, “screw it, I got this”? A sense of pride and accomplishment always help me. Anyone (healthy) can run in 75* F weather, but who can run in 100*+ weather? Only the truly motivated and tough, right? Be that tough person. Be that person that says, “No excuses.” Know that if you can run in hot, sunny, or humid conditions, how much better will your run be on that cool, breezy day? You’ll appreciate that cooler climate, that’s for darn sure. Your body will be stronger. Your body will be tougher. Your mind and heart will be more dedicated.

Stay healthy, friends, and remember to drink your water!