Yoga

For the Next 30 Days: December

This morning, I rather serendipitously came across a Facebook post from Thais about a 25-day “yogathon” she’s doing. In spite of its name, it’s not all about yoga. The main goal is to cleanse the mind, body, and soul. That was part of my focus with the 30-day project I had in mind for November, which was basically to do as much Bikram yoga as possible. Well, that fell through (you may have noticed. And by the way, thanks to Bikram Yoga Grand Central, for having non-existent customer service). So I thought this month might be a good time to try again (or at least try a variation).

A yoga class.

Image via Wikipedia

Everyone has their own concept when it comes to cleansing the mind, body, and soul, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time today thinking about what this sort of challenge would consist of. As I thought about it, I began to realize how much my anxiety has flared up over the past few weeks. The holidays are a stressful time, and rather than find effective ways to deal with difficult situations, I’ve been trying to ignore them. Guess what? It’s not a very good coping strategy! In fact, it just makes you more anxious. Deep down, I know that the best way to deal with anxiety is to face up to it, and have a toolbox of coping strategies that you can turn to in order to keep it from getting really bad. So my December yogathon is going to be working to put some things in that toolbox, and hopefully managing my anxiety a bit more effectively as a result.

The tools:

  • Yoga, obvs. Along with running, it’s one of the best defenses I have against everyday anxiety
  • Meditation. A new thing for me, but something that other people have used (for hundreds of years!) with great success. Why not give it a try?
  • Journaling. Also a new thing, but an effective way to deal with difficult situations. I find that when I am able to articulate what it is I’m anxious about, it really helps defuse everything that’s building up. Not only that, but often when I actually express it, it becomes a lot less scary than it was.

What I’m aiming to do is use one of these tools every day, and get into the practice of doing something about the things that are getting to me instead of just letting them sit there and build up until they become too big for me to keep ignoring. Nothing good ever comes from that. 

What would you do to cleanse your mind, body, and soul?

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Boot(y-kicking) Camp

Last Tuesday I did something a little bit different from my usual routine, and took advantage of a Groupon offer I’d bought over the summer for 10 sessions of a boot camp class. My attempts to get in touch with the Bikram yoga studio I wanted to attend for my 30-day yoga challenge failed, and as a result my yoga practice kind of fell by the wayside. I thought boot camp would be a good way to shake things up and try something new.

A drill instructor addressing United States Ma...

Image via Wikipedia

Even though I’d bought the Groupon, I’ve always been a little bit scared of the boot camp idea. I mean, what comes to mind when you think of boot camp? If you’re anything like me (and I think most people probably are in this case), you think of a drill sergeant yelling at you while you do push-up after push-up and ultimately collapse face-down in a puddle of mud. Was this really something I wanted to do voluntarily? Combine that with the fact that my running has been lackluster lately, and the fact that I hardly ever do any sort of training aside from running, and…well, you might understand why I was a little hesitant to take advantage of this particular offer.

In spite of my hesitation, though, I made plans to meet my friend Caitlin in Central Park last week, and subject myself to an hour of what I feared would be complete torture. And guess what: it was! But only for the first five or ten minutes.

We started right in on the workout with squats, and then push-ups, and then more squats, followed by more push-ups, and then running! As we took off running to our next location (the class alternates between short bouts of running, and stops in specific locations for exercises like walking lunges, step-ups, etc.) I felt like crying. People were merrily running ahead of me, and I started worrying that I was the weakest person in the group. I wondered if I’d be left behind, unable to keep up with everyone else. As we went through a series of lunges, step-ups, and toe taps at our second stop, I started to wonder if maybe I should find a way to bow out. Could I just run away without the instructor noticing? Could I come up with some great excuse for why I just had to leave?

As we left our second location to move on to our third, though, something changed. I didn’t feel weak and pathetic. In fact, I felt really good. Sure, I wasn’t going to be able to do every single push-up or tricep dip, but why should I have been? I hadn’t been training for ages in order to do those things. I was still toward the back of the pack when we would run from one spot to the next, but who cares? I made it through every exercise, and I didn’t walk when we were supposed to be running. For someone who hadn’t been doing much of anything over the past few weeks, I was doing really well. Hell, I’d go so far as to say that I was doing really well for someone who had been exercising consistently for the past few weeks.

By the end of the hour-long session I a) couldn’t believe it had only been an hour; b) couldn’t believe I had made it through the entire hour; c) felt amazing and energized; and d) knew I was addicted. I’d been hoping to go back tonight, but I’m sick with yet another cold and thought that I probably wouldn’t enjoy the class nearly as much if I was hacking up a lung the entire time. I can’t wait to go back, though, and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep taking the classes once my Groupon deal has run out.

I was sore for a full two days after the class, but going to the boot camp class kicked my butt physically and emotionally, forcing me to get out of the rut I’d established with running, and definitely spicing things up. It was a small thing, but it’s had big results: I feel like my interest in and passion for running has been reignited, and along with it, I’ve found a fun new activity to add in to my weekly training. I’m excited to see where this new path will lead me, in running and beyond.

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For the Next 30 Days: November

Logo for the program 30 Days Category:Televisi...

Image via Wikipedia

I am many things. Unfortunately, quick to post updates and create new pages for things when I say I’m going to is not always one of them. The worst part is that it’s not that I forget, it’s just that sometimes I don’t do what I say I’m going to do, in spite of my best intentions. A recent example of this: creating a page for my 30 Days project, and then updating it with information about my 30-day sleep hygiene experiment, and my most recent 30-day attempt at self-improvement, which I managed to avoid posting about for all of October.

So! It’s entirely possible you’re wondering what exactly I was doing for my October 30 days (or you may have thought I’d completely forgotten. Or, you may have completely forgotten)! I was trying to eat a total of five fruits and vegetables every day. I did a pretty good job. I started out thinking it would be easy, but as it turns out I was wrong. It can be much harder than you’d think to fit five fruits and vegetables into your day, especially at times when you’re traveling or you don’t have immediate access to a very wide food selection. In learning that it could be more difficult than I’d originally anticipated, I developed a greater appreciation for fruit- and vegetable-rich meal opportunities, and also started paying a lot more attention to the composition of my meals and snacks (generally something I try to avoid, given my history with food). Overall: a good challenge, and one I’d recommend. If you don’t feel like going all out and investing a full 30 days, at least try to think more about your fruit and vegetable intake for a week.

But now it’s time to put October (and those 30 days) aside and move on to November, the next phase. This month, I’ve got yoga on the brain. Specifically Bikram yoga. And in addition to having yoga on the brain, I’ve got a Groupon in my pocket, conveniently for a month of unlimited yoga at a Bikram yoga studio near my office. It’s set to expire on the 11th, which is part of the motivation for this month’s challenge: 30 days of yoga, 20 of which will be of the Bikram variety.

For those of you unfamiliar with Bikram, it’s a variety of yoga that consists of a set number of postures (the same set for every practice) that are done in a room heated to over 100 degrees. I’ve dabbled with it in the past, but I have never been the greatest fan; however, people who do like it really like it. Most Bikram practitioners say that the more you do it, the more you like it, and that it’s especially important to do it at least two days in a row when you first start. Why? I don’t know. Is it true? Again, I don’t know. But I intend to find out.

My non-Bikram days will be pretty loosely structured, and I’m setting a minimum of twenty minutes for those practices. It’s pretty likely that I’ll stick to practices from YogaVibes, and I’ll try to post reviews of them. To be honest, I’m kind of scared of this challenge. It’s a tall order, but I think it’s got potential to be a lot of fun. And sweaty.

Anyone with me? If not for 30 days, then maybe at least for a few?

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Birthday Run-Down!

I know today is Sunday, and normally that would mean a Sunday Run-Down.  But sometimes you just don’t feel like writing one, especially when you feel like your training is going all that well.  So instead of a Sunday Run-Down, today I’m bringing you a Birthday Run-Down.  It’s like a training round-up, except that it’s about all the goodies I would buy myself for my birthday if I had the money.  Why the birthday theme?  Well, because tomorrow is my 30th!  So please join me while I indulge myself.

I think I could probably break things down into three main categories: Running, Yoga, and Miscellaneous (which is kind of cheating, I know).

Running

Does it come as any surprise?  The first thing I’d get myself is a pair of Vibram FiveFingersthe Bikila LS, to be specific.  I think

Image via Running Warehouse

we all know I’ve been lusting after these things for a while now.

I’d also try out some Honey Stinger Energy Gels.  I know it seems silly to put something that mundane on a birthday wishlist, but the tricky thing about gels is that you don’t want to buy a whole case without knowing whether or not you like them.  I don’t want to end up with an entire box of something that I’ll never eat.  Much safer to put them on an imaginary shopping list than a real one!

My digital watch recently broke, so I’d get myself a new one, like this Timex Ironman TAP.  For a straightforward watch, it’s got some pretty cool features, and even though I am still not really keeping track of my times, I do like having a watch on while I run just so that I know what time of day it is.

Obviously, I’d also buy myself some new gear– definitely a few pairs of capris, and maybe a pair or two of tights to replace the ones I have that are coming dangerously close to falling apart.

To top it off, I’d hire a coach with the hope that she or he could help me figure out why it always seems like I’m doing something wrong.

Yoga

Image via Manduka

One of the first things I’d get myself for yoga is one of these Manduka Lyrics Practice Totes.  In it, I would keep a brand new Manduka mat, probably the eKO Natural Rubber Mat, which is biodegradable and supposedly very grippy.  I love my current mat, but it’s sufficient grody looking at this point that I get a little bit embarrassed when I unroll it in a class.  I guess when you’ve been using the same mat for several years, it will get a bit gross.  And  I’m sure no one’s judging me…but still.  I’d feel better knowing that the people around me aren’t disgusted!

Next, although it’s not really yoga-specific, I would get a Vila mat.  These acupressure mats are supposed to help with relaxation and keep even promote sleep (it could come in handy during my 30 day challenge this month).  I’ve never had a chance to try one, but Jill really seems to like hers.  And I certainly wouldn’t say no to a bit of a back massage whenever I wanted it!

Finally, I would gift myself some sessions at some of New York’s most famous studios, like Om Yoga, Jivamukti Yoga School, and Yoga Sutra.  If I were feeling extra generous, I’d sign myself up for yoga teacher training somewhere, too.

Miscellaneous

Of course, there’s more to life than yoga and running.  That’s why I’d also get myself a set of interchangeable knitting needles.  It can really be a hassle trying to figure out if you have the right needles every time you start a new project.  With this set, I wouldn’t need to!

I’d also buy myself some luxury yarns and make myself something great, like a sweater or a cozy wrap.  And of course I’d also buy myself this book so I could always knit something cute to cheer myself up on the days when I need it.

There’d be the requisite manicure/pedicure, and maybe even a massage for good measure.  Throw in some clothes shopping, and it would be a birthday for the ages.

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Sunday Run-Down: August 8-14

Wow, it is wet, wet, wet here in New York.  It started raining this morning, and as far as I know it hasn’t stopped all day.  There have been moments where it has let up slightly, but that’s about it.  Great day for a long run, huh?

If you’d told me on Wednesday that I would manage to get the mileage on my training schedule done for this week, I don’t think I would have believed you.  At that point, I hadn’t run a single mile and, feeling sick to my stomach, I’d gotten home from work and basically crawled into bed.  My previous week of training had been a wash, and I was starting to think maybe a marathon was just not in the cards for me after all.  But somehow I managed to pull things together.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 20 minutes of yoga

Wednesday: Rest (and a valiant effort not to throw up all over the place)

Thursday: 60 minutes of yoga

Friday: 7.5 miles (let the running begin!)

Saturday: 7.5 miles

Sunday: 14 miles

As you can see, it certainly wasn’t the most balanced week, but it all worked out.  My legs felt a bit tired on yesterday’s run, but I felt really good today.  So good, in fact, that I think I could have gone on to do more than 14 miles if I’d really wanted to.  I didn’t, though, figuring there really wouldn’t be any point in pushing it when I was doing what my training plan called for.  Even though I was soaked the entire time I was running, today’s long run was far and away the best one I’ve had in a while.  It was also a great confidence boost, since I’ve been feeling pretty anxious about how ready I’m going to be for the Marine Corps in October.

I’m definitely going to make sure that my mileage is spaced out a bit more evenly next week.  I mean, it worked out this time around to cram 29 miles into 3 consecutive days, but I’m not thrilled by the thought of doing that every week.  I’m also planning to do another two yoga sessions, as I’ve been seriously lacking in that department in spite of how good it feels to do it.

What are your plans for the coming week?  And what did you accomplish this week?

 

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It’s Wednesday and the Week Starts Here!

Wednesday

Image by teachernz via Flickr

My week has been totally wackadoo so far.  Monday and Tuesday home sick, Wednesday back at work, but no LUNAChix run due to another engagement…everything is crazy!  In fact, I haven’t had a chance to run at all since Sunday, at I’m going a bit crazy at this point.  I can’t help it, I’m addicted to exercise…in a healthy way, that is.

Generally, my weeks are better when I manage to get my running started earlier–Tuesday is usually the best time for me.  But here we are: it’s Wednesday and today’s really the first day I’ve had where I could have done much of anything.  I couldn’t have run Monday or yesterday even if I’d tried.

The important thing to remember is how much of my determining the best time to start exercising during any given week is mental.  The fact of the matter is that the run itself doesn’t know what day it is, so it’s not so important when I get out the door for the first run.  What really matters is that I do it at all, and that I don’t let myself get overwhelmed by feeling like I may have failed when, in fact, I’m still in a position to do a decent amount of running for the week.

Something that often gets neglected when we talk about a healthy lifestyle is the insidious little ways in which the lifestyle can undermine itself.  Example: assigning too much significance to which day of the week is your first day of exercising.  Approaching these things with a more open-minded perspective can transform a week–I may not be able to go running for the first time this week until tomorrow, but there’s no reason I should consider this any different from a run I could otherwise have taken on a Tuesday.

Maybe something to focus on during the month of August will be trying to approach things differently, and see them in a positive, instead of a negative light.  And with that perspective in place, I can get excited about tomorrow being a day to run and a day to do yoga!

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Three Things for Thursday

cat sleeping on a bed

This is what I would like to be doing RIGHT NOW. Image via Wikipedia

I am pretty tired right now, so tonight’s post is going to be somewhat abbreviated as instead of the regular delicious fare, I’ll be bringing you three random things for you to think about.

And away we go:

  1. My blood blister sorted itself out.  It kind of just went away, and then the dead skin rubbed off.  Gross, right?  And life begins anew.
  2. I’m contributing regularly to Persephone Magazine.  Go check it out!  I’m writing about things other than the stuff I usually talk about here, and the site is full of intelligent women with interesting perspectives on things.
  3. Today in yoga we did Warrior 3 pose.  I think that may be my least favorite of all time.  Obviously that also means I should be thinking about why I dislike it so much!

Anyone have any good plans for the weekend?  I’m wishing it were Friday night instead of Thursday!!  Nighty night 🙂

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Sunday Run-down: July 18-24

If it meant anything to insult a day (see, even that phrase doesn’t make very much sense) I would call this day a butthead.  Why?  Because it’s been a butthead, obviously.  Typical Sunday, or at least typical of at least one day out of a weekend–I had plans, and for reasons that are unclear to me, ended up in a funk, spending most of the day in bed.  I spent some time working on this (my first sweater, by the way.  Also, not my picture):

Newport Beach Pullover via KnitPicks

But I did very little else.  I even meant to go running and then ditched it.  I don’t know why, since I ran well yesterday and had been looking forward to making up some mileage today.  For whatever reason, the thought of going out again today and coming back drenched in sweat just wasn’t appealing.  And it’s not even as hot outside as it had been.  Oh well.  Here’s a peek at the week:

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 3 miles

Wednesday: 5 miles

Thursday: 60-minutes of yoga

Friday: too intensely hot to do anything

Saturday: 11 miles

Sunday: see above

It’s funny how yesterday I felt good about this week and today I don’t anymore.  I guess it’s just a result of being in an icky mood–obviously that’s going to change my perspective about things.

So, goals for this upcoming week?  I’d like to get my running back on track since this is the second week in a row that I’ve missed a few of my training plan runs.  I know that’s not a big deal when you’re starting your 5th week of an 18-week training plan, but I don’t want to get in the habit of doing it.

Another goal: some more yoga.  I’m feeling gross about my body lately, and generally the more active I stay, the better I feel mentally (obviously, since my body doesn’t change considerably as a result of a little bit more movement over the course of a week).  Also: try to stay positive.  I’m getting a little tired of feeling so bummed.

How was your week?  Share your accomplishments and goals for the upcoming week below!

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Strongest feelings

Original title and description: "Suryatho...

Image via Wikipedia

Today was the first day of one of my favorite things: lunchtime yoga at work!  I signed up for it last year and it was the best.  I’m so happy that my office decided to bring it back again this year, with the same instructor.  I love her as much as I love the class.  And now, between this and boot camp, I should have a pretty regular schedule of cross-training for a while.  Hopefully it will be long enough to help me establish a habit.

The group of people doing office yoga this year is pretty big, and I think there may be quite a few people who are somewhat new to doing a regular practice.  As we went into our first downward dog today, I started thinking about how I felt the first few times I went into the pose: not good.  It’s now one of my favorite poses, but it took me a long while to get to that point.  In fact, every time I heard an instructor say that this was a rest pose, I couldn’t help but scoff inside.  Rest pose?  For whom?!  It was so unpleasant to me that I couldn’t imagine ever reaching a point where it would feel any different.  But slowly and surely, I got there.

In one of her videos available on Yogavibes, Sage Rountree talks about the poses that bring up the strongest feelings for you.  Maybe you love them, maybe you hate them.  Either way, those are the poses that should be explored more fully.  In particular, the poses you like least can tell you a lot about your body and your emotions.  Are you uncomfortable because these muscles need to be worked more often?  Is this an area that you should probably work on opening up more regularly?  What is going on both physically and mentally that is causing you to have such a strong reaction?  Chances are good that if you can identify what it is, and put in the effort required to address it, your feelings for the pose will change completely.

So now that I’ve conquered my feelings toward downward dog, which poses give me the most trouble?  Well, I can’t help but feel a twinge of dread every time I hear “boat pose”–to me this really means balance on your butt and feel your whole body tremble as you try to keep your legs parallel to the ground (and maybe extend your arms…depending on the day); table top and bridge are also sticking points for me because, from what I can tell, my hamstrings need some work; and anything that calls for leg extension or a standing split–poses in that family just highlight my lack of flexibility.

The nice thing is, though, that working your way through those strong emotions in a pose is a really great way to measure progress, and as you gradually grow stronger and more flexible, you get a whole new array of poses to conquer.  I don’t know about you, but forward movement always feels good, no matter how many stubborn feelings you have to push past in order to get there.

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10 Minutes

I wish I had a sense of how many times I’d done any of the following:

  1. Skipped a workout because I felt like I didn’t have enough time for it;
  2. Skipped a workout because I felt like I’d already “blown it” for the day, or the week;
  3. Skipped a workout because anything less than an hour wouldn’t be “worth it”.

My guess is that having a count of instances of those three occurrences would be overwhelming.  Possibly depressing.  I’ll even go so far as to say that those are probably my top three go-to excuses for skipping a run or a yoga session, or any other form of exercise.  Sadly, none of them are really valid excuses.  At least not in the way I always use them–my way of using them is totally counterproductive.  In all three of those cases, using the excuse results in not doing any sort of workout whatsoever; two of those three situations are based on not having spent enough time working out.  When you look at it rationally, it makes no sense!  “I’m not going to run because it won’t help me hit my mileage goal for the week”?  “I’m not going to run because if I can’t run 6 miles I don’t want to run at all”?  In both those cases, doing something would obviously be preferable to doing nothing.  But the thinking is entirely black or white.  It’s either a hard workout, or no workout at all.  Don’t bother telling me how silly this is, because I already know.

Lately I’ve been wondering if I might be able to change this all-or-nothing attitude by considering a 10-minute workout.  10 minutes can be a long time during which you could accomplish a lot of things; while I may not be able to run 5 miles, I could still do a total body workout with weights, or some intense cardio with a jumprope, circuit training, several sun salutations…the possibilities are endless, and so are the advantages.  To start, there’s the undeniable fact that something is better than nothing.  Add to that the appeal of the variety you’d be able to incorporate into your exercise routine, the idea that ten minutes of exercise could be more rejuvenating than a cup of coffee and undoubtedly more relaxing than a few deep breaths taken while sitting in front of your computer.  On top of all that, if you find yourself in a situation where you have several small windows of time throughout a day, but not a single large one, having some 10-minute exercise ideas to fall back on could enable you to get in a decent workout over the course of a few hours.  Convinced?  I am.

Of course it’s entirely possible that this 10 minutes idea is not the solution to every workout motivation problem ever, but I’m still determined to give it a try.  My yoga practice has fallen by the wayside yet again, and my cross-training and weight training routines are non-existent.  If you ask me, applying the 10 minute rule in those situations could only help, and as hard as it may sometimes be to see it, it beats the 0 minute rule any day of the week.

Do you have an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to working out?  Do you think a 10-minute workout could help you break it?

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