Fitness on vacation

I’ve written before that I don’t generally plan to exercise on vacation. Fitness is literally my job and I think vacations are important. The more classes I teach, the more I’m making my own fitness a priority. For me, it’s all about running and yoga.

While I had no intention of running on our island days, I did have the goal of running to celebrate my birthday! We were in Old San Juan on the morning of my birthday and I wanted to run along the wall to the fort. I also wanted the family to join me. Ironically, I’m slower than all of them and they agreed to go at “Mommy Pace”.

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It was better than I imagined! Of course little legs had to walk a little, but it felt great to be running in warm weather :). It was peaceful and we were able to appreciate the scenery!

After we boarded the ship, we had a different plan. No elevators! We took the stairs everywhere and it was a lot of climbing. The boys were often a flight ahead of us in either direction. Going up those 7 flights to get back on the boat was surprisingly more work than one might think.

The youngest and I attempted the track on our day at sea. Oh my wind! It was intense so we did just under a mile and called it a day.

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I have yet to mention our amazing upgrade. As we were checking in online we realized the room number was wrong. We looked it up and Celebrity had moved us to a family veranda stateroom. What a deck!! It was the perfect place to relax and do sun salutations each morning. I was shocked at how tight my hamstrings were. I’m sure a combination of sitting at the beach and all the stairs. Nothing a few salutations couldn’t fix. ;)

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Otherwise, we simply explored! We spent each day at the beach and always went for a walk. Each beach had its own personality and wildlife to explore!

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Do you exercise on vacation? What’s your favorite beach activity?

Holding steady through December

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December is one of those months that’s simply difficult to accommodate fitness. This year, I was determined to keep running a priority while I could. I knew once the kids were home for vacation, all bets were off.

After a cold start to the month, it was pleasant by the end. I even snuck in a quick neighborhood run the day after Christmas and it was actually warm. Of course, now it’s cold; but I’ll save that for another time ;)

Being consistent through November and most of December was really paying off in both my level of comfort and speed. With the kids back in school, I’ve been trying to get back on track.

We are traveling next week, but planning a family run. Otherwise, I will probably give my body a much deserved rest. I hate the thought of losing progress, but I also know I abuse my muscles regularly and they need to rest.

Were you able to stay active through December? How is the weather where you are?

I post all the pictures from my runs on Instagram :)

New Year, New Race, New Distance

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A run on New Year’s Day? Heck yeah! Run my longest race to date? Of course! I know, who am I? I’ve always thought people who ran on New Year’s were overachievers. I mean there are 364 more days to exercise.

Then, I became one of those people. It all began when I was randomly looking for 10Ks in the area. Turns out, they are hard to find! I came across this New Year’s fun run and mentioned it to my husband and friends. Everyone was in!

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My friend and I decided to tackle the 5.7 mile course. We’ve been running longer distances and it seemed like a good one to try. I got there early with my husband and friend. This was the first time we were seeing the course as it wasn’t online. I’m not going to lie – 5.7 miles looks A LOT farther when put next to the 3 mile loop.

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Because it was a fun run, there were no numbers and no official start. Basically, the course was marked and you could head out when you wanted. The longer distance had an earlier start and thankfully the event was hosted at a hotel as it was a windy 32 degrees, but sunny ;)

My friend and I set off in a group, but I was quickly alone. This race was ALL mental! I remembered my headphones (thankfully!) and enjoyed my music. The scenery was pretty and the cold wasn’t bothering me. I was very aware of distance and pace.

By the third mile, I was less in my head and along for the ride. I felt pretty steady, but was definitely looking for those mile markers! There was a long, uphill portion at the end. Many people were walking and it was crowded. My legs were done and I sooooo wanted to walk. I didn’t. Pride stepped in and pushed me through!

I got a little slower with each mile, but I maintained a 10:34 pace. Definitely the fastest I’ve maintained for that distance. I wanted to finish within an hour and I came in at 59:43. It’s not a lot under an hour, but it’s still under an hour :)

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The best surprise at the end was seeing my husband and friends! I thought they would still be running because they had a later start time. Turns out they went with an earlier group and ran their course. We hung out and had some water. Then it was time for the plunge. No thank you! Of course, we did watch. I feel confident in saying you will never see me plunge in New England ;)

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Afterward, we ventured out for lunch and a celebratory drink! It was a perfect start to 2015 :)

Have you done a polar plunge? Do you exercise on New Year’s?

Flexibility vs Mobility

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I hate the word flexible! Almost everyday, I have a student tell me she’s not flexible. Here’s the problem, flexible is subjective. I am more flexible than many people but not at all flexible for a dancer.

Somewhere along the way, it became a reason to not try. If we let flexibility, or lack there of it, become a reason not to do something – we lose mobility. For example, if we don’t reach for our toes because we can’t touch them. We lose mobility in our hips that allow us to pick things up off the floor.

If we don’t work to extend our legs off the floor, we will shuffle our feet walking as we lose mobility in the hip flexors. The same is true for reaching up, to the side, etc. We need to work our joints, tendons and muscles in all directions to keep them fluid and functional.

I realized while teaching that any exercise perceived to require flexibility caused many to shut down and stop trying. Once I changed the focus to mobility and sometimes fluidity of movement, the effort changed.

I believe that one can gain mobility just as one can gain strength. There are many thoughts on stretching before or after exercising. I enjoy stretching so I often do it after a workout, but it doesn’t have to be a separate entity.

Many exercises require mobility. Of course yoga and pilates, but so do dead lifts, burpees, jump squats, shoulder press, chest fly, and lunges to name a few. Sometimes we just need to change our focus a little and the benefits of our fitness program increases greatly!

Do you consider yourself flexible? Has it stopped you in the past? What’s your favorite exercise that increases mobility and strength?

Mixing up routine

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It’s always a good idea to mix up fitness routines! Not only do our muscles need it, but our minds as well. It takes a lot of discipline to do the same movement repeatedly and not mentally check out.

Variation can come from the amount of weight, order of exercises or be more drastic by changing exercise style. When running or walking outside it’s a good idea to change the course or area you are walking/running.

I began meeting my friend to run once a week. Now we meet (or try to meet) three times a week. This has caused us to move our runs around. We’ve changed both location and distance. Even when you are talking and enjoying the conversation, it’s important to mix up the scenery and the road.

Some areas have more hills or longer distances. Occasionally, we reverse the run to mix it up. By changing routes, we have to be aware of objects in the road, different curves and corners. We also don’t feel overwhelmed by not being as far along as we think we are. It keeps our brains and muscles working hard :)

As for working out in the gym, I love different routines. I incorporate pilates, yoga and free weights in my schedule. Of course, I teach all of these styles which makes it much easier. Sometimes I take an exercise from one style and put it in another class. It keeps my students thinking and often stepping out of their comfort zone.

Picking a different area of focus also keeps it interesting. It might be the same exercise, but thinking about the legs or belly can change the dynamic of the exercise. Sometimes, thinking of the variations is enough exercise for the brain ;)

How do you mix up your routine? What’s your go-to exercise?

Jolly Jaunt 5k ~ Wind, Family, Friends and lots of Santas!

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Last year, the Jolly Jaunt was one of our favorite races! It was cold, but it was the first time the boys ran, and so many of our friends ran it felt warm (not really, but it was fun). This year, we were better prepared for the cold and were intrigued by the addition of the Santa suits.

How exactly would this work? Will it be comfortable? How many people will actually wear the suit? As you can see, they really did provide everyone with a suit, they were ok and clearly, many people wore them

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The kids’ race changed a little bit and they did different age groups. Both boys were in the half mile race. They were happy it was longer than the dash last year. The kids received Santa hats and fun metals. Here we are

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Shortly after we left the house, I realized I forgot my headphones. I had mixed feelings about this. I have been running without headphones with my friend, but we’ve been talking. I’ve never raced without music. Generally, I use it to distract me from hearing my breathing and aching legs.

I hadn’t felt bad running last week and didn’t notice my breathing as much. My goal was to hit a similar stride this race and see what happens. I started off feeling pretty good and not minding the lack of music.

My legs felt loose through the entire race. I was hoping to pick up the pace during the second mile, but that was the mile with hills and oh the wind. The wind was whipping at over 30 mph and running by the water increased the impact at certain points. Of course, it’s always windy by the water at this time of year and I felt pretty prepared for it.

I maintained for the second mile and was slightly faster in the third mile. Maintaining pace felt pretty good and I was psyched I could do it without music. Of course, no music meant constant running commentary in my head. Everything from hearing other runners talking on the course, to noticing the similarity of the footsteps falling on the pavement and breathing patterns. It was pretty rhythmical!

I contemplated the pros and cons of the Santa suits. It was really fun being surrounded by Santas. The beard, not so fun, I wound up turning mine backwards as I was eating it ;). The jackets were ok, but as you can see, they didn’t stay closed very well.

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I finished with a time of 32:20 which far surpassed last year’s 37:37. We had a blast, everyone in our group finished strong and was happy with our times :)

Have you done a Santa run or walk? Do you exercise outside as the weather changes?

Using video and photos for assistance

I have been wanting to do a headstand in yoga for quite some time! There are many pins on my Pinterest boards showing the progression, I asked my yoga teachers to help me after class and I watched others do it.

Everyone said, just use a wall. I had two major issues with working on headstand. One being fear. I had tried in the past and for the most part it was fine. I even got all the way up with people helping get my feet overhead. Then I tried with a little too much momentum and took a pretty good fall. That did it for a while. I was all set!

My other issue was I couldn’t find the right feeling. I knew I had to get my hips over my shoulders, but I couldn’t feel how close or how far they were from being in the right place.

I decided to not let my fear hold me back. There’s also a slight chance an instructor told me I would need upper body and core strength. Nothing like a challenge to help me get over my fear ;)

A co-worker and I had talked about yoga and fitness photos on Instagram. She told me that she props her phone up, takes a video and then uses a screenshot from the video. I’ve read about other people doing the same thing.

I was early to class and had the space to myself. I decided why not? I got out a yoga block to prop up my phone and gave it a go. While watching the video. I could clearly see where my hips were and how much further I needed to lift them.

I re-set my phone and was able to go right up into headstand. Now, I’ve done it several times. I needed an aha moment and my video provided it. Unfortunately, I deleted the first video while still at the gym (bad blogger) and only have the final one.

I did save the “best” screen shot.  While I did get both feet off the ground, my hips are a little forward for being the top of the headstand.Working toward headstand

Here is the second video from that day…Headstand

I have also enjoyed seeing my yoga photos. In general, I don’t like yoga with mirrors and I think it should be about the feel and not the aesthetic. That being said, I’ve been able to correct little things in my planks, and warriors. I find it helpful to see the picture and correct my form.

Do you like video, pictures or mirrors to help with your form? Do you find going upside down scary?