What I’ve Been Up To in January

As some of you may have noticed, I took the month of January off.  I didn’t necessarily intend for a one week break to turn into four, but it happened.

And, as it turns out, I’m okay with that.  I don’t feel compelled to apologize (something that I do too often as it is), because it was necessary, though I will explain why I needed that time.

The fact is that I needed a little re-boot.  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, somewhat uninspired, and totally worn out.  Taking a few weeks for some hibernation was important. None of this is to say that I haven’t missed it around here.  Or that I haven’t missed you all, because I have.  So, hello again!

Trees at Rhododendron

I may not have been blogging, but I have been doing things over the last month.  The running hasn’t stopped, of course.  I’ve been at it consistently and with a relaxed outlook – enjoying the time off between training cycles.  I’ve also selected my primary running goals for 2014.  They are:

  • complete two marathons (Newport, OR in May and Portland, OR in October),
  • run at least one of those marathons at a sub 4-hour pace (though I’m really shooting to run both under 4 hours, and I do think that it’s totally possible),
  • PR at the 10k distance, and
  • run at least 1700 miles during the year.

All of this seems pretty darn exciting to me!

I’ve also been filling my brain with lots and lots of information and stories.  I’ve been reading voraciously – 10 books in the month of January!  I’ve learned and escaped and laughed and fantasized with these books in the last four weeks and it’s been wonderful.

Trees from below Rhododendron

I’ve been cooking some delicious food.  Banh mi inspired noodles.  Delicious soups from this bookCauliflower parmesan.  You get the idea.

And finally, I’ve been thinking about what I really want this year to be about.  In a few short words, my primary goals for 2014 are about living deliberately and with intention.  In the words of my fantasy BFF Bob Harper, I need to remember in any given moment that all I’m doing is exactly what I’m doing.  Be present and concentrate on what’s at hand, making choices and plans with intention, rather than constantly battling stress and anxiety about the future.

I hope that this approach will be reflected in my posts this year.  I aim to write and share very intentionally and with deliberate thought towards what’s worth writing, sharing, and reading.  I hope you’ll join me!

One Runner’s Perspective on Yoga (With Pose and Video Recommendations)

I’ve vacillated over the years as to whether or not I enjoy yoga.  At times I have found it engaging and calming, at other times I have gotten easily bored and found myself impatient to get through a session.  But after years of toying with various kinds and commitments to yoga, I think I have finally discovered my happy-yoga zone.

Now, while I enjoy variety in my fitness – I strength train, I get excited about plyometrics, high intensity interval training is a good time, and so on – I am first and foremost a runner.  At this point in my life, I am confident in that last bit, which means that all of my other fitness endeavors need to work in support of and fit in around my running.

This is how I’ve found the right fit for yoga in my life.

photo credit: BrittneyBush via photopin cc

photo credit: BrittneyBush via photopin cc

Once I discovered a yoga practice that makes me a better runner, I was hooked.  Engaging in yoga sessions that stretch and strengthen the muscles I need to run feels healthy, relaxing, challenging, and worthwhile all at the same time. And, because I know I’m never going to be a super-yogi, but I am already an endurance athlete, I can connect this practice to part of a larger picture which keeps me present and motivated in my practice.

So, what’s important for me in a yoga practice, then?  Here is a run-down:

  1. It is just one component of a larger fitness calendar.  I don’t want to do yoga everyday.  I just don’t.  I generally have one yoga day a week and it is enough to stay on top of my abilities without taking up more time than I am able and willing to give it.
  2. Yoga that really focuses on strength, power, and movement keeps me much more engaged than slower, gentler forms of the activity.
  3. I am always more engaged when I am challenged.  Give me balancing poses (I love warrior three), along with various levels of progression that I can work towards, and I am a happy woman.
  4. Sessions that target muscle groups I use for running are what I’m really in to.  Building flexibility and strength in my hips and ankles, for instance, is really important to me so bring on the moves like pigeon, warrior two, and crescent.  I connect with purpose in these poses and feel their immediate, as well as long term, benefits.

While I do selected yoga poses and stretches sporadically throughout the week as I feel I need them, I have two at-home videos that I have really come to enjoy.  I generally do one of these on my rest day from running and higher intensity training.  They are:

  1. Bob Harper’s Yoga for the Warrior yoga for the warrior

I’ve written of my love for Bob Harper before.  And, I do love him.  People who think that at home videos can’t give you the kind of workout you get in a gym, clearly have not tried Bob’s Total Body Transformation,  Ultimate Cardio Body or Pure Burn Super Strength, among others.  Since discovering Yoga for the Warrior, I have been silently hoping Bob will release another yoga DVD because this one is so good.  It’s definitely yoga for people who want to focus on strength; it offers a variety of poses and movements, and still manages to bring the peace and calm that is synonymous with yoga.  I can’t recommend this one highly enough.  Really.

  1. Kimberly Fowler’s Yoga for Athletes

This one isn’t perfect, but it is very good.  The major thing that I find faulty with this video is the instructor’s vocal inflections and repetitive use of phrases like ‘If you can . . . “, but that’s just my personal issue.  When it comes to the actual practice, this routine really does deliver poses that target areas of the body known for giving athletes trouble.  Fowler will really help open up your hips, strengthen and tone your body, and dramatically increase range of motion.  It’s a good, solid practice.

yfa_dvd_largeI can attest that incorporating these yoga videos and other poses/movements into my weekly routine has helped me work through pesky niggles picked up during running, kept me sane on rest days when I wanted to do anything but rest, and increased my overall levels of strength, balance, and agility – all things I’ve been thankful for.

I Think I May Be Trauma Bonded with Bob Harper (and Other Tales of How I Came to Love Fitness DVDs)

Fitness DVDs have a bit of a not-so-positive reputation, I think.  I’ve tried them at various times in my life.  And, knowing little about fitness at the time, I suspect that I didn’t make the wisest choices.

My first memories of fitness DVDs are of the legendary Jane Fonda.  Anyone else remember those gems?  Jane with her legwarmers, maybe a headband, and always leg raises!  I was very young at the time, but I can remember my mom had the VHS tapes.  I would watch her do them and sometimes join in – clumsily flopping around, not even 10 years old and believing that I needed to look like Jane to be an acceptable girl (oh, the horrible messages sent to us girls – but that’s another post rant for another day).

Other memorable fitness DVD experiences involved me all through my adolescence and teen years, still clumsily flopping around, with Cher (yes, that’s right, Cher) and Cindy Crawford.  As I matured a bit, Rodney Yee introduced me to yoga in the comfort of my living room.  I would try these videos for short periods of time and quickly become bored and annoyed.  They were generally cheesy, didn’t motivate me, and got boring – fast.  I wrote off fitness DVDs as a sham – just another part of the consumer-driven system, obsessed with making money by convincing me that I needed to look like a supermodel who wasn’t even likely to be a fitness expert, but would pretend to be one on my television for $19.95.

Enter me as a 30-year old woman, coming to a realization that I didn’t need or want to buy into the crap about needing to look like Cindy Crawford, but I did need and want to be healthy, fit, and active.  I didn’t know much about where to start, so I began with the dark, tiny, somewhat claustrophobic fitness center in my apartment complex.  But walking on a treadmill and schlepping along on the elliptical machine weren’t going to cut in on their own.  I needed to be inspired!  I needed variety!  I needed strength training!  I needed to not spend 5 exercise sessions a week in that depressing fitness center.

I decided to give a fitness video a try.  Only, now they weren’t videos – they were DVDs.  This is how long it had been.  Oh my.

Where to start???  I desperately wanted to get something that would motivate me, wouldn’t be a cheese-fest, and would actually provide variety and good instruction.  There were A LOT of Jillian Michaels DVDs on the store shelves.  I honestly didn’t know a thing about her, really – I’ve never watched The Biggest Loser.  Wasn’t she that woman who yelled at people until they ran a lot?  I like to run.  And, I don’t entirely mind being yelled at as long as it’s sort of in a nice, supportive kind of way.  What the hell?

Jillian came home with me that day and changed my views of fitness DVDs forever.  I have since purchased and used several of her DVDs and have really loved them.  Some are better than others, I think, but on the whole, she provides knowledgeable advice, easy to follow instructions for good form, seems at ease in front of the camera (which really helps get rid of the cheese-factor), and provides videos that include variety and maintain my interest.  I will forever be thankful for Jillian’s videos, as they were sort of a gateway into really realizing what I could do with my body and pushing myself to try new things.

I will also be forever thankful to Jillian for introducing me to Bob.

Photo: MyTrainerBob.com (click through for link)

Bob.

If you don’t know Bob, you’ll have to take my word for it that he’s pretty awesome.

I didn’t know about Bob until I listened to Jillian talk about him on one of her podcasts.  I had come very far with my fitness and was ready to try some new challenges with strength training and my non-running cardio.  So I ordered a Bob Harper video and my little fitness world changed forever.

I had become pretty fit by the time Bob came in to my life, but the first time I popped in that DVD, I realized how far I still had to go.  Bob’s workout left me sore, sweaty, short of breath – and exhilarated.  I love challenging my fitness and I had found the guy to push me to do so.  Bob’s workouts were (are) tough and I can proudly say that not only do I complete them regularly, but I am seeing myself be able to do them better, harder, and faster as I progress.

I love Bob.  I REALLY do.

I love the way he gets my heart up and my feet moving and then just when I think I’m going to drop, he switches it up.  And then does it all over again.  I feel strong when I do his workouts.  I feel capable.

And, I think I might be ever so slightly trauma bonded to him.  Going through the intensity of the workouts with Bob, knowing that when it’s over I will be reassured by him that I did a great job, that I AM indeed strong and capable can do that to you (or at least to me), I guess.

Putting my fitness-fan-girl crush aside, these really are fantastic workouts.  There are a couple of things that really set them apart from other DVDs I’ve tried.

First, the people working out with him are real people – not just models smiling at the cameras.  They sweat, they groan, and their muscles shake.  They are not rail thin, rather they are toned and lean.  It’s refreshing to see real, fit people working hard along with you.

Second, Bob himself is a natural in front of the camera.  He seems genuine and relaxed, but still brings intensity to the workout.  He’s tough and sometimes I curse at him, but I always also kind of want to give him a hug or a high-five when its all over.

Third, these workouts are interesting.  Many of the moves are tried and true exercises that I’ve seen plenty of places, but the way in which he puts them together into a complete routine feels fresh.

Bob has been welcomed into my regular fitness routine, alternating days with running to form my regular schedule.  I am happy to say, too, that he and Jillian have totally changed my views on fitness videos/DVDs.  There’s still plenty of cheese out there (I’ve seen it), but there are also quality, challenging, modern DVDs that are worth the time and money and come without the many hassles and costs of a gym membership.

If you don’t believe me – check them out for yourself.  Links are below and if you want to give them a test-run, I recommend checking out your local library to see if they carry any copies.  I have found my library to be a great resource for this.

If you do check them out, please say ‘hi’ to Bob for me! He and I had a great time this morning!

Links:

Bob Harper:  http://www.mytrainerbob.com/

Jillian Michaels:  http://www.jillianmichaels.com/