Exercise = Therapy

If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout the years, it is that exercise is, hands-down, the best therapy. The worst days? Yup, they usually lead to the best workouts. I proved it to myself once again last night.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me – if there is one thing that I’ve learned about myself throughout the years, it’s that usually twice a year, I find myself in a funk that I just can’t shake. It usually lasts a couple of weeks, and once I finally allow myself that moment of weakness (or perhaps it’s strength in owning how I feel?), cry my eyes out, and move past the crippling fear that accompanies the (thankfully rare) panic attack, I know the upswing has to be right around the corner.  I may not be a particularly religious person, but I do believe that God only tests us with challenges we can overcome.

But enough about my wallowing in self-pity, back to last night … I spent most of the day literally sick with the tears and the panic attack and the overflow of emotions that I’ve allowed to fester for the past few weeks. Luckily, I had a Piloxing class last night. Meaning sweat. Meaning punches. Meaning those endorphins were going to help me get back on track. I told the class right off the bat – I had mascara running down my face at 9:30 that morning, and I needed their energy. I needed their excitement. I needed them to turn a bad day good. They delivered.

It took less than 15 minutes for me to feel like me again. Granted, I’ll be the first to admit that the gym is my happy place. It’s the one place I can go to restore my confidence and to truly feel like the best version of myself. If those endorphins coursing through my body won’t cheer me up, nothing will. That’s the beauty of exercise … the fact that it doubles as therapy. Regardless of how terrible of a day I may have, or in how bad of a mood I may be, there is nothing more effective than exercise to bring me back to reality. I still think of my first 8-miler as the perfect example – I was a senior in college. I had a particularly horrendous random roommate (in addition to my completely awesome, very close friends and sorority sisters, Kim and Harriet), who once again did something that grated my absolute last nerve. Instead of actually punching her in the face, I visualized it as I ran. Then my thoughts started to wander to a nicer place. And ran until I felt better. And holy crap, I ran an additional three miles farther than I ever had before. THREE MILES! If that doesn’t say something for losing yourself in the serenity of a run, I don’t know what does.

I’ve said it a million times, and it never fails to disappoint me – my workouts are my savior. My mother has joked that if I didn’t work out, I would have had a heart attack or a nervous breakdown by now. Honestly, I believe it. Because sometimes it takes those lunges, or stairs, or punches, or quite literally that extra mile, to bring the inner peace I so often struggle to accept in my life. It’s a moment (okay, sometimes an hour or two) that I know I can set a goal and achieve it. That I can ignore the struggles or irritations taking my head to a dark place. That I can push myself to be my best me.

Advertisements

How to Wash Your Exercise Gear

I came across this great article from Runner’s World on How to Wash Your Running Gear | Fitbie.

The truth is, quality workout clothes that are built to last can get expensive! Luckily, to get the most out of your investments (as that’s truly what quality gym clothes are), all it takes is a little TLC – and knowing how to properly care for your clothing to maximize their mileage is the first step.

And yes, I may be a little embarassed to admit this … but I take better care of my gym clothes than I do my (equally expensive) work clothes. Strangely enough … about 10 days worth of Nike, Adidas, Lucy and various other athletic clothing is actually hanging on the drying rack right next to me as I type.

Spinning Playlist – May 27, 2012

Happy Sunday! Fresh off of today’s class – it’s a kind of long one (I always feel bad for poor Marvin, who teaches after me … I have such a hard time keeping any of my classes, regardless of format, under an hour).

Warm-up (Flat Road; Resistance 3-4)

Times Like These – Foo Fighters

Building Block #1 (Start Resistance 5, Build to 8.5-9)

Club Can’t Handle Me – Flo Rida

Only Girl (in the World) – Rihanna

Come to Me – P. Diddy ft. Nicole Scherzinger

Funhouse – Pink

Building Block #2 (Start Resistance 5, Build to 9)

Touch Me – Smash Cast ft. Katherine McPhee

Part of Me – Katy Perry

Titanium – David Guetta ft. Sia

Poker Face – Lady Gaga

Don’t Cha – Pussycat Dolls ft. Busta Rhymes

Building Block #3 (Start Resistance 4-5, Build to 8; Back to 7 for Sting)

Everybody Talks – Neon Trees

Feel So Close – Calvin Harris

Wild Ones – Flo Rid aft. Sia

Misery – Maroon 5

Desert Rose – Sting

Cooldown

Eyes Open – Taylor Swift (The Hunger Games Soundtrack)

Just a Kiss – Lady Antebellum

 

For those of you in the U.S. … have a safe and happy Memorial Day. Make sure you take a moment during your parties and picnics this weekend to remember why we celebrate this Monday – to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in order for us to maintain our freedoms.

That said … I’m off to claim a chair at the pool. Have a great week!

Want to Improve Your Golf Game? Try Pilates!

In honor of today’s 6th Annual Chenega Invitational Golf Tournament benefitting Azalea Charities Aid for Wounded Warriors (the yearly fundraiser for my full time job), I wanted to dedicate a post to the benefits of Pilates for golfers.

Pilates can be beneficial to golfers in a number of ways. Both are mind-body activities reliant upon core strength, with basic principles that cross over to one another; while golf focuses on fluid motion, precision, accuracy and power, Pilates is based in control, concentration, centering, flow of motion, and breath control.

Though golf is seen as leisurely, serene sport, it does carry risks – nearly 60% of amateur golfers experience golf-related injuries (most commonly in the low back, shoulders, wrists and elbows) throughout their lifetimes, and nearly half of all professional golfers are eventually forced to retire as a result of injuries sustained on the course.

Why such a high number of injuries? A large percentage are the result of overuse, but there are a number of underlying faults in an individual’s golf swing that can lead to injury. Many golfers suffer from a lack of flexibility, poor rotation, hip or shoulder girdle instability, or weaknesses in the hips, legs, wrist, forearms, or core muscles. The good news? Pilates can address – and correct – each of these issues.

Here are a few Pilates exercises that can help correct some physical instabilities or weaknesses that may be hindering your golf game:

Rollup: Start lying flat on the floor, belly button tucked tight into your spine, with arms extended long behind the head. As you inhale, reach the hands toward the sky, and as you exhale, slowly lift the upper body and reach toward the toes, keeping the abs scooped (as if you are reaching over a ball and past the toes). Inhale, lifting the hands back to the sky, and exhale, lowering the body back to the starting position as slowly as possible. Make sure to keep the shoulder blades pressed down and back, and the legs firmly on the floor (they will shift back and forth slightly; you just want to make sure they don’t come off of the floor – if they do, you are using your legs to lift you, versus your abs). If you find yourself struggling to keep the legs down, you don’t have to roll all the way up – as long as the abs are engaged, you are still getting the benefits, even if the upper body is only coming two inches off of the floor.

Saw: Start seated, legs extended straight in front of you, about hip-width apart (toes can be flexed or pointed). Imagine a string is attached to the top of your head, pulling you to the ceiling, so your vertebra are stacked one on top of each other, shoulders pushed down and back, with arms extended to your sides, parallel with the floor. As you exhale, twist the torso in one direction, reaching the opposite arm past your baby toe. Inhale, twisting the body back to center, and reach forward and past the opposite toes. Be sure to maintain a strong core throughout the entire exercise, keeping the abs tucked tight in toward your spine. (Want a little tricep work along with it? I like to torture my classes by adding 2.5 lb. weights – the motion remains the same, but on the reach forward, the back arm rotates so the palm is facing the sky. 2.5 lbs. gets pretty heavy pretty quickly.)

Single Straight Leg Stretch: Lie on the ground, head and shoulders up, one straight leg a few inches off of the floor, the other leg extended toward the sky, with hands reaching behind the leg. Imagining there are markers on your toes, switch the legs, drawing straight lines up and down in front of you. The low back should maintain contact with the ground at all times – if you feel it pulling up, you can simply raise the bottom leg higher to the sky to bring the back flat.

Side-lying Leg Circles: Lie on one side, legs extended at a slight forward angle to the upper body. Upper body can be supported by the bicep, the upper arm (with the head resting in the hand) or propped up on the forearm.  Life one leg approximately six inches, and keeping the hips stable and stacked, draw small circles with the toes in one direction. Once you have completed 6-10, reverse the direction of your circles.

Still looking for a reason to add Pilates to your golf conditioning routine? Pilates can help to restore muscle balance, lengthen tight muscles, strengthen weak muscles, enhance balance and stability and increase strength and power. All of which translate to a more fluid, controlled swing … and ultimately, a better golf game. So get to the studio … and see you on the links!

The 8 Most Annoying People at the Gym

Yup, we’ve all come across them … The 8 Most Annoying People at the Gym – Fitness Center – Everyday Health. To my list of “most annoying people at the gym,” I’ll add the escalator stander. That’s a minute of my life I’m not getting back. It’s a gym, people, it won’t kill you to keep moving!

Which of these “most annoying” people do you find the most annoying at your gym?

Spinning Class: Ever Fake It During a Group Fitness Class?

Just came across this post from Women’s Health: Spinning Class: Ever Fake It During a Group Fitness Class? | Women’s Health Fitness Blog: Get killer workouts, learn about new fitness trends, and snag awesome gear. I wish I had a … Continue reading

How Can We Combat Obesity? Healthy Habits Start in Childhood.

When I was a kid, we went outside to play. Today’s children are so often parked in front of the television or computer, rather than out, moving around – having fun and getting fit. I don’t remember eating a lot of fast food as a child. It was more of an occasional “treat,” not something we had all the time. And it’s not that we were less busy – I remember many a night eating dinner (homecooked, not fast food) in the car on the way from one after school activity to another.

On the flipside, there are plenty of organized sports available to children – more than I ever remember there being when I was a kid. But much like there are kids who would rather sit at home and do nothing, there are the kids who are madly in love with a sport. Though an active child is usually a healthy child, there are a few downsides, as well. It can be time consuming, extremely expensive, and even dangerous if a child becomes too involved too soon (here’s a hint: there’s a reason most gyms don’t allow kids under 13 in the weight room).

It can be a kind of fine line. Let your child find their passion – but make sure to put down some ground rules. Do they eat, sleep and breathe soccer? Encourage their athleticism, but make sure that the love comes from their heart – not your desire to be the parent of a future Olympian. The rules are the same for children as they are for adults – everyone needs a break from time to time to avoid burnout and overuse injury. Would they rather sit at home and read? Make a family fitness time – take a walk with the dog, ride bikes, play catch in the backyard. Staying active helps you as much as it does your kids!

From a nutrition standpoint, I am reminded of the comment my mother always made in response to those daytime talk show stories about 130 lb. 5 year olds: “You are the parent!” Just because they like macaroni and cheese doesn’t mean they should have it every day. Encourage a balanced diet full of nutritious foods, as well as the occasional treat. And practice what you preach! If you are open to new food experiences, and maintain a (mostly) healthy diet, your children will most likely be open minded, too, and follow suit.

Active kids grow up to be healthy adults – and healthy kids are happy kids (with happy moms and dads). So get out there and get active together as a family! The sooner children are exposed to healthy eating and fitness habits, the more likely they are to grow up to be healthy, active adults … and hopefully, as more people become focused on healthy living, we can start turning those scary obesity statistics around.

Foreshadowing of my future passion. That’s right, mom and I used to rock some Jane Fonda back in 1984. Check out those guns…

Spinning Playlist – May 20, 2012

Several new songs today, including Neon Trees and Rihanna’s latest, as well as another never before heard (well, in my class at least) beauty from David Guetta, paired up with the phenomenal Jessie J.

So here it is, straight off the saddle from this morning’s class …

 

Warm-up (Resistance 3-4; Flat Road)

Repeat – David Guetta ft. Jessie J

 

Building Block #1 (Start Resistance 5, Build to Resistance 8.5-9)

Mr. Brightside – The Killers

Good Feeling – Flo Rida

Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson

Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

Whatya Want From Me – Adam Lambert

 

Building Block #2 (Start Resistance 4, Build to Resistance 8-9)

Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5

Everybody Talks – Neon Trees

Feel So Close – Calvin Harris

Domino – Jessie J

My Hero – Foo Fighters

 

Building Block #3 (Start Resistance 5, Build to Resistance 9)

Drive By – Train

Where Have You Been – Rihanna

In My Head – Jason Derulo

Criminal – Fiona Apple

 

Cooldown

To Make You Feel My Love – Josh Kelley

Not Over You – Gavin DeGraw

 

Have a great week!