One Lovely Blog Award!

Throughout the last several months, I have really enjoyed sharing my thoughts, suggestions, and random stories through Strong-Fit-Beautiful. It’s been an exciting couple weeks here, too – we hit the 200 post mark … and also the 200 followers mark. Now, I have one more item to add to the list of accomplishments: the One Lovely Blog Award! Thanks so much to littlemisswordy.wordpress.com for recognizing my little blog that could!

In accepting this, shall I say, Lovely(?) award, I’ve been tasked with sharing with you seven things you may not know about me:

  1. I hated high school gym class. With. A. Passion. Friends from high school actually laugh when they find out I’m not a fitness instructor.
  2. I have an irrational fear of snow. I refuse to drive in it if I can help it. The same holds true for bad rain. So yeah, with Hurricane Sandy/Frankenstorm hitting the DC area right now, I’ve been holed up in my apartment, watching the news for the last 8 hours (thank goodness I could work from home today!)
  3. That said, summer is my favorite season. I plan my weekends around the time the pool opens (not kidding … the lifeguard this summer actually told me I was “late” one day, because the pool had been open for an hour by the time I showed up). My family thinks there’s something wrong with me.
  4. I’m a trained singer. I studied voice from 8th grade through my junior year of college. And I still use the training … kinda. It comes out when I’m singing to my Spinning classes or talking about the importance of breath control in any of my classes.
  5. I don’t like honey. I don’t like mustard. But I LOVE honey mustard. Figure that one out.
  6. I’ve moved to a new city sight-unseen … twice. I ended up spending almost two years in Nashville, and I’ll hit year #3 in the DC area in three weeks. The former I didn’t love, but coming to DC was a GREAT decision.
  7. Speaking of great decisions … attending Clemson was the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire life. I can’t say enough good things about the environment, the people, the education, the experience … if there is such thing as love at first sight, I experienced it when I visited Clemson. And my life has been better because of it.

If you enjoy Strong-Fit-Beautiful, you may also want to check out some of the blogs that I check out regularly (in addition to littlemisswordy, obviously):

livefortherun.com

uberbeastmode.wordpress.com

sheslosingitdotnet.wordpress.com

ichoosetolivestronger.com

stevieannnance.com

msskilzo.wordpress.com

Those are just a couple I’ve been frequenting – some recently, and some I’ve been reading regularly for a while. Any other suggestions for great blogs I should check out?

 

I Crashed the Marine Corps Marathon.

I crashed the Marine Corps Marathon this morning.

Okay, I’ll admit … that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Or perhaps a huge exaggeration.

The Marine Corps Marathon ran through D.C. and Northern Virginia today. I was well aware of the event, but I was surprised to learn – a little later than I would have liked to – that the Marathon route had changed this year. Apparently miles 22 and 23 run right past my apartment building.

I’m not quite sure why, but Northern Virginia has a thing for these little side streets that run parallel to the main road. They’re all over the place. One of them (unfortunately, a one way) runs right in front of my building. The only time I’ve ever seen it closed off was for the Air Force Cycling Classic, which takes place over the summer, and has at least as long as I’ve lived in the area. Apparently, they decided to change the route for the Marine Corps Marathon this year … and my apartment failed to inform us that the street would be closed.

This is when the problem came in – I was in the car, headed out to teach my two Sunday morning classes, when I saw the flashing lights and uniforms in front of the building. Lucky for me, it was only about 8:45 a.m., so clearly, nobody had made it 22 miles into the race yet. I was able to work my magic, and charm the Marine and police officer into letting me out of the parking lot. When was the road to open again, I asked on my way out? Not until at least 4. Ugh. Great. I’d be home from class around noon. But at least the area has a lot of parking, so if I had to walk a couple blocks back home, it really isn’t that big of a deal.

On my way home, I actually got pretty lucky, scoring a parking spot only about a block and a half away from my apartment. As I started walking around the corner is when it got kind of interesting … the Marathon had arrived in Arlington, no question about that. The street that had been empty, with the exception of the flashing lights and officers, was now PACKED with weary-looking runners.

So, I stood and watched for a couple minutes (mostly because I was trying to figure out how I was to make my way across the sea of runners to the entrance of my building without going another block or two out of my way). I felt a little inconvenienced by the situation, but I was also kind of inspired. Hearing the cheers, seeing the runners pushing themselves through the last few miles … I made me really recognize that the human body is an amazing thing. Even more so, age is not a factor – there were runners young and old, some looking like they could keep going for weeks, and some looking like they will be going home to sleep for a month – but they were all after the same accomplishment. They were strong. They were determined. They were going to make it.

But back to how I crashed the Marine Corps Marathon … eventually I found enough of a break in the flow (we’re talking 15 seconds) that I could run across the street without getting in the way of the runners. So across the street I bolted. Can I count this as my first marathon experience?

Don’t Let Happy Hour Destroy Your Diet and Fitness Efforts!

It’s Friday! What will you be doing to celebrate the start of the weekend? If Happy Hour, tailgates, Halloween parties or drinks with friends are on your agenda, don’t let it ruin the hard work you’ve put in at the gym or the good diet you’ve kept up throughout the week (fact: a perfect week of exercise and eating can be undone by a couple of not so perfect food and drink decisions on the weekend).

To put things into perspective:

So, what cocktail should you choose instead? Men’s Health/Eat This, Not That makes these recommendations:

Enjoy these options without the guilt (just keep yourself to one – two max):
Mojito: 160 calories, 15 g sugars
Bloody Mary: 150 calories, 10 g sugars
Cosmopolitan: 150 calories, 12 g sugars

If you’re a beer drinker, you can save yourself even more calories – as long as you make the right pick. These come in at under 100 calories per bottle:
Budweiser Select: 99 calories, 3 g carbohydrates
Yuengling Lager Light: 99 calories, 9 g carbohydrates
Miller Lite: 96 calories, 3 g carbohydrates
Amstel Light: 95 calories, 6 g carbohydrates
Michelob Ultra: 95 calories, 3 g carbohydrates
Beck’s Premier Light: 64 calories, 4 g carbohydrates
MGD 64: 64 calories, 2 g carbohydrates

As with anything else, it’s all about moderation. One or two drinks won’t kill your efforts, as long as you’re making smart decisions. Have a great weekend!

Spinning Playlist – October 25, 2012

Happy Thursday! It’s hard to believe that this is our last class of October already … what are you going to be for Halloween? (Here’s a picture of my costume … I was appropriately dressed as a gold medal winning Olympic sprinter for a Halloween party last weekend …)

Let’s pay it forward before the house full of candy starts calling our names, shall we?Here’s tonight’s playlist, straight off the bike:

Warm-up (Flat Road; Resistance 3-4 on a Scale of 10)
I Cry – Flo Rida

Building Block #1 (Start Resistance 5, Build to 8-8.5)
Animal – Neon Trees
We Found Love – Rihanna
Misery – Maroon 5
Buttons – Pussycat Dolls

Building Block #2 (Start Resistance 5, Build to 9)
This Aint a Scene, It’s An Arms Race – Fallout Boy
Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself) – Ne-Yo
So What – Pink
Stronger – Kanye West

Building Block #3 (Start Resistance 4-5, Build to 8+)
Turn Me On – David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj
Ocean Avenue – Yellowcard
If We Ever Meet Again – Timbaland ft. Katy Perry
Come to Me – Diddy ft. Nicole Scherzinger
Rosa Parks – Outkast

Cooldown
You Make It Real – James Morrison
I Never Told You – Colbie Caillat

Now it’s time to run home to watch my Clemson Tigers take on Wake Forest in a rare Thursday night game (7:30 p.m. EST – it’s on ESPN if you’re interested) … let’s keep the momentum going strong and make this our 7th win, boys! Enjoy the rest of your night and have a great weekend!

 

Shoelace Trick for Secure Ankles

Do you  have trule finding running shoes that fit snugly on your ankles? Check out this video for a quick little shoelace trick that can help keep your shoes a little more secure and comfortable. I’ve been tying my shoes this way for years – and a a person with thinner ankles and even more narrow heels, it’s been extremely helpful in avoiding blisters (which I’ve always been extremely prone to). Try it out – it could help you to more comfortable runs – and maybe even fewer injuries.

Find it here: http://www.runnersworld.com/video/0,8052,s6-1-0-5,00.html?bcpid=780919303001&bckey=AQ~~,AAAAABjSC4E~,YBF36HfcFnZG3Km2fMmu_93aEc_Lzuro&bclid=1497991495&bctid=1332234594

Mondays Suck … But Tonight’s Run Definitely Didn’t.

Nobody likes Mondays. It means the weekend is over. We have to get up early and go back to work (or school). So how have I managed to make them a little less painful?

I’ve tried to make Mondays one of my running days. Because of my teaching schedule, I only have time to run two – three if I’m lucky – times during the week, and I like to make the most of them. Tonight, I have to say, was a great one. The fastest, best feeling run I’ve had in a really long time.

Let me be clear about one thing: I was not born a runner. I’m very honest about the fact that I was that girl in high school who thought running a mile in gym class would kill me (and I didn’t like that sweat would mess up my hair. How times have changed …). Even when I started running in college on my own will, it was not an easy thing. Did I enjoy it? Eventually. And even once I started to get comfortable with three, four, five miles, I was never very fast. I’m pretty sure that for the first year I was running, I averaged somewhere around a 12 minute mile.

Which leads me back to today’s run. Like I said, I have worked hard to take those seconds, and eventually minutes, off of my miles. I had a feeling it was going to be a good run today when the first three miles went by pretty quickly, my heart rate wasn’t getting uncomfortably high and my breathing heavy to the point where it was uncontrolled. I was kind of in the zone for most of it. Like with anything else in my life, I tend to get bored quickly, so I’m constantly playing with the speed on the treadmill. When I finished three miles around the 26:30 mark, I knew I was doing okay. When I hit five at about 44:15, I was pretty confident seven miles was on the agenda. It was. And it was done in about 61:30. Which meant I was averaging around an 8:45 mile for all seven miles.

As I mentioned before, I am definitely not a born runner – but I have made myself into one. It’s taken time, and it’s taking determination to push myself, and it’s taken a lot of the “when I get to X or Y, whatever’s last” game, to get me to where I am today. It’s taken rebuilding gradually after injuries (more than I’d like to admit to myself). But I’ve cut minutes off of my mile times. I’ve gone miles further than I would have ever imagined I could have 10 or 15 years ago. And I have grown to love running.

Bottom line? If I can be a runner, so can you. You just have to believe, and push, and tell yourself you can do it. Before long, you could be looking forward to Mondays – if for no other reason than a great run – to look forward to.

Your Momentum Doesn’t Impress Me. Your Good Form Will.

Every once in a while, my many hours at the gym lead me to see something that eventually leads to the perfect blog post topic. Today was one of those days.

My current teaching schedule makes it somewhat challenging to get in weight workouts as often as I’d like throughout the week, so I decided to stick around for a bit after my classes this morning to fit in a little back and chest. As I was transitioning from one exercise to the next, I happened to catch a man out of the corner of my eye … which leads to my topic for today.

No, it’s not what to wear to attract a mate in the gym (trust me, I am NOT the best source for that … although I do make an effort to appear pretty put together despite the sweat). It’s not how to put your weights back where they belong (although also super-important), or remembering to wipe down your machines (ditto).

No, I want to talk (write?) about form. Namely, proper form, in which your muscle, not your momentum, helps you to power through an exercise.

I happened to catch a man out of the corner of my eye as I was transitioning from one exercise to the next, and it took every ounce of me to not walk over to him and ask if he had any clue what he was doing. He was sitting on a bench, literally SWINGING 30-lb. weights, in what I think was intended to be bicep curls. I’m quite confident every muscle from his waist up was helping him to lift the weights. They were clearly too heavy for him, but he just kept swinging along.

That said, I will admit to being a stickler for form. I’m one of those people who tends to stare intently at myself in the mirror when I’m doing … well … just about any exercise. And it’s not because I like to look at myself (though I am one who can’t walk past a mirror without a quick check) – it’s because I like to keep tabs on the alignment of my body as I go through a workout, because it’s so incredibly easy to not even realize when your body slips out of place.

I get that this is the age of crossfit, in which form is sometimes not considered the most important element. I get that not every lift will look perfect, and that sometimes there will be a little compensation from other muscles to make up for a weakness. What I don’t understand is the rationale behind flying through an exercise, literally throwing a weight, majority of the body in motion. This does not help you achieve anything. Except perhaps a trip to the chiropractor.

So, what makes for good form? First off, it starts with the core. I think absolutely everyone should do Pilates – and it’s not because I’m a Pilates instructor, but rather because Pilates is the most comprehensive program that has consistently shown to improve core strength. A strong core means increased stability throughout the entire body.

Here’s a little exercise to get you started: stand tall, with your legs about shoulder width apart. Imagine you are corseted – pull your bellybutton in tight, as if you are trying to get it to touch your spine. At the same time, think about tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets – if you’re doing it correctly, you should feel a little taller, with a relaxed upper body, the chest strong and almost pushed forward. Feel pretty stable? You should. Make a conscious effort to keep yourself aligned this way as you lift (or run, or cycle).

Once the core is engaged, take a moment to become aware of the rest of your body. I like to refer to it as using your “muscle vs. momentum.” In theory (though not always practice), you want to be able to stop the motion at almost any point. If you can’t, that means you’re using your momentum instead of your muscles – and getting a lot less out of an exercise than you could be.

Bottom line: don’t waste your time! If you have to use momentum, or recruit extra muscles to get through an exercise, lessen your weight, or try a modified version of an exercise. It will keep you safer from injury, and most likely you’ll start to see results more quickly, too. Not to mention, you look a lot less ridiculous when you take the time to do the work the right way!

College Football and Healthy(??) Tailgate Eating

I love college football. Okay, I’ll admit … that is a bit of an understatement. Saturdays from September through December are pretty shot for me, because my days are typically dedicated to sitting in front of the television watching college football (Fact: I purposely scheduled a hair appointment last weekend – a good two weeks later than my dark roots would have liked – strictly because it was Clemson’s off weekend). I plan my workouts so that I can watch the beginning of College Game Day on the treadmill, get home from the gym in time for the week’s picks, and get a quick shower in before I settle in front of a few games for the day.

That said, I’m a die-hard Clemson fan. Have been ever since my freshman year of college, all the way back in (gulp!) 1999. There is something about the atmosphere, something in “those hills,” and yes, something about the feeling you get when you see the team rub the rock and run down the hill (they don’t call it the most exciting 25 seconds in college football for nothing!) – it is an incredible feeling of community. And though many schools have an incredible college football environment, I’m proud to share that earlier this week, Clemson was even named Southern Living Magazine’s Best Tailgate in the South (check out why here).

Which brings me to the real point of today’s post … tailgating. Specifically, what we eat in the time leading up to our games – and how it can make or break our nutrition goals. The same rules apply during football season as they do during holiday season, or any other time of the year, for that matter. It’s all about being smart, and remembering that while one or two splurges won’t kill a week’s worth of hard work, we do still have to be aware of the foods that we put into our bodies. Read on to see who eats what around the conferences … and how they see these tailgate foods fitting into their everyday eating patterns.

So, enjoy your games today – and be smart about your game-time food choices! And, as always … GO TIGERS!