Weekend Workout Re-wind

So, here I am, another Monday … another day of sitting around waiting for this government shutdown to end (the week off has been nice, but I have to be honest … I’m ready to get back to work. Uncertainty and I are not friends). One thing I will say about this mess is that it has allowed me a little more flexibility in my workouts throughout the last week – not to mention getting a couple extra hours of sleep and hitting the gym at a less crowded hour.

It’s always nice when my workouts are a little less stressful (I know, the point is to REDUCE stress, but when you’re fighting for space – and the clock – sometimes that is not the case). It gives me a little time to get more in-tune with my body, and think about what I’m doing right, what I need to improve upon, and oftentimes, take in the surroundings as a result. That said, here are a few of my observations from the weekend:

  • People really don’t like the new stepmills. I wrote a post a few weeks back about the new Matrix stepmills XSport recently introduced. I decided to couple stairs with my leg workout on Saturday, and I have to say … it was kind of funny to see four old stepmills in use, and maybe two of the old ones. Personally, I like the old ones better – they have a lot more flexibility from a speed standpoint, giving you more variance in your workout.
  • PRAISE THE LORD, THEY BROUGHT BACK ESPN. Now, I know this is not something only I am college-football obsessed to care about. But maybe mid-August, XSport replaced ESPN with MASN (the Nationals baseball channel. YAWN.) Yes, they did still offer ESPN2, but let’s talk about my reaction Week 1 of college football season – the week College Game Day was at Clemson, my alma mater – when I discovered I would not be watching College Game Day during my workout. I freaked out a little. Or a lot. Oh, ESPN, how I’d missed you.
  • I seriously need to learn how to use a foam roller. My right hamstring has been unbelievably tight – to the point of almost being painful – for probably a couple months now. There was more equipment than should ever be in the studio for my Pilates class yesterday (though the Bosus, medicine balls and swiss balls did make for some interesting planks for my challengers), so I figured I’d try my hand (leg?) and trying to roll what I can only assume is a monster knot out of my leg. No such luck. I felt nothing, so clearly I’m not doing something right (on the flipside – literally – I think it did work out a little tension in my quads). Suggestions? Anyone?
  • And finally … I went golfing on Sunday. Why not, when it’s 85 degrees in October? I only played nine holes, and while it wasn’t terrible (okay, one hole I’m quite sure had it in for me, because I think I was over par before I made it off the tee) – I’d even call a few of my shots good – I could definitely still stand a little more practice. Maybe I should put that on my government shutdown how to keep myself entertained now that we’re a week in to-do list…

Hope you had a weekend of great workouts as well!

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Back From Paradise …

Yesterday was one of my least favorite days of the year … the end of vacation. After eight amazing days of sun, sand and fun with the family, I made the seven hour drive back to reality.

It was so nice to see the family and have the time to catch up with everyone. We have been going to South Carolina with my dad’s brother and his family for 19 years now (crazy to think it’s been so long!), and it has never gotten old (though we have). Though my brothers opted out of the trip for the second year in a row, we did still have a couple extra faces this year – my cousin’s wife’s parents decided to join the party! We had a great time, the weather was almost perfect, and my cousin Julia and I continually discussed how we’d be able to find jobs as beach bums (if only such a thing existed. If you know of a way to make this happen, please let us know. Because we’re in.)

I had a lot of time to think during the trip, which, if you know anything about me, is both a good and bad thing. If you read Monday’s post, you know that I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. I’m not where I want to be in my life – in just about every facet – and I’m working through several difficult conflicts, so it was nice to have the opportunity to watch the waves, feel the sand beneath my feet, and be with my thoughts. There is something about the smells and sounds of the ocean … I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders the second I saw and heard the waves. There really is nothing more relaxing and comforting to me.

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I also had the opportunity to play my first 18 holes of golf with my dad, uncle and cousin Bryant. It was … interesting. While I have to say that I did better than I expected, I also have to admit that I played almost every single shot with a 7 iron. It was the club that I used in my lessons, and clearly I need a little practice with the other clubs. But after I tried to use the driver the first hole (and dug up half of the tee area), I figured I needed to stick with what I knew. Seriously, other than the putter, nothing came out of that bag. But at least I didn’t have the ranger yelling at me to stay on the cart path every other hole (that was my dad) and I didn’t almost lose my club in the woods when it went flying along with the ball on a shot (that was my uncle). I have to admit, seeing how bad the other three were, too, made me feel a little better about my remedial golf skills. But check it out … at least I looked the part!

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But now it’s back to reality. Taught my first two classes post-vacation this morning, and surprisingly they felt pretty good (and, also surprisingly, the scale was not my enemy this morning … not sure how that happened but I’m NOT going to argue that one). I’m planning on enjoying the rest of what is technically the last day of my vacation. Until next year…

Tiger Woods I Am Not.

After a day of relaxing, lots of sun and hanging out at the park yesterday, today my dad and I headed over to a local driving range to hit some golf balls.

Here’s the thing: I took golf lesson when I was 10 years old. I don’t recall liking it very much. Nor being any good at it. (“You’ll need it for business,” dad said. “I’m 10,” I said. And once I finally entered the business world, I added, “you should have sent me to a bar if you wanted me to learn something beneficial for business.” But I digress.)

In the last several years, my dad has decided that I still need to be a golfer. He bought me clubs a few years ago (which are still untouched in the closet at my apartment), and asks if I’ve taken lessons yet at least once a month. So when we decided to head to Florida for a few days, he decided there would be some golf involved during our trip.

Today was that day. I’m going to be honest: it started out pretty rough. Clearly anything I’d learned in golf lessons (short of correct grip…and even only some components of that) has disappeared in the 22 years since my childhood lessons. Bless my dad for his patience in trying to show me correct form (probably why he offered to pay for me to take lessons once I get back home…). And thank goodness nobody got hurt. But as the time went on, I definitely did start to get a little better.

A certain someone I may have mentioned a few times (those of you who recall this … we are getting back to a good place with one another again) has told me that, given my background, athleticism and sheer determination to be good at everything, is probably be pretty good at it. As my dad said many times today, it’s all about body alignment and repetition. So maybe, after seeing the distinctive difference between the first bucket of balls and the third, the two of them are right. Guess we’ll have to see.

And guess I’ll have to schedule those lessons. Otherwise I may never get to wear that pink golf glove my dad insisted I buy on our way back from the driving range…

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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!