Back from My Hawaiian Adventure (Part 2)!

Let me first apologize for omitting one major point in Part 1 of my Hawaii recap … we definitely saw sea turtles while we were surfing on the North Shore. How I missed this, I’m not quite sure, because I was pretty excited about it (thanks to the boy for, 1. noticing that I missed one of the highlights of my surfing experience, and 2. reading my blog). They were pretty cool.

So, while yesterday was about surfing, today is about some of the other ways we kept ourselves active in paradise. We were fortunate in that we stayed at a resort with both running trails and a pretty nice (definitely above hotel standard) gym. We took advantage of both once in the three days we were in the North Shore.

As I mentioned yesterday, the weather was warm the entire trip, but overcast and rainy for all but the first two days (and the few hours we were out surfing with instructor Mike). We woke up on Saturday to overcast skies and drizzle, and figured it was a good time to check out one of the trails along the resort. It was pretty cool to run through the forest, next to the ocean. I wouldn’t say we were exactly pushing ourselves – enough to raise our heart rates and get a little sweaty (not a surprise, based on the temperature and humidity) – but there were so many beautiful things to see along the trail that we had to stop a few times just to take it all in. There was something between a drizzle and a light rain falling during most of the run, but it was actually really nice. I’m the type who is sweating within about three seconds, and is easily drained once the temperature gets above 70 degrees, so the additional cool from the rain was welcome. I will say, though, being accustomed to running on a treadmill … running trails is TOUGH! We had to maneuver around trees, fallen coconuts, and yes, even horse “presents,” as we trekked through the sand. The instability of the ground definitely made it a lot harder, and my lower legs were feeling it a little the next day (or maybe it was just because at one point I slightly twisted my ankle on a rock).

One ugly afternoon we decided to hit the gym. It was one of our less active days – we drove a bit farther up north to check out the scenery and some of the local shops (and discovered an amazing Mexican restaurant) and took a nap, but little else – so we figured we had better do a little something. It was getting close to the end of the trip, and I think we both were at the point that we were starting to miss our regular workout routines. And maybe feeling a little guilty?

Other than the surfing, running and gymming, we also did a ton of walking. Between walking to dinner or shopping in Waikiki, walking around the sites at Pearl Harbor (there was actually a lot more to see than I had realized – ships, submarines, planes, and museums explaining all of them…), and walking around to see some of the local sites, we definitely logged several miles each day.

Overall, the trip was amazing – and proved that just because you are on vacation (in paradise, when the snow is falling at home) doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be inactive and eat or drink whatever you want (though, admittedly, we did have some great food and drinks … probably why we put some form of physical activity on our list of priorities). But, just like it’s always great to get away, it’s always great to get back to routine, too. Back to home sweet home and the normal grind!

Mental Training: Get in the Zone!

I recently completed a continuing training for my Spinning certification on mental training. I found the content to be really interesting – and fitting not only for indoor cyclists, but for athletes (or wannabe athletes) of any sport or activity. Essentially a means of finding your “zone” or “zen,” focusing on mental training can help you to work harder with less effort, accomplish feats which you may not have believed you were capable, and experience the elusive “runners high” (which is, despite its name, not exclusive to runners).

So, what can you do to take your training to another level? Here are a few tips and tricks to maximize the mental element of your workout:

  • Focus on form and flow. Relaxation and even, controlled motions are key to proper form – and by focusing on these elements, you will also reduce your risk of injury. Visualize your muscles working and the motion of your body staying consistent. Once you have mastered your form, it is easier to get lost in the flow of the motion – bringing you closer to that “zone” in which you can allow your mind to take over, and your body to follow.
  • Pay attention to your breath. Fun fact: we typically only use 20% of our lung capacity when we “chest breathe” – taking short, shallow breaths from the chest, rather than deep diaphragmatic breaths. As both a Pilates instructor and a former singer, I am a huge proponent of diaphragmatic breathing. Not only does it allow you greater breath control, but it also makes your exercise feel easier. Think about expanding your lungs, and feel your ribs push out as you take a deep inhale. To exhale, think about slowly releasing the breath, feeling the ribs pull back and the abdominals engage as you completely empty the lungs.
  • Be in the now. We live in a busy, go-go-go world. It can be difficult to focus on what we are doing at the present moment, versus what we need to do later, or the challenges we face in our lives. Let go. Be present. Allow your mind to wander, and it will eventually lead you to a clear mind, which helps you to enjoy the now, rather than worrying about the past or future.
  • Set a goal. Pay attention to the intricacies of your workouts, and how they contribute to your overall, larger goals. Celebrate the small successes along the way, and in time, you will find yourself achieving more than you ever thought possible.

The biggest key to mental training is really just finding the right mindset, allowing your body to relax, and letting your breath fuel your motions. By focusing on the mental aspect of your workout, you will find that your accomplishments will add up – and your workouts will become more fulfilling. I’ve said it more times than I can count: the mind is stronger than the body. And the stronger the mind becomes, the stronger the will to achieve becomes, leading to increased physical strength, endurance, and power, all of which play a huge part in our overall conditioning process.

You Can be a Runner!

I’ve heard it many times – “I’m not a runner.” To be totally honest, if you had asked me prior to 2001 if I would ever consider running, I would have laughed. Hysterically. Now, 12 years later, I have added miles, taken off time, and actually gotten to the point where I don’t run because I have to – I run because I LIKE to.

The fact is, anyone can be a runner. It just takes the desire to get started … and a good pair of running shoes. Here are a few things to think about as you get on the road (or trail, or treadmill):

  • Breathe! Take big breaths, and try to keep your breathing even. Also, focus on when, as well as how you’re breathing – if you balance your inhales and exhales to match your strides, it’s easier on your body.
  • Don’t worry about your speed. Remember that old saying, “slow and steady wins the race?” It definitely applies to running. You can’t expect to go out running an 8 minute mile (heck, I’m still excited if I can average less than 8:45) – as long as your running faster than you can walk, you are on the right track.
  • Walk when you need to. Most people don’t wake up one day decide to run five miles if they have never run before. Start slow – run for one minute, then walk for five. As you find yourself growing stronger, you can add on to your running time, and subtract from your walking time. Before long you will be running the entire distance!

This time of year, as the weather is getting cooler, is a great time to start running outdoors. Take this time to start getting into a normal routine now, and come the new year, you’ll be rubbing farther and faster than you would imagine – and you’ll look like a pro to all the new people hitting the gym in January. Good luck!

Sometimes Your Head Wins …

… but not in the way you anticipated.

I went into the gym tonight with every intention of running about three miles to start my workout. My body – and my brain – clearly had a different idea.

Let me back up a little bit here. As you may or may not have figured out, my life has been a little all over the place since I returned from vacation in July. Yes, the gym has, as always, been my one constant, and my sanity. But I’ve changed jobs (good move). Had my not-quite-relationship-but-sure-as-hell-felt-like-one end (again … and while it was right, it was still heartbreaking). Gained a new roommate (seriously good upgrade).

Through it all, you would think what has always been my solace, my me-time, my stress relief, (if I need to translate, it’s a nice, long run) would see me through. But since I got back from vacation two – yes, TWO – months ago, my runs have SUCKED. We’re talking, having to talk myself into finishing three miles. Feeling like I wanted to die every second of it.

So imagine my surprise when, tonight, as I dragged my exhausted butt into the gym (yes, the new job was a great move, but this working all day, five days a week is tiring!! The good news: sleeping like a baby for a change. Crap. It’s 45 minutes to bedtime. Please don’t let me have just jinxed myself), convinced that I could make it through three lousy miles before moving on to a little shoulder work … and kept going. For four miles. Then five. Then six. Then an extra half, just for good measure. And I felt like I could have kept going, if I really felt like it. For the first time in a long time, I stopped running because I’d gotten bored … not because my body or my heart rate or my breathing told me that I needed to stop. I felt good. I felt strong. I felt … like it was about dang time!

I guess my point here is that while I’m a huge believer that our heads are often what tells us to quit before our bodies really need to, sometimes we can surprise ourselves. I fully anticipated another sub-par run this evening, but when I found my groove, and just let myself go, my head started telling me today was the day I got back to form. Today is the day I forget about the chaos that has been my life throughout the last two months, even if it was only for an hour. Today was the day I ran like I was supposed to run.

Finding the Right Running Shoes For You

One of the most daunting tasks for a new runner can be finding the right shoes. Finding shoes that fit correctly not only make your run a little more enjoyable, but a lot more comfortable, too. And the right shoes will help you to avoid nagging knee, hip and ankle injuries (not to mention blisters and shin splints).

Which is why I was glad to come across this article from Men’s Health, which details what you need to look for in your next pair of running shoes (here’s a hint: comfort trumps everything else). Check it out – and don’t be afraid to visit a running store for a fitting. Shoes – and feet – change over time, and running stores employ expert runners with numerous miles under their belts. I still think getting fitted was one of the best things I’ve ever done. They may not be the prettiest shoes, but blisters and shin splints are no longer a problem for me!

My perfect shoe? The Mizuno Wave Inspire (I’ve gone through 8 or 9 pairs since I discovered them about 3 1/2 years ago). What’s yours?

Top 10 Running Fashion Faux Pas | Runner’s World

I came across this amusing little slideshow fro Runner’s World the other day: Top 10 Running Fashion Faux Pas | Runner’s World. I was thinking about it as I was running a little treadmill 10 k tonight, and it got me to thinking … what crazy fashion faux pas do you see as you go about your workouts?

Having spent about six days a week in a gym for the last decade – not to mention the 30 or so miles a week I eventually built myself up to my junior and senior year of college (yes, sadly, that is BEFORE the start of the gym decade … sigh … oh, 30s, how did you come so fast?) – I’ve definitely seen some interesting fashion choices. I’ve still yet to understand the appeal of those toe shoes, though people claim they are life-changing. In all honesty, if it means they have replaced the Sketchers Shape-Ups (and the like), I’ll take them. Heck, I teach four classes a week barefoot, I should probably invest in them. And so should the gym I once saw – no joke – running BAREFOOT on the TREADMILL in the GYM. How an employee didn’t call him out and politely ask him to be a little more hygienic about his workout, I will never know.

And I’ve made no secrets about the fact that while I am a hot mess within 20 minutes of setting foot in the gym, my gym outfits do have a tendency to at least look put together. But sometimes I wonder, when did it become acceptable to roll out of bed and go to the gym. I realize that this is actually a technique people use to force themselves to go to the gym – this is not what I’m referring to. We’re talking more along the lines of holes. Stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day since the 90s. I’ll admit to occasionally – okay, more than occasionally – sleeping in an old, ripped up Gamma Phi shirt from 2000 or so. But there’s no way in hell I’m planning on being seen in public, and the last time I wore a t-shirt to the gym when I was still of an acceptable age to still pass for a sorority girl (I still look young, but not that young).

Bottom line – just be aware of when you look ridiculous. If you have to question? Well, then, you probably have your answer. Now get rid of those toe socks and get out there and run.