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4 for the 4th

4 Jul

Great trail run this morning! Get on out there ladies and gents. There’s still time to do your 4 miles for the 4th of July. Happy independence, America!

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Finding Hope in Hotel Rooms and Other Unfortunate Places

24 May

I believe in my previous post I mentioned that Whole Foods is the place where my money goes to die.  Well, in a more intangible sense, business conventions are, in my opinion, the place where hope goes to expire.  As much as conference organizers try to jazz up that fact their event will be held in a lovely place, they will always find a way to sequester you in some room where the air conditioner blows too much, the lights dim too low and your internal clock goes slightly bonkers as it loses track of time. The business conference is a place where one can only dream of finding sustenance beyond coffee and cocktails. It is the place where disorientation and dehydration prevail. It is not a runner’s paradise.

Last week, I had the privilege, or, perhaps the misfortune of driving down to the ends of earth (also known as Atlantic City) for a conference. While this may excite some, I instantly began to plot my escape in the form of a morning run. As I don’t like to run alone in new or potentially unsafe places, I began hitting up fellow convention-goers to see if anyone out there wanted to team up for a run in the morning….Alas, I found no takers.

The lecture days proved long and the breaks were short. After each session finished, I’d aimlessly find my way to the casino/conference area exit, desperately searching for indications as to the time of day. Like Robinson Crusoe heading toward the promised land, I pushed past the automatic glass doors, escaping into sunlight with dribs of cigar smoke still emanating from my suit.

Although I was unsuccessful in finding a running mate. I decided not to languish in a caffeine and cocktail induced stupor and neither should any of you when confronted with your next job-related travel venture.  If anyone out there has a busy business trip coming up, here’s a plan for working in a little extra exercise:

1.   PLANK it up…seriously, who doesn’t love dropping just for a little while. Hold it up for about a minute with your hips lifting and arms strong. For a little extra variation if you’re not feeling tired, alternate between the hands and the elbows. I have yet to develop the courage to be video-taped while doing any of these exercises but until I do, you can view a great demo of what I’m talking about here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5JUPHxHXhA

2. Hindu Squats: Yes, I said it and it sounds totally silly, but in my humble opinion these are more fun than regular squats and seem to give you a quicker burn in a shorter period of time. Once again, I am not yet prepared to be the demo queen, but I did scour youtube for a worthwhile video. Basically, there is a lot of crap out there when it comes to Hindu squats. Most people on the internet are not doing them correctly. This video is great because the guy actually knows what’s up. Please, don’t mind the dog that crosses the screen at one point : ) You can see this work of cinematographic genius here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2O4MwQBZ-DY

Do several reps, or whatever your time permits.

3.  Side plank! Hang out on each side for a few. Or, if this is too easy for you and you’d like to kick it up a notch, then opt for side plank push ups. Again, here is a video with a quick demo (I love her accent and crazy scary tight abs). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa5Li3edwl4&feature=player_detailpage

4. Chair pose and/or twisted chair pose.  Ahhh, utkatasana!

5. I recommend coming through a vinyasa (dog to plank to ground to cobra then back to dog) then lunging into Warrior II and then, from there, folding into revolved triangle.

6. If this still hasn’t done it for you and you either have more time or energy, I recommend some yogi windmills and yoga jacks. Try a set of 25 then see how you feel! (p.s. if you watch this video, I am sure it will make you laugh…further, I am not sure if the user who posed it just thought it was too ridiculous to be true and posted it for a larf or shared it in the hope that others would truly like it. Either way, I am sure it will serve one of these purposes for you).

If you aren’t feeling a workout and instead just feel stressed out by all the extra socialization that goes on during large gatherings, I recommend sneaking off for a break and taking advantage of that big hotel bed (which is usually up against a nice big wall) and doing some good old feet up the wall.

Also, if you know that these trips drain you, plan to bring your own hydration and aromatherapy (I recommend pure lavender oil from aura cacia).  Although I’ll admit the carrying of all these liquids is much easier if you aren’t flying, of course. On this trip, since I drove, I came all stocked up with homemade coconut water chia drink (a great recipe recommended by the author of another great blog), some GT’s Kombucha (I am obsessed) and this f***ing awesome tumeric drink I just discovered. It’s expensive but it was spicy, delicious and I felt like it was giving my liver a bath after a night of wine.  I was so fascinated by this seasoned elixi that I am sharing the company story here: http://vimeo.com/laurabrooks/tumericalive

Above all else on a business trip, take time at the end to enjoy and explore something new and off the reservation so-to-speak. On this trip, my fiancé and I escaped the conference center for a visit to New Jersey’s tallest standing lighthouse. Complete with over 200 stairs!

Inside the lighthouse, preparing for the ascent.

Inside the lighthouse, preparing for the ascent.

Even if you can’t break away for an excursion or even a workout, certainly there may be at least one morning sunrise or one evening sunset worth your time. Regardless of how much of a spirit sapping vacuum conferences can be, stick it to ’em and prove that you’ve got to play a little even if you’re supposed to be doing work.

Sunrise over the strip (the Atlantic City Strip, that is). Time: about 5:15AM.

Sunrise over the strip (the Atlantic City Strip, that is). Time: about 5:15AM.

Until next time, namaste.

This is the story of a girl

14 May
Me at the Finish Line in Long Branch. An amazing day filled with great Jersey pride and some very supportive spectators.

Me at the Finish Line in Long Branch. An amazing day filled with great Jersey pride and some very supportive spectators.

Friends, I have a confession. I have not always been a yogi. Nor have I always been a runner. I offer you these olive branches in the case you come upon this blog, see that it’s about running and fitness and think: I. will. never. run. anywhere.  In writing this, I hope to convince you that you can, in fact, become more athletic, no matter who you are, what your background is or how much (or how little) time you have. So…without further ado, here is my story.

Although I’ve always been physically inclined, albeit on my own terms, I have certainly never been an all star. I developed a natural talent as a gymnast early on. I was limber, lithe and fearless; qualities that served me well for the rare, bi-weekly occasions on which I dared to exert myself in any form of physical activity. Not even when a fellow team member from the gym where I trained (who differed from me dramatically not in terms of physical capacity, but in terms of grit, dedication and vigor) made it to the qualifying rounds for the 2000 Sydney Olympics was I at all motivated to step up my game.

After becoming too cool for gymnastics altogether and dropping out of the sport so as to free up time for more important endeavors such as loitering in shopping malls and chasing after boys, I retreated into a quasi anorexic realm of what Jessica Clark in this month’s edition of Runner’s World aptly calls ‘skinny fat’. The only selling point for me when it came to sports was, perhaps, the chance to wear slightly scandalous under clothing (e.g. the donning of brightly colored bras under the see through mesh of my soccer jersey).

Apart from the aforementioned opportunities, I developed a disdain for the athletic. I viewed friends who electively participated in such insanity as cross country as sufferers of a rare form of mental illness. And, above all, I DESPISED gym class.  Primarily, I regarded it as a medieval torture camp conjured up by sadistic adults and designed to make young people suffer unspeakable fates. Perhaps the worst of all afflictions was the mile run, a fate I could barely accomplish in 12 minutes flat. I distinctly remember being taken to the high school track as an early teen and being made to run around it on a crisp autumn day. It was beautiful, enjoyable, relaxing…it was…it was…horrid! I felt I was part of a chain gain (okay, I know chain gains are usually made to do labor…but dude, that was my reality).

For fitness purposes, and in futile attempts to stave off the effects of too much tofutti chocolate supreme ice cream (Mmmmm sooo good), I took up running during my freshman year of college. This was a pitiful attempt to stay, or maybe just to get, in some sort of shape. I plodded on day after day on a treadmill in our university’s basement gym. Feeling glad to be moving, but not really going anywhere.

This was my routine for…the next three years. I don’t really want to chalk my ultimate breakthrough up to a guy, but I guess I kind of should. After I broke up with the only serious boyfriend I’d ever had at the start of my senior year, I distinctly remember rolling out of bed one morning, feeling desperate (and probably somewhat hungover) and thinking: I should go for a run. And, so, I did. I remember running out of the campus gates and just going.  I can’t really say why I started running. I guess it was just something my body wanted me to do. And so, I listened.

I think I ran for an hour, maybe more. I didn’t have any concept of time or how far I’d gone but I just kept repeating it, like clockwork every morning.

Wake up and smell the roses...spring foliage as seen on a recent run.

Wake up and smell the roses…spring foliage as seen on a recent run.

Strangely, I began to notice things, like the shape of dew drops on green leaves on small patches in front of the stately homes near campus. I enjoyed the smells, the lights and the quiet of early mornings. I felt alone. I felt free. And, for some bizarre reason, I no longer felt as though I was on the chain gang of yore.

Later that year, I signed up for a 5k because someone told me I should try it. I figured why not? It certainly could not be worse than the inaptly named fun runs of my youth where I scraped along just to get…to…the…end…of…a…one…mile…course. Not expecting much from myself at all, I did this 5k.  And, I came in third place. It was a really small race and I think I ran the course at about 9:00 mins per mile. I know for some people it’s not much to celebrate, but I remember feeling really floored. I remember thinking: this is totally, totally amazing!

From that point I’ve pushed on, and I think you’ll find you can too. After 5ks, the miles just started melting away. I moved up to 10ks and from 10ks, I’ve moved on to half marathons. Including the New Jersey Half Marathon, which took place May 5, 2013 in Long Branch which I completed in about 1 hour and 55 mins. Not the best, but under an hour and with 8:44 min miles the whole way through.  I’ve yet to take on a full marathon, but it’s on my list next.

Throughout all of this, non-runner friends always ask me: how?

How do you do anything?

By wanting to do it. During the course of my professional life this passed week, I was asked to speak on a panel to a bunch of high school students about career paths. I probably babbled at them a whole bunch but the one thing I told them was this:

Ground yourself in your passion

because what you plant there will ultimately be stronger and grow more roots.

The same is true with physical endeavors. Find something you love and do it often. Life is short but it’s long enough to enjoy and to build things that have the ability to sustain you. As Buddha once said “to keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

For those of you who hope to run your first 5k. Like everything, it’s always…uh-hem…tough-going the first time. Once you break on through, it’ll all be good. So good, you’ll want to do it again, and again, and again.  AND this month’s edition of Runner’s World features some great tips for beginners (wow, I am really plugging RW in this posting)!

Also, the Mayo Clinic has a great 5k training plan which I think is an awesome place to start.

Or, if you’re like me, just lace up, hit the road and see where it will take you.

Happy trails, my friends!

No Rest for the Weary

19 Mar

Of the many things I’d like to add to my repertoire, “failed blogger” is not one of them. Having said this, I know it’s been radio silence from me for about three weeks…eek! My excuse for falling off the face of the earth: an amazing trip to Ethiopia.

Okay, so I know, you’re out there going: this is a workout blog and now you’re going to tell be about your silly trip. What about all those fun fitness tips you promised? In answer to that, at present, I have none. For starters, I’m just getting back into the swing of things now as a result of the worst possible case of jet lag I’ve ever experienced. After traveling from Ethiopia, to Germany, to Newark all in the span of a 30 hour window (and then went to work the following day), let’s just say I had one of those weeks where I couldn’t decide if my alarm clock was ringing to wake me up or was a ringing sound in my dream. I partially blame this sense of confusion on having watched Cloud Atlas at varied intervals during one of my 8 hour flights.

My malaise culminated last Thursday when I discovered it is, in fact, possible to fall asleep while standing up and talking to someone…even when that person is your boss. I was so ridiculously tired that not even through vigorously pinching myself could I keep my eyeballs from rolling back into their sockets during an office meeting.

Even on Friday, when I thought I’d surpassed invalid status, I made the mistake of taking one of my malaria pills on an empty stomach (washed down with some coffee) and found myself heading for the hills (if you catch my drift) within 10 minutes of a casual jog.

So, in essence I have failed at working out or trying any new athletic feats of any kind since my return from the African continent…until today when, at around 9PM I cranked out the most pathetic tread mill-based 5k ever. Successfully in line with my PR as a 10 year old who was disinterested in sports, I barely slipped below a 9 minute 30 second mile. I was really hoofing it on the tread mill, too. Or, at least it felt that way. Miserable in theory but at least I enjoyed zoning out to some good tunes (cue clichéd conversation about endorphins here).

But I guess the point here, and perhaps the larger lesson for everyone out there is that impossibility is just a state of mind. You need not have just returned from an exhausting trans-Atlantic journey. Exhaustion, boredom and the feeling that it doesn’t make a difference if you never do anything active again is a sensation that can set in at any time. The important thing is what you do with those feelings and whether you push yourself to get beyond it that matters. Once you take the first step to overcome a personal hurdle, you pave the way for yourself mentally so that your brain is able to tell your body you’ve done it before and can do it again.

Okay, so I’ll get off my soapbox now. If you’re on the East Coast and are snowed in tonight or have a delayed start tomorrow morning and are looking for something fun to do while housebound, here’s a great way to spice up your yoga routine with some weight training. This actually looks like fun. I’ll be trying it out…if I get up in time tomorrow!

http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/2837

 

Trying to Work-Out/Pre-Flight Freak Out

27 Feb

travel

Today’s post will be quick, I promise. Staying true my adventurous spirit and complete inability to sign up for any activity that resembles relaxation, I’ve decided to spend my spring vacation in Africa…and I take-off on Friday. The scene depicted above is just a fraction of what my bedroom floor looked like moments ago as I am scrambling to make an assessment of my American-made pharmaceuticals pre-departure.  I leave for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in just about two days. Ahhh! (more reflections on this tomorrow, when presumably, I may, or may not have more time).

While in Addis and other parts of Ethiopia, I hope to keep a travel diary of everything I see and the people I meet. I’ll be traveling with a group from my undergraduate program. I’ll have the chance to visit beautiful Gondar, Axum and Lalibella.  In addition, we’ll be meeting with local government officials, NGOs and delegates to the African Union which sits in Ethiopia’s capital. Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Region which was an amazing experience…and I should really know by know that preparing for a trip like this requires more than a hot second of packing…but alas, I was too BUSY to do so sooner.

While I am really excited about this new adventure, I am always stricken with a little pre-departure anxiety. To beat the heat, I decided to walk away from my litter-strewn room, busted out some free weights and engaged in the following:

1.) one set of 15 squats while holding 10 lb. free weights

2.) one set of mountain-climbers (about 20 foot shifts)

3.) another set of 15 squats

4.) another set of mountain climbers

5.) 2 minutes of crunches

6.) another set of 15 squats

7.) another set of mountain climbers

8.) 2 minutes of crunches

9.) forearm plank pose held until I felt a burn and then thirty seconds thereafter

10.) a set of 10 push-ups

11.)  a down dog vinyasa (through to plank, chaturanga-which I held for 10), then to cobra and folded to child’s pose

To calm my nerves before I returned to packing, I engaged some alternate nostril breathing. Much like the magic hand rub (which I featured yesterday) this breathing technique works like a charm to center and cool your nerves. If you’re interested in reading about alternate nostril breathing, I’ve got a great link. If you’d rather just see it in action, I liked this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxEqooqgCEs 

Ahhh! Okay, now back to my giant pre-trip mess.

Wake up! Wake up!

26 Feb

 

(Fighting the morning blues…and discovering what it takes to get up on the right side of the bed)

I recently moved to a new work location which has increased my commute dramatically. Since this unpleasant change occurred, I’ve been getting up an hour earlier and have TOTALLY been dragging what feels like every ounce of my earthly being out of the bed each morning. I’ve even tried pretending that my alarm clock is an air raid siren. But this still didn’t do me any good.

Basically, I’ve been so thrown by having to get out the door an hour earlier that I’ve converted to evening fitness entirely.  Last week, I took the opportunity to figure out (over five days) if I tried to transition back from a PM to AM sweat. As a result, I am taking this opportunity to share with you the pros and cons of early morning fitness regimes for those of you seeking to do a little switcheroo yourself.

My unscientific but hopefully helpful tips are as follows:

TIP 1: PICK A GOAL. Is your morning workout goal to get in some yoga? Head out for a spin class? Or simply get to take a dawn colored jog around the hood? Starting with the end in mind definitely helps. Visualizing your goals ahead of time certainly make them more achievable.

TIP 2: NO COLD TURKEY. Work up to waking for an early workout over a period of several days. This means you’ll need to scale down your evening routine (if you’ve got one) and try to get to bed earlier. This is really hard, especially for me. My biggest mistake deciding to break a serious sweat in the pre-dawn hours was jolting my routine (e.g. sleeping after midnight and waking at 5:30 for some spin). I tried this prior to making the transition the right way and ended up doing the sleepy head bob thing during and important meeting.

If tweaking your morning routine involves changing your wakeup time by an hour or more then I’d recommend you try to get up fifteen to twenty minutes earlier each day and do some gentle stretching or exercise.  (At the bottom of this entry, I’ve posted my favorite early morning yoga routine).

TIP 3: THE MAGIC YOGA HAND RUB. After you’ve acclimated over a period of three days or so, you may still feel totally beat and unable to move (notice a theme here with me?) If after the alarm starts buzzing, you have trouble achieving the initial burst of energy to rouse yourself from bed, I highly recommend that you get your rub on. It has helped me SO much. I’ve copied a video below of this yoga inspired invigorating hand rub. It also helps if while lying in bed, you turn touch the soles of your feet together and rub one sole against the other with the same vigor and at the same time that you rub your hands together. Call me crazy but it really wakes me. I stole this idea from a Kundalini yoga class and find it invigorates like nothing else.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kUXQ26edow

TIP 4: PACK YOUR BAGS THE NIGHT BEFORE. Just like in grade school. You know what you need, just remember to put it all in one place…and don’t forget the water. You’ll be priced gouged at the gym.

TIP 5: HYDRATION. After your early morning foray into the dark side, you’ll be feeling extra parched. I advise skipping caffeine in large quantities until you know how depleted a morning sweat will leave you feeling. I love to recharge with Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness. It’s blended perfection…fruity mango and pineapple with spinach, barley, wheat grass, chlorella among other amazing things…plus it’s got green tea and echinacea. Who could ask for more? Seriously!

green goodnes

TIP 6: NIGHT OWLS MAY JUST HAVE TO SCRAP THIS IDEA. I’m not big on quitting but, in all honesty, after spending the time working up to morning workouts, I still felt uncontrollably tired during the day. My work/life schedule frequently demands that I stay up a bit past my bedtime so I am basically unable to recoup the hours I need to be fully functional all day. I am not giving up on the pre-work work out entirely, but I’m just saying I’m not sure I am there yet. At least not for every day. For those of you who can do it, power on! For those of you who can’t, I’ll be sure to talk loads more about powering up for a workout after a long day on the clock.

EARLY MORNING YOGA

As promised above, below is a link to a great morning yoga sequence. Even if you decide gearing up for a morning workout routine is not right for your lifestyle, this video is just a super awesome way to get invigorated in the a.m. Not to blow my own horn (‘cause I love yoga so much) but yoga can help loosen your muscles, relieve stress, change your prospective (something I’m in desperate need of when I wake) and help digestion. I recommend trying this at home:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLLskpRfhpM