Monday, September 1, 2014

September Goals


Is it September already?  This summer just flew by since we were so busy with our move.  It's strange, the past few years, the end of my summer was always marked by some big race:  the Annapolis 10 Miler or the Nations Tri from last year.  Even though I didn't have a race planned, I still had a good summer fitness wise.  With the move, I thought I wasn't going to work out as much, but I've managed to still get it done.  Last month, I joined the Awesome August Challenge with Julie at Simply Sole Searching.  My goal was to hit 80 miles of running, walking, biking, swimming or rowing.  I hit 91.5 miles!  I really enjoyed WRITING THINGS DOWN again (what a concept), and decided to keep up with it this month.  Now that we are settling in somewhat, it's time to talk goals again.  So here's what I'm thinking for September:


1) Running mileage of 65 miles.  Last month I counted all miles, but this month I'm only going to count running mileage.  I think a goal of 65 is doable and gets me ready for the Istanbul 15k without me sacrificing any of my Crossfit or yoga time.

2) Yoga Challenge.  Looking back at my blog over the past few months, two things stand out:  yoga and strength training.  I'm still a runner, but I feel my perspective is shifting.  I've been spending more time on yoga, which was my focus for awhile anyway.  But I'm going to continue down this path.  There is something there.  I'm not sure how it will come to fruition, but it's a strong enough feeling for me to follow.  I'll be doing the #balancebasics challenge with Athleta.  Follow me on Instagram or Facebook and join the journey!


3) Book Review.  I have been reading this Crossfit book and I am enamored with the sport even more.  I can't wait to write a review on it.  This book, along with the new Crossfit group I am a part of, has really sparked my motivation again.  I want to get my review out by the end of the month.  

Don't judge my pj's. 


4) Track Strength Training.  I did a good job of tracking my mileage last month and it was key in keeping me motivated.  I'm going to do the same with my strength training.  Specifically, I want to improve my deadlift.  I downloaded the WOD app, to help me with this.  No more eyeballing it when it comes to weight.  I should have a better idea when I start a WOD of how much to use - just like I know how long it takes me to run a certain number of miles.  I want to have that same kind of confidence and control when it comes to lifting.

5) Learn the Ashtanga Chant.  I do yoga everyday because of the challenges I'm in, but if I do an actual class on the laptop, it's been of the Ashtanga Style.  My next book review I want to do is about Ashtanga Yoga.  I was turned on to it because of Kino MacGregor and I'm curious to learn more about it.  Each class starts with the Ashtanga Opening Mantra.  I want to learn this and start saying it before each time I practice.  I think it would be a good form of meditation, which is something I want to improve on.  I also want to see if it will improve my practice.  

 ॐ
auṁ
OM
वन्दे गुरूणां चरणारविन्दे
सन्दर्शित स्वात्म सुखाव बोधे ।
vande gurūṇāṁ caraṇāravinde
sandarśita svātma sukhāva bodhe |
I bow to the lotus feet of our great teachers,
who uncovers our true self and awakens happiness

निःश्रेयसे जङ्गलिकायमाने
संसार हालाहल मोहशांत्यै ॥
niḥ-śreyase jaṅgali-kāyamāne
saṁsāra hālāhala mohaśāṁtyai ||
Like a Shaman in the Jungle he brings total complete well-beeing.
He can even heal the most awful poision of conditioning and illusion.

आबाहु पुरुषाकारं
शंखचक्रासि धारिणम् ।
ābāhu puruṣākāraṁ
śaṁkhacakrāsi dhāriṇam |
The upper body of human shape, carrying
a mussel horn (original tone), a discus (infinity) and a sword (power of differentiation)

सहस्र शिरसं श्वेतं
प्रणमामि पतञ्जलिम् ॥
sahasra śirasaṁ śvetaṁ
praṇamāmi patañjalim ||
having 1000 bright heads,
I bow to Patanjali.
auṁ
om

I like to think of these more of frameworks rather than goals.  I realize that these aren't as specific as goals should be, and I won't be heartbroken if I don't complete them.  These are areas where I want to put my most effort into when it comes to fitness and I'll be happy with whatever progress I make.

What are your goals for September?

Until next time,
Michele

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Friday 5: Fall Preview



Time for the Friday Five with Eat Pray Run, DCYou Signed Up for What?!, and Mar on the Run!   Each week, a large group of fantastic bloggers link up to bring you 5 things about fitness and health.  Visit the hosts' sites to check out the ever growing list of fitness enthusiasts!   

This week's theme is "Fall Preview". Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year. Here are a few things I'm looking forward to:

The trees in my old neighborhood.

1) The weather. I'm sure will be on everyone's list. Fall is just simply beautiful: the weather, the smells, the scenery, even the sound of crunchy leaves is pretty to me. And there is nothing more invigorating than going for a run on a crisp cool morning. Which leads me to #2. 

Photo from Istanbulmarthon.org

2) My next race. I will be training for my next race, the Istanbul 15k and I am THRILLED.  God willing I will be able to cross off "Race in a different country" from my bucket list. Just look at the course. My feet will touch two continents and cross The Bosphorus. Hmmm, do I actually train to run fast or just enjoy the race and take tons of pics? I'm leaning toward the latter. 

3) A new schedule. I plan on volunteering at both my sons' schools. It works well with everyone's schedule and I'm pretty excited about it. Even though they go to English speaking schools, it should be interesting to watch children from different countries interact with each other. 



4) The next challenge. For anyone following me on Instagram or Facebook, my daily yoga poses aren't over yet :) This one is sponsored by my yoga favorites and Athleta, so I couldn't pass it up. I like these challenges because they encourage me to squeeze in a few minutes of yoga everyday and I always learn something new. I've also fallen into this rhythm of running, yoga and Crossfit which seems to be working well for my body right now. 

5) My favorite vegetables. I love winter squashes! I know some people are all about the pumpkin spice lattes, but personally I can't wait for my butternut squash soup.  

Photo from Cooking Light

What about you? Do you love fall?
What do you have lined up this season?
Any new challenges or races?

Don't forget to check out the other bloggers - there are well over 40 of them in this link up!

Have a great weekend,
Michele




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ready to Breathe Fire

It's Wednesday!  Time for the WorkOut Wednesday linkup (#wowlinkup) with Femme Fitale Fit ClubThe Frugal ExerciserEat Hard Work Hard,  Comeback Momma and Mean, Green, Clean Eating Teen!  Each week a group of bloggers link up at the hosts' sites to bring you all kinds of posts about fitness.  Check it out!

 I have been on a "numbers hiatus" for some time now. I haven't weighed myself, tried to keep a certain pace on my runs or kept track of my strength training. Don't get me wrong, I'm still getting some great workouts in, but I haven't been focused on any specific result. I think it has been good for me. But yesterday, I started to get the itch  again.



Yesterday I decided to do 5x5 deadlifts. I have been doing deadlifts as part of Crossfit workouts, but since the workouts require high reps, I use a weight I know I can handle. It has been awhile since I tested my limit. I totally guessed how much weight to use for my first set and went with 85. My sets went like this:

Set 1 and 2: 85 lb
Set 3: 105 lb
Set 4 and 5: 115 lb

I felt really good, decided to keep going and did 2x3 at 135. That's the most I have ever done with that weight. At this point the CrossFit instructor came over to give me some tips and was surprised that was the most I have lifted. He said that weight is too easy for me. 

"Do you keep track of how much you lift?" 
"No." I sheepishly replied. 

He told me when I walk up to a bar, I should have a plan, know what I lifted the last time so I can have the confidence I need to progress. Up until now I've been waffling. Sometimes I fear I will get too wrapped up in numbers. But now I feel like I'm doing myself a disservice if I don't track my progress. If I'm going to do CrossFit, I should DO it and get the full benefits. 

After our little conversation he coached me through 3 sets (2, 2, 3) of 145 lb. I was tired at this point, but I did it. I think if I had started out with a specific plan, I could have gone higher. It's my mind holding me back, I know it is. The answer to that is to track. Let me see it on paper so I can stroll up to the bar and know exactly what I  capable of. I downloaded the WOD app to help me with this. It has preloaded workouts including the CrossFit benchmark workouts. You can also record personal bests for various exercises. It's set up in a way that you can easily compare your results each time. 


So that's my focus for September. Track my strength workouts. Specifically, I'm going to PR my deadlift again. After what feels like a long time, I'm feeling a spark again and I'm ready to breathe fire. 

It's time to light the match.

Do you record your workouts?
What variables do you track?
What do you use to track?

Don't forget to check out my fellow awesome #wowlinkup bloggers!

Until next time,
Michele 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Art of Letting Go

Today is the first day of school.  I don't have a picture of me in some kind of celebratory pose at the bus stop or the healthy lunch I packed for my son. If I had a picture to show, it would be of me trying to hold back tears as I cleaned up the kitchen after breakfast.

I cannot tell a lie: this summer has been fun and also trying at times. Yes, there were days that seemed so long and my patience ran thin. Some days it snapped. But as soon as I put my son on the bus and walked back in the house, I couldn't help but cry. It's still the closing of one chapter and the start of another. It's a still a day when I'm leaving him in someone else's hands. And perhaps today wouldn't sting as much if we were back in Maryland. But we are in a different country and even though he is at an English speaking school, it's still vastly different. I don't know all the parents and teachers. It's not around the corner.  And although he hopped on that bus without looking back, I could see on his face he was incredibly nervous. Yet somehow his 6 year old soul mustered the courage to go. And I'm so proud I could cry. Am crying. 


Image from JonesID.com
The thing that keeps going through my head right now is "Life is a balance of holding on and letting go" by the poet Rumi.  I think this sums up being a parent. You have to know when to hold on and when to let go. I remember when I taught my son how to ride a bike. I ran along next time him and was trying to hold his shoulders. At some point, I thought what if I just let go for longer? Sure enough, he wobbled so much but didn't fall - he zigged, zagged, tilted left and right but managed to balance himself. I was actually doing more harm by holding on to him. He needed to feel the discomfort of being off balance and figure out how to get upright on his own.


A still of him riding for the first time.
This art of letting go is a necessity in all walks of life whether you are a parent or not. It's becoming more apparent as I continue to learn more from yoga.  The tighter hold we have things, the more we try and control them, the harder life becomes. In yoga, that equates to holding your breath and forcing yourself into a pose. In life, it might equate to having some image in our head about how life is "supposed" to be and berating ourselves if we don't live up to it. But we have to let go of these images to truly live life. We have to accept the ways things are, even when it's the discomfort of being off balance. If we believe in a higher power, we have to have faith. 

It's strange how I can usually relate what's going on in my fitness life to my household life. Perhaps they are just one in the same. Last night everyone went to bed early and I had extra time to practice. As I went into wide legged forward bend, I focused on my foundation. I engaged the legs, held the core tight and really just let everything up top go. I held on and I let go. And I finally my head touched the floor. For months I've been trying to force my head to touch the floor. But the key was focusing on my foundation and letting the rest go. 



So I guess that's what I should do today and other days when I'm feeling sad or out of sorts. Trust my foundation and let the rest go. With my son, I have to trust the foundation I hope we have built in him. And count the minutes until he comes running off the bus :)

I recognize this was a long post with random thoughts. But I needed it. And maybe someone out there can relate. Thank for sticking with me. 

Until next time,
Michele

Friday, August 22, 2014

Athleta Aspire Ankle Pant Review



Time for the Friday Five with Eat Pray Run, DCYou Signed Up for What?!, and Mar on the Run!   Each week, a large group of fantastic bloggers link up to bring you 5 things about fitness and health.  Visit the hosts' sites to check out the ever growing list of fitness enthusiasts!   

This week's theme is "5 Things I Love About. . ."  (We did this a few months ago and I wrote about 5 Things I love About My Running Route). I often look at pictures on my phone for inspiration, and I was scrolling through I noticed I'm wearing the same pants in a lot of pictures:  Athleta's Aspire Ankle Pant.  It's part of their City Pant collection and right before Spring Break, I splurged on this pair for $69.  I really wanted a pair of pants that were comfortable, stylish and would travel well (easy to care for).  That's exactly what I got.   I love these pants and wear them all the time. Here's why:

Shown here in Flint Grey.  I ordered my normal Athleta size. 

1) The material. It's called "recycled featherweight stretch" and is a polyester/spandex blend. It's silky, has some give, and works in every type of weather. I wore them during Spring Break in Southern California, which can actually be chilly by the beach. And I'm wearing them now in +90 degree weather. They breathe really well and don't wrinkle too badly. It holds up it's shape in the wash and dries really fast. 

My pants on vacation in California.  Can you tell me which Showtime character this house belonged to?

2) The cut.  I wasn't sure about the whole shape at first:  small at the waist, bigger at the hips and then tapered at the ankle.  I was afraid they would look like MC Hammer Pants!  But they don't look too baggy and that extra room really allows you to move around.   I also don't feel like I have to suck my tummy in, lol!

3) The details.  It has an elastic waist, but the band is thick enough so you don't get the "busted biscuit can" look.  Also, I like how the zippers add both detail and functionality.  You can actually use these pockets;  they are big enough for my iPhone 5, ID, money, and keys.  But because of the slant and where they are placed, it doesn't add too much bulk.  There are also loop drawstrings at the hems so you can infinitely adjust the pant.  However, I have large calves and the pants just can't go very high on me.  So they end up being ankle pants and not really capris.



4) Comfort meets style.  I can say this about every Athleta piece I own, but I really do wear these pants all the time.  I wear them on a run, at the grocery store, or on a run TO the grocery store.  I don't feel like I'm wearing my stinky workout clothes, although I might smell differently :)  I can also be wearing these out and about and drop into a yoga pose.  And that's just plain fun.

5) Versatility.  I wear these with sneakers and I wear these with flats.  I wear them to the gym, during yoga,  going a run, on a plane, and picking the kids up from school.   If I still actually went out and partied, I'd pair them with cute heels.  But I think a pair of wedge high tops in the fall is as crazy as I will get.  



I think subconsciously I wrote this post because I am trying to justify buying another pair in black!  I also have my eye on 2 other pants - tell me what you think!
1) City Jogger Pant - I'm not sure about the drawstring.

I am not claiming to be a fashion expert of any kind.  I'm just a mom who wants to be comfortable without having to feel sloppy.  I wish the term "yoga pants" didn't have such a bad name.  It's the term people use when describing a woman who doesn't care about the way she looks.  But I say we can be comfortable, put together, and #stopdropandyoga thanks to Athleta!


What's the one piece of clothing you always find yourself wearing?
Which pant should I get next?

Hope you all have a good weekend and don't forget to check out others in the linkup!
Until next time,
Michele  



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Flip Belt Review

It's Wednesday!  Time for the WorkOut Wednesday linkup (#wowlinkup) with Femme Fitale Fit ClubThe Frugal ExerciserEat Hard Work Hard,  Comeback Momma and Mean, Green, Clean Eating Teen!  Each week a group of bloggers link up at the hosts' sites to bring you all kinds of posts about fitness.  Check it out!

When you find yourself stuffing your sports bra with keys, ID, and money, it's time to buy something. Anything instead of your sweaty bra to hold things during your workout. For a long time all I carried was my phone in my armband, but lately I've had to bring a few other things on my run. I asked about Flip Belts on my Facebook page and got a huge positive response. (Okay, in my world, a huge response is more than 5 comments). Anyway, I finally decided to buy one from Amazon for $28.99.



I have tried various running belts before but never found one I liked which is why I just use my armband (and lately my bra!).  Other belts I have tried had buckles that never seem to sit right or the belt would ride up. None of them sat close enough to my body and I always heard or felt things moving on the belt.  But What attracted me to the Flip Belt was it's sleekness. I like how there aren't any zippers or buckles. I like how it sits and is tight on the body so it holds things in place. Here's a sample of what I put in during a normal run: (not shown is money or my ID badge but they fit too!)
The phone shown here is an iPhone 5. I have an Otterbox on my phone and it also fits just fine. All you have to do is slide whatever you want into the slots and flip the belt over. That's it. 


If I dared to only wear a sports bra when I run, it would look pretty cute. But even under a shirt it doesn't look too bulky. This belt is also great just for running errands or taking the kids to the park. Now that I don't carry diapers or sippy cups I'm FREE! I can throw this on and be out the door.  It has held up just fine after numerous washes, fits true to size and the color choices are numerous. The one downside is if you like to look at your phone easily while running, this isn't for you.  But you can easily wear headphones and let the chord go through the openings.  I give it two thumbs up. 

It's so sleek I bet The Fonz would wear it!

The real indicator of how simple this is? Even my husband likes it! When I told him I was ordering this, he said "Like a fanny pack?!" Well, when he saw how basic it is, he wants one now too. 

Disclosure: Unfortunately I'm not a big enough blogger to get this stuff for free and do a review. I bought this with my own money, all opinions are my own and I don't benefit if you click on any of my links. 

What about you? Do you own a Flip Belt?
How do you carry things on your runs?

Love the #wowlinkup - please check out my fellow fitness enthusiasts!

Until next time,
Michele





Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Benefits of Varying Terrain

It's Wednesday!  Time for the WorkOut Wednesday linkup (#wowlinkup) with Femme Fitale Fit ClubThe Frugal ExerciserEat Hard Work Hard,  Comeback Momma and Mean, Green, Clean Eating Teen!  Each week a group of bloggers link up at the hosts' sites to bring you all kinds of posts about fitness.  Check it out!

Good old Suburbia

Back when I lived in suburbia, I ran pretty much the same route.  I knew where to turn to make it 1 or 2 miles longer, but the main loop was always the same.  I had some hills but it was all pavement.  These days, I'm dealing with more inclines and varied textures of surface.  I'm finally getting more used to it.  Translation:  I can actually move the day after a run, I'm not gasping for air after a couple of miles, and my time is getting a little faster. Although I'm trying not to put too much emphasis on pace (which is good because these streets are very humbling), I know this is overall good for my running and I'm embracing it.  Here are my reasons why I'm making it a point to take advantage of the various paths laid out before me:


1) Improved Strength. Whether it's sand, grass, stairs, or hills, anything besides flat asphalt is harder to run on.  If you spend just a few minutes of your run on grass, you're getting a little strength training done for your legs.  You'll also work different muscles, which leads me to #2.



2) Injury Prevention.  If you are running the same route, you are using the same muscles over and over again.  As a result, some muscles are remaining weak, causing muscle imbalance and ultimately injury.  By switching up your terrain, you will strengthen muscles you don't normally use.  When I run hills, my hamstrings and butt are more sore.  When I run on grass, my hips are less sore.  It's all good.    



3) Proper Running Technique.  When I run on grass or even a more slippery surface like smooth tile, I'm lighter on my feet.  I usually take smaller steps at a faster cadence - which is actually better running form!   



4) Mental Break.  Searching for different terrain will take you to new places and we could all use a mental break like that once in awhile!  It's good for us to see new places and take in our surroundings, instead of looking down at our Garmins all the time.  



And because I never miss an opportunity to relate running to life. . . 


A sample of what my feet hit on my runs.

Our path in life will have varied terrain.  Sometimes it's smooth, flat road.  Other times are quite bumpy.  And some days you feel like you might never get up that hill.  But trust that somehow this point in your path is making you stronger - if you take the time to accept that.  There is something beautiful and beneficial at every point in our path.  And if you can't see it now, trust that you will be able to look back on it one day and see it.



What about you?  Do you get a chance to run on anything but pavement?

Don't forget to check in with the rest of the #wowlinkup!  Thanks for reading!

Until next time,
Michele