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Fitness

This week I am starting my training plan for my half-marathon. I have a certain time goal in mind and I have 7 months to train and work my way up to 21k. I’m running a 10k race at the end of next month, so I’ve got to get going and work on my 10k time as well.

One thing that has always been hard for me when it comes to actually making myself go for a run is a) motivation and b) the feeling that I’m not improving my form or time remotely. This has earnestly discouraged me in the past. So I have decided to compile a list of ways to improve my running.

  1. Focus on breath. A huge part of why I want to stop myself while running is because my breath starts to become shallow.  If you focus on breathing through your nose slowly as opposed to quick and shallow, it will actually help circulate oxygen to your extremities, slow down your heart rate, and keep you cool as a cucumber. Breath is the link between your mind/body connection – they rely on one another and when one waivers, there is an adverse reaction for the other.
  2. Get a good playlist! (Though I’ve already blogged about this)
  3. Do more yoga! Yoga will help you to master the technique required to breathe through your nose. Not only that, but it will stretch out your Achilles and improve your flexibility.
  4. Get good running gear. Now I am not suggesting that you drop hundreds of dollars at Lululemon. But seriously, there is nothing worse than running in shorts or leggings that are too big for you and keep falling down. Talk about attractive! Also, for all the ladies out there: never underestimate the importance of a good sports bra. Your girls will thank you in the long run. My last tip: go to a quality running/sports store and get fitted for your shoes. It will help your shins in the end and no shin splints = a happy runner.
  5. Come up with a good pre-run snack! A good idea of how much to eat and what you should eat can be seen at this link from FitSugar: http://www.fitsugar.com/What-Eat-Before-Run-24108225I hate it when my stomach starts cramping during a run and that usually happens because I’ve eaten the wrong thing. This is something that I am unabashedly guilty of.
  6. Work on those Abs! Since I started working on my abs in barre class, I have noticed a serious difference in my running stance. It is so much easier for me to keep my body erect as opposed to slumping over when I get tired. Plus, holding in your abs while you run is a great work out in and of itself! I recommend some planks to really target the lower region of your abdominals that is so difficult to build muscle in.
  7. Run Alone. I find it so much easier to run alone than with someone else. That way, I’m not competing with anyone. If I want to incorporate sprints and hills, I can do it on my own time and when I’m feeling ready. Also, isn’t it nice to just get some time by yourself as you most likely have to deal with other people all day long. Take some quality me time!
  8. Have fun! Even though I’m training right now, that doesn’t mean that my goal shouldn’t be to enjoy myself. If I don’t enjoy running, then I should not be doing it. I love how it makes me feel and that’s why I keep pushing myself to get out there.

I will leave you all with a quote about breath from a yogic stance as it really is so important. Breath is life, “”When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.” – Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Happy running! Peace. xx.

-H.

It is easy to get caught up in the rigour and hype of exercise. You can be on a high when you are running and when you make it back home it is easy to flop on the couch, have some water and call it a day. The same thing can apply when you work out at the gym – you can become so focused on trying to build up strength, burning calories, cardio, and working on your abs that you just leave the gym without properly stretching.

I lecture as if I am not guilty and that would be the pot calling the kettle black. The more I take yoga and dance classes, it has become quite apparent to me that stretching is key. I am certainly more flexible now than I was when I was a teenager, but I credit yoga for that. Stretching really will help create long and lean muscle lines but also keep you limber. I find that when I consistently stretch, my body (my back in particular) just feel better.

Apparently, the medical community is skeptical about the benefits of stretching and that it is not necessarily detrimental to your body if you do not stretch after exercising. To this I say, bullshit. If I run 10k and do not (at the very least!) stretch out my calves or my thighs, I am going to feel it the next day. I am going to develop shin splints and my achilles will shorten over time. I can feel my Achilles tightening as I think about not stretching. I must say, as much as I enjoy running – I am quite the cynic when I read running magazines. It is not that I don’t think that there is no value in some of those articles but I grew up in the dance world – we don’t stretch and we don’t believe ingesting weird little gel packs for energy.

It also seems to be a fad right now (that I myself am buying in to!) that everyone wants to have lean muscles and bodies like that of a dancer’s. Isometric movements followed by stretching are the fastest and surest way for lean muscles to be built up. When you have increased flexibility, your body will work other muscles in a general muscle area to keep your leg up for instance and this will actually help to keep you injury free for the most part. It does a lot more than being bulky does. I know a lot of people who are beautiful and have bulky muscles but can barely touch their toes.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been trying to stretch as much as possible after my runs or gym trips. I like to go home while I’m still warm, grab my yoga mat and play a 20-30 minute playlist that will relax me and actually place me in the frame of mind to stretch. I usually only do static stretching after a workout. When you stretch, your sensory receptors tell your muscles to contract. By performing a static stretch and holding the stretch, your body will eventually relax and surrender to the stretch – and allowing for more space to increase the flexibility.

Here are some stretching routines that I like to do:

I also like to stretch my hip flexors/psoas in a lunge with my back knee bent:

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I usually also stretch in a straddle second with my feet flat against a wall and pick my behind up and move it closer in to the wall slowly.

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Be careful as to not overwork your stretch – if your leg starts convulsing or quivering, back off!

For my next post, I will share some of my relaxing tunes to help you through your stretch as well.

Happy stretching! Peace. xx.

-H.

Your legs feel like jelly, your breath is short, your lungs are burning: suddenly, your run is no longer fun and you might as well just stop and walk (rolling or crawling home is usually a good option at this point). This is an all too familiar scenario to me. I can see it playing out in my head right now as I write this – accompanied by my bright red tomato face. This feeling of defeat is what ends up discouraging me and sometimes preventing me from going out for my run.

The only weapon I can use against this is a dope and pumped up playlist. Seriously, I am not one of those people who can run without music or even with a buddy. I get distracted by my head movies. There are a million things running through my head: “what should I eat for dinner?” “what am I going to wear tomorrow?” “How long did it take for Colby Rasmus’ corn rows to get done?” “What the heck is a first down?”  “I wonder what Rod Stewart ate for breakfast today?”

Moving along, the only thing that keeps those musings at bay is a playlist that makes me want to dance but also motivates me to keep going. There are definitely certain things that I associate with the different songs that I listen to – like any Beyonce song, I just think if she can practice all of that choreography in heels; then this girl can run for 5 more minutes without dying. Plus, I get pumped up when I hear these songs and it gives me that extra bit of energy to keep going through the entire length of a song.

So here are some of my faves: (I can already predict that most readers will be laughing as they read my choices)

Music can keep you upbeat and motivated. If you’re really hardcore, you can match your desired bpm to your song choices and invent a strategy for your playlist – be careful not to go overboard though. I like to choose songs that make me feel empowered and I’m still a running rookie. Dance songs are great for keeping me going. This is just a sample playlist. Let me know what some of your favourite running songs are in the comments?

I love to make a playlist for when I’m stretching after my workout as well. I will be posting that up soon!

Happy running! Peace. xx.

-H.

I have been slacking on my yoga as of late. I have fallen in love with barre workouts at Inside Out Studio barre in Westboro and it has opened my eyes to a new exercise world. I highly recommend this workout to everyone. It will kick your ass, make you want to chuck your weight at the instructor, want to curl up in a ball and die but the feeling and results you achieve after are so worth the pain. Their approach is to exhaust all of the major muscle groups through repetition. My butt is always killing me the next day! But you can’t be lazy if you want to look like Beyonce (side note: I never will…). I’ve just also been so busy, I haven’t found time to fit my yoga time in to my schedule. Which is terrible, because it’s ordinarily the only thing that keeps my sane and not quite so stressed out.

So last night I decided to return to my yoga roots and get my stretch on. I showed up to class and my regular teacher wasn’t there – I was a little gutted. But then I thought to myself, why am I so attached to my routine? I am very regimented and structured in every aspect of my life, I crave order – so I decided to relax and go with the flow.

It was a good idea that I decided to relax because holy shit was that class ever tough. It was an all-levels hot flow class but that was definitely not all-levels material. Once I dropped my sense of attachment, I was able to really flow through the sequences better. As I had anticipated, my yoga skills had dwindled a bit in my hiatus. It was such a humbling experience for me. I think that it really is good to challenge yourself once in a while or else we risk becoming complacent.

What stood out to me during my practice was that as frustrated as I was that my arm balances aren’t where they used to be and that my balance itself was a little shaky, I still accepted that I couldn’t do these things instead of becoming attached and wound up in the idea that I can’t. I’ve been reading lots of yoga articles about acceptance and the yogic principle of non-attachment and I thought they were all bull. Yoga can be for everyone and I don’t have to be as capable as my instructor or the other yogis around me. She made me try Urdhva PadmasanaMy teacher came over to assist me and I thought to myself girl, I think that you’re crazy, BUT I could keep my balance for maybe one second on my own…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that’s not to say that I’m not going to try to regain a strong practice, I just found it so refreshing to just feel grateful that I was there and humbled by the restrictions of my own body. As strong as my strength training has made me, yoga requires a different strength – which is mostly emotional as well. Experiencing that awareness was something that I’ve never been privileged to have before. Suffice it to say, I am looking forward to getting back to my regular practice as a compliment to my other activities…and finding time to run in between!

I will leave you all with two videos I’ve found that have been helpful to me in getting my crow pose back in to action (though mine still leaves much up to the imagination…):

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-3185/How-to-Do-Crow-Pose.html

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-498/How-to-Do-Crow-Pose-Kathryn-Budig-Demonstrates-Provides-Tips-Video.html

Peace and Happy Yoga-ing! xx.

-H.

“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art” – Leonardo da Vinci

If we were trees, our feet would be our roots. They keep us grounded and upright (sometimes they are even the cause of our clumsiness). In my opinion, they are parts of our body that are overlooked. Can they be nasty and ugly? Oh, for sure. I know that when I danced en pointe and was at Irish dance class 4 times a week that they were covered in cuts and blisters. A dancer’s feet are treated pretty harshly.  Other people’s feet freak me out for real and it definitely bothers me if anyone touches mine. That being said, you can never underestimate the power of those little things.

As a girl that has broken her fifth metatarsal on my right foot and six months later broken the fourth metatarsal on my left foot – I think that I understand just how your feet can screw you over if you don’t take care of them. My second break occurred in the middle of a performance on stage at a competition. Was it painful? Oh yes. In retrospect I see that I broke it because I was compensating for the break on my other foot. Had I taken my rehab more seriously, I definitely could have prevented it. It was a harsh lesson learned.

Your foot is deceptively complex: there are 26 bones in each foot, that is 25% of the bones in your body! A foot also contains 33 joints, over 100 ligaments and 19 muscles. Holy smoking jackets!

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I think that taking care of your feet is especially important for anyone who practices yoga regularly or who runs. When you are conditioning your body you are primarily thinking about your abs, legs, arms and back. When do you think about your feet?! We regularly hear in yoga that if you root and ground through your feet, your posture can become more erect and balancing will become easier. If you work your feet in to your regular conditioning practices, you will find that you feel more complete. How else do you expect your ankles to keep you up?

Now, for some ways that we can make our feet fit! These are some exercises that you can even do while you are watching tv.

Check out these two websites for exercises:

Also, it is great to do some exercises with a thera-band if you have one handy.

  • Place the thera-band around the ball of your foot and simply point and flex while holding the ends of the band in each of your hands while pulling to give a bit of resistance. They demonstrate this in following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fL5feWVqqPY

I do these while I’m watching tv. I don’t have very high arches and my feet are naturally lazy. So I am trying to work with them right now so that they don’t cramp up when I even try and pointe them.

Needless to say, our feet are super important. You can strengthen your ankles and arches by doing these exercises. I also find that it is easier to straighten my leg while doing strengthening and conditioning exercises when my foot is pointed. If you can keep your legs straight in leg lifts or in yoga when it is required, you will actually build up leaner muscle.

Your feet really are magical. It is incredible to think how complex they are and how much we truly rely on them every single day. Feet fit are happy feet!

Peace. xx.

-H.

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