Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Success! Planks, running, and new goals...

I've set a few goals for myself over the past few months, and I'm here to celebrate meeting those goals!

In February, I laid out my spring race schedule. It started with a March 5k that I wanted to PR in but committed to run it even if I knew that wasn't going to happen. I knew it wasn't going to happen, and I ran it anyway.
5k - check!

Next, there was the Gettysburg Marathon Relay, my first time to be any part of a marathon event. My leg was to be around 7 miles. I ran my 7.2 mile leg and added 4 more miles to complete an 11 mile total training run.
Gettysburg Relay - check!

Then, I was hit with my first ever Half Marathon. I wanted to finish. I did. Check!
Finish half marathon - check!
Finally, my schedule ended with a super fun time at the Run Amuck Mud Run (separate post coming about that adventure) I was worried about being strong enough for this, and my work paid off. I ran and had a total blast. Check!
Laugh my way through a mud run - check!

I'm completely thrilled to have laid out a plan and fulfilled it despite weeks and months where things came up, training was lacking, and life got in the way. I didn't let my perfectionism get to me, because not doing it perfectly but still doing it is way better than not doing it at all.

And of course, I joined the PLANKS Challenge. I wanted to go from being able to hold a plank for less than 2 minutes to a total of a 5 minutes in 6 weeks, and you know what? I did it!

What's next?

There may be a race or two to add to this. Inspired by this post from the Fitness Cheerleader, I've set my sights on my next half marathon and am planning my summer accordingly.

Saturday, July 2 The Joey Lavin Foudation 5k Augusta, NJ
On June 18, I tried to run my sister's first 5k with her at the Philadelphia Zoo. She just completed the couch-to-5k program and I was so happy for her! Somehow, the race organizers managed a huge miscommunication about the route and cut an entire mile off the course. This Saturday, we will re-attempt her first ever 5k!

Monday, September 6 Warwick Lions Labor Day 5k Warwick, NY
I ran this last year as the culmination of my couch-to-5k training. I am super excited to run it again, hopefully faster (maybe a PR if my half training is going well?)!

Sunday, October 2 OCNJ Half Marathon Ocean City, NJ
I am super excited to be running my second half marathon. Kristie will be running it again with me after doing the Super Hero with me in May. Additionally, Paula will be joining us! Luckily, my in-laws live near there and have said they'll help with the kids since my husband can't take another Sunday off. I think I've settled on the Hal Higdon Intermediate Training Plan with some adjustments.

Finally, I'll be joining in the next FitBlog Chats Challenge!

FitBlog Chats
Check out the link above and join me! All it takes is doing 3,000 abdominal exercises in 35 days. They don't have to be crunches or situps, and like the Planks Challenges, they'll be bloggers with weekly topics and instructional videos with exercise ideas. Once a week, update the form to track your progress.  Who's with me?

What goals have you set for yourself?  What have you accomplished recently?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Run Amuck 5k Mud Run Recap

On Saturday, I ran in my first ever MUD RUN!!! I was so incredibly excited about this. I mean what could be better than running in mud? Okay, before ya'all give me your snarky responses, let's just leave it at me being totally psyched.
Before: We were so ready for this. HA!
 In the lead-up, I was pretty worried about the strength component of the obstacles, but I did add in a decent amount of strength training in the past two months. I thought I'd at least have the running down, but since my half marathon I have not more than 3 miles a week. Yep, you read that right. Ouch. So I felt totally unprepared in the end, but my friend C and I were ready to just have fun with it!

Duct-taped shoes so you don't lose them in the mud

My mom watched my kids, so my husband came along to drive and take pictures of the adventure. We arrived at the state park nice and early. We caught a glimpse of a couple obstacles as we went to go check in, and the nerves started a bit. But while walking over to check-in the funniest thing, well at least funniest to me, happened. C who would be running with me stopped dead in front of a mud puddle trying to figure out a way to get around as is most people's tendencies when confronted with a mud puddle. At the time, I found it so completely hysterical that she was avoiding this little mud puddle considering what we had in store for us. I laughed until I cried. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. Lots and lots of laughs.

No idea.
Even less of an idea.

The atmosphere was a lot of fun in comparison to traditional races. People were completely out to have fun, and we knew the beer tent would be waiting for us when we got back. We watched the first group head out and finish. The first few guys were fast and not very muddy. We didn't quite know what to expect, but we lined up at the start, laughed and danced a bit, and then we were off!

What followed was a pretty strenuous 3.5 mile trail run with walls, cargo nets to climb or run through, multiple stream crossings including sometime where the race course was the actual stream bed, a beach run, a waist/chest deep water crossing, and of course the mud pits. It was a blast. Lots of laughter, some running, some walking, and lots of gorgeous views. (I definitely need to go back there hiking with the family!).  Afterwards we reveled in our dirtiness, drank a delicious beer while watching others finish, and made our plans for next year because it was that. much. fun!

Heading into the big water crossing.

Can't wait to get out on some more trail runs to be a little faster next year, and I might have to find another mud run or two to check out like the infamous Warrior Dash!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

PLANKS Challenge - It's All About Attitude

It is the final PLANKS Challenge post before the final re-test!  Haven't done much? Squeeze in ONE core workout this week.  Your body will thank you. Every little bit counts!

The last blog topic for the challenge is Abtastic Attitude! Life After Bagels posted about Attitude Adjustments.  I'm going to tell you about using a bad attitude, because that's what I've had lately.
So you've got a bad attitude, use it.  Sometimes it feels good to have a bad attitude. Some it feels good to be a little bad-ass. And you can use that to your advantage in getting to your fitness goals!  Back in January, I posted to facebook, "4 miles, 18 degrees, can't help but feel a little badass." Sure it might not have been a big deal to a lot of people, but to me, running 4 miles with snow on the ground and in 18 degree temps was just a little bad ass. It was a whole lot bad ass in comparison to sitting my butt on the couch or claiming it was too cold outside to get a workout in. I felt strong, like I conquered something. I felt tough.

Just like the PLANKS Challenge tagline, "tough as nails". It feels good to be strong, to be tough. Having a attitude sometimes means you're just that hardcore and you're not letting anything get in your way. Having a bad attitude is better than having no attitude. It might just be one more stop on the way to a good attitude.

Instead of fighting the bad attitude within, embrace it. I've got my first my mud run this Saturday, and I'm embracing my inner bad ass to mentally prepare for trucking through the woods, covered in mud, climbing walls, and arm crawling under wires.

In this depression I've been fighting, I've had this overwhelming urge to dye my hair like this, pierce something, and get a few tattoos. It's like this attitude inside is trying to ooze right out of me. I'm getting my hair cut on Friday. We'll see how that goes. Don't worry mom, no dye yet.

So maybe it's time to stop fighting the bad attitude and embrace. Pick your workout, tackle it, kick ass and take names. Go do something that feels a little bad-ass.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Links I Love

Here's some great stuff to check out. Tomorrow I'll be back with a PLANKS post!

Kinds of Blue is a series of a short original comics dealing with depression.  They are snapshots into different elements of living with depression or living with someone with depression. Different ones will resonate with different people but I particularly liked Feeling and A Friend in Need.

Hikerrev tells us what we need in church and I thought it was beautifully articulated.  Beautiful.  It's more than all are welcome. All are needed.

Jen, a priorfatgirl's video journey with Polar is just awesome. It's really about what a real life healthiness journey is about. It's an every day kind of thing. It's a lifelong kind of thing. And it's a life changing kind of thing.

Kelly tweeted a link to this great article from Yoga Journal about Yoga for Runners.  Yoga has so much to offer, especially for runners.  I am enjoying exploring it more.

Keeper of the Home offers Encouragement for Mothers of Strong-Willed Children. You're not alone!

A great reminder in Living With Your Photos.  I need to do some work to get some more pictures up in our home. It makes me happy, inspired, and encouraged to see them.

I know this may be very unpopular, but I think this is worth consideration. Amy @ Just West of Crunchy shares why Susan G. Komen for the Cure Isn't Curing Anything.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kids and the Outdoors: The Appalachian Trail

One of my favorite places in the world is the Appalachian Trail. I was 14 years old the first time I ever set foot on it, and at the time, I was terrified at the 3 days of backpacking ahead of me. I loved nature and camping, but I didn't think I was physically up to the famed backpacking trip at the summer camp I went to every summer. I did it, and I couldn't wait to do it again.
 Over the years, I went on a few more of those backpacking trips and even led a few as a counselor. In college, I explored parts of the A.T. in other states through our Outdoor Recreation group on campus. After we got married, my husband and I took day-trips along the A.T. when we went camping. Now, I have the most wonderful gift of living a mere 2.5 miles from the trail. When I go on some of my runs, I run past it, or on days like yesterday when I felt like giving trail running a go, I run on it

I love the trail for so many reasons. I love it because of what I know I've accomplished along it, doing things I didn't think I could do. I love it for the memories and community I've created while walking along it. I love it for the way it immerses me in the natural world and for the immense beauty found in such diverse places along the way. I love the A.T. for just how awesome it is.

From the Appalachian Trail Conservancy:
The Appalachian Trail is the longest continuously marked footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine.
Its very existence is just plain impressive. The community created among the thru-hikers who get to know each other as they make their way along the trail at their own paces, communicating through log-books at shelters and occasionally when they pass each other is striking. Similarly, the support gathered by communities adjacent to the trail for hikers reminds me the generosity and hospitality of which we are capable.

 The A.T. is a pretty cool place, and someday when the kids are grown I want to thru-hike it or at the very least section hike the entire thing. In the meantime, I am overjoyed to be able to share this sacred place with my kids. I am overjoyed to watch them explore and adventure. I can't help but grin when I ask my son what the white trail blaze means, and he excitedly exclaims, "we're on the Appalachian Trail!" It's neat to watch him connect the part of the trail we're one day to the others we've visited previously as he notices the blazes.

Every hike we take, whether on the A.T. or not, is a new adventure for both my kids and myself. We watch as the earth changes with the seasons and the weather. We begin to notice and identify plants or animals common to one area versus another. We find wild edibles and not-so-edibles. We listen to and watch the birds, and we begin to identify them learning the unique call of the oven bird, or that the red-winged black bird males were all impatiently waiting for the females to return from vacation in the spring. We stop at every single body of water grabbing a stink or a stone or twelve of each to drop into the water waiting for the satisfying splash it makes and then watching to see where it flows. We stop dead in our tracks and grin at each other as we both heard a lone frog make a big ol' gulp noise that we've come to know so well. We get muddy and messy and bit by bugs, but it is all completely worth it.

Getting out into nature has always been something that has been important to me, as it is a place where I connect with creation and God created it, but it is a new experience all together with my kids. I can hardly bear to think of how little nature so much of their generation will get, so instead of thinking about it, I get us out into nature as often as possible. It calms our souls, helps us to connect with each other and God, and provides for laughter and learning along the way.

 Great resources on kids and nature:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

PLANKS Challenge - Motivation

It's time for another PLANKS Challenge Update!

Life's been a little crazy around here with June busyness and me not feeling great, so I actually didn't re-test myself yet. But I've been doing a lot of yoga so I am hoping that is helping me out some. No, it's not the intentional planks workouts I started with, but I'm giving myself grace and making adjustments accordingly.

Excuse me, while I go plank it up for a few minutes.....

OK I'm back and I guess the yoga is helping me out some because I keep progressing! Here's my high plank re-test at 4.5 weeks into the 6 week challenge.

Wow!! To be honest, I did notice somewhere in there that I had dropped my butt too low and fixed it, but I am not positive how long it was like that. Regardless, it is still a huge improvement upon my original test plank of 1 minute 43 seconds. Wow. One and a half weeks to get to my 5 minute goal!

So today's blog topic is Six Packs of Motivation. What motivates you to keep up the work in this challenge or in any training program or workout regimen?  It ties in really well for me, because we are talking about Motivation this week in my Organize e-course with Dawn Trautman as well! Here are some of the things that motivate me in both the PLANKS Challenge and in general.

This is one of my biggest motivators. When I feel myself making progress whether in holding a plank longer, cleaning out the basement, or anything else in life, I am motivated to keep going. Knowing this, I am learning to do things to help measure my progress and set goals accordingly. It's one of the reasons I am checking my progress every week during the planks challenge. It's why I take before and after pictures for projects (and sometimes in the middle pictures to remind myself that I am making progress even when it feels like it's slow-going).  Seeing my progress helps me remember that little steps add up to giant leaps over time.

The key is to keep moving forward and progressing whether in small or large increments, because not doing anything means you aren't going anywhere. I'm an all-or-nothing perfectionist kind of girl, and I say that as a confession, not like it's a good thing. Once upon a time, I used to smugly say that my perfectionism was my biggest weakness in job interviews like it was a fake weakness, like I was proving my worth by showing that I had no other weakness besides being so darn fabulous all. the. time. Boy, was I wrong.

My perfectionism is my biggest weakness and it is a GIANT weakness. How many times have you avoided doing something because you wouldn't be able to do it exactly right and then it sat there undone for hours, days, weeks, or longer? How many times have you sacrificed something else more important to you - whether your health, money or time - just to meet a goal that you didn't even really care about by the end? Or maybe you've given up on a goal or challenge halfway through because you couldn't 'do it right'?  (I'm talking to some of your PLANKS Challengers here!!!) Any planks are better than no planks. Any progress is better than no progress. Allowing perfectionism to stop you from moving forward is not preserving your perfection, it's getting you nowhereYou've got one and a half weeks left, plank it up!

Support and community from others is a great motivator. A partner or group to share both the joys and challenges of you journeying to your goal gives you a safe place where you can connect with other like-minded people.  This also offers accountability! When I know I have to come here and over on the facebook page and tell you all how I am doing, it gives me a little push to keep going. Sometimes you get to be the one inspired, and sometimes you get to inspire. The give and take is awesome. It's one of the reasons I am going to go check out some local running groups soon. I need that community support. Chat me up on facebook or twitter for a little support and encouragement.

I am always drawn to those great advertisements in fitness magazines showing someone kicking butt with a catchy slogan or in the home decorating catalogs that embody perfection in their bathroom storage design or something else equally silly. I've always enjoyed making collages or surrounding myself with things that inspire me towards my goals. I recently discovered pinterest and oh my word, I am in love. On pinterest you can make your own virtual pinboards for basically whatever you want whether home decor, fashion ideas, inspirations, quotes you love or recipes. You can literally do whatever you want on it.

I've just started with it this week, and I'm following some folks I know from the blog world and real life. When they pin things, it shows up in my feed. I've seen some great stuff there, but my favorite thing to do so far is search for an area I'm looking for resources or inspiration in, i.e. yoga or running or faith or organization or whatever. you. want. It's a lot of fun, and I am growing pinboards that are inspiring me to tackle projects in home, add in workouts, and find peace and calming in new ways.  Here's a beginner's tutorial on pinterest.

Two disclaimers here: 1) pinterest could easily become a major time suckage if you don't set boundaries just like any great social media tool can be and 2) if this is how you are seeking motivation, give yourself grace. Don't let it become one more thing to beat yourself up - why doesn't my house look like that, why don't my abs look like that, why can't I do that pose, or whatever else. Surround yourself with things that give you positive energy!

What motivates you?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Depression Series: Tools for the Fight

This is the fourth post in the Depression Series. Other posts have included post partum depression, just plain depressed, and finding light.

This is in no way medical advice, and I am not a medical professional.  Please contact your health practitioner for help if you are having difficulty with depression.

I've been alternately working on this post and hiding from it for more than a month.  I suppose when I started this series, I was expecting to share my experience, wisdom (Ha!), and resources on the matter. This post would be about what worked for me along with some other things out there because treatment can be very different for each individual. The fact is I've been thrown back into learning, researching, and trial and error as my depression has gone from fairly well-managed to not so much.

I recently read The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression. It was both jarring and enlightening. Tracy Thompson wrote,
"Depression never gets licked in a day; sometimes you just have to hang in there. But small victories are crucial. One small action here (deciding to get out of bed) combined with another action there (taking your medications, spending fifteen minutes with your child) creates synergy. Individually, no one thing will get you well - a fact that can be paralyzing. But put two or three points together, and the sum of the individual effects is mysteriously magnified."
This statement hits on a few major things for me. Treatment encompasses so much more than taking this pill or that, even if you do go the medication route. It is many little things put together, it's the workout you might squeeze in one day, it's the things you put in your body, it's forcing yourself to connect or reach out for help once a day. The idea that every little bit helps is one thing to glean from that. But, the other side is that it also takes a lot of little things over and over again. It is that. much. work. Deciding to get out of bed just once is both that important and that hard.

Photo Credit

I'm a Make It or Break It junkie. It's a gymnastics show on ABC Family geared to girls much younger than myself. It's okay, you can laugh. Without going into too much background, in the season finale one of the gymnasts, Kaylie, comes clean to the public about her eating disorder and performs her floor routine triumpantly at World's clinching the USA team's win. Of course I was on the edge of my seat watching the whole thing (I wasn't kidding when I said I was a junkie), but I was especially struck by the song to which Kaylie performed her comeback floor routine. I actually went and looked it up after the fact which is not something I normally do.

I was surprised to find it was by Superchick, a mainstreamed Chritian group I saw perform at a ELCA Lutheran National Youth Gathering years back.  Christian pop music is really not my thing (seriously, my husband laughed pretty hard when he heard who the song was by and that I was listening to it), but this song used to illustrate Kaylie's fight with an eating disorder hit home with my fight with depression.  There's no mention of God, Jesus or Christianity in the lyrics of this or most of Superchick's song, but they identify as a group with Christan values.

It feels like I have lost this fight
They think that I am staying down
But I'm not giving up tonight
Tonight the wall is coming down
I am stronger than my fears
This is the mountain that I climb
Got 100 steps to go
Tonight I'll make it 99

One more

Go one more
Yeah, yeah
Don't stop now
Go one more
Yeah, yeah
One more

Go one more

Go one more
Yeah, yeah

I have everything to lose

By not getting up to fight
I might get used to giving up
So I am showing up tonight
I am my own enemy
The battle fought within my mind
If I can overcome step one
I can face the 99
All this to say, there are a lot of steps and pieces to treating and coping with depression. These are some of the tools that have been shown to help people in their journeys.

Medication and Counseling
The mainstream medical community relies on these as the main treatment options for depression. After my diagnosis with postpartum depression, I used both. A few things to remember: there are so. many. medication options. It is not one-size-fits-all. It often takes trial and error with the help of your medical practitioner. The same goes for counseling. It is not one-size-fits-all. There are different types of talk therapy including but not limited to various types of both psychotherapy as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. Plus, each therapist has a different personality, different life experience, and different values.

It's one more piece that makes fighting depression hard. Just getting yourself to a doctor or a counselor is not the only step. It's an important step, but it's just the beginning. It can be discouraging to have bad experiences with various medications, doctors, or therapists. It takes so much work for someone suffering to get themselves there, and when they do not find the relief or support they need it can be devastating. 

I have yet to find a therapist that I connected with doing a type of therapy that works for me. And to say the process of trying to find that is exhausting is a huge understatement. Also counseling and talk therapy can be cost-prohibitive for many with some health insurances not covering it or not covering it well.  Medication was an important tool for me at one point and may be again, but I also disliked how the medication made me feel. Without it, my downs were lower, yes, but my ups were higher. I suddenly had an ability to be truly joyful again. My husband noticed it, too. It was like someone had taken me off of mute.

Deficiencies in various vitamins and minerals have been shown to cause or exacerbate depression syptoms.  These include but are not limited to Vitamin D, Omega-3s, DHA, EPA, B vitamins especially including B6 and B12, Magnesium, and Calcium. Hormonal imbalances can also cause or worsen depression symptoms. Depending on the the levels and causes, natural hormone supplements, especially progesterone, can help remedy this. Additionally, supplements like St. John's Wort, Ginkgo Biloba, 5-HTP, and SAM-e have been shown to help in some cases. Much like counseling and medication options, diving into the vitamins, minerals, and supplements that can help you combat depression is overwhelming and confusing.  Walking through this an educated practitioner whether medical or holistic health would be extremely beneficial.

Lack of sleep, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and high amounts of stress can all cause or contribute to depression symptoms.  Sleep deprivation has severe effects on our body.  Attempt to get your body's needed sleep as often as possible (not very easy with small children with frequent night-wakings). Diets high in sugar and grains have been linked to depression.  Additionally, food sensitivities can exacerbate symptoms.  Eat real simple food with plenty of fruits, veggies, proteins, and good fats. Exercise can be a helpful coping mechanism.  I've wrote before about how running has helped me.  Most recently, I have delved into yoga which has the added benefits of meditation and the mind-body connection.  

Minimize daily stress. Look at what you have in your life and take out things that are necessary or unproductive. Stress is a big thing for me as a perfectionist who likes to over commit. I've come to a point where I've had to declare to myself that right now I am sick. This calls for serious changes to my lifestyle so that I can focus my energies on getting better. I've made the difficult decision to take certain commitments off of my list now before I find myself crushed under the weight of them later. It can be inconvenient to back out of things, but your health is more important. 

Ask for help.  You cannot and should not do this alone.  Connect with others who are going through or have gone through depression. Reach out to those who care about you. This can be an impossible step, but they can't support you if they don't know how much you need it. A simple email saying, 'hey, this is where I'm at, thanks for your support" can go a long way.

Other Holistic Health Tools
Homeopathy is a very effective treatment for some people experiencing depression, but it is not something you should attempt to self-treat. At the same time, see a homeopath can be prohibitively expensive.
Essentials oils can be used as a simple mood-lifting tool or  an entire treatment protocol. Be sure to seek out quality therapeutic-grade oils. Some of my favorites include Balsam Fir which has been shown to significantly reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and a Stress-Away blend. Lavender and Valerian are good for sleep support while Rose, Frankincense, Geranium, and Lemon are particularly uplifting.

Massage, energy work, and acupuncture have also been shown helpful, though again cost can be a challenge.

Attitude, Self-Talk, and Spirituality
Popular culture is currently filled with talk of happiness, gratitude, and finding positivity. There is a lot of good thinking out there, but it is not enough to fight real depression. Do not guilt yourself into believing if you could just harness the power of positive thinking or if you could just keep a gratitude journal, you'd be all better. It's simply not true. At the same time, pick and choose tools that you can relate to and use them as just one more step to healthiness. These skills, habits, and ways of thinking can be instrumental in recovery when used in combination with some of the other things I've mentioned.

At one point, various spiritual disciplines believed depression was a purely spiritual problem (and sadly some still do). If you could just find God or trust God enough, you would be healed. Physiological depression is more than just a disconnect with your belief in a higher power, if you have one. Of course, that doesn't mean that faith and spirituality can't be tools, and there is no doubt that faith and spirituality suffer as you deal with depression. Seek out ways to connect spiritually whether through a faith community or on your own as you feel able. Don't let it be a source of guilt or stress but an opportunity.

Be kind and gentle to yourself.  If you are battling depression, you are sick. It's not your fault. You wouldn't talk about that girl you know with diabetes or cancer the way you talk about yourself. It helps to learn more about depression. I found that learning that anger, irritability, rage, and sheer exhaustion are all expressions of depression was liberating for me. I'm not being lazy; I am physically that tired from fighting this illness. Yes, I am irritable and have a hard time controlling my temper, but it's not me. It's a piece of the depression. It doesn't make it okay, but it gives me hope that conquering depression can bring so much light into my life. I am not permanently damaged. I am not a terrible person. I am sick. I can get well.

Naturally Battling Depression @ Passionate Homemaking
Just Be Depressed @

Thursday, June 9, 2011

PLANKS Challenge: Alternate Workouts

We are more than halfway through the PLANKS Challenge!  Those of you who have joined me, how is it going?!  Have you stuck with your plan?  Made adjustments?  Let us know in the comments so we can support each other! It's Thursday, so we have less than two and a half weeks left to the challenge, but you can do a lot in two and a half weeks.

My Update.  As I shared last week, my activity levels have been lower than I'd like and I've been fighting a funk. I also didn't track my activity like I should have this past week so I'm not sure what I did!  I did a 3 mile run on National Running Day, and I did some strengthwork probably twice. But I do know that I re-tested on Sunday and was up to 3 minutes 32 seconds in high plank!  Just 88 more seconds to hit my goal.

This week's blog topic is Alternate Workouts which is kind of perfect, because this week I added a new workout to my week! My standard workout in general involves running, because I'm a runner. The PLANKS Challenge for me is all about focusing on those core muscles that so often get very little attention from when I'm focused on logging miles. This week, I started yoga as a workout that both will work my core as well as other muscle groups, but also bring some balance to my week both physically and mentally. It is a much gentler workout than running, and it helps me tune into my body more intentionally. 

On Monday, I got a two week new student pass for a Iyengar Yoga Center near me.  This pass means I get unlimited classes for 15 days.  In order to take full advantage of the $30 I spent, I'm trying to fit in as many classes as possible.  I also find this is a good way to immerse myself in a new practice and build new habits. I attended my first class on Monday and my second class this morning (at 6am!!!).  I plan on going back for a second class today at 5:30pm to try out another instructor. I am enjoying both the intentional time away and the practice.

Iyengar Yoga is very different from any yoga I've done before. Granted, I haven't done a lot of yoga besides some limited home practice, some gym yoga classes, and some prenatal classes. 

From wikipedia:
Iyengar Yoga is characterized by great attention to detail and precise focus on body alignment. Iyengar pioneered the use of "props" such as cushions, benches, blocks, straps, and even sand bags, which function as aids allowing beginners to experience asanas more easily and fully than might otherwise be possible without several years of practice. Props also allow tired or ill students to enjoy the benefits of many asanas via fully "supported" methods requiring less muscular effort.

Standing poses are emphasized in Iyengar Yoga. They are said to build strong legs, increase general vitality, and improve circulation, coordination and balance, ensuring a strong foundation for study of more advanced poses.
Unlike more experiential approaches where students are encouraged to independently "find their way" to the asanas by imitating the teacher, an Iyengar Yoga class is highly verbal and precise, with misalignments and errors actively corrected.
This describes my experience well.  Of the two classes almost all of the poses were standing besides a stray Downward Dog, Downward Facing Hero Pose which is similar to Child's Pose, and of course Savasana (though we even used variations of that with props). We used blocks, ropes attached to the wall, straps, cushions, blankets, and chairs in our practice. The class begins and ends with a few minutes in meditation, but the class is less quiet than others I've taken. The lights are on; there are no music or candles. There is demonstration, adjustment, and exchanging of props.

The result is that I don't feel overwhelmed and frustrated when I cannot do things. In fact, for the most part I feel successful and capable and yet still challenged. It is kind of a strange experience being so different from what I've known before. We don't do series or vinyasas of poses. It is very slow and focused. The instructor was telling me today that Mr. Iyengar who is the founder of the type of yoga has been known to have an hour and a half class just on tadasana or mountain pose.  I can't quite imagine that and am glad my classes cover a little more, but there is this intense focus on aligning body in the proper position and not just going through the motions. I enjoy the focus of it.

What alternate workouts are you doing to focus on your core or simply change it up whether you are participating in the PLANKS Challenge or not?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

So it's not about the air conditioning...

It's been pretty hot here in New Jersey these past few days. In the spirit of green and frugal living, I was adamant that we not turn on the air-conditioning for as long as possible. I certainly was not turning it on in May, forgoodnesssake!  We dug out all the fans and installed a ceiling fan in the living room. We were managing despite the 85 degree temperatures in the bedroom at night. The bedroom where we all sleep as a bedsharing family. Bedsharing at 85 degrees isn't fun, it's sticky.

On May 31, with the bedroom hitting 85 by noon and with the children being crankier than even usual, I caved. If the kids were going to whine and scream at me, I was going to be cool while they did. I turned on the air-conditioner. I set it at a modest 78 degrees to take the edge off, and we enjoyed a break from the stifling heat.

Fast forward to this morning. Kids didn't sleep last night. Dishes weren't clean, and I needed to pack lunches for school. I had a two hour crisis involving tears, hyperventilating, dragging out every piece of technology we own, and eventually unearthing the four years of digital picture files I believed I had lost forever. I was frazzled and tired until it was time for the boy and I to head to school so I could do lunch duty.

I rushed out the door of our temperature-controlled home and froze. My jaw dropped as I discovered an absolutely blissful day that had been hiding outside. I mean blissful. The sun was shining. There were blue skies and white fluffy clouds. The breeze was perfect. 66 degrees. It brightened my mood immediately. I had been oblivious to it all while boxed in my temperature-controlled, grumpy-attitude-filled home.

I know it wasn't exactly my air-conditioner's fault. I was the one who turned it on. But air-conditioning has a tendency to isolate us and box us into our environment leaving us completely unaware of whatever is going on outside it. On a sweltering 90-degree day, that's helpful.  Other times, it keeps us from seeing that the circumstances have changed, our needs have changed. A tool, a habit, or behavior that at one point improved the quality of your life can quickly turn into something that is preventing you from seeing new possibilities.

Clearly this is about about much more than air-conditioning (which I admit I'm not giving up anytime soon!).  This is about considering what behaviors in your life might have been helpful at one point but are no longer so... or which things protrayed as conveniences or improvements are actually hindering you. What do you continue to do because it's a habit and not because it's enhancing your life experience?  Where have you boxed yourself in? Is it time to take a peek outside?

Dawn is actually this fun!

Next week, I'll be embarking on a 4-week journey with Dawn Trautman. You might remember me raving about her when I took part in her e-course Personalize or when I shared my personal statement. Along with developing my personal statement, I looked at what experiences shaped who I am, evaluated my strengths and weaknesses, and considered what beliefs and behaviors were serving and not serving me.  This time, I'll be taking the course Organize which will run Monday, June 6 through Saturday, July 2.  Here is what Dawn says about the course:

  • Week 1: Examine your current state: What creates chaos in your life? How do you manage it?
  • Week 2: SPACE: Organize your home or office. What are your beliefs about your work, family and living space?
  • Week 3: TIME: Organize your schedule. How is your use of time affected by your beliefs about your health and spirituality?
  • Week 4: MONEY: Organize your finances. How do your beliefs about money affect your relationships? 
"Organize" is best for: Someone who wants to understand how their thoughts influence their world around them, and how to set better patterns.
She describes it i greater detail on the course website. I love that this is about more than just cleaning out a closet, because finding order in our lives is about so much more than our external surroundings. In fact, most often what we feel like on the inside resembles what we surround ourselves with on the outside and vice versa. They go hand in hand! 

I'm thrilled to be taking another one of Dawn's courses, because it gives me the opportunity to interact with other participants as well as receive personal attention from an experienced life coach while doing it on my schedule and my budget.

I encourage you to check out Dawn's services, but especially her e-courses: Personalize, Organize, and Realize! I would love to journey through Organize with one or many of you.  Take a peek around her site or go straight to e-course registration. Please note: in some places, it may say that the Organize course started June 1, but the dates were changed to better suit some of the participants. That's how much Dawn goes out of her way to connect with her clients!  The course will begin June 6.

The fine print: I was not poked, prodded, or encouraged to write this blog post, and I'm not receiving anything in return for my kind words. I think Dawn's great and wanted to share with you this fabulous opportunity! I truly hope some of you will join me on this or maybe check out another one of Dawn's offerings. At the very least, go see her Urban Nomad blog!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

National Running Day: I run..

It's National Running Day! I made it out this morning for a short 3 miles. I've been feeling kind of blah with my running since the half marathon. I've been bored with my runs, annoyed at my paces, and struggling to find motivation to get out. National Running Day was a great excuse to get out and mix it up a little!

I headed to the Appalachian Trail where it crosses by my house.  There's a great boardwalk section and then it goes off into the woods for a bit of a trail run. It was not an easy 3 miles, but it was a fun 3 miles! I enjoyed it. I definitely see more trail running in my future. How could I not when I have places like this nearby to run?
(these pictures are not from today, but same place!)