Category Archives: exercise

channeling the yogi.

The final panel at the summit last weekend, prior to a free giveaway-palooza, was a casual talk by the planning committee entitled “Fitness for Everyone.”

Each blogger shared personal fitness-related stories, whether it be Kath biking to the supermarket or mowing the lawn, Caitlin and Tina navigating injuries, Meghann training for marathons, or Heather displaying a yoga-running balance.  The overall message was that exercise should be a priority, but that it should also be enjoyable.  There is no mold that perfectly fits us all, and we all have different activities that suit us best.

Then Jenna stood up and cemented that point.  She faced us without Powerpoint slides, without notecards, without any pre-planning.  She told us how running continues to disagree with her body and expressed that it’s likely she will stop entirely after her half marathon this fall.  What will she do then?  Yoga.  Just yoga.

IMG_3139

When I arrived in Boston, I knew I would be spending two days mingling with many, many runners.  I had prepared myself to be upset, to be frustrated, to be angry with myself and my knees.

But I wasn’t.

In my first couple months of physical therapy last winter, I tried yoga out, but I couldn’t focus.  I was counting the days until I’d run again, and I felt neither commitment nor connection to yoga.  But when my knees flared up again, I chose to give yoga another chance.  Somehow, in just a few short months, it has become just as rewarding to me as running once was. 

Yoga has made me more connected and aware of my body than ever before.  I used to say that about running, and it was true to a point.  I could tell when I was underfueled, overworked, or just right, depending on how I felt on that day’s run.  But having that awareness didn’t necessarily mean I listened to what my body was saying.  

When I ran, I was always planning.  5 miles today, 3 tomorrow.  Long and slow today, tempo tomorrow.  Yoga is different.  I can do it for twenty minutes or an hour and a half.  I can shake and stumble out of poses; I can also shock myself and balance with strength I never knew I had.  I can feel sweat coat my body, and I can also relax, letting my mat simply be a place for a gentle stretch.  Most of all, I never choose what to do in advance.  I allow the moment to guide me, and my body tells me if it needs work or rest, if it’s ready for a new and challenging pose, or if it needs to resettle in the familiar.

I still love to run.  I was only able to enjoy it for a year, but it was a wonderful year, and I am glad I was able to participate in the running community for that time.  I’ll always know I have the heart and the drive to run long distances.  But putting my sneakers in my closet and shutting the door is a decision I am not only proud, but content to have made.

I believe our bodies were meant for activity.  But I am also a firm believer that we each have our own unique niche.  Some people run.  Some walk.  Some enjoy the gym.  Some dance. [Have I ever mentioned I took twelve years of ballet lessons?]  Some people swim, some bike, some climb.  And some practice yoga.  

Exploring the many different forms of movement can be half the fun of staying active.  The other half, at least for me, is finding the one that’s right for you, falling in love with it, and treasuring its sweet release.


What is your exercise release?

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under exercise

vacation and movement.

Just as I enjoy leading a relatively active lifestyle, I also appreciate a bit of activity on vacation.  This has never meant spending my mornings in a hotel gym or cranking out pushups on my hotel room floor.  It does, however, mean picking up my feet and breathing in some fresh air.  In the past, I woke up to sunny runs along the beach.  This year, I appreciated the simplicity of a walk.

I began many mornings with walks on the beach…

ogunquit beach

Or along the rocky coast…

marginal way

My family walked to dinner…

shore road

And to reach entertainment…

ogunquit playhouse

We walked on the golf course…

merriland farms

We walked to the beach…

footbridge

In the sun…

perkins cove bridge

Blanketed by fog…

ogunquit river fog

And just to appreciate the view.

perkins cove

I love walking.  Accompanied by some time on my yoga mat (have I mentioned I held crow for the first time this week?), it is all the movement I need.


How do you move on vacation?

6 Comments

Filed under exercise

take a walk.

I have always loved walking.  Even before I learned to associate it with exercise, miles covered, or calories burned, I truly enjoyed the practice.

granada

In college, I lived about forty blocks from the set of buildings designated as my campus.  While I was typically running too far behind schedule to take a stroll to class, I nearly always walked home afterward, whether the temperature be below freezing or above eighty.  Climate didn’t matter; I simply loved the walk.

Those post-class hikes taught me an important lesson about cities: there is no better way to experience one than to walk it.  As I covered the Manhattan blocks between school and my dorm room, I passed through four distinct neighborhoods – quaint, trendy, grimy, pristine.  I watched one seamlessly flow into another, saw the numbers and types of people in each change, felt the neighborhood energy shift from one to the next.

fulton stall market

Consequently, when I travel, I walk everywhere, sometimes beyond the point of reason.  On my first trip to Paris, I was so busy flitting from place to place that I only scratched the surface of the city.  When I returned, however, I walked miles and miles, finally reaching an understanding of the city’s ebb, flow, and relentless classicism, no matter the district.

salzburg

When summer arrived in Prague, I began to tread over the cobblestone regardless of my destination.  I strolled over a valley of railroad tracks on my way to work, wound through tourist central to teach English lessons, crossed the river to meet friends for Sunday afternoon brunches.  The city began to feel small and unbelievably accessible, covered east to west by my two feet.

IMG_2720

A few months ago, I was blindsided when I was told not only to stop running, but to also restrict my walking.  I could never give it up altogether – walking is a means of transportation in New York.  But suddenly, twenty blocks was no longer a distance meant for foot travel; it was a distance covered by two subway stops.

dubrovnik

I picked up my custom orthotics two days ago.  As instructed, I wore them yesterday on a thirty minute walk, and for the first time in six months, I exited my apartment building with the knowledge that the walk I was planning was okay.  Turns out my orthotics need some serious adjustments – but that’s not the point.  What matters is that I have learned to appreciate the basics.  

Whether alone, in someone’s company, in the city, or on a boardwalk, I have relished in the simple joy of each walk I have taken this year.  The running question remains, but walking?  Right now, that is my goal, and perhaps it is the only goal I need.


Are you a walker?  Where’s your favorite place to take a stroll?

12 Comments

Filed under exercise

biking + bbq.

One of the wonderful things about living in New York in the summertime is the multitude of free activities available to locals and tourists alike.  This afternoon, my sister and I walked over to tourist central, otherwise known as the South Street Seaport, with one purpose in mind: renting bikes – without the rental fee.

I received a flyer in my mailbox a few weeks ago advertising locations of free bikes at the seaport and Battery Park, but it took us a while to finally manage to make it over there.  In preparation, I put on my practical shoes and knee sleeves; my sister…did not.

biking shoes

Now, a little background:  the last time I was on a bike, I was nine years old.  That was a long, long time ago.  So today I had to do a bit of practicing, and the first few minutes were looking a little bleak.  Mounting a bicycle for the first time in almost fifteen years on Manhattan streets – not exactly an ideal locale.

Although there were some near misses with cabs, small children, and delivery boys, as well as an unfortunate collision with a pole, the experience of zooming down the West Side Highway was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.  Once the first few unstable minutes had passed, pedaling into the breeze was as easy as – well, riding a bike.

The last time I was on that path was also the last time I ran, and riding down there today was nostalgic – but in a positive way.  Honestly, I’m relatively sure I’m going to go rent a bike on my own sometime this week.  Exercise is always more fun in the fresh air!

IMG_2709

After our ride, my stomach was audibly hungry, so I got to work on dinner.  My task of the evening was to conquer mustard greens and actually enjoy them.  I passed my test:

bbq beans and mustard greens (serves 1)

  • evoo
  • 1/2 c onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1/2 large zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 c kidney beans
  • 4 c mustard greens, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 2 T barbecue sauce
  • 1 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 t ground mustard
  • 1 t cumin

Heat oil in medium saucepan.  Add onion; sauté until soft.  Meanwhile, whisk together barbecue sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, and cumin.  

Add zucchini, tomatoes, beans, mustard greens, and barbecue sauce mixture to saucepan.  Simmer, covered, about 10 minutes.  

barley, bbq beans, mustard greens

I served it over barley and felt as though I should have been dining in a Southern backyard, rather than my New York countertop.  A good one for a muggy summer evening.


Do you remember the first time you rode a bike?  Did you fall?  Need training wheels?  Were you a natural?  (My answers would be yes, yes, and definitely no).

9 Comments

Filed under dinner, exercise

credit where credit is due.

In my weekly hot yoga class yesterday, my mind drifted, for a moment, away from an intense focus on the practice.

Towards the beginning, the instructor had us stand tall in Tadasana, feet hip width apart.  As she circled the room, adjusting what can seem the simplest of postures, she invited me to move my feet closer together.  Her words?  “Give yourself some more credit.”

I couldn’t help but smile.

greek yogurt and granolapost yoga snacking

The yoga studio I attend has three distinct walls.  Morning light streams through the windows on one; a single ballet bar adorns another; a third is composed entirely of floor to ceiling mirrors.  I never look in the mirrors.

Perhaps if I did, I might have seen that my feet were spread too wide.  But in that room, my reflection never tempts me.  Yoga has become a place where I am free from any needs or desires to dwell on the shape of my body. 

Ninety percent of the time, I do see myself as I am, and I am proud of it.  But those occasions do arise where old habits blindside me, and I can’t see my size realistically.  Rather than fixating on these moments, though, I evaluate them and move on.  

My feet were opened too far; some part of me believed they were mirroring my hips.  So, I moved them inward, and I drifted for a minute as I considered my past and my present.  I grinned, appreciating yoga for continuing to educate me day after day, and I returned to my mat.


What helps you to accept yourself as you are?

8 Comments

Filed under exercise, Uncategorized

what i learned on my running vacation.

Today I am finally getting fitted for custom orthotics.  My physical therapist swears I will run again, and soon, but I still don’t know.

Sometimes I am still surprised that I’ve managed to settle into a running-free life.  It felt like agony in the beginning, but in the past couple months, things have changed.  It’s not that I learned to live with it; it’s more that I learned to live in a different way.

sneakers and inserts

Sure, there were some tears.  There were some screams.  But looking back, I have grown an incredible amount, and I’m not sure that living out a dream of running a half marathon would have taught me the same lessons:

  • I discovered yoga.  Running was my outlet for any and all emotions.  Frustrated?  Run.  Angry?  Run.  Excited?  Run.  Afraid?  Run.  I had some of my most introspective thoughts while pounding out the miles.  But with yoga, I learned to shut my  brain off.  I stopped focusing on my body and my emotions, and instead centered on simply being.  That mental freedom is something I will treasure forever.
  • I practiced patience.  I followed the plans I was given, performed the strengthening exercises, stayed in when I knew I shouldn’t walk too much, rested when I was told to.  I did what I should have, but my body didn’t always follow.  I could never predict when I would have a good day and when I would not.  I couldn’t make my own exercise plans; I couldn’t train for a race.  I could, however, focus on what was happening right now.  As someone who always looks to the future, this was a difficult adjustment – but it was worth it.  Patience is a virtue, and appreciating each day as I live it has been a beautiful gift.
  • I started eating to live, not to run.  Most runners I know are a bit obsessed with food – what to eat, when to eat, how to eat it.  While I think the concept of sports nutrition is a fascinating one, it has been nice to take a break from it.  While running, I knew I needed to eat in order to run well (and the feeling of running while underfueled is not an enjoyable one).  But without running?  No longer was I eating for a purpose.  I was eating because it was an enjoyable, pleasurable part of life.  I’ve stopped seeing food as fuel, and I am now happy to approach it as something I love.
  • I realized the mental benefits of exercise far outweigh the physical.  I started seriously exercising a couple years ago in order to change my body.  And suddenly, I found myself forced to rest.  I was shocked to find that not only did my weight not change an ounce, but that I also didn’t care.  Far more than the calorie burn, I missed the high.  Each day I am able to walk, to press up into downward dog, even to zone out on the elliptical, I am grateful for the ability to do it.  I’ve proven to myself that I exercise to better my soul.

So really, who knows if orthotics will be a miracle cure.  But if they aren’t – I’m confident I’ll survive.


Have you ever been injured?  What have you learned from it?

5 Comments

Filed under exercise

“we’re at yoga.”

Those were the words my instructor uttered this morning, while guiding us to release forward into pigeon, heads pressed to the mat, arms and leg outstretched and open.

hot yoga essentials

It was a bit of an intense class this morning.  The practice was led by a woman who demanded much more in the way of precision than I had previously experienced.  As she adjusted each participant equally and mindfully, we were encouraged to remain steady in each pose for minutes at a time.  

Halfway through, I was working so hard that sweat was literally dripping onto my mat (TMI?).  My arms were trembling; I questioned if I could continue at this slow, excruciating pace.  

Yet, for every minute that it seems impossible to continue, I always find that yoga evens itself out.  As we laid to rest in pigeon, the room was full of unique, differing, and audible breaths.  And the instructor said, “It’s ok.  We’re at yoga.” 

Simple and succinct, she said everything that needed to be said.  In the studio, in the heat, out of the world, out of stress – yoga is my safe zone.  It doesn’t need to be in a specific place, with a specific instructor, for a specific length of time.  I only need to be present and to try, and it is enough.


Where is your safe haven?

7 Comments

Filed under exercise