Days 113-114 – Thunder and Pilates

24 04 2010

First, a report on Thursday’s 8-mile run in crazy spring weather… Heavy thunderstorms pounded us all morning, threatening to ruin my afternoon running plan…but the sun and clear skies showed up around noon. I headed west amazed at the beautiful Earth Day it turned out to be. Went on my long, straight route to Highway 2, and when I turned back to head east I had no idea how quickly the black clouds in the distance were blowing in behind me from the southwest. I was met at my neighborhood entrance by cracks of thunder and bolts of lightning that had me sprinting the last half-mile home. I made it home just in time…crazy rain, hail and a tornado warning came within the hour and the skies poured for the rest of the day and night.

Wow – what luck to find that window of spring when I had my best 8-mile so far! I averaged 10-minute miles in spite of the hill at the end. Friday morning in the still-pouring-rain I was happy to have Pilates class safe and dry inside.

I walk around telling anyone who might have any interest at all about how Pilates has changed me. According to this bio, it was created by German born Joseph Pilates who was “living in England, working as a circus performer and boxer…” He had a bit of a crazy life into the 1960s — smoking cigars and wearing exercise briefs around town. “Many dancers and well-known persons of New York depended on Pilates method training for the strength and grace it developed in the practitioner, as well as for its rehabilitative effects. Until exercise science caught up with the Pilates exercise principles in the 1980s, and the surge of interest in Pilates that we have today got underway, it was chiefly dancers and elite athletes who kept Joseph Pilates’ work alive.”

I am so upset that I didn’t try Pilates sooner that I want the whole world to know (and to be less stubborn than I am and just TRY it – whether you’re a runner or just looking for no-impact ways to strengthen, stretch and tone!). After 8 miles, I normally would be stiff the next day. Stretching my quads and hips really makes me feel like I didn’t even run. The core and muscle strengthening from Pilates workouts leaves my muscles quivering a bit for a while, but then totally relaxed. A good sign — along with a pain-free 8th mile — that it’s working.

This Wellsphere post on How to Be a Better Runner explains Pilates’ benefits:

* build up core strength
* improve your posture that increases your lung capacity,
* teach you to breathe more efficiently,
* provide rest for your joints (no high impact exercises) and improve joint mobility,
* improve your balance (this is true for standing Pilates exercises).

Did a recorded Classical Stretch today, which borrows a lot from Pilates, along with ballet and Tai Chi. Now, a hot bath to get ready for a l-o-n-g pain-free, and hopefully rain-free, run tomorrow.


Day 88 – Revolutionary food

30 03 2010

My week started with a “just get-it-done” exercise day — fitting in a Classical Stretch on Monday. I’ve been seeing a lot of Naked Chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and was surprised to see his reality show that started airing on CBS last Friday is based in Huntington, West Virginia — a few hours from my hometown. He put his first Jamie’s Kitchen in the U.S. there, because it is one of the unhealthiest places in the country. Community members can go there to learn about food and — very importantly — how to COOK. (In defense of WV and my loyal blog-reader friends who live there — not everyone is unhealthy, and I personally grew up eating very fresh vegetables from my mother’s garden and my grandma’s kitchen.)

In the U.K. Jamie’s similar kitchens helped change the eating habits of residents and improve school lunches. I applaud his efforts. And he’s a smart guy for building a brand out of this cause and promoting the fact that unless the government helps out with policies and funding, change won’t be in the picture.

Lots of good info. and recipes on his website — including this quote:
“We just need to rediscover our common sense: if you want to curl up and eat macaroni and cheese every once in a while – that’s alright! Just have a sensible portion next to a fresh salad, and don’t eat a big old helping of chocolate cake afterwards.”

Day 67 – Stay well, pay less

8 03 2010

For the third year in a row my husband’s company health insurance is requiring us to participate in the Stay Well health management program. You have to take a health assessment and participate in an online or phone wellness program for six weeks. If you don’t complete the program, you have higher deductibles for health insurance the following year.

The first two years, this seemed like a punishment. Just a pain to have to log-in your exercise and read the required articles. I waited until I was training for my annual sprint triathlons and then set goals to increase exercise over six weeks — something I was already planning to do.

I’m in week 3 of 6 in this year’s Stay Well plan — through which I am again setting a goal of increasing exercise (and already doing). Since I am already logging and blogging about my exercise, this is just one more online record.

The program seems good for people who would not be motivated otherwise — and surely there are plenty of folks out there who need to manage stress, eat better, lose weight and exercise — all options you can choose for your personal program.

Wellness is a good thing and maybe mandatory wellness with monetary incentives will actually help put a small dent in the ever-growing healthcare crisis. But today you can find so many tools and articles online that the resources offered by Stay Well aren’t as unique as they were a few years ago. The required reading seems pretty simple and dated.

Funny how if you are motivated to participate in a plan and keep records, it’s sort of fun. If it’s mandatory — not so much. Like reading a novel for pleasure versus for school.

After updating my obligatory weekly Stay Well log this morning, I did Classical Stretch and added an extra 10-minute Exhale Pilates session — just for fun, not because the computer told me to!

Days 50-52 – Winter surprises

21 02 2010

Way behind on my blog, but up-to-date on my workouts and family birthday parties — two in as many weekends!

A wonderful Pilates class with just one other person kicked off my Friday. While this is just a little too much attention from the instructor, it’s good for me in an eating spinach sort of way and almost like a cheap private lesson. She used Pilates rings, which I found really helpful to keep my body in the right alignment and provide resistance. I did not even drop the ring on my face when lifting my legs above my face with the ring between my ankles!

Saturday was a Classical Stretch for 23 minutes that I did not have to spare. I hosted a surprise party for my husband’s 40th birthday last night. While he took my daughter to a school dance, my great friends helped me layout a spread for about 50 friends and kids. It was a fantastically fun party with friends from several facets of Scott’s life. Well worth the sneaking I had to do to pull it off! He knew I was planning something (thanks to some hints from Zach), but he had no idea he would walk into this surprise…

The old me would have found this to be a perfect day to blow off exercising. I had to clean my house, cook, walk the dog, lie to my husband for the sake of the surprise (I am really bad at this!) and take a shower in record time…but I did the stretch like it was part of the to-do list, because that is what I am all about now. No excuses!

Today — after recovering from a late night and an ice skating birthday party with my kids (whew – February is chock-full of birthdays in my circle of friends), I headed out in the 20 degree snowy weather as the sun was setting for my scheduled four-mile run. “You must really hate the treadmill,” Scott said. And I explained that yes, I do, and the main sidewalk through the neighborhood looked perfectly cleared from the car.

It actually would have been a great day for the treadmill. This week was a break from my longer Sunday runs of late. And four miles is very doable on the treadmill…but I prefer to be outside and thought I could do it. I did do it, but the sidewalk — although cleared of snow — was surprisingly as slippery as the ice rink was earlier today. I followed with a Classical Stretch to relax my tired muscles.

We are very near March, which is the snowiest month in Colorado. My half-marathon training plan has 8 and 9 mile runs in store for my future Sundays, so I will have to figure out a safer way to run in the snow. On the road? On the snowy running trail where there is at least some traction? Or on the dreaded treadmill? Slipping and injuring myself would be a tragedy at this point.

I continue to surprise myself with what is possible in inclimate weather, slippery surfaces and busy days — so I know I will get through March with every slippery step taking me closer to the more welcome surprises of spring!

Day 25 – Rest day stretch in Jamaica

25 01 2010

Mondays are “rest” or cross training days on my half-marathon training plan. Trying to exercise daily means Mondays (following long runs on Sunday) are for stretching/strengthening and a dog walk. I know the dog walk is not going to help my run, but it does help my dog and is better than sitting all day.

This morning I did Classical Stretch -abs version – and had to laugh. As Miranda was exercising peacefully on a beautiful Jamaican beach, I was in my living room trying to convince the dog not to sit on me during the crunches and answering my five-year-old’s 20 questions. “Where is my Lego guy?” “Are you finished yet?” “Can I have a cookie?”

Throwing the dog’s ball continuously to keep her out of the way, I told my son I was pretending to be in Jamaica for just 10 more minutes at which time I would be finished, find the MIA Lego guy and NOT give him a cookie at 9:30 in the morning!

Worth my perseverance in the end when I felt SOOO good from stretching to the classical music and watching those far-away waves that cleared my mind – if only for 10 more minutes!

Day 11 – S-t-r-e-t-c-h

11 01 2010

Facing a full afternoon of work I’ve neglected, I tried an early morning stretching program I recorded last week. It’s called Classical Stretch and airs here daily on PBS. It’s set to classical music with tranquil scenery at various beaches and resorts – a tennis court today.

It seems similar to Pilates – feeling good to stretch my muscles and spine. The website says it’s supposed to strengthen and relax muscles. Miranda Esmonde-White is the founder and promises these results:

  • Thinner arms and thighs – many have lost up to 3 inches around their bums!
  • Flattened and more defined tummies
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Reversal of osteoporosis
  • Dramatic improvement of posture
  • Healing of lower back, knee and shoulder injuries/pains
  • I would like all of those things please, and it is definitely better than doing nothing at all on a busy day. A good, low-impact alternative that is easy enough to do in the living room for 30 minutes (and Zach was totally entertained watching me do this while he ate his pancakes! “Mommy – shouldn’t she be playing tennis?”) 

    A walk with Lottie to pick up the kids gave me a bit of slow cardio and fresh air that I didn’t get on the TV tennis court!

    I’ve learned so far that when I am exercising EVERY day, I will neglect something. One of my two children, one of my two pets, one or two of my three clients will always need more than I can give — even when I’m not spending time exercising.

    I’m trying hard to celebrate what I DO get done instead of stressing about what I don’t. This is hard for me, but a good sub-resolution to enable my new goal.