Exercise is like brushing your teeth.

Exercise should be like brushing your teeth, something you do daily. That’s how I think about exercise. Besides not brushing your teeth for a a month or two would be pretty gross and you wouldn’t do that. At least I hope you wouldn’t. Sometimes you have to change how you think about something to start getting it into your life.

Exercise is good for you that’s something we all know, its the implementing of it that is difficult. I rarely hear an excuse that someone was just way too busy to watch the current episode of Game of Thrones, but my they were too busy to exercise. Really it should be the opposite or try combining the two. I watch movies or shows while I peddle away on the stationary bike.

I’ve been told how consistent of an exerciser I am and that is because I made a point to become one. This did not happen overnight but over years. Now I feel off when I am not active, it doesn’t feel good. Yes, there are days I don’t want to but I’ve learned that most of the time and by most I mean 99% of the time I am happy I have exercised.

There are a lot of Tv show and movie workout out there. Game Of Thrones is an easy on to do this for, try this next weekend while watching the season premiere.

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Cold Weather Running

Holy fracking moly its been cold here. It was in the negatives for several days and everyone is cold and sick of the cold. Feeding horses in -20F temps is miserable. I keep thinking of the kid in “The Christmas Story” when he can’t put his arms down.
 photo huge-snow-suit.jpgIt is perfectly safe to get out there and exercise in the extreme cold. It is not going to harm your lungs or damage your body. There is a good chance you aren’t going hit any records in the extreme cold. Most people tend to do best between 36 and 52 Fahrenheit. When it is really cold out your body has to put more energy into staying warm which means less oxygen for your muscles.

I am no way opposed to running in winter. I’d rather be chilly than hot when running. But with the cold in the negatives I know that my running clothes collection does not have what I need to go out there and run safely. I’m good down to about 9F with some windchill but after that I’d need more specialized clothes than I already have.

Few things I have learned over the years are…

1. You probably need to take off a layer. It sounds wrong but you want to on the chilly side when starting your run. You will warm up.

2. Run short or for time. Cold and snowy makes for a slow run, get out and enjoy the scenery.

3. Kickboxing makes a really good substitute for running.

4. Get a grips make a big difference between no traction and some traction. I have had a pair of them for ages. I’m a on a dirt road and run on snow pack, they will help on ice, but I would walk the icy bits.

I know I am ready for some warmer weather about now, it would be nice to get back outside and enjoy it.

The December Cookie Challenge

December usually means some kind of fun challenge to add extra movement to my life as there is a ton of cookies and baked goods around. I was pastry chef, what can I say? Last year I did a Squatathon over at Fitocracy and before that I did Cookie challenges. The Cookie Challenge is where you do an extra minute of exercise for each cookie you eat.
 photo DSCF2010.jpgYou really start to think about how may cookies you decide to eat. 15 cookies means 15 minutes extra exercise. It makes you think more about what extra food you are putting into your mouth. While I found both to be fun and effective, I don’t think either are going to happen his year.

Monday I wrote about not having any exercise mojo and putting a Cookie Challenge on top of not even wanting to do maintenance levels of exercise sounds like a really dumb idea. So far it looks like I am just taking it easy this month and not pushing it. I’m hoping my mojo shows up for the New Year. *crosses fingers*

But, if you are looking for a fun way to squeeze in some extra movement this December, try the Cookie Challenge. Its fun, its easy to do as you can do it anywhere. Its adaptable, instead of minutes you could do jumping jacks or kettlebell swings.

How are you staying active this holiday season?

Lost your Exercise Mojo?

Sometimes you just lose your exercise mojo. For whatever reason you just do not want to exercise at all. Those favorite activities become a chore and just something to go through the motions with or skip it completely. It happens, sometimes the exercise mojo just goes away. So what do you do when that happens?
 photo 23520d60-2dde-4055-9acd-e5a6e88729e0.jpg1. Take a rest week. Do not exercise and if you have been eating at a deficit eat at maintenance for this week. Its about long term health, sometimes losing the mojo is a sign we need to rest.

2. So you took the rest week and still don’t have any mojo. *raises hand* Dial it back. This is not the time to push your limits. Keep a minimum of activity going on formal or informal. I’m currently in a dial it back phase as my mojo is so fracking missing.

3. Do something different. Try a new class or exercise routine. If you love vinyasa yoga try relaxation yoga. That different thing might be more rest days if you already exercise consistently.

4.No judging or blaming yourself. Being stern with yourself is not going to help. Mojo loss is not the usual hemming and hawing about exercise, don’t yell at yourself. What would you tell a friend? I bet you would tell them to rest and dial it back.

5. Mojo loss is temporary. You will want to exercise again, don’t worry, it will come back. Not wanting to exercise at all means to me that my mind and body are trying to tell me something, especially when I finish a workout and still feel blah or tired.

When all exercise sounds awful listen to your body and mind. Taking some time to rest, de-load, or dial back is healthy and in the long run better than forcing yourself through mojo loss.

Surviving the Holidays

Surviving the holidays can seem like a collision course. We are thrown together more often and not always with the folks we want to be with. There is food everywhere calling our name, sometimes with an aunt or friend urging us to have a bit of this and that with a third helping on top. It gets stressful navigating that collision course.

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Here are my top tips for making it through.

1. Breathe! Inhale, exhale, repeat. Long deep breathing has saved me so many times.

2. Eat what you love not what you think you should. That means when Auntie Alice is trying to make you take a huge portion of something you hate, you say no. Life is too short to eat food you hate. Eating carrots when all you really want is stuffing makes for a sorry existence and over eating. Eat what you love.

3. Keep exercising. Your normal schedule might be too much but keep active. It just will make you feel better and kickboxing can be a great way to release stress after repeatedly denying Auntie Alice.

4. When all else fails laugh. A co-worker at my first job used to say “I have to laugh or I would cry.” That has stuck with me. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the situation.

What do you do to survive the holiday season?

Weekly Groove: Dynamic Warmup

Weekly Groove is the Dynamic Warmup. Ever since a dynamic warm up appeared in NROLA (New Rules of Lifting Abs) I’ve been hooked. I’ve created one to warm up with weights that is a mix of NROLA, NROL4L (for Life), some GGS (Girls Gone Strong), and stuff I like. There is also one from Runner’s World that I use before running.

If you are just starting out the dynamic warm up is going to look a lot like a work out and probably feel like one too. It was tough getting started with the dynamic warmup it felt hard but after not using it a couple times I realized I feel more prepared to lift or run. The running one is a very subtle feeling of being more ready to run.

Here is my current dynamic warm up that I use before weights. It takes me a bout 10 minutes.

10 Walking Crossover toe touch
5 Squat to stand
10 1- leg 1/4 squat
10 Side lunge with touch
10 Glute bridge
5 Knee to armpit (supine)
5 Rotation form quadruped
5 Bird dog each side
5 Down dog to spider man
5 1/2 kneeling thoracic rotation
5 inch worms
5 reverse lunge with twist
10 Grande battement
10 March in place
10Butt kicks

Staying Active in Winter

Staying active during the winter can be challenging. It is cold out, there is weather, and less daylight. Working runners often end up running in the dark morning or evening, add in a nice warm house or bed. Who wants to get out and run. Heck who wants to go out to a cold car and drive to the gym. No one. Here’s how are my top 5 tips for staying active during winter.

I know I’ve used the Yoda picture before but he just nails it.
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1. Schedule your workouts. You wouldn’t skip a meeting or doctors appointment, would you? Think of your workouts the same way.

2. Have the right gear. If you are going to run through winter or do outside cold weather activities get the right clothes. Cotton holds sweat and will have you cold before you know it. I have wicking underwear for winter, how I survived before them I have no idea.

3. Do a Challenge. I did a squat challenge last year that was a lot of fun. Other years I did a cookie challenge. For each cookie I ate I did an extra minute of exercise. It really makes you think before you gobble a bunch of them up.

4.Keep it flexible, yeah I know I told you to schedule them but if time is short and you planned on an hour you don’t have, change your plan. Even 15 minutes of exercise is going to make you feel better.

5. Rest is important do not neglect it. If you feel under the weather or still beat up from your workout take a rest day. Should I workout while sick is a question that gets asked a lot and I respond that your workout is to get better if you are sick, rest if you are sick. Take the time to nurture yourself when you need it, it will pay off.

Be a Light Weight to be a Heavy Weight

Just lift heavy gets tossed around a lot and as beginner I didn’t really know what it meant or what to do. What they were telling me to lift was too heavy but I kept trying to lift that amount that was heavy, because that is what the magazine told me to do. I hated it. It didn’t make me feel strong or better about myself. I felt worse so I stopped lifting.

I didn’t lift for years. I did yoga and ran. Fast forward a couple of years and I was struggling with the fact that my body wasn’t changing at all. I felt like a blob who had an excellent aerobic base. What I was doing was not working and I was not happy with my progress.

Enter New Rules of Lifting for Women (NROLW.) I committed to lifting weights for the six months it took to complete NROLW. What I did not do is start heavy. I started light even for me sometimes. Starting light did something that starting heavy never did and that was give me confidence. I could do it and it felt good.

What I realize now is that as a beginner form is where it is at. Actually form is always where it is at, good form is good. Starting out too heavy had me sacrificing form and that isn’t good. Build good habits when you start, unlearning bad habits is harder.

NROLW changed how my body looked drastically and I didn’t change my diet other than eating a bit more. The jiggly bits were no longer so jiggly. I no longer felt like a blob and everything in life was easier to do. Weight lifting wasn’t what I loved but it became a staple for what it did for me and to me.

Eventually I was hooked and weight lifting is one of the three things I really love to do. Lifting heavy will come with time and work, don’t force it. Sometimes you have to be a light weight to get to the heavy weights.

Weekly Groove: DIY Weighted Backpack

I was walking past our garbage one day and noticed a backpack in it. We don’t have garbage pick up so we have to hoard our garbage until someone deicides to drive seven miles to the green boxes. So I pulled it out, it was on top and not slimed. Which led me to check out the zippers, most of them were fine. It was just what I needed. If it got destroyed no one cared and it was free.

I put rocks in it and made it into a weighted bag. Sometimes you have to think out of the box when you have a home gym and create what you need. What I like about my weighted backpack was free and I can remove or add rocks easily. You can carry in your hands, put it on your back, or hug it and run up a hill with it.
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Body Image, Pinterest, and Me.

As I peruse pinterest I am always amazed at the amount of sexualization of fitness and fitness photos. It gets to the point where it feels almost overwhelming and disheartening. There’s the squat butt camp, the thigh gap group, the you can do it just ignore pain, etc. The one thing the have in common is a picture of a woman with no head. She is just a breasts, bum, and thighs, even the Venus of Willendorf got a head.
 photo Venus_von_Willendorf_01.jpgThere came a point where I stopped looking at these and started dissecting them. What are they saying to me and others out there? If you do enough squats you will have a perfectly rounded bum, work hard enough you too can have a thigh gap, never mind the pain hurting yourself is good. Are these healthy? I ask myself this and I wonder who out there is damaging themselves to get something that just might be unattainable for them.

I have a butt, it doesn’t matter if I squat or not. I have a butt: skinny, fat, and in between its just there. It is a matter of genetics for me. A college study buddy worked very hard to get a small bum, she squatted and did heavy weights, she will never have a “squat butt.”
 photo eosbvffrt76ee6r.jpgAs teen Mademoiselle magazine was where I first encountered the thigh gap concept. The gist being you did not have a thigh gap you were, not thin. First thought was crap I don’t have one, I’m fat. The truth is to achieve a thigh gap, maybe, because I haven’t ever had one, and might never get one even at anorexic body fat levels. It would take a lot of starvation on my part to get me anywhere near a thigh gap. And if you feel pain while working out, please stop, that is called an injury. Yes, you might feel discomfort but pain, pain is not good. Pain is your body telling you to stop.

We need to celebrate our bodies and not some in the future potential us. What you look like right now is gorgeous, what you will look like tomorrow is beautiful. Celebrate who and what you are now, because the truth is you need to love yourself, just as you are.

Venus of Willendorf picture from Wikipedia.