As I stood at the edge of the water, swim cap on, googles ready, waitting for the starting gun to fire, all the excuses of why I shouldn't be there, started running through my mind. I hadn't trained enough. I hadn't done an open water swim like this, ever! It had been over 4 years since I had last competed in a duathlon or triathlon. What was I thinking!!!
I had that nervous feeling most of us get at the starting line. That, I have to go to the bathroom feeling, yet you know you've already gone. The butterflies were going full circle.
Truth was, I was ready. As ready as I could be. I had practiced all my disciplines. Put in the training hours in the pool, on the bike, and on the run. My bike and gear was all set. Yes, I probably should have gotten in an ocean swim. I always tell my clients to never wear something they haven't tried on race day and to practice all the stages of a race. But, at the starting line, there was nothing I could do about it then.
I took a deep breath, told myself to "buck up, its a short race, you can do it!" and listened for the starting gun.
When the gun sounded....arms, legs, torsos all flung themselves into the ocean. I headed for the first bouy. Others had said the water was cool, I couldn't tell. Adrenaline coursed through my veins and all I could see was that first orange bouy. I hung tight to the feet of another female swimmer in front of me. "I can do this I thought!" Then came that first wave, that you hit all wrong, I turned to breathe and it came straight over top of me. Instead of a mouth full of air, I choked on a mouth full of water. I fought the fear of panic that entered my head, cough it out and continued on. I rounded the first bouy and headed for the second. The waves were hitting me on the side now as I was parallel to the beach. It made swimming a bit easier, breathing, not so much. My mind coursed through all the tri books I've read over the years on how to turn my head to breathe with ocean waves breaking around me. I concluded that I should have practiced this before and not during the race. Oh well, not much I could do about it now...just keep swimming forward and taking in more breathes than ocean water, I told myself. As I rounded the second bouy, the beach was just in front of me. I used a combination of strokes to get through those last yards and fought back the panic that was filling me that I wasn't going to make it! I thought of my girls and knew I'd make it back to the beach. They were not going to be helping me out of the water!!!
I hit the beach and wanted a drink of water, but first I had to make it to transition. I thought of all the triathlon races I've watched and how they run to transition, a quick change and they're off. They always make it look so easy!!! I on the other hand, felt like a drowned rat! I took a few steps to catch my breath and regain my land legs. Transition went smooth. Getting on the bike felt great! And that first sip of water....oh, I would have paid money for it! Just getting that salt water taste out of my mouth was uplifting.
The bike course was all up and down hills, lots of turns. With the roads being wet from the nights rains, you had to be careful not to slide off some of the turns. But I knew the route well and could anticipate where I wanted to be. I felt like I was flying! It was on the bike that I heard those first cheers of people, friends, cheering me on. Some of the voices I knew right away, others would hit me as I pushed on further ahead. Their encouragement put a smile back on my face and lifted my spirits. Each turn of the pedals quickened my pace and boosted my confidence, passing people as I went, eager to improve my standing from where I had finished the swim!
My bike to run transition was smooth. Years of duathlons had helped me to iron out all the details. My legs transitioned easily and I was even able to cheer those on who were ahead of me and looping around to the finish. The run included ramps, hills and stairs. I kept my eyes on three women who I judged to be in my age group who were about 200 yards in front of me. When one stopped to catch her breath, I passed her, while encouraging her to continue on. They had targets on their backs and I was bound to catch them. As we headed down the last hill, which looped around and finished 100 meters ahead, I picked up my pace and caught the first one on the loop and the second on the upward hill toward the finish. I was giving it 100% now and would leave nothing at the finish. I heard a friend yell "Go get it, girl!" In my mind the two women I had just passed were right on my heels. "They're not catching me!", I thought to myself. I sprinted for the finish, coming in 3rd in my age group and 7th overall.
One of the things I've always appreciated about racing endurance, multi-sport events, is the comraderie. Cheering others on. Supporting your fellow racers and the effort they're putting out. Learning from them and their experience. Gaining courage and confidence from their ability to continue to strive forward, even when things get tough. Helping each other out before the race, after and during. My track coaches in high school taught me that win or lose, it was how you carried yourself through the race that mattered most. I'm competitive, no doubt! But regardless of my finish, I enjoy most cheering on those I'm racing with, supporing their efforts, learning from their successes and failures. To be surrounded by equally minded healthy, fit, competitive people is inspiring!
So I encourage you, to push aside the fear and excuses that enter your head (if I had listened to mine, I never would have entered the water!) and enter a race. It doesn't matter how you finish, but I promise that you'll be inspired to greatness you didn't first think possible! Heck, it inspired me to enter another triathlon next week!!!!
I recently had to go shopping for some new clothes as our family was having photos taken on the beach. Yes, those coordinated outfits that supposedly make the family photos that much more unified...or frustrating when shopping on short notice with few choices!
As I pulled a few choices from the rack, I quickly realized that, trying on clothes was not a lot of fun, when you had no one with you to give you an honest opinion. (How do these jeans look? Is this shirt a good color? I think this outfit looks ridiculous, you?). And the opinions of a three year old and one year old, my shopping companions that day, just don't help. (Although hearing, "Wow Mommy, you look so pretty!" is great for the ego!) Shopping is much more enjoyable when you have a friend or two joining you.
The same could be said for exercise. Going for a six mile run doesn't seem nearly as long when you're chatting with friends for most of it. You tend to push yourself harder when the person next to you is lifting more weight or holding a plank longer. Friendly competition can do wonders when trying to push yourself to go a little longer, a little faster, or lift just one more rep.
Exercising with friends can also create a lot of laughs. My groups often laugh with each other when things get tough. When someone thinks they can't do an exercise, but try it anyway and see that they can do it afterall. When complaining about sore muscles and where things "hurt". When learning a new exercise or trying to maintain their balance (losing ones balance seems to always bring about the giggles!). Together they push through, achieving a higher degree of success together than they could have on their own.
On long walks or runs, you get a chance to catch up. Chat about what's going on in your lives, What's working and get advice on what isn't. That's better than any therapy session sometimes...and certainly cheaper!!! Exercise is more than just physical health, its mental health as well.
Plus knowing that there is someone else counting on you to be there. Encouraging you to go the extra mile, or lift those last few reps, is incredibly empowering to all parties involved! Often times the quiet friend is the most vocal cheerleader. The friend you once saw as shy, is now incredibly strong as well. The friend that you thought was athletically gifted...you find that you're just as strong and capable as they are. Exercise can lift and tone our muscles, but also our attitudes about ourselves and others around us!
Exercising with a friend or friends can take your sessions to the next level and make it so much more fun! You'll laugh, encourage each other, learn together, have a built in support system and, most of all, have lots of FUN!
So grab a friend and get your "Workout" on! I promise you'll have a great time!
I overheard a mom at the park the other day complaining about not being able to lose the "baby" weight. She said that if she had a personal trainer and chef on hand it would be no problem at all. But what mom with multple children has time to prepare healthy meals and workout!?! I chuckled to myself as I chased after one of my girls. I do! And I don't find it a hardship, its just what I do to so my family and myself can lead our healthiest lives possible!
Maybe I should have given her my business card and told her how I could help, but I didn't. But as my girls and I left the park, her comment stuck with me. I found myself wondering, why is it that I don't find planning and preparing healthy meals difficult? How do I find time to get my own workouts in while working and raising three small children?
The only difference I could find is that I take the time each week to plan out my meals and my workouts. And living a healthy life through daily exercise and healthy eatting is important to me. My life is no less busy than anyone else's. I'm currently training for a couple of triathlons, working, running two children around to their various activities each afternoon, helping with homework and taking care of household chores, most of the time all on my own as my husband is active duty military. I HAVE to plan it all out or it just won't happen!
But isn't that the truth of everything we've ever accomplished in our lives? We have a goal, an idea of what we'd like to achieve. Then we see what we need to do to achieve that dream, that goal. Then we put a plan in place of the things we need to do to make that dream or goal a reality. Very few things in life happen by luck or accident. Even lottery winners must first buy a ticket before they can win! Losing weight and making healthier food choices takes the same time and planning.
So each week I plan out what meals we're going to eat based on our schedule. I identify what I can prep in advance so food will be on the table at a reasonable hour. Anyone with children knows what its like if your kids get too hungry, too cold/hot or too tired!!! Then I go shopping. Sometimes they don't have everything I need, especially here in Okinawa, so I substitute a "like" ingredient of the same taste or texture, spinach for kale or molassas for agave nectar for example.
I do the same with my workouts. Sometimes that means I'm up at 4:45 for a workout before hubby leaves for work or I ask the neighbor babysitter to watch the kids so I can get a swim in. Yes, I've paid a babysitter so I can get a workout in! Remember exercise isn't just about "me" time (sure sometimes we all need time away from our children!), but its also about disease prevention and setting the example that healthy living is just as important in our lives as the air we breathe and water we drink. Many of the top 5 causes of death can be reduced through exercise and healthy food choices. I've also taken my girls to a park or basketball court where they can run around and I can get my workout in at the same time. Be creative! A workout doesn't have to take place in a gym!
The choice is yours....take the time to plan, making exercise and healthy living a part of your every day life or don't and live with the consequences. Each is a choice you make.
As for my meals, I prepare things in advance as much as possible. If I've grilling up a couple of chicken breasts for dinner, adding a few more doesn't add any extra work. Then I can cut them up for a salad or sandwich at lunch later in the week. Cutting up some extra broccoli, peppers, cucumber, when I'm already cutting them up for dinner, means I have snacks for later in the week. No extra work there! Making a humus or black bean dip on Sunday or Saturday takes about 10 minutes, but could make 5 meals throughout the week (wraps, salads, snacks, etc). And having a couple of quick, healthy stand by meals that I know my family will eat and can be on the table in 20 minutes is helpful too. Try new recipes or be inspired by some you've read. I recently took a very complicated recipe and simplified it (grill some boneless centercut pork chops lightly seasoned to your taste - I used old bay seasoning, then grill some cut up pineapple sprinkled with a little sugar till you have grill marks. Top the pork with your favorite salsa, add the pineapple to the salsa and you have a great meal. I steamed some broccoli just to have an addition veggie!).
Preparing healthy meals doesn't have to be time intensive. It doesn't have to be hard. But it does take planning. And it takes you making the choice to make healthier meals. Its always easier to keep doing the same thing. Change can be hard. But change is where results happen. Change is where dreams become reality.
You CAN make healthy meals and make exercise a part of your life. Even if you're a mom of five or work a full-time job! It takes planning and making the choice to change!!!
As a personal trainer, I'm often asked what I eat. I think most people would be surprised when they looked in my pantry. Sure the clean eatting supplies are there, plenty of nuts, whole grain flours, oatmeal, flax seeds, healthy oils, whole grain breads (sometimes homemade) and granola bars (always homemade), honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, dried fruits, chicken stock, quinoa, brown rice, different pastas (whole wheat, quinoa, etc), onions, potatos and other root veggies and a few other natural food products. But you'd also find chips, cookies, fruit leather, crackers, beer/wine and a few other not so good for you snacks. Oh...and lots of chocolate!
My personal philosophy, I eat right 90% of the time and my kids need to be kids.
Growing up my mother never bought sugar cereal. Never! When I got to college the first thing I went for was bowl after bowl of Lucky Charms. For four years, there was always a bowl or box of Lucky Charms to be found in my house.
Since then I've changed my ways. Lucky Charms have not managed to find shelf space yet in my pantry, but I do try to make sure that my children have some childhood favorites. Chocolate chip cookies to dunk in their milk. Potato chips because sometimes nothing else will do. Sure I could substitute something healthier or a homemade option, but they won't always have access to these options. I'd rather let them have an "occasional" treat and then let them have all the "healthy" options they want the rest of the time. Hopefully teaching them how to make healthy choices while still enjoying the occasional treat.
My oldest daughter already knows the drill. If she has a not so healthy snack, she should only eat one and then the remainder of her snacks that day should be healthy options. And she's good with that.
Isn't that what we all try to find...or at least aim to....balance? I know that is what works best for me in my life. If I deny myself something, that becomes the thing that I crave the most. But if I allow myself the occasional treat, then I don't want it as much. I don't HAVE to have it. I can choose when and if I want it.
Not only does this work everyday for me, but especially when special occasions or holidays come along. I can plan for them. I know whether or not a family or holiday favorite is going to be on the menu for the event. If its a food that brings back childhood memories or is something that is only available once a year, then I usually make allowances for those foods. I savor those foods, the flavors, the smells, the taste. I eat healthier in the days leading up to those events. Rarely are those events surprise occasions. I usually know in advance they're coming and can plan for them. I also make sure that I get a workout in those days. For me, it helps to even out the guilt of eatting a rich food. Then I'm free to enjoy the food and not worry about the dent it will put on my waistline.
A few tips that have worked well for me over the years:
Be selective. Its easy to say no to the sheet cake from the local grocery store, but mom's apple pie, well maybe that's worth the splurge.
Have a plan. Special occasions, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries...we know when they're coming. Plan for them ahead of time.
Enjoy the splurge. Savor the treat and don't feel guilty about it. If you're eatting right 90%, even 80% of the time, a special treat every now and then is not going to cause the scale to break. So enjoy it and get back to your regular eatting patterns with the next meal (not tomorrow...too often we slip and let the whole day go. Why? Get right back on track with the next meal. You'll feel less quilty and go easier on your waistline!).
If it doesn't taste GREAT, then its not worth the calories and I leave it on the plate. No one is really watching what you're eatting. Its ok not to clear your plate!
So that's what works for me. That's what keeps me on track and still allows me to enjoy family favorites, special occasions and holiday treats. I encourage you to find a plan that works for you.
***Update to my jump rope goal of reaching 500 jumps on two different jumps. I'm now at 260! Almost halfway there!!!!
Have you ever watched a child at play? They seem to have boundless energy. At the park, they run from the swings to the slides to the monkey bars never stopping for a break. Hours pass like minutes to them. At the beach or pool, they could spend hours in the water if you didn't tell them to come out and take a break. They jump rope, play tag, chase each other around, all while laughing and having a great time. You don't need to tell them to exercise, they're already doing it...with big smiles on their faces!
I often wonder what happens to us as adults where we don't find joy in the every day pursuit of exercise, of moving our bodies, enjoying nature and the pursuit of fun! When we were children exercise wasn't about going out to run 3 miles. It was found in a game of kickball or kick the can. We didn't count our laps as we swam. We were just thrilled to be in the water! A game of foursquare, soccer or basketball was just that....a game! Sure we wanted to "win". To master the game, beat our friends. But most of the time, no one had to tell us to get out there and "exercise". Somewhere along the way to adulthood, exercise became....work!!!
But does it have to be that way? Is that the example we want to set for our children? I say "NO!" Or should we follow the example of children set? You can choose to make exercise fun. There are soo many options these days for moving our bodies. From CrossFit classes, to zumba, master swim teams, adult softball/soccer/rugby teams, home dvds and downloadable internet classes. There are so many options. You don't have to be stuck doing something you don't like doing. Take a chance, try a new class, join a club team, get together some friends for an weekend hike or ski trip, sign up for a race and find your inner athlete.
I've recently found out how much I enjoy jumping rope. Each morning I wake up eager to see if I can beat the number of jumps without a miss from the day prior. I recently read that when you can make 500 jumps with 2 different foot patterns, that you're considered an expert jumper. I'm currently at 220 jumps. My goal: to reach 500 by the end of March! I don't remember jumping rope being this difficult as a child, but I'm glad I still remember how much FUN it is!
Exercise shouldn't be work! Our children know that! Exercise should be fun! And if its not, then try something else. There are sooooooo many options these days to move our bodies and feel good about ourselves. Find yours! Play! Laugh! Live!!!
Have you ever bought a new pair of great fitting running shoes? The first time you lace them up to go for a run, you immediately notice how cushy they are and how they fit your foot tighter than your old shoes. As you start your run, you run taller, feeling as though your feet are barely touching the ground, that you could run farther and faster.
The same happens when you buy a new outfit. You hold your head up, strut your stuff and put even more into your workout knowing that you look GREAT!!!!
The power of new shoes, a new outfit or that new piece of workout equipment gives a recharge to your workout. So as you reach your goals, reward yourself! You've worked hard! You'll feel great, recharge your workout and then get more results out of it and be ready to tackle the next goal you have set for yourself!!!
In my mind I can swivel my hips like the sexiest brazilian dancer at Carnival. In reality....I'm a portuguese mother of 3! And while I do great following the beat and dancing to my own moves, Zumba has done me in.
I can see what all the excitement is about. The music is wonderful and having a dance party, instead of an "exercise" routine each day is a lot of FUN! But I just could not get my body to bump, flow and swivel the way that everyone else seemed to be able to do. I had trouble following the limited cues and found the lack of cueing unnerving.
After completing P90X, I also did not find the workouts, hard enough. After two weeks, I was dreading each workout more than the next. Everyone looked like they were having such a great time on the dvds and a lot of my clients LOVE their Zumba classes. But after two weeks of forcing myself to complete the workouts and trying to learn the moves, I had to admit to myself, Zumba just wasn't for me.
I'm thrilled that soo many of my clients have found a workout that they love in Zumba. Zumba has helped a lot of people get out of their chairs and shake their booties to increased weight loss and increased healthy living. I'm just not going to be one of them. I gave it a try and while I could think of this as a failure, something I just wasn't good at and couldn't master, I could also think of it as a learning experience. Finding about more about myself. I love to dance, but I just want to follow my own moves. I love aerobics classes. I just need constant cueing to remember what comes next. And I'm ok with that! There are plenty of different ways to get your workout "ON". Mine just doesn't include Zumba .
So my goal of completing a 3 hour zumbathon will probably not happen, but there is a 3 hour aerobathon the same weekend that seems right up my alley! So I'll set my sights on that! And rewrite my goals to include becoming profecient at jumping rope, a new obsession.
So don't be afraid of failure or not liking something. Just follow your heart, rhythm or feet to the workout that "works" for you. Its out there! Try something new! You may find something you really like (like jump rope) or not (like Zumba)!
So my first big challenge of the year has passed. My husband and I completed the 90 day P90X challenge. It was certainly quite the challenge. When I started I could not complete a single pull-up. By the end I could bang out 6 without any assistance and at least a dozen chin-ups. All of my weights went up on each exercise and my upper body strength has increased dramatically.
While I didn't see the weight loss that others tout in their on-line testimonials, I didn't have a lot to lose. I actually saw my weight increase by two pounds, while my body fat went down 3%. Most of this is due to an increase in muscle mass, mostly in my back and upper body.
My husband saw even more dramatic results. He lost 8lbs and dropped 5% body fat. His diet has drastically improved to the point that he is no longer drinking diet coke. He's committed to a program and has even started P90X over. The hard part for him has been trying to complete the program while traveling and working a 80+ hour workweek.
My overall thoughts....P90X is not for the faint of heart. You have to work hard, work your muscles to fatique and follow the diet. There's no room for junk food and you definitely can not cut your calories. Your growing muscles need the fuel for you to see improvement. You'll find your weaknesses (mine is yoga) and be able to identify what you need to do to improve them. (I'll be adding a weekly hour long yoga or stretching session each week from now on!) After a while, Tony gets to be a bit annoying and pushing yourself that hard for that long is tough, but its worth the work. The program is challenging, invigorating and works all your various fitness components to give you a well rounded fitness program, with modifications for those who have injuries or are not quite ready to do the more advanced moves. I would recommend it to anyone who has worked out before steadily and has some experience with weights. Its a great off season cross trainer for runners and multi-sport athletes. I know it has made me a better runner. Without much focus on my run in the last 90 days, I easily ran sub-8 minute miles for a 5K last weekend on a very hilly course. I can't wait to see how much faster I am in the pool now that I have this added upper body strength!
Overall....go for it! P90X will change things up for and challenge you! And to my partner during the last 90 days....Great job, hubby! You look great!!!! And are stronger and healthier than I've ever seen you!
One of my fondest memories as a little girl is working out with my dad. I can remember being 6 and going with my dad to the YMCA. I can remember the mirrors, the smell of sweat and old gym socks, the sounds and sights of all the weights. It seemed like a fun place and my dad enjoyed being there. And I enjoyed spending time with my dad.
As a mom of three little ones, I now know that my mom probably told my dad to "take me somewhere" or "go do something with your daughter". And dad, not knowing what to do with a 6 year old, took me to do something he really enjoyed...working out. To me, exercise and lifting weights at that time, wasn't a workout. It was something that only I got to do with my dad. My brother was too little at the time. It was a special time between a father and his daughter. I can still remember holding a small weight and doing bicep curls facing the mirror with my dad by my side, both of us grinning ear to ear. I was so proud of myself, but even happier that my dad seemed proud of me.
These days its my children who are sharing in a workout with me. They're in the stroller with me as we go for a walk or run. My oldest rides her bike as I run along side. (Talk about a run! Try keeping up to your child while they're on their bike!) They're doing yoga, lifting weights, performing pull-ups or doing jumping jacks as their dad and I complete our P90X workout for the day. My oldest swims in the lane next to me and trys to race me as I get my laps in. They're there to cheer me on as I cross the finish line. My own personal support team. Their laughter, giggles, smiles and enthusiasm can get me through some of the toughest workouts.
Exercise and working out isn't something that "has to be done" in their eyes. Its a game. Its family time. Its FUN! And while working out with small children can be a challenge (running with a jogging stroller is no run in the park and lifting weights or boxing is an adrenaline rush as you're always making sure that no one gets hit, kicked or knocked out!), but its also incredibly rewarding. Our children are learning that exercise is part of a healthy life. Its as normal as breathing or the sun rising each day. Having young children doesn't have to be an excuse not to exercise, it should be a reason to exercise! Showing them that exercise can be fun. That there are different ways to exercise. That challenging your body keep you young and your mind sharp. They're learning from your example.
I hope my children will take away memories of working out with their dad and I like I have from when I was little. I hope that its a positive and fun experience for them. I think we're on the path to success. Our oldest already is looking forward to competing in a TriKids event this spring. Our middle child asks for our help in lifting her up to do pull-ups (as much a workout for us as it is for her). And our youngest gets a great belly laugh as we lower ourselves to do a push-up and give her kisses as she lays underneath us.
Thank you Dad for the great memories and instilling in me a love of exercise. I hope I'm passing along the tradition!
Have you ever watched a child or infant sleep? Not only is it a completely peaceful process, but watch them breathe. Their lungs and belly completely fill with air.
So often in our busy lives, we forget to breathe. Sure we take a breath...or else there would be a lot of dead bodies lying around...but we don't really breathe. We don't fully fill our lungs with air and then expell all that air out. We don't take a moment to inhale, feeling our bodies fill with oxygen, rejuvenating our muscles and mind, and then push all that air out, as we let go of all the tension, stress and toxins our bodies have accumulated over the course of a day.
We all know that breathing and oxygen are essential for life to continue. Ask a patient who is put on a breathing machine how vital oxygen and taking a deep breath are to healthy living and you'll have a whole new appreciation for the process we take for granted each day! Oxygen fuels our whole body, without it our muscles (heart, lungs and brain included) can not function at their best.
So take a minute...or 5 if you have the time....and focus on your breathing. Slowly inhale, feeling your lungs fill with air and your chest and belly rise. Then exhale it all out, pulling in your abs and pushing every last drop of air out. Feel your body start to relax as you focus on something other than that growing to do list. Feel your muscles come alive as they receive the oxygen they need to thrive. Feel your mind become more alert as you breathe deeply and give it a chance to rest and rejuvinate. Feel your abs contract, getting stronger and toner without performing a single crunch (deep breathing really is the best ab workout you can do for yourself!).
The best part about breathing deeply, besides feeling better, lowering your stress level, and strengthening your abs (and who doesn't want a better looking mid-section with swimsuit season coming up!), is that you can do it anywhere. While waitting at a stop light. At the doctor or dentist office. In a dull office meeting. Watching the kids play at the park. Watching tv. The list goes on! No special equipment or exercise clothing required!
So take a moment today to really breath! Your abs, muscles, lungs, heart and brain will thank you for it!!!!