Tag Archives: Exercise

An affirmative practice


This is not me. But she looks pretty flexible, right?

Yoga … yes.

Lots of people say “I should do yoga.”

Yes, you should.

After a friend on Facebook wrote about accomplishing 90 yoga workouts in 90 days, I said, “I should do yoga.” I wasn’t up for the equivalent of a workout a day, but I hadn’t been doing much of anything physical since we’d moved into our renovated home and I was feeling the effects: Weak, inflexible, prone to hurting myself just by putting my heavy purse in the back seat of the car.

So in December, I signed up for a hot yoga class and committed to doing three yoga workouts a week.

In the past six months, I reaped all the rewards you read about consistent yoga practice: I’m stronger, I’m more flexible, I sleep better and I’m less cranky. Last week, I visited my local yoga studio five times in one week, and I’m patting myself on the back for it (because I’m so much more flexible, see, I can pat my own back). The key word in yoga practice is practice. I can’t do every pose and I still lose my balance frequently, and I lose track of my breath, and roll my eyes when my yogi asks me to do something challenging. But I keep practicing. And some days, my body cooperates.

I had done a yoga workout here and there in the past but never hot yoga. Hot yoga is tougher but it pushes me in the way any good sweaty workout does.

The next time you drive by a yoga studio or your friend mentions her yoga workout or you read a piece about the benefits of yoga (like this one), say yes. Give it a try. Your body will thank you.

Taking to water like a couple of ducks

It’s not secret I’m a big fan of water. I mean there’s the whole hydration aspect of it, and you can’t beat it for getting you clean.

But I was born in the land of sky-blue waters (hello! Minnesota has been the Land of 10,000 Lakes on its license plates as long as Missouri has been the Show-Me State), and I spent many-an afternoon as a junior high schooler getting pruney and water-logged at the Wadena pool.

Despite swimming the crawl at the speed of a crawl, I became a lifeguard and spent two summers teaching 5-year-olds how to swim (thanks, Shannon Whateveryournamewas for assigning me to the role no one else wanted but has served for excellent blog fodder in my golden years).

But as I’ve aged and gotten increasingly protective of my artificially colored hair, I’ve spent a lot less time in the chlorinated waters of a pool.

Until recently.

NOT me and my Beloved. But you get the picture.

NOT me and my Beloved. But you get the picture.

My Beloved and I joined a new gym (goodbye, Snap Fitness, you served me well), and I’ve spent a number of mornings getting my groove on in the pool during water aerobics classes.


Well, it’s not because I’m a fan of green hair (and I’m really hoping I can avoid the inevitability by keeping my ponytail dry — well, dryish).

My Beloved appreciates the lower impact exercise opportunities afforded by a pool of warm water, so I’ve been joining him and the grannies so we can exercise together.

Only here’s the thing: It’s not just grannies. And it’s not a bad workout.

I’ve been walking around all day today fully aware I worked out in the pool this morning. It’s not the same kind of sore as lifting bar bells that were too heavy, but I know I put my arms and legs and heart to work.

Another plus on the pro-and-con list: No one looks sweaty. We’re all just … wet.

Hey, today’s song list even had us underwater grapevining along to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters.” Oh, wait a minute. I suppose teenagers who were amazed by “Thriller” are grandparents now. But whatever. We weren’t dancing to the oldies. OK, the really old oldies.

It’s not like a summer run as the sun rises over the horizon, but water aerobics are pretty fun.

And splashing around the pool with my sweetie is better than icing on the cake. Because I’m burning calories instead of consuming them.

Yoga on the beach

Recently, I changed up my exercise routine with yoga. Instead alternating running with weight training, I’m alternating running with yoga.


It’s a great way to work out, stretch and meditate a little, all at the same time.

I can’t do yoga properly without guidance so I have to have an instructor or at least a video to encourage me to try a tricky pose or hold a pose longer.

Some yogis encourage you to hold an intention during class. So today I intended to be present in the moment and celebrate that I made it to Friday!

yoga on the beach

Recently, I had the opportunity to do yoga on the beach. On the beach! For a native Minnesotan, this was the definition of novel. The sun shone brightly, a breeze was blowing, I focused my eyes on a horizon where I could see only sky and water. Wow. I marveled at my luck. Who cares if I couldn’t hold a pose as long as the 20something teaching the class?! This was special.

That’s the kind of opportunities I seek out when I’m away from home. I feel like I really experience a place when I’m running its streets or breathing its air. It’s more real than sight seeing — better than taking a picture, though sometimes I do that, too.

Here’s a shot of what I saw in my shavasana pose — total relaxation.

corpse pose


Happened by a 10K in progress yesterday, and I thought, “That looks like fun.”

Me. Thinking a running race looked like fun.

Never would have said that seven years ago when I started running, just about this time of year. I’m been reading Runner’s World magazine long enough now to see the “Newbie” transform himself into a half-marathoner. And here I am thinking I should find a race and run in it.

Just for fun.

My enthusiasm this morning, when I was laced up and actually running in a cold rain instead of watching other people run, was dampened (excuse the pun). But still.

Ramblers are death traps

OK, my headline my be overstating my case, but I got your attention.

People who sit all day and watch TV all night — even ones who run 35 miles a week — have a higher risk of heart disease than people who move around all day. Mayo Clinic cardiologist Martha Grogan told the radio program “Here & Now” that sitting for more than four hours a day gives you the same risk of a heart attack as smoking. (Click here for the story.)

Today’s news comes on the heels of yesterday’s “Fresh Air” interview with author and fitness expert Gretchen Reynolds who said just standing for 2 minutes every 20 minutes can improve your health.

“Sitting for long periods of time — when you don’t stand up, don’t move at all — tends to cause changes physiologically within your muscles,” Reynolds told “Fresh Air’s” Terry Gross. “You stop breaking up fat in your bloodstream, you start getting accumulations of fat … in your liver, your heart and your brain. You get sleepy. You gain weight. You basically are much less healthy than if you’re moving. … If you can stand up every 20 minutes — even if you do nothing else — you change how your body responds physiologically.” (Click here for the full story.)

Which leads to me to this unscientific, self-serving conclusion: Two-story houses — with lots of steps — have healthier occupants than residents of ramblers.

I prefer the appearance of two-story houses, and all the houses I’ve owned have had two stories. (Heck, I think three- or four-story houses are impressive — I just could never afford one of those.)

But presentation aside, two-story houses win on function, too. To my way of thinking, single-story ramblers are a sign of resignation to being lazy or getting old. I’m going  into old age kicking and screaming, and all that kicking and screaming turns out to be very good for my health.

With my Beloved now working from his home office in the basement and me working in a bedroom on the second floor (alternatively known on some of our address labels as Suite 4 and Suite 2), I take the steps many times a day. Sometimes, I take the steps just to take a break. Usually the break involves a snack (sometimes a lower-calorie hug), but still, I’m moving. Our little 8-pound schnauzer is in good shape, too, what with all the to-ing and fro-ing.

I’m not ready for a stand-up desk or a treadmill desk, but the news that even a little movement is better than none is compelling. Compelling me to stand up and take a walk.

What are you looking at? Get moving!

This resolution is a stretch

No round of New Year’s resolutions is complete without an intention to lose weight or exercise more, right?

Isn’t that what everyone resolves on Jan. 1? It would seem so by the increase in volume at the local Snap Fitness.

I gained three pounds (which might be accounted for by an overly salty Chinese take-out meal or a big bowl of pasta for dinner) and I covered 1,005 miles in 2011, so I’m not too keen on losing weight or exercising more (how do I know I went 1,005.62 miles in 2011? Attribute that to a Garmin accurate to a hundredth of a mile and an obsessive streak of recording it; I just love my runner’s journal).

OK, enough with the obsessive detail, Minnesota Transplant. Sheesh.

I’m not resolving to exercise more, but I do, however, resolve to exercise differently:

I hereby resolve to stretch after every run.

My sciatica is acting up (do I sound like an old man?) and I think it may have something to do with the fact that my hamstrings are tighter than a 20-year-old’s creamy skin (oh, when you’re 20, you have no idea your skin is in the best condition it’ll ever be). And those hamstrings may be tight because, oh, I never stretch.

I used to do yoga regularly, and I’m thinking I could use a few more up dogs in my routine.

And so, in addition to making a comfy nest and embracing technology, I resolve to stretch.

Oh, and one more thing. If you’re into my annual new year’s resolutions, check it out here.

Tomorrow, we’ll wax nostalgic for the old year passed.

A great day for a run, blue sky and sunshine

Basketball doesn’t have PRs.

I played basketball in junior high solely because I was tall. Tall girls played basketball, that’s just the way it was. That I was completely uncoordinated and unmotivated, that’s besides the point.

There’s no I in team, it’s said, and basketball is a team sport. So it wasn’t a stat to track, scoring more baskets than one did the last time.

But in running, oh, it’s all different. Winning is great, sure, but that’s probably for the Kenyans among us. The way to track progress in running is by the holy grail of the PR: Personal Record.

I didn’t get a personal record in today’s St. John’s Oktoberfest 5K.

But I could have.

That’s the lure of the race. Even if a runner has no chance whatsoever of beating the high school cross-country runner who weighs 90 pounds soaking wet, a runner has a chance of getting a PR.

Now hear these excuses: I didn’t train for it. I ran yesterday when I should have rested. I forgot the race was today until 10 a.m. yesterday when a flyer in the drug store reminded me, oh, yeah, today’s the day for the Oktoberfest 5K.

But I showed up anyway. I ran. I earned a time of 29:08.

I’ll take that over a basketball game any day.

Mind over matter is what matters in the gym

I could use a little Hanz and Franz about now: “We just want to pump [clap] you up!”

I’m adding weight training to my exercise regime. My excitement about this does not approach the level of Hanz and Franz.

After I wrote “Quiet time on the running trail” a few weeks back and got a number of comments thanks to being Freshly Pressed, I was a little bit surprised about the number of folks who admired my dedication but admitted they never exercise.

As someone who walks or runs 20 miles a week, every week, that admission ranks right up there with “I don’t brush my teeth.” As is obvious by people-watching at the local Wal-Mart, I know many people don’t exercise, but gosh, your body is designed to move — is immobility how you really want it? Some commenters expressed aspirations to exercise, but some of them seemed perfectly content with a life of idle repose.

Then I heard a National Public Radio report on senior citizens being disappointed about their golden years that said one-third of seniors exercise less in retirement than they did while working. Well, on the bright side, two-thirds are exercising more, but still, did you really retire so you could spend more time watching the Game Show Network? That’s sad.

Admitting that I’m generally biased in favor of exercising regularly, I’m still irrationally dreading weight training two or three times a week at the local fitness center.

I just hate lifting weights.

It’s hard.

It’s boring.

As an ectomorph, the results are generally invisible.

Humph. I suppose this is exactly the way sedentary people feel about running.

How to avoid hypocrisy? I am engaging my logical mind to overcome my foot-dragging emotions: A stronger core will make me a better runner. Stronger triceps will reduce comparisons of my arms to a turkey’s neck. Stronger shoulders will balance out my perimenopausal hips. I’ll start small and commit to only twice a week. I’ll reward myself by soaking in the hot tub.

I share this, not to annoy the sedentary (hey, it’s your body, and I subscribe to a live-and-let-live philosophy, so have at it), but rather to inspire those of you who think you might like to step it up in the exercise department. Use your head, and maybe your body will follow.

Quiet time on the running trail

“The gun goes off and everything changes … the world changes … and nothing else really matters.”

~ Patti Sue Plumer,
American long-distance runner

Running is an effective weight-management tool, and it smooths the rough edges on my stress profile, too.

I know for a fact I am bitchier on days I don’t get exercise. When I need quiet time, I put on my Asics and dash out the door. I often run with my iPod, but when I’m in a pickle, I leave it behind and just pound the pavement while I think about my breathing.

I distinctly remember a 6-mile run on a summer day five years ago. The day before, I had to lay off two staff members, and it felt like choosing which toes I wanted to have removed. I have no doubt that black day was more awful for the two women I laid off, and I don’t mean to minimize their experiences as I lament my role in middle-management. But (yes, but!) unless you’re Cruella DeVille, telling people you’ve hired and mentored that their contributions are no longer necessary to the company’s continued success is difficult. Unable to sleep, I got up at 5 a.m. and just ran. It helped me cope with the pit in my stomach.

Three years ago, when I was trying to figure out my place in my new community in Illinois and before I found the great group of friends in my book club, I reveled in the solitude of a run. The little village where I live doesn’t have culture, shopping or a night life to speak of, but it offers miles of quiet, crime-free roads on which to run.

Last summer, in the midst of an excruciatingly painful custody battle that interfered with my ability to eat (oh, to have such problems), I still ran, albeit more slowly, but I ran. That trial passed, too, but at the time, running was like pounding a pillow for me (and legal, considering the alternatives that crossed my mind).

This week, I am in Minnesota, and my stress is at an all-time low. No employer is placing unreasonable demands on me, and even my unemployment is nothing special in light of the millions of Americans in the same boat. I am surrounded, literally and figuratively, with wonderful friends. My familial relationships are copacetic.

And still, a nice quiet run keeps the peace for me. The volume control on my iPod is acting up (who knows why technology can be so impertinent — again, to have such problems) so yesterday as I ran around the campground, Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That” faded away to nothing. I removed my ear buds and listened to the wind in the trees and counted my blessings.

These glass slippers transform me into a fleet-of-foot runner

You know you’re really a runner when the shoes you’re most excited about buying are new running shoes.

Today was New Running Shoes Day at Minnesota Transplant’s house. It comes but twice a year, and it’s celebrated with a big outlay of cash — more than twice what I think I’ve ever paid for a pair of dress shoes.

These shoes — Asics Gel Kayano 17 — represent pain-free jogs through the neighborhood, and they’re worth every penny. The “17” means they’re the 17th iteration of these cushiony feats of engineering.

I picked them up at Dick Pond in Carpentersville. A running friend needed to be evaluated, so we went together. The expert at Dick Pond diagnosed the issues and prescribed a solution. I highly recommend a in-person visit if you’re running around in not-so-good quality shoes.

I can hardly wait to don my new footwear tomorrow morning!