I hate running

Yeah, I said it.

From the moment I step off my porch until the second I’m back on my porch I am hating running.

There’s no clarity. There’s no Nike-like video where a woman is running on a lonely road looking strong and confident.

Lonely Road

Instead there’s me shuffling along angry, tired and wheezing like grandma – wondering to myself when this torture is going to end. I know that’s the case because on one occasion I ran by a punk teenage boy wearing all black who looked up at me, smiled and gave me an encouraging thumbs up. He actually felt bad for me! That’s how sad-looking I am when I go running. People always ask, “But you must feel good after, right?” Nope. There IS relief that it’s done but there’s NO celebration. There’s no enthusiasm for more. There’s no “I feel great!” – only “Man, that sucked.” It’s just not getting easier.

I’m convinced that people who claim they love to run are actually doing it on a bicycle. They’re confused, that’s all.

I only run once or twice a week and about 3.5 miles. And every single time it takes all of my mental capacity to tie up my shoe laces and head out the door. All the block rocking beats in the world in my MP3 player couldn’t help. It’s always the last thing I want to do.

Naturally, on a running day it’s the first thing that I do.

I don’t love working out. Some days I don’t even love doing yoga. I would rather read a book, watch TV or nap. Exercise or anything healthy would not be in the top 10 choices I would make if I were given a menu to choose from.

So to get around this lack of motivation to move, I simply removed the choice.

It’s not whether I would run or not – it’s what time will I go running. In prosaic terms, it become a way of life. It removes the option of not moving. There’s no talking myself into it (or out of it). It’s just something that’s going to be done. I’m healthier when I move. Being sedentary is not an option and that left me with exercising. So despite my hatred of running, I treat it like the many necessary evil tasks of my every day life – just get it done and move on. Don’t linger over it. Don’t wait. Don’t stall. Get out there and get it over with. (This is perhaps why the “Just Do It” Nike campaign resonated with so many people).

This did not happen overnight. I don’t have the discipline of an Olympian. I first had to learn that I could do it and even reap the benefits. But like my yoga practice it evolved over time and I worked on it over and over again. I failed over and over again. But we can train our mind to help us make the right decisions for our body. There is no difference between people who exercise and people who don’t. It’s just that some people push through the inertia of a body at rest staying at rest.

This is not to say that I don’t do a happy dance for the torrential downpour on my running day. I do a little bit but I also remind myself: if not today, then tomorrow.

There is an effective mental trick in all of us that can get us off the couch and moving. You just have to figure it out. Maybe it’s not for running. Maybe it’s for doing another unpleasant task like polishing the furniture. If you have something, will you please share it? Maybe you can inspire someone else!

Photo via Flicker (Creative Commons) by Anoxlou.

6 tips on getting the most out of your yoga practice

Your yoga practice is called that because – duh – it requires practice! It also takes work, commitment and dedication. You will be elated by your good days and you will have to persevere through your bad days. You will learn and re-learn things. You will discover truths about yourself.

Each time you step on your mat will be a complete and unique experience. Your yoga teacher plays a role in what happens during class but, more importantly, YOU play a role in your yoga experience.

Think about it – after a particularly heinous day, you get on your mat thinking you’re going to “yoga this day right out of your hair” but then you hold on to your unpleasant thoughts… Does your practice then feel a little lacking? Do you feel as frustrated as when you started? Do you feel like you just wasted your time?

Below are some tips on how you can make the most of yoga each and every time you step on your mat:

  • Be patient. Strong poses take time. It will come.
  • Stay present. Mindfulness increases awareness of your body. It will not only help you fly in your poses but also prevent injuries.
  • Release your expectations. Don’t start with the goal of successfully holding a difficult pose. Allow your body to guide you and don’t be too hard on yourself.
  • Do not multi-task. Set aside your to-do list or what lies ahead of you. Focus on the one thing that you are doing. You will be better at listening to the needs of your body.
  • Ignore your peers. You are on a different point in your yoga journey than your fellow yogis. Turn your blinders on and focus.
  • Breathe. When you are straining, you tend to hold your breath. When you hold your breath, your muscles tighten up instead of expanding and this will hamper your flexibility.

I know… You’re thinking… It can’t be that easy?!? Trust me. It isn’t. In an age where multi-tasking is king not letting our mind go “SQUIRREL!” is a hard task. Rather than talking to yourself as you flow from one pose to the next let your mind go blank. Then come back here and tell me how it went.

Good luck!

My motivation

Why do I exercise?

  • Because I feel like a badass after pushing myself harder than I ever have before…
  • Because it’s not called an adrenaline rush for nothing…
  • Because I don’t want to feel my age when I’m over 50…
  • Because I love myself more than my couch…
  • Because I can’t afford a whole new wardrobe every six months…
  • Because my family and friends deserve me at my best…
  • Because vanity won’t allow me to do any less…
  • Because donuts and cupcakes aren’t going to eat themselves…
  • Because heart disease and diabetes are not my friends…
  • Because I want to live long and I want to live well…

Why do YOU exercise?

Personal training or personal torture?

Last November, after months of toying with the idea and agonizing over the cost, I hired a personal trainer. When I shared this with others, the most common reactions were…

  • “Why? You don’t need a trainer! You’re thin enough already!”
  • “Isn’t this something you already know how to do?”
  • “Isn’t your workout regimen enough?”
  • ::blank stare::

Yes, I do exercise regularly on top of teaching yoga classes. And I know my way around the gym but I needed to do something more… I was at my heaviest weight. And no matter how hard or how often I worked I didn’t feel like I was getting any results. I was also bored with my workout and my motivation was waning day after day. I was skeptical about the magic trainers can do but I was getting more frustrated so I caved in and hired a personal trainer.

I chose Francois Edouard, an Elite Trainer, at Sport and Health in Bethesda. Why? For the following reasons:

  1. He was fit.
  2. He was friendly with an evil sense of humor.
  3. He was highly recommended by friends and other personal trainers.
  4. He could work with my late gym schedule.
  5. He had the credentials and experience I was looking for. (Certified by the National Strength Professionals Association with 14 years of experience)

Our first session together was an assessment. We talked about what my goals were, my eating habits, any injuries I might have and my current workout schedule. He also wanted to see what I could do or as he put it “how much gas was in my tank…” So he made me do some pushups, some core work and other exercises and finally checked my flexibility. Based on his assessment we agreed on 30-minute sessions twice a week for three months.

After the first week or two, I was sure Francois had broken me as I limped around through my day. At every session all I could think about in the longest 30 minutes of my life was “Do not puke. Do not puke – at least not in front of everyone.” My body did start to hurt a little less as we progressed but I still wasn’t exactly skipping along.

And you know what? It was worth it.

After three months, I lost 5 pounds and 2 inches. It doesn’t seem like a lot but it was to me. I certainly hadn’t been able to do it in the 12 months that I had been trying. Turns out I needed that extra push to knock me out of my exercise plateau. I had never worked so hard in my life and it gave me a better idea of what I was capable of. Francois was great to work with – although I was terrified of whatever torture he had planned for the evening.  He kept our workouts fun and interesting. I feel stronger. I feel better. And confident that I can keep this going.

He also inspired me to change my habits outside of the gym. (Yes, I did get my 30-day alcohol fast idea from him.) It also felt good to have someone who was helping me work towards my goal, pushing me and motivating me when I needed it. More importantly, I learned a lot about proper form and other exercises I could do that worked several muscle groups all at once so I could get more out of every workout.

I highly recommend working with a good trainer. Someone with experience. Someone you can relate to. Someone who understands your real limits and pushes you farther than you’ve ever gone before. Whether you’re a workout newbie or a seasoned fitness star, a trainer can help you get to your fitness goals.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

And if you happen to be near Bethesda Sport and Health, tell Francois I sent you. I’ll also leave you with this parting advice: If you’re not afraid of your trainer, then he’s not working you hard enough.

Happy training!

Your ticket to the gun show

How to start working out

So you got yourself a gym  membership, a velour tracksuit that J-Lo would be envious of and a new pair of sneakers – now what? I am asked all the time how to start a workout regimen – whether it’s running, weightlifting or yoga. Or even just how to finally get active.

It’s simple and I’ll tell you how. Just send me three payments of $9.99…

Just kidding.

You start by walking – literally. Take a walk outside or on a treadmill… Just walk. For a mile or three. Whatever you can do. Try that for a week. The week after walk a little farther or walk a little faster. Maybe add in some run/walk/gallop combination. If the weather is nice, go for a nice long hike.

If you joined a gym, try a group fitness class.

Most gyms have a weightlifting class or a sculpting class that can accommodate all levels of fitness. That is where I started. Instructors were able to tell me how much weight to use and kept an eye on my form to make sure I wasn’t hurting myself. (At the beginning, senior citizens were lifting twice as much weight as I was but I made myself feel better by moving my bench as far away from them as possible – bunch of overachievers.) 😉  I tried every single group fitness class that was offered – including Zumba – I felt both fabulous and ridiculous. (Did you know that laughing at yourself also burns calories?)

From there you figure out the activities you enjoy – what motivates you, keeps you challenged and more importantly keeps you coming back. Once it’s in your blood it’s fairly easy to delve into other activities like kayaking, hiking, rock wall climbing or long bike rides.

Here are a few tips you can try:

5k Running Machine

1.  Tag along with an already active friend (i.e. let her drag you to something you never thought you’d do).

2.  If running is your chosen drug, register for a 5k race. There’s nothing like a definable goal to keep you motivated.

3.  Sign up for a challenge. (Like the Burpee Challenge starting tomorrow!)

4.  Rope a friend in. Hopefully you’ll keep each other going.

5.  Start simply and build. Don’t allow yourself to take on too much. You start small and get stronger every day.

Ultimately, being active will become a way of life – something you want to do rather than something you have to do. But the beginning is really as simple as walking out of your front door.

So what are you waiting for?

My short stint with Bikram Yoga

According to Dictionary.com, Bikram Yoga is “a type of hatha yoga characterized by a set series of postures and breathing exercises, performed in a very hot room.”

It’s the “very hot room” part that has most people talking. 105 degrees to be exact. When you first walk into a room heated up to 105 degrees, it’s like getting punched in the gut. You’re not quite sure what happened but you know you didn’t like it.

As a yoga teacher, I am asked all the time about different types of yoga – Bikram especially. So finally, with Groupon in hand, I went to my first ever Bikram Yoga class. Can’t hurt, right? (Famous last words?)

I approached Bikram with a lot of trepidation. I swim in sweat at room temperature so I was not looking forward to sweating more. Or worse yet, having someone else’s sweat splatter on me. And, of course, I was completely unprepared for my first class despite how many times I googled “how to survive Bikram” prior to going.

My first class was not a complete disaster but I was mentally unprepared for how difficult it was going to be. Suffice it to say, I didn’t quite make the 90 minutes. At 60 minutes I had to make the awful decision between walking out with tail between my legs or vomiting in the room. I opted for the walk of shame.

Other people would not willingly return after such a defeat but not me. I couldn’t stand the thought of failing at something yoga-related. So I came back… not just once but TWICE! (My belief is that you need to try something at least 3 times before you can have a respectable opinion on it. Belief excludes illegal and dangerous activities.)

I was better prepared the next time. My husband thought I was crazy as I packed my gear to try again especially when I ranted and raved after the first class. I looked like I was going into battle. I packed my water bottle with ice, wore shorts instead of pants, I brought a watch so I’d know how much time was left and I firmly planted myself by the door in the hopes of catching any breeze. Sure enough, it went much better and I made it through the 90 minutes with a smile on my face.

So the big question is: Will I be back? The answer is a firm NO.

I don’t want to offend Bikram lovers but it simply wasn’t for me. It was complete torture. When I tell people this, they always inadvertently imply that I didn’t have the mental stamina to practice Bikram. Some have demanded that I keep going until I learn to love it. But the truth is I spent all of my time at Bikram focused on making it through the movements and cursing the incredible heat. I wasn’t focused on my body and how it was feeling. I wasn’t thinking about how good it was for me. I didn’t feel glorious and open. I didn’t feel good. And I hated having to lock my knees! Sure, I felt tremendous pride in making it through but I didn’t like where my mind was while I was practicing.

So do I recommend that people try it? Hell yes! I admire the folks who practice Bikram and you should definitely have your own opinion on it. Don’t just take my word for it. But as for me? I will be keeping my distance.

What are your thoughts on Bikram or hot yoga?

Yoga Etiquette: Top 5 Must Do’s

I know you’re thinking to yourself “Yoga Etiquette? Isn’t yoga supposed to be all-embracing and wonderful and people frolicking on the lawn?” Well, yes, it is but there are some things we might do that will irritate the hell out of our fellow yogis and yoginis.

Behave or else this llama will give you the stink eye!

Here is my top 5 must do’s in yoga class:

  1. Avoid stepping on someone else’s mat – with or without shoes, it’s not cool. Someone is laying his cheek on that mat you’re stepping on and no one knows where your feet have been.
  2. Show up to class on time. Coming late is disruptive. Sure, things happen but if you’re consistently late, you should consider taking a different class that fits your schedule better.
  3. If you’re late for class or if you have to leave early, enter and leave the room quickly and as quietly as possible. Do your best imitation of a ninja and skedaddle out of there.
  4. Save your questions for the end of class. Yoga classes have a certain flow, though it doesn’t have to be done in stone cold silence, conversations or sharing commentary with the instructor or fellow yogis should be saved for last.
  5. Lay off the perfume. In class, a lot of really deep breaths are taken. Don’t choke your neighbor by spritzing on a little too much eau-de-whatever. You’ll need that more AFTER the class.

They seem so basic, don’t they? But you’d be surprised how often one or two of these things happen in class – usually by the same offender! Everyone has had their yoga class horror stories… If you haven’t, you just might be the problem. 😉

Do you have other “must do” advice for yogis? Share your top 5 or add to mine here!