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.

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How to have a good day

We wake up every morning – some days feeling like P-Diddy (couldn’t resist) – not really knowing how our day will go. Prepared for the worst but hoping for the best. Some days unexpectedly exciting things happen and other days cat videos are the highlight. But there are a few things you can do to help yourself along to a good day.

Cat and Egg

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get ready in the morning. Even if it means 10 minutes less of sleep.
  • Wear clothes that make you feel good. Not too tight. Not too loose. Clothes that are just right.
  • If you have a crappy commute to work, expect that it will be crappy and stop fighting it. Put on some music instead or bring a book with you.
  • Make a to-do list. Then attack it. Maybe celebrating every time you check an item off of the list.
  • Get up from your chair and chat up a co-worker about something non-work-related.
  • Play your favorite songs. You know, the one you can’t help but sing along to or tap your foot to.
  • Do something nice for someone. No need to be extravagant. Just a random act of kindness.
  • Drink lots of water. Coffee and soda don’t count.
  • Have lunch away from your desk. (Even if it means sneaking into an empty conference room).
  • Get some sunlight. (Pull your chair right up to that window).
  • Give someone a hug. (Preferably not a stranger on the Metro).
  • Try not to dwell on or rehash unpleasant events from your day or the day before.
  • Read or watch something funny.
  • Tell someone how much you love and appreciate him/her.
  • Do yoga. (Duh)

These are just some suggestions. Maybe an impromptu dance party will dispel cranky thoughts or an ice-cold glass of something. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you not get mired in the muck of your day. Break away from your train of thought and give yourself some space to breathe. We don’t have complete control over our day-to-day but since spending our days hiding under our covers isn’t an option, I suggest you try any of the items above.

What do you do to make it a good day?

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Mar O.olmL.

PSA: Beware the yoga voice!

This is a public service announcement!

Caution Tape

At some point during your practice, you have been subjected to “yoga voice.”

It comes in the form of a well-meaning yoga teacher who, in attempting to create a certain atmosphere, will use a heavily affected, drawn out, sing-song tone during class. It may go something like this…

“And you raiiiiiiiiiiise your arms aaaaaaaaaaall the way up to the ceiling…
Reeeeeeeeeeeaching as faaaaaaaaar as your fingertips will go.
Exhaling slooooooooowly as you continue to streeeeeeeeeeeetch as far as you can goooooooooo…” While cooing reassurances all the way.

You get the idea. It drives me nuts… and to distraction.

Why would a perfectly good teacher feel the need to put on a performance like that? Just last week, I had the displeasure of being taught by a yoga voice-using teacher. There is no way she talks like that in the “real world.” Her sequence of poses were fine but I couldn’t focus because I was wondering how bad yoga voice happens to good teachers.

Don’t get me wrong. I wish I could be and sound like the gatekeeper to Nirvana but it just ain’t happening. That’s not who I am. Yoga voice smacks of insincerity. Your knowledge of yoga, your carefully chosen words and the sequence of poses you put together is all your students need to create their own internal yoga practice. A little incense, essential oil or soft music might be nice but mostly just you in all your authentic glory. Just like you don’t need an expensive yoga studio or mat to make beautiful yoga happen, you don’t need an affected voice to inspire your students.

I have run into a few yoga teachers who use this alternate voice to teach. I don’t know where they learned it or who encouraged them to do it. But it isn’t necessary. If you don’t speak that way outside of the yoga studio, don’t do it once you’re inside. Voice and tone is important. It sets the tone in the room so that a student knows it’s time to turn his gaze inward, let go of the outside world and begin his practice. But leave the sickly sweet voice out of it. You sound totally ridiculous. I don’t think your students are buying it either.

So my dear beloved fellow teachers, new and old alike, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of using a yoga voice. Our students deserve better than that. You are beautiful and wonderful without adding any affectations to your style.

Namaste.

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Picture Perfect Pose.

What I learned from the D.C. storm power outage

On Friday, June 29th, a weather phenomenon called a Derecho, slammed into Washington, DC and left more than a million people without electricity. I was lucky enough to have been away for a few days and only had to suffer through the power outage from Sunday evening to Tuesday evening. But, boy, did those few days test my mettle! It left me cranky and sweaty but with some incredibly powerful lessons…

  1. Eat the ice cream. Right away. Don’t save it for an emergency. When there is ice cream in the fridge, every single day is an emergency.
  2. Hanging out in the outdoor patio furniture section of Target is totally acceptable.
  3. Trees are lovely things… Lovely, deadly things that like to take down power lines. You will never look at a tree the same way again.
  4. You will re-evaluate your friendships based on their location on the power grid.
  5. Complaining won’t get you anywhere, but it’s going to feel damn good.
  6. When you don’t have power, you will actually look forward to going into the office. It’s possible.
  7. You will invent new ways to stay cool – like naked brushing your teeth or naked sweeping the floor.

I know I sound like a Baz Luhrmann song telling you to wear sunscreen but if you take anything away from this post it’s that you should never let ice cream go to waste.

What did YOU learn from the power outage?

P.S. A HUGE thanks to the men and women who worked tirelessly in the blazing heat to get power back on as soon as possible.

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Brittany Herbert.

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!

Falling into emotional traps

When I step through my door at home I always feel like I’m taking a giant exhale from a long day of holding my breath in. It’s like switching from fancy pants to ones with an elastic band. Or swapping high heels for flip flops. Or simply wiping off makeup. It’s a slow unraveling of the day… Divesting a little bit at a time to a more recognizable me.

Then I sit on the couch and let my mind go blank. I don’t think about what happened earlier – what was said at work – something I did that I wasn’t proud of – not even conversations I had on Twitter or Facebook. Just a nice blank thoughtless few moments of peace… At this point my mind is healing from the ravages of the day – from the unpleasant thoughts that have come in and the worry cobwebbing various corners of the day. With a sweep of my mental broom I attempt to brush out the ugly things.

That is my usual after work mental routine…

But not yesterday…

Yesterday something happened at work in the early morning that really made me angry. Someone acted poorly and it pissed me off. I was upset but I did my best to let it go. I did eventually brush it off but it took a while.

When I came home later that day, I recounted the offense to my husband and found myself getting angry and worked up all over again. All the emotions that I felt that morning came rushing back. My heart was racing. My face was flushed. I was yelling. It felt like the incident just happened all over again.

After I was done “venting” I felt terrible, spent and empty. My anger turned inward. What the hell??? Why did I just do that to myself? I didn’t need to feel those emotions again. It wasn’t like my husband could have done anything to help me. I had already planned to talk with my supervisor the next day so what was the point? Was there some sort of masochistic satisfaction in repeating the story?

I ended up nursing a headache for the rest of the night.

I completely regretted re-living the emotions and even now I fail to see any reason for needing to. The smart move was to let go and move on. I definitely lost more than I gained. In fact, I didn’t gain anything – unless you consider a headache a gain. Sometimes it can be as simple as saying to yourself, “It’s okay. I’m done with that.”

I tell my students all the time that we can only be as strong as our ability to let things go. That when you free yourself of constraints your ability to expand is limitless. I forgot that yesterday but it was a lesson well re-learned.

Emotional traps are easy to fall into. But when you pay closer attention to your emotions, you will get better not only at not setting emotional traps but avoiding them as well.

How often do you do this to yourself? Are you able to recognize them? Do you make the conscious decision to avoid rehashing old negative feelings? What tricks do you use to get around emotional traps?

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Billaday.

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