21 Miles, all Smiles

Signs of spring are popping up all over the place.  The snow is melting, a few flower buds are sprouting and many of the runners preparing for the Boston marathon likely had their “last long run,” before Marathon Monday.  Today’s weather conditions were much like what I ran through last year at this time for my last long run prepping for Boston, with my dear friend, Alex.  A few layers needed but the sun was shining.  Here is a before and after picture at the beginning of our 21 mile run.

With running season ramping up, I asked my running expert friends and family members for some race day tips, whether you are training for a 5k, marathon, ultramarathon, or an event like Ragnar.  Here’s what they had to say.

  • Trust in your training.  If you have followed your training plan, trust that you are able to finish the race.
  • Come race day, DO NOT CHANGE anything!  This includes nutrition, pace and clothing.  Do not buy any special shorts, pants or tops to wear race day.  If you have not trained in it, do not wear it – you don’t know if any discomfort or chaffing will result in new clothing and you don’t want to deal with pain caused from new hot spots.
  • Don’t get caught up in the hype…ie, don’t let the atmosphere and other runners alter your pace.  You have trained to run a certain pace, don’t end up bonking because you went out too fast.  You want to have a negative split, meaning your second half of the race is faster than your first half.
  • If you have friends/family attending the race, have them spread out throughout the course.  If they are able to get to desolate/isolated parts of the course, even better.  It’s great to see familiar faces in lonely parts of the course.
  • Many races have a camp to hang out at before the race.  Bring toilet paper, you don’t want to get stranded.
  • Even though you may not feel thirsty, it’s usually a pretty good idea grab a drink at the rest stops.  Alternate between water and sports drinks.
  • Have fun and enjoy the experience.

be well-

 

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Survive, and Move On

This is one of my most favorite times of the year, March Madness.  Athletes and coaches eagerly awaited their fate to see if they would make the list of 64 best and if so, who their first opponent would be.  This year in particular is a bit more special as I have dear friends, near and far, who made the cut.  In addition, my alma mater has moved onto the Elite 8 for DII.

March is a game of Survive, and Move On.  Scouting reports, film, controlling the controllables, tangibles, intangibles, calling on prior experiences are all part of the process in helping teams to move forward.

This morning, I’ll be sitting down with a group of like-minded people for our second day of a three-day workshop.  Much of the focus is a brain-based training system.  The brain is what makes everything else function.  And the number one job of the brain- survival.

Neuroscientific research has been at the forefront for the last several years.  Understanding the brain is constantly being challenged in environments, both internally and externally.  Examples might be are you reacting or responding to emotions, checking for cars as you cross the street.  Much like March Madness, we call on prior experiences to survive and move on.

After I’ve had a few days to digest all the information from this workshop and taken time to watch my friend’s games on dvr, I’ll follow up with more details.

Until then, Got your 6.

be well-

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Lulu’s, Tattoos, Beads and more….

Self admittedly, when I came onto the yoga scene first as a practitioner and then a teacher, I wanted to look and feel the part.  Often times, a large chunk of my paycheck went to pay for things such as designer yoga gear and mala beads.  Tattoo ideas such as the OM symbol, prayer hands or something in Sanskrit passed through my mind.  The idea of attending Burning Man could be fun.

It was as if there was a checklist of things I had to mark off, one by one.  And then there was a shift.  I had the confidence in who I was and what I stood for.

The cost of clothing, class passes, workshops, retreats, magazines, singing bowls, mala beads, tattoos, all in the name of yoga, is a multi-billion dollar business.  There is no doubt I have helped to contribute to that number.

Last week I went into one of my favorite shops in town.  It happens to be full of handpicked items the owner brings back from Nepal.  He always takes the time to give me some sort of lesson while I am there and I am eager to learn what he has to share.  On this day, he explained the symbolism of the Green Tara’s posture and mudra (hand position) and what she stood for.  And then he talked about the significance of 108, the mala beads, by drawing out diagrams.  Having someone take the time to teach me a bit of history behind a 5,000 year old practice is impactful.

For me, the brand name of a clothing line is no longer important.  I am just as comfortable wearing sweat pants and a tee-shirt while teaching.  Beads I wear around my wrist are there to help remind me that meditation can be done anywhere, anytime.  Singing bowls offer a beginning and an end to my practice.  As for that tattoo…..

Everyone is going to have their own path, their own way of living.  Find what is important and meaningful to you.

be well-

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Reconnect with Humanity

A few weeks ago I saw many people posting what they were giving up for Lent. While it has been many years that I have set foot in a church for anything other than a wedding or funeral, I chose to take my own 40 day challenge. The only difference, I choose to give, rather than give up. I choose to give more of myself through spoken words, hugs, smiles and the biggest challenge- 40 letters in 40 days.

So far this has been a great experience. I have written and mailed off several letters, spoken to friends and family over the phone with long conversations, and have visited friends in their homes. Doing all of this has provided the opportunity to reconnect in ways other than social media.

Much of our life is over stimulated with work, social engagements, daily/weekly tasks, and most recently, technology; we forget the importance of connection. While technology has provided few tools to make our lives easier, it has also created a sense of separation. Watching people on the subway or walking down the street, nearly everyone has a phone in their hand either texting or listening to music. Companies are choosing to do more Skype and video conferencing rather than meeting face to face. When out to dinner, both parents and kids have some sort of device in their hand.

Take a few moments to watch this video and then go out, leave the distraction behind. Reconnect with humanity.

be well-

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Sending Love Letters

The following excerpt is from Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart

Sending love letters to people we care about is a rewarding experience, both for us and for them. Making the time to take pen in hand and express our thoughts is valuable. But there’s another way to send love letters, too. This way takes as much time and attention as writing a loving note does, but it doesn’t require a pen and paper. It requires concentrated thought.

There’s an invisible thread of energy winding through the universe, one that connects us all. Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can tell if someone’s angry or upset with you, even if you haven’t talked to or seen this person? You can feel his or her anger, even if you haven’t been physically present to experience it. Thoughts have power, particularly those charged with intense emotional energy. When we think mean, bitter thoughts, it can be like sending hate mail along our connecting wires. It can almost be a sensory attack.

Why not send loving thoughts charged with positive emotional energy? We can consciously choose to use jour connections to others to send love. Send positive thoughts. Blessings. Peace. Assistance in time of crisis. We can send our thoughts in the form of a prayer; or we can simply think a blessing or positive thought, charge it with energy, and send it along the wires with love.

When someone you know or loves comes to mind, or even someone you don’t- perhaps someone in another part of the country or the world, perhaps someone going through a particular crisis- and you’re not certain what to do, send a love letter. Your loving thoughts will touch them and your blessings will all come back to you.

There are endless ways to show love for others. Below are a few examples-

This particular weekend always has a special place in my heart. Six months post Hurricane Katrina I spent some time in the lower 9th ward of St.Bernard Parish in New Orleans. I lived in a tent city and volunteered for an organization in their Made with Love Cafe. We prepared and served over 1,000 meals per day to residents of New Orleans. To this day, it marks one of the most fulfilling and greatest learning experiences I have ever been through.

MC Yogi spreads love through music and yoga. He took to Kickstarter to help finish a project years in the making. With the help of generous donors, he was able to complete his latest album, Only Love is Real. The world needs more spiritually uplifting music, art and yoga! Take a listen

Boston has received record-breaking amounts of snow in the last several weeks. And while cabin fever is setting in for many, the transportation system shut down and roofs caving in, I have also seen acts of kindness. I have witness people helping to shovel out their neighbors, residents adopting fire hydrants to be sure they are clear and snow mountains with the following message-

 

Sending love letters with pen and paper, text messages or through music, prayer and meditation is very powerful and a great way to connect with our friends, family and community.

With love and light, be well-

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Practicing what we Preach

Ambitions have started to fade for many people as we head into the lull of new years resolutions.  Motivation, or lack of, affects every one of us at some point- including fitness professionals.  I thought it might be a great idea to reach out to some friends and family in the health and wellness industry to get their strategies for keeping motivation and practicing what we preach.  Here’s what a few of them had to say-

Kelly- Director of Healthy Living, Minnesota
I always have a water bottle with me, I get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, I lift weights regularly, and enjoy hiking and biking outdoors (particularly at state park trails) any chance I get with my husband and 1-year-old son.
It’s important to me that I lead by example so that I can influence others daily so that they can live their lives to the fullest! Many times I share my passion and excitement for outdoor adventures my family has recently done and others want to do the same which is great!

Kelly hiking at Grand Portage State Park on the MN North Shore/Canadian border.

Kelly hiking at Grand Portage State Park on the MN North Shore/Canadian border.

Lynda- Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor, Virginia

Every day is a struggle for me and I know that there are many worse off than me. I used to be able to jump out of bed, go for a run, work out, look after my job hold down a full-time job. But now I force myself to do something. It bothers me a lot that I do not have the energy or enthusiasm I once had. In fact it depresses me.Today was a bad day. I felt so tired. I went to the gym…walked in…looked at the treadmill…and walked out. I felt so hungry, so tired and I went to bed. Tomorrow is a new day.

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Lynda looking great after teaching a spin class.

 

Courtney- Professional Wellness Coach & Personal Trainer, Virginia

First, some clarification on “wellness coaching.” Where personal trainers and nutrition counselors (who are sometimes now referring to themselves as “health coaches”) address the physical aspects of their client, a coach addresses the behavioral aspects. Wellness coaching is much like life coaching with a more specific focus, i.e., incorporating exercise, changing eating patterns, stress management, weight loss, work-life balance or any lifestyle factors that will increase a client’s health and wellbeing. Most clients know what to do and how to do it. They just can’t seem to figure out why they can’t do it on a regular basis. Coaching helps the client uncover behavioral patterns, self-talk, beliefs and perceptions that are keeping them stuck. It helps them shift their paradigm from the lifestyle they are living to the lifestyle they desire.

How I practice what I preach: I understand that living a healthy life is a choice. It’s not always an easy choice and there are many things that can get in the way. However, it is still a choice as is everything we think, say, and do. I practice what I preach by:

  • Working out most days of the week on a regular basis. I don’t love working out, but I love how I feel because of it. I do some sort of cardio (run, power walk, elliptical, or bike) for 30-40 minutes and an integrated weight-training circuit for 10-30 minutes. The time depends on my schedule and how I feel. The key is to “Just Do It!” even if it’s for only a few minutes. You’d be amazed how much you can get in just 10 minutes.
  • I keep up with the LATEST research on food and nutrition. As a result, I eat mostly vegetables, fruits and lean meats, fish, eggs, and poultry. I limit grains (white flour especially) and processed foods.
  • I meditate most days of the week for 20-60 minutes. I mostly use guided meditations.
  • I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. I say “try” because my body doesn’t always cooperate.

Why is it important to practice what I preach?  It’s important to practice what I preach because the only one that can affect my level of health is ME. I am 59 years old and I don’t believe aging has to mean physical decline. I believe I can be as healthy at 80 as I am today if I continue to keep up with the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, diet, and exercise and practice what I preach.

Courtney,

Courtney, Professional Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer

The last few weeks have been difficult for many people because of grey skies, cold weather and record-breaking snowfalls.  Reignite the flame, find what motivates you to keep moving forward.

be well-

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Issues live in our Tissues

A few years back I was hosting a weekend workshop led by Nikki Myers, creator of Yoga of 12 Step Recovery.  Attendees ranged from yoga instructors looking to add another layer to their teaching, yoga students looking to deepen the understanding of their own practice and others were members of various 12 step programs.  Much of what we talked about and shared with each other was very real and raw.  Emotions run high and low, digging deep to rise.

A portion of the lecture was about trauma.  Trauma can mean anything from a child experiencing their parent’s divorce, to surgical procedures to physical and sexual abuse.  Clearly at some point during this part of the weekend, emotions started to stir in me.  As a young child, I spent many days in the hospital for various surgical procedures and illness.

25 years later at this particular workshop, all that trauma I was holding onto was released.  I remember the exact moment…we were in the middle of a yoga practice and I was holding a high plank.  My body was trembling like an earthquake.  I’ve held this pose many times before but never with this experience.  What was going on, I wondered.  And then in savasana, it hit me.  Tears were rolling down my cheeks and I felt a sense of lightness.  All the heaviness I had been holding onto was now being released.

Last night I had a similar experience.  On Monday I started a book called Proof of Heaven by Ebon Alexander, M.D.  As I lay in bed finishing the last few pages, I started to feel the region around my solar plexus becoming stuck.  There’s good reason for that.  I was able to read this book from three different perspectives at any given point.

  1. having also experienced being hospitalized with bacterial meningitis
  2. having been at the bedside and holding the hand of a loved one who was in the hospital
  3. the lay reader

Emotions and thoughts were coming to surface and my body was holding onto those.  That is why I was feeling stuck.  I took several long yawns and that started to loosen things up.  And then I got out of bed, did a few stretches and backbends.  Last night was filled with lots of vivid dreams, yet one of the most solid night’s of sleep I’ve had in a long time.

So why am I sharing these two stories?  I would like to revisit a post I wrote about a year ago.

Finnish researchers studied 701 subjects, asking them what they felt in their bodies as they experienced 13 different basic and complex emotions.

 

“We often think the emotions are something that happen only in the mind, but there’s also lots of evidence suggesting that they also happen in our bodies,” says Lauri Nummenmaa, assistant professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Aalto University School of Science in Finland.

Using warm and cool colors, the body maps reflect the subjects’ bodily experience of an emotion. As these images indicate, feeling happiness increased activity throughout the body and particularly in, the chest area and head. This might reflect an increased heart rate and more rapid breathing, the study noted. In contrast, feelings of depression were marked entirely in black and blue, the cool colors reflecting an overall decrease in bodily responses. Nummenmaa clarified that the subjects, according to their own report, were all healthy. The experiment reflected feelings of depression and not a clinically diagnosed state.

For Nummenmaa, one of the most surprising results of the study was the consistency he found across Eastern and Western cultures. The study included subjects from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan. “So it seems to be unrelated to the cultural background that the individual has pointing towards a biological basis for these bodily responses related emotions.”

Link to the study

I am a strong believer that our issues live in our tissues.  This phrase I learned about six years ago and wholeheartedly believe to be true.  Our body is a vessel for everything we take in.  Including food, drink, the air we breathe, the products we apply to our skin and the emotions we take on.

Our bodies are certainly adapting and changing every day.  What does your body map say about you?

be well-

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