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Get Your Roll On

20 Jul
Not yet...but soon. Courtesy of Tumblr

Not yet…but soon.
Courtesy of Tumblr

I have a really good friend who is also a chiropractor. This comes in handy when I feel like being a baby and throwing all my workout-pain questions at her.

“Is this supposed to hurt?”

“Why does my knee do this weird thing?”

“Do I have to stretch?”

The last question is the one I know she’s tired of hearing from me. But she’s my friend, and she will deal. I have a big issue with stretching before and after working out–the issue being that I don’t want to. My muscles don’t feel too tight. I walk around for a while before and after the workout, which I think serves as a good enough warm up. My good friend the chiropractor says, sometimes not so sweetly, that I need to get over myself. It’s a loving relationship, if you couldn’t tell.

So when my knee started acting up on me, again, I texted my good friend the chiropractor. I told her the exercises the physical therapist had me do. She seemed OK with them, but also suggested I get a foam roller.

I am cheap. Like, ridiculously cheap. Buying more workout equipment seemed like a pain in the butt. Plus, it adds more time onto my pre- and post-workout routines, eating into my day. My good friend the chiropractor didn’t seem to care. “You want to be able to run, don’t you?” Her and her stupid logic.

Just so you know, we had this conversation well over a year ago. I visited her recently (and her ridiculously cute baby girl). Conversations steered toward working out and I casually mentioned I still hadn’t bought the foam roller. If looks could kill, this site would be a memorial page by now.

When faced with impending doom from one of your besties, you do what anyone else would do: You open Amazon on your phone and let her pick out the best foam roller for you. It got here a few days ago.

The foam roller is a lot more than it seams. It’s ridiculously lightweight (hence the foam) and extremely durable. What no one, including my good friend the chiropractor, tells you is that using this thing is painful. In an effort to knead out the knots in my IT band (which I discovered is NOT below my knee), I’m causing myself even more agony. Just to make sure I wasn’t doing this wrong, I consulted a few handy-dandy YouTube videos. Yep, it’s supposed to hurt.

The good news is it won’t always be this way. Because I’m a newbie to this foam rolling business, I need to work through the pain. Just like any new routine, I’ve got to get used to it before my body becomes acclimated to the “intensity,” as one YouTuber called it.

But, I appreciate what it does. If I ever plan on running a half marathon, I’ve got to be able to use my legs, knees and thighs. I’ll get over the pain, but until then, my good friend the chiropractor is getting side-eyed for the next couple of months.

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Why I’m not a winter warrior

25 Feb
Well, it bothers me! Courtesy of Tumblr

Well, it bothers me!
Courtesy of Tumblr

I live five blocks from the subway. In Manhattan, that’s an OK deal. Compared to other boroughs, that’s a luxury. Five blocks may not seem like much. You’d think it’s about five minutes from the train to my door. And you’d be right.

What you’re not considering is the elements. The elements are wind (I live right by the river) and water (mother-effin’ snow). In case you live in California or Hawaii, you’re likely aware that it is cold as a penguin’s nose out right now. For some reason Mother Nature raised her hater-ation game to a new level. Boston has had so much snow MIT students are actually climbing a mountain to class. There are icicles hanging in the underground subways stations. Schools in Texas—Texas of all places!—are getting snow days because the world is just too damn hot.

And with all of this, my favorite activity has fallen by the wayside. That’s right, skinny people, I haven’t run outside in more than a month. I did a quick run while visiting family and friends last month, but it was 50 degrees out. I had to leave my jacket in the car.

I’ve said before that I’m getting better about lowering my degree threshold for a run. I’ve got it down to 37 degrees. But that’s above freezing. You know why? Because I am not a winter warrior.

Winter Warriors are the people who say eff it when the thermostat drops below 20 degrees. Their endorphines and sweat will keep them warm. That’s beautiful. Do you, boo. I am not one of those people.

I don’t like going outside when the wind is whipping my hair back and forth like Willow Smith. I hate when it feels like I’m being smacked in the face with icicles. Running with my hands in balls makes them hurt even worse. So now instead of focusing on my breathing and my pace, I’m focusing on the pain in my hands and if my nose will fall off from being so cold.

That’s too much stress. I run to clear my head. Running is simple: you just need good shoes. The winter requires much more thought and effort: thermal-lined pants (possibly two pair), knee-high socks to keep your calves warm, shoe spikes in case you run into a patch of ice, a beanie to keep your head warm, gloves, and a jacket. It’s just all too much.

I applaud anyone who can look outside, see Elsa’s playground and think it’s the best time to get in a run. It takes true dedication not just to your health but to your sport to continue on in these conditions. Get in a couple of miles for me. Runners are my people. But on this, we take separate paths.

I’ll be hanging out at the gym, putting in my time on the elliptical.

Would you consider yourself a winter warrior? How do you keep warm on winter runs?

The Hygienic Gym Rat

14 Jan

Glee star (and Big Sean’s former boo) Naya Rivera went on “The View” Tuesday and let the world in on her hygiene habits.

Once every two to three days? Really? A “bird bath” can’t take care of the things I need taken care of.

As someone who sweats so bad her dog won’t come near her, I have to a) question her logic and b) question what she does during the day that makes her think she’s above a good daily scrubbing.

I know in some cultures it’s acceptable to shower infrequently. Hell, in some cultures a ho bath is a treat. We don’t live in that type of culture. In these United States, especially in this denizen of uncleanliness that I call home (New York), I will give you the most epic of side-eyes coupled with the people’s eyebrow if you say you shower maybe twice a week.

the_rock

Courtesy of Tumblr

This goes triple for those of you in the midst of your weight-loss journey. The weight-loss journey is full of dirt, sweat, tears and public bathrooms. You will have to endure public pools, dog poo on the running path and gnats in your hair. Understand that the gym equipment you’re using at 3 p.m. has been man handled at least a dozen times that day with an 80% change that one of those users had snotty hands.

Suffice to say, working out makes you icky. Please for the love that is holy, wash your sweaty, nasty behind.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but good hygiene isn’t just for you. It’s for your cubemate at work. It’s for your fellow passengers on the subway. It’s for your Winter Boo when he comes over that night. No one wants to be around Smelly Mellie.

smelly_mellie

Courtesy of Tumblr

I’ve been around my fair share of smelly gym rats. Occasionally I am one. But my hygienic missteps have come from re-wearing gym clothes. There’s a bit of a gray area in this. On one hand, no one expects you to smell like a field of lilies when you’re working out. A bit of musk can be a badge of honor. However, the problem comes when you can smell yourself. If you open your gym bag and the odor knocks you out, it’s time to wash your clothes and pick out a new gym outfit.

Another thing that happens is stewing in your gym clothes. I understand you’ve got errands to run and appointments to make. Sometimes there’s no time for a shower. Well, there are 24 hours in a day. Somewhere in those 24 hours, you should find time to douse yourself in soap and hot water. You are creating some funked out bacteria in all kinds of soggy cracks and crevices by not doing your due diligence with a bar of Dial soap. Say no to funky bacteria and yes to freshness.

With brings me to my last point: a clean body is just plain satisfying. My gym clothes make me feel like I’m suiting up for war. I’ve got on my breastplate (sports bra), shin guards (running capris) and army boots (sneakers). When I’m wearing those clothes especially after a good sweat, I feel like I’ve just done battle. That’s good in that it’s evidenced in my attire how hard I’m working. But nothing beats a nice, hot shower after a workout. It soothes my muscles. It clears my airway. Washing the dirt and funk off of my body feels like the final step in the day’s workout goal.

So don’t be like Naya Rivera. Wash yourself and feel good about it. Don’t let others relive your workout by smelling you.

What did you think of Naya Rivera’s comments?

Invasion of the Gym Snatchers

12 Jan

Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

While no big fan of the resolution crowd, they do have their perks. They’re enthusiasm to try something new often infringes upon many a gym rat’s well planned routine. This means the treadmill regular needs to try something new.

It’s mid-January, so the resolution crowd hasn’t given up yet. As a health enthusiast, I don’t want them to. I want everyone to take an active role in maintaining good health. On the other hand, I just want to get in my hour and get out, not trip over newbies who’ve never done a weighted lunge. For the rest of the month, I’ve got to say so long to to my well-planned running route. Swimmers, good luck getting laps in at an overcrowded pool.

Personally, I hate crowds. I realize the problem with this as I’m a resident of New York. That doesn’t mean I enjoy tripping over people on my way to the locker room, or yelling for people to get out of my way while I’m on a run. The resolution crowd tends to take up a lot of space.

Fellow gym rats, we have two options: either sit out the month of January or find another way to get in a fitness fix. If you’ve been as dedicated as I know you have, sitting out a month isn’t on your radar.

So what’s a sweat junkie to do in these crowded days of resolution haze? Find another form of workout of course.

Routine is good, but it lulls the body into a sense of complacency. You have to switch up your workouts anyway in order to get prime results. There’s no time like the present. Here are a few alternatives while waiting for the crowd to thin out.

1. Runners—If your beaten path is being beat to death by newcomers, now might be the time to try a new route. Look for another circuit that can challenge you, possibly with hills or sprints. Or, seeing as it’s colder than Elsa’s thoughts, give the treadmill a try. Most newbies are out of the gym by 8 p.m., so see if you can swing a late-night workout.

2. Early birds—Speaking of late-night workouts, now is the best time to see what your gym offers after hours. There are some great night classes that start after 8. Newbies typically flock to the gym early in the day and have all am-scrayed after the sun sets. I know you like getting it in early in the day. But think of it this way: the cold has zapped away many of your evening plans, so now you’ve got the time.

3. Work from home—You all know how I hate the cold. Why would I leave my house and make myself miserable to endure this frigid nonsense? I’ve got a few perfectly good DVDs here at home that get in just the right amount of cardio. Plus, gyms weren’t always in fashion as they are now. There’s nothing wrong with doing some good old-fashioned sit-ups, push-ups, wall sits or lunges in the comfort of your own home. Let the newbies have the gym for January. You’ve got a Pilates DVD and Netflix. You win!

4. League it up—Many people who are new to the work out game consider the gym their only option to get back into shape. But sports offer a way for you to work out without thinking about it. If you made your own resolution to get back to your high-school athlete prime, then accept your status as a member of the resolution crowd and join a league. I have a really good friend who can’t seem to sit still unless he’s involved with a couple of athletic teams. Some of these games are just pick-up basketball and football games. Some are true leagues that keep their members active. Plus, he’s made tons of friends and they’ve created their own little community.

How have you been coping with all the new bodies invading your workout space? When do you think you’ll be able to get back to your routine?

Plotting Around the Polar Vortex

10 Nov
This is some bull—but it's not an excuse

This is some bull—but it’s not an excuse

A couple of weeks ago I was out to dinner with friends. We hadn’t met up for a while, so it was time to catch up. Who’s dating whom? How’s work going? Holiday plans? Blah, blah, blah.

When we got around to me, I offered my usual: work, gym, home. If I’m feeling adventurous: work, gym, grocery store, home. The reason for the routine is because I’d gained some weight that I wasn’t proud of. The size 8s were feeling a little too snug and the 10s were looking tempting. Rather than give in to temptation, I went back into beast mode. I’m happy to say I’m down 17 pounds.

What I diidn’t mention was that this dinner was during a particularly cold night here in New York. “Why are you trying to lose weight when it’s about to get cold?” my friend joked. “You’re going to need that extra layer when the cold hits.” (By the way, it’s coming.)

My other friend spoke up before I could, saying now’s the time to do it. If you’re going to try to get in shape, you want to do it before it gets warm. Think of it this way: When you go to the beach for spring break or summer vacation, it’ll be much harder to work off all that holiday food if you haven’t been keeping up with a routine.

A sports columnist at The Wall Street Journal (editor’s note: my employer) wrote about this very thing last week. He called it the off season. Many athletes will go vacation for a month once the season’s over, but they will get back to training when they return.

One of my favorite stories about this was told by Michael Jordan in the “30 for 30: Bad Boys” documentary. The Pistons put in work on Michael Jordan, using their “Jordan Rules” to defensively render him useless to the Bulls. Jordan took the L, but went into the off season with a mission to get his body ready for the hurting the Pistons had planned for him. He took his time off as a challenge to himself to improve his body to be in peak form.

I understand, however, that we’re not all athletes. It’s easy to turn the fall and winter into the off season for working out. Hell, I did it last year. It’s easier not to leave the house when you have 4 feet of snow blocking your doorway. And if you can’t get outside, you definitely can’t run or even go to the gym. Your subconscious plays games with your head and tells you, “Stay home where it’s warm. There’s Netflix and HBOGo and entire seasons of shows you haven’t watched on Amazon Prime. Plus, look at that bookshelf full of masterpieces you’ve been trying to read. They need your attention, too.”

Doesn’t that sound inviting? You could be in your warm home lazing the day away. Or you could pop in an exercise DVD and go to work. You could make use of those resistance bands you bought forever ago. You could find a few workout tips on YouTube and make it happen. Your home doesn’t and should’t be your cage. It should be where you make the most of off-season.

Believe me when I tell you I fully understand the desire to skip out on workouts when it’s cold outside. Ask anyone: I hate  the cold. I hate everything about it. I don’t like wearing extra layers because it just means more laundry. I don’t like walking around in black slush piles of snow because that mess gets tracked back into my house. And I hate working out and then going out into the cold because then I’m then the disgusting combination of cold and wet.

But that doesn’t mean I can let myself go because of few dropped temps. Sticking with a plan means just that. If losing weight, staying on track or maintaining a certain level of health is important to you, then you can and should find a way to do just that. Letting the winter doldrums get you down will only make it harder on yourself when the weather breaks. Don’t make this process any harder than it has to be. Find the inner strength that I know you have and force yourself to break the off-season habit.

How do you get through your off season?

photo credit: jonathanpercy via photopin cc