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Outfitting Your Exercise

7 Nov

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At this point in my life, I’ve accumulated enough clothes for every occasion. I have my work clothes. I have my clothes that work well after work. I’ve got my bar clothes, not to be confused with my club clothes. I’ve got Sunday brunch clothes that can lead to the day party later. And, best of all, I’ve got my gym clothes.

I’ve been working out so much over the years that my gym-clothes drawer is spilling into other drawers. I’ve got a decent amount of running pants, more than enough running shirts, quite a few bras with a few pairs of shorts sprinkled in. I’ve learned how to dress for every workout. What I’ll wear on a summer run may not be suitable for working out at the gym at my job. The running jacket I have for the fall and winter serves as just a jacket when I’m going to a class or the gym. And I’ve got plenty of items to keep me happy.

But I like shopping. So…I’m gonna buy more stuff if there’s a sale or I see something I like.

Which brings us to two completely different incidences where choosing the wrong item could have wreaked havoc on my bank account.

Fashion designer Alexander Wang released his new collection in collaboration with H&M yesterday. He previewed the collection a few weeks ago, which was where we saw the newly slimmed down Missy Elliot. I looked at the clothes online, and some of them seemed really cool. I liked the crop tops, though I’m not ready to expose my stomach to the world outside the beach. Some of the pants and shorts were nice, too, and they looked like they’d function during one of my many high-intensity workouts.

Um…not so much.

I went to the launch yesterday—twice. During my lunch break, I walked up the block to H&M only to find there was a barricaded line outside the store. Then the line went inside where it snaked around another barricade. I hadn’t planned on a two hour lunch, so I decided to browse the store. I’ve always liked H&M, even though it’s Old Navy with better looking clothes. There were some cute coats and dresses I saw, but what really intrigued me were all the people walking around with Alexander Wang bags. Many customers went through the long line, bought their stuff and continued to shop. One woman I talked to had gone through the line and seemed unscathed. “How was it?” I asked.

“That shit was ridiculous,” she said. “They kicked me out after 15 minutes.”

The store I went to was allowing customers to peruse the items in 15-minute increments. They even had a guy with a bullhorn announcing when time would be up. Still, I got a pretty good look at the items from the second floor. Just about everything is black, which makes them useless during the cloudy, dark days ahead. Some items had reflective fabric, but most were just for show.

In fact, just about everything was for show. When I came back that evening after the crowd had died down, I got a chance to look at all the clothes. None of them really seemed able to withstand a vigorous workout. Some of the capris seemed OK, but who wears a crop top on a run in the middle of winter? Not this gal.

Then there were the prices. Like I said, I like H&M, but making high-quality clothing isn’t their thing. That’s why most of their clothes are so inexpensive. Even though Alexander Wang is a top designer, the prices for his branded material was outrageous. Tank tops for $35, non-functioning sports bras for $40.

Where he failed in performance wear that you can perform in, he excelled in some dresses. They were designed to fall in line with Wang’s collection, but they had a “we’re gonna kick it hard” kind of vibe. Still, those dresses were about $200, way more than I planned to spend. So, I bought the one piece of sports equipment I could afford: a water bottle.

This experience was different from the last time I went sportswear shopping, which was a couple of weeks ago. I went to the Under Armour sample sale. This, too, was a bit overpriced. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as Alexander Wang, mostly because the clothes have better functionality. It wasn’t nearly as crowded as H&M. Plus, if you’re looking for stuff you can sweat in, the sample is your best bet, not the Alexander Wang collection.

Work Out Burn Out

29 Oct
Your body telling you it's time to chill for a bit.

Your body telling you it’s time to chill for a bit.

There comes a point in every skinny person’s life when they need to take a step back, eat some cheese and pass out on the couch. I’m talking about the moment when you realize you’ve gone just over the edge. Yes, ladies and gents, I’m talking about work out burn out.

Not to be confused with it’s brighter, older sibling “beast mode,” work out burn out is what happens when you’ve taken beast mode too far. You start dreading spin class. You look forward to tomorrow morning’s run like a frat boy during finals week. You’re hoping that somehow, someway, a pipe burst in the showers and the gym will be closed.

This happens to the best of us. Beast mode is essential to get you to the point where you zone out all other influences. You really believe you can do anything. So you take on a 10-mile run when the most you’ve ever done is six. Who cares? You’re challenging yourself to do better. Or, you’ve decided those half-hour laps at the pool are for wimps. You can do an hour, no problem.

Beast mode can put you in the mind set that whatever you’re doing isn’t challenging enough. It can trick you into thinking that you’re on the weaker end of the beast spectrum, when in reality you’re in the middle. So instead of upping your challenge quotient a smidge, you take that sucker to ludicrous speed and nearly kill yourself in the process.

spaceballs

It’s like you’ve just learned how to dive off the springboard so, naturally, the next step is to jump off the 33-foot-high platform. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

I’m all for challenging yourself, but at some point you’re going to have to listen to your body when it tells you to sit your ass down. The human body is capable of so many extraordinary things. Sometimes, you have to work your way up to certain challenges.

So now you’ve worn yourself out. The very thought of lacing up your gym shoes wears you out. What’s a gym rat to do?

1. Know when it’s time to tame the beast. Your body will tell you a lot faster than your head what you’re capable of doing. Learn the difference between when your body is telling you it’s unfamiliar with something new or it just can’t do something new. Don’t let beast mode take control.

2. Don’t get caught up in the same thing. I’ve said many times that switching up your routine is beneficial in so many ways to keeping you on track. Take a break from some of your more high-impact activities to try something less intense. My suggestion would be to try yoga. You’ll be able to stretch your body in ways you didn’t think of, allowing you to be more limber for wen you’re ready to get back at it. Also, a good vinyasa yoga session is like the world’s best massage.

3. Learn the beauty of active recovery. Any marathoner will tell you they don’t just sit around carb-loading once those 26.2 miles are over. They go for light walks. They continue to stretch. They keep the heavy activity to a minimum so they can work back up to the beast.

4. Take advantage of rest days. Remember: Rest days are your friends. They are the days your body looks forward to. You’ve been working so hard. Your limbs ache in a good way. But you haven’t been getting as much sleep as you’d like because of early sessions with your trainer. Well, guess what? Even your trainer wants you to rest up. Pamper yourself and go get a massage, if yoga doesn’t work for you. You’ll thank me later.

Beast mode will always be there. It’s what is driving you to challenge yourself to do better. But don’t let it take control. That could lead to resentment of your favorite exercise. Take a few days off. Let your body miss the exercise. That way, when you come back, you’ll be stronger than ever.

What do you do when you have work out burn out? How do you tame the beast?

Double the Fun

13 Oct

High school football season is almost over, but many of your quarterbacks, linemen and safeties spent many a day practicing twice a day. Not just menial practices, but full-on, balls out, grunting practices. They do this for endurance, stamina and to better prepare them for the real work that comes with a game.

On my weight-loss journey, I’ve learned the importance (and the pain) of two-a-days. When I began, I was using the “Extreme Fat-Smash Diet” plan, which is rigorous in both diet and fitness. For three weeks, you’re doing at least an hour of cardio a day, with that workout sometimes being split in two. It’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks as I’ve returned to beast mode.

I like working out in the morning so I can have my evenings free. If I have a two-a-day, I’ve got to either sneak off in the middle of my work day to go to the gym (nearly impossible) or go after work, killing my social plans. Plus, you’re going in on a hard workout in the morning only to do it again later in the day. Then you’re likely working out again in the morning. What no one tells you about the split workouts is that it can wear you out.

It’s a lot to take on, especially if you’re new to exercising. But it also offers you an opportunity to try something different. Let your two-a-days be the chance for you to switch up your routine. It is ridiculously easy to fall into the trap of doing the same kind of workout over and over. This not only stagnates your progress, but it makes the exercise portion of your weight-loss plan mind-numbingly dull.

There are four types of cardio workouts that I usually do, but I’m always open to trying new things (you saw me hang my my hips from silk fabric). I’m primarily a runner, but I also go to spin class, use the cardio equipment at the gym and pop an exercise DVD. Whenever I have a two-a-day, I’ll do two of these. But on the next two-a-day, I’ll switch out one for another.

But maybe you’re not on a cardio kick. One day could be leg day, then the next is abs. One day you’ve got kickboxing class, then the next is swimming. One of the keys to success with any weight-loss plan is shocking your body by doing something different. If your body becomes to used to one thing, it won’t work as hard to burn the calories. Challenging yourself to try new things is very important.

Though I dread two-a-days because they’re a time suck—plus they funk up two sets of workout clothes, creating more laundry—I understand their benefit. If you find yourself stuck in a rut with your workout plan, a two-a-day could be the trick you need. Separating your workouts by at least six hours in a day helps to keep your metabolism up, which helps to burn calories. And isn’t that the goal on your weight-loss journey?

So, give it a try. You may find out a couple of quick workouts a day suit you better than a long slog in the morning.

Have you ever had to do two-a-days? What do you do to switch it up?

End of Summer Vacation

2 Sep
This summer, I could have been doing more of this...

This summer, I could have been doing more of this…

The worst season of all is upon us, but don’t let that get you down. If you’re in New York, you’re experiencing the long-awaited heatwave that was promised at the end of May. Let’s use it to our advantage.

Yes, Labor Day is over. Though the wretched fall season won’t begin until Sept. 23, its’ Back to School and Back to Work for the rest of us. We took the summer off to lay about on the beach, in the grass, by the grill, etc. It was too nice outside to stay in the gym. Working out seemed like a good idea, but there were sooooo many concerts to go attend. Sure, we all ate lots of fresh fruits and veggies this summer, but those bottomless mimosas couldn’t be left alone on the table, could they?

We just have to come to grips with the work that’s ahead of us. So how do you turn off summer brain to prepare the grunt work of fall?

1. Deal. If the first step toward recovery is acceptance, the first step toward getting back on track is admitting you got off track. It happens to all of us. And you. Will. Deal! Don’t beat yourself up about it, just accept you’re at a new starting point.

But this seemed like more fun.

But this seemed like more fun.

2. How’d you get here? Summer days almost require laziness. From brunch to the day party to the concert in the park later that night, you’ve found yourself doing things you wouldn’t make time for in the fall or winter. For me, it wasn’t so much the lack of activity (though I didn’t grind as hard as I usually do during the year) as it was the alcohol. Between the vacations and brunches, I emptied a few cups. Alcohol causes your body to burn its calories faster, leaving the food you eat stored as fat. So, a lot of those omelettes went to my waist line.

3. Remember the fun times. Working out and monitoring your diet can be a drag. It’s no fun being the responsible one. But there had to have been a point in the journey where you not only enjoyed the fruits of your labor, you also enjoyed some of the laborious acts. Is there a dish you really enjoy making? Is there a class you haven’t been to in a while? When was the last time you saw your friends at the gym? One of the easy ways to stay off track is focusing on the negative. This is your journey, and having a negative attitude about it will keep you from doing good work.

4. The never-ending journey. The weight-loss process and healthy lifestyle aren’t just things you’re doing for a little while. Full commitment means understanding this is a life change. And in life you will stumble while trying to make yourself better. You didn’t fall off your diet. You didn’t stop your workout program. You didn’t pay much attention to what you were doing. We’re in the season now of getting it back together. Do that with the knowledge that your focus shifted for a short while on your lifetime journey.

I don’t know about you, but this summer was a fun one, even if it felt a little short. I got to see friends and family I hadn’t seen in a while. I took some awesome trips and met some really great people. I can incorporate this summer’s lessons into my lifetime journey, just as you can. Let’s do it, people!

How was your summer? Did you enjoy it so much you feel you may have gotten off the fitness track? What are your plans for fall?

Allergy Sneezin’

27 Aug
You see the beautiful colors; I can't see anything because my eyes are watering.

You see the beautiful colors; I can’t see anything because my eyes are watering.

There are two type of people: spring people and fall people.

Spring people look forward to new life, fresh days and hopeful beginnings.

Fall people look forward to cold nights, extra clothes and dead, damp leaves.

If you can’t tell, I’m a spring person. I hate the fall. Usually, I’d say f— fall, but this is a family site.

One reason this is the worst time of the year is that it’s a harbinger of bad things to come, like the cold. It means winter is coming. There will be snow—black snow, poopy snow, yellow snow, rock salt, etc.

But the worst thing about fall is all of the allergens in the air. Some people who hate the spring hate it because of their allergy problems. I guess they have their issues, but ragweed in the fall makes me feel like my face is swelling.

I was a pretty bad asthmatic as a kid. I had inhalers everywhere: bookbag, bathroom, both parents’ cars, my grandparents’ house, etc. As i got older, my asthma became less and less of an issue.

One day in college, long after I’d given up my purple pump, I went to a fall festival across the street from my dorm. My friends said there were booths and a step show. Never one to miss out on a party, I crossed the street—straight into the land of allergic reactions. The second I stepped foot on the grass, my eyes watered up, my nose started running  and my throat tightened. I had to go to student health and have them issue me another inhaler and some allergy medicine.

It’s been that way for more than 15 years. But now that I’m more active, allergy season becomes a problem when breathing is a necessity during a workout. How can I still be able to burn calories without killing myself?

The one and only good thing about fall is that temperatures are ideal for running. But you can’t run if you can’t breathe. Mold from dead, damp leaves and kicked up dust mites from the dirt make it near impossible for me to pass air through my lungs. As much as I’d like to go out for a run in the 65-degree weather, I have to keep it indoors. The gym becomes my friend for a couple months during the fall.

It’s not all terrible. The fall was when I discovered spin class, Zumba and boot camp. It was when I started going to the gym with some regularity and became familiar with my friends Treadmill, Stationary Bike and Elliptical (hey, boos!). This season, I’m planning to make the free weights and kettle bells my bae. I can develop muscle tone while the soggy leaves are stirring up bad things in the air.

Even still, it’s during this time of year that I live for a good, hard rain. I will do my best to avoid running in it, but a downpour washes away a lot of the allergens. And as long as the parks department clears away the leaves pretty frequently, I can still get outside. The rain may cool things off too much, however, but that’s what running jackets are for.

No matter what your hangups, like the weather, don’t let it stop you from doing what needs to be done. If your nasal passages can’t handle the season’s change, try popping in an exercise video. Hit the gym and find a new workout. There are plenty of ways to burn calories, and sticking with one routine will only set you up for stagnation.

How do you deal with outdoor exercising when the weather gives you no chill?

photo credit: Douglas Brown via photopin cc