Category Archives: Healthy Living

Swimming Drills: When it Looks Easy

Photo by cygnus921.

Photo by cygnus921.

It’s been a couple months now that I have been swimming consistently as part of the training for my first triathlons (one in August and one in September). Before I hopped in the pool for that first session it had been many years, since middle school swim team, that I swam consistently. I knew that it would take plenty of time in the pool and lots of practice before my stroke and form resembled even what it looked like in the 7th grade let alone what it should look like for a triathlete.

Over the weeks, swimming has gotten progressively better, definitely more enjoyable, and I am more confident in my ability to swim and breath correctly. This is in part due to practice. However, I definitely credit my progress to a few other important factors. One of them is talking about it. Any chance I have to talk to another swimmer or triathlete, I do and I ask questions. I tweet about it, sharing what I’ve done and inquiring what others are working on, and I always learn something new. I haunt the blogs of other swimmers and triathletes picking up on what has worked for them and I try to absorb as much information as possible.

The other factor I credit for improving my swimming skills is a website that I visit often but that I still have much to learn from: Continue reading

The Vacation Variable

Overlooking Sunset Cove where we spent much time on the active "Sports Beach" and did an open water swim.

Overlooking Sunset Cove where we spent much time on the active "Sports Beach" and did an open water swim.

I was on a roll. Swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run, write about it, tweet about it, three square meals, healthy snack choices…a few weeks ago I was doing great. Mentally I’d been preparing for quite some time for the full week vacation I would have in Jamaica in order to be at my best friend’s destination wedding. I pre-wrote my blogs and set them to post. I researched the gym and swimming facilities at our all-inclusive resort. Packed my running shoes, goggles, swim cap, and training schedule for the week.

By the time we got to our resort in Jamaica (the flight was a piece of cake on Air Jamaica for what it’s worth) I was completely relaxed. It really didn’t take long for vacation mode to kick in; it was an all-inclusive resort after all. The first morning I dutifully went to the gym and used a stationary bike to get in the 45 minutes of hill intervals my schedule called for. I even did my 10 minute transition run jogging around the resort and through the outdoor dining area where folks in our group sipped on coffee as I went by and the smell of omelettes and baked goods lingered behind me.

Day two I dragged my husband with me for some open water swimming. The resort did have a pool that would have sufficed for the various laps and drills I’d written down from the schedule but it seemed too good of an opportunity to get in my first open water swim. Goggles in hand we went down to one of the many beaches and eyeballed our swim route. We freestyled our way overtop beautiful reefs and tropical fish to a marked swim area that we estimated to be 40 yards in length. In this area I did the required sprints and threshold swims and then just practiced trying to swim in a straight line. I will write more about this open water swim experience later for sure.

That swim was the last official exercise I did on vacation. Continue reading

You, Your Dog, & the Gym

One happy chocolate lab! Photo by melissambwilkins

One happy puppy! Photo by melissambwilkins

For many of us who are dog owners, there is no question about the motivation a dog can provide to get you out of your seat and out for a run. They need exercise just as much as we do. But what if you’re really not a runner, never were, and never plan to be? But your dog is, or easily could be. I was discussing this exact scenario with a girlfriend of mine who is queen of the elliptical machine at her gym and a proud new puppy owner.

As a dog owner, she is well aware of the dog’s need for exercise and walks him regularly, but the walks don’t do for her what her regular gym routine used to do. It’s been weeks since she’s been in the air conditioned gym, bobbing along to her iPod, and sweating it out on the elliptical. While she wouldn’t trade her new pup for the world, something about dog walks that involve lots of stops for training and ‘doing business’ just isn’t cutting it for her own exercise.

What to do? Continue reading

All in Moderation

_dsc8127This long Memorial weekend was a reminder to me of a phrase I have let slip from my vocabulary–all in moderation. I went into the three day weekend with a long list of things that I wanted to do: garden, bike, go boating, hike, kayak, play beach volleyball, lay by the pool, cook-out, read, play with the dog, relax. Somehow I managed to get them all in, but only one of those activities is on my triathlon training schedule and hardly any of them involved healthful eating or drinking.

42-16242258There is something about a long weekend, sunny, summery days, and an abundance¬† of social gatherings that toss all training discipline and focus out the window. It’s so easy to enjoy snacking all day long when you’re on a boat or a beach and when the sun is setting but everyone is still laughing and talking, having one more drink seems to be part of the fun. By the end of the long weekend, you end up consuming more than you would on any normal day and your body is sunburned and exhausted from playing non-stop. At least that’s how I feel. Continue reading

Girls on the Run Give Back

wfe_gotr_s09-12This spring I volunteered as one of three assistant coaches at Windsor Farm Elementary in Arnold, MD, for Girls on the Run. Every Tuesday and Thursday 15 third through fifth grade girls plus the coaches would meet to talk about life, confidence, making healthy choices, family, friendship, trust, self-respect, and a host of other topics designed to¬† encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual, and physical development. In short, the program teaches girls how to avoid getting stuck in “the girl box” all while training for a 5K.

Each class day had a lesson paired with a running activity in which we practiced proper form, pace, breathing, and the basics of running. When I think about the types of games and relays we played we were actually doing the type of running you’d see on any training schedule–sprints, hills, tempo runs, and race pace. Even the day we played sharks and minnows had a lesson of teamwork in it and certainly some sprinting involved! Continue reading

Measuring Work-out Quality

Photo by jontunn.

Photo by jontunn.

I’m on the second week of training for a triathlon which includes two cycling sessions per week. Until now I’ve been going to spin class and needed to start biking outside. I broke out my Gary Fisher mountain bike, checked that the tires had enough air, and headed out for the 40 minute foundation ride the training schedule called for.

Most of the areas where I live that I can bike are relatively flat. I try to incorporate hills into my runs whenever I can and I chose to do the same thing with my bike ride. Even with the hills and keeping the mountain bike on has hard of a gear as I could handle, I felt pretty disappointed at the end of the 40 minutes with the quality of the work-out. Thank goodness I can push myself hard with ab exercises or I would have felt as though I’d done hardly anything.

Spin class to me is possibly one of the best work-outs I do. I think this because I sweat a tremendous amount in the class, I breathe hard, and I know that I am challenged in each class. When I enter spin classes in my training log, I always rate it with a high quality level, usually a 6-8 on a scale of 10. As I was putting my bike away and noticing how little I had sweat, I started thinking about the process and components I use to measure the quality of a work-out and wonder how you think about work-out quality. Continue reading

Mixing It Up: Spinning & Strength Training

Our tricep push-ups did not look this hard core, but the form is still the same. Photo by Colonel Bob.

Our tricep push-ups did not look this hard core, but the form is still the same. Photo by Colonel Bob.

When I first started going to spin class I thought for sure I wouldn’t last. I thought I might get bored or never build up a tolerance for the intense work-out it provides at the crack of dawn. Now I’ve already lost track of how many classes I’ve gone to (though I could check it in my Runner’s World training log) and I have come to appreciate the intensity of spinning and I am certainly not bored. Just as no one run is the same, neither as any one spin class and it’s not just because of having different instructors. The class is entirely about what you put into it, how much extra gear you’re willing to add to your bike, and how hard you’ll try to sweat a little more each time.

The variety of spinning is what keeps me coming back and I recently got even more than I bargained for with a fantastic instructor. She called the course SSOB–Spinning Strength Off Bike. Normally the courses run for a full 60 minutes of spinning. According to the triathlon training schedule I’m using I technically only needed a 35-40 minute foundation ride, meaning a ride at a moderate pace. I figure it’s in my favor in the long run if I can already ride longer and at a higher intensity. This course gave me a good 40 minutes of spinning in addition to a strength work-out which I have been somewhat neglecting.

For 20 minutes we did sprints, out of the seat sprints, a seated climb, and a series of 20 second sprints at gear 6 with 20 seconds of rest. Then it was off the bikes and over to the wall. Continue reading

Finding Flexibility

42-16033090This weekend I was in the Sandy Springs area of Atlanta, Georgia, visiting a girlfriend of mine for her baby shower. One morning I went for a short 2-mile run around the neighborhood we were staying in which was filled with hills of all kind, a stark contrast to my own neighborhood. I started out on a sharp decline, flattened out for a bit, pushed through a gradual but not too long incline, flattened out, then had a long gradual incline, and finally a steep but not too long incline to finish the run. Needless to say, my legs were not used to the number of hills and the variety of inclines I experienced in Atlanta.

Sitting with my pregnant friend who is also an apprentice in the TAP pilates instructor program I started to pepper her with pilates questions while stretching. I’ve always struggled with the single leg stretch because I can’t seem to straighten my legs the whole way which frustrates me and also means I’m not benefiting from the exercise as much. As I lay on the ground she stood above me holding one leg up straight and pushed it toward my head. It was the straightest my leg had ever been and I instantly felt the stretch run through my hamstrings. She then asked me to relax my quad muscles. After several tries at what I thought was relaxing, my quads were still fully flexed. I couldn’t relax! Continue reading

Putting Sprints Into Perspective

This is not me, but I hope my form will one day look like this. Photo by kimmiepievt.

This is not me, but I hope my form will one day look like this. Photo by kimmiepievt.

I have been trying to go to spin class at my gym at least once a week, twice if my body can handle the early morning wake-up; class starts at 5:30 a.m. By now I have had every instructor and they each have their own teaching style, routines, and way of motivating me to push just a little harder than I think I can. Some focus more on out of the seat drills, others prefer hills or using more gear for resistance, and now I’ve worked with the instructor that favors sprint intervals.

Her theme for the class was to “put the sprints in perspective.” At first I could not really decide what that meant but by the end of the class I liked the phrase a lot and felt as though we did indeed put the sprints in perspective. When I first started spinning I had to concentrate so hard on pedaling, breathing, and my form that I really didn’t pay too much attention to the routine, I just did as I was told. Now that I have a good chunk of sessions under my belt, I must be getting a little better because I finally retained most of the drills. Continue reading

Swim-Bike-Run, Oh My!

pe05982_A couple years ago my husband and I went to watch his sister and her fiance and some other friends finish the first triathlon in Annapolis. We cheered her on through the finish line at Navy Stadium and I remember clearly being in awe of the hundreds of people who had just done three sports in a row! My sister-in-law and her fiance have competed in a number of triathlons and I feel fortunate that I am continuously meeting and connecting with other triathletes as their multi-sport talents are ever impressive.

In getting to know triathletes, however, I still always positioned myself as a runner forever and ever. No need to also be a biker and a swimmer. But then I took a break from running and started spinning, albeit not the same as road biking, but certainly a good introduction to the work-out. And then a friend of mine signed up for a triathlon in July and we got to talking about swimming. Next thing I knew, I was at the pool trying for a half mile swim with her. Continue reading