Why KISS Should Be Your New Fitness Mantra

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Well, hello! It’s been a while, but it’s great to be back. Time away to reflect (and raise two tiny humans) has given me a renewed mission: to inform and inspire, along with igniting a passion for the process of getting fit. It’s not about letting go of your dreams, aspirations and ultimate goals; it’s about gaining the perspective to maintain a healthy balance while pursuing them. Curious about this new outlook? Read on…

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that’s where we’re at with the fitness industry these days.

Set goal –> Achieve goal –> Set bigger/longer/faster goal –> Get injured –> Recover –> Set even bigger/longer/faster goal –> Achieve goal (maybe) –> Get injured again –> ???

Sensing a pattern here?

Now, I’m not knocking goal-setting. It’s great to test yourself every now and then, both in relation to your former self and to others. But solely focusing on the achievement of a goal (or string of goals) isn’t just short-term when it comes to fitness; it’s short-sighted.

I’m guilty of this myself. After my son was born, I couldn’t wait to start training again; I had BIG GOALS for a half marathon PR. I thought I was being responsible, doing preventative PT, easing back into running and even going as far as to hire a coach to help rein in my training mileage.

But now I realize that a need to prove myself combined with a narrow focus was ultimately my undoing; I was still missing key strength components to help my new (postpartum) body navigate training.

The PR came, but at a cost: a stress fracture that left me wondering what it was worth.

It turns out there’s a fine line between relentless and reckless. And you don’t often know you’ve crossed it until it’s too late.

Over the past 20 years (I started my writing career at Windy City Sports magazine in Chicago during the early 2000’s), I’ve seen the industry evolve in a way that’s become a lot about ego: followers, PRs, races, workouts in “beast mode.”

The common thread? Bigger, better, stronger, harder, longer, faster, more, more, MORE!

We push-push-push to validate ourselves, thinking that we’ll finally feel the sense of worth that comes with PRs, qualifications, nailing skills or hitting certain levels.

But, the truth is, we still won’t feel good about ourselves, and the finish line just keeps running away.

I’ve talked about this extensively with Al Painter (a friend, colleague, 19-year fitness industry vet and former mountain bike racer), and we commiserated over the shared experience of chasing the elusive “win.”

“When I raced my mountain bike, getting faster was never fast enough. Every ride had to be a training challenge,” Painter told me.

“Winning races weren’t really victories because the second I crossed the finish line, I realized I had to start training for the next event, keeping me from feeling good about the one I just finished.”

We agreed that it’s high time to stop putting pressure on ourselves for PRs, and us competitive-non-elite-athletes are in desperate need of a mental shift.

Whether it takes getting sidelined by a major injury or being quarantined at home due to a global pandemic, we should be utilizing this time not to bemoan missed races, but to re-think our current routines and get back to valuing – and celebrating – the basics.

But don’t basics = boring?

Nope. That’s just your ego talking.

Think of fitness like a pyramid. At the bottom are things like adequate sleep, good nutrition, postural alignment, structural imbalances, etc. When we master these things and are doing them consistently, only then should we gradually layer on other training components.

The top of the pyramid is reserved for elite athletes; not only are they invested in conditioning their bodies for super specific niches, but they also benefit financially from doing so.

“If your livelihood depends on a certain level of fitness to get paid to perform a demanding physical task, you’re playing by an entirely different set of rules,” Painter said in a recent Red Delta Project podcast interview.

For the rest of us, we need to have an honest conversation with ourselves about training our bodies for the life we are living. Or, as Painter says (and I’ve since adopted as my mantra), “You’re not getting paid to play; you’re paying to play.”

I used to measure my fitness in running PRs, but now I define it more broadly: Running’s always been my therapy, so can I keep doing it and stay pain-free, with the occasional race thrown in? Can I lift my toddlers without tweaking my back? Can I go into each day feeling my best, so I can show up for myself and my family?

My challenge to you (and myself) is to take a simpler, kinder approach to your fitness. KISS, if you will. And here’s how we can start:

  1. Define why, then what. There’s no better time to do some soul-searching. What’s are your motivating forces, and how can you translate them into improving your health in ways that make you feel genuinely good about yourself?
  2. Develop body-listening skills. Pain isn’t something to be ignored, pushed through or “dealt with;” it’s your body trying to communicate something. Instead of trying various ways to shut it up, have the courage to converse.
  3. Identify blind spots. Your least favorites are usually the things you need to focus on most: core work, strength training, mobility, posture, etc. Turning weaknesses into strengths is the game-changer. What are you currently resisting?
  4. Learn what advice to take. And, more importantly, learn who to ignore. There’s a big difference between “expert” and “influencer,” so do your research.
  5. Reframe fitness success. Mastering one skill is impressive to people who are also concentrating on that one skill – i.e. running. But, again, unless you’re operating at the elite level, it’s not real life. Are you able to touch your toes, do yard work, take a dance class or throw a ball with your kids?

Think holistically, and the way you define yourself, your fitness, your successes and your failures fundamentally shifts.

Don’t stop dreaming; there’s a time and a place for goals. But just don’t base your self-worth on the achievement of them because it’s a slippery slope.

Channel your excitement into what it takes to get from here to there, and then that PR will simply be icing on the cake.

 

 

Feel the Burn: 4th of July Firecracker Plyo Workout

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This past Monday we did a themed workout at Team LUNA Chix Portland Run practice in honor of the upcoming holiday. And there’s no way to pay better tribute to the explosive power of all those 4th of July fireworks shows than with plyometrics, of course!

Plyometric workouts are great for runners because this type of training helps produce greater power and efficiency through the recruitment of more muscle fibers. In layman’s terms: When you train your muscles to contract more quickly and forcefully, you can really amp up your strength and speed.

Hint: If you’re not familiar with some of the moves listed, simply Google the term, and you’ll be able to find a description or video of it in action.

And, as always, remember to go at your own pace and use proper form. Think quality over quantity when it comes to this workout!

Do you utilize plyometrics in your training?

May Goal Check-In

 

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You know how when you start running, it can be pretty uncomfortable, discouraging and fill you with self-doubt? Well, that’s also how the initial few months with your first baby can feel.

Am I doing this correctly? I have no clue. Is this normal? Who knows. Is he happy? I sure hope so. 

But then you push through, eventually hit your stride, and that’s when things finally start to click. That’s exactly how this past month felt.

Not that we’ve got everything figured out — far from it! But we’ve started to get into a good rhythm as a family and find some semblance of a life outside of diapers, naps, bottles and mountains of laundry.

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working in 2016.

Here’s where things stand currently:

1. Health & Fitness

After last month’s initial excitement of being cleared to work out again, my goal for May was to address any weaknesses from the last year of bodily changes, as well as help protect myself against future issues — i.e. “mommy slump” from feedings or back pain from picking up a rapidly-growing kiddo.

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Enter the wonderful Angi McClure, who runs a program here in Portland call Body401k. She’s not about quick fixes; her work focuses on in vesting in body longevity because, let’s face it, we’re in ’em for the long haul, so the least we can do is take good care of ’em.

I worked out with Angi while I was pregnant, and I know a lot of the work we did helped me stay strong while carrying Wyatt and recover quickly after. So now that I’m getting back into my fitness routine, I’ve resumed sessions because it’s one thing to be cleared to work out and it’s quite another to proceed properly while learning how to navigate the ‘new normal’ of your body.

Another awesome component of postnatal fitness? Stroller Strides.

If all goes to hell, at least I can count on this workout each week. Not only do I get to bring Wyatt along to a butt-kicker of a workout, but it’s also a fantastic way to commiserate connect with other moms in the area.

2. Training

My first official post-baby race (Wanderlust 108‘s 5k) is under my belt, and what can I say? It was rainy, it was cold, the course was hilly and I was huffing and puffing the whole time.

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But thanks to the encouragement of several of my Team LUNA Chix Portland Run teammates, I got it done. No PR’s, no course records — just the satisfaction of knowing I finished, I have a baseline from which to work, and things can only get better from here.

That said, my grand plans to start building mileage this month in an effort to work into training for this fall’s Portland Marathon was an epic fail. I did manage to get a few miles in each week, but I’m currently thinking I’ll have to re-set expectations when it comes to that race.

3. Community

We had a busy but successful month with Team LUNA Chix Portland Run, thanks to our inaugural “Community Week” in which we teamed up with other local businesses and groups to highlight all the great things going on here in PDX.

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We ran, we yoga’d, we bootcamped, we shopped and we volunteered, all in the name of helping to get the word out about what we do, as well as show some love for a few of the great stores, studios and charities in the area.

Up next? In addition to our weekly workouts (Mondays, 6:30 pm at Duniway track), we’re working on organizing a scavenger hunt, as well as more events with our favorite people and places in the fitness community.

Check out our Facebook page for details, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter for updates on what we’ve got going on each week.

4. Career

As I mentioned last month, I ended up extending my maternity leave from my company, Pulse Creative, through May. Mama intuition told me that Wyatt needed a full three months of being my sole focus, and I’m fortunate enough to have clients who are very understanding when it comes to balancing family with work.

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Having my Wanderlust gig, however, did allow me to ease back into things by leading the warm-up at the event’s 5K. And I even squeezed in a few client calls and informal proposals to get a few things in the queue for when I start to ramp back up in June.

5. Life

I’m pretty sure having a child is going to teach me many life lessons, the first of which are:

  1. You cannot control everything.
  2. You cannot do it all.

The way in which Wyatt was born did a pretty good job teaching me no. 1, and life with a baby is schooling me no. 2…every. single. day.

I’ve learned that there are two keys to surviving the first few months with an infant: delegation and outsourcing. Family and friends have been literal lifesavers for me and Ben, whether they’ve dropped off food, stopped by for a visit, shared war stories, helped with a feeding or stayed up practically all night to help us get a few hours of sleep (thanks, MOP!).

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But it’s other little luxuries like having someone come in to tidy up your looks-like-a-bomb-went-off apartment every few weeks or a few precious hours here and there with an extra pair of hands, thanks to this awesome flexible childcare service, that help make a job that’s 24/7 — with no breaks, sick days or vacation — a little more sustainable.

Which leads me to the third, and perhaps the most important, life lesson I’ve learned so far from Wyatt’s past few months on this planet:

Happy moms make happy babies. 

My pediatrician told me this early on, but it wasn’t until recently that I fully understood what he meant — i.e. it’s important to be able to take a step back once in a while and make a little time for myself to regroup.

Not only does this give me better perspective as a mom, but also does wonders for me as a person when I have those oh-my-God-what-did-I-get-myself-into moments where I feel totally overwhelmed and impossibly unprepared.

Because, as I’m learning from my more seasoned parent friends, that feeling never quite goes away!

How are your 2016 goals coming along? 

10-Minute EMOM Lower-Body Burner

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We tried a new (to me) format in one of my strength training classes recently, and it was A) so challenging and B) so much fun, that I wanted to share it here so you can jump on the bandwagon, too.

EMOM stands for “Every Minute on the Minute.” It’s a type of training where you complete a specific set of movements or exercises at the top of every minute, rest until the end of the minute, and then start all over again once the next minute begins.

EMOM workouts are not only time-efficient, but they’re also focused on quality over quantity; instead of racing the clock and getting sloppy, you simply do your predetermined number of reps, then recover until the next minute comes around. Many people find that EMOMs help with pacing, too, because there’s minimal rest between sets as the clock keeps on ticking.

Here’s a sample I’ve created if you want to add some lower-body zing to the end of your workouts a few times a week:

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EMOMs are also butt-kickers, I might add. While not meant to totally replace your workouts — that defeats the purpose with this type of short-form interval training — they’re a great supplement to your usual routine when you want to kick things up a notch in the strength, endurance and cardiovascular departments.

And don’t forget to use rest periods to analyze your performance each minute. How were you feeling? How was your form? Is your pace slowing? Each new minute is a chance to refocus, track progress and set goals, which is a fantastic motivator for workouts.

 To EMOM or not to EMOM — what’s your take?

Valentine’s Day Partner Workout

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Instead of (or, let’s be honest, before) hitting the couch and starting that next Netflix marathon this Valentine’s Day, grab a partner and get your hearts pumping with this bodyweight circuit workout.

How it works: Assign one move in each circuit to yourself and the other to your partner. Repeat as many repetitions of that exercise as you can in 30 seconds before swapping exercises. Once you’ve completed four rounds of alternating moves per circuit (4 minutes), take a minute to rest before moving on to the next circuit.

Flying solo? Don’t sweat it. You can still do this workout on your own, utilizing the same format, before you hit the town!

Valentine's Partner Workout

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day or are you planning on boycotting this year?

My 10 Favorite (Free!) Online Workout Resources

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As much as I’m excited about Baby H’s impending arrival, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit nervous about squeezing in workouts with a wee one who could care less about schedules, classes and training cycles. While s/he will be a priority from here on out, I don’t want to entirely lose my “me” time — those regular sweat sessions that help me fight stress, make goals, feel good about myself and (as I’ve heard) allow me to be a better mom.

Fortunately, though, I’m not alone in this endeavor. There’s a wealth of fit mamas out there who are not only great role models, but on whom us newbies can also lean for advice when it comes to navigating this “new normal” with grace and a sense of humor!

Case in point: My college friend and sorority sister, Angela, who is so many inspiring things…a successful lawyer, a mother of three and an avid marathoner and Ironman 70.3 finisher. We connected recently about postnatal training, which she now does mostly at home whether it’s running on the treadmill, riding her bike trainer or doing yoga in front of the TV.

Angela's also an amazing role model for her kiddos; here, she helped her daughter run her first 5k!

Angela’s also an amazing role model for her kiddos; here, her daughter ran her first 5k!

Note to self: Apparently the rhythmic thumping of the treadmill is a great way to lull newborns to sleep. Thanks for the tip, Ang 🙂

One thing she said she’s missing, however, are some solid workout resources to help her keep her home workout mojo between training for races. And being that I’m about to venture into the same territory, she figured it might be a topic I’d like to explore (yes!), so I’ve been on a quest to find what I think are the best free fitness resources online at the moment.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. One-Stop Shop: Fitness Blender

Founded by a husband and wife team, Daniel and Kelli, it offers a wide selection of full-length video workouts in all kinds of categories. Whether you’re looking for cardio, strength, stretching or more, I love that you can search by workout length, body focus, training type and equipment needed for a sweat session that’s customized to your needs.

2. Spinning: Spinning Freak

While this site doesn’t host guided at-home cycling classes, per se, I do think it’s one of the most legit bike workout resources on the web. I don’t know about you, but instead of watching people with poor form yell out cues, I’d much rather download workout profiles and their corresponding playlists and go at it on my own; that way, you’ve got all the zone and cadence information you need for a fantastic, focused ride.

3. High-Intensity Interval Training: Body Rock

If you’re short on time and looking to maximize your results, this is a must-visit site for its high-quality videos, creative moves, basic equipment and short but very intense workouts. Expect lots of cardio and (mostly) bodyweight circuit workouts, all of which are modifiable for a range of skill levels and either come with detailed descriptions and pictures or are well-instructed in video format.

4. Strength Training: XHit

Bodybuilder types beware, this site’s more geared toward a peek behind the scenes of celebrity fitness routines with a range of lower body, upper body and core strengthening exercises, as well a number of seven day workout plans. But I like that you can piece together different videos to target the areas of your choice, so consider it a complement to your usual routine or a way to mix things up on those days where you just can’t make it to the gym.

5. Yoga: Do Yoga With Me

Get your OM on any which way you choose, thanks to an incredible offering of classes from this site. Not only are instructors top-notch, but you can also sort videos by difficulty, class length, style and teacher — plus there are a number of instructional videos that focus on the basics and skill-building for honing your practice at home.

6. Programs from Favorite Trainers: Be Fit

If you’re inspired by working out with popular trainers such as Jillian Michaels, Denise Austin, Jane Fonda, Billy Blanks Jr., Tara Stiles and more, then this is the place to go for all kinds of fitness programs. Not only does it offer a new video each weekday, but it’s also got a huge range of videos to cater to every craving, whether you’re looking to burn fat, sculpt muscle, tone up or slim down.

7. Pilates: FT Pilates

While it hasn’t been updated in some time, this site still offers a number of specific, mostly-bodyweight workouts that are fun, informative and allow you to target different areas of the body for flexibility and toning. One of my favorites is the stability ball workout, but I’ll also piece together other shorter videos for a full-body routine.

8. Bodyweight: Make Your Body Work

As a professional weight loss coach and “Canada’s Top Fitness Professional” in 2013, Dave Smith offers almost 80 full workouts, as well as a bunch of other videos with advice for adopting a healthier lifestyle. Each workout challenges your entire body, include elements of cardio, strength and core conditioning, plus offers different difficulty levels that provide up to four distinct options for every single move.

9. Miscellaneous: eFit30

Interested in exploring Primal Movements or Air Yoga? This Australian-based site gives plenty of variety to keep you from getting bored, yet it still offer offers a number of your traditional yoga, Pilates, bootcamp, total-body and high-intensity interval training videos to keep you active when you just aren’t able to hit up the gym.

10. On-The-Go: Nike Training Club App

When all else fails (or if I’m just too lazy to look up a workout on my computer), I know I can always count on NTC to deliver an ass-kicking via my iPhone that will leave me crumpled on the floor in a happy, sweaty heap. The app features more than 100 workouts led by Nike Master Trainers, complete with audio cues, video guides and step-by-step images to ensure good form and make following along a breeze.

Do you have any favorite online resources for free, at-home workouts? If so, please let us know below! 

January Jump-Start: Full-Body Stability Ball Workout

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It’s January, so there’s a good chance you A) made some kind of resolution to lose weight or get in better shape, and B) are already sick of fighting the crowds at the gym this month.

We’ll I’ve got some good news, and it comes in the form of an at-home workout that’s effective, adaptable for all levels and — dare I say — fun?!

That’s right; it’s tough to keep a smile off your face when you’re playing around on a giant bouncing ball. Yes, even if you’re drenched in sweat and feeling the burn.

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All you need is a stability ball and access to your favorite piece of cardio equipment, which could also be a set of stairs or the great outdoors if you’re determined to steer clear of resolution-goers this month.

At home, feel free to try this in front of the TV or break it up into chunks throughout the day. If you don’t happen to have a ball, no problem — just grab one at the gym, find yourself an uncrowded corner and get to work.

And if you really want a treat, finish off your workout with a few of these stretches. Not only do they feel great, but they’re also a good way to support your body so it can really settle into the positions and properly relax. Ahhh…

Are you doubling down on gym time this month or avoiding that place like the plague?