Bright Idea: Summer Solstice Body-Weight Workout

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It’s almost the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (2015’s sumer solstice falls on June 21) where 15+ hours will pass between sunrise and sunset in parts of the U.S. and Canada.

That sounds, to me, like a great excuse to soak up the abundance of daylight and celebrate the start of summer than with an outdoor workout.

Round up your friends and family, and hit the local lake or beach for an hour of body-weight work while the kiddos can play!

Photo via BrendelSignature at English Wikipedia

Photo via BrendelSignature at English Wikipedia

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

And, as always, remember to perform the moves at a steady pace and use proper form!

How are you taking advantage of sunny days this summer?

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Happy Earth Day! Now Go Outside & Get Sweaty

Earth Day

Each year, Earth Day — April 22 — marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Not only is it the largest civic event in the world, celebrated around the globe by a billion people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities, but Earth Day is also an opportunity to spend some time outside, celebrating the great outdoors.

It’s also why I’m challenging you to do two things today in honor of Mother Earth:

  1. Get off your computer/phone/iPad and do something nice for the environment, whether that’s picking up trash, teaching your child about Earth Day, taking your recycling in, planting a garden, installing solar panels on your roof or sending a letter to your elected representatives.
  2. Get off your butt, and do something outside to celebrate! Of course, my suggestion is exercise-related, which is why I created the body-weight workout below to be completed in your local park. So why not grab the family, talk about the importance of ecology and break a sweat together?

Earth Day Workout

How are you celebrating Earth Day this year? 

Fave Fix: GoodBelly 12-Day Belly Reboot

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The holidays tend out to bring out the crazy in all of us, right?

Case in point: After months of excess, we toss kale in our grocery carts and halfheartedly call it “eating healthy” (even though we’re buying roughly twice as many calories per serving in food now, as compared to the holidays, says this study) or commit to a crazy cleanse or restrictive diet that’s destined to leave us yoyo-ing throughout 2015.

Why abuse your gut in an effort to lose it?

My suggestion instead: Be nicer to your belly with a 12-Day Belly Reboot.

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The kind folks over at GoodBelly contacted me to check out their new program, which launched just in time for the New Year. During the Reboot, you drink one 8 oz. glass or one shot of GoodBelly a day for 12 days. Along the way, you’ll be able to track exactly what’s happening in your body and get extra motivation in the form of tips and coupons.

“Since probiotics do their work in the belly and beyond, there hasn’t necessarily been a way to see tangible results of their impact on overall health, ” said Alan Murray, CEO of GoodBelly. “Our new Belly Reboot was created to offer consumers a way to really track and understand how probiotics can impact the way they feel in just 12 days.”

Made with the well-researched probiotic strain, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (LP299V®), GoodBelly supports digestive health. Unlike many other live and active cultures, though, LP299V survives passage beyond the stomach’s acidic environment in order to support the rest of the digestive system, and ultimately overall health.*

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GoodBelly offers multi-serving quarts and single serving shots, available in flavors like Blueberry Acai, Mango, Pomegranate Blackberry and Strawberry. Each serving packs 20-50 billion live and active probiotic cultures to promote healthy digestive and immune systems, as 70 percent of the body’s immune system resides in the digestive tract.*

I kicked off my  12-day test just as things got hectic around the holidays. The juice was delicious, and the shots were convenient (some sweet, some tart, depending on the flavor), but best of all? Between last-minute shopping stress, unusually decadent meals, lots of travel and — to top it off — an especially active cold and flu season, I was not only able to stave off sickness, but also keep my energy up and banish bloat.

If you’re on the supplement bandwagon, like me, you may already take probiotic pills. In that case, GoodBelly’s a great way to add some variety (not to mention extra vitamins and calcium) to your diet. And if you’re new to the idea, it’s an easy — and delicious — way to augment your healthy eating habits for 2015.

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“We believe that what you eat and drink has a direct impact on your overall health,” said Murray. “Which is why we’re committed to creating functional beverages in exciting flavors that are easy to drink and absolutely delicious.”

Now, that’s really going with your gut.

For more information on the GoodBelly 12-Day Belly Reboot, click here.

*Some studies suggest GoodBelly’s probiotic may help balance the bacteria in your gut when consumed daily as part of a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle. GoodBelly is a food product and not a treatment or cure for any medical disorder or disease. If you have any concerns about your digestive system, please consult a health care professional.

Race Report: LifeTime Fitness 2015 Indoor Triathlon

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Although I said I’d hold off on registering for another triathlon until I work on my swim, I couldn’t help myself when I found out that the Indoor Triathlon Hour powered by Life Time Tri and IRONMAN would be happening while I was in Michigan.

In an effort to inspire the community to consider and commit to racing triathlon in 2015, LifeTime Fitness created the event as a way to offer an inspirationally-charged, safe and indoor environment for athletes of all fitness levels to experience the nation’s fastest growing sport of triathlon.

I did a similar event last year at a different location, and while my distances were slightly shorter this time for the same time-frames (damn!) — 10-minute swim/30-minute bike/20-minute run — I can’t complain too much because my training has been consistent but not particularly focused lately.

My wave — the first of the day — started promptly at 8 a.m., so I arrived about 20 minutes early to check in, get my cap and number and get organized in the locker room transition area. And then it was go time!

Swim: 10 minutes = 17 lengths

Clean, clear water and only two people to a lane? Now, that’s how I start to get my swim mojo back.

And apparently my lane buddy, Eric, had the same idea. He’d done outdoor triathlons before but had a bad swim experience recently, as well, so both of us joked about just wanting to just get through that part of every race.

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Since the lap pool there has five lanes, they limited each heat to 10 people. By the time I had arrived, people were already starting to warm up, so I hopped in and swam one length to try to get the pre-race jitters out.

This is about when I also noticed that my wave-mates were a pretty athletic looking bunch. I was one of three ladies, and I could tell quickly that this wasn’t a group who was trying triathlon for the first time; these people were here to kick off their seasons, so I figured I’d just try to keep up.

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My adrenaline didn’t work in my favor because I went out way too quickly. And the combination of being against the wall (aka swallowing back-splash) and getting bumped a few times took me right back to my Olympic triathlon back in April, and I could feel myself start to panic.

This is where the giant countdown clock came in handy, though, because I’d raise my head at the end of the lane and think, You can do anything for five more minutes. Gradually, I got my rhythm back and, thankfully, the whistle blew for us to stop after I’d gotten 17 lengths under my belt.

Bike: 30 minutes = 7.7 miles

Although they gave us a generous 10 minutes to transition from the swim to the bike, the time flew by. I tugged off my suit in the locker room, threw on my Coeur kit and headed upstairs to the bike area that they had sectioned off by the cardio equipment.

For some added motivation, we could watch Ironman videos on the projection screen, so I snagged a front-row seat for the action. I didn’t have my bike shoes to be able to clip in, so I secured my running shoes in the pedals and prepped my nutrition: a bottle of water and a trusty Chocolate Peppermint Stick LUNA bar.

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And we were off again! The music pumping nice and loud, so I tried to ride to the beat and turned down my resistance as much as possible to gain some of the ground I lost in the pool.

I got the feeling that a few of my heat-mates train together because they rode in a group and were encouraging each other throughout the ride, which was inspiring to hear. We pedaled furiously as a small crowd gathered to watch us push onward, still dripping a bit from the pool, but smiling from ear to ear.

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I think the bikes may have been calibrated differently from last year’s race because my just-under-eight-miles seemed like a conservative estimate for how strongly I felt like I was riding (especially after getting a comment form one of my heat-mates to the same effect). But, regardless, I stayed pretty steady throughout, ate and drank consistently, and was proud of my overall effort.

The second wave came up to join us with about 10 minutes to spare in our ride, so we pedaled as a large group for the final portion. Their energy was a breath of fresh air after hammering away on the stationary bike, and just a few minutes after they got settled the whistle blew for our final transition.

Run: 20 minutes = 2.69 miles

We had five minutes to get from the bikes to the treadmills, but they were just a few yards away, so I grabbed a towel and got situated quickly because I already had my Hoka Conquests on.

My heat-mate next to me had a treadmill malfunction at the very last second, so he scooted over to another machine just as they started a countdown to the third and final portion of the event.

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Because I’ve been managing what I’ve self-diagnosed as some SI joint pain (note to self: must continue to work on my lack of ankle mobility, which is likely the culprit!) since my marathon, my plan was to run a conservative first 10 minutes and then gradually increase my speed over the next 10 minutes to warm up properly.

I started off at 6.8 mph and increased to around 7.5 when one of the volunteers came by, daring me, “I think can go faster than that.” Yep, she was right; I wasn’t really out of breath, so I pumped it up a few tenths of a mile every minute or two until I was up to 8.5 mph 15 minutes in.

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I was hoping to inch up the speed to 9.0 mph like last year, but I started feeling a little lightheaded with three minutes to go, so I gritted my teeth and ran on. Maybe increasing the speed wasn’t an option, but I sure as hell wasn’t backing down at that point!

When the final whistle blew, I ended at 2.69 miles. Not PR territory, but a solid performance with an average pace of 7:26/mile, so I’ll take it…especially considering I’ve eaten my weight in Christmas cookies over the past few weeks.

It was also a wake-up call: Fitness-wise, I’m close to what I was last March, so I’m happy to have been able to maintain. Training-wise, however, I’ve got to dial things in better if I want to progress. And, nutritionally, I think I did ok, but probably could have used some extra oomph for the run in the form of Osmo or Tailwind in addition to the LUNA bar.

All in all, it was an event I’d highly recommend, especially if you’re looking to kick off your training with a low-pressure race and get a baseline in place.

Congrats to everyone who participated, and cheers to a successful 2015 racing season!

6 Simple Tricks for Squeezing in Holiday Workouts

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Have you fallen prey to the “Grinch Who Stole Fitness” this season? Well, the good news is that there’s still time to turn things around before 2015.

If your goal is to celebrate without completely abandoning your regimen, I’ve got six simple strategies for staying on track so you won’t have to dig yourself out of a hole come January 1st:

1. Get the worm. 

Figuratively, that is. Being at the mercy of friends’ and family’s schedules isn’t always conducive to regular workouts, so force yourself to develop a healthy morning routine. Prioritize exercise, and not only will you be more likely to get it done, but you’ll also reap the benefits of extra energy throughout the day.

2. “Run” your errands.

Or walk them. Or park farther away. Or take the stairs. Or lap the mall. However you do it, the idea is the same: Incorporate some additional activity into your to-do list to kill two birds with one stone.

3. Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude. 

I used to think I needed an entire hour in order for a workout to count, but that led to too many skipped sessions during the holiday time crunch. So now I take a different approach: Commit to just 10 minutes of cardio or one mile on the treadmill, and then reassess. If you’re still not feeling it, then stop, but there’s a good chance you’ll keep going once you get some momentum.

4. Make it a family affair. 

There’s no need to sequester yourself in order to break a sweat; instead, make a new tradition of embracing the great outdoors together. Whether it’s ice skating, snow shoveling, sledding or a snowball fight, the whole family can get in on the action. And give each other the gift of a healthy habit in the process.

5. Embrace bribery. 

Sometimes I’ll end my long run at the coffee shop or inspire myself to hit the gym by testing a new piece of gear. The trick is to find out what motivates you, and use that in your favor. Numbers-driven? Try hitting a daily pedometer goal. Competitive? Challenge a friend to a 30-day fitness routine. Bored? Commit to trying something new each day between now and the New Year.

6. Book a race. 

If you’re a regular reader here, this last one shouldn’t come as a surprise to you…because it’s my solution to almost everything. Not only can a holiday-themed race help keep you on your toes, cardio-wise, this time of year, but there’s also no better way to kick off the New Year than with a January race.

And when all else fails, there’s always another of my favorite holiday workouts…

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Happy, healthy holidays!

Dad Knows Best: Must-have advice for life…and working out

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Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere!

Moms may have gotten nominated as having the #WorldsToughestJob, but dads don’t necessarily have it easy either.

So listen up, and heed all those words of wisdom from over the years…if not for life, at least for your next workout or race. You can thank him later.

“Use common sense.”

Pause, even if just for a second. Think before you act, and respond rather than react.

Common sense is a biggie with my dad, and taking a moment to think something through — whether it’s a project at work, a plan with a friend or a race-day strategy — can help you avoid costly mistakes and missteps.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Sad, but true — which is why it’s important to prioritize and spend resources (time, money, energy) on what’s most important to you.

At first glance, it may seem limiting. But, in fact, it can be freeing to focus on quality over quantity, be it trips, toys or even race entries.

“Just try your best.”

You don’t really know what you’re capable of until you try. And in the grand scheme of things, as long as you know you gave it your all you can — and should — be proud.

In fact, there’s a great running quote about this that I love: “Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish, which trumps Did Not Start.”

“Actions speak louder than words.”

Another quote to consider: “There are wish bones, jaw bones and back bones. Those who dream about doing things, those who talk about doing things, and those who actually accomplish things.”

Don’t waste a bunch of time talking about things. Just. Do. It. (Thanks, Nike!)

“Eat your vegetables.”

A side effect of growing older (and smarter)? Coming to the realization that sometimes what’s best for us isn’t always the easiest or most appealing option (at least at first).

But you know what? A little delayed gratification can be good; in fact, it builds characte, strength and an appreciation for the process, whether you’re saving up for a special treat or training for months in anticipation of a big race.

“Always have something to look forward to.”

It’s easy to slip into a bit of a lull now and then — especially after a big life event or the completion of a major race.

So to avoid the blues, I always try to plan my next race or event as soon as possible. Make a game plan to improve upon past mistakes, and give yourself a new goal to which you can look forward and work toward.

“Never regret the choices you make in life.”

This one’s always a work-in-progress, but I’d like to think of life less as a path of “wrong” and “right” turns and more as a series of opportunities to learn.

Of course, this is often much easier said than done! But all you can really do is take what you know, and try to grow from it.

What’s your favorite advice from Dad?  

Mom Knows Best: Can’t-miss advice for life…and breaking a sweat

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Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere!

No vacations, no salary, screaming bosses, dealing with poop and vomit. It truly is the #WorldsToughestJob, as evidenced in this recent ad.

Haven’t seen it yet? It’s definitely worth a watch — and, wow, I guess it also goes without saying that Mom has probably picked up a few pointers for dealing with some discomfort, disappointment and delayed gratification along the way.

Which is why we need take her up on that advice…if not for life, at least for your next workout or race. You can thank her later.

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

Got injured and had to drop out before that big race? Been there. Didn’t hit your paces or snag that PR…again? Done that.

As frustrating as it feels when things don’t go as planned, try to roll with the punches, keep an open mind and find the growth opportunity in every situation.

“Always be curious.”

Without curiosity and learning there is no growth or forward motion, so don’t be afraid to explore.

Mix up your weekly workout regimen, add in a new form of cross-training, test out a different training program. You won’t know until you give it a shot, and you just may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

“Approach life with a light heart.”

From funny race photos to mid-workout flatulence, from getting lost on trails to losing your lunch in front of people, there’s a good chance something embarrassing will happen sooner or later while you’re breaking a sweat.

In every occurrence, find the funny. And surround yourself with like-minded friends who can help change these moments — or even your life — for the better.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Every time I race I’m reminded of this one. And as much as my ego gets bruised when I’m passed by the 70-year old man in sweats and an old-school pair of gym shoes, it also makes me smile.

The lesson here? As my grade school history teacher said, “Don’t assume anything. You only make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.'” No athlete is perfect, but perfection has never been the standard. Where’s the fun in that, anyway?

“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

It goes without saying that you should be nice to others — but remember to hold yourself in the same regard.

Caught up in negative self-talk? Nip it in the bud, and tell that evil voice inside your head to take a hike.

“Never change who you are for someone else.”

When the gun goes off on race day, there’s an explosion of ego and adrenaline. It’s easy to get caught up in it and speed off…only to crash when your body realizes it’s moving at an unsustainable pace.

A better plan: Run your own race. Competition is good. It’s inspiring, and it can bring out the best in us. But real satisfaction comes from self-motivation, so don’t surrender control of this essential asset.

“Don’t underestimate the power of a nap.”

Classic trench coats. Fresh flowers. Good manners. Little black dresses. Some things never go out of style — and a decent nap is one of ’em.

It works like a charm, whether you’re three, 33 or 103. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

What are your favorite words of wisdom from Mom?