My First 5K

The wind in my hair, the soft patter of my little feet, the adrenaline moving through my bloodstream, the slow in and out of my breath—I’m running. But, friends, I’m not a runner. Not only do I have a foot injury that never healed from college, in general it’s a bit too rough on my joints. Even though I don’t think running will ever be MY thing, I signed up for a 5K to support my roomie, Jodi, who recently ran two races this year (5K and half marathon).

About a month after we signed up, Jodi injured her knee, which left her depressed and incapable of partaking in this particular event. I mean, I signed up to run with her (not next to her or anything), but as a fun moment to share together. Having an injury is devastating and especially when running is your lifeblood, which it is for her, this was bad news bears.

Now that I was running the race solo, I really didn’t have the drive to train intensely or even talk about it with her (to not aid in her depression). I did a couple runs a week and decided on the goal of finishing in 31 minutes—I thought that would be a good target since I normally run about a 10-minute mile. I figured I could speed it up here and there if I used a watch to monitor my pace.

Race day approached quickly and I was feeling a little out of running shape—I had been running about 6-12 miles a week (and only about 4 during my last week). My college buddy, Christin, came down from Newport Beach and used Jodi’s ticket, so I had a partner in crime, which left Jodi in charge of the photos (I got a really great photo of part of her leg during her half marathon, so it was her turn to be the photographer and try and do better than me, which wouldn’t be hard to accomplish). ;-)

I made two huge mistakes the day before: drinking alcohol and not getting a good night’s rest. I think I had about three or four hours of snoozing when the alarm went off on Sunday morning at 5am. I pulled myself together with some coffee and wheat toast with peanut butter, and Jodi took us to the start line of the race: Balboa Park. At least I started off the morning right with a light snack and some caffeine. YAY! I was ready to rock and roll.

I had one minor glitch: I was without an iPod. A couple months back, I left it in NYC, so I’ve gotten pretty used to the sound of my own breath and really taking the quite time to think and reflect (or focusing on not dying mid-run). I guess I could have gone out to purchase a new one, but that would be the easy route, right? I was also planning on borrowing a watch from Jodi to monitor my stride, but I forgot to do that, so it was just me, myself and I (and the annoying sound of people breathing and dragging their feet along the pavement).

During the race, I figured I was running about a 10-minute mile, but I had NO CLUE because I had no way of knowing. It was a pretty nice run with no hills and no major obstacles, but I was definitely feeling tired around mile two. I knew it was just one more mile and some change—I could do this. As I rounded the corner to the finish line, I heard Jodi cheering for me and took off sprinting. Success! I made it!

My final time was just under 28 minutes, which is my quickest pace yet (that’s under 9-minute miles). However ill prepared I was, I pulled through for Jodi, my motivation for this 5K. The feeling of coming through the finish line was amazing! I accomplished something and it felt great. I just might do another 5K after all.

Inspirational Musings: Becoming a Personal Trainer

Inspiration comes in many forms: what is inspiring to one person (their kids or significant other) can be completely different from someone else (their career or even their pet), and so on. A while ago, I was complaining to my girlfriend about what I want to do long term and she said, “Let’s start with what inspires you.” She made it sound like such an easy question.

About seven months ago (for those of you who don’t know), I moved to San Diego to pursue an EMBA (Executive MBA) from San Diego State in global entrepreneurship, where I would be traveling to Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi and India for one year. One day prior to orientation, I received a call that the program was cancelled. WHAT? I quit my job, rented out my apartment in NYC and moved across the country for this program. How could this happen? This EMBA was my Plan A; there was no Plan B.

I was already in California, so I took this time to visit family and friends, travel overseas and enjoy the time off from the real working life (hey, I may never get this opportunity again). I took things day by day. I suppose I could have gone back to the city and resumed my "normal" life, but I looked at this tragedy as an opportunity because I wanted to remain positive (or try). I knew that a negative attitude would not bring my program back and would not be advantageous to my future. But, yes, it sucked and there was no one to blame, so I moved on.

As I got settled in San Diego, I never took the time to think about the big picture and ask myself some key questions. What will I do for work? What do I WANT as a career? Which city do I want to live in? Do I want to find another graduate program? Do I want to move back to NYC? People would ask me what my plans were and I didn't have a definitive answer—I was still figuring it out. I think I needed my friends and family to help me learn what, in fact, inspires me.

For most of my life, I have been an active person who is interested in health in fitness; I even started a blog to share my knowledge and tips with others. On a day-to-day basis, I'm genuinely interested in fitness and health and I can spend hours creating tasty and nutritious meals, more hours talking about food, and even more hours eating the food. All this eating means that fitness plays a major role in my everyday routine, and I’m always finding new ways to stay in shape (I think I do a pretty good job of this most of the time).

After some thought and hints from my friends and family, I made the decision to become a personal trainer. FINALLY, I figured out the answer to the question (for now). I am inspired by the idea of helping people obtain a healthy lifestyle. The next question clearly was: How do I do I get started?

I talked to a bunch of friends (and friends of friends) who are personal trainers, and they all LOVE their jobs and feel their careers are rewarding. This was incredibly motivating to hear. I inquired about which program to take and they suggested I get a certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). One of the most recognized CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) certification, the NASM course is an at-home curriculum, which posed a whole new set of problems for me.

I have been out of regular school for a long time and without a professor to tell you what to do, it’s just me! I remember when I had full-time job in NYC and somehow found time to study before and after work for the GMATs (test for EMBA), take Spanish classes at lunch and copyediting classes at night. I stayed up late, found time for friends and family and didn't feel stressed out, but now I do. WHY? Without a full-time job, I have all the time in the world, yet, without a set schedule, studying is much harder to tackle and time management has a whole new meaning to me, but I’m getting there…slowly.

I have to tell myself when it’s time to study and I actually really enjoy what I’m learning. This is not work; it’s fun! I’m a quarter of the way through my NASM textbook and I plan to take the test mid-October. This means I will be a real CPT—this is exciting...and really scary at the same time! Yes, I love fitness and have the right mindset, but when doing something new, it's always a challenge, but I know that I’m on the right track, which feels wonderful.

The most important point is that I’m taking the steps in the right direction and working toward something that inspires me: becoming a personal trainer. What comes next? You’ll just have to wait and see.

The 20-Minute, Glute-Sculpting Treadmill Routine

I found this fantastic, butt-burner on fitnessmagazine.com and have since shared with two friends, who agree it's a calorie-burning success. In just 20 minutes, you can burn 150 calories while WALKING (crazy, right?). I usually don't opt for workouts that have walking, but for someone who isn't a runner, I thought I would try it out...and I like it! For the first 5 minutes you start out at a speed of 4 at a 3-3.5 incline; follow the chart below and adjust the incline to best fit your level. Beginners should start with a speed of 3 or 3.5 mph; advanced treadmill users can go up to 5.

Minutes Speed (mph) Incline (%)
0:00-5:00 4 3-3.5
5:00-7:00 4 8-10
7:00-8:00 4 4-6
8:00-10:00 4 10
10:00-11:00 4 5-7
11:00-13:00 4 12
13:00-14:00 4 10
14:00-15:00 4 12
15:00-20:00 4 2-4

Bosu Squats

bosu1 Bosu. What the heck is that? It’s that blue half-ball thingy that you see at the gym and don’t really know what its purpose is. Guess what? It’s got a lot going on! Today I’m going to discuss all the fun you can have using it to do squats. Bosu means Both Sides Up or Both Sides Utilized. Today, we’re talking about the round, bubble side, not the black, flat side with the handles (if you remember a while back, I talked about how to do a push-up on this side: click to see). Fun stuff!

For beginners, first try doing regular squats on the Bosu. Stand in front of a mirror so that you can get the positioning down, and if you’re up to it, grab yourself some light weights (5-10 for beginners). Squats by themselves are a great workout, so don’t be discouraged if you start out weightless or with 3-pounders – your legs will be sore either way. ☺

I was working out with my friend Jodi and was forced to use 17.5-pound weights, but if you’re balance-challenged or just starting out with the Bosu, go weightless and move up as you begin to feel more comfortable. (I would have been happy with some 10-pound weights, and my legs not shaking like an earthquake the whole time, but anyway.)

The Squat Step on the bubble side of the Bosu with feet shoulder width apart, toes slightly pointed outward. You can use wall/mirror to stable yourself or if you’re with a friend grab onto their arm. Contract your core to stabilize the body. While keeping your body weight centered on the Bosu, slowly lower your bottom to the Bosu by bending the knees just like a regular squat. Don’t let your knees go beyond your toes while squatting and push through your heels to isolate the glute. Without pausing, slowly exhale as you raise your body by straightening the legs – don’t spend more than 2 seconds at the top or bottom of your squat. Do this exercise with a fluid movement and try to keep the top of the Bosu stable, which will also work your core. Do three sets of 10-20 reps and move the weight and reps up as you master this move.

Muscles Worked

leg-calf-hamstring-quadricep-muscle-anatomy2I usually do this routine with some lunges or step-ups (just step up and down on a bench, switching legs) and you’ve got yourself a nice little leg workout! Don’t mind the creepy photos below – I needed to find two that matched and this was the best Google could do for me. ☺

Step-up

Lunge

2010 = New Fitness Goals!

It's a new year, friends. Happy days at the gym begin right about now...when everyone joins and vows they're going to starting working out and staying in shape. We have all been in this predicament with one excuse or another, and it's important to have goals in the fitness world. However, staying healthy should be a life goal, not just one of those new year's resolutions that is top of mind on January 1st and is nowhere to be found come March 1st. Don't let this be you! Power through all year long with reasonable goals. The new year is about starting fresh, so don't give yourself unreasonable goals, e.g., work out every day (after never working out at all). Start with one or two days a week and get yourself into a routine - you can even mix it up with some outdoor activities with friends (sports team, dance class, yoga, cycling), weather permitting. If your a novice, start off slow and if your seasoned "professional" just start by adding in something new; work with a trainer, Pilates, jumping rope instead of the stair climber, etc.

My first change to my fitness regimen in 2010 is adding Boot Camp to the mix. For six weeks at The Sporting Club, I will be doing Boot Camp every Tuesday or Thursday night. I will be sharing some exercises that I learn and hopefully you will try them at home...but be sure to report back with feedback!

A Happy and Healthy 2010 to all of you!

PS. I did 48 push-ups...in a row. My goal for January is 50!

Realize Your Goals

Upper Body by Matthew McConaughey

I’m back! It has been almost a month since my last post about fitness, which funny enough, was about motivation. For me, the summer is my season to relax and enjoy the weather (especially being in NYC) and thus, I don’t make it to the gym more than 2-3 times per week. I do ride my bike, run along the Hudson, and walk a lot from place to place, but I don’t do a lot of weight training and heavy workouts until the fall rolls around. Except for the most obvious reason of wanting to be outside, I haven’t put my finger on really why the summer isn’t my prime time, but c'est la vie. Realizing my slacker tendencies with the warm weather, I have kicked myself in the ass and out of my rut. Yay! I recently went to the gym with a guy friend of mine who wanted to do an arm workout. I quickly said, okay, but really, I don’t know a good arm workout for men?! I got on the computer to do some research on men’s fitness and came upon workouts by Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon and Jason Statham. I went with Matthew McConaughey for now, but I will try the other two one of these days. Apparently it was a good arm workout...my friend was sufficiently sore. Try it for yourself!

Complete each exercise below with 3 sets of 12-15 reps. The weight you choose should be difficult to lift toward your last rep.

Lat Pulldowns For: Back & biceps Tip: Make sure legs are secure under the padded bar

latpulldown2

Bench press Works: Triceps, deltoids & pectorals Tip: Always use a spotter for traditional bench press

abs_benchpress_300x300

Biceps Curl Works: Biceps, elbow flexors Tip: Keep your elbows against your body in lift in a controlled motion with palms facing up

bicepcurl2

Incline Dumbbell Press Works: Pectoralis major & clavicular Tip: Press dumbbells up with elbows until arms are extended – you want to feel a slight stretch

inclinedumb

Triceps Rope Pushdown Works: Triceps Tip: Keep arms bent 90 degrees at both start and finish of each rep

tricep-pushdown1

Dumbbell press Works: Pectorals, deltoids, triceps and biceps Tip: Keep palms facing your feet, don’t click the dumbbells and finish the exercise with dumbbells directly over your shoulders.

dumbbellpress1

After you try this workout, let me know the results or one of your favorite workouts! Matthew has a few more workouts that I have to try, so stay tuned for more!

What is Your Motivation?

couchslug It’s sometimes hard to find the motivation to engage in physical fitness…I think this is a problem for most people I know at one time or another. I will go for weeks where I’m pumped up and excited about working out, but there are other times, however, where I just would rather do anything else. I like to associate my unmotivated times to that of a lumaca (slug in Italian…it sounds better to me).

My gym is a three-minute walk from my office and a six-minute walk from my apartment and sometimes, that is just too far. This is a prime example of being unmotivated and I sometimes wonder, what the heck is wrong with me?! To top it off, in my apartment, I have a yoga mat, workout videos, inline skates, a jump rope and a bike in my apartment. You would think that when I don’t’ want to hit the gym, I could entertain the thought of actually using my home gym, but when I’m unmotivated, no thanks, I’ll just hang out in Lumacaland.

When I’m unmotivated, my excuses and complaints run the gamut: bloated, tired, want to be home, want to grab a drink, want to do nothing, etc. Anything will work really, as long as I can abstain from exercise. Sometimes the best thing to do when I’m feeling like this is to NOT go to the gym because if I go, I won’t accomplish much. My other option is to take a class; at least someone would TELL me what to do.

Last night, I made the decision to go to the gym after all...my subconscious forced it on, I tell ya. On Tuesdays, my all-time favorite class is taught (intenSati, taught by world-renowned instructor, Patricia Moreno), but I really just was not in the mood...at all. At about 8am, I it had full intention in going, but at 6pm, it was a whole new ball game…I was tired and hungry and grumpy...the list goes on.

Once I changed my clothes, I made the decision to man-up and not be such a loser—I went to intenSati. I had indeed made the correct decision; her class is so good to me. I always leave the class with sweat seeping through my clothing, jello legs and a positive attitude. The latter is essential to working out; you always want to feel good about yourself after any type of exercise or what’s the point?

My obsession with intenSati started when I joined Equinox five years ago, and it's still my favorite class. For over a year, I religiously attended every Tuesday night for 30 minutes of abdominals followed by an hour of intense cardio, yoga and lower body work. I’ve always had a difficult time explaining her class to people, but it’s sort like old school aerobics on crack, mixed with some intense lower body work at the end of each class. If you want to try her class out, ask me for a guest pass!

With a background in fitness, life coaching and yoga, Patricia incorporates inspirational and spiritual ideas into her classes. At the beginning of each class, she uses real-life examples and ideas to encourage and motivate the students to make positive changes in their lives. I’m usually not one for life couching or spirituality during my workout, but last night (and on many other occasions), her thoughts really rang true with me and my sluggish attitude. Patricia reminded me that it’s only me who can make positive changes in my life. And sometimes you just need to push yourself to engage in physical activity…I promise it will pay off more than you know.

A quote from class: There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way!

I Can't do 100 Push-ups!

onehundred125x125 About a year ago, with three of my friends, I attempted the six-week 100 push-up program. Yes, 100 seemed a bit ambitious, but I thought, if the website says it’s possible, then it must be? Wrong. Well, maybe not wrong, but I didn’t stick around long enough to make the 100 – I only got to 31.

Over my long birthday weekend (June 21), my best friend, Jodi, was visiting and she was doing push-ups and stretches each morning. She reminded of my failed attempt at the 100 push-up program and being the obsessive person I can be, I couldn’t just sit there and watch, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. I mean, I couldn’t have her being all active and fit without me, now could I?

On day 2 of her visit, she finished 20 push-ups, so I had to see if I could match her…or beat her. And guess what? I did. I accomplished 25 push-ups before falling on my face. (Pat on the back. Hoorah!) This only reminded me that when I’m at home or watching TV, all I need is 10 minutes to get in a quality workout session. Try it!

How it works (if you’re up for the challenge). First off, you need to see just how many proper-form push-ups you can do. By the way, my mom couldn’t do one push-up when she started, but after doing the girly, on-your-knee push-ups to start, she is now able to do 5 regular push-ups – anyone can do it! Very important: Don’t stop until you are shaking and can’t possibly do one more…you’ll kind of want to fall on the floor. 

After the initial test has been accomplished, you will place into one of three levels. After your level has been determined, you move on to the actual program – this means 3 days of your week will be spent doing push-ups. Even if you don’t finish the six weeks, you are guaranteed to increase the amount of push-ups with strong arms to boot!

With a total of 21 push-ups, I fell into level three, but I had to actually do the program in level one because it became too difficult to complete each week.

LEVEL 3: Week 1

Day 1 (rest 60 seconds in between each set) Set 1: 10 push-ups Set 2: 12 push-ups Set 3: 7 push-ups Set 4: 7 push-ups Set 5: max (at least 9)

Day 2 (rest 90 seconds in between each set) Set 1: 10 push-ups Set 2: 12 push-ups Set 3: 8 push-ups Set 4: 8 push-ups Set 5: max (at least 12)

Day 3 (rest 120 seconds in between each set) Set 1: 11 push-ups Set 2: 15 push-ups Set 3: 9 push-ups Set 4: 9 push-ups Set 5: max (at least 13)

As you can see, the days get progressively harder and thus, why I had to switch levels. If at any point it becomes too difficult, just repeat whichever week you are struggling with until it becomes easy. I highly recommend this program to friends because even if you don’t finish, you are guaranteed to increase the amount of push-ups you can do with strong arms to boot!

To view the program in its entirety, visit One Hundred Push-Ups.

Arms with Tim @ Equinox Soho

My friend Nathalie invited me to a 4pm training session with her friend Tim Keleher (thesportingclub.co.uk), and I couldn't turn down the offer. I guess I really didn't know what I was getting into, but how can you pass up a free personal training session? Apparently he had found this new great arm routine, which he learned of in Sweden...I think by great, he meant torturous, but anyway, it's always good to mix it up. You're body gets used to certain workouts and you need to spice it up! We started out with negative dips and negative pull-ups. When did I last do a pull-up? My best guess is 4 years ago. After doing about 4 regular dips, from starting position, with arms straight, I had to lower my body down while Tim was counting from 3-10 seconds (different count for each of the 3 sets), then weighted chest dips with a belt around my waist (3 sets). The weighted dip is an excellent movement because it allows for the training of the chest and triceps together in a way that uses a greater mass of muscle from more muscle groups. Next were the pull-ups…so hard. Tim had to lift my legs a bit so I could pull myself up and then while he counted down from 6-12 seconds (3+ sets of different counts), I had to lower by body to the count. This was incredibly fatiguing but that is why it was exercise #1.

We moved on to push-ups and bicep curls on an angled bench. I thought that at least the push-ups would be easy for me, but NO – my body was already tired. I started out with push-ups (5-10 reps), then bicep curls on the bench with an 8-lb weight (12-15 reps) and finally bicep curls with a 20-pound bar (10-12 reps). I actually had to switch to a 5-lb weight for the bicep curls and a 10-lb body bar because I was shaking like crazy! We did 3 sets of each and it was tough to say the least. Next was tricep work: skull crushers (3 sets of 12) and tricep rope pushdowns (3 sets of 12-15: 1 set standing and 2 sets on the knees).

Dips

1. Stand at the dip station and grip each handle, with palms facing the body. 2. With arms nearly straight, lift legs off the floor or platform and lean forward slightly without dropping your head. 3. Slowly lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. 4. Push yourself back up until your arms are almost straight. 5. Repeat, lowering and raising yourself until exhaustion.

Skull Crushers

1. Lie on the floor or a bench and hold a light-medium barbell with the hands close together, about shoulder-width apart. 2. Extend the arms straight up over the chest, palms face out and thumbs wrapped around so that they're next to the fingers. 3. Bend the elbows and lower the weight down to a few inches above the forehead or until the elbows at about 90-degree angles. 4. Squeeze the triceps to straight the arms without locking the joints.

Rope Pushdown

1. Attach a rope to the top portion of a cable machine. 2. Grab the rope with your palms facing towards each other and position the rope at about chest level. 3. Slowly lower the rope downward, making sure to keep your elbows in while extending your arms and have a slight bend in your arms when you reach the bottom of the movement. 4. While keeping your elbows in slowly let the rope come back up to the starting position.

This concluded the workout (roughly an hour and a half). While my blood sugar was high, I inhaled a smoothie with strawberry, banana and soy milk. Every responsible source in bodybuilding and athletics recommend that you eat preferably within 45 minutes (maybe up to 60) after a workout. Known as the “golden hour,” this is when the muscles absorb the most nutrients and when glycogen, an energy reserve in your muscles, is replaced most efficiently.

This workout was on Saturday and today (Monday), I can barely straighten my arms, lift my purse or basically do anything other than type with my fingers. I recommend this workout to anyone who wants to see major results and feel the pain. Yay! Thanks, Tim and Nathalie.