Sharing Time: Group Fitness Etiquette

Instead of pulling something from the archives, today I’m sharing an article that was sent to me last week.  As a fitness instructor, my job and my goal is to help members make the most of their time for the 60 minutes I have them in the room. Those 60 minutes take hours of work.  Behind every cycle class I teach is an hour scouring for new music, designing drills around the music, creating a ride that is enhanced by the music.  There are hours of reading up on the latest findings in fitness, especially in regards to form and performance.  There are days of training and re-training, certifying and re-certifying.  In other words, I work hard to give you my best for that one short hour.  I come prepared to teach.  I want you to come prepared to work.  Group fitness is successful when we work together.  That’s the whole point.  The tips in this article don’t just apply to cycle class.  They work in kickboxing, yoga, Bodypump, pilates, and so on.

I don’t post this to shame anyone into better behavior.  These are reminders for all of us.  I’ve been guilty of talking during a class, so this is as much for me as it is for everyone else.

Click on the link below to read more.

http://www.rodalewellness.com/weight-loss/20-unspoken-rules-of-indoor-cycling

Integrity Matters

My first marathon overall win, which I won fair and square.

I recently read an article that could have been great, but took a wrong turn and missed the point.  It should have been an article about online shaming and the harm it does to its targets.  Had the author left the point there, I would have stood in total agreement.  Belittling others in public forums and social media rarely changes a situation for the better.  But what made me bristle was the author’s assertion that publicly calling out runners who cheat during races is worse than the actual cheating itself.  In fact, she goes so far as to ask the question, “Does it really matter?” referring to cheating in general.

Well, you can probably guess where I stand on that.  In case you’re unsure, click on the link below to read my thoughts about this.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865675458/Integrity-in-sports-particularly-when-running-races-will-always-matter.html

From the Archives- All the Little Things

This column from 2012 is similar to what I wrote last week for Des News.  It’s good to have big plans, but the best way to make them happen is by taking small steps.  My 4-year-old whom I talk about in this story is now almost 10.  She has mastered the art of shoe-tying, but while her goals change, her frustrations remain.  Frankly, I’m the same.  I have to remind myself that progress is progress, whether it comes quickly or slowly.  Here’s to another day of inching forward.

Our Ali-bug.

 

The Cowarts have set a lofty goal this month. We are teaching our four-year-old how to tie her shoes.

This is a big deal. My goal as a parent is to raise children who need me less and less each day. Such an endeavor can be, and most often is, painful for both parent and child.

My pain stems from the need to feel needed, and while I rejoice with each milestone met- potty-training, cutting your own pancakes, putting on underwear not backwards- there is a pang in my heart knowing that eventually my children’s independence will march them right out the front door for good.

The children’s pain has a different root. Every milestone for them is a mountain of challenges. Hand-eye coordination, patience, and the ability to follow directions are qualities found lacking in our household, yet these are the very same qualities necessary when learning how to walk, feed, dress, and yes, tie one’s shoes.

Our daughter began her shoe journey with excitement. She has decided to do a one-mile kids’ race in April. She has learned from her mother, and rightly so, that such an undertaking requires new running shoes with real laces. Laces which require tying.

She was going to learn a skill that her big sister has mastered! This, obviously, is a skill that separates the kids from the babies. Eager to graduate from that category, she sat down with her sneakers and hefty set of expectations.

All that disappeared not two minutes later when the little girl we call “Bug” hadn’t mastered this feat with 100% perfection. After twice failing to make perfect bunny ears, she threw the shoes on the ground and commenced whining.

Have I mentioned that patience is a virtue we have little of in our house?

Continue reading “From the Archives- All the Little Things”

Pennies in the Bucket

Life is made of a series of small decisions.  There’s a lot to celebrate in that statement.  Change can be difficult and overwhelming when we focus on the big picture.  But when we break up our goals into smaller steps, suddenly that giant elephant on your plate is devoured (or chips, or cookies- insert preferred snack food here).  The point is if we want change to happen, we have to make it happen.  It doesn’t have to happen in a day.  In fact, slower change is typically more permanent change.  Our family has a “Fun Bucket”.  In this bucket is where we collect our loose coins.  Before a big vacation we typically take it to the bank to cash it in for bills.  It’s amazing to me how much we accumulate throughout the year.  It’s not unusual to save in the hundreds.  The best part it we don’t even notice the impact.  Tell me to put $100 aside, I feel that.  Tell me to put $1 a day aside for 100 days, I barely notice that dollar missing from my wallet.

Click on the link below to read about some of the pennies I’m putting in my bucket now.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865674327/Small-changes-make-a-big-difference.html?clear_cache=1

There’s No Such Thing as Perfection

 

This is a hard one to post.  I don’t like focusing on my physical appearance.  When I exercise, I do it for the feeling.  I’ve said it so often I should have shirts made, but honestly, if you feel good you look good.  Not the other way around.

That said, I am human.  I have days when I’m not thrilled with what I see.  More often I see someone who, in my eyes, is the epitome of strength and beauty and I don’t measure up.  We all do it.  I had one of these days last Wednesday.  The critic in me usually makes an appearance when I’m exhausted and struggling to keep up with the daily grind.  My husband had just left for a week-long trip to Chicago that coincided with Parent-Teacher conferences, history presentations at school, Valentine’s day, birthday parties…  you get the idea.

I’d just finished teaching a Total Body Conditioning class when a new member approached me to tell me how much she enjoyed the class.  She then apologized for not being as strong as others and hoped she could look like me one day.  Whoa!  Wait a second!  First off,  everyone is new at one point.  I needed her to know she showed strength simply by showing up to do the work. If she kept that up, she’d be stronger than she could imagine.  Second, while I was flattered, didn’t she realize my body wasn’t perfect?  Of course she did, but she didn’t dwell on the imperfections I was dwelling on.  She just saw a fit girl.  She was admiring the very body I was feeling down about in the moment.  Her words snapped me out of my funk and back to reality.

I’m not fishing for compliments and I certainly don’t want to be a whiner.  My point for writing this is to remind us (okay, mostly me) that perfection doesn’t exist.  While I was wishing to have someone else’s strength, someone was wishing to have mine.  Frankly, it’s a waste of time to pine for what someone else has.  That time is better spent improving what I have.  Accepting who we are doesn’t mean settling.  It simply means we stop wasting energy chasing someone else’s dream.  We focus on our own growth.

Too often I find myself looking at others feeling like they have it all pulled together.  Everything looks so easy to them.  They don’t have the struggles I have.  They don’t have to work hard to stay fit. But of course they do!  And of course they struggle.  Of course they don’t have it all pulled together!  But what struck me most that Wednesday is that others may be looking at me thinking I have it all together!

I’m here to tell you that, yes, some days I’m feeling pretty good about myself.  Overall I’m pleased with how I feel and how I look.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in running and I own the work I put into my classes.  If I expect members to show up and give me their best, I have to be willing to give my best, too.  I’m not going to shrug that off.  But there are occasions when it’s just a victory to roll out of bed and show up.

I’m posting these pics of my stomach just as an example.  It is what it is.  They’re not bad.  They’re not ideal.  They just are.  One pic is of my stomach in a normal standing state.  The other is what I see every time I’m in downward dog or tabletop position when I practice yoga.  This is a vast improvement from a few years ago when my core was much weaker, but this is where I’ve landed.  I’m putting it out there to show you that none of us is perfect.  Okay, maybe someone is, but that someone isn’t me.

When I tell people to be open to change and not to expect the changes to be the same as their neighbors’, I mean it.  And I’m usually talking to me.  My fitness journey is mine, and mine alone.  If we can learn to stop measuring our progress  by someone else’s measuring stick, we will find true freedom.  If we can see ourselves the way others see us, we will find peace.  If we can accept who we are and revel in our strengths, we will find joy.  And joy lasts longer than a six-pack.  It’s about progress, not perfection.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Running- 14 Reasons I Still Love to Run

Don’t running and I make a good-looking couple!

I might always love running, but I don’t always like it.  Sometimes we just need a break from each other, but we always end up back together again.  Initially our relationship felt very one-sided.  I was faithful, but running let me down: injuries, burnout, perceived lack of progress.  Most of the issues were my fault.  I demanded more than my fair share.  I expected running to reciprocate my affection in ways that just weren’t mine to claim.  I wanted fast legs, shiny medals, and a body made of steel.  I saw others reach these goals in their relationships with running, so why shouldn’t I?  Time and time again running tried to tell me I was unique.  Our situation was one-of-a-kind.  I wasn’t like all the other girls.  I didn’t want to hear that.  I blamed my injuries and fatigue on running until one day it dawned on me.  If running was treating everyone else fairly, maybe the problem was me.  Maybe I needed to change. Maybe the problem was more one-sided than I thought.  When it was good, it was really good.  When it was bad, well, whose fault was it, really?  I needed to own my part in this dysfunctional partnership.  I needed to quit playing the victim and look for ways to make our bond stronger.  I needed to reassess what I really wanted from running.  I needed long-term perspective rather than instant gratification.

Fast forward to today and I think we’re in a good place now.  I respect the recovery running demands from me.  Instead of focusing on what running isn’t giving me, I appreciate what it does.  I understand we need some time apart, but when I take a day off, the make-up runs are so great!  Our relationship is stronger than ever now that we have mutual respect and understanding.  So, to running, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Click on the link below to read all about the 14 reasons I still love running after all these years.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865673241/Reasons-I-still-love-running.html

From the Archives- Finding Your Mojo

 

Feeling more like Kaitlynne on the left. Hoping to find my mojo and feel like Ali on the left!

February is a dreary month for me.  Holidays are long over.  The once fresh snow is grimy and icy.  The days until summer seem to stretch on into infinity.  Even for an Oregonian who loves a cozy rainy day, I’m sick of the clouds.  I find myself looking back fondly to my surgical recovery this past December when my only job was to walk up, shower and go back to bed to read and nap.  My get-up-and-go has gotten up and left.  So I’m posting this column from 2012 today mostly for me.  Written almost five years ago, these tips still work..  Hopefully they’ll work for you, too.  We all get stuck in a rut.  It’s how we lift ourselves out that really matters.

 

When I find something I love, I tend to go overboard.

A few months ago I took my eight year old daughter to see a Cirque du Soleil show featuring the music of Michael Jackson. I was so excited to take her because I was eight years old when I fell in love with the King of Pop.

My room was wallpapered with his pictures. We played “Thriller” again and again until I knew every “hee-hee, whoo!” of every song. I memorized the “Beat It” dance moves. My brother and I rented “The Making of Thriller” video every Saturday from the local video store.

I was hoping my own kids would fall in love with “Man in the Mirror” and “Billie Jean” the way I had. They did.

In fact, they fell in love with him to the point where they, too, knew every “hee, hee, whoo!” and repeated it over and over. In the car. In the bath. In the kitchen. On the way to school. At the library. Yes, even at church.

It was too much. After years of loving the music, I have reached Michael Jackson burn out.

Continue reading “From the Archives- Finding Your Mojo”

My Recovery Routine

 

Ali’s first downward dog.

Come to my group X classes long enough and you’ll hear me say, “What you do after a workout is just as important as what you do during.”  The older I get, the truer those words ring.  Proper recovery allows the muscles to repair stronger.  We are humans, not machines.  We need to replenish the well before we drain it again.  Physical and mental recovery from tough workouts will make us stronger in the long run, and really, that’s why we move.  We aren’t getting ourselves into shape to impress old friends at a reunion or strangers on the beach during our vacations.  We are getting in shape to improve our daily lives and increase our longevity.  Recovery is a critical part of our overall health.  Click on the link below to see what I do to recover.  Take a deep, cleansing breath and enjoy.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865672137/How-I-recover-from-a-tough-workout.html

We Can Come Together

The scarf given to me on Easter Sunday 2014, the day before the Boston Marathon.

 

Almost four years ago, two terrible people committed a horrific act of terror that impacted millions of lives.  Out of that tragedy emerged some of the most profound acts of kindness I’ve witnessed.  Residents giving away coats to freezing runners; hotels offering shelter to those who couldn’t make it back to theirs; strangers sharing food and hugs.  That’s not to mention the heroics of medical personnel, volunteers and fellow runners.

The Boston Bombings in 2013 shook my world to its core.  I knew terrorists existed.  I saw the planes crashing into buildings on 9-11.  I watched the news and tried my best to keep up with current events around the world.  Yes, terrorism was real, but not.  It’s one thing to see bombs exploding in countries across the globe from the comfort of my own living room.  It’s another thing entirely to hear those explosions, feel your hotel room shake and listen to the windows rattle.  It’s another thing to receive a phone call from a friend asking in panic where another friend is.  It’s another thing to emerge from your hotel room only to be greeted by soldiers with large guns telling you to turn around and go the other way.  It’s another thing to sit on the floor of your hotel lobby with hundreds of stranded runners, many of whom never finished their race and who can’t get to their hotel, and watch President Obama talk directly to you through the media in an attempt to soothe our fear and console our hearts.

I don’t think about that day much.  I don’t plan to see the movie.  No judgement towards those who do, but the previews alone leave me in a state of panic.  It was the worst day of my life.  The location of the first bomb was in the exact spot my family stood while I ran my first Boston in 2010.  While my friend and I ran in 2013, our husbands stood across the street from that first bomb, waiting to cheer us on that last .2.  After celebrating our own finish, my friend and her husband went back to cheer on other runners and were directly across the bomb when it went off.  I was back in my hotel room nursing a sore hamstring.  The plan was to let 2013 be my last Boston.  The moment those explosions happened, I knew I’d be back in 2014.

For a year I carried the weight of that day on my shoulders, and I didn’t even realize it.  I did what I always did: drive kids; teach classes; run errands; train for Boston.  Life goes on.  Before I knew it, my friend Shelly and I were flying to Boston where I would meet up with my running partner Tyler and run the marathon one more time.

The day before the race was Easter Sunday.  The Old South Church, located at the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston St.  traditionally holds a service the day before the race and offers a Blessing for the Athletes.  I’d never been, and seeing as it was Easter Sunday and the last time I’d be in Boston for the foreseeable future, Shelly and I decided to attend the 11am service.  It was beautiful.  People from every background packed the pews.  Every race, religion, and gender represented.  Different backgrounds and different stories, but we were all looking for a little peace.  There were a lot of runners wearing their 2013 Boston Celebration jackets.  It was comforting to see so many of my fellow runners who’d lived the same day I’d lived.  Our shared experience made us almost like family. I felt like I was a part of a club, although I never wanted to be a member.

The service began.  The music was beautiful.  The minister’s words more significant than ever.  Near the end the runners were asked to stand for their blessing.  Then those who’d run in 2013 were asked to remain standing.  Men and women walked down the aisles with their arms laden with blue and yellow scarves; each one unique in its design.  The church had spent the past year recruiting volunteers to knit scarves for the runners.  People from all around the country contributed and the final result was making its way around the church.  The minister asked for the person to the right of every standing runner to take a scarf and wrap it around the neck of that runner.  An older gentleman took a scarf and wrapped it around my neck and gave me a hug.  We’d never met, but it didn’t feel that way.  I was crying.  He was crying.  There was a lot of crying.

While we stood with our scarves wrapped snuggly around our necks, the minister explained their significance.  Service is something we give someone else.  Someone had to place those scarves around out necks so they could serve us and we could receive that service.  In that act we are both blessed.  Scarves provide comfort when the world is stormy.  They give warmth on the coldest day.  Those that knitted the scarves also served as they provided comfort.  Those scarves were in essence a hug from a stranger wanting to reach out to let us know that out of that one stormy day there was still warmth.  I wore that scarf for the rest of the trip.

Marathon Monday, was equally as moving.  We had a moment of silence at the start line.  And then we began our race.  There were over 30,000 runners with 30,000 different reasons to run.  At mile 16, after the right hand turn at the fire station on our way to Heartbreak Hill, I’ll never forget the little girl holding the sign, “Remember Who You Run For”.  Underneath was a picture of Richard, the little boy who’d been killed in the bombings.  How could I forget.

Rounding the corner to Hereford and then Boylston, the crowds cheered so loudly I couldn’t hear my own thoughts.  Their energy lifted me to the point I felt like I was floating.  I couldn’t feel my legs, but in a good way.  It was the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience in the secular world.  It was a triumph of spirit as we crossed the finish line.  We carried the spectators and volunteers with us.  For those 26.2 miles we were one.  Completely and utterly one.

Why do I bring this up now?  The last year has felt more divisive than ever.  I’ve seen friendships ripped apart through tweets and posts.  Families divided over politics.  Divisions in parties, genders, geography are so wide they seem too cavernous to cross.

But here’s the thing.  In the end, we are all human.  We all want peace.  We all want unity.  It’s just a matter of putting each other first and our differences second.  If the diverse group in that South Church can come together in the spirit of support and love, why can’t we all do that?  Is a political season worth the relationships with those we love?  Can we fight for our beliefs and the causes we hold dear without fighting personal battles with each other?   I’d be willing to bet that the man who wrapped that scarf around my neck and the woman who knit it don’t all agree on every issue, but in the end it didn’t matter.  They gave service and I was the grateful recipient and we were all better for it.

Sadly, it’s often through tragedy we find common ground.  I hope to find that common ground before another tragedy happens.  We all want to be heard, but if we’re all screaming at each other we never will be.  In the end, we’re all just runners trying to make it to the finish line.  It’s a lot easier to get there when we cheer each other on.

Social Media Life Isn’t Real Life

Classic. My friend Elfi and I obviously NOT enjoying life post-race. Keeping it real. No filters.

When I was growing up, supermodels set the standard for beauty in magazines and television.  As a 5’2″ girl with no hips, it was tough to look at their tall, lanky bodies and feel like I was falling short (literally).  But I also took comfort in knowing these were paid professionals, and although their pictures were everywhere, I knew deep down they weren’t really the norm.  I didn’t actually know anyone in real life who looked like Cindy Crawford.

But today’s reality is harder to swallow.  There are still supermodels, but the images we’re inundated with most often are of our neighbors, co-workers, and classmates with their bathroom selfies posted on social media.  We look at these pictures and see ourselves.  And when one of our own transforms their body, we feel we should be doing the same or somehow we fail.  What we don’t see in many of these posts is the behind-the-scenes work it takes to get that perfect selfie.  Before we beat ourselves up for not hitting the same mark, we need to remember that social media is as real as the cover of Vogue.

If you view a post feeling feeling inspired to be your best self, that’s a good post.  But if you view a post feeling like a failure, delete it.  For some of us that may mean getting off social media completely.  I don’t think social media is all evil.  I’ve gleaned some great workout info and recipes from some incredible accounts, but even I’m susceptible to the “perfection” that comes through my feeds daily.  So I’ve made a plan to combat the negative influences of Instagram, Facebook and the like.  Click on the link below to read more.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865671196/How-I-plan-to-combat-the-distorted-body-images-on-social-media.html