Tag Archives: Endurance

The Marathons in Life

I’ve completed three marathons and the third was the hardest, not easiest. The first was the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. I was an idiot and ran it when I was completely under the weather, just because I was [am] stubborn and don’t like to give up on my goals, even when it’s wise to. The second was the Walt Disney World Marathon. That was a fun one. Lots of high fives with costumed Disney characters and pauses in front of iconic Disney backdrops (think Magic Castle) for mid-race photos. Ah, to feel young and innocent again whilst putting your body through a gauntletThe third marathon…the hardest marathon…was not your typical road race. It was a 17-month long commitment to breastfeeding. Yup, it was a marathon in every sense of the word; equal parts difficult and fulfilling, challenging yet beneficial for one’s health, and mentally grueling while simultaneously inspiring. Here’s how the lessons I learned from my road-race marathons applied to my commitment to something else. Gotta love exercise-life parallels. I’m all about ’em.

Good Things Don’t Come Easy 

Nursing was not something I was passionate about at the beginning of my journey with it, whereas I have always been very passionate about running. But my experiences running road races (shorter ones like half marathons, 10-milers and 10Ks, too) have taught me that tough commitments can have unexpected rewards. Thus, I stuck out the breastfeeding thing, using my stubborn, marathon mentality to get me through its challenges (of which there were many, including the fact that it was extremely difficult for me to produce enough milk through pumping…in order words, I had to be present around the clock to provide).

Somewhere about a year after my son’s birth I experienced a dramatic shift in perspective; instead of knowing I should appreciate the ability to provide for him in his infancy into toddlerhood, I finally truly appreciated it. It hit me one day out of the blue. I saw how much intimacy we shared, how quick the years ahead would pass us by, how much like a little boy instead of a baby he already was, and I knew. My heart finally understood that it was the hardest and best decision I had made for us both thus far.

Physical Discomfort Makes Us Mentally Tough 

I never knew that bloody heels and almost passing out during my first marathon would be things I would become grateful for. The painful experiences taught me not only to wear more protective socks and to avoid physical competitions when sick, but also that I was capable of enduring pain and moving forward a little bit tougher. This made shorter distances mentally easier in the future, and left me with the reassurance that, for better or worse, my body is capable of anything I might ask of it.

When my motherhood marathon began, I also endured pain…but it was much worse. TMI ahead, folks. In the first few months of nursing I had cracked nipples because of my son’s small mouth and his tongue tie (he was born a month early and we had to wait over a month for an ENT appointment). My hormones were crazy and at the start of every nursing session I experienced unthinkable letdown pain. I would literally cry out in pain or attempt to take deep breaths through tears. Getting through those upfront challenges built up my resolve that no matter what normal challenges lay ahead (nursing strikes, mastitis, maintaining supply) that I could handle it. Mommy’s battle gear was ready!!

The Second Time Around Will Be Easier

If there’s one thing I know it’s that being a novice is tough. Most first-time road runners don’t know how to fuel properly and typically don’t learn proper negative-split and cross-training techniques. But over time and with some effort, runners refine and evolve. They implement strategies to help them run faster while enduring fewer injuries.

Similarly, first-time moms encounter  many challenges that force them to be more strategic and build up their tolerance for future issues. For example, my nursing experience was initially tough, but I have no doubt that it paved the way for an easier experience next time. Aren’t most things easier for mom after the first child? Please tell me yes! 

No one said nursing a toddler was free of complications! Lol.

You Can’t Marathon Straight Through Life

In a study published by the NIH, the Mayo Clinic found that there may be an “upper-dose limit” for endurance exercise. In other words, marathon after marathon and sustained competition at an elite level can have detrimental effects on an athlete’s heart. Think of it kind of like overdosing on a medication…it goes from helpful to hurtful very quickly. Cardiac tissue can have multiple negative adaptations to intensive training, including large-artery wall stiffening, coronary artery calcification, myocardial fibrosis, ventricular arrhythmia and more. These devastating effects of exercising TOO much strip away all the benefits and longevity that come with exercise in moderation (which can increase life expectancy by 7 years!). At some point, we have to intuit when we’ve gone too far, when it’s time to move on from the marathon…for our health’s sake.

Similarly, what I consider the “marathon of motherhood” (i.e. nursing) isn’t intended to be something the mother and child practice forever. At a certain point, life’s demands, the child’s distraction or disinterest, or the mother’s need to focus wholeheartedly on her own health again, come into play. In fact, the volume of milk that a toddler needs goes drastically down after the 12-15-month mark, and too much milk or dairy can stand in the way of getting enough of other key nutrients. To continue “marathoning” the nursing in the same frequency as when the child was in infancy isn’t ideal for the child’s health (that’s not to say that some nursing isn’t still healthy, nutritious and emotionally satisfying for the child). Anywhere between 18-months and 3 years old is when experts say children naturally wean, meaning they lead the process based on their physical and emotional needs.

That said, my son was just under the 17-month mark and I knew it was time to stop pushing us both through our once-a-day nursing that remained; the morning nursing. I had been pushing him to continue for weeks, even though he was showing disinterest. We might get a few minutes of nursing in and that was that. I knew he was gearing up to quit – he loved his sippy cup with whole milk way more than me (well…my boobs) at that point and had recently found new ways to share cuddles and affection with me on/off throughout the day, filling the emotional gap that I was worried would be created by stopping nursing. I could also feel my own hormones and emotions crashing over the whole ordeal. It didn’t feel the same anymore. I felt like after nearly 1.5 years I really needed a few mornings to pass the torch to my husband so I could sleep in and get the rest my body was begging of me.

One morning a couple weeks ago, my son just flat-out refused to nurse. I tried everything I could to get him to and he just wouldn’t. I set him down to play instead and off he went on his merry little way. I knew. That was it. My marathon had ended. And it was actually a good thing for us both, I found.

Was it easy to nurse 17 months? Heck no. But it got easier over time. Was it worth it? Yes. 100% worth it. All marathons are. 

What’s your marathon? What have you been tasked with that requires every fiber of your being to persevere through? Most importantly, even when it’s hard, can you see the potential for the long road ahead to mold you for the better? Hang in.

 

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. It’s that I had the courage to start.”

-John Bingham, American Marathon Runner and Author

 

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

The Best Indoor Exercise for Winter

sun-salutations-1

When it comes to exercise, I’m wary of using overarching phrases like “the best” and “the ideal solution” because each person’s body has its own unique demands and needs. Forgive me for making an exception to my rule. Today, I’m going to tell you that I think this specific exercise can be enjoyed by the vast majority of people and can offer a plethora of benefits, especially during the more sedentary winter months. It’s quite simple to learn and has a variety of ways it can be done to offer you whatever you need in the way of stretching, toning and/or cardio. Bonus: No equipment needed! I’ve also included two 4-week workout plans; one for beginners and another that is more advanced. So, what is this mysterious exercise? Time to find out… sun salutation

…SUN SALUTATIONS!!! Whether you’re a yoga-lover or scared to death of spending time on the mat reaching for your toes (they seem so far away sometimes!), sun salutations are a great way to start or end your day. You can limber up with just a few rounds of sun salutations (also called Surya Namaskara in Sanskrit), a process that can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes, or you can devote a longer amount of time to them for additional stretching, toning or cardio benefits. Yoga teacher Krishan Verma said, “It is better to practice daily for 20 minutes than to practice for an hour occasionally.” The beautiful thing about sun salutations is that you CAN reap benefits from them very quickly, so you can easily do them every day – no hour-long gym sessions or equipment needed!

What is Surya Namaskara?

“Surya” means “sun” to Hindus and is revered as the center of the physical and spiritual worlds. Sun salutations are a sequence of asanas (physical poses) intended to salute or show respect to the sun. Some texts claim that the sequence originates as far back as Vedic times, approximately 2,500 years ago. Western cultures adapted the practice in the early 1900s and now people of all different spiritual practices from around the world enjoy it as a physical exercise and outward expression of the desire to connect deeper within. Here is a quick video from a yoga school in Brooklyn which shows how to perform the poses…

Tutorial Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73sjOu0g58M

*I love this video because it takes people through the full traditional sun salutation and how to make each pose work for them. The only thing I don’t like about this tutorial is that it doesn’t show harder modifications of the lunge (with the knee lifted), full chatturunga and upward facing dog. Feel free to choose these harder modifications in the sequence if you are experienced and know them.

Why is Surya Namaskara so ideal for winter months?

  • It’s all about focusing on the warming energy from the sun – something we need to harness during the cold and dismal winter!
  • It doesn’t require equipment
  • It doesn’t require space
  • It can be done at different tempos to meet needs for relaxing, stretching or strengthening
  • It helps give a full-body stretch to weary limbs and rigid spines that are tight and fatigued from long hours inside and sitting
  • It can be done in just a couple of minutes or a longer stretch of time like 20-60 minutes
  • It helps clear the mind
  • It connects you with your breath – bringing awareness to the breath in general can help you calm down during tense moments of the day
  • It tones muscles that might be otherwise neglected while the tennis racquets, swim goggles, hiking boots and soccer shoes sit in the closet waiting for warmer weather

 

sun-salutations-2

BEGINNERS SUN SALUTATION WORKOUT PLAN:

This plan is ideal for anyone looking to limber and find a little energy to start the day. It’s simple and fast but just tough enough that committing to it takes effort.

Week 1: 5 Sun Salutations/day

Week 2: 10 Sun Salutations/day

Week 3: 15 Sun Salutations/day

Week 4: 20 Sun Salutations/day

sun-salutations-3

ADVANCED SUN SALUTATION WORKOUT PLAN:

This plan requires a lot of commitment and work but can leave a person feeling very accomplished and in great shape. I have built the plan around the goal of accomplishing 108 sun salutations on the final day. 108 is considered a holy number according to several religions and is meaningful in science, literature, martial arts, sports and more. For this reason, many schools of yoga will use 108 as a goal for the sun salutation practice.

                                                             Week 1: 10×2, 15×2, 20×2, REST

Week 2: 20×2, 25×2, 30×2, REST

Week 3: 40×2, REST, 50×2, REST, 60×1

Week 4: 70×1, REST, 80×1, REST, 40×1 REST 2-3 days

Final: 108 Sun Salutations

My highest hope is that in performing this practice you can find new energy and happiness! Connect with your breath, find the rhythm in your body and get lost in this sequence! Ommmm….

Namaste!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz-blue-sea

Slow Results

In today’s world where everything is a swipe, tap or click away, it can be excruciatingly difficult when results are slow to come. I’m not just talking about fitness results either. Delays and setbacks in successful romance, job promotions, having children, saving for retirement, and many other areas of our lives challenge us to the core. The waiting game is not easy. But, I’ve noticed through my time as fitness professional that there is much to gain from slow results. In fact, you should delight in the delay! Let’s talk about what you gain through overdue gratification and feeling like you’re in a place far from your goals.

endurance

Endurance

People who exercise realize that reaching your goals can take a lot of time. There are long sweat sessions after which you feel like a champion. There are also days and weeks when you feel like a failure because you sit at your desk thinking about how you should hit the gym but instead waste time procrastinating on social media. Ringing any bells? The ups and downs are all a part of building up endurance and grit as you push onwards through both the accomplishments and setbacks, driving incrementally harder towards your goals.

Anyone who has tried to shed pounds can tell you that there are usually times in the process when a little bit of weight is actually gained. It’s during those times of gain that a person has to reevaluate how they are moving forward in the weight-loss journey. Are they fully committed? What can they learn from the weight gain? If a person can recommit themselves to exercise, healthy eating and self-care during this time, they haven’t lost anything from their weight making a small rebound. In fact, I will argue that they have gained endurance by understanding that losing weight, or any goal for that matter, isn’t just a one-time decision. It’s a recurring decision to get up and work towards it every day in spite of challenges. For example, sticking to the goal even through a messy breakup, the holiday season or an injury. The definition of endurance is “enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.”

character

Character

One of my favorite things about personal training is that I can see individuals’ personalities and perspectives slowly transform as they undergo the process. For example, one woman I trained used to think that she should push herself really hard all the time in workouts or there was no point in showing up to the gym. If she missed the first 10 minutes of a training session she felt like she should give up and not come at all. Any time she was tired or needed to take a break from exercise she felt like it was a free pass to overeat, feel guilty and wallow in despair about her body, love life and work. Over time, I helped her to see that you can lose pace with your goal for results without completely falling off the wagon. She could let herself have a couple days of feeling a little blue and taking care of her emotional health without sabotaging herself through junk food or drinking too much.

Over the years (yes, years), I saw this woman go from self-loathing during times of slow results to confidence and composure. She knew that she would achieve her goals even through the setbacks. This wisdom helped her mentally and emotionally. Suddenly, long hours at the office didn’t stress or burn her out so quickly. Her dreams of marriage in spite of lacking a romantic relationship didn’t feel quite so pressing. Her small ebbs and flows in her fitness and weight didn’t drown her in guilt. She became a more empathetic and self-loving individual. In my book, not even running the world’s fastest marathon can compare to achieving that.

faith

Faith

This blog post was inspired through my own experiences as a personal trainer and also as a woman of faith. The theme “delight in the delay” was inspired by a sermon I listened to which encouraged people to see the positive aspects of waiting for their dreams to come alive. The biggest thing that I took away from this spiritual message was that dreams WILL come true. As hokey as that sounds. When you have a confident hope that you will see your dreams come to fruition, you will continue to put yourself in a position of passionate pursuit, no matter how long it takes. Very few dreams worth achieving come easily.

Hang on tight whether you’re chasing after better fitness or a bigger paycheck, and don’t turn away from the lessons available to you during the wait. Life happens in them. They are the foundation for hope.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz-blue-sea

Different Types of Exercise: Pros and Cons

Exercise variety can maximize your health returns and reduce your risk of injury. On the flip side, focusing on one modality at a time can enhance your sport or exercise-specific performance. So, the decision is yours. Without further ado, let’s look at the pros and cons of focusing your physical efforts on endurance training, high-intensity interval training, Pilates, yoga, light weightlifting, and heavy strength training.

Pros & Cons Endurance

Endurance Training

Pros – Endurance training is when you exercise in an aerobic zone. This includes a wide range of movements and sports, from walking to riding a bike, and more. Generally speaking, when you’re exercising in this zone, you can sustain your effort for longer periods of time, possibly even while carrying on a light conversation. The ability to sustain energy in this zone means that you can oftentimes handle both longer workouts and more frequent endurance workouts. Either of these scenarios can help you stick to a training plan, burn calories and improve cardiovascular health. Endurance training is great for fat burning and individuals of all fitness levels.

Cons – Although endurance training usually yields fat-metabolism for fuel, too much of this exercise can also deplete muscle stores. This can happen when individuals overtrain, do not supplement their exercise with proper nutrition, and/or do not balance their regimens with strength training. Also, in recent history, there has been some evidence that extreme endurance exercise training may cause abnormalities in the heart. Hey! What do ya know? You don’t have to make yourself feel guilty for not being an ultra-marathoner! 

 

Pros & Cons HIIT

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Pros – HIIT is an awesome, time-efficient way to get in your workout. It involves high-intensity bouts of exercise interspersed with moderate to light-intensity exercises for recovery. Not only is this exercise format a time-saver, but it also causes Excess Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). EPOC is a term used to describe the extra oxygen that your body demands and consumes following rigorous exercises. While consuming this extra oxygen, your body’s metabolism is elevated. This means that you’re continuing to burn calories for as much as 36 hours following a HIIT workout! Not bad, I must say!

Cons – There is no standard formula for a HIIT workout, even though there are some commonly used routines (for example, a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio). This means that you could walk into an exercise class and be asked to perform any number of different exercise regimens. While this keeps things fresh and full of variety, it also means that unqualified fitness professionals could lead you – and your body –  astray. This is especially true if you’re a beginner or have a low level of fitness since HIIT is very intense, putting individuals at a higher risk for injury if left unsupervised or asked to perform exercises to the point of fatigue (which causes many people to lose form). My advice: trust your gut. Always recognize your right to step out of class or choose an exercise modification that better suits your needs, if you’re not comfortable. 

 

Pros & Cons Yoga

Yoga

Pros – Yoga is one of the oldest exercise practicies, dating back at least 5,000 years ago! Something with staying power like that is bound to be worthy of our attention, right?! Various yoga disciplines and formats can be great for different goals. You can attend a class that focuses on breathing and find that it helps you with stress management and mental clarity. You can also attend a power yoga class to exert some energy, challenge muscles and improve flexibility. Specific poses can improve your balance, core strength, hip flexibility, shoulder stability, and more.

Cons – The trickiest thing about yoga is finding a class that suits all of your physical, mental and spiritual needs. Certain westernized yoga practices focus more exclusively on the physical, while branches of Ashtanga yoga and Hatha yoga may take you a bit deeper. Some people love repeating mantras, learning sanskrit and being encouraged to do service yoga, while others just want to zone out during some sun salutations. Whatever your yogi-cup-of-tea, keep at it until you find one you love! A little research on the formats never hurts. One last thing worth noting though; you won’t have the same muscle and cardiovascular gains doing yoga as you will in other exercise formats. In fact, some people increase their risk of injury by doing prolonged stretches too often. So, since yoga is all about union and harmony, try to find some balance between your yoga sessions and other exercises each week.

 

Pros & Cons Pilates

Pilates

Pros – Pilates traditionally focuses on the core muscles, so anything between your hips and neck. This means that you will be extra vigilent in your awareness about proper posture and core control during one of these workouts. Pilates can be done on a mat, with or without props, and on specialized machinery (most commonly the reformer, cadillac and barrel). If you’re looking to achieve spinal alignment, Pilates is for you! If you’re eager to reduce back pain or increase your core strength, give it a try!

Cons – Several traditional Pilates disciplines focus on the same exercise series for every workout. While these exercises can be scaled for your fitness level, you may reach a plateau after regularly performing them. Some people feel that they don’t get great weight-loss or strength gains from Pilates. Thus, it’s important to get individual advice from your instructor on how to get the most out of each movement and/or how to find a new, more challenging (or less challenging) class. Another drawback worth noting is that it can be difficult to find affordable options for exercising on Pilates-specific equipment. Group classes on reformers are becoming more common and help reduce the costs of participation when compared with paying for one-on-one instruction, but they can be hard to find depending on the diversity of options in your neighborhood.

 

Pros & Cons Light Weightlifting

Light Weightlifting

Pros – Light weightlifting is a great way to workout on days when you don’t have a lot of energy or if you’re new to exercise. Lifting light weights will pump blood to your muscles and stabilize your body. It may also give you a little cardiovascular training effect. Lighter weights are also great if you’re recovering from an injury, tapering down your training regimen, or in need of practicing exercise form/technique before graduating to higher weight classes. These weights may be little, but they can lead to strength! Plus, little dumbbells are kinda cute, right?! Or is that really weird of me to say?…

Cons – While lighter weights are certainly the way to go when you’re learning a new exercise, they aren’t what you need forever. Unfortunately, a lot of women get into a comfort zone with 2.5-15 lb weights and fear that grabbing heavier weights will cause them to bulk up (which is not true…just read the next section below!). This can hold women back from gaining more muscle and reaping greater metabolic and strength benefits. Interestingly, only 10 reps or less is considered strength training – and that’s 10 hard reps, not casual ones. So, if you’re looking for more gains, you can’t pump out 15+ easy-to-moderate reps with five pounders forever. I know, I know, they’ll miss you too!

 

Pros & Cons Heavy Weightlifting

Heavy Strength Training

Pros – Strength training with weights that feel subjectively heavy to you is an excellent way to stimulate your body to adapt. It can lead to muscle gains, bone mass gains, increased metabolism, decreased risk of injury, improvements in joint health, and more! Strength training is an anaerobic activity. In other words, your body uses different energy for this exercise when compared with endurance training, which is aerobic (see explanation above). Perhaps the biggest bonus to strength training is the impact on your physique. That’s right, this exercise format more than any other can help you feel amazing in a strapless gown or bikini. Time to make friends with the barbell! 

Cons – Strength training is very technique-intensive. Without proper form you can easily go wrong in this exercise category. Also, various weight-lifting methods can be complicated to understand for the non-professional. Split training, progressive overload, periodization, and other approaches can feel confusing. This can discourage people who are looking for something effective and straightforward. Thus, if you’re interested in strength training and you’ve never worked with a professional, I suggest that you invest in a few training sessions and make your goals clear to the trainer you’re working with. He or she will respect your desire to get a “crash course” in weight lifting basics so that you can practice them on your own. The trainer can also help decipher what kind of regimen will be best for your body, goals, time commitment, and schedule.

 

Pick your exercise poison and enjoy! Just keep in mind that even if you’re an awesome marathon runner or a heavy-weight champ in the gym, you will need to build in what’s called taper or recovery weeks where you exert less effort and allow your body to restore. Generally, if we don’t balance out our training a little bit, the pendulum is liable to swing in a direction away from optimal performance (often into injury or fatigue).

Have another exercise format (or sport) you’re wondering about?! Fire away in the comments section or email me directly via the Contact form! I’m happy to answer questions about kickboxing, tai chi, skiing, cycling, contact sports, and more!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

How to Design an Awesome Workout; Exercise Pyramids

Designing a fun and challenging workout doesn’t have to be complicated. You can pack power into your workout by playing around with three simple variables; reps, weight and time. To shake things up and to challenge your body, try an “exercise pyramid;” increasing or decreasing one of these variables throughout the workout. It may sound confusing at first, but I’ve designed four easy-to-scan infographics for today’s post to show you just how simple it is. I hope they help inspire you to get creative, have some fun, and SWEAT!

How to Exercise Pyramid

 

Pyramid 3

 

Pyramid 2

 

Pyramid 1

 

These kinds of workouts are my favorite! I just love them. They can help pull you out of a training plateau, boredom or lack of inspiration.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea