Reaching the Finish Line

You are probably thinking this is going to be about the election, but it is not. This is about a different kind of finish line. Yesterday, members of the Finding Joy in Motion program reached their finish line: the culmination of 24 weeks of learning, training, and dedication. 

Finding Joy in Motion is for everyone. When I first started this program, I thought it was going to be about training for a half marathon. And while several ladies did successfully complete a half marathon (way to go Tracie Tighe, Paula Duran, Debbie Ternes, and Tracy Moon!!), it turned out to be much more than that. For most of the ladies in the program, yesterday’s run/walk was the farthest distance they had ever completed. Regardless of the distance itself, that is A HUGE accomplishment!

This program is about so much more than running and walking. It is about making a commitment to yourself, getting in touch with your inner athlete (we all have one, really!), and taking care of yourself. We are all getting older. Yes, it’s true. Many people will tell you that your body has to slow down as you get older, but that part is not true. An Newton said…sort of…a body in motion will stay in motion and a body at rest will stay at rest and atrophy. When you do not move, your muscles actually break down and get weaker.  This makes the need to slow down as we get older even more of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you are active and move regularly, you can reverse that trend and keep your muscles strong. And with mindful training, you can even build strength to make your muscles EVEN stronger and stay injury free. Stronger muscles lead to better balance, more stability and fewer injuries.

Many of you know my story: I literally failed physical education in high school. As a very hard-working finance and accounting executive, I spent most of my adult life behind a desk…until I decided to walk a marathon for my 40th birthday. I won’t get into what caused me to set that goal (but if you are interested, reply to this email and I will be happy to share with you), but (to make a long story short) it set my body in motion. And I haven’t stopped since! I’ve participated in over 120 races since then. I haven’t won any of them (not even close!) and I haven’t even been first in my age group (ever!). Many times I have been dead last. But that doesn’t matter. The joy I feel from completing my personal goal (whatever that may be at the time) is not in any way affected by my place in the “race”. Competition is merely a “petition” for “comp”anionship. The only person I am competing against is the person I was yesterday. 

At our graduation celebration, ladies walked and ran from 1.5 miles to 13.1 miles and everyone had a fantastic time. Despite the masks, the smiles and sparkling eyes were were shining bright! I did not expect to feel so overwhelmed by everyone’s accomplishment, but it really was an amazing experience. You can see some photos here.  Here is just a sample of what ladies are saying:

So while this program started out as a half marathon training program, it turned into so much more over the last six months. It has become a personal discovery program. If you are interested in discovering your inner athlete, the next session is staring on November 17th. More information is available here

Reducing Inflammation

Last week, I talked about shoes and how increasing the size of your running shoes (compared to the size of your dress shoes) can help reduce discomfort when your feet inevitably swell from continued pounding against the pavement or trail. This week, I am going to talk more about that swelling, why it happens, and what can be done about it.

How the swelling actually occurs:

For people who are active, “inflammation” is common. Although “inflammation” has some negative connotations, this process is also the body’s natural response to the stress caused by intense exercise.

To grow stronger, athletes rely on the tear/repair cycle. After a hard training session, muscles develop harmless microtears. After this damage has been detected by the body, the body’s immune system works to repair these microtears, resulting in overall stronger muscles. White blood cells as well as mediators, such as cytokines, are sent to the damaged muscles to help with the repair process. This normal (and necessary) immune response results in temporary swelling and soreness. The entire repair process lasts 24–72 hours, depending on the relative severity of the muscular damage. After the repair cycle, muscles are stronger than before.

However, when training at higher intensities (for example, longer durations or increased speed), chronic inflammation can occur. This happens because the immune system is continually triggered at a faster rate than repair can occur. Chronic inflammation can lead to the feeling of tired, heavy legs as well as chronic soreness, weight gain, and decreased athletic performance. Many runners wear compression socks to during their runs to reduce the rate at which chronic inflammation occurs. They also frequently wear compression socks after their runs to help speed the recovery process.

How compression socks work:

The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout your body through your arteries. Cells in your body use this oxygen in order to function properly. Deoxygenated blood is then pumped from the cells through your veins back to the lungs to be re-oxygenated. The better your circulation, the more oxygen your legs get. The more oxygen available to be utilized, the better your muscles are going to function.

Graduated compression socks have varying levels of compression throughout the sock. The highest compression level is usually at the ankle and it gradually decreases to the lowest level at the top cuff. When worn properly, they work to reduce the diameter of veins in the lower legs. This reduction causes the speed of the blood flow to increase. In addition, the reduction of vein diameter improves the effectiveness of the valves in both veins and arteries. The overall effect is reduced venous pressure, enhanced circulation, and greater venous wall support. Overall, when veins, muscles, and arteries are compressed and circulating blood is forced through these small channels, the flow of blood back to the heart is significantly improved.

In other words, when you wear compression socks, you are forcing your blood to start flowing faster, making each oxygenation cycle easier. The faster the circulation of metabolic waste products away from the muscles and toward the heart can occur, the faster fresh, oxygenated blood can reach the cells leading to quicker recovery. Poor circulation results in swelling which causes discomfort, hinders performance, and decreases muscle recovery following a hard workout.

In addition to increasing the circulation of blood through the legs, compression socks provide calf support. This essential support helps to stabilize the muscles and guard against muscular oscillations, which makes your muscle movements more efficient.

By improving circulation and reducing muscular oscillations, compression socks not only help you feel better quicker, they can reduce the potential for injury.  For example, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and calf strains are all injuries where unsupported muscles, chronic inflammation, and lack of circulation are risk factors.

People who are on their feet all day, such as flight attendants, waitresses, teachers, and nurses, among others, can also benefit from the use of compression socks to alleviate tired legs. And even when you are not active, poor circulation can be dangerous. Numerous studies have shown that sitting still for long periods of time, especially during air travel, can potentially lead to conditions such as blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism. Compression socks help reduce these risks.

How to find the right fit:

While compression socks come in a variety of styles, knee-high versions are the most popular because they cover the entire calf. To choose the correct size of knee-high socks, you should first record the circumference of your calf by measuring the widest part of your lower leg. This measurement, in addition to your shoe size, is used to determine which sock size is best for you. Note that the top of the sock should feel snug, yet still comfortable below the knee. If it is too tight, it may cut off your circulation rather than increasing it and have an effect opposite of what you are seeking.

Winter is Coming!

The seasons are changing and hot chocolate weather is almost upon us.  In Lake Tahoe, the bears are getting ready to hibernate, but that is not what we humans are about. In fact, winter is an awesome time to get outside for a run, walk and hike. It is a quieter time when you can enjoy the serenity of nature and experience different scenery than we usually see. And best of all, it is not unbearably hot or humid! An advantage of running, walking and hiking in winter is that with proper planning, you can be completely comfortable. I do not know about you, but I can never be comfortable in the blistering heat. Sometimes I wish I could just peel off my skin. However, with proper layering you can be completely comfortable in the cold and even in the rain. Personally, I love running in the rain because it makes me go faster!

Here is my tried and true technique for layering:

Base layer: the layer closest to your skin which wicks away sweat

As the next-to-skin layer, the base layer is responsible for moving perspiration away from your skin. In cool or cold conditions, wicking long-underwear-style base layers keep your skin dry. This is important because it will help keep you from becoming chilled or even hypothermic.

Base layers are usually made of synthetics like polyester and nylon or natural fibers like merino wool and silk. Base layers can be lightweight, medium-weight, and heavyweight. Of course, the heavier the fabric, the warmer you will be. But the most important function of the base layer is to move the sweat away from your body. In order to do that, the base layer should be snug and fit closely to the skin. Here in Northern California where it is not terribly cold, a short-sleeved performance running shirt makes a great base layer.

Mid-layer: the insulating layer which retains your body heat to protect you from the cold

The insulating layer helps you retain the heat that is generated by your body. The more efficiently this middle layer traps that heat, the warmer you will be. Polyester fleece makes an outstanding mid-layer and is available in lightweight, midweight and heavyweight fabrics. Fleece stays warm even if it gets damp, and it dries quickly. Fleece also breathes well making it less likely that you will overheat with exertion. And it feels so cozy! However, because of its breathability, over time, wind and rain can blow right through it causing you to lose insulation. This is why you need to also have an outer layer.

Outer layer: a shell which shields you from wind and rain

The outer layer protects you from wind, rain and snow. Shells range from pricey mountaineering jackets to simple wind-resistant jackets. Some shell layers have zippered vents to improve breathability. While you may not need a super-pricey mountaineering jacket for a 5 mile run or a day hike, you may need more than a lightweight rain shell depending on the conditions you will encounter. Consider how long you plan to be outside when choosing an outer shell. You may even opt to invest in different types of shells, just like you have different types of regular clothing.

Shells primarily fall into two main categories:

Waterproof/breathable shells: The most functional (and expensive) choice, this type of shell is your best option for full-on storm conditions. Usually, the higher priced shells will keep you drier, but pay attention to the technical details the shell offers to make sure it truly is rated “waterproof” and “breathable”.

Water-resistant shells: These are more suited to drizzly, breezy conditions. They are less expensive than waterproof/breathable shells and are typically made of tightly woven nylon or polyester fabrics that block light wind and light rain. They can be great in a pinch or if you are only out for an hour or so, but they will not hold up to a full day of hiking in pouring rain. I like to keep a packable lightweight shell in my backpack at all times, just in case. You never know (especially in Northern CA) when it will get colder than you expected as the day goes on or as you climb to the top of an exposed hill or mountain.

And finally, do not forget about your head and your extremities:

HatsBody heat is often lost through your head since your exposed head responds to changes in temperature more quickly than any other part of your body. Do not forget to carry along a fleece or wool hat for winter workouts to cover your head in cold weather. If you prefer something lighter-weight. nylon and polyester caps work well also.

Gloves: For cold-weather exercise, be sure to carry moisture-wicking, breathable gloves. For cool conditions, thin liner gloves may be all that you need.

Socks: When you exercise heavily, your feet sweat. This moisture can lead to blisters unless you wear synthetic or wool socks that wick away the moisture. In winter, this moisture can also lead to cold feet. It is best to avoid cotton socks during the winter.

The tips above should keep you comfortable while exercising outdoors in the coming months. However, f you are looking for indoor activities, be sure to check out the 12 Weeks of Christmas Challenge on Facebook Live every Thursday at 8am PST/11am EST. You can also see all the videos for past weeks here.

And if you are looking for additional help staying motivated during the winter season, considering joining the next session of Finding Joy in Motion starting November 17th. The program will meet for 24 weeks at 9:30am – 10:30 am PST/12:30pm – 1:30pm EST on Zoom.  You can learn more about Finding Joy in Motion here.

If the Shoe Fits

You may be wondering what type of shoes are best for running, walking, and hiking. Every foot (or set of feet) is different, so there are no absolute rules about shoes. I highly recommend shopping in person at a specialized running or outdoor adventure store where the sales people are trained in fitting you for shoes. These trained professionals can help you find the best shoe for your particular feet and needs. However, there are a few generalized tips I would like to share:

Mileage

Most running, walking and hiking shoes are designed to last 300-500 miles. If during the pandemic you have been walking 3-5 miles a day (good for you!), that means you will need to replace your shoes after 100 days. That’s about every 3 months! Rather than buying a new pair every 3 months, I recommend buying two pairs at the time (or more!) and rotating which ones you wear. Your feet will thank you for rotating your shoes regularly. And not only will your feet feel more comfortable, you will also have an easier transition when it is time to break in new shoes. It is never advisable to wear out one pair completely and then start with a brand new pair. Not only do I rotate the shoes I run in regularly, I also rotate my shoes in and out of the “run rotation”. What do I mean by that? Obviously, I use my best (read: newest) shoes for running. But before they wear out, but when they are no longer the “best” (say when they get to 250 miles of wear), I stop running in them and wear them while doing errands or casual walking.  So the last 150-200 miles are less intense on my feet (and the shoe) than the first 250.

Fit

As I mentioned earlier, every foot is different, but you will want to have plenty of room for your feet to expand while running, walking, and hiking. You may have heard about runners’ getting black toe nails. This occurs when the toe bumps up against the shoe mile after mile. Make sure you have plenty of space for your toes to move inside the shoe. When shopping for shoes, try them on at the end of the day, preferably after you’ve done some walking or running already so that you get the truest fit possible. Do not try on running shoes first thing in the day. Also, especially if you have wide feet like I do, look for a shoe with a wide toe box. That will also help make sure your toes are not pushing against the front of the shoe. Remember that since you will want room for your feet to expand while running, walking, and hiking, these shoes will typically be a larger size than your dress shoes. I typically wear a size 6 dress shoe and a size 8 running shoe. A good rule of thumb (pun intended) is to have at least a thumb’s length from the end of your toe to the end of your shoe.

Features

Aside from a good fit, there are a few additional features to look for when picking a shoe for running, walking, or hiking:

  • Breathability.  Sweat creates chaffing and blisters. If you have never experienced chaffing and blisters, trust me that you never want to! Good shoes are designed to make sure there is enough airflow around your feet to wick away sweat. Also, some trail running shoes and hiking shoes are specifically designed to let water drain out of them, which is a huge benefit if you run through puddles or across streams. This feature also helps a lot when running in rain.
  • Cushion.  How much cushion you should have is primarily a matter of preference. Personally, I am more comfortable with minimalist shoes that have very little cushion because I have found that literally “feeling the road” helps my running stride. But that is just my preference and yours may be different.  Many (ok, maybe “most”) people prefer more cushion than less, especially as they increase mileage. I recommend trying out the shoes in person to see which level of cushion feels best to you.
  • Support.  Shoes can offer support in the arch as well as minimize pronation (ankles rolling inward) and supination (ankles rolling outward). If you already know that you supinate (your shoes are more worn on the outside of the heel than the inside), you will want to buy a “neutral” shoe. If you tend to pronate, you will want to buy a “motion control” shoe. If you are not sure what type of support you need (if any), I recommend visiting a specialized running or outdoor adventure store as I mentioned before. There they will ask you to run around the store or on a treadmill so that they can analyze your stride first-hand and better advise you on what type of shoe is best for you.

And finally, a word about price. Running, walking, and hiking are relatively inexpensive sports, which is a great thing. Unlike cycling, snowboarding, and other sports, they do not require a lot of gear. Nevertheless, I highly recommend investing in good quality running shoes. These shoes will typically cost you $100 or more at full price, not taking into account sales or clearance discounts. While that may seem daunting at first, your feet will thank you for making the investment in their care and comfort.

The Proof is in the Data

Fitness trackers are an easy, objective way to track your workouts. I say “objective” because perception has a lot to do with how much we think we are working out.  Lately, my trusted Garmin Fenix 6, whom I love dearly, has been quite snarky and judgmental. I have gotten back to my run routine and I have been feeling pretty good about my progress. Nevertheless, my fitness tracker has been telling me I am losing fitness. At first, I just blew it off. It is just a computer after all, right? Obviously, my human brain knows more than my watch, no matter how sophisticated my watch may be. When I kept getting messages that I was losing fitness, I started making up a bunch of excuses: I’m running slower because I don’t want to suck in all the smoke, I’m running at altitude and that’s harder (never mind that my watch knows I’m at altitude and it is supposed to take that into account), I have not kept to my normal eating routine and that must be the reason…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

And then yesterday it finally hit me. I have ignored my strength training routine for MONTHS now!  Yes, I have been doing strength training. But ever since my crossfit gym closed in March for COVID, it just has not been the same. I have done some virtual workouts on Zoom, but not being in the same room with everyone has given me an excuse to slack off.  Since I do not have the same equipment at home, the weights I have been lifting have been much lighter than they would have been if I had been at Crossfit. I have gotten “busy” (oops! there’s another excuse!) and not done strength training as many days a week or for as long each time as I would have if the gym were open. Basically, I have just slacked off. At the beginning of COVID, I increased my running to compensate. But over time, I have migrated back to my normal running routine of 3 days a week and not done much else the other 4 days. I feel fine. Or so I think. Fitness is a lot like body weight. If you do not track it (by monitoring your health statistics or weighing yourself regularly), changes can be so gradual that you do not even notice them; until one day you cannot zip up your jeans, or you cannot lift the box of cat litter.  But apparently my fitness tracker knows better. By monitoring health statistics such as heart rate, oxygen intake, etc, it has identified that my fitness is declining despite my not even noticing…yet. An that is the pivotal word…YET. One day, I will find that lifting the 45 pound box of cat litter and carrying it up the stairs is a lot harder than it used to be. Actually, I have already noticed that.  But again, I let myself convince myself that it was not really true. I am just tired today, I told myself. I have not yet gotten to the day when the cat litter just will not make it up the stairs. But apparently, that day is on the horizon.  I guess I better get working on fixing that! And I have my fitness tracker to thank for alerting me.

While I am very attached to my trusty Garmin, there are many, many fitness trackers on the market and more are coming every day. Even Apple has gotten into the game as fitness trackers are really just mini-computers that you wear on your wrist.  So how do you know which is the best for you? Check out this fact-filled article that tested more than 12 different kinds of fitness trackers through over 200 hours of research. If you are curious about what fitness trackers actually do and how they do it, this article is a must read.

And if you are looking to expand your repertoire of exercises you can do indoors, without a gym, and without equipment, check out this video from Week 1 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Challenge. Every Thursday from October 8 through December 25, I’ll be going live on Facebook at 8am PST/11am EST with a new exercise. By the end of the Challenge, you will have at least 12 new exercises to help you stay fit during the busy holiday season. Be sure to follow along here.

60 Seconds to No Excuses

Think you are too old, too out of shape, or too “anything else” to work out? In 2019, CNN reported:

 “I do pushups,” the 86-year-old [Ruth Bader Ginsburg] told an audience at Berkeley Law, adding that she planks, “both front and side,” as well as does weight-bearing exercises with her personal trainer.

According to news articles, Ginsburg—may she rest in peace and may her memory be a blessing—did not let chemotherapy treatments stop her from working out, nor did she let gym closures during the shelter-in-place stop her from staying in shape. Think you are too busy to work out? If Ruth Bader Ginsburg can make time, you probably can too.

That brings us to the next question…exactly why type of workout should you do? Laura McKenna, founder of Strength & Shield Coaching, recently posted an article that answered this question with “whatever form of exercise you will keep doing”. In other words, do something you enjoy. Because if you enjoy it, you are more likely to keep doing it. In her words,

“What’s most important is that you are consistently moving your body, doing something that is aligned with your personal health and fitness goals, that you’ll actually do because you enjoy it.”

I could not agree more!  As you probably know from these emails, I enjoy walking, running and hiking because they do not require a lot of equipment and give me the opportunity to be out in nature, which is my happy place. But a lot of people tell me they do not have time (or, perhaps, the desire) to leave the house. That is totally OK! There are plenty of activities you can do at home (even in small spaces) that will keep your body moving. Yoga and stretching immediately come to mind, and these are great activities to help you deal with the stress on your body of sitting all day.  Body weight strength training also comes to mind. And again, you do not need a lot of space or special equipment. Next week, WIM Run the World will launch the 12 Weeks of Christmas Challenge. Yup, October 8th is only 12 short weeks away from Christmas. If you have not yet started your Christmas shopping, you may want to get on that. However, my goal is not to stress you out about your holiday to-do list. It is to encourage you to find a way to fit fitness into your routine, which I hope will help you relieve stress as the holidays approach.

Each week until Christmas, I will be sending a video of a new exercise that you can do in a small space, with no special equipment, in less than 60 seconds. Yes, that’s right, in less than 60 seconds! I would like to encourage you take a break from your computer (or the TV, or Christmas shopping, or whatever it is you happen to be doing) and get up and move for 60 seconds. What have you got to lose? And you may even learn some exercises you did not know before that you may enjoy and that may motivate you to get up and move around once a day, if not more. You have nothing to lose (except maybe 60 seconds) and everything to gain!

And in the meantime, if you would like to take a walk, run or hike with me (virtually), remember that we meet 6 days a week and you can find the schedule and get the zoom link here.  And by the way, if you would like to know more about RBG’s workout, you can check out the book by her personal trainer here.  

Staying Fit During the Apocalypse

I hope you all are breathing clean air these days! Those of us on the west coast really got a taste of what the Apocalypse could be like.  The picture below was published in the San Francisco Chronicle and the entire Bay Area for hundreds of miles (including my town of Healdsburg) looked much the same. By the way, this is not sunset. It is mid-day! And according to the website purpleair.com, which measures the air quality index around the world, it was many times worse in Oregon and Washington.

SF Chronicle

Many of us were stuck inside for more than two weeks. As a result, several people reached out to me asking what to do when they could not get out for a walk, run or hike. Personally, I am a huge fan of exercising outside in nature because nature itself provides an additional boost of good vibes and really complements the endorphins that come from the exercise itself. But sometimes, getting outdoors just is not possible.  That does not mean, however, that we are destined to sit on the couch during these times!

Being indoors is a great time for strength training. Even if you do not have equipment at home, body weight exercises such as pushups, planks, sit ups, and squats can keep your muscles engaged so that you minimize your fitness loss.  If you want to add weight but do not have access to dumbbells, cans of soup, bags of dog food, and boxes of kitty litter work just as well.  And of course, there are plenty of cardio exercises that can be done at home and in small spaces such as jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and the often dreaded burpees.

If you are interested in expanding your repertoire of easy-to-do exercises, join me for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Challenge (starting October 8th) when I will demonstrate exercises you can do anywhere, anytime, with no equipment or simple things you already have around the house. Each exercise will have several options to take into account various fitness levels, so everyone will be able to do each one. I will be posting to Facebook Live on Thursday mornings at 8am PST (11am EST) and will send the videos out by email as well for those you who are anti-Facebook. If you want to follow along live, be sure to join our Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/wimruntheworld. And yes, October 8th is just 12 weeks away from Christmas.  Shocking, I know!

Now you may be asking yourself, how important is this really?  So what if I spend two weeks sitting on the couch? That’s not going to kill me, right? True, you probably will not die (at least right away or as a direct result of spending two weeks on the couch). However, it will help you.  It is true, I promise! While I know this from personal experience, I also love reposting articles and research that shows how much being active can actually BENEFIT you. It is not just about preventing heart disease or obesity or other illnesses. Exercise can have a huge positive impact on not only your body, but your life.  And according to this article, it can even make you smarter! 

Walking Mistakes to Avoid for Weight Loss

Many people begin a walking routine with the goal of losing weight. Walking is a great low impact way to get and stay in shape. Below is an article by certified physical therapy assistant Marc Lindsay that outlines 10 walking mistakes to avoid if you want to lose weight and how to fix them.  I love this article because, well, I could not have said it better myself!  Not only do I follow these 10 rules in my personal fitness routine, they provide more benefit than just weight loss. These are great guidelines for starting any fitness routine whether or not your goal is to lose weight. Weight loss is just a “free” bonus! And who doesn’t like free bonuses?!?


1. You’re Never Varying Intensity


While walking at a leisurely pace is better than no exercise at all, research shows walking at a brisk pace is the best for torching calories and weight loss. If you find it hard to up the pace, try doing so for shorter intervals of 1–2 minutes, with a minute of recovery in between. This high intensity-style workout can help rev your metabolism and break through a weight-loss plateau.

[Carla’s note: even shorter bursts of higher intensity will be beneficial. So if 1-2 minutes is too much for you, don’t fret! Start with 15 or 30 seconds and work up to longer bursts over time.]


2. You’re Always Taking the Same Route


If you stick to the same route, over time your body adapts and it won’t be as challenging. To boost weight-loss (and keep things exciting) change your scenery a couple days a week. This could be a hilly trail, the beach, an urban hike or even a new park. Not only will you feel mentally refreshed, but different terrain also engages different muscle groups to burn more calories.


3. You’re Not Strength Training


Strength training is a key part of weight-loss since it helps build muscle, which burns more calories at rest compared to fat. Whether it’s with simple bodyweight exercises or using equipment like dumbbells or kettlebells, strength training can help you build the core, glute and hip strength needed to walk further and faster. It can also help prevent injury, which means you’ll reach your goals sooner.
 

4. You’re Not Using Proper Form


Poor walking technique slows your pace, causing you to tire more quickly, and potentially results in injury. Since this can affect how far and long you are able to walk (or keep you from walking altogether), working on improving your form is essential to losing weight. Pay attention to the following on your next walk:

  • Stride length: A lot of walkers overstride. If your steps are too long, your speed can suffer and more stress is placed on your joints. To check your stride length, lift a foot and lean forward. Where the foot naturally falls is where you should be striking the ground. Shorter steps increase your cadence and make it easier to walk faster.
  • Arm swing: Swinging your arms helps you get more power and propels your forward motion
  • Standing tall: Slouching as you get tired is a common problem when walking. While you might need to strengthen your core to make it happen [Carla’s note, see step 3 again!] , work on keeping your back straight and your head up.

[Carla’s note: poor walking and running technique is the number 1 cause of injury. Increasing activity should not be painful. With proper form, everyone can increase their fitness level injury-free.]

5. You’re Not Focusing on Proper Nutrition


A hard walking workout can sometimes make you feel hungrier than normal. While you want to fuel your walks with smart snacks, it’s important to pay attention to your overall diet, too, to make sure you’re in a calorie deficit for weight loss. Tracking your food intake and keep you motivated to reach your goals.



6. You’re Not Using Weights Correctly



Some people use ankle weights to burn more calories and make their workouts more challenging. However, if you prefer this style of workout, adding weights should be done with caution. Ankle and wrist weights can place extra stress on your lower back, hips and knees, causing muscle strains and other injuries. If you choose to use ankle weights, limit it to no more than one or two days per week. Keep it to easy walks, and avoid using them on days when you have a longer duration or high-intensity interval training. If you want to increase the intensity of your workouts without relying on ankle weights, trying hitting the trails, where hills and other challenging terrain can boost your calorie burn and help build strength.

[Carla’s note: See step 3 again! incorporating strength training into your fitness routine safely through the use of body weight exercises will improve your overall health. Personally, I am not a fan of ankle weights for the reasons Marc mentions above.]
 

7. You are Sedentary for Long Periods of Time


Studies show a direct correlation between sedentary behavior and obesity. Even if you are getting out for a daily walk, it will be harder to lose weight if you’re sedentary for the remainder of the day. Setting an alarm reminder to get up and walk for 5 minutes every hour can help counteract the negative effects of sitting. Moving more throughout your day will also up your step count, help you lose more weight and contribute to overall health.

8. You’re Setting Unrealistic Goals

Goals are almost always a good thing. They can provide motivation to exercise daily and push you to challenge yourself. However, it’s important to avoid habitually setting unrealistic goals. For instance, your goal may be to walk a marathon. But if the event you want to complete is only a month away and you’ve never walked more than a few miles at a time, it’s going to be difficult to ramp up your mileage for a marathon without getting injured. Failing to meet your goal or expectations can lead to disappointment and negative thinking.


9. You are Procrastinating
 

Whether it’s mindlessly surfing the internet or not using social media to your advantage, it can be easy to procrastinate and avoid your walk. If you don’t have a set routine it can be easy to say, “I’ll start tomorrow” or procrastinate until you end up shortening your workout or skipping it altogether.

To avoid procrastinating, set a schedule and try your best to stick to it. Whether it’s waking up early, exercising during your lunch hour or making a post-dinner walk a habit, you’ll be more likely to make your daily walk a consistent part of your routine if you set aside a dedicated window of time when you can make it happen. If you miss one day, don’t beat yourself up, simply resume your routine as soon as possible.

10. You are Not Going Long

At least once per week, try to include a longer walk. This could be a weekend day when you have more time or first thing in the morning. You can even include your family (on part of or all of your long walk) to help you stay on track. Each week, increase the distance by about a mile, or 15 minutes. Not only will a longer walk improve your stamina, but it will also help you build up to increasingly longer distances and burn more calories in the process.

If you want to learn more about how to incorporate these guidelines and more into building an effective fitness routine for yourself, join me for the Finding Joy in Motion Program, starting this Tuesday, September 15th. 

Every Step Counts!

I saw a post in a Facebook group for runners today that asked people for advice on how to stay motivated when they just do not feel like running. Guess what…there are lots of days even the best, most dedicated runners do not feel like running. Just like there are plenty of days that many of us just do not feel like getting out of bed in the morning. Has that ever happened to you? For whatever reason, you just do not feel like getting out of bed. Maybe you did not sleep well the night before. Maybe you are dreading what is waiting for you when you do get out of bed…a work meeting, a task that you are not looking forward to, whatever. What do you do? Do you stay in bed? If you do, how has that worked out for you? I find that the more I try to put off something, the more it haunts me…until it’s done and I can put it behind me, of course. Most of the time, despite not wanting to get out bed, we just do…even if we do not want to. And then what happens? We go on with our day and we eventually feel better.

It’s kind of like that with running. For that matter, you can insert any activity into that sentence. If you just start, it eventually gets better.  The first step is always the hardest. Once you get going, it gets easier. As Newton famously said (ok, I’m paraphrasing here), an object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest. The key to getting going is to just start.

I’ll make a confession…I skipped my track run this week. I told myself it was because of the air quality. But in reality, the air quality was not any worse this week than it was last week, when I did go to the track.  That was just an excuse I gave myself. I have had a lot on my mind lately and that has been preventing me from getting a lot of things done. I have not been as productive at work as I usually am and I am not really looking forward to tomorrow’s long run either. There are plenty of excuses to not go…I am not feeling all that great (no, it’s not COVID, just stress), the air quality is not much better than it was earlier in the week (although it’s not worse, which is something to be grateful for) and it is going to be really hot (temperatures are expected to be in the 100’s, but of course I could get up early to beat the heat).   But here is the thing about running (and pretty much everything else in life too): once we start, we are going to start feeling better. The first step is the hardest. In fact, getting dressed is really the hardest part. I usually lay out my clothes the night before so that if I manage to trick myself into getting up and getting dressed to run before my brain fully wakes up, I know there is a significantly greater probability I will actually do it. It is just like getting up and getting dressed to go to work…well, back in the days when we actually got dressed and left the house to go to work. And that brings me to an excellent example…have you noticed that it is harder to be productive in your pajamas or in yoga pants than when you are dressed “professionally” (whatever “professionally” means to you)? It is all about mindset. A button-down or collared shirt or uniform does not in and of itself make you more productive. But it sets the framework for your mind to think “it is time to work now”.

This is the mindset that prompted me to start the Finding Joy in Motion Program. Like that button-down collared shirt or uniform, it provides a framework to help you start and keep you moving. You definitely don’t have to run. You just have to show up for yourself in whatever way feels good to you. True, there are people in the program who run. But we also have hikers and walkers and aqua joggers. We even have a lady who jumps on her trampoline every day and another lady just got a new bike for her birthday! Finding Joy in Motion helps you develop a partnership with your body so that you two (you and your body!) can grow old together in BLISS!

It is not important how far you go, or how fast you go, or how you go (run, walk, bike, jump, it all counts!). What is important is that you show up for yourself. Just like you get out of bed every day (or almost every day! 😊), keep showing up for yourself.

If you would like to learn more about the Finding Joy in Motion Program. Click here.  A new session is starting on September 15th.    

Eating for Energy

This past Thursday I was fortunate to be able to join REI’s online webinar featuring Scott Jurek. Scott Jurek is a living running legend. Among his numerous accomplishments, he won the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run a record 7 times in a row. He set the U.S. record for the 24-hour distance run by completing 165.7 miles.  That is more than 6 marathons in one day!  And in 2015, he broke the Appalachian Trail through-hike speed record by completing the 2,168 mile journey in just over 46 days. I cannot even imagine what it takes to run for almost 7 consecutive weeks, but I do know it takes a lot of energy. So of course, people asked him what he eats to keep going.

As if all of Jurek’s accomplishments are not amazing enough, he did it all on a vegan diet. Jurek advocates plant-based eating for health and ethical/environmental reasons and credits his diet as the key to his athletic performance and recovery. If you would like to learn more about his diet, you can read his book, Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness. I just added it to my Audible wish list.

I am not saying that being vegan will make you a better athlete. I certainly doubt that being vegan would make me half as good of a runner as Scott Jurek. I probably would not be even one tenth as good! But one thing that he said during the webinar really stuck with me. He said he “eats lots and lots of carbs”. You may have noticed that carbs have been vilified over the past few years and have practically been labeled the “evil food”.  And yet Scott Jurek made a point of saying that runners just cannot get enough carbs from vegetables alone. And since he made this point, I thought I would share with you this article by certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach, Julia Malacoff:


8 Carb Myths Debunked by Registered Dietitians


While many people limit carbs (Think: keto or low-carb diets), they’re an essential macronutrient. Cutting back on carbs too drastically can lead to low energy levels and cause you to overeat. “There are many misconceptions about carbohydrates,” says Maria Sorbara Mora, RD.  In reality, carbs don’t need to be the bad guy. When you prioritize healthy, whole-food sources of carbs like whole-grain bread, brown rice and potatoes, you feel satiated thanks to the fiber content and possibly experience fewer cravings for sweets.  Nutrition pros outline the things they wish everyone knew about carbohydrates, debunking some major myths in the process:

MYTH 1: YOU CAN’T LOSE WEIGHT WHILE EATING CARBS

You’ve probably heard someone say they’re “cutting carbs” to lose weight. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. But registered dietitians want you to know it’s not the only way to lose weight. “It’s true that keto dieters, who drastically cut carbs, experience faster weight loss initially,” says Samantha Cassetty, RD. However, this may be due to water weight loss, and you might regain the weight once you give up the strict eating style. Ultimately, “studies show overall weight loss results from keto or low-carb diets match other, less restrictive plans.” What’s more, including carbs in weight-loss plans is often more sustainable. “Many of my clients have tried cutting carbs to lose weight, but they feel better and get more joy and satisfaction from eating when they include carbs in a healthy way,” says Cassetty. “That means mostly choosing the healthier, complex carbs and matching portion sizes to your needs.”

MYTH 2: CARBS CAUSE FAT GAIN

Another idea floating around — that carbohydrates are more easily stored as fat than the other two macronutrients, protein and fat — just isn’t true. Carbohydrates in their most broken-down form are sugar, which is extremely easy for the body to break down. “Before a cracker you eat has a chance to be swallowed, digestive enzymes in saliva have already begun the process of chemical breakdown,” says Mora. In fact, “because the molecular makeup of a carbohydrate is so easy to break down, they are needed most in the body as a primary fuel for the brain, muscles and practically every organ.”


If there are excess sugars in the body, three things can happen:

  1. Your body thinks it’s a waste of energy to create a storage site, so it increases its metabolic rate enough to burn them.
  2. They will be stored as glycogen in muscle tissue or the liver to be used for energy during exercise.
  3. Your body will begin the process of lipogenesis or fat storage.

“The third option is the most energy-consuming, so your body will not readily choose this option unless it has to,” Mora explains. This tends to happen when you’ve eaten significantly more food than your body can put to use. The bottom line — “it’s not so easy for your body to store a carbohydrate as fat. In fact, it’s pretty hard.”

MYTH 3: ALL CARBS ARE CREATED EQUAL

“A lot of people think of bread and pasta when they think of carbs, but [carbs] come in many forms, and some are more healthful than others,” says Cassetty. Often, when someone is “cutting carbs,” they really mean removing the aforementioned foods from their diet. “But pulses [beans, legumes and peas], yogurt and milk, fruit, veggies and whole grains all contain varying amounts of carbohydrate,” Cassetty points out. “While it’s a good idea to limit overly processed carbs such as white bread and desserts, studies link consumption of wholesome carbs with healthier and longer lives.”

MYTH 4: CUTTING CARBS MEANS YOU’LL BURN MORE FAT

Another common reason people cut carbs when trying to lose weight is the idea they’ll become “fat adapted” and burn more fat as a result. “It’s true your body can run on a mostly-fat diet. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re burning more body fat,” explains Liz Wyosnick, RD. “I want to reassure everyone the body is most often burning fat for fuel,” she says. “In gaps between meals, and during everyday activities, fat is being burned, and this process is actually more efficient if the cells have stored a little bit of fuel from carbohydrates, called glycogen.” If glucose (sugar) from carbohydrates is not available for this process, she adds, the body breaks down protein instead of fat to create it, which is inefficient. Thus, if you want to burn body fat, having at least some carbohydrates in your diet is ideal, from a physiological perspective.

MYTH 5: CARBS DON’T PLAY A ROLE IN GUT HEALTH

“Carbs are important because they help healthy gut bacteria thrive,” says Melissa Macher, RD. You’ve probably heard about the benefits of a healthy microbiome. “Good bacteria help keep our gastrointestinal tract healthy and act as an immune barrier to harmful bacteria that can make us ill,” explains Macher. Fiber, which is found in carbohydrates, plays a key role in feeding these gut bacteria. “Carbohydrates that can help feed our microbiome include whole grains, fruits, beans and vegetables.”

MYTH 6: YOU DON’T NEED CARBS PRE- AND POST-WORKOUT

Many of us prioritize eating protein around workouts to maximize muscle building. “It’s a mistake for people to focus only on protein to support their workouts or overall muscle integrity,” says Wyosnick. ”Proteins and carbohydrates work together to provide the muscle with fuel and the raw materials to rebuild and get stronger. If carbohydrates are skipped, you actually risk losing muscle mass or having poor recovery.”  In reality, it’s a good idea to consume some carbs before and after your workout (the specific timing and form ultimately depends on your goals), especially if you want to build muscle, she says. “Carbohydrates before a workout provide fast, usable energy demanded by your moving muscles and carbohydrates after provide the fuel source for muscle-rebuilding.”

MYTH 7: PROCESSED CARBS ARE ADDICTIVE

If you’ve ever wondered whether you’re addicted to sugar or pasta, you’re not alone. But the idea these foods are physically addictive is nonsense, says Kerry Fannon McCarthy, RD. “There are physical, emotional and behavioral reasons we eat,” she explains. “As a society, our thinking is very all-or-nothing. We label foods as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. We also like to rebel as humans. If we tell ourselves a particular food we like is off-limits and bad, we may not purchase it.” There’s just one problem: When we inevitably encounter these foods at events, restaurants or on takeout menus, we start to feel out of control. That leads us to assume we are “addicted” and can’t be trusted around these foods.  “This is not because of something in the food itself,” McCarthy explains. “Rather, it’s about the power we have given our thoughts about the food.” If you feel this way about carbs, McCarthy recommends looking into a process called habituation, which is often referred to in intuitive eating. Essentially: Make foods you’re hung up on available in your house, and don’t avoid them in social situations. Instead, aim to enjoy everything in moderation. “When we have these foods around, we know they’re there if we want them. That decreases the all-or-nothing thinking.”

MYTH 8: CARBS AREN’T GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

The truth is carbs are good for your health in ways you might not expect. Long-term health outcomes in people who eat carbs are quite favorable Macher points out. “Complex carbs play an essential role in heart health and diabetes. The fiber found in carbs has a positive effect on cholesterol, and helps regulate blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julia Malacoff
Julia (@jmalacoff) is a seasoned writer and editor who focuses on fitness, nutrition, and health. She’s also a certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach. Based in Amsterdam, she bikes every day and travels around the world in search of tough sweat sessions and the best vegetarian fare.