Athletes Corner: Julia Webb (runner, mother, wife, coach)

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I am very pleased to present a second person in my series of inspiring women. Julia Webb wears many hats, she is an accomplished runner, mother to Joanie, wife to Alan Webb (American record holder in the mile), and running coach. I first saw her pictures with hilarious captions on there Instagram account (@runteamwebb) and then read her blog posts on her website which center on topics such as exercise, nutrition, pregnancy and much more. I love how sincere Julia describes the ups and downs of being an active mom, before, during and post pregnancy. In the interview below, you can read more in-depth what her thoughts are on making time for exercise, fueling during pregnancy, scheduling a busy day and keeping motivation high even on days that feel 'off'. After speaking to Jessica in the last interviews, Julia is another example of how amazingly women deal with the added responsibilities of motherhood and how the physical demands of pregnancy can sometimes make you a stronger athlete postpartum. Thank you, Julia! 

How did you become a runner and what is your favorite distance?

I started running as a last resort to participating in a sport as a senior in high school. I never thought i’d ever become a “runner” as I saw it as boring, unathletic and something my mom likes to do. (she was never competitive, but always jogging throughout my childhood- my dad the stud basketball player and good at any sport he tried was my role model). My first “race” my mom successfully convinced me to run in was a local 5K the weekend before school started in fall 2000. Wearing a baggy sweatshirt, basketball shoes and no warm up, I got 2nd (21:15) to a coach who asked who I ran for. I explained this might have been my first 3 miles ever run in a row. My previous training was all geared toward basketball - lots of time on the court, regular time in the weight room and the occasional mile on the treadmill or around the school block to warm up for my lift. I had a miserable experience my sophomore and junior years playing basketball -despite my love for the sport and strong dedication, I had some major clashing with the coaches and lacked the power to be on our starting line up. We were a powerhouse but I didn’t have what it took, along with my lack of confidence, spiralling me into depression. I decided to quit before senior year but was desperately seeking a new athletic opportunity.

After the race, I decided to show up for cross country practice. My first day I was amazed at how fun and easy the 5 mile run went by. A few weeks later at my first race, I put all my frustration from my basketball days into that competition, proving that I was good at something and gutted out a 7th place finish at a big invite. In complete agony, dying the final straight when everyone was kicking it in.. I ran a 15:40 4K time, beating my teammates by over 2 minutes. I found my sport. Something I was good at. I had never experienced anything to that degree, the nerves, pushing through the pain, being in complete control of my result. All I had to do was run hard and get from start to finish and the post-race high made it all worth the mid-race struggle. Not only the races, but the miles our team put into practice was the highlight of my day. From there I went on to run in college and have never lost my passion for the sport 15 years later. My favorite distance remains the 3000m steeplechase on the track. I love that its not as brutally long as a 5K on the track, but just 10 minutes of grinding and pain. The barriers add another challenge that favour my long legs and remind me of cross country, my second favourite event. I was fortunate to run it my freshman year (at UW-La Crosse)and with some great guidance in early steeple drill training, I was able to place 3rd at the national meet with a PR of 10:50. I finished 1st and 3rd, three more times at NCAAs and ended my college career with a 10:22 PR. Post collegiately I’ve run at three USATF Outdoor Championships (including a top 10 finish), a PR of 9:55 set when my daughter was 10 months old. I can’t wait to race it again, with my goal being- get on the 2016 Olympic Trials starting line with a 9 month old (currently pregnant).

Julia Alan Webb
Julia Alan Webb

You race quite a bit and not even a pregnancy (or two) can stop you? What is special about racing vs “just running to stay fit"?

I am addicted to racing! Some people like to go out with friends, others go out and dance... I get my high from racing! You can’t duplicate the energy and adrenaline the race environment provides. No matter what stage of fitness I am in (or condition - as in being pregnant), I don’t shy away from opportunities. I love testing to see where I’m at, using a competitive setting to push me to get the best out of myself. If I just ran to stay fit, I would definitely get bored fast. I need to mix up my training every 2-3 days with some form of speedwork. If I’m not sore a couple times a week, I better have a good reason! While I’m at it, why not reap the rewards of your fitness by doing a race.

You are also a mother, wife and coach. Could you walk us through a day in the life?

There are two versions of what’s normal in my current life - when my husband Alan is traveling and when he is home. It can be as much as 50/50 being a single mom (although, we try to travel some too when convenient). Currently I’m in the middle of a 6 week stretch when Alan is overseas training and competing in triathlon. Here’s a normal week day - 6:00 wake up , light breakfast, check emails, etc 6:45 2.5 year old Joanie yells “I up! I up! I up!” - the only baby phrase she has not dropped out of habit from when she first learned to talk 7:30 drop off Joanie at her “school” - 3 days a week has part time care 7:45 - Run / follow up w/ core/strength 2-3x a week. Once during weekday do quality workout. 9:00-12:15 - follow up emails, coaching, etc… and eat :) 12:30 - pick up Joanie 1:00-3:00 naps for Joanie, I usually crash for an hour (only have been since pregnancy started, since 2nd trimester just began, feeling less the need for the nap!). Clean house, chores, more time on computer 3:30 snacks w/ Joanie and play or grocery shop- lately been swimming in our pool every afternoon, core/yoga session w/ Joanie if i skipped in AM. 5:30 cook dinner, eat 7:30 start bedtime routine for Joanie (bath, stories, jump around and sing) 8:30 - bed time for Joanie 8:45 - catch ⅙ of a movie I’ve started on netflix, call Alan 9:30 - bedtime

On days she is at home, I will either run with Joanie in the stroller, head to the gym for the treadmill/bike/pool (and utilize their childcare) or occasionally get up before dawn while its cool to run 1000m loops around our gated apartment complex with her monitor audible outside our apartment. If she wakes up mid-run, will let her watch a show in her crib while i finish up or drag the stroller out.

Julia Webb planking
Julia Webb planking

You choose to keep a running and fitness regimen that puts many of us to shame. How do you (re)fuel and do you use nutritional supplements?

I definitely take advantage of eating lots of calories! Especially during pregnancy, I feel like I can burn through anything, but have to be careful not to have a massive meal at once or I get severe indigestion. So my go-to strategy has been to have something light before an early morning run (lately just started trying the product UCAN - a form of carbs/energy that should sustain me through a run - but typically I am starving 20 minutes in if that’s all I used, so have been adding a half energy bar = favorite is regular old Powerbar vanilla/chocolate or a GU as well). I always have a little coffee pre-run (no more than a shot worth of espresso now that I’m pregnant). Since its so warm here in Arizona, I have been running w a water bottle/sometimes with NUUN added, carry it a mile into the run, drop it in the bushes to access at some point. I can’t stand having a water belt. I stash candy or GU in my shorts for any carb needing emergencies :)

Post run hydration is key with an immediate source of carbs/light protein. (apple and rest of my energy bar for example) to tie me over while I make breakfast.

Breakfast - my favorite meal of the day - usually a massive bowl of oatmeal made with milk, with berries, bananas and nut butter added as a dipping sauce. Lunch - varies (and have food on my mind w/ different cravings all the time being pregnant) - fruit, either sandwich, salad, chips ; or pasta/salad or burrito ... Snack - fruit, dark chocolate, nuts or small bar Dinner - varies - tons of veggies, more fruit, rice/pasta/potato base and meat - (beef, chicken, fish, pork…) - typically take my prenatal or Proferrin iron supplement. Favorite cusine - thai food!!! Snack - cereal w/ milk

Julia Webb Nike Track
Julia Webb Nike Track

If you don’t mind me asking, how much weight did you gain in your first pregnancy and what was it like during and then getting back in shape?

Initially in my pregnancy I gained a good 8 lbs my first trimester and up to a total of 25 lbs by the end of my second (started at same weight I was before second pregnancy). However, due to severe indigestion and extreme discomfort when I ate to any level of fullness, I gained 0 lbs during my 3rd trimester. Obviously the baby continued to grow, but I must have lost some body fat. She weighed 7 lbs, 15 oz, completely healthy, although my midwife had me checked a few times because I was “measuring small”. Getting back in shape postpartum was not much of an issue. When Joanie was one month old I was back to looking “normal” for me. I held onto 10 pounds for at least 2.5 months, but then I went through a very stressfu l cross country moving experience, and baby Joanie picked up some severe collic which made my life very difficult w/ lack of sleep and digestion issues-- from month 3-6 I dropped an additional 18 lbs (was at lightest post high school weight ever- while continuing to breast feed) - all due to stress. I was also very frustrated with a debilitating hip injury I sustained during the beginning of my 2nd trimester, still not healed and it had been going on for over 9 months, where I was unable to run without pain. I realized how unhealthy my weight was after friends began to comment, and got myself back into eating more and thankfully got some support in helping Joanie out. I got back to my former go-to race weight of 125lbs. By 6 months, with some physical therapy I was able to run painfree and got back into fitness very fast with the help of my coach. Only 3 months in of regular run training and intense workouts, I was back to PR shape, only to eventually be even better - with a  more relaxed race day attitude, an even greater level of toughness my natural childbird experience taught me, elevated blood levels from the pregnancy. So, during my 8th season competiting at in the steeplechase, I dropped 20 seconds off my PR and also a good 10 seconds with only one attempt at the 1500m.

Julia Webb pregnant
Julia Webb pregnant

Do you work out with a team or coach? If not how do you stay motivated day in and day out?

Currently I am living in Arizona due to my husband’s triathlon training group, so at the moment I have been doing 90% of my runs/workouts solo. I don’t mind that I have complete control of what I’m doing now that I’m pregnant - so I can really read my body and not be tempted to go too hard to keep up with someone. In Beaverton, Oregon (our home), I typically meet up with teammates/friends at least 3-4 times a week, typically at Nike headquarters right by my house. Two of those sessions include hard workouts. I run for Bowerman Track Club and work part time as a run coach at Nike campus Sports Center when I’m back in Oregon. If it wasn’t for my teammates (Kristen Rohde, Karlee Coffee, Anna Connor) and my coach Jon Marcus - I would NEVER be able to reach my potential and push myself to the degree that I do during these sessions. I have been trying to really grasp the concept of recovery and backing off big time on my easy days. If I’m not fully rested going into harder sessions, I will be dropped in an instant. My motivation rarely ever wanes, I love being an athlete and constantly testing my limits, with my only desire to reach a higher level so I can justify living my life the way I do :) My husband is the true professional athlete in the family, so I always ensure that my needs are second to support him first. Until I have the opportunity to make any money in the sport, I will continue to see it as a hobby.

What physical activities do you do on *gasp* rest days?

Typically reserve the rest days for spending energy in the sun or playing with Joanie. I definitely try to move around on those days so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The worst thing to do is sit inside all day if you’re “resting”. I try to pretend I’m a normal mom who doesn’t like working out. I try to remember to save the energy for the next day. Typically I take a full day off every 2-3 weeks. Getting a massage is also a great way to splurge on a day off.

What is your favourite indulgence (food or other things)?

Running :) obviously.. but outside of that, I LOVE coffee. Thankfully with pregnancy and living in a hot dry climate, my cravings have dramatically dropped, but still look forward to a daily cup of pour-over or coffee shop Americano. With pregnancy I’ll make a full strength cup but rarely drink more than 6 oz of it.

Have you had to overcome (running related) injuries? How did you do it?

Yes. Aside from a month long hip injury I sustained during over-stretching in a yoga pose during track season in college, I have had one serious injury to date and it was during my last pregnancy. It was probably one of the toughest things mentally I’ve had to deal with. I was running some pretty quick workouts feeling very strong and getting respectable race times in my first trimester of pregnancy #1 until I started noticing my right hip started aching right when my belly first started growing. I ignored it, thinking “I get aches and pains all the time, but this couldn’t be anything serious”. Ignoring it and running through it proved to be a terrible decision. Despite stopping all run activity, the pain worsened as the pregnancy went on. It took 6 full months postpartum to be pain free. I got all kinds of wrong answers during pregnancy, with doctors suspecting a stress fracture, etc.. I only realized post pregnancy it had to be a ligament or possibly a labral tear in my hip. Back in Portland after 3 months of no successful healing, I got exercises from my coach and saw a local physical therapy place for rehab and eventually it cleared up as I resumed training.

What advice would you give someone who is a running novice or looking to get fit later in life and particularly if they are mothers with a set of responsibilities, tight schedules etc.?

Create a time to workout in your calendar. No excuses as if you have to attend, block out the hour each day! My saving grace has been joining a gym with a childcare option. I have up to 2 hours to workout/shower for a very reasonable rate. Get support from your spouse, and if they are gone, find other moms who could possibly swap care to workout. Get a jogging stroller! Also another savior and offering me complete freedom to workout when I am without my husband. Starting as early as 3 weeks you can run with your baby (forward facing attachment) and weather conditions don’t apply (I’ve ran in torrential downpours - with Joanie nice and cozy under the rain cover, to negative temperatures (bundled up nice and cozy again!) . There are no excuses. If you work full time, run during your lunch hour or get up an hour earlier to fit it in first thing in morning (with coffee ready to be made, clothes laid out). Find a local running group that meets regularly to find same-level training partners and new workout friends. Sign up for a race to keep you motivated in training!

Julia Webb Alexi Pappas
Julia Webb Alexi Pappas

How would you describe the emotional benefits of running, given that it is a sport that comes with a lot of highs and lows over time…

Aside from my year long injury, I have experienced much more of the upside on emotional benefits! Yes there are days which turn into complete disappointments, you just feel plain terrible, or go through a funk where you don’t want to get out there or complete the workout. But I always try to push through those bad times, knowing they will all be worth it. In my first trimester just recently, I felt absolutely terrible on most “easy runs”, especially if I didn’t get out when it was under 70 degrees in the desert sun . I would frequently look at the side of the trail and think, "wow that looks like a great place to lay down" and just have runs when I couldn’t wait to finish. But each of those runs, when I did finish, I would be so thankful I got it done, because my trusty runners high would set in, and make me feel I could take on anything the rest of the day (with a nap of course!). I am so thankful for this sport, but try to keep my perspective that it is a gift and can easily be taken away. I try not to get carried away in making it my all, and see my faith in God, family and overall health as #1.

Quick questions:

Athlete crush? Alan Webb - up and coming triathlete… American record holder in the mile ;)

Trail or Road? Trail! Have never done an official trail race, on my to-do list

Long runs or Speed Work? A combo of both - get the best of both worlds - I rarely do straight up long runs. Often my weekend long run is part of a grinding interval session!

Garmin or carefree? I have only run with a Garmin once during Hood to Coast and got made fun of by my old school coach. I prefer coaching athletes with a Garmin though, so i have a better sense of measure.

Solo or with company? With company!! I really miss my Oregon training partners !!

Summer Bean Salad

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Last week one of our friends couldn't pick up his CSA share and so he generously gave it too us! But as I was scratching my head over bok choy, lettuce, scallions and wax beans, it took a bit of creativity to make this summer bean salad. But it came out deliciously and the hubby almost polished off the whole thing by himself. You will need, one can of cannelini beans, 3/4-1 lb of wax beans, half bunch of red scallions, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of EVOO, 2 tsp sugar or other sweetener, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 cups of lettuce.

If you have trouble with a bloated stomach when you eat raw onions, dice the scallions and put them in cold water for 10 mins. Meanwhile mix the vinegar with sugar and salt. Then add the onions and cannelini beans.

Bring a pot of slightly salted water to a boil, add the wax beans (trimmed and cut into inch size pieces), boil them for approximately 5 minutes, then drain under cold water.

Add the waxed beans to the rest of the salad, wash the lettuce and spin it before adding it to the bean salad. Season with salt and pepper.

You will probably want to start eating right away but if you can let it stand for up to 1hr so the dressing can permeate everything.

Vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, not paleo!

Enjoy!

Healing and a New Moon

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2014 is charging ahead. It is supposed to be ripe with opportunity and to favour the quick thinkers and decision makers. It is also full of new moons already! In less than three days, we will have a new moon again, the third one this year. This new moon will be in Pisces. I won't attempt to give you an astrological or mystical breakdown of what awaits, but I have come to appreciate new moons as mini new beginnings so I will do the same with this one. Also, the topic of healing came up (my husband compared me to Chiron... I'll write a separate post on that, ha!). As you may know, I suffered from sciatica for three years. It was excruciatingly painful and had absolutely no physical source (at least initially). I talked to a few new mothers this week and some of them told me about their experiences with lower back issues and also sciatica. Sciatica just like many other ailments and pains, usually stems from imbalance, emotional or physical. We can treat the symptoms but until we attack the root cause, the problem will keep returning. It took me another 2 years to get to the root and work on eliminating it and therefore reducing the pain and it took some pretty big changes in attitude and behavioural patterns. I was able to heal with a lot of support from others but mainly because I sought and went after more balance in my life.

Now this new moon on March 1st is in Pisces and asking for a closer look at some of our patterns, it is supposed to set a tone for pause and reflection while we consider where our energy has become totally out of balance.

There it is again: balance. The word pops up a lot. We talk about work-life balance, mind-body balance, balancing acts, balanced meals, the balance of power, standing balances and being well-balanced mentally.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

Balance is such an integrative part of our vocabulary but still, we rarely achieve it in our life. This upcoming new moon wants to remind us how to do it. It asks us to tune inward and listen. To pay attention to our dreams. To flow and be connected. To merge and take a break from mundane activities. My interpretation and what I'm intending to do (especially since it's coming on the weekend) is the following:

  • Seeing people that I don't often see and miss (!). I started today with a lovely lunch and it made me happy.
  • Engaging in activities that I love and that allow me to reflect. I will probably go for a run.
  • Taking some me time.
  • Trying to refrain from being impatient for x amount of hours per day. With others AND myself.
  • Preparing and savouring nourishing food. And ideally sharing it in lovely company.
  • Resting and taking a moment in the morning to reflect on my dreams.
  • Beginning or ending the day reminding myself of what I'm grateful for (and writing it down).
  • Writing down my dreams for the future as a way of manifesting them / announcing them to the Universe.

I can't believe we are almost in March. Three weeks and change until Spring. Could it be true?

Let me know what you will be doing for the new moon or what you have done to heal after a difficult emotional or physical setback.

I would love to hear from you!

xxR

How to resist temptation

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Has the weather in the Northeast worn you down yet? The US and Canada started 2014 off with freezing temperatures and polar vortexes that kept us in their grip for a solid 3 weeks. Now that we learned how to bundle up for all occasions, we get more snow and more to come. We have had colder weather than the arctic, big snow falls, sleet, freezing rain and then some. Usually our response to this weather is to turn to comfort. More precisely comfort food.

For some it is the hot chocolate, for others, savoury dishes that seem too heavy in the summer but now hold a certain allure. We drink more and vegetables take a lot more preparation to make them hot and comforting, so they can land on the back burner.

I'm no stranger to the effect that gravy, creamy dishes and sauces, roasts, pies and other sweets hold in the winter. Exercising in the cold weather is harder too, so is motivating ourselves to even consider it when there are only limited hours of daylight.

BUT: here is how to resist temptation with a few shifts in your mindset.

  1. KISS: keep it simple, skinny! I talk about routine a lot and it is true. The more your mind and body know what is coming (or not) the more reliably they will keep you on track. For example, if you eat a wholesome healthy warm dish of oatmeal in the morning on six days out of seven, then you will be less tempted to grab a quick muffin, egg sandwich or croissant on your way to work. The same goes for exercise. If you plan certain classes ahead and pack your bag, you're sort of forced to go.
  2. KO the sugar! I'm not saying you have to quit sugar all together. Although, it is certainly healthier. But if you start paying attention to white sugar in foods that is hidden, that is half the battle won. The simple carbohydrates don't do much more for your body than providing it with quick energy. We all have enough stored in our bodies to provide the body with that. The other problem is that while your body is busy digesting the carbs, other components of your food, proteins and fat, are being stored. Try and find alternatives, like honey or grab a piece of fruit before eating the chocolate bar.
  3. REM: Rest.Eat.Me(ditate)-Time! Not in that order but you get what I mean. Sleep is important in combating temptation and resisting it. I'm a compulsive snacker especially under stress. And I don't usually reach for an apple. When you get enough sleep and eat your last meal long enough before going to bed and then supplement that with 15 minutes of quality time for reflecting, the chances are that you will be less frazzled and make healthier choices.
  4. DIY: do it yourself i.e. cook! We all lead VERY stressful, busy lives but especially in the winter, our choices for takeout can be dumb. When we prepare our own food, we know exactly what goes in it. It's a beautiful thing to cook, to savour the aroma of dishes, to share it with partners and friends and it prolonges the process of enjoying it, too. If you live alone, cook and then freeze things or have regular potluck lunches with colleagues so you can sample some of their food.
  5. Check your MO: as in moderation, as in fallback plan! We can't always resist temptation but we can limit the amount of indulgences that we give in to. The easiest is to not keep too many unhealthy food options around the house. Or have them in individual packs. When the urge is big, make it a ritual that you enjoy. Reward yourself, have a great experience and then move on with your day and week. For example, have one row of a chocolate bar, have a few spoons of ice-cream, eat a slice of pizza and please spare yourself the guilt afterwards. This may just be my humble opinion, but I'm pretty sure guilt will make you fat ;)

Now, all these tricks are for when you are at home. But we are no hermits. Whenever you are out in public and temptation arises, remind yourself of the awesome things that you have in store for yourself at home. When you go to a party, try and keep normal meal portions in mind, then increase them by a little because it's a special occasion but keep paying attention if you start to feel sluggish, heavy, bloated or tippsy. Chances are that is just the prelude of how much worse you'll feel the next morning...

I hope you find these tips helpful. Let me know in the comments how you resist temptation. Pass on this article if you liked it and come on over to Facebook and like my page.

Have a wonderful rest of your week!

xxR

Postpartum Exercise after C-Section

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*** Please note that this article lists general recommendations that can never substitute your doctor's or other healthcare provider's opinion. Please make sure to obtain their clearance before engaging in any exercise or strenuous activity. *** The woman in the picture had her second baby 2.5 months ago. She also had a particularly difficult time after what was planned as a routine C-section. Recovery was much longer than the 6 weeks that doctor's often list as a good amount of time for women to wait before engaging in postpartum exercise after a c-section. But she braved it impressively and now only another 8 weeks later we did a first postpartum session since her daughter was born.

Before her c-section we trained 2- 3 times per week up until a few weeks before the birth and well into the third trimester, with a belly that was creating discomfort and even pain - when her pelvis sunk on one side and was pressing on the sciatic nerve and caused the leg to swell up with extra blood.

One thing that she kept saying throughout was that exercise (that was always tailored to her daily form, trimester and became less intense as the pregnancy progressed) had multiple emotional and psychological benefits for her. It eased the tension on one leg, it alleviated back pain caused by the weight gain and it always left her less tired after, than she had been before. Plus with a big smile on her face.

This particular example has taught me, as a health and fitness provider, 5 very important things about how to approach postpartum exercise after a C-section:

  1. I can't stress it enough: the exercise before birth has incredibly beneficial effects on the exercise after. Women who stay active before a c-section, recover faster and once they go back to working out, their body remembers and can re-enter on a higher fitness level as well as motivational level than if the last workout was over 9 months ago.
  2. After having an open wound, jumping into exercising too quickly will do you no good. Just like exercise is being tapered down with each trimester, you have to build up again, too. Athletes reduce their amounts of workouts before a big event and afterwards they take a break and then ease into it again. You have nothing to prove to anyone and the added stress of caring for a newborn will most likely have you running around as is.
  3. I like to create programs that focus on body areas that were under a lot of stress during the pregnancy before zeroing in on the core. I know all women want is to get a flat stomach and their core strength back but there are other areas that have had a lot of work to do and continue to, such as the arms, back, legs and hips. Focusing on these areas first, can give the stomach some more rest but works the cardio-vascular system and speeds up the metabolism.
  4. Partner exercises are a great thing to do both for strength workouts as well as relaxation and stretching. If you have had a long day and didn't make it to yoga or didn't have time to fit in a workout, take 20 minutes in the evening with your partner. Once the baby is asleep, you can challenge each other to some partner squats, some plank high fives and finish up in a partner stretch such as this one:postpartum exercise after c-section
  5. Relax: after a c-section you are healing from a big operation. On top of being tired, getting less sleep than before, your body has to heal multiple layers of tissue. For that, it needs time and especially recovery time. Make exercise part of your day in walks, taking stairs, and playing with your baby. If you can, take a few minutes a day to sit still, have me-time, meditate, enjoy a cup of tea, reflect, journal or day dream. It will give you so much more strength to deal with everything else that is happening around you, including exercise.

I wish you well.

xxR

Baked Rolled Oats - Pecans & Blueberry

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Just tell me in the comments if you are already over my rolled oats recipes? But these are baked rolled oats! As you may have gathered by now, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, closely followed by lunch/ brunch. I'm not that crazy about dinner, because big meals usually make me very sleepy. I'm known for falling asleep on my friends' couches after dinner parties. Not my proudest moments. But also occupational hazard, I may add.

This dish will be done in 45 minutes and you can eat it for the next few days.

You will need 2 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of almond milk, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of melted butter or ghee, 1-2 cups of pecans chopped and 1-2 cups of frozen blueberries and 2 bananas. Maple syrup is optional.

Butter a medium sized baking dish and line the bottom of it with bananas. In one bowl mix the oats, half of the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add the almond milk, maple syrup and the butter.

Sprinkle 2/3 of the blueberries over the bananas, then evenly coat with the oat mixture. Pour the liquid ingredients on top and give it a little shake to make sure the milk runs in between the oats. Sprinkle the remaining pecans and the blueberries on top.

Bake the dish at 375 F for approximately 40 minutes, enjoy the beautiful smell and then devour!

Let me know if you like it!

xxR

PS: The beautiful serving spoon was a gift from my in-laws. I love the South African designer Carrol Boyes.

 

 

***Recipe adapted from http://www.lottieanddoof.com/2011/04/baked-oatmeal/

How to overcome Fear

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Fear... we all have it. Some of us are more inclined to discuss fear (publicly) than others but we all want to know how to overcome it. When I say fear, I include phobias and anxiety, that dreaded feeling that makes us lose control and stops us from thinking clearly. I recently saw the photos in this article mentioned by and featuring Kathryn Budig (renowned yoga teacher) that shows people with writings on them that describe their fears and insecurities. Steve Rosenfield’s “What I Be Project” depicts his friends and famous people in a very vulnerable way and there is a beauty to it.

We live in a society where being strong dominates, so does being fast and successful, beautiful and confident. But the real strength, in my opinion, lies in showing people our vulnerabilities and owning them. In most cases, talking about them already relieves a burden and most people will probably offer a helping hand to help us overcome our fear.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to be more confident in front of a lens. Photo or video, particularly when I'm not moving but telling a story. And I do hope to share videos with you on topics around exercise, food, mood, motivation and body image. So look out for them.

In order to get there, I believe 5 things will help me:

  1. Just doing it: it's like that old band aid as a child. The quicker you pull it off the easier and less painful it is. Just doing it means trying it and not judging yourself. There really is nothing bad that will happen.
  2. Support from friends and family: as I mentioned above, talking about fear and anxiety is a first step to releasing some of the tension. Most people probably relate and will be more willing to come forward with theirs. Then, when the situation arises, make sure you have one of them by your side to squeeze your hand and tell you you're doing great!
  3. Practicing: make it a regular thing. When I started teaching classes, my heart was thumping and I was sure everyone could hear my voice trembling. With several classes a week, I am still a bit nervous at the start especially when new people are there but I can focus on other things more now. I talk to people, listen to their stories, laugh with them, because it's a routine now, the anxiety has made space for nicer things to focus on!
  4. Breathing: in most yoga classes you start with deep breathing. I start my class with the same. Breathing and releasing the tension in your abdomen from holding it in is super important. The deep inhales lift your chest up and make you feel powerful, the long exhales release anxiety and help you drop the shoulders which are probably up by your ears. Inhale tranquility - exhale anxiety.
  5. Being kind to myself: I am my biggest critic and I'll second-guess even if friends tell me it was good. So in this New Year's resolution, I also need to stop that. Being kind to ourselves means being accepting. Something we gladly extend to good friends. Being accepting of our own imperfections and the fact that everything is a process, is a major step to being more relaxed about our fears.

There... if I can do it, you can do it! Whether you get nervous about public speaking, fear flying, get anxious in new situations, I hope those five steps help you.

Let me know in the comments if you use some of these techniques and in general how YOU overcome fear! The sky's the limit - I dare you to embrace it!

xxR

PS: I'm afraid of heights, too. Hence the photo!

 

12 Strategies to have a great new Year 2014!

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At the end of the last year, I spent a few weeks in Australia. Now the sudden drop in temperature from 34 C to 34 F plus jetlag has tested my body's resilience to stress and attacks on its immune system. I'm slowly acclimatizing and relaxed and recharged I wanted to share my go to list with you for a great new year 2014.

  1. Start anywhere: Around the New Year, we often get bogged down in expectations and resolutions lists. I say, don't get overwhelmed on New Year's Day by the gazillion things you feel you need to accomplish right away. Most likely you'll be tired after celebrating. So start anywhere... have a healthy late breakfast, do some yoga or go for a leisurely run. There are still 364 days in the year to come.
  2. Make a plan: They say slim people usually eat in a pretty boring way. It keeps your diet simple and less room for too much over-thinking (i.e. cravings, etc.). This doesn't mean that you should eat the same thing every day. But eating at set meal times, and keeping meal sizes the same from day to day along with keeping healthy staples at hand and a healthy exercise routine, will change the way you look and feel.
  3. When in doubt, meditate: Meditation can be done in many different ways, IMHO. Its health benefits are undisputed and clearing one's head is generally a good idea. Whether you have a set time and place each day to sit and breathe or if you swim/ run whilst solving the world's problems, find that me time and focus inward.
  4. Don't restrict yourself: On MBG's recent list of wellness trends to watch in 2014 they mentioned that the strict view on gluten, alcohol and other ingredients of life would probably loosen up! Amen! I think healthy eating is very individual and needs a lot of experimenting. There is no one-size-fits-all. Ultimately you have to be mindful of the quality of the things you bring into your life. Whether they are food groups or relationships.
  5. Foster healthy relationships: I have dealt with deceptive people and it wasn't nice. It was also very hard to break free. However each one of these relationships has taught me something... Now my gut usually tells me early on what to do. We are overwhelmed with the amount of people and information that we are surrounded by. Pick and choose and make sure you spend quality time with the people who add the most (love) to your life.
  6. Read and Write: This is a petpeeve of mine, but seriously. Have you recently read a book? Not just an article online, a buzzfeed post linked on Facebook? Have you picked up a pen and written a thoughtful note, a letter or postcard? Maybe in the future, we won't need to anymore, however I would rather receive a love letter than an email. And smelling a book still excites me more than a kindle... Just sayin'.
  7. Spend time in nature: Yes, the local park counts. But try and be mindful of the time you spend there. Even in the winter, you can go for a walk. A friend of mine suggested hiking with our dogs in the summer. Time flew by and the landscape was breathtaking... and literally breathless, we got good exercise in, too. Nature's beauty gives us a different perspective on urban life, with its wide unpopulated areas which is very calming.
  8. Act in a respectful manner: Listen rather than speak, hold the door for someone, sit down for a meal and leave the phone in your bag. Manners have changed, there are a lot of things we would need to add to classic etiquette with subway seats and cell phones on tables. But the underlying sentiment is still the same. Make things easier for someone else, listen to them and make them feel appreciated and it will come back tenfold.
  9. Look forward not back: I am the queen of what-ifs, shoulda, coulda, woulda and regrets. It's a hard thing to shake. However, what's done is done. If you have hurt someone and are aware of it, apologize and make amends. However if all the looking back is about life choices, STOP! Nobody's perfect. Nobody's expected to be... You can make better mistakes tomorrow :)
  10. Listen to music: Regardless of what kind of music you like but it will usually have some effect on you. When you are tired, it can wake you up, music will push you through a run or other exercise, soothing music will help you release sadness or anger. Classical music may help you study or work. Go on now, switch on that radio, iTunes or Spotify and enjoy.
  11. Stop fretting about the future: Again, check no. 9... I am learning to live and be present. To lay the groundwork for things to happen but not forcing them to. I am learning to let the best outcome come to me, whether that is what I expected or not and accept it. It is hard and it takes time. And I won't always know why a disappointing outcome may not have been good for me if reversed... But the things that come in its place are looking to be pretty good!
  12. Go mirror-less: Have you noticed that when you go away on a vacation, you can probably go for a full day without really looking in the mirror? Well if you don't do that, try it! I'm sure you can do your morning routine and then resist looking in the mirror and checking on your appearance too often. It feels good! Trust that you look good, feel what your body needs (hand cream, lipbalm, a glass of water) and stay away from the selfies for a few hours...

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2014! xxR

Yoga Happiness

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Does yoga bring happiness? For the longest time I was mainly a runner. I was a passionate fencer for many years and I love show jumping on horseback. And then not too long ago I threw yoga into the mix. My husband who has been practicing for decades promised me that if I stuck with it past the point in which downward dog would actually become a relaxing pose, I wouldn't regret it. He is a wise man, my husband :) I can't think of a better way to stretch out after a long run or to start other days building heat in my body (especially in this weather), than through yoga. It has helped me deal with anxiety, makes my skin looks rosy (say my friends) and it is a perfect way for me to end each of my classes and sessions with people that I work with.

Yoga makes me happy. It is the balance to my running. It has helped me trust in things instead of wanting to control them.

Balance + Trust = Happiness

Let me know if you agree or how yoga has helped you, below in the comments!

xxR

Pre and Postnatal Fitness

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Pre and Postnatal Fitness is a topic that - when googled - shows varying results of very gentle movement with a lot of breath work. On the other hand there are professional athletes such as Kerri Walsh (who I am a HUGE fan of) who competed in and won the Olympics during her early stages of pregnancy and her open way of discussing it, earned her quite a bit of criticism. One of the first people that I started working with earlier this year was 4 months pregnant when we started and she stopped 2 weeks before her due date. Over the course of 4-5 months, we worked out up to 3 times a week, always according to how she felt, early in her pregnancy we did some running and later on we kept her heart rate up with fast walks with weights in hand. Each session included yoga and that portion increased over time. Every so often she would join my group workout in which the exercises often involved working with other expectant moms. Because I saw her so much, I got a really good glimpse into how the body changes, the mood changes and the muscoskeletal disposition can be affected by pregnancy. It was fascinating.

Mood wise, there were days when the feeling of heaviness and sciatic pain made her consider not working out but after a few times during which we saw the positive effects of gentle exercise on her mood, it usually took only the first minutes and a fun anecdote of my work week to get her spirits up and by the end of the session she would feel much better than before. Regarding the changes of her body, because she carried a girl, she said the felt different than carrying a boy the first time around: heavier around the hips (I'm looking forward to reading some comments from mothers whether they agree or disagree) and an earlier onset of more weight. Towards the end of her pregnancy we were presented with a different problem. Her pelvis had shifted to one side so now it was pressing on the veins that ran down her leg, causing it to swell to almost an inch more in diameter than the other. Her doctor ran tests to see if it was dangerous and it wasn't but we did an increased number of exercises to stabilize the pelvis (like in this video) and luckily the imbalance subsided immediately after the birth.

This pregnant woman and others have shown me a wide range of fitness levels and motivation. Regardless of what they are they are usually accompanied by a high level of insecurity of what to do and what to avoid. The safest bet is to take advantage of the many prenatal yoga classes that exist now. But there are many other exercise forms that are safe for women to do during and after pregnancy. So in my approach I have focused the first part of the class on getting the women's heart rate up, through walking, slow running, cardio exercises with resistance bands and in some instances light boxing work (it is intensely gratifying to punch those boxing mitts and it is stationary so there is no jumping or running involved). The second part of my workout includes strength. Usually it's focused on the main weight bearing areas such as the hips and legs. But a pregnant woman also wants to maintain a beautiful appearance which is why toning the legs, glutes and arms and shoulders is an essential component too. I do some core work but often the yoga with which I end the session, involves some of that as well.

Postpartum exercise is often similar especially in the early stages post baby, i.e. 6 weeks and later. Women who have given birth are usually very eager to return to a regular exercise routine quickly. But the body needs time. And during that time I have found variety to be the most important component. Just as for people who want to lose excess weight, keeping the exercises fun and diverse is key to making the workout routine a habit and therefore sustainable.

It makes me really happy to see women leave the class glowing. Not only are they doing something healthy for themselves and their baby by maintaining a good cardio-vascular level during pregnancy but after delivery they also take an hour for themselves, they laugh and talk and get things off their chest. Having mixed classes has been beneficial for both groups.

If you are currently pregnant and want my five tips on how to make exercise fun, please read this MindBodyGreen article. Or even better, come and join me for one of my classes.

I hope whether you are a new mom or currently pregnant, that you find a way for yourself to maintain or get back to exercising. And if you have any questions, concerns, comments or just want to say hello, please do so in the comments box below!

xxR

Discipline: Rad or Bad?

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I just read this article about discipline and how celebrities apply the 80/20 rule to stay fit and slim without denying themselves occasional indulgences. It sounds reasonable and I try to live by that same rule. It's often more along the lines of 70/30... but what I am trying to do these days is keep my meal plan simple during the week and allow myself a day on the weekend during which I don't have to think about what I eat and can indulge. I have found that it keeps my cravings at bay and improves my overall well being tremendously. Ok, so maybe I apply 80/20 on those other days sometimes, too :) As I have mentioned before, my schedule as an athlete used to be very structured, time wise, but also in terms of what I ate and when. The structure provided me with a sense of safety and stability in my life, it made me feel invincible to be able to be so physically active and high school was its own structure, too - that I fit in between workouts. During intense weeks, I would run 5-6 times a week, swim 3-4 times, fence 3 times, shoot 3 times (plus autogenic training) and ride once or twice. Phew... just typing this makes me tired now. Days would start at 6am (in the pool) and end sometimes at 9pm (leaving the fencing gymnasium). Wash (often!). Rinse. Repeat.

I was recently invited by a group of women (who have families to take care of), to run with them. Meeting place was 6am at Grand Army Plaza. Which meant getting up at 5.30 and being out of the door by 5.40am. It was remarkable to see how these women met with such fun at such an early time, I thoroughly enjoyed their company and when we were done, their day started with making sure that their kids were out the house and off to school, etc. My only responsibility was to feed my dog and then check my schedule for the day. I won't be doing it all the time, but there was something that made me feel very proud about adding so many hours to my day and having been productive already by the time I got home at 7am.

Being self-employed demands a certain amount of discipline. Working with people and helping them create a different lifestyle demands being creative in my approaches to mask that discipline as enjoyable exercise and delicious meals. Working with people in public class settings means, picking up on each person's vibe, and rewarding the discipline of them showing up with an experience that will be memorable physically and emotionally.

Getting positive feedback is a direct reward of my discipline. What a beautiful circle.

I have learned in the past years, to be less harsh with myself. The control freak in me has to consciously relinquish the rigor of that discipline that is such a strong part of me and allow myself to go with the flow and let events unfold.

I have found that creating structure is important when it is around practical things, such as my calendar, exercises planning for the people I work with but in my personal life, I am allowing a few more elements of surprise. I still don't like surprise parties or ordering dishes for the table instead of me (more on this in a different post)... but I have learned through my dear friends, that life can be a delicious "box of chocolates. You never know what you gonna get".

And I'm ready to embrace it. I dare you to try the same!

xxR

The Body Sculpt Class - What is it? Who is it for?

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I'm teaching a body sculpt class three times a week now at Melt Massage & Bodywork, an awesome massage space that has a beautiful room for yoga, pilates, workshops and me :) For most of what they offer, the class description is straight forward or people don't even have to read it because it speaks for itself. Prenatal yoga, Feldenkrais, Reiki, postpartum workshops, Pilates... I wanted to add something into the mix that is similar but different. A class that allows people to move continuously for 60 minutes without a Bootcamp or Crossfit feel where you push through exercises, in competition with yourself and everyone else. But rather exercises in which we work together and individually, making them easier when we work together. For both of us. But with an option to always challenge ourselves, too. Every class ends with yoga to stretch the muscles that we used and open up areas of the body which may be stuck and which - once released - feel so good and thereby make our mind feel good. At the very end: Savasana... everyone loves a few minutes to relax.

Melt is set up with everything you and I need. Therabands for sculpting and lengthening, of course yoga mats, blocks and bolsters for restorative poses at the end and blankets to sit on while we do ab work. It has a great group of instructors and where else have you seen a reception area that has water, apples and candy?

So who is it for? I've seen a lot of women taking my class and I think men believe that if it doesn't involve weights but mainly your own body weight, it may be too easy for them. But that's not the case. I have seen grown men struggle when I showed them exercises, that pregnant women did with ease and grace and anywhere we work with our own body weight, it can get pretty challenging. After the session, you will already feel, that areas that we exercised feel tighter, your core will be burning, but you won't be exhausted. You will be sweaty and relaxed and proud of what you accomplished.

Having studied many different disciplines, I am convinced that each practiced individually has tremendous potential but combining them is even more effective. Because there is no set routine, your body can not plateau and get used to being worked in the same way as previously. It needs to adapt and become smarter. And that's what we want, a continuously evolving body, that is smart, strong, flexible and ready to take on any task that life throws at us. You will also gradually see your waist whittling away and your arms and legs becoming more defined as an added bonus.

The biggest advantage of working your body in this way is, that it is fun! Exercise doesn't become a dreadful chore, but we look forward to it. We see results in our strength, cardio-vascular capacity and flexibility. The positive side effects also include the influence that this kind of training has on other disciplines. So it can be a great add-on for runners, triathletes, yogis, swimmers, etc.

I hope to see you at one of the classes. If you haven't yet, make sure to sign up for my newsletter with updates on health, food, new classes and much more.

Like my FB page if you liked this blog post, comment and share.

And come stop by at Melt - more information can be found here: www.bit.ly/chittamelt

I dare you to sweat with me!

xxR

Success Factors - Five Ways to "get there"...

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How do you define success? What are the factors? In our humble society, the word success almost takes on a dirty meaning. I personally prefer to talk of progress, which I define as small successful steps towards my very own goals. Success and the relief, power, satisfaction and other things we attribute to it, can be scary if we don't put it in perspective. As an athlete, my ultimate goal was to participate in the Olympics but I also know many of my former team mates, who did, and the satisfaction from having participated or like these two, having won the Gold Medal in Beijing (Britta & Lena), wears off and makes room for other superlatives to try to reach. It is an ongoing journey and we need to acknowledge that.

I wasn't always this relaxed about things. I would push and shove and train hard. I had the biggest falling out of my teenage years with my coach when he told the then national coach to go to hell and not enroll me on the team in early 1997 (I was 15) because he didn't want me to compete internationally at that young age. I threw a tantrum, I cried, I sulked and I hated him. Ultimately he was right. It would have been too soon. Being on the team meant that the national coach took over from mine and dictated my schedule, with very little room for negotiation. If that meant World Cups throughout the winter, that also meant there was no solid time for me at home to still build my strength, stamina and ultimately all things that made me the well rounded athlete I became later on. When I joined the team 8 months later, I learned first hand how painful it could be to train with someone who didn't care that I was still growing, that I needed adequate rest time and couldn't be partnered up with 17 year young men in little competitive races, swimming and running while reminding me that as a representative of my country, giving up was NOT an option.

At a particularly grueling workshop the boys, who swam the 200 m freestyle in 20-30 seconds faster than me, had to swim 10 sets of 50 meters diving and then 50 meters sprint. Myself and them had the same 'go times' of every 2:30 minutes which meant that they had ample time to recover after each set but my rest time vanished into thin air with each one. The same was true for the 400 meter runs we had to do every day. A week later at the European Championship I swam the worst time of that year and ran a minute slower than ever, with the first three contestants finishing in my usual time. In his defense, my coach did not say "I told you so"...

I digressed a little. Nowadays as a business owner and working my own hours and being solely responsible for my success, it has been hard to be patient. I have touched on patience in a different post but it is not the only thing that I had to apply to remind myself that success can be measured in different ways.

  1. Why only have big goals? Focus on smaller attainable goals and celebrate when you get there.
  2. Talk and listen. We don't like to take advice from parents but we can learn from other people and sometimes simply because they see us from the outside and assess the situation more clearly.
  3. Realize that it is a process. Last week I received a text message from a great woman I work with that she had to buy smaller pants. We've worked together for some time but not too long. This is amazing and the fact that it took some time means it will stick.
  4. Don't compare. Hey, I'm the most competitive woman on the planet so that's hard. Ultimately its two things: there is enough success for everyone (no, really!) AND be kind, because everyone out there is fighting a tough battle (too).
  5. ... which brings us to this: Be KIND to yourself. Because if you're not, why should others be? Don't beat yourself up. Things take time, especially the lasting ones. Fighting yourself can - at the worst - result in self sabotage or self fulfilling prophecies. Try my advice for stressful situations and keep soldiering on.

I think you're great! Please share some successes with me in the comments, pass on the post, like it, and if you haven't yet and want more info from me, sign up for my newsletter on the homepage!

PS: Zola learned how to balance on her hind legs. Success!

xxR

Muffin Top Be Gone Exercises (Video)

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10 minutes to help you get rid of that pesky Muffin Top. The exercises focus on strengthening the core, deep twists and finish with stretching out the area around the butt and the waist. Let me know if you like it, comment, share and be well!

Monday Moves: planks, planks, planks / stütz, stütz, stütz

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I must admit, I wasn't always the biggest fan of planks in any form, but since doing them daily with and without clients, it is astonishing how it has defined and strengthened my core. It has helped me alleviate sciatic pain and I even recorded a little video with useful exercises and tips that you can find on YouTube or right here on the blog. I muss zugeben der Stütz, war nicht unbedingt meine bevorzugte Übung (kam gleich nach Klimmzügen) aber seit ich ihn täglich durchführe, mit Kunden und ohne, beobachte ich mit Staunen wie sich mein Rumpf verändert hat. Soviel stärker und definierter (Bonus!). Die Übung hat mir geholfen meine Ischias Schmerzen unter Kontrolle zu bekommen und ich habe sogar ein kleines Video aufgenommen, das ihr auf YouTube bewundern könnt oder direkt hier auf meinem Blog.

Simple (Prenatal) Exercise Routine for a hot day

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It is September 11th, an important date in the US and specifically in New York City. Exactly 12 years ago this city and the world watched in horror at the events that unfolded in the Financial District and later mourned together all those who were lost and their families who were affected. Today it is also unusually hot and humid, not the weather we were expecting in September after an unseasonally cool August and people have been dragging their feet and feeling heavy and uncomfortable.

I was training with one of my pregnant clients today who is due in 3 weeks (!!!) and who is in great shape but was feeling tired like me. The following is a routine of five exercises that energized us but also wasn't too strenuous and can be done by pregnant and non- pregnant people alike.

Seesaw Stretch:

Sit in a wide legged seat and either hold hands with a partner across from you or interlace your fingers and point the palms out in front of you. Inhale straightening your back, sitting tall and exhale leaning forward as much as you can without collapsing in your back. If you do this exercise with a partner, they assist you by holding your arms up. Together you should get into a rhythm of inhaling/ exhaling sitting tall and leaning forward. Do this for 2-3 minutes.

Simple prenatal exercise

All fours / leg lift:

Come to all fours and do a few cat and cows (inhale arch your back, look up and exhale round your back and look towards your thighs). With a neutral back, lift the right leg, knee at a 90 degree angle and foot flexed. Lift the leg up and open up the hip as if you were kicking something behind and above your left hip. Repeat 25 times and then switch to the left side.

Supported side plank core work:

Come into a side plank on your forearm. Lower and lift your hips with feet stacked and legs long and strong 10-15 times on each side. When you are coming down, avoid touching your mat.

Inner thigh work:

Lie on your back and if you are pregnant elevate your hips by placing a yoga block under your hips. Turn you feet all the way out in opposite directions. Then cross them while engaging your inner thighs. Bring your legs apart and then cross them. Switch between the right leg on top and the left one. Do 3 sets of 30.

Lizard into pigeon into ankle over knee:

In a low lunge with the right leg in front bring both of your palms to the inside of your leg. Keep the back knee up and then lower down to your elbows if possible. Breathe deeply. After 10 breaths scoot your right foot over to the left and set yourself up in pigeon pose. Fold over your front leg and take 10 deep breaths. Then, swing your left leg forward and cross the ankle over the right knee. Melt over your legs and relax. Switch sides and repeat the routine on the left.

Simple prenatal exercise

Extra pose for pregnant ladies to stretch out the achy side and hips:

Stand about arms length from a wall or tree if you are outside. Face it sideways and place the inside foot outside the outside one, crossing over the front of the ankle. Place your hands as low on the wall as you can and press your hips outward. Then switch sides.

Simple prenatal exercise

I hope you enjoy the routine, that it gives you energy, some strength and relieves some minor aches and pains. Stay cool!

xxR

Words on Wednesday: 5 ways to be more approachable

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I think I have mentioned it often how important my coach was to me. He was a mixture of a friend and a father figure after my dad passed early. He was a mentor and someone I could trust blindly and still would today... Connections like these are hard to find. Admittedly I am not a very trusting person and some of my close friends now would attest to that. They all initially interpreted my (intense) personality and lack of openness with arrogance and it usually took a long time for me to let them in... In NYC where every store clerk asks you how you are doing and where people greet you with "what's up?", I used to earnestly respond to the question and shake my head saying that I had seen better days. Upon which I would realize that it was a rhetorical question and the other person had long since moved on. My bad. I am not trusting but that doesn't mean that I am a superficial brute or not interested in you. It just takes me a tad longer to let my guard down while I explore if it's safe.

And now, I'm a personal trainer and my goal is to be approachable, happy, positive and a good motivator. Last week I had asked great clients of mine for a referral/ testimonial of the work with me and they came back SO detailed and beautiful they made my heart sing. It was a major acknowledgement that I am capable of creating an environment in which people enjoy working out and trust my knowledge and guidance. And may I just say, I am very fortunate to work with amazing people that make my job something I look forward to and come out of humming!

So how did I bring about something in my professional life, that I have had trouble with in my personal life? 5 things that I am applying more and better in my personal life now, too! Here's the breakdown:

  1. Wait and See: I used to jump into relationships head first, spilling my secrets, family history and many embarrassing details way too early. In a professional relationship that's not possible and that's a good thing. Waiting to see what people are like, if we get a along and are on the same page is something that I have taken from my work to my home. And it works.
  2. Look them in the Eye: we as a society don't like it. Eye contact feels intimidating, threatening almost and must be avoided at all times. But our eyes are the windows to our soul, so how could we? Looking at people for real means seeing through them but also showing them a certain vulnerability which will make them trust us more. It helps me to see whether someone I work with is tired, happy, exuberant, annoyed, etc. And I can respond appropriately.
  3. Lower your Voice: have you noticed that animals respond to lower voices with more calm? Horses slow down when we tell them and dogs obey commands better than if they are with a young child that shrieks and acts erratic. Low voices are perceived as sexy and warm. Don't we all wish we could make everyone swoon like Angelina? Even though we may resent their effect on men, but we want to be their friend, too... Check it out: Top Ten Women with Deep Voices
  4. Touch: The favourite part of many people, is Savasana usually because I or the yoga teacher gives us a quick kneading of the shoulders, touches our temples or pulls our neck straight. Humans need touch, we thrive on it. In families and friendships and of course relationships, happy hormones are released through cuddles and other physical forms of intimacy. It makes us all sigh when we see a senior couple that still have a very tender relationship, when they hold hands and lean their head on the others' shoulder.
  5. Laugh: for real! Don't fake it. Laugh and make it infectious. Laughter is great for a strong core and sharing deep gurgling belly laughs is a connection that is almost impossible to cut. Whatever happens in the future, you can be sure that you will remember those over any argument, disagreement or extra set of reps that I pushed you through!

So now, armed with this knowledge, I dare you to deepen your relationship with that person that your intuition has told you by now is safe, look them in the eye, grab their shoulders, tell them a joke (deep voice!) and then laugh it out together.

Just writing this puts a smile on my face.

xxR

 

Words on Wednesday: Less is More

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I just stumbled across an old friend from Uni online, who commented on a Facebook post saying that "we have lost the awareness to be excited by the little things"... Ever since I left my office job, I realized that while I'm doing what I really love, time slows down. I have an awesome session with a client and the hour seems much longer (I think for them too, depending on what we're doing). No but in a positive sense I cherish moments much more.  Before, I obviously also had really great days at the office, but the simple setting which was an office that forced me to be at my desk at certain times of the day and dictated that I was to have lunch around 12-2pm made me really look forward to 6pm and the freedom that came with it.

I tried to bring food to the office to not have to rely on food chains because ultimately in a 5 day week I would have at least one, twice. I'm not good at leaving things on my plate, so the places dictated how much I was eating... Now I take my time to prepare breakfast and some of the results you see on here. I enjoy eating it, I go workout, by the time I come back I really look forward to preparing a nice lunch. And I cook most evenings. There was never really time for that before.

Even though I work physically and mentally harder getting Chitta off the ground, I run around, I work out with my clients and I try to keep up with my own exercise routine, I feel less tired than I often felt after a whole day at the desk. My anxiety levels are lower even though every new client feels like going on a first date, my hair and skin are healthier and my digestion... well, you know :)

My friend's comment was on an article about how we consume a lot these days and I must admit as a budding entrepreneur I consume much less these days. And interestingly I'm happier.

This NY Times article also weighs in on how we have become a society of consumers and how the author scaled back which - you guessed it - made him happy.

How does all this relate to what I'm doing?

I once met a client who told me she was working out six times a week, she had changed trainers a few times, she did her own cardio but still she said "I don't run faster than some New Yorkers walk".

In my trainings, I try to bring as much versatility to each session as I can. Often I switch up exercises after only a few sets or combine them and I try to squeeze the maximum result out of each proposed exercise. And I am seeing peoples' results. My pregnant ladies felt energized after sessions albeit challenged, other people have lost weight and others were able to increase their strength, flexibility, coordination, etc. All of them - if I had them do their very first session again today - would do it without breaking a sweat and hardly being out of breath.

These results make me incredibly happy! And they show that by tickling my clients with these 1-3 hours per week, which is easily incorporated into their busy schedules, we are making amazing progress in a relatively short time. Think of their muscles being excited too by the diverse, rapidly changing movement and because they are happy, they interact better, within (intramuscular coordination) and between each other (intermuscular coordination). It all creates a well oiled machine. Moreover, because the results stick, this new regimen becomes sustainable: it's fun to see yourself transform.

I strongly believe in breaking the loop of living to work, rewarding ourselves by consuming more, buying more, eating more and ultimately feeling obliged to exercise more.

I dare you to work to LIVE, then the work itself becomes rewarding, consuming becomes a luxury and eating is a part of a delicious routine that creates balance in our body... a strong body that loves to be tickled regularly.

xxR

PS: Every now and then, stop and smell the flowers...

Monday Moves: Exercises for Lower Back Relief (Video)

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I am very excited that this first Youtube video is online, now! I hope it will be helpful to relieve some of your issues around the lower back. You can increase the number of repetitions per exercise as you see fit.

And I would love to hear more from you about it, in the comments below.

xxR