Youth Fitness Needs Our Attention

Mom, we’re doing an NFL Fitness test in PE and most of the kids can’t complete it.

My son came to me a few days ago with this gem. “Ok,” I thought, “maybe it’s a tough test.” So I asked for clarification. He said it was easy, he does more each day at TKD, but he’s shocked at his classmates. What he described sounded a little like a HIIT or interval workout, depending on how hardcore they were at monitoring rest breaks. Regardless, it didn’t sound too extensive and definitely not what the actual NFL goes through.

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Let’s all agree this is hilarious. via kindynews.com

I tried to find more info on this “NFL Fitness Test”, but Google just helped solidify why I will never be a footballer. Example about the upper body strength test using the bench press, this test “requir[es] the athlete to press 225 lbs as many times as possible.”  *Sigh*

The real point is: our children are unhealthy. Most of us are aware of the restricted recess and PE times our kids have. Most of us know that sitting is bad and have clicked at least once on a headline about how “sitting is KILLING YOU!!!” Most of us are aware that something needs to change, but what?

To be completely clear. This is NOT the fault of the educators. This is NOT the fault of individual parents. This is not the government, or a conspiracy, or a tirade on how fat kids are. No. Many of these kids aren’t even overweight, they’re just lack cardiovascular fitness because they’ve never had to maintain it. This is not a fault issue, but it is an important one.

So here’s what I think. I think we need to be more diligent about talking to our kids. Rather than just finding out how school was, ask if it was a recess or PE day. Ask how often they were able to be active. If they ran around in the 112 degree heat for 30 min, great! (Not great, it’s awful hot, but stick with me.) If they had other “specials” or recess was cancelled or whatever, consider taking a family walk around the block.

If you’re child hasn’t moved most of the day, help them move. Most of us haven’t moved enough. We know this because, as adults, we’re attached to our wearable tech like it’s a lifeline to health. Our kids don’t monitor their steps, but you can encourage them to move a little more.

The WHO recommends “children and youth aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.”

Here are a few ways to help get that number in:

  • After work/school walk around the neighborhood while discussing the day’s events. If you have a dog, take her. She’ll love you even more.
  •  Create an cone obstacle course in the yard. Sprint, run backward, slalom, skip, etc from cone to cone. You can use shoes, rocks, a well trained dog, whatever, in place of “cones”. Do it for time for an added aerobic boost.
  • Remember that baseball/football/frisbee/badminton/Nerf ball you bought to play with the kids? It’s in the back of the closet. Dust it off.
  •  Have a playground nearby? Turn THAT into an obstacle course. Monkey bars are B-A-N-A-N-A-S
  • Hula hoops, sidewalk chalk, even scavenger hunts are inexpensive and easy ways to get everyone moving.
  • Rainy day? I recommend: Twister, indoor scavenger hunts, and puddle jumping if you have rain boots. Seriously, no one’s going to melt. Don’t forget to strategically place towels by the door before heading out!
  • Group fitness classes/bootcamps. Get a group of kids together and challenge them to push ups, jumping jacks, burpees, long jumps, squats, front kicks, sprints, etc. A small group of kids can really be fun, silly, and energizing. No weights required, just get moving!

If you’re local, contact me. I’d love to get a kids fitness camp up and running. I’m a CPT who wants to get kids active.

If you’re not local, consider starting a little group yourself. Or share your hot tips for getting kids away from screen time and sweating to the hip pop.

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#MarathonTraining, #NYCMarathon, Er…Strength Training

If you’ve met me, you know I’m training for the #NYCMarathon. You’ll also know that I did not run a qualifying time to get my placement. I mean, look at these requirements!

Yeah, no.

So what did I do? I did what 80,000+ people did and entered the lotto. According to the Runner’s World article New York City Marathon Lottery by the Numbers I was one of 14,326 people chosen through the lottery. That’s a 5.5% chance. I honestly believed it would be years before I was chosen so, this was a fun and unexpected expense (my husband is from NY so it’s a fun way to visit friends & family! <- spin it however you can).

So anyway, what does that have to do with strength training?

Everything.

Here’s why. Running the NYC Marathon is a “bucket list” marathon, so it HAS to go well. Anyone who’s run a distance race knows anything can go wrong. I already expect colder weather than I can train in. I spoke with a client from New York today who said it was bound to be cold and WET. Ugh. Ok.

So, training involves as much actual running as is in my very specific schedule PLUS stretching and strength training.

Here’s what I’m doing 2-3 times per week (yes, every 3 days would be better) to strengthen the other muscles necessary for running these endurance races.

One Legged Deadlift

No lie, this one seems super simple until you’re doing it. It’s pretty much my favorite balance/strength exercise.

Lateral Lunge

Fantastic because, as runners, we move primarily in the sagittal plane. This frontal plane movement, with or without weights, definitely activates additional and necessary muscles.

Kettlebell Swings

AKA deadlift and front swing. I LOVE these! Perfection for muti-muscle use, warm ups, and actual workouts. ❤

Side Leg Raises

Honestly, it’s dumb how tough these get as you increase reps.

Know what that means?

Do them more often.

Side Hip Raises

Again, working in a different plane of motion helps. Plus, regardless of what you think, core stuff effects all the other stuff. Do it.

Bridges

Activate those glutes!!!

Push Ups

This dude is fierce!

Whether you’re on his level or need to modify, don’t neglect your upper body. As a runner you use your arms and core more often than you may realize.

Knee Tucks

I love/hate these as much as burpees.

On the plus side, these haven’t caused any lasting distress (I get shin splints and wonky IT band syndrome after too many burpees – it means I’m imbalanced, I’m working on correcting that).

If you’re curious where and when to start on these, hit me up! We can talk and discuss where to begin and define a plan for progression.

 

Rethinking Emotional Eating

 

Originally this post was going to be about performance, but it organically turned into a post about emotional eating. I want to say, I am not a registered dietitian. I am a regular person who’s spent a lot of (healthy and unhealthy) time thinking about, learning about, and exploring the world of food. I’m also a certified health coach and a survivor of anorexia nervosa (the eating disorder was pre-education, btw). Feel free to ask questions in the comments or shoot me a message.

Eating is Emotional

Think about it. Almost every holiday, celebration, and many rewards come with requisite eats and treats. Additionally, there’s a whole list of “comfort food” waiting to take our minds off of whatever ails us (stress, loneliness, missing old times).

We often gather around the table, the grill, or the movie popcorn with friends and family. Food is important to our emotional well-being. 

stressed-is-desserts-spelled-backwards

Sometimes emotional eating can lead to overeating, or getting stuck in a food rut. Maybe you miss family dinners but now everyone’s grown up and moved away, or weekends are just too hectic with kids’ schedules. Maybe those family dinners often had a regular side dish or dessert, so when that item is available you go a little overboard. Or, maybe you can only get the family to sit down together if you order a giant bucket of KFC. Whatever it is sometimes is ok, all the time isn’t doing you any favors.

What Can You Do About It?

First, understand this is normal. We all have our “things”. Second, give yourself permission to think about why the food is so important, or irresistible. Is that stale pretzel from the baseball stadium *really* tasty or do you get it because that’s what you always got when you went to stadium as a kid? No judgements, just a small bit of reflection.

Here’s an easy one for me. Sheet-cake? What’s even in that? No idea, but I’ve accepted more pieces than I’d like to admit at company parties because it’s what you do. Believe me, your cake having (or not) doesn’t determine anyone’s ability to have a good time. Besides, if you’ve ever worked in an office, you know that cake isn’t going to waste.

So reflect some. Keep a journal, track moods after eating foods on apps, or just sit with it for a bit. I’ve tried a few different methods, usually depending on my mood. There’s no “right way”.

I do suggest you try it though. Even just once. Pick a food, think about the why, and you might be surprised.

**Please, if you or someone you know has an issue with disordered eating contact NIMH.

 

Upper Body Strength Training – Yes, Runners Need it Too.

HELLO LEGS!

We runners love our legs. Really smart runners (read: anyone who’s ever had a blister or hanky toenail and tried to keep it from happening again) really love our feet too. Extra socks, extra shoes, blister packs, vaseline, Gold Bond medicated powder, whatever it takes to keep our feet happy for the long haul is worth the effort.

While we’re busy pampering our gnarly tootsies and slogging along mile after mile, many of us are neglecting our upper body and core. I know, it’s tough to care about the body parts you think won’t help shave seconds off your latest PR. Still, who wants the equivalent of chicken legs for arms? I call these Kermit the Frog arms.

Arm Day

The point is, to be as healthy and efficient as possible, upper body is also important. As important as sticking to your marathon training? Well, incorporating upper body and especially core can help.

Think about it. Your cadence includes arm swing right? I hope so. It’s good to have balance. Your core includes a ton of huge muscles, so you’re kidding yourself if you think skipping core is doing you any favors. Plus, those of us who aren’t elites probably do it for the love of running and, well, to eat food and drink beer. Ever been to an ultra? Beer is big. Heard of Running for Brews? You guessed it.

So, here’s a quick superset workout I put together to cover my arms, shoulders, and core. It requires minimal equipment: dumbbells, exercise ball.

I worked with light weights today (5-15lbs). 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Superset 1:
Push Up (Regular or on your knees, good form, tight core)
Plank Knee Twist (start in a full plank, pull your left knee across to your right arm. Repeat on right side. )

Superset 2:
Overhead tricep extension
Zottman curls (Palm up on concentric motion – up; palm down on eccentric motion – down)

Superset 3:
Front and lateral shoulder raise (left arm front, right arm lateral; switch)
Shoulder press

Superset 4:
Hip raise to curl or hamstring curl
Plank knee tucks on exercise ball

This took me about 20 minutes, so it easily can fit into a short run day or on a crosstrain day. I just started this, but intend to incorporate it into my routine 2-3x per week in addition to my marathon training. I’ll probably work more core into my own program as well. A strong core does everybody good.

A few other core exercises I want to include:

  • ball pike
  • burpees
  • ball passes
  • side planks

I may even try a 30 day ab challenge. We’ll see how it goes.

Toss in chest presses and rows and you’ve got a nice upper body circuit for general strength training (you won’t get big, but you’ll get stronger than you are now!)

What are your favorite arms and abs workouts? 

 

Summer Training for Fall Marathons

It’s here. Marathon training season. Exciting right? Honestly, I’m chomping at the bit for my training plan to starting July.

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Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan. Watch out Rio!

That’s my first suggestion. Get a coach, surf Pinterest, talk to running buds, create your own. Whatever you do, have a plan. If you’ve run distance races before, you’ve definitely learned a thing or two about yourself. It’s inevitable. Having a solid plan is one I learned for myself.

Second, stick to the plan. Yes, even the core and cross-training bits. It’s invaluable to you on race day.

Sounds easy enough, but how do you stay motivated when it’s 100F and so humid you can’t breathe? Or you’re on vacation? Or you just honestly don’t want to go? That’s where the mental toughness comes in.

A Few Things I’ve Learned

  1. Marathons are mostly mental.
    For my first marathon (WDW Marathon), I’d trained for months. I was pumped. I was nervous. I was ready. But then it happened. I started breaking down at mile 17. Not because my body hurt (it did). No because my fueling was wrong (I had energy left). No, I was breaking down mentally because I was bored out of my mind. I train in Tampa, by the water and on trails. Running Disney service roads for easily 20 of the 26.2 miles was simply mind-numbing. Which leads to my next suggestion:
  2. Choose the right race.
    The following weekend I was supposed to run the Clearwater Marathon but because a storm was on top of us with gail force winds and flooding we got bumped to a half. Trust me, it was the best and only call the director could have made. I applaud his decision. Also, this is a fantastic race series. The week after that, I ran Miami. Also great.
  3. Don’t try to run 3 marathons in 3 weeks.
    At least, not at first. Training is important. Rest and recovery are part of your training. But hey! I’m a Marathon Maniac: #12376
  4. Stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes in check.
    Seriously. This is a big one here in Florida and over the summer. For short runs, water should suffice. For longer runs, try some electrolyte replacements. The market is full of them. I like nuun. Gels turn my stomach, but gummies seem to be ok if not tough to chew at times.
  5. Test your fuel before race day.
    You have plenty of time to try new products, flavors, textures, and combos. Now is the time to do it. Find a mix that works for your body. GI distress is no joke.
  6. Have fun with it, or at least don’t turn it into a chore.
    This is a goal you’ve chosen. It’s not a work project or a chore. Don’t turn it into another check mark on your To-Do List. Sure, some days will feel like that, but make sure you’re enjoying yourself. Grab a buddy, download a ridiculous podcast, load up your favorite playlist, (safely) explore somewhere new. Do what you have to to stick to the plan, but make it interesting.

Have you run a marathon? What tips would you give a beginner? What worked and what didn’t? What’s your favorite marathon memory?