Time to start anew

Since I started doing races for myself in 2010, I’ve done two half marathons a year (three in 2017).

Not this year. I did only one.

And that one was hard-fought — I had the trifecta of cold, rain and battering wind. It was the first time that I honestly felt like not finishing a race. I likely would have, if I wasn’t already headed in the direction of shelter and a hot shower for the remaining distance of the course.

For 2018 race number two, I looked to find one that would coincide with a trip to northern California, eager to add another state to my race list. While sorting out details of finding a viable event, I held off ramping up my training, and in the end neither happened.

Somewhere, deep down, my motivation switch had been flicked to “off.”

The year had started on a down note and, as I came out of that fog (and the fog that was much of 2017), I was barely going through the motions of regular physical activity and healthy eating.

Sometimes we need a break … although it seems silly to say we need a break from healthful habits. But sometimes we I need to feel gross about ourselves myself to snap us me back into the desire to not feel gross. Rock bottom, as it were.

I think I’ve reached that point.

I don’t know if it’s good or bad that the timing coincides with New Year’s — a.k.a., time for resolutions. At the very least, I can remind myself of how to have better chances of keeping a resolution.

Resolutions — or goals — should be SMART. That is:

Specific: The more specific, the better. Break it down into smaller pieces.

Measurable: Figure out how you will measure whether you’ve reached a goal. Keep a tracker or journal, for instance?

Attainable: This is similar to the first step above: Keep it specific and concrete. Lose 50 pounds is a great goal. But Lose 10 pounds is more doable as an initial aim, which fosters a feeling of accomplishment when you reach it (and then set your next 10-pound goal).

Realistic: Is your goal something you can achieve with current resources and/or knowledge? If not, can you easily obtain the resources needed? Again, break it down into specific pieces.

Timely: The goal should include a time frame in which the goal will/can be achieved.

As 2019 begins, be easy on yourself.

I plan to shoot for very small goals, even day-by-day, to get back into a regular exercise habit, make better food choices, and rediscover my inner motivation. Here’s hoping.


Take this word out of your vocabulary

First off, I know this blog has been idle for quite some time, so I appreciate if you’re still with me.

Second, although the primary topic of this post is not a happy one, I hope that the message has an impact.

My circle of marathoning/walking friends has sadly suffered another loss. Our friend Beth K. died after an accident late last year. Beth was with the Team Prevention program from very early on. (In this program, run by Prevention magazine from 2005 to 2009, the magazine helped readers train to walk half and full marathons, with many measures of support and information.)

One of the best facets of the program was our group of mentors. These were women who were pretty new to the walk-a-marathon thing, too. They shared their learnings and advice on online message boards for our participants, and they came to our races to inspire, coach, and meet participants.


I last raced with (and saw) Beth (left) in Pittsburgh in 2015. It was a Team Prevention mentor reunion of sorts, as two of the other women in this photo (and another with whom we gathered that weekend) were mentors as well.

Beth was one of those mentors.

We’d have a team dinner the night before a given race, at which our mentors usually said a few words to the group. The messages differed — some mentors would explain why they chose to walk races, some would offer words of wisdom for first-timers, and so on.

Beth had a particular message she’d share. I’m sure I won’t do it justice, and I’m sure it won’t be as motivating as it would be if she were the one giving it, but the message was strong and simple.

“You’re not just walking,” she’d declare.

Our group of participants were mostly first-time racers. They were not usually the most athletic bunch of folks. Maybe once upon a time they ran, but age or joint problems or other factors ended their time as a runner. And here they were, about to embark on a pretty big and, for many, daunting goal — to do a full or half marathon. When people would learn they were doing a race, many of them would tend to say, “Well, I’m just walking,” in an almost apologetic tone.

“You’re not just walking,” Beth would emphasize. “You’ve trained for several months and you are doing a marathon.”

She made it clear that no one who embarked on the goal to complete a half or full marathon was just doing anything.

Own it, she was saying.

With one sentence, one correction to a statement, she motivated participants to feel even stronger, to feel even more motivated, to feel even more proud.

We all cross the same finish line, whether it’s with a pace of 7-minute miles or 15-minute miles. Don’t apologize for how you got there.

Thanks, Beth.

Word to live by

My lovely friend Robynn recently posted a picture on Facebook. It was a post-workout selfie, and what she was wearing really caught my attention (and that of many of her friends).

I’ve seen a lot of inspirational sayings on T-shirts, but this one is so strong in its simplicity.

That night, I ordered one of the shirts for myself. I had to have it! Now, I just need the weather to cooperate so I can wear it. In the meantime, I’m keeping its encouraging words in mind as a mantra of sorts. Check out this terrific philosophy for yourself:

IMG_2553Robynn, the store should give you a commission. Thanks for being an inspiration! 🙂

Enough is enough

I’m pretty susceptible to advertising. Like those fast food commercials, where the Coke is so fizzy and you can almost feel how cold it is? Ahhh. Or just about any Hallmark commercial will have me reaching for the tissue box before it’s over.

I also really have a thing for clever tag lines — especially ones that employ a play on words. For example: Kudos to whoever came up with the slogan for a mattress company: “Sleepy’s, for the rest of your life.”

Anyway … I’m sure you’re wondering, how does this relate to exercise and a healthy lifestyle?

I’m not a paid (or unpaid) spokesperson, nor do I have any special affinity for the company, but I think one of the most brilliant slogans ever is Nike’s “Just do it.”

traffic-lights-208253Just do it.

Simple. Actionable. Inspiring. Even motivating. All in three words.

And right now, lately, I could use a lot of the latter. I feel a little embarrassed to say this as a fitness instructor, but I have been severely lacking in the motivation (and, for that matter, willpower) department. Summer is usually the time when I’m shot out of a cannon, getting in lots of long walks, working in my yard for half the weekend, doing lots of biking, eating piles of fresh fruit and vegetables.

But I’ve been in a slump the past month or two. I’ve had countless arguments with myself about getting out of bed and going to the gym, or resisting too many sweet treats. Bed and treats have been winning. It’s so easy to get into a vicious cycle. Not exercising leaves me more fatigued, which makes me not feel like getting out of bed in the morning, which makes me feel like a slug, which makes me want to wallow … repeat.

Enough is enough.

Alarm goes off for gym time? Just do it.

Be more active? Just do it.

Choose veggies and hummus instead of potato chips? Just do it.

Take a lap around my office instead of checking Facebook? Just do it.

Mind over matter … here I go.

What’s your excuse?

shield-417826Even though I’m a walking coach and fitness instructor, I have trouble finding motivation to exercise sometimes. February was one of those times.

Oh, wait — it’s now March and I still feel the same way…

Usually, I exercise most mornings before work, and one or both days of the weekend. Every winter, though, I reach a certain point where I seem to throw in the towel. I just don’t want to go outdoors in the cold a single extra time. (You see, I hate winter and being cold.)

To go to the gym requires 5 extra times outdoors (#1 to start my car so it warms up, #2 to depart for the gym, #3 to go from car to gym, #4 to reverse that, and #5 from car to house). It all may sound ridiculous (and very repetitive to some of my Facebook friends), but it is what it is. It’s like I develop a physiological block.

If for some reason the block lifts, other weird rationalizations crop up. Last night, I debated going to the gym this morning. But then I thought about the weather forecast for the rest of the week: cold rain on Wednesday, snow on Thursday, cold and dry on Friday. A little voice inside said, Why bother going tomorrow if you won’t go again until Friday? Another voice responded, Yeah, that seems pointless. (I’m not crazy, I promise. Don’t you have voices that talk to you sometimes?)

My saving grace (except for the three weeks when bad weather canceled it) is the circuit class I teach one night a week, and the yoga class I’m taking thanks to a Groupon deal. At least that’s meant 2 days a week of working out, if nothing more. I have also gone to the gym on the past few Saturdays to put in 60-plus minutes on a cardio machine.

I love the energy and the high I get from working out. But when winter drags on, the promise of those feelings doesn’t usually win out over succumbing to my wish to avoid the cold.

Several of my friends keep inviting me to workweek step challenges on Fitbit. I have high praise for them, as they proudly get in their mileage in 13-degree weather, in the cold, even indoors around their house. But even the challenge is not enough to stir me to activity.

At least this winter I made it through January before this phase hit me. Last year, it came much earlier, and I spent January and February mainly in sloth mode.

We all have reasons and rationalizations that may keep us from making the healthiest choice, or the choice that we know will make us feel great when all is said and done. I guess part of the battle is recognizing them and acknowledging them. The other part of the battle is overcoming them, and I confess I’ve not been so successful on that front.

But tomorrow is another day. (Well, tomorrow is rainy and the next day is snowy … so I have my fingers crossed for Friday.)

There’s an app for that

In the Fitness Gift Guide posted last week (and a much earlier post), I promised to share info about fitness apps that I’d recommend. You might wonder how you give someone an app as a gift. The easiest way is with a gift card to iTunes or their service’s app store.

iphone-410311Without further ado…

There are a multitude of apps that help you track your fitness activity, whether it’s walking, running, biking or something else. Most use GPS to track your distance and, combined with the duration of your activity, calculate your speed. You can often save your route, for reference or repeating. Many apps let you connect with friends, to compare workouts and cheer each other on. And many apps can be linked to your Facebook or Twitter account, too, or your FitBit or similar wearable tracker.

A saved RunKeeper activity shows distance, time and even calories burned (provided the user inputs his/her weight).

A saved RunKeeper activity shows distance, time and even calories burned (provided the user inputs his/her weight).

The app I use most often is RunKeeper. Don’t be fooled by its name — it tracks more than runs. I used it on many bike rides last summer but have also used it for many walks short and long. With RunKeeper, you can set goals, see your best times/results and view your activity history. Settings allow you to hear audio cues on many aspects of your activity while you’re doing it, such as distance, time, average pace, split speed and more. When you complete an activity, you can save it so you can refer back to the details (pace, time spent active, etc.).

Very similar to RunKeeper is an app called MapMyWalk. (There’s also MapMyRun, MapMyRide, MapMyFitness, MapMyHike…) It has many of the same features as RunKeeper. One difference is its Gear Tracker: You can list a pair of shoes and it will track the mileage on them and let you know when you are due for a new pair. It also has a food logging feature.

The options are pretty much limitless with Interval Timer.

The options are pretty much limitless with Interval Timer.

One app I use in my personal workouts and in my class is called Interval Timer. This app lets you set up an interval series with audio cues. Suppose you want to do a 40-minute workout focused on circuit training. You can set your warm-up time, interval length (say, 1-minute “high” sets followed by 20-second “low” sets — a quick rest or opportunity to switch to the next circuit), how many intervals, and a cool-down period. Each change can be signified by a sound of your choosing. (I like the boxing bell!)

The above apps are great if you’re motivated to work out. But what if you need a nudge?

If you’d like to feel that your walk or run serves a bigger purpose than your own fitness, consider CharityMiles. You walk or run, and the app’s sponsors pledge money for each mile to the charity you choose in the app. Charities include The Michael J. Fox Foundation, Alzheimer’s Association, Feeding America, Stand Up to Cancer, Wounded Warrior Project and many many more.

And if you really need a kick in the pants to get to the gym or to work out, consider GymPact. When you sign up for GymPact, you pledge how many days a week you’ll work out and how much you’ll pay if you don’t. Input your credit card info and be sure to engage the app when you work out (it must be a minimum of 30 minutes per session, and you can check in at your gym via the app, use its motion sensor or link it to an app like RunKeeper), and avoid getting hit with a fee. Bonus: Fulfill your weekly pact and the app pays you! Granted, it’s a negligible amount, but I racked up $135 over a year or so, which more than paid for a new pair of sneakers. (The app has a fruits and vegetables version too — pledge how many servings of produce you’ll eat a week, upload pictures of said servings for the app’s community to confirm, and pay or earn accordingly.) I can assuredly say that using this app made me drag my butt out of bed to hit the gym many times when I wouldn’t have otherwise!

And that’s the best thing about fitness apps. They inspire, they motivate and they make working out more engaging and keep you more involved. So, please share: What’s your go-to app?