Adjusting to a new routine

Me (right) biking with my pals on the Sakatah Trail!

How has summer been treating you?

If prior to the pandemic you had a fitness/wellness routine, how have you adapted? For the most part, from what I hear and read, creating a new routine has been a challenge. It certainly has been for me. But remember, be kind to yourself. With all the stressors of this year, you don’t need to add negative self-talk to the mix.

Since March, I have been able for the most part to get outside and enjoy activities that I’ve always done, like cycling and running. In April, I did the 30-day cycling challenge (where you bike at least 2 miles every day). I’ve always wanted to do that but my work schedule usually made it difficult. Since I was home all day sheltering-in-place, it was not hard to bike every day (even though some days brought brutal wind/rain/snow).

I also created a routine of going to my favorite park at least once a week to hit the trails. I go there one morning during the week and if I’m around on the weekend, I go for a longer run.

At first, doing these things felt like a struggle. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. Being at home so much created a type of inertia — a body at rest wants to stay at rest. But I know, after years of practice, that if I get outside and exercise, I will feel 100 percent better. It always works.

At different times in the past six months, eating well and not overindulging in alcohol has also been a struggle. Early on, like in April, I’d say I was definitely eating comfort foods. I had a drink or two most evenings to momentarily deal with the stress. But I’d just end up feeling like crap, and as some pounds got added I knew I wasn’t being the best version of myself that I could be. I struggled off and on with that all summer. I’d be good for a week or two, then slip back into bad habits. Only in the past couple of weeks have I felt a shift, a real desire to eat better and drink less.

I started to go back to the gym, just once a week for only about 30 minutes. This helps my motivation to be healthier in general. I generally don’t go to the gym in the summer anyway, since it’s easy to exercise outside. But the week that school started, especially since I’m on sabbatical and not at school, I was craving a routine. I’ve been doing some weight machines, ab work, and a short cardio workout when I go. The gym opened in June and there have been no reports of COVID outbreaks there. I figured the staff and everyone who has been going has been taking the right precautions.

One aspect of my routine that I’ve struggled with has been my morning yoga practice. Prior to COVID I’d say I was getting to my mat 5 days a week — a couple of shorter practices and 1-2 full primary series. In the first couple of months at home, I didn’t even want to go to my mat. I couldn’t figure it out — this was a time, more than ever, to engage with meditative practices. Getting out of bed was a struggle and seemed to eat up so much energy.

But I’m happy to say that my desire to practice is coming back, too. A teacher that I’ve worked with in Minneapolis has been having a virtual “self-practice” once a week via Zoom. It’s kind of like Mysore in that we all show up, but we do our own practice. It sounds kind of weird, like what’s the point of being online if no one is leading or no one is talking to each other? But just to see physical proof that others are out there doing their own practices is motivating and comforting. I’m able to do a full series this way — I probably wouldn’t do it on my own. I try to do a YouTube video another day of the week for another full series practice. But still, my home Ashtanga practice is down to about 3 days a week. I always got a little extra motivation from going to classes at OneYoga or various workshops. I did commit to a few sessions of one-on-one instruction with my teacher, Ellie, coming up this month and into October, and already that has inspired me even though we haven’t started yet.

I taught Ashtanga all summer virtually, which was fun. Our Ashtanga community hung on by a threat, but it was there! I’m looking forward to teaching two Ashtanga classes this fall — one virtual, one in-person.

How have you adapted to a new routine? Are you settling in, or still struggle?

How zero minutes turned into 51

The Light Head. Power of mind concept.

Photo Credit: atercorv Flickr via Compfight cc

Our minds are funny things.

I did the full primary series today — that felt awesome as always. Since that took over an hour, and I had several things to finish today, that was going to be my sole activity.

But I thought, well, I’ll at least take the dogs out. It was a nice day, and I usually like some type of outdoor break around lunch when I’m working at home.

When we got to the trail, I thought, well, I’ll take them on a slow jog —  it’ll be good for them! I hadn’t run for a few days so it would be good for me, too. I figured we’d go 20 minutes, and my Apple Watch will count 20 minutes which is good, since earlier in the day I had planned for zero minutes.

But I do like to close that exercise ring, so after I took the dogs out I thought about doing another 10 minutes of jogging on my own. Actually, I’ve been trying to get 40-45 minutes of exercise at a time this summer. So I thought, well, I’ll hop on my bike and go 20 minutes.

So I put on my bike shorts and headed out. When I got out 10 minutes, I thought I could turn around, but also, I could keep going and just do this 7-mile loop I had been doing all summer as a little time trial. The wind would be at my back going toward home, so that was a plus.

A day that started out with a plan to exercise for zero minutes ended up as a 51-minute day. Perhaps this makes up for all the days where I plan to exercise and end up doing nothing…

Must you run to stay in shape?

RachaelMM2018
Do you like my grimace, lol! This is about Mile 21 of the 2018 Mankato Marathon.

I like data — I don’t think I’m alone!

If you obsessively track anything related to your fitness, raise your hand!

I’ve tracked my running miles over the years, but most consistently since 2016. No real reason — I guess to simply see how the miles add up. I like to compare month to month, and year to year.

So this year, well really at the end of last year, I decided upon a little experiment: I was going to run less and focus more on my yoga practice.

The dedicated yogis I got to know in the past few years, specifically the dedicated Ashtangis, seemed to do quite well doing only yoga. Because I was averaging about 80 miles a month, I was experiencing tight hamstrings and tight hips, which made it a challenge to achieve certain asanas.

But I’ve been a runner since about 1995, and I had grown accustomed to view running as my primary workout and the “only” way to stay in shape. In the past 8 years I also added cycling and swimming to the mix as I incorporated triathlons into my schedule.

I really do enjoy running. So far I have not experienced anything that delivers such a “quick hit” of endorphins. I can go for a 30-minute run and feel energized and “high.” The dopamine effect is real. After a bad day, a run is a beautiful antidote.

In 2018, I committed to a marathon. I had done five marathons previously and felt done with that, lol. But I was asked to do a charity run for a nonprofit, and I couldn’t say no. Running for something beyond myself gave me extra motivation. But I told myself in 2018 that after the marathon, I’d be done.

I vowed to still work out. My goal was 30 minutes a day for most days, but that consisted of primarily the elliptical and “HIITmill” at the gym. I did very little running throughout the winter. And I added an Ashtanga practice most mornings (though a truncated practice–at least it was something).

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OMG, I love the HIITmill! I told a woman today at the gym to try it out, and she did! 

Now that we’re halfway done with the year, I decided to check on my running stats.

Holy crap, my running mileage is down 70 percent from last year!

The thing I was most nervous about — gaining weight — did not happen. In fact, I’m down one pound over this time last year. I always thought I needed a heart-pumping cardio workout like running to maintain my weight. But lo and behold, this yoga thing seems to be working!!!!

Now yes, I’m still running, but it’s about twice a week. I also am biking more than I did last summer, but anywhere between 7-15 miles at a time, 2-3 times a week. I’ve gone swimming once so far this year, lol.

I do notice a decline in my cardio capacity. My heart rate seems to go higher more quickly than it did when I was running a lot. So I can tell that my heart muscle probably isn’t in as good of shape as it used to be.

I do like a good cardio workout once in a while. I like to get my sweat on. But this experiment tells me that perhaps some day I will transition almost completely to yoga as the way to stay in shape.

 

Being forced to slow down

It’s frustrating to have an injury, isn’t it?

But it’s a humbling experience. We may have plans for our bodies, but our bodies often have different plans.

I was doing well, gaining strength and mobility in my Ashtanga practice. I had been working on jump backs and jump throughs, trying to build strength in my arms to lift my off the mat so my legs could shoot back. I also had been working on stage 1 of handstand that I learned in my Bheemashakti training.

Then this:

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That is from a tiny, tiny mole removal, lol! The doctor needed to go long in order to seam it up, since she had to take out a circle of skin and you can’t really stitch up a circle.

Doctor’s orders were no exercise for a week, no lifting over 10 pounds, and certainly no yoga.

After a couple of days I practiced asanas that didn’t require weight on my arms or arm extensions. But even in trikonasana I could feel the skin of my arm stretch, so I didn’t want to do much of that.

Later in the week I did some modifications. One week after the excision, I was back to a fairly normal Ashtanga practice, though with knees down during chaturanga. I also was back to practicing jump backs and jump throughs, so I was glad to only have a week off from that.

My goal asana for this summer, bhujapidasana, is going to have to wait a while longer! My arm is not going to like my leg resting on it!

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And starting next week I’ll be doing a Mysore practice once a week at OneYoga in Minneapolis, so I anticipate being a little weaker for that than I had hoped.

At times we need to take a step back and rest. Our bodies are good at telling us when to do that. Are we so good at listening, though?

 

 

Take 10 minutes and read this article

If you are a woman, when you last went out with girlfriends, did you talk about your weight? Your bodies? Your diets?

Do men get together and criticize their physical appearance?

It’s time to start loving ourselves. Your body is amazing. Look at everything it allows you to do each day. Your body isn’t the reason why people love you. People love your intellect, your humor, your compassion.

Be kind to yourselves.

 

 

Ideas for a morning practice: Part I

For years, my morning ritual involved nothing more than making coffee and jumping right into my day. This was when I had an 8-to-5 telecommuting job. I preferred to start the work day early and take a longer break mid-day, so I often was logged onto my computer around 6:30 a.m. I guess it worked because I didn’t know any better.

After I left that job for a faculty job in higher education, I had a more flexible work schedule. I still enjoyed getting up early and making coffee, but instead of working I’d write. That felt like a better morning ritual. I enjoyed creating in the stillness of a quiet house.

I’ve learned a lot about morning practice and its importance over the past year. For me, a morning practice has set a tone for each day and has made the busy and chaotic days so much easier to handle.

If you’re thinking of starting a morning practice, I have some ideas for you — some of these things I do. Others I don’t incorporate but they make sense for the morning. If you already have a morning practice, perhaps you can share ideas of what works for you. I have about 10 ideas, but I will blog just one at a time.

To start, I thought I’d begin with the very first thing I do in the morning: I wash away the night.

I don’t know about you, but generally my first stop upon waking is the bathroom. While you’re there, spend some time at the sink clearing away the grit and toxins that have accumulated while you’ve slept. This can be quick, or take as long as you’d like. Some things you can do:

  • scrape your tongue
  • brush your teeth
  • wash your face
  • blow your nose
  • take a shower 

Do one or more of these things before you do anything else. I’m often thirsty upon waking, but I don’t drink any water until after I’ve scraped my tongue and brushed my teeth. I don’t want to ingest that gross stuff on my tongue!

I’ve been consistent in this morning routine since the first of the year, five full months now (I wait until later in the day to shower, but I do everything else listed–it takes only a couple of minutes). For the first time in a long time, I didn’t get sick all winter — no cold, no flu, no sniffles or sore throat. Coincidence?

What’s the very first thing you do in the morning?

Giving up what you know and trying something new

RachaelMM2018
That’s definitely a grimace on my face around Mile 22 during the marathon last October. 

I’m a little more than three months into my experiment of not running regularly. After the marathon in October, I wanted some time away from a strict running schedule.

This is a first for me.

Even when I wasn’t training for a running event, my mindset always was, I should really get out there and run. I saw running as the most efficient workout — even 15 or 20 minutes was enough to get my heart pumping, clear my head and receive a boost in metabolism.

My goal post-marathon was to get away from running but move at least 30 minutes most days of the week. This has included a treadmill or outdoor run, as well as equipment at the gym — the elliptical, the HIITmill, and the stationary bike. If I’m at the gym I also add 10-15 minutes of strength/core work with weights and machines.

I’m enjoying the variety and not being tied to running. As a result, I’m working out more frequently. I usually can fit in 30 minutes five or six days a week. When I was training, I generally only ran four days a week. I feel like 30 minutes a day is pretty low-commitment. When I’m training for a run, I can only get in three miles in 30 minutes so my workouts usually had to be much longer than that, which became a stress when trying to find the time amid everything else.

On top of this, I have my near-daily yoga practice. So with the combination of everything, I’m feeling strong and healthy. The experiment is going well so far!

Have you changed up your routine? Is there something you thought you’d always have to do and were reluctant to give it up?

Repost: Turmeric Smoothie?

I really enjoyed reading this short blog post about smoothies, in particular about adding turmeric to smoothies.

I learned about smoothies in general (are they actually good for you?) as well as how and when to add spices to your food.

I appreciated the last bits of wisdom:

Whatever food goes inside, becomes YOU!

When will we wake up to what are we eating, how much are we eating, how are we eating, when are we eating and why are we eating?

The blog was written by Indu Arora, who shares a lot of excellent information about Ayurveda and yoga.

Yoga can cause injuries — so be mindful!

Yoga is not without its physical risks.

Yes, I want more people to check out yoga classes. But for yogis to promote yoga as a cure-all and as a way to prevent injuries is irresponsible. Of course I believe the benefits outweigh the risks, but new practitioners should be mindful going into it.

I liked an article (posted below) from the Washington Post that was reprinted in the Dec. 23 edition of the Minneapolis StarTribune. I thought it had a lot of good tips.

Yoga injuries are likely going to come from overuse and overstretching. But I believe that listening to your body is going to be the most important way to prevent injuries. I think a lot of yoga injuries result from people looking at others in a class and trying to do what they’re doing. They forget that the person on the mat next to them may have been practicing yoga for many years. Letting go of ego and letting go of competition will go a long way in keeping yourself healthy on the mat.

Starting yoga

 

It’s not called a diet, it’s called eating well

 

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My six-taste bowl: Quinoa, chickpeas, sweet potato, broccoli, kale, red pepper, and avocado, tossed with an almond-ginger sauce. 

I’m only a few days into eating a primarily plant-based diet, but I’m already feeling better and seeing results.

I generally have eaten pretty healthy in the past few years. I like fruits and vegetables and make it a point to eat those every day. I like to eat well because I like to be active, and I can’t fuel my body on garbage. But my main challenges have been:

  • Simply eating too much, especially now that I’m not logging lots of miles like I was prior to the marathon in October.
  • Still lacking willpower to walk away from the sweet treats — totally my weakness! I would never eat chips or fries again in my life if it meant I could still eat cookies.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.

These have been my challenges for about three years. In 2014, I wasn’t happy with my eating habits or my body and made some major changes. I was able to keep this up mostly through 2016. But since then, I’ve struggled.

I’ve made half-hearted attempts to rediscover that good place I was in a few years ago. But nothing ever stuck and I’d quickly be back to my old habits (or more accurately, not even wanting to change).

But a couple of weeks ago, something happened. It was definitely an internal/mind change. I kind of just lost my taste for junk. I craved freshness. That’s what I wanted to put into my body. Whereas I hadn’t cut back on alcohol because I simply liked it, in the past couple of weeks the thought of drinking kind of turned my stomach.

I credit the change to a few things:

  • Making yoga and meditation a daily routine. I wake up and immediately begin my practice. Sometimes it’s only 15 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour. I’ve been sustaining this for about a month.
  • Disliking how my body feels when I’m not kind toward it. A morning practice is difficult and challenging when if the night before I drank and ate garbage. I got tired of feeling that way.
  • Letting go of psychic baggage.

Just in the past few days, I’ve noticed that I’m sleeping better and have lost weight. And the new diet is highly satisfying and filling! This is a HUGE change for me. As a pitta, I’m often ravenous and counting the hours until the next meal. I have never missed and meal and have never forgotten to eat! But something like the six-taste bowl pictured above sustains me for hours. This has been the biggest surprise of this new routine.

This is not a diet or a miracle fix. This is a way of life. I have never participated in any fad diet, because I know the key is being able to sustain the way you eat. I don’t anticipate a problem incorporating more vegetables and less meat and dairy into my diet.

At this moment, I’m not saying that I won’t ever eat meat or dairy or sugar again, or that I’ll never have another sip of alcohol. I resist strict rules. Even if the rules are good for me, my instinct is to break them just because they’re rules! I’m also a slow learner and like to dip my toe in the water before going all in. For example, I did several 5Ks and 10Ks before doing a marathon. I did sprint triathlons before moving on to Olympic-distance triathlons. Unlike someone I know, who signed up for a full Ironman triathlon without knowing how to swim!

So I’m considering this a primarily plant-based diet, with some exceptions. I think the key to making something work for you is to tailor it to your needs and lifestyle. Make it individual for you. What works for someone else may not work for you.

What dietary successes have you encountered?