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Posts tagged ‘fitness’


photo by gluioo, via flickr creative commons

photo by gluioo, via flickr creative commons

Sean and I went for a bike ride Saturday.  A 2.5 hour bike ride.  Together.  We left home together…rode up a mountain together…and rode home together.  I know this might not sound that exciting to you, but it was a big deal for us.  Most Saturdays we don’t even see each other before noon at the earliest.  He’s gone before I wake up and when he gets back, I’m out the door before he can even mix a glass of Gatorade.  This is the behind-the-scenes reality of two parents wanting to get substantive weekend workouts in, yet feeling like we should be with our kids during every moment of non-work daylight.  It’s very efficient and very…unromantic.

Ever since having kids, I’ve felt like one or both parents need to be with the kids if they’re awake and we’re not working.  We even negotiated AWAKE and ASLEEP rates with our babysitter so that we didn’t feel frustrated about paying exorbitant babysitting rates for someone who never even see the whites of our children’s eyes (99% of the time).  Rather than go out and bask in the early evening sunshine or catch a happy hour, we usually head out after dinnertime/bathtime/bedtime only to fight off falling asleep in our soup (movies are out of the question after 7pm).  So this is why a daytime date (yes, we call a bike ride a date) was so extraordinary.

Don’t get me wrong…this wasn’t our first daytime date.  But daytime dates haven’t historically happened very often, and this was the first time I actually asked myself about the why.  Here’s the list of trade-offs I could come up with:

  • PROS: both of us waking up when it’s light outside, going out to breakfast as a family, doing an art project, working out together, feeling happy for the rest of the day, wanting to spend the rest of the day with the kids, kids get to play at park with fun babysitter
  • CONS: we get a bit less time with the kids, kids “had” to play at the park with fun babysitter

Enough said — this was a true case of quality over quantity — on both the date and the kids front.  We had better quality family time (all of us together versus ships passing in the night), and Sean and I stayed awake throughout our whole date.  It was a win-win, and while it might not become our weekly reality, it will definitely happen more often from here on out.

If you have kids, how do you feel about daylight babysitting?  How do you manage to get your weekend workouts in?

The 7-Minute Workout

12 Exercises

The New York Times just posted a short article about high-intensity interval training (HIIT) –something I’m always interested in learning more about because it’s so effective and efficient.  The article shares the findings of a study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, which concludes that 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair, and a wall constitute a HIIT workout and just take seven (uncomfortable — at a level 8 on a scale of 1-10) minutes.  And according to the study authors, these precious seven minutes “produce molecular changes within muscles comparable of those of several hours of running or bike riding.”  Seriously?!  That’s AMAZING, totally defying everything many of us grew up thinking about exercise (i.e., more = better).

We all have at least seven minutes.  In fact, I’d argue that we all have at least 28 minutes and could do this workout multiple times during the day.  Yes, a long, luxurious workout beats this any day, but time is a scarce resource these days.  And if I can get seven minutes, I’ll take it — in the gym, in the garage, in a conference room with the door closed, or in the parking lot waiting to pick up my kids.

Are you into HIIT, and if so, what’s your favorite workout/class?  And if you haven’t tried it but would like to, check out my earlier post on Tabata and my friend Karisa’s simple-but-super-tough home workout.

Cheering Us On

daddy sign

Girls don’t do those long races…just boys do,” my 4-yr-old son informed me knowingly as we drove out to watch my husband’s 50-mile trail (running) race this past weekend.  I asked him why he thought that, and he replied, “if girls did them, you’d be running today too, mom!

Flattered that he thought I might be an aspiring ultra-marathoner (which in case you’re wondering, I’m not) and relived that he’s not sexist, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.  “Your dad’s insane…I’m not” didn’t feel quite right.  “I don’t want to be arthritic when I’m 45” is probably a bit over his head, I thought.  And “believe me, I’d much rather be on a trail than sitting in this car” sounded spiteful.  So I settled on the truth.  “Daddy loves these races, but I love other things.  We both spend our time doing things we love…just because we choose different things doesn’t mean they’re only for boys or only for girls.”  And on we went to the race, where we all cheered for every single “boy” and every single “girl” who came through the aid station.

My son’s question was important, both because of what he asked and what he didn’t ask.  I’ve never heard him say anything like “why is daddy spending the whole day running?  Why isn’t he with me?”  He’s never upset when I head out for a bike ride or a yoga class…in fact, I often find my kids with yoga mats outstretched — practicing their own downward dogs — when I get home from yoga.  Just as parents want their kids to be happy and free, I think kids…even little ones…want their parents to be the same.  And even more, they are watching our every move.  If we think running is cool, so do they.  If we eat asparagus, the odds go up that they’ll give it a try too.  If we play board games, they might opt for UNO over iPad.

This brings me to the next chapter of this blog.  I’m going to start focusing content more narrowly on parents, and what they can do to hack their health and design the lives they want to lead amidst the emotional and structural challenges of raising kids.  This is not turning into a parenting blog.  It’s not turning into a family blog.  It is a blog for the GROWN-UPS.  There are a ton of amazing resources out there focused on taking care of your kids and families (and I’m not trying to undermine the importance of that in any way)…but this one is about taking care of YOU.  It’s about staying connected with who you are at the core and what you care about most and what you’re working on in your life.  It’s about the constant shifting of priorities that mark these years.  It’s about the focus that brings peace, and the experiences that connect us.

I firmly believe that we can only help our kids become the best version of themselves if we are the best versions of ourselves.  And when we’re doing those things, our kids will be there to cheer us on…just as we are for them.  As I’ve said before, the kids will be alright.

P.S. If you’re not a parent, it’s my hope that you’ll still find lots of interesting ideas on this blog.  Again, it’s a blog for the grown-ups, so if your “baby” is a company or a hobby or a sport or a book or a band, I encourage you to stay tuned!

Fit Parents

photo (2)

A few months ago, someone saw me running my kids to school in the stroller and said,”I can’t believe you’re still exercising.  I gave that up once I had kids.”  I wanted to say, “Oh really, did you stop breathing too?”

This person unfortunately seems to be not an outlier, but the norm.  According to a 2010 Gallup study, among Americans aged 18-50, those with children at home are less likely to report frequent exercise than their childless peers.  And parents who have a child younger than four report lower levels of frequent exercise (24.5%) than their fellow parents with older kids (25.7%).  Not surprisingly, parents are also slightly more likely than those without children to be overweight or obese.

Here’s the thing: without a doubt, becoming a parent (or starting anything else that requires a ton of time and energy) puts constraints on when and for how long you can work out.  It’s damn hard to fit it in some days.  But my (admittedly harsh) point-of-view is that people who don’t exercise when they have kids (but still claim they want to) haven’t stopped because of the kids themselves; they’ve quit because they have consciously or unconsciously decided that workouts are no longer a priority in their life.  I should note here that there’s a whole separate group of people who never made exercise a priority pre-kids, and therefore face the challenge of starting a new habit in a very busy phase of life (this post is targeted more to group #1).

My message here is for the parents out there who aren’t exercising, but WANT to be.  It IS possible.  And worth it…after all, shouldn’t taking care of ourselves be at the top of the list once we have kids — maybe even higher than it was before?  Being good to our bodies gives us the energy to play with our sweet little rugrats and improves our odds of living to see them grow up.  Choosing a workout over morning TV sets a good example, making cycling or swimming or yoga seem cooler than Dora the Explorer.  And moreover, exercise is a way to get time on your own or with loved ones to rejuvenate and release stress and re-connect.

So if you have kids, are thinking about having them, or have a loved one who has them — and you’d like to keep exercise in your life — here are a few simple ideas to keep in mind.

  • Find something you love to do.  Similar to the way Sheryl Sandberg argues that it’s important for people to find a career they’d want to return to after having kids, I think it’s important for people to find a workout (or ideally lots of kinds of exercise) they love before having kids.  After all, it’s a lot easier to continue a habit than it is to try to create a new one…especially in the whole new world of parenting.
  • Create ways to exercise as a family.  Workouts don’t have to mean time away from kids.  Two ways we integrate our kids into our exercise time are 1) running with stroller + bike, and 2) going to the track to run intervals while our kids play in the grassy area in the middle.
  • Do a Saturday morning handoff.  Sometimes I’ll go to yoga early in the morning while my husband hangs out with the kids.  He’ll then bring the kids to the studio, I climb into the driver’s seat and he heads into the yoga studio for his class.  This is a popular one for parents who have the luxury of a partner with whom to share parenting duties.
  • Try a pre-dawn workout.  Yes, it’s painful, but it’s possible.  And it’s a surefire way to get a workout in while the munchkins are still deep in sleep.
  • Integrate exercise into your everyday.  Exercise doesn’t have to leave you a sweaty mess.  Sometimes the most effective way to work it in is to try smaller increments during the day.  Walk to the park instead of driving…bike to work…dance after breakfast…stretch before bed.  Make exercise a lifestyle rather than an event.

I love my family more than anything in the world, but I also know what I need to do to be a great mom and partner.  And for me, getting a regular workout is and always has been a non-negotiable.  And my kids are more than alright.

How about you?  If you have kids — or a thriving hobby or anything else that takes a disproportionate amount of time — how do you fit in workouts?  Do you like to work out with your family, or is it your precious solo/grown-up time?  And if you’re not fitting it in, but want to, what small changes can you make to make room?

Barre Primer

photo by anya quinn via flickr creative commons

photo by anya quinn via flickr creative commons

I’ve been wanting to do a post for a while comparing all of the barre classes springing up across the country, as they’re all so different.  Well + Good NYC published one this morning, so no need to re-create the wheel.  If you’re interested in barre and trying to figure out which class is right for you, this slideshow is worth a view!  Happy Friday!

Curtis Camp


My former running partner and dear friend Karisa Curtis is working with a team to start up a new fitness concept called Work in Progress (WIP) in West Hartford, CT.  I can’t imagine a better person to get a new gym off the ground.  Karisa is an elite athlete (ran at cross-country and track at Brown and qualified for the World Triathlon Championships in Kona), and she’s also a super fun, awesome, motivating person and badass mom to two adorable little kids.  That’s a long way of saying, I’d totally trust her workout advice and personal training over almost anyone else’s.

So…I asked Karisa to put together a simple 45-50 minute workout that can easily be done at home, as I’m always looking for fitness inspiration and I’d guess you are too.   Here it is…let’s call it “Curtis Camp”…

What You’ll Need:

  • Stopwatch or a timer app (an easy one for the phone is called Seconds Pro, which lets you set up the several timers you need for this workout using “Round Timer”)
  • Dumbbells (10-25 lb)
  • 2 small towels (washcloths)
  • Exercise bands (optional, if you have them)

The Warmup:

  • 5 minutes of foam rolling, if you have a foam roller
  • 10 minutes of running, pedaling on a stationary bike/bike in a trainer, or a variety of dynamic lunges, stretches, and jumps or drill-like exercises (high knees, butt kicks, leg swings, fast feet, skipping, bounding, etc)

Core Workout: 5 total exercises: 50 seconds work/10 seconds rest

  • High plank (hands on ground)
  • High plank, drop down to low plank (elbows on ground, thumbs facing to sky), back up to high plank, alternating sides coming up
  • Spiderman low plank (alternating right knee towards right elbow, left knee towards left elbow)
  • Side plank (switch sides after 25 seconds)
  • Glute bridge (on back, feet flat and knees up, arms at side and palms up, lift hips to sky and hold)

Ramp Up:  12 rounds of 8 seconds work/12 seconds rest

  • Stationary sprints (knees up high and as fast as possible), face down on stomach for rest

Main Circuit:  5 rounds of 5 exercises, 30 seconds work/15 seconds rest (continuous)  

  • Push ups (progression: can put a band around lower back for more resistance, elevate legs on a coffee table, roll a medicine ball or basketball from hand to hand in between pushup)  **drop to knees if needed
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers (option: if you have hardwood floors, put a small towel like a washcloth under each foot and alternate sliding each foot in from plank position as fast as possible)
  • Hamstring curls (lie on back with towels under feet, lift hips up to sky, slide feet all the way out and all the way in without dropping hips to floor; can also use a large exercise ball instead of towels)
  • Squat and press with dumbbells (rack dumbbells at shoulders facing forward like flashlights and squat all the way down so that elbows touch knees; as you come up, press dumbbells overhead)

Finisher:  8 rounds of 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest

  • Jump squats (squat low, jump high; progression:  hold squat during rest)
  • Never ending ladder for 4 minutes:  3, 3, 6, 6, 9, 9, 12, 12, 15, 15, etc.  alternating between doing burpees and pushups


Doing this workout at full intensity takes self-discipline,  focus and commitment…but if you can make it through, this is an amazingly efficient and effective workout.  Thanks, Karisa — for the motivation and the inspiration!

What are your favorite workouts to do at home?  What keeps you going (a workout partner, music, etc)?

Can Firewalking Really Make Exercise Fun?

Oyster Race 2012!

Oyster Race 2012!

For some of us, exercise is fun.  Exhilarating.  Maybe even one of the highlights of our days.

But for others, it’s a chore.  Something they dread.  Maybe even something they only do under duress.  Gretchen Reynolds profiled this type of exerciser in her recent column, “When Exercise Stresses You Out,” in which she reports on a study published by scientists at UC-Boulder’s Center for Neuroscience.  The study, which was conducted on rats (who were assessed as happy or anxious), found that “even forced exercise increases stress resistance.”  This means that even if you don’t WANT to exercise, you’ll likely end up glad you did after it’s over.  The bottom line is, no matter how exercise happens…and how much you naturally enjoy the process or don’t…it IS good for you.

Now, if you’re reading this blog, you’re likely a relatively avid exerciser (or at a minimum, you like the idea of it).  So how can you get your more sedentary friends on board?  Beyond sending them this Reynolds’ article, one simple idea is to pull together a team to do a fitness event together (even people who hate exercise like fun + friends + beer at the end).  There are tons of amazing events to choose from these days, offering everything from climbing walls (Warrior Dash) to fire walking (Tough Mudder).  These team-based events are doing a great job of bringing the “hardcore” into the every day, and giving everyday (and new) athletes cool and fun ways to exercise.  Beyond the super famous ones I just mentioned, there are a few other great races out there you might want to pull a team together to try.

  •  Oyster Racing Series: One of my personal favorites, the Oyster is a team-based urban scavenger hunt including activities ranging from three legged races to kayaking to paddleboarding to finger painting…all connected by running/walking and biking.  There are full and half Oyster distances…something for everyone!
  • Rugged Maniac: A 5k obstacle course, some people call this the warm up to the Tough Mudder.  This year, participants in 21 cities across the U.S. slide down 100’ water slides, jump over fire, crawl through tunnels of mud and face a host of other challenges all while running through a combination of forests, fields, motocross tracks and ski slopes!
  • Gladiator Rock ‘N Run: I used to love watching American Gladiators on Saturday mornings…they had such cool names and were such specimens!  Founded by a real-life Gladiator, this race gives you a chance to be a Gladiator or a Goddess for a mud-filled day.

And if your friends aren’t into obstacles and mud and beer, there are tons of other options — road races, Zumba marathons, entering triathlons as a team, running relays like Hood to Coast, or even doing a day-long hike as a group (the Dipsea trail is a great one here in the Bay Area).

What events have you done with a team that you’ve loved?  Were they a good way to motivate friends to try something new?  Did they change the way you or your friends were thinking about exercise?  Please share…and just as importantly, think about what’s the next big event on your calendar!

Working Workouts into Busy Lives

In response to yesterday’s post about the need for parenting resources for the grown-up/grown-up relationships, not just grown-up/kid relationships, a few people reached out to me saying “Yes, of course parents need to take care of ourselves.  But how do we actually do it?  How do we make changes in our days and our lives that help us take better care of ourselves and our relationships?”  They’re right — the preaching is the easy part and the practice is the hard part.  For parents and for anyone else with “projects” that demand a lot of time (avid surfers, musicians, artists, volunteers, elder caregivers, etc), figuring out how to keep the self-care and relationship development pieces on the burner at all when the stovetop is really full is tough and individual, requiring thinking and intention and commitment.

I’m using this blog as a formal exploration of my quest to do this, and as I’ve been “living out loud,” I’ve become more conscious of trade-offs and more creative about working the things I need most into my days and life.  For example, in my wellfesto, I committed to “exercise as much as my time and body allow…”  How beautifully vague, right?  But this simple statement has helped me frame the role of exercise in my life from “must-run-10-miles-every-morning” to “how much time do I have for exercise and how does my body feel today?”  This simple shift has helped me let go of the rigidity that brings with it self-doubt and frustration, while reminding me that this is a top priority in my life and something I need in order to feel like myself.  Yes, a 10-mile run at 8am is still my preference, but on days when my body or schedule make that difficult, I’m OK with other, “more integrated” options.  Here are some of them:

  • Having a 15-minute dance party (including jumping, handstands, etc) with my kids after breakfast and before school/work
  • Doing walking (personal and work) meetings (you can get miles in every day just doing this)
  • Biking to and from work
  • Prioritizing a quick lunchtime workout (tabata is super efficient)
  • Jumping rope (calories burned and “high” to time ratio is incredible)
  • Simple circuit of push-ups, tricep dips, sit-ups in the morning and at night

Oh yeah, and just to add fuel to the current work-from-home fire Marissa Mayer has started, working from home is a huge help in integrating workouts (headstands in conference rooms are awkward and multiple showers per day are a waste of time and water)!  For more about this and how to integrate exercise and work, check out my earlier post on this topic.

How do you work workouts into busy days?  And how do you ensure you prioritize them on not-as-busy days?  Do you like coupling workouts with other things (work, kids, etc), or do you like them to stand on their own?

In the News This Week: Happiness, Exercise, Food Labels, and WAT-AAH

Napa, California is the Happiest City in America…According to 10 Million Tweets (via The Atlantic)

happiestsaddest2The Vermont Complex Systems Center created a “hedonometer” – an analysis of 10 million geotagged tweets. The researchers coded each tweet for its happy/sad content, based on the appearance and frequency of specific words (happy = rainbow, love, beauty, hope, wonderful, wine…sad = damn, boo, ugly, smoke, hate, lied). Yes, this method lacks context (i.e., does wine mean happiness or drunkenness), but at this scale, researchers can make reasonable conclusions. There are some other concerns with the study, which The Atlantic does a good job of distilling (check out the article to learn more), but all in all, this is an interesting addition to the host of happiness data out there, and I’ll be excited to see where it goes. If you like this sort of thing, you might also be interested in a friend of mine’s project + beautiful book: We Feel Fine.

WAT-AAH Aims to Make Water Cool for Kids (via

wataahMom and former marketing exec Rose Cameron makes a big bet that kids indeed judge a book by its cover. Her new brand WAT-AHH is designed to appeal to kids, giving them a reason to reach for water instead of sugary soda. Everything from the name to the bottle shape to the logo is designed by (her) kids, for kids, giving this a good shot if her hypothesis is true. Her own kids sure think it is: “Honestly, I think that my friends would rather drink a water that looks cooler than soda because it’s all about looking cool, honestly.” My take? Any effort to get kids off soda and onto water is a good one…but I’d also love to see a generation of kids drinking of the tap instead of plastic bottles!

Foods Might Have More Calories Than Food Labels Tell Us (via The Guardian)

garden carrotsHarvard primatologist Richard Wrangham convened a session about calorie measurement at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this week to voice his concerns that our current system of measuring calories (known as the Atwater system) may be flawed. He’s concerned that the system doesn’t account for the calories in fiber, while it overestimates (by up to 20%) the number of calories in some protein-rich food. Additionally, raw and cooked versions of the same food may have different calorie content. It will be interesting to see where this goes, as the thought of a new labeling system feels overwhelming (to me). In the meantime, this is a good reminder to eat whole, real foods in moderate quantities rather than obsess about calories (unless there is a medical reason we need to)!

Outdoor Exercise Trumps Indoor Workouts (via The New York Times)

running shoesAs someone who grew up and lived in a cold climate for much of my life, I’ve long wondered whether exercising indoors (on machines) gives us the same benefit as exercising outdoors. Gretchen Reynolds reported this week that there are irreplaceable benefits to exercising outdoors. Here are the key differences she reports: 1) Runners stride differently (more ankle flexion, more variety) and burn more calories when running outdoors versus on a treadmill, 2) cyclists use more energy outside (in large part due to wind drag), 3) walkers reported higher measures of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem after walking outside versus indoors, and 4) overall, people who exercise outdoors exercised longer and more often than those working out indoors.

At the end of her article, Reyonds quotes Jackqueline Kerr, profession at the University of California, San Diego: “Despite the fitness industry boom, we are not seeing changes in national physical activity levels, so gyms are not the answer.” It’s easy for me to say, now that I’ve escaped frigid Wisconsin for temperate California, but it sounds like the message is clear: LET’S GET OUTSIDE.

Body Chemistry Might Explain Differences Between Couch Potatoes and Exercisers (via The Wall Street Journal)

feetSo it turns out that working out might not just be about motivation and determination after all…biology might play a significant role. According to Panteleimon Ekkekakis, professor of kinesiology at Iowa State, everyone has a different physical capacity for exertion, after which point we start to feel really crummy during exercise. Knowing that we’re not all created equal, Ekkekakis sees people pushing beyond their natural limits too soon, versus trying to boost these limits slowly over time. This huge variance in thresholds might explain why some people exercise easily and stick with it, while others struggle and burn out. So what’s the big takeaway? Make workouts achievable, build slowly, and find ways to make exercise fun + social.

Does Sweatier = Better?

63690524_293855a2b5_zFor years, sweat wasn’t talked up much, unless advertisers were trying to sell Old Spice or wicking t-shirts.  But as exercise has become mainstream, sweat somehow feels like a more approachable…and maybe even a sexy topic.  Rather than marking hard work in the fields, a sweaty brow reflects workout prowess. In some circles, it’s a badge of honor, as people wring out their towels after Bikram yoga class and drink their smoothies in drenched tank tops.  And at endurance races (like the famous Western States 100 ultramarathon), sweat is so matter-of-fact that athletes are weighed at checkpoints to make sure they’re taking in what they’re sweating out. Read more

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