Active people: Stop being so rigid, loosen up, and enjoy the ride.
That was my takeaway from this year’s MultisportWorld Conference and Expo, held Saturday at Columbia University’s Dodge Fitness Center. (A free fitness conference practically in my backyard? Total score.) Courtney (one of the cool chicks who frequents this blog) and I attended some of the morning seminars, which focused on “Becoming a Happy Triathlete.” After hearing some very inspiring and helpful advice from the presenters, I was pretty damn happy—and the info they shared applies to any active person. What stood out for me:
The inactivity epidemic is far worse than the obesity epidemic. After acknowledging that he was preaching to the choir, Dr. Robert Sallis, former president of the American College of Sports Medicine, started out simple: No matter the population studied, “People who are active and fit live longer, happier, healthier lives,” he said. However, his insistence that being overweight yet fit is better than being at a “healthy” weight but inactive blew my mind a little bit. “Quit using the scale as your barometer for health,” he implored the crowd, suggesting that we use minutes of activity per week instead and shoot for more of those rather than a lower weight. Even a few minutes more of walking each day can make a difference. If you get and stay active, he said, “There’s no reason at 50 you shouldn’t be doing what you were doing when you were 25.”
Triathlon training and racing is a game—it’s okay to have fun with it. Figure out who you are, whether it’s a knee-knocking newbie triathlete or a semi-pro racer, and then have fun with your training and racing. Otherwise, why the heck are you doing any of this in the first place? “If you want to be happy in this sport, your focus should be on the process,” said Dr. Paul Weiss, a sports psychologist and the chief program officer at Asphalt Green in New York City. He added that mini-goals, such as “I’m going to get to that tree… now I’m going to get to the 10-mile mark… etc.” are the best way to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed at any point in your tri. “If you hit those [mini-goals],” he said, “the race just happens.” Also? It’s okay if you get a little competitive, even if you’re so new that you need a five-minute pep walk just to put on your goggles. The competition is part of the fun. Weiss suggested, “If someone has your age written on their calf, try to catch them.”
Performance starts in your stomach, so eat something. Sports nutritionist and author Nancy Clark—her name may be familiar if you read Runner’s World or SHAPE—made a point that nearly knocked me over with its simplicity: “No weight will ever be good enough to do the enormous job of creating happiness.” BAM. Anyway, I was hooked on Clark’s very straightforward yet incredibly kind way of talking about food and weight and body image. (Disclaimer: I am a girl who has had some bad experiences with nutritionists. More on that at another time.) Who wouldn’t love someone like Clark, who makes fueling yourself sound like such a loving part of training and who reassures you that “On rest days, you won’t get fat or lose fitness?” I later bought her book, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, at the expo.
If your bike doesn’t fit YOU, nothing else matters. Triathlon coach (and my awesome swim coach, hi Mike!) Mike Galvan made it clear that proper bike fit takes hours, not minutes, and it’s far more involved than tweaking your seat and handlebars. And make sure you go somewhere with a super-attentive staff. “The main thing they should do is listen to you,” he said. Galvan used a real cyclist riding on a trainer to point out the do’s and don’ts of proper form. A big deal: Make sure that your sit bones, not the meaty part of your tush, are on the saddle. Galvan also confessed to keeping six bikes in the one-bedroom apartment he and his wife share. I think that makes the two that Mr. Haul Buns and I stash in our studio seem positively Spartan in comparison.
Hello, haulers! Here are a few quick hits to finish up the day.
The United States armed forces has a weight problem: More than a quarter of 17- to 24-year-olds are too overweight for military services, and the problem is bigger among women than men. CBS This Morning considered the problem in this segment earlier today.
A “fitness marketing expert” says there are five basic reasons that most gyms suck, and one is that there’s very little connection or community among members. I know that, for me, a squeaky-clean facility wins out over every other factor, all the time. Who cares if there’s camaraderie if we’re all working out on floors that haven’t been mopped in a week? Anyway, check out the list and see whether you agree.
If you ever wind up in a jail with a yoga program, take advantage of it. This pothead in Colorado did, and the judge was so pleased that she went easy on him even though prosecutors wanted him to spend more time in jail. Insert your own high-on-life joke here.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ Evan Longoria thinks yoga is cool and helpful. Think I can translate that into getting Mr. Haul Buns, a baseball fan and yogaphobe, to come to the studio with me this summer? Yeah, probably not.
Hot yoga and running are alike in so many ways. They can make you feel like you’re dying. They make you leak sweat like a faulty garden hose. They cause you to seriously reconsider the Mexican food you had for dinner the night before. And when you’re smack in the middle of doing them, it can take all of your will not to puke on yourself.
The way you feel at the end is always worth it. But this isn’t one of those inspirational posts. This is really just about how, a few minutes into my Bikram yoga class this morning, I had to mind-over-matter it hard core when I realized that someone around me smelled like fried onions and garlic.
You guys know what I’m talking about. You get a whiff of it when you’re sitting next to a stranger on the bus or when someone’s standing too close to you in the grocery store check-out line. It’s not the fresh, savory bouquet that wafts out from the kitchen when you’re visiting your favorite Italian restaurant. It’s the stale odor that you first smelled lingering in your elderly Aunt Trudy’s curtains and upholstery. It’s a smell that has notes of body odor and airless rooms. It’s a smell of good stuff gone wrong. I’m so sensitive to it that I make a point of keeping the windows in our very small apartment wide open and the fans going while I’m cooking.
Anyway, that’s what was making its way into my nostrils at approximately 6:25 this morning, as I was trying to get into standing-head-to-knee pose. Keep in mind that Bikram yoga is practiced in a room that’s heated to a humid 105 degrees Farenheit and filled with people—if something stinks, it has to compete with about 300 other foul smells for dominance. This one had eaten its Wheaties.
I know that one of yoga’s biggest tenets is to just accept what is—especially if it’s annoying—and persevere without letting it affect you. Let’s just say that this morning, I wasn’t the best yogi I could be. As we moved through the sequence of poses, I furtively tried to sniff my hair, my hands, my clothing. Nothing. Sure that I was in the clear, I darted quick glances around the room at my classmates, trying to narrow down who the culprit might be.
I was fairly certain the stinker was the chick a row ahead of me with all of her hair gathered in a tight topknot. I mentally focused my disgust on her. By the time we finished the standing poses, I was having a hard time. I was tired. I was a little dehydrated. And this smell was killing me. No one else seemed bothered, but I was unable to concentrate on anything other than not wretching. Some enlightenment, eh?
Then we moved to the floor, where I realized the terrible truth: THE STINKER WAS ME. My towel, which I’d brought from home to cover my mat, smelled like someone’s grandma’s housecoat. And in a sickening flash I realized that the towel had been hanging up to dry in our bathroom—our windowless bathroom!—when I was making vegetarian mole over the weekend. I was mortified. It was like that old horror story when the heroine realizes that the threatening calls are coming from inside the house!
The second half of a Bikram class is spent on the floor, much of it with your belly to the mat. That means I repeatedly had to face-plant myself into the very odor I’d angrily pinned on my fellow yoga-goers moments before. For about 45 minutes.
Did I mention it was really humid?
And that, friends, is karma.
I was raised in a family that celebrated every holiday it could. I suspect that comes, in part, from the fact that Momma Buns is the queen of many things, including finding the perfect paper goods for any occasion — on sale — at Party City. As my sister and I grew up, she put that talent to the test as often as possible. I remember waking up to find that Momma Buns had decorated the kitchen with red foil hearts and made pancakes (a rare treat on a school morning). Other years, I remember her sitting with me while I scrawled my classmates’ names on Snoopy Valentine’s cards, or my whole family passing gifts wrapped in pink tissue paper around the dinner table. (As I grew older, mine was usually a romantic comedy or super-weeper newly out on video. Untamed Heart, anyone?)
So even though I know that many people think Valentine’s Day is manufactured, romantic silliness, for me, it brings to mind really great celebrations of the deep affection my family and I have for each other. So I love it. And I love you guys. In the spirit of that love-fest— even though the actual holiday was yesterday — I’m going to unabashedly share some fitness-related stuff (plus a few randoms) that makes my heart sing. Cool?
“Golden Years” by David Bowie
I first heard it in the movie A Knight’s Tale, which makes me uncool. But my adoration of choreographed dance scenes already makes me uncool, so whatever. Now, the song is on my running playlist—and it’s very useful as a workday afternoon mood-booster, too.
Love Your Muscles with Crunch
I joined Crunch gym just after I started my job in New York two years ago. Aside from the convenient locations (one near my job, another near my apartment) and really great classes (Marc Santa Maria’s Monday night hip-hop and Dave Norfleet’s iRide Spinning are FANTASTIC), the vibe there is a little bit funkier and more accepting than many other New York gyms I’ve visited. The gym’s motto, after all, is No Judgments. This month, they’re holding workshops and offering training specials to raise money for Augie’s Quest, a Muscular Dystrophy Association initiative to find a cure for the degenerative muscle disease ALS. This month, the gym will give Augie’s Quest $5 for every new membership and $10 for every new personal training package. “Love Your Muscles” refers to the signs they put your name on when you donate: You can choose a muscle you love — I picked the heart — and your name goes up alongside a cute cartoon drawing of that muscle. If you’re interested in more information or want to donate, go here.
Toward the end of every yoga class, the instructor asks everyone to lay on their backs, heels together, toes flopped apart, arms by their sides, palms open. Sometimes our eyes are open; often, they’re closed. We lay in this position, known as savasana (suh-VAH-snah) or “corpse pose”, and relax everything. Sounds like sleeping, you say. It’s seriously close, but so much better. Often, the poses right before savasana are challenging, and laying down and focusing only on breathing and relaxing seems like a reward. In Bikram yoga, sometimes the only thing that gets me through a rough class is the thought of how sweet the savasana will be at the end. I lay on my mat and think about how the ground is supporting me, holding me up, and how I don’t have to do anything except find little snarls of tension in my body and then let them go. Even if you’re not into yoga, try giving yourself a few minutes of motionless chill-out time after a tough workout sometime. It’s pretty awesome.
Puma’s Dizzy Barrel Bag
When my old gym bag bit it, I tried to make do with tote bags and backpacks and the like. No good. I resisted buying a new one because I didn’t want something huge and clunky, but I needed something big enough to fit a change of clothes, my sneakers, and toys like my interval timer, my iPod, a magazine, my weight gloves, etc. Behold, Puma’s Dizzy Barrel Bag. It’s pretty great, kind of stylish, and (right now) on sale! Gym bag woes, cured.
I’d love to hear what gets your heart pumping, too. Gadgets and gear? Workouts? Instructors? Personal accomplishments? Something completely unrelated to fitness but awesome nonetheless? Tell us about it in the comments section.
Team Haul Buns. It’s kind of a thing now. If you need proof, here’s exhibit A, taken at yesterday’s Cycle for Survival event at Equinox on Fifth Avenue in New York.
The fundraiser, started five years ago by Jennifer Goodman Linn and her husband, Dave, is a whole bunch of back-to-back Spinning classes. Teams of riders raise money that goes directly — 100 percent, every penny — to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to research and treat rare cancers. The Linns had a good reason to start the annual event: Jennifer was diagnosed with sarcoma at age 33. She died in July, and this year’s event was a beautiful continuation of the mission she started.
It fills me with so much pride to say that the eight members of Team Haul Buns raised more than $3,000 this year and SERIOUSLY represented yesterday.
When we weren’t riding, we were cheering. We were dancing. We were taking pictures and being silly and kind of just loving the incredibly energy in the room.
I loved that our team was a mix of experienced Spinners and newbies — we even had a baby on board when Erika (who’s expecting her second daughter this spring) rode.
We sported team tee shirts and created a poster for people we love who’ve fought cancer.
By the time it was over, we were already making plans for next year’s event. Yeah, we’re totally doing this again. Thanks to Cycle for Survival and Equinox for such an awesome event. And SO MUCH thanks to everyone who supported our team. If you’d still like to give to this very worthy cause, you can do so here. Thanks!
I like to think that I have good ideas. It’s just that sometimes, I have them far too late. Like just before our wedding, when I decided that instead of a traditional guest book, I wanted to scan photos and mementos from my 11-year relationship with Mr. Haul Buns, artfully arrange them in a custom photo book, and have it printed in a week’s time. (P.S. — That didn’t happen.) Or when I came up with the plan, a week before the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, to run the race dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Not so hard, you’re probably thinking. After all, it IS October, Halloween is just around the corner, and with the Interwebs these days, getting a costume at any time of the year isn’t that much of a chore. True, but I didn’t want to be any old tale-as-old-as-time-Belle-in-the-yellow-gown. I’ve done Disney races before, and there are always about a million Snow Whites, Tinkerbells, and yellow Belles. I wanted to be different. I wanted to be Belle as you first see her on screen, skipping around her small, provincial town in a white-and-blue frock.
Go ahead, sing along. You know you want to.
Before I go any further, let’s address a couple of things:
I’m not a huge fan of running in costume, unless I am in Disney World. Then, all bets are off. I’m also not a huge fan of gnawing on giant turkey legs or waiting in line next to a deodorant-challenged South American tour group for 40 minutes to take part in a two-minute recreation of Peter Pan’s flight — unless I’m somewhere with “Magic” and “Kingdom” in its name. Then, I do these things with a zip-a-dee-do-dah in my heart. It should be noted that Mary, a friend who flew in from Arizona to run with me, had zero desire to do wear anything other than what would keep her going until she crossed the finish line. And that’s a totally respectable POV.
When I do run in costume, I don’t want my costume to look like yours. Sorry, but it’s true. That usually means I have to make it from scratch. Which is a problem, because …
I don’t sew, craft, knit, crochet, weave, embroider or hot glue gun. I’ve been working on a cross-stitched advent calendar for my mom for FOUR YEARS. Bottom line: I’m not skilled in the domestic arts. So for my first costume a few years ago — Pocahontas, which I wore in Disney’s inaugural Princess Half Marathon — I manhandled a khaki crewneck tee shirt until it turned into an asymmetrical buckskin tunic and hoped no one noticed the wildly uneven stitching, which looked like it had been done by a palsied crazy person. Still, from a distance, and with the addition of a necklace and a ribbon bicep tattoo attached to my iPod holder, not too bad methinks.
This year, though, I needed true talent on my team: Enter Momma Buns, crafting queen extraordinaire. I sent her this:
If this were one of those awesome, crafty blogs that I love to read (Future Girl, CraftyPod—I’m looking at you), I’d have step-by-step photos and easy-to-follow directions for you to make your very own Belle apron. It’s not. I showed up at Momma Buns’ house on Saturday afternoon, and the apron was ready to go. “In the future,” she said in pretty much the same tone she used when I was in sixth grade and forgot about a science project until the night before it was due, forcing me to stay up all night drawing pictures of bird beaks and her to spend the wee hours scanning stacks of library books for the perfect profile view of a scarlet macaw, “a little more notice would be helpful.”
In my opinion, Momma did a pretty rockin’ job. I added a plastic rose and some blue ribbon to tie back my ponytail, and we got this:
Not too bad, right?
As for the race and the rest of the weekend, I think I shall sum it up in photos: