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Escape From The Urban Grind

April 18, 2012 Fitness, Fun No Comments

Remember how I went on and on about yoga and the awesome instructor I found? Yeah, well she’s hosting a retreat this summer — ESCAPE FROM THE URBAN GRIND. It’s in a really cool place in Sonoma County, and I’d totally go if I didn’t have a pesky Ironman on the calendar that weekend…

You should go! Tell her I sent you!



September 17, 2011 Fitness 4 Comments

I’m a competitive person by nature. I enjoy racing and the drive to do well — to actually compete — in a race helps keep me motivated to do workouts on days when I’d rather not. But it has its down-sides as well: burnout, injury, and the occasional friend’s toes being stepped on.

One of the things I love about yoga is that the act of doing it is called practice. That’s it. It’s ALWAYS practice. There is no competition at the end to prove how well or poorly you can do it. There is no comparing how well you can do it versus anyone else in the room or the world. And if your mind is well-trained, you don’t even compare yourself to yourself.

That takes practice, too.

In the beginning, I didn’t know what I was doing. Face it, no one does! I know it’s supposed to be my practice, but as a newbie, I needed to look around to see what my left arm was supposed to be trying to bind with, if only I could get my shoulders opened up enough to get it back there. Can you relate?

In looking around, I’d feel defeated. I WAS comparing myself to the seasoned yogis in the room. Even worse, I was comparing things like my relatively poor balance on my left leg to the strength in my right leg. I think this lack of confidence contributed to my struggle to embrace yoga.

My first time getting into a headstand from crow. Hooray!

It really took me awhile to get there. At first, I tried Bikram because I felt like I needed to sweat for it to be a workout. I burned out (ha!) quickly on that. Then I found an instructor at my local gym who really pushes it — long holds of lunges, planks, the dreaded chair pose — and her workouts continue to be harder than most strength workouts I have ever done with weights.

But her class is one that you just move with your breath as she talks, you move with the music. There are so many people in the class that it’s hard for her to do more than provide verbal cues for all levels. Chata-what? That’s hard for a beginner! You spend your whole time looking around, wondering what the heck you’re doing and hoping your limbs are in the right places.

Enter Bella Yogini.

Bella Yogini (aka Danae Robinett) is a San Francisco-based yoga instructor that changed my practice. My friend Jane introduced me to her early morning class at Yoga At Change and I reluctantly went the first time, dragging my ass out of bed for the 6:30 AM start.

It was a small class and we all got personalized attention. Danae turned the idea that IT’S YOUR PRACTICE into a reality. She spent a little time watching my vinyasas to see what I could do, then went to work customizing the class for me (as well as every other person in the room). She came around to each of us and helped us open our shoulders during triangle pose and pushed us deeper into downward facing dog. She taught me to tuck my pelvis during chair pose and to move immediately into chaturanga when I shoot my legs back during sun salutations. She reminded us to look at the things we could not do — like balance well on my left leg — as opportunities instead of weaknesses. She invited us to laugh as we fell out of a pose instead of berate oursevles.

She reinforced that yoga is a lifelong practice and I will never have to compete against myself or anyone else.

I still take Danae’s classes when I have the opportunity and I use what she has taught me when I go into the large, less personalized class at my regular gym. Even that instructor complimented me last week, saying she’s seen my practice come a long way. Indeed! If you are new to yoga or have been doing it for awhile and are still struggling to improve, my recommendation is to take private lessons or find an instructor who will give you personalized attention in a small class setting. Bay Area folks, you should be working with Danae!


Off-Season Fitness

August 19, 2011 Fitness 1 Comment

It has been three weeks since my race and I have to be honest: I love working out on my own terms. Luckily, when I’m in training mode, I love having a coach prepare all my workouts for me. It’s the best of both worlds!

Just because I’m not actively training for something doesn’t mean I am a couch potato. I’m not one to sit idle for a lot of reasons:

Nervous energy — I’ve always been a fidgeter
I won’t give up carbs
I sleep better when I’ve done something physical
I won’t give up chocolate
I like to wear sleeveless tops and not have arm jiggle
I won’t give up wine
Being active positively affects the dogs and children I’m frequently around

While it’s easy for me to fall into the known and available disciplines of swim/bike/run, I look at the off-season as an opportunity to expand my fitness horizons. Also, I really don’t want to burn out for next year’s triathlon season! I’m trying to mix up my repertoire to stay fit and healthy (and eat what I want) and here’s what I’ve either been doing or is on the horizon:

I’m doing yoga at least twice a week and up to 4 times if my schedule allows. In addition to my gym membership and a service swap I’m doing with a local yoga instructor (who I LOVE — more about her coming soon), I signed up at YogaDownload.com and they offer a lot of free workouts that are challenging. Note: these are probably better for someone who has been to a few classes to know the asanas and language. I can tell you right now that the 20-minute Core Yoga workout is very effective!

Someone please tell me that all it takes is working out 12-18 minutes a day to look like Zuzana!

Seriously. The workouts that they put together are hard core. For me, it’s a great mental game on both ends because I’m working really hard a la, “This is a great workout! I’m going to look like Zuzana by the weekend!” and I’m working really hard a la, “I’m soooo glad this is only 12 minutes long!”

These workouts tend to be more strength-based (with more weight) than I do during the triathlon season, but it’s also high intensity interval training (HIIT) for a cardio boost. And it’s free!

Tracy Anderson Method
Within the fitness community, there seems to be a love/hate relationship with Tracy and I get it. Greg and I have a running joke (based on her monologue on the Mat Workout video) because she preaches, “Never go over three-pound weights. If you use more than three-pound weights, you’re just going to bulk.” And she goes on about how we don’t want to build those pesky six-pack abs…

I like Tracy for a couple of reasons (and one of them is not her dance cardio, which I have never done). She isn’t lying when she says you’ll be toned like you never have before. Her method for engaging auxiliary muscles works. You have to be consistent about it (at least 4 times a week), but I saw results within two weeks at that level of frequency. I also like her music and queueing. She doesn’t talk through the whole thing, which makes the first few times difficult, but you’re so grateful for it after you know the routine.

I would love to try her new Metamorphosis workout, but I just haven’t wanted to spend the money on it. Has anyone tried it? I usually supplement a Tracy Anderson workout with some kind of cardio. For me, its purpose is toning only.

Of course, I do still swim, bike, and run, but I try to make the outings more leisurely or less results-based. I’ll choose to run errands on my bike, knowing I’ll be stopping and starting a lot. I’ll run with friends who are training for an upcoming race so I’m working on their agenda instead of my own. I’ve even been swimming in open water just because the weather has been so nice! While I’d love to say that I don’t take my Garmin on these outings, I do. I am addicted to the data like I’m addicted to chocolate and carbs — and it isn’t worth giving up in the off-season.

What am I missing? What do you do to stay active when you’re not training for a race or are otherwise burned out by your usual routine?



Have Fun With Your Ego

January 25, 2010 Fear, Fitness, Fun No Comments

Have fun with your ego! This is what my yoga instructor told us this week as class began.

Everyone likely interprets this differently — the idea of having fun with your ego. For me, I really latched onto it because I felt it was along the same vein as calorie-burning fears… I interpret it as finding the edge of where you are comfortable and pushing that edge, going beyond your comfort level. Kind of like a practical joke on your ego, in the nicest possible way.

So go ahead, have fun with your ego! Why not? What have you got to lose??


This is not a rhetorical question. What have you got to lose?

Your balance? Your reputation? Your idealized sense of self? There is not an answer to this question that is good enough to NOT TRY. This was my second yoga class and I found myself pushing harder through stretches and poses, only to fall out of them. I found myself trying a crane pose, one leg at a time. It went so well, I might just try both legs in next week’s class! I stopped looking around me to see how far the Asian lady over there could go or, *gasp* what the white guy in the front could do.

Applying the question to your everyday life is where the money is. For me, publishing this blog has been like having a bona fide party with my ego! I also took my ego to Tahoe over the weekend. I skied moguls and through powder (a first for me) while my friends watched and waited for me. I knew I was the slowest, least experienced person among us and I didn’t let it bother me. I went at my own pace and had fun with my ego by trying new things (like speed!) and subsequently falling on blue runs and watching little kids zoom past me.

Having fun with our egos is like an invitation to play. Children at play fall when running too fast or being tackled too hard, yet don’t know it was too fast or too hard until it’s over. That’s the beauty in it.  Children aren’t worried what other people think and they’re not thinking of themselves. They put themselves out there to see just how far/fast/hard they can go until they reach the limit. They adjust accordingly so that anything negative doesn’t happen again. It has been said that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes, and having fun with our egos allows us to enjoy both success and failure.

I intend to use this metaphor similarly to how I calculate how many calories I’ve burned through my fear alone. It’s always in the back of my mind and it pushes me to find the edge and step out of my comfort zone. Who cares what that Asian lady in yoga class or the teenager on the ski lift thinks? They’ve got their own egos to worry about.



January 12, 2010 Fear, Fitness 1 Comment

I took my first non-Bikram yoga class today. I have long-believed that yoga isn’t a “real” workout, so I thought that doing the Bikram version would make it feel more real because I’d be sweating. Well, that was true in a sense — I certainly did sweat. But I didn’t like doing the same thing each time and often feeling very light-headed while doing it. So, I gave yoga up for a couple of years.

What brought me back was looking at fit people’s bodies in magazines and on TV and reading that the common denominator for all of them is yoga. From Madonna to Olympic athletes to weekend warriors, they all swear by yoga. I went to a class at 24 Hour Fitness and I was pleasantly surprised at how HARD it was. Within 10 minutes, I was actually  sweating! While I’d like to believe that I could outrun or out-bike any number of people in the class, I was humbled by their flexibility and mental stamina. I couldn’t “quiet my mind chatter” as the instructor reminded us. I couldn’t hold many of the poses as long, or as deeply. I think this style would be considered “power yoga,” as it is more strength-based and less focused on flowing movements or meditation. I guess I just needed to find the right style with the right instructor.

I felt quite refreshed after the class (though, admittedly, I went for a run that afternoon to get in some real cardio). I was amazingly sore for two days, and I dare say I saw a little more definition in a few places. In a nutshell, there were quite a few calories burned that day, from the activity itself AND because I was doing something new (and a little scary). I’ve already added the class to my calendar each Tuesday to continue working on my practice.