Workout inspiration

A couple years ago, my then-winter boo and I were hanging out at his place — as winter boos do on an especially cold winter evening. Snuggling on the couch, we started watching “The Biggest Loser.” I got so into the show that when he fell asleep, I found more episodes on demand and kept watching. When he woke up, I had tears streaming down my face.

I love watching people committed to changing their lives. The contestants are so dedicated to making a change that they spend weeks away from home and push themselves to their limits every day. I find myself cheering them on and celebrating their accomplishments. I’m disappointed when they are disappointed.

I consider myself really lucky that I never struggled with my weight, but I certainly know what it’s like to wake up and realize what I am doing isn’t working and I need a change. But extreme weight loss makes for better TV than someone chatting it up with a life coach.

In any case, cheers to everyone who did the work. It’s so worth it. And so inspiring to watch. How can I, a healthy, fit individual, sit on the sofa while others are struggling to flip tractor tires at the ranch? With that, I’ll go for a run.

A slight addiction

It’s Workout Wednesday! Let’s talk about workout attire.

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Organizing the bottoms: Crops, pants and shorts.

I remember exactly when it happened. I was taking yoga in New York’s Fashion District. Imagine immaculately dressed fashion models and designers in yoga class. Cute hair. Cute clothes. Cute pedicures.

I was there, too. Dressed in my usual cropped running tights and t-shirt. Hair in a ponytail. Toes I painted myself.

Nothing wrong with that, but I loved all the outfits I saw around me. It was a place for color and crazy designs among the all-black Manhattan uniform. Over the next three years, I watched for sales at Athleta. I shopped the annual Under Armour sample sale. My outfits for bootcamp, yoga, a riverside run or soccer games became more and more adorable.

Now that I work from home, I have repurposed yoga clothes as comfy work clothes. They’re cute, colorful and perfect if I get stuck and want to go for a quick run, practice my cartwheels in the living room or hit a midday yoga class. I also like to try cute twisted hairstyles instead of a basic pony. Hey, whatever it takes to get motivated to move, right?

I also live in a neighborhood near Seattle’s outdoor gym AKA Green Lake. Yoga, barre and CrossFit studios are plentiful here. As are running shoe, exercise gear and natural food stores. It’s perfectly normal and acceptable to wear running tights as pants here.

My coffee or lunch runs happen as often in space-dyed blue yoga pants or down-filled “toasty buns” shorts over leggings as in my skinny jeans and high-heeled lace-up boots. I love them all equally. And I still do my own pedis.

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My workout clothes drawer is a leeeeetle overstuffed

 

 

Get to stepping

Bougie alerted me that yesterday’s post did not publish properly, so it’s Workout Thursday instead.

Happy #Workout Wednesday! Today let’s talk about the benefits of walking.

I live in New York City. I walk a ton. I easily get the recommended 10,000 steps a day, right?

Wrong!

It’s harder than you’d think!today

My commute is 1,428 steps each way.

Each time I walk to the kitchen or bathroom at the office and back to my desk adds about 300 steps.

By the time I get home from work, I’m somewhere around 5,000 steps. That means I have to go out of my way to get 5,000 more. Getting off the train a stop early and walking home doesn’t do it. Not even close.

My gym is 23 blocks away from my apartment. That 18-minute walk is 1,768 steps. Double that and now we’re getting closer to goal.

MondayWhat’s the deal with 10K, you ask? The advice of the US Surgeon General is that it takes about 10,000 steps per day to maintain your current weight. Of course, if you prefer biking, kayaking or dancing, by all means, do that instead.

The benefits of walking include maintaining a healthy weight, preventing heart disease, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes. It also strengthens bones, lifts mood and improves balance and coordination, according to the Mayo Clinic.
I have a few improvements I’d make to the Fitbit, if I were an engineer who knew how to do such things: Have it track heart rate. I can sweat it out in a tough yoga or spinning class and add no steps. Carrying my laptop, laundry or 4-year-old nephew up the stairs and it gives no extra credit. A step is just a step regardless of exertion.

The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of heart-elevating exercise per day. Now, this doesn’t mean if you only have 15 minutes, you shouldn’t do anything. Remember the simple rule: Any is better than none.

But if you’re looking for a motivational tool, I recommend Fitbit. It isn’t perfect, but it has me motivated. I can challenge my friends (want to challenge me? Here’s my page), but my main goal is to be better than I was yesterday, last week or last month.

sleepFitbit also tracks sleep, which I find fascinating. I tap it when I go to bed. It uses my movement to detect whether I’m sleeping or tossing and turning. I tap it again when I wake up. Then I can log on to my account to see how many hours I got, and how many times I was awake or restless at night. I generally fall asleep within a few minutes of tapping and tend to wake up after 7 hours, 15-30 minutes.

You can also enter your food intake for the day and Fitbit gives you a report of calories in vs. calories burnt.

Getting motivated

This #WorkoutWednesday, it’s all about finding motivation during the worst month of the year.

Another round of snow is threatening to dump on New York tomorrow, so I’m making sure I get to the gym tonight.

It’s been a long, harsh winter. For being the shortest month, February sure is hanging around longer than it should, don’t you think? I’m eager to get back outside, but for now I’m really trying to keep my workout motivation up. My brain is telling me it would be great to order pizza, make chocolate chip cookies and bury myself under my covers all evening. My body is telling me to get moving. Here are my tricks:

  1. My Fitbit is tracking me. I can’t hit my goal of 10,000 steps per day without special effort. I can bundle up to penguin-walk on ice or to trudge through snow or just go to the gym. I’ll take the gym.
  2. I pay for a gym membership, and I love my gym. I like to do what I call “gym math.” I take my monthly fees ($73) and divide by the number of times I go each month. I want that number to be around $5 per visit.
  3. I found gym classes and teachers I like and go to them. I mix in strength, cardio and yoga. Crunch is a big gym, but if I go to the same class each week, I feel like I’m missed when I’m not there.
  4. I get competitive with myself. I just went up to heavier weights in Weigh Hard Cardio class. I want to log more workouts this month than I did last month, etc.
  5. I do core work at home on workout days when I can’t get to the gym.
  6. I schedule it. Since I have my core classes I go to each week, it’s easy for me to schedule other things around it. If I go to Diesel on Monday, I can go to dinner with my friends Tuesday. Kangoo is late Wednesday, so I have time for a meeting right after work.
  7. Sometimes I just force myself to go by remembering how I feel when I don’t work out. After sitting at a desk all day or being cooped up at home, I need to get out, stretch my legs and see people. Skipping that makes for a crabby Candace.

No vacation from exercise

Workout Wednesday is colliding with Hawaii Week on the Living Life Big blog!

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I’m all about being active on vacation without it making it feel like work. Hikes to lookout spots, walking through major cities and paddleboarding through turquoise water are some of my favorites.

Hawaii would be a fantastic place for a weight-loss camp. The food is so fresh, light and healthy. My friends and I started our days with protein-packed scrambled eggs with veggies tossed in most mornings to power our activities. We noshed on shrimp, fish tacos, sushi, fruit and salads later. We didn’t snack a whole lot because we were so busy running around and getting distracted by gorgeous sights that we forgot about eating. We didn’t crave heavy comfort foods, but we did indulge in mai tais and ice cream.

Hawaii also has endless fitness activities. Even hauling gear on uneven sand or rocks to the beach was a workout. We also rented boards and kayaks, snorkeled with fish, took a hula lesson, splashed around our backyard pool, hiked a crater and practiced yoga poses on the dock. We followed my friend Nicole’s lead and practiced yoga everywhere.

I declare Operation Aloha a huge success.

Workout Wednesday: Time to jump!

It’s Workout Wednesday again! I haven’t played in a while.

I still remember my first time. I put on the boots and it took me a couple failures to figure out how to stand up. I took a few hesitant steps, which turned into hops, which turned into full-on jumping.

Kangoo Jumps is a low-impact, easy -on-the-joints and ridiculously fun workout. Kangoo refers to the bouncy boots you wear to class. Once you have them on, you can run, jump, dance and if you’re feeling really strong, do lunges and squats.

This Saturday I went to a new Kangoo Jumps class at one of my gym’s Lower Manhattan locations. Since it was a cold Saturday morning, only three of us showed up for the class and we rocked it out. We threw some hip action in. We all had big smiles on our faces.

At the end of the class, one of the ladies admitted she couldn’t keep up with the choreography. The other participant and I agreed.

The teacher, however, was reassuring. You guys were great, she said. Even if you didn’t know what you were doing, you did something and you did it with a little attitude and a big smile. She went on to say that pleased her more than if we had taken it too seriously and tried to get it all without missing a beat.

I really appreciated her reassuring words. I’m not too bothered by not knowing the next move or missing some steps. Sometimes when Navani and I go to Pound with the Brooklyn girls (who have more rhythm than us Manhattan girls), I joke that I need to stand in the back, behind a column, but I don’t honestly feel that way. Since it’s January, National Return to the Gym Month, I remind you that everyone has to have a first, second and third time. Everyone is going to miss steps – even if they’ve been coming months. Everyone is going to get off beat. Everyone is going to have a bad day. It’s not a big deal. The only time it’s a big deal is if you make it one or if you quit.

One sign of a good group fitness teacher, in my opinion, is at the beginning of class they give you permission to modify when needed. If you can’t jump, step. If you can’t do squats, march. If you can’t do a full push-up, do it on your knees. If you can’t do it at tempo, do it slower. Just do something. Don’t stop. I’ve been going to a class for a couple months now where we do 100 push-ups in the hour. I’ve yet to do a real push-up, but I’m doing something and getting closer.

Kangoo boots also make awesome weights on your feet. Imagine doing legs-in-the-air crunches while wearing roller skates. Yeah, that’s the effect. This workout might be fun, but it’ll also make you sweat.

Stronger!

Happy #WorkoutWednesday, everyone! Today I’m putting in some time on the treadmill before a quick 30-minute version of Cardio Sculpt at Crunch.

My best fitness friend Coley, a yoga teacher in Minneapolis who is celebrating her birthday today, suggested I try kettlebells. She said she was amazed at how quickly she saw results. No bulking up, as is the fear for many women, just nice all-over toning. She said her waist was noticeably slimmer.

She had me at “quick results.” How many of us have spent hours working on cardio equipment never to see a change in our bodies? Sometimes I’m tempted to spit on the ellipticals as I walk past. In my opinion, they’re the most worthless piece of equipment, but I admit I could have been using them wrong. I have seen results from treadmill runs, but it has to be a challenging run. That means elevation + speed + 45 minutes.

Anyway, at Coley’s suggestion, I took a kettlebell class with Cindy Lai Fitness. It was an awesome small-group training session. And it was so hard! Cindy had us run laps carrying our kettlebells. I wanted to cry. By the end of class, I put my kettlebell down and ran the laps sans extra weight. For a while after that, I continued working out in Cindy’s small group boot camp classes. Then I took a couple more kettlebell sessions. Nicole was right, you really do see results in a jiffy.

When I joined a gym, I had to stop working out with Cindy. I just couldn’t afford both, and I liked the variety and schedule the gym offered.

At Crunch, I found Super Sculpt. Once again, after about three straight classes with Carol, I noticed my waist was noticeably nipped in. Awesome! She’s no longer teaching my class, which makes me wonder how I’ll be aloha-ready by mid-January. Luckily, my gym still offers Super Sculpt and its cousin, Cardio Sculpt, which adds cardio intervals to the strength moves.

I wondered why strength training works better than cardio, so I did some research.

  1. Though you burn more calories per hour doing cardio, people who lift weights continue to burn more calories following their workouts, which adds up.
  2. You can target your trouble spots with weights. Need to trim your waist? Cool, work on those abs. When you do cardio, you don’t get to pick.
  3. Weight training allows you to double down. You can work two or more areas at once.

If/when you add weights to your routine, please, please, please take a couple sessions with a trainer (group is fine) who can double check your form. If you just buy a kettlebell and go to town at home, I fear you will hurt yourself. There’s a difference between hurts-so-good exhausted muscles and agh-my-back-hurts soreness. Form first. Always.

Happy birthday, Coley! Don’t forget to step 10,000 times.

What to wear to work out

An important part of working out is dressing appropriately. The shorts you wear to soccer probably aren’t right for yoga. The thick pants that sound like a good idea for fall running will probably make you too warm at the gym.

The cape was a nice pre-race blanket.
The cape was a nice pre-race blanket.

I ran my first 5K a couple years ago at Halloween time. I panicked because I’d been training outside all summer. Suddenly the mornings were frosty. I was afraid I’d freeze, so I bought hardcore outdoor running pants and a similar shirt with monkey grips. When I got to the race, I was handed a t-shirt, which I put on. I was also wearing a costume. Let’s just say it didn’t take long before I was roasting in my layers. Be OK with being cold to start and take advantage of race gear checks.

My favorite and most versatile pieces are cropped running tights (I’m partial to Under Armor) and tank tops with built-in bras, but double up for high-impact activities.

Here are my guidelines:

Dressed all wrong for aerial yoga.
Dressed all wrong for aerial yoga.

Yoga
1.Tighter is generally better. Google down dog split and see if you want to do that in booty shorts.
2.Loose shirts are no bueno. The person behind you is going to get a look up your shirt every time you go into down dog. And that’s often.
3.Jumping is pretty minimal, so low-impact sports bras are fine.
4.I like to wear cropped pants with tank tops. If you’re doing aerial yoga, make sure you wear sleeves and cropped pants or full-length. The fabric will rub against your skin.
5.If you’re changing at the gym, remember that you have to walk from the locker room to the studio. Consider bringing flip flops for that walk. There’s usually someone who walks down in their work heels or boots with their yoga clothes.
6.Even the stickiest mats are less grippy when they’re covered in sweat. Bring a towel or get a cover, so you don’t lose your down dog. Bringing your own mat is never the wrong decision.

Treadmill
1.You will get warm. Shorts and tanks are good choices.
2.The bras in running tops are not supportive enough. Double up with a high-impact.
3.If you’re planning to run more than once this year, go to a running store for proper shoes. Don’t buy them off the clearance rack at JC Penney. Proper shoes are the difference between aching the next three days and looking forward to your next run.

Outdoor workouts
1.If you’re working out in the park, you have to arrive dressed appropriately. Remember, you’ll get get warm if you work hard, so go lighter than you think you need.
2.Check your pants for hidden pockets for keys or cards. Most have them. You can also get waist packs or wrist pouches for your necessities. I usually tuck my keys in my iPhone armband.
3.For boot camps, I bring a towel along for core work. A yoga mat also works, but that’s more to carry. Most boot camps run and you carry what you bring, so I recommend packing light in a small running backpack.
4.Remember, if you keep your head warm and dry, you’ll be find. Find a breathable hat or ear warmers made for running. Other models will slip off.
5.Reflective markings are never a bad idea.

Gym classes
1. Even classes that sound silly or easy will leave you dripping sweat. Dress light.
2.Consider a separate bag to carry your dirty clothes home in.
3.For aerobic or dance-type classes, short shorts are fine. For stretching and strength classes, I’d wear the cropped running tights.

SUP or kayaking
1.Something that dries fast. Board shorts and surf tops are my favorites.
2.Water shoes or no shoes. I go without.
3.Swimsuits are perfect on warm days as long as they’re the kind that stay put.
4.Wet suits are great for early or late-season play.

Roll it out

It’s Workout Wednesday again, but I’m not working out today. It’s recovery day. I’m sore from doing millions of squats and lunges in Super Sculpt and Pound this week.

I know I need to stretch more on my own. My doctor told me. My trainer told me. My friends tell me. Every article I read tells me. Like many cubicle dwellers, I have tight hips. My trainer showed me some exercises I could do on a foam roller.

But I never do them at the gym because they’re awkward to do in public. Can we all just agree that muscle rolling should be done in the privacy of your home with your own roller? OK!

According to Runner’s World, rolling improves circulation, gets the body ready for a workout and recover after. It also breaks down knots that limit range of motion.

This weekend I finally picked up a foam roller (thanks, Mom!). I liked this model from Gaiam with massage nubs on it. Plus, I think the regular ones are ridiculously expensive for a piece of foam. The roller came with a DVD, but after watching three ads that it wouldn’t allow me to forward through, I took it out of my laptop and found the stretches on YouTube instead. I like the ones from Pro Chiropractic. The doctor explains that you should roll out your muscles for 30-90 seconds. Not longer because that can cause damage. Who knew longer wasn’t better? Thanks, doc!

I’m feeling recovered already.