Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Workout Wednesday - The Simplest Way to Warm Up

There is a great deal of talk in the fitness industry both as participants and as instructors about the importance of a proper warm up and stretching prior to working out.  When I teach a class or work with a client, I always ensure that my students slowly begin their workouts gradually building their heart rates before jumping into their workouts whether cardio or strength training.  If I can build dynamic stretching into the warm up, even better.  

Dynamic stretching is working the muscles though range of motion movements continually moving the muscles rather than moving into a stretch position on holding the stretch which is static stretching.  The concept behind dynamic stretching is that when your muscles are cold, as in prior to exercise you may risk injury to the muscle by holding or forcing a stretch that the body isn't ready for.  When you have warmed up and have blood flowing to the muscles, you can statically hold the stretch and work to lengthening and relaxing the muscle.  

The most beneficial time to do static stretching is at the end of your workout when the muscles are warm to reduce muscle tension that may have occurred during the workout, potentially reducing delayed muscle tension or soreness.  Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to the workout, not only does  it help increase blood flow to the muscles allowing the body to gradually increase the range of muscle movement, dynamic stretching also begins the production of synovial fluid in the joints.  Synovial fluid is important to help support the joints through any type of activity but is very important in high impact exercises.  

For myself, my workout of choice is running.  I love it, it's quick, simple, the end of my driveway is my gym. That being said, I do not always warm up.  For years I would wake up, throw on my running clothes, drink a glass of water and head out the door.  As a personal trainer and fitness instructor I know how tough that is on my body to begin my workout so close to waking and without proper warm up.  But I would create a million excuses specially time related why I could warm up. 

Over the past year I have had health issues that have offset may ability to exercise and over the past six months I have been slowly working to regain my fitness.  Running and yoga have been the two key components of my exercise routine during this time.  I love my early morning runs but noticed my usual habit of literally running out the door wasn't working so I decided to actually put into practice what I teach others.  Warm up before running.  I went through a variation of legs swings, pretending to walk over logs and so on before my run but the flow didn't feel right.  Then it hit me... yoga.

I've been doing sun salutations with a low lunge before not only my runs but all of my workouts and have found it to be one of the best ways to warm up for both running and strength training.  The flow of sun salutations is almost meditative and allows me to tie my breathing into my movements.  Subconsciously I carry the association of breathing into my running and I've noticed less muscle soreness and a more relaxed gait in my running.

Here is my sun salutation flow...

Standing at the top of your mat, hands in prayer take a few deep breaths focussing on balancing evenly on both feet.
Inhale sweep the arms up.
Exhale forward fold.
Inhale come halfway up.
Exhale fold forward, bending the knees if needed.
Inhale step the left foot back.
Inhale sweep the arms forward stretching from the knee to the tips of the fingers.
Exhale bring both hands to the mat and step back into plank. Lower the whole body to the mat, dropping to the knees if needed.
Inhale come up into cobra.
Exhale to downward facing dog, peddling out the heels.
Inhale step the right foot forward.
Exhale drop the left knee to the mat.
Inhale sweep the arms overhead.
Exhale step the left foot beside the right in forward fold.
Inhale come partway up.
Exhale forward fold.
Inhale come all the way up sweeping the arms overhead.
Exhale hand to prayer.

Repeat on the other side.  

I usually do both sides at least twice and here is my favourite place to practise.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Vacation Wrap-up

I'm home after two weeks of vacation and glad to be back.  All summer I had been looking forward to my time away to disconnect with day to day stuff and reconnect with my husband and kids.  We split our two weeks up between two cottages.  The first week we spent, in Kincardine and the second week in Richard's Landing in Northern Ontario.

Our first week we had picture perfect weather.

With weather like this, it was pretty easy to just sit back and relax.  I ran everyday, practised yoga 2-3 times a day, kayaked until I had blisters on my hands and swam more than I can remember.  It was the best vacation I've had in a long time.  After the first week, I felt so relaxed that the second week felt like a bonus.

Week two, was relaxing in a different way... the weather was cold and rainy for the first four days so we were inside a lot.  I still got out running most days and kept up my yoga practise.  Our family just hung out together which is something we don't do very often.  We played tons of board games, read books, painted and built a puzzle together.

I guess you could say we were a little homesick for Elora.  Week two was a completely different vacation for us.  The weather kept us cottage-bound most days and we ended up coming home a day early when it was clear the weather wasn't going to cooperate.  It was still a fantastic time away with each other.

I am back feeling well rested and refocussed.  There is a week before school starts with plenty of time to find our routines and prepare for the start of the busy fall season.  I feel completely reset, I was able to focus on my fitness routine shaking things up a bit.  I am excited about the new classes I'm teaching and the new direction I am heading related to this blog which is a great feeling.  

This week I will be starting my new blogging format with three posts a week.  I will be aiming to post three topics weekly; a recipe, fitness and a personal discovery topic, tying in with my fitness and nutrition for the mind, body and spirit theme.  I am really excited about this new format and writing on a regular basis again.  Hopefully you find it exciting too!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Smoothie Bowls

I don't know about you, but I go through stages of eating the same types of foods for a period of time.  During those phases, my breakfast will be the same thing for weeks.  Smoothies are a perfect example.  It usually starts in late April but definitely by mid May.  After a long winter and once the warmer weather hits I start craving green smoothies.  I go through kale, baby spinach like crazy. I blend any type of green with fruit and some protein and healthy fat.  I make smoothies and have them in mason jars.  For several weeks I can't imagine consuming anything else for breakfast.  Then one day, that's it.  I'm finished with the smoothie.  Nothing really changes with how I make them, I just don't want to drink that smoothie every morning.

I move on to another type of breakfast, usually granola or some type of cereal.  Perhaps after weeks of drinking my breakfast, I actually want to chew something.  Logically for me though smoothies are a great option, they are fast, portable and most importantly they pack a ton of nutrients into a glass.  

I'm always looking online for different meal ideas and have seen smoothie bowls for a while and I found the idea a bit interesting so I decided to give it a try.  The smoothie I made for the base of this recipe was closer to banana soft serve (which is another great treat).  But you could use any smoothie base you wanted.  The same goes for the toppings what ever is on hand and what you're in the mood for.  This breakfast was a fun change from the smoothies and the cereal option I had been having before and it was super filling.  The fun thing about this breakfast is that you're really making a smoothie parfait and can combine any flavour combination you are in the mood for.  Here is my suggestion....

Smoothie Bowl

by Denise Boyd Dunlop
Prep Time: 10 min
Ingredients (serves 2)
    For the Smoothie
    • 1 banana peeled & frozen
    • 1 tablespoon almond butter
    • 1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)
    • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)
    For the Toppings
    • 1 peach diced
    • 2 tablespoons walnuts chopped
    • 1 tablespoon hemp hearts
    • 1/4 cup granola
    • 1/4 cup raspberries
    • 1/4 cup pineapple
    For the Smoothie
    Place all smoothie ingredients in blender and process until smooth adding more almond milk if needed.
    Divide evenly between 2 bowls
    Putting it Together
    Divide topping ingredients between bowls keeping everything separate if desired. Enjoy!
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    Saturday, 1 August 2015

    When Something New Becomes a Habit

    In January of 2014 I had aimed to try one new thing a month.  That new 'thing' could be anything from a new activity to trying new food, something big or something seemingly small.  It just had to be something I had never done before.  I've stuck with that resolution through 2014 and up to this point in 2015.  I actually look forward to the start of the month and figuring out what new thing I'm going to try.  Over the past year and a half I have completed a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, cut my hair very short, tried eating rabbit and octopus, taken painting classes; all kinds of things that I never thought I would do or felt intimidated at the thought of trying.  Somehow just knowing that I only had to try whatever activity I was doing once made it easier because I was only trying it once I wasn't really committed.

    So far I've learned that putting together jigsaw puzzles is really difficult and yet addictive.  Short hair is fun for a while but I miss ponytails.  I like octopus but not rabbit.  And I'm not that terrible at painting.  Some of the activities I've incorporated into my regular habits.  Painting is one of them.  I try to paint every few weeks or at least draw.  Finding a way to express myself creatively has changed the way I look at the world around me.  Leaves on the trees have so many different shapes beyond what we typically think of as a 'leaf' and the colours give our world a depth that I wasn't aware of before I tried to paint what was around me.

    But the best new thing that I have tried over the past year has been kayaking.  Last summer for whatever reason, my husband bought me a used kayak.  He thought I'd like it.  I have no idea what possessed him to do that for me, but I'm happy now he did.  My husband and I have canoed together quite a bit and truthfully what I love about canoeing is that he does a majority of the work.  He steers, carries the canoe and I can usually get in and out of the water without getting my feet wet.  (I'm a bit of a princess at times.)  Don't get me wrong, I do work in a canoe.  I paddle, I warn my husband of rocks and logs in the water and I carry our supplies, I just wouldn't canoe unless he did the work. So when the kayak appeared I felt a little apprehensive.  I would have to steer, carry and control this thing all by myself.  Most of all I would be putting myself in and out of the water... my feet would be getting wet.

    The first time I took my kayak out, we were in Killarney with 2 of our friends.  My husband and our friends went in the canoe and I went in my kayak.  They were shortly out of sight and I was alone in the water.  At first I was frustrated trying to keep up but eventually I just enjoyed the ride.  It took me a long time to get anywhere and I didn't feel smooth or fluid in my paddling.  The kayak wouldn't stay straight, I kept trying to not solely use my arms and it was really, really hard work.  My first paddle was in September 2014 and I didn't go out again until this spring.  We were heading to the family cottage on Lake Huron and my husband packed my kayak.  I admit, I felt obligated to take it out in the water since he had brought it so far.  I took it out in the first two hours we were there just incase I didn't get the chance over the weekend.  Surprisingly to me, paddling was much easier this time.  I ending up going out two more times over the course of the weekend.

    After that experience, I decided that I would try to go out on my own. No help from anyone to load the kayak or carry it or put it in the water.  I would do this all on my own.  I know to a lot of people this doesn't sound like a great task.  Really, if someone wants to go out and paddle their kayak, they should.  Also I am a very strong swimmer, I have a healthy respect for water always wearing my pfd but I'm not terrified to be on the water.  However, I was overwhelmed at the thought of lifting, loading and tying down all of my own.  But as I am learning limiting beliefs have a way of holding us back and the best way around them is to look those fears straight in the eye.  

    I live within five minutes of the Grand River, a perfect spot to paddle and I can easily park and carry my kayak to a water access point.  The first time I went out, I gave myself lots of time to load my kayak and carry it too the put in spot only to realize I had forgotten my paddle.  But I just returned home and picked it up and still went out - strike while the iron is hot!  My first paddle went really well.  I loaded everything up, got my feet wet, travelled upstream and down.  Immediately when I got in the water, a Great Blue Heron flew from a spot where I assume it was fishing and watched me from across the river.  During my paddle, a Grey Jay flew from tree to tree ahead of me both up and down the river almost like my personal guide.  I also saw a second Heron further up stream.  I've been out quite a few times on my own since that first trip and love the solitude I feel on the river.  I have seen a whole family of Grey Jays, two juvenile Great Blue Herons, Mallard chicks and amazing views of cliffs and hidden water falls then I never knew existed.  It takes me about 45 minutes to paddle up and down the river and I am becoming more confident in my ability to maneuver my kayak.  I've learned by adjusting the lean on my seat I am able to utilize my core much more efficiently increasing my stroke strength. I know how to carry my kayak and load it into my truck and I feel pretty resilient doing so.  

    But what I love most about being in the water is the vantage point I get that feels like a secret from everyone staying on land.  Even though I can often hear people talking or traffic, people don't get to see the world from the watery point I'm at.  I've seen beautiful birds and watched fish and frogs dart about under the surface.  Most importantly, I've experienced a sense of tranquility that brings me back to understanding the most basic and yet most important thing about life.  It is just in the present moment that truly matters.  Watching the birds and other wildlife, they aren't concerned about yesterday or what's happening tomorrow.  It is only the current place and time that deserve our attention.

    Friday, 17 July 2015

    New Name and New Beginnings

    So Crazy Mother Runner is getting a makeover and growing into Susurrous Health.  I've decided rather than completely reinventing myself I will build on what I started.  I do like a lot of the content I had and I also think that as a chronicle of my journey some of my past is important.  Over the summer I will be cleaning up the blog and posting mainly recipes as well as tales from my travels.

    Once September rolls around I will be posting three topics on a regular basis; recipes, fitness and personal development.  These three topics will cover what I am aiming to address through my business - fitness and nutrition for the mind, body and spirit.

    I am very excited about the next steps in my journey and hope that you find my stories entertaining if not useful.  None of us are true experts at this whole thing called life, but if we enter into each day with an open heart and mind and are willing to share with others we can create something beautiful.

    Saturday, 27 June 2015

    I'm Back - Take Two

    Ok, ok after a year plus long hiatus I am back to the world of blogging.  I have truly missed writing on a regular basis and sharing all of my adventures with anyone who happens to stumble on my page.  Without going into too many of the gory details, I needed to take some time to refocus and figure out what I needed to make things work for me related to my health and my core values.  Life has a strange way of teaching us lessons that aren't always easily understood during the process or even afterward but we always have the opportunity to begin again.

    So opening up the world of writing and engaging in work that I am passionate is on the horizon for me.  We always have the chance to pause in life and say "This is not how my story will end."  So here is to new beginnings!

    Sunday, 16 February 2014

    Finally.... a run outside!!!

    I ran outside today for the first time in almost 4 weeks and it was awesome!  My neighbour convinced me to meet her for a 7k run at 7:30 in the morning.  My inner wimp was not happy with the proposed meeting.  First it was 7:30 am on a weekend.  Second it was 7k.  I hadn't ran more than 5k outside in months.  But my running buddy was over the top with enthusiasm.  I agreed with the clause that I would tell her to go ahead if I couldn't keep up.

    I woke the next morning at 6 am, not wanting to be late for whatever reason.  It gave me lot's of time for coffee and to read the paper.  I bundled up.  I hate being cold and over dressed for my run.  Two minutes into the run I was tossing my vest onto someone's lawn to have to come back for later.  Rookie mistake.

    As we headed no one was in sight and the sun had just risen.  There was a pink glow in the sky and the streets were silent.  The pavement was dry.  Just over a kilometre into our run, I felt like I was sprinting - "What is our pace?" I asked Imagining the answer to be 5:10.  Nope - the real answer was 5:45.  Are you kidding me??? 

    I decided to settle in and just enjoy the run for what it was.  A social event, a time to be outside, my gift to myself.... and eventually the rhythm of the run began to flow.  In no time, we were getting closer and closer to my house.  Then I remembered that I had to get my vest - add an extra little bit. 

    By the time we rounded to corner of our street the sun had fully risen, a majority of the neighbourhood was awake.  I bid farewell to my neighbour and bounded up the steps of my porch.  Feeling triumphant I had ran outside, done almost 7k and it wasn't 8:30am yet.  Greeting my husband about to say - "I had a great run!"  He looked at me and said "Ohhh your mascara has really ran."  I looked at myself in the mirror and staring back at me was someone who looked like a sad drunk girl who had just gotten home from the party the night before not the victorious champion that I felt like.  Thankfully my neighbour has probably seen me look worse and wasn't scared off.  We're going to head out tomorrow!