Just 10 minutes/day of stretching.

Hi There,

So I like to make sure that the things that I am writing and preaching about in Meg in the Meantime are things that I am actually doing and putting into practice myself–this post is definitely such the case and something that I’ve struggled with over the years, but feel as though I have finally found the balance that I need to live well on the go in my busy life.

“What is it?” you may ask…well, if you’re a loyal reader then I’m sure you’re pretty familiar with my recent kick of incorporating active stretching into my run training routine (if not, then check out my old post “Stretch It Out“). Although active stretching only takes about 10-15 minutes before working out and has made me feel better and stronger during runs I know that there is more that I can do outside of my active training sessions; what I struggle with is finding the perfect, undisturbed time and the motivation within myself to make it a daily habit.

And so, on Monday night when I was doing one of my first official speed workouts with Becca for our B.A.A. 10k training regiment (more to come on that during my next Friday Feature post!), she was talking about how she wants/needs to start stretching more each day and how that would make her feel as she continues to add more running/biking/walking miles to her week. I mentioned a Men’s Health article that I had recently found on Twitter called “This Man Stretched 10 Minutes a Day For a Month This is What Happened,” which focuses on the notion of loose muscles being stronger muscles and highlights some solid deep stretches. Anyways, pretty soon Becca and I came up with our own recommendations for how we would incorporate at least 10 minutes a day of stretching into our daily days–and they range from the very obvious times to other, more creative opportunities, but both we hope give you (and us!) the ability to create a solid wellness habit from.

  • After you wake up. This is an easy and mindful way to start your day and slowly wake yourself up so that you are not stumbling to the shower or coffee pot! Simply begin by stretching your body out completely while in bed (hands over head, feet out straight or together with knees knocked outward for a deeper hip stretch) and then when you’re ready, roll out of bed and take it to the floor: perhaps do a few sun salutations to get your blood flowing or focus your stretching on a particular achy area that you’d like loosened up before you start your work day.
  • Before you go to bed. This is another easy and obvious time to stretch, but instead of doing stretches that will get your blood flowing, like sun salutations, perhaps try something more calm and controlled, like happy baby, rag doll, legs up the wall, body twist. You can always complete your before-bedtime routine by laying out for some quite meditation on an acupressure mat like the Spoonk. What’s a Spoonk? Read about it here in my old post “This Thing Called ‘Spoonking.’
  • Before/after dedicated workout time. I hope you’re doing this already, but if not make sure to get to your fitness class or the gym a little earlier than expected (or stay a few minutes later) and really dedicate some quality stretching time. If you’re running do some active stretching for 5-10 minutes beforehand (inch worms, downward dog, power walking, quick half pigeons, etc.) and leave time for a deeper, cool down stretch afterwards to target specific muscle groups–your body will thank you later!
  • During work. Most of us tend to sit all day at a desk and only get up to walk around for a coffee or bathroom break or to go another meeting where we will inevitably sit some more. So why not stretch while you’re sitting?! Open your hips with a figure four seated stretch, kick off your shoes and roll your feet with a tennis ball under the desk (as I highlighted in a previous post, “Wellness When You Can“), or check out any of these standing and sitting stretching suggestions, like shoulder/chest stretching, chair twists, and wrist stretching, as outlined by The Yoga Coach in the article “Yoga at Your Desk.”
  • Watching TV. This is your opportunity to get comfortable (or, uncomfortable) in some really deep poses, like half pigeon pose, wide-legged forward bend, runner’s lunge, or downward-facing dog. Think of the benefits of stretching and watching TV in this way: you can unwind from your day with something entertaining and engaging while also taking care of your health and wellness instead of just sitting there like a bum (I’m the queen of multitasking so this is one of my favorite times to stretch…I’m definitely known to break out my yoga mat and plop right down in the middle of the living room and stretch) and you’re able to time out your stretching session for a full episode if you’re really enjoying it or be cued to switch up which body parts you’re focusing on along with commercial breaks. Win, win!

These are just a handful of recommendations, but I’m curious to hear from you–what are some good times that you like to consistently stretch for 10-15 minutes? I would love to compile a larger list of suggestions to share with others. As always, feel free to comment below or send me a note on Twitter: @meggielukes, using #MegInTheMeantime to call it out to my attention.

In the meantime, I’m counting down the days (THREE!!) until the B.A.A. 10k–that is my next big race on the agenda and something that Becca and I have been training hard for for the last eight weeks: building up our strength and endurance again after a brief running hiatus and really stepping outside of our comfort zones and trying new things (RunYoga Series with Cara Gilman and occasional speed work on the track to challenge ourselves). In preparation for setting a PR goal time, I decided to look up my last 10k, which was the Lone Gull 10K that I ran last September in Gloucester, MA with a finishing time of 1:01:23–not so great, but more importantly I know I can do better and so I’m shooting for under 1 hour this go around. I’m hoping that all of this hard work and consistent training pays off and that I will blow this sub 1-hour 10k out the water, but more importantly, I’m curious to see if my new and happier outlook on running will have an effect on my race time, as well. We’ll see–I can’t wait to report back about it next week!

Be well and talk with you soon,
-Meg

Get Movin’!

Hi There!

I got an e-mail from MoveWith yesterday that included a mini challenge: workout nine times with them in the month of June and they’ll reward you with one free class! Did someone say free? If it’s free, then it’s definitely for me…at least that’s a saying that’s resonated with me since my undergraduate student loans kicked back in last week.

And so, I figured this would be the perfect Feature Friday post to share with all of you-check it out:

MoveWith

So I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to resist a challenge (must be part of my natural-born competitive DNA) so I’m stoked to expand my usual workout regiment of mainly running and yoga to test out some new classes in the community and see what moves me, what clicks with my personality and style, to see who in this amazing city I meet; and what I can overcome when I take on new, personal (both physical and mental) challenges. The extra free class is just a bonus…but a great, financial one at that!Pe

In previous posts, like “Make Time To Do The Things You Love” and “Never Forget to Stop and Smell the Roses,” I’ve mentioned things that I appreciate about MoveWith and the community they’re building in Boston through their mission of #SocialSweat. But what I like best about MoveWith’s website is their easy search and filter function. Looking for a specific teacher? Check! Can only workout in mornings? You got it! Interested in a certain fitness style: barre, cardio, cycling, pilates, running, strength training, yoga? Just one click away! Nothing could be easier. Oh, wait…yes. There’s even an app for that so you can check out their classes and experiences while you’re on-the-go.

Personally, I’m interested in trying out some rowing and meditation classes. What about you? If you live in the Boston (or San Francisco) area, what classes have you tried and loved? Who are some of your favorite movers and shakers? Comment below or share your thoughts with me on Twitter: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, it’s Memorial Day Weekend! The weather is on the rise: 70’s and 80’s! Life is good. I hope you make the time to get outside and do something that you love-get back to the basics, something simple and enjoyable…whatever that means to you. Maybe instead of just texting someone from the comfort of your couch, call up that person that you care about and take a nice long stroll outside together and walk and talk for hours (don’t forget to take some water with you…always stay hydrated!) or heading out for a long, solo run to reset your mind and focus in on your summer goals and plans. Or, get adventurous: go for a hike and breathe in that fresh air, hop into a kayak and work your way up a river or across the lake…do something, get dirty, don’t stop moving.

This week, I took my own advice and got away from the city to do something I don’t do enough of with someone who I love: getaway, relax, and unplug. Ryan and I booked a tiny house via Getaway and landed ourselves in northern New Hampshire for a night of small spaces, simple living, fresh air, and no service…it was lovely and so necessary for a recharge/reset. We went for a stroll around the nearby lake, met some kind locals, cooked a great dinner, roasted some s’mores, Ryan built us a great fire that we sat by for hours in the Adirondack chairs, and ended our night by escaping the mosquitoes and playing cards and singing classic songs from the 90’s and early-2000’s for hours. It was perfect and I only wish it lasted for another day.

tinyhouse    fire

NatureScenes

 

Anyways, I’ve been so inspired by some great, local bloggers and their recipes lately so I’m really excited to keep experimenting with food and share my experiences with you-tune back in tomorrow for my weekly Sunday Snacks edition to see what I got for you!

Until then, get movin’!
-Meg

Make the time to do the things you love.

So I’m just going to jump right in tonight…

I once read something so straightforward and simple that it couldn’t help but stick inside my head: “You were not born to just pay bills and die. You are here to live your life joyfully and to love fully.”

I have always been the kind of person who needs to feel passionate about the things I do in all aspects of my life–it motivates me, it fulfills me, it genuinely makes me happy (and who doesn’t like to feel happy?!). I’m not sure that I would be able to wake up and repeat the actions of my week or dedicate the amount of soul, time, and energy  into things that I do, if I wasn’t passionate about them.

That being said, there are-of course-things we have to do in life, just because. Sometimes we just have to find a certain kind of work to make a living and survive through a rough patch in our life or pay down some debt (does any one else feel me on these never ending student loans?!). Sometimes we have to sacrifice our free time for the greater good or just put in our time for something bigger to open up later down the line. And when our 9-5 doesn’t align with our passions then we especially need to make some time in our day to do the things we love–to live joyfully and to love fully.

On that note, I recognized a big trend lately in some of my favorite local bloggers-they are writing about things they are loving lately, things that they are looking forward to. I love this idea; I am so inspired by it because I think it not only supports the notion of making time each day to do some thing (even just one thing) we love, but it also raises awareness of the simple things in life that can give us great joy and happiness-such a positive list to create. And so, before I share my own short list, I want to share their posts with you first and pay some respect and love to these two bloggers who inspired me to make my own: Jana’s post “Looking Forward & Loving” and Michelle’s post “Things I am Loving Lately Pt. 5.

Weren’t those both great and unique?! Well, without further ado here’s mine!

Things I’m Loving Lately:

Consistent running and yoga via Cara Gilman’s RunYoga Series. I thank my lucky stars every Monday (well, every Monday of this 10-week series) that I get to start my week off running a consistent 3-4 miles around this gorgeous city and push myself to focus on better breath control and form during my 10k training, as well as to have an hour of restorative yoga to follow that teaches me more about my body and how to incorporate better stretching habits into my daily life. The added benefit? Thanks to Cara being such a beacon of light and positivity, and for MoveWith for supporting this series with their concept of #SocialSweat, I have also been introduced to a wonderful new community of runners and yogis who I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
*If you haven’t checked out any of MoveWith’s classes in Boston yet, I highly recommend it. They have a wide variety of class offerings…really something for everyone from barre to running to bootcamp, cycling, and so on! 

Different running routes and what they offer me. As I was running along the Charles River during Monday evening’s RunYoga class, I could not help but keep saying “Wow, what a view!” If I wasn’t already losing my breath from trying to pick up my pace, I’d give all of the credit to Boston for taking my breath away with its beauty. I mean, really…how fortunate am I to live in this gorgeous city and have the ability to explore it through my runs. Some of my favorite runs have been along the Charles with views of the city skyline that reflect in the shimmering river alongside it, and sailboats that effortlessly weave across the choppy waves that makes it feel like they’re racing you, and bridges every so often allowing us to weave ourselves and cross from side to side, magically allowing us to be right in the middle of it all for a few moments in time.

Alternatively, I have also been running in a more suburban environment 1-2x/week, depending on the week. My boyfriend, Ryan, just recently moved to Danvers in the North Shore so I have taken to adding some weekly runs in around his new neighborhood, even joining a local running community and racing on Wednesday nights courtesy of the Danvers 5K during my training period. I never really ran much in the suburbs growing up (at that point in my life I would’ve only been running short distances on some kind of track or on an indoor court-never on the streets throughout the neighborhood for pleasure), but I have to admit there’s a certain charm and peacefulness to it–something I can definitely get used to! My routes weave me through residential, tree-lined streets with rolling hills, friendly strangers cheering you on/offering a word or two of encouragement, kind people in cars actually stopping to let you cross the street and not mess up your stride, and beautiful, quintessential New England scenes like old cemeteries and various historic sites…I am never plugged in and instead choose to soak in the sights and sounds around me. If you claim to be only a city-runner, like I used to be, just try it once…you might surprise yourself with what you can fall in love with and open yourself up to.

Rolling my feet out with a tennis ball. As my training has kicked into full gear for the B.A.A. 10K, I find that I am-rightfully so-always moving and therefore always on my feet. And so I have found myself forming a close relationship with my tennis ball-I bring it with me to work almost every day to give myself a mini foot massage mid-day. All I do really is stand up and roll the the tennis ball under the length of my foot from heal to toe for a few minutes. Sometimes I even just keep it stable under the arch of my foot for a few minutes of pointed pressure. Really, it’s that simple but makes a world of difference! I won’t go into great detail about this wellness tip because you can find everything you need here in an old post of mine: “Wellness, when you can.

The resurgence of November Project in my life (aka surrounding myself with the kindest of human beings). Now that I am back from my international work travels, grad school is done, and I am on the mend from this horrible sickness that has worn me down, I can finally wake up and make it out to NP again! This not only means more consistency in my training (running stadiums and hills), but also just a more elevated level of training…when you surround yourself by the best, you push yourself to be better. Plus, all of the hugs and happiness. I’ve never been a morning person, yet these amazing humans make me smile (read: beam, ear-to-ear) as soon as I show up and get greeted by genuine hugs, love, and encouragement; they also make me glad to wake up at 6am to workout and sweat like a pig for an hour–and that results in a release in endorphins, which triggers happiness. It’s science, people. Again, I won’t preach too much about NP and instead just link to an old post of mine that I highlighted its amazingness and general information, in case you missed it the first time: “Reason #1,000,001 to just show up.

The warmer weather (and what that means for active living). Today was the first day it hit 80 degrees in Boston since last September…what?!!! That was such a big deal. This makes me so excited for things to come: summer racing, outdoor yoga, kayaking (and hopefully paddle boarding for the first time!), hiking, evening city and neighborhood strolls, etc. This also means that I am looking forward to trying out new products to fuel myself. So far on my list of new things to try, as recommended by local, Fitfluential people: Nuun (waiting on my order to arrive!!), Spindrift Seltzers (need to hit up Trader Joes to pick some up), and Nutty Life Milk (waiting until I can finally go to SOWA).

What about you? Tell me some of the things that you’re loving lately. Is there something that I should add to my list of active things to do now that the weather has changed for the warmer?!  I’m always down for suggestions and recommendations on new things to do, see, and try so feel free to comment below or write to me on Twitter: @meggielukes. Can’t wait to hear from you! 🙂

In the meantime, I’m off the grid for the next two days to New Hampshire to stay in a tiny house via Getaway–looking to restore some balance into my life by living the simple life and spending some quality time in the great outdoors with Ryan. More to come on that experience on Friday…can’t wait to share!

Love,
Meg

Time, is on my side.

Hi there!

First of all, I’d like to thank you all for bearing with me as I continue to recover and adjust back to every day life from my recent business trip to China–that 12-hour time difference is really messing with my system more than I expected it to. I came back to the US late last week, celebrated my second master’s graduation (M.Ed.’14 and M.S. in advertising ’16) over the weekend with loved ones over the weekend by way of commencement ceremonies, delicious steak-filled meals, and lots of corny college catalog photos like this one:

DSC_0230

And suddenly after all of the excitement and celebrations passed and life began to slow down, my body slowed down, as well and began to crash: I would put myself to bed at a normal hour, but just lay awake until the sun came out and soon thereafter I developed piercing headaches in the center of my forehead and the top of my head, complemented with a nasty, phlegmy cough that came forth out of left field. Not sure what’s going on with my body at this moment (will bring myself to the doctor for a check-in soon), but I just wanted to explain briefly and let you know that I appreciate your patience with my posts as my blog fell to the wayside for the last week or so.

I ended up missing posting about a healthy snack on Sunday, so I’ll just save that exciting post for this upcoming weekend and instead share with you my B.A.A. 10k training updates because exercising has been one of the few things that has made my body feel better this week.

On Monday, I finally was able to attend my first session of Cara Gilman’s RunYoga Series, courtesy of MoveWith; I unfortunately had to miss the first two sessions due to grad school and the business trip to China, so I was stoked to finally be able to go, despite not feeling so well. The way the workout goes: each session, a scalable running workout (hill repeats, speed workouts, group runs, etc.) is paired with a targeted, strength-based yoga sequence to challenge the individual members of this inspiring community over the course of the 10-week program. Each workout takes place on Monday evenings from 6-8pm in the wonderful Brookline/Boston neighborhood, rain or shine.

This week, we started our run from the Ruggles Baptist Church in the Audubon Circle neighborhood of Brookline and ran to Summit Ave, where we took on hill repeats on the one of the steepest hills in the Boston-area (the gradient incline goes from 7-17% fairly quickly). From there, it was up to us if we wanted to just do one full hill loop and head back to our starting point in Audubon Circle, or add some repeats before turning back. I turned to my usual training buddy/running solemate, Becca Smith, and we decided on adding an extra repeat of the smaller side of the hill, ultimately ending our run with a solid 4.20 miles completed. Afterwards, back in the church, we settled in for our yoga sequence, which would target the outer hips (hello, IT band!), calves and quads. Before we began though, Cara told us to focus in on one word, a mantra, that would guide us through our practice not only that night, but also throughout the week–something we are grateful for and something that would keep us present.

What would be my word?! That one was easy: “time.” Lately, I am so grateful for time-so much so that I find myself replaying The Rolling Stones’ song, “Time Is On My Side” in my head most days! After four years straight of working full-time and going to graduate school part-time (for two different master’s programs back-t0-back) and revolving my life and its priorities around the schedule that these two pieces set for me, I feel so unbelievably free and open to new opportunities and possibilities. And so, more than anything, I was grateful for those two hours on Monday night to reflect on the last four years, refresh my body, and reset my mind to start the first week of the rest of my life with balance and positivity. Despite my headache pounding into all sides of my head at that point, those two hours of active movement not only served as a training run and strength and conditioning session for my upcoming B.A.A. race at the end of June, but it also served me in a metaphorical sense: taking to life one step at a time-one foot in front of the other-possibly facing some obstacles (hills) in the way, and heading straight towards the next great thing, more in balance.

Speaking of things I am grateful for… I am BEYOND grateful for what my friend, fellow November Project-er, and PT/DPT/Cert. DN/Running Specialist, Dani Adler (aka RunFitDoc), taught me about active stretching during her run clinic. If you missed my post from last month, Stretch It Out, which broke down in easy-to-follow steps her suggested guidance of applying the 3 E’s: Easy, Effective, and Efficient to your run training warm-up, then I highly suggest giving it a read through before you continue with your run training! I have noticed a major difference in the way I feel (read: much stronger, more open, more loose, more warmed) before, during, and after all of my training runs and wish the same for all of you!

For example, tonight I practiced my active stretching routine and it put me in the right place, mentally and physically. I attended fun/casual 5k race that occurs every Wednesday night at 7pm outside Osborn Tavern (49 Maple Street) in Danvers, MA called Danvers 5K. My boyfriend recently moved to Danvers so I wanted to start doing something active in the area to get to know the surrounding neighborhood better and I couldn’t have fell more in love with this open running community the second I showed up. First of all, as their website states: this reoccurring weekly race is open to absolutely anyone: great for hardcore runners and those who are just starting out and looking for a solid weekly run/reason to run. Second of all, the course was absolutely beautiful and very enjoyable to run. I honestly don’t know much about the Danvers area yet, but there were some small, rolling hills, lots of cemeteries that were passed along the way–I kept myself unplugged and just soaked up the quintessential New England/North Shore scenery. It felt so nice to change up my usual route and run around a town for once-there’s definitely a charm to it, something I could easily get used to. Third of all, everyone was so friendly…especially to us newbies! I had such a nice and enjoyable time meeting everyone and even found myself trying to keep pace with two older guys during the entire race. To the main in the orange shirt, thanks for letting me tail you during the entire 3.1 miles–you rock!

I really could go on and on, but instead I’ll just encourage anyone who lives in the greater Boston and North Shore area to just show up and check it out yourself. Once you race, you have a bib number for life and are always welcomed back-how nice is that?! I ended my 5k with a time of 29:07, which is far from the lower end of the 25 minute 5k time I used to regularly race a couple of years ago, but instead of being disappointed in myself and wondering where I went wrong, I actually just really look forward to chipping away at that number bit by bit as I continue to focus in with more intensity and intention on my run training.

In the meantime, I’d like for you to read my favorite Boston running, health, and wellness blogger, Jana Ross’ post on “Why I Run Marathons.” People often ask why I run or why I choose to make the time to fit in training runs or workout series to my usual busy schedule and-to be honest-it’s a pretty hard question to answer; however, in a short and eloquent post Jana captures it all. I sure as heck am far from being as accomplished as she is as a runner and am nowhere close to running marathons (she just completed marathon #8!), but I definitely connect with what she expresses and think it’s overall just such a well-written piece. For example, two lines that, in particular, stuck out to me: “I love a challenge, I love the community, and I love the simplicity of placing one foot in front of the next.” and “It’s where I push myself most, discover how I handle adversity, and pick myself back up when I hit what feels like rock bottom.” Preach, Jana!!

Anyways, for one reason or another these lines stuck out to me and made me reflect on the reasons of why any of us do the things that we love, even when they sometimes tear us apart or take all that we have to give at the moment. As we continue to live our lives and push forward each day, tacking new obstacles and challenges with our dreams and goals in sight, I think it’s something pretty important to meditate on, if you haven’t ever…just a suggestion, of course! 🙂

Sending love and wellness to you all of you until the next time!
-Meg

This thing called “Spoonking”

ni men hao! you duán shijiān méi liánxìle.
(roughly translated to: Hello, Everyone! It’s been a while.)

Greetings from rainy and humid, Hángzhōu, China, where the current time is approximately 5:50am and here I am…awake! My biological clock is definitely still thrown off, having just arrived in China approximately 14 hours ago after a 16 hour flight and knowing that I’m 12 hours ahead of where I usually am back home in Boston. Despite the fatigue and my body’s confusion to the local time, I am most excited to be here in China for a week and to explore as many cultural aspects as I can. As you can already see, I’m doing my best to pick up the language to get by. 🙂

I’m going to keep this post fairly short since the internet is pretty touch and go here, but I did want to follow up on something that I mentioned during my last post on Wednesday: “Do Your Om Thing!” So when I was describing that my best friend, Anya, had just come out of a 40-minute meditation and was lying on an acupressure mat, I knew at that very moment that I wanted to talk about that mat on this week’s Feature Friday post.

Although there may be many variations of an acupressure mat, the one that I know Anya was lying on (because she gave me the same one for Christmas last year) is called a Spoonkand it looks like this:

spoonk2

According to their website, Spoonk is “based on the principles of acupressure and Japanese Shiatsu massage. The mat stimulates specific reflex points throughout the body, releases blocked energy, eases tense muscles, and creates deep mental and physical relaxation. Benefits include increased level of energy, reduced inflammation and pain, improved and deeper sleep.”

That all sounds well and good and very commercial, but what is it really like? Well, even though it may look to some like a torture device (see the picture below), I have honestly found it to be quite relaxing and a great way to practice bringing awareness to specific parts of your mind, while easing your mind. While I never thought to use it during my stretching time, I have tried it recently on my sore calves and tired feet and it also can definitely relieve tension and pain in certain trigger areas…I mean, check out those spikes!

spoonk1

I personally have used the Spoonk mat most to calm my body down after a long day or to mindfully try to go to sleep without the aid of Netflix or my phone. I’ll usually break it out before bed, and position my back (from the neck/shoulders area) all the way down to my lower back to be positioned on it. From there, I will usually lay down in my savasana pose with my legs completely sprawled out straight or a  variation of vrksasana, or tree pose, where I switch each leg off in being in a figure four pose while still lying down. From there, usually it takes me about 20 minutes to completely fall into a deep, relaxation state and many time I find myself sleeping for about 2-3 hours on it before I wake up in the middle of the night, grateful for the peace that it has given me, and push it aside for the rest of the night to give my back some release from the spikes.

You might want to use the Spoonk differently, though.

  • You can roll the mat a little bit to elevate your neck, like a pillow, and massage out that high-stress area.
  • You can sit down on a chair or the edge of your bed, and walk out your feet to hit pressure points that way.
  • You can use it in a more active sense and either massage your hands or feet with it during a yoga pose like, downward-facing dog.

The best part about the Spoonk is that it’s light and easy bring with you on-the-go and store anywhere. The mat easily rolls up, very much like a yoga mat, and can be stored in a handy over-the-shoulder/across-the-shoulder, light weight protective bag that it comes with–this means that you can Spoonk at home, at work, on vacation, at your friend’s place, etc. The possibilities are endless!

spoonk3Well, I’m off to eat breakfast and start my day as you wind down yours across the world. Today we are exploring Hángzhōu through a private boat ride on the famous West Lake, Lingyin Temple-one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, and the Southern Song Imperial Street, which is filled with genuine antique shops and teahouses.

In the meantime, I encourage you all to find a way to meditate today. Personally, I know that I will definitely take some time to quiet my mind as I enter the temple today to think of my current state of being and my levels of happiness, as I continue on my quest for balance. You are winding down your day–what will you focus on?  If you don’t know where to start, first read over my last post to get a better sense of what kind or style of meditation might be best for you. As always, if you have any suggestions on techniques that work best for you, I’d love to hear them and share them with everyone: leave a comment below, email me melucas7@gmail.com, or Tweet at me @meggielukes and include #MegInTheMeantime.

And make sure to tune back in on Sunday (pending internet connections) for my next edition of Sunday Snacks!

baozhòng! (Take care!)
-Meg

Stretch It Out.

Hello!

So last week I gave you a sneak preview into my active weekend of participating in FitBit Local’s kickoff event in the South End on Saturday morning and then a free run clinic on Sunday morning. Needless to say, between trying my very first high intensity bootcamp class and actively working on new strength training exercises, I was hobbling around my apartment with that good, sore feeling by Sunday evening.

You know that feeling I’m talking about, right? The one that makes you feel positive that you got a solid workout in and maybe even worked some new muscles because getting up from a seated position is a lot of work and trying to reach for something in a cabinet becomes a chore…sometimes even just laying there hurts! But, as sore as you are, you can’t help but smile knowing that you allowed your body to work hard and you pushed it to the limit for that day. Rest was much deserved!

In between the struggle of my sore moments and the excitement of telling my running friends about these two free fitness events, I realized that the perfect thing to share with you today would be active warm-up and recovery suggestions-something I learned in the run clinic and definitely utilized this weekend…it was my saving grace and can be yours, too as you think about incorporating wellness activities, like proper stretching, into your daily routine.

But first, let me quickly recap what these two events were like…

Fitbit Local’s free event was held in the SOWA Power Station, an architecturally-stunning building with high cathedral ceilings in the South End-and, over the course of two hours, featured a bodyweight bootcamp class led by a prominent Boston fitness instructor, Chad Flahive, followed by a yoga flow by Cara Gilman. I’ll be honest, I originally only wanted to attend this event for the sake of the yoga portion-not only was it a class taught by my absolute favorite yoga instructor, but it was also a free yoga class (whereas many single class offerings in Boston range from $15-$25 per class)…the added bonus was that I got to try out a bootcamp class, too which I have never done before.

That being said, I was very curious about what a bootcamp class would be like so I went in with an open mind. It is what it sounded like: “bootcamp:” a high intensity cardio class, that gets your heart rate up, something to make you sweat quickly and continuously, and something (or someone) to push you to keep moving. Over the course of the class, I did a mixture of twisting jumping jacks, regular squats, pulsing squats, jump squats (after typing out all of those squat, I can now understand the soreness in my glutes…), burpees, mountain climbers crunches, and so forth. The end result? I think I would try a bootcamp class again just to give it another fair shot, but it also solidified that, for me, a large class, with loud music meant to pump you up, and an instructor yelling (in an inspiring way!) things like, “Keep moving!” “Almost there!” “Last set!” “Okay, really–this is the last set!” “You got this–this really is the last one!” doesn’t really motivate me…it more so irritates me. But that’s just me. I can absolutely see why other people need or want a class like that to motivate them intensely for 30-45 minutes; it had me looking at my watch to see when this part would be over. Still, I can’t really complain at all since clearly it worked me out well and I was feeling all kinds of new sore throughout my body.

And, yoga with Cara was simply amazing (to be expected)-so not much to report on that end. I was so grateful to have that time to slowly cool down my body and flow through some poses and begin the active stretching process, while calming my forever-on-the-go-mind. It also reminded me of how much I miss yoga incorporated into my week at least once or twice (is such a powerful practice especially when paired with running) so I bit the bullet and signed up for Cara’s 10-week Run + Yoga summer series…although I have to miss the first two classes due to grad school and work travel, I am beyond stoked to have this series to look forward to each week as I train for the B.A.A. 10K.

And so, I woke up pretty sore on Sunday morning, kind of regretting this decision to do back-to-back new fitness events, but I was also too excited to attend this run clinic to let anything cloud my mind.  A friend, fellow November Project-er, and PT/DPT/Cert. DN/Running Specialist, Dani Adler, led her first clinic: Learn The 3 E’s To Run Training: Easy, Effective, and Efficient where we learned how to apply the 3 E’s to our active warm-ups and strength training routines. We topped off the clinic with a gorgeous 3 mile run along the Mystic River, right across the street from her office in Medford, MA.

Here is a picture of our awesome group-a mix of triathletes, ultra-marathoners, marathoners, and just regular runners, like myself-outside of the Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness office before our run (we were even lucky enough to have two members of Team Hoyt join us as they trained for the upcoming Providence Marathon). All in all, I was inspired to be surrounded by such amazing athletes and greatness and got pumped to keep my run pace with them-it felt good to challenge myself like that.

RunClinic.jpg

Okay, and now the moment I’ve been so excited to share with you since I was hobbling around my apartment, wonderfully sore from all of these free fitness events: active warm-up and stretching. During the run clinic, Dani led us through a series of warm-up routines that were easy to follow, proved to be effective during our 3 mile run after as we all felt properly warmed up, and were super efficient: the whole routine took no more than 9-10 minutes, yet covered a broad spectrum of body parts and muscles that are integral to running. She explained the difference between active warm-ups (what I will share with you below) and static stretching (something like bending over and touching your toes or pulling one leg behind you to stretch out your hamstrings before a run)-she immediately turned me into a believer and made me never want to statically stretch before a workout ever again-that should be saved for post-run stretching. Why do I say this? Read below and find out.

How to Apply the 3 E’s to Your Warm-Up:

  1. Inch worms: 5 sets 
    The inch worm is a great way to actively stretch out your hamstrings and calves and fire up your core before a run. To follow me along, I’ve included a snapshot for you to see-the sequence goes: Top Left, Top Right, Bottom Left, Bottom Right, and repeat.
    – Start out with your feet close together and stretch down to to the floor in front of you (top left image).
    – Begin to walk your hands forward, alternating left and right, bending only at the hips and keeping your legs straight until you reach a push up position (top right image).
    – Now keep your hands in place and slowly take short steps forward with your feet, not bending your knees-this is where you will start to feel the amazing stretch in your hamstrings and calves (bottom left image).
    – Continue walking until your feet have reached your hands-or have come as far as your legs allow without bending your knees. You will notice you are back in the starting position-repeat 5 times for an active warm-up (bottom right image).
    InchWorm
  2. Downward Dog into “Walking the Dog:” 5-10 on each side.
    Downward Dog is an energizing yoga pose meant to stretch the shoulders (mine always crack), hamstrings, calves, feet, and hands, while strengthening your arms and legs.
    – To get into the Downward Dog position, you place yourself in an inverted “V” pose, with your palms and feet rooted in the ground below you and your sits bones (think: butt area), lifted up to the sky. Your body weight is evenly distributed,  your shoulders are squared to the ground, your neck is relaxed and your gaze is down/towards your feet.
    – To follow me along, I’ve included a snapshot for you below. Top Left and Top Right are the same pose (Downward Dog), just shown from a front view and side view.
    – Bottom Left and Bottom Right just show the “Walking the Dog” sequence, from the side view. From your Downward Dog position, alternatively lift and lower your lower your heels, still keeping your body weight evenly distributed-don’t let your body fall side to side as you pedal out your feet. Repeat for 5-10 times on each side.
    DownwardDog
  3. Downward Dog into Pigeon Pose: 30 seconds, each side.
    Pigeon pose is my absolute favorite stretch. This pose stretches out your thighs, groin areas, abs, chest, and shoulders and is one of the deepest stretches you can find yourself in, but boy does it feel great if you can bear it!
    – From the Downward Dog position, keep your hips squared towards the ground and bring one leg forward towards your arms to a 90 degree angle (or as close as you can get). That foot, which should stay flexed for a better stretch, will come to rest towards your groin area as your back leg is extended out with the knee and leg squared towards the floor and pressed down.
    – You can either keep your upper body upright, with the ribcage lift and hands perched by your front foot, or slowly lower yourself down over your front knee and walk and stretch your arms out forward as well for a deeper stretch-in this case you can keep your gaze down.
    – I’ve included another snapshot for you to follow me along Top and Bottom images are the same pose, just shown from a front and side view. *Note: I am only showing one side in these images, but this pose calls for both left and right sides to be stretched. After about 30 seconds on one side, shake out your leg and repeat the pose on the opposite side. 
    PigeonPose
  4. Adductor Rock: 15-20 on each side.
    This stretch I was pretty new to, but am so glad I tried it! The adductor rock really stretches out the groin area, while also loosening up any tightness in your inner thigh area (note: one side may feel more tight than the other).
    – Start on all fours and extend one leg to the side.
    – Gently rock back on your bent knee, keeping your back flat, and progressively rock back further and further each time, opening up the groin area.
    – I included a snapshot for you to follow along. The Top Left and Top Right images are what the sequence looks like from a front view, and Bottom Left and Bottom Right images is the same thing, but from a side view. *Note: I am only showing one side in these images, but this pose calls for both left and right sides to be stretched. After about 15-20 rocks on one side, shake out your legs and repeat the stretch on the opposite side. 
    AdductorRock
  5. 5 Minutes of “Fitness Walking” – I don’t have an image for this one, and I know it kind of sounds funny to do before a run (especially when most of us barely have time to fit in a run as it is), but getting your body ready for the motion of running by walking at 3.5 mph or less can really relieve the shock of your body going from 0 – (enter your mph here) in just seconds. Walking before allows your heart rate to pick up and for your breathing to quicken and get fired up for your set pace.

After the warm-up we got into applying the 3 E’s to strength training. If you’re interested in seeing some specific strength training videos that you can incorporate into your own routine, I recommend checking out Dani’s RunFitDoc YouTube channel –it’s a great resource to get yourself started and you can rest assured that the information is coming to you from a true professional! All of these routines are easy to follow, reasonable to scale, and really complement your training runs well. The most important thing to me, as someone who is typically stretched thin with many responsibilities, is efficiency: if you give me something that will be effective for my training and compact enough that I can easily fit in to a 10 minute segment every day (or every other day) then that is what I know will work and what I can reasonably stick with.  Personally, I look forward to doing these routines at least 2 times per week, to begin with, during my upcoming 10K training and reporting back on the positive impact.

Lastly, if you missed her run clinic last weekend and are now kicking yourself for it-fear not! You still have one more upcoming opportunity to learn about The 3 E’s To Run Training: Easy, Effective, and Efficient as a part of the first ever BPTW Strength Symposium on Saturday, May 21 at 10am in Medford, MA (I attached the Eventbrite info for your convenience). This event, as opposed to the run clinic I attended, covers a depth and breadth of topics, such as running, nutrition, core strength, injury/pain presentation, etc., but gives you access to a whole line up of health, wellness, and fitness experts and professionals, like Dani…what an opportunity! This is one local event for all you triathletes, marathoners, and fitness enthusiasts to not miss!

As for me, tonight I am off to the Run + Yoga for Runners event held at the Janji pop-up store on Newbury Street in Boston tonight! This event is run by two fellow November Project-ers: Brittany Flaherty and Jana Ross and coordinated by the MoveWith company. I’m so excited to work out in a new location (can’t believe I still haven’t been to the Janji store yet!) after I run through the streets of my favorite area in Boston: Back Bay! More to come on this experience when I write again on Friday.

In the meantime, and in the spirit of today’s post, I want to encourage you all to to incorporate some form of stretching into your daily routine: this could be 5-10 minutes of active stretching in the morning to wake you up or some form of static stretching to flow through and relieve stress before bed…it could even be your midday break from work after lunch! The benefits of stretching (reduced muscle tension, increased range of the joints, increased blood flow, and higher energy levels, just to name a few…) are too go pass up! Or, if you think I missed out on a different form of active stretching, then please comment below and share one of your favorite stretches–I always love to hear from you!

Wishing you wellness today and always,
-Meg