Category Archives: Exercise

How to Find Time to Exercise When You’re Too Busy

Just Show Up

This time of year, it’s crazy busy for most everyone.  Finding time to stay healthy can tumble down the priority list pretty quick.  That’s why I collapse all of my goals into this single thought:  Just show up.  I show up, then I listen to my body.  No time clocks.  No calorie burn rates.  Just me, whatever time I’ve got, and whatever my body can handle that day.

This simple idea keeps healthy habits alive because it nurtures momentum.  I can eat too many treats.  I can detour my workout away from what I had planned.  But I can’t lose my momentum.  Once that’s gone, it is so-so-so-so hard to get back up.

Here’s what keeping momentum looks like for me this month:

  • Walking the dog down the street instead of doing that full hour in the gym.
  • Plugging in a 15 minute yoga DVD instead of staying for the 5:30 pm class.
  • Blending my green smoothie, even though there’s a party with a buffet waiting for me tonight.
  • Rolling around on the floor to stretch my back and lube my joints because I woke up too late to do the 15 minute yoga DVD.

This time of year, I have to narrow my focus and just show up.  There’ll be plenty of time later to ramp back up, and I’ll have all that momentum to propel me forward.

 

Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center

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To Get Fit, Flex this Little-Known Muscle

Jungle Book Baloo DancingI’ve been flexing my muscles ever since I was ten. That’s when I hauled home a record from Disneyland, put the needle on a record, and started to dance. That album, titled “Exercise with the Jungle Book,” had Baloo the Bear leading me in early 80’s aerobics (Baloo had a little extra junk in the trunk, so I liked him better than Jane Fonda.) Thirty-two years later, I’m still on the hunt for that next best workout. Be it abs, glutes, or core, I’ll try anything that keeps me engaged and brings results. So when I discovered a little-known, master muscle that boosts all my exercise efforts, I got excited.

What is this mystery strength, and why don’t we hear more about it? 

To answer that question, I’ll share a story often told and retold around these parts, especially during winter. In fact, it was winter in Butte — our highest Montana town – at Berkeley Pit, our deepest toxic wastewater site (locals call it Berkeley Lake.) Butte’s an old copper mining town perched atop the Continental Divide. It weathers blizzards that would otherwise breeze over lower elevations. One whiteout evening in ’95, a large flock of migrating geese decided to take refuge from a storm. Scanning for water, they spotted Berkeley Pit. They landed, free from icy winds. The next morning, Butte awoke to a sad site. Almost 350 winter-white geese lay dead, floating atop the toxic waters of Berkeley Pit.

Not long after the geese tragedy, a chemist returned to the pit and pulled a rope its waters. It was covered in green slime – life. Researchers at Montana Tech identified the slime as algae. Not just any algae, though. This plant could neutralize acid and absorb heavy metals. It literally thrived in Berkeley Pit. Theoretically — if scientists can scale up the algae’s metabolism to Berkeley Pit size – a Superfund site could become just like any other clean mountain lake in Montana.

But there’s more to the story, and it’s this surprise ending that reveals the mystery muscle.

 The only other place those algae have ever been found is in the guts of geese.  Their sacrifice gave birth to new life. Honestly, if I had been there, I would have been too sad and full of guilt to believe such a miracle. After seeing all those geese dead, any hope arising from those toxic waters would have been the furthest thing from my mind.  Nonetheless, only months later, that chemist did something amazing when he took a walk down to the pit. Scanning its depths, he had to peer past grief to see that rope floating just below the water’s surface. To reach into that toxic soup and keep pulling, hand over hand, he had to ignore the doubt that countered each tug of the slimy rope. Finally, he had to reach for hope when he delivered that rope to experts for examination.

That chemist flexed the mystery muscle. He demonstrated a strength we rarely hear about in exercise circles: returning. Not exercising for a while can bring its own form of loss. The decision to return can be hard. I usually grieve all the ground I’ve lost and weight I’ve gained. Still, I want to move again. At first, doubt and fear follow me into each workout. For a while, I have to decide over and over to return again and again. Eventually, repeated returning helps me break through into hope.

Is “returning” really a muscle, though? How does deciding to return actually strengthen things? 

Neuroscientists point to meditation as an example of how returning can fundamentally change our brains. Meditation rides a looping rhythm of focus, distraction, and returning. It’s less about perfect, zero-point calm and more about returning to the moment. It’s this perfecting of returning which changes the brain. In her article, “This is Your Brain on Meditation,” psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding, MD, explains that meditation strengthens the, “Lateral prefrontal cortex: the part of the brain that allows you to look at things from a more rational, logical and balanced perspective.” At the same time, it weakens caustic neural connections which magnify our failures into flaws. Fewer flaws? Balanced perspective? I’ll take some of that (especially when arguing with myself just to get dressed for a workout).

So “returning” really does change things, but how do I start?

For me, the first, hardest, and most important step is to let go of any shame about being sedentary. As my husband, Frank, says, “I can feel all the stupid that I want, but that won’t keep me from acting stupid in the future.” Shame is a waste of time. It doesn’t make me move any more or work any harder. Positive thoughts actually get me moving. Thoughts like:

  • “It took a while to get here; it will take a while to get back.”
  • “The body is smart. It did what it had to do while you were away; it will adapt as you start to move now.”
  • “You may not be able to pick up from where you left off, but you can pick up.”

Like those scientists who returned to the pit after its greatest tragedy, I can return to fitness. There’s no limit to do-overs. When I decide to return, I flex a master muscle of the mind. For sure, the results aren’t instant. Just like any muscle, returning can atrophy without use. Every time I decide to return, though, it gets stronger, and so do I.

Take Home Tip from 100poundsin1year.com

It’s this perfecting of returning which changes the brain.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

“I Hate Forcing Myself to Exercise” plus more in “Just Show Up: Why Movement Matters,” a free weight loss eGuide
New Life in a Death Trap
This is Your Brain on Meditation by Rebecca Gladding, MD, in Psychology Today

More Sassy Weight Loss Stories
from Shelby in Every 100 Pounds eGuide

Every 100 Pounds in1 Year eGuide contains

 

 

 

 

 

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Scale the 3rd Week Wall with These 3 Big Ideas

Is your fitness routine fading?  Is that promise you made to yourself getting harder to keep?  Welcome to the “3rd week wall.”  There’s something magical about making it through the third week, and its common to get stuck just as you thought you were doing great.  Don’t get down on yourself.  Instead, read ahead for some tools and tips to help you clear this hurdle and go even farther (first published in Living Well, 2013).

We know what they’re going to say: eat better, exercise more.  As soon as health experts open their mouths, we hear their advice like an overplayed pop hit. Our eyes glaze-over. Our minds go numb. Yet, knowing the latest research hasn’t kept us from a nationwide Obesity and Diabetes epidemic. Why? Is there a missing link between what we’re learning and what we’re doing? Or, is it how we’re learning?   Maybe we need easier ideas, something we can do right now that translates all that advice into real results. We need tips that can come alongside us, not create more conflict with our already-busy lives. While we’re at it, let’s demand something we can do and still be ourselves. Make it not too far out of reach but still inspire us to be our best selves.   In that spirit of uncomplicated accomplishment, here are three revelations which can revive any mission to become and stay healthy.

First, Take a Step Backwards

Alyssa Schrock, Mrs. Montana 2013, recognizes that gap between knowledge and know-how. At a young age, she was diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. “Here’s a pamphlet, go figure out a plan,” she quips, mimicking the limp advice she received from her doctor. “No one took the time to explain, ‘This is how you cope. This is what you do.’ As a result, it’s taken me all of fifteen years to learn how to manage my illness.”

Today, Alyssa lectures and educates others about how to navigate health challenges by developing a personal care plan. “I like to work backwards by starting with the end results.” Asking people to envision a fuller life, Alyssa poses questions like, “What do you want?” “Why are you doing this?” “What do you want it to look like?” For her, the answers included reducing her prescription medications, becoming strong enough to care for her family, and increasing her overall stamina. With those kinds of long-term desires in mind, Alyssa then considers short-term actions. “They need to be small steps, things we can do right where we’re at today,” she explains. Every time she progresses to the next step, Alyssa claims a win. It’s those tiny victories which keep her focused, so much so that she now has energy to support others. “I still have tired days when I have to remind myself this is normal for me, but I’m feeling good enough now that I can make my bubble bigger by reaching my arms out to the community, so that others won’t have to walk out of a hospital with a pamphlet and no idea what to do next.”

Think Big, Then Think Even Bigger

Just as Alyssa has learned how supporting her community helps her stay healthy, we may need to unite our health routine with a larger purpose. Often times, we find more motivation when connect with the “why.” Nurturing wellbeing can be an expression of our commitment to something bigger. This bigger picture provides fresh purpose to pluck us from stuck places and create momentum again.

The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center of Missoula – one of the nation’s first women’s only gyms which started 30 years ago – takes that bigger purpose to heart. “TWC women don’t separate caring for their health from caring for the Missoula community; to them, it’s all connected,” explains Camie Evans, Manager and Co-Owner of the club. Their latest investment is a saline pool and hot tub. Recently, The Women’s Club converted to a salt water system. “We hear how important environmental stewardship is to our members, and they’re happier when they know their workout supports their values” says Cathy Schwenk, Facility Maintenance Leader. “We’ve been looking at a saline system for years, but it’s only recently that the technology has become compatible with our facility. We like to say, ‘We’re going green, so your hair won’t have to.’”

Get off the Guilt-Go-‘Round

I once heard a young mom with a large family lament her sedentary lifestyle. “I know I need to get me and the kids exercising more, but it’s not easy,” she groaned. “They say this town is such an easy place to be active, but you either have to have lots of time or lots of money, and I don’t have either.” I nodded my head. She indeed was one of the busiest moms I knew. I also knew, however, that there was a public trail system just minutes from her home. Spotting the gap between what she said and what she could do, I surmise her frustration served more as a deflection of guilt.

Come to think of it, criticizing the sometimes conflicting health advice we receive is an effective deflection, as well. Resistance can cover up guilt over not being healthier. Here’s the good news: guilt doesn’t work, so you can let it go. Guilt is a disconnecting force which short-circuits our best intentions.  Guilt acts like static to our souls; keeping us judging ourselves and arguing with those judgments.  It fuzzes that heart/mind connection where creativity and motivation abide.  So let go of guilt about not exercising enough or eating bad food.

You can create a vibrant lifestyle when you cultivate these ideas. First, begin with your vision for a healthier you. Then, support that vision by connecting with a bigger purpose. Finally, release energy-sucking guilt. Now you can harness all that energy you’ve been using to simply survive the stuckness and shift your focus into drive.

Take Home Tip

We need tips that can come alongside us, not create more conflict with our already-busy lives.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

100 Pounds eGuide:  “Just Show Up: Why Movement Matters.”

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7 Ways I Got My Body Back

January 2nd (and the Monday after New Year’s) are HUGE days for anyone wanting to lose weight.  I’m rebooting this post as a way to encourage anyone shooting out of the starting block today.

Seven years ago, I had a dream which I’ve never really been able to shake. I always wondered what it meant. I think I’ve finally figured it out. At the time, I was working with a therapist. I shared the dream’s details with her. I described the dug-out pit I occupied and how it resembled a sunken site of an old, archeological dig. We surmised why the pit’s fence – which ran along the top of the ground above me, at shoulder height – seemed more like a military perimeter. With its bulky timbers reinforced by steel rebar, I wasn’t going anywhere. Why did it need to be so strong? More intriguing, however, were the holes underneath the fence. Someone had dug out gaps underneath the fence. Just enough space for a torso appeared along the edges every ten feet. Why had no one filled them in? Had hope carved out each escape route, and I hadn’t bothered to replace it? Maybe there was no point, since a pair of army boots stood patrol on the other side of every hollow. Why the necessary precaution? Who was out there, standing in those boots, and why did I stand inside, alone? I felt trapped. My solace was the open, blue sky above me. Puffy, white clouds paraded over me. This brings me to my biggest question…

Why didn’t I just fly out?

All notions of “flying dreams” aside, this seems a legit question. I acted as if the sky was a roof. There wasn’t anything holding me back, except me. In thinking of the top seven lessons I’ve learned throughout my weight loss journey, that’s the clincher. I see this self-limiting pattern over and over. Each of these seven ideas healed some element of whatever, or whyever, I was my biggest obstacle.

  1. Food can transform from currency into contentment. For most of my life, I’ve used food as currency. Food to feel my value. Food to reward my effort. Food to stand in for any desire I could not fill. The problem with this strategy is that I never experienced fullness. By using food as currency, I limited the amount of joy and contentment I could feel because food can only do so much. In addiction terms, I could only get as high as my next hit. I couldn’t stop this limiting cycle until I felt my intrinsic worth. I needed to connect with that unearned merit which abides at depths universal to us all. A Biblical poet put it best: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” (Isaiah 55) When I experienced my natural worth — which I cannot earn or have enough of anything to pay it back with — that’s when food transformed from currency to contentment.
  2. I do not have to lose 100 pounds before I feel better. When I first decided to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, I thought I wouldn’t be happy until I dropped all that weight. In reality, I felt better after shedding just 15 pounds. I can remember having more energy, feeling less pain, and sleeping better within weeks. The 100 pound goal gave me enough hope to launch my journey, but it didn’t have to power me all the way. In fact, the inherent restriction of my goal, as it was defined by a total number of pounds within a given time frame, became a burden. That expectation felt heavier than the extra pounds I was carrying. In order to continue, without the heavy restriction, I had to trade big expectations for tiny victories. It’s those everyday wins which took me the rest of the way, bringing the finish line to me.
  3. “Set Point Theory” isn’t as sexy, but it makes more sense. “100 Pounds in 1 Year” sure rolls off the tongue, but without the pressure of numbers, I made space to learn an amazing lesson, called “Set Point Theory.” Basically, it’s what keeps lost pounds from never coming back. Researchers have found that a slow burn — no more than 5% of total body weight every three months – keeps weight loss below our starvation radar. If I lose weight any faster, then I could be wasting my time and shooting my future self in the foot. According to Set Point Theory, in order to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, I would have had to start out weighing over 500 pounds. Indeed, that’s exactly where some folks start. For others, however, patient, compassionate weight loss and a return trip to the calculator and will avoid return trips to the diet isle.
  4. Weight loss is not a straight line but a meandering path through the woods. If I zoom out on my journey, taking a Google Maps view, I see lots of pitfalls and rabbit trails along the way. At first, I hated these obstacles because they slowed down my weight loss. But the hurdles just kept coming. They didn’t slow down until I slowed down. Turns out, I needed the hidden meaning in every detour. I learned to sink into the sand because there was probably something in there for me. If I tried to skip over it, I usually came back to it, anyway. I could only go as fast as my heart and mind could handle. Ironically, once I geared down to soul speed, I found oodles of freedom to play and experiment. Pit stops became hidden treasures and weight loss an adventure in living. My self-limiting insistence on a linear, start-to-finish highway to happiness seems silly and unrealistic to me now.
  5. Relationship brings results. So often, I’ve turned to tips and strategies for results, but copying other people’s fitness success works more like trying to push a button from behind by yanking on the circuitry. Tactics like counting calories, logging hours of exercise, or tracking total steps, these aren’t what cause fitness. They’re what comes after; after the choice to just show up, after frustrating days of missed workouts, and after the next day when I decide to pick up where I left off. All of these moments create a relationship, which is what really brings results. By sticking only to what worked for other people, I actually limited my options. When I drilled down to healing my relationship with myself, that’s when the power kicked in. I found out that I could trust my gut to lead me to my next, best step. Granted, it didn’t feel great all the time. I had walked around like a floating head for years; I was that disconnected to my body. It was scary to reconnect with my heart and mind through my body, even painful at times. But by staying authentic, no matter the circumstance, no effort was wasted.
  6. Get thinner but never stop getting thicker. I want to get thick, in my soul I mean. I want to slather on layers of life. I got into this journey by opening up to desire. I don’t want to stop now. I want to stay engaged with the juiciness of the Big Wow that infiltrates every part of every day. I think back to my days of eating drive-thru in my car on my lunch hour. I remember how utterly bored I felt with my life. To me, becoming thinner has happened more out of a sense of fullness, rather than depriving myself of joy (with food or otherwise.) By feeding awe and curiosity, I continue to uncover reasons to keep making healthy choices.
  7. I decided that I Already Have My Body Back. After losing 62 of my 100 pounds, I came to a crossroads. You may remember a recent blog when I slammed the proverbial table and declared, “I want my body back, dammit!” You know what came up after that release of pent-up angst? A quiet voice humbly whispered, Why not just decide to have it, then? This challenged me. What do you mean? I retorted. I can’t JUST DECIDE.   Turns out, I can. There’s this tune from The Antlers, called “Palace” (totally the sound track to my journey.) One phrase slays me: “…the day we wake inside the secret place that everyone can see.” That’s what this is. It’s inhabiting the beauty I’ve kept hidden from myself but which everyone around me has always seen. It’s the decision to fly out of the pit. This is possible because getting down to my real self wasn’t like peeling layers of rotten flesh from an onion. Not at all. It felt more like connecting with the orb inside. I kept nurturing myself. The onion grew bigger, got brighter, until its paper skin could no longer hold the glowing bulk and had to break off and fly away to make room for more. Granted, I couldn’t have gotten here before now. I needed more than a nice idea to try on. I needed to experience my body in healthy ways. I needed to trade out old clothes for new. I needed to climb mountains. I needed to see muscles flexing in the mirror. Now, though, I am ready to be who I’ve always been.

Take Home Tip

 

Why not just fly out?

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

For more in-depth, down-and-dirty-details of how I learned these lessons, check out the 100 Pounds eGuides

Listen to “Palace” by The Antlers

7WaysIGotMyBodyBackVisionBoard100Poundsin1Year

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Dang! I missed my workout – again!

62 pounds lost so farI’m crashed on the couch, and it’s not the good kind of crash.  The cushions lack that indulgent give I enjoy after a tough workout.  Instead, the weak squish reminds me of the laziness I sense inside.  I’ve fought to avoid this feeling most my life.  This limpness of will saps my energy.  I’m too tired to exercise but too desperate to be OK with it.  I want a rest, from both my lethargy and the guilt of missing yet another workout.

Fact:  I don’t always feel like exercising
“I’m just too tired today,” I tell myself as I roll onto my other side to quiet the gnaw at my lower back.  My exhaustion makes sense.  Forty years have escorted me to the other shore of life, and I’m ramping down into peri-menopause.  Hormones are ebbing.  Energy is waning.  Plus, since I manage Bi-Polar disorder, it’s taken a few months to recalibrate my meds.  Another “guinea pig” phase.  I haven’t located that sweet spot again.  It occurs to me — while becoming part of the couch – that, although I’ve adjusted my meds, I haven’t adjusted my thinking.  I still hold the same exercise expectations I had when I was twenty.  Those ideals loom far from my new reality.  Honoring them has actually backfired by creating too much space between who I am today and the healthy, happy woman who has always lived inside.  In reaching for my goals, I’ve actually pushed myself farther from her.  No wonder I don’t feel like myself.

Fact:  my reactions don’t usually help
Whenever I miss a workout, I usually react in one of two ways:  do more or do nothing.  Doubling tomorrow’s workout seems a reasonable reaction.  I won’t lose anything, and I can rest easy today.   When I’m too tired tomorrow, however, then I’ve got three workouts to do the day after.  Not likely to happen.  Double-up discipline usually leads to quitting.  I call it the “Bible in a Year” Syndrome.  You know the ideal:  read x number of pages every day, and by day 366, you can say you’ve read the entire Bible in one year.  Good intentions; faulty plan.  After getting bored with Deuteronomy — and tacking on yesterday’s readings for the third day in a row – I’m up to 30 pages and hundreds of “begats” to sludge through.  Too much expectation guarantees give up.

Fact:  I still want an active life
My other reaction involves a hefty dose of guilt.  Guilt loves to hang with me on the couch.  It maintains power because, honestly, I love being active, and I don’t like it when I’m not.  Guilt puts me on the stand and cross-examines my resolve, so I have to prove my loyalty over and over again.  Consequently, I walk around half-heartedly threatened, like I’m only one missed workout away from a remote control lodged between my fat rolls.

Fact:  I’m ready to think different
I want to get creative and figure out what it would take to avoid this moment the next time (‘Cuz I know there’s going to be a next time.)  I need new tenets which allow me to be who I am today and encourage me to move, without doubling expectation or feeding guilt.  After some thought, I’ve got an idea:  fitness tiers.

Using fitness tiers is like moving among floors of a house.  The top tier can be for more energized, “power” days; the second tier for medium “recovery” days, and the third tier (or ground floor) for easy “incubator” days.  When I’ve got lots of energy for a challenge, I could take the stairs to the upper floor and clock a sweaty workout.  When I’m dragging a bit, I accept my lower energy level, move to the second floor and enter my “recovery” space.  Here, my day’s goals are framed around maintaining my fitness, no pressure to improve.  When energy drops to couch-worthy, I’ll call for room service on the ground floor and retreat into “incubator” time.  I’ll still move for a short bit, just to stick a bookmark in my psyche, but I’m giving myself permission to rest until energy returns.

Once my levels are established, then I can envision the kind of movement I want within each tier.  For example, this is how I’m defining my tiers so far:

  • Power Day:  move 60 to 100 minutes and include some extra-challenging intervals (I’ve worked up to this level, after starting out moving just 10 minutes each day.)
  • Recovery Day:  cut my time in half, move 30 to 60 minutes
  • Incubator Day:  move 10 minutes, doesn’t matter how, just move

I bet fitness tiers could help remove other exercise obstacles besides energy level, like limited time or inconsistent travel.  If time keeps me from exercising, then I might define three different tiers of availability.  If travel nixes my options, then how about three different tiers defined by modes of travel?

Fitness tiers are less about the intensity of moving and more about keeping me motivated.  Still, that doesn’t mean I’m settling.  I’m disciplined, but I answer to me, not the workout.  I bet, after using my fitness tiers for several weeks, I’ll actually move more.  Without trapping myself in expectation or guilt, I just might finish more workouts.  I may have a couch moment, but you can bet I’ll be flexing my core or doing some leg raises while I’m there.

Take Home Tip

Fitness tiers are less about the intensity of moving and more about keeping me motivated.

Explore It More By Following the Links BelowSave Me from Myself: a Freakonomics podcast which explores
how a commitment device forces you to be the person you really want to be.
What could possibly go wrong? 

Guilt Free Fitness with Fitness TiersCheck out more fun vision boards about Shelby’s journey at her Pinterest page.

100 Pounds in 1 Year

100 Pounds in 1 Year

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Rock n Roll Hiking

Shelby on top of Ch-Paa-Qn Peak

Shelby on top of Ch-Paa-Qn Peak

Have you ever shied away from an adventurous hike because you didn’t know if you could do it?  Maybe you thought you’d slow everybody down.  Maybe the idea of a 1,000 foot elevation gain made you think, That’s what we have airplanes for.  Maybe, like me, you’ve had the frustrating experience of following a faster hiking buddy.  They repeatedly have to stop to wait for me.  While they’re watching me huff and puff my way up the trail, they’re getting a nice rest.  Then, when I finally reach them, they continue, and I haven’t even felt my heart disappear from my throat yet!

I’ve got the trick to these hiking specters, and it even comes with treats!

I call it “Rock n Roll Hiking.”  It’s a method of hiking that I developed while climbing out of Crystal Lake in Montana’s Mission Mountain Wilderness.  This lake slumbers at the base of a mountainous bowl.  Getting in feels easy; it’s all downhill and dandelions.  Coming out, however, is all back up.  When I first started the return ascent, I became dismayed at how hard I had to work.  Also, because conventional hiking mimics climbing a flight of stairs, I felt like I was moving at a snail’s pace.  My steps were normal-size steps – I just lifted my leg a little higher to accommodate the incline – and I had to suck wind just to keep up with my long-legged hubby.  Not fun.

For heavier people like me, long hills become increasingly challenging.  The longer the hill, the longer I have to drag my weight up it.  As my muscles fatigue, so does my resolve.  Every step over a tree root feels heavier; every work-around feels sloppier.  It behooves me, then, to become as efficient as possible if I’m going to enjoy a hike in the woods.

Rock n Roll Hiking is all about efficiency.  It’s a change in pace and stride that doesn’t reduce speed.  Here’s how it works… Strategy one:  slow your pace.  Yep, you read that right.  Slower leg turnover creates just enough extra time for lungs to draw another ounce of air.  More oxygen slows your heart rate to a comfortable beat and keeps your muscles from burning too much.  For me, an efficient pace feels half as fast as a normal step.  I take one step in the time it takes for two.

Strategy two:  widen your stride.  This strategy makes up for the slower pace.  A wider stride starts with lengthening out your leading leg until you land on your heel.  As you move forward through your stride, your foot will roll smoothly from heel to toe.  Getting that extra push off your toe keeps the spring in your step, too.  You know you’re doing it right when your torso wants to rock back and forth as you move forward, hence, the Rock n Roll.  For added benefit, you can rest your hands on your hips.  This opens up your diaphragm and allows your lungs even more space for drawing air.

The slower pace, combined with a wider stride, can cover as much ground as regular hiking, but you expend less energy, move more oxygen through your body, and use more muscles.  Plus, this hiking style comes with added benefits.  First, because you are striding farther out in front, you’re engaging hamstrings, buttocks, and lower back; not just your calves and quads.  Using more muscle burns more calories and improves overall fitness.  Second, striding heel-first strengthens your shins, preventing shin splints.  Third, the long stride tends to focus your feet straight forward, naturally aligning hips.  For anyone who’s ever spotted a “lazy foot” angling outward as they walk or hike, you know what I’m talking about.  Most of us tend to walk with one toe facing slightly out.  That small rotation can lead to big problems as we age because it weakens hips.  Rock n Roll Hiking can help.  Last, the slower pace keeps our heart rate lower, which – over a long hike – means we burn more fat.  Keeping efforts within the aerobic zone allows muscles to draw energy from stored fat instead of pure oxygen (Read Why I’ll Never Be a Runner Again for more info on this.)  Powered by this super-rich mix of fat and oxygen, we’ll go farther, longer.  We get an awesome sweat, too!

Next time someone invites you along for a hike, tell them, “No sweat!”  Try the Rock n Roll Hiking method, and you’re sure to enjoy the trail more than ever.

P.S.  In answer to Monday’s blog, my knicker-knocker activity to bump me out of my stuckness was – you guessed it – hiking to Ch-Paa-Qn Peak (A.K.A. Sleeping Woman Peak) near Missoula.

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center. 

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Start from Anywhere

bicycle wheel“You can start from anywhere, but begin.” – Osho

What’s the best way to begin a new exercise routine?  That’s a question on many minds as the lazy, sun-tanned summer cools into crisp fall days.  As nature begins to tuck herself in for a wintery rest, I feel like I’m waking up; imagining possibilities and making plans.  Fall has always been like this for me, bringing a surge of zest to infuse me with can-do spirit and inspiration.  I dust off notepads; the quadrille ones are my favorite.  Their grids of uniform squares help my whirlwind of ideas fly in formation as I outline topics and sub-topics.  I love to plan.  I especially love to craft new exercise plans.  I’ve filled pages with charts and timelines detailing new regimen; months broken down into weeks, weeks broken down into days, days broken down into hours.

Unfortunately, I’ve often loved the planning more than the exercising.  My schedules looked stellar on paper, but follow-through in the gym wasn’t nearly as pretty.  I might have stuck to my schedule for a week or two, but then it all got too much; too much effort, too much list-checking, too much expectation.  I would let my routine slide — workout by workout — until I gave up; my spirit slumped at the base of this mountainous goal I had built for myself.  My mind became littered with guilt, disappointment, and resentment, like the oxygen containers scattered along abandoned routes to the top of Mount Everest.  All my hopes for reaching my peak, perching at the top of my self-esteem, and admiring the vast landscape of my accomplishments, they would dissolve, sometimes into tears, like clouds that hit Everest and have no choice but to weep at its towering wall.  I would never bag that peak.

With my history of stopping all that I’ve started, I’m more than a little curious about Osho’s admonishment to begin – anywhere – but just begin.  He describes growth like a bicycle wheel, with its array of spokes poking out from the center and connecting at various points along the rim.  Any of these points are a valid place to start because they all lead to the center.  So, any point is guaranteed to reach the goal.  In Osho’s world, it’s the starting that’s most important, more than the goal, even more than how I get to the goal.  That’s great news for me!  I’m a professional starter!

But how can this work?  Just starting – just moving – doesn’t seem like enough.  After all, I’ve given a lot of exercise routines a lot of effort.  I’ve collected all the smart ideas from the best magazines, poured over best-selling books, consulted with Certified Personal Trainers and college professors, and combined all that information with results from the latest health research.  Then, I mustered as much mind muscle as I could to power these plans into action.  I was like an Irish farmer whipping a bullock through rocky clods to plant a row of blighted potatoes.  It still wasn’t enough.

It’s obvious to me that I have trouble sticking with a program, but forsaking all my best ideas for Osho’s bicycle wheel?  That seems impossible.

Until now.

My plans may have resembled the lock-step march of a precise military procession, but I missed the whole parade.  I never gave myself a chance to discover one, crucial lesson:  I can trust my body.  I was so busy pushing that I overlooked my body’s quiet, humble reaction to movement.  This time, I’ve stuck with my 100 Pounds In 1 Year commitment long enough to notice that, when my body meets a challenge, it responds with strength to do more.  Muscles start to urge, lets go harder.  Lungs whisper, lets do one more.  My heart teases, lets go faster.  When I let go and trust my body to respond, it always asks for more.  Maybe that’s what Osho means when he insists that any point on the wheel can reach the goal.

As far as structure and control, I’m learning why less is more.  In my last post, “What’s the Best Exercise?” I came to the conclusion that the best exercise is the one I’ll keep doing.  It may not be the one that burns the most calories or meets expert guidelines, but it’s the one that keeps me asking for more, too.  When I allow myself to start from anywhere, I always finish feeling strong and new.  Permission to simply move always ends me on a high.  I bagged that peak after all.

Today, I want to discover this new world of fitness without a map or GPS, without tracking the exact coordinates of where I am on the cardio cartograph .  I want to ditch the notepads and spend time with my body.  I want to honor its pleas for rest.  I want to feel its pent-up craving for another challenge.  I want to let go and feel it stride out like an unbridled horse sprinting for freedom.  To be this linked with my body, I need to let my workouts evolve as I evolve.  No more charts and graphs.  I don’t want to miss out on another moment of bliss, unknowing and discovering all at once, starting from anywhere and knowing exactly where I’m headed.

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