Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I'm not sure if you've seen this video by Joss Whedon, but the Zombie Apocalypse is quite possibly around the corner!

Oh Em Gee. What next?

Well, as they've clearly outlined in that documentary, Zombieland, we have to stick to rule #1:

How about trying this on to see if you can, indeed, survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

Check this out on Tribesports

I don't know about you, but I'm a sitting duck here with my injured knee... I guess that gives you more time to escape right? I'm happy to take one for the team. (On a serious note though, I will do this challenge once my knee heals, and I will post up times, no matter how embarrassing :P)

And, because I know you'll want to look extra good shirtless (or in a running bra, if you're a girl) when the Apocalypse hits, you can build up those abs using this circuit which I have reviewed here. I highly recommend doing this workout, after 7 days, I really did have very toned abs... at least when the zombies devour me, I know I'll be one good-looking meal.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Running injuries

I've always been a short to mid-distance runner. When I was a school athlete, my events were 400m and 800m runs (and occasionally, the 1500m, and once, the 3000m, although that did not end well :P).

When I went back to running this year, I thought I'd train up for some fun runs next year. I think the minimum mileage for those runs are generally 5km, which my body isn't used to yet, hence the training. During my first run this year, I clocked 3km in 25min... not great, but I was pretty happy considering I hadn't been running since... well... since I was 17 (and I'm currently... 17 with 9 years experience). Now, I can do about 4.5km in 30min, which is getting close to my goal of 5km in under 30 min.

All I want to do is run free... and have great legs....
Last week though, I started to feel a twinge in my knee. It's not painful, I'd rate it a 1-2 out of 10, but it is uncomfortably worrying, especially since my mum has a bad knee. Two years ago, I would have ignored the pain and kept running and probably ruin my knee, but after last year's struggle with my wrist injury, I know to listen to any body aches and pains, particularly joint ones.

So, for the next few weeks, until I'm satisfied that the pain in my knee has subsided, I will not be doing any high-impact running. All runs will be substituted with the dreaded crosstrainer. The problem I have with the crosstrainer is that I find it harder... all that resistance means I clock up less km (and I like my resistance up high), and therefore, am not sure if I'm meeting my goals of 5km under 30 minutes, although I guess if I can do 5km on the crosstrainer, I can definitely do a 5km run easily, possibly while carrying mini-weights.

My current plan to combat my knee injury is to:
  • Substitute all runs with crosstrainer 
  • Wear a knee support band 

Any other suggestions? I'm open... 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New to Yoga?

You've been interested in trying out yoga, but don't know where to start? Here are some pointers to help you get started, and to decide which form of yoga interests you most.

Basic equipment:
A good yoga mat makes all the difference. It gives you the right amount of padding, while giving you enough grip so you have better alignment in postures. I highly recommend Jade Yoga mats. For local stockists, click here.

Yoga-suitable clothing. It's really a matter of preference and the style of yoga that you do. Some yogis prefer loose clothing, others prefer more stream-lined clothes. My gear of choice are a basic tank, and leggings, as alignment is so important in yoga, and tight-fitted clothing help me to check on my alignment myself. I love Lorna Jane's Amy full-length tights (pictured below). They are warm, come with a small zip pocket, and wick moisture away.

Purchase this here

Extra equipment that could be helpful:
A yoga block. Foam ones are lighter, and equally as strong. These help with alignment and to progress deeper into some poses. 
Get these blocks from Clark Rubber

A yoga strap. Like the blocks, these also help with alignment and for deepening.
Like these colourful ones, which you can get from Stretch Now 

Stick-e gloves and socks. Really helpful if you have hyperhydrosis like I do. If you're finding it slippery on the mat, or if you just want a bit more grip, these work wonders! The only problem I have with them is my hands slip within the glove, so mine get holes and tears in them within a week. Holey gloves still work though! I own about 5 pairs of these. 

Stick-e gloves

Here are some of the main styles of yoga in Australia. 

Probably the most scene-y yoga out there, a bikram or hot yoga involves 26 asanas, practiced in a heated room, generally between 30-40C. If you are prone to heatstroke, you may want to try something else. 

My preferred style of yoga. It focuses on fluidity, coordinated by breathwork. It's vigorous and quite strong, if I'm not mistaken, most yoga injuries come from ashtanga-vinyasa. It involves a lot of wrist strain, so if you are prone to wrist injuries, you may want to try something else. 

Quite a popular style, Iyengar involves using props such as straps, blocks, chairs etc to create better alignment. It is quite a good way to start getting into yoga, especially if you have existing injuries. You may want to reconsider if you are uncoordinated with straps... I used to get tangled in the strap all the time. 

Probably what most people think of when they think of yoga. Hatha yoga is a gentle yoga focusing on sustaining a pose for longer periods of time. It builds focus and is deeply relaxing. 

Kundalini is gaining a bigger following now. Sometimes referred to as moving meditation, Kundalini involves the use of mantra and a lot of repetition. You perform poses with the eyes closed, a great way to draw into centre. 

Angela Leigh at Lorna Jane has created a fantastic post about this, so have a read up on the Move Nourish Believe blog. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Are you getting yours?

Here's some food for thought. Tribesports recently ran a challenge, to do 30 minutes of exercise every day for a year! To help convince you that you do, in fact, have 30 minutes every day to spare, they've even included this nifty pie chart.

From Tribesports

Hmm... that looks like an unconvincingly exaggerated amount of free time...you might be thinking. Or maybe that was what I was thinking... so I decided to create my own pie chart to compare.

Numbers represent amount of time in hours. Work includes commute time.

Sure, my pie chart isn't as fancy as theirs, but I was still utterly stunned by how exact the size of the Free time slice is in similarity. I'm also stunned (and slightly embarrassed) at how much free time I have. 4 hours a day! When I further reflect upon how I spend that free time, I am slightly horrified. 

Since we're in the spirit of pie charts... 

Numbers represent the amount of time in minutes

So, yes. There goes my excuse on not having any time to exercise. You should probably work out how much free time you have in a day. That's right... have a go at creating your own pie chart here. Now that you've done that, and proven/disproven the point I'm trying to drive here... you can decide if you would like to read on/close this window. (Major disclaimer: I am unmarried, and do not have kids. As my understanding goes, when kids happen, the amount of free time you have ends up in the negative zone, so hats off to you if you do find 30 minutes every day to exercise. You truly are amazing.) 

For the rest of us, why is it so hard to find 30 minutes every day to exercise when you have an abundance of free time? I think the answer is pretty simple. Priorities. My Free Time chart says it all... I would rather spend more time dawdling on Facebook than any other brain or body-building activity. I couldn't even tell you what I do on Facebook every day. I believe I just stare at my news feed waiting for it to self-update. I solve this problem of life-stalling by exercising first thing in the morning. Before my brain activates its excuse-giving centre. It could mean that you might have to wake up earlier. I did, and have been ever since I started this blog.

I also have a yardstick to decide if I do have enough time to exercise. I ask myself... do I have time to game/reddit/facebook? And the answer, almost all of the time is... yes. In fact, I am probably gaming/redditing/facebooking when I ask myself that question. If you have time to do all of that, you have time to exercise. Believe it or not... I use that yardstick in almost any situation... including if I should call in sick at work. Am I too sick to play Diablo? No... ok, off to work I go. 

Still unmotivated? That's partly the reason. You're unmotivated because you'd rather be doing something else (which brings us back to Priorities. See the nasty neverending circle?). What you need is a fitness-oriented community. Tribesports is a pretty good start, in fact it will suit most Facebook junkies because it functions on a similar platform. You know how they say it's harder to quit smoking when all your friends are smokers? It's harder to get fit when all your friends are making excuses with you (or worse, for you). I also have my regular Facebook news feed bombarded with motivational posts by Lorna Jane. Looking at their super fit models wearing super hot exercise gear gets me off my bum every time.

Find your niche sport. If you can't bear the thought of going for a run, try something else. There are so many sports out there... I've tried horse riding, swimming, wind surfing, snowboarding, yoga, pilates, zumba, and I was a school athlete. Nothing clicked with me as much as yoga did. I just kept wanting to go back, and learn more, and do more. I looked up bigger challenges on my own outside classes... you know you've met your sport when you want to do it every day, no carrots dangled.

Tell the world about your new fitness goals. It helps you keep them. I recently blogged about my new Spring Fitness program, and you may have noticed a new This Week's Workout panel on the right. Having a fitness program planned publicly made me more motivated to keep to it, and I did. You may have noticed that I haven't got anything scheduled on Saturdays or Sundays... I'm normally travelling between homes on weekends, I know it sounds like an excuse, but I try to squeeze in exercise when I can, it just happens in addition to my planned exercise.

Happy challenge-ing people! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I will keep to my fitness regime up all year long.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tuesday Inspiration

It reminds me that yoga isn't just exercise or a spiritual journey. Yoga is an artform. Yoga is beauty. 

Do watch. You won't regret it! 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review: The Rushing Woman's Syndrome

I have a habit of rushing through life and wanted to slow things down. I tried meditation, supplements, deep breathing... when I heard about this book through a women's magazine, I thought it sounded like something I could benefit from. 

Dr Libby Weaver has a phD in health science, majoring in nutrition. So, a lot of what this book is about is about the stress hormone, cortisol, and its effect on weight gain. While I haven't read her first book, Accidentally Overweight, which is a bestseller, I do believe that this is in most ways, its sequel. 

While there are a lot of things in this book that I agree with, most of which should be practised anyway, such as chewing your food slowly, reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake, not over exercising, etc, she does occasionally make some slightly weird assumptions, like Rushing Women (a term that she coined) have more masculine qualities. To sit and deep breathe is apparently a feminine quality... to be competitive at work is a masculine quality. In some ways, this takes me back to that Elephant Journal article that I was griping about. What are the defining qualities of feminity and masculinity? 

Another unsupported claim she makes is that Rushing Women tend to have daddy issues. It would have been nice to have seen some evidence, but it looked as if she made it just purely on her observations of her clients and her own personal experience. 

She includes a lot of snippets for magazines that she had written over the years. A lot of it repeats itself, so I felt the book could have been condensed to half its size. There are some practical advice at the end, although not much of it were things I didn't already know. 

In a nutshell this is more of a book for weight loss, rather than to slow yourself down. Buy this if you're wondering why you are not losing that extra pound, but don't buy this if you think it will help ground you more. 

To purchase: I have not seen this book stocked at my local bookstore because it has been independently published. I purchased mine off her official website, it's AUD$29.95 before postage. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What is a powerful woman?

I read something interesting in the Elephant Journal the other day. To put it simply, it is one woman's opinion on Fortune magazine's 50 Most Powerful Women.

The article begins with her observation (or rather, criticism) of a woman
"in a tight, yet not shapely, black dress, with a clenched fist glued to her hip. Her smile (if you can call it that) is pencil-thin, neither showing teeth, nor curving upward to avoid creasing her perfectly emotionless face. Finally, the shot was craftily taken at such an angle so as to drastically diminish any semblance of feminine curves."
Out of curiosity, I Google image-searched the Fortune magazine cover in question.
I don't know. I think she looks pretty feminine, in fact she looks quite beautfiul. I also think she looks pretty shapely... I had more of an image of Julia Gillard when I read that description, but even I wouldn't call Julia Gillard unfeminine just because she wears a power suit.

The author then quite melodramatically writes that
"If the most powerful women in our country are heading up these companies, we are beyond fucked! At the risk of sounding accusatory, these are the companies that are killing people and killing the planet. This is the direct opposite of what women’s bodies are quite literally created to do.Last I checked, there are no organs of mass destruction between my legs."
All because these women headed up large companies like IBM, HP, Krafts...

Forgive me if I'm ignorant, but I didn't realize that companies like IBM, HP and Krafts were killing people... I'm also unsure as to what to make of the statement about "organs of mass destruction"... isn't that a rather sexist thing to say?

She says that women are healers, mothers and survivors. I suppose that for the most part is true, but how does she know what impact the 50 women in the article have had in their respective companies? Perhaps they've changed their companies to be greener, or to increase their charity contributions. Can we just assume that because they work for a big company that they must be "killing the planet"?

I'm just tired of women who complain about other women who are successful. Women who quite obviously envy other successful women who then decide to say that the path that they've chosen for themselves is "holier than thou" in order to justify a missing part of their lives.

Prime example in case (pardon the pun), Julia Gillard, who has been attacked countless of times by women (and men!) for her physical appearance. I used to believe in a sisterhood... now, all I see is a real-life rehash of Mean Girls.
"She wears a suit and earns millions... ohoho she must be a terrible person" 
Please ladies... we complain about men being unfair to us, and yet all we do is be unfair to ourselves and we can't even celebrate with members of our own gender who have succeeded to go where we couldn't.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spring Fitness Program

Before I blog about my new fitness regime, I'm first going to acknowledge that since starting this blog, I have labelled less posts with the stress tag. When I started this blog, I was a fistful of crazy - I couldn't sleep, I was depressed, I had digestive problems all the time, and I teeth-grinded my teeth to crackdom. So, hooray!! Pat on the back for somehow actually getting my life together... and here's to no more posts with the stress label on it! 
Here's to sanity at last!
Ok, now back on topic! I have decided to have more structure to my fitness program. I get bored if things stay the same, so I decided I would mix things up a little. I found a great place nearby for affordable Pilates (review to come soon!), so that's going into my regular routine. I've also started to use the apartment gym again to get back into some cardio. 

My training schedule would look something like this.

The next week, things would swap around, and it would be three sessions of Pilates/Cardio and two sessions of yoga. Every session would go for at least 30 minutes. This has been the first week that I've started this program, and I'm finding that I'm having more energy. I'm hoping to continue this for a month, to see if I feel more motivated and inspired with my exercise routine.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tribesports Challenge: Get stretched!

This is a pretty straightforward challenge, focusing on calve and hip flexor stretches. This is the image I was sent.
Get Stretched Challenge

As the illustrations aren't particularly clear, I decided to help out by doing a series of photos and including some modifications for stronger stretches if you are so inclined.

The sitting hamstring or one-legged forward bend
This is a pretty standard pose in yoga. A key thing to remember is to keep the hips facing forward, make sure both sit-bones are grounded and to lead forward with the chest so the shoulders do not hunch. Reach the chest towards the thigh, keep your knee bent first and straighten out over time. 

Standing reach or standing forward bend
Yes, most flattering pic I know. I prefer to have my hands on my calves because this gives me a much stronger stretch, you can also hold on to your elbows and just let them dangle over your head. Keep knees bent at first (you can see that mine are still a little bent) and straighten over time. Weight should be forward, onto the toes.

Crescent lunge
One of my favourite yoga poses because I think it looks so beautiful, it's important to make sure hips face forward and that you do not crunch into your lower back.

I'm doing the standard yoga bridge rather than the one in the image, as this also opens up the shoulders. Make sure knees do not splay apart (imagine holding a brick in between your knees).

Foot to hand in press-up position
Also common in vinyasa yoga, make sure that your feet and hands line up, hands directly below shoulders, and press back into your outstretched leg. Keep chest open.

Raised hamstring
I prefer to do this with a strap (I'm only using a belt in this), and I prefer to keep my other leg grounded because it provides a deeper inner thigh stretch. Keep both hips even and make sure the grounded hip does not lift.
Bent over back rotation
A tricky one to get right, make sure your feet are parallel as with all wide-legged forward bends, twist from the core rather than from the hips. It's an easy one to have your hips become unbalanced.

Hope these images help anyone with the challenge! Happy stretching!