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New Favorite Song and Old Favorite Shoes April 28, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in General Exercise, Running, Uncategorized.
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I’ve had a few really good runs lately. There have been some real nut-busters on the treadmill, but also an eye-opening run around Seward Park. Why am I such a monster all of a sudden?

1) New favorite running song. Icona Pop, I Love It. And I’m not (too) embarrassed to admit it.

2) Same old kicks. Despite my earnest belief in replacing running shoes on a regular basis, a combination of laziness and reluctance to spend money has kept me in the same pair for a couple of years. That same reluctance to spend money means I’m sporting the absolute cheapest running shoes I could find that fit. I feel much better about my tatty old shoes after reading this article in New York Magazinehttp://nymag.com/health/features/46213/. If I’m ruining my feet with shoes, at least I’m not over-paying for the privilege.

3) Quad-strengthening exercises, particularly targeting the vastus medialis. That’s the quad muscle (there are actually four quadriceps muscles, that’s why they call it that) right over the kneecap, on the inner part of the thigh. You may have observed this muscle is particularly protrude-y on runners, soccer players, bicyclers, etc. Because of the female body structure (we have hips, you know), the knees tend to drift toward each other. Running in a knock-kneed fashion is not good for one’s knees, regardless of gender, but the ladies have to be especially vigilant. My chiropractor gave me some exercises to get my knees straight over my ankles, and I have to say, they’ve been a big help. Now when I see women run, I look at their knees. When I see women running with their knees practically pointing towards each other, I wince. Strengthen up that vastus medialis, ladies!

4) Map My Run. I had been using Map My Run to track walks and dragon boat practices, but only on my laptop. I would get home from practice or a walk, and I would log my workout, guesstimating my route and duration. Then I downloaded the app to my phone, and it changed some things for me. Most amazingly, I realized that I actually run a lot faster outside than on the treadmill, to the tune of two minutes per mile faster. Now I know why running outside has always been so much harder than the treadmill.

There are probably other contributing factors. I just got a Vitamix, so I’m all full of smoothies. That can’t hurt, right?


Push-ups: You’re Doing Them Wrong April 21, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in General Exercise.
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Every now and then my yoga instructor says something that completely turns my world upside down. It’s usually something ridiculously simple that has me smacking my forehead and yelling “Son of a triptych!” (pardon my construction dust; I’m trying to clean up my language) for not realizing it myself a whole lot sooner.

This time, she made a comment about push-ups going in the wrong direction.

Son of a soap dish, she’s right! In what position does one generally begin a push-up? Plank. And what’s the first direction we go in? Not up. It’s called a freakin push-up, people, but we start by going down. So basically, the first thing we do is fail. We haven’t gone up, like the name suggests we should, right? So…FAIL. Rubber. Plucker. I hate failing.

Try this instead:

  • Start by laying on the ground on your tummy, forehead on the ground, arms along your sides, palms up, and the tops of your feet on the floor.
  • Turn your toes under, and bring your knees up off the floor by engaging your quads and hamstrings. *
  • Bring your hands directly under your shoulders, palms to the ground, all five fingers pointing forward.
  • Aim your heels toward the wall behind you, aim your tailbone at your heels, and engage your core.
  • Raise yourself directly up into a plank position, keeping your legs, butt and back in the same line the whole way up.

Congratulations, non-failers! You just did a push up.

* If you are building toward strength, or you have a sensitive low back, you can do this push-up on your knees. Just keep those knees on the ground.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in a Dragon Boat March 24, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in Dragon Boat, General Exercise, Uncategorized.
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As any dragon boat paddler will tell you, dragon boat racing is the ultimate team sport. We count on each other to show up and give 100%, both physically and mentally. The mental part of our sport is just as important as the physical part. If you get your head straight on the boat, chances are you’ll have your head straight in life, too.

Focus in the Boat

Some dragon boat races are bigger than others. At the biggest festivals, there can be as many as 8 or 9 dragon boats lining up at the start. There are tillers and callers on all the other boats, and they will be loud, and maybe wearing funny hats. There may be drunken morons nearby doing donuts in speed boats, and there will likely be race officials shouting nonsense at your tiller through a megaphone.

Whatever you do, don’t be distracted by the spectacle going on around you. You’re there to race. You don’t want to be like the dog in Up (Squirrel!). You want to be more like the seagulls in Finding Nemo, and the finish line is “Mine!”

Life Lesson: There are a billion idiots with megaphones out there. Stay focused on what matters.

Race Our Race

We say this a lot at races. There are likely a lot of boats that will be faster than us. But there’s no point in comparing ourselves to the other boats. If we’re looking up to see where the other boats are, we lose timing and cohesion on our boat. All that does is slow us down.

Off the water, I rarely compare myself to others.  Sure, most people are faster, prettier, skinnier and smarter than me, but comparing myself to them certainly won’t make me any faster, prettier, skinnier or smarter…or happier.

Life Lesson:  If you’re busy comparing yourself to others, you’re just slowing yourself down and missing out on your own potential.

Heavy Water

You can paddle at a thousand and crazy percent, but if you’re not pulling heavy water, you’re not contributing any power to the boat. The farther back you sit in the boat, the harder it is to pull heavy water. By bench 10, the water is literally rushing past you. It’s altogether too easy to just let inertia take over, and dip your paddle in at the same time as everyone else. But what are you contributing?

Braking power.

To pull heavy water on the dragon boat, you have to very mindfully flex your core and intentionally create resistance between your foot and the blade (there just happens to be a boat and some water in between your foot and the blade). Make every nano-movement count to maximize the amount of water on your blade. You have to get that blade fully buried in the water BEFORE you pull back, and you have to do it all very quickly, and in time with the rest of the boat. That’s very hard to do. But you have to try.

To pull heavy water in life, you have to find those places where you feel resistance, and make a decision to channel that resistance into something constructive. Also very hard to do. But, you have to try.

Life Lesson: Don’t sit on a doily and lily-dip through life. Contribute something worthwhile, even if it’s hard.

Leave it on the Water

This is what we say when we want to make sure no one is going to save any energy for later. Every drop of power should be used up in every stroke. You should feel like jelly, physically exhausted, when you get off the boat. This is especially important in practices. Unless you’re giving 100% at practices, how will you know what you’re truly capable of in a race?

Unless you continually challenge yourself, how will you know what you’re capable of in life?

Life Lesson:  Being a bad ass takes practice. Don’t save up your best effort for later.

Watch Your Leads (or, Eyes Up for Timing)

Dragon Boat racing is a team sport. Timing is the most important factor in team performance. If everyone is entering the water at different times, we’re just slowing each other down. Want to go fast? Paddle in time! Want to paddle in time? Watch your leads!

The lead strokes sit in bench one, and they set the rate for the rest of the boat. But it’s not about the leads being large and in charge, and everyone meekly following along. The caller, bench one, and bench two are in constant communication. If the leads are out of sync, we call each other on it. If bench two is fast or slow, we let them know. The caller watches us, and we watch the caller. If things are getting out of hand, someone will yell “Watch the rate!” And we constantly ask for feedback from the entire team. Too fast? Too slow? We seem to have better results when we work together to figure out the optimal race rate for our whole boat.

You get better results when you collaborate with others. Pay attention. Listen to people. Put their needs ahead of your own, sometimes.

Life Lesson: Don’t be a self-absorbed asshole.

It’s a Water Sport

Inevitably, we get wet. Sometimes someone will launch a typhoon at the person in front of them, and flood their butt crack with cold lake water. There’s always laughter, and the one who splashed will say “Sorry!” The appropriate response here: “It’s a water sport.”

We knew we were signing up for a water sport when we got in the boat. You can’t set yourself up to get wet and then complain when you get wet. It’s a water sport. We get wet. Duh.

Life Lesson: Take responsibility for the consequences of your choices. Duh.

Oh Blarg, my blog! December 7, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in General Exercise.
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Oh, hi. It’s sure been a while. Life has changed in the last few months and I’ve been busy coping. Not always well, mind you, but coping nonetheless.

Sadly, I haven’t run very much lately. I really really want to, but ouch, mykneesmybackmyhip. I’m all old and crickety.

To make matters worse, I ate a lot of pies in August. Yes, PIES. Plural. That’s right, and I ate the crust, too.

So in September, I decided to find a healthier mechanism for coping with stress. I tried one of those introductory deals at a hot yoga studio near my house. Thirty days unlimited for $20. It’s a good deal, if you want to pay for the privilege of being subjected to Death Valley environmental conditions while a super-skinny, tramp-stamped drill sergeant in skimpy clothes barks orders at you.

Seriously, I almost went back to the pies. But I decided to give one more studio a try. Happily, this new studio is much more humane. Compared to my first experience, this place seems more like warm yoga, and the instructors are real practitioners who actually teach yoga. Coincidentally, you are in a hot room. But it’s real yoga. But hot. Super hot. And I’m a naturally sweaty person under any circumstances. Yikes.

So. Not that you asked, but here’s my advice for anyone considering hot yoga:

1) Find a buddy. I’m going with a co-worker, and it’s so nice having a buddy to keep me motivated. Since we also work together, we made a deal after our first class: what happens in hot yoga stays in hot yoga. After all, the only man who has seen me sweatier and more scantily clad than my hot yoga buddy is my husband. 😉

2) Drink a lot, all the time, but not just before class. If you’re not adequately hydrated when you wake up in the morning on the day you’re going to hot yoga, it’s too late. If you try and pound back 32 oz of water before class, you will spend the second half of class doing child’s pose in a pool of barf.

3) Do not eat for two hours before class. DO NOT. Just don’t.

4) Wear as little clothing as possible. No one is checking out your bod. I assure you, your fellow yogis are completely focused on what they are doing, and couldn’t care less if there’s a little extra jiggle in your wiggle.

5) Always know where your towel is.

That’s all well and good, but (you might be wondering) what about cardio? Oh, my sweet bitches, I have that covered.

I recently began a new job on Lower Queen Anne. As often as I can, I walk up Queen Anne Hill to Kerry Park during lunch time. You may not think much of this. If you don’t live in Seattle or San Francisco, you probably don’t know what a real hill is. You may think you know, but you don’t know. YOU DON’T KNOW MY PAIN.

I could explain to you that much of Queen Anne is on at least an 18% grade. But what does that really mean to the glutes?

Ah. I feel the burn.

An old photo of Queen Anne Hill.

Old timey Queen Anne Hill

I challenge any normal person to walk up that hill at their fastest pace without getting all out of breath. It’s worth it, though. Nice view from the top.

Image found at http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Piece-of-history-concealed-within-Queen-Anne-Hill-1198180.php#photo-666825.

Namastizzle, fo’ shizzle. September 12, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in General Exercise, Recipes and Food.
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This week, someone suggested that I legally change my name to Tupac. No first or last name, just Tupac.

For the life of me, I can’t imagine why. Well, maybe I need to clean it up a little, so I purposely didn’t use any naughty words in the title of this post. (Fact: I get way more hits on posts with the b-word in the title. It’s not my fault you crazy bitches like doo-doo talk.)

Anyway, I’m not changing my name, but I did try two other new things this week. On Sunday, I made congee for the first time. It was awesome. Tonight, I tried hot yoga for the first time. It was nauseating.

First, the yoga. FYI, bitches, hot yoga is hot. I did a good job taking breaks and then getting back in it, but toward the end I had to accept the fact that I was just done. I spent the last 10 minutes flat on my back, trying not to drown through my pores. Note to self: next time, do not choose a hot yoga studio right next to the oh-so-tempting Baskin Robbins. I’m happy to say that I did not replace all the calories I had just burned with ice cream, but it was close.

Honestly, I can’t say I saw any benefit from being in an incredibly hot room while doing yoga. Also, it felt awful. I’m totally going back on Friday.

And now…congee.  Made with beef soup bones (optional). Rice. Water. Ginger.

Step 1: Mix 1 cup white rice and1 tsp oil, allow to soak for at least 30 minutes
Step 2: Throw rice, ~9 cups water, optional meaty bones for flavor (I roasted mine first to cook off some of the fat), 5 slices fresh ginger, salt, pepper in a pot.
Step 3: Cook on a low simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep it from burning on the bottom (should be a soupy, porridgey consistency)

If using an optional meaty soup bone, pull off meat and chop up, dump back in soup. Serve garnished with chopped green onions, dribbles of sesame oil, soy sauce. I’m told by a very reliable source that this is one of the very few occasions where it’s acceptable to serve soy sauce at the table as a condiment.

VERY IMPORTANT: rinse pot immediately. Apparently, I came perilously close to death when my husband had to wash out a dirty pot coated in congee-flavored cement. Oops.

Must go to bed. Hot yoga has sapped ability to complete sentences. Namaste, bitches.

Put Your Butt Cheeks Into It! June 18, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in Dragon Boat, General Exercise.
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Howdy!  It’s been a while since I posted. Life has conspired to keep us apart for the last few weeks, my dear Reader, while I’ve been busy with dragon boating and trying to rest a hip injury.  By the way, it turns out those two activities ARE in fact mutually exclusive, and prescription pain killers are a marvelous thing. But I’m over the hump now (and the hip).  We just got back from the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat race (where we finished 7th in the Rec B Championship round, heck yeah!) and I’m looking to get back into a regular routine.

My dragon boat peeps are a funny bunch and are always making me laugh. One of our jokes on the boat is “put your butt cheek into it” because when paddling, 80% of your weight is on one side and you kind of have to let the other butt cheek fly free.  It’s turned into a great way of saying “give it your all” in any situation.

My team mates are also smart, committed to the sport, incredibly hard working, and I’m always learning new things from them.  At the race this weekend, one of them mentioned an exercise idea she picked up from one of those extreme weight loss TV shows.  The advice was to do 15 reps each of push-ups, crunches and squats during every commercial break while watching TV. My knees don’t particularly like squats, so I’m going to do lunges instead. Despite all my activities, I also watch a lot of TV, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a couch potato. I should take my own advice and put my butt cheeks into it…or at least get them off the sofa. (Probably what will actually happen is that I’ll watch less TV so I don’t have to do push-ups, but that’s not such a bad thing, either.)

And now, because I love you (and because hundreds of dragon boaters can’t be wrong), here is one of my personal favorite salad recipes that has also been a big hit at the dragon boat races when we bring pot luck food for lunches:

Beet and Mango Salad with Curried Mango Dressing

Servings: 8

For the dressing:

1.5 ripe mangoes, peeled and pitted, finely chopped
2 tbs white distilled vinegar
1.5 tbs pure maple syrup
1.5 tsp dry mustard, dissolved in 1.5 tsp water
1 tsp curry powder
salt to taste (optional, I didn’t include any in the nutritional info below)
2.5 tbs canola oil

For the salad:

6 medium beets, roasted, peeled, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and separated into whole leaves
1.5 ripe mangoes, peeled and pitted, cut into long strips

To prepare  the dressing, combine mango, vinegar, maple syrup, mustard mixture, curry powder and salt (optional) in food processor and process until smooth.  Add oil and process until emulsified.

To prepare the salad, toss the beets with half of the dressing and let stand at room temp for 30 minutes.  Arrange romaine leaves on platter.  Spoon the beets across the romaine leaves and arrange the mango slices on top and around the beets.  Drizzle remaining dressing over top.

Hint: You can chop up the romaine if you’re bringing the salad to a picnic-type situation, but don’t toss the salad.  The beets will turn the whole thing pink and you’ll lose the pretty orange color of the mango as a contrast against the purple beets.  We eat with our eyes first, right?

Calories: 146.2
Fat: 5.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 50.0 mg
Carbohydrates:  24.7 g
Dietary Fiber 4.2 g
Protein 2.4 g

But I Thought the Top was the Best Part of the Muffin… April 8, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in Dragon Boat, General Exercise.
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Recently, a co-worker who is interested in trying dragon boat paddling asked me about exercises he can insert into his workout routine that would work the muscle groups needed for dragon boating.  Of course, I immediately thought of the obliques and lats.  If you belong to a gym, or have equipment at home available to you, it’s not so hard to work out those muscle groups.  Without equipment, you can still do a lot with your obliques, but the lats are tougher to work sufficiently to prepare for paddling.

My new favorite oblique exercise is the side crunch on a fit ball.  I would show you photos of me doing this exercise, but I don’t look anywhere near as pretty as this guy

Of course, you need one of those big fitness balls in order to do this exercise.  Fortunately, there are a bazillion exercises you can do to work out your obliques without any equipment at all:  side plank, oblique crunches, lying jackknifes, oblique v-ups… the list goes on and on.

Lats, on the other hand, are a different story.   It is awfully hard to work the lat muscles without any equipment.  Some of the most effective low back exercises I’ve found are back extensions, quadruped extensions and full swan with rotation.

There are many things I love about dragon boat paddling.  One of them is the great reduction in muffin top that I experienced after I first started paddling.  I can still pinch an inch (and probably always will) but paddling, and exercises like these when I’m not paddling so much, keeps it under control.

The Accidental Exerciser April 7, 2012

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Update: In response to this post, a very resourceful friend sent me the link to Nano Workout.  I just popped a sprog trying out the kitchen dips.  Next – chair crunches!

Some weeks I just don’t have the time to get into the gym.  I would say my intentions are always good, but that’s probably not true, either.  When I get really busy, I just don’t even want to bother.

The last couple of weeks have been crazy, and I haven’t gotten into the gym as much as I’d like.   Instead of whining about it (which is my usual MO), I decided to see what opportunities I could find to slip in some mini-workouts here and there.

Here are a few of the opportunities I found:

  • While waiting for people or public transit, I find a park bench and do chair dips.
  • When given a choice between escalator, elevator, and stairs, I choose stairs – and I RUN up the stairs.
  • If I don’t have time for a full workout, instead of skipping the gym, I do fewer reps with more weight.

Most of us live a life of convenience and we have to seek out opportunities to burn calories.  Here are some other ways to sneak in exercise as part of our daily lives:

  • Park in the farthest parking spot from the door.
  • Always choose the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • Wash dishes by hand.
  • Hang up your laundry to dry.
  • Walk or bike instead of drive.
  • Put music on when doing housework, and clean with vigor!
  • Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.

Workout of the Week: Speed Intervals February 27, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in General Exercise.

I have been one busy little lady these past few weeks.  I haven’t really been keeping to a workout schedule and I’m feeling the pain.  I know I’ve backslid, and from painful past experience, I probably can’t just pick up where I left off.  I need to ease back into it to avoid injury and insanity. 

Whenever I’m in this situation, my favorite way of ramping back up is with speed intervals.  Here’s what I do:

Put some bitchin tunes on my Nano
Walk for 2 minutes
Run for 30 seconds
Rinse and repeat for at least 20 minutes

Throw in 20 minutes of strength training and you’ve got yourself a workout!  Speed intervals are also great for weight-loss, because you continue burning calories long after you stop exercising. 

By the way, you don’t have to run to do speed intervals.  You can do a walk interval and a really fast walk interval.   To be honest, my running speed is probably an excruciatingly slow jog for most people anyway.   You don’t have to walk, either, you can do speed intervals on any cardio machine:  row, treadmill, eliptical, bike or step.

Okay, I’m putting this out there so you can hold me accountable.  I’ll aim to do this twice this week, Tuesday and Thursday.  Next week, I’ll extend the run interval to 1 minute, and go for 25 minutes each time.  Slowly over time, I’ll extend the run interval and decrease the walk interval until eventually I’m only running. 

What are you going to do to ramp up this week?

We are bad ass! February 26, 2012

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Walking Seward Park on Sunday mornings with the girls has become one of the highlights of my week. This week, we didn’t think it would happen due to other social engagements, but last night Jennifer and I realized that we would be able to walk after all. So we dutifully met at Seward Park at 11 AM. Being winter in Seattle, you would expect a little misty rain. What we got was hail. On the plus side, when the stuff falling from the sky is frozen, it mostly just bounces off of you. On the downside, when you’re walking into a headwind, it bounces off your face.

The storm system had passed over my house very quickly earlier in the morning, so I assured Jennifer it would get better quickly. About a quarter of the way through it got worse.  I then assured Jennifer that we are bad ass for walking despite the hail bouncing off our foreheads.  I must have sounded like I knew what I was talking about, because she seemed to buy it.  More likely, she was just humoring me.

Well, we’ll just keep telling ourselves that we’re bad ass.  Whatever it takes to get through the day, right?

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