#118forboston on Runkeeper

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I received an email the other day from Runkeeper, an app that helps me log my exercise activities. Runkeeper wants to track 118 million miles to honor the 118th Boston marathon. You can read more about it here.  They encourage you to sign up and pledge to help by tracking your miles. You can also donate money. So from March 1st until April 21st my personal goal is to log 118 miles. That means 52 days. That is a goal I feel I can accomplish. I will be running (when the weather cooperates), walking, cycling or using a fitness machine at the gym. I took the day off today, but yesterday I logged 5.8 miles on an elliptical trainer. I will also be tweeting (@goingtogermany) and sharing my progress on Facebook. Does anyone care to join me?

Accidentally Running in Winter

The bright sun beckoned me. It ricocheted off the mounds of snow, lighting up the view outside my window. “Come,” it said. I returned to my cup of tea and thick novel. The light outside the window brightened even more as I rose to put my teacup in the sink a few minutes later. “Come outside. Delight in my winter rays,” the sun called again.

I put on my exercise clothes. I grabbed an old pair of sunglasses before bundling up to go outdoors. The air was crisp. I set off walking, feeling the itch to move at a faster pace, but many neighbors had not maintained their walkways. I soon arrived at the corner with the traffic light. I had not taken this path on foot since last November. On the other side of the four lane traffic, the noise stilled.  Trees now looked naked and lonely without their fiery autumn leaves. Two small, unattended dogs ran toward me, barking, excited, protective. I wanted to run away from their leaping and yapping, but the sidewalk looked dangerous. This was the route I used to run on before the weather turned bad. I walked as briskly as I could, heading toward the park. Could it be possible the path was safe?

As I got closer, I saw a strip of sidewalk, freshly salted, snow melted. It was wide open. I pushed off with my right foot, then followed with my left, my legs higher off the ground, stretched out, lengthening. I zipped my hood up all the way to my mouth and breathed in the warm air I exhaled. Happiness endorphins swirled around my body.

The park loomed in the distance. I turned into the gate, noticing the snow-covered  path. I accelerated slowly, testing my footing and the compact and even ground. I settled into a slow pace, faster than a walk, but not my regular pace. The snow crunched underfoot. My jacket made swishing sounds. The park was quiet except for a few sounds of pets and people and birds.  I was warm enough and I was running. Running in winter. My legs carried me around the big circle as I passed by barely discernible park benches, their backs peeking out from the snow. I didn’t have to squint as I propelled myself through the path. Families were sledding down a small hill. I started to go through my schedule for the rest of the day but stopped. I was running. It was my time.

I saw the gate. I paused, knowing I didn’t have time to make one more lap. I would have though. I unzipped the vents in my coat and slowed to a walk. Cars whizzed by me as I walked back home, their loudness abrasive to my former tranquil state. While taking off my shoes I wondered when the sun would come calling me again.

The Long Overdue Fitbit Write up

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Several months ago I received a Fitbit Flex for my birthday. I couldn’t wait to start using it to see how active I was on a daily basis and what sort of data I would see. Like most new things, it was fun and I logged in multiple times a day to see my latest results on steps taken or hours slept. Then I hit a bump in the road and the Fitbit was still worn and the results still looked at, but I was no longer super motivated to check daily results. In fact some days I purposely avoided logging into my account because I knew I would see disappointing stats. Sigh.

Now, as the recurring polar vortex rears its cold head and since I live in Chiberia, I am only semi motivated to use it to help me improve my physical fitness. Right now it is a battle in my mind, two opposing sides are trying their best to persuade me. The Fitbit Girl reminds me how easy it is to make my daily goal of 11,00 steps (by the way, you can choose how many steps you want for your daily goal. I began with 10,000 and then a month later moved it up to 11,000) by exercising on a machine at the gym for 30-40 minutes and then walking somewhere in the neighborhood. Homemaker Girl is on the other side reminding me how cold it is outside and don’t I want to spend my time doing things like baking bread and cooking homemade soup. Usually someone wins. Lately it has been Fitbit Girl, but Homemaker Girl is hard to ignore, especially on really cold days when I have to bundle up extra to venture outside. I have thought maybe they could start compromising more.

So, the best parts of having a Fitbit so far are 1. Being able to view my daily step progress and take action if I have not moved very much during the day. 2. Being able to see how much sleep I was getting on a nightly basis 3. Being able to change my goals for steps, active minutes, distance, etc. There are many other things you can do with the Fitbit, but they require a bit more of your time. These included keeping track of your calorie intake, water consumed, body weight and body measurements. There is even a journal you can write in. I have tried these options, but mostly during the first month. I was fairly inactive for about a month due to some family circumstances so I am no hurry to remeasure my thighs and see if there has been a change. Recently a friend of mine started using a Fitbit and has befriended me. Now I occasionally check his step count to see if I am ahead or behind. Sometimes a little friendly competition is enough to get me to move more.

I think in another month when the clocks change for Daylight Savings Time and Spring is a bit closer I will see myself more motivated with my Fitbit. I definitely enjoyed exercising more outdoors in the Fall. How about you – Do any of you have a Fitbit? Does it help you with exercise and fitness goals or is it just another tech toy? What are your thoughts on it?

A Gift, Not a Resolution

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Box with gift (Photo credit: Robo Android)

It’s a new year. I am looking forward to  2013. If you read my last post, you know our household doesn’t give gifts until January after New Years. I started thinking about  the many people who are in the habit of making resolutions. Maybe you are the type to sit down and compose a list of things you want to change. Some of the most popular resolutions include: losing weight, starting a new habit (eat healthy, exercise) or stopping a bad habit (smoking, eating junk food). I used to make resolutions like that, except my list was really long, detailed and overwhelming, not to mention unrealistic. Some items did not even belong on my list. I stopped making resolutions years ago because I felt I never accomplished anything. It was too much work.

Last November I was at the gym and I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while. I commented on her svelte figure and she mentioned she had changed her exercise routine. I lamented that I probably needed to do the same but I was having a hard time finding the time to exercise. Then she said something that has stuck with me since. She said instead of treating exercise like a chore, or something to check off from her to do list, she gives the gift of exercise to herself. I resumed my sit ups, but the thought of exercise being a gift kept returning to my thoughts.

Usually when I think of a gift, I think about an object. I asked myself if I too could give myself the gift of exercise. Why not?

As the holidays approached, I decided that I would give myself a few “gifts”  this year. They would not be tangible. My thought was that if I chose to look at exercise through a different lens, with a different thought perspective,  then perhaps I might view  exercise differently.  Wouldn’t it be nice to think I’m lifting weights to keep my bones strong instead of thinking I would rather be reading? If I viewed this as a gift and not a chore, would I appreciate it more?

I don’t know the answer to that question yet. I’ll have to give it some time and see what happens. I gave myself a few other gifts besides exercise. I’ll fill you in soon enough.

What gift would you give yourself?

ZUMBA

Have you tried Zumba yet? It is one of the recent trends that has worked its way into gyms and fitness centers over the last several years. It seems to be the modern-day version of Jazzercise, without the leg warmers of course. That’s not to say that Zumba is without special clothing, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

You can read a brief history via this Wikipedia  ZUMBA  link. I  have my own opinions:

After attending my first class at a YMCA at 10 am on a weekday, I realized that ZUMBA is like being at the bar learning the latest dance, except:

You can wear comfortable clothes. No hoochie mama revealing number required.

Ditto in the footwear department. No heels allowed.

It’s not dark. You can actually see, which makes following the moves a lot easier.

There is no strobe light to make you dizzy. That’s great, because who wants to lose their balance and fall when they are dancing in front of a room full of strangers.

There is no alcohol. I should have brought a water bottle, though.

There are no guys hitting on you. In fact, there were no men in my class at all. Maybe you will find them in an “image gym” in the evening. The only men I ever see at the YMCA at that time of day are over the age of 60. I’m not sure ZUMBA is the best choice for them.

You don’t have to drag your friends on to the dance floor with you. People are in the class by choice.

There is no outrageous cover charge or entry fee. My class is free with my membership.

And now, to the clothing. Since I have only been to one ZUMBA class, I cannot compare it to any other experience. The instructor who taught my class was wearing ZUMBA clothing in my three least favorite colors combined together.The word ZUMBA was plastered everywhere. I began to wonder if she had a ZUMBA tattoo as well. She had a purple sweat band for her Dorothy Hamill style haircut. She even had purple sweat bands on her biceps. I didn’t know that such a thing existed. Do your biceps sweat? I think she probably taught Jazzercize early in her career, then aerobics, then step, then whatever dance classes have popped up in gyms since.

The clothing of some of my fellow classmates proved interesting as well. There was the women that was a cross between Baby Spice and Janet Jackson. Her fair blond hair was in two low pony tails underneath her Janet Jackson hat from the Rhythm Nation video (yea, I know, I’m totally dating myself).

Then there was the Stevie Nicks introvert. She was wearing a black jacket with black pieces of fabric hanging from it that looked ready to take off and fly on its own if tossed into the air. As she propelled herself forward to the music, her clothing was in perpetual motion. I’m so glad I was not behind her or I might have become dizzy from watching the flailing fabric flying all over.

Most everyone was dressed in regular gym clothes. Thank goodness, because between those two characters, the instructor AND the music, I was experiencing a serious case of sensory overload. I just wanted to try the class, since everyone seems to ZUMBA except me. I’ll probably go back. It was a fun, no thinking required workout.

How about you? Do you ZUMBA??