Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cycle for Survival Recap: 10 Reasons You Need to be There in 2016

“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.” – Jim Valvano

Sunday, March 8th was the final Cycle for Survival ride for 2015 and it was a huge success!  Team MPower for the Cure was led by the beautiful and empowering Marie Jasmine, who not only captained our team, but also did an amazing job as one of the four instructors at 5th Avenue this Sunday afternoon.  April 1st marks the end of fundraising for this year.  Team MPower for the Cure raised a total of $6, 866.  The grand total for Cycle for Survival 2015 was $25,048,687- all going to research and clinical trials for rare cancer.  To those of you that donated on my behalf I can't begin to tell you how meaningful your donations are- I was ecstatic to surpass my $500 fundraising goal.
The amazing women of MPower for the Cure
For those of you who don't know, Cycle for Survival is a 4 hour cycling event held at Equinox clubs throughout the nation to raise money for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center right here in New York City.  The event was started by Jennifer Goodman while she was undergoing to treatment for a sarcoma at Sloan Kettering.  Jennifer loved cycling and continued to go to spin classes while undergoing chemotherapy.  She has said that she felt like every hill she faced in the cycling studio was representative of her battle with cancer and she would leave feeling emotionally refreshed.  This event combines the rejuvenating benefits of fitness with the supportive team necessary for beating cancer all while raising money and awareness about rare cancers.  And now...
10 Reasons You Need to Be at Cycle for Survival in 2016

1. 50% of cancers are rare cancers: The NIH defines a rare cancer as one with a prevalence of fewer than 200,000 cases per year, but when you put all the rare cancers together it accounts for half the cancer diagnoses per year.  However, there is significantly less foundering for these cancers than for other more prevalent forms of cancer.  There is still a lot more work to be done.

2. It's a great workout!  Sure you are only on the bike for 30-60 minutes depending on how big your team is, but the rest of the 4 hours you are on your feet cheering and supporting your other teammates and the other teams.  Believe me when I say I woke up more sore than I have been in ages Monday morning!

3. Teams! You get to fundraise and ride together as a team, and part of the fun is coming up with an awesome team name.  My favorites for this year were "These Cells Ain't Loyal" and "You can't Spin with Us."

4. Photo Booth Fun: Throughout the event they had a photo booth where you could not only take fun pictures, but write signs to honor and thank loved ones.

5. Swag: Bring it back to the college days where you would do anything for a free t-shirt and some sunglasses (I'm assuming it wasn't just a Miami thing that all the orgs on campus gave out sunglasses...).  Everyone gets a Cycle for Survival t-shirt and sunglasses.  Each team designs and wears their own t-shirt and everyone brings fun wigs, hats, and tattoos to wear.  One of the survivors was there with her husband, an adorable old man wearing an orange top hat and green bow tie.  

6. The Speeches: At the end of each hour they take a break to switch riders and give the instructors a break.  During this time they invite survivors, caregivers, and researchers up to speak about their experiences so you can hear firsthand what your money is going towards.  Throughout this month I have thought back to their words and continue to be inspired.

7. Spend time with your friends: CeCe and I met as trainers at Equinox and at the time were lucky enough to be able to workout together almost every day.  Now we are both busy working multiple jobs and rarely get to spend time together let alone workout together.  Fundraising together was a great opportunity to spend time together doing one of our favorite things!

8. Make new friends: There were also 6 people on my team that I had never met, but by the end of months of fundraising and of course a 4 hour event of nonstop moving they were no longer strangers, but good friends.  We've all been touched by cancer in one way or another and are united in the fight against it.

9. Your Person: In addition to the photo booth there are several other boards for you to honor the one you are fighting for.  Throughout the event the instructors will remind you to think about the person or people that brought you to Cycle for Survival and use that motivation to pull through when you might be feeling tired and want to take a break.  

10. $25+ million: That's the number we need to beat in 2016 so we need you!
See you in 2016!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Fitting It In

"My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength."
-Michael Jordan

It's been another busy few weeks.  Lately I've been working full time, babysitting on the side when I can, and taking an online course to fulfill some requirements for nursing school.  And it's been winter which is draining in and of itself.  Oftentimes I have to be at work by 7 am so on the days I don't need to be there at 7 I'm much less motivated when my alarm still goes off at 5 am and it's pitch black outside to hit the gym.  In the past few weeks I've been embracing the lunchtime workout.

Workouts during lunch have their pros and cons.  If done right, they're a great way to get your daily workout in without having to get up early or miss post-work plans, they help break up your day and give you a much needed break in the work day, and they can help energize you for the afternoon.  However, lunch workouts can also be rushed making them not as effect, make you feel stressed as you try to rush back to work, and leave you feeling frazzled if you don't plan them well.  

I'm lucky in that I have a gym right by my work with great group fitness classes so I don't even have to plan my own workout and can get back quickly.  I also usually see my patients in the morning so I often skip reapplying my makeup and doing my hair again so I can keep my post workout routine short and spend more time working out.  I've included a few tips for getting the most out of lunchtime workouts as well as a sample high intensity workout below.  Again, everyone's job is different and those that don't have the luxury of a longer or set lunch break may not be able to squeeze in a workout.

I'd also like to thank everyone that donated to Cycle for Survival!!  My team, MPower for the Cure, has raised almost $6,000!!!  So far for the 2015 Cycle for Survival season over $23 million towards research and clinical trials for rare cancers.  I am just $30 short of my $500 fundraising goal- if you'd like to be the lucky one to push me over the edge click here to donate NOW!  I'll be riding this Sunday in New York City, however, rides are continuing until April 1st so you can donate anytime between now and then.

Tips for Fitting Your Workout in Your Lunch Break

  1. Interval Training: When you're pressed for time interval training is the best way to maximize your calorie burn for those quick workouts.  I've included a tabata workout below.  Tabata is a type of interval training where you alternate between 20 seconds of all out high intensity work (your goal is to go breathless) and then 10 second of rest for a total of 4 minutes of work (8 times through).
  2. Find a group fitness class near your work: Again this isn't possible for everyone, but you'd be surprised how many local gyms have 30-45 minute group fitness classes at lunchtime so you can get your full workout in for the day and be back at your desk in time for afternoon meetings.
  3. Pack a nutritious snack and lunch the day before: One of the hardest parts of working out during lunch is you are hungry.  Packing a snack helps you get through your workout, and having the lunch on hand will make sure you don't miss out on eating because you had to rush back to work.  My favorite pre-workout snack to pack is apple and peanut butter.  A yogurt and banana or granola bar are also great alternatives pre-workout.
  4. Plan out your gym schedule at the beginning of the week: I usually look at my calendar Sunday and pick out two days that are best for a lunch time workout.  I try to make it days where I'm planning to do homework or babysit after work so I'm not too worried about getting ready after working out.  Looking at my calendar ahead of time allows me to plan those days around days where I have afternoon meetings or patients.
  5. Dress appropriately: On days where I'm planning to workout during lunch I dress in outfits that are easy to get in and out of quickly- no tights, boots, or complicated dresses/skirts.  I'll also try to wear loose fitting clothing that I can get away wearing my sports bra underneath to save myself some time once I get to the gym.  I also keep my sneakers under my desk so I can slip them on quickly and get out of the office quickly.
  6. Head straight to the shower after group fitness classes: Since everyone is rushing back to work the showers can fill up quickly.  If there is a line you can stretch and help yourself cool down a little more.
  7. Go into work a little early and leave a little late: Coming in 15 minutes early and leaving 15 minutes late can give you an extra 30 minutes at lunch to either allow you to workout a little longer or give you more time to shower and get back.
  8. Make sure you pack your gym bag ahead of time: This will ensure that you don't forget any of your essentials like deodorant, a change of undies, or a hairbrush.
  9. Recruit a coworker: Bringing a coworker will not only eliminate some of the guilt of cutting out of the office in the middle of the day, it will also keep you accountable and make sure you don't skip your workout.

Once again tabata is a high intensity workout consisting of 8 cycles of 20 seconds on/10 seconds off.  If you do 6 tabatas with 1 minute rest between that is the perfect 30 minute workout.  Best way to know if you're doing your tabata correctly?  At the end of those 20 seconds you are struggling to breath, you need every bit of those 10 seconds recovery, and you're a little nervous to start the next 20 seconds on.  If you feel like you are going to puke at the end- you've got it down!

I like to alternate between two exercises during my tabata so you do a total of 4 sets of each exercise. Here is a sample workout:

Tabata 1:

Lateral Shuffle // Forward Shuffle

Tabata 2:

10 high knees, jump to left, reverse lunge // 180 degree squat jumps (squat facing the front, jump up and switch the direction your facing)

Tabata 3:

Walk out plank, burpee (repeat) // Plank

Tabata 4:

10 high knees, jump to right, reverse lunge // 180 degree squat jumps (squat facing the front, jump up and switch the direction your facing)

Tabata 5:

Tabata 6:

10 jumping jacks, burpee (repeat) // Russian twist

Monday, February 16, 2015

Motivation Monday: It's Not Fitness, It's Life

"I think there are few more potent metaphors between running and life than those derived from the subject of endurance. When we consider what we are really training for, why we care so much, why we are willing at all, it becomes as obvious as a black bra under a white T-shirt. We want to be able to endure. When life throws us some difficult miles, we want to know that we can suck it up and prevail."
-Kristin Armstrong, Mile Markers; The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Women Run

If you've been to an Equinox or seen an Equinox ad you've likely seen the phrase- "It's Not Fitness, It's Life."  I'm no marketing expert, but I think it's perfect.  It's short, simple, to the point, and powerful.  In my last post I talked a lot about the difference between simply working out and training.   As I reread after posting, like every self conscious blogger, I worried that it was too sports orientated.  I wondered if people who don't compete, or race, or have specific "fitness" goals would think the post applied to them.  
"Do the things you used to talk about doing but never did.  Know when to let go and when to hold on tight.  Stop rushing.  Don't be intimidated to say it like it is.  Stop apologizing all the time.  Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph.  Spend time with the friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down.  Stop giving your power away.  Be more concerned with interested than being interesting.  Be old enough appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it.  Finally know who you are." -Kristin Armstrong

 As part of my job I counsel overweight and obese pregnant women on how to exercise pre-and postnatally.  We go over what they are currently doing for exercise, what they would like to be doing over the next few months and once the baby comes, and what they should be careful of during and after the pregnancy.  It can be difficult to set goals during this stage of life.  Many women still fear exercising during pregnancy even though for years physicians have been recommending exercise to their pregnant patients for years.  Those that have not been exercising may want to start, but also fear that starting a new exercise regimen during pregnancy will be harmful to the baby.

"I want to get comfortable being uncomfortable, I want to get more confident being uncertain, I don't want to shrink back because something isn't easy.  I want to push back, and make more room in the area between I can't and I can.  Maybe that spot is called I WILL." -Kristin Armstrong

Recently while discussing goals with one of my patients she told me she and her husband had decided, after much debate, to stay in their apartment on the 5th floor of a walk up building.  She knew she was in for challenge walking up 5 flights of stairs daily throughout pregnancy, and then with a baby for months following delivery.  So we began brainstorming together what would be important for her to start focusing on her daily life.  Obviously she would need cardio and so we discussed incorporating lunchtime walks, taking the steps as often as possible now while she was feeling good so she would be prepared to do it when she needed to in the future.  We also discussed which muscles she needed to be strong in order to support her in climbing the stairs.  Although she admitted she hated the gym we worked out some strengthening moves she could do at home and discussed times of day she could incorporate them into her schedule.  We also went over some stretches that she could do at home.

"If we write our dreams and goals down, we dramatically increase our odds of realization.  If we share them with others they become potent and alive." -Kristin Armstrong

It's clear I love fitness and I love working towards new fitness goals.  Like every other 20-something female I'm focused on being beach ready even when there is a foot of snow on the ground.  However, fitness is more to me than a beach body and I strongly believe it is vital for everyone.  My journey towards becoming physically fit gave me more confidence than anything in my life ever has.  Anytime I am feeling unsure of myself I can look back over what I have accomplished and I am not only confident but motivated to work towards achieving more.  It's also given me strength.  Not just the strength to run 15 miles at once and do more push ups than anyone else in the room, but the strength to keep going when I've failed in life.  It's given me the strength to help friends through difficult situations of their own.  It's given me the strength when I've lost friends or seen lives ruined by diseases to not back down and rather continue to fight for a cure.  I've included several quotes from Kristin Armstrong in this post because I love how open she has been about using fitness to get through the difficult parts of her life.  So the next time you are thinking about your workout don't think about it as an hour of your day you have to waste, but rather think about it as preparing yourself for what you want.  Make yourself strong so that you won't be worn out by carrying your children.  Improve your health so you are ready to combat whatever bad genes you are carrying.  Think about the things you've always wanted to do- hike the grand canyon, travel the world, care for your grandchildren- and how you can start preparing yourself for it now.  
"I think I get addicted to the feelings associated with the end of a long run.  I love feeling empty, clean, worn out, and sweat-purged.  I love the good ache of muscles that have done me proud" -Kristin Armstrong
Building a Good Warm Up
  • Incorporate movement specific preparation: warm up the muscles you will be using; especially muscles like the hip-flexors that are often tight due to sitting; if you're going to be doing squats do some body weight squats to warm up
  • Dynamic Mobility: It's now recommended that dynamic movements are done at the beginning of the workout as opposed to static stretches; these movements help increase range of motion and reduce the risk of injury
  • Increase core temperature: the increase in blood flow and muscle temperature helps make muscles more pliable, which helps prevent strains
  • Make it workout specific: Just like you are incorporating movements that you will be using in your workout think about the purpose of your workout; if your workout is going to be a speed workout include some intervals in the warmup; if you're going anaerobic at points during your workout set the stage now
Sample Dynamic Warm Up (for running):
  • 1 minute jumping jacks
  • 15 walking lunges
  • 15 walking toe touches (walk kicking the front leg out high and touching with the alternate hand
  • Prayer Stretch with Rotation (Place your hands together in front of your body, palms together. Lower them as far down as they can go, feeling a stretch in the forearms. Rotate the hands so the fingers face forward (if you can get them pointed towards the ground), hold for one second then rotate them back in towards you, attempting to point at your chest, hold for one second, return to the prayer position, and repeat.)

  • Side Shuffle (Get into a half-squat position and slowly walk laterally 10 steps out, not allowing your feet to touch, then 10 steps back.)
  • 5 Inchworms (bend over with straight legs and a straight back as far as you can, then reach your hands towards the ground. Walk out into a pushup position, drop your hips to the floor, then straighten your body out into a pushup position again. From that position, walk your feet towards your hands, on your toes with straight legs, until you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. Walk your hands out and repeat.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Race Recap: Baltimore Half Maraton: When Training Isn't Adding Up

"It takes a lifetime to prepare for life's greatest moments."
-Meb Keflezighi

View from the Central Park Reservoir during a recent training run
After my June races I ran an additional three races: Bronx 10 miler, Baltimore Half Marathon, and the Race to Deliver 4 Miler.  I was originally supposed to run the Baltimore Marathon, but about 6 weeks prior to the race I decided to scale it back to the half.  At the time I was working full time and nannying at night and on weekends frequently.  I hadn't made it past 14 miles in a training run and while I figured I could make it up to 20 miles before race day I was hesitant to push it.  I've never had that "hitting the wall" moment during any of my previous half marathons and I didn't want to during my first marathon.

My Brother and I after the Baltimore Half
Once I scaled back the race I also ended up scaling back my training.  Not only had I run previous halves I had run more than a half in training so I knew the distance wouldn't be a big deal.  Once the weather started to get colder and work picked up I stopped worrying about keeping up with my usually structured training plan.  While the race still went well, I was a little slow coming in a little over 1:56.

Starting Line
Even though the race was harder than I expected I loved every minute of it...maybe not every minute, but almost.  I had heard Baltimore was hilly, but I didn't realize it was almost all uphill.  I'd estimate it was about 11 miles uphill and 2 miles flat.  Outside of the hills it was a great race.  The weather was perfect- sunny and cool.  The crowd was phenomenal- tons of locals lining the streets.  My favorite sign of the race was "Run Faster- Omar Coming."  

My parents got up with me at 5:30 am and rode the light rail to Baltimore with me to be there at the starting line.  At the finish line my parents, brother, and sister-in-law were waiting for me.  We also received a crab shaped medal, and the crab claw works as a bottle opener.  All participants received an under armour shirt as well.  Since I am doing the NYC Full this year I won't be able to do the Baltimore Full this year either, but I'm hoping to do the half again.  

It's been months since the race so I don't remember a lot of the course outside of the hills.  Somewhere around 7 or 8 miles there is a flat stretch where you run around a lake.  To me I felt like this was almost the most challenging part of the race.  After going uphill for so long flatness didn't seem like much of a break.  There were several times we would get to what was seemingly the top of the hill and there would be an option to turn one way and go down hill and turn the other and continue up hill-- we always went the uphill direction.  While I was running around the lake I had to continuously tell myself not to start walking.  My legs were tired from all the climbing they'd already done, and I knew there was much more to come.  It was at this time that I realized I hadn't trained- and I was eternally grateful I hadn't gone for the full.  

My parents and I at the finish
I hadn't prepared for the hills, I hadn't pushed myself to improve my speed, and I barely strength trained.  With a fresh year and race calendar I am excited to return to training as opposed to working out.  Below I've listed some elements that should be included in a "workout" to make it a training session.
Night Speed Work in Central Park

  1. Take care of your tissues- start with foam rolling, yoga balls, or massage sticks.  This helps release trigger points, improve tissue quality, and maximize blood flow.  I recently took a class that used yoga balls to help loosen muscles that are under the most strain from running.  My hamstrings have never felt better and my mobility improved tremendously.  
  2. Warm up well- Aim for dynamic movements as opposed to static stretching- toe walks, inchworm, butt kicks, etc.  This helps get the blood flowing and prepares the body for movement.
  3. Turn on your core- Placing moves like planks and bridges at the beginning of the workout as opposed to the end activates the core and helps improve posture throughout the workout, protecting your back and improving your workout.
  4. Use multi-joint movements- You rarely move just one joint at a time in life, so don't do it for your workout.  Dumbbell rows work both shoulders and elbows as opposed to biceps curls with just work elbows.
  5. Use multiple planes of movements- Working in one plane creates imbalances.  Try incorporating moves like skater shuffles, crab walks, lateral lunges, etc into workouts.
  6. Pull more than push- We spend the majority of our life working the front of our bodies, so when it comes to our workouts we need to spend more time working our backs.
  7. Alternate heavy, medium, and light- Aim to vary your workouts.  This applies both to lifting and cardio.  Recovery is important and should be built in to workouts.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year, New Fundraiser, Same Blog

“I may have cancer, but cancer doesn't have me.”
-Jen Goodman

Happy New Year!!  Can you believe it’s 2015?!  Judging by the fact that my last blog post was in June 2014 I definitely cannot.  In the beginning of 2014 I was faced with some major decisions as I left my job as a personal trainer in NYC and had to decide whether to pursue training in Connecticut or accept a job more in line with my academic pursuits in the city.  I was quickly offered, and accepted, the job in the city, however, the path through human resources took much longer.  Finally, in June, I began as a Research Assistant on a fitness and nutrition study for pregnant women.  Overall I am extremely happy with my decision, even when I spend days running around the hospital trying to find patients’ placentas (don’t ask) and my phone is going off at 3 a.m. from women in labor.

So I started my job in June and my last blog post was in June, crazy coincidence right?  In one of my last blog posts I spoke about my goals for the blog and my own personal fitness goals as I began my new job. Beginning a new job at a study that was in the process of moving between organizations and office spaces led to a lag in blog posts for obvious reasons.  However, I was also unmotivated and uninspired.  Whenever I sat down to write a blog post I felt like the topics I chose were only interesting to me and no one would want to read them.  I ended up meeting my goals of qualifying for automatic entry for both the NYC Half in March 2015 and the NYC Marathon (ahh!) in November of 2015 by running the remaining NYRR races I needed to qualify in August, September, and November.  I also ran the Baltimore Half Marathon in October.  However, even though I ran those races I was becoming lax with my own personal goals.  I finished the races and I still worked out nearly everyday, but I stopped training.  While I was still getting daily activity I had no set goals to work towards.  As a trainer and someone who has managed to lose and keep off almost 50 pounds I know the importance of training over simply working out, and I let myself fall short.  Without a focused regimen anything I tried to blog about was stale and uninteresting.  Even more disappointing, I stopped seeing results from my workouts.  

After the Baltimore Half Marathon with my brother, David
When I first started thinking about a blog post for New Years I was going to use an article I found on five study proven tips for successful New Years Resolutions.  As I reread the article and began thinking about how to write the post it again felt stale.  Many of the tips were things I had already shared last year when I spoke about setting goals and the studies were not all that interesting either.  However, I realized the five tips-  have a specific goal, be realistic, get social, smile, and if you commit, you won’t quit (find a way to hold yourself accountable)- were things that had all worked for me in the past, and I was no longer utilizing them effectively.  

I realized how effective fundraising for Livestrong and blogging about my training experiences for the 2014 NYC Half Marathon were as training tools.  It kept me focused and invested on my goals, and held me accountable.  Even though I was safe in my goals for my half marathon time, fundraising for Livestrong kept me so invested in my training I beat my goal time, under 2 hours, by almost 15 minutes.  My commitment to fundraising for Livestrong and sharing that experience through this blog gave me a powerful tool for training because every run or cross training workout meant something.  When I felt burnt out from the training I was able to think about friends, family, and even acquaintances that have battled cancer and how the money I was raising might help either end their suffering or save others from experiencing that type of suffering.  

My commitment for this first part of 2015 is to be a Cycle for Survival participant.  Since I have automatic entry for the 2015 Half Marathon I decided not to fund raise for this race, although I still plan to run it, and participate in a different event I have wanted to experience.  Cycle for Survival was started by a former Equinox member to fund raise for money for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a NYC hospital focused solely on cancer research and treatment.  Jennifer Goodman had a rare type of cancer known as sarcoma.  Together rare cancers make up 50% of cancer patients, however, they are drastically underfunded when it comes to research when compared to more well known cancers like breast cancer.  All proceeds from Cycle for Survival go directly to researching rare cancers.  

I’ve been wanting to participate in this event for years for several reasons.  Over the years I’ve personally learned the impact MSKCC has on patients with cancer and am in awe of the work they do.  I also love indoor cycling and am excited to participate in an event that uses it in such a powerful way.  Even better Cycle for Survival incorporates the social aspect of sticking to your goals, and I am thrilled to be participating with one of my best friends.  Finally, with the passing of Stuart Scott yesterday I can think of no better way to sum up the purpose of cycle for survival than Stuart’s own words, “You beat cancer by HOW you live, WHY you live, and the manner in which you live.”  Please watch the video below to learn a little more about Cycle for Survival, and let’s all make a promise in 2015 to beat cancer- whatever that means to you.  Click here if you would like to donate to my Cycle for Survival team.        

Question: What goals are you working towards in 2015?