Just 8 Weeks to the New Year


Cold is no excuse to stop exercising.

With just two months left in the year, what is your plan to combat the stressors, the usual end of year “too much to do,” trying-to-fit-it-all-in-and-not-enough-time-for-fitness? Let it all go and then realize you need to “start all over” or be mindful of your actions?

I have a plan. I (almost) always have a plan – just ask my co-workers. I started last week (on Monday, October 31) with my updated plan for the rest of the year. It has three parts:

  1. 620,000 steps completed. Since this started last Monday, October 31, if I calculated correctly, that is an average of 10,000 steps a day through December 31st.  I am wearing my pedometer every day.
  2. Run 200 miles – about 30 miles a week. I run about 4-5 times a week.
  3. Bike 500 miles – about 55 miles a week. I bike about twice a week.

My plan isn’t to beat myself up or exhaust myself, but to stay calm and have an outlet for the stress that inevitably comes, combat temptations and ultimately be the same weight in January as I was in September.

Most of us can do it. I know. When we have the plan to do it, we can. I know many people who have done it.

Whether I will get all 700 miles and 620,000 steps in or not aren’t as important as the effort of trying. If I run 179 miles, bike 476 miles, and get 618,359 steps it is okay. I know that I worked towards getting those miles and steps. Failure would be not trying or putting in the effort and saying, “I’m too tired to do it today,” when I know I will feel better doing it.

What are you doing the next 8 weeks to help you get through the holidays ?


Spring Training – What are you doing this Spring?


What are you doing this spring?

The first thing we delete from our busy schedules is what can help us handle it best: healthy diet/eating, exercise and proper sleep.

Because I am acutely aware of this, I make a point to put these priorities, and family time, first and sometimes the extras are set aside (like posting regularly to my blog). I’ve missed it.

Spring is a crazy time of year for so many of us (as are summer, fall and winter, it doesn’t stop). Some weekends may have nothing happening (if you are a lucky one), but then other weekends it seems that everything is happening: family events, children’s soccer games AND little league games, many social activities, city-wide events/festivals to enjoy, and a holiday/birthday/anniversary thrown into the mix.

Another sign of spring, at least for me, is that nearly every weekend has a running or biking event in which I am participating or I would like to take part.

In just a couple of weeks, for our household, it starts: between my husband and I we have something every weekend.

  • April 16: Albuquerque Half Marathon – I’m losing track of how many 13.1 milers now, but Athlinks.com says this will be my 8th.
  • April 24: Easter Sunday and my niece’s first birthday…it this throwing you off this year?
  • May 1: Run for the Zoo 10K, which is a tradition for me now AND the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5 mile walk (thrown off by Easter this year).
  • May 8: Mother’s Day and my first SPRINT Triathlon: Jay Benson. Swimming is in the pool in case you were wondering.
  • May 15: Santa Fe Century, which for me is a half century…because this is a hard century.
  • May 21: a special weekend with my husband, which will likely include a bike ride
  • May 28: Iron Horse Bicycle Classic from Durango to Silverton (Colorado) – This is not my event, but my husband’s, but I get to still drive to Colorado
  • June 4: Albuquerque Century Tour de Cure, in which this year I will once again attempt a 100 mile bike ride in one day. Last year, I was not successful with the 100 miles, but a “mere” 65 due to >100 degree temps.
  • June 11: Valles Caldera 10K – my first time here too. They also have a marathon and half marathon, but I plan on taking a break this weekend.
  • Jun 17-18: Relay for Life in Albuquerque – a walk, but a very important one.

Is this crazy? Nah, this is our regular spring in my household. The summer becomes more erratic with events, but once September comes around, things pick up again for a couple of months. It’s all good.

Let me know if you are doing any of these events, or anything throughout the U.S.; I would love to hear about it.


I’m Sick. Should I still exercise?


Picture from rodale.com

Should you still exercise?

It is tradition that I, along with many more people, get sick shortly after the holidays. As we wind down from the rush and stress of the holiday, end of the semester or both, we don’t always eat well, sleep properly or exercise regularly.

Unfortunately, even as a dietitian, I am no exception. Starting yesterday, I had a bit of a sore throat. Last night, I had some trouble breathing when I was laying flat. Today, I have both of those with some sinus issues, sneezing and a headache. While I would love to have a great excuse to not exercise, I wonder if I really do.

Sometimes it is pretty clear that we shouldn’t exercise: a migraine, vomiting and other pleasantries associated with a sick GI tract, or my favorite kidney stones. I bailed out on a running partner because of that one.

So what are the guidelines for exercising while sick? Here is the mantra I go by:

“If it is in your head, go ahead. If it is in your chest take a rest.”

I don’t know where that comes from, but it has stuck with me for years.

If it is in your head…

Sore throat, stuffy nose, sneezing coughing, and a general cold, most of the time you can still exercise. Go ahead, but you should probably go it alone so you don’t get your fellow exercisers sick, and take it down a notch: walk or jog instead of run, take an easy bike ride and not a moderate to hard bike ride, or do the low intensity version of your regular workout.

The only exception to this “rule”: if you are running a fever. Generally, you don’t want to exercise with a fever. Just rest it out.

If it is in your chest…

Respiratory issues, chills, aforementioned stomach issues, and a generally achy body (assuming it isn’t muscle soreness from yesterday’s workout), take a rest until you feel better.

Not sure…

Sometimes you just aren’t sure what you have or aren’t sure if you should exercise. Things like “morning sickness,” a low-grade migraine or other headache (from a hangover perhaps), and suspected or confirmed injuries are certainly not contagious, but whether you choose to exercise depends on how you feel and/or how debilitating the illness or injury is. A walk, even for 20 minutes, tends to help for most of these issues or cross-training if you have an injury. NOTE: if you have an injury you may need to get clearance from your physician. Post –surgery many years ago, I got clearance to exercise, but going for a 20-30 minute walk was exhausting. It wasn’t the surgery so much, but the residual effects of the anesthesia (as the surgeon told me). It took four to six weeks to be able to go for a full hour without needing a nap.

Tomorrow: I’m a going to exercise, since my symptoms are all in my head. But I really believe they are there.


The Best Time Exercise

Whether you do it morning, noon, or evening - just go.

The question is often asked and researched: what time if the day is best to exercise: morning, after lunch, after work?

Here is the answer: whatever time of day works best for you.

Some people prefer the middle of the day, going at “lunchtime.” It helps to have a buddy system (meet up) and it breaks up your day, especially if you have a sedentary job. I suggest that people spend at least half of their lunch-break going for a walk. If you have a flexible schedule, then you can take more time or do a more strenuous exercise if you wish.

Doing the exercise in the afternoon-evening is a great way to guarantee that you don’t work too late! Ha. Many people like it since they can go home and eat dinner right afterwards. We suggest that you don’t do cardio exercise too close to bed-time, since you may have trouble getting to sleep right away. But it may not bother you. There are several 24-hour gyms, allowing you to exercise any time, even in the late evening or at midnight.

But what happens if someone disrupts your lunch plans? Or there is an “emergency” you need to tend to in the afternoon? Or somebody innocently stops by or calls and your “me” time derails. Many things can get in the way during the day that gives us excuses to not exercise.

This happened to me today:

  • 11:00 am: Office holiday party where ate and visited with colleagues about 1 pm.
  • 1:00 pm: Upon arriving in my office, my son calls wanting to visit me at work.
  • 1:45ish: Back working.
  • 2:05 pm: Someone “stops by” my office to visit with me.
  • 2:50 pm: I return phone calls that I missed over the last four hours. I now have less than two hours to get something done at work! No time to go for a workout or walk!
  • 5:00 pm: conference call that I must attend. 
  • 6:10 pm: While on the Conference call, my husband calls looking for a missing (major) ingredient for dinner.
  • 6:15 pm: Conference Call ends, walk to my car and swing by the grocery store (buying just the one item!)
  • 7:00 pm: Finally home.
  • 7:30 pm: Dinner.
  • 8:00 pm: Free time? My husband goes to work at 8:45, so I don’t run off in the hour we have left.
  • 9:00 pm: no workout now, since I wouldn’t be done until at least 10:00 pm; too close to bedtime.

This is why I prefer to exercise first thing in the morning. In the summer I get to see the sunrise and the benefit of cooler temperatures (and no gnats). In the winter it is still quite cold, but you warm up quickly. There aren’t as many people at that time of day, either on the streets or in the gym. Even the classes aren’t as crowded as the other times. But the best benefit of exercising first thing in the morning is getting it done with no one else to stop you from your plans. But, some people just can’t exercise in the morning. They aren’t morning people, don’t have time before work, they have to get the kids off to school. There are all kinds of reasons legitimate reasons.

We all have the “best” time of day to exercise: the time you WILL do it. No excuses, no interruptions, no one else to sabotage your plans. Put yourself first, and take care of yourself and make it priority.

Research does suggest that one time of day over another is more beneficial, but the differences and potential advantages are slight. Bottom line: nearly all of us need to exercise more. So just go!

What is Your Winter Motivation?

Putting something here, helps motivate through the winter.

My 2010 “race” season is over. I am being generous calling that. “Event season” is probably the better description, since I “participate” more than race.

After my last event each year, I struggle with motivation. I find that I don’t continue with running or cycling much unless there is something I’m running or biking for. Some people don’t get this, but over the years, I have found that if I don’t have a race in mind or a bike event I want to do, I don’t run or bike so much. What is ironic: I will do step aerobics even though I have never participated in a step aerobics “event.”

Oh, and my biggest excuse: no turkey trots or “fun runs.” Why do that when I can run 3-6 miles around my neighborhood for free? And I don’t have to drive anywhere to start.

I’m planning my 2011 calendar in the next month, but how to keep up the running and biking in November, December and January?

Side note for you non-New Mexicans: Albuquerque averages below freezing at night November-January and the highs average 48-58 degrees. I talked to people who think they can come here in the winter for a warm get-away.

So, what do you do to keep yourself motivated through the winter?

Clothing Makes the Athlete?

Can this make the difference between being comforable or not?

I am the first to admit that I am NOT a fashionable person; my husband helps me pick out my clothes when we shop. However, I am about to dispense some “fashion” advice from personal experience and because I still see so many people exercising in what I consider the “wrong” clothes. I am not judging, I just want people to be more comfortable when they exercise.

It isn’t what the clothes LOOK like that I am commenting on, but what the clothes are made OF that makes the difference. Here are examples:

  • In the 90’s I wore “regular” bras, underwire and all, to my Jazzercise and step aerobics. Even though sports bras were invented, I had yet to discover them. Hey, I was young and no one ever told me about them.
  • I used to bike in “regular” shorts, but I would get sore. I bought a pad for my bike seat, but it would still get sore. Ten years ago I bought my first pair of bike shorts. As uncomfortable as they are to walk in, they are worth every penny. Besides, your aren’t supposed to walk in them, you are supposed to ride in them.
  • Six years ago, at my first 5K I wore a long sleeve cotton shirt, cotton sports bra, cotton shorts and cotton socks. It kept be warm enough for the mid-October run, but I also sweat. At the end of the run I was damp and I got pretty cold. And was chafed in many places.

Months after that 5K I discovered microfiber/polyester blend fabric as workout clothing. What a difference compared to cotton clothing. When I do vigorous exercise, cycling or running, I sweat. Cotton gets wet, gets heavy and sags. Depending on the time of year, I get cold or I get sticky and uncomfortable. Microfiber/poly blend gets wet, but dries quickly and doesn’t get heavy, cold or sticky.

This so-called “technical” clothing is more expensive than cotton, but doesn’t have to be expensive to outfit yourself in it. It is worth it. I’ve purchased most of mine at Target or when Nike has some great clearance on their website. I find tops for $10-15. You can get it pretty much anywhere and spend whatever you would like.

It’s a good idea for all of the layers: sports bra, top, shorts, pants, and socks; pretty much anything that touches your skin.

That’s my opinion on this matter, and I have been much more comfortable since I’ve formed it.

Do I Need to Carb-Load?

Do you really need this before your event?

It seems that there are many “events” in the fall. Tomorrow I venture on 50 miles of the Enchanted Circle Century in northern New Mexico followed by a half marathon next week and a marathon and another long bike ride in October. I know many people who participate in activities such as this, whether the long or short distances.

A few friends and acquaintances I know think that they need to carb load before a “big” race/event. By this I mean a 5K (3.1 miles) or 10K (6.2 miles) or a 15 mile bike ride. They are telling me that they are going to eat a “big plate of pasta” the night before a 5K!

With the “average” 5K run time of about 30 minutes (I know some of you are faster and some are slower and that is ok) making that 10K about an hour and a 15 mile bike ride about an hour and 15 minutes for many people, not one of these would need “carb-loading” in the traditional sense of needing to eat a “big plate of pasta.”

Would this be harmful? Absolutely not, just completely unnecessary, and most likely too many calories, in the context of how many calories would be burned in the real activity. Meaning the run or bike ride doesn’t come close to burning off all the calories consumed.

When is carb-loading necessary? When the event you are going to take part in is going to last over 90 minutes, referred to as “endurance events/activities,” such as a half marathon, marathon, triathlon, long bike rides generally over 25 miles.

What is carb-loading and why is it necessary? Carbohydrates help build up the glycogen stores in your muscles. We want to maximize that as much as we can so we don’t deplete those stores too early. This way we are less likely “to hit the wall” or “bonk.”

Carbohydrates and water are BFF in the body, so when we build up our glycogen stores, we “retain” more water. This is okay and it not permanent weight gain, but temporary. It will go away as we burn through the stored glycogen.

What should you have?

Short bout of exercise:  have your carbs with a mix of protein too: 3-5 ounces of protein such a salmon, chicken or lean beef is fine with a side a carbs such as 1 cup brown rice, mashed potatoes or whole grain pasta and 1-2 cups of vegetables.

Longer bouts of exercise:  have more carbohydrates: whole grain cereal such hearty oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit in the morning, yogurt mid morning, peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole grain bread for lunch, fruit and string cheese for afternoon snack and the “traditional” spaghetti with a whole grain pasta and salad for dinner. And fluids all day long.