May 152020

A feature I authored was recently published on the U.S. Masters Swimming web site. “Want to Swim? Try the Above Ground Swimming Pool Ideas.” Because of the COVID-19 crisis, photos not already on the server could not be uploaded with the article. So I am posting some of Helene Nehrebecki’s amazing photos here so you can see that she’s been able to do some serious training in her small, inexpensive above-ground pool!

 

 

May 092020

At the beginning of May, I launched a page on Vimeo – Sea and Sun Yoga –  that offers users the opportunity to stream or purchase videos of my yoga and fitness classes filmed in Tucson, Arizona and San Carlos, Mexico. Classes can be streamed for 2.99 each or purchased for 5.99. A $20 monthly membership allows you to stream as many videos as you like.

Some class formats available include Gentle Yoga, Flow Yoga, Resistance Band Blast, Yoga Pilates Fusion, Yoga Nidra, TRX training, Stability Ball strengthening, Stretching, and more! No two classes are the same. I will continue to add videos each week to add dimension to the program. I hope you enjoy these classes, which you can do at your convenience in your own home – where many of us are spending a lot of time now anyway!

Apr 272020

We left our residence in San Carlos, Mexico to return to Tucson because of the Covid-19 crisis. In Mexico, I swam daily in the Sea of Cortez for an hour or more. Very little could deter me from the water. I even swam (with a wetsuit) on winter days the water dipped down into the 50s. And I swam on days when swells were large or there was a lot of chop. Not even stingray mating season could keep me out. On days when a large and soon familiar pod of bottlenose dolphins would swim by – occasionally pausing to play or chat – I felt as if I belonged out there in the sea and it was the one place on Earth I truly fit in. I felt at peace, calm, whole, feeling the gently rush of the water all around me and inhaling the salty air deep into my lungs.

All at once, I was in Tucson, not only without the sea but with no open pools. My mood quickly plummeted. I rushed out to run in hopes that I could acquire that calm I obtained from swimming post-workout. No such luck. By the end of the week, I felt uncomfortable sensations in literally every vertebra. My hips weren’t too happy either. For two nights, sleep eluded me. My body was rebelling against these new workouts.

I contacted an expert running coach, Dr. Jason Karp, once I had somewhat of a grip. It took about two weeks before I felt ready. Days before I called him, I broke out in hives worrying I might burst into tears during the call, which I was doing frequently when I awakened each morning realizing it would be another swimmingless day. Even when I did call, I had a hard time not sounding pathetic. I felt pathetic. In the water, I felt strong, powerful, like I was connected to the sea and everything that lived in it. On land, I felt clumsy, weak, like my body was old and falling apart. Jason suggested that I alternate days with walking and running. And on the days I ran, he suggested doing intervals. Then I might get more of a rush of good energy instead of that I feel like I’m going to collapse feeling, which was more descriptive of my experience so far. About this time, my husband ordered a TRX because he was frustrated with the interruption of his weight workouts.  So the next week, I planned to embark on Jason’s suggestion to alternate run/walk days with walk days and made the choice on my own that I would do TRX two to three times a week as well. This would hopefully provide the high and the optimal mental function I experienced after a swim. To restore some sense of calm, which I had also felt regularly after sea swims, I was teaching and practicing yoga and a type of yogic sleep called Yoga Nidra.

The first week went okay. The second one way better. I started to actually feel powerful while running. By resting before I started again, I could do intervals that felt respectably fast. My husband one morning remarked that I was getting faster. And I was loving the TRX workouts. I could do motions that felt like swimming. And my arms started to get more definition. My new plan was working. My body was adapting to new ways of exercising. My joints no longer hurt. I was feeling almost like myself again, despite the abrupt shift in training.

This is not to say I didn’t miss swimming. I still dream of swimming in the ocean. Of looking face-to-face at a dolphin while he makes chattering sounds and blows a bubble ring for me. I started buying books written by swimmers. Lynne Cox wrote two beautiful books, Swimming in Antarctica and Grayson. She’s much more adventurous than me, but her writing still speaks to me on many levels. Even when I can’t swim, I can vicariously through reading these books.

Last week I broke down and drove two hours southeast of here to Parker Canyon Lake. I stayed away from everyone. I had my husband nearby on the paddleboard for safety. The water experience was restorative, refreshing. But I knew then it was no longer the only way for me to get a decent workout or to find emotional balance. Running, walking, TRX training, and my yoga practices will carry me through until I am able to immerse myself completely in my water world again.

 

 

Jan 052020

Many people start a new year, making a resolution to exercise more. And that’s a very smart decision because regular exercise can do a lot to improve your health and mental outlook. What works for me and for many is to choose enjoyable activities. If it’s fun, you’re more like to keep doing it, right?

My passion is for the water and so most days, I can’t wait to get in the water! I walk down to the Sea of Cortez and savor my swimming experience for an hour, sometimes longer. Whether in the pool or the sea or ocean, I love the feel of the water rushing by me, the feel of propelling myself through the water. I like the solitude, the silence, the escape that I experience, which helps me clear my head of clutter and distress.

I love the multisensory experience sea swimming – smelling and tasting the salt, spotting sardines, sea bass, and stingrays – and on the most amazing days, encountering my dolphin friends. There’s a pod of 11 or more bottle-nose dolphins who often propel themselves underneath me with their powerful flukes or glid around me, sometimes in circles. Occasionally, a dolphin friend will come up nose to nose and nod or even make sounds for me. Clicks, chirps, and other calls.

The photo here is of me finishing an 1800-meter swim this past September in Miramar, near Guaymas, Mexico. Click here to see a short YouTube video clip of me wetsuit swimming. Water temperatures vary from the mid-50s F up to the low-90s, depending on the season, so I rang in the New Year wetsuit swimming since the water is quite chilly in the winter, even south of the border in San Carlos, Mexico.

Finding enjoyable exercise is one of many helpful recommendations I offer in my Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond book. Stop making resolutions and quitting them two weeks later and embark on a journey of healthy living. Let 2020 be the year you succeed! If you haven’t read Fitter Than Ever yet, click here to pick up a paperback or here for the Kindle edition.

Sep 132018

I’ve always enjoyed running on soft surfaces more than pavement. I sometimes run on trails and cinder tracks, but I really get a thrill out of running barefoot on the beach. I spend most of the year now in San Carlos, Mexico, living right on the Sea of Cortez. So my track and my swimming pool await just outside the door!

There’s something unique about feeling my skin connecting with the earth with each running step. I savor the sensory experience of the grainy sand compressing under the sole of each foot and the occasional wet wave that washes over my foot. The salt air tinges my nostrils and the sea breeze blows my hair, whistling in my ears as if I strode at a mighty Olympic pace rather than the average pace I actually run.

Running barefoot on the beach – or anywhere for that matter – isn’t without risk. My husband blackened his big toe one morning stumbling over a rock. My son had the unfortunate experience of landing on a dead porcupine fish that lay hidden under the sand. And I landed once on a cholla cactus segment that had somehow blown down onto the beach. Ouch!

My recommendation for anyone wanting to run barefoot is that you learn first how to walk safely without shoes. Because the barefoot technique is different. Muscles in your feet and lower legs work much harder when you’re not wearing shoes. I started by walking a couple of kilometers on the beach every day barefoot. At first, my plantar fascia and toes felt sore afterward. Sometimes my calf muscles cramped up. Once my feet and lower extremity muscles adjusted, I worked my way up to five to seven kilometers. Then I added running to the mix. Now running and walking on the beach is easy for me.

When I first started running in sand, I had to listen to my body, to notice and sense what felt right. I land on the ball of my foot when running barefoot instead of heel-striking the way I do in shoes. That seems to absorb the impact from my landing best and gives me the opportunity to do a sudden weight shift if I feel something sharp under my foot and don’t want to put full weight on it. Other runners may find a different technique works best.

Connecting your naked feet to the Earth not only is a wonderful sensory experience, it offers abundant health benefits as well. Your heart, muscles and nervous system all receive electrical impulses from your body’s cells. The earth’s electrical energy helps keep human bodies and the bodies of all living beings in balance. When we spend too much time indoors, we don’t receive nature’s healing benefits. When your body has a chance to connect with the Earth’s electrical energy, you sleep better, inflammation is reduced, you perceive pain as less traumatic, and even heal faster from injury and illness. This isn’t just hocus pocus. More and more studies are coming out that show connecting with the Earth is not only beneficial, it’s necessary for optimal health. Please read this informative article by Chevalier et al. in the Journal of Environmental Public Health for a more in-depth understanding of the benefit of grounding or earthing.

If you haven’t tried barefoot running, but have the urge to try, why not give it a go the next time you head to a grassy park or a sandy beach. For me, there’s something joyous and childlike about running in the sand. If you’re like me, you might have so much fun running barefoot, you find yourself skipping along or turning cartwheels in the sand like you were 10 years old.

Learn to be a better runner, avoid injuries and train smart with Dr. Jason Karp’s REVO2LUTION RUNNING program. I have taken several workshops from Dr. Karp over the years and he’s an amazing educator! For information on certification courses for runners, coaches, and fitness professionals, check out the REVO2LUTION RUNNING web site. Use code SUSANCOOK for a 15 percent discount on any course.

Sep 012018

I am officially a Regional Sales Director for Revo2lution Running, founded by leading running expert Dr. Jason Karp. If you are a personal trainer, running coach or a runner seasoned or new, this cutting-edge program can give you the competitive edge. You can attend a course to become a certified professional or as a runner. Courses are offered in most U.S. cities and many countries worldwide. There is also a home study course that makes it easy to learn during your free time!

Learn the importance of knowing your VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold in doing effective training. Learn how to create a running program for someone new to running, whether it be you or a client. If weight loss is a goal for you or your client(s), learn nutrition tips that will make this goal more achievable. And most importantly, learn how to run safely with less potential for injury. 65 percent of people to participate in running experience an injury over the course of the year, which can mean missing races, fun with friends, and interfere with weight loss goals. Why not avoid injury altogether so you can keep on running? Knowledge is power and Dr. Karp’s program will give you power with a capital P and so much more. To read about or sign up for a workshop, home study program, runner mentoring programs and more, check out the Revo2lution Running web site. For a 15 percent discount on your workshop fee, please use the code SUSANCOOK when you purchase.

Mar 312017

I am excited to announce the release of my new book, Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond.

I know fitness and how the right balance of training, mindful exercise and good nutrition can transform your life. Rewrite your script of making resolutions and quitting them and start living a healthy lifestyle today. Fitter Than Ever offers an easy-to-follow activity and eating plan and is packed with Slim for Life Secrets to keep you on-track and motivated. This book will make your journey of losing weight, exercising and eating healthy fun and empowering.

The e-books are available now. A paperback print edition will be available by April 30.

Order From Amazon

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Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond


Jul 032016

BeatStep App for Fitness Instructors

Ever since I’ve starting playing music in classes from my iPhone or iPad, I’ve been frustrated over being stuck with the original beats-per-minute. For years, I would pitch CDs up or down to get the count just right for different classes. For this reason, I found myself sticking to my old CDs whenever possible. When one of my work places removed the CD player once and for all, I knew I had to get more in-the-know about Apps. So I researched Apps that might help with this issue and decided to download BeatStep (cost is 12.99). I had some trouble finding it because another company, Arturia, has a program with the same name at the top of the search engines and is apparently designed for music studios rather than fitness instructors!

At first, I was a bit stymied by the App. After you load a play list and save it, whenever I tried to load a new one from my iPod library, it would ask if I wanted to remove the current songs and I worried I would lose my previous playlist or even the one in iTunes. Fortunately, when I queried BeatStep from their Facebook page, I learned this is not the case. I was also given a step by step explanation on how to load the new playlist and save it. This does not in any way alter your original iTunes playlist. Basically, you are importing it into the App and saving it as a different playlist that you must access from BeatStep.

BeatStep Playlist

BeatStep is very responsive to email or FaceBook correspondence. Here is a link to the BeatStep Facebook Page. The company also sent me a link to several You Tube  videos that outline the major features of the App. You can choose a set BPM for your playlist or a percent of original speed. If the program’s calculation of the song’s BPM is inaccurate, you can select the song and “tap out” the BPM so it resets to an accurate tempo. Here is a link to the You Tube training videos. Watching these videos really helped me get into the swing of using the App.

Once glitch I found with the App is that if you stop playing your music before the playlist ends and then start another class and start playing music, you may hear two songs playing at once. If this  happens, simply exit the program and start it up again (it just takes a few seconds) and you will be back to hearing only one song at a time.

I’m very particular about the music I use for classes. For this reason, I like to download individual songs and make them into playlists instead of buying pre-made mixes. This creates a problem when you want every song in your mix to have a similar BPM. I recently learned that by using the Tempo Planner add-on (cost 2.99 or request a code on the BeatStep Facebook page), you gain this versatility as well. To add on this feature, simply click on the star in the bottom left and enter the code. Now I can go to each song and determine BPM or percent of original song speed one at a time. It is useful to test this ahead of time to make sure the song doesn’t sound terrible pitched up or down a lot.

I don’t recommend downloading this App tonight and trying to use it in the morning. Give yourself a few days to get familiar with it so you feel confident and comfortable with it before you walk into class. With adequate preparation, BeatStep is a great program that can allow you to offer your students more music variety at a speed ideal for the workout you have planned. My students really appreciate that I’ve taken the time to assemble so many fun new playlists. Now I have New Age, Jazz, Dance and Rock, sometimes all in a single playlist and music that before was too slow to use for exercise is now accessible. I hope you enjoy using BeatStep as much as I do.

Oct 252011

Whenever my fitness classes start to feel stale rather than fresh, I know its time to learn more. Conferences and research get me pumped back up. At fitness conferences, such as Fitness Fest and IDEA, I learn new techniques, exercises, and research relevant to my work as a fitness professional. I run out the door bursting with excitement to put what I’ve learned into practice. I literally can’t wait to teach my next class.

It should be like that with your workouts as well. When enthusiasm flags, you seek a way to bring that excitement back to exercising. If your strength training workouts are putting you to sleep, you hire a trainer to show you exercises that are safe, yet different from what you’ve been doing. If you are tired of going it alone during workouts, you join group exercise classes or a group of individuals that do an activity you enjoy. If you have reached a plateau where you aren’t seeing any improvement, you try cross training with less familiar modalities to kick your body back in high gear.

Here in Tucson, we have groups that meet to do many different activities including swimming (we have at least 4 Masters teams – azlmsc.org for Arizona; see www.usms.org for a list in other parts of the country), hiking, running (Southern Arizona Roadrunners – www.azroadrunners.org), mountain biking (Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists – www.sdmb.org), and road biking (Greater Arizona Bicycling Association – GABA – www.bikegaba.org). For those of you who live in SaddleBrooke, there are groups for you right in your neighborhood. I recently learned that the SaddleBrooke Hiking club even has a daily fitness walk at 6:30 that meets at the HOA 1 basketball court (a newsletter on the group can be picked up in the HOA 1 fitness center). Even residents who don’t feel comfortable walking on uneven surfaces can get out there and walk and meet new people.

If your current group exercise class isn’t meeting your needs, shop around until you find a class you find one that’s fun and meets your fitness objectives. Many people I work with report getting excited about trying a new kind of group exercise format such as Zumba or taking lessons to improve their golf or tennis game.

Knowledge can get you excited about working out, too. It can be empowering to read how taking charge of your fitness can reduce your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, improve bone and muscle density, energy level, reduce body fat, improve HDL (good cholesterol), reverse the “age” of your muscle cells, and much more. Many fitness enthusiasts attend fitness conferences and read every article out there about health and fitness. If knowledge fuels your fire, go out there and get educated! Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Fitness, American Fitness, and the IDEA Fitness Journal are just some magazines I read often. It is important to use your intellect and reasoning to evaluate the quality of what you are reading. There is a lot of misinformation out there as well. Sometimes discussing what you’ve read with a fitness or medical professional can be helpful. The American College of Sports Medicine is a reputable source, which offers annual recommendations pertaining to cardiovascular and strength training for individuals wanting to maintain fitness and/or lose weight.

Whatever you need to do to bounce out of bed excited to move that body, figure it out and then go for it. Your body and mind will be glad you did.

Sep 062011

Are you one of those people that still believe if you do 500 abdominal crunches each day, that flabby middle will evaporate? If so, you are not alone. Many people still believe that over-exercising specific parts of the body will enable “spot” toning or the dissipation of fat from a preferred part of the body.

The harsh reality is that it just isn’t so. Aerobic exercise and strength training help you to burn fat, but your body makes the bottom line decision as to where the weight comes off. Face it ladies, the first place where weight tends to disappear is from the bust line! It’s not fair, but unfortunately the adipose tissue on the abdomen, hips and thighs is usually most unwilling to say a final farewell.

Removing fat from the body is a function of calories in versus calories out, nothing more. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will add fat; if you eat less than you burn, you will lose a pound for every 3500 calorie deficit. The most efficient way to reduce your body fat is to eat a healthy diet, engage in at least 200 minutes of continuous or aerobic activity per week (low-impact or step aerobics, walking, elliptical, cycling or swimming), and follow a regular strength training program. During continuous activity, the body burns fat which facilitates weight loss and increases caloric expenditure at rest. Regular exercise stimulates activity in muscle tissues and reduces the loss of muscle mass during a weight loss program.

People often set unrealistic goals for their bodies, which can be destructive to self-esteem and body image. You will be most content if you learn to make the most of what you have, since each of us was genetically designed to be a bit different. Ladies, forget about the Cosmo cover models; and gentleman, its OK if you have to wear a shirt along with your Calvin Kline jeans. Remember to set your sights on a healthy weight, rather than a perfect body. And exercise regularly, so you will look and feeling the best you possibly can every day.