Jun 172010

While vacationing in Ohio, it seemed perfect to stop what I was doing (drinking tea) and write about staying active while traveling. Its almost 9 a.m. here and I am happy to say I have already walked 20 minutes and been swimming for an hour. The Worthington High School Pool is just minutes from the house, so I slipped on my tennis shoes before dawn and walked there to join the high school swim team for practice. Afterwards, I walked back home, had a bowl of oatmeal and now here I am writing this article.

Clients often tell me its difficult to stay active on vacation. I say its a piece of cake. When you maintain your exercise routine, you adjust quicker to time changes, feel happier and more energetic, and good about yourself for staying on track. I make it a habit to always plan what I will do to stay in shape before the trip even happens.

Before travelling to Ohio, I emailed the Worthington Swim Club coach and asked him if he would mind if a Masters swimmer joined his group for practices. When he gave me an affirmative answer and the schedule, I was all set. All I had to do was have the gumption to get up at 6 a.m. every morning, the equivalent of 3 a.m. in Tucson. So far so good.

I also get a lot of residual exercise spending time with my family. One morning I took a 15 minute jog with my daughter. Yesterday, we played Marco Polo in the pool and took an hour-long evening walk along the Olentangy River. I even spent an hour or so pulling thistles out of my mom’s garden. Ouch! My days have been activity-filled. It is a great feeling to know that when I go home to Arizona, I will be in even better shape than when I left.

Another strategy I use for staying active on trips is to plan the trip around a competitive event. I recently wrote an article on this topic (featuring other people like myself who thrive off of this type of travel), which will appear later this year in American Fitness.

I often compete in the La Jolla Roughwater swim and the La Jolla Shores 5K so I can enjoy La Jolla and also get out there and race people. Later this summer I will compete in the U.S. Masters Swimming Long Course National Championships in Puerto Rico. After a few days of pool swimming races in Puerto Rico, I will top off the week with a one mile open water swim and then fly to Granada where from our hotel’s beach, you can swim for miles and still stand on the bottom! I know already I will be swimming every single day of vacation.

If you’re a fitness instructor like me, you can take a trip and teach classes at the same time (check out fitbodiesinc.com). Last summer I took my family to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun and paid very little because of the two hours I spent teaching classes daily. There are places all over the Caribbean where you can have a fabulous time on an active vacation.

So if you’re making a list of excuses of why you can’t keep moving, why don’t you pitch that in the trash and write up an activity agenda. Here in Ohio, swimming will continue to be on the daily agenda as well as walking and the occasional jog. And who knows. Maybe the kids will be able to talk me into getting on the trampoline again for seat wars. I’m not 18 anymore. But I can pretend.

Jun 152010

Far too often people cope with stress by reaching for a piece of candy or a cookie. Others can’t stop at one or two and end up eating the whole bag or box. Hardly ever are the foods people reach for to calm themselves healthy (when was the last time you reached for a carrot stick when your boss chewed you out?) Usually, people grab items loaded with salt, sugar and/or fat. Once the thrill of the binge ends, the net result is guilt and low self esteem. If this sounds all too familiar, below are some suggestions for how to reduce your stress level without expanding your waistline.

The first step is to put a halt to using food as a stress reliever. When you need to relax, try some of these other tools and stay clear of the refrigerator until you feel calm.

1 – Step outside for a long walk, preferably someplace quiet where you can feel in-tune with nature.

2 – Slip into a warm bath. Make it even better by pouring in some of your favorite bath oil, reading a favorite book or listening to music.

3 – Put on your gardening gloves. Touching the earth and plants can be very soothing.

4 -Write down your thoughts without worrying about grammar or punctuation or writing it so someone else would want to read it. Sometimes just unloading what’s on your mind without having to censor it can do wonders for your stress.

5 – Engage in a favorite hobby. Whether you like quilting, knitting, painting or working with clay, just indulge in some quality “me” time.

Adopting a different strategy to cope with stress may be difficult for awhile. The sacrifice will be well worth the effort, though. Once you get in the habit of using non-food methods to decompress at the end of the day, you will feel more relaxed than you ever did before. Not to mention that you will feel much more in control of your weight and your life.

Jun 082010

Running elevates heart rate, improves bone density, and keeps us feeling positive. In addition, running demands no inflation of tires, no special equipment and can be done almost anywhere. The only downside of running is the trauma on our bodies.

The impact of striking the ground repeatedly places a lot of stress on the feet, shins, knees, and hips. Runners can reduce the incidence of common injuries such as Iliotibial Band Syndrome, Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, achilles tendonitis, knee problems, and hamstring and other muscle strains by taking a few simple precautions.

1) Wear footwear appropriate for your arch height and runnng style (its best to get fitted at a running store by someone who can do a proper evaluation) and replace shoes when cushioning has broken down (shoes are usually rated for X amount of miles).

2) Gradually increase intensity during each workout. Be sure not to start out too fast.

3) Increase intensity and distance gradually. Beginners might start by alternating between walking for a minute and jogging for a minute for a total of 15 minutes the first week. Fitter individuals could start with a mile jog, gradually increasing distance by a half mile to a mile per week. Listen to your body! It will tell you if you are doing too much too soon.

4) Avoid running on shoulders and other banked surfaces, which will put undue stress on the hips and knees on one side of the body. I ran on a shoulder in a half marathon once and my knee hurt very badly for two weeks afterward.

5) Integrate cross training into your program. Low or non-impact activities such as swimming or cycling are ideal.

6) Stretch and use a foam roller to lengthen the IT band post-run. It tends to shorten and contract during and after running and cycling. When this band of connective tissue gets too tight, it causes pain on the outside of the knee and hip. To stretch, lay on back, legs extended. Place yoga strap under right foot, extending leg up and gently stretching over body toward the left. To roll, position yourself on your side over foam roller and roll up and down the outside of the thigh. Avoid rolling over the knee joint or the hip bone. A soft roller will work best. I purchases a green one from OTPT that works very well.

7) Stretch hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, IT band, and low back after every workout.

8) If your running style is awkward, hire a running coach or pick up a copy of Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running. His book offers great suggestions on how to adjust your posture, foot strike and running style so it is less traumatic on the body.

Are you ready to get out there and enjoy your workout? I know I am. I’ve got to don my running shoes now, too, before it gets too hot. Tucson in June is hot, hot, hot!!