Archive for the ‘fitness’ Tag

My Exercise Partner and a Tough Trainer

exercise partnerI’ve been exercising off and on for over 6 years with my daughter, well almost 7 years if you include my pregnancy when I exercised a lot and had an amazing level of fitness. My daughter is energetic, flexible, strong, and constantly moving or climbing, and she likes to challenge me. She has many of the desired qualities of an exercise partner or a fitness trainer. She loves to exercise. She loves to stretch. She loves to relax. We do sprints together in the local park. We do all sorts of strength and flexibility competitions. “Mama, look how high I can kick my leg! Could you kick your leg this high when you were little? Can you do a straddle like this?” She mostly wins the competitions. To be honest, I can still kick my leg high, but I couldn’t when I was six.

On Saturday I did a number of sets of rebound box jumps, using my step, and my daughter joined in. I’ve been doing rebound box jumps, a type of plyometric training, with my clients recently. The idea with rebound jumps is to spend as little time on the ground as is possible, hence the “rebound.” The ones I’ve been doing myself and with my clients are low rebound box jumps, working with a range between 3 and 6 inches in height. As with any new type of training I begin modestly with limited repetitions and progress slowly. The rebound jumps have been a welcome addition to both my personal workout and my clients’s sprinting workouts and the rebound jumps compliment the jump rope, jumping jacks, and burpees that we already do.

My daughter decided to give the rebound jumps a try and she did 2 jumps the first time before belly flopping onto the couch. She repeated the couple of jumps followed by the belly flop a few more times before her neuromuscular system kicked in and she developed the rhythm and coordination necessary to complete 50 jumps, albeit under tempo. (Each complete jump ideally takes just under one second.)

We alternated jumping for a while. I added a side to side rebound jump, something for my clients to look forward to, then my daughter upped the ante: she picked up a 5 pound weight and did the rebound jumps. Then she doubled the ante with an additional 5 pound weight. She weighs under 40 pounds, so this was more than a quarter of her bodyweight. I did give this a try holding two 8 pound weights. It’s hard! My daughter is one tough trainer.

Bikercise

I had planned to write more about the Fitbit this week, but this past Saturday I ended up going for a bit more of a sprint than I intended on doing. My daughter and I were running late for her ballet class mainly because I was trying to do too many things. She took her bike which allows us to get to class on time. Last wAnalupe bikeeek she was just remembering how to bike, and I had a pleasant jog keeping up with her. Now she remembers how to ride her bike. She can bike fast! Luckily I knew I would be jogging a little so I had worn my back pack instead of a shoulder bag, and I had on my sneakers, but it was not a jog; it was a sprint. Longer sprints than I’ve been doing when I do my wave workouts.

Unfortunately with the busy morning and the too many things to do, I forgot to put on my Fitbit HR so I have no idea what my heart rate went up to, but pretty high I would guess as I was breathing hard. I also forgot the bike lock and my daughter’s ballet shoes. Too many things to do, not enough time being in the present.

This summer it will be a huge challenge to keep up with both my kids when they are on their bikes and I will be wearing my running sneakers a lot. Or I’ll just have to learn to bike in NYC, which is not high on my list of things I wish to learn.

A New Exercise Tracker and Watch: Fitbit HR

photo by Guillermo Murcia

photo by Guillermo Murcia

I have been wearing the Fitbit HR for the past week. I’m enjoying it very much. Adapting to wearing a watch again has been the main challenge; my wrist is not used to the constricting feeling of a band around it. The LED lights felt painful, like a burning sensation, the first time I wore the watch. Now my skin has desensitized. I don’t notice any burning sensations anymore from the pulsing green lights penetrating my skin, measuring the flow of blood under the surface. If I am already wearing the watch when I turn on the heart rate function I feel a tickling sensation when the lights first come on. When I put my awareness to that area of my body I can still sense the lights flashing, but when busy or otherwise engaged I do not notice the lights pulsing. Because of this I choose to turn the heart rate function off for most of the day and use it mainly when exercising, to watch the heart rate recover. It works well in this function to track the general tendencies of the pumping of the blood. I receive an instantaneous report, as opposed to the 30 – 40 second delay experienced using the sensors on a treadmill, which of course aren’t available in the comfort of my living room when I am running in place, doing jumping jacks, or stepping.

I’ve set the watch to show the heart rate when I tap the watch so it’s very convenient to read. For instance as I sit typing my heart rate is a 76 beats per minute, that’s a bit higher than it ought to be but as my sleep was not so restful last night I’m unsurprised.Being able to view my resting HR is fun. It will be interesting to see if I can drop it below 62 for my average resting rate if I was too increase the consistency of my cardio workouts. Three or four times a week, instead of on to three times plus a few sprints to keep up with kids on bikes or trying to get to the school bus stop on time.

As I do the waves having a stop watch on my wrist is so much more convenient than using the stopwatch located on my phone and much less obtrusive when working with my clients. Also having the tap function set to heart rate makes accessing my heart rate instantaneous rather than needing to scroll through the time of day and the steps taken first.

Ever since my Polar Heart Rate monitor watch broke about 8 years ago I have been using my phone as my watch. After having children, I needed to be available if a caregiver or now the school needs to reach me in an emergency, and the phone has been ever present. I have never enjoyed doing this, as I do find phones and especially smart phones can be unduly distracting whether it is my phone or a clients phone. It’s also cumbersome and obvious when I’m checking the time in the middle of a session. With the Fitbit HR I can leave my phone in my bag or tucked away in a pocket when I am with a client. If I have an incoming call the watch vibrates and shows the caller id. I can put the distraction of the phone further away from myself. It would be nice if text messages could appear on it (after all more people seem to text than call these days) like a caller id with the message too, but for that I suppose I’ll need an apple watch. For a thorough review of the apple watch as a health and fitness tracker click here.

An additional function that I really enjoy is the sleep mode which does not need to be put into sleep mode; no button to push or tapping to do to get the device to record or come out of sleep mode. However, if you get up in the middle of the night like I sometimes do, the Fitbit will call that the waking up and you then need to add a second sleep log for when you fall back asleep until final wake up in the morning. During sleep I find that the weirdness of wearing a watch becomes more pronounced. I rarely wear jewelry or anything so I find myself wanting to remove the Fitbit HR in the middle of the night. It feels constricting and bothersome on my wrist. Needless to say on the nights when I remove during my sleep the results are not so accurate, but as with the pulsing of the LED lights my body is becoming acclimated to wearing a watch.

The rest of the Fitbit HR functions are like the Fitbit One, which my son and husband are both using when they can. I will post about their experiences in the future.

For more detailed reviews of the Fitbit HR you can go here and here.

Relaxation

Last night was a fun evening that reminded me of previous nights, where dinner was interrupted with a cartwheel competition, or just a “look at what I can do” moment of physical activity. My husband was finishing preparing dinner as my daugRelaxationhter began doing her moves. She showed how she now does her arch (wheel for us yoga folks) based on what she had learned in gymnastics class that day. A large, full, energized wheel, that after holding it for an extended amount of time left her tired. So, I showed her how to relax her body fully in Savasana. From there I recalled the relaxation assists that I had learned over the years and performed a few on her. She loved it, the feeling of caring from her mother, but also the wave like motion from the thoracic into the cervical spine with a very gentle traction of the head, and working from the other end, a gentle traction of the spine. In my work I have recently not been performing these sorts of hands on assists with my clients very often as the cause of the body being tight is a decrease in stability and the worst thing for that is for an outside force to create further instability. However, watching her as she melted and the deep relaxation that she was able to attain, it was beautiful to see and a reminder that relaxation is an important skill to learn at any age.

Waves Next to Waves

My newest workout consists of intervals, but not traditional intervals where a short burst of cardio activity is used to elevate the heart rate followed by a conditioning exercise where the heart rate only partially recovers. In these intervals I want my heart rate to reach close to maximum and then have a full recovery between before I begin the next interval. This means standing, or preferably sitting, catching my breath followed by a bit of yogic breathing to slow the heart rate. I do a total of 5 or 6 intervals. The idea is to create a wave with my heart rate: crests and troughs.

Beach in Santa Marta, ColombiaThis past week while the Northeast and my home in Brooklyn was enduring an arctic blast, I had the luxury of spending some time on a beach, creating waves next to waves. The kids mainly wanted to spend the days in the pool, but I convinced my daughter to join me one morning for a walk to the beach with the intention of a bit of exercise. We arrived, took off our sandals and set our goals: I would sprint down to a red tent on the beach and back, she would sprint a shorter distance to the unused volleyball post and back. I took off at a sprint while she stood with our sandals, bag of towels, and her doll that had joined us and was taking a nap. It was wonderful: the sound of the waves, the bright sun, the feel of the sand under my bare feet but also the extra focus and attention that was required to choose the best path so as not twist an ankle on the loosely packed, damp sand, very different than running on a treadmill in the depths of winter. I raced back to my daughter sufficiently winded to conclude that the distance I selected took about a minute round trip. As I recovered my daughter took off on her sprint, down to the pole and back. She was ready for me to go as soon as she returned, but I wisely listened to my body and we talked and rested a bit first and then I ran again. We continued this process until I had completed five sprints and my daughter four; that was more than enough for her little legs, and it was getting hot.

I enjoyed the sprints on the beach with my daughter as it is always wonderful to have company while exercising. In addition we both discovered that cartwheels are fun to do on the sand and looking at the ocean while upside down in a handstand is quite disorienting.

Walls, Balls, and Racquets

Urban spaces have a lot to offer. Having spent my childhood in rural Vermont this was an unexpected discovery. A simple cement wall, or the side of a brownstone, a smooth surface, a hand ball, add a child and a surrounding fence to keep bouncing balls from escaping, now a game of catch can commence. Throw the ball at the wall and the wall throws it back.

 

I got it!

  I got it!

 

Add another child, or two, or an adult, and a competitive game, called “homicide” at my son’s elementary school, can begin. Do they all know the definition of “homicide”? Probably not the younger ones, in fact a three year old calls it “messiah”. This game, with it’s evolving rules, created and agreed upon by the child participants, is an intense form of exercise! A fantastic way to improve hand-eye coordination, throwing strength, accuracy, agility, and if you are playing competitively, you will increase your heart rate. Basic rules: throw the ball at the wall. Catch the ball after one bounce, throw again. Catch the ball with one hand, without a bounce, you can throw the ball at any other competitor unless they reach the wall (safety) first. If you touch the ball, but don’t catch it any other participant who catches the ball can throw it at you. Again you have the option to run to safety first. Interval training at it’s best!

Bring a racquet with you, tennis balls or the hand ball, and the wall can become a fierce competitor with a rapid return. Bring two or three racquets and all sorts of games can be created.

The best part of these simple urban games is that even a six year old, a three year old, and an adult can all find a variation that is fun to play, together or separately!

Centering


This morning as I was running by myself I had the pleasure of letting my brain run and as I was heading home I began thinking over the past week. My mom had come for a visit so she had spent a lot of time with my son giving me lots of time to “get things done.” I did get a lot done, but I also spent very little time (compared to the normal amounts of time) with Mateo. I saw him for just over 2 hours on Friday. That is nothing to a two year old and Saturday morning the effects were felt: toys were thrown, water spilt with gusto, and he refused to put a shirt on. When we asked if he wanted to go outside, he said, “No.” He knew he would be going with Grandma; Mama and Papa would be staying home. They did finally leave and we continued to “get things done.”  

This continued over the whole weekend. Mid-day Sunday Mateo had had enough. I was busy trying to clean up the lunch dishes and finish putting books back onto the bookshelves that we had moved, he began to pull all of his books off the shelves while sending sly, devilish glances toward me. He wanted my attention. 

He got it.

I had run earlier that morning but had not stretched; the yoga mat was still open on the living room rug. “Let’s go to the yoga mat,” I suggested. This was met with great enthusiasm. He loves when I stretch on the yoga mat.

We went to the yoga mat and had a bit of a role reversal: he lay down in the middle of the mat and wanted me to climb on him. I’m not heavy, but he would have been squashed if I really climbed on him. So I modified, I supported my weight in a reverse table top (like in a crab race, hands and feet on the floor hips

pressing up), Reverse Table Topbut then I lowered down on top of him so he was getting a bit squashed. Then I came up and suggested we get his stuffed monkey instead. So, his monkey climbed on him (with my assistance), then we switched and his monkey climbed on me. Then Mateo climbed on me and the cat climbed under my legs, then Mateo followed her under the tunnel of a pelvic lift. 

This physical bonding and physical play together is so important to young children. It centers them, helps them center physically with all the movement, and emotionally by being close to a parent. As parents we are the center of the lives of our children and we are where they can come back to when they need to be secure, or just to organize their busily building brain, a place where they can center themselves and be comfortable. 

So we played tunnels and it was great fun, for the stuffed monkey, the cat, the toddler, and me. And I finally did a little extra stretching and physical activity for myself.

I found a running partner!

7:55 am August 2, 2008

 Today I will go for a run with a new running partner, if I can coordinate meeting with her at the correct time. I will be great if we can, for both of us. It always helps to have a partner especially when winter arrives and it’s cold and dark outside, very difficult to motivate for running and especially when I haven’t slept enough. She is a mother of two cute little girls, I think her second one is close to 6 months now. I will finish the log when I return. 

Later….

Okay, that was a hard run, too fast, and plenty long. My new running partner is very good; an endurance runner. We did a loop around Cadman Plaza running loop (which I adore, the rubberized surface is fantastic), then we headed down Middagh Street to the Promenade, and up Montague Street with a confused turn onto Clinton, to Pierrpont Street to get to Cadman Plaza West, turned onto Tillary Street, then onto the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge (I didn’t realize we were turning so there was a momentary collision of two sweaty, heavy breathing mothers as I went straight and she turned), then the difference between the two of us really became apparent as we reached the stairs going down off the Brooklyn Bridge that would allow us back into our neighborhood of Dumbo; she was ready to keep going, I was ready to call it a day. 

We called it a day and went down the stairs; I still ran the rest of the way back to Bridge Street (“ran” may be a little strong a word, “jogged slowly” is more accurate), then walked up the two flights of stairs. When I arrived home, Mateo was awake, so we said good morning, got out the yoga mat and I did a round of the sun salutation. My son decided it was time to poop, I changed the diaper and then finished the rest of the sun salutation… Okay, finished is not quite the most accurate word: 

The rounds were not consecutive, many poses became tunnels for Mateo: downward dog, plank, the step backs. Then Mateo climbed on top  of me in the middle of a round and I held plank position with him on top; 25 pounds of toddler is a great challenge for the stabilizing muscles of the torso and shoulders. I attempted Vashisthasana, but Mateo decided it was time to climb on me again.Mateo climbing

I think Vashisthasana is one of the most challenging poses to do with a two year old climbing on top, but I could really feel my oblique muscles working, more than the usual amount. Then he wandered away to play with cars and I began to prep for a headstand, which I have not done consistently since before he was born. That was when Mateo decided that I had exercised enough, “whine, whine, cry cry.”

It was time to end the session, Time to just be, no more trying to get in one more pose.  

Mateo cuddled up in my lap, resting his head on my belly. Arms wrapped around my waist.

Inhale.

Exhale. 

Rock, rock. 

Inhale. 

Exhale.

Inhale, “do you want breakfast?” 

Inhale.

“No.”

Exhale. 

Inhale.

Exhale.

Rock, rock.

Inhale, ”you just want to sit with me, right?”

“Yes.”

And so we sat.