Training Tuesdays: working out in the heat

Welp. The summer has descended on my little town and it is hella hot. On Sunday, when highs were a mere 29 degrees, I mistakenly thought maybe, just maybe a 1pm hike wouldn’t almost kill me. I was wrong. Within seconds of hitting the trail, my throat was parched. And I mean parched. Like bone dry as though I had been wandering through the desert for hours. Lesson learned: summer heat is no joke and neither is working out in it. As we step boldly into summer, let me present you with the obvious yet oft-forgotten tips for making the most of summer workouts without dying.

1. Hydrate like a fiend: It’s not just during your workout, it’s before your workout and after your workout. Try not to needlessly dehydrate yourself the day before your workout by, ohhhh I don’t know, sharing two beers, a giant cider and a half bottle of wine with nary a sip of water to break up the constant flow of alcoholic beverages into your system.  That would be foolish and I know nothing of such behaviours. And yet, because it’s patio season, it sometimes happens. When it does, add extra water into the mix. And I mean a lot of extra water. It’s not just your workout that’s going to increase the likelihood of dehydration. The warm temperatures will do that all on their own. So just drink a ton of water. It’s obvious.

2. Dawn and dusk are your friends (for outdoor workouts): Listen, from my patio I see people running at 4 pm in the afternoon all. the. time.  Perhaps they are superhuman specimens immune to the effects of heat.  Or they are fools. Experts will tell you that heat has a definite impact on performance. In fact, Runner’s World tells me that “The “slow down factor” varies from runner to runner, but in general, slowing down 30 to 90 seconds per mile is common in hot/humid weather. ” Naturally, it’s not just running that heat impacts. Any activity will suffer in the heat.  So unless you have to, don’t take your workout outdoors in the heat of the day. I know, once again, this is pretty obvious.

3. Switch up your workouts: super hot days are the perfect time to hit a nicely air-conditioned gym for some strength training, or maybe an indoor or outdoor body of water for a swimming day.  Sure, maybe you really, really wanted to run outside today, but if the forecast is showing crazy highs I promise you your body will not notice if you bump that run back a day or two until things cool down. If you live in a place that’s always hot, you might just have to make friends with early morning runs, late nights runs or the dreaded treadmill run. Yes, this one’s obvious too.

4. Lay off the black clothing: 90% of my workout clothing is black. I don’t have a dark soul (or perhaps I do…), I just think it hides sweat better and I sweat a lot. Trust me when I say I’ve been on many a run or hike when I’ve regretted the all-black ensemble.  Summer heat is the time for loose, flowing, light-coloured clothing.

5. Shady activities are great (literal shady, not sketchy shady):   Fun fact: did you know that the temperature in the shade is actually the same as in the sun? But, because you’re avoiding the solar radiation, it feels 10-15 degrees cooler. That’s a big difference.  Trees make glorious shade, so seek out the most tree-ful locations you can find and you’ll be made in the shade (oh yeah, I really did just say that). If you can, hike or run in parks with an abundance of trees.  A shady park can even serve as a great body-weight or HIIT workout location. Who needs the gym? Also, did you know that studies have shown being around trees (and nature) actually improves our psychological health? It’s true, and it’s a win-win.

Summer heat can be a serious workout energy sucker, but don’t let the heat be an excuse. It can be really easy to put off a workout because it’s too hot, but you can make peace with summer heat by being summer workout smart.

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TWIR #114: aches and pains

Well, it’s safe to say that my muscles got a good hit this week. Three of this week’s workouts have left me with stiffness and soreness that has varied from mildly uncomfortable to ultra annoying. I suppose it’s a good thing, but in the moment it’s a bit less pleasant. Nonetheless, it’s been a decent workout week so let’s see what happened.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: rainy day adventures
Observations: Sometimes you just have to seize a rainy day as a lazy day. And I did. We ran a ton of errands, which I personally find fun, ate a totally mediocre “sticky bun”,  lounged around watching golf, and even fit in a viewing of Father of the Bride. All in all, it was a pretty damn good lazy rain day.

Sunday
Activity: mini hike
Relevant Stats: 5.8 km + 170 m elevation gain
Observations: You know those days when you can’t figure out what to do for your workout and nothing sounds good until you throw out the idea of a short hike? No? Well, I do and Sunday was that day. We checked out a short and easy hike that was perfect for a cloudy and cool day (i.e. there was no tree cover at all, so it would be insufferably hot on a sunny day).  And then after doing all that good for our bodies, we went to our favourite gelato place because, well, balance.

Monday
Activity: stairs
Relevant Stats: 36 min.
Observations: As always, I’m proudly declaring that extra minute above 35 minutes. This was a rough day of stairs. They were still feeling easier than past weeks, but certainly not easy. What really fired up this workout was that there was a dude there running stairs too and I was determined not to throw in the towel before he did. I was super proud of myself for outlasting him even though he ran those stairs way faster than I did. My competitive spark makes no sense even to me, but it came in handy to keep me from quitting about 15 minutes into this workout so I’ll keep it.

Tuesday
Activity: cardio warm up + strength
Relevant Stats: 5 min. spin + 35 min. strength
Observations: Okay, this wasn’t a great workout. I got to the gym and tried spinning and had nothing in my legs and then tried strength training and had nothing in any of my other muscles either.  It was one of those days when I wondered why I went to the gym at all. But I tried and I didn’t give up 20 minutes in like I wanted to, so I considered it a small victory.

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: This was a dig deep and persevere workout. My body and mind were both feeling exhausted when I arrived at my training session. I don’t even think my trainer was working me all that hard, but at one point the workout actually felt vomit inducing.  I’ve never actually understood the whole thing about working out so hard you think you might puke, probably because I never push myself that hard, but it finally happened to me and I hated it. I want to really emphasize that I don’t actually think I was over-exerting myself. I think I was just tired and my body was finally rebelling against me for filling it with so much crap over the last month.. Ugh. Why does it have to be true that you really do feel better when you eat better? I mean, I actually love vegetables and eat a ton daily by choice…but I also love wine and M&Ms

Thursday
Activity: cardio + strength
Relevant Stats: 25 min. spin + 25 min. strength
Observations:  I bounced back! I have to admit, after two tough workouts, I was expecting this one to suck, and I bitched and moaned and delayed my gym time until I couldn’t any longer. And then, after all that complaining, I had a great workout. I worked my legs and glutes hard, which they definitely didn’t need after the stairs and my training session, but it felt good to load up on single leg dead lifts, box jumps to squat holds, single leg weighted squats and more.  We topped off our day with a lovely evening stroll to the hilltop with some friends visiting from out of town.  And then some apple pie for good measure. Once again, balance my friends.

Friday
Activity: mini hike
Relevant Stats: 5.5 km
Observations: After successfully feeding ourselves and the baby (as in our friend’s baby, not ours) and then after a successful baby nap, we ventured out for a short hike. We hadn’t rushed because it was supposed to be cool and overcast but then we got to the trail and the sun came out and it was hella warm. Lesson learned: always hike early in the Okanagan.  Still, it was lovely and scenic and baby slept so it was a success all around  .  We celebrated with post-hike beers and enchiladas because, you guessed it, balance (yet again).

So there you have it, a solid week of workouts carrying me into the weekend. We have oodles of guests (2 sets!) rolling through town, it’s the US Open, and the sun and hot temperatures are set to return.  In other words, the weekend is looking pretty fine. Happy weekend y’all!

Training Tuesdays: allergies & exercise

I was cocky when Spring first rolled in. My colleagues at work were all complaining about their allergies and I was full-on flaunting my clear nasal passages, so sure that I had escaped seasonal allergies.  How could I have been so foolish?  Naturally the universe wasn’t going to let that kind of hubris slide. Sure enough, May rolled around and suddenly the seasonal allergies descended on me. And here they have stayed. For over a month. Dare I say that both me and my nasal passages are very, very unimpressed.

Suddenly, I found my energy for workouts waning, slightly mind you, but noticeably enough that I was annoyed. I’d been on a good roll with momentum and I was not going to let pesky pollen derail me. I started Googling to see if my allergies were, in fact, getting in the way of my exercise mojo, and I was shocked to find that the so-called experts claimed that exercise would actually help my allergies.  Apparently research shows that exercise alleviates allergy symptoms. To this I say: LIES! My own experience of exercising with allergies is threefold:

1. Sure, exercise helps in the moment.  When I’m kicking ass on the spin bike or running up stairs, my body is using all of its resources to not die. Then you have to deal with the aftermath…

2. …which is that all of the allergens are now clinging to you because you are sweaty and, by virtue of the sweat, your pores are open for little bits of pollen to make themselves at home (sidenote: I am not at all claiming that this is scientifically true. I know virtually nothing of science, but it seems plausible enough that it’s become my theory).  The second your workout is over, you’re nothing more than a resting ground for every allergen out there. An immediate post-workout shower and wardrobe change is absolutely critical to ward off hours of congestion and sneezing. And even that has not always been enough for me.

3. Benefits of exercise are limited to strenuous exercise. If you’d like proof, I’ll invite you to join me on a hike, where the ascent spares me any allergy symptoms, but where the descent will have me sneezing and blowing my nose so much so that I will burn my way through an entire travel-sized packet of tissues. That is no way to hike, my friends. All the charms of nature are lost when you’re in the throes of multiple, large-scale sneezing fits.

No matter how you slice it, one thing is clear: allergies suck. Here’s to pollen finally taking a hike and leaving me and workouts alone.

TWIR #113: is this week over yet?

The thing about going a mile a minute for a couple weeks straight is that you’re bound to crash. And this week I crashed. This was the week I lost my energy, motivation and desire to do anything other than lay on the couch mindlessly watching TV. The only unfortunate part is that I’m still working on three jobs, writing this blog, and trying not to lose the fitness I’m starting to gain. In other words, laying around mindlessly all day hasn’t been an option. Also in other words, this week has been really long and tiring.

Let’s see what my body got up to to try to keep the old mind focused, shall we?

Saturday
Activity: hike!
Relevant Stats: 10-11 km, 400ish m elevation gain
Observations: We hit the road and drove out to a local trail that was supposedly very challenging and that supposedly featured great views. The trail turned out to be far easier than expected, though it was considerably longer than what I’ve hiked lately, but we never made it right to the end so I can neither confirm nor deny the views. My better half hit a part of the trail he did not like, and I did try to quickly get to the end on my own, but I realized that it was still a lot farther to the end, and I couldn’t leave him standing on the trail alone forever. Especially with the mosquitoes.  Good lord, the mosquitoes. I hadn’t experienced swarms of mosquitoes so terrible since the summit of Mount Allan on Centennial Ridge (a stunning hike, by the way, aside from the bugs).  They were fearless vultures, landing on us en masse whether we were moving or not. Ugh. Aside from the bugs, it was a great outing and definitively proved hiking is getting easier again.

Sunday 
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: cozy rain day
Observations: Sunday was supposed to be gross, which hasn’t happened here in a while and which seemingly justified a day of doing nothing. I luxuriated in laziness, making waffles, baking a cake, meal planning, and watching hours of golf. It was a lovely day of rest for this tired body and mind.

Monday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: I was feeling good about my strength and fitness on Monday so I decided to up my weights on step ups and single leg squats, and also combine them with split lunges, back squats, dead lifts, and single leg dead lifts. My poor glutes. They didn’t hurt so badly in the moment, but man were they tender by the end of the day!  I was sort of proud of myself, but also sort of annoyed because it hurt to do basic things like, you know, sitting down. I suppose this is where that stupid expression ‘no pain no gain’ comes from, right?

Tuesday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: My glutes were still sore as hell for this workout, but I thought spin would be just the ticket to loosen them up. Spoiler alert: spin does not loosen your glutes, especially if you do a ton of standing hovers and epic hill climbs.  In keeping with my gym wifi woes, my Apple Music failed to function yet again, which left me super irritated and robbed of spin music variety. I really, really need to update my playlists on my phone so that my workout vibes aren’t hampered by spotty wifi, and yet I’ve been thinking that for months and I’ve made no progress so I’m not holding my breath.

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 55 min.
Observations: Well, I got my money’s worth in this workout. For one, it was inexplicably 10 minutes longer than usual. On top of that, I asked last week for lower body in our next session and my trainer certainly delivered. Unfortunately, she chose to listen to me during a week when I’d absolutely slayed my glutes already. They were even more tender going into this workout then they’d been the day before. She started me off pulling the sled loaded with way more weight than usual (though she claimed that it wasn’t that much heavier), incorporated some heinous resistance band forward and backward low squat walking, and then also kettle bell lifts, kettle bell squats and glute bridges. My hamstrings and glutes were toast by the end of this one.  Let this be a lesson to us all: be careful what you wish for.

Thursday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: I didn’t have time to do a full workout, so I gave my all to this 35 minutes. Sometimes when I know that my time is limited, I am able to push myself 100 times harder than I would with extra time.  This was that workout. I finally (!!!!) got my Apple Music reliably working and I used some of the longest and most epic Guns n’ Roses tunes to fuel some seriously tough progressive hill climbs. I’m talking 14 minute progressive hill climbs.  I tried to switch up my musical choices at the end to fit in some sprints but my legs legitimately had nothing left in them. On the plus side, my glutes finally relaxed a bit, so I considered this workout a success on many fronts.

Friday
Activity: hike!
Relevant Stats: 8.5 km!
Observations:  Fridays are my new favourite workout day. We’ve gotten into a good rhythm of hitting the trails together and, depending on my workload, our hikes vary in length, but we got in a good one today. It’ll probably mean working a bit this weekend but it was worth it to get out there for a good chunk of trail before the rain descends this weekend.  And, if I must say, we really hauled ass…well, once my tired hamstrings and glutes woke up, that is. Hiking success!

The weekend is now upon us and, here at least, it’s looking like a total rain fest. At first, I was quite upset by this, but I suddenly see the potential to be lazy yet again, to perhaps completely finish one of my projects so that I can go back to having a reasonable two jobs, run stairs again (because rain = not too hot) and maybe even to find a new guilty pleasure on Netflix.  Yes, I lead a wild life. Happy weekend y’all! Get out there (or stay in) and do what you love.

Training Tuesdays: when things start to feel easier

It is hard to stay motivated towards fitness goals when things feel hard. Who hasn’t gone out for a run at some point and struggled to make it to a half hour, only to return home utterly discouraged and wishing you could just give up running altogether? Who hasn’t been so sore from a workout that you wondered if it was even worthwhile, if it would ever start to feel good to exercise?

For me, the last couple of years have been a constant battle to keep putting in the work on my strength even though I rarely felt like I was getting stronger, to keep hitting the trails to build up hiking endurance even though every hike reminded me just how little endurance I had.  I’ll be honest, particularly when it came to hiking, the delta between where I used to be and where I am now was at times so vast I almost lost my hiking mojo completely.

But there is this magical thing that happens over time when you stick to whatever your activity of choice happens to be: things start to feel easier.  You have a moment where you suddenly think to yourself ‘hey, this isn’t as painful/tiring/hard/challenging as it used to be!’ It can happen in a moment and serve as a spark to keep you pushing forward.

I was lucky enough to have two of these moments in the last week. The first occurred while running stairs.  It sucked. My lungs were burning. My legs felt like dead weight.  But as I stood there trying to regain my breath at the top of the stairs, I realized something big: I had run to the top of that set of stairs several more times than on my last outing. Even though it still felt really hard, I was making progress. I was doing more and feeling no worse as a result.

The second moment occurred on our weekend hike when I realized that all those easy trails that we’d been hiking, the ones I thought were doing nothing for my hiking fitness, were actually making a difference.  My legs weren’t tired. This longer and slightly more challenging trail felt comfortable. Did I feel ready to tackle a 30km day hike like I used to? No. But I could tell I was making progress.

These moments when things feel easier, when you can tell you are making progress, are the ones that can keep you going when things feel hard, when you feel discouraged, or when you inevitably have another bad workout day.  Bottle that feeling to pull out when you need it most and you just might find yourself a bit more inspired to go harder, push your boundaries, and to just keep going.

TWIR #112: bring on the weekend

Hello and happy Friday, my friends! It has been yet another week filled with long days of work and I, for one, am thrilled that Friday has rolled out around again and that, quite blissfully, I have zero plans.

I set a goal this week of two after-work walks and accomplished neither, so I’m feeling like a big old activity failure this week, aside from my normal workouts, that is. It’s amazing just how sedentary one can be when she is highly focused on her work. I sort of miss the days when I was bored out of my mind and had nothing to do at work. I tended to go for a lot more walks back then…Okay, okay, I don’t really miss that because boredom at work is nothing but soul crushing. Enough ramblings, let’s get on to the workouts!

Saturday
Activity: hike!
Relevant Stats: 10. 3 km
Observations:  My parents were visiting for some weekend adventures, so we packed them up in the car bright and early and took them out to a local park where we pieced together several trails to form a pretty decent hike. While it wasn’t a great idea to hike 10 km before eating breakfast, we at least avoided the heat and crowds. We rounded out our day with some winery visits, and since hiking + wine is pretty much my perfect day, it was a good start to the weekend.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: all of the wine + gelato
Observations: We replaced our morning hike with morning waffles (homemade of course), which I feel is a worthy substitute on a Sunday, and then hit the road to visit even more wineries.  Yay! We even took my parents to our favourite gelato place which was predictably delicious (strawberry custard + milk chocolate for the win). And then I made a ton of pizzas for dinner. Wine, pizza, gelato, waffles. What a day…at least, if you don’t think about the fact that I was barely active…

Monday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: With my parents safely on their way back home, I dove straight back into work. And with a busy work day came the absolute need for a solid workout. This strength workout focused on slow and controlled movements since my SI had been feeling a bit stiff, and mostly targeted my legs and glutes. As I’ve been upping cardio, I’ve been worried I haven’t been spending enough time focusing on strength. This workout was my way of telling my stablizing muscles that I hadn’t forgotten about them.

Tuesday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats:  45 min.
Observations: Spin first thing in the morning is the worst. It takes my legs some time to wake up and spin requires legs that are awake. To add insult to injury, I had this grand plan of spinning to some classic G n’ R, which required Apple music, but the gym’s wifi was being a total jerk. I had to use the boring old music stored on my phone and I was just not pleased. Still, I held on for the full 45 minutes and getting my workout of the way allowed me to power through a work day full of calls (seriously, 7 hours of phone calls. ugh.).

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: This was all arrrrrrms. Why?????? My trainer claimed she was trying to balance out my strength but I genuinely like that my lower body is stronger than my upper body.  It serves me far better to have strong legs than strong arms. This week she also introduced some ridiculous contraption filled with water, which is apparently called a slosh pipe, and which seemed like it would be easy but was far from it. I was supposed to hold it out with my arms fully extended, but these arms of mine were having none of that so we had to significantly modify to allow me to bend my arms. It was both embarrassing and a relief.  I told her that next week my whole damn workout better be legs. Sigh.

Thursday
Activity: stairs
Relevant Stats: 32 min.
Observations: Well, I learned what time not to go to the stairs.  There was a group of dudes who were going balls out sprinting to the top, which made me feel like the world’s slowest human. That said, the stairs are getting ever-so-slightly less horrible, even though I am still a far cry from my former level of stair-running fitness. I forced myself to keep going even when my legs wanted to give up and I consider that extra two minutes beyond a half hour a prize-worthy victory.

Friday
Activity: mini hike
Relevant Stats: 6 km
Observations: I expected my legs to be far worse today but they were ready to roll even on an early morning hike. We did one of our favourite short loops which has a reasonable climb and lots of excellent scenery, and there is something particularly rewarding about finishing off a trail workout before 8:30 am.  I consider this an excellent kick start to the weekend.

With that, I am off to enjoy the fruits of my labour this weekend. Wishing you all sunshine, warm weather and much fun this weekend. See y’all next week!

Training Tuesdays: Irrational Gym Fears

I think anyone who has ever gone to the gym has had the brief and fleeting fear that she might fly off a treadmill while it’s running at top speed. From what I can tell, it almost never actually happens, but when I was a runner it used to top my list of largely irrational gym fears.  To me, at least,  the gym seems to be a veritable breeding ground of potential injuries.  Today, as I was spinning away on a bike that’s always struck me as being in a bad location (see below for more on that), it occurred to me that I have harboured many a gym-based fear over the years. Want to take a look inside my paranoid psyche? Of course you do!

I fear epic jumping-related falls…Whenever I am in the midst of a box jump, I see myself either jumping completely over the box or perhaps just missing with one foot, either of which would surely lead to a horribly ungraceful tumble to the ground. I imagine either miss would lead  to a mishap more embarrassing than injury-causing, and yet I also imagine that, given my host of past injuries, a horribly twisted ankle would be a distinct possibility.  And before you think this could be a legitimate fear, my box jumps are not at such a height where one could reasonably miss her landing by that much.

I fear spin bike tragedies...As I mentioned in last week’s TWIR, the absence of the strap that holds your foot to the spin pedal leaves me visualizing my foot slipping off the pedal and the pedal slamming into my leg, tearing into my flesh with all the vengeance of my pedalling momentum. Not only that, but the spin bike at my current gym is directly next to the railing above the staircase. On many an occasion, I have found myself wondering if I might just randomly lose my balance, or perhaps faint, causing me to topple over the railing, falling all of ten feet to my certain death (because that is evidently the height from which I believe death is certain).

I fear dumbbell-related facial trauma…This fear was recently exacerbated when one of my colleagues appeared at work with a giant scab on the bridge of his nose and a concussion care of a weight he’d dropped on his face (!!!!!).  I already had that fear but assumed it never actually happens to anyone. But it does. It happened to someone I know. And now every time I hoist weights above my face, I picture a brief but horribly damaging brush with clumsiness or faintness. Most often, when I play out this fear, I end up missing many, many teeth.

I fear the most implausible of falling-weights-related death or paralysis…You know those totally secure brackets that you rest your bar on when doing back squats? The ones that don’t move at all? Well, when I do pushups near that bar, I imagine it somehow dislodging itself in such a manner that it might fall upon either my head or spine. There is such a simple solution to this fear: don’t do push ups under the bar.  Against all logic, I acquiesce to my fears and continue to do push ups  sometimes directly underneath the bar, all the while thinking that it might just be for the last time.

There you have it, a short but mildly concerning list of my most irrational gym fears. I’m sorry you had to see what goes on inside my head.

But seriously, you must have some irrational gym fears too, and I’d love to hear them. Anxiety loves company.