Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What's Next?

Since Tracy and I have been hosting this linkup, since September, I've always gone into this Training for Tuesday post having a pretty good idea of what I would talk about for a few weeks prior. But this time...I really wasn't sure.

My next race isn't til May, and I'm not technically training for it right now, seeing as I haven't had useable running shoes in over a week. I've already recapped my last race. I laid out my race plan for the whole year, and then revised it already.

I was in the shower a few days ago and taking stock of everything coming down the pike for me. Not just training/fitness-wise, but life-wise. My birthday—being so close to the start of spring—always serves as an opportunity for a "fresh start" in every sense of the term. Along with the mandatory layers of winter I try to shed the winter blues and everything that's weighed me down. I look ahead to the longer days, the hot sun and the way every inch of the universe drips with signs of a new awakening.

Every single race I've run so far happened when I was 25: four 5ks and two half marathons. My first race was the day after I turned 25. My most recent race was two weeks ago. I'm finding such poeticism in that—but I know it's not symbolic. It's just a quantifiable measurement of the change I brought into my life last year.

This year, I'm not making any bold claims about changing. That was the (accidental, but so very fitting) theme for 2014. I want to and hope to continue evolving, but following this trajectory I set in motion about 16 months ago. I don't want to change now; I want to grow. In my body, mind, and soul.

So I'm in training for the year 26. My hope is that this won't be just another training cycle, like the one I was in for my first half marathon (or the one I failed for Rock 'n Roll). I want to live in this training. In this place of always moving forward. Of always trying harder. Of always being challenged. Of always testing limits. Of always setting goals. Of always shattering expectations. Of always reaching for the next finish line.

Of staying hungry.

This year, I'll be training for another half marathon. I'll be training for a full marathon in the fall. I'll finally be in training to become a yoga teacher. (More on that later.) I'll be in training to get stronger on my long runs and faster on my short runs. I'll be in training to hold my handstand for 10 breaths, then 20. I'll be in training to surrender in shavasana every time. I'll be in training to keep my life barreling on in this direction I could never have pointed toward in my younger years. I'll be in training to have the best, healthiest, happiest life in year 26, year 27, and in every year after that I'm fortunate enough to have this body.
alyssagoesbang

What are you in training for? Grab a button, link up below and share your goals, your stories, your wins, and your woes. Whatever it is you're training for, we're here for you!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Slow Down & Other Need-to-know Things

I'm all about the anniversaries. I mark little moments and remember tiny details. And I'm all about celebrating. One year ago today, the day after my 25th birthday, I ran my first race! It was a 5k, and I crossed the finish line in 29:05. I'll never forget those combinations of numbers as long as I live.

Anyway. Over the past year or so I've had more than a handful of people ask for some basic new-runner advice. Of course, there's tons of it to be found online and in run shops. Hell, there's even plenty to find here on my blog.
But sometimes a beginning runner can feel overwhelmed with it all, or get bogged down in the details. Listen: Running is hard. It's hard when you start and it's hard when you've been doing it for a year. But for all intents and purposes, if you're just starting out, it doesn't need to be very complicated. But you do need to know just a few very important things:

10 Things Every New Runner Should Know
  1. You don't need to stop, you need to slow down.
  2. You'll be able to breathe when you slow down.
  3. You are not the only new runner who's ever felt this way. Consider this your initiation into the club. Every runner has hurt as badly as you do right now. It doesn't mean you can't do it.
  4. It will get easier the more you do it. Running is the only thing that will make you a better runner.
  5. If you value your body at all, stretch pre- and post-run and listen to what your body says to you.
  6. There is a significant difference between effort and pain. Learn your real physical boundaries. (Hint: They number far fewer than you think.)
  7. If you control your breathing, you're in control.
  8. You don't have to love it 100% of the time. But if you hate it more than you love it, maybe you should try cycling instead. Or swimming. (Or triathlon?)
  9. Find what motivates you and stick to it. Is it a race? Is it the idea of a certain mile mark? (Mine was 1 mile. Then 3.1 (5k). Then 5 miles. Then 10. You get the picture...) Is it a feeling? Find it—no one else can find it for you—and chase it.
  10. Stop the internal battle you're having about calling yourself a runner. Do you run? Good news: You're a runner. Yes, even if you take walk breaks. You don't have to wear head-to-toe Nike DriFit or own a stack of race bibs and a pile of medals to be a runner. You just have to run to be a runner.
Did I miss anything? Runner friends, what would you add to this list?
______________________________

And don't forget to link up with Tracy and me tomorrow for Training for Tuesday! How's your progress going so far in 2015? We can't wait to hear what you're working toward or what goals you're checking off your list. (Find out more here if you're joining this party for the first time!)
alyssagoesbang

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Sweats 13


Monday: side body yoga (14 min)
Since my chiropractor and I came to the (devastating) realization that I can push out my appointments with him to three or maybe even four weeks apart, I'm trying to make sure I'm taking good care of my problem areas in the time between adjustments. I've had this weird low-back thing happening on just the left side for a couple of weeks and I'm constantly after the stretch or pop that will be the final cure. This wasn't it, but it still felt good.

Tuesday: studio yoga class (75 min)
I brought my coworker M along to today's class and was happy to spread the love. It was a very full class, but a great one as always. Still resting the foot so still no run, but it's almost 100%! Now just waiting on that call that my running shoes are in...

Wednesday: full body yoga (10 min)
Short on time but I'll always get my yoga in if I can. Still no shoes. Still no running. Still on the mend.

Thursday: flexibility/hip opening flow (17 min)
Erin's been prepping us for bird of paradise pose for a couple weeks and this new video brought it all together. (Being a part of the Bad Yogi Club seriously pays off.) I loved this challenging flow. I hit it on the right side, but I've still got some work to do on the left. Good thing we call yoga a "practice" for a reason :)

On the other side of things, still no shoes. Still no running. Foot is just about 100% and I'm not risking anything with the shoes I know are shot or deadly. I can afford a week off at this point, much as I may hate it, so I'll take it until I have safe shoes to run in.

Friday: IT band yoga (20 min)
Still no shoes, still no running. I figure the least I can do it keep my legs warm and ready to run as soon as I do have the new rides. Anyway, I love this IT band video, and I paused it twice to work in a headstand before Erin's childs pose (always take childs pose to counteract an inversion like headstand) and some side stretches at the end.

Saturday: full body free flow yoga (25 min)
Still. no. running. shoes. And today was a beautiful day for running. Intellectually I know I'm being smart and not risking seriously hurting myself by letting everything fully heal and waiting for the right, safe shoes. But it's annoying, because I'd rather be running than not running.

At least my mat's always there for me. I cranked up the heat at home and sweated it all out for 25 minutes in a full body free flow, from back bends to hip openers and a little upside downing.

Sunday: rest
No shoes, no time today. It's my actual birthday, and I'm lucky enough to have many people want to come and celebrate with me last night. In the form of many drinks. Ow.


Weekly Totals:
Running: 0 / 0 miles
Yoga: 6 / 161 minutes

Reflections:
I just really, really want to run.



Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Letters Vol. 6

image via
Dear 25, You were the best year of my twenties so far. I had so, so much fun with you. You challenged me and tested me, but you also gave me so many wonderful things: every finish line I've crossed on foot in my entire life, deeper commitment to my yoga practice, a more sincere understanding of myself. You brought me important new people and helped me part with the ones that had to go. You brought me closer and back to some people I needed to reconnect with. You saw me run my first race ever, my first and second half marathons, and every race in between. You helped me move into my new apartment and for the first time in my life, experience living totally solo—no family, no roommates, just me in my sweet, sacred space. You saw me get promoted, and hungry for something more. You, 25, gave me so many wonderful and important moments and memories I will cherish forever. Thank you, 25. It's been a thrill and a pleasure.
Dear 26, I'll see you Sunday. Let's give 25 a run for its money.
Not related to post. Just a pink-lipped selfie because it's almost my birthday and I do what I want and I never instagrammed this one.
Happy Friday, friends. What are you up to this weekend?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

#NowPlaying

I just really want you all to come on this journey with me...

Dropkick Murphys – "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" (Because it was recently St. Patrick's Day and like a good American I put this on my playlist for the day and then just left it there because every March I remember how fun this song is to listen to. Judge me.)
Luke Bryan – "Play it Again" (Because summer is getting closer, and country music can only help it along. Right?)
The Sea The Sea – "Love We Are We Love"
Natalie La Rose & Jeremih – "Somebody" (I don't even know.)
Jessica Simpson – "I Think I'm in Love With You" (Yes, I'm serious. You can thank a Spotify #TBT playlist for that one.)
Passion Pit – "Take a Walk" (Because I don't know what year it is.)
Genesis – "I Can't Dance"
Fall Out Boy – "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark"
Dashboard Confessional – "Hands Down" (Because I really don't know what year it is. And because it's easier to relive high school via music than it is know what it means to be turning 26.)
Bon Jovi – "I'll Be There For You" (Okay clearly I just have no concept of time's passage.)
Outkast – "The Way You Move" (And spend way too much time listening to the throwback stations on Sirius XM in Sirius the Jeep.)
Kendrick Lamar – "i"
Tritonal – "Anchor"

I understand if you don't want to be friends with me anymore. It must be because you don't like awesome and totally unironic dance parties.

What are you playing on repeat lately?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Try

image via
I'll probably never run a sub-8 minute mile. I may never run an 8:30 mile again. But two years ago I couldn't run a mile at all, and now I can run many miles in a row. A year ago it hurt me to run a 10-minute mile, and now I run comfortably at a 9:10 pace.

I might never twist my body into a full handstand scorpion, but today I can build and hold a headstand for as long as I want. I can't hold a handstand for longer than 10 seconds, but a few months ago I couldn't hold it at all.

I don't make a lot of money. I am not in love with my day job. I don't know what my ideal job is right now. But I know what I'm good at, and I know how I can make a living. I know that I can make a living on my own and depend on myself for anything in this tangible world I need. I know that every avenue I try to turn down in my career leads me closer to the right place. I know I'll find that place eventually.

I know that even if I don't ever find myself in a job that fulfills me wholly, I will still be wholly fulfilled. I will never live to work, and I will always work in a way that allows me to live a life I want to lead.

I'm not very good at romantic relationships. I'm not good at being taken care of and I'm madly skeptical of people who claim they want to take care of me. I'm insufferably independent sometimes and am easily annoyed. I am often misunderstood and I don't much care to be more understandable to most people. But I know who the people who do understand me are and I try my best to nurture my relationships with them. I make sure they know I love and appreciate them.

I often turn absolutely green with envy. I can be a very jealous person. I think thoughts I'm often not proud of, but I do my best—most days—to never say them out loud, because the universe is polluted enough. I try to let myself be motivated by jealousy, rather than feel defeated or hateful.

Sometimes, I don't try hard enough. I don't hustle enough. I don't chase every dream I have because I don't always think it will come to anything. I hesitate and procrastinate. I talk myself into goals that don't matter and out of ones that do. I tell myself I do this for the right reasons, and sometimes it's true: I try to separate the impulsive thoughts and hair-brained ideas from the actionable items that will bring me joy and a sense of accomplishment. I'm trying to get better with this.

I don't have faith in everything I do. I hold off on pursuing things I want to do because I'm afraid of wasting time and money on things that may not turn out to be worth it. I waste time and money anyway by not pursuing the right things. I'm learning to get better at correctly identifying each.

I worry a lot. I worry too much. I worry about things that don't much matter, and about things that I can do absolutely nothing to change. I live in the age of worry, but I'm trying not to worry my life away. I'm actually getting better at this every day. Sometimes there are setbacks, but I'm doing better.

I don't always do everything right, but I try to do right by everyone I meet. I'm often kinder to others than I am to myself, and have more than once been too kind to someone else. I've had my kindness mistaken for weakness. I've also been accused of being a bitch. I've been accused of being too serious. I've been accused of being uptight. I've acknowledged there are amounts of truth in varying degrees in all these accusations. I'm not perfect, but I never once claimed to be.

Most days, I like who I am. I realize that not everyone will like me, and there are plenty of people out there surely who don't, but I don't ask them to. I try to be pleasant to be around, but I don't need the company of many approving peers to feel comfortable in my skin.

Apparently, I get weirdly introspective the week before my 26th birthday and navel-gaze with the best of them. But I look inward for resolution and try not to project my dissatisfactions or shortcomings onto the world around me. I write blog posts inspired by John Mayer songs, but... well, no. There's nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Sweats 12

Monday: restorative yoga (20 min)
I was feeling like some gentle hamstring and hip stretches and sweet, sweet spinal twists to help aid in the half marathon recovery. Most of me feels good post-race, but I can always use some love in those areas so I turned to Erin for this one.

Tuesday: studio yoga class (75 min)
Ahhhh, finally. But since I'm three weeks out of studio practice, the DOMS are gonna show up to play for sure. Just felt good to get back into Donna's class and work out the last of the RnR kinks.

Wednesday: loosening yoga (10 min)
I woke up creaking after last night's class, so I eased into the day with this "loosening up" sequence from Erin. Was hoping to get back on the run today, but I'm nursing some top-of-foot pain (I'm not worried: I have high arches, so it's a common thing, plus undertrained for the half, shoes on their last breath, yadda yadda yadda...) and figured one more day of rest wouldn't make me a slacker. Right?

Thursday: detoxing yoga (15 min) + 2 mile run
I wasn't hungover, but Erin gave us a new video and like a good Bad Yogi I had to give it a whirl. Great detoxing twists and some nice deep bends, even an arm bind were all thrown in there for us. Recommend.

Cut this run off at 2 miles after realized I had run mile 1 @ 9:03 and mile 2 at 10:01. My foot hurts. I'm not worried; I have enough time before the next race to rest a little. I'd be more concerned about injuring something else by screwing with my gait to accommodate the sore foot. (PS, why is it always something?!)

Friday: rest
Today was just a no. Slept like absolute hell last night—what else is new?—so I couldn't muster the energy for morning yoga and my evening was no-go too.

Saturday: 3.26 mile run + lower body yoga (15 min)
This was so miserable I went directly to Fleet Feet right after. These shoes are shot. I adjusted my gait to nurse my foot, which wasn't hurting much when I set out. My calves hurt, but I recognize that I need to strengthen them and I should be running like this all the time—so, a good thing. But my foot was not alright; the pain moved from the top to the side and it HURT to the point of limping.

I'm pretty decided on the Saucony Zealot for my next shoe, but my run shop doesn't have it in yet (it's new). Hopefully it'll arrive this week and I may just rest until then...at least until my foot is 100%.

I licked my wounds for a bit and then got back on the mat to shake it all out with a homemade lower body practice . Yoga fixes everything.

Sunday: free-flow yoga (20 min)
I free-flowed through some restorative, back-bending and deep-stretching poses today, but none of that matters in light of my lovely lady Tracy kicking serious Shamrock ass in her marathon today! Do me a favor and make sure you congratulate her on her killer 31-minute PR. Congratulations and all the claps, my friend!

Weekly Totals:
Running: 2 || 5.26 miles
Yoga: 6 || 155 minutes

Reflections:
Just...why is it always something? Saturday sucked. One week prior I ran a half marathon in a little over two hours without stopping once. I could barely power through a 5k six days later. Cross your fingers some rest and new shoes are all I need. Please. Eight weeks til the next half marathon...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Things

Can you feel it? Can you feel the warmth and joy and relief in the air? Can you hear the sounds of children laughing, birds singing, windows opening, jackets unzipping, road runners rejoicing, garden hoses awakening? We finally made it.
It seems quite silly to rejoice that spring is here—it's always going to come. At least, according to the calendar. Intellectually, we all know that eventually the winter will end, the snow will melt, we'll see the grass, and wear short sleeves again. But without fail, in the final weeks leading up to the end of winter (especially when one of those weeks brings you three snowstorms of significance in five days), it starts to feel oppressive and we almost doubt whether spring is ever going to just get. here. already.

But the calendar says today is the first day of spring, and last week the weather was finally making me start to believe it. (This week, not so much, but I have high hopes for next...)

Spring is my favorite—at least until the fall rolls around—for so many reasons. One, my birthday falls in the first few weeks of spring. (Nine days to go!) Like pretty much everyone, I relish in the evening hours of sunlight we finally, finally get back. The floral patterns and bright colors make their way back into my wardrobe and onto my fingernails. My body no longer shudders and aches with the cold. The world just sort of wakes up as the snow melts away and the unmistakeable sounds of spring remind me of the soundtrack to a favorite movie. Neighbors are friendlier, people are happier, animals are cheerier. It's like everyone bands together to welcome spring.

This spring, I'm looking forward to bar and restaurant patios and warm weather hikes. I can't wait for long runs under the sun and yoga practices in the dusky sunset light. I'm looking forward to weekend road trips, adventures with friends, baseball games, and windows-down drives. I can practically smell the fresh produce stands and salty beach air. I'm perked up already at the thought of naked legs and bare feet, swingy skirts and sun-kissed shoulders.

Can you feel the spring in the air?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Can't Stop, Won't Stop: RnRDC

This weekend was special for a few reasons. One, I got to spend it with Kristen and Tracy; two, I got to race with Kristen and Tracy!; and three, I ran my second half marathon of ever and my first race of 2015.

We met up in Washington D.C. for the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon, for a weekend we've been planning for, oh, four or five months now? Anyway, all our weekend adventures are recapped here, and I'm finally ready to look back on the race itself. I apologize in advance for the length, but I have to do the whole experience justice.
Photo credit: Kristen
The Lead-Up:
If you've been following along here for any length of time, you're probably familiar with the saga of my running shoes. Long story short: In January I purchased a new pair of the very same running shoes I've loved since last June to break in for my spring races. Almost immediately, they started giving me shin problems like I've never had before, and I had to take significant time off to heal and prevent serious injury—like, stress fractures.

My training for this race was so well-intentioned but ultimately, I had only run one 8-miler in the weeks leading up to this 13.1-mile race, and hadn't managed more than 6.5 miles in the four weeks prior. I was undertrained, and so not confident in my prior race goal of 2:00:00. I had revised it to 2:10:00; and then again to "Finish without breaking your legs."

I decided to wear my old Kinvaras—the ones that didn't wreak havoc on my legs, and thanked frog they hadn't been totally worn out already. My primary fuel for race day was optimism for the next race and high adrenaline thanks to running with my best gals.

The Race Day:
For at least a week prior to RnR, the forecast had been calling for rain in D.C. We managed to convince ourselves for half a second that the 85% chance meant that it actually wouldn't rain but, surprise surprise, we were wrong.

It was pouring and it was cold, about 45 degrees for the duration of the race. Thousands of runners and hundreds of spectators showed up regardless. The rain didn't let up once, though it did slow to a lighter rain for the first few miles. By the time we reached the finish line, though, our bodies were frozen to the bone, our hair drenched and sopping, our clothes and shoes heavy with water, our hands numb, our teeth chattering.

I've run in colder weather and I've run in the rain, but never in both for two hours. The weather was a test for the runners in and of itself.

The Race Course:
From what I could tell through the fog and the rain, the course was absolutely lovely. We ran from the National Mall, to Arlington and back, through business neighborhoods and up and down residential streets lined with cute, colorful, unique row houses. We ran up punishing hills and down rewarding, fast downhills. We ran over and under bridges and along the water. We spotted the Washington Monument, the Capitol building, and countless historic grounds.
There was just one hill that really made me yell out—seriously, ask Tracy. It was an "ahhhhh" when we finally felt like we were getting somewhere, toward the top, and then a peek above showed us that no, there was still plenty more hill to go. All along the roadway, though, stood veterans and their loved ones, holding American flags and reminding me that I can run up this hill that I'm choosing to climb for recreation—and that I have nothing to be complaining about right now in light of the sacrifices those in the military make each and every day.

I've only run one other half marathon course in my life, and it was through a park, so my comparison isn't worth a whole lot. But it was a challenging but forgiving course, as far as I'm concerned, and I would have loved to see it without the rain clouding my vision. The spectators who lined the streets in the rain with their homemade signs to cheer on a bunch of strangers is a sight I haven't seen before (in person) in my limited racing career, but they really made the experience better. The D.C. residents who took to their porches to bring us in with good tunes and loud cheers rocked so hard.

My Race:
I had what I considered to be reasonable expectations of myself for this race. Going in as undertrained as I was, I just wanted to finish uninjured. In the back of my mind, 2:10:00 still floated around, but it didn't feel sensical to even consider it. Prior to, I had given myself permission to walk after mile 10 if I felt the need—I knew I had to make it to 10 though.

I started off with the pain point reminding me of its presence in my right tibia, but by mile 2 it had faded away. I finally got smart and ran in calf compression sleeves, which helped when a knot in my left calf threatened to take me down around mile 6. By mile 10, my psoas muscles (front of hip) that have given me trouble on long runs before showed up to play, but I can and did push through that. Cardiovascularly speaking, I really felt great for most of the race, exceptions being uphills alone.

Somewhere around halfway through, Tracy asked me if I knew how we were doing, knowing about that 2:10 idea I had tried to bury. She didn't want to freak me out, and I wasn't keeping track of total time; just each mile's total time. I knew what pace I had to average, and we had a quick and quiet exchange about how—how?!—we were averaging well under the 9:55 miles I needed to be clocking.

(Quick pause to shout out to Kristen who ran her own race and did an inspiring job of not giving up even when reason would have had me calling it quits. She's probably told you already that she didn't do anything special on race day, but in those conditions and after having to stop by the medics, the fact that she got to that finish on her own two feet is nothing short of incredible. Also, huge thanks to Tracy who stayed with me for every step, rather than chasing after a PR of her own. You ladies are the best race companions I ever could have asked for!)
I was pretty tired by the time our watches clocked 12.5 miles, but not tired enough to rest. I had run every step until now, so there was no way I wouldn't run the final few minutes. Tracy asked if I wanted her to run me in the final steps, but I needed to wait for the finish line to come into view.

And when it did, that final reserve came bursting through the soles of my feet and I crossed in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 11 seconds, to beat my previous half marathon finish time by 8 minutes and 1 second.

Rock & Roll:
I wish I could say as many good things about the race organization as a whole as I can about my race, but I can't. Rock 'n Roll appeared to have done nothing to prepare for the rain they had known was coming, and the finish line was an expansive mess of people wandering around wondering what exactly their race fee was paying for, since we couldn't even locate the damn bananas. I've paid race fees a quarter the amount of this one and had better finish line treatment. I don't want to end on a ranty note, but let it suffice to say that I'm hugely disappointed in Rock 'n Roll and am not in a hurry to race with them again.

In all, we stood or walked or ran in the cold and rain for five hours without a break. Our tale is one that includes a jam-packed metro station, rude cabbies, flaky Uber drivers, and finally the one who took mercy on our poor, frozen, water-logged souls. I've never had a better shower or nap in my life.
Overall, it was an amazing race—until the minute we crossed the finish line, pretty much. But regardless, I'm awed by the grit of my fellow runners who showed up to bang this out in truly miserable running conditions. I'm still in a bit of shock that I managed to PR by so much, and beyond grateful that I got to commemorate the occasion with two wonderful friends. Thanks to all of you who cheered me on from afar and sent your good luck wishes on last week's posts and assured me I had this race. As for now, I'm feeling a bit sore, but miraculously uninjured, and I'll keep flying high on this good feeling as long as I can.

____________________________

PS, don't forget! Less than two weeks til the next time you can join in on the Training for Tuesday fun! Our next linkup is going to be Tuesday, March 31. Come and share whatever you're working toward, whatever goal you're closing in on, or any other progress report of your training with Tracy and me! We can't wait to see what you've been up to these last few weeks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

We Rock the Party

I don't typically recap my weekend here on the blog, and I don't typically do it on a Tuesday, and I don't typically do it with more photos than words, but there's a first time for everything. Trust me, it was a good one.
<3 <3 <3
This past weekend, Tracy and Kristen and I met up in D.C. for a long-anticipated weekend of awesome. Oh yeah, and we were running a half marathon too. NBD. We got there Friday afternoon, checked in, and headed out to the Rock 'n Roll Race Expo to gear up for race day.
And Tracy & I disappointed Kristen with our inability to take a whimsical photo.
Next up we grabbed a late lunch at Busboys & Poets...
...before a late dinner of obscene amounts of carbs. Oh yes, we all three had fettuccine Alfredo for dinner. Garlic bread and bruschetta too.

Next morning, we woke up groggily (why do the best chats always take place in the wee hours of the late night/early morning?) and got ready for our race. It rained, and it didn't stop, and we were cold, but we did it. (Full race recap coming tomorrow!)

When we fiiiiinally got back to the hotel and regained the feeling in our pruney fingers and toes, we basically just ate and slept for the rest of the day. And I'm not even a little bit sorry about it.

Sunday and check-out came way too quickly, but we made the very best of it.
We waited on a 15-minute line for Georgetown Cupcake—yes, they were worth it. Then finally, Carly found us and we four had a delicious, chatty brunch at Peacock Cafe on a sunny side street in Georgetown.
The time to head home came far too soon, but the weekend was great while it lasted. I had the best time seeing Tracy and Kristen again, and it was so nice to meet Becky and have Carly join us for brunch. I'm one lucky blogger to have all these great gals close enough to meet up with like this!

So, when's the next one, girls?? Hope the rest of you all had a great weekend too!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Sweats 11


Monday: wake-me-up yoga (10 min) + 2 mile run
Sleep and I have just not been on good terms lately, so it was another extra-snooze-button morning. I finally rolled out of bed with enough time for a gentle wake-me-up yoga session: sun salutations, cat/cows, reclined twists, happy baby, half happy baby on each side, and some low bridges.

It was the first really beautiful day we'd had, so I couldn't wait to get out and run—even with all the residual pain from my weekend fail-whale run. I overestimated the warmth and froze in short sleeves, but I really didn't care. It was light out at 6 p.m.! Praise. I picked up my pace and forced some fartleks out in a last-ditch effort to feel prepared for RnR this weekend.

Tuesday: restorative yoga (20 min)
No, I don't want to talk about how half the roads in my neighborhood were shut down (exploding manholes—WHAT?!), including the ones I need to take to get to yoga class, which I desperately needed (and can't replace with a different class any day/time), and even though I left 20 minutes early for the 3-minute drive I didn't arrive to even the block my studio is on until after class had started, and how it's the pinnacle of rudeness to go into yoga class late and I wouldn't even be able to practice without the opening meditation, which I had already missed, so I went another week without my studio class (snow closed the studio last week) when my body and mind were already going haywire. I really needed this before RnR.

I would have done a longer practice at home, but guess how long it took me to get back to my apartment after I missed class? Actually, don't. I had a lot of editing to do; I was on deadline before RnR. And it's hard to practice for so long without getting distracted at home, especially when I'm already agitated. But at least I got something done.

Wednesday: runners yoga (17 min)
I had planned on finishing out the taper with 2 miles tonight, but after consulting a friend about my shoe conundrum and race day concerns, he advised me to rest until race day and work my legs out differently to promote healing and pain-free running at RnR. He's got plenty of room to talk—he's run more marathons than I've run miles—so I took his advice. And then I went crazy, because I've got Half Taper Madness, if there even is such a thing.

Thursday: lower body yoga (12 min)
In case you haven't noticed, the theme this week is all about trying to use yoga to make up for the lack of miles. Trying to just keep my legs moving and working without impact so as not to go into race day with pain. Today was also chiropractor day, which meant Graston Technique and pain relief from head to toe—the perfect way to head into a race. Well, I mean, well-trained would have been better, but I'm taking what I can get at this point.

Friday: lower body yoga (20 min)
We arrived in DC Friday for the main event—my first race of 2015 and my second half marathon of ever. Tracy and Kristen were kind enough to let me play yoga teacher and lead them through about 20 minutes of pre-race lower body hip and hamstring yoga.

Saturday: 13.1 mile run (Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon) + hip & low back yoga (20 min)
Full race recap post coming this week, but the simplest explanation I can muster is as follows:
Rain + healing shin injury + lots of rain + wind + rain + incredibly undertrained + oh did I mention awful weather? should = bad race. But for some reason I'm still not sure of, all of that added up to a half marathon PR. !!!!!!!!!!!!

Somewhere between drying off (finally), warming up (we thought it would never happen), an afternoon nap (so crucial) and two massive post-race meals, I took Kristen and Tracy through another quick practice to get some recovery action in our aching hips and legs.

Sunday: rest
There's still a chance I may toss in some restorative practice, but today was go go go. Before leaving DC we swung by Georgetown for a cupcake and brunch with Carly (more on those adventures this week!) and then parted for our long trips home.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 2 || 15.1 miles
Yoga: 6 || 99 minutes

Reflections:
I have a lot of feelings about this week, but I want to sum it all up properly in a race recap post—plus, I have a lot of unpacking foam rolling to do at the moment. We'll catch up on it all this week. Later skaters.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday: The Into It Edition

But is a lifestyle blogger really a lifestyle blogger if she doesn't periodically take to the Internet just to talk about stuff she likes? Exactly. Forgive me that I'll be slow in responding—it's race weekend!—but I had to give this space some more buffer between Sunday Sweats posts, lest I accidentally lead people to believe I'm some sort of fitness blogger. HAH! Me?

Anyway, here's what I'm, like, really into these days:

These guys are laugh-out-loud funny. They tell dad jokes (only one per show though) and spiral into improv bits without warning. I listen to them on my short runs and always end up smiling to myself like a loon—or sometimes even LOLing as I run through the middle of town. It's all good.

I know this isn't a great discovery by any means, but it's one of those things I always think of ("Oh, trail mix is great to snack on; I should keep some on hand.") but never remember to buy (*gets home* "Damn it, there's no trail mix in here."). But I just picked up a ginormous tub of the Target brand Monster Trail Mix (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, raisins, M&Ms, peanuts) and I'm lovin' it.

Basically the only real reason(s) I can feel remotely confident in running 13.1 miles this weekend.

I mean, I'd watch pretty much anything Tina Fey has a hand in, but you guys, this show is adorable. I love Ellie Kemper from The Office and think she was just so well-suited for this role. And praise be to Netflix because I, like any good, red-blooded American these days, loves me a good binge watching sesh.

I know every blogger in the history of ever has raved about this, but I never have, and I just got a new bottle this week, so I'm talking about it now. As a person with very long, very heavy hair, I hate washing it. It's just such a massive undertaking and then my head is all heavy with the weight of a miniature poodle hanging off of it while it's wet. Luckily my second day hair is my best day hair, and third day is passible—fourth day is washing or ponytail day. But on days three and four I rely on Batiste so hard and this baby always delivers.

[Untitled Novel Project]
As many of you are aware, I moonlight as a... well, a lot of things. But one of those things is literary editor. This truth first came to be somewhere around four years ago when a buddy asked me to edit her novel, which was already, what, six years in the making? We've stalled a few times over the last couple years—partially to write (her) and edit (me) and publish a different project, Criteria for Normalcy, a collection of poetry and short stories which you can find here. Anyway, on Wednesday night, I hit "send" on a massive document: the final, full-manuscript edit. I'm so proud of Yvette and honored to be a part of this project, and ushering it into its next steps has been one of the highlights of my week. (Now, just to convince her to go with my title... ;))

Rock and Roll
As in, I'm ready to. Let's do this. See you on the other side!


Linking up with Amanda. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I Don't Get It

This week + my game = off. Blame a novel project I'm editing coming down to its final pages (!!!); blame the fact that my running shoes are trying to kill me fracture both my tibias and that's sent me into a tailspin; blame the fact that we saw some sun and 50+ temperatures and I couldn't stay inside; blame a week and weekend of cat-sitting (I only got one scratch!); blame impending travel plans...or just forgive me for a slow week and catch up on anything you missed here last week? And let me indulge in some confessions in order to get anything besides a Sunday Sweats up this week:

Every year, twice a year, people around me seem to absolutely lose all of their shit about the beginning/ending of Daylight Saving Time. And I am completely baffled by it. It's never bothered me. It's just an hour time difference; that's not really that big a deal, is it? I don't get it, but I'm trying to be sensitive to the people who seem to be badly affected by it for days afterward. It's not really that different from that time you had to stay up well past midnight to see the end of the Oscars and are a little extra groggy Monday morning. If someone can explain this phenomenon to me, I would be grateful.

Hey, remember that time we had yet another snowstorm last Thursday morning and even though my office delayed opening (and then closed altogether) I had to get up and out to feed my friend's cat a few blocks away and then I trudged back into my building around 8 a.m. and my neighbor who oh by the way also happens to be my former college professor looked knowingly at my yoga pants and totally thought I was walk-of-shaming so I hastily explained the delayed office opening and my cat-sitting responsibilities but then I remembered that he also saw me out at the bar last weekend AND his friend came to hit on my friend and myself so I'm pretty sure he didn't believe me. Remember that time? *monkey covering eyes emoji*

I have 100% (well, actually, 50% if you want to be technical about it) blown my training cycle for my upcoming half marathon. This is partly due to circumstances beyond my control (injury) but I'm still so angry at myself and beyond frustrated. However, having figured out the cause of the whole problem (my running shoes), I'm optimistic that I'll be able to train for my next half in May much better, and weirdly believe that I will race 13.1 miles this weekend purely on optimism and, I dunno, warm fuzzies or something I guess.

So I conducted two shoe experiments after coming to the painful conclusion that my new shoes (with only 60 miles on them!) are duds, and now, days before my race, I have no idea what shoes I'm going to run in. This is kind of the most important piece of race-day attire, so it's a little bit less than ideal that I don't know what on earth I'm going to do.

But I do know what I'm going to wear as far as pants and top go. And nail polish. So at least there's that. Because priorities.

On that note, I have a couple of things to wrap up before the adventure begins. I'm going to try to get back here before the weekend, but just in case I don't, look for a mini-race recap in the next Sunday Sweats! Have a great weekend if I don't see you, and we'll catch up next week. Love 'n stuff.

Making Melissa

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Sweats 10

Monday: short stretching practice (5 min) + 3.1 mile run
I'm cat-sitting for a friend this week, and rather than let the little guy eat all my plants and get sick, I'm popping over a couple times a day to hang at their place. I set my alarms early this morning to give myself more time, but of course I didn't get fully asleep till well after 4 a.m. so I overslept. No time for a full practice, but I wrote this in here anyway because it counts. You don't have to sweat intensely or practice for 30+ minutes for a practice to count. I've talked with some friends about this because I just think it's important to do what you can, when you can, and not skip a workout just because it can't be as long as you want or as intense as you want. Even five minutes of cat/cows, twists, stretches, and pranayama counts.

On the run front, guess what? It was above 30 degrees tonight! But windy as all get out. I'm getting slightly bored of this route, but it's the only one I really feel comfortable running solo in the dark, and with all this ice and snow on the ground. Yay for daylight savings! Anyway, nothing interesting to report on this run. Felt good. Felt like running. Average pace was 9:18/mile, so a few seconds quicker than my last couple runs.

Tuesday: rest
Today wasn't a good day. It would have been my grandmother's 88th birthday, but it wasn't. Work was terrible. I needed my 75-minute studio yoga class; I looked forward to it all day.

And then it started snowing. Again. And classes were cancelled (Tuesday is the only day my non-hot class is offered; I don't like hot yoga). And my commute home from work was a nightmare, because people. And every possible little annoyance that could have occurred, did. And did I mention it snowed again? I've had just about enough of that. So I had a glass of wine when I got home and pretended to have no responsibilities and missed my Mema and called it a night.

Wednesday: full body practice (14 min) + 3.1 mile run + restorative yoga practice (20 min)
Built some heat in the a.m. with this video from Erin's first 30-day challenge, and paused it for a minute at the end to throw in some headstand time. (I love being upside down.) Today is better than yesterday.

Legs felt good on this run. But 3-4 more inches of snow yesterday + high of 47 today = running through lakes. And I'm tired of running in the dark. But this time next week, I won't be!

I wound it all down with this restorative practice from Sarah Beth to bookend my day on good notes and make up for doing a giant pile of nothing yesterday. I really like this video. Runners, especially new runners or those with hip/psoas issues, take note.

Thursday: balancing yoga practice (12 min) + back-bending practice (39 min)
More. Effing. Snow. That's literally the third snowstorm since Sunday. I cannot.
I'm committed to finishing out this training, but I'm not stupid. There's no running in 8 inches of snow, and there's also no convincing my friends to get to the gym and guest-pass me in during a state of emergency. (Also, no pretty pictures because I'm just damn tired of looking at snow.)

I wanted to start Do You Yoga's latest challenge today, the 14-day Shred. I've never followed this instructor, Sadie, before, but she seemed cool, so I started on Day 1. I will be honest: I did not like this class and I didn't finish it. It's cardio yoga, which is fine, but it's not really what I want out of yoga at all. It's more like what I imagine a Zumba class to be like, though I've never taken one so I don't know. But I don't do yoga to just jump around my living room, so I clicked out.

I had started with a tried and true class with Erin, and after clicking out of the shred class I went and found something fun on Do Yoga With Me. Needed the double down because apparently it'll never stop snowing and I'll never get back into the yoga studio. *red angry emoji face* #sonotzen

Friday: flexibility yoga practice (14 min)
I'm trying to narrow down one thing I want to focus on in my practice right now (lower body flexibility? back bending? inversions? arm balances?) but I can't just decide on one. But regaining the flexibility I had when I was a dancer and a younger yogi is always in my sights, so I did this video again this week.

Saturday: 6.69 mile run
How not to run a 10-miler:
(a) sleep mayyybe 4-5 hours the night before
(b) plan a route you've literally never ever run the first half of ever before, through a hilly part of town
(c) ignore the past month of shin pain that eerily coincides with your latest running shoe purchase (something is not right with this pair of Kinvaras)
(d) wait to run until you're already good and aggravated by everyone and everything that day
(e) place entirely too much importance on this run because you completely blew the rest of your training cycle

Sigh. Rock 'n Roll is one week from this awful run. I would have cried over this run if I weren't so angry at myself. I'm hoping against all hope that the most of the blame for an awful run belongs to the circumstances I can (and will) control next week: my sleep, my mood, my shins (compression and foam rolling e'ryday til then), and that way maybe I won't have the worst showing at this half marathon ever. But we'll see.

Sunday: 2 mile run + runners yoga practice (25 min)
Not a genius idea to run, but it was absolutely beautiful out. I couldn't help it. Held myself at two and delighted that running in my old shoes didn't create any new pains.
Oh sweet, merciful warm sun, I haven't seen you in a very long time.
I cooled down with a Gaiam Yoga for Runners video Tracy sent over to me, which I think is about an hour long? It stalled out around 25 minutes though and couldn't complete buffering, so I just finished the sequence I was in the middle of and wrapped up. Last day of cat-sitting and the little monster needs to be fed anyway, so I gotta jet.


Weekly Totals: 
Running: 4 // 14.89 miles
Yoga: 6 // 129 minutes

Reflections:
After Saturday's hell, I talked with Tracy and did some research and faced some facts. It's pretty clear that these shoes are not right. I wouldn't think that's possible, considering they're the exact same model as the pair I ran my last half marathon in and loved from my very first step, but my purchase of this new pair of Kinvaras coincides with every pain I've had this training cycle. So I dusted off my last pair—which, luckily, really aren't worn out yet—and will race in them this weekend and look into some new shoes for my next half marathon in May.

Also, thank god we turned our clocks ahead today. Oh and... next time I post a Sunday Sweats I'll be on the other side of my second ever half marathon and that's weird to think about it because just 50 weeks ago I ran my first race ever, my birthday 5k, after being a runner for only three months. Life is weird and cool.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Om at Home: Beginning a Yoga Home Practice, Part II

In case you missed it yesterday, read part one here! Let's just jump right back in, shall we?
5. Learn child's pose. Child's pose is a rest pose that you can find at any point during your workout. If the video/instructor is demonstrating a pose you are not comfortable in, find a child's pose. If you tried a posture and it hurt, find a child's pose. If you feel dizzy or short of breath, find a child's pose. If you need a rest, find a child's pose. Even if the person on your screen or the mat next to you is making revolved half moon look easy, you can find a child's pose. It's not hard to learn, so learn it first.

Understand that you don't have to do everything every time. Some days my balance is just not there, and I can't work my body into the full expression of a pose. After 10 years! It happens. It's okay. Some days I can hit warrior 3 like what, and other days I can't even lift my fingertips off the floor. Every day is different. Do what your body is capable of today. Don't be afraid to push yourself, but know your actual limits.
Warrior 3
6. Do and don't look at others. There is nothing wrong with finding motivation in other, more advanced yogis. Instagram is absolutely lousy with impressive yogis (I love @badyogi, @twofitmoms, and @yogaslackers) who can really light a fire in your belly and keep you aggressively working toward your yoga goals. Follow them, interact with them. Find a yoga buddy who just nails a pose you're working your way up to and use him/her as inspiration.

Do not look at a yogi who's been practicing for years and feel inferior because you look different than s/he does. Do not look at someone who practices for an hour every day and feel that your practice is inadequate. Do not look at someone's flexibility and give up after you decide you'll never be at that level. Do not watch people throw scorpions in the air and feel like you're not working hard enough.

Like I've said, your practice is YOURS. Your body is capable of different things at different times than other peoples. I can spend days in a headstand, but I nearly fell over the last time I attempted warrior 3 in class. I used to be a master of the full front split, and I'm not anymore. But, I can twist like a champ. Do not become so preoccupied with what you can't yet do that you forget about the amazing things your body does do and will soon become able to do.

7. Find your yoga community. Maybe you're One Bad Yogi, like me. (#badyogiarmy) Maybe you pledge your allegiance to Adriene and interact with her and her followers. Maybe you have a group of friends to discuss yoga or practice with. One principle of yoga is connectedness, and I personally find it fundamental to have someone to connect with when it comes to advancing your practice.
I have a few friends who do yoga who inspire me. I have people to share technique with and share horror stories with. My chiropractor is a yogi, and having that in common has been a huge asset when assessing my issues and how to remedy them. A few weeks ago we talked for 20 minutes about yoga and I went into lifted lotus on his table while we chatted. Ya know, for funsies. The point is, there's no reason to be alone in your practice, even if you practice alone. Ask for advice, or critique, or help. If you move on to practice inversions, a spotter or assistant is crucial. Your community can be virtual (hi!) or in-person and can look like whatever you want it to. I just really believe it should exist.

8. Make it yours. Once you get into the good stuff, that's when you really get to make it your own. You can practice in the morning or evening. You can wear socks until you warm up (like I do!) or do yoga naked. You can start in cat/cow and end in lotus, or you can start with sun salutations and end in savasana. You can do a headstand in the middle or a child's pose in the beginning. You can practice for five minutes or 75 minutes. You can skip weekends or go all out on Saturdays. You can dim the lights or blast Metallica. You can follow the same video every day for a week or create a new series for yourself every time you hit the mat. Your practice should serve you.

9. Know that it will never be finished. Your practice will never reach a stand-still, unless you let it. There will always be a pose you're working to find the full expression of. There will always be more groundedness you can find. There will always be chakras to balance. There will always be a way to advance your practice. There will always be more to explore. There will always be room to grow and there will always be more benefits to reap. There is no end-point to your practice.
10. Explore outside your home, if you'd like. Once you're comfortable, I do recommend exploring outside of home practice. There are a few different ways to do this:

(a) Festivals like Wanderlust (anyone want to go with me to Vermont?! Or maybe WV?) and others I'm sure you can find local to you. Some studios host great big sessions in local parks or even arenas. In my town, one studio shuts down a block in the summer and sets the yogis loose in the street. (It's awesome.) This is great for people who can't or don't want to commit to a studio schedule, but want to take their practice out into the world and meet fellow yogis.
(b) Workshops and retreats. Most studios offer them. Sometimes it's in the form of a three-hour workshop on arm balances; in other instances it's three days on secluded property. Great immersion for people really looking to get into the thick of their practice.
(c) A studio class. Don't get me wrong — I love my home practice. But the flow and exchange of energy that takes place when you practice with others in a studio really can't be matched at home. You also have the benefit of a teacher to correct your posture or help you reach a fuller expression of a pose that alludes you. It can be pricy, but it can be an investment in your health. Also, keep an eye on Groupon and Living Social; they usually run great deals for new customers. You may also be able to participate in work study, where in exchange for services like cleaning, signing in members, etc. you can practice for free at a studio.

Remember: You do not have to be a pro before you go into a studio. If a class makes you feel like that, it's the wrong studio for you. If you don't want to join a drum circle, you don't have to. If you hate green juice, you can still be a yogi. If you never want to take your practice upside down, you're perfectly fine staying right-side up.

The most important part of defining your yoga practice is defining it on your terms: Advance your practice as slow or as fast or as little or as much as you feel comfortable. Do not compare your practice to another person's. Remember that our bodies and minds are different. Remember that your yoga practice is yours and yours alone, and it should serve you and your goals and your needs.
Terms to know (for all yoga types):
*Note: These are not, like, literal translations of Sanskrit terms. I'm just telling you
what you need to know if you hear these terms in a yoga class or video. Or read them on this blog.

Asana — A yoga pose or a posture. Most Sanskrit terms for postures end in"-asana," like savasana (corpse pose), virabhadrasana (warrior pose), and bakasana (crow pose).

Vinyasa — Both a type of yoga (flow, see here) and a term used to describe a sequence of poses (generally plank > chaturanga > cobra/upward facing dog > downward facing dog) that flow together with pranayama in a Sun Salutation.

Drishti — A spot or focal point to focus on during a challenging pose to help you keep your balance.

Pranayama — Breath control, essentially. In yoga, we generally breathe in and out through the nose (unless we're talking about breathing exercises, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish, as my mother would say). Vinyasa yoga asks you to match one breath to one motion. Most instructors will indicate this, ex: "Inhale, push up to cobra; exhale, take it back to downward facing dog."

Namaste — The literal translation is I bow to you, but it's generally accepted to mean "The light within me honors and celebrates the light within you." It's not always spoken in class, but I've never seen a class end without the motion that accompanies "namaste:" Bring your hands to prayer in front of your heart ("the heart space" or "heart center") and bow your head slightly. The movement can be substituted for the verbal expression of namaste. My current class usually begins with the gesture and ends with the gesture and spoken acknowledgment, but every instructor is different.

S(h)avasana — Shavasana or savasana, corpse pose. My yoga teacher calls it the most challenging pose in our practice, and I agree. It's a restful meditative pose. And sometimes, meditating is really damn hard. I don't always get there. Sometimes I get so deep that it takes me a long time to get back out. Sometimes it puts me to sleep. This isn't a post about meditation, but I'm more than happy to elaborate on meditation if people are interested. Let me know!

Sun Salutations — A series of poses (with pranayama) usually used to warm the body up at the start of a practice. There are a couple of different sequences (denoted as Sun Salutation A, B, etc...) but here's my favorite and the most common one I see, in simplest terms: Mountain > forward fold > flat back > forward fold > plank > chaturanga > cobra > downward facing dog > forward fold > mountain.

Chakra — Essentially, an energy center, of which the body has seven from the bottom of the spine to the top of the head. I can go into more detail in that meditation post, if you'd like.
______________________________________________

I really hope you found these posts useful and maybe even inspiring! If you have any questions, I am more than happy to answer them. (And if I don't know the answers, chances are I know a good yogi who does!) Want a virtual yoga buddy? Want to chat yoga? I'm here for you!

Do you practice yoga? Are you interested in starting?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Om at Home: Beginning a Yoga Home Practice, Part I

(Just kidding, you totally don't have to om. Unless you want to.)

I've been practicing yoga for 10 years. For the first four years — during which my practice was inconsistent, I'll admit — I practiced exclusively at home. I took a studio class in college, then returned to my occasional/non-committed home practice. Then I committed to my practice about 16 months ago, took a three-day workshop, and rejoined the studio world. All while maintaining a daily at-home yoga practice. So, yeah, I've had some experience practicing yoga in my living room.

For some people, and at some studios, taking a class can be incredibly intimidating, and I know this keeps a lot of people from trying to create a yoga practice. I hate this. I've said it before and I absolutely will say it again and again and again: Yoga is for everyone. Everyone can do yoga. Everyone can benefit from yoga. I know some people will prefer the studio, but I think a home practice is an important part of growing as a yogi. It can be in conjunction with your weekly studio session or independent. It can be your baby steps as you build up some confidence before you walk into your first studio. You can choose to never leave the mat in your bedroom, and that's fine too.

If you've been reading here for a while, some of this may sound familiar. I've recommended yoga YouTube channels several times, demo'd some poses, and talked about yoga...a lot. But as promised, I've finally put it all into one post for you guys! Please remember a few things: (1) I am not a certified yoga instructor (yet) and this is just my experience; (2) You can injure yourself in yoga, so be sure you're taking appropriate precautions before beginning a practice.

1. Decide what you want to get out of your practice. Yoga is a multi-faceted discipline capable of transforming your mind and body in unthinkable ways. There are various types of yoga (see next point) that serve you in different goals. A few different ways to utilize your practice:

• To facilitate recovery of a higher-intensity workout regiment (running, weight-training, etc.)
• To increase flexibility and fluidity in joints and muscles
• For a whole-body workout, or to target specific areas for toning
• Fat-burning/cardio workout
• To facilitate meditation, mindfulness, and mental clarity
• To engage deeper with the body's energy centers (called chakras) and master breathing
• As a sleep aid to help your body recover from the day and prepare for bed
• To learn to fly
If you read my Sunday Sweats posts, you know that I have no single expectation from my yoga practice; I use it as a vehicle for all different things, depending on the day and my mood. You can have a practice that helps you meet all of these goals. But it's important to be aware that it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to get each thing out of each session or workout.

Once you've taken a sort of inventory of what you want to get from your practice — and every goal I outlined above is valid and a great goal of yoga, on their own or in conjunction with one or several others — set your intention. We hear this a lot in yoga classes, to set our intention for the practice. I think it's important to do so at this juncture and in each individual session. Check in often to see that your intention still serves you.

2. Research the various types of yoga and become familiar with what does what. There are so many different types of yoga. The most commonly-practiced in the U.S. is vinyasa, or flow. It's what most people think of when they think of yoga. It can accomplish many of the goals I listed in point one. But it's not the only type of yoga.

Here is my favorite yogi, Erin Motz, giving a run-down of the most common types of yoga you will find as you begin your practice.

There are others, and depending on how deep into your practice you get, you may want to experiment. You may go for ashtanga one day, vinyasa the next, and hatha the day after that. You may love or hate Bikram yoga. You likely won't know until you try. But it's important to know what you can expect from each type.

One thing I have, have, HAVE to explain, which is irrelevant to home practice UNLESS you decide to supplement your home practice with studio classes: Bikram yoga and hot yoga are not the same thing. More than once I've read an "informative" article say hot yoga, aka Bikram yoga, but they are not interchangeable. Both are practiced in heated studios, but the similarities end there.
Hot yoga is — generally — vinyasa flow yoga that's simply practiced in a hot room, at 98-106 degrees (F). Hot yoga became trendy a couple of years ago and then hot yogis started kind of acting like they had invented yoga and like it's miles superior to other types. Hot yoga is NOT for everybody. There are claims that it releases more toxins and aids in flexibility during practice. There are also claims that it leads to dehydration and injury from over-extension. If you go this route: (a) bring a towel (b) drink a ton of water the day of, but not too close to class (c) bring water with you to class (d) check in with your body often and be sure you're taking care. 
Bikram yoga is a type of yoga popularized a few decades ago that focuses on one series of 26 poses in a heated studio. There's lots to read about it here. (I have limited experience with it, so I'd rather direct you there for the best info.)
3. Supply yourself. You will need a yoga mat. If you're practicing at home and are a beginner, you will need DVDs or a couple of YouTube channels.
It will help if you have a few yoga blocks. Two should be plenty. I have been using these since college and have no issues. Although, full disclosure, I do not travel with them and use them rarely in home practice, so I can't speak to their durability under vigorous use.
It will help if you have a yoga strap. Some mats you buy will come with one. You can buy them on Amazon or most box stores. Truth? I use a detachable shoulder strap from an old purse in the few sessions where I need a strap. You can also use an old neck tie, a towel, or a scarf if you don't anticipate needing it often.

If you're a woman (which if you're reading here, you probably are), you'll need a comfortable sports bra. I prefer one with a front clasp, as backbone clasps can be uncomfortable in reclined positions. You can wear pretty much anything you feel comfortable and can move freely in, but I find that form-fitting clothing (leggings and body shell tank tops) is the least intrusive. Excessive fabric can be uncomfortable, too warm, or bulky.

As for your mat, if you're just beginning, don't feel the need shell out big bucks for a mat before you know if you'll keep at it. They can get very pricy. But, read reviews. You want to be sure the mat you use will be sticky enough to help you keep your grip in poses. If you notice your mat loses its stickiness after a little while, try cleaning it.

You may choose to enhance your practice with bolsters, Mexican blankets, dim lighting, a private room (if possible), music, candles, essential oils, drum beats/chanting recordings, etc. But as you're starting out, don't get bogged down in all of that. You don't even need a hardwood floor. You need a mat and an open mind.

My favorite yoga videos to follow can be found on the following channels:
  • Do You Yoga: Erin Motz's first 30-day challenge can be found here, and I find it absolutely IDEAL for beginning a home practice. I still do these videos often, because she offers variations and makes the class work for every level.
  • Bad Yogi: You probably know by now how much I love Erin Motz, so this should be no surprise!
  • Yoga with Adriene
  • Sarah Beth Yoga
I also recommend Rodney Yee's yoga DVDs and have cycled through a couple over the years. There are countless other yogis who make videos that I haven't tried yet, but these are just a few that I can personally recommend.

4. Let go of expectations and restrictive thoughts, and go for it. Things I hear often:
(a) I wish I could do yoga, but I'm so inflexible!
(b) I could never do a headstand/handstand/anything-stand/any pose!
(c) I'd love to do yoga but I just don't have the time!
(d) I've never tried yoga, but I don't think it's for me. I hate green juice and I don't speak Sanskrit!
(e) Yogis are so intimidating; I'm so worried I'll mess up and get made fun of!

My responses:

(a) Do doctors know how to perform surgery before they go to med school? You don't have to by physically flexible to start yoga; you need to be willing to work. You will gain flexibility. Every pose has an accommodation for every body.
(b) Well, I thought the same thing. Now I can. We do call it a practice for a reason. But also, you don't have to do anything more "advanced" or difficult than warrior 1, if you don't want to.
(c) If you want to do it, you make the time to do it — period. Besides, five minutes a day is a great place to start.
(d) I find green juice disgusting. I only know a few Sanskrit words because they're often used in yoga and I've picked it up. (Glossary in tomorrow's post!) You don't have to fit the yogi stereotype to be a yogi. Buddha knows I don't! ;)
(e) I know they can be. I wish they weren't. I find it so frustrating when people act like yoga is a secret club. That's why a home practice can be exactly what you need. But also, keep in mind, that no one in your class is perfect at everything. And most likely, no one is looking at you.

Go for it. Start small. Keep an open mind. Give it a chance.
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I intended to get through everything in one post, but clearly, this is already obnoxiously long. Part II — the fun part! — is coming tomorrow! 
In the meantime, any questions so far?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Can You Fill Me In?

What, you thought I got it all out of my system yesterday? Nope. Here's another round of getting things off my chest, confession-style:

I'm pretty sure I'm allergic or intolerant to alcohol. I don't like being drunk, so this isn't the worst news in the world, but it's pretty annoying because I do enjoy drinks as a social lubricant (heh dirty). Basically, every time I have more than two drinks — and sometimes two drinks is too many still — even if it's over the course of hours and not enough to even get me a buzz, I'm met with a massive headache, often a migraine, and an awful sinus reaction. I've been this way forever, which has led to a lot of different experimentations with my limits on alcohol. I always thought I was just really bad at hangovers, but this goes so beyond that. Two glasses of wine with dinner and I can't open my eyes the next day? That's not right. Does anyone have any experience with anything like this, either personal or second-hand?

I've decided to join the rest of society in this ritual called Snapchatting. I don't know why. I really have no valid reason, and even now I don't totally see the point when I can always just send pictures via text. But regardless, I want you to send me all your snaps. Snap me. Find me on the Snapper. No? See, I told you I don't know what I'm doing. Add me anyway: alyssagoesbang

My office-mate is on vacation this week and well, she's awesome and a great friend, but mostly I miss having someone to sarcastically sing along to "Everything is Awesome" with when a coworker does something really bad.

We also have sing-a-longs to Craig David's (remember him?) "Fill Me In" and "Zombie" by the Cranberries.

I know this is a major first world problem, but this is a major first world problem: BLOGLOVIN. GET YOURSELF TOGETHER. Why do you no longer want to mark my read posts as read? WHYYYYYY? You had better check yourself before you wreck yourself. And by wreck yourself I mean piss off a whole lot of Type A bloggers.

Sometimes Often I leave my headphones in with nothing playing while at work so people don't talk to me or so I can at least pretend I didn't hear them and don't have to acknowledge their moronic comments with actual responses. It works okay. I'm probably a terrible person.

Making Melissa 
Et tu?