Thursday, June 26, 2014

Focused, Relaxed, Strong

My alarm goes off at 5:15 each weekday. I sluggishly rolled out of bed yesterday morning and gathered up my swim gear and headed to the gym. I considered just sticking my legs in the hot tub for a half hour instead of swimming, but I somehow found myself in the pool. I'll just take it easy. No one can have too high of expectations from the tired pregnant lady. So I started out slowly and just relaxed as I swam. Then I focused on keeping my underwater arm straight as I stroke, the technique point I've been working on lately. I found myself having a better focus on my stroke and the workout in general. I felt strong and like I've improved over the past weeks. I could feel the muscles in my arms, back, and legs that I'd worked the day prior. Despite this, I managed to stay relaxed and the swim was incredibly refreshing.

This morning, I slept in. Everyone in the house had slept deeply through the night so I took advantage a some extra snoozing. I did get El up and ready in time for an 8:30 yoga class. I hoped to get there early to talk to the teacher before but that doesn't always work when you are a mom. We started with several minutes of deep mindful breaths. I've tried the past few days to visualize a positive delivery, to practice relaxing my body, to breathe negative thoughts out. The beginning of the practice helped me to each a great point for that. I felt open, relaxed, and that there was space left in me somehow! I focused throughout the class, and was especially gratefully when the teacher told us to engage out pelvic floors. I stretched myself gently, modified when needed, and felt very strong for my 32-week pregnant state. I loved the class, appreciated that the teacher noticed I was pregnant and gave me good modifications, and I will be back to her class soon.

I have had two great days, workout-wise. In both the swim and yoga practice, I felt focused on what I was doing, stronger than I expected, and free of tension. They have been two great workouts.

It is so important to listen to your body. Yes, challenging it is good, but so is pausing and focusing on what your body needs. It will tell you if you take a moment to listen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back to Life

After a fun and exhausting weekend of wedding festivities, I am back to normal life. I didn't workout like I should have, and today I dove into a strength workout. I can tell that I've neglected my hips the last three weeks, so I'll be sure to get a pilates workout in tomorrow.

My father-in-law and I worked on flip turns at the pool. Mine need more work. I found a YouTube e tutorial that gives you five exercises to practice to help with your flip turns.
I'll probably focus more on that once I don't have a giant belly in my way.

El is getting so good at climbing. At the park today, she climbed all over a lot of the playground, and it is a pretty tricky playground. She'll be rock climbing with my brother in no time.

Tomorrow I have a swim and pilates planned. Today was strength and a walk. Yesterday was running post-vacation errands, though I wish I had been really running.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Swims Lately

Swimming has been great. I really wish I had hit the pool earlier in this pregnancy. That being said, I feel like I've already improved in my fitness. I aim to go three times a week, but usually get to two. I swim for about a half hour. I try to get in by 5:45, and then I like talking to Drew for a bit before he leaves for work at 7ish, so my swims are shorter than I would like them, but I think that too much more would kill me right now. After all,I am starting from zero.

Each time I go, I am the slowest person in the pool. And that is ok. I just started. I'm 7 months pregnant (and such a shape is not ideal for fluid dynamic flow). I didn't do swim team growing up. I'm focusing on technique.

In swimming and in running, it doesn't matter if you are the slowest. What matters is that you are out there trying to improve, to get stronger, to enjoy a physical sport. And I don't think the other people really care (unless you are circle swimming and they want to get around you, and then you should let them pass at the end of the pool).

Last week, I had a great swim and did a lot of back stroke and my back felt it. On Saturday I went faster than usual and got a great, heart-pumping workout. This morning I focused on my freestyle form in my arms and feel my triceps, and I swam for 35 minutes and went 24 laps (I usually hit 20 in a half hour). I feel like I've been getting stronger and my endurance is improving. I feel good at the end of a swim. I don't feel pain in my hips or abdomen. Swimming has been good.

My goals for the next few months are to increase my stamina and work on my freestyle form.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Two Weeks of Workouts: May 19-June 1

30 minutes of pilates
3 mile walk

45 minutes strength and core

3 mile walk

15 minutes strength
2 mile walk

30 minute swim
2 mile walk

45 minutes strength -- weight machines


20 minutes pilates
2.5 mile walk

30 minutes strength
2 mile walk

35 minutes cycling, ~13 miles

30 minute swim
2 mile walk

A Great Vacation

I just got back from a wonderful vacation. I actually feel rejuvenated! I have been killing it with productivity since then. I am also ready and motivated to dive in to exercise and healthy living again.

I don't really have anything to say today, but I have some blog posts in my head floating around. I'll get those out soon. Here are some current ransoms going on in my life.

El was a happy girl and played contentedly by herself for 45 minutes and I was able to practice the piano that whole time! There is hope!

I didn't exercise as much as I wanted to on our vacation, but I did get out for awalk every day, including our long driving days!

I'm doing a pedometer challenge with Drew for his work. It is fun to see how many steps I get in a day. Yesterday I was very productive and went grocery shopping. I didn't even go on a walk! And got 12000 steps. Today is still going well, but I think I will need to go on a walk this afternoon. It's funny how an average day at home gets me at least 4000 steps, while Drew barely hits 1500 at a day of work.

This week's lesson was good. I would really like to have more students.

I am happy I signed up for the gym. I have especially liked swimming in the mornings and having access to the weight machines. I am still sore from yesterday's workout.

Have you had success growing an avocado plant from the seed? I'd like to try it...

That's all for today!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Happy Pregnant Hips: Exercise Guide to Strengthening Your Hips

I complained a few weeks ago abut how much pain I had in my hips. From what I read, this was because of the chemical relaxin, which is produced to help loosen your pelvic joints so a baby can come out, and this can cause misalignment and a lack of support. Some women experience paint connected with their sciatic nerve in their hip. Others may have really tight hip muscles. And, frankly, pregnancy is just not very comfortable. I'm not sure what my issue was, but I'm guess weak hip and pelvic muscles were not supporting the weight of my uterus well and I was misaligned.

And everything I read online gave few solutions: go to the chiropractor, take Tylenol, and (least commonly) incorporate hip strengthening and opening exercises into your routine.

Here are some articles and workouts that I found to be really helpful in strengthening my hips. I try to do at least one workout targeting my hips and backside per week, add on some barre-type moves after one pilates workout, and focus on opening my hips in one weekly yoga practice. In my usual strength workouts, I really have focused on proper alignment and form during the exercises. I also try not to arch my back when standing or walking, instead tucking my pelvis has helped ease the discomfort in my hips and low back that I was experiencing.

Free Bump and Beyond Booty Sculpting Workout from Erica Ziel at Knocked-Up Fitness

Follow the link, sign up for her newsletter, and Ziel send this workout video to your email. I love it and how it works my backside and hips. I do this once a week and will probably keep it up after baby boy arrives. The workout begins with squats and lunges, moves to some quadruped movements, splits between bridge work and (for moms-to-be) repeated quadruped moves, and then a side leg series. It is a good and short pilates workout for your rear end.

Pregnancy Exercises to Tone and Tighten Your Legs from Erica Ziel at Knocked-Up Fitness

 These barre-inspired moves will make your hips tired! I love that Ziel talks about doing the moves at the park while your kids play because sometimes you have to squeeze your workout in when you can! You could do it at the park using a bar or the back of a bench, or at home using a chair or counter. I do this once a week.

Yoga sequence for lower back pain from FitSugar at PopSugar

Pretty self explanatory, sometimes it is nice to know some poses to target a certain ailment!

Hip and Back Openers for Expectant Moms from FitSugar at PopSugar

Another collection of yoga poses to open those hips and relieve that tension!

Proper Posture during Pregnancy from Pregnancy Beat

Proper Posture during Pregnancy from Pregnancy Beat

Here is a diagram that accompanies the linked article. Basically, the way that we are inclined to stand as pregnant women is not good for us and can cause pain and alignment problems. Don't hunch over, don't arch your back and let your belly hang. It takes concentration, but taking the time to make this a habit will have long-range benefits.

I hope this has been helpful for those experiencing hip pain. I have felt so much better and feel like going out and enjoying the outdoors since incorporating these principles. As future mothers and as runners, it is important to have a strong and steady base. Exercising and releasing our hips will make us stronger athletes.

To learn more about hips as an essential part of a runner's core, see this article from Runners Connect.

For more about the link between hips and other running injuries, see this article, from Runner's World

Monday, June 2, 2014

Book Review: Imperfect Harmony

Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others
By Stacy Horn

I recently read Stacy Horn's Imperfect Harmony, a creative non-fiction work that combined memoir, essay, and research. I enjoyed reading about Horn's experience in the Choral Society of Grace Church, a choir made up of amateurs of varying levels in New York City. Although every member of the choir had different abilities (and Horn was not shy admitting her inadequacies), they all came together because they loved to sing.

Horn uses her experiences and research about composers, history of choral groups, the psychology of music, and science of sound to explain why music, and singing specifically, makes us feel good. We sing when we are sad and facing death. In fact, some of the most glorious music was written about death. Many of the choral pieces the Choral Society sang were about Christ's death and each person's own mortality. We sing to express happiness and joy. Many of the choir members were not religious, but that didn't matter when they were singing. The music was deeper than faith. It still touched the members deeply.

My favorite aspect of Imperfect Harmony was that each chapter was named for a composition the Choral Society of Grace Church had worked on. Of course, she talked about her experiences with that piece and then moved on from there to the composer, its history, or whatever else. The piece was a springboard. I loved that and looked up most of the songs on YouTube. I am not very familiar with choral repertoire so this was a simple way for me to hear some of the great pieces for choirs. Because each song was important to the chapter/essay, hearing it gave depth to what Horn wrote about in that essay.

A conglomerate of stories and ideas is hard to summarize in a review. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who likes creative non-fiction and who is interested in music. Although I did not learn anything that was particularly lasting or life-changing for me, it was an interesting and enjoyable read. I wanted to read this over other novels I was reading at the time. Horn's enthusiasm as an amateur really spoke to me, as a fellow amateur. Her reflections on the power of being part of a musical group spurred me to look into nearby choral groups and community symphonies. I believe that it will also motivate other readers to bring music more deeply into their lives.