Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Tap into an internal fountain of youth to stay nimble & quick.

For all of you old dogs like me out there, and all the rest of you too, I ask “What new trick are you learning today?” Learning skills of any kind stimulates our brains to create new neural pathways  and coordinate with our bodies to develop new motor skills / patterns.

Whether an artist, musician, or athlete, we recognize that learning a new skill requires time and patience. As we get older, there may be a tendency to be less open to trying something new and to be less patient with ourselves when we do. We may get to a certain stage in life where we’ve mastered so many skills that we’re easily frustrated and discouraged when we don’t get something right the first time. And some people as they grow older become close minded, finding comfort (however small) in living a narrow, unchallenged life. Change it up and challenge yourself  and you’ll reap the rewards.

As a beginner triathlete, my biggest “opportunity for improvement” was swimming. Despite surprising myself with 3rd place in my first triathlon, I was the last one out of the water in my age group. (Wearing my heavy surf wetsuit didn’t help me much, but neither did my “muscling the water” style.) I really disliked swimming then, but realized if I wanted to pursue triathlons, I’d have to get with the program. After 6 lessons with a pro coach and lots of practice sessions, I was 5th in my age group out of the water in my next triathlon. Great, right? Yes, improved, but still plenty of room for improvement.

And now, nearly two decades later, I love swimming and am still working on my technique. Yikes, you may say, but this doesn’t discourage me.  It excites me that I still have the capacity to improve. (If you’re a swimmer, you know it’s all about technique.) I swim regularly with a Masters Swim Group and get tips on my stroke whenever I can.

What I haven’t mentioned is that despite all these years of Masters Swimming, I never learned how to flip turn. I rationalized that triathlons are races in open water so flip turns don’t apply to me. Truth be told,  I thought I wouldn’t like it or be coordinated enough to pull them off. I think the translation is FEAR of FAILURE.

“Giving up [or not trying in the first place] is the only sure way to fail.”

 – Gena Showalter

While my swimming technique improvements have made me faster, flip turners gain a whole body length on me at ever turn – very annoying. So this annoyance had to grow bigger than my fear of failure in order for me to do something about it.

Fortunately,  my boyfriend, who taught himself flip turns years ago encouraged me and patiently gave me 3 lessons. The first lesson lasted 45 miserable minutes. I got water up my nose and was so nauseous after so many failed attempts that I was dry heaving by the side of the pool. Anyway, I hated it right away and felt like giving up. We had 2 more fifteen minute sessions where I got a couple partially right. Next, I started practicing on my own – throwing them into the swim workout here and there and actually “nailing” one or two of them. Today, I threw a bunch of flip turns into the workout. At one point, I noticed a much faster gal swimming parallel in the lane next me. (She’s my athletic benchmark across the board.) The only thing is, she doesn’t do flip turns either. She is known for her quick open turns though… So I did my flip and didn’t see her anywhere next to me. For a moment, I wondered if she’d somehow managed to get in front of me. But no, there she was coming up from behind. I’d gained a whole body length! Now she might have been fixing her goggles or her suit for all I know, but I’m counting this as a flip turn victory and proof that any old dog can learn new tricks.

swim pic chiang mai

New skills make us nimble and quick in body & mind. Practice makes perfect.

 

When it comes to keeping our minds and bodies nimble and quick, learning new tricks is our virtual fountain of youth. We are so fortunate to have so many opportunities in this life to learn, adapt, improve and grow.  I’m so grateful for that and for my boyfriend’s patience with me – certainly more than I had for myself.

So tell me, what new skill will you try today?

 

 

Sleep your way to optimal health, fitness & performance: 7 tips for better sleep

 

 

Alfie practicing what he readsSleep is as essential to our health and wellness as breathing, hydrating and getting good nutrition are. In fact, when push comes to shove, your need for sleep overrides hunger. Getting adequate sleep is required for optimal cognitive and physical performance. The quality and length of sleep we get impacts every aspect of our lives. If you short yourself on sleep, you short circuit your athletic performance and so much more.

Aside from feeling and performing sub par, not getting the sleep we need can take a significant toll on our health. Chronic sleep deprivation has been associated with serious and life-threatening diseases, including high-blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Lack of sleep has also been associated with irritability, mood swings and impulsive behavior–a recipe for disastrous interpersonal relations.

According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, 40% of us are sleep-deprived. The consensus of Harvard researchers and the National Sleep Foundation is that 7 to 9 hours is ideal. Making sleep a priority will help regenerate, regulate and replenish your body. Sleep repairs and restores your muscles so you can reap the benefits of your workout and prepare you body to go to a whole new level.

By the way, naps are A-Ok as long as they don’t interfere with logging your 7 to 9 hours. In the book pictured above, Littlehales stipulates that we need to be mindful of our natural 90 minute sleep cycles that alternating between NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement – a deep sleep) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement – dreaming sleep). He maintains that we’ll feel better waking at the end of a full 90 minute cycle versus waking in the middle of cycle even though we may have added on another half hour or hour of sleep…There probably something to this, but I haven’t really experimented enough with my cycles and wake up times. (Admit didn’t want to give up the add on half or hour.) Let me know if you do and I’ll update this blog if I do.

7 Tips for Better Sleep

  1. Exercise in the morning, preferably in the sunlight.
  2. Eliminate alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed.
  3. Unplug all blue screens 30-90 minutes before bed (tv, phone, tablets, computer).
  4. Practice meditation to calm your mind and lull yourself to sleep. (The American Academy of Sleep Medicine Recommends it as an effective treatment for insomnia.)
  5. Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine / ritual. (Do some gentle stretching combined with deep breathing, listen to soothing music, meditate, soak in a bath-not too hot.)
  6. Try to stay on a consistent sleep schedule.
  7. Make your bedroom your sleep and intimacy sanctuary. (No work, tvs, phones or computers allowed.) Speaking of intimacy, orgasms are a natural sleep aid with many health benefits so there you go.

Sweet dreams and sleep well to fulfill your potential – athletic and otherwise.

Any sleep tricks up your pajama sleeve? Do share.

Just breathe: Why meditation is a must for all of us, especially athletes.

“Recently, I  had the privilege of spending a week at the active paradise of Thanyapura Health and Sports Resort in Phuket, Thailand. It was an amazing immersion in mind and body fitness, including yoga, meditation, triathlon training and more.

My biggest takeaway from the week was how essential meditation and yoga are to optimal mind body health and fitness. (Yoga post to follow.)  I know what many of you hard core endurance athletes are thinking, something along the lines of “Here we go again with that new age mumbo jumbo.” And before my time at Thanyapura, I’d be right there rolling my eyes with you.

What changed?  I encountered and practiced with the mind training meditation guru, Pierre at Thanyapura.  Pierre has a knack for explaining the practice of meditation in a practical way that speaks to athletes and he guides his sessions like training sessions.  This isn’t ethereal stuff, though with dedicated practice, you might find yourself transcending previous limitations, setting new PRs and levitating to new heights. Ok, maybe not the last one (unless you’re a pole vaulter), was just checking to see if you’re still paying attention.

 

20170505_144535

Mind Trainer, Meditation Coach Pierre

 

Without further ado, here’s what I learned about meditation from Coach Pierre:

Meditate on this

  • Meditation is a physical activity. Meditation is anchored in the breath. It doesn’t get more physical than breathing, does it? (Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that before either.)
  • It’s all about being engaged and in the moment. You focus on your immediate experience vs. the ongoing (often negative ) internal narrative. Most physical pain from exertion (not injury)  passes. Once we attach emotional thoughts to physical pain as is the tendency with unfocused thinking, it becomes much more difficult to endure. Also happiness is something that happens only when we are truly engaged in the moment and your senses. Meditation helps us be in the moment more and to be more engaged during and after meditation. Meditation can bring more happiness into your life.
  • Meditation can improve our athletic performance. Unguided thoughts are random and prone to negative spiral, which can sabotage your daily life and your race performance. Ever been in the middle of a triathlon  and felt like giving up? Were you in the moment,  or were you in random thought mode after your rival passed you on the bike? Meditation helps us practice being focused, which keeps us performing well and transcending pain and exertion throughout the race.
  • Just breathe and relaxation will follow. Deep exhalations stimulate the body’s relaxation response. It’s like taking a valium, except it’s good for you. Conversely, if your muscles and body are tense, your mind will look for a reason to be upset and keep you focused on it.
  • Meditation can be undertaken like interval training. (5 minutes intense focus, 5 minutes relaxed focus.) Start with bite size pieces of meditation and soon you’ll be increasing them with ease.
  • Master your mind with meditation. Our mind can be our biggest saboteur, now you’re in control. Now, go, fight, win!

In case you can’t tell, I’m a total convert now. What’s your perspective of meditation? How has it enhanced your life or your sport?

 

Roll out of your exercise rut: 10 tips to change it up for better results

Are you doing the same exercise routine day in and day out? Most likely you’re bored and not getting the results you hoped for. Guess what? Your muscles are bored too- they’ve already adapted to the activity and are at ho hum status quo. Chances are you’ve hit a plateau and your progress has halted.

You have to change it up to get the results you want and to stay committed. The great thing about triathlon is cross training is built in (swim, bike, run), but even triathletes can get in a rut. The solution? Change it up. If you’re not feeling it, forcing yourself into a prescribed workout is not always the answer and can lead to burnout. Substituting a fun activity that you don’t do often is one way to combat exercise ennui.

This weekend, instead of another bike ride, I laced up my roller blades (remember those things?) and rolled out the door. It was quite refreshing and is a great, low impact leg workout that targets different muscles than biking or running.

 

10 Tips to change it up for better results

  • Change your route regularly. If you run / bike on roads, hit the trails. At the beach? Run barefoot in the thick sand.
  • Boost your intensity / speed.  Add interval training, track workouts or hills.
  • Increase your load in the gym.  Add weight so that you can just barely do  3 sets of 8 until you’re able to do 3 sets of 12, then up it again. (And no, ladies, you won’t get too big – that takes a ton more work.)
  • Alternate exercises. Doing the exact same routine every day may make it easy to go through the motions, but unfortunately that’s all your muscles will be doing too.  And you’ll be sacrificing results and possibly inviting injury. Switch out bench presses for chest flys with dumbells, etc..
  • Include strength & core training. It will enhance everything you do and help protect you from injury. Not to mention the vanity dividends.
  • Get outside. A good dose of Vitamin D, fresh air and scenery will do wonders for your energy level and your spirit.
  • Do yoga. Your body will thank you.
  • Try something entirely different – SUP, surfing, skiing, snowboarding, wake boarding, rollerblading, soccer, softball, tennis, dancing,  limitless options.
  • Make exercise time your fun time. What physical activity makes you smile? Starts with S? I meant skipping rope, but yes, of course the other too!
  • Cultivate a handful of activity partners so you always have a playmate for different activities.

 

What do you do to roll out if your exercise ruts?

Live and travel vigorously: 7 tips to activate your next getaway.

Being fit and healthy for life is to a large extent about exercising (pun intended) an active lifestyle. Having a healthy mindset to a large degree is also about being physical, being outdoors and being open to new experiences, people, ideas and places.

So my advice, plan your next vacation and make it count. It’s an investment in your health and well being that will pay dividends in both the short and long run. I know you’re so worn out from your daily grind that you might think you just want to sink into a hammock with a coconut drink and not move for 7 days, but hear me out. You can have your coconut drink and hammock time, but if you vaca my way, I guarantee you’ll enjoy them more.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whether it’s a staycation, a camping trip, or an exotic locale – find your activity bliss (limitless options) – whatever makes you smile while you sweat just a little or a lot.

7 tips to “activate” your next getaway 

  • Say “yes” to opportunity. If an invitation to do something active and outside of your realm lands in your lap, take it.  Adjust your schedule, do what you need to do, but as they say “Just do it.” It’s those serendipitous surprises in life that seem to yield the biggest rewards.
  • Try an activity that’s outside of your comfort zone. (On a recent vaca, I immersed myself in yoga and meditation and it yielded some incredible results, as well as a new respect for both activities. I’m a convert – I’ll tell you why in an upcoming post .)
  • Go somewhere new. Even if it’s just that park around the corner that you’ve never explored, go check it out.
  • Get out of the country if you can. The dollar is strong right now so it’s probably less expensive than you think and it’s such an enriching experience.
  • Book a trek, bike / multi-sport, dive, kayak, [fill in the blank] adventure vacation. There are so many great active adventure tour operators out there and they cater to people of all levels. No planning, just tons of active fun with like-minded people. (My adventures have included a 4 day trek to Machu Pichuu, and more recently, an amazing 3 day multi-sport and a 3 day mt. bike adventure in Northern Thailand. (See my pics,videos and posts on my adventure travel site: onthelooselive.com.)
  • Do what you’ve always wanted to do. Take that tennis, golfing, dancing, diving, karate, fly fishing, or rock climbing class that you’ve always wanted to try. There’s no time like the present so stop putting the good stuff off. Try something new or get back to an old, but not forgotten pastime. With tons of inexpensive and free classes, your local community colleges and yes, even senior centers are great resources.
  • Check out local activity meetups at your destination. You’ll meet new peeps and get the local scoop on bike routes, hiking, running trails, etc…
Longtail Boat Snorkel Trip

Longtail Boat Snorkel Trip, near Railay, Krabi in Thailand

The options are limitless! Tell me, where will you go next and what will you do?

Like this blog? Like active adventure travel? Check out onthelooselive.com for fun explorations near and far.

Iconic N. County Camp P bike route & a chance encounter with the “Starving Cyclist”

A great iconic North County ride and one of my favs is through Camp Pendleton, a US Marine Corps base, to San Clemente State Beach. Bring your driver’s license as they check IDs at the gates both entering and leaving the base. It can be a little tricky merging with traffic to get onto the base from the South in Oceanside, but once you’re through that – it smooth cycling with minimal traffic and very few lights or stops signs. The roads are generally in good shape, but the rain storms have beat them up a bit so be alert to debris and bumps. Just one hill and the rest is flat with a couple rollers. (I’ll have to film it for you.)

Once you exit the northern gate of Camp Pendleton, / Las Pulgas exit off Interstate 5, you’ll be in the blissful no car zone along the old airstrip and out to the San Onofre bike trail and the beach. Cruise along enjoying fantastic vistas of bluffs, beaches, and the Pacific. In the summer, you do need to be on the watch for campers, kids and surfers running amok. There’s camping, picnic and restrooms available throughout the park.20170205_122303

Yay, getting back in the road bike saddle. This was my 5th and longest ride post kidney stone surgery (see my Honoring the gift of health post). (Yes, I drank my H2o on the ride.) I cut it about 10 miles short for a total of 46 miles with 2,015 elevation gain/loss. 20170205_122412

Speaking of camping and biking, I ran into the “starving cyclist” , AKA Greg Valenzuela, on my ride. He’s been on the road for nearly 5 years biking around the world on his Cannondale. Greg didn’t want his picture taken so here’s his rig instead.

I asked Greg some questions about his adventures.

How many miles do you ride a day?

Between 40 and 100 depending where I am and where the next stop is.

Where’s the best place to ride in the States?

Washington and Oregon as there are so many cyclists who live there and the scenery is great.

Where have you felt the least safe?

Mexico and Nicaragua are sketchy (understatement).

Did you get any tickets?

4 tickets in New Zealand for not wearing a helmet.

How much does your rig weigh?

Got it down to about 121lbs…

Have you been in any accidents?

Yeah, a couple, but nothing serious.

Any tips?

If you’re riding in hot climates like Thailand, take saunas in the morning if you can. It will help you acclimate to the heat.

Where to next?

Dana Point on my way to Redondo Beach and then off to Morocco.

Who inspires you?

Check out the inspiration page on my blog.

And who inspires your inspirator? (Some really great sites & videos here!)

http://www.bikewanderer.com/inspiration-1/

Happy adventuring!

Got your race results? Athlinks does.

Having trouble keeping track of your race results? Creating spreads sheet to microanalyze your times from race to race and compare them to your closest rivals? If you compete and want to make progress, you need to hone on the details. What seems like minutia may be the key to unlocking your next PR. This is especially true when it comes to triathlons, duathlons, aquabikes,  and the like because there are so many aspects that come into play. Yes, the swim, bike, and run, but also those pesky transitions. Races have been won and lost due to transition efficiency / inefficiency as I mentioned in my Tips for Conquering the 70.3 /Half Iron post. Trust me, it stinks to miss the podium or your PR due a slack transition. Stay tuned for a tips on transitions post.

The good news is that there’s a website called Athlinks that makes it easy to “geek out” on your results and  unveil your best opportunities for improvement. Athlinks is a comprehensive database of endurance race results worldwide. If you’ve raced, your results are visible there – go check them out. Here’s what it looks like:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(And yes, the transition for my race looks super long, but a full iron was going in as well so it was super convoluted and protracted. The important / telling thing is that my transition was still “winning” comparatively speaking.

You can view your race results without joining Athlinks if you like, but joining is free and fun. Once you do, you can get a a complete (macro & micro) view of your race history, see how you rank,  calendar future events, follow your friends, stalk (figuratively speaking) your rivals, keep a training log, etc. Whether you’re racing for the podium or just for the sport of it, Athlinks is a great resource. And no, no one’s paying me to say so.

What’s your biggest opportunity for improvement? Got questions? Send ’em.