Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Do this one thing and every workout will feel brand new!

Sometimes I am not super excited about my workout.

After waking to a rainy day, I took one look at my stability ball and yoga mat and thought, ugh. So instead of hitting the floor, I grabbed a second cup of coffee and went out on the balcony.

It felt so nice (it's in the low 80s today)! That's when I decided to move my workout outside.

As usual, I brought the stability ball into things. Today I worked on single leg squats. Just like when I use the ball during wall squats, it aids the motion of moving up and down. I still get the burn, but I feel "safer" especially since the ball is pushed up against the door.

In addition to my normal strength exercises, I mixed in some yoga poses that specifically work the quads. Here's a ***list in case you are looking to add yoga into your strength workout:

chair pose
warrior 1-3
crescent lunge (low & high)
goddess pose

***I linked to GaiamTV because I think it has the best information and step-by-step directions for beginners like me.

It's amazing how doing one little thing, like moving your workout to a new place, can make it feel brand new. It works with my runs, so I should've thought to use this trick with my strength workouts too.


Another amazing thing that I want to share is dinner from last night. Back home we always grill the blackened salmon fillets, but here in China my only option was the microwave method. I usually steer clear of using the microwave (except to reheat), so I had a backup plan to order pizza if it didn't turn out well. It was DEE-LISH-OUSSS!! Oh my GOODNESS! I can't wait to have more.

In case you want to get some for yourself, here's the exact brand we buy from Sam's.

I saw this on Instagram and definitely think I should get it. mrC and I run a lot together.

The links I shared in this post are just from me...no compensation was made to me on behalf of any product or company.

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Running Partner and New Gear

We had a mellow weekend. We went to church Sunday afternoon. It takes about 45 minutes to get there, so we combined it with a shopping trip to Sam's Club (along with about 100,000 Chinese locals). We did score some Blackened Salmon, which we'll be having for dinner tonight. I love finding favorites from home.

On the walk to the church from the metro, we stopped to buy some water and I saw this Pea Protein. I'd never heard of it, but I guess it's all the rage now especially if you are on a plant-based diet.

Today I met up with my expat friend for our first morning run together.

The weather was on our side: no rain, but lots of clouds. It was still warm as heck, but so much nicer than trying to run when the sun is out.

We did an easy out an back along the waterfront. It worked out nicely that we have a similar pace in this yucky humid environment and she likes to run for time, not distance, too.

My knee was a little stiff after the run, so I made sure to foam roll, massage, and stretch.

Later while I was surfing Instagram, I saw BAMR Bands was having a bundle sale, so I snagged myself some new gear to celebrate my knee feeling better and because I love my MRTT group.

If you haven't tried BAMR Bands yet, you should. They are super cute, affordable, and a dollar from every sale goes to charity. You can read more here ---> BAMR Bands

To see my Instagram posts, like from my run this morning, follow me --> Running Escapades

Tomorrow is strength day. I'll be putting those videos I shared in my last post to work again.

When you look at the beginning of the week as a fresh start, Mondays don't seem so bad.

Friday, July 17, 2015

It's What We Make Of It

Yesterday I did not go sight-seeing or to the fitness center.

Long story, short: We had a power outage in the middle of the night. Being awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night makes me feel like a zombie the next day. You get the idea.

Oh, and the thunderstorms that were forecast for Thursday were a day late. It's been raining and storming all day.

Days like this can make me feel a little lazy. Two days in a row and I start feeling like a slacker.

But then I was talking to a friend who reminded me that we don't have to run/bike/swim every single day. There are other ways to get in our fitness. Just cleaning the house can be a workout. Fitness is what we make of it, not how much we can do!

This made me think about what I did do on my so-called lazy days:

1. I foam rolled

2. I did more trigger point therapy on my VM

3. I did some strength training: stability ball, core, knee strength exercises

4. I took walks

5. I let my body rest ---> it's true. Rest is important!

I also did some more reading on the vastus medialis and learned a few more things. Like, a weak VM can cause the knee cap to not track properly and a tight VM can lead to knee pain.

I found a couple of exercise videos that focus on strengthening the VMO, but liked this one the most. I'm sharing in case you are dealing with the same symptoms and because we all need to protect our knees with strong quad muscles.

But I also liked this one from Popsugar ---> leg strengthening workout. 

My left leg is still very weak compared to my right. I'm now on a mission to change that. Otherwise, I fear my knee problems will continue to haunt me.
Ever since my knee surgery in December, my range of motion has been limited. This makes doing a simple quad stretch extremely uncomfortable and awkward. The added knee pain made me drop the ball and stop stretching.
I had no idea how tight my quad had become or how much relief my knee would feel after dedicating a couple of minutes to this simple stretch.

Today I'm thankful for resting, trigger point therapy, and stretching. My knee continues to feel better. And that makes me happy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pesky Trigger Points

Last night I discovered a nasty knot right near my left (crabby) knee.

It was Taco Tuesday at Coyote's, our favorite Mexican restaurant here in Shenzhen, so we walked to dinner. My legs and feet were a little achey after we returned, probably from those 5 miles on the treadmill.

I grabbed some lotion and gave myself a self-massage. For someone who foam rolls (almost) every damn day, how do I end up with a knot that feels like the size of a golf ball? Well, for starters that inner part of my quad is seriously tender. I might not spend enough time there since it makes me want to cry.

If I were back home, I would call Dr. Brian for a little Active Release Therapy or Graston to release that bugger. Instead I turned to Dr. Google.

Here's what I found:

1. That muscle is called Vastus Medialis.

2. It's not a knot (haha). There is a trigger point RIGHT there.

3. Catching yourself mid-slip/fall can overload the quad (as a whole) and activate the trigger point. That may be what happened to me. I slipped and fell on a run a couple of weeks ago.

4. Running is a common cause for overloading this muscle too.

5. Treating trigger points can be done at home (yay!) by locating the spot and then applying pressure for 10-60 seconds.

In my research I also read that an active VM trigger point could cause knee pain. Hmmm. After a few minutes of self massage last night, my cranky knee is feeling better.

Crossing my fingers that this is the cause and I can go back to swimming laps.

Today's workout:

Strength training: in the apartment. stability ball workout, ninja ab workout, and this PopSugar plank workout that showed up in my inbox this morning. Note: I modified the circuit to 10 reps. Repeat 2x.

Cross training: a little bike ride around the 'hood and an evening walk with mrC.

Tomorrow the weather is looking questionable: 80% chance of rain/thunderstorms. I'm either going on another sight-seeing trip with friends or biking it to the fitness center for another treadmill workout.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sometimes being a baby has benefits...

Today was my 23rd run in China.

It was also my longest run 5.05 miles.

I used to run all the time on the treadmill. Then I started running outside and looking down on the treadmill miles as inadequate. What was I thinking? Miles are miles. Some people run 100 miles non-stop on a treadmill. That's pretty bad-ass.

A month ago I was lucky enough to score a membership to the Hilton Fitness Center. I started swimming laps after my hikes and runs. My bad knee started to get cranky. This happened in Dubai too, so I stopped doing laps.

It's been two weeks since I swam laps. Most of my runs have been at the fitness center on the treadmill. At first this bothered me and I thought, I'm being a baby and running on the treadmill instead of being all tough chick in the heat. 

Then I had an awesome run...on the treadmill. During that run my iPod shuffled to a song that I used to listen to A LOT when I first started running at the YMCA in 2005 ---> WOW! I've been running for 10 years! Anywhoo, that song has a slow bpm and my legs kind of naturally fell into the rhythm. I slowed the speed down and then everything just felt right.

I'm learning that there are benefits to running on the treadmill:

1. You can definitely beat the heat running inside. Although I leave sweat drops all over the machine.

2. It's a safe place to test your body after an injury or experiencing pain. No worries about having to get back home if you have to stop part way.

3. There's an ability to control your run to focus on mechanics and feeling. Here in China especially, there's just too many distractions (people and traffic) to allow yourself to concentrate on much more than not running into something.

4. Since I don't usually listen to music on outdoor runs, on the treadmill I can enjoy my iTunes collection of old and new songs. Sometimes a good song is just what you need to reset your running rhythm.

Most of my runs since leaving the U.S. have been 3 miles or less. My hips were feeling a little tight after today's five. My chiropractor recommended rolling my glutes on a tennis ball. Ouch! Hurts so good. But it works.

Tomorrow I'm going to focus on strength. I've heard that even 10 minutes a day of strength can make a big difference in your overall health. I'm on it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sunrise Run with Surprising Weather

For the past month I have been dealing with temperatures in the FEELS LIKE 100++++. I was just starting to embrace it, especially after reading this article about the benefits of running in the heat, when today happened.

With mrC on a trip, I was out the door early to beat the sun (and the heat), but then it was so COOL! Surprise!!

I pretty much enjoyed every step of my nearly 3.5 mile run. The low temperature, steady breeze, and lack of sun kept me comfortable and watching the sun ascend over the city almost made me want to pinch myself...am I really running in China?

I'm still feeling twinges in my knee. Twinges that I'm guessing I will deal with indefinitely since my knee has been through three surgeries. But I'm learning to listen to my body. Learning to take it easy. Learning to enjoy the miles that I can get.

After a quick shower, bite to eat (PB&J rice cakes), and cool down, I hurried back outside to enjoy the beautiful weather with a bike ride. Not so fast. mrC took my apartment keys by mistake...along with my bike lock key. 

Instead I strolled along the waterfront savoring every minute of the extra-pleasant Shenzhen weather. It's funny to be out on such a beautiful day, but the waterfront is nearly empty. The Chinese avoid the sun, unlike Americans who chase it.

I'm still loving my Oofos recovery flip flops. My feet stay cool and comfortable, but supported. I'm actually planning to get this pair when we are home for vacation next month.

Back home I noticed some tightness in my calves, so I struggled into my Pro Compression calf sleeves and foam rolled.

To wrap up my fitness morning, I put together a frozen blueberry, raspberry, pineapple protein smoothie with a turkey roll-up for lunch.

What's the temperature where you are?
Do you find it hard to put on compression sleeves/socks like I do?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fuel Up Friday: Before, During, & After

After combing through the travel websites, mrC and I bought the tickets for our upcoming vacation back to the states! To celebrate we rode our bikes to the ferry terminal to purchase our tickets to the Hong Kong airport.

Today, like most days, my pre-workout fuel was two PB&J rice cakes.

Since the weather was so nice, we took our bikes for an extended ride on the Shenzhen Bikeway.

At the turn-around there's a cute little snack shack. We usually just get water, but today I needed a little something extra for my mid-workout fuel and I felt like trying something fun and new.

A pineapple popsicle, bīng bǎng in Chinese, hits the spot on a warm humid day! Probably more tastes good than good for me, but you only live once!

After enjoying the views on our 10 mile bike ride, my post-workout fuel was a protein smoothie.

How do you #FuelUpFriday?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

My Lazy Day Wasn't So Lazy + 60 Second Challenge!

Today was supposed to be a lazy kind of day, but instead I found myself cleaning, working out, and biking to some errands.

I woke up early to speak to mrC before he left Singapore and to watch the other World Cup semi-final game. During half-time I decided to vacuum the floors. What a workout! This vacuum was gifted to us by a friend who returned to the US, and I have the hardest time getting it to cooperate!

After the game and cleaning the apartment, it was time for a morning strength session. I did the same stability ball workout from yesterday plus the 7 minute HIIT workout I shared a few days ago. 30 seconds on, 10 seconds rest, x12, repeat. Shewww!

I also took the PopSugar 1-minute plank with arm and leg reach challenge. She did 14 reps. I did 9. How many can you do?

After my workout, all I wanted was a smoothie. I took quick bike ride to Peninsula, about a mile away, to a local international store because I was running low on smoothie ingredients.

It's common to see street vendors selling local in-season produce at corner stands. On the way back from the store, I stopped to buy some watermelon.

For lunch I had left over cheesy quinoa & tuna and a smoothie made with fresh spinach and strawberries. 

What do you do during halftime of sporting events?
What's your favorite smoothie ingredient?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Done Before Noon and A New Favorite Snack!

I might have mentioned that it gets really hot in Shenzhen. Lately by noon it feels like 100 degrees or more! I had already adapted to the idea that between 1:00-4:00 people stay inside, but now I'm thinking noon might be a better start time.

Here's what I managed before noon today:

I saw my stability ball just sitting there this morning. So I made up a stability ball workout to do while waiting for the USA vs GER World Cup game to start ----> by the way, how awesome was that win??

After the game I rode the bike to the Hilton for a treadmill run and strength workout. I love that I have my own little parking area.

The Run: planned to do the usual 30 minutes, but I found my groove during mile 3 after my music shuffled to the oldie "Rompe" by Daddy Yankee. Kept it going for 40 and 4.3 miles. Thinking about miles, I ran 31 miles in June, so my July goal is to to beat that.

The Strength: focused on arms: chest press, lateral pull, seated row, medicine ball squat toss, and reclining crunches. SIDENOTE: I did not grunt at all during my strength exercises. Why do men grunt LOUDLY?

On my way home, I stopped at the grocery shop for a few items including BBQ sauce for my crockpot chicken dinner.

By noon, I was back at home and quickly made some turkey roll-ups for a FaceTime lunch date with mrC. I'm so happy that he comes home tomorrow!

I'm fairly certain that Popchips are my new favorite snack ---> and yes, I AM hugging an empty bag...but I promise that I did not eat them ALL today (even though I could!).

I'm going to spend a little time this afternoon reading the new book I downloaded: Luckiest Girl Alive. They say it's as good as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train and I loved both of those.

Do you grunt when you workout?
What is your favorite snack?