This picture alone is why America needs to have more subways.
Yoga is supposed to be the ultimate non-competitive exercise but if you’ve ever spent time in a “serious” yoga class (or even a not-so-serious one) you’ll discover the Pose Off. I wish I was talking about lining up all the mats like a catwalk and having each yogi do their best Tyra impression. No, I mean the inevitable comparison of who can do which advanced poses and how well. Since overt bragging doesn’t mesh well with the whole yoga vibe, you have to make your stunts look calm and serene. Oh this? I always relax in a fingertip handstand. You can’t do it? Super easy – you just have to focus on tightening your core and you’ll get it!
(Side note: I swear the answer to EVERY tricky yoga pose is always “It’s all in your core! If you just hug your ribs together you’ll pop right up like a beach umbrella, easy peasy lemon squeezie!” Also, why is there no Beach Umbrella Pose?? There should be. I don’t care if beach umbrellas didn’t exist in ancient India. Neither did Justin Beiber and yet we now have yogaBiebs poses.)
Ranked right up there with the perfect squat and the best blender for smoothies, the “runner’s high” is one of the most elusive yet sought-after myths in modern fitness lore. But is it a real biochemical response or just marathoners trying to justify spending their whole Saturday running? The anecdotal evidence is mixed: for people who get a runner’s high it’s not only real but amazing; but for people who’ve never had one it can seem like a whole lot of hooey. Fortunately a new study in The Journal of Experimental Biology tests this out and the results are very interesting!
Q: Is the runner’s high real?
A: Researchers measured endocannabinoids (a brain chemical that indicates increased pleasure) in humans, dogs and ferrets both before and after a run. What they found was that humans and dogs both experience a large increase in the endocannabinoids after a 30-minute treadmill run. The ferrets on the other hand experienced no increase. Because ferrets. Have you seen their ugly little mugs? I don’t think they enjoy anything, frankly. Ferrets are the Joan Rivers of the animal world. Actually the researchers postulate it is because ferrets as a species are not adapted to run, especially at high speeds or for long distances. The researchers conclude that the neurobiological “reward” for endurance exercise may explain why humans continue to engage in aerobic exercise despite the extra work and injury risks.
People find inspiration in the darndest places. Like these ads to inspire more women to breastfeed… by showing men doing it. Now, I’m not knocking these brave dudes but I’m just saying that as a lady with mammaries all these ads make think are “Yeah but you can’t… so why are you confusing that baby with a hairy nipple?”
We’ve all done it. Whether it’s sneaking a peek at the treadmill readout from the person next to us and upping our speed a bit to match theirs or seeing someone deadlift three times their body weight and deciding to give the DL another try or even seeing someone proudly wearing a bright, weird outfit and using that to craft our own bright, weird outfit, taking inspiration from what other people say and do is as normal as looking in the bowl after you go to the bathroom. Sometimes we don’t want to admit we do it but nevertheless we all do.
And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking inspiration from what’s around us. But the advent of social media has changed the rules a bit – upped the stakes – when it comes to talking about what inspires us. Three recent examples have really shown how publicly thanking people for being inspiring can go horribly awry.
I have SO done this.
I’m not too proud to admit this: I cried all the way through Anne Hathaway’s solo as the cursed Fantine in Les Miserable. And not just a few sniffles – I sobbed. And sang along. And sobbed harder. It was the ugliest of ugly cries. I would have been mortified except I was sitting next to my friend Jeni who was crying and singing just as much as I was. I’m not sure what the rest of the theater was doing but in that moment both of us were completely caught up in one of the most moving stories ever to be written, accompanied by one of the best scores ever written. (And just to make you sure you understand the depth of my Les Mis love I’ve seen the Broadway production twice and cried like a hysterical fool through that too. My copy of Victor Hugo’s novel is one of the most highlighted, most read books I own.)
I think this guy is on to something: he just condensed the whole eat-exercise cycle down to one picture-perfect moment of glory!
“Oooh I did not expect that!” My friend and I were discussing all the different ways we were sore from our awesome circuit workout on Monday. It was the first time she’d done a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout with weights and even though I’d tried to warn her that despite its deceptive shortness (30 minutes in-n-out!) the metabolic effects can be rough, she was still surprised by the fatigue, soreness and, most of all, the hunger. “I don’t know how much good it did,” she sighed. “I felt like I couldn’t get enough food all day – I just kept eating and eating!”
Let’s be honest: These are disgusting and I’d still eat them. Because they look like jelly beans. Sigh.
Runners are a strange breed and as such they do lots of stuff you wouldn’t find normal people doing. For instance, they have their own code of hand signs. (Some other day we’ll have to discuss the significance of the one-finger wave, two-finger wave, full-hand wave and head nod. I’m solid on the one-finger salute though so no need to explain that one.) They carry more baggies than a crack dealer. They can identify the type and degree of pronation in toddlers walking. Oh and remember that time Paula Radcliff scooched her shorts to the side and politely defecated right before the finish line of the London Marathon and no one batted an eyelash because anyone who’s ever had “runner’s tummy” felt her pain? (She still won, by the way.)
*Warning for possible triggers regarding eating disorders.*
Your body grows and repairs when you rest – even babies know that! And also: Babeez spooooning!! Awwwwww.
“How did you find time to exercise 3-6 hours a day?” (I organized everything else in my life around exercise, didn’t sleep much and did insane stuff like shuttle sprints in the dark parking lot after doing my grocery shopping. Also, I didn’t watch TV.)
“How skinny did you get?” (Not as skinny as you’d think I would have been.)
“I want an exercise addiction, hahah!” (Come over here so I can smack you.)
“No seriously, that’s really a problem?” (Yes. It’s a type of eating disorder.)
Over the years as I’ve spoken more openly about my years of compulsive over exercise, people understandably have lots of questions. But one question I’ve gotten a lot lately is “How did you know you needed help?” The sad-but-true answer is I didn’t. I was so deep into my illness that I couldn’t see it for what it was. But I can tell you what finally drove me to seek medical care.
Stylin’ at the start line!
Ever had a super annoying running partner*? There’s The Perma-Injured – the person who always has something wrong with him/her, whether it be fallen arches or a sore knee or a blocked aura or whatever. New day, new injury. Then there’s The Whiner – the one who complains about the weather, his shoes, the TV programming, her husband and the chia seeds stuck in their teeth. Don’t forget The Competitor – the guy or girl who is always trying to stay two steps ahead of you, elbowing you off the sidewalk, telling you all their past race times or otherwise letting you know how much you suck at running. Oh and my personal favorite, The Hip Magnet – the fellow runner who apparently has a magnet in their hip that makes them run so close to you that if you were in a tampon ad you’d be holding hands and braiding daisy chains. No matter how many ninja moves you do to try and regain your personal space they will inexorably be drawn back to your side. If you’re lucky they’ll offer you a piggy back.
This morning dawned (?) dark, rainy and cold – the perfect time for my scheduled park workout! Because I’m bad at planning! After dragging myself out of bed at the crack of black and convincing my friend to as well, we did a quick half hour circuit of body weight exercises and sprints. It was one of those workouts that doesn’t feel too rough when you’re doing it but really takes a lot out of you, especially if you’re not used to high-intensity interval training. So when my friend texted me a half hour later saying she was shaky, couldn’t get warm and also couldn’t lift her arms over her head, I felt bad for not warning her about the possibility of getting the dreaded sugar shakes.
You know, how you sometimes get shaky, light-headed, nauseated, cold, and mentally foggy during or right after a workout? That completely miserable feeling like you kinda want to puke or die? Yep, sugar shakes. I’ve so been there. Which makes it sound like we’re sugar junkies jonesing for our next hit of the white granulated stuff (confession: I kind of am) but in reality something as simple as an early morning workout before breakfast can throw your blood sugar was all out of whack.
Forget night swimming REM, night running has always been my favorite nocturnal sport. There’s just something about running through an unlit night, the inky blackness completely obliterating my body until I feel incorporeal. Dispossessed. Airborne. In the sense of flying, yes, but also that I feel born of air. I’m elegant in ways that I never can be in daylight. I’m light and quick through the dark, a sure-footed sprite.
That is until I trip over a tree root and face plant.
Oh and did I mention that I like to do my night running set to Orff’s “Carmina Burana” or Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite? (Lie: It’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. Of course it is.) Very very loudly. And with no reflective gear, save the glow of my pale legs? And preferably in the mountains or the forest? It’s the closest I get to real magic.
It’s probably also the closest I get to really putting myself in danger too which is why I’ve not done it in years. And that’s a travesty because I used to love it.