Loosening Tight Legs: Yoga for Runners

We finally got some cooler weather, which means I am back to running again for the first time in weeks. It feels so great to be outside on a breezy morning pumping my legs and enjoying the rhythm of a good run, but boy are my legs tight and sore afterward! I had forgotten how quickly you can lose your running fitness when you take a little time off.

As I get back in the swing of doing a few miles in the morning, I realize that I’m going to need to be a little more diligent about stretching and post-run recovery. With that in mind, I’ve decided to return to two yoga videos that I’ve used in the past to help ease post-run leg tightness and target my main sources of running pain and tension.

First up is a great routine for releasing tightness in and around the IT Band. If you suffer from chronic ITB tightness, or are dealing with pain and discomfort in your hips and the outside of your thigh, I recommend incorporating this short video into your weekly routine to help ease ITB tension and bring some relief to your entire hip, glute and thigh region.

My second recommendation is a video that is perfect runners or anyone suffering from tight hamstrings. This routine helps to slowly, but deeply stretch and release hamstring tension. I always feel much more mobile after I do this routine, and my legs once again feel like they are working with me instead of against me.

You don’t have to be a runner to experience the benefits of these videos. Anyone suffering from leg pain or tightness, whether too much or too little activity is the culprit, can improve range of motion, release deep muscle tension and reduce pain and discomfort by incorporating these short videos into their regular wellness routine.

A New Year

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Growing up, I spent a lot of time on college campuses. My dad is a professor, and as such, academia formed the backdrop of my childhood. From a local campus in a small town, to a private college in a large city, and big state schools in quintessential college towns, I have spent most of my life on and around college campuses. For me, the passage of time and the stages of the year are marked by the academic calendar. A new year begins in September, when classes kick off and the semester begins. I feel the same anticipation, and that simultaneous sense of closure and renewal that one might get as the holiday season winds down and New Year’s Day approaches. It has been nearly a decade since I lived on a college campus and my own life was marked by the start of a school year, but I can still feel that sense of a new year building up inside of me in the weeks leading up to the start of a semester, as if the school schedule creates its own circadian rhythm that shifts my internal being into a new sense of space and time.

I like the wind down of summer, as the days start to grow a bit shorter again and the evenings begin to cool (please god any day now). Time starts to feel like it’s measured in distance rather than hours, and we are slowly marching closer and closer to a new beginning.

Even as a young kid, I always enjoyed going back to school. I liked shopping for school supplies, and picking out my first-day-of-school outfit. Perhaps it’s because I spent so much of my childhood sharing a room with my sister, but I loved having a desk that was all my own, with my name taped to the top of it. I like packed lunches and lined paper, and the sound of the bell ringing.

I love being on college campuses as the start of a new year approaches. Everything looks so clean, and fresh, so welcoming. I live close to a college campus again now, and I’m looking forward to some cooler evening weather in the weeks ahead so that my husband and I can take the dog on some longer walks around the campus grounds and watch as the students begin to return. I love seeing freshman move into their dorms, and imagining their excitement and anticipation. I like the feeling in the air when campus life has started again, but classes aren’t underway yet, so everyone seems light and joyful, but you can sense the seriousness and determination that is beginning to bubble up inside of them.

I ache for the first football game of the season. In college, I lived in a house that was just behind the marching band’s practice field, and the first familiar sounds of the school fight song each summer was like a herald calling  out across the town that a new year was underway. It is one of the things I miss most about those days, and is a feeling that, unfortunately, nothing else can come close to replicating.

I took a break from regular posting and writing this summer. That’s what summers are for, stepping back and embracing a bit of lethargy in our lives. But as always when a new school year approaches, I am feeling refreshed and ready to get back into the swing of things. I’ll be back to more regular posting in the weeks ahead. It’s time to sharpen my pencils and break out my notebooks: a new year is about to begin.

Peaceful Places

I like to eat breakfast while sitting at my kitchen island, with one foot propped up on the unused stool beside me. It’s so peaceful in there in the mornings: quiet and warm with soft light coming through the side door. My husband usually leaves for work before I even wake up, so I have my mornings all to myself and I enjoy soaking in the stillness of my surroundings before my day really starts. It is the most still in the kitchen, in the very spot where I sit and quietly eat, or sip a cup of coffee. I don’t think about anything in particular. I don’t check my email, or catch up on the morning news, or scroll through my Instagram feed. I just take in the quiet and slowly ease my way into the day. It’s perfect. It’s my favorite peaceful place.

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Here are a few other peaceful spots that stand out in my mind, and make me feel calm and content just thinking about them.

My garden, where our flowers are blooming wildly and I can disappear from sight when I sit down in the dirt to pull weeds. I love the sound of big, lazy bumble bees buzzing around me. And I like looking out from between the plants and seeing my dog relaxing happily in the shade of our big pine tree.

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A beach, at sunrise. I am not an early riser by nature, but sometimes the struggle to wake up is worth it to enjoy a view like this. The sand is cool and soft in the early morning, and walking along the beach as the sun creeps into the sky is such a serene and relaxing experience. This photo is from Lanikai Beach in Kailua on Oahu.

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A mountain lake. It’s the freshest, most cleansing air I’ve ever breathed. This photo is from Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is high up in the mountains, so the air temperature was cool and pleasant, but the sun was warm and it felt so nice to sit on the heated rocks and watch as the clouds began to drift down over the lake. Again, we had to get up early and set out in the dark in order to be sure we made it back down the mountain before storms rolled in, but it was worth the early start to experience this view.

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What are your favorite peaceful places?

 

5 Articles You May Have Missed: Good News

2016 has been a tough year, filled with a lot of bad news. From mass shootings, to police violence, an orange-colored sociopath running for president, and the impending disaster that the Rio Olympics is shaping up to be, it doesn’t feel like there is whole lot to feel good about these days. We even got some much needed rain in the Baltimore region over the weekend, and it came so fast and furious that the flooding destroyed Ellicott City’s historic downtown. While it’s important not to simply close our eyes and shut ourselves away from our world’s problems, it’s equally important to step back from time to time and remind ourselves that there are a lot of positive stories and advances that are happening every day. With that in mind, here are five articles that offer a bit of positive news, some brightness to balance out our more recent dark times.

Turns out all those people dumping cold water over their heads was not for nothing. The money raised through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has helped researchers identify a new gene linked to the disease. Plus a bunch of the money went toward patient services. As someone who has lost a family member to ALS, I must say thank you to everyone who donated and froze their butts off in support of this cause.

You know how everyone says that sitting all day is really terrible for your health? (It is!) Well the good news is that a new study has found that regular, moderate exercise may be able to reverse the damaging effects of our sedentary lifestyles.

The hole in the O-Zone layer is healing.

Here’s a bit of good news for all of my friends who recently had babies: whatever method you choose to get your baby to sleep will in fact improve sleep and will not cause any long-term negative outcomes. So stop reading posts on mommy forums about which sleep interventions are best, and rest easy knowing that whatever you’re doing will work out fine.

When all else fails, read about doggy best friends.

 

 

Simple Summer Dinner

It has been miserably hot this past week in Baltimore. All of the members of my household, both human and furry varieties, have spent most of our time splayed out on the floor or couches with our limbs spread wide, our bellies in the air, and our tongues lolling out of the side of our mouths. We’re a sad bunch with zero energy or motivation for anything beyond the most basic tasks of living. Oh the joys of a mid-Atlantic summer.

Whether you too are suffering in the heat, or enjoying a more mild summer that actually makes you want to spend your time outdoors in the company of people you love, if you’re like me, you prefer to limit your cooking time during the summer. Who wants to spend extra time in a hot kitchen when you could be relaxing outside on a beautiful summer evening, or standing with your face pressed up against the air conditioner vent imagining what it would feel like to have the whole world suddenly crust over in beautiful, cold sheets of ice?

Summer meals should be quick, easy, and minimize your time spent next to a hot stove. And ideally, they should make good use of fresh summer ingredients. With those criteria in mind, I share with you one of my favorite super simple dinner recipes that utilizes two of my favorite seasonal tastes: fresh basil and tomatoes. This is a one-pot pasta dish that is easy to prep, quick to cook, and requires very little cleanup. Plus it is really tasty. Pair it with a mixed green salad and some crusty bread and you have a fast, easy meal to share with guests, or to enjoy all on your own as you sit on the couch in your underwear with a fan blowing directly on you from only a foot away.

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One Pot Linguine With Tomato and Basil

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What You’ll Need:

12 oz linguine (I’ve also used fettuccine)

12 oz cherry tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters depending on size

1 onion, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes (less if you don’t like things too spicy)

2 sprigs of basil (I usually use more) plus some torn leaves for garnish

2 tbsp EVOO, and a bit more for serving

Coarse salt and ground pepper

4 1/2 cups of water

Grated parmesan or other cheese of your choice for serving

What You’ll Do:

In a large sauté pan, combine all of the ingredients except for the cheese. Use about 2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Everything is going in the pan together! Pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, red-pepper, oil, salt, pepper and water. All of it at once! Bring the water to a boil over high heat and cook the pasta, stirring frequently with tongs. You want to cook it until the water is nearly evaporated, which takes about 10 minutes. The pasta will be al dente and should look and taste creamy.

Season with a more salt and pepper as needed, garnish with basil and serve with cheese and more olive oil if needed.

Enjoy!

A Quick Yoga Flow for Sluggish Mornings

I have had trouble getting going in the mornings. I blame the heat. I wake up and it is already muggy and warm outside, and my bed is so cool and comfortable. Lately I’ve had to drag myself out of bed and I shuffle through my morning routine with my eyes half closed. It takes all my willpower to keep from collapsing on the couch and going back to sleep for another hour.

To help jump start my days and bring a little energy to my body, I have started doing short yoga routines when I first wake up. I’m choosing videos that are around 20 minutes long because I don’t always a have a ton of time in the morning, and sticking with flows that are gentle and not too challenging, because the purpose is to give my body a chance to wake up, stretch out and release some of the stiffness that can build up during the night.

If you too are struggling to get yourself moving in the morning, I recommend trying a short yoga flow to get your blood pumping. It’s been really helpful for me and is a pleasant way to start my days. Here’s the video I did this morning if you’d like to check it out.

Pokémon Go and the Power of Getting Out

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When I first read about the new Pokémon Go interactive game Nintendo released, I thought it sounded pretty silly. I am not a Pokémon person. I didn’t even realize until recently that it was a game. I remember there being a tv series that I never saw, and I always figured it was like an anime version of beanie babies with stuffed figures that you could collect and trade with friends. That there was the ability to battle and compete within the Pokémon world was completely unknown to me. So it is very safe to say that I am not Pokémon Go’s target audience, and that I have no intention of taking part in its newest iteration, but it’s been interesting watching the reactions to this game.

Though I remain skeptical that a cultural phenomenon that further glues people to their smartphone screens and encourages them to connect to the world only through technology is actually a positive thing–and there have certainly been some negative consequences of the game with people hurting themselves and disrupting spaces where game playing and levity don’t really belong (please people, do not catch Pokémon at the Holocaust Museum)–I am pleasantly surprised by the tremendous anecdotal evidence that the game is helping people with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions be more active and social. It’s a positive benefit that I had considered when I first heard about the game, and I’m glad to see so many reports of people who normally struggle with motivation and social interaction finding that they are inspired to get outside.

You can check out a long list of tweets and posts from people about how the game has helped them here, and here.