overcoming annoyances of exercise

When I look back at my high school self, sometimes I’m sort of amazed at the bandwidth I managed. I really have no idea how I to got straight A’s (oh no, i CRIED if I got a B on anything), played sports year round and for a traveling club team, was in Leadership and every group you’re “supposed” to join to get into college, etc. If you are anything like me, you tend to spread yourself a little too thin sometimes – ok, almost always – and at some point, it catches up with you. You feel the burnout and thus become irritable, you get sick, or you snap at someone. I’ve actually done all 3, none are very fun. I tell myself all the time “you need to start saying no to things” or “take a break from such-and-such”. It could be telling a friend ‘no’ to grabbing a glass of wine (this is the hardest thing ever to say no to, by the way), staying home from an event to catch up on life chores, or being honest at work about taking on another project that’s going to put your head under water. It’s really about deciding where your time is best spent for you and your goals, what really moves and drives you, and where do you get the most pleasure/benefit. I believe keeping a focus on this really helps with overall happiness.

While giving things up here and there is necessary to create some “me on me” time in my schedule, there are some things that I absolutely refuse to give up on with my lifestyle – fitness and working out being pretty obviously one of them by now. I’ll find ways to fit workouts into jam packed work or social days, holidays, vacations, everything (also things I refuse to give up on are my morning lattes from Peet’s coffee, letting my dog sleep on my bed, and dark chocolate on a DAILY basis…but hey, they all, in their own ways, make me just a little bit happy). Of these “non-negotiables” in my crazy life, exercise is the obvious #1. Not only for that endorphin kick at the end that makes you feel amazing, but my race training, my weight, and my mental happiness rely on it.

As many reasons why exercising is a top priority for me, it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it takes some ridiculous will power to get out on the pavement or to the gym during a busy day, and dealing with sweat, clothing annoyances, and body backlash issues are not glamorous by any means.  Below are 5 unavoidable, annoying downsides to exercising that I’ve found are, albeit humorous, all too true – and how to overcome them to keep that motivation high and the positive vibes going!

1. Earbuds – I don’t know if it is just me or if the rest of the population struggles with this, but unless they are the old school 90’s headband earphones, mine DO NOT STAY in my ears when I am running. And then there are the cords that get caught on everything. And the buttons that malfunction when you sweat too much. Frustration central.

Problem Solving Tip: Wear a headband/sweatband that hold the earphones in place, and try looping the cord behind your head to avoid the swinging arm or weight yanking-out-of-place situation. So far, it’s working for me. Bonus? Keeps your ears warm on frigid days!

2. Alarm Clock wake-up calls. I have it EXTRA special in that Lucy tacks on 25 minutes to my morning routine, so those alarms go off way, way too early sometimes. There’s a million remedies for sleep, and really the only problem solver is to GET MORE of it, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Life is too fun to sleep a lot anyway.

Problem Solving Tip: Set your phone or alarm on the other side of the room. Use the message section to write yourself funny, positive notes or even reminders. Just the act of getting up to turn it on, coupled with some kind of thought-provoking message really helps to wake you up. I currently have Christmas music as my alarm, because I’m a weirdo like that, but it really helps! Insta-happiness.

3. Sweaty clothes at work. Gross. Unavoidable? Not really, sometimes. I’ll find myself diving into my gym bag to get my favorite chapstick and go totally beet red because people around me MUST smell the sweaty goodness permeating from the bag. Not to mention my laundry basket has a much higher turnover rate than your average bear. Scented candles in my room are my best friend.

Problem Solving Tip: Take dryer sheets and put a few in your gym bag, and one in each shoe. Take a small plastic bag along with you to put sweaty clothes in, then put in your gym bag. It adds an extra layer of protection, plus you feel a little bit better that you’ve redeemed that anti-eco friendly decision of paying $0.10 for a bag when you should have used a tote. When those things fail, embrace it. You’re an athlete. Athletes sweat.

4. Playlists – does anyone really have a perfect one? Maybe it’s because I’m often lazy and default to radio on Spotify or Pandora, but nothing aggravates me more when I’ve settled into a running pace and a song comes on that I hate. Trying to run, typing in my password with unstable fingers to unlock my phone and switch the song to one that I like, meanwhile one of my earbuds just fell out and Lucy just yanked me trying to chase a bird…-___-

Problem Solving Tip: Spend some time on this. Create stations or lists that are fool-proof, tried and true, and that are high energy. Or hey, use it as an excuse to get mentally tough. Say mantras in your head during crappy songs. Talk to yourself. Run faster out of anger. You choose.

5. Tightness and Soreness. While it feels amazing in its own way, exhausted and tight muscles are tough to deal with. Lactic acid builds up, your calf maybe feels like it has a golf ball inside of it, perhaps your IT band is causing a minor limp as you walk. None of this is a fun or sexy part about working out.

Problem Solving Tip: STRETCH and ROLL. I’ve talked about my love affair with the foam roller before, and there’s a reason. It really releases tension and buildup, increases circulation (read: less cramping), and actually helps with flexibility for when you stretch. Stretching POST workout helps your overall state of fitness and allows your muscles to take on more over time. Plus, it just feeeeeeels good. Sure it’s time consuming and seems like a chore after a hard workout, but put a slow song on, take deep breaths, and do it.

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the bar breakdown

When I was a kid, good ol’ Quaker Oats and Power Bars were pretty much the extent of my knowledge when it came to the (now EVER popular) “bar supplement.” In today’s society, both of those are considered bad for you – to the somewhat nutritionally aware, anyway. There’s constantly new brands and new lines within brands coming out…when it comes to the world of protein and supplement bars, what IS what? Well, it depends on your goals, first of all. If you’re working out to body build, your intake is going to be wildly different than if your goal is to run a marathon or to lose 5 lbs (note: those two things should NEVER go hand in hand. When I am training for a marathon, weight loss is the last thing on my mind and I actually tend to gain a few pounds in leg muscle. Besides, you risk malnourishment, you become a psychological mess, and your risk of injury skyrockets!).

We are so overexposed to varying philosophies of what is good for us, what is bad for us, what type of carb should I eat, what has too much sugar, sodium, etc. I struggle with it myself, because let’s be real here – I enjoy a deliciously sugar and carb heavy bar as much as the next guy, but my body would hate me over time if it was all I ate. Because I am not Olympic weight lifting, as many are not, I don’t rely on a 4,000 calorie diet and therefore need delicious ways to keep those stats in check. Also, how is eating that many calories in a day even possible? It’s actually impressive. It reminds me of reading that book by Dean Karnazes, the ultra-marathon runner, who ordered a FULL pizza while on a 6-8 run in the middle of the night. And people think I am crazy…unreal.

The point is, these days there are so many options out there – Cliff & Luna & Mojo and all of their other branch labels, Larabar, Power Bar, Pure Protein, KIND, ThinkThin, Kashi, the list goes on and on. Below, I outline the Top 5 bars for endurance athletes like myself, and for those looking to maintain or shed a few. Overall I think they are the “most healthy” bars…they are also my personal favorites so take this as you will. 🙂 In a nutshell, eat these if you’re looking for optimal energy/performance and to watch your sugar/carb intake.

1. KIND Bars – First of all, the variety of flavors is amazing. At 200 calories each, they are gluten free, have a high protein content because of the nuts, and and a few of them have only 5 grams sugar. They’re delicious, too! My favorite flavors are the Peanut Butter
& Dark Chocolate and the Blueberry Vanilla & Cashew.

KIND

2. LaraBar – Also gluten free, tons of flavors, 200 calories, good source of fiber and no added sugars. The texture is more like a soft cookie too – very easy to eat if you’re on the bike, mid-marathon, or in motion. My fave is definitely the Cashew Cookie.

larabar

3. Luna Protein – gluten free and 180 calories each, there are only 4 flavors but I dig them all! I try to get carbs in my diet “senza gluten” for the most part, so this one fits that bill. Luna (Cliff Bar line of bars for women) has great products overall, but these ones are awesome, mainly because they all have a chocolate coating. 🙂 Try the cookie dough. Delightful.

luna

4. ThinkThin – this bar grew on me over time, I’ll admit. No sugar, high protein, a little higher calorie value at ~230 per bar. If sugar alcohol tastes bother you, this may be your least favorite. I actually only like the Cookies & Cream and I LOVE the Creamy Peanut Butter (do not mix this up with the Chunky Peanut Butter. There is a very distinct difference, trust me!). They fill me up for a long time and have a nice texture.

thinkthin

5. Picky Bars – this is brand new on my list and introduced to me by a few fellow cyclists. They’re awesome! They’re vegan (it’s ok, dad, I’ve not gone to the dark side), gluten free, and a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, so fantastic for workouts that last over 1.5 hours (the company was founded by and for athletes)…and SO YUMMY. Try the All-In Almond.

Picky Bars 4

Now go get your bar on…happy training!

#givingtuesday

So apparently today is #givingtuesday (yes, I am hashtagging this one. Twitter, folks!). I, like many others, have to wonder where all of these random “holidays” come from. Like, how is there all of a sudden Cyber Monday (talk about a generational creation). Who coined these? Can we chalk it up to the economists of the world creating more excuses for people to spend money and feel ok about it? Who IS the genius that came up with the notion of bleeding Black Friday into Thanksgiving, and how much are those poor employees getting paid? Yes…I wonder a lot. It wasn’t until I opened my email this morning that I learned that someone had decided today was #givingtuesday. I am not going to complain too much about this one, because anyone who wants to argue about giving to people, especially during this time of year…well, that’s just a bit upsetting.

I recently read a book about vulnerability called ‘Daring Greatly’, and it’s definitely sparked some behavioral insights and wanted changes in me. The book discusses how being vulnerable ties into many, many aspects of our life and truly affects our outcomes and, over time, our life. Something I’ve thought about in the book a lot is vulnerability and how we deal with fear. It’s inspiring on so many levels. Being vulnerable is a SCARY thing, we all know that…and not just in the ways that are obvious, like “putting yourself out there.” Brene Brown (the author, read more insight on her TED talks and book here) suggests that being vulnerable is actually a sign of strength, not weakness, in people. I could not agree more.

I think that we as a society have a very strong association that to be accepted and to be emotionally strong, there can be NONE of revealing too much, we must save face, tough it out, etc. He who does not show emotion, or suppresses his feelings, is strong and independent and can never get hurt. Bullheadedness is celebrated. Certainly there is a fine line between acting like an emotional rollercoaster in public or toward others( whoops, guilty) and being genuinely YOU. Giving yourself, your true self, to the world is seen by a lot of people as, well, scary first and foremost, but it is somewhat frowned upon. Think about a time when you first met someone who talked about things that are deemed “too much” for a first time conversation or encounter. Why are we so averse to sharing and receiving certain things that go beyond the surface level? Because we are scared of being exposed. This is where I think vulnerability is actually a sign of strength in a person. They are confident enough, secure enough, and happy enough with their lives to say what they feel. I believe they are also courageous.

In thinking about this #givingtuesday business, perhaps something we can all do more of this holiday season – or me, y’all are on your own – is to really “give” ourselves to the world, to the people in our lives, to the community. Treat others with compassion and LOVE instead of going on defense mode, tell people how you feel instead of sheltering your feelings and what you are thinking. Be completely true and honest with yourself and with others. I’m not talking about going off on that boss or family member or friend who made you angry or annoyed you…I am talking about taking a step back and evaluating just how much love you show others. Think about all of the people you are thankful for in life or that mean something to you (even IF you get annoyed or mad sometimes). How much do you really tell them how important they are to your happiness? Think about your community and all of the things you’ve wanted to do, get involved with, groups you really want to volunteer with, etc. How much do you really act on these ideas? Give your WHOLE self this month. Let your light shine (ok, sure that was cheesy, but you know what I mean). Give BACK to the world, and not just in charitable ways, but in the name of loving yourself and what you have. I truly think this is the most admirable way to be vulnerable. Call your mom, call your best friend, an old boyfriend, send a Facebook message to someone in your life you think about often but may never tell them. Maybe you stay in one Saturday night so you can get up early and go volunteer on Sunday, maybe you donate to that friend who is fundraising but have always deleted her emails. Take time to listen to people you might otherwise ignore, and remember that we are ALL dealing with problems. Maybe that cranky girl that shoved you at the crosswalk just found out some terrible family news. You just never know, so use love instead. It can’t hurt, right?