My Epic Alcatraz Swim!

Posted: September 30, 2014 in Uncategorized
The jump to start!

The jump to start!

“Epic” is a word that I think is often misused.  For instance, my kids get a high score on a video game and call it epic.  I suppose it’s all in your perspective, but for me, the Alcatraz Invitational Swim was, indeed, epic.  I’d like to take a break from the kettlebells for a moment and tell you about a fantastic experience I had “escaping the Rock” swimming in the San Francisco Bay chop.

Yes, the Alcatraz swim was finally here!  Sunday, September 14th, 2014.   I’ve written about race days before, but this race day was like none other.  Sure, we had the usual adrenaline rush, but I get one of those before I walk on stage to make a speech.  The difference is, I don’t ever think I’m gonna die on stage.  Yes, this day was something else.

From a pre-dawn check in, we had several hours of pacing around until it was time (9am) to start the long, slow walk (barefoot) to the marina.  Nearly 800 swimmers followed a bagpiper from the South End Rowing Club to the dock where two ferries were waiting to take us out to Alcatraz.  Though there were no handcuffs, there was something about walking down the street in our bare feet and being corralled onto ferries that seemed a bit doomful. Ominous.  We passed many people getting their morning coffees and newspapers who no doubt had never seen a sight like this! We were off to the island and there was no turning back now.

Once on the boat, there was a mix of anxiety and pure excitement everywhere, you could feel it.  We were biting our nails and drinking our last bit of water, and then at one point I remember a bunch of us doing the celebratory “End-Zone dance”, even before the race had begun!  Yes, this was a pre-race high like no other race.

As the ferries got into position and turned off their engines, 800 swimmers had to jump into the San Francisco Bay in the space of 5 minutes before the currents pushed the boats astray.  I didn’t think it was possible, but everyone jumped in 3 at a time.  Holding my goggles to my face, I took a deep breath and jumped in.  As if in a world of slow motion, it seemed like forever until I surfaced.  How deep was I?  Then my next sensation was how beautiful the water was beneath the surface.  It was a light crystal green color, just like a gemstone.  It was also super salty, and it reminded me of eating oysters on the half shell.  Then, sort of shockingly, my undersea fantasy world suddenly ended and I surfaced into a mass of swimmers.  More swimmers were jumping in, so I had to quickly start swimming away from the boat.  I found my friends, we all gave each other a nod, and we took off!

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This race could have gone either way.  We all figured it would either be really hard, or it was going to be OK and our months of training would pay off.  Having never done the Alcatraz swim before, none of us knew quite what to expect, but that morning the weather turned out to be on our side.  It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco, and the 16 mile-an-hour winds that were predicted never seemed to materialize.

I can say now, without a doubt, that this race has reinforced my love of swimming!  Here’s why:

One of the suggestions given to the group during the pre-race instructions was to stop at the half-way point and do a 360.  “Take a minute to look around you”, they said.  “Take it all in!”  (They reminded us that chances were pretty good we weren’t going to “win” the race… only one person out of 800 wins… so most of us should not worry about our time.)  “You’ll never get a view like this again!”  So I took their suggestion, I stopped and treaded water, and spun myself around. It was Epic! (and I mean really epic!)  When I began swimming again, I got myself into good swimming rhythm.  I would breathe every third stroke, and sight every third breath.  During my sighting I would see many people stopping and taking in the views as I had done.  I just can’t tell you how incredible it felt to be somewhere so beautiful, while accomplishing something so challenging, and everyone around you was appreciating the moment right there with you!

At one point while I was sighting ahead, I saw a woman smiling at me.  A bit unexpected, she was just hanging out treading water right there in the middle of the San Francisco bay!  I couldn’t resist her huge smile and so I called out to her… “Well hello there!”  We talked for a bit, I can’t really remember what we said, but she was simply amazed by the beauty all around her and wanted to share it with someone.  I just happened to be there.  Yes, it was striking.  The sun was shining on the Golden Gate bridge, just like a post card.  We had left Alcatraz in the dust (dust?) and the San Francisco skyline was waiting brilliantly ahead of us.  Oh, and the SFFD had stopped all boat traffic, so one of the most amazing sights was looking up at what was probably hundreds of sailing boats all lined up, waiting, as if showcasing their beauty for all of us to see.  I am so glad I got to share that moment with a fellow swimmer.

I never saw her again, but the few moments we shared together in the bay reminded me why I swim. I swim because of the community of swimmers.  They are all superb human beings, glorious athletes, and most excellent comrades post-race!  (Oh yes, now that is another story altogether:  The Post-Race Celebration in SF!)

In the meantime, I’ll share with you my post-race photo of “Team Puget Sound”.  (Just three of us this time, but after all our stories, I think we may have a bigger contingent next year. Come join us!)

Peace Out,

Kate

Diana, Kate and Curtis

Diana, Kate and Curtis

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For the last two summers I’ve been swimming in Lake Washington at dawn. I get up at 5am, have a bulletproof coffee (https://www.bulletproofexec.com/how-to-make-your-coffee-bulletproof-and-your-morning-too/) then take myself down to the lake to swim a mile or two. Although this is an excellent workout, I have noticed a bit of a decrease in my muscular definition in the summer months when I stop some of my other training.  (This is a very good reminder to keep up the kettlebells year-round!)  There is really no substitute for weight-resistance training. Moving water out of your way is good work, but moving cast iron around is certainly a great complement to swimming.

Anyway, I’ve signed up for the “Escape from Alcatraz” swim, it’s fast approaching and I want to go in strong.  (I need to bring my A-game to battle the chop and swift currents… and maybe a few sea lions).   How?   Shoulder strength:

After talking to a buddy of mine (a former CrossFit trainer and currently a kettlebell fanatic like me) he suggested Turkish Get-Ups for my shoulder strength. His suggestion was to do 10 getups in 10 minutes. I gave him a funny look.  10 in 10 minutes?  That seems kinda slow.  “If I can knock one rep out in 20 seconds, are you suggesting I wait around on the floor for another 40 seconds before starting my next rep?”

“Kate, it’s not about the speed!!”   Take it slow, increase the weight, do a press at every position stop.

Hmmm… Alright. I tried it. This is hard for me… but I like it, and I could definitely feel it the next day.

I have also revisited some videos I love on shoulder safety:

Jason C. Brown practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so he’s always conscious of how kettlebells can improve his game. In fact, in this video, Jason calls attention to how important it is (as a fighter) to protect your shoulders and your joints at all cots. This resonated with me, because as a swimmer, I feel the same way… No shoulder injuries before Alcatraz!

I’ve always liked these videos, they demonstrate two great variations on the Turkish Get Up:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztTOn0rSMis

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m74Q52rBG-4

By the way, as a side note… A friend of mine recently reached out to me, post-Achilles surgery. He’s working with a physical therapist to get back out there, but I’m thinking this is great for him too, because you can stop a TGU at any time, you don’t have to go all the way to standing. For example, start on your back, go up to elbow (do a press), go up to hand (do a press), switch your feet and gently roll onto one hip (as shown is video 2, but stop before you kneel.) (do a press), and then reverse those three steps back down again. When he’s feeling stronger, go up one more step, maybe kneeling, or even try a side-plank position. After a few months, perhaps up to standing. But the great thing about the TGU is that you can modify it for your needs.

My suggestion is to time yourself on a “typical” TGU, and then slow it down from that.  I’ve been doing 20 reps in 10 minutes (10 left, 10 right) and that still feels a bit slow to me, but I’m adding the press, which is good work.  Everyone’s got 10 minutes… that’s just one long song and your shoulder workout is done. (Guns n’ Roses November Rain just about makes it!)

Let me know what you think… I’m off to put in my 10 minutes and jump in the lake!

Peace,

Kate

Abdominal “crunch-time”

Posted: June 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

kettlebellhell:

I’m modifying this workout as we speak… stay tuned!

Originally posted on Cast Iron Strength:

Cape Cod beach at sunset, Race Point Beach

Image via Wikipedia

OK, we’re counting down to the beach… 2 days left!

I had a nice hill run this morning which was a good warmup for an abdominal workout when I got home.

Here’s a list of a few of the exercises that make up my “crunch time” to the beach:

1. The Plank

2. Kettlebell sit ups

3. The Plow

4. Russian Twist  (some people do these standing, other sitting…)

5. Bicycle Sit-ups.  (If you’re not sure what those are, ehow will show you how:) http://www.ehow.com/how_459600_do-bicycle-situp.html

Here’s the routine:

Start with a good stretch into a forward bend.  Then step back into the plank pose and hold that position for 60 seconds.

Roll onto your back, grab the 8KG kettlebell and do 20 kettlebell situps.  Repeat these two exercises, alternating Plank and Sit-ups.

Then, from the sit up position, roll back into a shoulder stand inversion, legs straight up, and then throw back into the Plow position just for fun!  This…

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Yoga meets Kettlebells

Posted: May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

 

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It’s 10:00pm, I haven’t gotten my 20 minutes in yet, and I need to do something inside (tomorrow I’ll get out in the yard again) but I’m thinking this is a perfect night for a yoga/kettlebell mix.  By this, I mean flow.  Each exercise moves into the next with an even, smooth transition… and no breaks.

Music: Hendrix

Here we go:

1. Kettlebell Situps… do as many as you can, at least 1 minute.

2. Situps transition nicely into the seated Russian Twist.

3. Then put the kettlebell aside, and flip yourself over into a 1 minute Plank Hold.

4. Fall into a Cobra position to give your lower back a good stretch.  (you’ll need this if you’ve been doing a lot of traditional swings)

5. Now transition into Downward Dog, hold for a good all-around stretch.

6. Next… the Extended Squat (perfect if you’ve increased your running with the nice weather.) Step forward (feet more than hip-distance apart) hold your feet, and squat down.  Bring that into a deep squat, then stand up… still holding your feet…adding a good hamstring stretch.  This is hard to describe, so here’s a link: (http://www.coreperformance.com/knowledge/movements/deep-squat-to-hamstring-stretch.html)  Each time down you should be getting into a good deep squat, and each time up you should be waking up those hamstrings.  Do at least 20 of these.  If you’re not grunting by now, you’re not doing these right.

7. We’re almost finished with the first round… stand up, grab your kettlebell again, and do a Standing Twist.

8. You can move from the Standing Twist nicely into a few Around the Worlds.  Done.  (with the first set)

OK, Water Break… then get back on the floor and start your second set.

Let me know what you think…

Peace,

Kate

 

 

 

 

 

20 minutes a day... starts today!

The sun is shining, and the new lounger is waiting… 20 minutes of kettlebells everyday. Today, it will be the swing and release, with a flip and squat. Do it, Do it!

Image  —  Posted: May 13, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Swim, Bike, Run… etc.

Posted: April 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

My new training program for the Alcatraz swim and a few triathlons this summer is shaking out to look something like this: 7:3:2:1

7 x per week: Kettlebells
3 x per week: Run
2 x per week: CrossFit and Swim
1 x per week: Bike

My thinking is this:

Because Kettlebells are best everyday, I can add just a few minutes to my daily routine to stay strong and work all muscle groups. I’ll just vary the size of the kettlebell depending on the day. Sometimes light… stay with the yellow.  Other times push it with the green and red bells.

Running, ideally, I’d like to do 3 times a week. (I’m not sure if I can pull all this off, but today was a good example of a time crunch: It was 10:13, and I had a noon meeting that I needed to prepare for, and I still needed a shower! Most days I would have looked at the clock and said “no way… no time for a run!” But today, I said, hey… I’m trying to get in my days… I can do 2 miles. Who doesn’t have 20 minutes? So out the door I went, back by 10:30… shower, prepare for meeting, out the door by 11:45. Boom! Done. I love my new thinking… all runs don’t have to be epic!)

OK… CrossFit and swimming work well for me twice a week.

I’m not an avid biker, so once a week for a good long bike sounds reasonable to me.

Here’s how it would shake out:

Monday: Kettlebells and Swim
Tuesday: Kettlebells and CrossFit
Wednesday: Kettlebells and Long Run
Thursday: Kettlebells and CrossFit, Run
Friday: Kettlebells and Swim
Saturday: Kettlebells and Long Bike
Sunday: Light Kettlebells and Short Run (my rest day)

The lake is still full of snow melt and 50 degrees… so I’m not swimming yet… but I’ll try everything else, then add that in when I can tolerate the temps.  It’s an aggressive workout schedule… we’ll see how long I can keep it up.  I’ll let you know how it goes!  Do it with me!?

Peace,
Kate

kettlebellhell:

one week to go… for Big Climb 2014!!

Originally posted on Cast Iron Strength:

Race Day… Sunday, March 20th 2011… 9:00am start time.

I was entering the unknown.  Having always raced in the great outdoors, it was quite a different experience for me entering the narrow stairwells of the tallest skyscraper in Seattle.  I had a new challenge in front of me and I had no idea what to expect.  Adrenaline was high, so it was essential for me to focus on the fact that I had trained for this moment.  Between the gym, kettlebells, and outdoor stair climbing, I had put in my time and I had to be confident in that.  But nonetheless… my heart was racing!

They took my picture, and then I set off into the stairwell.  I never have liked stairwells much… they actually creep me out.  Not as much as spiders do… but still, one time, many years ago, I got locked in a parking garage stair well and I got that claustrophobic panicky feeling you get when you think you…

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Rolling_stones_-_hot_rocks
I just had my first “Hot Stone” massage yesterday, and let me tell you… they work!  I’ve been training for the Big Climb (70 flights up the Columbia Tower) so I’ve been running stairs and my calves have been screaming at me.  There are days that I hobble around like a little old lady and can barely get down the stairs in my own house.  That’s true.  But no more!  (and to think that all this time there was something that could help… and I always thought it was just an expensive add-on at the spa.)

Hot stones can do what fingers and foam rollers and lacrosse balls can’t.  Here’s the deal:  Hot stones can slide across your muscles, and get into the muscle tissue like nothing else.  You know the feeling… you have a sore muscle, and if someone tries to massage it, you jump, cringe and yell “don’t touch that!”

Not with the stones, my friend!  Between the massage oil, the heat of the stone, and the size/shape of the stone… a trained person can get right into the muscle, just where you need it.  It was awesome and I feel like a million bucks today!  That was definitely worth the add-on cost.

So turn on some Hot Rocks (classic Stones from the 60′s and early 70′s) get out the kettlebells and start swinging!

Peace Out,
Kate

Image  —  Posted: March 6, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags:

This is a great combo when you’re looking for a total-body exercise to add into your workout:

Warm up with a few rounds of alternating reverse lunges (sometimes called a step-back lunge). Then add a decent sized kettlebell to the move.  Now, if you step back with your left leg, hold the kettlebell in your right hand and swing it up into what I call a suitcase swing.  (or, as only Mike Mahler can describe so perfectly:  it’s a “One-Arm Kettlebell Bottom-up Clean”)

Check out his link below for a good illustration of the bottom-up clean (it’s about mid-way down).  Thanks Mike!

http://www.mikemahler.com/online-library/articles/kettlebell-training/kettlebell-training-exercises.html

Now, put on some good music and get swinging!  If the kettlebell flops over at the top, it’s too heavy.  I’ll do about 10 on one side, and then I’ll switch sides.  You’re working on wrist strength and grip control with this one… along with good coordination to do the lunge and the swing at the same time.

Peace,
Kate

 

Image  —  Posted: February 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

kettlebellhell:

                                    Add a “hold” to both the Around the World and the Figure 8′s and step up your game!

Originally posted on Cast Iron Strength:

Want a great kettlebell workout today that will really make your abs work hard?

During your entire workout remember this one thing, and say it over and over: “Bring navel to spine.”.

This works really well during a kettlebell workout.  You essentially “suck” your belly in and bring your belly button back towards your spine.  Imagine bringing your “front body” through to your “back body”.   It’s a yoga technique and the visual will tap your abs during all your regular exercises… so check it out, give it a try… and then let me know in 24-48 hours how your abs feel!

One other thing, when you’re doing your Around the World sets, stay low on the first 100 reps or so, and then for the next 100 reps bring the kettlebell around and up each time to an alternate shoulder for the “Around the World with a Hold”.  As you do this, remember to suck navel to…

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Every day I hear the “busy excuse” and shake my head.  It doesn’t take much to fit a kettlebell workout into your day.

Follow the Rule of 3:

1. Drink a Red Bull.
2. Put on Zeppelin.
3. Grab the Cast Iron.

Now get to work.

This will give you a good workout, and it lasts for just 3 Zeppelin songs.  Now… no one can possibly say “I’m too busy to workout”!

Start with a 5 minute warm-up to Black Dog.
1 minute each:
Around the World (30 seconds each direction)
Ab Twists (60 seconds, no stopping)
Suitcase Swings (30 seconds each arm)
Clean and Press (30 seconds each arm)
Goblet Squats (60 seconds, no stopping)

Now, get on the floor and spend 5 minutes and 33 seconds knocking out TGU’s to Whole Lotta Love.
(Turkish Get-Up to standing position, and back down again. keep going, no breaks.)

Finish with a cool-down to All My Love. Find your rhythm when you do these:
Figure 8′s with side lunge (1 minute each direction)
Hand-2-Hand Swings (1 minute)
Kettlebell sit-ups (let the song play out)

How do you feel?  You’re happy you worked out today, aren’t you!!  Do it again tomorrow.

Peace,
Kate

p.s.  Do you know why the song is titled Black Dog?  Because during the recording session of this previously unnamed track, a black Labrador Retriever walked into the studio.  He was said to be 19 years old.

Image  —  Posted: January 21, 2014 in kettlebellhell

Be Strong in Your Convictions

Posted: January 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

kettlebellhell:

Reblog from Jan 1012: Two years later, and people are still too damn busy for their own good! Probably even more busy. We’re too busy to understand ourselves and our convictions and our passions. Too busy to contemplate both our personal beliefs and to what extent we share them with others. Social media has brought about a culture of oversharing, but often in a hurried and scattered way. In 2012, the book I should have written was written by someone else. It’s called “A Mindful Nation”. Just reading the foreword of the book made me exclaim out loud: “Damn!”

“What’s wrong?” my husband asked from the next room. I told him I was reading another book I was meant to write. I hate it when that happens. Yes, I’m working on my book, but my writing ebbs and flows. In the meantime, I enjoy what others have invested their time in.

Congressman Tim Ryan has written an excellent book that reminds us how important it is to think and be mindful. He shows us how to start paying attention and prioritize what is important. As I read his book, it’s clear that practicing mindfulness and setting your intentions will improve performance, in all areas of your life. From the gym to the conference room. It’s a great reminder to be strong in your convictions. Always. Know who you are and what you believe in. That strength will serve you well.

Happy Swinging, and Happy 2014!
Peace. Kate

Originally posted on Cast Iron Strength:

You already know how I feel about yoga and kettlebells.  Yin and Yang… perfectly matched, each one helps achieve a higher level of success at the other.  Today, I’d like to discuss a few things from my yoga practice.  At the start of every yoga class we’re always asked to set our intention. Our intention is something that will resonate through our practice.  It’s quite often something we want to work on… and then we are reminded to think of our intention throughout the class.

I always appreciate this part of class because it forces me to focus on something and be very present.

Today my intention was strength and compassion. I often feel like those are the yin and the yang of life.  I merge these two into a single phrase I can repeat: “Be strong, be compassionate, and be sure of yourself and your convictions.”  If there’s one thing that resonates true for me…

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“Maintenance” for 2014!

Posted: January 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags:

I was at my CrossFit gym yesterday, getting in one more workout before the end of the year, and something very interesting happened: The instructor asked the class what their fitness goals were for the new year. Normally, when you ask a room full of people about their fitness goals right after a big holiday of eating and drinking, losing weight and eating better will be at the top of the list. But not today.

Français : Force athlétique (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People just shrugged their shoulders and said “maintenance!” “…I want to maintain what I’ve got!” Welcome to a CrossFit box.

You all know I love kettlebells and encourage practically everyone I meet to try them, but this speaks volumes for CrossFit. We didn’t sit around and reel off the tired old new years resolutions about how much weight we needed to lose, and there were no complaints or excuses or sob stories. Just a bunch of people committed to exercise who will keep on keeping on. I love it! And it’s not that everyone is walking around with “perfect” bodies either. It’s just that they have achieved a level of fitness that allows them to enjoy life and they are happy with that.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… CrossFit works! I don’t care how “busy” you are… anyone can fit a few CrossFit workouts into their week, and that’s half the battle, isn’t it?

For the last year and a half I’ve been supplementing my kettlebell workouts with CrossFit, and it’s been a great combination.  I’ve written about this before in previous posts, but there is something very empowering about achieving a level of fitness that helps you move through life easier.  Just the other day I took my son and his new bike to the park and he says “Mom, run along side me while I ride!” (I was glad I was up for that!) But you find yourself in a great position to say “yes” when your friends ask you to join their running team, or meet them for a swim, or go for a hike… you don’t ask “How far?”… you just say “Yes!” This level of fitness allows you to keep life interesting by always being up for trying new things and meeting new people.

Let’s commit to fitness and start signing up for some races in 2014.  …and put them on your calendar.  Remember last year’s post on Strategic Fitness Planning?

http://kettlebellhell.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/strategic-fitness-planning-for-2013

An Alcatraz swim is on my list this year… along with my usual stair climb up the Columbia Tower and swimming across Lake Washington.  I want to try SUP Yoga, and do a trail run somewhere high and beautiful.  A few triathlons would be fun… maybe as a relay.  I’m open to suggestions!

Here’s to a great year ahead, and happy swinging!

Peace,
Kate

As you continue to swing kettlebells, it is almost inevitable that at some point you will find yourself thinking:
“What am I going to do with all this strength?”

1009-kettlebell-wo[1]A short kettlebell workout (15-30 min) a few times a week delivers a remarkable increase in your level of strength, so it’s not uncommon to ponder what you might do with your strength.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit recently, and thought I’d share with you what I’ve come up with.

1. Push your Comfort Zone: Try a sport or activity that you’ve never done before.

2. Take it to Work:  Let your athletic confidence increase your career confidence.

3. Share it:  Use your strength to benefit others and your community.

I’ll briefly explain:

#1… Get out of your comfort zone and try something new.  You say you’ve “never been a swimmer”, but might like to try it.  Take a few lessons, attend some weekend swim clinics, and then sign up for a swimming event.  You’ll meet a whole new group of fitness enthusiasts and learn a great new sport.

#2… Take it to work.  Many people find themselves with a “confidence boost” after completing a fitness challenge.  Have you thought about bringing that added confidence straight into the conference room?!  Get involved, speak up, lean in… contribute!  Watch what happens.

Finally, #3… Share it.  Don’t keep your strength all to yourself.  Through coaching and mentoring, you can share your experience and knowledge with others.  Even just simple encouragement between friends goes a long way.  You can also volunteer.  If you like the outdoors, then try getting involved with trail maintenance in your area.  Our national and state parks are always looking for people to help out, and your strength would be in high demand.

DOD-Alpine_Fire_Reclaim2[1]

Maybe it’s my innate “thriftiness” that brought on my question to begin with, but the way I see it is, if you’ve invested the time and energy it takes to increase your strength, then there must be more you can do with it than just “own it”, right?

Hey… do all three!  The experiences you take away and the people you meet will make it all worthwhile… I guarantee it!

Peace Out,

Kate

Back from Vacation!

Posted: August 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

Two months have flown by since my last post. I’ve been riding it out for awhile on vacation. When I got home I had to step on the scale… and here’s what happened:

First, a disclaimer: Before my vacation I got down to my “fighting weight”. I trained like a crazy lady! Kettlebells, CrossFit, running, swimming, you name it… I exercised 6 days a week. I also avoided wheat and dairy for about three weeks before departure. So by the time I left, I was a lean and mean 124 pounds. (What!? No wheat or dairy? That’s right… I took it out because I was told it causes “inflammation” in the body. (More on that in a later post) Nevertheless, we were off to France and I was ready to eat some good French cheese and baguette on a daily basis.

I packed my running shoes, but never wore them.

My kettlebell stayed at home. Too heavy to travel with.

I packed a jump rope and a few resistance bands. I used them twice.

We were vacationing with friends and we all ate and drank like… well… people on vacation!

I was certain that after nearly a month of eating what I wanted I was going to pack on a few pounds. But here’s a (somewhat) brief little story about life in the south of France.

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We rented a house in a little village in the Var region of Provence. (This is my soul’s home!)  The sun shines every morning with its warm yellow glow, and the day starts magically. Slowly, our little village of Salernes wakes up to the smell of fresh croissants and espresso. Soon the venders will be setting up their stalls for the morning market and you’ll find some lovely fresh vegetables, herbs and meats for your dinner later.

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By about 12:30, everything closes down. You’ll find yourself in a little restaurant settling in for a nice, long 2-hour lunch that includes at least 3 courses and several carafes of rosé.  At 2:30 the shops open up again and life resumes to the village.  Music may start up in the square, the little boutiques open their doors, artists and potters display their things and then your wine guy opens his doors for business and he’s ready to help you select the perfect bottles for your evening meal. By 4 o’clock we were usually back at the house for an aperitif and a swim in the pool. Next thing you know the baguettes and raw French cheeses were being consumed in considerable quantities. Wine was poured, we’d prepare an amazing dinner and sit outside and watch the sun set behind the hills. Many hours later we’d still be out there talking and relaxing… long after you could see every star in the sky.

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This was the good life!

Yes, it was idealistic. We drank good wine, ate amazing food… and our pace of life slowed down considerably. One would think we’d pay for this lifestyle with a few extra pounds. After we’d been home for a few days my husband and I looked at each other and knew we had to do it… we had to step on that scale.  Being “A Pig in Provence” was about to reveal itself with a number! (an excellent book, by the way, “A Pig in Provence, Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France”, by Georgeanne Brennan)

OK… so our numbers?  Maybe a pound heavier… maybe two at the most… but completely inconsequential!

The secret?  We walked to get our meals.

Yes, there is something to be said for walking, eating slowly and relaxing. (This, I believe, is one of the many secrets of the svelte French women: They eat what they want, but they walk to get it!) And not only do they walk to get it, they actually sit down to eat.  And I’m not talking about their car either.  (tres, tres mal… C’est déplorable!)  No, They will sit down in a restaurant and enjoy their food at a civil pace.

(I remember one day I didn’t have much time and I just needed a ‘coffee to go’.  Walking around the village, this Seattle girl was thinking “Where’s my Starbucks when I need one!?”  But there was nothing of the sort.  You must sit down and have your coffee in a small ceramic cup.  And it will be 30 minutes.)

From a fitness perspective, this vacation was truly ideal.  We walked to get our food and the food was all fresh and local.   I ate whatever I wanted, as much as I wanted, and with no guilt… it was fabulous!

Ahhh… so, back to life, back to reality.  It is now time to train for my next fitness challenge… swimming across Lake Washington!
Stay tuned!

Peace,
Kate

Kettlebells and Sprints

Posted: May 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

WP_20130515_005I tested this workout this morning, made a few tweaks, and I’m proud to say this an awesome workout for a crisp, sunny morning.  Have at it:

2 lap run (1/2 mile)

30 Double-Handed Swings

1 lap sprint (.25 mile)

30 Single-Handed Swings (15 each side)

2 lap run

30 Two-Handed Releases

1 lap sprint

30 Figure 8′s (15 each direction)

2 lap run

100 kettlebell situps

Done.

I used greenie for the whole thing (12KG) and it was a good workout.  I finished in about 30 minutes (not including situps).  got a 2 mile run in, and a bunch of good swings.  (We start with a half-mile run, so that by the time you get to the quarter-mile it will feel short, so you should sprint it.  It’s all psychology!)  My runs were at a 9 min/mile pace, and my sprints we at a 8 min/mile pace.  (Give or take… I’m sucking wind on the hills near my house… so if you use a track, step it up if you can.)

When you get to the situps, put on a nice long song and try to finish all 100 before the song is over.  My new favorite is Guns n’ Roses, November Rain.  It’s 9 minutes long and it has a false ending at about 7 minutes in… so just when I think I’m not going to make it, I’ve got 2 more minutes to pound it out till the end.

Try it out, and let me know what you think!

Peace,

Kate

Boston-Marathon[1]

It started as a perfect day.  Blue skies and 50 degrees.  Perfect running weather for the Boston Marathon.  But 24 hours later I’m sitting here at my computer looking for answers.  What went wrong?  Why did this happen?

As a runner and an athlete, I am trying to figure this out.  I’m not sure we’ll ever know all the answers, but in my effort to sort things out, I am reminded of the Atlanta Olympic games.  A bomb exploded in the “town square” of the Olympics, and there were thousands of spectators.  Well that sounds familiar.  Then the President (Bill Clinton) denounced the explosion as an evil act of terror and vowed to do everything possible to track down and punish those responsible.  Again… a bit of a deja vu.

“Damn It!”  I say out loud.  “It’s Athlete Envy”.

Instead of celebrating an athlete’s achievements and dedication to the sport, we often find envy and jealousy.  In both Atlanta and Boston we had people who were competing in a sport who were at the top of their game.  They were strong, enthusiastic and physically fit.  All enviable qualities.  There’s a fair amount of research on jealousy related to both individual and team-sport athletes.  It’s become prevalent in high schools and universities.  It’s possible this was the impetus to strike back on athletes and their families.

Am I paranoid?  Maybe.  Am I over thinking this?  It’s possible.  Here’s the hitch… the winner finished in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 22 seconds.  But the first bomb didn’t even go off until about 4 hours into the race.  Now I’m confused.  To simply qualify to run the Boston Marathon you need to show a qualifying time of under 4 hours.  (with a few exceptions… 4:10 for men over 65).  So if the bomber was going after elite athletes, then the timing was all wrong.  But the race draws in about half a million spectators.  So now we’re back to the families… the innocent bystanders.  And now my heart breaks thinking about 8 year-old Martin Richard, may he rest in peace.

Was it athlete envy?  I don’t know… but I’ll sign off with these words from the Bard:

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”   -William Shakespeare

In Peace,

Be safe, stay strong and keep swinging…

Kate

Axl-Rose[1]

Are you ready to try something new to kick off the weekend?  I’ve got a challenge for you:

Get out several sizes of kettlebells… put on Guns n’ Roses “November Rain”, and knock out 9 minutes of uninterrupted TGU’s (Turkish Get Ups).

Take No Breaks!   Just switch sides when one hand gets tired.  Sure, you can alternate getting up to standing, getting up to one knee, or getting up to side plank… but the point is… keep working for the whole song… and enjoy the bliss!

Good Luck… and Happy Friday!

Peace,
Kate

English: This is a photograph that we have per...In my last post, I talked about strategic fitness planning for the year, marking off your calendar with highlighters, and how to break your races down into 3 categories:  Challenging (A); Maintaining (B); and Fun (C).

Breaking down your races into these categories will allow you to block off the necessary training time for your “A” races so that you can go into them strong and confident.

Then, as you check out your highlighted calendar, you’ll quickly see where your busy weeks are.  This will help you decide where to pop in some B and C races to either maintain your fitness level, or just have fun.  Training doesn’t have to stop during vacation, but you might want to consider this “maintenance time” instead of trying something new and challenging the week you return from your tropical vacation or some other lovely “meant-to-be-relaxing” getaway!

Here’s what my calendar looks like so far:

A Race:  March 24th:  The Big Climb, 69 flights up the Columbia Tower

B Race:  May 19th: Beat the Bridge 8K

B Race:  July 27th: Torchlight 8K

A Race:  August 21st: Swim for Life, 2.5 mile swim across Lake Washington

C Race: September 8th: Athleta Iron Girl 5K… (My daughter is going to run this with me… Go Claire!)

A Race: October 5th: Tough Mudder (need I say more? Click and watch the video if you haven’t already!)

C Race:  October 27th: Run Scared 5K… (I’m hoping both kids dress up for this fun little Halloween race!)

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I’ve got less than 2 months until my first A race, so I’m swinging kettlebells as often as possible, running stairs twice a week, going to CrossFit twice a week, and taking in my favorite core yoga class every Monday.  It’s been pretty rainy lately, so I’m running a lot less, but the Big Climb requires more stair drills anyway, so that’s what I’m focusing on.

Happy Planning!

Peace,
Kate

Strategic Planning may sound like something big corporations do… but I’m talking about PERSONAL strategic planning!  And yes, it can bring you happiness!

This time of year, many of us are making New Year’s Resolutions. (In my family growing up, I remember my Dad passing out pencils and we would all sit around on New Year’s Day and write down several things we resolve to do in the new year, usually something that was sure to help improve our lives!  Perhaps just the act of writing them down made them stick more?)

Anyway, for many people, resolutions tend to be diet and fitness related.  For example… “I resolve to stop eating a whole bag of Oreos while I watch reruns of Law and Order.”  Or, “I resolve to go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6am.”

I got a bit of a shock last week though when I was listening to a story on NPR about resolutions, and the reporter quoted a statistic that said 80% of the people who buy gym memberships in January because of a New Year’s Resolution will stop working out by mid-February.  Shocking!  Now we know how fitness clubs make their money.  But I have to think that these quitters didn’t have a good plan.  (and maybe they didn’t have kettlebells in their basement either!)

Goals are important, but if you’re really serious about achieving your goals, then you need a solid plan.  Some people would say it’s impossible to achieve goals without a plan.  I had a boss that would often walk around saying “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”  That was his mantra, and I’m sure he said it to every client that walked in and out of our doors.  Another way of look at that is: “People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going!”

I’d like to show you how, when you take a few minutes for some “Personal Strategic Planning” for your fitness, you will find success, happiness and strength!

It’s January.  Time to go to the book store and get a brand new 2013 calendar.  (Yes, I know there’s a calendar on your phone, and another one on your computer… but there’s something very motivating and satisfying about seeing your strategic plan all laid out in a 12-month view, trust me on this one!)

Get a calendar where you can see the whole year on a single page… like this one:

2013-Yearly-Calendar-Templates-b[1]

My fitness goal in 2013 is to compete in more races this year (and a wider variety of races) as way to train and prep myself for my most challenging race, The Tough Mudder, in early October.  So I’m going to do a little strategic planning and do my “Calendar Exercise” for the year.  This is a way I can find out how much free time I have to train & compete so that I can plan my races accordingly.

First, I mark off time away from home with a green highlighter.… Vacations and business trips…  These are the weeks I know I will be out of town.  If you travel for business for longer than just a couple of days, this is important.  Sure, lots of people can work out in hotel gyms, but your training schedule and diet will definitely be impacted while away.

Then I mark off all holidays in yellow.  This is especially important if you have school-aged kids, because when they are home from school this will definitely impact your training schedule.  But even if you don’t have kids, holidays can definitely impact diet and training.

(My gosh, the kids just had 2 weeks off over Christmas, and they get another week in February, and then 2 more weeks in April… sometimes I wonder what’s going on around here!)  I’ve marked off the whole summer!

Now I’ve created a bird’s eye view of what my year looks like so far.  This provides a good starting point for planning my race schedule.

The next step is to find a website that lists all the races in your area, and compare those dates to your “un-highlighted” weeks.  I’ve recently discovered a pretty comprehensive site called Running in the USA. http://www.runningintheusa.com/

From what I can tell, these guys have spent many hours compiling a variety of races and events all across the country.  I found some great events that match my un-highlighted weeks and I’m excited to get these on the books.

Another popular resource in this area is “Race Center Northwest.”  You can pick up a copy of this magazine most places, or go to their website: http://www.racecenter.com/race-calendar/

For more strategic planning, I break my races down into 3 categories… A races, B races and C races.

A-Races are challenging, they take a tremendous amount of commitment and training leading up to the event (possibly months), you may consider going on a specialized diet in preparation for these events, and recovery may take several days or even a week.   These are races which stretch your athletic ability and possibly experience.

B-Races may also be challenging, but they are not a stretch of your capabilities.  These events help you to maintain your strength and speed and will push you to perform well, and they’re often used to achieve a new PR.  Different from the A-race, training ramp-up is moderate (maybe a couple of weeks) because they are more on par with your current level of fitness.  Chances are you’ve already secured a few good times in similar events, so recovery is easier.

C-Races are typically short and fun, maybe even social… you run them with someone else, or you dress up silly and have a good time.  (A good example of this is the St. Patty’s day run where everyone ends up at the pub downtown.)  These races can be performed on a whim, recovery is minimal to zero.  Most runners would consider C-races a good replacement for a daily workout.

Now I look for my  “windows of opportunity” and then space out my races according to how difficult they are and how big my chunks of time are.  For instance, if I’ve got a nice block of 2 to 4 weeks, that’s a perfect window to pop in a B-race.  If I’ve got a larger window, consider an A race.  Check registration dates and go ahead and sign up now if you can.  Otherwise, put a reminder in your calendar when registration opens.

Of course… the planning process is JUST the first step!

1. Strategic Planning: mark your calendar and make a weekly exercise plan.

2. Execution: Sign up and start training!

3. Goal Setting: Consider what times you’d like to get for various races and set some goals.

3. Track Progress: How were your times?  Did you meet your goals?  Did you place for your age-group?

4. Expand Skills:  If you’re always running, how about trying a swim race, or a bike race… or even a triathlon?

5. Stay Committed:  Don’t give up!  You’ll no doubt hit some weeks when your energy level is low, or you get the flu, or you pull a muscle… whatever… but don’t let these things get you sidetracked.  Focus on the entire journey and stay committed to your plan.

6. Reward Success: Success can be rewarded all year!  I believe in small rewards for each accomplishment and then a nice big reward when everything has finished up for the year.  I usually like to start indulging around Thanksgiving, which is also my birthday, and I continue the party straight through Christmas and the New Year holiday!  Something to look forward to!

We’ll talk more about this as the months roll by, but I hope I’ve inspired you to do a little strategic planning for 2013.  I’ll post my highlighted calendar in a few days once I have my races figured out… but let’s get planning!

Peace,
Kate