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Disclosure: For the past few years I have been a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team, the ambassadors for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. I’ve tried to blog about each of the races I’ve run, but I do have a day-job and there are only so many hours in the day…and thankfully posting about every race is not a requirement. The 2017 has not yet been selected (applications close on February 22nd, so if you are interested click HERE for the application), but I did apply. Just in case you’re not already aware of any potential bias I may have.

In New Orleans, bling happens

Don’t skip this one. I almost didn’t go to Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans due to stress at home and at work (and travel is stressful too) but man I am glad that I did! My flight left Oakland unreasonably early, and I arrived around 1 p.m. Pro Tip: if you’re just jetting away for the race and coming back again, pack light–check the weather first, but always pack something warm and dry in case of rain.

Friday I took a brief nap before my roommate arrived. We stayed at the Aloft, which is within walking distance of the half marathon starting line and not far from the marathon starting line. It was just a short walk to the convention center–and then another 2k to get to the other side of the convention center (it’s HUGE). Just before the convention center we picked up free samples of Monster’s new “Mutant” brand soda. I think this is supposed to compete with Mountain Dew, as it is a citrus-flavored soda in the standard 20 oz. soda bottle and packs 115mg of caffeine. Before cracking the lid I read the label–it also packs 290 calories and 70 grams of sugar! No, no thank you.

Rock ‘n’ Royalty

The Expo wasn’t huge, but it definitely had a New Orleans flavor, and more local participation than I see at many Rock ‘n’ Roll expos. Of course the ubiquitous green, gold, and purple of Mardi Gras featured prominently, and local running clubs and events had booths. I appreciated the healthy New Orleans resources (New Orleans is known for great food, but not necessarily health food), the bakery sampling (looked like King Cake, but was really a tiny croissant filled with cream and covered in sprinkles). As a New Orleans Mardi Gras krewe has its king and queen, so did Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans, complete with a coronation, confetti, and beads.

Missing our Hall of Famer, @matmilesmedals

Following the expo it was time to look for dinner. As I perused Urban Spoon and Google in what used to be the nook where the pay phones lived, a woman interrupted our discussion. “Excuse me,” she said, “are you looking for a place for dinner? Would you like some suggestions?” From a local? In a town known for amazing food? Heck yes!! We ended up at ___, which had a pan-Caribbean menu and everything from red meat to vegan dishes, plus a bar and amazing drink specials.

Like every other runner at Aloft, we too Lyft to the 5k. The location was perfect for a run, but less than ideal for actually getting there. One suggestion I’m sure LOTS of people made: provide transportation from central points in the various neighborhoods to the race start. We arrived as part of a convoy of Lyft and Uber and taxis. The starting line was just a short walk away. Also, it was freezing. I had packed for the weather that happened earlier in the week, and didn’t have an extra long sleeve for the 5k. Oops.

Me and “Gracie”

It was great to have Ann back to announce the races (she’d been out on maternity leave and while the guy who announced in her place was trying and did okay, he just wasn’t Ann). Prior to the race I ran into Derek, a Team RWB member who is continuing his quest to do a 5k every month, and my friend “Gracie” and her husband. The latter was something of a miracle, as we have repeatedly been at the same race but not managed to see each other. In lieu of trying to run any of it, I decided to walk to Gracie so we could catch up and have photographic rvidence of this monumental event. (Selfies or it didn’t happen, right?) The 5k was entirely within the park, whiich is freaking enornmous, The weather warmed up a little, but not too too much–my friends who ran were cold as soon as they stopped. The course passed by public art, a museum, and (of course!) music. I don’t claim to know what “the New Orleans sound” is, but I can tell you what the “I am a tourist here” music sounds like.

Obligatory hurricane in a geaux cup

I took a shower and a nap while my roommate did the swim and bike sections of his triathlon preparation workout, and then we wandered off to grilled cheese and a Rock ‘n’ Blogger meet up. From there I played tour guide–despite the fact I hadn’t been to NOLA since I lived in Austin–and we walked the French Quarter,  checked out the insane line at Cafe du Monde, and gawked at architecture. Tourist day, for certain. There were snacks, some down time, and dinner, and then it was an early night to bed for us.

The next morning came too soon, and it was off to the races–literally. There was what looked like a great turnout for the half marathon, with plenty of silly costumes and Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit. Miraculously, I saw Gracie again, and we started to walk the course together. Since I was still feeling tight and regularly seeing my sports med person, I didn’t want to try to kill it. This means I missed the mimosa “aid stations” but I can’t complain. I decided to Instagram as I walked the first six miles. Perhaps the rest of the story is best told in pictures.

Preventing waffle crush
This was voted “best race sign” by virtue of being all over social media pretty much instantly

 

Stately architecture
Enjoying this? Why not share with friends. 'Did you see these highlights at #RnRNOLA? @runrocknroll and @trainwithbain rocked it!'Click To Tweet
I found Touchdown Jesus!

 

Runner buffet with bloody mary bar

 

Fun fact! Milk punch = milk + half and half + bourbon = no pain for at least 2 miles #questionablehydrationstrategy

 

Mobile bunny-petting aid station

 

HQ for the Mystic Krewe of Hermes, the longest-running night parade krewe

 

Cheer signs both political and traditional

 

Beer and Wieners aid station

 

Bet you didn’t know NOLA has a vibrant Celtic music scene, and many Irish dance schools!

 

Mobile disco party complete with dancers, DJ, and a disco ball!

 

Finish line at the park–check out the tree canopy!

 

Parting airport shot with @funnerrunner (telltale signs of runners: @addaday roller, @sparklysoul headband, matching @runrocknroll shirts)

 

Why Resolutions Fail

There’s a saying that “failure to plan is planning to fail.” While that seems to fly in the face of the many happy lives created by seemingly random synchronicity in lieu of–or in spite of!–a plan, I think there is some truth to it when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. Why? A couple of reasons.

Let’s side aside the unrealistic and unreasonable (“become an astronaut this year”), the vague (“be healthier”), and the other types of ill-considered or poorly-worded goals.

First, many people choose a goal–let’s use “lose 10 pounds” as an example–and then don’t have a plan on how to get there. Or worse, they have a bad plan (the cabbage soup diet plan, the 2 hours of cardio every day plan, anything with the word “detox” in it). Hey, cutting off your head is an instant 12 pound weight loss, but it’s not exactly the result you’re looking for.

Second, those who choose a goal and have a plan often lack the patience to see the plan through. Patience isn’t praised or cultivated in a culture where everything moves at the speed of email.

Third–and this is the category that kills me because I’ve been in it–there are plenty of people who have a goal, and a plan, and the patience, and they arrive at the goal and then….get lost. If the goal is to lose 10 pounds, people focus on the plan to lose the pounds and forget that after they lose those pounds they are going to need a plan to keep them off. (This is the biggest reason why “diets” don’t work: if you only change your habits temporarily, you only get results temporarily.)

Any goal worth working towards, any resolution with any ambition, requires a change in habits. We are creatures of habit, our habits both reflect who we are and make us who we are in a never-ending feedback loop, unless we make the conscious decision to change.

My One Resolution for 2017

Ready for it? In 2017, I resolve to sleep at least 7 hours every night. (Once I get to 7, I’ll work on 8.) There are so many reasons why everyone needs this resolution–even those of you who are absolutely certain you function just fine on your limited amounts of sleep–that Ariana Huffington wrote a book on them, The Sleep Revolution. (If you function “just fine” on the sleep you are getting now, what could you do if you fully recharged your body? How much more awesome could you exude?) It’s not just Huffington who has clued in to this, either.

I’ve probably seen several dozen magazine articles about sleep this year. A 2015 editorial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that because sleep and body composition are correlated, sleep is as essential to health as good nutrition. Most recently, the December 2016 issue of Shape Magazine included a quick squib on a study from the University of Manchester that found spinal disks have their own “body clock” and messing with it may worsen or cause back pain. The note concluded, “The easiest way to stabilize your body clock and pain-proof your spine may be to stick to regular bedtimes and wake-up times.” While I find the conclusion a bit overdone–it’s not really “pain-proof” but more like “decreasing your risk for pain”–it shows the fixation we’ve got on sleep, and how sleep is related to everything health.

A quick romp through my inbox reveals 157 emails that refer to sleep. (That’s AFTER my inbox-zero experiment, which will certainly be the subject of another blog post.) A quick sampling of the more interesting references:

You get the idea. So I’ve resolved to get more sleep. C’mon, you know you want to! Even the cool kids are doing it. (See, for example, More Sleep, Less Beer: 9 Elite Runners Make New Year’s Resolutions.)

Here is a helpful graphic guide with tips from Casper:

The Plan

It seems pretty easy, right? Just go to bed earlier, or get up later, or both, and poof! More sleep.  I’m not a morning person, so getting up later would be great! Except that I’d probably lose my job, and the court isn’t going to take “oh, I had to get my seven hours” as my free pass to stroll in mid-proceedings. So I’ve got to learn to go to bed earlier. The problem is that I’m naturally a night-owl. After spending most of my day at the office and/or working, I come home, take an hour or two to decompress, and then start working on my personal projects.

Here are my action steps, consistent with good sleep hygiene:

  • Watch less TV, generally.
  • Turn off the devices no later than 10 p.m. (or one hour before bedtime, for nights where I need to get to sleep earlier in order to meet the 7 hour goal)
  • Limit weeknight alcohol to 0-1 drinks; add a pre-bedtime decaff tea
  • Drink more water during the day
  • Stick to my bedtime routine

How is your sleep? Do you have a bedtime routine?

Happy 2017!! After a holiday season filled with parties, errands, travel, and year-end work-related projects, starting the new year strong can seem like a challenge in itself–what’s the plan?  What workout will you do? What will you eat? While I definitely recommend having a plan, sometimes it can be easier to start out with a ready-made plan.

If you’re ready but not sure where to start, here are a few challenges to start your year. This isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s just what has come across my desk, and it isn’t in any particular order. Some challenges are free, others have a fee; some are just for January, others you can join at any time. There are challenges based on running, yoga, pilates, group ex, or solo workouts. Pick a challenge and get a jump on it!

Note: NONE of the links below are affiliate links.

SweatPink’s #IAMEMPOWERED

Details: FREE. This is a challenge for everyone, at any level, to get more engaged and help build fitness and a support community. Follow SweatPink on twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget the hashtags. If you are a SweatPink ambassador, be sure to login to the FitApproach website. (If you’re a blogger or active on social media, why not apply to be a SweatPink ambassador?)

  • January 1-8: #IAMEMPOWERED Sweat Pink Community Kickoff!
  • January 9-13: #EB2017Goals #IAMEMPOWERED healthy cooking with Eggland’s Best!
  • January 16-20: #BuildYourBestBody #IAMEMPOWERED fitness challenge with Hedstrom Fitness!
  • January 21-31: #IAMEMPOWERED #FFYHIITYOGA 10 days of HIIT Yoga challenge with Flex & Flow Yoga!

The Daily Burn and Spartan Challenge

http://lp.dailyburn.com/spartan/index.html

Details: start with a FREE 30-day trial to Daily Burn. (Using this link also gets you 25% off the next month of Daily Burn, and 25% off a Spartan Race.) This is a new collaboration presenting home-based workouts based on the SGX, Spartan’s official training philosophy.  There are variations for beginning, intermediate, and advanced fitness levels, and membership also gives you access to all of the Daily Burn videos. (Note: I’m in love with the yoga hip sequence!)

grokker’s #BeABetterYou

https://grokker.com/

Details: Sign up to get the month of January for FREE. Once you have signed up, you get to choose a challenge. There are options for a variety of fitness levels. For every workout completed, grokker will make a donation to charity. (After January, a grokker subscription is $14.99/month starting on February 2, 2017; you can cancel at any time).

Buti Yoga: New Year’s Resolution

https://butiyoga.com/collections/buti-new-year/products/30-day-transformation-challenge-bundle

Details: $99 for the 30 Day Transformation Kit (your choice of Buti Yoga DVD set, meal plan, and samples of Golden Ratio protein [not vegetarian/vegan] with a discount code if you decide to buy a canister; one month free streaming access). There are DVD options for beginners and experienced Buti practitioners–check the website for details. Buti is awarding prizes: a ticket to a Buti retreat (not including transportation) and a year-long digital subscription. To enter, finish the 30 days by February 15 and share your transformation story with Buti. Also: Bizzie Gold is running a separate Sustainable Transformation Group that kicks off on January 4.

Experience Life: Strong, Fast, and Fit

https://experiencelife.com/life-unedited/2016/12/13/how-were-getting-strong-fast-and-fit-in-2017/

Details: FREE. Six months of workouts and an optional Facebook group. Their description: “Strong, Fast, and Fit” —a six-part program with multiple, progressive, adaptable-to-you workouts and detailed coaching. This is appropriate for all levels.

Run the Year 2017

https://runtheedge.com/runtheyear2017/

Details: Sign up to run 2,017 miles (solo or with friends—you can sign up and find or create a team later.) The Basic Registration costs $25 and gives you access to monthly challenged hosted by Kara Goucher, weekly prize giveaways, access to a Facebook group for support, and a Mileage Tracker, among other things. Optional swag includes a Run The Year 2017 medal, monthly challenged poster, Milestone yearbook, and Run the Year 2017 shirt. (Wear the shirt to events to meet other participants!)

i love to run’s #2017 Gold Challenge

https://ilovetorun.org/2017-gold-challenge.html

Details: There are two options this year. One, run/walk 1000 miles. Two, run/walk/exercise 100 days. Registration costs vary, depending on which package you choose, and includes an activity tracker (this one allows you to import from apps and trackers like MapMyRun and Strava). There is also a social component, so you can celebrate your progress and cheer on your friends.

Blogilates challenges

http://www.blogilates.com

Details: POP Pilates creator Cassey Ho has a variety of FREE pilates challenges that target different muscle groups. If you’re looking for year-long motivation, sign up for her email list–each month you will unlock a different workout calendar, using videos available online.

YogaDownload’s 21 Day Fit and Fabulous Challenge

http://www.yogadownload.com/Challenge

Details: FREE with optional subscription. YogaDownload describes the challenge: “The challenge is free to join and available to all YogaDownload members, but you can get the most out of the challenge by signing up for one of our memberships which you can order at a discounted price [codes on the website, pricing starts at $12/month]. You’ll get daily emails with your yoga classes, inspiration, an amazing suite of wellness prizes you can win and be supported by a strong community of likeminded practitioners sharing this experience from all over the world.”

barre3 B3AllIn

https://barre3.com/b3allin

Details: this is a guided challenge that starts January 9 (so you’ve got time to plan and get ready!) This four week challenge includes 5 workouts/week, a guided meal plan, and access to the wellness experts (including barre3 founder Sadie Lincoln and Dr. Frank Lipman) in the B3 online community. There is a recommended workout schedule, but you have access to new workouts each week, plus the barre3 online library. Options: do the challenge at your local barre3 studio, OR online. (Subscription prices: $29/monthly, $162 for 6 months; $300/year [$25/month]).

Yoga International’s 30 for 30 in 2017

https://yogainternational.com/guide/2017-30-for-30-challenge-sign-up

Details: FREE. From the website, “It’s a New Year! Let’s use this fresh start to re-affirm our yoga practice. Join us for a brand new 30 for 30 Challenge, where you will receive all the motivation you need to reboot or revitalize your practice. Sign up today and receive a hand-picked 30-minute class each day for the next 30 days, delivered directly to your inbox. These half-hour classes feature a wide variety of teachers, styles, and sequences, and are sure to keep you motivated and inspired to practice each day.” You can stream online, or through the mobile app. Also: Yoga International is hosting a six month meditation challenge for YI members. (There is a free 30-day trial membership available.)

The BeachBody Challenge

https://www.teambeachbody.com/en_US/beachbody-challenge

https://www.beachbody.com/product/fitness_programs/on-demand-workout-videos.do

Details: You’ve probably seen the BeachBody Challenge as part of infomercials for the workouts. Forget the DVDs. BeachBody has a “New Year’s Special” on their streaming service (which is available online and through devices such as Roku); you can get an entire year for under $100. For those doing the math, that’s $8.33/month, aka cheaper than a Planet Fitness membership. That includes access to all existing workouts, and the new ones as they drop. (Entry to the challenge is free and optional.) I am no longer a BeachBody coach, but I’d be happy to answer your questions.

Studio-Based Challenges

If you prefer to get your workouts live, there are a ton of options. (I’m willing to bet your local gym or fitness studio is hosting a January challenge, at a minimum!) Here are a few that I know about that are happening nationwide:

  • FlyWheel is hosting a “FLY into 2017: New Year, Real Results 4-Week Challenge.” The challenge includes 5 weekly credits for Flywheel and/or FlyBarre classes (20 credits total, and the expire at the end of the program!), Early Booking, nutrition plan, home workouts to supplement your studio classes, and community support. (The link is my referral link–it lets FlyWheel know I sent you.)
  • OrangeTheory studios are hosting “The Ultimate Weight Loss Challenge.” To learn more about it, visit your local OrangeTheory or fill out this form online for more details. (If you go, tell them I sent you?)

2017 Road Running Challenges

Prefer to challenge yourself via running events? Check out the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series! Try a “Remix Challenge” by running two events in the same weekend (e.g. a 5k Saturday and a 10k or half on Sunday). My 2016 Rock ‘n’ Blog discount code is good on some 2017 races, so give it a try (code: TRAINWITHBAIN). In California, you can earn some mega-bling through the California Half and Full Series races. Run 4, 7, 10, 15, or 20 series races to score that sweet challenge medal–the more you run, the bigger the bling!

What else?

There are plenty of other challenges out there. Are you signed up for a challenge? Did I miss your favorite? Let me know!

Update! Many of the sales, deals, discounts, and codes are good through Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday. I’ve made notes where I was able to verify the information; if there is no note about expiration, it might have just been a Friday thing.

Note: exactly ZERO of these are sponsored promotions, and exactly ZERO of the links below are affiliate links. (If that changes, I’ll make a note by the specific product or link.) Inclusion of a product/race/service on this list isn’t an endorsement, though I have reviewed many of these products. The information below comes from email sent to me, twitter, and instagram. Did I miss anything? Leave a comment and let me know!

APPAREL

2XU–verified still active Saturday
40% off site-wide
Selected products up to 70% off
www.2xu.com

Aaptiv (apparel and gear)
25% off with code BLACKFRIDAY
https://store.aaptiv.com

ABombApparel
45% off plus free swag with code blackfriday45
https://www.abomb-apparel.com/

Alo Yoga–verified still active Saturday
30% off full-price (up to 70% off sale) with code ALO30
www.aloyoga.com

Bombas–verified still live on Saturday
20% off site-wide with code HOLIDAY20
https://bombas.com

Brooks–verified still live on Saturday
30% off select styles
Spend $120 get a free holiday tech tee or holiday socks
www.brooksrunning.com

BUFF–valid through Monday
25% of everything with code CYBERSALE
www.buffusa.com

Chase This Skirt–verified still live on Saturday
30% off store-wide (no code needed)
www.chasethisskirt.com

Fellow Flowers–good through SUNDAY!
10% off when you spend $50  code Holiday10
15% off when you spend $100 code Holiday15
20% off when you spend $125 code Holiday20
http://fellow-flowers.myshopify.com/

Handful
Buy 2 regular-price bras, get a free scoop neck tank
$10 off a $50 purchase with code #ShopSmall (Saturday)
https://handful.com/

Inversion Junkies–good through TUESDAY!
BOGO leggings with code BLACKFRIDAY16
inversionjunkie.com/collections/leggings

Legend Compression–good through MONDAY!
20% off $50+
30% off $100+
40% off $150+
code CYBERWEEK16
http://www.legendcompressionwear.com

Mizuno
20% off with code WHYWAIT20
www.mizunousa.com

Nuu Muu (athletic dresses)–good through 11/29!
25% off with code THANKYOU16
https://nuu-muu.com/

Oiselle–valid through Sunday!
15% off orders of $100+
20% off orders of $200+
30% off orders of $300+
www.oiselle.com

PACT (organic cotton clothes)–valid through the weekend
30-70% off site-wide on Friday, no code needed
https://wearpact.com

Pavement Runner/WeRunSocial–ongoing!
Everything marked down to $16 or less
http://pavementrunner.com/shop/

Physiclo (compression with resistance!)
save 25% with code HOLIDAY25
https://physiclo.com

PopFlex Active–valid through 11/28!
25% off all clothes and mats with code blackfri
http://www.popflexactive.com

Pro Compression–valid through Saturday!
50% Black Styles with code BLK
Free shipping on orders over $20
http://procompression.com/black-to-the-basics/

Raw Threads–valid through 11/28
15% off site-wide with code BLACKFRIDAY
25% off orders $100+ with code BLACKFRIDAY25
Free shipping (no code needed)
www.rawthreads.com

Reebok–verified still active on Saturday
50% off the Black Friday Collection code BF50
http://www.reebok.com/us/black_friday_collection

Simply Workout
30% (more on sale items!) with code TURKEYDAY
25% off with code BIGDEAL25
www.simplyworkout.com

Skirt Sports–valid through MONDAY!
15% off everything code BLACKFRIDAY15
Free shipping with $40 minimum purchase
www.skirtsports.com

SLS3 (compression)–valid through 11/28
up to 80% off with code CYBER50
BF2016 for 50% off and free shipping (today only)
http://www.slstri.com/

Sparkle Skirts–MONDAY ONLY
Buy 3, Get 1 Free (limited to B3G1 collection, see link)
FREESHIP2016 (covers up to $15 shipping fees)
http://www.sparkleskirts.com/collections/b3g1

Spiritual Gangster–verified valid on Saturday
40% off with code NAMASTE40
https://www.spiritualgangster.com/

Thorlos–valid through 12/31
30% off select clearance
Buy 3, get the 4th free
Free shipping in the US
https://www.thorlo.com

Toe Sox–verified valid on Saturday
25% off everything with code BESTSALEEVER
www.toesox.com

BODY CARE

Bunny Butt Apothecary–to 11/28
(small business soap, body cream, and more–delicious!)
25% off with code BLACKBUNNY16
http://bunnybuttapothecary.com/

Out of Africa–through 12/2
(fair trade, sustainable, cruelty-free, and more!)
20% off with code THANKSGIVING20
http://outofafricashea.com

Sumbody–CYBER MONDAY ONLY
free shipping on orders $35+ and a gift with code CYBER16
www.sumbody.com

EVENTS

Coastal Trail Runs/Zoom
20% off races through midnight only code blkfriday20
www.coastaltrailruns.com

Divas Half Marathon & 5k Series–valid through 11/28
$5 off any race with code THANKS16
http://www.runlikeadiva.com/

FitFam’s Elfie Run (benefits Toys for Tots!)
20% off with code BLACKFRIDAY20
http://elfie.run/

Hospital Hill–MONDAY ONLY
20% off with code Cyber17 (not valid on the family pricing package)
www.hospitalhillrun.com

Livermore Half Marathon–valid through MONDAY
The Town’s Half Marathon
$10 off with code THANKFUL2016
(apologies for the ugly link below, but imathlete wasn’t doing me any favors)
https://www.imathlete.com/events/EventReg/EventReg_SelectType.aspx?fEID=37198&fNew=1&fsource=imAEOverview

Mad Marathon–SUNDAY AND MONDAY only
$60 for either the 2016 Mad Marathon or Mad Half
www.madmarathon.com

The Phoenix Marathon
$20 off with code BFRIDAY20 (full and half only) until 11/29
http://thephoenixmarathon.com

PIG RUN of Lake Nona–Lucky 7th!
$5 off with code TURKEYPIGGY
http://www.pigrunoflakenona.com/

Seasick Events: Coast to Crest and Carmel Valley Trail
The Coast to Crest race is set for May 6, 2017 while the Carmel Valley trail race is set for Sept 9th, 2017. Registration for 40% off, this weekend only. Register for both events at once and receive 25% off automatically, AND if you include the code “HOLIDAY” you will receive an additional 15% off…  A TOTAL OF 40% OFF*!! (Registering for one event saves 15% off that event.)
www.seasickevents.com

Spartan Races
25% off all races with code HOLIDAY
Sale on gear & apparel
www.spartan.com

Surf City–valid through MONDAY
$20 off the half or full marathon with code BLACKFRIDAYSCM
https://www.imathlete.com/events/EventReg/EventReg_SelectType.asp

Todos Santos Half Marathon–MONDAY ONLY
$45 half marathon with code GRATITUDE
http://www.runtodossantos.com

Willamantic Classic–MONDAY ONLY
$6 off any distance with code CYBER
Introducing the Hop TWO It Relay option for the Half Marathon!
Two person teams, with the handoff at the Jillson Square midpoint of the race, convenient one stop parking, running, AND cheering plus fun team finisher medals. $55 on Cyber Monday, price goes up to $60 after.
http://www.willimanticathleticclub.org/Willimantic_Classic.html

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FOOD & NUTRITION

Aloha
30% off site-wide wide code FRIDAY SATURDAY
aloha.com

Amazing Greens
50% off with code HOLIDAY2016 through Monday!
free shipping on orders $75+
https://www.amazinggrass.com/store

Amino Vital–valid through MONDAY
30% off with code HOLIDAY
www.amino-vital.com

Amrap Nutrition
30% off on Amazon.com with code AMRAP300

Banza (delicious chickpea pasta, made in Detroit!)
Buy one, send one to a friend! Select items, through Monday 11/28
Deal page is here

Bodybuilding.com
BOGO on select items
www.bodybuilding.com

BSN–cyber MONDAY!
15% off all BSN Edge products
http://www.gobsn.com/offer/cybermonday.html

Buff Bake
15% off site-wide
extra savings with code cybermonday
www.buffbake.com

Detour Bar–MONDAY ONLY
entire site 30% off (no code required)
http://www.detourbar.com

Direct Eats–new! Valid Saturday and Sunday!
save 10% (off $75), 15% ($150), or 20% ($200) with code BLACKFRIDAY
15% off selected products from small businesses
www.directeats.com

EAS
25% off select items
www.eas.com

EBOOST
40% off with code THANKS40; free shipping over $40
https://www.eboost.com

Energy Bits.–now through Monday
20% off with code BAIN
$5 shipping to the U.S. for up to five bags of bits
http://www.energybits.com

Enjoy Life Foods (great for those with allergies!)–to 11/28!
10% off site-wide, 20% off orders $50+, 30% off orders $65+ code THANKFUL
http://shop.enjoylifefoods.com/

Hammer Nutrition
Free ultra gel sampler kit with order, use code WS16E
15% off fuels
20% off supplements and accessories
30% off clothing
50% off clearance
http://www.hammernutrition.com/
(Not an affiliate link, but if you want to tell them I sent you, I would LOVE that.)

ieatprotein
30% off with code EAT30
www.ieatprotein.com

Inside Tracker— valid through MONDAY!
Best deal of the year on the Ultimate plan!
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Where have I been for…the entire month of June and the first half of July? Sometimes when I go a long time between posts, it is for predictable reasons—I have a full-time “day job” (which sometimes wants to place higher demands on my time) or I’m out running races and have prioritized DOING THINGS over blogging about them—but other times it is not.  Co-schedule reminded me today that I haven’t posted in weeks. It’s not for lack of ideas (there are a dozen partially-drafted posts in my queue, I have dozens of great giveaways to run, and my post reviewing MeStrength and why you would want to supplement your electrolytes with creatine is now an entire week overdue). I’m having a hard time forcing myself to sit down and write, and it’s not because of writer’s block. Nope.

Here’s the problem.

I’m injured.

Got cheese to go with my w(h)ine?
Got cheese to go with my w(h)ine?

As a fitness instructor, yoga teacher, and nutrition student, I’d like to think my nutrition and exercise choices should get the credit for my overall health. For example, I’m rarely sick. When I log time off from work as sick time, it’s usually because I’ve developed a headache (also rare, but unavoidable due to lingering effects of a car accident in which I broke more than a few bones). Yoga has taught me to know my body very well, and I recognize the earliest warning signs that I might,  maybe, possibly be a few days away from illness. When that happens, I take immediate course corrections: drink more water, add more sleep time, eat more vegetables, take a multi-vitamin, otherwise take action that feels appropriate to the situation. Usually I shake it off before I even get sick. This is a giant blessing, and I am thankful for the knowledge and space to execute it in my life.

For most of my life I’ve also rarely been injured, save for catastrophic events like the aforementioned car accident. (That put me out of commission for over a month, and then for subsequent months I wasn’t able to operate at full mental or physical capacity. I really hated that.) I was rear-ended twice during the time I lived in Austin and that messed up my left shoulder, so it requires some maintenance, but it usually doesn’t bother me (and when it does it is usually because I have been slacking on my maintenance.) Like every runner or  fitness pro, I encounter the occasional muscle strain or sprain, but up until now they have also healed pretty quickly after application of the appropriate remedies (things like rest, ice or heat, modification of specific exercises or workouts, foam rolling or other SMFR, and a little patience). I try to take body breaks throughout the day instead of staying in a static desk-sitting-position all day, and same for when I drive.

So as I sit here writing the first part of this post at IDEA World—the largest gathering of fitness professionals in the world, a veritable candy store of workouts—I’m incredibly frustrated and angry and mad and sad and grumpy and whiny (“It’s sooooo UNFAIR!!”) that I’ve developed an injury that doesn’t want to make peace and go away. Worse, I can’t figure out exactly what I need to do to make it go away, and my schedule (work and life) has kept me from getting to a specialist.

Earlier this year, I had some pain in my glute/hamstring tie-in on my left leg. After I ran long, or spent most of the day on my feet, I’d find myself with a big lump of a pain on the back of my leg. After Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco (April) I had the massage pro at the VIP tent work on that and nothing else; he immediately knew exactly which spot I was trying to describe because he found a giant knot there that would not release. I made an appointment with  my chiropractor (she’s also a yoga teacher and a distance cyclist, and is amazing with a variety of modalities) who figured it out and fixed it. Basically, my pelvis was misaligned so that my left hip was more forward than it should be, and that misalignment was forcing the muscle fibers in one spot (where I was having the pain) to do more work than they should. Overworked and maxed out, those muscle fibers rebelled. She put my pelvis back where it should be, and the problem went away.

Or so I thought.

The big car accident cracked some vertebrae in my lower spine. While I assume they’ve basically healed and aren’t causing any trouble on their own, that experience taught  me a lot about how the low bank and pelvis are related to each other. After the knotty-hammy-glute-tie-in issue earlier this year, I’ve tried to be much more careful about my daily habits with my low back and pelvis.  You probably don’t think about this much, but just as habitual exercise causes changes in muscle size, strength, composition, and power, your daily habits affect your low back and pelvis. Consider the placement of your pelvis and low back when you sit at your desk (or on your sofa), when you drive, when you stand in social/business settings, when you sleep.

The vast majority of office workers have terrible sitting posture. Specifically, they (we) sit in chairs in a way that allows the low back to pooch out, reversing the natural lumbar curve (it normally curves into the body, not out and away from it). Or sit with one leg crossed over the other, tilting the pelvis to one side while simultaneously reversing the low back’s curve. Or worse, sit on one foot. (The upper body suffers similar evils: forward-leaning computer-screen head, downward-facing text-message neck, typing posture with shoulders rolled forward and the upper back’s natural outward curve turned into a veritable dowager’s hump.) At home I have a small rectangular pillow that I use as a lumbar support because otherwise I tend to melt into the couch like a blob.

It’s been difficult for me to observe the driving posture of others (beyond the few people I know who drive with an exaggerated version of desk postures). At some point I noticed that when I slide into the driver’s seat, I tend to sit on the seat in such a way that my right hip is higher than my left. (This is easy to do because most car seats are not flat, but are sort of curved/butt-shaped.) As soon as I noticed this, I made a point to sit myself squarely in the seat before putting on my seatbelt or turning the key. On long drives—which I sometimes make for work—I find myself adjusting my left leg, from stretched out and slack to foot flat on the floor, to compensate for the constant tension in my right leg. I try to stop regularly to get out of the car for a “body break”—a few stretches, maybe some jumping around a bit to keep my blood circulating, etc.

Standing posture is particularly interesting because you can very easily watch this. I can’t generalize as to all people, but I’ve noticed several repeat patterns. For example, men with big guts tend to stand with an overarched low back or with an exaggerated anterior tilt to the pelvis (the hip bones much more forward than the pubic bone). This makes sense, since your center of gravity is “off” from its natural default position when you add a keg where the six-pack should be. Women wearing heels often have a similar pattern in the low back/hips/pelvis. I’ve also notice many people—myself included—tend to stand with their weight primarily on one side, hips shifted over. This stance is event more exaggerated in people wearing a backpack with just one strap on (not a cross-body bag, but a traditional two-strap backpack). In fact, on any day when I am observing bodies, it is only a minority of people who are standing with decent posture.

Sleeping is another habit that it’s rare to observe others, and I mostly have my own experience to go on. Sleeping flat on my back feels unnatural to me and I can’t seem to fall asleep that way. Sleeping flat on my stomach makes me over-arch my low back and exaggerate the anterior pelvic tilt, so much so that I can feel the strain on the little muscles attached to the spine in my low back. I prefer to sleep on my left side—which is now painful—with a second pillow in front of me and between my knees to keep my hips in order.

Warning! Cases of w(h)ine ahead!
Warning! Cases of w(h)ine ahead!

So whyyyy is my left hip so angry at me?! It is incredibly frustrating to know that I take better, thoughtful care of my body than most humans and still be in pain, and not know the cause. When I first noticed my left hip acting up, it felt stiff and achy and I noticed I had been doing more desk-sitting than usual; so I tried mobilizing and movement. I took stretch breaks for the muscles around the hip complex and tried to add movement. It was still a little sore when I hit the road for the Across the Bay 415k &12k, and I figured I’d be able to run-walk most of it. I started in Marin with 1 minute intervals, and by the time I hit the lead-up to the Golden Gate Bridge, I knew that wasn’t going to be a plan. I was too tempted to try to add speed. Yet at the end of the race–most of which I walked–I was in so much pain I wanted to cry, and I spent the rest of the day sleeping

It could be the TRX class I took, or it could be a movement I didn’t even notice. It could be a continuation of the prior dysfunction in my pelvis. It could be tight tissue (the SMFR class I took at IDEA helped). Whatever the cause, it is incredibly annoying. As I write the end of this post, I’m just back from IDEA World, where I sat out all of the amazing workouts: a BlogFest workout with Gunnar Peterson, Boot Camp with Todd Durkin (Todd freaking Durkin!), a barre class, a BeachBody Live mashup…I also resisted the temptation to physically play at the expo: no TRX, no ActivMotion bar, no cycling (and Real Ryder was there!), no Lebert, no circuits, zip, zilch, nada. At least I’m “adulating” well (I didn’t do anything I knew would make me feel worse).

But…my chiropractor is out of town, I was unable to make an appointment at the substitute I know, and as I was making a sports massage appointment someone else booked it faster than I did and POOF! (Okay, I used some not-blog-appropriate language when that happened.) I’m off to FitBloggin’ in a day, and I’m in a world of hurt. So me, the rarely-to-never-injured, will spend the two best fitness conferences of the year mostly sidelined due to injury. The disappointment is palpable here, folks.

Tell me, have you been sidelined by an injury? How did you deal with it? Got advice for me?

 

Since the Valentine’s Day episode of Runner of a Certain Age podcast was about volunteering for races, I thought I’d follow up with a post about my volunteering experiences. (Yes, this post is late. I’m sure we can all cope!) It turns out that volunteering is actually good for you, so at the bottom there are some resources for finding volunteer experiences.

Volunteering: my earliest days. Like many kids, I was in Girl Scouts and as part of that did various community service projects. I was also in the school choir and the middle school melodrama (by that I mean plays, not pre-pubescent school dances), and Miss Mann took us to Tonquish Creek Manor to perform for the retirees living there. Among all of these, the experience that had the biggest impact on my life was with my family.

The CrossRoads program runs a meal program (back then we called it “the soup kitchen”) in downtown Detroit. My understanding back then was that the various Episcopal Church parishes in the diocese took turns each Sunday, paying for the food and providing the volunteers. I grew up a relatively privileged white kid in the suburbs, and our church was affluent compared to Detroit. Individuals in my parish donated turkeys and money, and each year we provided the Thanksgiving meal. Or maybe it was Christmas. It doesn’t matter. Mom and Dad, me, and both of my brothers, we all went out to volunteer and serve the meal: turkey shredded into a giant pot of gravy, served over white bread, with various sides, and pie for dessert. One year the priest had to separate two guys who got into a fight over the last piece of pumpkin pie. My brothers saw the whole thing and did not understand, couldn’t believe what they saw. “Dad,” one said, “it’s just a piece of pie.” Dad explained, “Yes, but it might be the only piece of pie they see until next year.” We were appropriately awed.

I know I am blessed, I have never gone hungry. Feeding others is one way to show gratitude.
I know I am blessed, I have never gone hungry. Feeding others is one way to show gratitude.

Volunteering: as a semi-grownup. People always seemed happy when you helped them do things. In college I was busy with a million things, and some of them involved volunteer projects. My sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, also did volunteer projects. (I’m not making this up, I was actually in a sorority.) I solicited alumni for donations in exchange for face-paint paw prints before football games, to benefit the Norm Constatine scholarship for the student who plays the Nittany Lion mascot. I went “canning” (essentially holding cans and asking for change) in support of ‘THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. (In 2016, THON raised $9.7 million. Yes, million.)  The activity I remember most was a party we hosted at a home for people with Down’s Syndrome–we spent most of it playing a sort of balloon volleyball, and the residents could not be more pleased. During the summers I was a Brownie troop leader at the PNC Service Unit day camp.

After college came law school, which eats more of your time than breathing, as though that is somehow possible. Still, I managed to spend part of a year and then a summer preparing a group of older girls to attend an international camporee in Finland.

Volunteering at Races: the early years. No surprise, I started volunteering at races LONG before I ever considered running them. After law school I moved to Austin (lon g story, there was this guy I was going to marry), I handed out bibs at the ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot. It was fun, and I think I got a free sandwich. I know I got a long-sleeved t-shirt (I still have it, and keep sewing up the holes). Later I volunteered for a century ride–100 miles on a bike, those people are NUTS!–cutting up bananas and handing out cups of water.

This sight at Rock n Roll San Diego made me grin and shout--and thank the volunteers
This sight at Rock n Roll San Diego made me grin and shout–and thank the volunteers

When I moved to Portland I joined the Penn State Club there. One year the Big Ten alumni clubs joined forces to provide course support for The Portland Marathon. As unlikely as it seems, I made friends with two Ohio State alumnae, and convinced them to join me on countless Volkswalks as I explored Oregon. I’d never really run a race, but volunteering for the marathon got me started thinking about it…and then I found out the local Volkssport club had it certified as a 42k walk. Marianne had broken her foot, but Susan and I walked our first marathon the next year, with Dad in tow.

On to volunteering in California. When I first moved to California, I joined the Junior League of the Oakland-East Bay. I was really excited by a program called “Done In A Day,” where volunteers gave a day to complete various community service projects. In my years with JLOEB I picked tall grasses for elephant snacks at the Oakland Zoo, painted the walls for the new computer and career center at a local domestic violence shelter, made blankets for Project Linus, and did a bunch of similar things. My law firm sponsored a trip to Guatemala, where we helped to built smokeless stoves purchased with funds donated by the firm. (Stove smoke is a major cause of respiratory problems among women and children in rural Guatemala.)

As it turns out, volunteering is good for you.  True story.  In 2013 United Health even published a study on it. Some of the benefits include increased self-confidence, a sense of purpose, combating depression, and helping you stay physically healthy. A study by Carnegie Mellon found it reduces blood pressure. Read more research here.

It’s also fun! Volunteering for anything pretty much guarantees a bunch of people will thank you. (That’s what Jen noted in the podcast. If you haven’t listened to it yet, you should.)

Resources. Every race needs volunteers. Find your local race, look up the race page, and sign up! Some races offer perks like shirts, snacks, or even credit towards a future race.

Many charity organizations are looking for volunteers. Check out the zoo, aquarium, food pantry, Meals on Wheels, Boys & Girls Club, Girl Scouts, humane society, animal shelter, parks & rec department, local beach cleanup… Some volunteer positions require training to do them right–like the sea otter volunteers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium–and those positions often require a  longer-term, specific commitment.

Not interested in volunteering for a race? Dislike early mornings? Can’t make the commitment that some places require? Check out One Brick, now organized in 12 cities. You can sign up for specific events that fit your schedule. In northern California, check out HandsOn Bay Area, which connects individuals, groups, and companies with volunteer projects. Or mark your calendar for the annual California Coastal Cleanup Day projects, which include clean-ups for rivers and streams. Nationally, Volunteer Match can connect you with opportunities.

I’d love to have Thanksgiving all year. Well, maybe not the endless food parade, since it is definitely indulgent (and generates a lot of dishes, too!). The parts I like the best do revolve around food, but only because my family likes to eat, and pretty much all of us like to cook.

My favorite Thanksgiving moments all involve laughing, and much of that laughing takes place around the table or in the kitchen. When the Three Stooges assemble (that’s me and the brothers), hilarity ensues. In 2011, I brought home my first iPhone. I’m pretty sure I took more pictures of the dog than I did of the family, but here are the highlights.

This is my first selfie. You can tell, because I hadn't learned that you never look down at the phone. (If Mom were alive, she'd kill me for posting this picture.)
This is my first selfie. You can tell, because I hadn’t learned that you never look down at the phone. (If Mom were alive, she’d kill me for posting this picture.)

Why yes, I do have a weirder neck than the turkey that graced the table that year. Centering? Filters? Editing? Retakes? Yikes. Onward and upward (you’re supposed to look up at the camera!).

Traditionally, it has been Dad's job to cook and carve the turkey.
Traditionally, it has been Dad’s job to cook and carve the turkey.

Thanksgiving dinner at our house must always include certain items: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce (the kind that comes in a can) and bread. (Why yes, I did grow up in the Midwest!) Over the years, traditions evolved around past events. Required commentary included asking Mom ten times whether she remembered to take the rolls out of the oven, mocking the cranberry sauce shaped like a can (the one year I mashed it up, one of my brothers yelled at me), asking Bruce to go put the leftover turkey in the workshop, and reminding everyone to feed green bean innards and corn kernals to the pet cockatiel (still thriving at age 23).

We used to haul out all the china, but after Mom got sick, we decided to use the everyday dishes. Why? One word: dishwasher.
We used to haul out all the china, but after Mom got sick, we decided to use the everyday dishes. Why? One word: dishwasher.

There appears to be some kind of prohibition on leaving any empty space on the table. Part of the required commentary is advising others on how to rearrange the food so it will all fit for at least 10 minutes, at which point we all give up and stick some of it on another piece of furniture (preferably one that is too high for the dog to reach).

What? You don't recognize the world-famous band, Cruise Italy?
What? You don’t recognize the world-famous band, Cruise Italy? (This is literally the only photo I took that year. What’s up with that?)

There is also a required program of entertainment. I was shocked when we ended up deviating from it this year, but the typical day goes like this: get up early to stick the turkey in the oven. Drink lots of coffee, while claiming that not eating breakfast will make it easier to stuff ourselves at dinner. Hang out and catch up. Start drinking beer. Give in and eat lunch, then start picking on random snacky things while watching the Lions lose a football game. Start drinking wine. Eat dinner. At some point the brothers disappear to the basement, where they play Intellivision for hours, and you can tell which games they are playing by the sounds emanating from the basement–not the ones from the games, the sounds from the brothers. Eat dinner. Pause. Round two. Then we have Christmas.

Note the matching wrapping paper. (The kids do all the wrapping at home, where Mom and Dad have all the wrapping paper and bows and tags.)
Note the matching wrapping paper. (The kids do all the wrapping at home, where Mom and Dad have all the wrapping paper and bows and tags.)

So it goes, from year to year. Some years we have Christmas on Saturday morning. Once the three kids moved to three different locations, and I hit the west coast, it just got too expensive (airfare!) and impractical (a day off work to fly each way) to do two separate holidays. Thanksgiving was the first time I met the then-to-be-sisters-in-law. It’s sort of the acid test: if you can’t hang with the siblings, you’re not going to cut it in this fam.

Thanksgiving without Mom isn’t the same. If you’ve lost a parent, you know what  mean.

In 2014 I decided to try something new: go run the Detroit Turkey Trot, even though no one else in my family would have anything to do with it. (One brother is just not getting up that early on Thanksgiving, the other insists he’s not paying anyone and he can go run 10k whenever he wants; the sisters-in-law don’t run; that leaves Dad, and someone has to cook the turkey.) It was the

Registration for the Detroit Turkey Trot comes with the opportunity to selfie with the giant heads from The Parade Company.
Registration for the Detroit Turkey Trot comes with the opportunity to selfie with the giant heads from The Parade Company. (See the improved technique?)

I took a billion pictures, you know, “for the blog,” and notice how I reviewed the 2014 Turkey Trot on the blog? (Don’t go looking for that review…)

This is the first time we'd seen each other since...like 1996.
This is the first time we’d seen each other since…like 1996.

Funny thing about Thanksgiving: the more ways we have to take pictures, the fewer pictures I have! I’m sure I could dig hundreds of pictures of Thanksgivings past out of the basement in Dad’s new condo. I bet there are several table shots from two houses ago, the year that my brother and my cousin broke the decorative wood off of the front of the china cabinet. Yet I have none with my friend Michelle (who I see every year), and fewer than a half dozen from each year on my phone. Hm.

It's White Castle stuffing. No, I am not making this up.
It’s White Castle stuffing. No, I am not making this up.

The last Thanksgiving in the house was special for many reasons. (I wish I’d known it was going to be the very last one.) At several points there were seven of us in the kitchen cooking. It was also the year that me, the vegetarian, accidentally won a turkey during the #CompleteYourFeast twitter contest. Oops! I’ve got to say that I’ve never had customer service like we got from Diestel Turkeys, and I wasn’t even a proper customer! After I won, a few quick emails back and forth got the home address connected with the turkey, a 15 pound Organic Heirloom Turkey (which I’m told was uber delicious). Tuesday I got a call from Heidi–yes, Heidi Diestel!–to let me know that the turkey’s plane was delayed, and I should call immediately if the turkey wasn’t the proper temperature when it arrived (they’d express another one). The next day, she called again to make sure the turkey had arrived in good shape. (I was napping, so she talked to Dad, who was very impressed that I’m somehow important enough to get a call from a Diestel!)

Overview of most of what was in the box--it barely fit into one shot, much less one meal!
Overview of most of what was in the box–it barely fit into one shot, much less one meal!

The twitter chat contest also included a box of produce from Melissa’s Produce. (Honestly, when I stumbled into the #CompleteYourFeast twitter party, I was hoping I’d be lucky enough to win one of the runner-up prizes, like a cookbook.) There were apples, dutch yellow potatoes (the BEST), small onions in every color, fennel, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, steamed and ready to eat beets, two packages of quinoa, fancy salt and seasonings, and even an dessert sauce! Dad had already bought some produce, and we had no idea what might show up in the box, so it turned into quite the feast. Fennel was a new one for me, so I made one of the recipes I found on the Melissa’s website; same with the quinoa.

A portion of the resulting feast.
A portion of the resulting feast.

There’s an old funny story that ends with, “here comes Bain with a second load!” and that might as well have been our motto last year. It was the first Thanksgiving meal we shared with Dad’s new fiancée (she passed with flying colors, and baked enough pie for dinner and breakfast–very important!).

Bain's first load
Bain’s first load

We all ate ourselves silly. The post-dinner interval lasted much longer than usual, as we all wanted to eat pie, but none of us could figure out how on earth we’d manage to put more food in. Per our tradition, we spent “Black Friday” sleeping in and then hanging around at home while eating everything we had for dinner the night before.

This year was the first year the brothers and I have eaten the family Thanksgiving dinner in anyplace other than our childhood home on Moonlight Drive (we moved there in 1979). We’ve had a few “moveable feast” Thanksgivings, where we had Thanksgiving the second weekend in December, for example, or the week before the actual holiday, but never in a foreign location. It turned out just fine.

Sporting my BibRave orange at the Detroit Turkey Trot.
Sporting my BibRave orange at the Detroit Turkey Trot.

First, I convinced Dad to join me at the Detroit Turkey Trot. (Note the evolution of my selfie technique.) Ellen wasn’t so sure this was a good idea, since he’d decided to tackle the Detroit International Half Marathon on four training runs no longer than six miles, but I promised I wouldn’t let him injure himself. We did 1 minute intervals, walking and running (“jogging,” said my brother, “with a soft J”). In between viewing the amazing architecture of the Detroit that once was one of the richest cities in America, I played Ingress, we watched multiple groups of costumed runners (the ghostbusters, turkeys, turkey dinner, and all sorts of other things).

This year there were two turkeys, all the things my family usually had (but not the White Castle stuffing–Bruce was on strike), the fluffy marshmallow and oranges thing, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, green beans, two kinds of stuffing (including some vegetarian stuff not cooked in the bird for me), and another dozen dishes that didn’t fit on the table.

Most of the dinner, and all of the company--the host and hostess avoided getting into ANY of the pictures!
Most of the dinner, and all of the company–the host and hostess avoided getting into ANY of the pictures!

We shared dinner with Ellen’s daughter and her family, using all of the counter space, all of the chairs, and most of the dishes. The brothers never did hook up the Intellivision, but that might have been because the football games were so exciting. We were all in shock that the Lions won, and then the Chicago/Green Bay game kept us up well past when we wanted to go to bed. Thais is still doing her American residency, so she had to work on Friday, meaning there was less wine drinking and laughing until all hours. We only made it through one pie.

Phoenix, exhausted from exuberantly greeting every guest and attempting to mooch from every plate
Phoenix, exhausted from exuberantly greeting every guest and attempting to mooch from every plate

It was a good year to start some new traditions. (I wonder if the Intellivision will come out again next year.) I could do this every weekend! Well maybe not every weekend, that would put a serious dent in my running calendar. How about once a month?

What do you like best about Thanksgiving? Does your family have any traditions you love (or hate)?

Disclosure: I received a free UV Buff to review because I am a BibRave Pro. (Per usual, all opinions are my own–you should know by now I don’t need any help with that, I’ve got plenty of ’em!) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Read and write race reviews at BibRave.com! It’s a great way to choose between conflicting races, and help other runners.

If you didn’t figure it out from my post on the UV Half Buff, I pretty much loved it. Cliff’s Notes version: it wicks sweat, dries quickly (even when washed in a sink), holds shape/size after washing and wearing, and makes a fantastic hat liner. The folks at Buff were kind enough to let the BibRave Pro team test out a full-sized UV Buff as well. Naturally in BibRave orange, because #OrangeIsTheNewFast!

Like the UV Half Buff, the UV Buff blocks 95% of UV rays. Since endurance athletes notoriously suck at reapplying sunscreen, this is an important tool in the protective clothing aresenal. If you run wearing a visor–you know, leaving the entire top of your head, where you never put sunscreen, exposed to the sun for hours–you really ought to get a UV Buff to wear under your visor. You can’t see your scalp, so I’m pretty sure you’re not regularly checking it for suspicious spots, and that could endanger your health. (Read an article quoting University of South Florida doctors, or read about melanoma of the scalp and how deadly it is, and then go buy a UV Buff to go under your visor already.)

Just like the Half Buff, the full-sized version is seamless, soft like butter, and the patterned ones have a continuous pattern. Oh, and it seems to me there are more pattern choices for the full UV Buff than the UV Half Buff (though I’m notoriously bad at math, which is why I’m thankful for accountants and calculators). That’s important for us, the fashioned-challenge runners, who have a hard enough time getting dressed without worrying about whether we’ve got the back of the pattern in the front or vice versa. All you have to do is decide if you want printed side inside or outside. Of course if you go with BibRave Orange, there’s no pattern to worry about (and no inside and outside either!).

#OrangeIsTheNewFast
Also great for visibility–who can miss that orange? #OrangeIsTheNewFast

One thing I like about the full-sized Buff, it’s more versatile than the Half Buff. Since you have more fabric to work with you, can do things like make it into a hat, which is my favorite way to wear it. Basically you slide the tube over your head so about half is on your head and half is stretched into the air, make a twist in the fabric at the top of your head, and then pull the remaining fabric back down onto your head.

UV Buff, wrapped as a hat
UV Buff, wrapped as a hat

In case this seems difficult to figure out, the card that comes with the Buff includes pictures of different ways to wear it. There’s also a scannable QR code that takes you right to the videos on the website.

Back of the Buff card/packaging
Back of the Buff card/packaging showing different ways to use Buff

I wish I had brought my full-sized Buff with me when I ran the Mile in the Sand. I could have pulled it up over my mouth and nose to keep the sand out! I’m also looking forward to wearing the bigger UV Buff around my neck during sunny winter runs. (Did you know you can get a sunburn in the winter? Have you seen the “ski goggle tan-beards”?)

Full-sized Buff in Cali pattern
Full-sized Buff in Cali pattern–many colors, many possibilities

I’m such a fan of the expanded possibilities of the full-sized Buff that I bought a second one with a zany pattern. (It’s called Cali, in case you are interested, and while that one isn’t a UV Buff, it rocked as a hat-liner.) From the Buff website, here are the benefits of the UV Buff:

  • Blocks 95% of UV rays*
  • Soft, breathable Coolmax® Extreme fabric
  • 100% seamless
  • 12+ ways to wear
  • Polygiene® Active Odor Control
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Thermal protection from cold & wind
  • Quick-drying
  • 2-way lateral stretch
  • One size fits all adults

But hey, don’t just take my word for it. Rachel, Chadd, and Laura also blogged about their thoughts.

Not only will UV Buff be sponsoring the upcoming #bibchat–join us on Tuesday, September 22 at 6 p.m. Pacific time and you might win a prize–Buff has generously continued the BibRave discount code! Use BIBRAVE10 to save 10% on your purchase from Buff USA. But don’t delay–the code expires September 30!

Have you tried the UV Buff? Have you tried any full-sized Buff?

If you are a blogger and you write about anything related to health, fitness, exercise, running, or sports, then you NEED to be at IDEA BlogFest 2015 (EDIT: THIS YEAR. Not next year. 2015.) hosted by Sweat Pink. Fortunately for you, I have tickets and you can win them!

BlogFest includes two days of blogger-specific education, with lots of time for networking. It also includes ALL of IDEA World, with special access to presenters and brands. It is four days of bloggy goodness, and enough ideas and content to keep you writing all year long. Sweaty inspiration, new friendships, brand access, and swag. You can read all about the schedule by clicking HERE.

IDEA is the world’s largest association for health and fitness professionals.  I joined as soon as I had my first license (Zumba–which I earned at IDEA World!) and continued my membership as I took on group ex certification with AFAA and then ACE. If you’ve never heard of IDEA, you owe it to yourself to check out what IDEA has to offer: continuing education for fitness professionals, a trade journal, social media posting, conferences, insurance, and much more.

IDEA World's opening session included awards and inspiration.
IDEA World’s opening session included awards and inspiration.

IDEA World is a gathering of 12,000 amazing health and exercise-focused individuals from all over the world. There are literally hundreds of different workshops, lectures, and workouts. It starts with pre-conference sessions where you can get become a certified Schwinn Cycling Instructor, or take a workshop  with Stott Pilates, Balanced Body, NASM, or TRX, among others. (Pre-conference sessions are not included in BlogFest, but as long as you’re going to fly out, you might as well check one out.)

Thursday and Friday, you’ll spend at BlogFest. There’s a fresh agenda for 2016, including Gabrielle Reese, one of my favorite athletes, and Zumba founder Beto Perez,  but here are a few glimpses of last year.

BlogFest exclusive 2015: PiYo with Chalene Johnson
BlogFest exclusive 2015: PiYo with Chalene Johnson
Tara Stiles led one of the showcase workouts and BlogFest attendees got their yoga on--complete with mats from Reebok
Tara Stiles led one of the showcase workouts and BlogFest attendees got their yoga on–complete with mats from Reebok

In addition to the workout with Tara Stiles  and Chalene Johnson, BlogFest 2014  featured Jillian Michaels (I swear I took a  picture but I can’t find it!) and a  presentation by Under Armour with one of  my new favorite women, Shuana Harrison.  Sponsored athlete  and she has a PhD?  What’s not to love?

 

 

BlogFest attendees  had their choice of Saturday and Sunday  workshops (which included workouts). Last  year also featured a pre-event unofficial run  sponsored by RunGo. BlogFest attendees  could also chose from sponsored sessions  early morning and at lunch. I tried Fluidity bar early one morning (it kicked my butt), and then took a  lunchtime session with Vibram and Bosu (and experienced more about my feet than I ever had before).

Gotta stay hydrated! I loved guzzling Gerolsteiner all weekend.
Gotta stay hydrated! I loved guzzling Gerolsteiner all weekend.
IMG_1049
Breakfast by Gerolsteiner

During BlogFest, some of the tweet breaks included snacks by BlogFest sponsors. Dannon, also an IDEA World sponsor, presented one tweet break with snacks and a presentation by an RD specific to sports nutrition for women. Dannon also gave each of us a jumpdrive loaded with information about yogurt.

I also attended a gorgeous breakfast sponsored by Gerolsteiner, and learned more about regulation of water, bottled water, and mineral water.

Why yes, I did a lot of eating! Did I mention there are also snacks in the Expo? I’m woefully short on snaps, but there were EAS smoothies, Kelloggs products, Go Veggie! vegan cheese, a new pasta made from beans, and Beyond Meat’s new line of protein products.

Yeah, it might be all about the snacks
Yeah, it might be all about the snacks

 

The Expo had more than just snacks though. This year  there are over 600 exhibitors. There  were exhibits  with EVERYTHING related to fitness.  NASM, ACE,  and AFAA all had booths where you  could learn about  their certifications and exams.  Merrithew-Stott had  tons of products to try out,  including mini-classes, as  well as consultants about  their educational programs.  BlogFest sponsor Lorna  Jane debuted a boutique of  gorgeous workout wear, as  did Blogilates with her  new line of clothes and fitness  journals. You could try  out Zumba or a towel-fitness  class, learn about fitness  classes for you and your dog,  test disinfecting wipes  for use at the gym, and do a million other things.

Sponsor Reebok had a workout floor
Sponsor Reebok had a workout floor

 

Sometimes, a dance party broke out. Or a crossfit class. The Expo hall was a pretty great place to pick up blog-fodder. Everyone was eager to put a product in your hand, talk to you about new developments, demonstrate the moves, or offer you some literature to read later.

 

 

Comfy swag from Reebok included shoes for the pre-registered
Comfy swag from Reebok included shoes for the pre-registered

 

BlogFest attendees get a special swag-bag with freebies, products, and special offers. I don’t remember everything that was in it, but I remember a pre-release copy of Leslie Sansone’s newest  “Walk off the Pounds,” a year subscription to a streaming fitness service, a certificate redeemable for a free Under Armour heart rate monitor, and stacks of other goodies.

 

 

 

Merrithew-Stott sponsored one of our tweet breaks, complete with moves using the magic circle
Merrithew-Stott sponsored one of our tweet breaks, complete with moves using the magic circle

 

The sponsors of BlogFest also handed out goodies  during the course of the event. Surprises around every  corner! Lorna Jane gave each attendee a cute tank  with fitness inspiration, a visor, a stretchy hair-taming  headband, and also hosted a raffle at the closing  party.

During the BlogFest sessions, we covered a bunch of  topics. Some topics were very broad, like how to turn  your blog into a brand, or legal advice for bloggers,  while others were more targeted, such as taking good  food pictures and learning a little SEO. Attendees  were a mix of experienced and professional bloggers,  and newer bloggers from those not-yet-blogging on up.

Ahnu shoes booth
Ahnu shoes booth

 

In addition to the brands sponsoring BlogFest, all of which expressed interest in working with bloggers, there were also brands at the Expo looking for social media contacts or brand ambassadors.

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta selfie.

This year’s BlogFest presentations cover blogging topics such as how to increase readership and market your message, building a following on Instagram, busting nutrition myths, and the future of blogging. (Seriously, check out the schedule and look who is presenting! I’m so excited to learn from Kasey Arena, Katy Widrick, Melissa Burton, and the other bloggers and celebrity guests.)

The private BlogFest reception included dinner by Subway, including a visit from Jarod
The private BlogFest reception included dinner by Subway, including a visit from Jarod and insulated Subway messenger bags

 

Sponsor for BlogFest 2015 [EDIT: why did I keep typing 2016? Do I think I am living in the future?] include Siggi’s (seriously, I cannot wait for you to taste skyr!), Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition by General Mills, Merrithew (Stott Pilates, Zenga, Core, Total Barre), MorningStar Farms, Propel, and Reebok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tiny section of the Expo
A tiny section of the Expo

I can’t think of a better place to make connections with bloggers and brands, learn about the style and substance of  blogging (and the mechanics–I need all the  help I can get!), and try out the latest  trends in fitness and food and fashion.

 

 

 

If you’d like to join me at IDEA World’s BlogFest 2015 with Sweat Pink, save July 15-19 on your calendar and book a plane ticket to Los Angeles. Then cross your fingers, and enter to win a ticket to BlogFest using the widget below.

(Ticket to BlogFest includes admission badge for BlogFest and IDEA World. It does not include airfare, room and board, pre- and post-con sessions, your passport renewal, boarding for your cat, or that cute new top from Eleven by Venus that you just have to have. Legal disclaimer, blah blah blah.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes you luck out when you are least expecting it. Last week I was on Eventbrite’s website because I had just entered an RSVP for a running-related event. By pure dumb luck I stumbled on an event called “Auschwitz Survivor Max Garcia Shares His Unique Story,” hosted by the Consulate General of The Netherlands in San Francisco. (Prior to this I did not even know The Netherlands had a Consulate General in San Francisco.) Amazingly, the tickets were free. In part because I live in the Bay Area–an embarrassingly over-full cornucopia of unique events–I have a tendency to read about a cool event, bookmark it, and completely forget about it. This time I entered my RSVP immediately. (I’m not going to lie, part of that was because I just could not believe that all I had to do to attend an event at a foreign consulate was click a website button.  Seriously, I basically invited myself.)

Frankly, the remaining Holocaust survivors are getting old. There are not that many left, and of those who are left there aren’t many who have both the desire and the ability to take on speaking engagements. Like any kid my age I studied World War II in school, and first learned about genocide in the context of the Nazi attempt to exterminate all who could be seen as Jewish by religion or culture or accident of birth. I’ve seen pictures of the grisly artifacts–lamp shades made of skin, piles of human teeth yanked for the silver in their fillings–that stand as physical evidence of otherwise unimaginable cruelty. Sure, I saw Schindler’s List (and was completely traumatized) and I’ve seen some brief videotaped interviews with Holocaust survivors. But there is something very different about sharing space with a real, breathing human being and listening than there is about studying a textbook history or consuming recorded media. The main reason I put in my RSVP is that this might be my only chance to hear a concentration camp survivor speak. I feel like it is important to be a witness, especially in an era when Holocaust deniers have unlimited access to the world’s largest megaphone (the internet) and anti-semitism shows up even in my Facebook feed.

This evening I had the privilege to hear Mr. Max Rodriguez Garcia speak. I didn’t Google him. I didn’t set up any expectations beyond Wow, I can’t believe this is real. Even with the limited space available in what I assume is usually the lobby and reception area of the Consulate, I was surprised it wasn’t standing-room-only. (Did I mention the tickets were free?) But like anything else, I guess an audience is better in quality than quantity.

Mr. Garcia started out talking about his life before the war. He described the kinds of things you tend to remember from childhood, things that are ordinary and unappreciated. Then he told us about what it is like to be “in hiding” in Amsterdam as a teenager; not holed up in an attic like the Frank family, but to me more like a silent shadow-person who was forced to shun both shoes and the sunlight. When the authorities caught up with him, it wasn’t the Germans/Nazi-loyalists who beat him but the Dutch police. When he was taken from the jail to the first camp–he was in Buna, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Melk, and Ebensee–he was only 19 years old. In the train car built for animals and filled with straw and a very public, communal chamber pot, he did not know anyone. He didn’t know, but all of his family was already dead. Alone in the darkness filled with crying babies and couples making love as though it might be their last opportunity, headed to a destination unknown to him…I’m not exaggerating when I say I have absolutely no sense of how to even begin to imagine it.

But Mr. Garcia didn’t focus on the terror. He didn’t reek of bitterness and anger and resentment as he recounted being forced to strip, be shaved, and sprayed with Lysol. He didn’t silently beg the audience for pity as he told us how his sister was sent straight to a gas chamber just days after her 16th birthday. He didn’t have a demeanor that told us we should think of him as persecuted, or extraordinary. He didn’t play the role of victim or hero. He just told us parts of his story, like any man telling stories from his life, without shades of either a Shakespearean actor or an emotionless automaton.

I’m not going to share Max’s story here. It’s not my story to tell, it’s his. Trying to share what I remember would be like watching the made-for-TV-movie version of a skillfully written novel. If you want to learn his story, you can get his book, Auschwitz, Auschwitz…I Cannot Forget You As Long As I Remain Alive (ISBN 978-0-9792922-7-9) or visit his website, http://www.auschwitzmaxgarcia.com  (EDIT: as of 6/9/2015 this link leads to a bluehost ad; it appears the domain was not renewed)

photo 1 (2)

Instead, I’m going to share what I take with me from listing to Mr. Garcia.

First, the capacity of a person to WILL is limitless. One of the attendees asked if he thought there was some reasons he survived, or a purpose or destiny he lived to fulfill. Mr. Garcia said he survived because he DARED. He gave several examples of choices he made where he dared to live and to thrive, where he took what we might call “calculated risks” (but which were really, in my perception, calculated interpersonal interactions). It was difficult enough just to survive on the meager rations given to the prisoners–there are more calories in a nonfat latte than he ate daily for over a year–and yet he survived when many did not. Mr. Garcia made it very clear that he had to repeatedly make the choice to dare to live. (While he did benefit from some choices made by others, he didn’t learn about those acts until years after the war; his attitude and determination existed apart from those unknown facts.)

Until you hear a former concentration camp prisoner spell out the details of daily life inside the camps, you don’t even know how wide a swath the concept of #firstworldproblems encompasses. Got a bed that has sheets or a pillow, or that you get to sleep in by yourself or only with those you choose? Are you confident that your only pair of shoes won’t be stolen in the middle of the night? Oh, you have more than one pair of shoes, do you? How about your social interactions, let’s look at those… Do you get to have friends of your own choosing? Can you move about freely without fear you’ll be shot for saying the wrong thing? Or for just some random, unknowable reason? Do you have even a tiny bit of control over where you live, the job you do, and when you move? Does your boss speak to you in a language you understand or bark at you in a foreign tongue he knows you don’t speak? Is your life at least somewhat predictable and lacking in impending death threats such as starvation, communicable diseases, and machine guns? Again, I cannot wrap my head around what it is like to live under the circumstances Mr. Garcia experienced.  Without any concrete hope that life will get better–you know, you’ll get a promotion, pay off that credit card, find true love–is it any wonder that so many people just wasted away? I’m somewhat ashamed that I’ve ever felt sorry for myself.

Second, we need to acknowledge the differences between “us” and “them” are slight and imagined and not a reasonable basis for separate treatment. (This is where the yoga lesson comes in.) There wasn’t much difference between the prisoners–who we now tend to forget were not all Jewish but also included, for example, homosexuals, criminals, and political prisoners–and those who ran the prison. The prisoners were all but starved, but at times the guards were not eating much better. They lived not in the same barracks or identical conditions, but in an isolated place away from their families. At their core, everyone was just a human being with the same human being needs. Yet the prison staff regularly tortured, abused, and killed the prisoners. Doctors conducted medical experiments on prisoners in the hospital barracks next to the ones Mr. Garcia lived in; the women there were repeatedly impregnated so the doctors could practice abortions (among other despicable things). The prison staff magnified the tiny differences between “us” and “them” until “they” were something other than human and so it didn’t matter if they were abused, tortured, killed, or left to die. But those tiny differences were really just random characteristics, most of which were not under the control of the individual to which they pertained. You don’t choose your parents (empirically unprovable metaphysical/religious beliefs aside), so it isn’t like anyone chose to be born Jewish (or Catholic or Protestant), or gay, or blonde. Yoga philosophy teaches that those differences between “us” and “them” (and even the separation of the concept of “you” and “me”) aren’t real.

Oh, just to be clear, Mr. Garcia didn’t utter the word yoga.  This is all me here.

I left the Consulate thinking about the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and the protests that shut down the Berkeley BART station (again) tonight. The racism that bubbles underneath the surface of our allegedly post-racial society isn’t any different than the race-ism that separated the “Jews and other undesirables” from the “Aryan” race. Your Black (or Asian or Latina or any other not-white) skin and my pale white skin contrast in photos, but they don’t mean anything (other than biologically, pigment concentration and all that–probably I get sunburned more). Neither your skin nor mine should entitle the bearer to special treatment positive or negative. It’s not even just about race here at home, it’s also about economics and the politics of class. There is nothing free or brave about a country where something as random as geography or how much money your parents have determines your chances of success in life. There is nothing United about a world where  nation-sponsored genocide has repeatedly resurfaced repeatedly. Just hit Google up with the word genocide. Or try the term Armenian. Or look back to 1994 in Rwanda. No people are immune, and one of the very first sites to pop up on that Google search for genocide will tell you that genocide begins with the dehumanization of the “other.”

Part of my privilege–give it any label you want–is that I had the CHOICE and the opportunity to interact on a personal level with a broad mix of people. The activities and travels I’ve chosen have let me have one-on-one interactions with other individuals.  Individuals who get labels I don’t, who are “different” in skin color, cultural identity, education, experience, religion/belief, economics, and age. The yoga idea that these “differences” are not real makes total sense to me. (By the way, I do find it thoroughly ironic that yoga in America started out populated by bored white upper-middle-class housewives and has trickled down to mostly middle-class albeit somewhat “alternative” still mostly white and still mostly women.) I’m not saying everyone I meet just wants to bliss out and sing Kumbaya with me, as I’ve certainly met people where we’d both probably say, “oh, we have nothing in common” (which is often code for something like “her political stance/religious beliefs/taste in music make me want to puke”). Chances I will personally get smacked in the face with anything other than your basic misogynistic asshattery discrimination are pretty much zero; on the other hand, chances I will exhibit anything other than an unintentional discrimination against people who are “different” is also pretty much zero.

This got much longer than I had intended it to be.

I don’t have the answers to any of the problems that fall under the banner of #blacklivesmatter (or at least I don’t have any answers that are reasonably realistic in this current time and space). The best I can do is to (1) observe that continuing to divide people into an “us” and a “them” is foolhardy and dangerous, and can easily lead to one Us dehumanizing a group of Them; and (2) encourage you to consider how those “differences” between you and me–and you and that guy over there, or you and that family on welfare, or you and that bullied kid, or you and that bully–don’t really make us all that different….and on further contemplation, you might discovery they aren’t even real.

 

Thoughtful commentary and exchange of ideas welcome here.

(Read: personal attacks and blatent hate speech will be deleted.)