Safety on the Slopes – A Case for Helmets

When I first got back into skiing in ’09, I used to think that wearing a helmet wasn’t necessary for a slow poke like me. I thought that they were simply reserved for people who tore down the mountain, did tricks or liked skiing through glades. Since I was none of the above, I figured I was perfectly fine pizza pie-ing down the mountain sans helmet.

That was until I took a few falls while skiing last winter. This was in large part due to starting to challenge myself to start trying tougher terrain. You can’t improve without challenging yourself, so as I felt more comfortable I pushed the bar a bit. So I started to casually look into helmets and price them out online. Since I was still a casual skier, I felt like I didn’t want to pay $100 for a helmet, so I kept up the search for a good deal. Unable to find one, I decided perhaps renting a helmet to see which one I liked best might be a good solution.

I rented this little gem one weekend:

It was during that ski trip to Stowe Mountain Resort that one of my friends, who was a very experienced skier, took a bad fall by hitting a patch of ice shortly after getting off the chair lift. She was skiing at what was probably her slowest speed of the day, and with extreme caution because of the crowded trail. I wasn’t there when it happened, but her boyfriend told me that she hit a patch of ice, went flying straight forward and hit her head extremely hard on the packed ice. The fall was so hard that she had a gash in her helmet. She managed to get herself together and ski down the trail, head up the chair lift and visit ski patrol to get tested for a concussion. It wasn’t clear how many tests they ran on her, but they said she was OK to ski for the rest of the day, but she ended up calling it quits early because of a headache and a sore neck. That’s what really sealed the deal on buying a helmet.

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Ski Season Training

I am a skier. My mom’s mouth drops to the floor when I tell people that, because unfortunately this wasn’t always the case. Starting in 1996 and ending in winter of 2008, I HATED skiing. People would talk about an awesome day out on the slopes and I would roll my eyes. All of that equipment? Stupid! Expensive! Plus, It’s dangerous! These thoughts were firmly planted into my head by numerous swim coaches over the years. They said the risk of seriously injuring yourself was too high and we simply weren’t allowed to do it. Even when I would go skiing I would get so nervous that I couldn’t enjoy myself. So, I hung up my mid 90’s ski equipment and bid farewell. My dismissal of skiing was sad, but swimming was the most important athletic goal of mine and I didn’t want anything to interfere with training. Then in 2008, a few of our average joe skier friends mentioned that they wanted to do a day ski trip. I almost responded no, but then I thought about it, what was there to lose?! So that weekend we packed up the car, rented equipment at a nearby ski shop and hit the slopes at Waterville Valley Ski Resort in New Hampshire. It was a tough day, Rob and I struggled. Ultimately we left the mountain feeling like we should at least try it again. Plus, having beers after a long day on the slopes felt amazing. Since that first trip we have continued to improve and challenge ourselves, and yes, we know proudly tell people that we are skiers!

Proud Skiers since 2008

The health benefits of skiing are obvious, cardiovascular and muscular namely, but one of my favorites is exposure to vitamin D during the cold and long winter months. Skiing has made me hate winter significantly less, I actually <gasp> sort of like it now. Instead of getting angry about getting hit with 20 inches of snow (ok, that still happens sometimes…) I get excited. I start tracking snow reports at New England mountains and hit the gym to prep my legs for the inevitable burn from spending essentially an entire day in the squat position. In order to help avoid crying on the mountain and stopping every five minutes (yep…that has happened…), I work in a variety of squats, lunges, and core balance work to help ease the pain.

Me skiing in Breckinridge, Colorado March 2010

Below is roughly an hour long workout that I have developed from reading a few articles, talking to friends and basic athletic training principles.

Kim’s Fabulous Ski Season Leg Workout

Stretching– I usually do my standard series of running stretches. My favorite being any stretch or maneuver (be it stretching or using a foam roller) that involves working my IT band

Cardio – I usually pick and choose 20 minutes of the following:

  • Running– It certainly isn’t earth shattering that I add running into my ski season workout, but I usually like to do a slow warm up to get the blood flowing and then speed work to get my legs ready to tackle tough terrain! I usually will run at least 2 Miles.
  • Stairmaster– Or as some people like to call it, the stair mistress 🙂 I usually do this for at least 15 minutes if it’s my only cardio.

Squats w/ weights/Medicine Ball– This is an awesome core exercise, I highly recommend it! I usually like to hold the weight or medicine ball out like this and do 3 sets of 12 reps and on the 12th rep, I hold the squat position for 10-15 seconds to increase the burn!

Lunges w/ Dumbells or a Weighted Bar– I like to walk back and forth a gym instead of doing them in place, that way I feel like I am accomplishing something and not feeling like a caged rat! The amount of times I go back and forth is usually dependent on how I’m feeling, but as a rule of thumb I usually like to make at least two laps.

Hamstrings– When I hurt my knee this past summer, my physical therapist gave me a variety of Hamstring and Knee exercises. Many of the Hamstring exercises I do are similar to the ones listed here. I usually do the standard 3×12 reps.

Wall Sit-This helps strengthen your quads and get them ready for the burning sensation that you will feel for your day on the slopes! 2 sets of 60 seconds, and if I’m feeling ambitious, I put my hands out to increase difficulty

Leg press– These are great for strengthening your Quads, Hamstrings and Glutes. 3x 12 reps

Roman chairs– to help strengthen and avoid lower back pain, this is a pretty good visual. 3×10-12 reps w/ a 10 pound weight, and if I’m feeling frisky, I will add in side dips.

CoreCaptain’s Chairs, I usually do 6 sets of 10, mixing in legs out and legs pulled in, Plank, and when I’m feeling good I will lift up one leg at a time and hold for 10 seconds, as well as modified Side Plank Dips

All in all, I hate doing most of this stuff, I would much rather go for a run or go to a class and sweat for 60 minutes. I definitely need to credit my new found love of skiing for forcing me to do these workouts!

What are your favorite ski or general cross training exercises?

Exhale Class Review: Core Fusion Cardio

Core Fusion Co-Creators Fred and Elisabeth

As I have made it painfully clear, I am COMPLETELY obsessed with Core Fusion at Exhale Spa. It gives me the chance to stretch, sweat and tone in a way I have never experienced in a regular gym or yoga class. Now they have found a way to amp it up to yet another level, Core Fusion Cardio. The class is founded on the same principals of Core Fusion, a toning and core conditioning class. The basic Core Fusion class blends the Lotte Berk Method and pilates in order to help you tone your body and increase flexibility. All of the classes claim to have a cardio element, but none of the classes have quite the same intensity as Core Fusion Cardio. The class blends not only the Lotte Berk Method and pilates, but also kick boxing and cardio elements for prolonged periods of time throughout the class. Other Core classes put you in the cardio zone for 25-30 minutes whereas Core Fusion Cardio keeps you there for a non-stop, fat burning, and extremely sweaty 45 minutes. The rest of the class is comprised of warm up, ab focused exercises and cool down. Check out the official description from Exhale:

Core Fusion® Cardio is a calorie burning, sweat inducing, body sculpting, power-packed fitness experience, masterminded by the co-creators of Core Fusion®, Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito. Merging cardio with intense strength and flexibility moves, this 60-minute class generates maximum calorie burn, resulting in defined abs, sculpted legs, and high, rounded glutes.

So, fast forward to MY experience. I had heard about the class from one of my favorite teacher, Catherine, and decided to go out on a whim and try it if it fit into my schedule. I love Core Fusion and I love cardio, why not merge the two?! In addition, I received a tweet from the co-founder of Core Fusion, Fred Devito, telling me that he would be rolling out the class in Boston at the end of March and I should go to his class. I loved the personal touch, passion for the class and enthusiasm he exuded, so I knew I had to get in. Apparently, everyone else that attends Core Fusion wanted in too! It took me nearly 10 tries to finally secure a spot in the class. Once I did, I was so excited I was doing fist pumps in the air, pathetic I know! Working out really gets me going I guess 🙂

The minute I walked through Exhale’s doors I felt the energy and excitement brewing, I knew it was going to be good! When I entered the classroom I was greeted by excited Core Fusion instructors, all of them were attending in order to take notes and learn the method so they could, in turn, teach the class on a regular basis. Instead of traditional Core Fusion, this class uses yoga mats and also allows for you to go sock-less, cool stuff! Before class began Fred Devito gave a brief explanation of what we were going to be doing and how we were going to feel, as well as including a disclaimer that we might not know what we’re doing at all times and that’s ok. Then, he launched right into it. After a brief 5 minute stretch series, we started into doing Mountain Climbers and then directly into yoga inspired moves combined with low weight repetitions of various toning moves. Each of these moves on their own are difficult, but when combined they become a fantastic core, toning, and cardio work out! As the class went on, the intensity of each move increased and so did my sweat glad output, sorry Core Fusion Cardio neighbors!! We gradually increased the amount of mountain climbers (moving from 8, to 6 and then finally to 48!) and the difficulty of the moves. At times it was difficult to keep up, seeing as how there were so many complicated movements paired with new body position, but I kept telling myself, everyone else is in the same boat! I was lucky to have a Core fusion teacher trying the class directly next to me, so I was able to cheat and glance over at her movements whenever I got overwhelmed.  The class then ended with one of the most intense ab routines I have ever done at Exhale. At the end of the hold the entire class let out a collective heavy moan and sigh of relief that the pain was over!

All in all, I think this is an absolutely fantastic class and I can’t wait to try it again! The class combines the already amazing toning aspects of the regular Core classes with the chance to burn calories and get your sweat on, perfect for cardio-aholics like me! I can’t wait to work this into my weekly work out routine. Great work Fred and Elisabeth!!!

Powder on the Slopes!

Beautiful Stowe

This past Friday, after a really great work week (I was promoted on Friday, hoooray!), with my Lent/nutrition plan in full swing, and snow in the forecast, we packed our bags and went straight up to Stowe, VT. Rob and I were able to utilize my brother and sister in law’s house, which is located just outside of downtown Stowe. Since the house was empty, we invited our avid outdoor friends Greg & Paulina and Kate & Alec. Everyone was beyond thrilled to be making the three and a half hour trek up to the beautiful New England town for a chance to ski and snowboard at one of New England’s best mountains.

We got up late on Friday night, after sitting in stop and go traffic on 93 north and a lengthy stop at a belly busting Mexican joint somewhere in the Lebanon, NH area.  We were wiped, but that didn’t stop us from popping out of bed Saturday morning as if Santa’s gifts were waiting for us under the tree at 6:45am. Greg and Paulina were able to get to the mountain for the first chair, an impressive feat! Kate, Alec, Rob and I all strolled in shortly after 8am, and hit the mountain in order to catch some corduroy!

Mount Mansfield in all it's glory

Due to icing and freezing rain issues a lot of the lifts were closed and the lines were CRAZY. As the day went on, the lines got a little better as more lifts opened up, thank goodness. Shortly after 12pm it started snowing and we were treated to snow, which just increased the beauty and amazing conditions on the mountain!

After a several runs we went inside to grab a quick lunch and then head right back out there. Since the Gondola had opened, we decided to ski over there and WOW, was it worth it! Once I skied onto the trail it looked as if I was literally skiing through a Christmas card. The pine trees were encrusted in snow and there was fresh fluffy powder everywhere you looked: absolute perfection.

Rob and Paulina Skiing down Nose Dive

The snow was actually so fresh that I had a hard time maneuvering in it. After a few frustrating attempts near the top of the trail, I finally eased into a pace and got into a groove, but wow did my thighs burn, Oww! After two runs off the Gondola, I was toast, so I called it quits and head into the midway lounge to join friends for an Apres ski party. I have to say, I do enjoy that drinking beers after sweating profusely and pushing my body to the limit is actually encouraged in the sport of skiing. Perhaps this is something we can bring to running on a larger scale, Apres Run anyone?! After everyone filtered in around 4:30pm, we all enjoyed a beer together and then made our way to our lodging for the night, the “Winter Cottage” (my friendly nickname for my brother and sister in law’s abode.)

After a great night of sleep and we all woke up and feasted on a fantastic breakfast over at the Gables Inn. After we rolled out of breakfast we all went over to the Nordic Barn on Mountain Road to rent some snow shoes, poles and snow boots. We went to this rental shop on Saturday per my sister in law’s suggestion, but I do have to say that it was by far one of the best experiences we’ve had in terms of service and atmosphere. So when we brought up the idea of snow shoeing, we made sure to head back and give them our business! The man working was great and not only got us all up to speed and demonstrated how to properly put them on, but he gave us maps and suggestions on where to go “shoein'”. Thank you Nordic Barn!

Rob and Greg Snow Shoeing

The best review and suggestion we received from the man at the Nordic Barn was for Wiesner’s Woods, a reservation land that is popular with cross country skiers and snow shoe’ers alike. We went over and had fun hiking around the snow covered trails! While snow shoeing is very different from running or skiing, it is a nice change to get outside and go for a hike and enjoy the weather. I even worked up quite the sweat when we came upon a few hilly areas of the trail. It wasn’t the most thrilling experience, but it definitely felt great to get up and get another chance to get outside. Though, afterwards I did feel a pang of jealousy when I looked through @ShredSnow’s Flickr photos of their Sunday snowboarding adventures!

Scenic Overlook from Wiesner's Woods

All in all, it was a great weekend. It was a chance to get out on some great snow and ski and snow shoe with some good friends. When I called my mother and told her about my fantastic weekend I could tell she was in disbelief. Her exact words were, “Where is Swimmykimy, and what have you done with her?!”. I told her, “Well, it’s a long winter and I’ve found a way to make it a little easier to deal with :)” I’m hoping to make it up to VT a few more times before the winter is over, but for now, I’m focusing on my impending trip to Colorado! Next post, how I’m prepping for powder in my gym work outs!

Kim’s New Workout Plan

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So I might not be Kayne West, but after a long break I feel that it’s time to wip my butt back into shape. Sure, after a marathon it’s always normal to take a little break from working out. I was burnt out, my body body is broken down and truth be told, I desperately wanted to be able to engage in all those social activities I shelved during the four months of marathon training. This year was no exception. After a painful marathon filled with breathing issues and a nagging knee injury, I was more than happy to hang up my shoes for a few weeks. During that time I spent time on the elliptical, doing crunches and stretching, going to yoga classes and dabbling in some light weight training. Granted, if a social engagement or a TV show that piqued my interest came up, I would forgo the gym in favor of relaxation. I gave my body time to recover and now the itch has returned. Now I’m relaxed, focused and ready to get back into total body shape, not just running. In order to really hold myself to training, I’m publishing my “New Workout Plan”

Looking ahead to Chicago 2010, I’m focusing on the following:
1. Core Strength:I had a swim coach in high school that used to drill the importance of core strength into our heads on a daily basis. She used to tell us that literally every movement we made in the water could be improved if we strengthened our core. I do have to agree, but it’s not strictly limited to superficial ab muscles, but rather stabilizer muscles.
My Solution: Attending a weekly bootcamp class at my gym which consists of circuit training in the following areas, jumping rope, squats, lunges, abs, balance exercises. I’m also going to regularly work on lifting weights and try muscle conditioning classes.

2. Stretching: This is probably my greatest regret going into MCM 2009, not stretching enough and skipping my weekly yoga routine. When I was training for the NYC marathon making the decision to attend one yoga class a week was the best training decision I have ever made. It provided me with great stretching and strengthening routine I couldn’t do by utilizing any other type of activity. I also loved how it toned my body better than swimming, running or any other type of cardio could do for me
My Solution: Attending at least one yoga class a week, if not two as well as trying my hand at Pilates.

3. SPEED: Another frustrating aspect of morphing into a marathoner is the loss of your speed. Granted, I have never possessed fast twitch muscles, but I used to be able to grunt through a 50 free style and multiple 5K’s in a respectable time. I’m going to look back to my old “grunt my way through” attitude and hope that it helps me start quickly and finish strong.
Solution: At least One Speed work out a week, as well as at least one shorter “Pace” run.

So as it stands Here’s my schedule:

Monday: 3-5 mile pace run, crunch series, as well as at least 5 different weight machines/free weights
Tuesday: Bootcamp class over lunch and after work “in office” yoga
Wednesday: Slower run (recovery from all those quats) plus Crunch series, and Weight lifting
Thursday: Muscle Conditioning and a speed work run
Friday: Off
Saturday: Longer run outside, possibly weight lifting
Sunday: Yoga or an off day

I know it seems ambitious, but I think I need to do this to myself to readjust, refocus and get back in the game, LITERALLY!

Yoga in the office:I could get used to this!

To follow up after the last post, I have been to yoga three times in my office and the verdict is in, I think I can get used to this! Surely the act of yoga will never be in its purest form when you can hear an elevator ding, or the rumblings of a business conversation; but there is something to be said for escaping all of that to engage in the act of yoga.
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Most of all, I enjoyed the fact that the yoga teacher: she was clear in her direction, helpful and very well versed in the yoga practice. She established a non-threatening environment perfect for first time yoga students to highly skilled yogini’s.

I also really enjoyed the room where we partook in our practice, a sunny conference room over looking the hustle and bustle of Boston. It was a perfect view and contrast to the relaxing state we were pushing our bodies to.

In closing, I’m so happy my office is now offering yoga. It is not only cost effective, but a very efficient way to engage in the practice of yoga on a very tight and busy schedule. It will never be the same as when I go to the yoga studio, but considering how I have to pry myself out of the office every night, it is the perfect diversion from the hum of the computer screen, harsh office lighting and the dig of the elevator, well almost.

Until next time-Namaste.

Bringing Zen to the workplace? It’s worth a shot.

yoga_at_workLast week the human resources department at my agency sent out an email stating that they would be offering yoga classes in the work place-for free! These classes, which are set to happen on Thursdays, are going to be taught by a former human resources employee that has an extensive yoga resume. My first reaction was, this is awesome! I am constantly feeling stressed and overwhelmed by work, so the fact that I can get my stretch on without leaving the building is a pretty cool concept.

I did a brief google search and I found an article on Yoga in the Workplace, which told me much of what I had already hypothesized, yoga in the work place = happier, healthier employees. The article states, “As per recent studies, it has the ability to reduce the number of sick days in the workplace and recuperate the overall health of people who practice yoga. It also helps in lowering health care costs”. I guess everything does always have to go back to the bottom line. Less health care costs means savings for the company and therefore more efficient workers! That aside, given the current economic and subsequent emotional toll that we are all endure on a daily basis, I can’t think of a better time to implement yoga in a work setting.

I personally haven’t done yoga since the end of October. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because Christmas time was around the corner and I had to allocate those dollars towards gifts. Silly capitalist twist on a Christian holiday interfering with my chi. Never fear, thanks to Hill Holliday my four month hiatus in the yoga circuit ends Thursday when I will join 19 of my other coworkers by taking part in yoga class in our client presentation room at Hill Holliday. Granted, the location might make it a little tougher for me to put a work stressor out of my head, but it sure is a hell of a lot more convenient and cost effective.

Which leads me to two things: Does anyone else have yoga at their work place? I’m curious to see how they like it. And finally, look for full report on the inaugural HHCC yoga class on Friday morning.

The winter I became a skier

If you ask New England residents how the feel about the winter of 2008-2009, I’m sure most of them would reply with “it’s been the longest winter in recent memory” or “I just want it to be over.” I personally despise winter, it’s a time when everyone must bundle up in 10 layers just to walk to work, suffer from dry skin from constant temperature changes, minimal day light exposure and last but not least, trudging through snow and ice. Plus, it’s difficult to get out there and run when it is 10 degrees with snow and ice. I guess I’m just not THAT dedicated. The long and short of it is, it really sucks. So as the snow keeps on falling, I found myself at a cross roads. Do I become Debbie Downer and complain about the winter every time it snows and I can’t go out to the bar because of a storm? Or, do I take up a hobby to finally embrace the cold weather? I chose the latter.

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My first ski trip in twelve years, my boyfriend, our two friends and I all went to Waterville Valley for the day. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty terrified! As for my boyfriend, it was his second time skiing and he had never taken a single lesson. The day at Waterville was tough, we both struggled gaining our balance and turning properly. That’s nothing that a quick beer break couldn’t cure! We were able to finish the day with smiles on our faces. We were both proud that we struggled through the challenges and developed comfort and refined skills out on the slopes!

img_0460Our second ski weekend we went up to Sunday River in Bethel, Maine over Presidents Day Weekend. We were excited to try out a larger mountain that had a wide variety of easier trails, instead of just a few short runs. Sadly, the wind was so fierce that most of the lifts were closed, so we decided to explore the Bethel, Maine area and relax. When we finally got to the mountain, we had to deal with trails thickly settled with families whizzing past us, and an abundance of ice. We felt like we were back to square one! We struggled through a few long runs, and then got into our groove. Sadly, we had to leave the mountain at 1pm so we could get back to Boston for plans we had that evening. Overall, it was a great trip, but we longed for better weather!

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Our latest trip was to Killington Mountain, in Killington, Vermont. We went up for the day, and skied from 10am to 3:30pm-it was an absolute blast! The conditions were extremely icy, with golfball sized ice balls sprinkled all over the trails. Despite the fact that we had to ski on ice, it was a beautiful day and it was wonderful to challenge ourselves on some more difficult terrain and conditions. During the last run of the day I looked back to my boyfriend and said “Foxy, we’re REAL skiers now!”

Skiing will never compare to running or swimming, but it feels great to just get outside and see the sun during these long winter months! It makes me look towards winter snow storms and think “Wow, I wish I were skiing!” Instead of, “great, now I have to trudge to work in this stuff”

Returning to the pool

Blodgett Pool-Harvard UniversityOn Saturday January 10th I officially returned to the pool. Swimmykimy is BACK!

I finally took the bull by the horns and tried out Cambridge Masters Swimming, and much like I expected, it was amazing. The facility the club primarily trains in is Blodgett Pool, the aquatic complex at Harvard University. The pool is spacious, but a bit old and worn around the edges, but I absolutely love it. My swim team growing up also used this facility, so I have nothing but fond memories for the complex. When I say fond memories, I actually felt goosebumps walking onto the pool deck! They covered my body as I took in all of the sights of the pool, and as the wonderful aroma of chlorine filled my nostrils; feelings only a true swimmer could identify as a “normal reaction”.

I walked straight up to the coach and introduced myself, and he enthusiastically explained warm up and the lane break down. His energy and love of the water was infectious, and I instantly knew this would be a great experience. As I jumped into the pool to start warm up (400 easy/loosen up, 4 x 100’s easy, 4 x 50’s build on :50) I felt like I was 12 again. Except this time in a much older, rustier body. Yet, my love affair for the water will never go away. The team finished up warm ups and dove straight into a full practice. In some sets, I cut through the water with ease and in others, I struggled through what seemed like the longest swim known to man (particularly with pulling, never my forte.) Near the end of the practice, my endurance had taken a major blow, but I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! I knew it, I was hooked.

Nothing compares to the rush of returning to the sport you fell in love with as a kid. Everyone has a different reaction, but the special place that sport holds can not be replaced by anything else, no matter how hard we may try amidst our adult lives. I am so fortunate that I can return to the water, as rusty as I am, and hold my own while maintaining a goofy smile on my face. Don’t worry, I will still run through the winter to maintain my running endurance base, primarily to help train for triathlons and other road races this spring. This change in my exercise plan is coming at the perfect time to help me wet my pallet for a different exercise endeavor, while allowing me to still enjoy my newest athletic love, running.

 

Information on Cambridge Master’s Swim Club can be found at