An Ode to the Easy Workout
Issue 23: To the routines that let us repair and rebuild—and actually enjoy the scenery!
This weekend I took a run coach certification course (say that five times fast!) in which I learned how to create training plans for clients looking to (surprise!) run more or chase a goal race time. The curriculum included information on different types of runs and the intensity (and speed) you should aim for, particularly when trying to break a personal record at a certain distance. We also talked a lot about the “conversation pace” run—the type that not only builds your aerobic base but also helps you build up weekly mileage and long-run mileage. It’s a type of run that’s particularly important for those training for a marathon and those just starting a run routine. It’s the type in which, as the name denotes, you should be able to talk and hold a whole convo while you hit your stride—a good way to gauge your effort.
The idea of conversation pace and “easy runs” (those of low mileage and intensity) mixed throughout a week and full training cycle got me thinking about how important it is to not always go full speed. It’s these low-effort runs that really help you get to your longer-term goal. For me, it’s also the type of run that lets you appreciate your surroundings, your body, and your ability, because you’re not so distracted by trying to hit a pace or make it through a tough interval. You can settle in and just enjoy the ride (or, run). Because you’re running at an intensity that actually allows you to talk, it’s also a great workout for teaming up with a buddy. These easy runs can also serve as active recovery, giving your body the chance to flush waste products, get the blood flowing, and allow your body to repair itself from harder efforts. All of these reasons show just how important it is to go easy on yourself—it’s where the magic happens, where the changes can actually kick in, and you can see yourself improve. It’s where you can actually enjoy the hard work you put in at other times or other days.
I find it’s pretty easy to question whether I’m working hard enough—in workouts, but also in life. It’s part of the NYC hustle culture and the freelance life and I tend to thrive in that go-go-go mentality. I’m constantly asking myself if I should add another HIIT workout to my schedule, lift a heavier weight, run another mile, take on another project. Finishing a workout not feeling completely wiped sometimes leaves me feeling it wasn’t good enough or hard enough. But I’m realizing just how important—and healing for the mind and body—it is to have low-key days and workouts. We don’t always need to put our bodies through intense, muscle-burning, mind-bending workouts. Sometimes, reaching our highest goals means going a little easier on ourselves and giving ourselves a little grace to slow down and talk it out.
A few other people’s words about wellness I’ve read (and loved) recently:
I always enjoy The New York Times’ feature stories on mountaineering and this one on climbers who have claimed to summit all 14 of the world’s highest peaks is super interesting. Researchers debate whether every person actually hit the highest point—or if they came a few meters short on purpose or without realizing it. There’s also some commentary on the deeper meaning of a summit and you know how I like to equate the lessons of a physical feat to life in general.
This is an article from January but someone posted it on social media recently and I think we just all need a reminder (and maybe a little permission) to stop worrying about what other people think of us and our decisions. So check out “How to Actually Stop Caring What Other People Think of You,” if you need the prompt to do what serves you (and not others) today!
Emily Pennington just keeps writing stories for Outside and inspiring me to plan an outdoor adventure, including “The Best Hipcamp in Every National Park.” Hipcamp is an app that lets you book campsites, RVs, cabins, and other glamping stays around the country. This list is long and features lots of ideas, with most places costing under $100 a night (and lots under $50 per night).
The latest updates on the fitness industry:
The New York City Marathon is officially happening this fall and who’s not excited to either run or watch that?! New York Road Runners (the org that puts on the race) made the official announcement this week, saying 33,000 people will run 26.2 around the five boroughs on November 7—down from 55,000, but who’s counting. AND it’s the 50th anniversary of the event!
Michelob ULTRA (yes, the beer brand!) launched a new fitness initiative called the ULTRA Beer Run, which basically lets you trade your fitness for free brews. To join, download the MyCooler app, upload a sweaty selfie (or a screenshot of the app/workout you did), and the company will email you a prepaid card for $5. Learn more about it at ULTRABeerRun.com.
You probably heard about the Peloton Tread+ recall, in which the brand recalled all of its treadmills. Now they’ve created a password lock screen to enhance the safety of the machine for those not returning it, according to Insider.
Here’s one form cue that always resonates with clients…
These words tend to work for individuals I train as an ah-ha moment for feeling stronger in a move or activating the right muscles. Whether you’re doing prone T raises (on your stomach), bent over T raises, or reverse flies—all great exercises to help with posture and work the back—think about squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. You want to work the muscles between those blades (like the rhomboids and middle trapezius muscles), so make sure you’re engaging them as you go and not just pulling the shoulders up by the ears.
One move to add to your exercise routine…
Single-racked squat to press. A move that makes me feel powerful and strong, try this one to work the entire body, from legs to core to arms. Start with a kettlebell or dumbbell held with one hand at your shoulder, in the racked position, and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Lower into a squat by sending the hips down and back. Then, drive through the feet to stand back up as you simultaneously press the weight straight up overhead, bicep by ear. Return the weight to the racked position and repeat for 5-10 reps. Your legs should power the movement, so try a weight slightly heavier than what you typically press overhead.
For a full workout, try…
Following @RachelMariotti on IG for some more advanced exercises, including things like kettlebell snatches to reverse lunge and single-leg box jumps! I always catch some fun new moves and challenges to try on her page. She also talks a lot about mental health (and how it ties to physical health), which serves up some good reminders about how we need to pay attention to our minds if we want to show our bodies some love!
The gear I’m loving to get me out the door…
Halle Berry teamed up with Sweaty Betty to create a new collection, which just launched! And I’m kind of obsessed with this Patience Split Back T-Shirt. It’s so lightweight and super soft, plus it has a cute cropped cut, with a cut-out in the back too. I wore it for a workout this week and it felt super light and breezy, and I will 100 wear it this summer on my non-workout days, too. It’s kind of pricey at $68, but consider it a two-for-one on the fitness and regular clothes front.
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