The Final Rep, Issue 6: One Way to Handle the Stress of the Year
When it’s all just too much, I lace up and go.
2020 has been a lot of things—devastating (the pandemic), exciting (the election), frustrating (politicians), and for me, above all, just veryyy emotional (everything). There’s this foundation of sadness and what I’ll call pending doom, which makes holding steady pretty difficult when more grief piles on top. I realize that’s why I feel like I can probably cry on command now. Just one gloomy thought tends to put me over the edge. For example, I just finished the show The Newsroom on HBO, which is one of the best I’ve watched in quarantine times and (spoiler alert!) one of the main characters dies in the final episodes. Why no one would warn me of this, I don’t know, but I was left not only crying about one of my favorite TV personalities passing, but also the show ending. My emotions weren’t a pretty picture and that had nothing to do with real life.
I also teared up earlier today watching clips from last year at this time when I ran the Philadelphia marathon. Remembering the sweet, sweet feeling of cruising across the finish line after months of training, seeing family and friends cheering me along, and remembering when thousands of people could congregate and we could run in big groups sans masks all overwhelmed me with emotions once again because gosh, I miss the crowds.
Sooo, you ask, are you just trying to bring us down further with these sad anecdotes and memories, Mal? I’m so sorry you had to ask. The answer is obviously no. My response to getting back to Positive Polly in any and all of these circumstances is not only just welcoming the tears when they come and letting that reaction play out but also (you guessed it!) turning to exercise whenever it’s hard to deal with the shenanigans of the year.
I mentioned in a previous issue how I listened to Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are audiobook on my runs. In it, she discusses how important it is to let the stress cycle play out. (I hear she talks about it even more in her book Burnout, co-authored by her sister, Amelia, but that’s still on my list.) Sometimes, that might mean a nice long shower cry, but a potentially more productive way to overcome stress and the emotions that lie on top of it is to run, dance, bike, jump—whatever movement makes you feel good. (You can hear the Nagoski sisters talk a little more about this here.)
I know this works for me when I’m having a particularly tough day where I just can’t get out of my head. A run around the park seems to help me sweat out the sadness, frustration, or fear that feels too tough to shake. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve had a few runs this year where I’ve had to just stop, cry, take some deep breaths, and then keep moving. But no matter what, I finish in a happier, lighter mood and feeling better prepared to handle the rest of the day. I always think it’s pretty amazing what that little bout of exercise can do for the mind.
If anyone else out there has been experiencing these emotional days (or, um, months) know that movement, especially with a side of fresh air, will have your back when you need a little pick-me-up. And of course, I’m always here for a pep talk, too. After all, that’s what The Final Rep is all about.
A few other people’s words about wellness I’ve read (and loved) recently:
1. I find the updates on speed shoes—particularly those with carbon plates embedded in the midsole a lá Nike’s Vaporfly Next%—extremely fascinating. Every major shoe brand has one now, and this story in Outside, “Seeking the Fastest Shoe in the Post-Vaporfly Era,” gives an inside look into how this tech has changed the competitive running field. It follows Canadian runner, Malindi Elmore’s experiment to find a non-Nike shoe that would still get her to her fastest marathon finish.
2. One of my favorite things about life is my siblings and I’m always intrigued to learn about the bonds of other sisters and brothers. Kate Hudson, and her actor brother, Oliver, talk about that sibling dynamic in this Health mag piece, “Kate and Oliver Hudson Get Candid on the Importance of Family, Wellness, and Enjoying Your 40s.” (They have a podcast about it too!) Kate ties it to wellness best: “I think the connections with family and how we relate to one another can become a direct reflection of how we feel or do not feel about ourselves.”
3. My dear friend, Meg—who runs her own body-positive, anti-diet fitness brand—writes about how we shouldn’t judge trainers based on how they look, in “My Body is Not My Resumé.” Stepping into the fitness industry to become a trainer a few years ago definitely took a toll on my body image, something I still struggle with despite being in a smaller body. So this was affirming for me, and a strong message for everyone.
4. One extra story to share this week, because it’s old and short and made me giggle: “How to Run a 5K in Shoes, Socks, and Not Much Else.”
The latest updates on the fitness industry:
· This week, Burton released a film called “One World” all about the power of snowboarding in connecting individuals. It follows pros like Kelly Clark, Anna Gasser, and Mark McMorris (to name a few), offering amazing aerial shots of the mountains and the athletes that do crazy jumps and rides over them. It’s a great watch to get psyched for snow. Stream it on Amazon Prime now. A One World corresponding collection of gear, made of recycled materials, will also fully launch on January 1.
· Michelob Ultra, a surprisingly fitness-focused brand, launched a campaign to celebrate everyday runners. Dubbed the #TeamULTRA Everyone’s a Runner Challenge, you can win prizes, including the grand prize of being featured in Michelob Ultra’s running-related TV commercial next year. This week, it’s all about running a 5K with pro athlete, Molly Huddle. Find more info at MichelobUltra.com.
· Starting today through November 30, SoulCycle is offering their at-home bike for $2,500 and that includes a mat, candle, set of dumbbells, and the Theragun Elite by Therabody (a percussion massage gun). They also promise a one- to three-week delivery window.
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. Let’s talk tension in any exercise! The next time you have trouble with a single-leg deadlift or glute bridge, pressing a single weight overhead, or holding a solid plank, think about creating tension (in other words, squeezing or engaging) the opposite side of the body. For example, in a single-leg move, in addition to driving through the heel of the standing leg, drive through the heel of the opposite foot, too. In a single overhead press, lift your opposite arm straight out to the side, pack the shoulder, and squeeze through that arm to help you stabilize and you press. In a plank, you want to create tension in your entire body, shoulders to abs to glutes to heels.
One move to add to your exercise routine…
Skaters, aka one of my favorite lateral movements, works in balance and cardio. Start on the right side of the mat. Drive off your right foot to hop to the left side, bringing your right foot behind your left and landing with a bent knee, hips back. Then, drive off your left foot to hop to the right, bringing your left foot behind your right. Continue alternating. If you’re feeling good, add a single-leg hop on each side, which requires more stability and a solid landing.
For a full workout, try…
Follow @exercise_snacks on Instagram for a ton of quick, effective workouts ranging from mobility-focused moves to power drills. Created by Nike trainer and the fitness mastermind that is Joe Holder (find him as @ochosystem on IG), he always offers super smart and creative moves—and he’ll explain why you should do them, too. Plus, he just offers some overall sound exercise advice.
The gear I’m loving to get me out the door…
It’s time to layer up! For a solid go-to for running, try the Under Armour Intelliknit Crew. (I have the older model, but now it’s available as a 2.0 version.) It’s comfortable, keeps me warm on the run, and even looks good enough to wear for those video calls when you at least need a nice shirt on top. Wear it alone or with a tank underneath for an added layer. It’s a solid choice for 40(ish)-degree days.
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FYI: The Final Rep is taking off next week to get some quality time with family (in a small setting). So, we’ll chat in December, my friends. You’re always on my gratitude list.