Wondering what the deal with ice baths is? A little 101 tutorial on the beloved chilly water feat.
I’ve spent the last few weeks in a dark cave. Not literally (because that would have made for some wicked Instagrams), but a metaphorical mind cave where you walk into the grocery store and stand holding an empty cart for 10 minutes because your mind is preoccupied in “the cave.” This weekend I head to the farthest northwest corner of the continental US to an outdoor camp for teen girls. I’m headed north to talk about body image, and shed some light on how to get through arguably the toughest years in a lady’s life. I’ve spent the weeks prior talking with body image professionals, social media experts, and walking around in a distracted mind cave.
What do you tell such a vulnerable and impressionable audience? How do you encourage
them to let their love for the outdoors be their escape from the often vicious and heartbreaking messages media sends teen girls? (If you haven’t seen what young ladies are up against today, go Google “thigh gap.”) Last week these questions brought me to a sticking point. I headed out to the Gorge and stood thigh-high in the water of the Columbia River. As with so many women I know, my own teenage years were haunted with issues over my size and weight. What do I wish I could tell my teenage self? It wasn’t until I realized the incredible feats my body could do, running trails, hiking mountains, biking for miles, that I felt comfortable with my shape. The waves washed rhythmically in and out between the strong legs that carried me through all these accomplishments, and with one of those rolling waves rolled in the answer.
I wrote down the things I wish I could change about myself. I went into that dark, nasty corner of my brain (we all have it) where the illogical self-hates lies. Here’s what came out:
I wrote down the instinctual words attached to each factor. I circled the ones that were about my body. Even fitness professionals who believe in positive body relationships and self-love have some nasty thoughts about their abs running rampant.
I wrote down my goals, and I wrote down what I need to achieve my goals.
I put the two lists side by side. Nothing on my “could change” list is relevant to my dreams. In fact, those “Hulk shoulders” and “big arms” are going to be essential when Ellen and I go head to head. Any energy I spend worrying about my muffin top is energy away from helping my clients to succeed.
The things we wish we could change about ourselves are irrelevant to the goals we want to achieve. And therein lays the answer.
When I see the girls next week, they will all be making their own lists. I expect to see lots of goals around leadership, adventure, and exploration. I expect to see lots of dislikes around bodies and appearance. I hope that we will all walk away knowing that minuscule details like the size of our thighs and the curves of our noses are irrelevant to the mountains we want to climb. If the girls leave camp with more confidence, strength, and determination, then I can crawl out of my cave and check one of my goals off the list (regardless of how much coffee it took to get there).
“If you want to cry, cry,” I told myself. “Don’t change your pace, but you can cry.”
I was somewhere between mile 9 and 10 of my first trail half-marathon and struggling to keep my pace. My biceps were burning and I was audibly wheezing. I had set a goal to go under two hours and was on pace to do so, but starting to drain.
Half-marathons are possibly the most addictive runs to do. If you haven’t trained for one, go find your pals and start cranking; you won’t regret it. Thirteen miles is long enough to get the endorphins flowing and leave you feeling accomplished, but short enough that you can train for it before the kids wake up.
This race, however, was actually 14.2 miles. I tried to block that thought from my head and focused on the hot pink shirt ahead of me. My running partner was using her expert meditation skills to peacefully glide through the woods, and consequently pulling away turn by turn. Following her lead I tried to calm my brain, relax, and let my legs naturally keep their rhythm. I was no Zen runner. My head was somewhere between a miserable, “Do I need to puke?” and an elated, “Hot damn, you’re still on pace!”
A few weeks prior, our training group had done 14 miles in less than two hours. The incredible ladies had made our runs more social hour than intense workout. We were putting in long miles at respectable paces, but had so much fun dodging in and out of the woods, chatting life, getting muddy, and yelling, “Who has to pee?!” that our long Saturday runs became the highlight of my week.
I approached the 10.5 mile aid station with 1:37 on my watch. My fiery biceps cooled when I realized, “You can do this, you can maybe actually do this!” I swigged the aid station Gatorade and started hauling. I could feel something wet burst in my socks—a blood blister. The elevation and heat had made my feet swell more than expected, but the thought of adding blood to the sweat and tears already on my Merrell Mix Masters sounded inspirationally fierce.
Trail running requires more attention and strategy than road running. Each stride falls on unpredictable terrain; there is no “zoning out.” The fallen tree ahead of you comes with a choice, under or over, and you have to pick the fastest and safest method that lets you keep your pace up. The good news is that trees don’t bite, and bounding over logs and hopping through mud are the most exhilarating challenges you can add to a run. At one point in the race I decided the fastest method around a tree was straight through. I flailed my arms like a propeller, gave a warrior cry, and kept on running. It was awesome.
What wasn’t awesome was the hill at mile 13. Over our pre-race tacos, the gals and I had looked at the elevation map the night before. The last 1.2 miles was uphill. A 200 foot gain, but nothing we hadn’t done before. I took my first stride up the mile 13 hill and instantly felt it. The runner behind me yelled expletives, followed by the runner behind him. Our family friendly race had just turned R-rated.
I tried to jog some, I tried to power walk some. Hills are best attacked by keeping good posture and letting your hips lead the way. I kept trying to recite a Kara Goucher quote about hills, but finally said my own expletives and bent over, shoulders over ankles, even pushing off rocks with my hands through one of the switchbacks.
Coming around the corner and seeing the “Timberline Marathon” banner was a feeling of incredible elation. I hadn’t made my 2 hour goal (thanks, Hill from Hell), but I had run hard, powered my way through low points, finished strong and muddy, and had the time of my life. I sprinted across the finish and between gasps of air said, “I really need to rest, and then I want to do that again.”
Marathon Training Tips They Don’t Tell You
Put Down the Razor
Any sort of skin on skin contact is a potential chaffing area. Freshly shaved skin is even more sensitive to chaffing. I never shave my armpits 2 days before a long run, and leave a nice wide unshaven patch around my inner thighs for 5 days before (sexy, eh?). I shave my shins, calves, and outer thighs to avoid ingrown hairs in cuts and scrapes from the trail.
Get a Happy Meal
Not a McDonald’s Happy Meal, but your own personal happy meal. Every runner works best on a certain food combination. Use your long runs before the race to experiment. Tempeh tacos, brown rice, and beans ended up being my perfect food. Let’s not talk about the time I thought I could run 12 miles on pizza.
A Bear Craps in the Woods, and So Do You
Welcome to the world of endurance trail running. You’re going to have to go to the bathroom. Waiting until the end when you can find a port-a-potty isn’t going to end well (see: “Get a Happy Meal”). Step off the trail, be 200 feet away from water, and drop trou. Fellow runners are too tired to turn their heads sideways to look, I promise. If you’re on a training run, it’s polite to dig a 6-inch hole and cover it back up. If you’re in a race, we’ll make an exception for you, just this once.
Run The Full Distance
Lots of half-marathon training plans cap you off at 10 or 11 miles with the theory that on race day, you can pull out an extra two from adrenaline. While this is true, knowing that you are physically capable of running the entire distance is a huge boost to your race-day confidence when things get tough. Run it at a slow pace with as many breaks as you’d like, and well enough in advance that you have time to recover, about 3 weeks.
Playgrounds are the original gyms. You can find a playground just about anywhere, which makes this workout an easy alternative to the gym or when you’re on the road. Thanks to mass-manufactured playgrounds, this workout is applicable just about anywhere!
Sumo Squat: Ballet class flashbacks. Heels under hips, toes at 45 degrees. Keep good posture and squat down with a straight back.
Elevated Push Ups: Put your hands on a ladder rung or the slide so your hands are 12-18” off the ground. Keep tight and engaged abs.
Step Ups: With one foot on a platform with knee bent to 90 degrees, press into the heel of the elevated foot to straighten your leg and drive the dragging leg’s knee to your elbows. Keep good posture. Do not push off the ground with your straight (dragging) leg.
Swing Pikes: With your feet on the swing seat and your hands on the ground (plank position), shift your weight forward and pike up, bringing the swing with you. Lower back down into the plank position.
As fast as you can while maintaining good form; no rest between exercises!
A few words on playground etiquette
The kids got there first
Don’t be that jerk fighting with a four year old for the swings. Go on days and times when the playground is likely to be unoccupied. This goes without saying, but I could make a reality tv show out of how many times I’ve seen dudes competing with children for the pull up bar.
Be wary of playgrounds at schools
Most schools (particularly urban schools) have policies about strangers walking through their fields, using the playground, etc during school hours, regardless of your reason for being there. (I remember going into “lock down” in grade five because an elderly man walked his dog through the yard.) Avoid school hours to avoid any trouble.
Runner’s knee. The dreaded injury that can hack into your mileage and take your training hostage. Once you have that inner-knee pain, rest and strengthening are your best course of treatment, but you can lessen your chances of runner’s knee by adding prevention exercises into your post-run stretch and cool down routine (you are stretching after your runs, right? RIGHT?!).
If you are currently experiencing knee pain, these exercises may not be appropriate. Consult your physician before beginning a new exercise program.
Not into words? Check it out in video form on YouTube.
Runner’s knee can be prevented by strengthening the quads and glutes, so what better way than the classic squat?! Feet hip-width apart, toes pointed forward. Reach your hips back, ensuring that your knees do not pass over your toes. 10-20 reps, 2-3 sets.
2) Sumo Squats
Ballet class flashbacks: Take a wide stance, heels positioned just outside hip-width, and toes turned out to 45 degrees. Keeping a straight back and knees tracking over your feet, squat down for 10-20 reps, 2-3 sets.
Clamshells strengthen that essential hip muscle that controls knee movement. Lying on your side, bend your knees to 45 degrees with your heels in line with your hips. Bring your heels off the ground, parallel with your top hip. Open your top knee, keeping your feet together. Keep your hips and shoulders square; do not roll your body open! 10-20 reps, 2-3 sets each side.
4) Six-position Plank
Strengthen your core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings with this 60 second plank variation.
10 seconds—Standard plank
10 seconds—Raise your right leg, keeping your best plank position
10 seconds—Raise left leg
10 seconds—With the right knee bent, bring your knee forward to your right elbow
10 seconds—Left knee bent, left knee to left elbow
10 seconds—Knees together, drop your knees to hover just above the ground
One round through is 60 seconds. Rest and see if you can go for a second round!
Get into the habit of adding leg and core strength, and you’ll be running happy for days to come!
Any run is a good run, but there are certain runs that stay in my mind long after my shoes are off. In my college years I set a PR sprinting from the top of Harlem down through Central Park (the Chipotle at the end of the Park was about to close and that guacamole is notoriously addictive). I remember a night run where I pounded through the pavement of an industrial shipyard during a torrential downpour. Last week I added a chart-topping favorite: running Misery Ridge Trail in Smith Rock State Park located outside Bend, Oregon.
Smith Rock is best known in rock climbing circles as the birthplace of modern sport climbing, but its short and sweet hiking trails are not to be missed. There’s various gentle loops circling the main rocks, but my friend and I decided we would tackle the black diamond Misery Ridge Trail. And we were going to run it.
Armed with a backpack of snacks and water and my Mixmaster Glides, my go-to trail shoe, we took off to see just how miserable Misery could be. After a ½ mile jaunt over the river our path was up, straight up, for the next mile. A mile has never taken so long, but probably because we kept stopping to take in the unbeatable view. Smith Rock State Park is home to two pairs of eagles; a Golden couple and a Bald couple, who nest at opposite ends of the park. As you creep higher up Misery Ridge, you can look out over the rocks and spot where they’ve nested over the years.
We were gasping for air but having way too much fun being “Miserable.” Each switchback brought us to a new vantage point until we reached the top, where some of Oregon’s major mountain peaks are visible: Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, The Three Sisters (bonus points if you can name them!), Broken Top, and Mount Bachelor.
The 3 miles down was a roller coaster of rocks, turns, rivers, and more views. Our shaky legs were happy to have the reprieve. As we rounded the bend to head back across the river, world-class climbers were up above us, showing off their strength, smarts, and grace. Nature’s gym was truly alive at Smith Rock, and it’s one more run under my belt that I will never forget.
If You Go
Smith Rock State Park; Terrebonne, Oregon
$5 Day Use Fee, payable at the park
What to Do: Hike, climb, boulder, yoga, trail run; the world is your oyster!
Things to Know: If you’re going to run the trails, be courteous of other users. Smith Rock’s beauty draws people of all ages and abilities, but the trails are narrow with sharp drops below. Pass safely and politely.
Get your Pack and get outside!
It was TIME Magazine’s second ranked food trend of 2012, and from the way its commandeered pastry cases there is no end in sight. A new study shows that 29% of Americans are avoiding gluten; 29% of us do not have Celiac Disease, so what gives?
We’re Overweight, We Feel Lousy, and We’re Looking for an Answer
Thanks to food marketing and a disturbing abundance of health misinformation, we think we’re eating healthy—items labeled “Whole Grain” and “Whole Wheat”—so why don’t we feel any better?
Gluten is a serious problem child for people with Celiac Disease. For people with Celiac, any amount of the protein gluten triggers a vicious response—serious abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, severe bloating. (As with any medical condition, you may experience different or none of these symptoms.) Your healthcare provider can administer a test for Celiac Disease.
The estimations about how many people have legitimate gluten sensitivity or allergy are about as accurate as my March Madness Bracket (also see “lousy guesser”). If you think gluten might be the culprit, start a food diary. For ten days, write down everything you consume, what time, and how you feel before and after. Splash of milk in your coffee? Write it down. Suddenly gassy at 2pm? Write it down. Your healthcare provider or nutritionist can help you identify if gluten is the offender in your diet.
But is it Gluten?
Many people try a gluten free diet and initially notice a difference. Less bloating, more energy, and weight loss. Does this mean you need to go gluten free? Not necessarily.
Science time: When people go on a gluten free diet, what else do they cut out? The processed carbohydrate junk, including those with “Whole Grain” and “Whole Wheat” labels. Consider anything with “Enriched Flour” in the ingredients as nutritionally worthless. “Enriched” is the food marketers way of saying, “We broke the wheat down so much that it lost all its nutritional benefits, so then we grabbed some chemicals and pumped them back in. Oh and sugar, we put some sugar in there too.” A gluten free diet cuts this out, which, unless you have one of the aforementioned contradictions, accounts for the improved state.
Gluten Free Everything
Thanks to the 29%, you can find gluten free everything! The Celiacs are stoked. The rest of us are confused. Don’t think that swapping out enriched flour bagels for gluten free is a health upgrade. GF processed foods are just as bad, and sometimes worse, as their gluten counterparts. Corn starch, tapioca starch, and potato starch are the top ingredients in these products. Not exactly healthful alternatives.
The Bottom Line
Humans are great at hiding. If all the species played hide-and-go-seek, the bears would have hibernation skills, the lizards would have camouflage skills, and the humans would have an arsenal of avoidance skills. We can’t change colors to blend in, so we hide behind our bodies, our situations, and our excuses.
I’m proud of my strength. I have big muscles that do big things. But at times I worry about looking too strong or too tough. I grew my hair out like a curtain, thinking that being one of those girls with long, loose curls would take the edge off.
Reality check: I don’t even know how to use a curling iron.
My long hair lived in a sweat-soaked braid shoved under bike helmets or in a mop on top of my head. But it was my “girly.”
We all hide behind something; hiding is easier than accepting who we are, where we are in life, honoring our fears, and holding ourselves accountable for our actions. Many women hide behind their weight and subconsciously hold onto a fitness level that disappoints them. Gaining strength and that sense of accomplishment radiates beyond the gym, which can be a nerve-wracking game changer. How would your interactions and relationships change if you felt like a stronger woman? What would you do differently if you proceeded with pride and confidence? These thoughts alone can be terrifying, much less acting on them, so we avoid them altogether with another chocolate chip cookie and a side of excuses.
I went into the salon and told her to cut it all off. Cut off every inch of my fear-filled attempt to “tone it down.” I am a strong woman, I look like a strong woman, and it was time to let that radiate throughout my life. I am no less “girly” without ten inches of hair, and any interactions that perish because of my appearance were insincere, flashes in the pan. There’s certainly an adjustment period (the percent of doors being held open for me has dropped exponentially, good thing I have my own biceps), but every time I feel through my pixie cut is a reminder that I can no longer hide, and I am presenting myself just as I am.
When we pause to ask ourselves, we know what we hide behind. It’s not easy to accept and address the curtains we’ve put up, but you deserve more than being a hide-and-seek champion. Take a step outside your shadow; go cut it all off.
Welcome to our newest feature, “Fitness Dilemmas.” Losing inches and not pounds? Bonking at 30 minutes? Achy knees on the elliptical? SheVolution Fitness is here to help! Send your dilemmas to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us help you!
Why Do My Thighs Chaff?
It’s happened to everyone. You’re out for a run, feeling fine, until the inside of your thighs suddenly start to burn. “Inside of your thighs” isn’t some euphemism for the bits between your thighs—that space where your thighs meet is on fire, it’s burning red, and it’s ruining your run.
What Do You Do?
In a race: The aid station may have anti-chafe lubricants or Vaseline. Some runners carry small packets on them; if you ask kindly you may find someone willing to share. Otherwise you just have to power through. Do not lick your thighs thinking that moisture will solve the problem; this will only exacerbate the burn. Do not change your stride into a penguin waddle to avoid the thigh-touch; you’ll wind up with chaffed thighs and achy knees at the finish line.
On a training run: Once the burn starts, the best medicine is to prevent it from worsening, which means turning back. The bad news: You won’t get the workout you planned for, but a few lost miles are better than lost days because you have oozing skin between your thighs. The good news: Congratulations, your run just became strider intervals. The lengthened stride and bounding motion in strider drills minimizes thigh contact. Stride for 30 seconds or until you start to feel the thigh burn, take a walk break for no more than 1 minute, then stride again! You’ll get home faster and get some conditioning practice.
The course of treatment for your chaffed thighs depends on the severity of the wound. If you have broken skin, blood, cracking, or raised flakes of chaffed skin, use a medicated ointment to heal your wound. If your spot is merely sensitive and red, keep the area clean and dry with talcum powder. You can hit the road again once you can run comfortably without worsening the area; for most this means the next day or day after.
Ignore anyone who says “Lose a few pounds.” Top triathletes and runners still get the occasional chaffed thighs from muscular builds, and the thinnest of long distance runners get to deal with chaffing in other places.
If you’re determined to stick with running shorts, you may need to try a few different brands and cuts to find one that doesn’t crawl up like a diaper and leaves your thighs exposed to each other (My magic bullet was Merrell’s Women’s Afton short). Make sure you’re hunting for properly cut women’s shorts that account for our phenomenal women features like birthing hips and bootyliciousness. Spandex compression shorts and triathlon shorts are an alternative that will protect your thighs.
Glide and Creams
Anti-chaff gels go a long way in protecting your body. Find one that is safe to use on already cracked or broken skin—this helps if you’ve got back-to-back races or need a 2-in-1 healing ointment. Body Glide for Her is a favorite. While there’s nothing about the formula that’s gender specific, the petite packet is perfect for fitting in your run shorts in case of emergency (or presumably for fitting into little, petite lady hands; clearly Body Glide has never seen my paws).
The take away: No your thighs aren’t fat, chaffed thighs happen to everyone. Go get some gendered running gel and a new pair of shorts and get after it!
Looking for a new winter adventure? Trying to cross-train for the upcoming spring season?
Cross-country skiing is the often overlooked sister of downhill winter sports. You may have tried cross-country as a kid and left with a bad taste in your mouth; sliding around in the tracks, chasing after Ma and Pa in far too many layers of clothing. Here are four reasons to give cross-country another go, and four must-knows to get you on the mountain.
1) The Ultimate Hike
Winding trails, rolling hills, lakes, rivers, and views of the mountain—cross-country skiing is the ultimate snowy hike with views that can’t be beat. Many established trails circle below the downhill slopes, making for breath-taking peek-a-boos of the peaks.
2) A Low-Impact, Total Body Workout
Cross-country skiing is easy on the joints, making it a great activity for all ages. Proper technique results in a total body workout, from calves to arms to shoulders to core. A gentle stroll through the woods is an efficient fat fryer, or kick it up a notch and torch calories while feeling your muscles burn!
Cross-country lends itself to exploring with old friends and bonding with new ones. Take your Pack to race each other around the track, scream down your first black diamond hill together, and top it off with a warm beverage back at the lodge.
4) The Secret Off-Season Weapon
Tired of working on strength and stability in the gym? Cross-country requires serious core strength and balance, and activates your stabilizing muscles in ways standard conditioning rarely hits. This is especially pertinent for runners and triathletes: the stride and glide action call on your glutes, biceps femoris (part of the hamstrings), and sartorius (a thigh muscle that controls knee and hip rotation).
What you need to know:
1) Two Different Styles—Two Different Strides
There are two predominant styles of cross-country skiing: Skate skiing and Classic. Each style requires a different ski, boot, and pole. Classic is done in a groomed track and is more “beginner friendly” than skate skiing. Skate skiing is done outside the track and requires a more balanced, coordinated movement. If it’s been a few years—or if it’s your first time—start with Classic to gain your bearings.
2) Dress For a Winter Run
Cross-country works up a sweat. Layer up like you’re going on a 25 degree winter run—wool base layers underneath a mid-weight top, covered with a wind-resistant jacket for those extra cold days. Wool socks, gloves, and a hat, and you’re ready to go!
3) Bring Snacks
Just like any other outdoor adventure, your body needs to be fuelled! Pack energy bars in your pockets, bring along your water bottle, and properly refuel your body post-ski.
4) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
Rentals and lessons—not just for the kids. Properly fitted equipment is essential for a good time, so rely on the shop to get you outfitted before you invest in your own. Take a lesson for your first few times on the trails and let the experts show you correct form and technique. Once you’re on the trails, give a wave and a nod to other skiers. The cross-country skiing community has some of the coolest cats around, and you never know what sage wisdom a seasoned regular is willing to offer up if you ask for a pointer!