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Cherry Blossom Yoga

If you could do anything on a cloudless April morning, what would it be? This past Saturday is was practicing yoga underneath cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument. 

Doing yoga on a hill–lead by Alison Adams, of  DownDog Yoga, accompanied by a live Bluebrain performance–was pretty challenging, especially when going into balance holds.

The varying levels around me were inspiring. An older couple just in front of me looked like this was an unplanned morning activity–dressed in kakhis–but that didn’t stop the man from getting deep into his pigeon pose. He was more flexible than me! The girl behind me was in full handstands and side crows…something I swear I will do one day.

Bluebrain provided a great soundtrack, the base of which was Alison’s heartbeat.

I was so connected with their music and my practice that I didn’t notice the hoards of tourists taking photos and videos behind me until I stood up to take my own.

Isn’t Everyone Exhausted?

On a typical day my alarm goes off at or around 6:30 a.m and I am in bed around 11:00 p.m. In between that time I am exercising, working, running errands, making dinner, making plans, doing laundry…the list is endless. And my weekends are not really filled with days of sleeping in, even if I am beyond exhausted. 

I recently read an article that said: “young women have accepted exhaustion as a normal state of being.” Last year, the CDC proclaimed insufficient sleep a public health epidemic. Even more concerning…an American Psychological Association survey showed a large gap between the level of stress people say they experience and what they think is healthy.

Many of us don’t even realize how tired we are. With serious fatigue comes a continuous rush of the stress hormone cortisol, which can act as a mental and physical stimulant. And your brain rewards you for that big score at work, releasing feel good chemicals. So highly charged people don’t sense that they are burning out.

So how do you go from ragged to rejuvenated?

By now, I have identified my warning signs: bitchiness, uncontrollably laughing that turns into crying, inability to focus. This usually means it’s time to get in bed earlier and give up one of my activities (usually exercising) until my body feels like it can work at full steam.

I’d also really like to bring naps back…just saying.


Music: The essential training companion

I don’t know about you, but my race playlist is almost as important to me as getting my miles in on training runs. You can imagine me pouring over iTunes and Amazon lists, listening to the music choices of my spin instructors, and constantly surveying friends for recommendations.

All of that can get mighty expensive, especially when training for half (or soon-to-be full) marathons. I need enough to get me from start to finish, without repeats. I hate repeats, it makes me feel like I haven’t completed the run in the right amount of time.

My two favorite FREE workout music downloads have provided me with enough variety that lately I haven’t had to purchase, unless of course there is that one song that I desperately need to get me over the hill.

Motion Traxx: I love this podcast series. Not only do I get running music set to BPMs, but they also have coached podcasts for cross training like elliptical, tabata,cycle and boot camps. They have treadmill interval training and just straight high-energy music. I like using them for a variety of my workouts.

SHAPE Free Workout Music: This was recently introduced to me probably from one of SHAPE‘s email newsletters. They have great remixes of songs new and old that really get you moving. New playlists are introduced each month, helping me keep the music fresh. Their most recent March edition had a remix of Kelly Clarkson’s What Doesn’t Kill You and I swear it is the best running song out there.

Overcoming Anxiety

Some anxiety in the face of stress can be a good thing. It makes us work harder, prepare more thoroughly, and perform more intensely.  But people of different temperaments become anxious to varying degrees.

For me, the influx of emails, a growing to-do list, and the fear that I would let someone on my team down triggered anxiety attacks. I’m pretty sure my attacks were visible. I imagine I got this crazy-wide-eyed look. I know it was noticeable because it was actually a goal on my review form to “conquer my anxiety” for two years.

Let’s go high science for a second:

When a person is under chronic stress the structure of neurons can be altered. Neurons have bodies and branches used to communicate with other cells, and the more branches the neurons have, the better the communica­tion. Chronic stress causes a person to experience a loss of higher brain control over emotion. Stress reduces the number of branches in the prefrontal cortex, a regulatory part of the brain connected to memory and depression, which in turn causes den­drites, the branches that relay information between neurons, to shrink.

When we fret, especially when it becomes irrational or compul­sive, we fan the hot coal bed of anxiety until it bursts into flames. And so it follows that anxiety must be remedied over time as well, by learning to fret less.

I’ve learned to conquer my anxiety a few ways:

  • Yoga (or some other physical activity): Since working from home if I start to get worked up, I take a break. I walk, go for a run, complete a few flows. It helps me recenter myself.
  • Diagram: More than a to-do list, I think about how long each project will really take, and if one flows into another. I work out an actual process for completing the work.
  • Avoid reacting: We are surrounded by people who are just as anxious as we are. Instead of feeding it, and making it your own. Reassure and demonstrate that you have it handled.

It doesn’t always work and I still have my moments, but on my most recent review it was noted that I had conquered my anxiety. So, I’m feeling pretty good.