Category Archives: Challenges

April Challenge: Climb a Mountain

Mt. Tamalpais

Mt. Tamalpais

We all love challenges.

Challenges are the kick in the pants that keep us moving forward.  They change our routine, make us look at our lives a little differently.  When we get through them, we are often pleased that they have presented themselves.

We get stronger -mentally, emotionally, physically- through challenges.

With this in mind, I’d like to invite you to join me on a #ClimbAThon challenge in April.

One of the most hated bodyweight exercises around is the Mountain Climber -yet we can all do it.  Injuries rarely limit us as the movement can be altered to adjust to an injury or strength state.  Endurance grows with practice.  And THIS, my dear, is a challenge that lets you see your accomplishment in real terms.


  1. Determine to do a set (or 10) of Mountain Climbers every day.
  2. Count each single move as a 1 foot climbed up a mountain.
  3. Keep track of your “distance” for the month.
  4. Return here for weekly updates where you post your success.

Want to make this even more fun?  Pick a mountain – either a local mountain or one of the “famous” ones – and track your actual success up that mountain.  For example:

Mt. Tamalpais is visible from my yard -so it is quite easy to imagine myself climbing this.  At a height of 2571′ I would need to do 2571 Mountain Climbers in the month of April to reach the top and another 2571 to get back to sea level. That’s roughly 172 MCs a day – or 9 sets of 20. (each step counting as one).  While this sounds daunting, it’s actually quite do-able.

So my goal: do 9 sets of MC every day in April and virtually climb Mt. Tam.

If you’re interested, let us all know in the comments below.  You can play along on a daily basis by posting your updates on Twitter- use the hastag: #ClimbAThon.

Tomorrow: How to do a Mountain Climber, including some adaptations for the injured/weak and extra challenges for the super fit.


Gratitude – How Do You Feel It?

Are you Grateful?

Do you spend a short period of time each day considering the things in your life that you are grateful for?  Or do you blithely travel through your life kind of acknowledging when good things happen, but never taking the time to sit and consider their impact on you?

I’m asking this because this month I’ve begun taking part in a social experiment called Health Month created by the Buster Benton (of 43 Things, 750 Words, and a few other websites) with the purpose of having it’s participants commit to follow rules for the month that should in some way improve our lives- committing to eat out only X times a week, limit personal internet time, read more, floss, etc.

One of the rules I made for myself is the list 3-5 things I’m grateful for at least 4x a week.

I’ve never been successful at gratitude exercises and would give up within the first 10 days.  This commitment to a month-long try is making me examine WHY I have difficulties with this challenge.  I’ve been putting a fairly strict definition on the term “gratitude” – in that I believe these are things that I NOTICE I’m thankful for during the day.  I have had very few things where I notice this.

Looking at the definition of “grateful” it says thankful for the benefit received. So in my head I can appreciate the colors of the sunset from my house – but not be thankful for the colors, nor feel that I am receiving any benefit from the sunset. Though, thinking about it at this moment those sunsets usually make me feel something positive and emotional.

How do I word that I’m thankful/grateful for the emotional reaction to the sunset??  I’m NOT thankful for the sunset itself – but for the way it changed/altered my emotional state if even for a moment.

I can also be thankful about something – like the trite Thank Goodness it’s Friday – without feeling that I’ve gained any benefit from it. It’s Friday and that is unalterable. The emotion is more superficial than I was searching for when I took on this rule.  When I say TGIF, what I am really being thankful for?

So-FOR ME- the key to something I’m grateful about is that I perceive a benefit- a positive emotion- from the thing at the time it occurs. And I’m discovering that I rarely take the time – mere seconds really- to be in the moment enough to register my emotional reaction to most of my day.

This week, I shall try to be present, shall try to be “in the moment” so I can recognize those positive emotions.  This is all babysteps, right?

How about you?  Do you do the gratitude thing?  Let me know in comments -and take the short poll about Gratitude.

Is Gratitude Part of Your Day?


Another exercise you should be doing

After shooting down crunches and inner/outer thigh machines, and advocating deadlifts instead, what other exercise might I push that many folks aren’t doing?  Here’s a hint: it will develop your balance, your legs, your coordination…


With so many people spending their day sitting down -and then walking on firm predictable surfaces like sidewalks- we are losing many challenges to our balance and the opportunities to develop the proprioceptive response to uneven surfaces.  Then, as we age, we might further limit our movement: using a support to raise out of chair or leaning on handrails as we walk up and down stairs.  We lose the ability to adjust our gait, to recenter our weight.  We lose the ability to balance.

Balance, is one of the predictors of longevity.  The greater our ability to maintain balance in unstable situations, the greater the chance that we will be physically be able to adapt to our surroundings, protect ourselves from injury, and therefore survive.

So what is one thing you should be doing to work on balance? Easy answer is everything you can, but realistically lets begin with the Single Leg Romanian Deadlift.  (what is it with me and deadlifts?  They are the magic!)

How to do a Single Leg Romanian Dead Lift:

1. Stand up tall, feet just inside shoulder width apart.  Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand letting the weight hang down in front of your thigh. (No dumbbell?  Use a plastic drink carton.  The important thing is having a good way to hold it).  Lift the opposite foot just off the ground and balance.

2. Slowly bend over, letting the weight carry your arm down, and touch the floor in front of your foot with the weight.  The free leg should move slightly behind the support leg, but not fly out to the side or move far behind you.

3. With your abs tight, squeeze your glutes, feel the tension moving UP your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together.  You should be standing back up again.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Right now, give it a try.

Do 10-15 reps with one foot, then switch.

By the end of this exercise, your feet should feel like they are growing roots and might be slightly cramped.  Your inner thighs should be burning, your glutes burned out, your shoulders permanently in a down and back position.  And your balance?  Well, you’re working on it.

Let me know in the comments how you do – and any questions you have.

Let’s Get (re)Started.. Week one?

I’m pleased to see that several people are willing to come along on my journey of getting (re)started.  I’ve spent a week looking at the decisions I’ve made this past year that have gotten me where I am now (for the record, back to the 150# that drove me to the gym to lose weight the first time.  However, I’m a much fitter 150# than I was 4 years ago).

I lost and kept off the weight for nearly 2 years by following a simple program:

  1. Fresh vegetables at almost every meal.  Plus fruit 2x a day.
  2. Limiting my starchy carbs to just before/after a workout.
  3. Cardio – HIIT 3xs a week.  And 30 minutes of steady state cardio the other days.
  4. Resistance training primarily in a metabolic fashion.  Low to medium reps/heavy weights/short rests.  I would start sweating within 5 minutes of beginning and not stop sweating until an hour or so after I stopped working out.
  5. Lean protein.
  6. Limited sugars and fried foods to “treat” status-once or twice a month.
  7. Plenty of rest.
  8. Lots of water.

I got away from this path – first choosing to move away from the cardio, then increasing the weekly levels of sweets and starchy carbs.  Then, even if it was because of illness or injury, not working out as hard as I had. As soon as I backed off the cardio the weight started coming back – and yet I resisted simply adding the cardio back.

Now, in respect to the scale, I’m back where I began.  This time, however, I know what to do:  all those steps above combined with a small decrease in my caloric intake and I’ll be back to my fighting weight in about 4-6 months.

What is going to be the challenge for me?  Remembering to have enough vegetables ready to grab and add to any meal.  Last time, I finally conquered this challenge by making LARGE batches of roasted or grilled veggies evey 3-4 days, keeping those batches in the fridge and making sure I added them to every meal.  I also have to have on hand a small amount of hard cheese, balsamic vinegar, and other seasonings for the veggies to give me some variety.

It’s truly surprising how clear minded, energized, and refreshed I feel when I base my diet on vegetables first.  And, luckily for me, this is PRIME FARMER’S MARKET season.

Running Woman

Don’t look now, but I’m (sorta, kinda) running.

At least I’ve finished my version of week 2 of C25.  It really wasn’t challenging me too much so I adapted it:

Original week two: jog for 90 seconds/ walk for 2 minutes for a total of 20 minutes.        Mine: jog (5.0-5.5 mph) for 2 minutes/walk for 3 minutes.  Since the weather has not been conducive to running outside, this is easier to deal with on a treadmill.

Next week is supposed to be jog/walk for 90 seconds; jog/walk for 3 minutes.  I will probably just do the jog/walk- aiming for jogging for 3 minutes, walking for 2.  Four rounds of this is the 20 minute training prescribed.

By the end of these workouts, I’m sweaty and winded and all those things I’m supposed to be.  Trying to imagine myself doing this -voluntarily- for much longer than a couple months.  I think I better sign up for a 5K soon to keep me on track.

Name This Exercise

Friday I did one of my favorite exercise routines. In 20-30 minutes, with no counting and just a little thinking, you can get a full body resistance workout plus a cardio workout plus ab workout.

All in one package. Without using a machine and without lying on the floor.

With a little creative planning, you could do this exercise at a park, in your neighborhood, at a rest stop while driving. Making this a truly functional

Sounds fantastic, yes? So fantastic that I need a name for it. One that wraps up all that potential fabulousness and still kind of scares the bejesus out of someone when they hear it.

And that’s where you come in. Please help me name this exercise.

The details:

The real basics: I pick up something heavy and walk with it.

More: I gather a small variety of weights- maybe a 10#dumb bell, a 25# weight plate, a couple 35# weight plates, maybe a 20# barbell.  Put them in one place with water bottle and towel.

I pick one up and:

  • hug it to my chest
  • hold it to my chest with my arms out to the side
  • hold it over my head -with one or two hands
  • hold it to one side
  • pick 2 up and hold one in either hand

Then I walk one circuit around the gym.  All the while working to maintain perfect posture: head in line with body, chin slightly tucked, standing straight, tummy engaged.  My gym is kind of big and bit crowded, so this takes me between 30-60 seconds.

Then I pick up a different weight, hold it a different way and start over again.

It takes a few laps at the gym before anyone “gets” what I’m doing -at first glance everyone assumes I’m just either loading something up or re-racking a weight.  Then they see me repeating the motion with different weights in different positions – one dumb bell held overhead is often a clue- and smile and wait for my return.

This exercise really does work the whole body and so much better than for a quick workout than any circuit of machines.

But what do I call it?  “Carry Something Heavy and Walk” is just too long.

PunkRope: Fun in the Gym

Doesn’t this look like fun?