The Tour de France in Bern

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Yesterday afternoon the Tour de France blazed through Bern, finishing the sixteenth stage just one kilometer from our house. Some friends from Zurich and Geneva came for the day to cheer on the cyclists from a perch on the hill just in front of the Rosengarten. It was a fast and furious ride for the leaders and the peloton, which followed closely behind and eventually overtook the leading three. You can see the video here. What excitement! I think we were all amazed by how quickly they rode up the massive hill—the Aargauerstalden—after having already cycled 198 kilometers that day.

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Today is a rest day for the cyclists but they will pick up the race again tomorrow for stage 17, beginning here in Bern and finishing in Finhaut-Emosson. It’s expected to be an exciting finish so tune in if you’re able and interested.

In case you missed the footage yesterday, here’s a 9-minute clip of highlights and the finish, as well as some beautiful sexy shots of Bern. You can see the hill where we sat beginning at around 3:40 in the clip. It was the perfect spot to catch the action.

I’m so impressed at the skill and athleticism demonstrated by these athletes. Go sports!

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A Fitness Tip: YouTube Videos

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It’s been almost three years since I belonged to a gym and for the most part I don’t miss it. Every once in a while I wish I could hop on an elliptical with a magazine and just spin for thirty minutes, but then I remind myself of the delicious endorphin-rush I get through running and move on.

So while I run, do yoga, and use my workout DVDs a lot, I’ve also come to rely on YouTube videos to supplement my at-home fitness routine. I actually never took a lot of group fitness classes in college or even post-college, but I’ve grown to like someone else telling me what to do, especially when I’m feeling lazy. I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite routines in case you’re looking to try something new, or if you’re like me and do most of your exercise at home. I only have a yoga mat and two sets of light hand weights (1 and 3 kilograms) as far as equipment goes and most of the videos I use reflect my lack of stuff. But I think that’s pretty honest in terms of what people have in their home gym. Though you may have ankle weights, a stability ball, kettle ball, Thighmaster, etc. : )

Yoga:

I have been practicing yoga for ten years now and have gone through teacher certification programs so I feel very comfortable leading myself through a 60-minute practice. But there are some days, like I mentioned before, when I’d just like someone to tell me what to do. I really like pretty much anything by Adriene, especially the lengthen and strengthen, strength and focus, and gentle yoga routines. This fast-paced video is pretty good, too.

Barre:

I haven’t taken a barre class in person before but I like Sadie Lincoln’s online classes. She gives good cues and directions and the moves are very sneaky: all the sudden I’m sweating without the huffing and puffing of high-interval work. I started with this ten-minute workout, which is good after a light run or a long walk, and I’ve since done the body burner and standing slim routines.

Arms:

For the most part I would rather do a whole-body workout rather than isolate muscle groups, but I’ve included a few targeted routines here because I think they are great if you don’t have much time to exercise. This celebrity trainer routine is tough but I’ve seen results after only a few weeks when I do it 2-3 times a week. This arms and abs workout is also about ten minutes and I’m usually pretty shaky by the time it’s finished. The name makes me laugh, but the tightest arms in town video is no joke.

Butt and Legs:

Ten minutes is all I can handle when it comes to lower-body fitness and this shaper workout is a real doozy. This video is advertised as a whole-body Victoria Secret workout, but the jump squats and lunges cause me to really feel it in my lower half. Burn!

Whole Body/ Full-Length Video:

I really got into YouTube videos through the PopSugar Fitness videos and routines I kept seeing on Pinterest, so I’m partial to most of their workouts. I like this bikini body workout (even though the name is silly); the beginner’s strength training class; and this full-body workout—all of which are 40 minutes. I love Ellen Barrett, but you really can’t find any of her good videos online without paying for her streaming service (which is, of course, a good idea!). But this Self workout on the beach is pretty good if you’re in a pinch. I don’t know much about Amy Dixon, but this 50-minute video blew me away. I was sore for a few days afterward, but really liked that every muscle group was targeted and she gave great cues and directions. Lastly, this metabolic booster followed by this dynamic strength workout is a great combination that will leave you buzzing.

Do you work out at home? I’ve always done yoga at home if I’m not practicing in a studio, but I’ve really stepped it up since moving to Switzerland. I’d love to hear about any videos you like or people who inspire you!

P.S. More fitness tips here.

(image via daily motivation)

A Fitness Tip: Foam Rolling

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Have you ever used a foam roller? They are the colorful foam logs that you probably see stacked in the corner of your gym’s stretching area and they are not to be overlooked. I started using them about 6 years ago at the suggestion of a personal trainer and they have significantly improved my post-exercise recovery and range of motion.

Studies have shown that self-myofascial release, or self-massage, can effectively treat overworked and “devastated” muscles after an intense workout (see here also). In addition, foam rolling can help prep the body for stretching, which helps release lactic acid build-up—a major contributor to day-after soreness. To be fair, foam rolling can be a little uncomfortable because you are putting more than half your body weight on a specific muscle or trigger point, but it’s this pressure that helps release knots and aches. Ease into it if you’re just beginning in order to find your threshold.

They can be a little intimidating to use if you’re new to them so I thought I’d share a few links to help you become a little more familiar with various ways in which you can use a foam roller for a deep self-massage.

I haven’t found an affordable foam roller here in Switzerland, but I did find a massage stick that works in a similar way. And if we’re being totally honest, before I found that I used a rolling pin to achieve similar results.

It doesn’t take much time or pressure to foam roll your muscles. It’s important not to overwork an area because you might end up inflaming or aggravating it even more than the initial exercise did. Therefore, listen to your body. I like to do this 3-4 times a week, and it feels especially good after a long flight or day of travel.

Any thoughts? Do you incorporate a foam roller into your stretching and recovery? My favorite way to use it is along my IT band, which gets really tight and knotted with all the running I do. It also feels really soothing along my lower back and hips.

(photo by Jesse Chamberlin via DesignLoveFest)

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not a fitness expert. Exercise is a hobby and big interest of mine. I have never been certified as a personal trainer and only have certifications for yoga through YogaFit. Please consult a trained professional before beginning a new fitness program. Thank you! : )

A Fitness Tip: Music 01

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Major Lazer “Peace is the Mission”

This is the new album I’ve been listening to nonstop while on a run. I’ve even looped it so if for some crazy reason I get all the way through it it will simply start right back up. I listen to it while I cardio-clean, while I warm up to do some other exercise, while I attempt to psych myself up for something, anything!

You can listen to the entire album here, but you can also download it on your preferred music-listening platform. I may be one of the last dinosaurs who still buys music from iTunes so that’s where I’ve gotten my fix.

Electronic is not usually a go-to genre for me but it’s been getting me motivated for the last couple of weeks so I’m going with it. Here are two other tunes that help me get my energy up. I crushed 4.7 miles last week in record time (for me!) and it was thanks in part to motivating and catchy music.

They’re also good jams for, you know, frying chicken in the kitchen on a Saturday night.

What are you listening to? What are your favorite songs to exercise to? I go through phases with fitness music and I’d love any suggestions you may have.

A Fitness Tip: Strava

I recently signed up for the Bern Frauenlauf, a women’s-only run here in town. There are various distances and challenges, but I decided to register for the 10k. The last 10k I ran was Rock the Parkway in Kansas City back in 2011 so training for this should be a fun task.

I realized that I needed to start timing myself and tracking my distances, but that proved difficult with my old-school iPod, which I got in 2010 by the way (according to Apple that is considered vintage. So : /  ) Last week, however, my iPod died. Right in the middle of my cardio-cleaning, it just fizzled out and died. What sadness!

So, now I’m running with my iPhone (like everyone else–join us! they say) and can actually keep track of my progress with an app. My friend Nicole told me about an app she really likes, Strava. I’ve been using it for the last two weeks and I have to say I love it.

I understand I am so far behind the times on this. “You mean, you can use a device to determine how far you ran? And for how long? And the calories you burned? And the elevation you traversed? What newfangled technology is this?!” Fitbits, Jawbones, chips in sneakers that connect to your computer, I know people have been tracking their fitness for a long time before I ever caught on. But, better late than never, no?

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IMG_2905What I like about Strava is that the design is clean and easy to use. When one opens the app it goes straight to the race page, meaning all one must do is press the start button and set off. No signing in or trying to find the right page. Then, once you complete your run the diagnostics show up immediately, including a map, total time and distance, average pace, calories burned, and your splits. It’s all very functional and easy to use and see.

Of course there are competitive and social angles to it as well. You can upload your runs and share them with friends. You can post to social media and get feedback on your progress, none of which I am interested in. There are also options for a premium experience wherein your health stats can be tracked and monitored through an online platform. Again, this isn’t really necessary for me, but I could see it being useful for more experienced and serious athletes.

I should also mention that this app is specifically for runners and cyclists. You have the option to choose which type of fitness you’d prefer to track and I imagine this would be just as helpful for cyclists as it is for a novice runner like myself.

Anyway, I thought it was worth sharing considering I’m getting so much enjoyment out of it. Maybe there’s another person out there who hasn’t been fervently tracking her every step… Maybe?

My run is in mid-June so I have some time to get ready for it. Ten kilometers, or 6.2 miles for those in the US, isn’t too terribly far but it is the farthest I’ve ever run and I haven’t done it for over four years so it’s worth it to me to monitor my progress and safely work my way up in mileage. I’m also looking forward to this run specifically because it’s only for women and my upstairs neighbor told me it’s a great atmosphere, what with all that girl power. I’ll also be cross-training on my days off from running: yoga, Ellen Barrett DVDs, and a weight-lifting plyometric workout that I sort of made up with a little help from Pinterest. We shall see!

Do you have any favorite running apps? Or fitness apps? Are you exercising at all? I know the allergies are killer this time of year so it can be tough to get out and run.

 

Another Hike Up the Gurten

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IMG_7361While its known as a mountain to most, the Gurten is really a big, steep hill. You can reach the top in about an hour if you walk at a steady, consistent pace, but some people run it (up and down) over the lunch hour. By any Swiss standard the journey wouldn’t be considered a hike, but we’re American so we’ll count this as a fitness hike and reward ourselves with a frosty brew.

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Last Sunday was the perfect day for just such a “hike”/walk. It was sunny and temperate and there were just enough buds on the flowers and trees to give you hope that spring is here to stay. In the past week trees and bushes have taken a dramatic turn and really opened up. I swear I saw leaves actually growing the other afternoon while I was sitting on the balcony.

We packed a picnic (and a book) and lounged on the grass for a while before taking an alternate route down. It all felt very Swiss, which was wonderful. We’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs lately and feeling like you belong in a culture that is normally pretty closed off and isolated can boost morale considerably. In that way, the Gurten holds a special little place in my heart.

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p.s. guess who we saw at the bottom? these ridiculously cutie ponies!!

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A Fitness Tip: Ellen Barrett

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Did anyone look into Tracy Anderson and her videos? They worked me like a dog and I had the most sculpted arms I’ve ever had after two months of using them regularly. I took a break from them and only just started re-using them this week–I can’t even get through the segments anymore; they’re too tough! I must have been really strong at one point if I could get through these…

I’m definitely still a TA fan but I’m now hooked on Ellen Barrett thanks to my friend Nancy. Tracy and Ellen could not be more different, but I think the dichotomy is working to my advantage. Where Tracy pushes you and almost intimidates you with her emotional detachment from exercise, Ellen inspires and encourages. With Ellen, your heart shines forward and you feel “heat” rather than “burn” during your exercise. You should feel invigorated not exhausted.

What’s so great about her exercise routines is how sneaky they are. Her workouts–a blend of pilates, yoga, ballet, cardio, and “fusion fitness”–transition so quickly, each move blending into one another, that you hardly have time to realize what’s happening or what’s working until you’re wiping the sweat off your brow. You don’t fully understand how hard you’re working until it’s over, a method that I believe helps reduce fatigue and frustration. I always feel more energized, yet more relaxed after each routine.

I’ve tried several of her videos and even watched a few on YouTube. You can find out more about her program here, as well as on Amazon. What do you think? Have you ever used her videos? Are you a workout video person? I used to not like them all but now I’m sort of hooked! They just make so much sense when you have inclement weather or don’t go to a gym.

For reference here are the ones I’ve done and can recommend:

 

THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT: I am not a fitness expert and I make no claims to be one. Exercise is a hobby and big interest of mine. I have never been certified as a personal trainer and only have certifications for yoga through YogaFit. Please consult a trained professional before beginning a new fitness program. Thank you!

(image via)