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: 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)

Ubud: Part 1 (or, Most of It)

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I’m excited to share some photos from our honeymoon in Bali, beginning with Ubud! Ubud is the cultural capital of the province and is rich with tradition and history. Coastal Kuta and Seminyak might be the only places on the island that are more populated with tourists and expats, but Ubud certainly sees its fair share of visitors. It’s easy to see why, with its tranquil Hindu temples and rice paddies located just outside the city center.

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We stayed outside of the center, which was wonderfully relaxing. It was quiet and peaceful, yet the ride into town was only about ten minutes. We liked having a quiet retreat to return to each day.

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One morning we went out on the Campuhan Ridge walk and meandered through rice paddies and small villages. We started around 9:00 but the morning quickly warmed up and it turned out to be quite a toasty adventure. Though we consulted a map through various points in our route we will managed to get lost, making our tour several kilometers longer and sweatier.

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On another morning we hired a guide and took a long tour visiting various places that were on our sightseeing list. A note about organizing tours in Bali: don’t worry about leaving it until the last minute. It may seem like a cliche, but much of the area revolves on island time, and tours and events can often be organized with very little notice. We happened to hire someone who worked at our hotel and we set an itinerary the night before the tour. Almost everything is negotiable, price included, so make sure you’re clear about you’d like to see (and what isn’t important to you) and then set a price before you set off, ensuring you have your most memorable and enjoyable experience. It was super easy to put this day together and I’m so glad we did. That said, it’s nothing that we could have done beforehand, which takes a little bit of pressure off when you’re planning your trip up to months in advance. Be ready to go with the flow : )

IMG_5258^^our guide, Wayan

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Our first stop was the Tegalalang Rice Terraces just north of Ubud. It was truly stunning. Only a handful of people, mostly women, maintain the terraces and their scope and height were breathtaking. We walked through with our guide and I was grateful for a couple of gentlemen to help me down the steeper portions of the trail. If you visit, do note it’s mostly packed mud and wooden steps so be prepared with sturdy shoes and clothing you don’t mind getting dirty.

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Next we visited Gunung Kawi, an 11th-century temple complex in Tampaksiring, also north of Ubud. Within the complex you’ll find 7-meter shrines carved into the rock face that are beautiful and imposing.

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To get to the temple and the carvings you need to walk down almost 300 steps. It’s wonderful to do in 85-degree weather. Before you head down though, you’re invited to check out The Best View In The World. Well, probably the best.

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After huffing and puffing our way back up the stairs, and stopping for a brief lunch, we headed to Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave. Its English moniker is more of a gesture to its proximity to the Elephant River, as the cave itself is rather small. On the outside are carvings of demons and scary faces intended to ward off evil spirits. It was once used to hold hiding Hindu priests and you’ll find three statues inside toward the back, as well as small hiding niches.

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The cave is located on an active worship site with Hindu temples and a nearby Buddhist temple, suggesting that perhaps the cave also has some Buddhist significance. It’s a beautiful place to walk around and there are several spots for quiet contemplation and meditation.

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Later this week I’ll share the final component of our day trip. It was a really special experience that I want to devote a little more space to.

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One morning Adam got up early enough to see the sunrise. According to him the view wasn’t much, but I think the watercolor sky and stillness of the rice paddies is so soothing.

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A Fitness Tip: Tracy Anderson

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This is pretty much how I feel today after doing Tracy Anderson’s Precision Toning exercise DVD yesterday. My muscles are still shaking with exhaustion and lifting my arms for extended periods of time is testing all kinds of strength. Typing this, I look like a T-Rex.

In the vain hopes of tightening, toning, lifting and sculpting everything before the wedding I bought two new workout DVDs. It’s not usually the way I like to exercise, but since I no longer belong to a gym I’ve found I need new ways to vary my workout. I started the Tracy Anderson Mat Workout DVD about 4 weeks ago and did it 3-4 times a week in between running and walking. It was tough–it IS tough–but I have found that over the last month I’m getting almost too good at it and I’m ready for something new.

To be honest, it’s a good place to start if you’re already pretty fit and have good body awareness. She doesn’t do a lot of cuing or explaining and you really need to do it a few times before you’re comfortable with what’s going on. I also think it’s important that you know your body and how to perfect your alignment because she doesn’t offer much in the way of modification or explanation. It can easily become frustrating if you’re looking for a little more guidance.

Where she shows no mercy is in the special arm workouts she developed to create “teeny tiny ballet arms” with “beautiful definition and long lines.” That work is tough, and I can see a difference in the definition of my upper arms and shoulders. The Ab workout is also terrific and I can even see some improvement there. Beach bod, here I come.

Although, I might be limping my way there after doing the Precision Toning DVD. I’m so sore after completing it, but in a very good way. It sort of feels like how it felt to be a kid, completely worn out from activity and exertion. It’s wonderful in a way.

I would say that the arms section isn’t as hard as it is in the Mat Workout DVD, but she crushes it in the legs, back/butt and Abs sections. If one were to actually do this video every day like she recommends, one might find one’s rear end about mid-back based on how much lifting and pulsing there is. It’s intense! One reviewer commented that she saw quicker results with this program as opposed to the other one so it will be interesting to compare the two after trying the PT video for a couple weeks.

Of course, Tracy Anderson is the darling of the celebrity fitness world and a household name to some, but this is the first time I’ve really learned about her Metamorphosis program and the look she is after. So far I’m pleased with the results and the workouts themselves, but I can’t imagine myself only doing these routines for extended periods of time. Personally, I have it enjoyed it as a little boost when I really want to look and feel my best, i.e., for the wedding and honeymoon. Tracy’s there to kick your own butt when you just don’t have the energy to.

I’d recommend them if you’re looking for something transformative, but I should note that they take some time not only to get used to but actually to get through. They are a full hour long, though the time goes by relatively quickly.

Have you tried any Tracy Anderson videos? Any thoughts?

 

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)

A Fitness Tip: Turbo Kick

Did anyone end up trying the plyometric workout I posted several weeks ago? We’re still doing it (twice a week when we’re ambitious enough to get up early) and have felt stronger, but I’ve been incorporating other exercise routines into my week as well.

When I was in college my sister and I used to attend a class called Turbo Kick. Have you heard of it? It was once described to me as “one part dance, one part kickboxing, and a whole lotta attitude!” For someone as corny as myself this sounded quite in line with my attitudes toward fitness and I became a quick convert to the high-intensity workout. We used to do this almost every Friday afternoon and it was the perfect start to the weekend. Our instructor was crazy energetic and always made the 50-minute class incredibly fun, which is an important part of fitness, I believe. (Well, at least most of the time. Sometimes it’s time to get serious).

It was tough to leave her classes (she actually got engaged to a K-State basketball player on the court during Senior Night), but my sister and I found an amazing replacement at the 24-Hour Fitness in Overland Park. She was just as nuts and totally jazzed about fitness. She was always yelling her cues and bouncing around the walls like a maniac but it was that high energy that always kept me motivated and prevented me from taking the class too seriously. The soreness the next day was serious enough.

Anyway, this is all to say that Turbo Kick is highly addictive, especially if you find a passionate and enthusiastic teacher. Unfortunately the exercise class I’m in right now is missing that turbo quality, but I’m still getting a good workout every Friday. (I’m also mastering numbers 1-8, parts of the body, and directions as the class is taught in German!) But, I still get my Turbo Kick fix via a couple videos online. Chalene Johnson, the woman behind the kickbox/dance/attitude combination doesn’t sell videos to the public because they are only meant for teachers who will be working at gyms and studios. It’s a real bummer for those of us with no access to classes, but I may have found a wee loophole:

There are two videos online, both only the first half of the class, but given how out of practice I am with TK I don’t think I could handle much more. If you aren’t familiar with the moves and names of the exercises I would encourage you to watch it through once before you actually try it because it can be very frustrating without someone explaining all the moves and cues. For example, there’s a move called Turbo Twist that never actually gets explained, you’re just supposed to know what it looks like (“a whole lotta attitude!”). But, like I said, once you do it or watch it a few times I think you’ll catch on quickly.

I do one video maybe once or twice a week and let’s just say it’s blasting a lot of calories and wind from my lungs. These classes are tough! But they are just what I need to mix up my routine. “I really wanna lose three pounds.” ; )

 

 

I’m no Billy Blanks at this point; my punches still look very much like an amateur, but I’m definitely having a whole lotta fun jumping around my apartment getting my fitness on.

 

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!

A Fitness Tip: Plyometrics

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How do you fitness? On my walk this morning I was thinking about grateful I am for a strong and able body and each day while I say my prayers at lunch I give thanks for my health and physical fitness. I’m not exactly sure what I would do without it.

I’ve gone through various phases of fitness wherein I focus intently on certain exercise or routines. Above you can see me trying to touch a branch that Adam can reach flat footed. This isn’t so much exercise as me trying to work out my height complex. As of late, though, I’ve been all about plyometrics, which have totally changed my metabolism. And by changed I mean FIRED UP. Plyo exercises are designed to exert maximum muscle force in a short period of time. You will eventually increase in both speed and power and improve muscle response, not only in your plyometric exercises but in fitness across the board.

Last fall I found these six plyometric exercises in my Real Simple magazine and have been doing them about twice a week for nearly four months. There are six exercises that take 45 seconds and you pause for 15 seconds in between each one. You then repeat the whole routine once. I do make a few modifications to the routine, however. For example, I replace the second exercise with standard push-ups. I try to do the first half (20 seconds or so) in a high plank and the second half on my knees (~25 seconds). Also, I usually add my own cardio to start and do about 5-10 minutes of cardio between sets. This is not pretty. It’s usually a mix of TurboKick moves I remember from college, an interesting and offensive blend of martial arts “punches” and kicks, jumping jacks, jogging in place and other heart rate boosters. Now that it’s warming up outside I suppose I could go run around the block a few times and save myself from private humiliation. But, let me tell you, some of the mind-bending moves I’ve come up with make me SWEAT.

The whole routine should take you about 15 minutes if you’re following the program. In those minutes you’ll burn about 150 calories, plus more throughout the day. I’ve convinced Adam to try it and he found the whole thing punishing at first but I think he’s starting to understand the rewards. I recently sent it to my aunt to try out and I thought, why not share it with you fine people?

The best part about the routine, and what makes it worth sharing, is that it really ramped up my metabolism and I found I had lost a few pounds without even trying. I think it’s always good to mix up your routine and incorporating this with my regular yoga and running program has kept my body guessing and transforming. If you’re looking for a way to energize a new season of exercise or are just getting bored with what you’ve got going on the plyometric option is a worth looking into.

Obviously there are a lot of plyometric routines out there this is just the one I’ve stumbled across that has worked for me. I’d love to hear from you! Do you work out? What are you favorite types of fitness? Equally as important, what music do you listen to while you fitness? I’ve got some tried and true tunes but they are nearly as embarrassing as my cardio moves…

 

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!