We all want to have a greater ability to enjoy the things in life that we are passionate about. Most of us have some level of passion for fitness, but more than just having a passion for fitness, being fit can enhance our ability to enjoy other areas of our life that we are passionate about.
I’ve seen people’s lives transform and improve dramatically as a result of becoming fit. Do you want to enjoy your family, friends, and community more? Then get fit!
One of the biggest benefits of becoming fit is confidence and a greater ability to handle our lives. Having a greater level of confidence in yourself and your abilities directly transfers to an increased ability to pursue the things we love in life. No one ever said I wish I wasn’t fit, but many have said they wished they were in better shape, and how they could do more if they were.
Having a passion for fitness doesn’t mean you have to be a professional athlete or even compete in a sport necessarily. It just means you are passionate about leading the best life that you can, and understanding that having the freedom to move your body brings greater ability to enjoy all the good things in life.
We are physical by nature. Our bodies are meant to move. By design our bodies are meant to be pushed, to create locomotion, to get stronger, and that physical strength enhances every other aspect of our lives.
The passion for fitness and how being fit and healthy improves our lives can be traced back to the time of the ancient Greeks and probably beyond that even. What was the first Olympics other than a display of the love for being fit.
The Greek philosopher Socrates said it perfectly when he said:
“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
I couldn’t say it any better than that. “It’s a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the BEAUTY and STRENGTH of which his body is capable.” That’s passion right there!
Find a way to make becoming fit and strong a passion in your life. Get involved in something physically challenging. That could be going to the gym, running a 5k, or a marathon. Maybe you decided you are going to climb the highest mountain near you. There are countless ways to challenge yourself physically. Don’t sit on the sidelines. I challenge all of us to get up and move on a daily basis.
Find what powers your passion for fitness, and let that power drive you to achieve greater happiness in your life.
As a Professional Athlete and Business Owner, I find myself dissecting situations all the time. What went wrong? What went right? How can I get better? The number one thing I can attribute to my successes has been a willingness to try. Without a playful curiosity with the unknown, we’d be frozen in stagnation. (e.g. how will the race go; what happens if I try this with my training; what will this person say about my proposal, etc)
There are two ways that people fail:
1. Giving up before giving it a try.
2. Looking for the win in the wrong place.
Number one has always been easy for me, but number two is something I have had to make a conscious mind shift and train myself to do.
1. Giving up before giving it a try
To achieve anything meaningful in our lives, we set goals. Maybe we want to get a promotion at work, run a faster 10k, lose weight, or finish our first mountain bike race. When we set goals, the goals are important to us and we get attached to the outcome. What happens if we don’t reach that outcome? Fear claws our vulnerabilities and we start to worry what people will think; maybe we weren’t “cut out” to do this; maybe we’ll never get there. These concerns and excuses are all a fear of the unknown. Sometimes, we get so paralyzed by some of our dreams that we won’t even attempt to reach them. Our limits are often self-imposed due to a lack of confidence. I’ve been there in many different areas of my life. The best reward is proving yourself wrong. It’s not always comfortable to push our limits, but that stretch zone makes us capable of so much more in our lives.
Ten years ago, the dream of becoming a pro mountain biker seemed impossible but through hard work, it happened. If you told me 5 years ago that I would be a World Champion in endurance mountain biking, that I could go off a 6’ jump on my bike, or that I would race in over 20 countries, I would have laughed in your face and said, “yeah right!” The stretch zone will surprise you and show you that you are capable of more than you think.
The point: the more you do, the more you believe you can do. Each time you stretch yourself, each time you grow just a little bit, your frame of reference expands a little more. Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that what brings us satisfaction and happiness as human beings is to strive to reach our potential. That’s why when we aren’t go-getting, we feel like something is missing and we are looking for inspiration.
“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
2. Looking for the win in the wrong place.
There are two main intimidating parts of a big goal: the time it takes to get there and getting started.
The second part of overcoming failure is redefining your win. What happens along the way when you fail? If you are truly intent on a growth, you will have letdowns along the way. Failure is only permanent if you allow it to be. How do you survive failure? It lies in within your focus. An example is my last race. It was a big goal of mine to win but when race day came, I had no legs and despite my best efforts, I finished in a lackluster 5th place. I was irritated because I knew I was capable of so much more, but I didn’t let it ruin my day. Instead of focusing on where I should be, I chose to look at things that I was doing well. It was pouring rain and I had been working on slippery, technical riding. For the first time ever, I felt confident and enjoyed the sketchy, slick descents. How else can you soften the blow of failure? Always do your best. Your best on one day may be different than your best on another day, but that is okay. With each challenging experience, it gives you something to fall back on the next time it gets hard. How many times have we thought, “Well I survived [x], I can get through this.” Adversity is good. It’s what makes us stronger.
Our perception is our reality. The goal should be to grow and get better, not to be perfect every time.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Lately, I’ve been discovering the joys of road biking around my home of Salt Lake City, UT. I’ve never been a serious road biker and it’s a whole new world to me that I didn’t fully understand until immersing myself in the sport. Now, I’m hooked and I want to encourage everyone to try it out! Before I got my own bike, I demoed one from a bike shop to get a sense of it. May was national bike month, but I think every month of the summer can be a good month to ride.
Here are my top ten reasons to get on a road bike:
- The access. There are roads everywhere. You don’t need to drive to the gym or to the trailhead to get your workout on. You can go right out your front door.
- Running, swimming and biking offer the most bang for your buck for cardio. If you’re short on time but need to get a workout in, road biking is a great option.
- Being able to eat dessert (or whatever you want). Because you can burn so many calories, you can enjoy that cookie or ice cream for dessert. Plus, food tastes better after a workout.
- Low Impact Burn. Compared to running, biking is super gentle to joints, muscles and bones. It’s a valuable training tool for anyone who has had injuries, especially knee, ankle or foot.
- When you’re riding a bike, you can’t type or check your email. The mind doesn’t wander far from the 30 yards ahead of you. This is especially true for the descent and for beginners. You have to focus on the road and all the hazards it presents. This type of forced mindfulness practice is good for the brain.
- Exercising outdoors adds challenges like wind and weather that help push you past mental and physical barriers. Getting outside of your comfort zone is the key to progression.
- Joy/Freedom. It’s hard not to smile when you’re cruising on a road bike. It evokes a childlike sense of wonder and freedom.
- Camraderie/community. Even when I’m riding solo, I feel like I’m part of an exclusive gang. Road bikers are so friendly to one another. It also opens you up to a huge community of people who chose to make fitness a priority and spend their time outdoors. If you want more of this community vibe, it’s really easy to sign up for a group ride, non-competitive or competitive event! In my home city, there are tons of races every weekend for every level of athlete.
- Cross-training. As a professional ski mountaineer, doing long amounts of cardio is the key to being successful on summit day. Most other athletes will find that biking is a great way to develop muscles and endurance when they can’t do the sport they are training for.
- Spandex doesn’t lie. It’s easy to ignore a few extra pounds in street wear, but spandex will call you out on any extra weight.
Have fun and be safe out there!
When I received the new Freedoms, first thing I noticed was how small and compact they were. Instantly a couple things went through my head. Will they fit under my helmet when riding moto and downhill laps on the mountain bike? What was the sound going to be like? Well, to no surprise I’m quite pleased on both sides. Got them fitted into both ears, strap the helmet and slide her on – still comfortable, but most importantly, they stay in place while riding.
It’s no secret I’m a huge Metallica fan. Having said that, I like the music loud and to be sounding on point. I use the MySound App to set up my tunes where metal/rock sounds best. Which is loud and powerful
Set up Freedoms. Put on. Turn on. Disappear out on the trails for hours.
One of my coaches once told me, “There’s no such thing as overtraining, there’s only under-recovering.” If you’re training hard for an event or for an expedition, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between tired, heavy legs that will re-energize once warmed up and the deep aches of needing a day off. How do you know when to push it and when to pull back? I think every athlete strives to learn how to better recover to maximize training sessions. What I’m learning is that it takes a lot of self-awareness to be able to train and recover for maximum benefits. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
- Listen to your body. When you’re training, try to really focus on how your body feels. I sometimes log notes into my training logs, especially the small aches and pains.
- Take into account all the other demands in your life. If you have a stressful upcoming project at work, that additional stress is likely going to affect your training. If you are battling a minor cold or illness, hold back. If you have stress in your family life or relationship, you’ll feel that in your muscles. If you just got back from a big trip and a long plane ride, don’t go for your hardest workout. Stress, whether it’s from workouts, travel, work, family or relationships, has a way of causing tension in your muscles. Those are not the times to push your workouts into overdrive, no matter how enticing it sounds.
- If you’re really sore and need a day to recover, try to do a short (20-40 minute) bike ride, recovery run, mellow hike or swim to keep the muscles moving. During these recovery workouts, keep the intensity low. This is not the time to explore or go out with a new partner. Keep it chill, respect your body and you’ll likely find a good benefit from this.
- Stretch it out. I’ve recently got back into yoga for recovery. I do 20-40 minutes of gentle, restorative yoga to help unwind tense muscles. I’ve found it’s a really effective tool in my rest and recovery arsenal.
- Ice. Especially right after a hard workout. As a professional skier, I have so many aches and pains in my knees. If I’m able to ice them for 15-20 minutes within the first few hours after a hard run, ski tour or hike, I find they feel better the next day.
- Hot tub or cold plunge or both. This one is controversial, but I love the feeling of going from a hot tub, jumping into a snow bank, and going back in the hot tub. The sensation of hot and cold creates a delightful tingling and I find it helps my legs and body recover. If you don’t have a hot tub with a deep snow bank to jump into, find a pool with a hot tub and go back and forth between the hot and cold water a few times. It’s a nice treat for your muscles.
- Massage. If you don’t have a masseuse, ask other athletes or trainers for recommendations. When you get on the table, be specific and ask for what you want and need. Many masseuses just do a general “fluff and buff” for clients, but if you need work done on your legs, ask for it.
These are just a few tips I’ve learned and I hope they help you achieve your training goals!
To squat or not to squat is the question often asked among those that exercise and are seeking to improve their physical fitness and performance.I’ve heard all the arguments for squats and against squats, and there is some truth to both sides.
Here are a few of the myths and facts of the squat:
- “Squats are the best overall lower body exercise.” That is mostly true; squats are great for developing the entire lower body, if safely and appropriately executed. Squats have a pretty big learning curve.
- “Squats are bad for your knees.” This can be true, if you are squatting with incorrect form and squatting over your knees too much.
- “Squats are bad for your back.” Again, this can be true if you are using bad form, or too much weight.
Done correctly squats are one of the best exercises to strengthen the core, as well as the ligament and tendon structures of the knee joint.
Steps for a basic squat set up:
- With the barbell resting on a stand, slide under the bar and place in on the traps, just above the rear delts. Grasp the bar firmly with the hands at a comfortable width with the elbows back.
- Inhale deeply (this intrathoracic pressure helps keep the torso from collapsing forward), lightly arch the back by rotating the pelvis forward, contract the abdominal core, look straight ahead, and remove the barbell from the rack.
- Step back one or two steps and stop with both feet parallel to each other (or with toes pointing slightly outward). Your feet should be about shoulder width apart. Bend forward from the hips, and avoid rounding the back in order to prevent injury.
- When the thighs are horizontal to the floor, straighten the legs and lift the torso to return to the initial start position.
- Exhale at the end of the movement.
Keep in mind this is a very simple explanation of how to do a squat. Each person will squat differently based on their body type, femur length and hip width.
Should you add squats to your workout program? Yes!! Not only are squats great for developing lower body strength and power, but they are also great for developing the cardiovascular system.
Lastly, let’s address how low you should be squatting. Everybody including my dogs and my buddies’ 2 year old kid has an opinion on this. The best answer is as low as you can safely go with maintaining proper form. Obviously using lighter weight you should be able to go lower. There is nothing anatomically wrong with squatting all the way to the bottom (ass to grass as it is called).
In conclusion, eat your vegetables, drink your protein and do your squats!
As a professional runner of 12 years, you could say I’m just as much an expert at injuries as I am at racing around the world. Injuries are part of the deal. And I’ve learned that while they are the absolute worst for taking you out of the activities you love most, they are also opportunities. Yep, opportunities. Sometimes you really have to squint to see the silver lining, but it’s there. And since I’m 5 months into my recovery from achilles surgery with NO running (gasp), I don’t have to squint anymore to appreciate what those opportunities are. I’ve lived them. So next time you find yourself sidelined from your favorite sport, here are three tips for how to not only survive, but thrive through injury.
- Find the chink in your armor:
When I get an injury, my first reaction is usually full of expletives. But my second reaction is to surrender and look for the root cause. An injury doesn’t just happen. There is a reason, a weakness somewhere that prompted it. A sore achilles isn’t about the achilles. For example, it could be the result of poor glute and hip mobility or mechanics, and if you don’t take care of it, it will manifest in some other way as soon as your achilles calms down. An injury is always an opportunity to fine tune the machine so you can come back even stronger. Have a PT help you with the detective work and make a plan for you.
- Listen to podcasts
One of the things I miss most when I’m unable to run is having time to listen and deeply dive into music, uninterrupted. I have a 2 year old, and own my own business with my husband, so without running, I don’t get a lot of time to really listen to music. There’s something about being out in nature that feels like you are making your very own music video to whatever music you are listening to, bringing it all to life in a way being in the gym never can. Cross training on the elliptical just isn’t the same. So when I’m injured, I listen to podcasts instead. A good podcast gets my mind completely absorbed the way music in nature does, and the time flies by. Not only that but I learn new things. Podcasts literally get me out the door to do the cross training cardio that I would otherwise dread, because it is the only time I get to listen to them.
- Take it out of the lab
Sports can be this great laboratory for being your best self, pushing your limits, setting goals, and refining your body, mind, and spirit for the task at hand. It builds confidence, and perspective. But the point of the laboratory is to take what you learn about yourself and apply it to the outside world. Injury is a good time to put that into practice. Be that kickass climber in the office, or for your family. Attack a problem in your community or your household with the same intellectual curiosity you apply to improving the bike leg of your triathlon. That’s the ultimate test of your athleticism: it’s exchange rate in your every day life.
So while injuries will always suck, (let’s be honest), trust me when I say that these tips will make all the difference.
Yours in Sport,
Photo by Adam Clark
- Don’t listen to your parents when they tell you to go to graduate school and become a lawyer, doctor or businessperson. Don’t listen to anyone. They don’t understand your dream. Only you know what’s possible for you.
- Live within your means. Move to a place where you can do that and ski regularly. There aren’t too many ski towns like that left, but they are out there. Don’t acquire debt. Then ski a lot. Find other pros or aspiring pros to ski with. Contact local videographers and photographers to shoot.
- Figure out your personal brand and start building it. Keep your social media pages and websites updated with information that shows who you are. Research your ski idols and figure out how they built their careers. Contact potential sponsors that align with the personal brand you’ve developed.
- Plan to spend some time each week on the computer. Being in charge of a ski career is similar to running a small business. Prepare to learn how to do your own accounting, marketing, advertising, sales, negotiations and production.
- Set realistic goals for yourself. Start working on them. Figure out what your sponsors goals are, and figure out how you can contribute to their goals. Being able to throw a double cork or skiing the gnarliest line doesn’t mean you should get sponsored. Figure out the value you can bring to the companies you want to work for.
- Keep a job with a flexible schedule that allows you to ski during the day until you can make enough skiing to quit your job. Live with your parents (even though you disagree about your career choices doesn’t mean you can’t be agreeable to live around) or couch surf with friends. If you travel, keep it cheap. Offer to make dinner for the hosts whose couches you will be crashing on. Do dishes, keep it tidy. Leave any “base camp” you visit cleaner and better than you found it.
- When you’re not skiing, and you’re trying to make ends meet, Hustle. Pick up odd jobs. Organize and run yard sales for your friends and families to make some extra skrilla. You’d be amazed at how much you can make for piles of stuff people want to get rid of. Get a food sponsor. You gotta eat.
- When you do get that call from the photographer, it’s time to get some shots in the bag. Be professional. Show up on time, with your gear organized. Don’t be hungover. Don’t talk too much, listen to the direction from the photographer. Now you are going to realize that being a pro skier isn’t exactly what you think it is. Powder days are spent moving at snail paces with film crews. Shooting is about finding quality snow and terrain, not how many laps you can get in.
- Develop a thick skin for rejection and public criticism. You will hear a lot of nos, from sponsors, from photographers, from other athletes. Keep doing what you love and persisting. Have fun and be safe. Make sure you have health insurance and consider disability insurance.
The engine of my ’94 Nissan Sentra sputtered as I turned the key. My $300 mountain bike was jammed in the back seat of my car (affectionately named The Tough Bastard) and I muscled my way through the turns up the switchbacks to Sandia Peak Ski Area outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. My car didn’t have power steering, but it took me where I wanted to go. I was about to line up for my first mountain bike race; never mind the fact that I had only started mountain biking 3 weeks ago. I labeled myself as a runner at the time and was excited to try something new. When I strapped that very first crisp number plate to my handlebar, I didn’t realize it would change my life. It’s now been over a decade since I started mountain bike racing and it still baffles me that I have made a career out of my passion and travel the world doing it. It’s the adventures and the long shots I’ve taken that continue to define me.
The Tough Little Bastard.
I started as an eager XC racer (that’s 15-20 mile total racing distance) and started racing in the “pro” category 2 years later. When I like something, I’m all in and I went head first into cycling (and tried to avoid going head first when I crashed although it happens on occasion). I enjoyed the competition but after several years, I grew bored racing for 1.5 hours in the same places and riding around in circles. I felt like there was something missing. It seemed that XC racing was more about beating other people and less about a personal challenge. 5 years ago I changed my discipline to ultra endurance mountain biking. The romance of long rides on the unexplored Rocky Mountain backcountry trails clutched at my spirit. I’d unsnap the lid of the black sharpie and trace massive trail loops on maps, load my pack with food and water, and set off to see what would happen and how long it would take. I was struggling with motivation to do the 1.5 hour short interval training rides necessary for XC racing because for me, they lacked substance. There wasn’t a lot of adventure in staring at my bike computer doing intervals on the same stretch of road or trail though it’s almost required if you want to get faster! With an unquenchable thirst for more, I started picking the longest and hardest single and multi-day events around the USA. I found my niche; 100 milers and stage (multi-day) racing. I was able to progress and start winning races around the world and racing across regions of countries like Sri Lanka, Haiti, Nepal, Mongolia, and Morocco and even winning a World Championship. I am hooked because it makes me feel alive.
One of my races through the Sahara Desert
Stage racing, particularly in third world countries teaches you more about yourself than you could ever learn during the daily grind. It strips you down to the essentials- food, water, basic shelter, and getting from point A to point B in one piece. You live like the locals. You learn the importance of community because that group of people you are racing with and against for a week is all you know. They become your family. Everyone has one and the same label: “mountain biker”; as opposed to the labels and expectations that society can place on us in a city. Rich, poor, big house, small house, CEO, janitor- none of those descriptors matter at a stage race. Dinners are spent sharing stories of what you saw or of personal encounters creating true camaraderie. To top it off, no matter what the fitness or skill level of rider, you are physically pushing yourself to the limit for days on end in foreign conditions. If you are not mentally strong, it will break you. I’ve learned some incredible life lessons from racing. Lessons that I use in my every day life, for work, and in relationships.
Here are the three most important.
- Attitude is a choice. We are lucky! We get to choose the lens for the world. Choosing to scan for the positive things around you instead of focusing on the negative makes you more successful and happier. Just ask Shawn Achor, Harvard PhD, author of “The Happiness Advantage.” When I see something challenging in front of me, I feel the apprehension, then laugh at it and kick its ass instead of withering and dreading how painful it’ll be.
- Be brave. It’s worth it. It takes courage to believe in your dreams and take the necessary steps to make them happen. It won’t always turn out the way you expected, but simply getting started when you want to do something will change your life. Overcoming the “what ifs” and taking action will change the way you approach all future challenges.
- You can do way more than you think. Anyone who has taken on a challenge can relate to this. You can think back and say, “Wow! I did all that!” It can be raising a child, running a marathon, or even taking guitar lessons. The more you do, the more you believe you can do.
If you live with these key points in mind as I do, you’ll find yourself doing extraordinary things! If you’d like to hear how I define success, watch my TED Talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYiflJvxTac)
I would love to connect with you! Choose your flavor! instagram (www.instagram.com/looneysonya), facebook (www.facebook.com/looneysonya), twitter (www.twitter.com/sonyalooney) or snapchat (SonyaLooney).
Working the abdominal area has many benefits: improves posture, balance and stability, prevents injuries, draws the tummy in, flattens the tummy and increases the endurance in our back and stomach muscles. It is always great to have challenges and workouts you are easily able to complete no matter where you are – the gym, a hotel, a park or in the comforts of your home. Below are two of my staple ab moves and a favorite ab circuit…
The “Double” Crunch
The double crunch works both the lower and upper abdominal muscles at the same time. It is important to work the core because we use it in our everyday lives.
- Grab a mat and lie on your back with hands behind your head and knees slightly bent as if you were in position to do a classic crunch.
- Curl your upper abs – by lifting your head and shoulder blades toward your knees. At the same time – slowly raise and curl your knees toward your chest.
- Exhale as you curl your body parts in and inhale as your return to the start position.
Tip: “In the beginning go slow, work on form, inhales and exhales. Really concentrate on curling the abs and breathing properly. After this becomes natural try some variations: straight leg double crunches or even try using a medicine ball in-between your legs as you complete the double crunch.
20 second/10second PLANK Challenge
The plank works the core from the inside out and the core impacts our everyday life. The challenge is a short goal and fun to complete – this is a must try!
- Grab a mat or a towel and have a clock or a stopwatch ready for use.
- Lie flat on the floor resting your body on your forearms with your palms flat on the floor. Ensure your shoulders are aligned with your elbows. Make sure your legs are straight behind and touching.
- In a push-up motion using your forearms, raise your body off the floor, supporting yourself using your forearms and toes. You should have a straight line from your feet to your head. You can clasp your palms together if needed. Make sure your back is flat (no arching or sagging) and the rest of your body is straight.
- Keep your abdominal muscles engaged and do not let your stomach drop or your back arch. Remember to breathe in and out the whole time while keeping your tummy nice and tight.
- Hold this for 20 seconds then drop to the floor and rest for 10 seconds and repeat until you reach 3 minutes.
- QUICK TIPS:
Tip: “Start with a 3 minute goal and work to increase it – also try different variations of the plank such as the rocking plank, up/down plank, plank jacks and hip-dip planks. You can increase the amount of time and the type of plank. With so many variations and challenges available this should be a staple on ab days.”
ABDOMINAL WORKOUT CHALLENGE
Try combining the following routine every other day for the next 3 months with a healthy fit nutrition plan. Be sure to take a before and after photo as well as a waist measurement to track your progress. Sometimes it can be hard to see a difference because we are so hard on ourselves and we see ourselves every day. One big piece of advice is to always remember that you will never out train a bad diet. I am not saying you have to be perfect when it comes to nutrition but remember 80% of your success will come from what you eat and drink and only 20% will come from training. It is important to find a balance with food and finding time to get moving.
Complete 3 rounds of the following:
*30 bicycle kicks
*30 “double” crunches
*3 minute Plank:
(20 sec plank/10 sec rest for a total of 3 minutes)
*1.5 minute rest and repeat
*for more of a challenge if this is too easy increase crunches to 50 and plank to 5 minutes