fitness · gear · traveling · yoga

Yoga mats are purple in India, too

It’s my last full day in India and it’s been a dream trip in so many ways. But if I had to identify one thing that hasn’t been great it’s been my activity level. Now, I’m not one to get down on myself when I don’t stick with routine. Regular readers of the blog will know that I am endlessly forgiving in that area, a committed advocate of doing less.

But I’ve been  completely absorbed with the adventure of exploring India, and one aspect of that adventure is that unless you’re in a high end hotel with a fitness centre, you can pretty much forget running. Apart from it being too hot, the roads are not navigable for runners (at least not anywhere I’ve been). The traffic is chaotic and there aren’t really long stretches of good sidewalk. Dangerous potholes mean you need to pay close attention even when walking.

I’ve spent part of my time in high end hotels when in Chennai (four nights at the Hyatt at the beginning of my trip and now two nights at the Taj Clubhouse at the end of my trip). At the beginning, I was too wiped out to think about spending time in the gym. But this morning, after many hours of sitting in the conference Thursday to Sunday then on a road trip on Sunday after lunch (sitting on a bus for hours and then on a boat before spending two hours on our feet exploring an ancient temple) my body was screaming for some of my regular activity. This hotel has a roof top fitness centre and I noticed last night when we were at the roof top restaurant beside the rooftop pool (it’s extremely luxurious and we got a deal on expedia) that they have a bank of treadmills.

The lovely concierge here, Rajeswari, said I could ask her anything.

Image description: Head shot of Rageswari, a young Indian woman with dark hair, a red bindi between her eyebrows, a large beaded read necklace, and a red and beige sari, and a gold name plate that says Rajeswari. Blurred background of a green plant on the left and chairs on the right.
Image description: Head shot of Rajeswari, a young Indian woman with dark hair, a red bindi between her eyebrows, a large beaded read necklace, and a red and beige sari, and a gold name plate that says Rajeswari. Blurred background of a green plant on the left and chairs on the right.

So I messaged her this morning at 6 a.m. to find out if the fitness centre has gear kits. Some hotels, like the Westin, will provide you with a kit that contains shoes and workout clothes. I didn’t expect to hear back from her quite so quickly, but she let me know that they don’t do that here. What about yoga classes, I asked. No yoga classes either. But, she said, I can have a mat delivered to your room.

Within ten minutes a purple foam yoga mat, just like the very first yoga mat I ever owned, was delivered to my door. There is something comforting about familiar equipment. Anyone who has ever worked out somewhere new will know that initial feeling of disorientation. But encountering something you already know makes you feel right at home. That’s how I felt when I was handed the purple yoga mat.

Image descrription: purple yoga mat on the floor in Tracy's hotel room, with wood shelving and desk in the background.
Image descrription: purple yoga mat on the floor in Tracy’s hotel room, with wood shelving and desk in the background.

It’s been many years since I’ve been this inactive, with only walking and sitting, for this long (over two weeks). My feet have swollen with the heat and inactivity. As I said to Sam this morning when I was messaging her: “I want my ankles back!”

When the mat came I couldn’t get going fast enough. I spent the next hour working my way through the moksha series of standing poses then floor poses. It felt incredible to stretch it out and put in some effort. I held each pose for at least 30 seconds, some longer, and did my best not to rush through anything. By the end, my aching bones and muscles and joints felt alive again.

At breakfast, Rajeswari came by to assure me that the mat would stay in my room until I check out tomorrow.

Image description: Rolled up purple yoga mat propped against built-in wood shelving with black desk chair and part of desk visible in the background.
Image description: Rolled up purple yoga mat propped against built-in wood shelving with black desk chair and part of desk visible in the background.

And I’ve already done my research: I have a four hour stop over in Toronto on the way home. Pearson International Airport has a Good Life gym where you can rent a workout clothing kit for $10, store your luggage, and have a workout and a shower. After 24 hours enroute, I’m sure this will be a most welcome way to hit the Canadian ground running.

What workout gear makes you feel at home when you’re working out in a new or unfamiliar place?

fitness · gear · martial arts

The Right Tools for the Job

Like everyone, sometimes I struggle to figure out whether the fitness item I want to buy is worth it. Will this item help me train to reach my goal or am I secretly hoping it will get me there by magic? Do I really need this thing or am I just trying to ‘buy’ fitness?

A rectangular yellow board and a black kickpad that is round on one end with a long handle. Both say 'Benza Sports' on them.
I get a kick out of both of these. Or maybe they get a kick out of me? Ha!

I have been on that fence for ages about two items for Taekwon-do – a rebreakable board and a ‘clapper’ pad.* My husband bought me both for Christmas. I was thrilled to receive them but I still felt a little weird about it for some reason. So I did what I usually do when I am getting on my own nerves – I turned on voice dictation and essentially journaled aloud into google docs.

After a lot of rambling, I ended up with two questions for myself.

Did I want both of those things because they were ‘cool’ or because I would actually use them?

Did a part of me think that I didn’t ‘deserve’ those specialized tools?

 

The first question, I realized, was about me reminding myself to commit to structured and specific practice for my kicks and punches. I could get behind that.

The second question made me mad. Was it possible that I had that thought buried deep in my brain somewhere? Was I falling victim to that kind of annoying thinking? You know, the kind that tells you that you can buy nicer gear once you earn it by reaching some external standard?**

And I do think there was a bit of that going on but now I’m pretty sure I have eradicated it.

Because, here’s the thing, sometimes you need the right tools to get a job done.

Sure, you can use a butter knife as a screwdriver but it is not nearly as effective.

You can roll out a pie crust with a cold glass but it’s much easier if you use a rolling pin.

You can practice spinning hook kick in the living room with a pillow but you won’t be able to tell if you have hit your target correctly.

You can punch any sort of practice pad in your rec room but you won’t be confident that, when the time comes, the board will break.

I can practice that punch and kick all I want in class but I still need more work at home. My challenges with the ‘choreography’ of the spinning hook kick and the jumping punch mean I have to do a lot of solo practice. If I have the right tools, I can do safer, and much more effective practice at home.

So, it’s not matter of me just wanting something because it is cool. And I certainly don’t have to ‘earn’ the right to practice effectively. Even all the overly-socialized parts of my brain can accept that.

Instead, I can consider these tools a good investment.

By getting the right tools for the job, I am showing myself that honing these techniques is something I care about. I am creating a good mental space for the practice ahead.

KIYA!

Are there any specialized tools for your sport or activity that you hesitated to buy? Was ‘deserving’ them a factor for you?

Did you ever get them?

How did they work out?

*I don’t know what it is actually called but there it is in the photo above. It is actually two pads stitched together on the narrow ends. When you kick the wider part, the two pads collide and make a VERY satisfying noise.
**I’m not referring to things you set up as rewards for reaching certain goals. That’s entirely different.

fitness · gear

My optimal number of bikes right now is (N+1)-N

What in the world is this title about?  And why am I asking readers to do math on a Sunday morning?

Some of you readers, especially those of you who like cycling, may remember posts about The Rules.  My title refers to the correct number of bikes to own; see below.

rule 12, saying that the minimum number of bikes to own is 3, but the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes you already own.

I happen to prefer this version, found on a bike forum:

N = your current number of bicycles. +1 = the number you need to have a happy fulfilled life.

For me, N = 6.  That’s right, I have 6 bikes.  Here’s a list:

  1. road bike
  2. cyclocross bike
  3. mountain bike
  4. commuter bike (25-year-old rigid Trek mountain bike, bombproof)
  5. Brompton foldable bike
  6. old cyclocross bike that lives at my mother’s house in South Carolina

For cyclists, bikes are kind of like shoes– you need different ones for different occasions.  You wouldn’t wear sneakers for the opera, would you?  (Well, in Boston, people wear hiking boots everywhere, but I digress…)

But back to my title– it looks like I’m saying that, for me, my optimal number of bikes is 1. How can that be?

This summer I’ve been riding a lot more and love love loving it.  It’s been hard to get back into shape for the kind of riding, frequency of riding, length of riding, and speed of riding that I want.  And I’m not there yet– I’m still moving up the fitness curve, looking for my new normal.

In uncertain times, we tend to gravitate toward the familiar.  For me, this has meant spending my saddle time on my road bike.  Here it is, resting in my dining room:

My old but adored road bike-- silver with orange decals, a little scratched up but always ready to ride.
My old but adored road bike– silver with orange decals, a little scratched up but always ready to ride.

Behold my 2003 LeMond Alpe D’Huez.  It’s been completely redone– the only original parts are the frame, fork and brakes.  It’s the bike of Theseus (this is a silly philosophy joke; read here for info).  It fits me like a glove.  I’ve had two bike fits done and it’s perfectly dialed in (I highly recommend this for anyone looking to spend a lot of time on a road bike).

So, I’ve found myself riding this bike around town: doing errands, going to the dentist, cycling to yoga, etc.  All the other bikes have been sitting in the basement, unused.  Well, I have used the new Brompton some for grocery shopping, but even it’s been a bit neglected.

Is this is a problem?  No.  I have a super-good lock when I need to leave it somewhere briefly (usually I can take it inside), and I wear cycling shorts underneath a skirt or some cute city biking shorts.  And did I mention how comfortable it is?

I bring this up because I want to say that, when we’re comfortable, we are happier doing the activities we like and want to do.  This works for clothing, this works for footwear, and it also works for bikes and other equipment we use in our activity-filled lives.

Fall is coming, which means that the cyclocross and mountain bike will get out there with me in the woods soon.  And the Brompton has some trips coming up.  But I’ll still be road cycling.  And I’m grateful to my old road bike for seeing me through a summer of transition back to regular cycling.

Readers, do you have any old or familiar gear or clothing or something that you turn to for familiarity or comfort in some physical activity?  I’d love to hear about it.