Being Satisfied with Less {Workouts Lately}

by Megan Outlaw

I haven't written much about this yet, but I'm currently dealing with two injuries that are forcing me to really reevaluate and modify how I'm exercising.  My lower back has been causing me issues since early December, and my painful right knee is hopefully just a reoccurrence of runner's knee, and not an as-of-yet undiagnosed meniscal or other more serious injury.  Therefore, my body just cannot handle the amount of exercise that my mind wants it to, resulting in a struggle for someone who genuinely loves to work out.

However, I'm trying to be satisfied and accept where I am now in my fitness journey.    

And that is really how I'm trying to view it right now, as a journey. 

For now, that means 15 to 20-minute sessions at the pool, instead of the hour long Masters Swimming sessions that I was participating in last fall. 

I'm using this time as an opportunity to focus on my form, concentrate on engaging my core and also really trying to bilateral breathe (habitual one-sided breather).

It means riding my bike for fewer miles on flatter terrains. Luckily, we have a really beautiful lakeshore path in Madison that is about 5 miles roundtrip from my house.  If I journey into the surrounding neighborhoods, I can tack on a few more miles.  I'm taking the time to really appreciate the moments that I get to exercise, and the beautiful scenery around me.

Later it may mean even less exercise, and hopefully will one day mean a return to longer exercise sessions while training for running races and triathlons, but I'm trying to find happiness and gratitude in the right now.  

Have you ever dealt with multiple injuries?  How do you cope with being able to workout less than you'd like?

Life Lately

by Megan Outlaw

Hello!  I didn't intend on taking a 2-week blogging hiatus, but we've been busy getting outside in the finally spring-like weather in Madison, and we also had family in from out of town.  I have a few blog posts planned, but thought I'd do a catch-up post first.  Here's life lately.

Catching the sunset over Lake Mendota

Construction is still ongoing at the Memorial Union Terrace (aka my favorite place to relax outdoors in Madison), but there are still a few tables on the terrace and beer is still available.  We've gone to the terrace either after a short bike ride (more on that later) or just a walk from our apartment at least three times in the past 2 weeks.

Planting a mini garden on our balcony

Full disclosure: I bought the plants at the Dane County Farmers Market, and my mother-in-law planted them while she was visiting!  My last attempt at a balcony garden didn't go so well, so we shall see how this year's goes.

Quick trip to Chicago

On Monday afternoon, we took my mother-in-law to Chicago for the night, as it was her first trip to the Midwest.  We were only there for a short time, but were able to experience a few touristy sights and foods.

Deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's.

Deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's.

Oak Street beach

Oak Street beach

The view from way up top - 360 Chicago.

The view from way up top - 360 Chicago.

It's good to be back home in Madison though.

I'll be back later this week with what I've been up to lately on the workout front.

New Grocery Store in Madison + April Events

by Megan Outlaw

Yesterday, we checked out Madison's newest grocery store, a Festival Foods location.  Festival Foods is a Wisconsin grocery store chain that has over 20 locations throughout the state.  The new grocery store has two unique features:  a lounge-type area called The Mezz with a full bar where you can bring food purchased from the hot bar downstairs (we bought sushi and a turkey wrap, and both were pretty tasty, in particular the sushi), and the recycled trees that were used as support structures.

They also have a great beer selection and offer Growler fills.  

The other cool component of the Madison store is that the support beams, seen below, are made of recycled trees from Tenney Park.

The Festival Foods store had a larger selection of produce than some of the other grocery stores downtown, and also more packaged foods (as you can see in this picture!).  It's a little further from our apartment, so I see us going to Festival Foods for our big grocery trips, and sticking with our smaller, walkable stores for quick trips during the week.

Speaking of new and exciting, I thought I'd share a few events coming up in April here in Madison.

Return of the Outdoor Farmers' Market 

I am so excited that the Dane County Farmers' Market is returning to the Capitol square this Saturday.  Browsing the Farmers' Market, said to be the largest producer-only farmers market in the country, is one of my favorite weekend activities. The market is open from 6:00am to 2:00pm, and has a seemingly endless variety of produce, meats, cheese, flowers, and more.  

Doors Open Madison 

This is the inaugural year for Doors Open Madison, which is an opportunity to explore a variety of Madison's landmarks, such as the Madison Science Museum, Mansion Hill Inn, Overture Center, and the Washburn Observatory.  The event is Sunday, April 24th from 11:00am to 4:00pm and is free.  The website features an event guide and map, and ideas for how to get around to the different sites.  One way you may want to try is by bike; Madison BCycle is offering free bike rentals during the event, and of course many locations throughout the city have bike parking.

Madison CRAFt Beer Week

One of the many great things about Madison is the large number of local breweries brewing delicious beer that is available at their brew pubs, bars, and grocery stores.  Madison Craft Beer Week is a 10-day celebration of craft beer and the breweries that make it.  Craft beer week runs April 29 to May 8, and features events such as a Cask Beer Festival, tap takeovers at local restaurants and bars (which is really great because then restaurants get involved in the event), and the release of a Common Thread beer.  The Common Thread beer is a collaboration between different brewers throughout Wisconsin; this year the Common Thread beer is a Gose.

I hope to participate in both Doors Open Madison and Madison Craft Beer Week, and plan on heading to the farmers' market this weekend.  The weather is rumored to finally be more spring-like, and what better way to celebrate than buying fresh produce and hopefully plants outdoors at the Capitol?

Connecting the Movement with the Intent Behind It

by Megan Outlaw

All too often, we simply go through the motions of a workout without paying attention to the "why" of the particular move. Perhaps we're too busy, rushing to finish the workout and check it off the list before moving onto another task, or perhaps we've done the routine a thousand times, have it memorized, and the workout can be done basically on autopilot.

However, by just doing the workout on autopilot, we can neglect the intent behind the movement.

Let's use the classic bridge exercise as an example.

{A bridge is an exercise performed while lying on your back, with hands by your side and knees bent, feet flat on the floor.}

So yes, the bridge is a simple exercise at its most basic level, requiring no equipment and no special skills, though there are some modifications that you can work up to in time.

The bridge is also an exercise that people sometimes tend to do without really thinking about what muscles they are supposed to be working, and often just rush through the movement.

However, in order to get the most out of the bridge exercise, you need to slow down, and think about activating the right muscles at the right time.  Don't just quickly jerk your hips up, and then just as quickly lower them down.

For me, after advice from my PT,  a bridge starts with resetting my pelvis and tucking my tailbone, then contracting my abs, and then glutes, to raise my hips up to create a straight line from my knees to shoulders.  And then, making sure to continue contracting my glutes on the way down.

This requires thinking about what I'm doing, throughout the whole exercise, for each repetition. This may take a bit longer to accomplish, but I am attempting to connect the movement with the intent behind it.    

{The bridge primarily works your glute muscles, but can also work hamstring muscles, and also is great for core stabilization.}

Being aware of the muscles being worked can help ensure that you're performing the movement correctly, and thus will make the exercise more effective.

So, resist the temptation to quickly run through your exercise list, and take a little extra time to think about why you're doing that bridge, squat, or bicep curl.