Tag: fitness

Maryland Celebrates Bike to Work Day Tomorrow

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The Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) is urging motorists to share the road and be on the lookout for cyclists, particularly Friday, May 18 which is “National Bike to Work Day.”  With local groups, counties and municipalities around the State sponsoring Bike to Work activities, more bicycle traffic is expected along key routes and local roadways.  Bicycle safety is a two-way street, and cyclists are reminded to follow the rules of the road, to stay visible and wear a helmet.

Partnering with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the City of Baltimore and the Downtown Athletic Center, SHA will host a Bike to Work stop on Friday morning, May 18 between 7 and 9 a.m. at the corner of Guilford and Monument streets near SHA Headquarters.  Twenty-20 Cycle is providing bike tune-ups, and the Merritt Downtown Athletic Center is partnering in logistics and will provide a demonstration of proper stretching technique for cycling warm-ups and cool-downs.

“Bike to Work Day encourages those who might usually ride for recreation and exercise to try an alternate means of commuting. We certainly expect more bicycle traffic than usual Friday, so we’re urging drivers to stay alert, focus and share the road,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters.  “Cycling instead of driving is not only better for your health, it is better for the health of the environmental as well.”  Ms. Peters and Planning and Preliminary Engineering Director Gregory Slater will bike from the Meadowbrook Regional Park in Brooklandville to SHA Headquarters on North Calvert Street.

Baltimore Women and Body Image: Five Commandments for Self-Acceptance

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1920s female jogger

Recently I found myself wondering if the average American woman might not be evolving toward more self-acceptance where weight and body image are concerned — mightn’t voluptuous singer Adele’s wild popularity result in less rigidity in the media’s rulebook for how we’re all supposed to look? Adele is a world-famous sensation — and she’s a big girl. (True, she’s dropped some extra pounds since her throat surgery, but she remains full-figured, which seems to be what her body wants.) After Vogue editor Anna Wintour predictably ordered the singer’s spring cover airbrushed to slim her, fans were outraged and critics vocal globally.

“Confidence-Boosting Tips from Real Women 9 to 99,” a gorgeous photo essay in Shape, shot by Mary Ellen Mark, hoisted my optimism higher — walking readers through a diverse tour of physically active women, like yoga instructor Robin Wald, 42, who celebrates her fierce strength and consciously overlooks her perpetually flabby “Mommy” tummy, the piece reminds me that my body is, well, myself, my support system, my shelter, my stability and, in turn, my fragility. Bottom line: The body is a bodacious miracle whether you’re naturally a skinny mini or a zaftig diva.

Lululemamas!

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There is no better place to run into friends than Stone Mill Bakery at Green Spring Station. Stacy Lebow and Elise Morris, old friends, both showed up wearing Lululemon tops. (And they didn’t even call each other!) The hot Vancouver-based company sells yoga-inspired athletic clothing that has become the uniform for chic exercising moms. We’re lucky enough to have a Baltimore store on Aliceanna Street in Fells Point (soon to move to Harbor East, we hear).

Stacy Lebow and Elise Morris, Stone Mill Bakery, Green Spring Station

We talked to Stacy first.

Hi. I love your top.

Thanks. It’s Lululemon, my favorite thing to wear when I work out.
    

How would you describe your fashion style?

Bohemian. 

 

That would explain the feather I see in your hair. 

It’s trendy fun! It comes out in a week. Like nail polish! 

 
What do you wear for an evening out?

I dress according to what fits my body. And I love scarves and wraps and shawls — and dresses! I do get my hair blown out occasionally. That’s my one indulgence. My mother
was a photographer so I’ve always had pictures taken of me. And pretty hair is an important accessory!

 

How do you two know each other?

We met when our children were very young at preschool.

 

And Elise, where did you spend your morning?

I just came from playing tennis!

 

And you both love Lululemon! Are you sure you didn’t plan your matching tops.

Of course not!  But I’m glad we ran into each other!  (Stacy)  

Fitness Rage in Middle Age

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It’s a raw December morning and I’m huddled with hundreds of other mostly middle-aged Baltimoreans in a makeshift tent, trying to stay warm. I’m a little nervous; it’s been about a decade since I’ve participated in a running event, and just as long since I’ve logged five miles in one run — the length of the Baltimore’s Celtic Solstice Run, starting momentarily in Druid Hill Park. Not in shape for it, I agreed to run the course only because I’m reporting on it for a local tourism magazine. Observing the scores of runners wearing skintight Spandex and intense expressions, I can tell five miles is a mere warm-up for a lot of these folks.

One woman says breezily to another: “Joining us for a bike ride after the race?” I’ll be lucky if I can hobble back to my parking space uninjured. I don’t necessarily want to be a part of this subculture of the super fit, but I’m curious about what drives so many to embrace it, and how they stick it out.

To crack the code, I go to the source. Through friends of friends, I am introduced to a handful of Baltimore’s uber-athletes who train and perform in events that require extreme physical and mental stamina. Grilling them about how they ended up as diehard runners, bikers, and swimmers, I am struck by the power of their camaraderie — a connection built with their training partners has helped all of these 30-to-60-somethings stay the course.

Each athlete who spoke to me trains regularly with a group of like-minded folks that spurs them on to more intense physical heights than they could reach alone. Of course, these athletes have traveled wildly divergent paths before finding stamina in “group think” and pounding the road to hardcore fitness. A former smoker who could barely walk up the hilly university campus as a young graduate student has now, in his mid-60s, rocketed through the hills of Hawaii in four Iron Man events. A dolphin-turned-running trainer loves pushing others to run long distances. A self-described tomboy approaching 50 races mountain bikes like nobody’s business. Then there’s the 50-something breast cancer survivor, the good Samaritan who got her start helping homeless guys get back on their feet, and a restaurant owner who accepted a bet to complete a triathlon before learning to swim.

Diverse backgrounds aside, the stories these athletes tell of how they got hooked on endurance events share a common thread. In fact, they each sound a lot like a drug addict’s first high.

Getting Hooked

Consider the first time 44-year-old John Gilligan, owner of the BMA’s restaurant Gertrude’s, competed in a mini-triathlon (400-yard swim, eight-mile bike ride, two-mile run). His brother dared him to do it. He’d never done much in the way of formal racing events beyond his high school cross country team. In fact, he didn’t know how to swim.

No wonder his body literally shook with nerves prior to the race. But things changed after the race began. “Something happened on the bike.  I fell in love with it. I thought to myself, ‘This is the most incredible feeling I’ve had,'” he says. He never looked back. He’s not the only one.

Stacey Seabrook, a 49-year-old Baltimore city resident, had been a sporadic exerciser her entire adult life. But when she started running as a volunteer with Back on Your Feet, a nonprofit that promotes self-sufficiency for the city’s homeless men, the team spirit moved her and she began training with a group for her first marathon, completed in the fall of 2011. “It was the best day of my life. The energy was amazing. It was just so much fun,” she says.  

Debra Nelson had a similar experience. When she turned 50, she decided to participate in a century bike ride benefiting juvenile diabetes research, a cause the nurse and diabetes educator believes in. What happened at the finish line propelled her onward.

“The cow bells went off, they put a medal around my neck,” she recalls enthusiastically. Two years later Nelson developed breast cancer, but she still wanted to relive that finish-line experience. “I said to myself, ‘I want another one of those,'” she says.

In February of 2011, shortly after recovering from breast cancer, Nelson crossed the finish line of the Disney Princess half marathon. While the medal served as a nice reward, something much bigger than that got her to the finish. 

Sticking with It       

Nelson was part of a running group that trained with a coach from Charm City Run’s Timonium location. “To have the camaraderie of my training group was really important,” says Nelson who, prior to training for the half marathon, had never run longer than four miles. “They said everybody would find somebody at their own pace, and that was true,” she says.

While Nelson finds the social support of her coach and fellow runners invaluable, as a married working mother she compartmentalizes the fitness part of her life to a much greater degree than most of the endurance athletes I spoke to.

Consider Theresa Morningstar. Single and 50, she holds down a full time job at a local law firm while teaching spinning classes a few times a week and training for bike, running, and racing events with a close-knit group of friends.

“Instead of doing happy hour, we might go for a bike ride and grab a bite to eat afterwards,” Morningstar says.

Though she makes her athletic endeavors sound almost frivolous, Morningstar is an accomplished athlete who performs competitively in Iron Man races (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run), extreme mountain bike racing, and days-long adventure races that involve several components — from kayaking to hiking to biking — while navigating unknown territory. But it’s not necessarily the physical challenge that keeps her going.

“What I love about racing is doing it with your friends,” says Morningstar, echoing the refrain of camaraderie keeping them going.

Thirty-one-year-old Baltimore City resident Deirdre Weadock grew tired of training dolphins for the National Aquarium and, as an employee of Charm City Running, started coaching people for running races instead. Now she’s planning the opening of a Locust Point Charm City Run store this April and helping to bring Sole City, a 10-kilometer race, to Baltimore this spring. For Weadock, her new career also opened doors to a new social support network.

“When I moved back to Baltimore six years ago, I would do the bar scene because I felt like that’s what I was supposed to do,” says Weadock. Now, she and her friends sometimes try to be to bed by 9:30 p.m. on Friday nights so they can wake up early for training runs.

Though training groups aren’t necessarily the most efficient way to prepare for an event, these athletes wouldn’t give them up. “The social aspect is a huge part of it,” says Gilligan, who admits he would probably have better bike workouts going solo but would miss the people in his spinning class too much.

Digging Deep

Training together is one thing. But on race day, these athletes must dig deep within themselves to succeed.

Accomplished triathlete Ray Plotecia has completed more than 100 triathlons in his 65 years and experienced just about every type of challenge doing so. Hallucinating and close to kidney failure during one Ironman, he soldiered on.

“When you do the Iron Man, you’re making deals with God and people and everybody else. Then you get back into town and, for that last half mile, with the crowd there, all of that goes away. And in the last couple hundred yards, you’re planning your next one,” Plotecia says.

Ravens Players Cause Tween Frenzy at a Towson School

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I remember thinking that gym class was a waste of time… but if Ray Rice had shown up to my school, I guess I might have thought otherwise. Which is exactly what happened at Towson’s Immaculate Heart of Mary School earlier this week.

Rice (along with Ravens teammates Ricky Williams, Torrey Smith, Lee Evans, and Andre Gurode) stopped by to recognize the school as an official NFL Play 60 Super School. Which is to say that the school was recognized for encouraging healthy lifestyles and physical fitness, along with 33 other schools nationwide.

According to the Sun, the Ravens were welcomed in true teen idol fashion, with tweens shaking, screaming, and proudly wearing purple. The school’s team spirit benefits everyone:  students who wear Ravens gear on Fridays must pay 50 cents for the privilege, and the funds get donated to various charities (including Rice’s non-profit). The school wins, too — the designation as an official Play 60 Super School came with a $10,000 check to be spent on wellness programming or fitness equipment.

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