March Madness Comes to Cambria For 2 People I Know

March 9, 2014

   I have the "privilege" of being in a relationship with a man who lives, eats and breaths University of Kansas Jayhawk basketball. He once lived in student housing within a stone's throw from one of the nation's most historic basketball arenas. And it just so happens that John Linn, of Linn's of Cambria, is also a KU grad and has many good memories of cheering on the Jayhawks in that arena.

   To be honest, I really don't care, even though I am periodically reminded the inventor of basketball, James Naismith, was KU's first coach in the 1890s.

   Actually, there is one interesting thing to me about that: Naismith was a physical education teacher who created the game to help athletes maintain their fitness during the winter months in Massachusetts. Even though basketball exploded in popularity and became a highly competitive sport, his passion was always to teach exercise and fitness. That's music to my ears.

Playing Sports Burns Calories

   Remember the sports you played as a kid? You weren't counting calories then. It was just plain fun. No matter what it was -- basketball, tennis, volleyball, softball, etc. -- there was a fundamental joy in playing a game. For many who aren't active, the thought of lifting weights or doing the Stairmaster for an hour doesn't sound very inviting. Time to pick up a racket, glove or ball again.

   If an organized sport like softball or basketball is your thing, Morro Bay has adult softball and soccer leagues. San Luis Obispo offers 3-on-3 basketball as well as softball, soccer and ultimate frisbee. If you'd rather not drive so far to play organized games, there's no reason you can't lace 'em up and shoot baskets on the court at the Vet's Hall parking lot. According to just shooting baskets for an hour burns 238 calories.

  I find it has been fun to discover a new sport. For me that's cycling. I ride with a Sunday morning women's group that goes informally by the name Bella Rollers. I've also ridden with the Slabtown Rollers of Cambria. They're a great group of people. Some other cycling groups are Team Medicare and The Old Farts Club. I don't have a website or Facebook page for you but if you want to find out more just drop by the Cambria Coffee Roasting Company after 10 am and start chatting with someone in a bike outfit. Hey, that's how it works in Cambria!

   Another growing sport in Cambria is pickleball. Great name -- it got me to look it up when I first heard of it. I can see it's appeal. Pickleball is like playing ping pong on a tennis court. It's gentler on the knees and body yet gets you moving. Check out the group Cambria Pickleball By The Sea. They play Tuesdays, Thursday and Sundays at the Coast Union High School tennis courts. They say once you start playing it gets addictive.

   Speaking of tennis, the Cambria Tennis Club is a private group that accepts new members. They maintain and use the courts at the high school. The great thing about tennis is how the racket technology has made the game easier and more fun. And the Joslyn Recreation Center has sports groups, too, like the Table Tennis and Lawn Bowls clubs.

   Oh, and there's golf. It's a game I have envisioned taking up. With lessons most people can play well enough to want to come back again and again to improve their game. I love the idea of walking the course, burning calories, enjoying being outside and engaging in friendly competition. We're blessed with some beautiful courses in Morro Bay and SLO that aren't too expensive and perfect for beginners.

   If James Naismith were alive today I'll bet he'd tell you to just get out there and play... and have fun, whether it's basketball or pickleball.

Getting More Out of Your Gym Routine

February 24, 2014

   When I planned to write this post back in December, I had envisioned it would be raining in Cambria this week. Envisioning. Hoping. Praying. And I'll bet everyone in SLO county has been, too. Well, it worked!  We have a 50 percent chance for rain on Wednesday, 80 percent on Friday, and 50 percent on Saturday. Let's keep our fingers crossed the weather forecast is wrong and it will rain all week. So here is how I had planned to start this post:

   The rainy season means plenty of time in the gym. I find myself sometimes getting into a routine and going through the motions. All the exercises are good, don't get me wrong, but am I getting the optimum benefit from them?

   I talked to a couple of fellow instructors to find out what they do to walk out of the gym feeling renewed.

   Terri Harrington, personal trainer and yoga instructor at GymOne, says it's not about the specific routine or weights but your awareness and mind-body connection to yourself. "Connect breath to movement," she points out.  "Be there, in your body whether you're spinning, lifting weights or stretching. Connect to your body's intuition for health and well being."

   I love the perspective Terri brings because I wasn't even seeing it that way. It reminds me of what Wayne Dyer says about being thankful for your body and even the parts, like your liver or your feet.

   At Cambria Community Fitness, personal trainer Scott Barrett warns that we need to do our own exercises and not something "off the rack." In other words, a routine needs adjustments for each individual. "If there is any pain or discomfort with any exercise," he cautions, "then you are not doing it correctly or it is not right for you."

Some Exercises

   I do have a few favorites when I'm at the gym and here are four of them you might want to add to your routine. Don't feel intimidated by all the names of the muscles. We all have them! Information is power.

Helicopter Squat
   Squats are a total lower body workout, working out most of the major muscle groups of the butt, hips and thighs. Arm movements get the glutes working more during the squat.
   With your arms pointed to the left, drop into a squat. As you drop down, bring your arms in front of you and to the right side of your body when you are finally down in the squatted position. Then, rise up bringing your arms back to the right side of your body. Switch sides. Start in the standing position with your arms pointed right and squat while bringing your arms to the left side, and back again to the right as you rise. Repeat this several times alternating your arm direction.

Incline Bench Press
   This is a great exercise for the chest and shoulders. The incline bench press uses the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles.
   Lie on your back, weights at your chest with palms facing up. Inhale. Press the weights up to the ceiling, exhaling as you press up and inhaling as you come down.

Overhead Pulldown, Wide Grip

   The pulldown exercises the latissimus dorsi in the back. It also involves the biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradialis muscles as well as muscles connected to the scapulae: the lower trapezius and the pectoralis minor muscles.
   Position the thigh support in a snug position with feet on the ground. Choose your weight and take a grip equal to twice your shoulder length with the long bar at its highest position. Lean back slightly from the hips while contracting the abdominal muscles. As you pull down, stick your chest out while keeping your elbows wide. Pull the bar down to your collarbone maintaining posture alignment. Do not rest until all your repetitions are completed for the set.

Captain's Chair Knee Raise
   The knee raise works the lower abdominals.
   Support yourself by your forearms on a captain's chair. Inhale. Then lift your knees towards your midsection. Exhale on the way up. Use your abs to pull your legs up. Rotate your pelvis forward to really crunch your abs. Inhale as you bring your legs back down. You can also perform this exercise with your legs straight out which will make it a more challenging movement.

Cambria Art & Wine Festival Cycling Tour

January 20, 2014

   I know what you might be thinking: a Cambria wine tour bike ride? Why didn't I know about this?

   There is no organized bike ride but it occurs to me, with the Cambria Art and Wine Festival just around the corner, the three popular rides around Cambria could constitute an amazing wine country cycling trail. Whether you ride north to Piedras Blancas Light Station, south to Cayucos, or east on Santa Rosa Creek Road you will encounter vineyards and wineries in spectacular settings. You couldn't ask for a better place to get on your bike. So, if you have never ridden these roads before here are some helpful insights. And although I love wine, on my bike I prefer to enjoy the scenery of vineyards and come back later to taste.

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Distance: 31 miles out & back, north on U.S. 1

   The best time to go is in the morning when U.S. 1 is relatively empty of cars. If you head out after 11:00 am, traffic and headwinds can make this beautiful trip a nightmare. Headwinds are strongest in March and April, and some times in early summer there is early morning fog. The road is in great condition because it has been recently repaved. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Santa Lucia Mountains on the other, it's easy to understand why some European cyclists consider the California coast to be the best place in the world for bike touring.

   In the pastures below Hearst Castle you might see Zebras grazing, especially in February and March. They are descendents of the animals that William Randolph Hearst imported to stock his private zoo in the 1930s. In San Simeon, historic Sebastian's General Store serves up great sandwiches using fresh local ingredients. Sometimes I like to stop here on my way back from the light station to take a relaxing lunch break. The Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room is also in Sebastian's.

   Further up the road is the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery. The newborn seals are on the beach this time of year and are a lot of fun to watch. They can be viewed every day (even without having to get off your bike) and there is no admission fee. The Piedras Blancas Light Station is still a working lighthouse, a historical park and wildlife sanctuary offering tours and sight seeing.


Distance: 29 miles out & back, south on U.S. 1

   There's a big hill about 6 miles into the ride but aside from that it's fairly flat until you get back to Cambria for a final uphill approach. Like the ride north, the ride south on U.S. 1 is best done in the morning before too many motorists are out on the roads. When Cambria and Morro Bay are fogged in, this stretch of road is often clear because of the headlands. And temperatures are usually a bit warmer on this ride compared to the north.

   I love the scenery of small farms dotting the headlands and the artsy community of Harmony, population 18 (according to the sign). Harmony Cellars is here, too.

   When the road opens up to a sudden view of the ocean you're approaching Cayucos. In town you have a number of choices to stop for lunch. I like Duckie's, a great mid-priced chowder house. It's right at the pier and has outdoor seating on the sidewalk. Before heading back, you might want to do a relaxing pedal around town to see the murals which the Cayucos Mural Society has sponsored for the past 20 years.

Santa Rosa Creek Road

Distance: 20 miles out & back for a relaxing ride; 32 miles out & back or in a loop for experienced cyclists.

   James Taylor could have been thinking of Santa Rosa Creek Road when he sang "I could feel it on a country road." Rolling hills, grazing cattle, chickens, produce farms, and ranches await you without much traffic. But keep your eyes open for deer, coyotes and even a mountain lion if you're lucky. The lovely Santa Rosa Creek accompanies you most of the way. Stolo Family Winery is just outside of Cambria and Linn's Original Farmstore, 5 miles out, is a perfect place for coffee and pie, and pleasant conversation. I like to stop in on the return trip.

   When the coastal highway is foggy or chilly, Santa Rosa Creek Road is often sunny and warm. This is a ride I take easy so I usually only go about 10 miles out. But that doesn't mean it's not challenging. If you ride all the way to Highway 46 you'll have some serious elevation to contend with. Some expert cyclists favor leaving Cambria south on U.S. 1, then east on 46, and then riding down Santa Rosa Creek Road. I would strongly suggest driving the road first before attempting it on a bicycle. The road is narrow and steep with a stomach turning steep switchback -- probably not what James Taylor had in mind.

4 Motivation Tips to Achieve Your New Year's Resolutions

January 6, 2014

   The conventional wisdom seems to be that writing New Year's resolutions is a "fun" annual ritual of jotting down our personal wish lists -- but not to be taken too seriously because by February they will be forgotten. The reality is resolution-making is a powerful tool we can use to bring about healthy lifestyle changes.

   A study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors a couple of decades ago examined how successfully people achieved their New Year's resolutions. The top resolution, unsurprisingly, was weight loss cited by 38% of the study's participants. Smoking cessation was 2nd at 30%. Half of the people (55%) in the study dropped out after just one month. And it might be easy to assume the other half failed after two months. But that wasn't the case. Most of the remaining resolution makers (40%) were still on the path to their goals 6 months later! I like seeing the glass half full rather than half empty so I think that's remarkable.

   As a fitness trainer it tells me that making a New Year's resolution is a very worthwhile strategy. It's motivating to know, statistically, you have nearly a 50/50 chance of success right out of the gate. But I'd like to increase those odds so I asked a few experts for some tips to stay motivated throughout the year to fulfill your resolutions. Not every motivational technique will work for everyone. I hope one of these tips resonates with you.

[1] Pursue Small Easy-to-Fulfill Goals

   I find this very effective for my clients. Instead of trying to accomplish one big goal, break it down into a series of smaller ones. If you want to incorporate walking into your lifestyle, such as taking a 2-mile walk five times a week, don't start by forcing yourself to walk a mile every day. True, you might be able to do it but chances are you won't actually like it. It's better to begin by taking a 15 minute walk three days a week. In so doing, you will set yourself up to be successful. And nothing breeds success like achievement, each step of the way toward your larger goal.

[2] Take It One Day at a Time
- Trainer Jane Howard

   It's easy to think, "one day at a time... well, I already knew that." True, it's probably the oldest technique in the book. But if you really take it to heart, it's also one of the most powerful, which is why so many 12-step recovery programs have adopted it.

   Jane Howard is a fitness trainer in Cambria and she echoes this. "We all tend to become overwhelmed sometimes when the task at hand like losing weight or becoming fit can seem so large and looming over us," she told me. "This becomes too much for any of us. Stay with one day at a time. If you mess up, that’s okay, get back on track the next day. Don't beat yourself up. You are human!"

[3] Moderate Behaviors - Coach Dennis White

   You know when changes have really taken hold when they become a part of your lifestyle. That's when, for example, a bike ride is no longer just a planned exercise activity but something you look forward to for fun.

   Dennis White, who has coached Coast Union High School's volleyball team in Cambria, feels that moderation is a key way to evolve a change into becoming a part of your lifestyle. "If you're trying to cut calories," he offers (I love this one), "eat sandwiches with just one piece of bread." Do the math: if you eat five sandwiches a week, you'll avoid eating a loaf of bread each month without feeling deprived.

   A similar thing goes for alcohol. Limiting yourself to wine or beer on the weekends is a great way to cut out a lot of calories from your diet. And you can easily add some exercise to your day, too. The next time you go shopping, relish the availability of the open parking spaces further from the store and get a nice walk in. Dennis says it's for a good cause. "Taking care of ourselves will ensure we have an active retirement with minimal limitations. Good health will ensure quality time with our children and grandchildren."

[4] Minimize Distractions - Marlena Tanner, RD

   Sometimes it's not enough to get motivated, but rather tackle those things which can demotivate us. A busy schedule poses a major challenge for most people. Recently, I read about a woman who wanted to exercise in the morning but rarely did because in the first minutes of rising from bed, her head was quickly filled with an overwhelming list of things she had to do. So she started going to bed in her exercise clothes and woke up ready for her work out. Great idea!

   The media also can be a diversion. "In today's American culture we tend to get distracted by technology and by constant visual stimulus including the images of what we should look like or the things we should strive to own and achieve," says Marlena Tanner, a dietitian in Cambria who serves the Central Coast as well as guest lectures at Cal Poly. Whether it's buying into unrealistic images of what Madison Avenue says we should look like or having to be always-on for every email and tweet that comes our way, turning it down or even off can be surprisingly effective.

   "Taking care of our selves involves not only our physical, but also our mental, emotional and spiritual being. Becoming more connected to our own bodies will allow us to eat better, move more efficiently and understand our selves better."