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The Rocks, Pebbles & Sand of Movement


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You may be familiar with the Rocks, Pebbles and Sand Story (aka Jar of Life Story). If you are not it is a great little story that reminds us of what is important in life. Take two minutes and watch it here.

I will wait…

Obviously, the message that this story brings displays what is really important in life. Without a doubt.

After thinking about this story it can also apply to improve the way you move by prioritizing. Now that you know what this story is about I will break up how we move in 3 parts: rocks, pebbles, and sand. This is not an exhaustive overview…but it will give you an idea of prioritizing how you practice better movement.

Rocks

The rocks of movement are what we have to do to carry on with our everyday life. This can include:

  • Getting in and out of bed.
  • Going to the bathroom.
  • Walking with agility and balance so we don’t fall.
  • Picking things (or little people) up, carrying them and putting them in other places.
  • Getting into and out of the car (which can involve pulling & climbing).
  • Being able to turn our head to look for things.
  • Navigating uneven terrain along with inclines and decline.
  • Clothing and bathing ourselves.
  • Taking care of our children/family.
  • Carrying babies, pushing strollers and spending time on the floor.

Some that see this list may feel that it is mundane. If that is the case then these activities are not arduous or take much thought.  Or you or a family member may have problems doing this, there may be some compensation to perform them or at the most extreme – someone is helping them do it.

These rocks of movement are imperative to be able to do. A vacation is different when you are not able to get up, move, put your clothes on or other movements on your own.

Because these are the rocks of movement it is so undeniably important that we practice moving better so can either move better or with less discomfort…or continue to be able to do them.

Pebbles

The pebbles of movement can include what we do for a living or who we care for. This can include:

  • Sitting for long periods of time (don’t worry I will talk about this below)
  • Being on your feet for long periods of time.
  • Lifting heavy weight and placing it elsewhere.
  • Walking long distances
  • Professional/Amateur Sports
  • Manual labor
  • Carrying babies, pushing strollers and spending time on the floor
  • Caring for older individuals

This is what we do that can involve different ways of moving aside from everyday life activities. It can be a movement that we should practice so we avoid injury (like mobility or strength). On the flip side if we sit all day our posture will be affected. Also, the footwear that we are wearing can also affect us. We should be aware of the pebbles that should be developed so they don’t erode. We should also be aware of the pebbles that can negatively affect how we move and find ways to reduce that chance.

In other words, you have to think about what your pebbles are. Especially you have chronic pain or tightness in these pebbles it is time to assess how to eliminate them. Our pebbles are what we need to do so we can live a comfortable life however we define it.

Need an example? What if your job involves picking things up and putting them in various places. That not only involves your arms but your legs, core…yes your entire body. This video below also applies to the rocks! You reach to pick up things all the time.

Sand

The sand of movement can include what we do for fun or ways of movement that have a greater chance of injury if not performed correctly. This can include:

  • Sports
  • Competing in half-marathons obstacle course races and the like
  • Physical feats like climbing Mountain Everest

What do you do for fun? Golf? Running races? Adrenaline-fueled activities? You could still continue doing what you need to do in your life but this is what makes it so much fun. However, if you ONLY did these that is not good. Why? You should be strengthening your rocks and pebbles so you can reduce a chance of injury and perform at your best!

Think about it this way – if I only ran Marathons every month and nothing else I would not be at my best. Why? I would not be working on strengthening my legs, core and entire body for the event. Also, any pain and tightness coming from not addressing the mileage I am putting on my body will affect how I live my daily life and also my job. It is not fun when you are hobbling around the house or have to do your job is awkward because of a chronic it band tightness. At the worst, I may have to stop running marathons because I was not strengthening the foundation of my rocks of movement.

Wrapping up…

You may have different types of sand, pebbles, and sand in your life. The way you practice moving better for the rocks and pebbles is important. If you only take the time to pour all sand in your jar you are neglecting to strengthen your rocks and pebbles. Also, when it comes to improving movement is more than just strength, the ability to move, have the flexibility, coordination, and balance is just as important!

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Exercise Without Assumptions – Train For Agility


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We rarely enjoy it when individuals make assumptions about us based on our beliefs, how we look or our age. When it comes to moving better and exercise don’t let assumptions about your potential hinder you. Regardless of your age, you should be training for a physical experience – life.  I strongly believe that age should not restrict someone from moving better. You can read more about it here.

Agility

Agility is defined by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as:  “how accurately and rapidly a person can change direction; involves the stages of acceleration, stabilization, and deceleration.”

With that definition in mind, a scenario may also help hit it home as to how important agility is.

It is a sunny day in San Diego. You are walking down a sidewalk and a couple is walking the opposite way busy with an excited conversation. One of them was holding their toddler’s hand who has a stuffed animal in her hand. As you say good morning and they pass the toddler decides it a perfect time to toss the stuffed animal right in front of you.  You were walking at a comfortable pace, but stop and quickly step to the side so as not to step on the animal.  You then reach down, pick it up with one hand and quickly catch up with the parents that did not see the “offering” and hand it back to them.

Let’s break this down, in terms of agility.

  1. You had to come to an abrupt stop and simultaneously step to the side.

This is the deceleration that was mentioned in the definition. If you didn’t have the agility (and balance!) coming to an abrupt stop could end in a fall or a trip. Of course, you also had the option to step over the stuffed animal too. That would also be using agility as you would react and step over an object and clearing it so you did not trip.

There is also the simultaneous sidestep. I am sure you guessed by now this takes some coordination to be able to judge how far to move your foot over and stop at the same time once you moved. Again, balance plays an issue as stopping and moving to the side can test ones balance if it has eroded.

  1. You picked up something and simultaneously started moving in another direction.

Here you are not only moving but moving with weight in your hand. Sure, this stuffed animal may not weight much. However, it still takes stabilization to move. Why? You were in a lowered position and pivoted in another direction with the animal in your hand. You had to stabilize and move. If you did not have the agility and balance doing this simple movement could have resulted in a trip or a fall.

  1. You picked up your pace to catch the family.

Acceleration occurred at the point where you grasped the animal and moved in an opposite direction. This aspect of agility is important so you can move quickly and with confidence. It was not a slow walk, as you would not be able to overtake the family. The parents were busy talking to each other so trying to get their attention would not help. Of course, you can argue that you could have decided to keep the stuffed animal for yourself 🙂

Food for thought: How do you think the scenario would have gone if agility was a problem?

I hope that this example helped hit home the importance of agility in everyday life. We all could use some “practice” in agility. You see on TV of athletes doing agility training so they can move better on the field of play. In your life – where you move is your field of play. Click here to read my other post regarding the importance of training for balance too!

Train for agility so you can move with confidence and enjoy the quality of life that you deserve!

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How Fit Can You Be Over 50?


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This question may come to mind when fitness and healthcare professionals strongly encourage various forms of exercise. How much “in shape” or “fit” do I need to be?  Many articles and studies highlight the numerous physical, neurological and cellular benefits to exercise.

The best answer is to turn the question back on you…how fit do you need to be to carry out the physical demands of your everyday life? What can that entail?

  • Sitting down.
  • Getting up.
  • Stepping to the side and reaching for something.
  • Reaching up to get something.
  • Carrying heavy items on one side while walking.
  • Turning to see what is around you.
  • Walking up stairs or on uneven ground.
  • Conditioned enough not to be winded at the top of the stairs.
  • Clothing and bathing yourself.

The list goes on…

This physical ability to carry out everyday tasks is also called your functional capacity.

Another way of phrasing this is – what do you enjoy doing and what do you need to do physically to be able to do it? Vacations? Visiting and playing with grandkids? Hiking trips? Running marathons? Enjoying the sites at a national park? Everything that brings you joy incorporates some sort of movement, regardless if that just means walking across the floor to open the door for a family member.

To answer the question one way: You should be as fit as your life demands.

This idea means you should not structure your life around your bodies limitations especially if they include your functional capacity. Instead, you should practice, exercise, and “train” to be able to do what you want to do easier and with less thought about how your body is moving.

Another way to answer the question is: Be as fit as you can possibly be.

Striving to be fit is a lifelong journey. As we age we may have to adapt and change the ways that we do exercise, but that does not mean we stop challenging ourselves. The more you move better every day you are rewarded with independence, confidence, and peace of mind that you don’t let your age determine what you can or cannot do.

To be clear, being “fit” is more than strength (although it is important, as especially leg strength is associated with morality).

It is also the power to move quickly if necessary.

It is also the agility to be able to walk over and around objects.

It is also the balance to be able to walk, bend, carry things and do things simultaneously.

It is also the mobility and flexibility to move your ankles, knees, hips, wrists, neck, and shoulders.

It is also the ability to be able to get to the ground and stand back up.

 

You CAN be fit over 50. You deserve to live the life you want to live!

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10 Articles of 2017 That Promote Healthy Aging


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As we welcome the new year being mindful of moving better and other aspects of healthy aging have to be a part of our goals. Even if this is not directly a goal of yours…often we all reflect upon what we are thankful for. The health of our loved ones and yourself is often at the top of the list. With that in mind to continue being thankful, we must strive to choose the option to be able to do what we want to do and live the life that we want to live.  A result of choosing that path includes learning how to move better every day to improve if not maintain your physical capacity to perform everyday life activities with ease. Thus, here are 10 articles in no particular order from 2017 that you can use as your foundation for the new year.

Have a great start to 2018!

1.

Mobility is an important aspect of everyday life activities. There does not have to be a prescribed age where one is unable to do what they need to do. This article touches upon the mobility benefits that exercise can provide. Click here to read.

2.

Brain Health is often a concern as we get older and we want to know how to keep our brain sharp. This article speaks to how aerobic exercise and the lifestyle that you live can positively affect your brain health. Click here to read.

3.

Fitness Apps can make your life easier. Yes, you don’t have to be in your 20s to get hip to using a phone application to improve your fitness level. Click here to read.

4.

Flexibility and whole body coordination are absolutely important to be able to do what we want to do and like to do in life. The practice of Tai Chi is not only great exercise but also can prevent the risks of falls. Perhaps some may think that moving so slowly is easy and more intense movement could be more beneficial. I challenge you to take a Tai Chi class. Click here to read.

5.

The physical benefits of dancing reach far beyond the happiness it can bring (which is great in and of itself!). This article discusses a study by the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany. They found neurological benefits to dancing, along with balance improvement among other things. Click here to read.

6.

Move it or lose it is a saying that rings true every day and the anniversary of our birthday. This article highlights a study done by researchers from multiple schools which included University at Buffalo and Stanford University. Click here to read.

7.

Striving to be physically fit keeps your brain in good shape too. In a study by Boston University School of Medicine researchers found those physically fit performed better on memory tests than their less in shape counterparts. Click here to read.

8.

Misconceptions about exercise and older adults will lead you astray from where you should be.  In this article Dan O’Brien, Olympic athlete dispels the myths of exercise and other adults. You may not be a former Olympian but you can still benefit from his advice…because this pertains to anyone over 50!  Click here to read.

9.

What you eat plays a substantial part in how you age. My friends at IDEA Health and Fitness Association here in San Diego published a comprehensive article about what has changed and stayed the same in regards to the Dietary Guidelines of Americans. Click here to read.

10.

The intensity of how you exercise can play an important part in your physical fitness. This article discusses a study that found that exercise of an intense pace can positively affect you even at a cellular level. Such a type of exercise is not only for an individual of a certain age as the level of intensity is adjusted to someone’s fitness level. Click here to read.

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Don’t Ignore The Elephant In The Room – Move Better Now To Keep Your Independence


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There are things that we can count on one hand that we fear as we age. These fears include disease, disability, and dementia. Exercise can reduce the chances of these, ease the symptoms or improve the overall quality of life and health while living with them. Thus, even if you are living with something like Parkinson’s you should still be exercising! Instead of resigning to the idea that all of these just come with age or that there is nothing you can do – I challenge you to take a firm grasp of what you can do and empower yourself.

Below I share some resources and articles that speak to each of these.

Chronic Disease

Dementia

Disability

I encourage you to do your research within and outside these resources. There are fitness professionals like me out there that are looking for people like you to improve your quality of life – whatever quality that means to you! Whatever you do, push yourself to move better so you can better do what you like to do and want to do, easier, better and with less discomfort.

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Squashing The Myths About Exercise for Older Adults-Part 3


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Despite our cultural depictions of aging, we all have the ability to age well with the strength, agility and balance to maintain our quality of life and the activities we enjoy. Traditional exercise programs, and even many fitness professionals, often disregard the ability of mature adults and seniors to maintain and gain qualities like strength and agility.
Regardless of age, we should all make the time to move, exercise, or play. Let’s squash one of the myths that hold mature adults and seniors back from moving better:

#3 Okay…exercise, but just take it easy…
To counter this myth, Fred Devito summed it up with his quote “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
Progress in fitness will only occur over time when you are challenged. Sure, it is important to start off light when you begin a new fitness program, but soon your body will become used to the exercise and a plateau will happen. Progressions should be incorporated that continue to challenge you to move forward. My clients trust that I will push them just enough so they continue to see the results of their hard work, but not to a point of injury or exhaustion. The key to maintaining the right balance of challenge versus safe progression does not require a steep incline, instead the magic word is variability.
For example, if you enjoy walking on the treadmill, instead of going at the same pace for an hour – do intervals. Try 5 minutes at a comfortable pace then 2 minutes at a challenging pace. Keep coming back to the comfortable pace to recover, then ramp up again to stay challenged. Another simple variation to stay challenged is to vary your foot pattern if you enjoy working with dumbbells. Instead of standing neutral (i.e. feet hip-width distance apart) try a staggered stance as thought you’re midway through a walking step with one foot ahead of the other. Not only are you doing your curls but also you are testing your balance and core strength.

We move throughout life engaging multiple body parts simultaneously – so why isolate just one when we are exercising? Train for life!
Don’t let these myths hold you back from living with the quality of life you want! There’s no such thing as too old to exercise. Especially as we age, exercise may become but more about what you can DO rather than just how you look. A healthy fitness program means being able to play with the kids/grandkids, enjoy a good golf game, take that trip of a lifetime, or maybe just get around easily.
It is never too late to train to move better in your everyday life!

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Squashing the Myths About Exercise for Older Adults – Part 2


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Despite our cultural depictions of aging, we all have the ability to age well with the strength, agility and balance to maintain our quality of life and the activities we enjoy. Traditional exercise programs, and even many fitness professionals, often disregard the ability of mature adults and seniors to maintain and gain qualities like strength and agility.

Regardless of age, we should all make the time to move, exercise, or play. Let’s squash one of the myths that hold mature adults and seniors back from moving better:

2. It is too late to exercise or You’re too old for that

This myth seems to be based on a limited and subjective definition of “exercise.” Exercise does not have to happen in a big box gym, nor do you necessarily have to be wearing fancy exercise clothes. (You don’t have to wear leg warmers, tights and a headband unless that’s what motivates you!)

Consider all the activities that can contribute to exercise and fitness. For example, building and tending to a garden incorporates squatting, lunging, digging, pulling, dragging, pushing, core strength, carrying objects, and more. If you don’t have the space (or interest) to be a neighborhood farmer, then going for hikes, joining a rec league, pilates, enjoying the social, mental and physical benefits of Tai Chi, or trying out some group exercise classes at a gym/pool are all great ideas.

If you have a favorite park or enjoy walking in your neighborhood? Start there! Finally, if you do want a gym, shop around and find one that you are comfortable at. Independent gyms vary greatly. Find one that you’ll enjoy and will continue going to rather than paying for a membership that you are not using.

Find the exercise that fits your preference and lifestyle. Do something that YOU enjoy doing!

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Squashing the Myths About Exercise for Older Adults – Part 1


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Despite our cultural depictions of aging, we all have the ability to age well with the strength, agility and balance to maintain our quality of life and the activities we enjoy. Traditional exercise programs, and even many fitness professionals, often disregard the ability of mature adults and seniors to maintain and gain qualities like strength and agility.

Regardless of age, we should all make the time to move, exercise, or play. Let’s squash one of the myths that hold mature adults and seniors back from moving better:

  1. You will hurt yourself

This myth implies that mature adults and seniors are too frail and weak to exercise and moving will just lead to injury.

That is a just plain wrong. Yes, anyone starting a new exercise program should start off slow and set a foundation based on their current fitness level. Yes, consulting your doctor, getting your eyesight checked, being aware of the effects of medicines, etc. are important considerations. Lastly, yes, it is important to recognize any physical restrictions based on past injuries or current mobility challenges. These are factors to be considered at any age when changing lifestyle or starting a new fitness program.

The key is to recognize these factors and develop exercise options based on this awareness. For example, if walking places too much strain on joints, Nordic walking (i.e. with walking/hiking poles) is an excellent option. These poles actually facilitate an increase in oxygen consumption and energy expenditure by engaging the upper body instead of just the legs.

Contrary to this myth, improved fitness levels actually reduce the chance of injury. People with reduced mobility, tend to modify their movement based on fear or discomfort. Imagine walking on a narrow bridge over a swamp of alligators. How are you walking? Probably with shuffling steps in a hunched position. In this position you have a narrow base of support, walking is difficult and uncomfortable, and catching yourself if you trip will be difficult. Now, imagine a beautiful walk on the beach. You are relaxed with a more comfortable and confident gait. With a better range of motion, posture, and gait there is less of chance of injury or falls. Gait and balance issues are a major cause of injury in older adults.

One of the key contributing factors to reducing falls is exercise. Everyday life takes mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility and power. Testing and training those functions in a proper fashion will lead to more confidence and ability to move throughout life with more ease.

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What It Means to Listen to Your Body


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You may have heard this many times or read it…

listen to your body.

However there is often very little explaining of what it means and what you should be doing. It really is not that cryptic or ambiguous of a phrase. This is important, so let’s pull down the curtain.

Let’s keep it simple…

Scenario #1

You are walking barefoot on the sidewalk to get the morning paper and didn’t see a shard of glass. Pain happens, possibly some cursing – but it hurt. You stop walking and investigate if you can pull it out or hobble back to the front door & get some tweezers.

You felt pain, stopped and investigated.

Scenario #2

You and a good friend went out for some dinner. On the drive home on the highway you were behind the wheel and your stomach started turning…really turning. There are ten miles to go until your exit but there is a rest stop coming up before then.

You pull off the highway & take that rest stop exit because your stomach was doing somersaults… so make a b-line for the bathroom.

Yes, these scenarios are fairly straightforward – you felt or noticed something going on in your body and you were attentive to what was going on. You did not ignore the pain or uncomfortableness. Instead you were vigilant and decided to do something about it.

Now enter two other scenarios…

Scenario #3

You have been putting down a respectable running regime the last month on the trails. There was no pain or any issues. You are now up to 10 miles twice a week. This week you decide to switch things up and do the same amount of mileage on the pavement instead at the same pace. You find after the second round that halfway through you feel some pain below your knees. The following week instead of the 10 you decide to decrease the road runs to a respectable 6 and then work your way up over time. Also, you sprinkle in some more stretching. Over time that pain subsided and eventually went away.

You backed off on the mileage on the roads and worked your way back up. You also increased the time stretching after runs to target any tight muscles.

Scenario #4

A bagel and a coffee has been your go-to breakfast for a while now. However, you find that by 10:30 a.m. you start dragging and have to grab another coffee to keep on point the rest of the day.  Today you wake up and decide that you are tired of the never-ending battle to stay alert. You begin trying out different things to eat for breakfast and seeing what your energy level is. Soon you found your go-to breakfast that did not leave you wondering why you were always so tired.

You decided to change up your breakfast after you found that crashing before midday was a pattern. After noticing the pattern, you edited & kept on editing you breakfast until you found what would not send you back for another cup of coffee.

You know what it means…now listen!

Honestly if in any of the scenarios someone just ignored what was happening and kept on going – the outcome would not be good. The argument is made often that you can just push through it especially if it is pain related to exercise. I would counter that eventually that pain will come back & will not go away. The solution can be as simple as taking a look at what has changed to make your body react that way. It is one thing if you are uncomforable because of a challenging workout that is targeting those leg muscles during lunges. It is another if you are feeling a sharp pain.

Of course, there may be many things in the mix like stress, muscular imbalances or running form that can be a wild card. Just fight the urge to be stubborn and think that it will just go away (like never addressing tight calves -yes runners I am talking to you!). When it comes to what you put in your body, of course that can be complicated. But again, if you ignore what you are feeling and it is not changing – why not see what you can do about it?

Above all, if you listen and can’t figure out what is going on then talk to a qualified professional that can be your guide. She or he can use their experience, knowledge & objective view of what is going on to assist you. 

Empower yourself to take charge of what is going on with your body. You have a choice – be proactive! You don’t have to do it alone.

 

 

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Use Your Body – Move It, Test It


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Only if we actually test ourselves or apply something we know do we find out our true capabilities. This rings true when it comes to our own physical fitness. You can run 4 miles with ease, you are good at climbing over things or you ride 10 miles on your bicycle a day. It is obvious to you that you can do it. However, the best way to assess and challenge your fitness level is to seek out a way to put it to the test. Sure there are aesthetic benefits to this, but instead of that you are more focused on what is even more important – results!! Below are some ideas on how to do this.

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Photo Credit – Westend61/Creative RF/Getty

Map a course, plan your own “event” & get a timer

One of the easiest options is to do set out the route, mileage or goal to accomplish. Then set some prescribed goal and go for it! Even if this is the same route that you always do, this time it is different with the timer running. It can be very motivating when something is under timed conditions when usually the goal was just to do it.

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Track your progress

Building upon the 1st idea…Create a simple excel document to make a tracking document. All you really need is the name of activity, date and time. You can add extra columns for notes that you can add after that day like how you were feeling, what you ate before etc. Now you have a bar set after day one of recording your time. Having this on the wall will not only motivate you but you will also soon see patterns in your performance. Perhaps you didn’t sleep well the night before, stretched out the night before or had one too many cocktails the night before. All of those factors and more can affect how you do. Now you can understand more about your own body and learn how to make your weaknesses strengths.

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Competitor Gear Run Guide gives some options

Use the technology & the gadgets

There is technology that allows you can tap into an online community to test yourself. Posting your times on a website will give you the satisfaction, motivate others and make you feel part of the larger community. Wearing gadgets that automatically posts times of your results is another way to enter into fun competitions of one’s physical fitness. The options are quite varied and more come out every day so there are many ways to use technology with yourself or as part of a community.

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Signed up, check, crushed it – check! 🙂

Sign up for a race, train and crush it on race day

Now unplugging from the online community you could show up on race day! Now you have shifted fully into training mode. Now you have your sights set on a particular day. It is time to truly channel that inner athlete and train. Avoid doing that specific movement every session. It is time to challenge the body in ways that can build the foundation around completing the event well. Do your homework on the event – terrain, what the course includes or gear that would make it easier is very relevant to your training.