Beyond great legs…start running!

All women love strong and shapely legs right? As we age, the forces of nature work their way towards our body and puts unsightly bulges here and there and we start looking at our old photos and wish…

…And wish we go back to our past shape. Hey, we actually can for as long as we are willing to do the sweat price (because the easier cosmetic route does not give you the benefits beyond what the eyes can see).

This teaches a simple truth: Effort produces results, no effort produces nothing. The effort is worth it.

Amby Burfoot, podiumrunner.com

I started running in July 2018 at age 52 so it’s not yet too long ago but this is the best I have felt so far as far as my body condition is concerned. I’ve never been really overweight though but at that time, I was heavy at 134 pounds and I didn’t like it when I noticed I had to buy clothes a size bigger than the previous year so I thought it was time to level up my work-out. (I am 113 pounds now and overachieved my 115 pounds goal). It was so timely because I had been wanting to join the Angkor Wat Half Marathon which our company was a sponsor of. I downloaded a 5K Runner App and the rest is history. Since then I had been running at least 3 times a week. Prior to this pandemic, I travelled a lot so my running shoes are always with me. That’s another benefit of running – you get to explore new places and see them from a different perspective when the place is still quiet and not busy at sunrise (I’m a morning runner).

Running is certainly one of the best, if not the best, exercise to tone your legs but beyond that there are so many other health benefits. Amby Burfoot’s article published in Podium Runner lists evidence-based benefits and I am sharing six (6) of them here (for the complete list, please read: https://www.podiumrunner.com/culture/10-amazing-benefits-running-might-not-known/

  • Running adds years to your life and life to your years. Because of the overall effect of running in the body (cardiovascular, body composition, hormonal balance), studies show that runners actually gain 3 years into one’s life span.
  • Running helps you sleep better.There is a direct correlation between exercising and getting a good sleep and many studies validate this.
  • Running can improve your knees and back. I am sure you have heard the opposite of this and would not believe this is a fact. Burfoot shared a study of 675 marathoners by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery which revealed that the “arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S. population (Arthritis prevalence was 8.8% for the subgroup of U.S. marathoners which is significantly lower than the prevalence in the matched U.S. population of 17.9%). I am sure, a big part of this is the fact that runners take extra care of their knees by doing strengthening exercises to make sure that they continue running.
  • Running helps you lose weight, and keep it off. We all know of those who lose weight by doing some diet of sorts and while there had been success stories, there are more cases of “losers” who gained it all back again. On the other hand, if you lose weight by running (as it is one exercise that really makes you burn more calories) and you keep on running at least three times a week, you will most likely keep the extra pounds away. The average person burns 280 to 520 calories with 30 minutes of running. Amount of calories burned depend on weight, time spent running and speed. ~https://caloriesburnedhq.com/calories-burned-running/
  • Running improves mental health, and reduces depression. For sure, running makes you feel good. It gives you a rush of endorphins that runners refer to as runners high. This chemical in the brain has been found to have many positive effects on the body including pain reduction, boost in happiness and pleasure and reduction in stress and anxiety.~https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/runners-high
  • Running lowers your blood pressure. Running and other moderate exercise is a proven, non-drug-related way to lower blood pressure and this is because running strengthens one’s heart muscles and make it more effective.
Pre-run and Post-run stretching

I have to stress how important pre- and post-run stretching is to avoid injuries and muscle aches. Pre-run stretches should be dynamic (active stretches where you engage your muscles and joints warming them up causing blood circulation) while post-run can be static (stretches where you hold a pose for 15-20 seconds) to cool down your muscles and slow down your breathing. Check this CNBC-TV18 you tube video for great pre- and post-runs stretching routine: https://youtu.be/qq1kGDd4Q60

Running and Yoga

Since running involves the use of the same muscles and joints, I can say that yoga is its perfect partner as the latter works out the other muscle groups and joints not used in running. Thus, it further enhances your run. Yoga exercise improves mobility and strengthens your core which improve one’s stability and performance. The other great thing with yoga practice is it teaches you the correct breathing which is so helpful in running. Read more on mobility : https://strengthrunning.com/2019/10/mobility-training-for-runners/

Psychic Rewards

Another reward that makes me feel so good is when I know that someone has been encouraged to exercise because of me. I was able to organise an informal group of runners (mostly beginners) and we would participate in different runs. Some of us even joined runs abroad (Cambodia and Vietnam) and we had so much fun!

There you go – there are just so many benefits that running gives and it certainly goes beyond having great legs. Just a word of advice though, if and when you decide to start running, make sure you build your endurance and increase your mileage just about 10%-15% every week. This way, you avoid getting injured and be traumatised so early before reaping any of the benefits and if you have a medical condition, make sure you ask your doctor’s advice if running is good for you.

And make sure you invest in a good and appropriate pair of running shoes!

This thing they call Plantherapy

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust. — Gertrude Jekyll (2011) ‘Wood and Garden: Notes and Thoughts, Practical and Critical, of a Working Amateur’ Cambridge University Press

I joined the plant craze at the start of the pandemic quarantines last year to have something to do in the weekends and give me some diversion from the work-from-home set-up. As a self-confessed shopaholic, it did fill the void of not being able to go to my favourite retail shops.

This home garden has gotten so much attention from me in the past year than it has ever got in almost a decade it existed.

I do have a little garden in our modest home and a few potted plants but after a year of potting and re-potting and weekly trips to nearby gardens, every corner of our home has plants and our garage has turned into my plant showroom. Now, trips to nearby provinces for staycations are not complete without a visit to gardens and every time, we go home with the good company of plants that fill every available space in our car.

In the article Is Plant Therapy a Real Thing, author Patricia Marie Cordero Irizarry shares the study of The American Horticulture Therapy Association (AHTA) that traces plant therapy’s roots to ancient Egyptian times where garden walks were prescribed by doctors for those suffering from mental disturbances. We have read many books and articles on beautiful medieval gardens and many researches found that the healing benefits of gardens date back to 2000 B.C. Read more https://www.womeninagscience.org/post/is-plant-therapy-a-real-thing

Monthly Agriculture shares the research of Dan Buettner who found a common hobby among Japan’s centenarians: gardening. The same article refers to the Harvard University study that also found something common among people who live near greeneries- they tend to live longer given the lower possibility of cancer or respiratory illnesses. It further shares that in Scotland, doctors prescribe walking in nature to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and to increase overall happiness. Read https://www.agriculture.com.ph/2020/07/25/gardening-a-hobby-thatll-help-you-live-longer/

My own personal experience is a testament to how my plants have become my de-stressors. The sight of new leaves give me joy and the new knowledge I have gained in tending to my “babies” is not only refreshing but insightful as well which can very much be applicable not only to my corporate work but also to life itself. For instance, I learned that plants can grow really big by putting them in big pots but you do not transfer a plant from a small pot directly to a big one as its roots will have a hard time growing. Instead, transfer it to a pot amount 2-4 inches bigger in diameter than the old pot until it outgrows it again. Isn’t that the same as human potential? A talent not given the environment to grow will not reach its full potential.

I guess, after 27 varieties of Philodendrons and counting; more than a dozen Calatheas and Aglaonemas; an increasing collection of Monsteras and Rubber Trees and many more, I can call myself a certified Plant Momma.

Indeed, there is such a thing as plant therapy and it is real!

Easy breezy Baguio

This City of Pines is a place of retreat from the hustle-bustle of the busy city and is simply the kind of respite we crave from time to time. With an estimated 2.5 million Benguet pine trees surrounding the city and the uphill and downhill terrain and panoramic view of houses on the hills as well as foggy mountains, Baguio is definitely a wonderful escape I consider one of my happy places.

Apartments and staycation places abound with price range to choose from and for people like me who travel to places to relax and be refreshed there are lots of choices. I go for homey apartments with a view of either the pine trees or the mountains in quiet neighbourhoods and our recent trip is certainly one choice I am happy to have made especially with its tasteful interiors and thoughtful amenities and very attentive caretakers . http://freds.com.ph/baguio/page/gallery

Coffee Shops and cafes are staples in our agenda and we search for nice ones with good reviews. For our family trip this time, we were quite satisfied with our choices and the cold December weather added to the thrill.

A visit to Camp John Hay is another must. With a large concentration of pine trees in the area, one can easily fall in love with the place. Early this year (before the stricter travel measures due to the pandemic was imposed), we had the chance to participate in the Baguio Marathon which started and ended in Camp John Hay. I did half marathon and the downhill and uphill route was certainly not for the faint of heart. The route went all the way to the Lion’s Head along Kennon Road and just when the finish line is already in sight, you have to run another kilometre uphill with your legs almost giving up.

Another must-visit is the Bencab Museum. The display of contemporary artworks in this museum is wide and the museum itself with its modern and clean design is lovely. National Artist Benedicto Reyes Cabrera’s (Bencab) works are beautiful. He is indeed one source of Filipino pride. Read more about his works and profile: http://www.bencabmuseum.org/national-artist/

Due to its idyllic weather, fruits are abundant and the Baguio market is a feast of various produce from the province. For coffee drinkers, Benguet coffee is synonymous to great coffee. In fact, an Atok-grown coffee emerged as the grand champion in the 3rd Philippine Coffee Competition held in March 2018. Oliver Oliem’s Arabica coffee entry won 1st place while 2 other Benguet Arabica coffee entries also won 3rd and 5th place among 700 entries. Atok coffee was described as a blend with flavour characteristics of apricot, lemongrass, pomelo, oolong Tea and the aroma of a rose. The National Barista Champion 2020 Adrian Vocalan also used coffee from Itogon, Benguet. No wonder there was a queue in the Fresh Roast shop at the Baguio marketplace where you can get Benguet premium and flavoured coffees. Read more: https://pia.gov.ph/features/articles/1019148

For sure, Baguio will always be one of my favourite places in the country and I am just so happy to note of Baguio’s Re-greening Masterplan which includes a tree-cutting moratorium. It is my hope that House Bill No. 7090 seeking for 10-year moratorium on tree cutting in the city (by Baguio Congressman Mark Go) last July 13, 2020 will be passed to reinforce the 5-year tree-cutting moratorium imposed in residential, business and public areas in the city.

With the newly opened NLEX-SLEX Connector which is expected to cut down travel time from Metro Manila and is set to be fully operational by January 14, 2020, Baguio will certainly be more attractive to people like me who just want to be away and experience easy breezy Baguio.