Poses to Prepare For Meditation

I’ve been doing A LOT of research on meditation, and when I saw this article in Yoga Journal I was so excited to share this with you!


17 Poses to Prep for Mindful Meditation


5 Ways to Break through Dreaded Weight Loss Plateaus

I found this on the Beachbody website today, and thought it was interesting enough to share!

5 Ways to Break through Dreaded Weight Loss Plateaus

By Justine Holberg

Originally found here.


You’re tracking calories, working out each day, then bam! For a week or two, the scale refuses to budge…and you realize you’ve hit a dreaded weight loss plateau. Now what?

Even though it’s completely normal to hit a snag in your fitness journey, a perceived setback like this can send even the most dedicated dieter off course, away from healthy eating and toward cookies, cake, and pizza. But you can be strong and start getting back on the weight-loss track again. Try at least one of the following techniques, and there’s a good chance you’ll burst through your plateau in no time.

Here are five important things to know about hydration and exercise:
1. Zigzag your daily calorie intake.
In theory, you’ve got to eat less to lose more, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you just have to shake things up. Here’s one way to do it: If your average daily intake is 1,400 calories, try dropping to 1,200 one day, going up to 1,800 the next day, and then dropping back to 1,400. The idea is to keep your metabolism guessing. There’s no magic number that works for everyone, so you’ll have to experiment until you find the right calorie levels for you.

According to Beachbody Director of Results Steve Edwards, what happens when you zigzag is that you force your body to choose how many calories it needs to recover from the rigors of your exercise program. “Most people who hit a plateau are undereating. If you are indeed undereating, adding calories for a few days, then lowering them again, will help you force your body into a hormonal response that will not only help you break out of a plateau, but—as you learn to recognize the signals—will teach you how much food you should be eating.”

2. Switch up your exercise routine.
If you do the same workout each day, eventually it can start to become less challenging, and (unfortunately) less effective. If you push yourself to new levels of strength or exhaustion, you’ll almost certainly see a shift. Here are some ways you can challenge your body:

  • Swap your jog for a bike ride.
  • Try weights with your cardio routine. (ChaLEAN Extreme® or RevAbs® can help you do this.)
  • Add intervals of high intensity to really make you sweat. (INSANITY® is a great workout for this.)
  • Drop to the floor for 10 push-ups right now!

The idea is to try something different. According to Edwards, “The better you get at something, the easier it becomes. That’s why we’re always telling you to add more weight as you get stronger, and to move faster and jump higher as our programs progress. But it’s also why all of our programs have phases of training. As your body adapts to stimulus, you need to change that stimulus in order to keep results happening.”

3. Eat some almonds.
Almonds are a great snack, plus there’s some research that indicates that they can help you burn fat. That’s because they contain fiber and fatty acids—the good kind of fat that helps you lose weight. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity compared two groups of people who ate a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet. As part of their daily diet, one group ate 3 ounces of almonds every day. The other group ate a mix of complex carbs. What happened? The group that ate the almonds lost more weight.

So next time you grab a snack, try a small handful of almonds, or as Edwards says, “Any nut, really. While almonds are one of the better nuts, all of them have a similar nutritional profile and make excellent snacks. That research probably would have turned out similarly if they’d used walnuts or filberts or whatever.”

4. Get more sleep.
This may seem like the opposite of number 2, but the truth is is that you could be training too hard, which is about the quickest way to hit a weight loss plateau, because an over-trained body holds on to weight as if it were starving to death. There’s no better way to test this than to try and sleep more. The reason is that your body recovers much more quickly from exercise while it’s asleep, and if you’re burning the midnight oil while trying to do INSANITY, you could easily plateau from lack of recovery time.

In a recent study at the University of Chicago Medical School, researchers found that during a period when study participants were deprived of sleep, they metabolized glucose less effectively. Additionally, they had higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which has been shown to impair memory, increase insulin resistance, and slow recovery in athletes. “There’s a good reason why five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx said, ‘The Tour is won in bed,'” says Edwards. Your body’s recovery response during deep sleep is only rivaled by performance-enhancing drugs. When you’re on the borderline of overtraining, getting more sleep is the first thing anyone should try.”

5. Relax.
Believe it or not, the one big thing besides diet and exercise that can cause you to plateau is stress. When you’re stressed, your body sends out higher levels of the hormone cortisol that, as stated in number 4, can encourage your body to hang on to fat. “Cortisol is actually a performance-enhancing hormone,” says Edwards. “But it’s gotten a bad rap because we’ve begun living our lives at too high a volume. Cortisol is released at times when the body is in an emergency state. It increases performance, but only over a short period of time. When cortisol is released and forced into action at regular intervals, it causes your body to wear down and switch to more drastic means of survival, like holding on to excess amounts of body fat. Your life shouldn’t feel like one big emergency. As a society, we need to learn to be more tranquilo, as the Spanish say.”

We get stressed for many reasons, almost all of which are influenced by the society around us. One of the best ways to combat stress is to get some alone time to chill. If you’re the type who can’t let go, try some forced relaxation techniques, of which yoga seems to be one of the most effective. There’s something special about the mind/body interaction of yoga that forces a relaxed state even from the most stressed of us.

If you feel you need a lot of help, dig into an intense course, like P90X Yoga X. For others, something lighter, like Yoga Booty Ballet® Pure and Simple Yoga, will do the trick. If you’re not into yoga, then consider at least adding some stretching into your schedule. Most of Beachbody’s programs have at least one stretching session. TurboFire® even has two!

The Daily Yoga Challenge

Even though I haven’t written in a while, what few posts I wrote previously should give you a good idea about what I love, tae kwon do (I got my black belt recommend, BTW, and test for my 1st degree at the end of March! Squeee!) and running.

A million years ago, I practiced yoga a few times a week. I used to be flexible, and one could argue I’m still pretty bendy. As I’ve gotten older, had more kids, and started cramming more into each day (in addition to homeschooling my four, I’m also teaching tae kwon do a few nights a week), I’ve put yoga on the back burner. The less yoga I practice, the more aches I notice (this could be because I’m a busy mom over 30, but I’m going to say it’s because I’m not stretching enough and maybe sitting too much).

So starting tomorrow (who says you have to start ANYTHING on a Monday?) and going through my birthday on April 21st (yep, totally arbitrary time frame), my goal is to do at least 30 minutes of yoga a day, every day.

And because I like video workouts, here are the DVDs I have so far (in no particular order):

– Kathy Smith Project You Core/Flex Yoga

– Rodney Yee’s Power Yoga Collection

– Yoga For Stress Relief And Flexibility

– Shiva Rea Core Yoga

– Yoga For Back Care

– Back Care Yoga With Rodney Yee

– Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown

– Ho’Alake Kino “Awaken The Body”

Since some of these DVDs have more than one workout on them (I counted 18 in all), I could in theory go more than two weeks without repeating a workout, which is pretty cool. I like variety. And if I don’t feel like doing a DVD, I have a couple Yoga Journal special issues, including one with a 6-week yoga guide. I think I can do it! And hopefully I’ll have some accountability through this blog.

Thoughts that go through my head while running

lapping everyone on the couchedit


On Saturday, my planned 4 mile run turned into a 4.8 mile run, and near the end I got to thinking about the things that go through my head when I run.

One minute in: “Yeah! I’m feeling great! I’m going to rock this run!”

5:00 “Seriously!? I’ve only gone that far?”

5:15 “Okay, okay, person with a dog coming toward me. I should be that nice person who says hi. I hope the dog doesn’t jump at me. I sure would hate it if the owner blamed me for their dog flipping out.”

5:15 “‘Good morning!'”

10:00 “I could have sworn I ran a mile by now.”

11:37 “Okay, there’s the mile announcement. I do love Runkeeper!

12:15 “How long until the fifteen minute announcement?”

12:49 “Finally, the park. How long until the 15 minute announcement?”

12:56 “Okay, another person on the trail, better say hi”

13:00 “‘Hi!'”

14:55 “Dang, 15 minutes is sure taking forever to get here. ‘Good morning!'”

15:00 “Finally!”

15:27 ‘Good morning!’ “Oh, carp, they responded with, ‘How are you?’! Must try to respond!”

16:52 “Aww, come on people! Stop asking how I’m doing! Can’t you see I’m bright red, huffing and puffing?”

17:12 “Ugh, I need new shoes. I know I gained weight, but dang, I didn’t think my feet got fat too.”

17:20 *Stops to untie shoes*

17:26 “Ah, much better.”

18:05 ‘Good morning!’ “I’m surprised that person didn’t say anything about my untied shoes.”

18:30 “Seriously? No one is saying anything about my untied shoes?”

20:13 “How am I going to explain to the shoe guy at the running store the type of shoe I’m looking for? I’m too heavy for minimalist shoes for longer distances, but clearly these heavy bulky things are not working out for me. They are for forefoot strikers, but are there any shoes that a cushiony and for forefoot strikers?”

20:20 “How do I explain to the shoe guy that yes, I do land on my forefoot, that I may be fat, but I have run in the past, and I trained myself to run this way. No, I do not need motion control, I do not over pronate, I have a very neutral gait, normal arches, and yes, I do know this, don’t let my size fool you!”

25:00 “Holy carp, it’s only been 25 minutes? It feel like I’ve been at this 45!”

27:10 “I can’t believe how sweaty I am! When was the last time I got this sweaty? Yeah, I got pretty sweaty at TKD rank camp, but really I think it was back when I was really into group fitness classes at my gym in Texas. Wow, that long ago? I kind of miss my trainer. I don’t want to train like that any more, even though I got some amazing abs.”

27:40 “I really believe I’m training my abdominal muscles to protrude outward. I know running distances like this isn’t really good for weight loss, but I can dream right?”

29:57 “Mark says chronic cardio is bad (and Mark knows everything!), but dang it, I want to run this marathon just so I can say I did it!”

31:23 “Running requires serious mental toughness! So tired, old lady hips ache, but I’m only 15 minutes from home so I gotta keep going.”

35:00 “Ugh, sounding like Shaun T. ‘Dig deeper!'”

35:25 “DIG DEEPER! You’ve got this!”

36:36 “You rock, Arley! You need to tell people about the power of cheering yourself on!”

38:12 “You have a cheering section in your head! You’re not crazy! Woo hoo!”

38:13-54:10 Variations on, “You’re a rockstar Arley! Get it! Yeah, we can do this! So close to home!” Yes, at one point I was having a conversation WITH myself, referring to me and myself as WE. I’m not crazy!

54:11 “Okay, your street it just ahead. Get ready for your victory lap! Victory lap? Really? YES!! VICTORY LAP DOWN YOUR ROAD TO YOUR HOME!!!! WOOO HOOO!!!!”


56:03 “Oh, neighbors outside. Aren’t they the ones from that house that Dave insists is inhabited my many single males? I must look crazy with sweat flying and hair frizzing.”

56:04 “Who cares what they think. VICTORY LAP! ALMOST HOME!!!”

1:01:02 “I MADE IT!!!!”

1:01:03 “What? 4.8 miles? Wow, was mapmyrun wrong!”

Am I the only one who cheers myself on during a run? What random things go through your head when you run?

Rank Advancement Camp

I know I’m a week or so late posting this, but yay! I had a ton of fun at Petitto’s ATA Black Belt Academy‘s rank advancement camp!


There was a ton of running, pushups, squats, and stretching toward doing full splits (ouch!). I was the only adult, but I was probably in better shape than the kids! Or maybe it was my mental toughness that pushed me through when I was tired and achy. I definitely felt my age (I have old lady hips that hurt after a while).

The most important thing I took away from this training is that I can memorize multiple forms in a short amount of time (I memorized two, and started on a third before I ran out of time). At this point I’m not sure what’s holding me back from memorizing choreography for PiYo or Turbo. I can’t help but wonder if deep-down I’m afraid to fail. Ugh, I need to get over it and just do it because even if I fail, who’s it going to hurt? There’s a huge difference between forgetting a section of choreography and forgetting how to perform open-heart surgery after you’ve already opened the patient up!


99% of the time, failure will not kill you or others.

I need to remember that.

Oh, and yes, I did get promoted! Yay yellow belt!

IMG_2273IMG_2274 IMG_2276



A couple years ago, on a whim, I decided to become certified to teach a class called PiYo. It is a combination of yoga and pilates, only faster placed and more fun! I have yet to teach a class, claiming that memorizing choreography is over my head.

And then a few weeks ago I learned a Tae Kwon Do form in two days.

And this weekend I’m taking a two-day “camp” to get promoted to the next belt, in which I will need to learn a lot of material in a short amount of time.

I need money to fly to Washington for the marathon in September.

I think I may have found a solution to my money problem.

“But Arley,” you may be thinking, “nobody gets rich teaching fitness classes!” True. But I should be able to at least raise enough over the next 5-6 months to fly.

If I’m not too old to earn a black belt, if I’m not too old to train for my first marathon, then why shouldn’t I be able to do this?

Oh, by the way, this recent madness was prompted by the P90X3 Pilates X workout I did this morning. I enjoy yoga and Pilates, but I like it faster-paced.


So I need to start running…

go do them


Sadly I missed out on signing up for the 17.75k race, which means I’m not able to run the Marine Corps Marathon this October. BUT, I did sign up for the Historic Half, coming up in May. I haven’t run a mile in, um, months. It needs to stop being so stinking cold!

So anyway, I’ve been loving the heck out of my Tae Kwon Do classes, and I’m about to test for my third belt next weekend, and my fourth belt in April (right before the Virginia Beach tournament, yikes!). My flexibility and strength is slowly coming back, and my ability to remember forms quickly is improving! I’m telling ya right now, go sign up for a martial arts class. I’m serious! The benefits go beyond some amazing abs!

But Arley, you say, I’m too old to start! Bull pucky! I just started a couple months ago, and I’m almost 31 (I know it’s “young” but my goodness I can tell that I am not 15 any more!), and I’ve given birth to four babies. My strength and flexibility and cardiovascular endurance are not as amazing as they used to be even five years ago (but those area are improving!). I used to be a machine. Now I’m squishy, stiff, and slow. BUT none of this stops me because I decided that I am NOT too old to do anything I set my mind to.




I wanted a black belt when I was a teen, but life got in the way. Here I am fifteen plus years later, and I am on track to get a black belt before I’m 32, less than two years from starting over. I feel I must repeat:



Running My Butt Off In 2014

running bear

I like to run races. I’m not as much of a fan of TRAINING for races, but I’ll run a race without training any day (I’m looking at you, fall/winter of 2002 with a race every weekend for three months, and that was my exercise for the week!).

Except when it’s over 10 miles. Many years ago, I ran the Army 10-MIler at 18 weeks pregnant with minimal “training.” My longest run leading up to the race was four miles. My goal was to finish, and I did. But my plan for 2014 involves a couple half-marathons and one Marathon in October. I have never run more than 10 miles at a time in my life. So I will actually have to train.

After a quick search, I found a few free training plans. I’m going to count my martial arts training as my “cross training” since there is no running involved (although there are handstands and dive rolls. I’m not too old to learn gymnastics, in my opinion!). All of my weekday runs will have to be at night, after the kids go to bed, so the bulk of my running is going to have to be done early in the morning on weekends (does running 15 miles on a Sunday count as violating the Sabbath? Even if it’s before church and I still make it to church on time with a smile on my face?).

I admit I am a HUGE FAN of New Year’s Resolutions! And my resolution (more of a goal, I guess) is to run the Marine Corps Racing Series (except the Tri, I don’t like swimming enough to race and I don’t own a bike). Plus my husband and I are going to run the Army 10-Miler in October, which we haven’t run since before baby #4 was born (I was actually pregnant with him when I ran it!).

What are your goals for 2014?

Almost Doing Everything Right

This past week I worked out twice a day twice, and did two more days of single workouts. I did a longer, more intense workout on Saturday, and of course took a rest on Sunday. I didn’t eat out of boredom as often and I avoided desserts most days, and I added more water and drank less hot chocolate (I drink it instead of coffee, even though it is worse for my health than coffee).

I’m still not getting to bed as early as I’d like, and I still feel like I sit too much, but over all, I think I did already with the small changes, especially since my grandmother passed this past week and I took it pretty hard. It was weird because usually I eat to make myself feel better, but I just didn’t want to this time. This emotionally charged time, instead of eating, I started planning a novel based on my grandma’s amazing life. Maybe channeling my pain into something productive helped.

Oh, and despite trying to do everything right, I didn’t lose an ounce. If experience has taught me anything, however, is that the fat will melt off and it will show, it just takes a month for me. This knowledge does NOT make lack of progress any easier for my motivation, but I’m just going to keep on plugging along, looking at my progress pictures from my gym’s weight loss competition last January through April (about 90 days).

Pictures are seriously motivating. What helped me today was looking at old pictures. They reminded me that I can lose this weight again, because I’ve done it before. Bust out pictures of you when you were thinner or happier, or realistic pictures of other people who are a size you want to be (seriously, needs to be realistic because we can’t all look like Kate Moss, not that I’d want to, but maybe there’s a chance we could look like a fit, healthy friend or a fitness instructor at our gyms). Visualization is amazingly powerful, at least for me.


quit quitting


I know most people celebrate Halloween, so on that theme of scary things, a scary thing I discovered a couple weeks ago is that I was 24 pounds heavier than when I finished my gym’s weight-loss challenge. What’s even more frightening is I had only lost 15 pounds to get to where I was in the pink bikini pic. Yes, I gained back ALL the weight I lost PLUS another almost 10 pounds!

As you may remember, I joined a gym a few weeks ago and I’ve been working out a few times a week while trying to cut back on all the sugar I consume (I quit coffee in September and unfortunately picked up a hot cocoa habit). I have been trying to add more veggies to every meal with the theory that if I add more of the good stuff, then the good stuff will eventually crowd out the not so good stuff. I’m trying to drink more water, take my vitamins, and I sure would like to get more sleep, but I need to actually carry out my pre-bedtime plan (no TV/internet , use my yellow blue-blocking glasses at least an hour before bed, only reading books or journaling or knitting in that hour, basically anything that winds my mind down and signals my brain that it’s almost time for sleep).

The little changes I have been making are helping though. I’m noticing my waist is getting a little smaller and my muscles are starting to peek out a little bit, and this morning the scale said I was down one pound. I’ll take it.