“My world revolved around my daughter and her schedule. When she left for college, I thought, ‘What now?’ ” That’s when Amanda Polk of Potomac discovered bodybuilding. Bikini bodybuilding.
“Don’t let the name fool you,” Polk says. “It’s a tough sport.”
Last March, she attended a friend’s bikini-bodybuilding competition and was hooked. Unlike traditional bodybuilding, which aims for extreme bulk, the bikini version highlights leaner muscles to create a toned hourglass shape. Polk joined a team coached by Michelle Johnson, a renowned competitor who lives in Washington.
Polk placed fifth at the national championship last July. To transform her body, she completely changed her diet and exercise regimens: “I thought all you needed for a great shape was cardio and light weights a few days a week. Boy, was I wrong.” She focuses on heavy lifting and high-intensity interval training, also trading alcohol and empty carbs for protein-packed foods.
To Polk, all the sweating is worth it. “Watching your gluteus improve is a huge motivator,” she says, adding that she bought more tights from Better Bodies so she could see her muscles during workouts. “When you look in the mirror and like what you see, it changes your whole outlook on life.”
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The first rule of hashing is there aren’t really any rules.
Enthusiasts of the alternate-universe running clubs insist there’s no one correct way to hash. There are, however, some constants: crude nicknames, invented terminology, devoted friendships, and a healthy dose of debauchery.
But the basics go something like this:
A lead runner—known as a “hare”—lays out a trail in flour or chalk. Participants then run, jog, and sometimes crawl along this trail until they reach their ultimate destination—typically a local pub, street corner, or private residence—where drinking ensues. One hasher described a trail that required the group to swim across the Potomac. Twice.
No two hashes are alike. Some are punctuated by mid-run pitstops at a “check,” a spot to drink (beer or water), catch your breath, and figure out the trail. Others require unusual dress or themes. All require uninhibited revelry. Male runners are called harriers; female runners, harriettes.
Though it may sound a bit fratlike, hashing is intended to be inclusive. “We don’t care what you do or what car you drive,” says Jim Howard, a member of two DC kennels, or hashing clubs, including the White House Hash House Harriers. “What we care about is that you’re genuine and have a good sense of humor.”
Suitably for an athletic activity that involves drinking, you can take part even if you’re not in top shape. There’s always a walking trail along with the running route, and the hares take great care to plan trails so that the two intersect at end at similar times. Because of this, the walking route is usually shorter than the running route, or the running route is more complicated and keeps the hashers running around in circles longer.
Hashing in DC has been around for decades. Though it has roots in Kuala Lumpur, the American version was pioneered by William “Tumbling Bill” Panton, a hashing legend who founded the DC Hash House Harriers in 1972 and still participates today in his 80s.
There are hashes most days of the year. (Here's a full schedule.) If you’re interested in trying out hashing, get in touch one of the dozen-plus clubs scattered throughout the city. Make sure to wear sneakers and bring a change of clothes (and shoes), as well as a little cash.
Howard has been hashing since 2001. He first learned about hashing while stationed abroad with the Navy, but he didn’t end up experiencing his first race until he had moved back to the States and was looking for a 5k run while training for the Marine Corps Marathon.
What he got instead was 14 years worth of friendships and rollicking memories. His favorite? A hash through Great Falls during a “driving rain” that ended with a splash in one of his fellow runner’s swimming pools.
One local runner who asked to be identified by her hashing name, Little Spermaid, said one of the most appealing aspects of hashing is the ability to assume a new identity. What you do and where you live doesn’t matter, what matters is who you are.
"Hashing is kind of democratic,” Little Spermaid says. “You could be running next to a guy who just bought a one million dollar apartment in Arlington and you're a student, and you'll be side by side sharing a beer. It's just a great way to go outside your usual social circle." Like many DC newcomers, she moved to the area and joined a social kickball league to make friends. A teammate introduced her to hashing, and she described her initial hash as magical. “I tried it and immediately fell in love. It was just this moment of 'where have you people been all my life.' We're just strangely dependable, or dependably strange.”
"They don't call the treadmill the 'dread-mill' for nothing," says Lisa Reichmann, a running coach for Run Farther & Faster.
With the warmer weather, people are breaking a monotonous routine of running on a conveyor belt and making the switch to outdoor running. However, this transition can be discouraging for some. When you first start running outside, your pace can slow down, you may get tired faster, and you can push yourself too hard, ending up with an injury.
To make the switch easier, Run Farther & Faster coaches Reichmann and Julie Sapper tell runners to run for time, not miles.
“Do no more than 20 to 40 minutes on your first few outings,” Sapper says. “If you’re not used to outdoor running, start off slow with a running and walking combination and gradually build up from there.”
Reichmann emphasizes running at a conversational pace: “If you can’t talk comfortably and get out of breath when you’re running, you’re going too fast.”
To moderate your pace, Reichmann and Sapper suggest running with a friend. “Not only will you be able to tell when you’re going too fast,” Sapper says, “but you won’t be hyper-focused on the time or how many miles you’re running.”
Reichmann and Sapper also listed off five ways outdoor running is a healthier alternative to running on a treadmill:
Running outside is more realistic.
Races tend to be outdoors, regardless of the weather, so Reichmann and Sapper believe that outdoor running can better prepare you for unexpected obstacles.
“If you’re not used to running up hills, rain, or even a trail,” Sapper says, “then it can make races a lot harder on you. Running on a treadmill can’t prepare you for those race day surprises.”
Braving the elements can boost your confidence.
“Unless it’s not safe outside—like it’s icy, too cold, or it’s dark—then I actually encourage people to get outside in less-than-ideal weather,” Rechimann says.
Going for a run outside when it’s raining or beginning to flurry may not seem like fun, but it can actually boost your morale.
“If I know I can run through the rain or snow, then know I can do anything I set my mind to,” Sapper explains. “It’s the no excuse sort of attitude than can keep you going.”
You’ll get a healthy dose of vitamin D.
If you don’t get around 15 minutes of sun exposure each day, chances are, you might not be getting enough vitamin D. Even on a cloudy day, you can boost your vitamin D levels with a 15-minute run or walk outside.
It’s a good way to get some strength training in.
“You can get a great leg and core workout from running outside,” Reichmann says. “Because a treadmill is a flat surface, you don’t give your muscles a variety of ways to work. But when you’re running on different inclines, your legs and core need to work harder to keep your balance and pace.”
If you’re stuck inside and have to run on the treadmill, Reichmann and Sapper suggest gradually changing the incline settings on your treadmill. “If you run at a zero percent incline all the time, increase it to one percent for a few minutes, and then bring it back down,” Sapper says. “Sometimes people think they can do a high incline on the treadmill, but you can hurt yourself if you don’t take it slow.”
Outdoor running is prime thinking time.
“Running is very peaceful for me,” Sapper says, who began running during law school as a way to relieve stress. “I can think and relax. I tend to come up with some of my best ideas when I’m out for a run.”
Celebrity fitness trainer Obi Obadike, who is also a cohost on Lifestyle Magazine's health show and contributes workout videos to OWNZONES, shares 5 tips to begin living a healthier lifestyle and lose weight in the process.
Get a physical.
Obadike recommends getting a full physical and blood work every year. “A lot of people are afraid of going to the doctor because they don’t want to hear bad news,” Obadike says. “You need to know where you’re starting at in order to make any improvements.” Checking your cholesterol, vitamin levels, and blood pressure are all important in order to figure out a fitness routine that will work for you.
“The recommended minimum amount of cardio is 25 minutes, three times a week,” Obadike says. “But start off slow.”
According to the American Heart Association, those 25 minutes of cardio need to be "vigorous." But if you’re not used to exercising regularly, walking is a good way to get started. From there, Obadike says you can build up to a walking-jogging combo, and then begin a running routine (30 minutes a day for three to five days). Eventually, you can work up to 45 minutes of cardio, three to five times a week, to see faster results.
If you're short on time, Obadike recommends doing other cardiovascular exercises that get your heart rate up, such as jumping jacks or jumping rope.
Begin strength training.
“All you really need for strength training is your body,” Obadike says. “There’s no need for machines or weights—there’s really no need to even leave your home.” Obadike recommends a mash-up of basic exercises to work all of your muscles: sit-ups, push-ups, planks, lunges, and squats, 20 of each, and repeat two to three times for two to three days a week.
Follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to your diet.
“Eat well 80 percent of the time, and then splurge 20 percent of the time,” Obadike says. “This will keep you from binge-eating unhealthy foods, because you’re treating yourself now and then.”
If you’re a smoker—quit.
“These fitness routines can be much more difficult if you’re smoking,” Obadike says, “so I ask my clients to cut back or quit smoking entirely.”
Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of lung diseases and respiratory complications within one to two years, according to the American Lung Association, and after two weeks, the lungs begin to repair themselves.
"A healthy heart and cardiovascular system will make exercising and following a routine much easier," Obadike says. "Exercise can help you get through the stress of quitting and help you make healthier choices."
5-Minute Home Workout
It can have serious ill effects on your health, and yet almost all of us have succumbed to it: poor posture.
Bad posture can lead to a higher risk of arthritis, faster joint deterioration, and decreased lung capacity. Those who sit at a desk and on a computer all day—a.k.a. most of us—are particularly at risk, since your head is tilted, you’re leaning over, and you’re sitting, which strains your head and back muscles. Bad posture can also impair your sleeping patterns, your ability to exercise healthily, and your mood.
“Everything comes from your spinal column,” says Sheila Amon, a chiropractor in Kensington who has more than 29 years of experience. “You get fatigued because your muscles are holding you up in the wrong posture.”
Here are Amon’s tips for keeping your posture aligned throughout the workday—even while at a desk.
1. Replace your office chair with an exercise ball.
It might sound a little silly, but it works wonders, says Amon. Sitting on a ball requires a tight core and straight posture. If using one, be sure to avoid sitting “Buddha style” with your thighs spread out. Instead, make sure both knees are directly in front of you, and keep the ball from moving by tightening your stomach muscles.
2. Perform a few simple exercises at your desk throughout the day.
Amon recommends doing the “chicken wing,” which involves putting your arms parallel to the floor and doing a rowing movement while squeezing your shoulder blades. “The turkey” is another suggested exercise—jut your head forward, keeping your jaw parallel to the floor, and then bring your head back. This exercise “re-educates and strengthens the neck and upper back muscles to proper posture,” Amon explains. A third exercise to open up your chest cavity is to bring your arms behind your back, grab one wrist, squeeze your shoulder blades, and then move your arms away from your back.
3. Make sure your desk is set up properly.
Place your monitor at eye level to align your head with your shoulders, and adjust your chin so it’s parallel to the floor. Keep your knees at hip height and a 90-degree angle to your thighs, and both your feet on the ground. Place your mouse close to you to avoid problems in your shoulders, wrist, and neck. If you use a standing desk, elevate one foot about six inches, using a phone book or a box, to take pressure off your lower back.
4. Get up every 45 to 60 minutes.
Whether it’s to step outside, walk down to a colleague’s office, or make a quick trip to the water fountain, it’s a good idea to take a break from sitting. Keep Amon’s analogy in mind: “The body is 80 percent water. Moving water is healthy water; we’re not stagnant water with mosquitos running all over it.”
5. Practice confidence.
When we feel good about ourselves, we open up our chests, sit up straighter, and breathe more deeply, Amon says. To keep these practices top of mind, she recommends using an egg timer, an alarm, or sticky notes. She also suggests putting reminders in other places, such as on the refrigerator door and TV remote, to prompt yourself to sit up, even after you’ve clocked out for the day.
With winter temperatures officially upon us, it’s important to take all the necessary steps to ensure your outdoor workout isn’t doing more harm than good. We talked with a few local running coaches for tips to running in the frigid weather.
Wear the right ensemble
The base to any winter workout is clothing. Most runners know that layering is important, but it is possible to overdo it. According to George Buckheit of Capital Area Runners, “The best approach is to accept the fact that you’re going to be cold for the first five to ten minutes of your run and to make sure you’re wearing enough layers to keep you warm mid-run, but not so many that you’re drowning in sweat.” Most technical running gear proves to be the perfect option as it is designed to wick away sweat and keep you warm without being bulky.
Terry Weir, head cross-country and track coach at George Washington University, says long sleeves, a jacket, and leggings may be obvious, but it’s just as important to cover your feet with the right gear. “Compression socks are big these days and are great for the winter,” he says. American University’s head track and cross country coach, Matt Centrowitz, suggests mittens rather than gloves, as they allow your fingers to stay warmer.
Rethink your warmup
When approaching a new routine for the winter, the biggest change to keep in mind is the warmup. Spending a few extra minutes on it will help prepare your muscles for the cold and get your respiratory system acclimated to the cold air. Weir suggests a routine that keeps you constantly moving: “You don’t want to stretch cold muscles and should keep moving the whole time. Try faster repeats just to get warmed up.” If you prefer to warm up indoors, jumping jacks or a jump-rope routine can also help prepare your muscles before heading out.
Plan your route
Thankfully, the District doesn’t get hit too hard with frigid sub-zero temperatures—but the wind can still make running outside uncomfortable. Centrowitz suggests never starting with the wind at your back on an out-and-back run. Instead, go into the wind to start so that it’s at your back on the return, when you’re more fatigued.
When it comes to top routes, every coach we asked suggested running along the covered portion of K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway. There will never be snow, and the length makes for good speed workouts. Rock Creek Park is another top spot. “Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park is closed to traffic on the weekends, and the roadway is very well-maintained and kept clear of snow and ice, so it’s a good go-to location for weekend runs in the winter,” says Buckheit. The trees also serve as a good barrier to the wind. Weir suggests trying out West Potomac Park and Hains Point; he says it’s usually one of the first areas to get plowed and doesn’t have much traffic.
Bring a friend
Staying motivated is one of the toughest obstacles when confronting winter running. Grab a workout buddy who can help keep you accountable for a regular schedule (and vice versa).
Elevate Interval Fitness
2428 14th St., NW; 202-509-9995
Workout: High-intensity interval training, with a heart monitor broadcasting your vital stats on the gym’s multiple screens.
Work ethic: Data-driven geeks and competitive Hill types who need to win even at the gym.
How they talk: “Numbers provide a great way to quantify perceived effort.”
Cost: $25 a class or $159 for unlimited monthly membership.
1630 14th St., NW; 646-480-2459
Workout: This newbie’s name comes from Miami’s area code, and the 55-minute rhythmic cardio workout is guided by a live deejay.
Work ethic: Those who want to rock out like it’s still New Year’s Eve—in South Beach.
How they talk: “A sexy underground ‘rave-meets-workout.’ ”
Cost: $24 a class.
2301 M St., NW; 202-659-7685
Workout: Part gym, part inspirational cult, this New York sensation opened in August, mixing candlelit 45-minute spin classes, club-remix soundtracks, and the premise that DC and Gotham are equally hip.
Work ethic: True believers crushing those who just want an excuse to sport Lululemon gear
How they talk: “Strength that lasts beyond the studio walls.”
Cost: $30 a class.
Six DC locations; vidafitness.com
Workout: Your choice of cutting-edge equipment and a bevy of trainers and nutritionists—as if the fitness gods who fit in here need them.
Work ethic: Hunger Games capital for those who’ve made Washington the fittest city in the US.
How they talk: “At the end of the day, Vida is all about you.”
Cost: $99 a month.
Rockville Sport & Health at Pike & Rose
11594 Old Georgetown Rd., Rockville (scheduled to open in January)
Workout: Spin, yoga, cardio machines, Pilates—you name it—in a McMansion setting, but the key amenity is a Kidz Klub.
Work ethic: For Bethesda moms who need a place to wear yoga pants guilt-free.
How they talk: “We’re not just a club, we’re a family.”
Cost: $99 a month.
You’ve passed the finish line, retrieved your medal, and gathered congratulations from family and friends. The marathon is over, and so is your training—right?
Not so much. The days and weeks following your 26.2-mile run are some of the most crucial to prevent injury and guarantee a quick recovery. We asked Jason Fitzgerald, a USA Track & Field-certified coach and author of 101 Simple Ways to be a Better Runner, for some tips on how to treat your body post-race—all of which can also help after shorter runs.
1) Start recovery even before the starting gun
“The marathon is a very stressful event,” says Fitzgerald, “so recovery needs to begin well before you start running.” The best way to prevent injury post-race, he says, is to be prepared beforehand by focusing on training that builds in strength exercises—like the medicine ball workout found below—which will limit soreness after the event.
2) Take some time off
“People need to understand how marathon running affects your body,” said Fitzgerald. “Beyond physical damage, you’ve fatigued your central nervous system and caused hormonal damage. It can take three to four weeks to completely recover.”
He recommends taking 5 to 14 days off from running following a marathon, depending on the intensity of the athlete and level of soreness or pain. Try to do 15 to 30 minutes of zero-impact cross-training the day after the race to work on moving tired muscles. This includes swimming, cycling, pool running, or a very easy walk.
Following three to five days of rest, Fitzgerald says runners can start incorporating dynamic exercises and core exercises into their workouts, like the ITS rehab routine listed below.
3) Eat and sleep smart
To jump-start recovery, Fitzgerald recommends that racers focus on carbs to restock glycogen in the muscles minutes after they’re finished running, and drink plenty of water in the days following the race.
However tempting it may be, Fitzgerald says to skip the massage offered at post-race festivities to avoid even more trauma to exhausted muscles.
“The number one way to recover is sleep,” he says. He recommends racers schedule an extra hour of sleep per day the week after to help calm the nervous system and aid recovery.
4) Practice a structured approach to post-race running
Once the body has had ample amount of time to recover and rebuild, Fitzgerald cautions athletes to take it easy when they start running again. The first run back should be a light “diagnostic run”—two to four miles of slow jogging to assess how the body is feeling. He also advises that runners leave a two-month gap between their marathon and the next race, which shouldn’t be a very long distance.
ITB Rehab Routine: These exercises, focused on hip and glute strength, are good for post-marathon recovery.
Tomahawk Medicine Ball Workout: This all-body workout works core strength, glutes, and shoulders. Fitzgerald recommends runners reserve this workout for before the marathon to increase strength and prevent injury.
Humility is necessary in life—sometimes you need to be knocked off your high horse to regain it. In my case, the high horse was a stationary bike at Bethesda’s PureRyde studio, and while I never actually went flying off, I certainly got my fill of humble pie as I realized I’m not nearly as coordinated as I thought.
PureRyde opened in Bethesda in May, the only East Coast branch of the boutique fitness studio that offers +Pilates classes and cycling on RealRyder bikes, which have movable frames that simulate riding outdoors. They’re known for making difficult indoor-cycling classes even harder by engaging more of the body, and burn 20 percent more calories than riding a standard stationary bike.
PureRyde co-owners Laura Cronberger and Kelle Ilitch started their studio because they wanted to give patrons one-on-one attention and a community feeling with their workouts. While PureRyde is not the only area studio with RealRyder bikes—a technology employed by studios such as Vida, Pulse, and Level Fitness, the Courts at Huntington Station, and Launch Sports Performance—its unique fusion of +Pilates and cycling provides a targeted total-body workout.
As I walked into the 1,900-square-foot studio (the smallest of their four locations) in Bethesda’s Bradley Shopping Center, the camaraderie was palpable. The space—a small lobby area with a few shelves of workout gear for sale, two bathrooms, a little locker nook, the +Pilates studio with nine Allegro 2 Reformers, and the cycling room with 18 RealRyders—made the studio feel welcoming, rather than cold and intimidating as some studios can.
The 50-minute class started with a helpful introduction by instructor Katherine Driggs on the speeds we would be using (baseline, medium, hard, sprint—never slow); then the lights dimmed, and we were off. Driggs led us on a series of jumping, turning, and speed resistance, using the turning flexibility of the RealRyders and moving her legs at the speed of a sewing machine, all while keeping up a steady stream of commentary somehow unhindered by any panting. The music was loud, but not in a claustrophobic, head-pounding way, and Driggs’s precise use of the beat was extremely helpful. Though she certainly helped keep us motivated, encouraging us to keep pushing and maintain technique, she employed a certain element of fun and support as opposed to a “no pain, no gain” philosophy.
Near the end of class, Driggs dismounted and handed us each a set of weights (two pounds for the normal, four for the brave), dancing along as she led us through a series of overhead presses and bicep curls.
Then we had one song to do whatever we needed to prepare ourselves for the last push, which involved half the class sprinting for 30 seconds while the other half of the class pedaled standing out of the saddle, and switching off for the entirety of Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” I certainly didn’t find love, but I did find a last little push in my hopelessly sweat-drenched body. After my cooling eucalyptus towel—a nice touch—I left the studio feeling light and good about myself. That is, until I hit the Bethesda Metro stairs and my legs started quivering.
PureRyde Bethesda. 6910 Arlington Rd., Bethesda; 240-743-4049. Cycling classes range from $18 to $22 per class, and +Pilates from $28 to $35 per class, depending on purchased package. First time ryder specials: two +Pilates classes or 3 cycling classes for $45. Towels and shoes are complimentary.
Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 11, and there are plenty of great brunches to be had (both healthy and indulgent). But that’s not the only way to celebrate—lots of local organizations and fitness studios are hosting special events throughout the weekend, from 5K runs through Rock Creek Park to mother/daughter yoga workshops. Read on for some fun and active options.
Take your mom to POP—Pilates on the Patio—on Saturday, May 10, at 10 AM on the rooftop of Roofers Union. Enjoy 45 minutes of an all-level Pilates class followed by a glass of sparkling wine. Mothers will get a sweet treat, as well. $24.
Celebrate your mom at the Defender of Play 5K walk/run in Rock Creek Park on Saturday, May 10, at 8 AM. Come dressed up as your favorite superhero/heroine, or create your own costume and enjoy activities such as a Zumba warmup and a Mother’s Day card-making station. Best costume wins a prize. $25.
Soccer moms should head to the GW Women’s Soccer Mother’s Day Fundraising Clinic on Saturday, May 10, starting at 10 AM. The soccer staff hosts three sessions, divided by children’s age and starting at $40, that include soccer challenges and games for mother/child bonding. All participants receive a T-shirt.
Grab the whole family for the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure on Saturday, May 10. You can walk or run the 5K beginning and ending at the Washington Monument, and children ages 5 to 12 can participate in the Kids for the Cure event. Pre-race activities begin at 6:30. Prices start at $40 for adults and $25 for the kids’ event.
Tranquil Space in Dupont Circle is offering a mom-and-daughter partner yoga workshop that focuses on yoga postures and breathing on Saturday, May 10, from 2:30 to 4:30. Participants also make a mala bracelet with vegan faux pearls. $40 for mom and daughter, plus $10 for materials.
The annual Mother’s Day ride hosted by CycloFemme will be held on Sunday, May 11. The free ride starts and ends at the US Capitol at 11 AM and welcomes beginner and intermediate bikers for the 15-mile route.
Challenge your mom to the Mother’s Day 5K Dash through Rock Creek Park on Sunday, May 11, at 9 AM. The race begins with a steep hill down Kennedy Street and continues on Beach Drive through Rock Creek Park. $40.
A Mother’s Day 8K benefiting the Ethiopians Athletics Federation will be held on Sunday, May 11, starting at 9 AM at Fletcher’s Cove. The race is sponsored by the Georgetown Running Company; all participants receive a colorful T-shirt, and top finishers win cash prizes and awards. $30 to $40.
Enjoy a Mother’s Day hike and wine tour with the REI Outdoor School on Sunday, May 11, from 10 to 3. You’ll hike along Bull Run through Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, and follow it up with a tour of Paradise Spring Winery. Snacks and wine will be served. $100.
Take your mom to stock up on cute workout clothes at Lululemon in Logan Circle. In partnership with UrbanStems, the store gives flowers to all mothers who shop there on Mother’s Day.
For mothers with young children, Barre3 in Georgetown is offering free child care from 9 to 1 on Saturday, May 10, and 9 to 11:30 on Sunday, May 11.