Thursday, July 3, 2014

Don't Let Summer Fun Pass You By. 5 Simple Ways to Enjoy My Favorite Season Right Now!

5 Simple Ways to Start Enjoying the Summer Right Now

Don’t let the summer slip away before you’ve gotten a chance to enjoy it! No one needs more stress in their lives, especially in the summer time. Summer should be about BBQ’s and block parties. It’s about hearing the joy of children laughing throughout the neighborhood way past their bedtime. And it’s about friendship, friends finally coming together after declaring all winter long that, “We have to have you over for dinner.” It is time to make it happen. Don’t wait. As my dad always says, “Life’s a party, only most damn fools don’t know they’re invited.”
So here are 5 simple ways to enjoy the summer before it’s gone:

Host a Spontaneous Get-Together.

If the idea of having a big party is too daunting, stress no more. This is simply a spontaneous get-together. That means, ask people to stop by after dinner for a drink. The kids are fed so no need to worry about corralling them for food. Serve them popsicles and after that, let them run. For the adults, encourage a BYOB and have extras on-hand and on ice. Set out a few appetizers or maybe casually mention, “bring whatever’s in your fridge or nothing at all.” Grab some cheese and crackers, chips and salsa and let the party begin.
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Go on a Picnic.

My kids LIVE for this. They think it is such a special night when we eat out on a blanket. And it’s easy! In our town, we have SO many outdoor concerts … so check out yours. It doesn’t have to be fancy at all. If there isn’t an outdoor music option, find a park or just your own backyard. I usually pack a roasted chicken, some potato salad/pasta salad, cheese and crackers and a roller cooler with beverages. When the meal is done and you have a chance to lay back on the blanket and see the first star of the night, you know that your summer has officially arrived.
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Take a Bike Ride into Town.

Nothing says summertime like hopping on your bike.  We do this, but not often enough. You could cruise into town for dinner or just for some dessert. And if “town” is too far, make it an evening adventure around the neighborhood. With the streets lit up by the setting sun until 9pm, don’t waste the daylight at your computer or in front of the TV, now is the time. The wind on your face actually makes you feel like a kid again, it is the fountain of youth!

Take the Party to the Park.

If the thought of hosting a party at your house gives you the hives, take the party elsewhere. Nobody needs to break the bank and rent out a restaurant. Go to a park or a lake … use the resources at your fingertips. My friends do this often. Meet us at the “Leech Lake” (that’s our nickname for it). It is a full BYO everything situation. And, you would be surprised how many people want to get out, drink a cold one, grill up something yummy, and enjoy the summer together. The kids run around and the adults get to catch up on life. But be prepared to play. This is the time to bust out the baseball bats and gloves, frisbees, footballs, cornholes and anything else that has been collecting dust in your garage! You will leave that party feeling like the entire summer was a success. So, choose a spot, send the email, and enjoy.
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Spend a Day at the Pool

Nothing says “summertime,” to this California girl, like the swimming pool! We used to have many a party around the awesome chlorinated body of water. I remember my parents grabbing the family meal at KFC and literally pulling me out of the water to come eat. It was summer perfection. Sadly these days we don’t have a ton of pools in Park City, Utah but we have enough — and unfortunately a lot of pools don’t allow food on the pool deck anymore. But you can still have fun by bringing whatever toys you have or buying some cheap ones at the Dollar Store! The only other items you need are sunblock, a swim suit, towel and your best ever cannonball!
We have all been there.  August rolls around and you wake up one morning wondering where the summer went. It flew by with SO much left to do. Now is the time. Enjoy your family, your time and the extra sunlight now. I am writing this as much for me as for everyone else. My philosophy? Once you write it down you are more likely to do it. So, here’s hoping!

Let's Get Running! Here are 8 of My Favorite US Races

8 of My Favorite Races to Run Around the U.S.

I’ve been running for 22 years. I truly love it. The entire experience … the scenery, the community, the sweat … brings me back for more. And although nothing can compare to competing in the Olympic Games, many of my dry-land finish-line moments have come pretty damn close. Here are my top 8 running races I LOVE the most.

1. The NYC Marathon

The city, the crowd, the neighborhoods, and the finish! I lived in NYC for eight years, and I love going back. There is an electricity that you feel every day in the city but on marathon day, it is AWESOME. And it certainly fuels you while you are running. When it comes to the finish, nothing will force you to dig deeper than a true New Yorker yelling for you to RUNNNNN!
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2. The Boston Marathon

Because it’s Boston and you qualified. It is a bucket list race for sure. To experience the love and support from everyone along the 26.2 course from Hopkinton to Boyston St. is truly remarkable and one of the kind. You are literally running just outside their front door, and they love and support you for it. Many open up their homes at the start for bathroom breaks, sunscreen, water, snacks, or just a needed good luck hug.
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3. The Runner’s World Festival (the hat trick)

I must admit, I had my doubts I could finish all three races last year but I did, and I loved it. In two days, you will run a 5K, a 10K, and a half marathon. (The first two happening on the first day). It is a true celebration of running and the running community all in the perfectly hilly town of Bethlehem, PA. Kids have races, dogs have races, there is celebrating and dancing and yoga … basically everything you could want in a wonderfully competitive yet relaxed environment. And now, there is another Festival in Boston at “Heartbreak Hill” in June.

4. The Color Run

Because it’s beautiful. Beautiful in color and spirit. My kids are still talking about the “paint run” as they call it. And, their shoes continue to remind them of that awesome day with the never ending tie-dye that imprints their socks. This un-timed, non-competitive 5K is tagged “The Happiest 5K on the Planet” and, so far, I agree. The goal is to fill you blank canvas, you body, with splashes and splashes of powdered color until the big finish when every 15 minutes they have a giant color release by the packed crowds near the stage. It’s a 5K event. Tips though, if you have color treated hair (especially blond) wear a hat as a precaution. Plan to throw away most of your clothes … washing does work but only for another color run. Find one of the many blowers they have at the finish to blow the paint off of you before getting in your car. Close your mouth through the color shoots and let your inner child shine bright! Kids are in love with this race so make it for the whole family.
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5. Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers is the oldest consecutively run foot race in the world.” Everyone should experience this 102-year-old race at least once. I used to do this with my dad and his friends for his gym, Kangaroo Courts. We would dress up and run the 12 kilometers with a guy in a Kangaroo outift. I have seen runners dressed up as almost everything from babies and super heroes to Presidents and streakers. Yes, when you are in San Francisco, you must embrace the awesome variety of the city … and that is what makes me LOVE this race. It also brings me back home. My heart really does love all the Bay Area and SF in particular.
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6. Running with Ed

This race is near and dear to my heart, because it is our local relay race and public school education fundraiser. The race was started by a Park City fella who loves running, has kids in public school, and runs a business in town. Running With Ed is now in it’s 5th year. Last year, we raised over $220,000 for the Park City Education Foundation, which helps with the cost of physical fitness, science, and art programs in public schools. (Learn more here.) This race is a mini-Ragnar that cruises 38 miles through Park City’s streets and trails linking all the public schools. The longest leg is 6.8 miles and toughest takes you from the base all the way to the top of Olympic Park!

7. Disney Kids!

The options are endless when it comes to the RunDisney family of events. My son and I did the Disney Epcot 5K, and then the next day I ran the Disney Princess Half. All the park to yourself and your fellow runners?! I think that is almost everyone’s childhood dream! There are a couple great things that stand out with these races. First, they always start early to help beat the heat and to finish before the park opens. Secondly, you truly get to see the parks differently. Imagine, no crowds, no lines, just the awesome sound of pounding feet and some cheering as you run by. Plus, there is so much to look at during the run that your attention is easily diverted from the pain, distance, heat, or whatever ailment could be overtaking your mind. I even got a picture with a few characters just before the finish of my half! And because my race started so early, I finished and was back at the hotel before my son woke up. We then enjoyed a day at the park! Fun for everyone.

8. Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in San Francisco

October in San Francisco people … that should be enough to sell you on this race. But just in case you are still on the fence, how bout a Tiffany’s necklace as your finishers medal awarded to you by a firefighter dressed in a tuxedo. I am not making this up, ladies! This is your reality if you are one of the 25,000 women and 1,000 men to make it into this fabulous race! I ran this in 2012 one day after my 40th birthday. And according to 1984 Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit-Samuelson, I need to get my butt back! You shouldn’t mess with your heroes!

Which one of these races would you want to race? Tell me in the comments!

Wanna Be a Futbol Pro? Here are 6 Tips from Brandi Chastain!

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The 2014 World Cup is upon us. Soccer has been a love of mine for a long time. When I was younger, I wanted to play but just never did. I would watch my brother, cheer him on, and then go jump in the pool. Gradually, my brother moved on from soccer, and both our lives were surrounded by chlorine. And that was it for my soccer fandom until the 1999 World Cup happened. When Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey and skidded to her knees producing the “sports bra” moment, all I could think was “YES!” It’s still one of my favorite moments in sports, and I’m not the only one. Never before had I seen the country rally for a World Cup, and that kind of restarted my fandom. But beyond my knowledge of my brother’s 8-year-old soccer team, I don’t really know how to be a “futbol fan.” So I figured this World Cup, which begins today, June 12th, is the perfect time to change that, so I went straight to the expert. Here’s how you can be a futbol fan from a woman who knows World Cup first hand, two-time World Cup and Olympic Champion Brandi Chastain.

World Cup 101 from Brandi Chastain: 6 Tips To Make You a Futbol Pro

1. Know your lingo.

It’s not mandatory to refer to soccer as “futbol,” but you need to know when to throw in different jargon. Brandi says, “When I am talking to my international friends I use futbol, match and pitch, but if I am with Americans, I still call it soccer, field and game. You have to know whom you are with and that can help bridge any gap immediately.”

2. Don’t keep your eye on the ball.

Although it is what most people focus on, it’s not always about watching the ball. “I realize the field is really big so I get that it is difficult,” says Chastain. “If you are going to watch the ball, try to watch their feet and focus on their balance and agility as it is amazing. If you can broaden your scope, watch the other players because you will then get a better sense of the flow and rhythm of the game.  You can tell the style of a team right away when you are watching all the other players. Sometimes you are limited because of the angle of the TV shot, but when the camera gives you a wide angle, widen your perspective.”

3. Watch for Dynamic Duos.

It’s not just about one player in soccer, but about the team and playmaking is key. “Look for players who connect together, like D-Wade and Lebron or Pippen and MJ,” said Chastain. “These duos have an unspoken chemistry that you can actually see. The game then becomes more exciting and electric, as well as easier to follow and understand. For example, don’t miss the USA’s Michael Bradley (center mid) and Clint Dempsey (goal scorer).”

4. Understand the format.

Unlike the best of seven series format of the NBA Finals or the single elimination format of the NCAA Basketball tournament, the World Cup format is completely different. Chastain explains, “This is just like when you were a kid, a round robin, and then you get seeded from there. You play everyone in your first group of 4, and then depending on how many points you scored, the top 2 move on to the next round.” Don’t worry, even Brandi had to double-check how the next round works. After the first round, all you really need to know is that it’s single elimination. In Brandi’s terms: “You win, you move on. You lose, you play golf.”

5. Cheer like it’s a profession.

“It’s hard to explain to my American friends what it’s like to be overseas in a stadium during a World Cup game,” said Chastain. “They (the fans) have an incredible spirit for their team. Singing songs. Historical rivalry. A city is connected to a team, and a country is connected to their National Team.” When asked about her favorite cheers, I assumed Brandi would talk about another country but she said, “The U.S. has been using a cheer that a die-hard group of USA soccer fans called, “The Outlaws” use. It’s basically a chant with these words, “I believe that we will win!” When it comes to general cheering during the game, the most well known one is “Goal” but with an overly extended “OALLLLL” and applauding overall good play. “You will feel it coming. It’s like a big tsunami wave of a cheer. Get swept up in it and show your emotion on either side of the outcome. It is part of what makes soccer so great!”  

6. Realize the roster makeup is different.

“You play for your home country during World Cup and Olympic competition, but you can play club for another country’s club league,” describes Chastain. “The majority of the players (minus Spain and Germany) don’t play regularly for club teams in the country where they were born! So there are two sets of fans, some cheering for players ten months a year and others cheering for them just during the World Cup or other international tournaments.” Lets use Cristiano Ronaldo for an example: he is from Portugal, but he is a star player for Real Madrid in Spain, where he is beloved like no other. But in the World Cup, he could play against his adoring Spanish fans. He could win the Cup for Portugal and then go back to Spain for his pro season.”

** Bonus Tip: Learn these names.

A couple of players are so awesome they only need one name. Neymar, the big player from his home country of Brazil; Ronaldo, loved by Spain during the pro-schedule, by Portugal during World Cup, and by most women all year long; Bernard, the Brazilian winger; and Koke, midfielder from Spain.
The LOVE and passion that soccer fans around the world have for their sport is off the charts.  Brandi tried to describe it, saying “Their lives are directly affected by the futbol play on the field, and the outcome can be either devastating or incredibly uplifting! Take a team like Sunderland (from Britain). It’s a working class, blue-collar city, and when they won several games in the Premiere league, it was like everyone won the lottery because they didn’t move down to the first division. Survival at the top level for the smaller named clubs is an every week battle, one that their cities cheer for from the depths of their soul. The difference between safety and relegation is quite literally tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars. So each game matters.”
When I asked Brandi how she feels when people remark about that amazing moment back in 1999 when the weight of the championship was on her shoulders, she said, “ I love talking about our team and our run through the World Cup, but it was so much more because it was a life-long journey to get there.” I can only imagine that the magnitude of that moment must have been incredible. There really is no other true international professional competition like the World Cup. The Olympic Games are obviously my favorite, but the passion behind this one single sport for one single trophy is truly remarkable. One month. One planet. One team. One trophy.
Hop onto the World Cup train my friends, it’s going to be a spectacular ride!
Click here for a schedule of World Cup Matches
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*For the 2014 World Cup, Brandi will be working with Johnson & Johnson, which is the first healthcare sponsor of the World Cup.

7 Tips for Successfully Surviving a Weekend Swim Meet

7 Tips for Successfully Surviving a Weekend Swim Meet

Mom and I big trophy age 11I have spent my fair share of weekends at swim meets, perched poolside from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. in the sun or huddled under a tree to keep from getting heat stroke. But that really isn’t impressive, as I was a kid and it was what I wanted to do. What is impressive is that my parents did the exact same thing, except they weren’t competing or cooling off in the water. They just spent countless weekends sitting on harder than hard benches or timing countless heats all summer long to support me. With summer upon us, lots of parents (including me) will be attending their kids swim meets, so I thought I’d share some advice for the newbie swim parent on how to successfully survive a weekend swim meet. Welcome to my guide to surviving adventures in chlorine-land!

1. Pack multiple towels.

I suggest you pack at least four towels — a towel for each race and one fresh one for the end. There’s nothing worse than taking a shower only to have a chlorine-soaked towel dry you off. I actually forgot this tip until my daughter had her first swim meet last year. I only packed one towel, and after three races, it was drenched. Which is a big problem in Utah in the middle of winter. I turned into her portable heater … and together we were a soggy snuggle bunch.

2. Bring a tent or canopy if outdoors.

It is a good way to get your kid to relax, to keep track of them, and to provide much needed relief from the sun. Swim meets are FUN, and they should always be about camaraderie. The sun (not even counting the swimming) can drain the energy tank of even a 6-year-old. Shade can make all the difference.

3. Pack CARDS!

The kids are off their feet, and their brains are at work! Cards are such an easy, fabulous art form. I played cards at every meet. I would play hearts or spades at the end of the meet or in between sessions, and we would play speed or spit to get us going before the finals.

4. Remember, “You don’t have enough time.”

When you are trying to decide when to go to the bathroom, run out to your car, take a “quick” call, or anything else right before you child is about to swim, just don’t. Remember I said this and you’ll thank me. There is a ton of waiting around at swim meets, so don’t wait until it’s close to your kids’ race to do something. Races are short. I’ve seen this happen WAY too many times — a parent waits and waits only to take two minutes to do something else, and they miss the race. That was my dad. He would go outside the pool area to smoke a cigarette, and inevitably he would come back in just as we were touching the wall. All that waiting to miss the race?! NO WAY, I won’t let that happen to you.☺

5. Have a COOLER.

A stocked cooler is a MUST! Pack your lunches and snacks. (When I say lunches, I really mean around four for each kid.) Swimming is some calorie burning business, and although the hamburgers they whip up at 10:30 a.m. smell delicious, it isn’t always the best thing for a kid about ready to swim the 100 butterfly. Pack your cooler full of fruit, string cheese, PB&J’s, chocolate milk, reusable water bottles, yogurt pops, nuts, dried fruit, etc. Your kids will snack their way through the meet, and then after the prelims will want their lunch. Snacks at a meet need to get into their systems quickly and sustain them for a period of time, so pack accordingly. You, swim parent, are in charge of their energy.

6. Wear a LARGE hat.

Kids don’t run around worrying about the sun, but parents do and should. Get yourself that awesome safari-style full coverage hat. When you are at a swim meet, you generally arrive around 7 a.m. for warm ups, and at that time of morning, you aren’t thinking about sun exposure. But before you know it, you’ll have been roped into timing heats or something else, and it will be noon and you’ll realize you never had time to put on sunblock. Getting yourself the hat will keep at least your face, head, and maybe part of your shoulders protected. **And as an extra tip, when you do use sunblock … DON’T forget the tops of your feet!**

7. Double-check your kids’ bags.

Swimsuits are way too important, necessary, and expensive to NOT double-check that they made it into your kiddos swim bag. So before you leave any session of the meet, do a quick whip through to make sure you have their cap, goggles, and suit. The C.G.S. check! Believe me, I have shown up for finals without my suit, and it isn’t pretty. The panic, I mean.☺
There are 1,000 more things to remember as a newbie swim parent, but these seven will get you started. Watch your kids, cheer for them loudly, and love them unconditionally. As my mom always said, “You can’t be hard on your kids when you can’t even do a 200 butterfly yourself.” Enjoy, my fellow swim parents!