EMPOWERING THE DIVER WITHIN

Amber Arbucci made a wild transition from model to photographer.

As a fashion model, Amber Arbucci’s life was high-flying: “My day-to-day life in modeling was very much so flying from city to city, country to country, not sleeping very much—sometimes I would go for days without sleep, just job to job, and I definitely didn’t find the time to be in nature,” she says. 

But even as the subject of the photos, Arbucci was observing, paying attention, learning the trade so that she could one day pursue a lifelong goal. “I always had it in my mind that I wanted to be with animals and photograph them,” she says. “I had these dreams of being around animals in their environments—swimming with sharks and crocodiles, living among elephants.” 

While most people would dip their toes, Arbucci—literally—went for it. “I never really built up my experience, I didn’t start from some easy dive and work my way up,” she recalls. “I actually started with the hardest and riskiest dive which was the tiger, bull, and great white sharks. I don’t really do anything any other way, I kind of dive right into whatever it is I want to do.” 

The physical demands of photographing underwater cannot be understated. Arbucci had to learn scuba diving to build up her cardio and lung capacity to the point at which she could manage her breath and buoyancy, all while handling the technicalities of the camera and lining up her shots. 

To Arbucci, it’s a form of zen, art-meets-meditation. “Underwater is a very comfortable place for me, it’s very quiet,” she says. “I’m not connected to a phone or to a laptop, I’m just at peace with myself and with these animals. I sort of feel like one of them in a sense! And it might sound crazy but I sort of talk to them with my energy. I’m very happy and I’m very, very at peace with everything.” 

Arbucci is now working on her first documentary, a natural evolution from her work in still photography. Her work is shown in different galleries and exhibitions, and she hopes to show in a museum someday. “There’s a saying I live by and it’s not to live in life, but to really live life—to taste it, breathe it, smell it, do it,” she says. “When you find something you want to do but you’re not taking the next step to do it, I’d say with all my heart, try your best to do it. What you get out of that experience is absolutely beautiful.”


3 Ways to Overcome Fear

Fear is not the enemy. Succumbing to it is.

Fear is something that makes us feel alive. “A certain amount of fear can be motivating,” says Matt Traube, a psychotherapist in Santa Barbara, California, who specializes in treating anxiety disorders. “When we avoid fears, it validates the idea that there’s something to be afraid of, so facing them can be incredibly empowering.”


Even a fear of something as objectively scary as diving into shark-infested waters is a little irrational when you consider that shark attacks are incredibly rare, Traube points out. “Fear is subjective most of the time,” Traube says. “It’s mental—you’re not actually dying,” although it might feel like it when you’re terrified.


Incremental exposure to anxiety-provoking things helps you see that you can face fears and survive, Traube says. Here are the three don’ts of overcoming your fear.


1

Don't dive right in

Mastering what scares you is not a time to “just do it.” Confronting your fear entirely and right away could be traumatizing. Instead, face your fears in very small doses, and step one is talking about your experience and how it makes you feel, Traube says. Imagining it, your blood pressure likely rises and your heart rate increases. “Sit with those uncomfortable physical feelings that make you feel triggered and vulnerable for a bit,” he advises. “As you slowly build up exposure, you start to see that it’s actually not that bad. You’ve addressed the fear and survived it.”


For example, to prepare to dive in a shark’s part of the sea, study the fish while on dry land, Traube says. Or if you’re afflicted with the more common (and cumbersome) fear of flying, try visiting an airport and observe your feelings, or take a shorter flight in preparation for an overseas work trip to know what to expect and neutralize your anxieties.

2

Don't forget to breathe

It might sound obvious, but calming breath work can soothe you, physically and mentally, Traube says.


“When we’re afraid, our pulse quickens and our breath shortens,” Traube explains. Slowing our breathing undermines the fight or flight response to the brain, thus calming the nervous system. Close your eyes and visualize the path of breath going in and out of your mouth and lungs. It helps refocus your mind away from the scary, snowballing thoughts. As your breathing becomes controlled, imagine yourself in a place of healing, somewhere that feels comfortable for you.


Repeating mantras is a similar meditative technique that can replace or supplement breath work. (It might take some trial and error to find the methods that work best to calm you.)

3

Don’t keep it bottled up

Journal your thoughts and feelings as you take on your fears. Document the strides you made as well as times when distorted thinking has held you back. What triggered you and how did you feel in the moment? In that writing session (or later), look back at the event and ask yourself whether the anxiety was necessary. “The exercise helps to untwist the thinking,” Traube says. “Logging your thoughts is a great way to evaluate your thought process regarding fears. People are often shocked when they realize, ‘I was afraid of this, but now I realize there was no reason to be.’”


The Diver’s Dry-Land Workout

To be stronger in the water, you have to train on terra firma.

Shark diving takes more than a healthy amount of (liquid) courage—it requires a strong and fit body, too. Athletes who perform in the water, be it swimmers, divers, or triathletes, need to tailor their training regimen to the demands of their sport, choosing the right moves for the most-used muscle groups. 

“While heavy-weight strength training can improve a swimmer’s power and speed, lightweight training that incorporates bands and bodywork is best for endurance and injury prevention,” explains Jason Schneider, complex group fitness manager and triathlon coach at Equinox Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles, who is also a competitive triathlete and accomplished ultramarathoner. “In general, these athletes should use bands and light weights for their shoulders and triceps, heavy weighted pulls and pull-ups for their lats and back, squats and lunges for their legs, glutes and hips, and planks and twists for a strong core.” 

And while laps upon laps will keep those lungs burning, “aerobic capacity training will improve breathing strength, as well,” Schneider says. 

Depending on your training regimen, this type of dry-land strength workout can be added in two to three times a week. Here, some of Schneider’s favorite moves, and the water-specific payoff:
PreviousNext

1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.

Gear: The Diver's Kit

A diving pro picks the best items for your first outing.

With a sexy sport like diving, outfitting oneself in gear with every bell and whistle is tempting. But according to Jake Bulman, a Trimix instructor at the Utila Diver Center in Honduras, when it comes to the right diving equipment, the minimalist approach proves best. 

Here are the essentials: 

The Mask

“This is the mask. It’s durable and doesn't obstruct the diver’s peripherals—all without sacrificing comfort.” 


The Fins

“There are a few key things you want in a fin: lightweight yet sturdy, and a lip on the sides. These meet the criteria and are perfect for recreational entry-level diving.” 


The Buoyancy Control Device

“This is what you want in a BCD. It’s well-built, comfortable and simple. There are many flashy new styles out there, which can be tempting for new divers, but the Axiom i3 will do everything you need, without being unnecessarily complicated.”


The Gadget

“Brand new to the market, it shows your stats and has five dive modes (air, nitrox, gauge, free and off). It runs on a conservative algorithm, meaning divers can follow their computer knowing there is an added safety margin.”



5 Top Diving Schools

Suit up, dive in and get ready to explore the magic of the breathtaking deep sea.

Spectacular diving destinations span the globe, but if you’re just starting out with your diving education, some of the very best spots to get scuba certified are right here in the States. According to Seth Orenstein, a PADI Master Instructor at Adventure Scuba NY, you want to choose a place with a good student-to-instructor ratio. “A three-to-one ratio is ideal because it means each student gets a proper amount of attention from the instructor,” he says. These places are equipped with solid pros who will help you with anything and everything from ear-clearing issues to the panic associated with breathing underwater. “It’s the most common challenge all new divers face,” Orenstein says. 

Here’s where you can learn from the best:

New York City: Adventure Scuba NY

Yes, you can get a diving certification in Manhattan—sort of. At Adventure Scuba, a 5-star Professional Associate of Diving Instructors (PADI) development center, the training is in two parts: knowledge development/pool training and open water dives. After finishing part one, you’ll get a letter of referral to complete the open water portion in the area or on a trip to a dive destination. Note: You can choose between private weeknight lessons (one-on-one with an instructor), weekend classes (book early—they can only handle eight students per weekend) or semiprivate classes. 

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California: Dive to Survive Scuba

Monterey, California, has long been a popular diving destination for experts and novices alike. The waters are swimming with stunning kelp forests, jellyfish and loads of stunning marine mammals. The dive masters at Dive to Survive Scuba will lead you through on-site pool sessions and four open ocean water dives. Plus, the school provides all the equipment you need to get started.


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Florida: Pura Vida Divers

The Sunshine State has pretty much everything a diver could ask for, with cave diving, shipwrecks, natural dive sites full of tropical marine life; plus, it’s particularly perfect for new divers. Pura Vida Divers divides its PADI Open Water Diver Course into three parts: academics, confined water training (pool) and open water training dives. Best of all, they plan the courses around your schedule.

 

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Utah: A1 Scuba and Travel Aquatics Center

Points for originality: A1 Scuba & Travel runs open water dive certification programs in a 10,000-year-old, 65-foot-deep crater in the Heber Valley of Utah. The Homestead Crater is the only warm water scuba diving destination in the continental U.S. (It stays between 90 and 96 degrees year-round). Their program is a two-day experience with four dives. 


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Hawaii: Maui Diving Scuba Center

With some of the most unique marine creatures on the earth and its ever-changing underwater landscape, Hawaii was pretty much made for divers. And in as little as three days, you can get certified by the award-winning instructors at Maui Diving Scuba Center and be off exploring some of Maui’s most popular dives, including the Black Rock or the reefs along the Ka’anapali coast.

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Empowering the Yogi Within

A yoga practice became actor Eric Balfour’s artistic inspiration.

Ten years ago, when a friend invited actor Eric Balfour to join him at a yoga class, his response was, one could say, less than enthusiastic. “I said, ‘That sounds horrible’,” Balfour recalls. “The idea of sitting with my legs crossed for an hour? No. Not doing that. My friend said, I don’t think you quite know what yoga is.” 

Balfour, a California native who grew up surfing, skating and doing Muay Thai, scoffed at the idea that yoga could be a physical challenge. “I went into the class and the next thing I knew, I was sweating profusely,” he says. “My arms were on fire, my thighs were burning. I was blown away by how hard the class was. It was doing things to my muscles that other workouts had not done.” 

Once the instructor started playing Patti Smith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Balfour was a convert. “Eventually, through the connection of breath and movement there was this meditation element, which I never really understood before. I never really understood that by being so focused on balance and posture, there was actually an ability to let go of everything else.” 

A morning yoga practice is now a staple in Balfour’s day, who credits his transformation not only to making him physically stronger, but more serene. “I’ve found that I’m more productive, I’m calmer, I’m more capable of doing things that I want to do when I start my day with a yoga practice,” he says. 

And it’s inspired him creatively: Balfour and his wife, Erin, a clothing designer, launched Electric & Rose, a line of yoga apparel and activewear inspired by their beloved Venice Beach neighborhood. “The love that I found for yoga and the passion that I already had for surfing and being outdoors and finding adventure led me and my wife Erin to create Electric & Rose—it was one evolution leading to the next,” he says. “All of this came about because of that one day I walked into a yoga class.”

3 Tips for Choosing a Workout Partner

It’s not as simple as swiping right.

There are certain activities—running, yoga, biking among them—that are individual sports with a social component. Training and practicing on your own is a skill, but oftentimes the presence of someone else can be the x-factor to getting you to the next level. In fact, studies have shown that working out with a buddy (even a virtual one) can motivate people to perform better during aerobic exercise sessions and resistance training challenges (like holding a plank).


The person you choose matters, lest you end up with a partner who distracts you from your goals or leaves you feeling discouraged. Here’s how to choose the perfect workout partner for maximum motivation:

1

Go with a good—not a new—friend

“It should be somebody you enjoy talking with, not a new acquaintance where you’ll have to worry about forced conversation,” says sports psychologist Michael Sachs, Ph.D.a professor at Temple University and certified consultant for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. While the social element of having a partner is key, you don’t want it to completely take over and replace the fitness element. Handstands are challenging enough; you don’t need to be stressing about what to say next, too.

2

Ensure your workout goals are in sync

If you’re a runner looking to increase mileage, someone who’s looking to do the same is going to serve you much better than a friend who’s only interested in sprints. Or if you want to lift heavy at the gym and your buddy is much more into high intensity interval sessions, you’ll run into problems. Make sure you ask a potential partner what they’re looking to achieve before setting a workout date.

3

Choose someone who will challenge (but not discourage) you

Your partner’s fitness level in relation to yours is important. Sachs says it makes the most sense to choose someone who’s close to the same level or just slightly more in shape than you. So if her yoga practice has her working on Visvamitrasana (twisting and soaring Visvamitra’s pose) and you’re still working through one-legged king pigeon pose, something might be off. 


Perfect Your Sun Salutation

Learn how to properly execute the building block of any yoga practice.

If you’ve ever attended a yoga class, you’ve performed a Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskara. This calming sequence consists of 12 poses that flow seamlessly together and teach you to connect your breath with your movements. “Learning to link these two together increases your lung capacity and benefits your heart, mind and nervous system. You’re also simultaneously strengthening almost every muscle in your body, improving your mobility and developing a strong foundation for your future yoga practice,” says Laura Myren, a yoga, cycling and group fitness instructor at Equinox in Los Angeles. Even doing just a few Sun Salutations every morning will serve as a solid reset, a gentle, moving meditation that eases your mind and body into the day. “Simply go slow, focus on your breath and pay attention to your form,” she says. Perform as many sets as you wish, whenever you want.

PreviousNext

1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.

Gear: The Yogi’s Kit

Stock up on these essentials before your first downward dog.

“The beautiful thing about yoga is you don't need that much gear,” says Los Angeles-based Equinox yoga instructor Laura Myren. She suggests investing in a few good pieces instead of buying things that won’t last. “Otherwise, it will distract you because you're uncomfortable,” she says. Here are her favorite top-notch essentials:

The Mat

“It's thick enough to support, doesn't slip, and comes with a lifetime guarantee.”  


The Block

“Most studios and gyms provide these, but if you’re practicing at home foam blocks are essential for a little support.”


The Bolster

"Most beginners I work with are tight. So, when working on seated postures, you put your butt on the bolster, which allows a much more accessible position for the hips and hamstrings.”


The Towel

"Even if it’s not hot yoga, you’ll be surprised at how much you sweat in a class. You don't want to be worried about slipping around on your mat.”


My Yoga Playlist: Eric Balfour

The actor shares the music that inspires his practice.

While the soundtrack in a typical yoga class contains nondescript, soothing music, actor Eric Balfour opts to practice with more well known hits playing in the background. From newer tracks from acts like Tame Impala to classic jams by A Tribe Called Quest and Bob Marley, try this playlist during your next flow:

The Passenger

Iggy Pop

Sun is Shining

Bob Marley and The Wailers

Straight to Hell

The Clash

Angel Duster

Run the Jewels

Emit Remmus

Red Hot Chili Peppers

My True Name

Bloc Party

The Less I Know The Better

Tame Impala

Check The Rhime

A Tribe Called Quest

EMPOWERING THE BOXER WITHIN

How David Byttow got his body—and mind—in fighting shape.

Almost all of David Byttow’s friends have found his newfound dedication to boxing to be pretty cool—with the noted exception of his mother. “She’s worried about my face,” Byttow says, with a laugh. 

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur was working a crazy schedule of late nights, not taking care of his health, all behaviors that he says are typical of the engineering and coding world. “I was finding it hard to create balance,” he recalls. When he decided it was time to find something that would help him get in shape, body and mind, as well as blow off some steam, boxing seemed to be the obvious choice. “It helped that my favorite author, Ernest Hemingway, was a boxer, too,” he says. “That was definitely something to draw upon.” 

The structure his newfound habit introduced into his life bore dividends in all aspects, not only making him healthier physically, but more effective and efficient at work. He now starts his days with sessions at his local boxing gym, going rounds with sparring partners or completing workout sessions with a personal trainer. Sometimes he finishes the day with a second session; he’s adopted a healthy diet too, all part of a holistic regimen that keeps him ready to face opponents in the ring. 

“Boxing has made me a much more even-keeled and balanced person,” Byttow says, accrediting the hobby with putting his work days into finer focus. “It’s not unlike running your own company—with boxing, the more you put in, the more you get out. And if you can stand in the ring and take hits round after round, that sets you up for the things in your life that seem difficult but are just temporary.”


3 Ways to Achieve a Work-Life-Workout Balance

One of the most powerful tools in your training arsenal is a pencil and paper.

High-performers—those who take seriously and commit to every part of their lives—are faced with a zero-sum game as it relates to their time. “There are a limited number of hours in a day, so saying yes to something means saying no to something else,” says Christopher Friesen, Ph.D., an Ontario-based sports psychologist.


On top of an intense work and fulfilling personal life, add a fitness or training goal, and the seams on an already packed schedule risk splitting. But it can be done with some planning, reflection and focus. Here’s how:





1

Rise and visualize your empowering day...

For most, willpower is strongest in the morning, Friesen says. Before getting out of bed, reflect for a few minutes on the long-term fitness goals and visualize how you’ll feel when you accomplish them. Early morning workouts are great for the time-strapped, so the timing provides good synergy (reflection → action). Set reminders on your phone so your goals are on your screen after you wake, Friesen says.

2

...as well as the tough stuff

It sounds dour, but visualizing challenges and how you’ll overcome them takes away the element of surprise. It’s based on research that led to the creation of WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) by New York University psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen, Ph.D. If you get a text from your boss mid-run, you’ll wait to reply. Or if a late-breaking meeting cuts into a 45-minute speedwork session, you’ll still go, even if it’s cut in half.

3

Here’s the pencil and paper part

For the non-professional athlete, fitness achievements aren’t the only things you’re working toward (work and personal life get high billing). It can be easy to let the concerns of one seep into time spent on another. Combat this by making an effort to switch gears, Friesen says. Before leaving work, write down what you completed and didn’t, making you less apt to linger. If something didn’t go quite right, write down what you learned from the experience and how you can do better next time. For instance, if weightlifting led to major soreness, write down your intention to roll and recover fully next time. “By writing it down, you unload it,” Friesen says. And tell your support system where you stand on things, so they can relish your accomplishments with you and help you through the tough parts. By making them part of the progress and reminding them why your goal is so important, you won't risk alienating them when you're absent during those long training periods. 

How to Throw The Perfect Punch

A pro boxer breaks down the three components of a picturesque cross.

A boxing regimen will build you an amazing body, thanks to the unique combination of cardio, flexibility, mobility and strength work. But without proper technique, not only will your workout suffer, you could potentially take one on the chin. 

We asked Michael Marshall, a San Francisco-based Equinox group fitness instructor and 2014 California Golden Gloves Super Heavyweight Champion, to deconstruct and demonstrate the perfect punch, which happens to be a cross. “The jab is a faster punch that’s used to set up the power punch,” he explains. “But the cross is the knock-out punch.” 

The cross is a total-body movement, says Marshall, recruiting the glutes, hips, quads, hamstrings, abs, obliques, triceps and more. Follow Marshall’s tips for mastering the three components of this move.



Gear: The Boxer's Kit

Before you step into the ring, stock up on this gear.

Toronto-based Equinox trainer Nate Bower is a man of many disciplines, but his background is in competitive boxing. “Boxing is a high-octane, sexy sport,” he says, stressing how flashy the game has become. “Thus, it requires reliable, good-looking gear.” Here are his favorite essentials to get you started: 

The Gloves

“I love Cleto Reyes, a company out of Mexico that’s been in the boxing game for a long time. These 12-ounce gloves are the gold standard.”



The Bag

“There are a lot of heavy bags to choose from, including portable, uppercut, double end and more. My personal favorite—and the ones we use at Equinox Toronto—are these leather, 150-pound heavy bags from Ringside. There are not portable, meaning you need to hang them from the ceiling, but it’s worth the installation.”


The Headgear

“Sparring is the most intimidating, and exhausting part of the boxing game. That’s why it’s important to be well protected. This headgear is light, comfortable, has a well built chin strap, and gives you a nice window to see out of properly.”  


The Shoes

“When choosing boxing boots, it comes down to comfort and looks. The KO Legend 16.1 Boot is light, comfortable and adds sleek style to your boxing look.”  

The Modern Boxer’s Protein Shake

The age of downing three raw eggs in the morning is, mercifully, behind us.

Though the average exerciser can often get the recommended amount of protein through a healthy diet alone, “for competitive and endurance athletes, and those looking to gain muscle mass and strength, protein post-workout is paramount,” says Lauren Antonucci, R.D., a New York City-based sports nutritionist. “Studies consistently show that taking in about 20 grams of protein post-workout facilitates better muscle recovery and muscle growth.” Making protein a priority also helps to replenish muscle glycogen after a particularly rigorous workout. If you’re wary of the big tubs of lab-made powder, try this modern athlete’s protein shake, from chef Eden Grinshpan

Ingredients
1½ cups 2-percent, soy or hemp milk
1 frozen banana
2 frozen medjool dates
2 Tbsp raw tahini
1 Tbsp (or more) hemp protein powder
1 Tbsp ground flax seed
½ tsp cinnamon

Directions
In a blender or food processor, blend together milk, banana, dates, tahini, protein powder, flax seed and cinnamon until fully combined, adding milk if necessary for consistency. Enjoy immediately. 

Empowering the Ultrarunner Within

Maura Burk is on a journey to conquer the 100-mile distance.

It takes a special kind of drive to sign up for a 100-mile trail race that takes you up and over mountains, across streams, through both snowy conditions and stifling humidity. A race that requires, at a minimum, a year of intense preparation, running full marathons on weekends and squeezing in stair runs before a full day of work, and track sessions after the sun sets. 
  

Maura Burk was a busy professional working in private equity when she realized, despite having a job that both challenged and fulfilled her, it was time for her to attempt something that seemed impossible. That’s when she signed up for the Leadville Trail 100, a historic ultramarathon across the Colorado Rockies that many attempt but few complete. “You can’t achieve anything great unless you try something that’s out of your reach and I’ve come to realize that there’s no failure in trying,” Burk says. “So I looked at the opportunity to run this race and said, 'If I’m going to try something and fail at it, I’m going to try this,'” Burk says. 

And she did fail, on her first attempt. At the halfway point of the race—that’s 50 miles, if you’re counting—Burk missed a critical time cut-off and was unable to continue. “About 700 people start this race and about 30 percent finish,” Burk says. “Of the people who finish the race in my age group who are also women, it’s only about 2 percent of finishers. The odds are not favorable, but, then again, 2 percent is higher than zero percent.” 

After dusting herself off, Burk vowed to return to Leadville, citing the countless friends and family members who supported her as inspiration to try again—during her first attempt, she wore bracelets bearing their names, dedicating a mile to each person. She has trained to compete in this year’s August 20 running. “If you wait for the moment when you feel like it, and things are perfect, and you’re not stressed, and you have the time and energy, that moment is never going to come,” Burk says. “There’s a healthy chance I won’t finish again this year. But I have many more cracks at this apple.”


3 Steps to Creating a Power Phrase

The right one can act like a sports drink for your mind.

At a certain point in an epic run, either your body or your brain (or both) will turn on you, begging you to stop. One effective way to keep your limbs moving is to repeat a mantra, also known as a power phrase. 

“Mantras keep you focused and specifically motivate you to remember the reason you laced up your shoes,” says psychologist Jeff Brown, Ph.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School and author of The Runner’s Brain. “Essentially, a runner is associating a mantra with body movement, which creates a positive mental outcome that’s both helpful and practical.”


Here, the three steps to owning a power phrase:




1

Make it personal

Remind yourself of the reason you’re running, especially if it’s for a profound personal reason or a worthy cause. “The motivation you have for the cause you support, or the person you’re dedicating the run to, can be incredibly powerful,” Brown explains.

2

Make it melodic

With a mantra, being a wordsmith matters, Brown says. It’s not enough just to make it meaningful; it should also be short, snappy and easy to say. “Work on it until it’s smooth, until it rolls off your tongue,” he advises. This will help especially if you’re a runner that uses a mantra for rhythm, since you’ll want to be able to create a smooth cadence for a steady pace. For instance, decorated professional marathoner Desiree Linden would repeat to herself, “Calm, calm, calm; relax, relax, relax.”

3

Make it known

Once you’ve decided on a mantra, Brown suggests you really own it so that it becomes a part of who you are as an athlete. “Write it down, post it, share it,” he suggests. But he also cautions against overusing it during your actual runs. “It should be a secret weapon that’s pulled out only when you need it,” he says.


This is Your Body on an Ultra

It’s like a regular marathon, but many times more ruthless.

Ultramarathoners are extremely disciplined endurance daredevils who typically run 50 or even 100+ miles in races that can span more than 30 hours. For them, 26.2 miles equals a “fun run,” says John P. Higgins, M.D., a sports cardiologist at McGovern Medical School at UT Health in Houston and director of exercise physiology at the Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute.


As these mega-races gain in popularity, the science examining their physical effects is beginning to catch up. Here’s some of what we know so far:


There are a few ways your BRAIN can be affected during a race. Dehydration can reduce the amount of blood in your body, which means that blood flow to your brain (as well as your muscles) can be reduced. Additionally, the brain needs a certain amount of blood glucose to function properly and if that level dips (which is prone to happening during an ultra), it can impair performance, explains Martin Gibala, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario. This, compounded by sleep deprivation, can mean dizziness or lightheadedness. Additionally, some athletes experience hallucinations on the scale of unicorns or other animals along the trail, aid stations that aren’t really there and even beds around the course, says Sean Meissner, a 15-year ultra veteran and coach at Sharman Ultra.  


Research finds that long distance runners are prone to RESPIRATORY problems; 13 percent reported exercise-induced asthma (and a fourth had chronic hay fever, which affects nasal passages). So many hours spent outdoors, often in dry environments with lots of dust, can trigger asthmatic symptoms, Meissner says. And running at altitude reduces the amount of available oxygen; consider that at the Leadville Trail 100, the low point is at 9,200 feet and the high point is 12,424 feet, which is the cruising altitude of a small plane.


As an ultra runner trains, her HEART—a muscle, remember—grows bigger and boasts larger vessels, enabling it to squeeze out more blood per minute than other runners, Higgins says. This translates into a lower heart rate. Expertly conditioned runners will enjoy a BPM of between 100 to 120 throughout the course of the race, Higgins adds. However, if you don’t compensate for fluid loss through sweat and exertion (and it can be hard during these long races), the volume of blood in your body decreases, which slows the amount of blood that can be ejected with each beat, Gibala says. “So someone might be running at the same pace over time but the body has to work harder if it gets dehydrated,” he says.


Your BODY TEMPERATURE might rise a degree or two while running an ultra, Higgins says, but changes are more the result of body composition, environment and clothing. “If runners aren’t wearing moisture-wicking material, body temperature tends to rise at a faster rate,” Gibala says. “Metabolic interactions create heat, but the extent to which it goes up depends on the fitness of the athlete; generally, the more fit you are, the greater your heat dissipation capacity.” Conversely, your heart rate can slow while running in the cold and/or freezing rain, so you may need to speed up or wear insulating layers to maintain a safe temperature.


Runners’ BONES suffer a great deal of weight-bearing stress and the load can outpace their repair and subsequent strengthening, which is why shin splints often turn into fractures down the road. Those, along with swollen feet, are common among ultrarunners, German researchers found.


During an ultra, the DIGESTIVE SYSTEM is going to be both your best friend or worst enemy. Not eating during the race isn’t an option, but finding a balance is tough: Too little fuel and you’ll hit a wall, while too much can cause gastrointestinal distress. During an ultra, runners often eat real food (chips, cookies, soup, sandwiches, burritos, in addition to gels and sports drinks), which means that a proportion of their blood is directed to the gut for digestion. “If runners miscalculate and consume too much fuel and it sits in the stomach, more blood will be diverted from your muscles to your gut in order for your body to process and handle it,” Gibala says. “That might create some issues with cramping, and it can also mean you have to slow down as your body sends more blood to the gut than it would like to.”


Because ultra runners need to go more slowly than “regular” marathoners, it’s easier to keep oxygen pumping from the blood into MUSCLES, Meissner says. “The bigger issue is fatigue, because you’re out there a lot longer than a regular marathon,” he says. “Muscles get tired, sore and weak, so you need to eat and drink more—and be stubborn enough to keep going.”

Gear: The Ultrarunner’s Kit

These items will help you survive those long runs.

If you’re thinking of taking on ultrarunning, then you need to be ultra-prepared. We asked professional ultrarunner Gina Lucrezi (who routinely runs 50 milers—on mountainous trails) to share her gear essentials.  

The Buff

“Every ultrarunner should have this in his or her  running kit. There are multiple uses for a buff, and to name a few: as a hair holder which protects you from UV rays and keeps your head and ears warm during winter; on your wrist as a sweat wiper; or around your ankle for the unexpected ankle roll. They weigh next to nothing, and can be a life-saver.”


The Hydration Vest

“Hydration is a must. The Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta is a female-specific vest (but they carry men’s vests too). When you’re up in the mountains or out on a multi-hour run, you will be so happy to have everything you need—and carrying it all comfortably.” 




The Nutrition

“Don't ever leave home for a run without some form of nutrition. I'm a fan of the single-serve Trail Butter packets because they are tiny  and pack a punch: fats, carbs, and protein in one little pouch.” 

The Shoes

"I love to soon-to-be released Vasque Trailbender. I've been testing it and providing feedback in order to create perfect trail shoe for the ‘every’ runner, and found that this shoe offers great proprioception along with enough cushion so that your foot isn't sore after tackling technical trails. The grip is sticky, and sole platform is super stable.”


Long Runs, Beautiful Views

Six U.S. spots where ultra runs feel more inspiring.

Physically our bodies show little discrimination between running on a treadmill versus running on land, but psychologically? That’s uncharted territory. “Aesthetics taken in through the eyes helps fuel ‘the soul’ of the body to keep going,” says Andrew Kastor, head coach for the Asics Mammoth Track Club. For example, his recent trip to Chamonix, France, for the Beat The Sun relay race was a call out to the senses. The 80.8 race starts in cool 60-degree weather at the base of the snow-covered French Alps and traces the renowned trail of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc race held every August. Appreciating where we are—from the air we breathe to the subtleties of our surroundings—helps encourage what Kastor believes is “a deep down DNA for humans to connect with nature.”


Here are six beautiful destinations that will inspire you to run those extra miles:

Big Sur, California

Is West Coast the best coast? It is from Carmel to Morro Bay, The Pacific Coast Highway that stretches 147 miles. The Big Sur Stretch is especially good for long runs, extending 90 miles and capturing breathtaking views of the California water and wildlife.


Canandaigua Lake, New York

Part of the Finger Lakes, Canandaigua literally means “the chosen spot.” The foliage-lined loop around the lake is primarily flat, rolling roads spanning 50 miles. It’s the perfect distance for the Can Lake 50, a 50-mile race held here each October.


Banks-Vernonia State Trail, Oregon

This 21-mile trail is embedded in the scenic mountains of Oregon, parallel to an abandoned railroad bed. An out-and-back run will carry you through 700-foot long, 80-foot high railroad trestles and more than a dozen bridges.


Oahu Perimeter, Hawaii

The circumference of Ohau spans 134 miles. A great starting point is Kapi’olani Park, located just east of Waikiki. The perimeter run is best suited for seasoned endurance runners with changing island terrain and sections of unpaved roads. The route will take you through the North Shore beaches and up to Kaena Point, on the westernmost top of the island.


Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

The Tahoe Rim Trail path winds around Lake Tahoe and through the scenic back woods where you’ll encounter a series of lakes, wildflower meadows and valleys. The 165-mile course extends through California and Nevada, and is comprised of 12 connecting sections. And access points to the Tahoe Rim are available from any point around the lake.


Rim Rock Drive, Colorado

Many runners are awestruck by the beauty that ensues on this 23-mile scenic road that features views of ancient red rock canyons, pinyon pine trees and a run-in with the occasional desert sheep. Serpents Trail is one of the most popular routes that veer off Rim Rock Drive and provides peeks of the Colorado National Monument and the Grand Valley below.


THE EMPOWER HOUR: EQUINOX HIGHLAND PARK, Dallas, TX

This summer, we partnered with Infiniti and GQ Magazine to bring our Empowering the Athlete Within series to life. At eight different Equinox locations, we were joined by top pro athletes, the brand-new Q60 and you. Here are the highlights.


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1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.

THE EMPOWER HOUR: EQUINOX RIVER OAKS, HOUSTON TX

This summer, we partnered with Infiniti and GQ Magazine to bring our Empowering the Athlete Within series to life. At eight different Equinox locations, we were joined by top pro athletes, the brand-new Q60 and you. Here are the highlights.


PreviousNext

1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.

THE EMPOWER HOUR: EQUINOX South Bay, Hawthorne, CA

This summer, we partnered with Infiniti and GQ Magazine to bring our Empowering the Athlete Within series to life. At eight different Equinox locations, we were joined by top pro athletes, the brand-new Q60 and you. Here are the highlights.


PreviousNext

1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.

THE EMPOWER HOUR: EQUINOX BRICKELL, MIAMI FLORIDA

This summer, we partnered with Infiniti and GQ Magazine to bring our Empowering the Athlete Within series to life. At eight different Equinox locations, we were joined by top pro athletes, the brand-new Q60 and you. Here are the highlights.


PreviousNext

1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.

THE EMPOWER HOUR: EQUINOX WESTLAKE, Thousand Oaks, CA

This summer, we partnered with Infiniti and GQ Magazine to bring our Empowering the Athlete Within series to life. At eight different Equinox locations, we were joined by top pro athletes, the brand-new Q60 and you. Here are the highlights.


PreviousNext

1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.

THE EMPOWER HOUR: EQUINOX HIGHLAND PARK, Chicago, IL

This summer, we partnered with Infiniti and GQ Magazine to bring our Empowering the Athlete Within series to life. At eight different Equinox locations, we were joined by top pro athletes, the brand-new Q60 and you. Here are the highlights.


PreviousNext

1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.

THE EMPOWER HOUR: EQUINOX SPORTS CLUB, Washington, DC

This summer, we partnered with Infiniti and GQ Magazine to bring our Empowering the Athlete Within series to life. At eight different Equinox locations, we were joined by top pro athletes, the brand-new Q60 and you. Here are the highlights.


PreviousNext

1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.

THE EMPOWER HOUR: EQUINOX San Mateo, San Francisco, CA

This summer, we partnered with Infiniti and GQ Magazine to bring our Empowering the Athlete Within series to life. At eight different Equinox locations, we were joined by top pro athletes, the brand-new Q60 and you. Here are the highlights.


PreviousNext

1/9 Scuba Dive in Cebu, Phillipines

White sand beaches and turquoise waters can be found all across the globe. But sports enthusiasts who double as nature nerds should spend their time beneath the seas of the Phillipines’ premier tourist destination: Cebu (where, arguably white sand beaches are their whitest). The island is rich with diving adventures (think: getting up close and personal with sharks and turtles, exploring wrecks, and testing the waters come nightfall). Book Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, a tropical waterfront retreat, which is a stone’s throw from Scotty’s Dive Center, and you can tailor excursions to your ability level. Or dive the northern tip at Bantayan and the Malapascua islands.