Say No to a “Summer Body,” and Yes to a “Life Body”

Jessica Perez

Summer is just around the corner. A time of sunny days, ocean fun, and barbecues. And a time when women are inundated with tips on how to get a “summer body”. Whether it appears as headlines on magazine covers, posts on your FaceBook feed, or even used as a motivator by your fitness instructor, the message that you should be working to attain some kind of aesthetic goal for your body is all around. But should you pay attention to any of this? Or, should you instead be committed and focused all year long on developing a “life body”?

Getting a summer body implies reaching an aesthetic ideal which few, if any, will ever achieve. It predisposes you to aim for perfection, a notoriously impossible goal. As Brene Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. writes in The Gifts of Imperfection (2010), “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best…Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect”. Aiming to get a summer body is therefore setting you up for failure.

The summer body goal is also a short-term and fast-fix approach. When all you want is to look good on the beach, there isn’t much motivation to stick to healthy behaviors once the beach season is over. Overindulging in fried foods and sweets becomes easy in the middle of winter when the need to look good in a bathing suit is still months away. It can also lead to quick fixes such as drastic calorie cutting or fad diets to get the desired results in time for summer. As stated on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website (n.d), “If you lose weight quickly, you’ll lose muscle, bone and water. You also will be more likely to regain the pounds quickly afterwards.” Again, searching for a beach body only sets you up to fail.

One great antidote to the tyranny of the summer body is running. As runners of all levels know, running improves mental and physical well being. Not much boosts mood and life outlook better then a good run. It is a revelation to start seeing exercise and healthier eating not as a way to try to force your body into some kind of mold, but because it makes you feel good. Lunges and eating better become less about punishment and more about getting up the hills faster and conquering more miles. As a runner, you start to look at the positive instead of the negative; the things you have to gain in life instead of those you have to lose. Of course you will have moments of self-criticism, but focusing instead on how much further or faster you can run – versus how much weight you want to lose – helps you get back on a more positive track.

Working for a life body takes you to that sweet spot where you focus on where you are and not on where you “should” be. It shows you that there is not some perfect body type you need to attain, but that your strength and confidence is what makes you interesting. A life body attitude gives you the chance to take care of yourself in a positive and loving way. It gives you time to listen and learn from your body because you aren’t trying to twist it into some particular shape, but instead trying to get it to perform at its best and healthiest. When you fall off the wagon and eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s you’ll feel bad, and your run the next day will certainly suffer, but you’ll be more inclined to learn from that feeling instead of just beating yourself up. You’ll get right back out there for another run.

Aiming for a life body makes you healthier, fitter, stronger, more positive, and more empowered. You focus on making choices that increase what you can do and what you can accomplish; why would you want to trade that for a swimsuit body outlook? The next time you are in a class and the fitness instructor tells you to work hard for a summer body, how will you respond? How about a, “No thank you, I am working hard for my life body. I have trails to run.”


How to Take the Perfect Trail Selfie

Amanda Morgan

So you want to take a trail selfie. There are many things to consider when taking a trail selfie and we will discuss them here.

What is a trail selfie you ask? Well, a trail selfie is only the best kind of selfie you can take! Imagine yourself pounding dirt with your WOOT friends and you come across a perfect section of trail; the sunlight is shining through the trees and the colors seem extra vibrant in the Okinawa heat. You think to yourself, “This calls for a selfie!”

Things to consider while capturing the optimal trail selfie:

  • With any type of selfie you want to have good lighting. On the trails it’s pretty easy to get good lighting with the sun. Just make sure that you are facing the sun! It’s as easy as that. If the sun is behind you, your selfie will be dark.
  • Angles: Trail selfies with angles from above or at head level are best. Shooting from a low angle is unflattering – that is the opposite of what we want!
  • Selfie-sticks: These glorious contraptions are amazing for trail selfies. It acts as an extension of your arm, so you are able to get more background into your selfie. This is a great tool to use with landscapes and sunrise/sunset selfies. The selfie-stick is also great for group selfies. If you don’t have a selfie-stick, that’s ok. You’ll just need to appoint the WOOT-er in your group with the longest arms to be the one to hold your camera.
  • Foot placement: Where you put your feet isn’t necessarily what you think of when taking a selfie. Although, you should be thinking about where you are standing; you want to make sure you are not in the way of other WOOTers. Step to the side of the trail or wait until everyone in your group has passed you to snap that selfie.

Things not to do when taking a trail selfie:

  • Use filters. While filters on Instagram are great for food or pictures of your dog, they are unnecessary for trail selfies. Trails are beautiful on their own and all that picture needs is your smiling face to make it perfect. If you take the tips on lighting and angles into consideration, filters will be irrelevant.
  • Pick your nose. Just don’t do it. It’s not lady like. Or hey, do it, whatever, I’m not the boss of you.
  • Photograph restricted areas. We live on a gorgeous island and the majority of where you’re running is absolutely ok to take trail selfies on. There are some areas though, that are on the restricted list for those who are SOFA-Status. It is best to steer clear of these areas, but if you accidently find yourself in the thick of a restricted area, refrain from taking photos – selfies or otherwise.

So there you have it, the WOOT’s guide to taking trail selfies. Take these tips and run with them. The options are endless! The more you selfie, the better you will get and then Kim Kardashian will have competition. See you on the trails!


Why Form Drills Are Beneficial For Endurance Runners

Jannine Myers

Every year, around January through March, I get to see some amazing young athletes training in my neighborhood. They come down from mainland Japan to compete in regional-level tournaments, and fortunately for me, they take up residence in a sports hotel right around the corner from my house.

One thing these athletes all have in common, regardless of the sport they play, is the daily habit of getting out for an early morning run. I love to see them run; they all seem so light and limber on their feet. This year I enjoyed watching one team in particular, a group of young high-school girls. Either before or after their morning runs, they would spend about 10 minutes working on form drills. Watching them do their drills really fascinated me, not because I’ve never seen athletes do drills before, but because this was a group of girls who looked exceptionally agile and fit.

As an endurance runner, I don’t spend a great deal of time doing form drills, and I suspect the same is probably true for most endurance runners. I think we tend to underestimate the benefit of practicing drills, which is why I want to share the following opinions of three top endurance athletes who never train without incorporating form drills into their workouts.

Meb Keflezighi, for example, explains how form drills – which are essentially exaggerated and varied versions of your normal running gait – can improve stride length and/or stride rate. He does a short set of drills almost every day, believing that they help him to maintain good posture during longer runs, as well as deter cramping and tightness. Check out one of his form videos for a demonstration of the types of drills he does:

Dathan Ritzenheim is another great runner who encourages the regular practice of form drills. In his video below he explains that from drills are old-school sprinting drills, and the reason endurance runners should do them is to develop the same excellent and efficient running mechanics as sprinters.

And here’s what Jason Fitzgerald has to say about form drills:

They can:

  • Improve the communication between your brain and legs – helping you become more efficient
  • Strengthen not only the muscles, but the specific joints (like the ankle) needed for powerful, fast running
  • Improve coordination, agility, balance, and proprioception – helping you become a better athlete
  • Serve as a great warm-up before challenging workouts or races

Check out his entire post on the benefits of form drills, as well as a video demonstration here.

If you don’t think you have time to do form drills, try taking Meb’s advice; he says you’d be better off to run one mile less than what you have planned for the day, and spend the extra time doing drills. According to him, and Dathan and Jason (and probably many other elites), the pay-off is worth it!


It’s Beet Season Again

Jannine Myers

It’s beet season again and I’m making the most of it; I was busy yesterday cooking with beets and one of the recipes I made was a delicious soup that I learned the recipe for just recently at a cooking class.


Sanae-Sensei showing us how to make her delicious beet soup

Incidentally, I received a rather timely email this afternoon with the link to a post about the benefits of eating beets; the following information was included in the post:

Why Eat Beets? 6 Top Reasons

1. Lower Your Blood Pressure

Drinking beet juice may help to lower blood pressure in a matter of hours. One study found that drinking one glass of beet juice lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4-5 points.
The benefit likely comes from the naturally occurring nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.

2. Boost Your Stamina

If you need a boost to make it through your next workout, beet juice may again prove valuable. Those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise for up to 16 percent longer. The benefit is thought to also be related to nitrates turning into nitric oxide, which may reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.

3. Fight Inflammation

Beets are a unique source of betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic diseases.

As reported by the World’s Healthiest Foods:
“[Betaine’s]… presence in our diet has been associated with lower levels of several inflammatory markers, including C reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. As a group, the anti-inflammatory molecules found in beets may eventually be shown to provide cardiovascular benefits in large-scale human studies, as well as anti-inflammatory benefits for other body systems.”

4. Anti-Cancer Properties

The powerful phytonutrients that give beets their deep crimson color may help to ward off cancer. Research has shown that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumor formations in various animal models when administered in drinking water, for instance, while beetroot extract is also being studied for use in treating human pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.7

5. Rich in Valuable Nutrients and Fiber

Beets are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals like potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (which is good for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas). Beets also contain the B vitamin folate, which helps reduce the risk of birth defects.

6. Detoxification Support
The betalin pigments in beets support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process, which is when broken down toxins are bound to other molecules so they can be excreted from your body. Traditionally, beets are valued for their support in detoxification and helping to purify your blood and your liver.

So, with all of those great reasons to eat beets, give this soup a try; it’s fast, easy, and really delicious!



  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 beet, peeled and diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 corn husk (corn removed)
  • 1 tbsp sake (or white cooking wine)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsps oil
  • 600ml to 800ml water


  1. Dice the beet, onion, and tomato
  2. Put oil and garlic in pan and simmer at low heat for a few minutes
  3. Add the beet, onion, and tomato to the pan, and add the salt and sake
  4. Slowly pour water into the pan, and bring to boil at medium heat
  5. Add the corn husk, and continue to cook at medium heat (uncovered), for approximately 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper
  6. In a couple of batches, puree the soup in a blender
  7. Serve hot, and garnish with herbs of choice


WOOT Member – Stephanie Hettinger – Celebrates a Different Kind of Victory

Today’s post has been submitted by WOOT member Stephanie Hettinger. I’m honored to share her story because it’s one that I believe some of us can relate to in some way, yet have never had the courage to share. It’s a story of pain and suffering, with a few brief moments of triumph, and then thankfully a turning point that leads to new and hopeful beginnings. And if you haven’t guessed already, WOOT played a pivotal role in leading Stephanie to that crucial turning point. 

My name is Stephanie Hettinger; this is where I will share my journey on fitness, health & healing.

I am happily married to my husband Don; we’ve been married for 15 years. We were young when we started our family; we were 22 when our son Dylan was born. Less than two years later, our daughter Brooklyn was born. Sadly, I wasn’t able to enjoy her birth due to Post Partum Depression. In 2005 we had our third child Evelyn, and again, I struggled with Post Partum Depression. In 2007 we welcomed our fourth child Joslyn into our family, and not only was Post Partum Depression an issue, but so was my anxiety. I struggled with the fear of how I was going to care for our four babies who were under the age of 5.

In 2009 our family moved, and I found myself pregnant again. It wasn’t long after the birth of our fifth child, Kaitlyn, that I was struggling to walk up the flight of stairs. Once at the top of the stairs I felt my breathing was heavy, and I was sweating. I knew then that something needed to change. At my six week Post Partum check-up I was declared healthy enough to resume my normal activities, except I didn’t remember what those were. I spoke with my doctor about my struggles, my feelings, and my outlook on life. Together, we created an outline to help me find myself and heal from the depression that was consuming my life.

In 2010 I read about a Well Water 5K run hosted by a Girl Scout Troop. The story behind this 5K was that a particular Girl Scout Troop adopted a village in Africa where the girls would walk approximately a mile and a half to gather water to bring back to their village. The Girl Scout Troop decided to raise funds to help this village build a water well. I knew this cause was something I could support, and so without thinking I signed up for a 5K – it was “only 3.1 miles” I thought. The day of the race, it was obvious I couldn’t run very long or far without being out of breath and needing to stop, but I ran, walked and finished the race.

In 2011, my husband and I discovered our fourth child, Joslyn, has a chromosome defect known as Turner Syndrome, an incurable, life long condition. My life was consumed with doctor appointments, procedures, and finding the best care for our daughter, while continuing to care for our four other children. I blamed myself for Joslyn’s condition. My anxiety kicked in; fear was always present. How would our daughter live, enjoy life, be normal? What would her quality of life be like? How would we care for her, and how would we pay for her doctor visits; we had so many questions and concerns, yet few answers.


Joslyn, at the beginning of her diagnosis of Turner Syndrome

2012 was the year our family moved to Okinawa, Japan. It was also the worst year of my life. We moved to a foreign country, my support system was half a world away, my father was very ill, and my husband was gone all the time due to work. My depression and anxiety was at an all time high; I didn’t turn to my husband for support, nor did I reach out to my support system, but instead I turned to food for comfort. I eventually went to see a doctor and after recounting my history of depression, I started a new course of medication.

My medication and dosage changed however, and my depression and anxiety continued to get worse rather than better. Soon thereafter I found myself withdrawn and avoiding people all together; I was a prisoner in my own hell. My doctor eventually moved, and I was assigned a new doctor. In 2013 I tried to refill my medication and found my doctor wouldn’t authorize my prescription refill without seeing me. I didn’t want to go and see this new doctor, and have to bring up my history once again and listen to what she thought of me, but it had to be done.

Medication and dosages were again changed, and blood tests were ran. Eventually we discovered that I was living with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre diabetes, and my weight was at an all time high. My doctor looked at me, and asked me how long I wanted to live. She continued by saying that if I continued down this path of destruction I wouldn’t be around to see my children grow up, and that they would go on to do things without me. I knew I loved my children and husband, and I wanted to see them grow and live life. My doctor and I wrote down a timeline with goals, and steps to get there.

The first step was to work on becoming healthy. I started seeing a nutritionist for guidance on how to eat better, and when to eat. I learned that I needed food to fuel my body, instead of food for comfort. I also started counseling for my anxiety, depression, and healing. I felt like a failure as a wife and mother, to those who mattered most to me. I felt as though I had embarrassed my parents; I had been self-destructing for such a long time, these feelings were normal for me. Counseling helped me to love myself again.

At the end of 2013 I was still healing and well on my way to incorporating fitness into my life. I joined WOOT (Women on Okinawa Trails) and a couple of other Facebook groups. I didn’t consider myself an athlete by any means, but felt like I could join these ladies on the trails of Okinawa; even if I walked, I was somehow bettering myself with exercise. With the help and support of countless people in the Facebook groups, my husband and kids and I signed up for races ranging from 5K to 10K distances. My dosage of medication slowly, over time went down, my weight continued to go down, anxiety and depression weren’t consuming my life, and I finally felt peace in my life. I made small changes in all areas of my life. This ranged from when and what I ate, when I went to sleep, and when I would wake up, and when and how often to exercise as well.

Ayahashi Road Race 2014

Ayahashi Road Race 2014

I now exercise 6 days a week, and exercise is a family affair. My girls all joined Girls Like To Run, a running club within WOOT. I am aware of the food I feed myself, and my family. I make sure that everyone in our family, to include myself, has enough sleep at night. I am finding new ways to deal with the stresses of everyday life, and I’ve found that outlet to be exercise. My journey to complete healing isn’t over yet; it has taken time, and will continue to take time. With the support of the ladies in WOOT, as well as fellow athletes, my support system, friends, family, and GOD, I have been able to openly speak about my depression, and anxiety, and begin to heal.

Out on Spider Trail 2015

Out on Spider Trail 2015


Back out on Spider Trail again in 2016, and looking fit and fabulous!