Triathlon Research Camp- Day 1

day 1 swim start

Holy crap I’m training in Kona.  I mean, that much should be obvious seeing as I signed up for a triathlon camp here, but the reality really hit me on the first day of the camp.  This place is literally legendary, and not only do I get to experience parts of this course, but I get to work with some of the best in the world on getting BETTER at this sport I love here.

Incredible.

Day 1 of the camp was like going to the most amazing tapas restaurant in the world- I got to “sample” a little bit of everything and really whet my appetite for the week to come.

The morning was spent doing time trials on the swim, bike and run to (1) establish our starting points and (2) get some video analysis done to look at our form, technique and areas of improvement.

Since I literally have nowhere to go but up, I was both nervous and excited to get out there and figure out my starting point.

My starting point is slow kittens.  And yet, I actually did right around where I expected for each of the three trials.

We started out with a 3k run time trial (that’s about 2 miles for us normal people in the US- :D).  We rode our bikes up to a large parking lot that bordered the bluest water I’ve ever seen and then ran a 3 loop course on the black top.

I’m not going to lie, I was SO relieved that we got to do the run first.  It is by far the most challenging of the three disciplines for me, and was the bit I was the most nervous about.

Even with the heat and humidity, I finished the time trial in right around 25 minutes (which

for me at a 12:44ish pace is actually pretty damn good), and I was really happy with it.

We then had a chance to have a quick chat with Olympic Gold Medalist coach Chris Pilone about our running trial, and I am SO excited to work with him in a more individual small group setting later this week.  This guy is a coaching genius, and I have a feeling my running will transform based on his guidance.

day 1 chris pilone
Chris Pilone

Let me just say, there are some BEASTS in my group.  We are broken into squads of 8 athletes, which is great because it’s a small group where we can really get to know each other, get a lot of individual attention, and it’s not too cumbersome for the time trial efforts.  These other athletes are beyond inspiring and supportive, and we spent the entire day encouraging each other and witnessing some fast performances!

Vanessa, one of the many amazing people in my group!
Vanessa, one of the many amazing people in my group!

After the run, much to my relief, we hopped on our bikes for a super short spin over to a beautiful outdoor pool for our swim time trials.  It felt great to sink into the cool water and get in a quick warm up before putting down our efforts.

We did two trials.  A 100m all out sprint, and then after about 45 seconds of recovery a 500m effort.

For me, this was my strongest effort of the day.  I felt really smooth and strong in the water, which surprised me given how little swim training I’ve done this season.

I also got the chance to meet Rick Wells, a commonwealth games swim coach who, within about 30 seconds of seeing me in the water gave me two great pointers on my form that already had me swimming stronger.  This dude is probably still one of the fastest swimmers in the world, and with his coaching this week, I bet I see some serious improvements on not only my swim technique, but swim times.

day 1 swim

Next up was the bike video analysis.  We rode a short ways over to one of the most picturesque spots I’ve ever seen where Tri Research had wind trainers set up under banyan trees overlooking the ocean.  We got set up on the trainers to do a bit of pedaling, focusing on a really easy spin effort with some cadence pick ups so that the coaches could really see our form and fit on our bikes.

Here I was introduced to Ivan O’Gorman, a Retul bike fitter, also known as the Irish mad scientist of fit.  (Okay, maybe that’s what I’m calling him in my head, but trust me, it suits him.)  He spent some time watching each of us during the spin, and then came around with some great feedback afterwards on our fit.

For this camp, I actually brought my road bike, as I haven’t had a really great professional fit on it and I know there’s a lot of room for improvement with my positioning.  He had some great tips on how I could tweak my saddle position to get more power out of my legs, and to also get my upper body in a better and more comfortable position.  I’ll actually be working with him Thursday evening one on one to make those changes, and I have a feeling I’m going to feel like I’m riding a whole new bike once he’s done.

day 1 under the trees

Finally, it was time for the bike time trial.  I won’t lie, this is the one I was most looking forward to.  Our coaches drove us out along the legendary Queen K highway to a point about 16 miles out from the hotel.  From there we pushed off for a 15k time trial back towards town.

I literally can’t find the words to describe how beautiful it was.  To the right I had the most blue, beautiful water I’ve ever seen, meeting the perfect blue of the sky.  To the left, the lava fields, which looked sort of like the surface of the moon, only black as pitch and just as foreign.

I put down a decent effort given the gently rolling terrain (not used to that being from Florida where it is FLAT) and the crazy wind conditions (I swear I had a headwind, wicked cross wind and a tail wind at different points, all while riding a straight line in the same direction!).  I averaged around 15.8 for the effort, which was exactly where I expected to be.

day 1 time trial

Following the morning of intense activity, we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower and much deserved lunch.

Not like I need to tell ya’ll this, but I totally ate ALL OF THE FOODS… and then some.  The amount of deliciously prepared fresh fish and veggies available on this island makes me swoon, and was exactly what I wanted and needed after a great morning.

The afternoon was just as spectacular, but in a totally different way.

After lunch we enjoyed presentations from key members of the Sansego Coaching team to give us a basis for the breakout sessions we would be attending during the week.

We kicked off with a great lecture to get us pumped up about Goal Setting and Season Planning.  Following that, one of my favorite coaches for the week, Frank “The Great Dane” Frank Jakobsen discussed periodization.  We then hopped into Principles of Fitness and Running form with Olympic Gold Medalist coach Chris Pilone,  and followed that up with a both hilarious and informative lecture of Workout Planning and Time Management by Matt Koorey.

The day wrapped up with Craig lighting a fire under each of us with a great session on Motivation and Mindset.

These talks not only gave me numerous “take away” points in each, but really set the tone for the level of excellence, competence, and just overall fantastic coaching we would receive for the week to come.

Want to know what happens next?  Be sure to check out the Day 2 recap!

Questions- What is your favorite place to swim, bike or run and why?  Have you ever been to Kona?  What athlete do you most admire?  

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IronGirl Clearwater Half Marathon Race Report

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This is the first race I’ve ever done where I slept like a baby the night before the event.

Granted, that’s probably because two nights before the event I went out with the hubs and got completely wine wasted, stayed up till 3 a.m., had to wake up for work at 6 that morning and didn’t let myself take a nap, but I digress.

All things considered, that was actually, apparently, a really smart idea.  I fell into bed the night before the race by 8:30, and when my alarm went off at 4:15 a.m. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go.

The drive from my home to Clearwater was uneventful, and by the time I arrived and found parking, the sun was starting to peek out over the horizon and the day was shaping up to be a beautiful one.

Oh, and I had drank so much water and coffee that I had to poo and pee like, immediately.  So I made good friends with a port-o-potty.  And YAY, that was the only time I had to get friendly with that stinky receptacle for the day.  10 points for me.

This is what I look like at 5 a.m.  I'm smiling, so this is totally after I pooped.
This is what I look like at 5 a.m. I’m smiling, so this is totally after I pooped.

I had done this half marathon before, back in 2011, which was the first year they had it.  The course had changed since then, and I was excited to learn we’d be running along the water, and over and back two of the most beautiful bridges along the way.

Going into the race I knew there would be steep bridge repeats, four total, but I hadn’t really planned for how that last one beginning at the 12 mile marker would feel.

And honestly, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t think too much about it on the front end.

Starting line... 321 GO!
Starting line… 321 GO!

The race was amazing.  We started right on time, and within less than a mile the herd had thinned out and there was room to find your groove.  I even hooked up with a friend of mine, Erin, and we took a running selfie!  She and I hung together for a mile or two before her speedy needs got the best of her and she took off. Go girl!

This is what a running selfie looks like!
This is what a running selfie looks like!

All in all, the race was perfect.  Miles 1-10 felt amazing.  My 5k time was right on target of my goal pace, and my 10k was trending just a bit ahead of where I expected it to be.  My legs and lungs felt great, and I stuck with a cup or two of water at every aid station.  The course was beautiful, and the volunteers were amazing.

Mile 10 marked the first of the two return trips across the bridges.  On the way over I had run up each, but for the first time in the race outside of taking in some water, I slowed and walked up the bridge.  My heart rate stayed under control, but my quads were starting to really not love life.

Check out that view!
Check out that view!

This bridge is the steeper of the two, and after only about a half mile I was on top.  I enjoyed the view for just a moment, looking across the water to the next bridge that awaited me, and started running my way down.

By mile 11 my legs were questioning my sanity, and I started with run/walk intervals.  After checking my pace on my trusty Garmin I realized that I was on target to PR by nearly 10 minutes, if I could just keep my last two miles under 14 minutes each.  Given that I had kept well under that pace up until that point, I knew I could do it.

I was actually moving slowly enough I took this pic and it's not even a bit blurry... what's that tell ya?
I was actually moving slowly enough I took this pic and it’s not even a bit blurry… what’s that tell ya?

Then we hit mile 12, and you know how people say the “wheels came off?”  Yeah, I totally understand that saying now.  It felt like one minute I was chugging along and the next I was lucky to be walking.  My quads were cramping so intensely every step was actually painful to the point that I’m certain I cried out a few times, and the last bridge was really an exercise in will power.

Never once did I think I would quit, but it was absolutely hard to convince myself to keep going.

In the end, that last mile took me 25 minutes.  I didn’t PR, in fact, I finished about 8 minutes slower than the last time I did the race.

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My husband had been tracking me on my Garmin, and when I called him after I finished the first words out of his mouth were, “I’m so sorry!”

He fully expected me to be devastated, as I had been so close to a huge PR.

Funny this was, and is, that I’m not.  Sure, it would have been awesome if my increased strength, fitness, and solid training had resulted in a mile 1 to mile 13.1 strong and amazing race.  But it didn’t.

That doesn’t mean I’m not super proud of my effort.

I haven’t raced in years due to a stressful work environment, and a ton of weight gain.  This is the first time since 2011 I’ve even been in good enough shape to consider doing a half marathon.

The last time I ran this race I did it “just to finish.”  This time, I actually trained and pushed myself to finish faster than before.

finisher medal

Clearly, there were some gaps in my training, and knowing that is going to make me even more prepared for the rest of my races this season.  But I’ve gotta tell ya, even with that last excruciating mile, I am damn proud of my effort.

So MEOW kittens!

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Did anyone else have races this weekend?  How did they go?  What did YOU learn for next time?

Easter Baskets for Fitness Gals

Easter is right around the corner, and since I’m trying to avoid shoving Starburst Jelly Beans in my piehole (they are my nemesis!), my focus is putting together Easter Baskets with fun trinkets that actually aren’t food related.

Check out my top  picks for fitness Easter basket essentials, and if you’re not up for scouting down each item yourself, you can also order a pre-made basket made just for runners!

Body Glide

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It doesn’t matter if your a runner, a triathlete, a cyclist, or even a Crossfitter, Body Glide is on your must own list.  It’s basically the blister and chaff-age blocker for every square inch of your body, and it’s less than $10 for a huge honking tube of it.  Win!

Hair Ties

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Seriously, it’s impossible to have too many hair ties.  Myself, I probably have over 100 of them everywhere from my bathroom to my gym bag, and yet when I need one, if it isn’t on my wrist I can’t find one.  Emi Jay makes some seriously enviable ones, not only are they cute as heck (hello python?!) but they stay put.  They go for about $13 a set, and could totally be stuffed into one of those plastic eggs for an extra surprise!

Fun Socks

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There’s something about a new pair of socks that just makes your whole workout better.  And for cyclists, we all know the power of #sockdoping, so it’s super important for the socks to always be on point.  There’s tons of options out there, and for around $10 a pair you can get an uber nice pair of socks that will be sure to have your fitness bunny hopping around for joy.

Chapstick

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I am an absolute Chapstick fiend, and any fit gal who spends time outdoors will go crazy for this dual ended one.  I got to sample it in a Birchbox before it hit the market, and since I have purchased two more because I keep using them up.  One side has sunscreen, perfect for outdoor runs or rides, while the other is a super hydrating night formula.  There’s no color, scent, or flavor, so it’s perfect if you’re not a big lipstick person.  And for less than $5 (I think they’re $3.50 at the Walgreens by me), it’s a steal.

Runners Easter Fun Basket

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Obviously, all of the items above are a great start for a fitness basket.  But, if you don’t have the time to put together a custom creation yourself, Chalk Talk Sports has got you covered.  They have tons of fitness or running baskets to choose from, and with options from $35-$75, there’s sure to be something fab to fit in your budget.  I really like this one complete with hair ties, stickers, and an easy to grip water bottle.   One of my besties might be getting it just because.


Hey readers, what would not candy surprise you like to see in your Easter basket this year?

Apparently I was accidentally bulking

Confession time.

My nutrition has been, er let’s just call it “sub optimal” for a few weeks now.  And by “sub optimal” I mean wine and Chinese food and Easter candy like a boss.

Pretty much every morning I would wake up and say, “ok today is the day I get my shit together.  I can’t keep eating like this or else I’m going to start gaining weight,” but things would fall apart once I had a hard workout in the morning, arrived home starving for lunch, and raided the leftover takeout food containers.

Yeah, I know I should have just thrown the crap out and gotten it out of my house, but that’s such a waste, no?

So here’s the good news.  It’s not like I’ve done so much damage that I’m back to where I started.  I’m up a few pounds and feeling more fluffy than I have in months around my middle, but I’ve done a great job with meal prep this week and have actually given myself the tools for success.

What’s more, I’ve been working out like a freaking beast.  Other than taking a few days off last week to let my body recover from everything I’ve been putting it through, I’ve been extremely consistent and am seeing some darn heavy weight come off the ground on all of my lifts.

Today I took progress pictures just to gauge where I’m at, and honestly in part to make myself feel better that I haven’t completely ballooned up.  I mean, it’s not like I can actually see the jelly beans hanging off my thighs or anything.

But I noticed something surprising in my pics.

Whereas when I first started this weight loss journey, I was eating at a pretty solid calorie deficit to help my body to shed fat, over these past few weeks I’ve been eating at a pretty even calorie balance, and some days in surplus.

And let me tell you, I’ve got GAINZ.  Like for real.  My arms are looking jacked, and my booty is more HELLO than I’ve ever seen it.

Seeeee?

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So not all is lost with my junk food binge.  Yeah, it’s time to stop putting crap in my body and get my pie hole under control, but putting on a little muscle in the process was a surprising and not entirely unwelcome side effect.

How is your nutrition going lately readers?  Anyone want to be accountable with me and get yourself back on track?

Repeat after me: It’s ok to take a rest day

rest day

My workouts have been awesome lately.  I’ve had several solid weeks of training, and have managed to fit in not only my runs in preparation for the upcoming half marathon I’ll be doing, but several rides, and weight training 5x per week.

My diet has been, uh, ok I guess, but given my activity level I’m getting away with eating a lot of things I normally wouldn’t and still maintaining my weight.  Anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight can probably tell you, gaining it back is among one of my biggest fears, so I’m happy that I seem to be holding pretty steady.

Yesterday I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed just like every other day, but within about 10 minutes of getting out of bed my energy was zapped.

My entire body hurt.  I mean, I’ve been sore daily for the past several weeks and the level of ouch was about normal, but for some reason, yesterday it was hitting me particularly hard how sore I was.

And I was tiered.  Even after my usual cup of coffee in the morning I was still dragging, and just didn’t have it in me.

I made the executive decision to skip my morning Yoga class, and it was a good one.

By 3 o’clock I was ready for a nap, and my body told me without hesitation that I would not be riding that night.

I won’t lie, I tried to pep talk myself into it.

I mean, it’s only Wednesday.  I can’t skip a workout this early in the week.

And I ate rice with lunch.  RICE!  That’s carbs, I need to work that off, right?

And what about cross training?  I mean, riding my bike is great cross training for this run I’m doing and I don’t want to take a step backwards in my fitness, do I?

And oh my god, the CALORIES!  If I don’t workout how am I going to burn at least 500 calories over what I eat so I can continue losing weight?

So yeah, I’m more than a little crazy.  But after a few hours of playing this game with myself I finally said ENOUGH.

My body needed rest.  Even today, I’ve decided to postpone my long run for the week (9 miles) until tomorrow to give my body just a little more time to recover.

Sure, there’s a million reasons for me to train, but sometimes we also need to realize when our bodies are actually trying to tell us something.

There’s a definite difference between being lazy or unmotivated, and legitimately needing rest and recovery.  It took me awhile yesterday to realize and understand, I’m on the recovery end of that spectrum.

So the moral of the story for today, kittens, is that it’s ok to take a rest day.  Learn from my inner struggle and listen to your body.  It’s the best way to prevent getting burned out, prevent injury, and ensure that you love your training every day.

Anyone else have a hard time taking an unplanned day off?  How do you cope?

Barre 3 Class Review

Lately, I’m all about trying out new fitness classes.  I recently gave OrangeTheory a try, and absolutely loved it, so when I heard about a new Barre 3 studio opening just around the corner from my house I was intrigued.

When I saw they were offering free classes during their Grand Opening week, I decided I had to give it a try.

I recruited one of my femme fitness friends to sign up and come along for the ride as we decided to take on our first ever Barre class.  We had no idea what to expect, and the class was definitely a different animal than we were prepared for.

Read on for my full review about my Barre 3 experience.

What is Barre 3?

Barre 3 takes an approach to fitness that’s different than anything in my current workout repertoire.

According to their website:

Barre 3 is where ballet barre meets yoga and pilates

 

The low impact workout incorporates three main movement elements.  Large, dynamic movements, or “moving big” as they called in in class are used in the warm up and to help to release the lactic acid build up throughout the workout.  Isometric holds are seen throughout the workout, typically after long continuous sets, and they are designed to really fatigue your muscles and give you a bit of the shakes.  Finally, the most commonly seen element are the 1 inch movements for most every major body part.  These tiny contracts create heat and a “burn” in your muscles throughout the duration of the workout.

barre 3 props

All of these things are achieved with the help of some nifty equipment including very small weights, balls, and straps, not to mention popular dance music with a fun pounding beat.

The Studio

While the class didn’t exactly tickle my fancy, the studio itself rocked my world.

barre 3 studio

Not only was everything brand spankin’ new, but it was an aesthetically gorgeous design built to specifically cater to their female clientele.

The lobby was bright and welcoming with a child care alcove off to one side complete with games, toys, and staff to supervise.  They had a large merchandise area with more than one thing that was calling to my checkbook.

barre 3 merchandise

The storage area was thoughtfully designed with cubbies for shoes, socks, cell phones and keys on top of spacious benches for preparing for class.  The restrooms were spotless and well stocked with fun extras like body spray, hand lotion, tampons, towels and tampons.

The studio itself had barre’s on both sides, one wall of mirrors, and probably about 30 stations for participants.  Like the rest of the building, it was clean and tidy, and well organized.

The Class

The class itself began with a lengthy warm up.  For the first 10 minutes or so we concentrated on “moving big” to wake up our muscles, and added in some deep stretching.  The instructor did an exceptional job of moving around the room to ensure everyone could see her, giving modifications, and keeping the energy high.

After the warm up we went to the bar, and for the next 30 or so minutes we ran through a series of exercises comprised of isometric holds, 1 inch movements, and breaks to stretch out.

Following this piece we went down to the floor on mats for a 10 minute series of glute bridge work, and ended the class with around 10 minutes of ab work.

What I liked:

The class format was dynamic, moving quickly from one exercise to the next and doing a good job of giving us breaks and large movements to flush out our muscles before going to the next thing.

The music was fantastic, and more of what I would have expected in a traditional group exercise class.  I was actually kind of relieved that it wasn’t Yoga-esque music, as the tracks they were playing were really fun and current and motivational.

The instructor, Jenna, was great.  She was perky and fun, had no problems showing us modifications, and even at times did them herself.  She gave everyone as much individual attention as they needed to do the movements safely and effectively, which was great to see considering how many new exercisers were in the class.

Jenna
Jenna

What didn’t do it for me:

All that said, this workout wasn’t one I would ever do again.  While I can’t claim that I didn’t sweat (it was actually pouring off of me in buckets by the end of the workout), I didn’t feel particularly challenged in the workout.

The movements weren’t exactly easy, and while I certainly felt the burn during some of the isometric holds, I felt like there wasn’t much functional about the workout.  I will never, ever need to do 10 full minutes of hip thrusts in real life, and while it burned in the moment, my glutes and hamstrings are strong enough from other training and I had no soreness at all the next day.

In fact, once the workout was over I felt similar to what I might have felt like after a hard pilates class, but without the benefits of any deep stretching.

All of that said, I consider myself to be pretty fit.  I can see this class format being really welcoming for anyone who is new to exercise and like a group fitness environment.

The Cost

As a new studio, this Barre 3 location offered several new client specials and rates to help to build their membership.

They have both an unlimited membership option at between $55-$99 per month, depending on the length of your commitment.  They also offered class packages where you could buy 1-30 classes at a time for between $20 and $15 per class, depending on the number you purchased at once (i.e. 1 class is $10, a 30 class package is $450, or $15 per class).

To me, the pricing was on par with the quality of the studio, the area it’s located in, and the clientele that they cater to.

Conclusion

While this wasn’t a workout for me, Barre 3 is totally something everyone should try at least once.  It’s nothing like anything else out there, including yoga, pilates or even ballet itself, and is a completely unique fitness experience.

Be ready to sweat, wear your cutest leggings, and be prepared to do enough hip thrusts that you’ll get the giggles.

Ok, so maybe you won’t actually get the giggles, maybe that’s just the prepubescent boy who lives in my head and comes out at the most inappropriate moments.

 

With my girl, Jill, after class.
With my girl, Jill, after class.

 


All right readers, it’s your turn.  Have you ever tried Barre 3?  Was it for you?  What did you love about it?  And importantly, what should I try next? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

Spicy Treadmill Hill Interval Workout

hamster wheel

Today I’m suffering from one heck of a sunburn after a charity ride this weekend.  Now that all my northern followers want to punch me in the face, I will continue to complain because I need to get in a little run today, which means doing it in the treadmill.  If there’s snow and ice where you live, my bet is you’ve become more than a little familiar with this torture device over the winter months.

If you’re like me, you might refer to these as “dreadmill” workouts.  I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t love running on my own personal hamster wheel at the gym.

To keep it spicy and interesting, I love this thirty minute hill interval workout below.  I’ve added in my own personal (and oh so eclectic) playlist based on the beats per minute that will match my running stride.

Feel free to use it, and if you don’t like the song suggestion check out this website to find another with the same beats to keep your heart rate up and your legs moving.  I’ve included songs from every different genre out there, so hopefully there’s something you love, and maybe even new inspiration for your playlist!

For the workout, the effort is based on an RPE, or a rate of perceived exertion.  This is based on a scale of 1-10, 1 being an easy peasy stroll through the mall and 10 being a level of effort you couldn’t hold for more than a few seconds.  You’ll notice I ramp it up and hit all the way up to an RPE of 9, so while puke isn’t eminent, it is possible.

I didn’t include the speed, as we’re all different at what pace we run (read slow as shit here), so  use the RPE as your guide, and be sure to use the incline to really give your legs and heart a spicy little workout.

Once you’ve given it a try, don’t forget to let me know what you think!  Leave  a comment, a favorite workout song, or post your own boredom busting treadmill routine for me to try.  I’m always looking fun new ways to shake it up!

 

Time

Effort

Incline

Song

0:00-3:00

Warm Up RPE 2

1%-3% (Increase 1% each minute during the warm up)

Maroon 5- Maps

3:00-7:00

Jog RPE 5

3%

Jeremiah- Down on Me

7:00-11:00

Hill Run RPE 8

5%

Taylor Swift-Shake it Off

11:00-15:00

Jog RPE 5

3%

T-Pain- Church

15:00-18:00

Recovery RPE 3

1%

Meghan Trainor- All About that Bass

18:00-22:00

Hill Walk RPE 7

8%

Luke Bryan- Country Girl Shake it For Me

22:00-24:30

Hill Run RPE 9

8%

Slipknot- Wait and Bleed

24:30-29:30

Hill Walk RPE 6

6%

The Who- Baba O’Reiley

29:30-32:00

Cool Down

1%

Kelly Clarkson- Stronger

Does it still count as running if turtles are lapping me?

Here’s a surprise.  I can run over 3 miles and not pewp my pants.  At least, that appears to be the case so far.

On Wednesday, this happened:

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Now, I’m not actually sure that it counts as running since I’ve seen little old ladies in my neighborhood power walk faster than a 14:20 mile, but whatever, I got it done.

It was beautiful and sunny and a day that couldn’t be missed, and I was grateful to spend so much of it outside.  Sweating.   And smiling.  But sweating none the less.

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Why am I doing all this running, you ask?  (Or maybe you didn’t, but hey you’re reading and I’m enlightening so go with it…)

Because this girl is officially signed up for the Iron Girl Half Marathon in Clearwater coming up on April 11th!

iron girl

While I haven’t been posting about it much, I’ve been diligently following Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training Program for novices, and am really starting to get excited for the race.

While nearly 7 miles didn’t feel good by any stretch, it felt possible.  And even the last mile or two I was still jogging with frequent walk breaks.  My legs were tiered, but not completely spent, and I am starting to build the confidence that I will be able to keep moving forward for over 13 miles.

With just over six weeks left until race day, this is where things get serious.  My long runs increase a mile every week, so the next few weeks have me peaking at the 10 mile mark.  I’m also supplementing heavily with cycling, which is amazing for cross training my cardiovascular system while giving my knees and ankles a break.

And, of course, I’m still weight training every day.

This is the first time in a long time that I’ve felt this strong and healthy. Here’s hoping before race day I also start feeling a bit fast.

My goal for this event is to finish in under 3:15 with a stretch goal of finishing in under 3.  The last time I did this event was in 2011 (good God has it been that long?!) and I finished in 3 hours and 47 seconds.  My cardio isn’t as strong this time around, but who knows what improvements 6 weeks will bring?

And let’s face it, I’m really just in it for the t-shirt and medal anyway.

iron girl medalAre any of my readers training for a spring race?  What are you running?  How is your training going?  Fill me in dudes and dudettes! 

5 Ways to Lose Fat, Not Muscle

fat-cartoon

All in all, weight loss is pretty simple.  Last week I talked about my top 10 weight loss tips, and as you can see, none of them require anything fancy to get the job done.

That said, there are a few key things that you can do in the gym, and out of it, to ensure that the weight that you’re dropping is actually the body fat you’re trying to lose, and not the muscle that will rev your metabolism and give you the lean look you’re going for.

1.  Don’t do too much cardio

Yes, cardio is an important component of overall fitness, but when it comes to fat loss, doing too much cardio can actually be counter productive.  Studies show that cardio workouts over 45 minutes can sometimes result in increased cortisol levels, muscle loss, overuse injuries, and decreased power output during your workouts.

For the best fat loss results, keep your cardio sessions shorter and intense.  High intensity interval training (or HIIT) is a great way to get in a hard as hell cardio workout in 20-30 minutes that will melt fat but not muscle.  Check out this treadmill workout for one of my favorites.

2.  Lift weights

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, lifting weights is CRUCIAL for fat and weight loss.  If you’re going to start somewhere, start with weights.  In this article by Fitness Rx for Women they site a research study that found that combining calorie restriction with cardiovascular exercise can result in your body using your muscle for energy instead of fat.  However, the same study said that by lifting weights your body would be able to maintain it’s lean muscle mass, and lose weight.

We all know that weight loss means you take in less calories than you use in a day, but without lifting weights it’s possible you will not lose fat.  Lift heavy, lift often.  When you only have time for a short workout, choose weights over cardio.  Your metabolism will thank you.

3.  Eat enough, and eat it in protein and veggies

Now that I’ve said to cut calories, I feel like it’s important to note that this isn’t an example of a scenario where a little is good and a lot is better.  Yes, you need to consume less than you burn on a daily basis, but do not take that to an extreme.  Rapid weight loss will not equal rapid fat loss, so it’s important you still eat enough to fuel your workouts and daily activities.  Get the majority of your nutrition from proteins, vegetables and healthy fats to help give your body the nutrients it needs to build muscle, and burn fat.

4.  Take a chill pill

It might surprise you to learn that being stressed can actually make it harder for your body to let go of your fat stores.  High stress levels can lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol.  While cortisol in normal levels is important to healthy functions within your body, when you get all jazzed out for days or weeks at a time and your levels spike it can create nasty side effects like elevated blood pressure, increased abdominal fat, reduced fat burning abilities, insulin resistance, and put you at cardiovascular risk.

Not all stress is controllable, but try practicing deep breathing, meditation or yoga to help your mind unwind.  Work through your stresses as best as you can, and most importantly, be sure to get enough sleep every night to help give your body and mind the time it needs to recharge and reboot.

5.  Stop being such a wine-o (or beer babe, or whatever your drink of choice is)

I really, truly attribute most of my weight loss to the fact that I cut back my alcohol consumption dramatically and now only have a drink (or two) once a week at most.

There’s a host of scientific reasons why that’s probably true, but here’s my version of it.  One, booze has a lot of calories.  Two, when you drink booze, french fries and pizza suddenly sound like an amazing idea.  Three, the day after drinking an entire bottle of booze you desperately need something greasy to make your stomach feel better.  And four, combined with all that nonsense, alcohol actually surpasses your metabolism in the process so not only are you consuming entirely too many calories, but your body is slowing down while you’re doing it.

I’m all for having treats and going out and having fun, but if you are like I was and drinking most nights of the week, cut it back and reap the rewards.


I am a cardio queen, so I still struggle the most with getting in my lifting on days I just don’t want to.  What about you readers?  What’s your biggest struggle in trying to lose fat?

10 Weight Loss Tips You Totally Know but Probably Aren’t Doing

vigorous exercise

To date, I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds.  Yes, yes, feel free to applaud.  I’m darn proud of it.

It seems like every time I turn around, someone is asking me how I did it.  Once I tell them, they’re usually somewhat disappointed.

Why?

Because as it turns out, there’s no magic trick, shake, fitness program, or abracadabra to make the weight fall off.  It’s a combination of all of the stuff we’ve heard a million times, doing it consistently, and sticking with it even through temptations and challenges.

For a long time, I was one of those people.  I would ask, “how did you lose so much weight?” or “how do you stay in such great shape?” and when I was told I would think, “ok well, I’m not going to do THAT, so what else did you do?”

I’m glad I’m not doing that anymore, because I’ve finally seen results.

So without further ado kittens, here’s 10 things that I do every single day to lose weight and stay healthy.  Remember, it’s not any one thing that will bring success, it’s a combination of healthy habits that make all the difference.

1.  Drink lots and lots of water.

I average around a gallon per day.  It keeps me hydrated allowing me to push hard through my workout, and also helps to manage hunger and cravings.  Sometimes when you feel hungry, you’re actually thirsty.

2.  Eat veggies at every meal.

I mean it, every meal.  They’re nutritionally dense, full of fiber, fill you up, and are the key to getting all the vitamins your body needs.

3.  Eat protein at every meal.

Like your vegetables, protein has a whole host of health benefits.  Lean protein can keep you full and help you build muscle for starters, and is absolutely essential in your diet.

4.  Sleep at least 8 hours a night.

While this number is a little different for everyone (I NEED at least 8 hours, hubs is actually better on 6.5 to 7), the moral here is to get enough rest.  Your body needs sleep to recharge, as well as manage hormones and other essential functions.  Getting enough rest is also crucial to avoiding over training, so make sure to make time for sleep every day.

5.  Move as much as possible.

I would say to exercise every day, but I feel like that sets an unrealistic expectation.  I workout vigorously *most* every day of the week, but on days when I have deadlines or other commitments, I still make sure to move.  I never sit in one position for more than an hour at a time, and will take frequent stretch breaks or do jumping jacks or squats or just move around to get my blood flowing.  Even a little movement is better than none at all.  Avoid being chained to your desk for hours at a time.

6.  Lift weights.  Often.

I’ll be honest, I prefer doing cardio.  (I know, *gasp* the horror!)  But to build your metabolism, especially women, NEED to lift weights.  If you only have 30 minutes to do a workout on a given day, skip the cardio and lift weights.  I know, it sounds like blasphemy to some of us who grew up in the Jane Fonda era of the 80’s where cardio is golden, but for the best weight loss results you need to build muscle.  No, you won’t get bulky.  And if you do it right, you will elevate your heart rate enough to get fat burning benefits while you’re pumping iron.

7.  Cut out alcohol, refined carbs, sweets and treats.

I feel like this is the point where I lose most people.  Up until here everyone thinks, “ok, yeah, I can do that,” but as soon as I mention that you need to stop drinking folks seem to say, “well we don’t need to go THAT far, do we?”  And trust me, I get it.  I was that person for a very long time.  To that, I’ll simply say this.  Is there a physique you admire?  Is there a goal aesthetic you’re looking to have?  Does that person drink regularly?  (or eat cupcakes, or cookies, or grilled cheese sammiches or whatever your vice might be?)  Yeah, didn’t think so. It’s simple, what do you want more?

8.  Keep track of what you’re doing.

Admittedly, I get a little neurotic if I use a calorie tracker (like MyFitnessPal) to track every morsel of food I shove in my piehole, and for me that’s actually counter productive.  I do, however, keep track of my meals and number of servings of protein, veggies, fats, starches and fruits I have in a day.  This helps me to make sure I’m eating enough, the right things, and to stay accountable.  Find what works for you, but be sure you’re tracking your nutrition and workouts to not only follow your progress, but ensure you’re following your program appropriately.

9.  Eat breakfast.

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I’m just going to agree.  Eat it.  I know everyone is rushed in the morning, and sometimes it’s hard to plan a meal that includes protein and a vegetable and you can stuff in your face and still make it work on time, but it’s important.  Find a way, not an excuse.

10.  Take pictures.  In your undies.  Every week.

Early on this was the most mortifying part for me, but as the weeks progressed it became the most motivating piece of monitoring my success.  Strip down to your skivvies every week and take a pic of your front, side, and back.  There is nothing better than watching the inches melt away and watching your body transform.  I take mine every Monday, which helps me track my progress and keeps me honest over the weekend.


Like I said, nothing life changing, but hopefully something that was helpful to you.  So what say you readers?  Did I miss anything?  What is the one thing you feel like contributes most to your success in a quest for a fit, healthy life?