And the Training Months Tick By…July and mid-August Recap

Hmm. It’s been an interesting month. I don’t have a lot of time to go into too much detail about what’s been going on, but let’s recap:

 

-I went on a weeklong vacation to Waikiki with Erik. By day we hiked, ran, snorkeled, swam, surfed, boogey boarded, and by night we hopped skipped karaoke bars.
-I acquired two gnarly quarter-sized blisters on the bottom of both of my feet that prevented me from racing in Seafair.
-I rejiggered my tri training schedule (rather unsuccessfully) and my marathon training schedule (successfully).
-I’ve added P90X3 to my training repertoire and have been loving it! It’s been helping me a lot with my cardio output on my runs, and strengthening a lot of weak spots in my legs. Reminds me of when I was training with a personal trainer. I’m looking forward to adding some more Team Beachbody DVDs to my collection. They are intense but great!
-I finished out my first semester of grad school. There were tears and fussy nights, but I did it.
-Things at work are moving along.
-Bought a new mountain bike (taking it to Duthie Hill tomorrow with Alex!)
-Trying to get down to race weight on my old two gigantic salads a day diet (with tons of protein and snacks in between).
-I invested in way too many blender bottles.
-I keep exercising my control muscles. Look at all that candy at the office!
-I’m finalizing plans for my awesome ski trip to Niseko next February. Japow hereeeeee I come!

I’m still training for the Portland Marathon in October. I also have three sprint tris coming up in three consecutive weekends starting next Saturday. And still planning on a HITS triathlon in Palm Springs in December but I’m still majorly undecided as to which distance. I’m pretty sure I can pull a half IM again if I really focus on cycling and running (and I guess swimming too) after the marathon. Regardless, here’s my training plan for the next 1.5 months:

So, essentially life is full of work, grad school(s), training, fundraising, eating, and sleeping. And not much else. Until next time!

Monday Morning Stand Up: Seafair Weeks 6-7-8 + Portland Weeks 1-2-3 2014 Training

For lack of a better way to combine the concurrent training threads, I’m now officially lumping them both together in the headline. The last few weeks have been insanely bizarre. Not only is my sleeping schedule all over the map, but so is my schoolwork and work-work (because when you say it twice, it’s legit).

So my swimming activities are pretty much nil. Same goes with my biking. I’ve finally switched out all the batteries on my speed/cadence sensors and my heart-rate monitor so things should be paired and working well with the Bluetooth dongle and TrainerRoad. I tried riding to work and making it a habit but I find my messenger bag to be quite infuriating. It’s not really worth riding the few miles to and from at this stage. I think when I was still learning to ride it made more sense. I suppose it would make sense now so that I could get comfortable clipping in and out at stops and stuff, but for most of my races I will be riding long distances between clipping in and out anyways. (Maybe I’m just rationalizing myself out of riding to work?)

Week 6 Seafair Sprint Tri/Week 1 Portland Marathon Training:

Monday, June 16: 4.08 mile run, 0.5 mile swim

Tuesday, June 17: Rest day

Wednesday, June 18: 4.06 mile run

Thursday, June 19: Rest day

Friday, June 20: 4.02 mile run

Saturday, June 21: 8 mile run

Sunday, June 22: Rest day

Week 7 Seafair Sprint Tri/Week 2 Portland Marathon Training:

Monday, June 23: Rest day

Tuesday, June 24: 4.68 mile run

Wednesday, June 25: 2.05+1.54 mile bike commute, 5.22 mile run

Thursday, June 26: 1.41 mile bike commute, 4.02 run

Friday, June 27: 10.09 mile run…before work

Saturday, June 28: Five Mile Lake Tri, which served as a season dress rehearsal – 0.25 mile swim, 14 mile ride, 3.1 mile run

Sunday, June 29: Rest day

Week 8 Seafair Sprint Tri/Week 3 Portland Marathon Training:

Monday, June 30: Rest day

Tuesday, July 1: Rest day

Wednesday, July 2: 4.88 mile run

Thursday, July 3: 5.01 mile run

Friday, July 4: 6.84 mile hike up Mt. Si, probably one of the most challenging hikes I’ve completed this season

Saturday, July 5: Rest day

Sunday, July 6: 5.67 mile run around Green Lake during one of the hottest days of the year

Week 9-10 training resolutions:

-I resolve to use my vacation as a partial jumpstart to my tri training. I would actually argue that it is way too late, but I’m going to aim for it anyways. I’ll continue my marathon training and try to add swimming during my leisure downtime and maybe wake up early to run and jump on a spin bike at the Waikiki 24 Hour Fitness. (I don’t think I’ll be renting a bike this time so this is my next best and free alternative, since I already have a membership.)

-I resolve to do as much swimming in Hawaii 5 out of 7 days, with a half-mile minimum. The clear and shallow water will be good for me. I can practice dodging humans and form while working on my tan. And since I’ll have to swim in open water without a wetsuit, it’ll help me regain some of that alignment I may have lost in all of the time I’ve spent out of the water.

-I resolve to ride on my trainer while doing my reading (as much as it is possible for me to still comprehend my reading and still focus on the workout). I would like to get at least 2 rides in while I am still in town, and to ride 4 times in the early mornings while in Hawaii.

-I resolve to continue with my marathon training plan, but giving myself permission to drop one of the easy/short runs, or to break up the weekly long run with half-run sandwiches (splitting a 12 miler between 2 consecutive 6 milers)

What’s really important is that Seafair will be the weekend I return from Hawaii, so it is really important that I at least get *half* of my resolved sessions in. AT. LEAST. I’m sure I’ll survive. I think I will. I think I can!

Lessons learned from the last three weeks:

-Respect the distance: Just because you’ve done the distance before, it doesn’t mean you can attempt the distance (comfortably) without the training. During my last race/open water swim I seriously thought I was down for the count. I’ve never flagged down a safety kayak but I did that morning. I ended up making it out of the water just fine but seriously…I can’t let that happen again. It’s a safety hazard at that point. I need to get in the training if I expect to be able to finish these races comfortably.

-Train before your brain knows what’s going on: Making things dead simple and automatic is the name of the game. You perform what you practice, so take the brainpower out of practice by scheduling everything in advance (as much as possible) so that you can focus on execution. This became apparent to me on race morning when I got my gear ready at the last minute (instead of laying everything out the night before) and then being at a loss of how to fuel before the race (since I’ve made it a habit to train in the morning on an empty stomach). It’s one thing to be self-aware…it’s a completely different story to self-correct.

-If you can’t get the little things right, you can’t achieve the bigger things: Seriously…fueling issues? Can’t get my swim training in? How do I expect to ever finish a 140.6 if I can’t nail the little simple things? 140.6 miles is no joke, and it’s a dream I’ve been chasing for years at this point. If I want to go for it, I’ll need to prove that I can stick to something consistently and get the training in. The more I fumble on these little things, the more the bigger goals are out of reach.

Humble brags from the last three weeks:

-Nailing an A-average across both of my grad school classes, despite my insane schedule

-Getting most of my marathon training in, on point and on schedule

-Still cognizant and self-correcting on my triathlon training mishaps

-Actively trying to make better eating choices, going to begin logging my food intake again

-Still managed to finish a triathlon, even though I had some pretty severe highs and lows during the race

-Raised $215 for my Stand Up To Cancer fundraiser in the first week

66 Days & $777 in Fundraising To Go Until My Next 26.2

Okay, so I’ve stayed off my feet and tried to relax a bit at work. With only two weeks until my next half marathon and only 66 days until my next full marathon, I want to focus and get my energy levels back.

That said, I actually haven’t made it out the door for my long run. I struggled with my six-miler on Monday and only made it to Lake Union Park before turning around. I was feeling much more run down than usual so I decided to cut things short and just head back home. It was colder than usual out…

I’m slowly learning how to dress for cold weather…

So here I am, having been off my feet yesterday and today. (I biked on the trainer today so hopefully that counts.) I was hoping to make it to the pool tonight but alas the sirens of design sang and I heeded their call, after an afternoon of continued procrastination on an on-going project. (I had to mend that issue tonight, so I stayed a bit late.)

That said, perhaps I can aim for a short 5K tomorrow morning, a 10K on Friday morning, and my long run (15 miles) on Saturday morning. Hopefully this time I don’t push it off until it’s too late. I loaded up my iPod shuffle with some new music. Maybe I should add some more preemptively so that I don’t give myself any excuses. Running along the Burke-Gilman trail is pretty safe on weekends since it’s a dedicated pedestrian/bike path and it cuts through a few towns.

To register or not to register…that is the question. Is it worth waiting another 12 months?!

So I went on a registration extravaganza since I have my TourPass now. I’ve signed up for Rock n Roll Pasadena (half), San Francisco (half), Portland (half), Seattle (full), Montreal (full), Providence (half), Denver (half), LA (half), and Las Vegas (half) for next year. That’s a hell of a lot of races and not a lot of time for triathlons. Maybe I can squeeze in a few sprint tris during the summer! It’d be nice to run a few races in Seattle. I know that IM 70.3 Lake Stevens is in June or so but I won’t be ready by then if my focus is on all of these Rock ‘n Roll races…unless of course, I can duplicate my efforts. Seems risky and I’m not sure if my body can handle it.

Anywho, with 66 days to go and $777 left to fundraise, I absolutely need your help! If you’re thankful for something, like having a job that you get to complain about, you should *definitely* donate to my fundraiser. Some women are not nearly as lucky as you!

Please please please donate to my Dress for Success fundraiser!

Race Recap: Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon Los Angeles 2013

I’ll never again take the sunshine for granted.

I departed from Seattle on a gray, wet afternoon. Up until the race, my runs had been wet and chilly. I packed my warm weather gear — a running skirt and a t-shirt.

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Arriving on Friday night, my boyfriend and I headed to a great pho restaurant in his area, which was perfect for some healthy carboloading. After all, if I was unable to stick to my runs the week of the race, I might as well fuel up, right?

On Saturday, I had a great time at the expo. They’re pretty much run-of-the-mill expos, which huge product marketing efforts. One product I kind of fell in love with was the Mamma Chia drink. It was refreshing and very hydrating. Loved it! I’ll definitely try to stock up when I find them here in Seattle.

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This time I actually took advantage of the pre-race discussions and even got a chance to get my race bib autographed by Deena Kastor herself! It was pretty neat being able to see her in person. I’ve only read about her online, in magazines, and seen her in documentaries (like Spirit of the Marathon).

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So, after dinner and race prep, I slipped into a fitful night of sleep. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I’ve raced but I still get weird and nervous. Why? I know exactly what to expect and I’ve gone out for 13 mile runs before. For some reason a race atmosphere is exciting but also nerve wrecking, but mostly fun.

I arrived on race day feeling pretty good about my abilities. I didn’t think I’d be very fast (I was right) but I definitely felt prepared. Especially having run the race the year before, I knew what to expect from the course. What was different this year was that my boyfriend was running with me. He had decided to run the 5K since he had done little to no training, and then part way through the race he then decided to do the whole 13.1. It was kind of a bummer to me since I was actually thinking about downgrading to the 5K distance, but since he was doing the half marathon, I decided to stick to it. I was a bit worried that he would hurt himself but things ended up fine. I was happy to have run into my bestie as she ambushed the race to cheer us on. I finally hit my stride after the 10K mark and it all felt great from there.

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The day was beautiful and a bit warm. It was definitely much different than running in Seattle weather. I passed by all of the familiar parts of town — downtown, USC, the bridge, and more — and it was such a beautiful and clear day that I got to really take in all of the sights (and smells!) of Los Angeles.

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I’m never sure why but he journey back to the start/finish line always seem much, much faster than the journey away from it! The next few miles passed like a breeze and before I knew it, I had my finisher’s medal around my neck!

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Along the way, what kept pushing me was the thought of running the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in Arizona in just a few short months. I still have $800 to go for my Dress for Success fundraiser, and many, many more miles to put in.

I really want to get comfortable with distances beyond the 15 mile mark. Now that I had a comfortable 13.1 out of the way, I want to put in the time to get really comfortable between miles 15-25. I think that will definitely serve me when I aim for a 50K next year. (To put it in perspective, a 50K is 31.07 miles.)

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My next race is the Rock ‘n Roll Half in Las Vegas. Can’t wait to run that course again! To reward my awesome happy-go-lucky finish at this race, I splurged on the Rock ‘n Roll Tour Pass so that I could tackle more races for less money in 2013. You’ve been warned!

Race Recap: Sporty Diva's Half Marathon

This weekend’s race was a lot of fun! It was my first small race (less than 50 participants) and it was mostly women-focused. The race was more of a “run your own race” sort of event, with distances of 5K, 10K, 15K, and a half marathon. I totally underestimated what the event coordinator meant by “sweeping vistas” and “rolling hills” and “extensive switchbacks.”

Per usual I was pretty cranky the morning of the event. I didn’t feel like running. The hotel I was staying at offered free breakfast, and after such a gnarly work week I just wanted to wind down. My boyfriend came into town just to support me for the race and I felt like it was sucking up too much time of the little time we could spend with each other. I kept being an absolute terror, but he was a trooper and put up with it (per usual).

The race was held in Chambers Bay in Tacoma, which was right along the waterfront. Since it was in a completely new town with strangely numbered roads, naturally my GPS got me lost. Shant had to navigate my cranky self most of the way there and we arrived just a few minutes from the start. Since it was a small race, checkin was pretty easy and I had arrived right in time for the door prizes.

Rosie of Sporty Diva’s was there passing out really awesome door prizes, and her enthusiasm was quite infectious. She highlighted some racers who had an amazing story to share, including one woman who was in her seventies who had recently been screened for cancer and had caught an early stage tumor. She was able to undergo surgery without much downtime since she was in good shape and had urged all of the women (and a few men) who were racing that day to take as good care of themselves as possible. Indeed, the only true wealth is health. And with that, the race was off.

And we ran up a huge hill. Check out the map below between mile 1 and 2.

Sporty Diva’s Half Marathon Route

Yeah, it was quite gnarly. And since this was a looped course, I went up the hill about 5 times total. The course itself was quite beautiful. It was very good for training runs — I can definitely see myself training there for my 20-miler. The course was much more diverse than I was used to. Most of the running I do is quite flat and this provides some very good variance in terrain.

After the first loop, I noticed that a lot of the runners were done. I would say about 60% or so were done for the day. It was no wonder that so many people were gunning those hills. I couldn’t imagine putting that much gusto over 13 miles. I wished more people were tackling the longer distance. It would’ve been nice to have some company on the path but I generally stick to myself anyways. I thought a lot about work, my co-workers, my current lot in life, my boyfriend waiting at the finish line, my friends and family, my marathon fundraiser, and the people I was seeking to help. I thought about the 70.3 in a positive way for the first time in awhile.

About 9 miles in or so I came across a walker with a race bib. I chatted with her a bit — her name was Gina and she was the dean of a local Bible college. She had been trying to lose weight for 17 years and this was the first time she had actually stuck with her goal. Over the past 10 months she had been training for this marathon. She said that she first started off with walking a few miles here, a few miles there. She did all of her exercise in secret because her husband was super fit and didn’t really believe that she would stick to her goal. Now, after all of this time, she was here on this course jamming out her 13.1 miles. It was very inspirational, and I can remember being in her situation — not as dire, but I remember being in that position with a sense of urgency.

The best part of this race was that since it was an open and public course, my boyfriend was able to join me for one of the loops. I had just finished 3 loops and was on my 4th one. (The fifth loop was to round out the 13 miles, and it only meant that I went up the ginormous hill and back down.) We walked about half of it together, which was something we were never able to do before in a race. After about a mile or two I decided it was time to finish what I started so I took off and he was able to continue strolling through the switchbacks. I really should’ve learned my lesson a long time ago about running the tangents on windy hills.

My finish time was a lot slower than I was used to, but that said, it was one of the hilliest courses I’ve ever done. It reminded me a lot of Athens. Regardless, the race was really fun, the race director was awesome, the participants were great, and my boyfriend got to join me for a few miles of it. It was great! After this race, I’m actually really excited about the rest of the season’s long runs. If I was able to complete this race, I should be able to tackle any of the flat courses I’m registered for. So, all in all, my first half marathon of the season was a success!

Olympic Tri (My Way) and Race Recap: Athleta Iron Girl 10K

So sometime last night, when I was tossing and turning because I couldn’t fall asleep, I came up with this plan…

I’ve been really annoyed lately that I can’t find a nearby triathlon that works with my schedule so i decided to do my own thing. (Story of my life.) I decided that since my 10K was going to be timed, I might as well take a stab at doing an Olympic-distance triathlon on my own terms before trying an actual Olympic-distance race. Or perhaps eliminating the need or desire to register for races in general. I wanted to see if I was on to something, so I decided to do a reverse Olympic triathlon.

So, with a few winks of sleep and some terrible GI issues, I showed up to Green Lake Park for the Athleta Iron Girl 10K start line.

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It was cold (by my standards)! It was also windy! I was sad that I didn’t follow through with my thought to bring my arm warmers. I figured that I I would warm up anyways during the run, so I tried to cozy up to hundreds of other runners to stay warm. By the time I was at mile 1, I was glad I didn’t have my arm warmers.

In terms of the race, there was one big issue right off the bat: It was a 2-loop run for 10k’ers. I hate HATE hate loops. I hate knowing what I’ll have to experience again. That’s one thing that bothers me about a lot of Ironman races is that they end up looping around multiple times. I’m not sure why but I just find it demoralizing. I much prefer a point-to-point course and I’d rather deal with the hassle of shuttles than looping during a race.

The first 5K was fun. We had the road to ourselves. There were a lot of walkers and for the most part, they had studied up on runner’s etiquette and knew to stay to the right of the road. I started out with the 11:00min/mile corral but it proved very slow for me, so I weaved around until I settled in with a pack at the 3 mile mark. The rest of the ladies who were continuing on to round 2 for the 10K all seemed to keep a good pace. I was massively hurting because of stomach distress issues — I didn’t need to stop, but everything felt crampy and tight. Something about this liquid diet just isn’t sitting well with me so I’m trying to re-introduce less mushy foods into my diet as my gums/teeth/pain will allow.

Because of this, the second 5K was particularly difficult. I kept wanting to aim for negative splits. I wanted to outdo myself at run the 10K at an hour, or at least under my fastest 10K time. It wasn’t in the books this time but I’ll know what to do differently next time. (The biggest thing will be NOT scheduling major dental surgeries in the middle of training seasons!) I finished with a surge, something that I don’t remember doing since the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas last year. It felt great to finish strong.

As I waited in line with my complimentary meal kit for a free cowbell, the oldest runner made her way past the finish chute — she was 82. Amazing.

Now that I have another medal, I really want to figure out a nice way to hang all of them in my apartment. I’d also like to start a bib collage. I think it’d add a bit more personality to my space.

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I was pretty exhausted after the 10K, especially with all of the digestive issues. I just also felt a bit tired, but I chalked that up to nutrition issues. I fueled up as much as I could so that I could continue with my diabolical plan of 25 more miles on the bike and 1500m in the pool. I set up my bike trainer, put on a movie, and got to work.

The longest ride I’ve ever done was probably a little over 15 miles, so 25 was a bit of a stretch. I gave myself permission to take stretch breaks, to grab water, and to have a GU when it was necessary. The movie ended about 40 minutes before I reached 25 miles, so I relied on my iPod to keep me company. A part of me wanted to hop on a video call but I had no clue who would actually want to chat with me in the middle of a workout. Plus, if I were able to chat, one could argue that I probably not working hard enough anyways.

In the same fashion as the 10K I surged my final mile and a half and felt good…exhausted, but good. I hopped in the shower for the third time of the day (once before the 10K to wake me up, one after the 10K to clean myself off, and now to clean myself off from the ride).

I tried to set my expectations for my swim. I was insanely exhausted and very stiff. I downed a shake (my general sustenance of choice these days) and took a nice long shower. I stretched and sat down for a bit, tried to bring my heart rate down and just relax. What I really wanted to do was lay down, but I knew that if I did, I would fall asleep.

And then I just said to myself, F it! It’s MY tri and I’ll do it in whatever way suits me. So I took a nap and it was glorious. The only contingency with this nap was that I could NOT skip my swim, no matter what. As insurance against this I wore my swimsuit underneath all of my clothes.

I woke up on my own and felt refreshed. I was still a bit groggy, but I combed my hair back, grabbed my swim bag, and headed out to the bus to get to the gym.

The pool was completely empty when I first started. It was also freezing. On Sundays, apparently they shut off the heat since they clean the pool late at night. I guess perhaps they also don’t get too many guests either, so it makes sense from an energy perspective. I had prepared for the cold with a nice cold shower beforehand. I began to do a few laps (backstroke to start) and eventually people started to fill up the pool.

It seems like the evening dynamic is much different than the morning. In the morning you get a mix of 50% women and 50% men. This evening, I was the only female. There were probably about 20 men in the pool area in general — about 7 or so swimming (one shared a lane with me) and the others were in the hot tub, sauna, and steam room. I got a few gross looky-loos from creepy old men but kept pushing forward anyways. If anything it gave me an incentive to swim faster and harder.

A guy had jumped into my lane and began sharing it with me (without asking!) but I found him to be a nice companion. He wasn’t too fast or too slow. He was right around my speed, so we were able to alternate laps around the pool. At any given time we would pass each other in the lane, so it really kept me swimming freestyle rather than resting with the backstroke. Whenever I share a lane and backstroke, I usually end up with a nose full of water. At least this way I could be incentivized to freestyle and finish my distance at a good pace.

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The last 800 meters was the hardest, but again in similar fashion I tried to surge in my last 200 meters. After I finished I was so elated that I didn’t even feel tired. I rinsed off, pulled on my clothes, grabbed the next bus and headed home. I ate a bit and treated myself to some Thai food delivery. (It was decent-to-awful, but it’s the thought that counts.)

All in all, a good day. I’ve quite literally never did this before, so I’m happy to check this off of my to-do list, even if I didn’t technically race. I know what it feels like (albeit with a nap in between sports) but now, for sure, I know exactly how hard the 70.3 can be.

Success: The Hardest Part of Training Is Planning For It

That’s not me. I wish it were, but nope, that’s someone else.

A goal can feel out of reach when you lack proper planning and training. In casual conversation, whenever I hear something like “I don’t have time to work out” or “I could never run a (any distance race)“, I often hear “I’m not worth it,” “I won’t make the time,” or “My health is not a priority to me right now.” My goal is always to help people in little ways so that they can help themselves, and often times I’ll point out the inconsistencies in their logic. The classic one is “I don’t have enough energy to exercise!” to which I kindly point out, “Exercise will train your body to store and utilize your energy more efficiently. What do you have to lose?

One of the key things to remember is that the hardest part of training is planning for success. I’m a total control freak and I thrive on incessant planning. I want to plan my meals, I want to plan my career, I want to plan my training, I want to plan my schooling, I want to plan my travels, etc. Planning planning planning. I can do it all day and all night long and I love every minute of it. (That was another reason why I wanted to get into personal training!)

For people who are not natural planners, tackling down a regular schedule can be a bit difficult and out of character. And for that, I say that you either get some help with your training plans (a friend or hired hands otherwise) or you simply make it a priority. When you realize that yes, you are worth the time you’re investing in yourself, and yes, you are worth the success that you will eventually reap, then hopefully you will give yourself permission to be successful.

A newbie runner asked me to help them put together a half marathon training plan. After some quick digging online and referencing a few plans, I made adjustments to something that already existed and personalized it to his level. That was easy!

What is the true cost of planning, anyways? You take an hour or two to jot out the details of your endeavor (a half marathon, or maybe a week’s worth of healthy meals) and then you schedule some “me-time” to get it done. The savings can really add up: maybe you save $50-$60 a week by bringing lunch to the office (like I’m hoping to this week) or you save yourself a training season of “what-if”s and heartache. Not to mention, you also save the countless hours of ambiguity of not knowing what to do and then subsequently feeling panicky about it. When you know what the end goal is, and when you can visualize it, planning for success is really the fun part.

Two hearty salads (that I’ll eat over four days), baba ganoush, hummus, fat free Italian dressing, celery sticks, and baby carrots…enough for a work week. I THINK.

At work, I personally am crunched for time. Lunch is not at a consistent time and usually hinges on a pretty hectic schedule. On the craziest of days at work I end up eating two of my three meals at the office, and usually at my desk to boot. So, especially for people like me who work more than 40 hours a week, it is imperative that you plan — plan your workouts, plan your nutrition. If I can work more than 40 hours a week and squeeze in 20 miles a week and get my lunches together for the week, so can you. You just have to make the time and ask for help.

Some time-saving tips for you to try:

1. Automate what you can. I know I work for Amazon and I would’ve plugged this regardless of whether or not I worked for them, but you can order most of your purchases online. You know, the mundane things like toilet paper, toothpaste, clothes, GU energy gels, protein shakes, bobbie pins, etc. Depending on where you live you can even order groceries. Order it online and save time! Don’t bother standing in line, dealing with driving and parking, and working through the aisles trying to make a decision. Buy it online and save time and money. Believe me on this one.

2. Plan your training an entire season in advance. Take the guess work out of each morning or evening. Stop wondering what distance you’re supposed to be running or class you’re supposed to attend. Make a schedule and stick to it. Better yet, put it into your calendar and sync it with your phone and email so that you get constant reminders of what you should be doing.

3. Register for your race goal up front. Dangle that carrot for as long as you can. Also, by registering far in advance, you’ll get the best price break and not have to scramble to register at the last minute. If it’s a destination race, also book your accommodations and transport up front to save on costs.

4. Use your exercise time to fully decompress. Working out lets you destress and detach from your crazy, hectic life. Give yourself permission to let go for that short amount of time. Your work and other commitments will still be there once you get back. Use the time to appreciate yourself, destress, listen to some new music or audiobooks, or simply think about nothing. It should be meditative and non-negotiable. (Especially don’t check your emails on your run. That’s just dangerous!!)

Unsolicited Advice to Newbie Runners (From a Newbie Runner Herself)

In the last week, I’ve had a few people openly declare to me their intent to start a running regimen or to tackle the marathon next year…and to them I say kudos!!

Here’s a few things I wish I knew about running before I started running.

1. It’s going to be uncomfortable for awhile, but just keep going. Especially if you’ve been sedentary, get ready to feel tired, hungry, cranky, and sore…at least for the first month or so. Push through it…the rewards of your hard work are worth it. Don’t discount the power of icing, long baths, massage therapy, nutrition/hydration, or good ole R&R.

2. Plan for rest days and plan to do your best. Sometimes life gets in the way of your training. It will happen. It’s best to realize it and to recover from it quickly, rather than forever dwell on it and then never get back into your routine. Put together a feasible schedule so that you can plan the rest of your commitments around your training. Remember, your training is YOU-time. Make it non-negotiable. 3 days a week to start is good; 4 days a week to start is optimal.

3. Get some decent running shoes. They don’t have to be top-of-the-line and expensive but they should be actual running shoes. Running in shoes that aren’t meant to support your feet over a few miles can be painful and harmful. Zappos has some great shoes and they’ll ship them to your door!

4. Start with short races before tackling the big 26.2. A shorter race will allow you to get into the groove of racing (a.k.a. get the newbie mistakes out of the way). I initially had no interest in running a marathon. I just wanted to run a 5K, so I signed up for the LA Big5K 2011. I caught the racing bug and then on the same weekend one year later I ran the LA Marathon 2012. Funny how that works out!

5. Track/journal your progress. You can start a blog or use an app like RunKeeper.com to do this. I always find myself jittery before a major race. It helps to go back through my progress and to see how far I’ve come and to know that I’ve given myself ample time to prepare.

6. Be accountable to someone other than yourself. It can be your significant other, fitness friend, or a charity team. Just make sure you’re accountable to someone else so that you can’t (or rather, won’t!) slack on your commitment. Someone who earnestly takes an interest in your health and interests will do what they can to eliminate temptations in your life so that you can be the best version of YOU.

Would you add any other tips to this list?

Q+A: Getting Started With Your Very First 5K

Someone I know is looking to get into her very first 5K. As a matter of fact, a number of people I know are looking to get into their very first 5K! (Something’s in the air for sure…) So, in an effort to help get them across the finish line, I wanted to put together a blog post to help them get started. I’m still in the process of getting my ACE Personal Trainer certification so I advise you to customize this plan for yourself. These are the things I found helpful for me.

Tips to get started

1. Congratulations on making the decision to do it! 5Ks are really fun because they are very manageable distances to train and race.

2. Get the garb. If you’re going to make this stick, you might as well spend (just a little bit of) money to keep you interested in your pursuit. A few things I recommend to get started:

  • A decent pair of running shoes. I recommend Rykas for women if you are starting out. They are super comfortable and very affordable.
  • Some technical tees or tank tops. Get something that suits your style. If you want something bright and flashy, I say go for it!
  • Invest in some running socks. Check out the selection at Target. They will keep your feet drier than cotton socks and will help protect against blisters.
  • Sunscreen is a great investment if you plan on running during the morning hours or during the daytime.
  • Get some protein powder (for pre/post run recovery). I love Muscle Milk’s dark chocolate! Very yummy.

3. Set aside the time. Depending on how fast you hustle, you may be able to complete each workout in half an hour or forty five minutes. No worries about speed at this point….but give yourself plenty of cushion in your schedule. I always find that it takes an hour to convince myself to go run, actually run a few miles, come back to shower and change. Make sure you slot this YOU time in your schedule and keep it non-negotiable. (Hey, your goals are non-negotiable!)

4. Push yourself, but don’t push too hard. Especially if you’ve been sedentary up until now, don’t overload your schedule with training. You’ll get tired, sore, or worse — injured or burned out. Training is about recovery as much as it is about exercising. It is in the recovery that your muscles repair themselves and get even stronger, as to prepare for the next time your body overloads itself. Give yourself enough time to recover before pushing too hard the next time.

5. Reward your accomplishments. Racing the 5K is a pretty sweet reward (and so is the finisher’s medal or beer, depending on your race), but make sure to give yourself little treats along the way. Did you just stick to your training plan this week? Treat yourself to a glass of wine or some new running accessories. Did you PR (short for ‘beat your personal record’) on your long run of the week? Get some froyo. Reward yourself and actually follow through. You deserve it.

Your Training Plan

As for recommending a training plan…they are usually very specific to the person and their fitness level. However, here is one that I’ve assembled for sedentary first timers — meaning, they’ve never actually put in any significant and/or regular miles. It’s a loose guideline but it’s meant to be customized to your fitness level and schedule. Also, these are things I’ve found that worked for me, so I’m hoping they will work for you too.

1. Set aside 3-4 days a week to train to start. Give yourself a day in between each run to give yourself time to recover.

Day One: Stretch + Run short + Stretch (5K goal = 2 miles)
Day Two: Stretch + Run long + Stretch. (5K goal = 4.5 miles)
Day Three: Stretch + Run fast + Stretch. (5K goal = pacing)
Day Four: Optional – Stretch + Run for 30 minutes + Stretch. (5K goal = pacing)

2. A word on pacing: running isn’t about being out of breath all of the time. It’s about knowing when to push harder and when to back off. A good method to start is walk one mile, run one mile. That gives you enough distance to mentally and physically prepare (warm up) before you start running. Running for one mile at your best effort (even if you can’t make it the full mile) will help you get your lungs and muscles adjusted to the effort. Walk to recover and then repeat. If the one/one mile strategy is too difficult, try one/one blocks (assuming you are running city streets). I did this when I first started because the distances are very predictable — I would one run block, cross the road safely, and then walk the next, and then repeat. The start/stop method can be annoying for people who like to keep the momentum going, but for a 5K race (which is a really fast race) this method will help you strengthen your fine twitch muscles (required for sprinting, dashing, quick turns, and the like).

3. Breathe! It’s important to breathe properly while running and this can be the hardest part for your body to learn. When I first started running it felt like my chest was stabbing me in the lungs…not very fun! The reason why you may also feel this way is because of the lack of oxygen exchange in your diaphragm due to improper breathing. As you run, keep a consistent rhythm — breathe in for 5 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds. The longer the breath the easier it is to go the distance. The shorter the breath, the more energy you burn (for breathing, not for running!). You may want to exercise this skill during your short run or your optional 30-minute run before implementing it on a long run or fast run.

4. After each workout, drink 6-8oz of your protein shake. Do this within the first 30 minutes of finishing. It is during this time that your muscles need the additional protein to begin the repair process! (It will also keep you full until your next meal…an added bonus!)

5. Watch what you eat. Nutrition is key. You want to fuel your muscles with whole, healthy foods. Exercise helps accelerate waste removal (read: DETOX) so as you start shedding the pounds and crap you’ve been loading into your body, begin replenishing it with the great food you deserve. Your body is a temple so treat it that way: only offer it foods that would be fitting for a god (or goddess!).

6. Cross training is a good idea, but obviously can be taxing on your schedule. Fit it in if you can. I recommend yoga since it will help you stretch out any tension in your legs and back. Make sure to stretch to your comfort zone…don’t overdo it and try to mimic someone who has been training in yoga for years and may have flexibility that you lack.

7. Track your progress. Use an app like RunKeeper to log your runs. You can use the phone or web app to do this. The data will help you make decisions about routes and speeds that work best for you.

Good Stretching Technique

So there is tons of advice on how to stretch and when to stretch. From my personal experience, it is best to stretch both pre and post workout. When stretching before a workout, don’t overdo it or you will end up pulling something. The point of pre-run stretches is to prevent injury, increase your flexibility, and loosen up your muscles before taxing them on a run. It is best to hold these stretches for 10 seconds max to give you additional range of motion and to warm up the muscles.

Dedicate post-run stretches for deeper work. This is where you go beyond your initial 10 second hold. Do a series of two to three  10-20 second holds to help loosen the muscles and work out any tension. Again, your post-run stretches should be deeper than your pre-run stretches.

The video is a bit long but it’s pretty comprehensive. Feel free to skip to just the stretching portions of the video.

Final Words

And, for those beginners who feel intimidated by the distance, or perhaps reluctant because of the road they have ahead of them, here’s a nice autobiographical video to check out. It’s by fellow runner-blogger Ben Does Life.

Fitness Friday: RunKeeper + GainFitness 1-2 Punch!

I’ve decided in the short amount of time that I’ve been working out that there are two iPhone apps that I could not live without.

One I’ve been using for almost a year now…the other, I’ve been using for just a few days. What’s great is that I think they really complement each other.

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I use RunKeeper to track all of my activities — swimming, biking, running, walking, hiking, etc. Its GPS tracker helps give me accurate measurements of distance and pace and gives me a really nice interface to view it all in. I’ve been an Elite member since February, which means I get detailed statistics and reports on my workouts. I’ve also enrolled in a few of their running classes, which are really helpful to get you across the finish line for your first 5K, 10K, half marathon, or full marathon.

But, as you probably already know, cardio is just one fraction of the entire picture.

I’ve recently started using GAIN Fitness to help me with resistance training. All you do is put in your height, weight, where you’re working out, what equipment you have, and they’ll come up with a workout for you! They take the guesswork out of everything by illustrating proper form via video or photo.

What’s also neat is that you don’t need to have an iPhone to use their services — the basics of what both services offer are also available as a web-only component to your health and wellness regimen.

What other apps do you find motivating and inspiring?