Thursday, February 28, 2013

FlipBelt Review & Giveaway

I've been waiting for weather to warm up a little to test out a new product I recently received... the FlipBelt.  As a long distance runner, there is always a handful of stuff to carry when I'm out on my feet for hours at a time.  I'm not a big fan of fanny packs, fuel belts or anything that wraps around my waist. I typically carry a handheld water bottle, and love winter running if not for the sole purpose of wearing a vest with lots of pockets to carry "my stuff".  But once that outer layer comes off, I'm a little strapped on where to store the goodies.  (Note: Between the girls is not ideal... GU wrappers do some nasty chafing!)  With that said, I was intrigued by the FlipBelt for its pure simplicity.

Before Sunday's long run, I loaded up the FlipBelt with the essentials... car key, energy packet, gum, cash and my iPhone. It all slid nicely into the fabric belt through a slit down the middle. I stepped into the FlipBelt and let it rest gently on my hips.

I was impressed on how well it blended into my fat curves. With my outer shirt pulled overtop, you could barely notice any extra bulge (like we need any, right?!).  Of course, in the summer months, the FlipBelt will be a nice color splash to my favorite ninja (all black) outfit.

How did it perform on the RUN?
Over the course of a half marathon (13.1 miles), the FlipBelt worked well. In my mind, the comfortability factor is #1 plus with this product. As someone who is normally annoyed with things around my waist, I forgot the FlipBelt was even there during my run.

The iPhone was a bit heavy, so I turned the FlipBelt around within the first mile... so that the items were on my back rather than my tummy. I should have went a size smaller on the belt (sizing chart here). All my items stayed secure in the FlipBelt, but if it's a concern, you may also flip the belt inward to seal the openings against your body. I love the versatility of this product.

Through the miles, the FlipBelt found final resting place around my waist. Again, a smaller size probably would have kept it tighter down on my hips. I reached in several times to use my phone and take an energy gel. I found no problems with its use. While it had slipped up to my waist, I was impressed that the FlipBelt didn't end up all scrunched up. It was visually pleasing even after 2+ hours of running. That matters in a race... hello, finish line photos!?

Conclusion: Would I use it again? 
Yes! I may even order another color. The FlipBelt retails for $24.99.
Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below to enter to WIN a FlipBelt for yourself.
Contest ends March 8, 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
For purposes of this review and giveaway, the FlipBelt was supplied to me free of charge, but opinions expressed are completely 100% Jess.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ankle Cuffs

Only a fellow runner will understand the frustration, anxiety and pure panic that comes with an injury on race week.  Not just any race, a MARATHON.  I have no idea what I did, but I'm officially off-the-charts with worry right now.

I had a slight soreness on the outside of my foot this past weekend, nothing worth mentioning but enough that I gave it some massage and ice. My long run on Sunday didn't improve the situation I'm quite sure. With just a tweek of soreness, I did a short recovery run on Monday morning... and that's when it became a problem. As the day grew on, the soreness grew into an irritating pain. I've been wobbling around ever since.

My very professional Google research has determined it to be a strain in the peroneal tendon, which wraps around the underside of your ankle bone (on the outer side).  I've never heard of it before, but let me tell you this... you need it for running and walking.
I'm confident to say that with rest/ice as the (again very professional) Google research says, it will be fine... Although maybe not in time for Sunday's Little Rock Marathon. It could be a glorious day (weather looks super awesome!)... or an incredibly painful one for me.  I'm reaching for straws right now (I have 4 days!).  My mom mentioned soaking it in Epsom Salt. Have you ever heard of the healing power of magnesium sulfate? I'm going to give it a try, along with continued rest and ice... and then somehow try to stay sane. Not running this week is absolutely driving me CRAZY.  

So send those healing prayers my way please...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hangover Run

I slept in this morning, which is very rare for this early bird runner. I awoke to the sweet chatter of my little girls downstairs. They are finally at the age where they don't announce their presence the minute they roll out of bed. Sweetness. We had a late evening (for me) with some friends last night. There was food, wine, beer and lots of laughs between friends. It was just what we needed after a long hard week. My husband has been working non-stop in prep for an inspection at the base (military). His busy work schedule meant no break from mom-duty for me, totally messing with my run time a.k.a. sanity refresher.

I knew I had to nail my long run today. It would be my last quality run before Little Rock Marathon (next Sunday!). So one would think I'd eat right, hydrate and get to bed early... Nope. Instead, I skipped the "dinner" portion and went straight to wine and then beer. For the old Jess that was pretty common, but not these days. I awoke feeling pretty crappy. I tried a last minute hydration effort this morning, but as I dressed to run, I still felt a little woozy. It was a perfect day outside to run... mild winter temps in the high 30's, sunshine and very little wind. Plus I had babysitter lined up and ready. It was time to suck it up.

I dropped the kids off at my in-laws house and decided to just run from there. I needed new scenery to take my mind off how my body felt. There is a wildlife park near their house, so I snuck in there (closed for winter). It was so peaceful down the road, through the woods and literally amongst the deer. I lost count after 30. As the deer were running and jumping across the road in front of me, I suddenly remembered the photos and reports lately of cougar sightings. The thought "I'm the slowest thing out here" crossed my mind... and I decided 2 miles of wilderness was enough.

I continued to wind through the nearby neighborhoods. The only problem with an unknown route is unforeseen elevation.  Holy smokes, it was nonstop rolling hills, but I held onto my sub-10 pace nicely. The goal for today's 13 was a 9:58 average pace. As mere punishment for last night's drinks, I was determined to hold myself to the plan.

The second subdivision was much nicer... quite frankly, some houses could classify as small mansions. With such nice weather, there were lots of families outside - playing basketball, riding bikes or tinkering in the garage. It was a gorgeous day to be out running. I was so glad I didn't skip it. By time the miles were done, I felt renewed again... and thirsty!

13.1 miles in 2:07:16  (9:42 pace)
Most importantly, I was pleased with how consistent I kept the miles...
9:40, 9:40, 9:57, 9:54, 9:46, 9:40, 9:31, 9:52, 9:51, 9:33, 9:43, 9:34, 9:38

Not too shabby. I'll take that for a hangover run anyday!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Five

This week I experienced a huge "runner's high" moment. Back in January when I restarted training, I had 4x800 intervals on the plan. I was suppose to run them in 3:58 (7:56 pace) and utterly failed. I couldn't even complete one at that pace!! It was so demoralizing to see how much speed I had lost over the holidays. Well... this past Wednesday was another story. I nailed 6x800 intervals, each at 3:58 or less. It was hard; it royally kicked my ars... but I did it! My hands were trembling and I could hardly stand straight after those 6 miles... but I was smiling ear to ear. THIS is why we train.

I'm following the 4:15 plan from the Run Less Run Faster book on pages 250-251. I'll be tweeking the plan slightly next week to accommodate for the Little Rock Marathon, which I will be running as a training run (for big fat bling!). My ultimate 4:15 goal is for Eugene Marathon on April 28.

Have you been following the story on Oscar Pistorius? He's the famous "Blade Runner" from South Africa that made great sensational media during this year's Olympics for overcoming adversity (no legs!). Now he stands accused of murdering his girlfriend. It's really a bizarre story. Pistorius says he shot four times through his locked bathroom door (killing her on the toilet) because he thought an intruder entered through his bathroom window. Witnesses say there was yelling and arguing for an hour before it happened. Hmmm, what do you think?  Suspicious, and yet the judge granted him bail this morning.

This year's Jelly Bean virtual race is gonna be HUGE! Reminder: Today (Fri, 2/22) is the cutoff for ordering finisher's medals. The #JellyBean E-Newsletter went out yesterday - Be sure to check it out HERE to answer any questions. Thanks!

The third and final round of the RUN YOUR A$$ OFF weight loss challenge starts this Monday, Feb. 25.  Only $10 to bet on yourself that you can lose 4% of your weight in four weeks. Lose Weight. Have Fun. Earn Money!  Come on... join in and get yourself in prime racing shape for spring!  All the details here.

What could be better than a day with fellow female runners? If you're in the Midwest, check it out...
Madison, Wis
Sunday, May 5
A full day of runner heaven... group runs, educational sessions with local experts, Zumba, yoga and bootcamp classes, bra fittings, fashion show, mini expo, lunch, cupcake party, swag bags, prizes... and the keynote speaker is ME!!  Oh-my goodness, YES!!  So much fun in one of my favorite cities.  Currently, Running Diva Mom is having a giveaway contest to win a FREE Entry for the retreat  HERE.  Head over and get entered to win!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hot Tracks: Saucony #Virrata

There's nothing I love more than a new pair of shoes... especially when it's RUNNING shoes. So I was elated when this sassy pair arrived at my doorstep...
Saucony Virrata 2013

1st Impression
I was immediately in love with the color combination... black, hot pink and neon green! Need I say more... Awesome color design. But wait, there are more options...
If these shoes wear the miles well, it should come as no surprise that I'll be picking up those purple/white ones. I love me some purple!

2nd Impression
As I lifted them out of the box, I exclaimed out loud, "Holy cow! These are super light!" Over the past year, I have slowly been decreasing the weight of my shoes. My old Asics Kayanos weigh nearly 12 oz. and feel heavy, almost clumsy, on my feet now. The new Saucony Virrata are half that... only 6.0 ounces!!  Men's are 6.5 oz.

3rd Impression
Now for the important part - trying them on. I'm always slightly nervous because I already like the color and specs... pleeeeese let them fit! I typically wear a size 9 in Saucony and the Virrata's fit fine. I probably could have gone 9.5. If I was in a store, there is no doubt that the sales rep would have talked me up a half size.

As I slipped the shoes on, the first thing I noticed was the light mesh that makes up the upper part of the shoes. It was extremely thin and flimsy, but fit around my foot like a glove. I instantly thought, "I'm going to need a thicker pair of socks for winter runs... but these will be great for the hot summer runs."  Not only is the mesh highly breathable, but the collar lining also has superior moisture wicking properties. I really liked how easy and unconstrained the Virrata felt around my foot. They are classified in the "Natural" category.

I was in the middle of making dinner when the Virratas arrived, so I left them on for the next hour around the house. Without even reading the "spec sheet", it was obvious these were a 0 drop shoe, meaning there is no lift under the heel. This is typical of minimalist shoes. When you run, it practically forces you into proper form - landing on your midfoot rather than heel striking.

The bottom sole is not thin, and yet it's lightweight. After some later research, I discovered Saucony used a high abbrasion EVA foam for the bottom sole, rather than rubber like most shoes. The foam provides great cushioning (which I need) while keeping the shoe feather-light. My exact words to my hubby was it felt "bouncy".

On The Run
So first impressions were good. I liked how the Virratas felt. I couldn't wait to take them for a run! Sunday evening rolled around and I headed out the door in my fancy new shoes. {read about the run here}  I knew I'd like the lightweight and instantly felt like there was nothing on my feet. True to my initial thoughts, the winter wind cut right through the mesh and I felt the cold (but never noticed it again once I got past the warmup mile).  I ended up going 7 miles on that first run... unintentional! When breaking in new shoes, you should typically stick to shorter runs (3-4 miles). But I was in a zone on Sunday and honestly, just forgot I had new shoes on. They were that comfortable. My ending pace was rather impressive too - fast for me. Later that evening, I felt a little soreness in my arch. The Virratas have a bit more arch support than I'm used to. I rolled out my arches on a food can and was fine the next morning. If you're new to landing on your midfoot, you may also experience some calf strain. But in time, your calves will gain strength as you transition away from heel-striking. You'll also save your knees.

Yesterday, I gave the Virratas another go... on the treadmill. My feet always feel heavy and slow on the treadmill. Not sure if it was the shoes or Eminem pumping through the speakers, but I had a hard time keeping my "easy" run easy. My feet again felt light and I wanted to run fast(er).

The shoes even have reflective details on the shoelace holes, which showed its power when my camera flash was on.

My Conclusion
The Saucony Virratas are a great shoe to begin a journey towards natural runing. They are lightweight and feel easy breezy comfortable on the feet. Unlike other minimalist shoes, they offer substantial cushioning for those who need it. The bottom has nice traction that I found helpful running through gravel spots. I am anxious to see how the Virratas wear through heavy mileage. Can I push them past the 250 mile mark?  With a price tag of $90, they are certainly worth a try.

*Disclaimer: I received these Saucony shoes as a complimentary media sample as a FitFluential Ambassador. However, written opinions are all JESS.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Revival Run

Busy weeks have a way of turning bad for me. Last week was one of them. I pride myself as a multi-tasker, but eventually the stress of "being everywhere, pleasing everyone" can send me in a tailspin.  While I'm sort of a busy-bee, I also need my down-time to reload.... time for my body, but more importantly, my mind to relax and prioritize.

I was feeling really down over the weekend. My interval run got skipped during the week and my long run didn't happen. I managed to get in some quality miles, but certainly not what the plan called for. It's frustrating and I stewed over it all weekend. This is when running addiction becomes unhealthy for me. I easily turn to crap food to make me feel better, which in fact, does just the opposite. I'm on edge and short with my family. I was not pleasant to be around and my motivation was in the toilet.

By Sunday evening, I was bursting at the seams. Since I had now finished all the chocolate from my kids' valentine boxes, there was only one choice now... RUN to the store for more. I quickly laced up and stepped out the door before my mind could make another excuse. It was chilly (mostly because of the wind), but the bright sun was in its last hour.  I tried to keep the pace easy, but built-up stress makes that hard to do. My heart takes over and I have a way of pounding everything out onto the pavement. Without even a glance at the watch, I could feel the demanding pace, but my legs seemed to be on autopilot. I marched up the hills and kept turning down streets for more. I heard the beeps telling me miles were done, and knew this run was turning into more than the "easy 3" I told myself when I left the house.

The longer I ran, the higher my energy level soared.
The more labored my breathing, the more I could breathe again.
Just when I felt normal again, I turned the corner and the magnificent sunset took my breath away...

I literally stopped in my tracks. It was a like a slap in the face... a "wake the eff up and look at this glorious life" moment. Here I was feeling all depressed over what?!
Life is healthy.
Life is good.
I am okay.
The purpose of this run was complete.
I turned towards home and returned a new woman.

Sometimes revival can be just that simple for me... run until I reach the AH-HA moment. It may take a week for it to happen, but when it does, everything just falls back together.

•  •  •

Not as bad as my mind was playing it out... I did "work" every day. 
5 Spinning classes, 4 Runs, 3 Core workouts
YTD Run Miles: 207

Mon - Run Easy 3, Spinning, Core class
Tues - Spinning, Core class
Wed - Run Intervals: 6x800
Thurs - Swim
Fri - Run Tempo 8
Sat - Spinning
Sun - Run Long - 13 (sweet taper!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentines FIT COUPLES #3

In celebration of Valentine's Day, I am featuring several of my favorite FIT COUPLES... and giving you the opportunity to share your fitness love story as well!  I applaud those who are determined to live healthy and be a role model for their children and communities.  Keep Rockin' the Fit Life!

If you missed the previous FIT COUPLES, read their stories here:  
#1  Joe & Stephanie here
#2   TJ & Stephanie here

Introducing FIT COUPLE #3:
The multi-tasking mommy Kelli and her Crossfitter
Several years ago, we found ourselves at a crossroads. Mike had high blood pressure and Kelli, a stay-home mom, found herself sluggish, uncomfortable and missing her personal confidence. Making changes to our diet and family activities, together we lost over 75 pounds! 

Mike was introduced to Crossfit and was instantly hooked. Switching to the Paleo diet, old food cravings were replaced by a desire to find out what his body was capable of, now with the extra weight gone. Kelli started running with the Sole Sisters and taking classes at the local gym. Just recently, she has started teaching fitness classes and looks forward to getting certified to do even more instruction. 

It’s amazing how energetic and confident I feel when I fuel my body properly and use a variety of exercise in my life. I’ve developed an incredible amount of fitness friends, whom add to my healthy lifestyle.  It is never too late to start taking care of your body, mind and soul with exercise, diet and most importantly, a positive attitude!  We both support each other in our different fitness interests. He loves Crossfit; I love my fitness classes. Different choices, but somehow we make sure each gets their “gym time” several times a week. 

We both feel is absolutely essential to expose our daughters and involve them in exercise and proper nutrition. Mike does weekly Crossfit workouts with our 5 year old in our living room.  Her favorites are the bear crawls, the inchworm, and burpees.  Kelli introduces activities like swimming, yoga and zumba to both girls by having special “mommy-daughter fitness time” each week. We want to ensure our children prioritize their health and know that exercise is fun!  Is it time consuming? Yes. It adds even more chaos to already hectic schedules, but we choose to make the time for our family - and have a blast while we are doing it! We realize that we have two little girls watching our every move, and we are proud of what we are teaching them.  ~Mike and Kelli

SAVE 10% OFF entire order with code FITCOUPLES

Valentines FIT COUPLES #2

In celebration of Valentine's Day, I am featuring several of my favorite FIT COUPLES... and giving you the opportunity to share your fitness love story as well!  I applaud those who are determined to live healthy and be a role model for their children and communities.  Keep Rockin' the Fit Life!

If you missed yesterday's FIT COUPLE #1 Joe & Stephanie, read their story here.

Introducing FIT COUPLE #2: 
The powerful Crossfit family of TJ & Stephanie...
When it comes to fitness, most of our friends know us as ‘CrossFitters’… because well, that’s about all we do and talk about. We had both been athletes since we were kids and were looking for something new apart from the “regular gym” where I went to classes and he did free weights. We wanted to do something together – and I didn’t want our girls stuck in childcare with someone I didn’t know and where I couldn’t see them. In the spring of 2012, we found CrossFit. It was what we were both looking for – new challenges, weight lifting, cardio, you name it! At the time, our gym didn’t have a “kids area”… but we brought them anyway. It didn’t take long for other members to accept them as “one of us”.  The CrossFit culture is like a second family.

Having two small children can easily hinder fitness in a relationship. TJ and I, however have never let having kids “hold us back” from us doing the things we want to do… we instead make it a family activity and include everyone. I believe it is important, not only to our relationship, but to our relationship with our kids to be positive role models. Our kids see us being happy, getting better at things through struggle and hard work and being healthy and active. In turn, they want to do the same things. They learn not to give up, and that it takes hard work sometimes, but it’s worth it.

Since we aren’t as lucky as some with getting time for ourselves and “date nights”… we created our own “dates” working out at CrossFit. TJ and I both spent the day looking forward to getting to work out with each other that afternoon. I believe it’s brought us closer as a couple. At the gym, like in a relationship, we’ve seen each other struggle, persevere and succeed through hard work and determination. We’ve been there to help each other through when we think we can’t do it anymore… we’ve been each other’s #1 fan. We are doing something together that keeps us healthy and able to tackle anything both in and out of the gym. We will both be in the CrossFit Open this year… and while we most likely won’t make it to Regionals, we’re excited to see how far we’ve come in our one short year of CrossFit.    ~TJ and Stephanie

SAVE 10% OFF entire order with code FITCOUPLES

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine FIT COUPLES #1

Leading a healthy lifestyle in our society is not always easy, but having a supportive partner helps tremendously.  Sharing fitness with your lover is both added fun and built-in motivation. When you add work and child responsibilities, it's not always a smooth road, but always worth it.

In celebration of Valentine's Day, I'm going to introduce some of my favorite FIT COUPLES... and give you the opportunity to share your fitness love story as well!  I applaud those who are determined to live healthy and be a role model for their children and communities.

First, I feel the need to add a disclaimer: It is OK if you and your partner are not both fitness freaks. I am lucky enough to have a husband who loves and supports me in my adventures, however crazy they may seem. However, our interests and hobbies don't always match up. Just because I like to run, spin, swim, cycle, live at the gym... does not mean he will. It's taken me awhile to be okay with that. Am I slightly jealous of all those couples who workout together? Yeah, a little bit... but it's just not for us. The hubs has tried and I give him credit for that. Last year, he ran a 5k every month (no pre-training!), as well as his first half marathon (never again, he says). He will travel with me to race all 50, cheer me on, maybe even run the 5k, but he's perfectly happy sleeping-in on weekends rather than getting up at sunrise to "go long".  With young children in our house, it works. I get my time away to reload and return happy to be wife/mother once again.  We may never be the poster model of a "Fit Couple," but we somehow make it all "fit".

Introducing FIT COUPLE #1 - the sassy Stephanie and her always smiling hubby...

Running together is something we rarely do (because Joe is way too fast for me)... but it's a common lifestyle we share.  We wouldn't have it any other way.  It gives us mutual understanding for time management, for spending money (races, running shoes and gear), for injuries and frustrations, and for goals.  We have seen each other grow so much through running, and overcome personal issues and struggles because of it.  We are each others' biggest supporters.  We give each other positive peer pressure... so much so that we even have a competition with each other for 2013... who can get to 1000 miles first.  So far Joe is winning... not by much!

The photograph above (on the right) is from the finish line of the Quad Cities Marathon 2012. Stephanie completed her first marathon. Joe completed his second and waited an hour and a half for Stephanie to cross the finish line. Thank you Karen Dehne for capturing one of the best moments of our lives.   ~Joe and Stephanie

Are you a FIT COUPLE? 
Showoff your Valentine and you could win a cool blue Heart Runner Girl tank top from Milestones Sports Jewelry & Apparel.  Here's how to enter...

• Email 1 photo of you and your love (fitness theme preferred) to
• Include 2-3 sentences about your fitness love story... meet at the gym? run together? whatever your story is... Keep it brief please, so I don't have to edit it. Thx!
• I will post all photos in one album on my Facebook the morning of Feb. 14. You are welcome to tag your photo. Tell your friends and family to vote. The photo with the most LIKES at midnight on Valentine's Day wins the cool blue tank top below.  All photo entries must be received no later than 10:00pm CST on Wed, Feb. 13.
courtesy of Milestones Sports Jewelry & Apparel

Miles Sweet Miles

warmup miles along Peoria's riverfront
I ran 18 miles on Saturday and then was too exhausted to write about it. Sometimes the recovery part of marathon training is more consuming than the actual running time. I run like crazy... and then kinda float through the rest of the day. My mind is always flying a million miles an hour, but my body can't keep up.

This past weekend's long run was a good one with my friend Anna. She's a bit faster than me, so it's a gentle push - one that I need.  We took a different route than the norm... more hills than I would usually put in an 18 miler. But it was fun to explore and discover a new loop (one that I will surely repeat). Several of the hills were killer and had me sucking air and praying for strength. Thankfully, the pace was more comfortable for Anna... so she carried the conversation and talked me up the hills. She's like my own personal coach - that I don't pay. Score.

Me and Anna - Can you see the hill behind us?
I barely glanced at my pace the whole run - just focused on keeping it at a comfortable pace (For me, that means I can hold a conversation - sans hills). Anna and I split at mile 14, so I really had to dig deep to push myself in the last miles. The RLRF training plan dictated my goal pace at 10:29 for this long run. I was so thrilled when I finished to see I was spot on. 18 miles in 3:08:46 (10:29 pace). Practically impossible to hit on the head, even if I tried. The pace wasn't consistent with the variance of hills, but I'll take the average any day.

Unlike my recent long runs, I was S.O.R.E. the next day. Shoot, by evening I could feel my legs stiffening up. No doubt, hills give me a different kind of workout. I listened to my body scream and gave it an extra rest day (two days off running).

Little Rock Marathon is now just 19 days away. I've started to study the course... and it's definitely not flat. To give Little Rock some extra prep, today I added more hills into my long tempo run. The more I run those monsters, the less they hurt (or the better I get!?). I didn't hit any rocket paces, but I was really happy with my splits and how strong my legs felt storming up the elevation. 8.45 miles in 1:19 (9:22 pace). For the middle four miles, I hit a consistent 8:4X pace... on hills! I was so happy with the results and more importantly, how it felt. This week is my peak before I begin a small taper for Little Rock (March 3). Then I'll pump it back up in prep for Eugene on April 28.

It consumes my mind. It rattles my body. It steals a ton of time... but I LOVE marathon training!!! There is nothing better than feeling yourself getting stronger, week by week.

How's your training going?
Do you seek out hills - or avoid them?
Are you running Little Rock? I'm trying to gather names so we can plan a meetup!

Don't forget...
• To sign up for the 3rd annual Jelly Bean virtual race here.
• To enter the StrideBox giveaway here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

StrideBox Review & Giveaway

I received this neat little box in the mail this week...

I love mail truck deliveries... especially when it's a surprise! I could not wait to open it up and check out the contents. I was not disappointed. Look at all these fun RUNNER GOODIES...

This was the latest delivery of StrideBox, a monthly subscription service that delivers a box of curated running products to your doorstep each month... for $15 (shipping included). Whether you're a beginner (experimenting with new products), a consistent runner (trying to find the perfect mix), or an endurance athlete (flying through fuel faster than your car), the StrideBox is a clever way to discover new products on the market.

Items in the StrideBox come from established brands, as well as emerging newcomers, and may range from energy bars, gels, apparel, gadgets and other fun extras. The contents are different each month. Inside the package, you receive a "cheat sheet" describing all the items and even offering some discount for future purchase.

As a busy mother runner, I really like this idea. I hate traffic and stores, and love mail. (It should be no surprise that I do a lot of online shopping.)  I like to try new products, but I'm also a little frugal and gun-shy on buying new stuff. The large displays in sporting stores can be a bit overwhelming. Plus, I usually have a 4 year old tugging on my leg, "Can we go yet?"  I don't have a lot of free time in stores to read labels, talk with store associates and pick out new products.  I typically grab "my usual" in haste... not because I love it, but because I know it will make do.

I'm excited to try out my new stash of run goodies... and StrideBox was generous enough to offer a FREE STRIDEBOX DELIVERY to one of my readers in March.  Enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget displayed below.  GOOD LUCK! Winner will be announced on Feb. 16. 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Warmup

There are times during training cycles when motivation is low. No doubt, it happens to everyone. But this is where self-discipline plays a critical role in meeting your big goal.  Lace up and just get out the door. Many times, that is half the battle for me. Start putting one foot in front of the other. Nine times out of ten, by time I finish a warmup, my heart is in it and the workout falls into place.

This past week, I had the dreaded one-mile intervals on my schedule. Ugh. It is so hard to sprint a mile, repeatedly. It's serious work for me, and I don't enjoy it. I headed out for my run with the full intention of blowing off the sprints. After a two mile warmup, I decided to go for it.  3 x one mile at 8:11 pace was what the training plan asked. I didn't quite hit the pace mark (8:29, 8:19, 8:32) but was pleased considering the wind and rolling hills I stormed up. There is no way I could of hit those paces without a proper warmup... both mentally and physically.

Many runners skip the warmup phase, but I am a full-hearted believer.  In the age of Garmin-tracked and DailyMile-reported runs, no one wants slow miles to bring down their average pace. But I'm here to tell you, working a warmup into your daily routine can enhance your performance and help keep you injury-free.

The warmup minimizes heart stress by gradually increasing your heart rate rather than shocking it. Breathing is easier to control when you build the tempo with your steps.  A warmup will raise your body temperature and loosen muscles so they may function more properly and avoid pulled muscles upon exertion. Finally, blood flow to your muscles is at optimal level and properly supplied with oxygen when it's go-time for your workout.

So, how exactly does one warmup?
Easing into your workout, a warmup is slower pace exercise that prepares your body for the physical activity to follow. In essence, it loosens you up.  My warmup differs based on the type of workout on deck. Here's some examples of what I might do...

Easy/Long Runs:  I start off with a slow trot, gradually increasing to a run at conversational pace for 10-15 minutes. This should feel slow, especially when your legs are fresh. If you're experiencing any issues with sore or strained muscles, this is a perfect time to stop and stretch them so that the rest of your run goes smoothly. (Don't ever stretch cold muscles!)  My personal rule of thumb is that my first mile split should always be my slowest.

Tempo Run: Similar to the Easy/Long Run above; however, I use two full miles for my warmup. I want to make sure my muscles are fully ready for the vigorous tempo paces.

Interval Runs:  Like the tempo, I use two miles to warmup the muscles. Then I run through a series of form drills: lunges, skipping, high-knee lifts and butt kicks. I usually do 100m of each down the track.

Treadmill Runs:  I find my knees and calves take a beating when I run on the treadmill. So instead of pounding out miles on the hamster wheel, I warmup on the elliptical, bike or other non-impact machine. You may miss out a mile or two on your weekly mileage, but this practice keeps me feeling healthy.

Race Day!  Get to the race early and take care of all the details - packet pickup, potty stop, photos with friends, etc.  If you are gunning for a PR time goal, I can't express the importance of a race day warmup. Take a good 10 minutes to warmup immediately before the race start.  General rule is the shorter the race, the longer the warmup. In a 5K, you're going to go out fast from the very start; whereas, in a marathon, you can use the first mile as part of your warmup. My race day warmup consists of easy jogging, stretches, and series of faster strides. Use your physical warmup to also mentally prepare for the task at hand... Visual your race execution. Repeat your mantras for the last time before the gun goes off. Find your BEAST mode.

It Works!
I can recount several recent times where a warmup paid big dividends in a race. Last August, I rode my bike 7.5 miles to the starting line of a local 5k.  I ran an unbelievable race, smoking my previous PR by nearly 2 minutes to snag first place in my age group. Seriously, the warmup works!

I challenge you to pay attention to your WARMUP this week.
Make it the slowest mile of your run. Run Happy and Injury-Free!
Do you currently utilize a warmup in your runs? Any tips to share? 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Snow Running

It's been a fairly mild winter this year (and last), so I've missed a lot of snow running. I made up for it yesterday... 20 mile run, nearly every step on snow covered trail. We had a fresh snowfall on Friday night, giving a nice 1-2 inch layer over everything. I dreaded the run all morning, but finally after lunch, I met up with 6 other Sole Sisters for some white miles. I prefer morning runs, but this was my only window of opportunity over the weekend. By afternoon, the winter winds had kicked up, adding both resistance and cold to the tricky footing. It was a tough run, but we powered through to hit our 20 mile goal.
20 miles in 3:34 (10:40 pace)

Running in snow certainly adds an extra cardiovascular effort to your run. I like to think that 3 miles in snow is equal to 5 miles without. (That's my estimate and I'm sticking to it.) Your body works overtime maneuvering through the white powder. You work additional muscles in a stabilizing effort to keep balance... from your hips down to your ankles. In my experience, my upper back and shoulders are also a tad bit sore after long runs in the snow.

Here's my tips for running in the snow successfully...
    • Wear trail shoes if you have them. They'll provide extra traction and tend to be more waterproof than regular running shoes.
    • Throw a pair of Yaktrax or Stabilicers over your running shoes. In my opinion, snow has to be pretty consistent to wear these. If there are dry spots along the route, the uneven bottoms of these traction gear tend to hurt my feet. I did not wear them for my long run yesterday. In hindsight, the Stabilicers might have been helpful.
    • Wear a pair of extra socks for warmth. I always do this in winter, but you know your feet best. Some people have hot feet. Seriously, I know folks who run without socks even in winter! If you do a lot of winter running, have a separate pair of shoes for winter...  Go a half size bigger to allow for the extra thickness of socks, and add screws to the bottom for traction.
    • Dress in layers. Despite cold temps, you will warm up as the miles tick off. Again, run outside enough in the winter and you'll learn what works for you. I'm a big fan of UnderArmour heat gear leggings and mock turtleneck as my base layer. Occasionally, I'll add a skirt for extra warmth on my thighs and butt. I sweat a ton in my armpits, so my outer layer is almost always an insulated vest. On long runs, I wear compression socks to baby my calves.
    • Wear sunglasses. Even on a cloudy day, the brightness of white snow can produce a glare effect. In addition, sunglasses protect your eyes against the wild winter winds. If you wear contacts like me, glasses are an absolute necessity.
    • If snow is coming down at a regular rate, wear a brimmed hat to keep the flakes from hitting your face directly. Over enough miles, this added wetness on the face will only intensify the cold.
    • Slow down. Be realistic in your expectations. Odds are likely you won't be running the same pace as you do on dry roads. Instead of focusing on your pace, put that effort into keeping your balance on the slick surface.
    • Shorten your stride and keep your feet lower to the ground. This will help reduce the risk of falling or straining muscles on a slippery push-off gone wrong.
    • If you're in the presence of a wicked winter wind, start off my going INTO the wind. Believe me, you don't want your final miles to be like ours were yesterday... cold. Once you're wet with sweat, the wind against you only makes you feel colder... fast.
    • Safety first. Find friends to run with you. The trails are less busy in the wintertime, so there is a sense of loneliness out there. While sometimes that is a refreshing, it's definitely a safety concern. If you must run alone, be sure to let someone know where you are running, check in occasionally, and carry a cell phone and pepper spray (I also carry a pocket knife.)
    • Be seen. Wear bright colored clothing and/or reflective gear. Vehicles are not expecting to see pedestrians on the side of the road in the winter... so be sure you can be seen at all costs. When snow is piled up on road sides, it's natural to run further out onto the road... but be sure you are running against traffic and move over (stop if necessary) when a car is coming.
    • Lastly, ENJOY the run, the scenery and the tough badass feeling of getting it done in adverse weather. You rock!!

    Do you experience much snow running?
    Do you have any other tips for mastering the white run?