Thursday, January 30, 2014

Three Things Thursday

I went a little crazy on Tuesday and did back-to-back treadmill RUN + INSANITY class + TRX Bootcamp. (Read more about it here) A couple hours later, I returned to the gym to teach SPINNING class. Umm, yeah... Evidently, that was a bit much for this gal. My booty has been aching like there's knives twisting in my glutes with every step. The only relief is sleeping with my ars on a heating pad. I love working out everyday. It just makes me happy to sweat out the day's stresses. So when I have to rest because I overpushed... well, I'm just crabby... and disappointed. Disappointed with myself because I know better.  Today, I did light yoga and it felt good to stretch things out. Tomorrow, I hope to be back running.

Every August, my city (Peoria, IL) hosts the St. Jude Runs, raising millions of dollars for St. Jude Children's Hospital. Over the years, I've donated a lot to my runner friends who were involved, but this year I've decided to run as part of the Bartonville-to-Peoria team. With that being said, St. Jude will be the official charity beneficiary of this year's Jelly Bean Virtual Race (back for its 4th year during Easter week).  I select my charities carefully each year and am excited to support St. Jude. I also hope to run the St. Jude Marathon (Dec) for Tennessee in my #RaceAll50 quest.

The Snowball Shuffle virtual race is going in full effect across the country! I love seeing all your pictures. Anyone can still join the fun (details here). You have until Sunday, 2/2 to finish the 8K distance. All finishers are entered into a prize drawing to win a heart rate watch! Winner will be announced on Tuesday, 2/4.

I would remiss if I didn't remind you to VOTE HERE today in the ZOOMA Run-to-Napa contest. If I win, I also get a trip to giveaway here for you. Thank you so much for supporting me every day. I just love you guys!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I got a bit INSANE

With the turn of the New Year, my gym rolled out a new class called INSANITY. I knew it would be challenging when I heard my fellow instructors were sore after their certification training.  Every Monday night as I stroll into the Spinning room, the gym is packed for INSANITY class - and those people are clearly working hard. Seriously, it's a bit intimidating to watch.

Over the past month, I've noticed there are quite clearly two sets of people... Those that get a glimpse of INSANITY class and say "No way am I doing that!" or those that scream "Bring it on!"  I don't like to think of myself as part of the first group, but I am. Sometimes. (Can you imagine me being deathly afraid of Spinning class? I was just 5 years ago!)  Trying new things is a hurdle that I still have to push myself over. I find that I've fallen into the daily routine of running and Spinning, which is all fine and good. But my body has definitely adapted and doesn't change much anymore. I still desire the change... the change on the scale, the change in how my clothes fit, the change in exertion levels, the change in performance.

Today I decided to change it up. I gave this INSANITY class a try. Worse case scenerio, I can't keep up and have to take a break. The kids (who were off school today yet again) and I arrived a bit early, so I decided to warm up on the treadmill. Warming up for INSANITY?! Such a foolish girl. But I needed some miles for the #WinterMiles Challenge.  I was a moron and thought the class started at 11:15am. Nope, it was 11:00. So I was late, but jumped in anyway. It was the perfect teaser on what Insanity was all about. I got in 2 "blocks" before the cooldown. Not easy and I was definitely gasping for air after the basketball jump/twirl thingys.

With INSANITY, you work all-out for 3-5 minute blocks, and then take a break only long enough to catch your breath before starting it over again. They call it Max Interval Training because your body is working at maximum capacity throughout the entire workout. It's all about pushing your limits.

After surviving Insanity, I decided to really push my limits and try the TRX Bootcamp. The small training group is limited to 9 people, but a couple didn't show so I was able to sneak my way in. As you know, I'm not a big fan of strength training. I find it boring and tedious, and really have to force myself to do it on a weekly basis. I'd rather run for an hour than do 20 minutes of strength. No joke. Well, let me tell you what... I think I just fell in love with TRX Bootcamp!! This class was so fun and completely challenging. I have always liked the circuit style of strength training... rotating stations. On. Off. Switch. Go!  I used to belong to a gym that actually had a circuit room with blinking lights and alarms. I loved it!  So I'm kind of excited today to find a new class that works for me. It's something I really need to add into my training regime.

So that was me, stepping out of my comfort zone today... and making a little magic.

What have you done lately to challenge yourself? 
What activities are 'outside' your comfort zone?
Have you ever tried INSANITY or TRX?

Don't forget to cast a VOTE today in the Race-to-Napa contest. I am deeply thankful for all your support. I'm hanging onto the lead (barely)... all because of YOU! Thanks so much!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Back to Training

I never intended to take a break from training. Normally, I schedule plateaus in my yearly schedule, but the complete drop-off this past Nov/Dec was depressing for this runner chic. Between plantar fasciitis (PF) and pneumonia, someone up above was telling me to take a break. I grudgingly obliged...

Have you ever LAID DOWN on a treadmill
after running?? Yeah, it's HOT like a heating pad!
I have slowly been building back my running mileage base. The PF has occasionally reminded me of its presence, but pretty good for the most part. I continue with strengthening exercises for the lower leg, and the foot roller has a permanent spot by the couch. I've completed three long runs since the new year. Each time, I'm nervous of the results, but as with anything, each run feels better and better. Consistency is key. With each passing week, my endurance builds.

I've been avoiding the Garmin or anything that times my runs. I know I've been slow on the comeback. I can feel my body moving slower and don't need to see the numbers to reinforce that. It's depressing and I'm trying not to let it mess with my head. With Old Man Winter being nasty this year, I've been forced onto the treadmill more than I'd like.  I cover up the time/speed displays, but as a veteran runner, I know by the setting what speed I'm doing (6.0mph is 10 min/miles). Through the weeks, I've noticed a slight increase of pace which is encouraging to keep on keeping on.

Back in the pool!
In addition to running, I've added swimming back into the mix. (I signed up for an Olympic triathlon in July.)  Oh-brother, swim is a sport that gives me mixed emotions. I'm not good at it, but it is good for me. The cardio exercise without impact is simply invaluable in my training. With every swim, I feel the whittling around my core and the strength in my arms/shoulders/back. It makes me feel strong, yet fluid. By no means am I a "swimmer", but I try my best. Right now, I'm doing intervals of 4 laps of freestyle swim (which exhausts me), followed by a lap of water jogging. I repeat the sequence for 40 minutes. I'm usually in the pool with older pool walkers during the day. They are much nicer to me than the "swimmers". The other day, one guy told me I looked graceful. I almost spit pool water in his face at how much I laughed.

When it comes to biking, I really miss my rides outside. I don't have an indoor trainer (yet) so Spinning classes fill the void. I am a Spin instructor at my gym, and it has been my happy place this winter. I love the ability to ride with friends of all fitness levels. We have a lot of fun in the Spin room, plus it's a fantastic cross-train for running. I'm hoping come spring, I'll be able to smoothly transfer over to rides on the road bike.

If you've read my blog for any extent of time, you know my focus  to #RaceAll50. I've got 19 states done already, but it's getting expensive to say the least. So when the opportunity arose to win a trip to a state I haven't raced yet, I jumped at it!  I've received some nasty messages about it, so let me say this... By no means do I think I'm better than any other blogger or deserve it more than anyone else, I would just love the chance to run Napa Valley in CA!  In fact, I've been voting daily for my other friends in the contest. The 'Run to Napa' voting runs until Feb. 24 and I would greatly appreciate your daily votes.  If I win, another trip to ZOOMA Napa Valley will be given away here on the blog, so there's a bit of incentive for you too.  Click here to vote.  Please know that I appreciate it more than you know!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Core Power Protein Drink

This past month, I've had a chance to try a new-to-me protein drink... Core Power. There's a ton of these drinks on the market - some pre-mixed, some powders.  I'm always a bit leary because of the chalkiness taste that overpowers many of them. I'm happy to report that these Core Power protein drinks taste great and I happily consumed all my free samples!

You may see a lot of Core Power these days in the media. They are the official protein drink of the 2014 Winter Olympics. In fact, they sponsor a whole realm of everyday athletes throughout the country.

Core Power is a natural high protein milkshake - in an easy portable bottle... the perfect post-workout recovery drink for active peeps. Made from fresh, lowfat, lactose-free milk and real honey, Core Power has the optimum protein-to-carb ratio and nutrient-rich profile to be the perfect ending of every workout. From endurance sports and bodybuilding to pilates and yoga, Core Power helps you recover faster, build lean muscle and stay at the top of your game.

Currently, there are 5 selections to pick from...
Banana, Chocolate and Vanilla are the FULL PUNCH options. These three offer 26g of protein and 700mg of calcium in each bottle, which also includes 240 calories. They are also gluten-free. Find full label information here:  Banana | Chocolate | Vanilla

My personal favorites were the LIGHT versions in Chocolate and Strawberry Banana. These two are slightly less on the numbers: 20g of protein, 500mg calcium and only 150 calories. Still gluten-free, the Light flavors offer a protein punch right after your workout without the extra pile of calories. Find full label information here: Chocolate  |  Strawberry Banana

If I'm heading the store, my purchase selection would be... Light Strawberry Banana. It was light and refreshing in taste, yet gave me the perfect amount of protein and substance that I was able to make it home after a tough gym workout before chewing my arm off! The easiest place to purchase Core Power is off Amazon, where there is a one-time $5 off coupon on a case of 12, averaging the bottle price to be under $3 each. What would you pay for a healthy delicious milkshake?

Your turn to try CORE POWER!!
Enter the giveaway contest via the Rafflecopter app below.
One winner will take home this Core Power Prize Pack:
• gym bag
• stability balance ball
• sweat towel
• yoga mat & carrying case
• Camelbak water bottle
• and some Core Power samples of course!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Treadmill Tell-All

We are smack in the middle of treadmill season. If there ever was an ideal time for a treadmilling, it is now when the windchill is -20 here at my house. Ouch and no thank you. 

After my own mill session today, I read this article at Marcia's Healthy Slice and thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. If you have a blog, feel free to write your own edition of Treadmill Tell-All... or chime in with your comments below!

My current treadmill setup in my basement

1. What’s your favorite workout to do on a treadmill?  Anything easy! I really can't stand the treadmill; it's a necessary evil in my running journey. So I wouldn't call anything my favorite, but INTERVALS certainly make the time/miles go by quicker. I'm also fond of the progression run.

2. How many miles, on average, do you run on the mill each week?  Hopefully none! I get outdoors as much as possible, regardless of Illinois winter. Both my kids are in school now, so my schedule allows it - unlike the toddler years. Single digits tend to be my cutoff point for cold temp tolerance.

3. What was the most mileage you’ve ever completed on the mill in one workout? When? Why?  I did a 12 miler while training for my third half marathon (2011). When the kids were little, I depended on the treadmill often for my sanity mileage. My husband went through several deployments, so I had no other option sometimes.  Just recently, I did a 10 mile 'mill run. Again, it was nasty winter weather + the Packers game was on. Multi-tasking at its finest!

4. Do you mill at home, the gym or both?  Both for me. While the home treadmill is more convenient, I run better at the gym. I tend to quit on myself or back off the pace while at home. At the gym, there is more distractions (people to watch), less excuses and of course, the feeling that someone is watching. That makes me run stronger.

Treadmill #1 was the place I first
cooked up the notion of running
a half marathon.
5. What distractions or entertainment (if any) do you use to help pass the time?  I'm not a fan of watching tv shows while running. Not sure why, but I just don't like it. Most of the time, I crank the music really loud and watch news or a sporting event at the same time. The music is kind of a treat for me since I rarely run to music any other time. Sometimes as I run to music, I create new rides for my Spinning class... again, multi-tasking.

6. If you have a treadmill at home, what kind is it? How old is it?  In December of 2011, I welcomed treadmill #2 into my home... the ProForm Performance 1450. (My first treadmill lasted roughly 8 years of average use until the repairs got too expensive.)  I wrote a full blog post about my new treadmill here.

7. Do you fuel any differently for a treadmill workout than an outside one? I probably drink more water since it's handy, but normally, I fuel less with GUs.

8. Any treadmill mishaps to report? Nope! Thankfully, I've never fallen or taken any spills.

9. Do you mill at incline to compensate for not being outside?  I only add incline if I'm doing a hill repeat workout. I just don't feel the "easiness" that experts say about treadmills. It already feels harder to me than a flat road. When I run my comfortable pace on the 'mill, it's already slower than my outdoor runs. So I figure why add insult to injury?!  With that being said, I do find that the more treadmill miles I put in, the faster I am once back on the road.

10. Describe your perfect (if there is such an animal) treadmill conditions: I'd love to put my treadmill in a three-seasons porch extended off my dining room. I could enjoy the warmth of sunshine in winter, and be able to watch over my backyard in summer while the kids played.  

PLEASE... Take a moment to cast a vote for me HERE. It's a simple one-click vote. I'm in a contest to win a RACEcation to ZOOMA Napa Valley. The best part is... if I win, I receive a second trip to giveaway here on my blog - for YOU!!  You can vote daily. Thank you so so much in advance!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Safety Tips for Winter Running

This weekend, many of us ran for #megsmiles, the Virginia mother runner who was killed by a drunk driver. The story is so incredibly sad, especially since it sounds like Meg was doing "everything right" from a runner perspective. Her death is a potent reminder of how dangerous road running can be and why as runners, we need to take extra precautions to be safe. Here are some reminders for winter running...

1. BE LIGHT & BRIGHT. Wear reflective clothing and lights if you are running in the early morning or evening hours. Even in daylight, a brightly-colored shirt will be more visible on the roads than black or white (both of these colors blend in with the road and/or snow). The more you stand out, the better a driver can see you. I can't tell you how many times I see runners out in the dark and they are completely invisible until my car is right upon them. As a runner myself, I feel like pulling over and reading them the riot act. Be smart and light it up.

2. USE YOUR SENSES. I know many people love running with music; but in winter, it is more important than ever to utilize all your senses for safety - including your hearing. For example, if you see a car coming at you and hear a car behind you, you will know in advance that the oncoming car will not be able to move and give you space. Thus, you better step further into the shoulder so that everyone passes safely. With impaired and distracted drivers on the road, you simply can't trust them to stay in their lanes. Pay special attention to this on curves. The more you can anticipate (and avoid) threats on the road, the safer you will be. Save those rocking tunes for the treadmill.

3. CHOOSE YOUR ROUTE. When the ground is snow-covered, stay off busy roads where the speed limit is greater than 25mph. Pick trails or quiet neighborhoods where traffic is light. Maybe you'll even get lucky to find shoveled sidewalks! Again, use both your sight and hearing to spot vehicles backing up out of driveways. I need more hands to count how many times I've almost been clipped that way. Try to find roads that have large shoulders to offer ample room for both a pedestrian and vehicle to pass safely.

4. CONSIDER TIME OF DAY. Think about the time of day you are running. If it's flexible, avoid the busy commute times. The 5 o'clock rush hour is the worst in my opinion! Drivers are tired and stressed from a day of work, usually multi-tasking and frustrated with already congested traffic. Not an ideal time to be on the side of the road for a runner.

5. MAKE CONTACT. I think it's common knowledge, but always run/walk on the left side of the road (facing oncoming cars). As oncoming vehicles approach you, look through that windshield to see the driver's face. If their head is tilted downward, odds are most likely they are staring at a phone and won't see you. Be proactive. Trust no driver with your life. Move off the road; stop if needed. I always try to give a friendly wave or make eye contact with the driver to know they see me. The same holds true when crossing intersections. Give drivers a little wave (and I like to mouth out a "thank you"). Most of the time, they will wave back and you have your go ahead to cross infront of them.

6. SLOW DOWN. When ground conditions present snow and/or ice, it makes runs a little tricky. Your muscles work differently as they try to stabilize your movement across uneven or slippery surfaces. Take the pace down a notch and pay attention to your foot fall. If you have a speed workout on deck, it may be best to modify the target paces or just take it to the treadmill.  Running in snow is not the time to test your speed and risk injury.

I find winter running invigorating. It makes me feel completely alive (and somewhat badass) for conquering the elements... but safety is always my #1 concern. There is so many things that are out of our control, which is why it is incredibly important to be PRO-ACTIVE when running on winter roads.
What other safety tips do you have for winter runners?

If you could, please take a moment to cast a vote for me HERE. It's a simple one-click vote. I'm in a contest to win a RACEcation to ZOOMA Napa Valley. The best part is... if I win, I also receive a second trip to giveaway here on my blog - for YOU!!  You can vote once every day until Feb. 24. Thank you so so much in advance!

Saturday, January 18, 2014


This morning, I was suppose to meet up with my Sole Sisters for a #megsmiles group run. Instead I overslept, which is odd because I never sleep that late. When I did wake up, my 5 year old was standing at my bedside with a spatula in hand. "Mommy, I'm making muffins and don't know how to turn on the oven."

Just as the words "Oh no honey, don't go making a mess" were about to roll off my tongue, I remembered where I was suppose to be... running miles for Meg, the runner who was killed this past week by a drunk driver. What Meg wouldn't give to be making muffins with her three children today! So with a smile, I rolled out of bed and gave my daughter a hug.

And we made muffins...

Eventually, I got outside and ran for Meg. I intended on a few easy miles, but easily got lost in thought as I floated across the snowy roads. It felt like I had wings on my feet and could have run forever. I eventually stopped at 5... one mile for Meg, her husband and each of the three children she leaves behind.

I saw somewhere online that Meg's favorite color was blue,
so I wore my new blue hoodie for her today.

It's easy to get angry when hearing these stories of pedestrians being plowed down by unattentive drivers of motor vehicles. (Meg wasn't the only one this week.) Whether it's drunk driving or texting, it is completely avoidable. These are not accidents; these deaths are the result of careless decisions.

Please please please as you go forth with your day... slow it down; one thing at a time. When you're driving, put that phone away and focus on the task at hand. It goes without saying (or does it?), don't drive after drinking alcohol. Be safe and watch out for one another, so we can all keep moving forward, together.

Make the pledge today... 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Race Recap: Chicago Polar Dash 14 miles

My last 9 weeks of running. Pathetic.
It feels GOOD to be back.
Last week was a pretty amazing week. After being on the DL list for what feels like eternity, I finally made my way back to a consistent running schedule. Plantar fasciitis ruined my fall. Then starting at Thanksgiving, the flu and pneumonia took their toll to end the year. It took my chest forever to be able to breathe normal again to resume running. I have slowly added miles with a careful eye on that dang PF. I'm trying my hardest to be smart and avoid further injuries. I have big plans for 2014 and really want to get back on track!

I decided to push for a 20+ miles this week in the #WinterMiles Challenge and see how my body/foot responded. I'm happy to say I hit 27 and feel good! Half those miles came from the Chicago Polar Dash on Saturday, Jan. 11th.

I registered for the Chicago Polar Dash several months ago - when I was thought this would be an 'easy 14' in the middle of marathon training. Ha! Since then, hell broke loose on my body and my March marathon was downgraded. However, I'm still stubborn enough to think I can pull a 14-miler out of nowhere. So I showed up in Chicago on Friday night, completely untrained for this kind of distance. Obviously, I wasn't shooting for any kind of PR. (Oh-wait, I've never run a 14 mile race, so it's automatically a first-timer's PR!)  My goal was to finish and attempt to RUN as much of the 14 miles as possible.

A few of my fellow Peoria Sole Sisters came along on the mini RACEcation.
I had dreamed of a pretty run along the snowy Chicago lakefront... yes, cold but pretty. Well, Mother Nature hasn't been following my dreamy visions lately. While the city had a ton of snow, the prior day brought warmer temps (40's) with a whole day of rain. Yuck. Everything was mush and slop. Forget the YakTrax, I needed swampers (aka rain boots)!

The race started and I took a deep breathe. Let's Do This! As always, it was a bit congested at the beginning, but the trail conditions made that even worse. There was a mix of snow, black ice and supersize puddles. Runners weaved around them, crawled up snow banks to go around, and my favorite... came to a dead stop to tip-toe through the water. It was a lot of stop and go running. I saw people falling and really wanted to avoid that. Bad enough my feet were going to be wet, but I wanted to keep the rest of my body dry and warm. So I just kept it to an easy jog, following those in front of me since there was no getting around anyway.

Eventually, runners spread out, the trail opened up and I had a bit more wiggle room to move around. I didn't wear a watch, but could easily tell that miles 2-4 were my fastest. As we hit the mile 4 marker, I remember thinking, "Oh, you're kidding. We've only done 4 miles." The off-roading through snow, grass and mud were wearing me out. I backed off the pace a bit, knowing I had 10 more miles to conquer.  The course was an out-and-back along the lakefront of Lake Michigan. So at mile 4, I focused on only 3 more until the turnaround. That sounded manageable.

For once, I looked forward to the uphills (dry land at the top) and dreaded the downhills. Somewhere around mile 5, I took a detour to avoid a big lake that stretched across the trail... stepping onto a snow pile... and my foot went all the way through to the water below. Freezing cold water engulfed my whole foot. Aw, crap! About the same time, the leaders started their return, creating two-traffic on the lakefront path. Those fast (barely clothed) guys just plowed right through the water puddles.

I hit the turnaround and started my return. I felt invigorated to be on the final stretch, even if it was 7 more miles. I enjoyed my GU Salted Caramel and ran a comfortable steady pace. Honestly, the run back went by pretty quickly.

At the mile 11 marker, I felt pretty good. I made a vow at that point to run the finish. No more walk breaks around the puddles (My feet were prunes anyway.) As I ran past the McCormick Place, the huge convention center provided a welcome shelter from the wind. It was a sudden tunnel of calm; quiet peace. It completely overwhelmed me in that moment and I almost spilled tears. I can't even put into words how good it felt to be back running!!

The finish was pretty anti-climatic. Since the grass was snow-covered, wet and muddy, people were walking all over the trail, so the finishing stretch was kind of a cluster. But I crossed that finish line with great joy to be done and so proud of this slow but consistent 14 mile run.  I AM BACK!

My 1st Finish Line of 2014!
Official Chip Time 2:35:07
average pace 11:04

We were quick to head back to the hotel after our chilly finish... but I did grab several cups of hot chocolate to warm up! Along with the cool finisher's medal, I also received a nice fleece finisher's jacket and a penguin winter hat in my Chicago Polar Dash race packet. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

#WinterMiles Wk 1 - Run with YakTrax!

It's Day 4 of the #WinterMiles Challenge. Have you been keeping track of your miles? If you are unfamiliar with the #WinterMiles Challenge, you definitely need to check it out here. New participants are always welcome! It's easy motivation to push your mileage during the toughest eight weeks of winter. Give yourself a mileage goal each week (this is a commitment to yourself). Then at the end of the week (Sunday), report back your results. If you hit your goal, you're entered into the weekly prize drawing. It's just that easy! Sign up now for the challenge here.

What are you running for this week?
The Week 1 prize is a pair of YakTrax Run!  These shoe accessories slip over your regular running shoe and allow you to continue your training outside in the winter snow. If you're like me, the thought of the treadmill or circles around a track is so discouraging. What makes the run invigorating for me is fresh air and the freedom on the road. When I'm stuck inside, my run just doesn't have the same glory. So YakTrax has become my friend, making outdoor runs possible despite the winter powder.

The most important thing to know is that YakTrax come in various styles - depending on what you want to do...

The original YakTrax is the Pro style. I reviewed these a couple years ago -  click here to read my Pro review.  Today, I'm going to discuss the YakTrax Run style, because I think these are more beneficial to the average runner.

See the difference?

If you are running a surface completely covered in snow (especially trail), then the YakTrax Pro would be your best bet. However, if you're like me... running roads where there is a mixture of snow, thin ice and even some clear spots... then the YakTrax Run will be your best friend for winter stability.

In my opinion, the YakTrax Run have the perfect combination of spikes and coils to keep me on my feet. The removable carbide steel spikes under the forefoot make a smooth pushoff possible in your stride. The 1.4mm steel coils along the midfoot and heel provide an unbeatable 360˚ traction as you move through the snow.

As the flurries start to fall, I find myself excited to lace up and get outside... Running in the snow has that special energy - a spirit that says I'm a kid again! Let's go play!  So as the hubby snowblows the driveway and the kiddos work on their snowman, you know where I'll be - RUNNING in the snow!

Don't be afraid of winter running. Give it a try. The treadmill or gym track will always be waiting for you if it's not your thing. But trust me, once you've done your miles in the snow, you'll discover muscles that you may be ignoring. Plus at the end, you'll feel completely badass for logging those miles outside... in winter!

Now get out there and rack up miles for Week 1 of the #WinterMiles Challenge!
Come back on Sunday, Jan. 12th to report in your results. Hit your goal for the week and you'll be entered into the prize drawing to WIN a pair of YakTrax Run!