Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Faves: Pinterest Workouts!

I've had some requests recently from friends and family for ideas for fast, easy, and efficient workouts they can do at home.  I really believe you don't need a gym membership or hours of free time to stay fit.  There are so many free resources out there where you can find workout ideas - fitness magazines, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest - just to name a few.  I have a whole board on Pinterest devoted to exercise and today I'm going to highlight some of my favorite HIIT at-home workouts.  The beauty of these routines is that they require no equipment, can be done anywhere (traveling, working from home, etc.) and most of them take 30 mins or less (you can customize by adding or subtracting time or reps depending on your level of fitness). 

For those that are unfamiliar with the term, HIIT is an acronym for High Intensity Interval Training.  It is a type of exercise where you alternate short bursts of high intensity activity, with less intense recovery periods, over and over for a set time or series of movements.  I think I was first introduced to this style of exercise when I delved into CrossFit last year and ever since then I've been incorporating HIIT workouts into my cross-training arsenal.  There are many benefits to HIIT exercise including:  burning more fat, increasing metabolism, increasing aerobic capacity, and improving athletic performance.

Although I do belong to a gym, I often do these workouts at home on my non running days, and use the gym for weight lifting, swimming or taking classes.

Without further ado, here are some pinned workouts I've tried and tested and loved!

All of these workouts and more can be found on my "I Work Out!" board on Pinterest.  Give them a try and let me know what you think! 
And when you're done, feel free to wear this shirt, because well, YOU'VE EARNED IT! 
Questions for today:
Do you belong to a gym or do you work out at home? 
What do you do on your non running days?



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Training Begins for the Runners' World Half and EnergyBits Review

It's safe to say I was chomping at the bit these past few weeks to start running again.  I wanted to rest my legs as soon as I felt a hint of that tendinitis/tibial pain, but it's hard for me to rest altogether.  So although I spent the last 5 weeks swimming, biking, lifting, doing core and HIIT work, and walking, I couldn't wait to be reunited with my one true love - vegan soft serve - no, no, no - RUNNING! 

Last week I officially started up my 8 week training plan for the Runner's World Half Marathon.  After battling some injuries last year, and some new aches (a bit of medial knee pain, which unfortunately is starting to resurface a bit - I believe it is this) during training for the Nike Women's Half in April, I was hoping for some smoother sailing leading up to this race.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I haven't been able to pin down the cause of some of my recurrent injuries so I continue to do my own research and in the meantime attend to them the best I can, while still preparing for the races I have planned.  I heard and read about the difficulty of the RW Half (lots of hills!) so going into this race, I didn't plan for a PR, and at this point realize I will be doing it more for the experience. 

To say I am excited for this race is a complete understatement!  First, it is taking place near Rodale headquarters in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania which also happens to be MY hometown!  I can't wait to run the streets where I literally grew up.  Runner's World also has an incredible lineup for the expo, which will include speaking engagements with the race director of the Boston Marathon and Olympic athletes.  Not to mention all the high profile athletes who will be running the race as well.  As if all this wasn't enough, I've seen the lineup of bloggers who will be attending, and I think I'm excited about this the most.  To actually have the chance to meet some bloggers that I have been following for months/years IN REAL LIFE is going to be like meeting legit celebrities! Hahaha  You can find the full list of bloggers who will be attending here.

So here's what my first week of training looked like last week:

Sunday - Out of town/Returned late night from ATL; 75 pushups
Monday - Rest; 80 pushups (I spent most of this day cleaning since I was out of town - that counts as a workout right?!)
Tuesday - 3 mi run
Wednesday - At-home HIIT workout; 80 pushups
Thursday - 3 mi run; 85 pushups
Friday - At-home HIIT workout; 85 pushups
Saturday - 5 mi run
Sunday - Lap swimming for 1 hour; 90 pushups

At the same time last week, I was testing out a sample of EnergyBits I had received while I was gone.  You've probably seen the buzz about this company and product on social media lately.  I connected with the company on Twitter and they were nice enough to send me some samples to try out:

What intrigued me about EnergyBits was that they are actually little bits of green food (spirulina algae) and not supplements.  I had read about spirulina in the past and had always thought about supplementing with it as it is considered a 'superfood', but just never did.  I take a daily multivitamin and a few other supplements, which admittedly are manufactured in a lab.  I like that spirulina is a food that naturally contains these nutrients because I know it's ideally better to get nutrition from food than from supplements.

A few other points about EnergyBits:

- made of organically grown, non GMO algae
- contain no caffeine, sugar, soy or gluten
- 1 calorie per tablet
- are naturally composed of 64% protein plus over 40 other vitamins and minerals

So, how did my first week back go?  Well Tuesday's run felt GOOD - really good.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder right? I just kept thinking "Oh, how I've missed you" throughout the entire run! This was also the first day I tried the EnergyBits.  It's recommended you swallow 30 tablets prior to a workout.  I was conservative and started with 15... and I chewed them. Oh yes, I had to go there.  Um, I would not recommend chewing.  The literature from the company says algae is an "acquired taste" and they recommend you swallow the tablets, but I thought oh they can't be talking to me.  They tasted like a mixture between grass and fish food (not that I have ever tried either).  So, if you get your own sample, I recommend following the enclosed instructions :)

I don't know if my great first run was due to my own elation or to the EnergyBits but everything came together for me.  My legs also felt pretty good (minus the knee issue).  I am also trying out a new pair of insoles in my shoes and I want to give them a few more tries before I review them, but after three test runs, I can feel a difference in my lower legs, so here's to hoping!

Saturday was my first long run back - 5 miles - so I doubled the dosage of Bits and took the recommended 30.  I struggled toward the end of this run.  Up until mile 4 I felt good, but the last mile was hot, heavy and just bleh.  I checked my MapMyRun workout log and the last time I ran 5 miles was in June so that's probably why. 

Tonight, I used the last of my sample Bits (I had 14 left) and ran a naked 5k and felt GREAT!  Something about running 'au naturel' if you will, without music or GPS, lets me reconnect with my body better and reminds me why I love running. 

Since EnergyBits are mostly protein, I didn't get the sudden rush of energy that I do when I take a swig of Gatorade, gels, or other carbs during a run, but in terms of nutrition, I don't think their vitamin, antioxidant and mineral profile can be beat.  I think in the long term, they would be a great dietary addition and would probably eliminate the need for other forms of man-made supplements.

Week 1 down, 7 to go.  This training schedule is admittedly a bit more abbreviated than I would like but I'm just hoping to stay somewhat conservative and keep any lingering issues at bay.  I've been icing the sore spot on the inside of my knee nightly so I'm hoping that calms down as well.  I trained for and ran Nike with this issue (and an elastic knee sleeve) and did ok, so we'll see what happens.

Questions for you tonight:

Are you training for any Fall races?

Anyone doing the Runner's World Half and want to meet up?!!

Have you tried EnergyBits?  If you are interested, you can connect with them on Facebook or Twitter and request a free sample.

*Disclosure:  I was given a free sample of EnergyBits, but I was not compensated in any way.  The opinions expressed here are entirely my own :)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Into the Wild

Wow.  It's been some time since a book has absorbed me so quickly and affected me so deeply as Into the Wild.  I devoured this book in two days.  Something about the person Chris McCandless was spoke to me, and even though I knew how his story ultimately would end, I was so intrigued to learn more about this curious young thinker. 
Truly, I don't know how I never picked up this book.  Years ago I remember hearing about his story so I'm not sure how this never made it onto my reading list.  I've never seen the movie either, which is a plus, as I generally like to read books before seeing their interpretations on film. 
After finishing the book, I did some Googling to find out more and discovered there is/was a great bit of controversy surrounding both the author and protagonist of the book.  Critics of the deceased McCandless claim he was an arrogant, foolish rich kid who had no business hiking into the Alaskan wilderness, and some even claim he was suicidal for doing so.  Critics of Jon Krakauer, the author of the book, dislike his glamorizing of McCandless's odyssey and also think Krakauer is incorrect when it comes to his theory on how McCandless died.  I don't think anyone will know the whole truth, and it's of course impossible to know what was going on inside Chris's head, but although I may not agree with everything he did, I admire him for chasing after and leading his life as authentically as he did.  Not many people have the audacity and courage to abandon the chains of security in their life and chase after their biggest dreams, and I've always admired those that do (perhaps because I've been afraid to chase some of my biggest dreams?).  It is the risk-takers, the dreamers, those that dare step out of the box, that make history and lay claim to accomplishments others of us only dream about.  Isn't this why people run marathons?  To do something that only a small portion of people will ever do? 
McCandless has also been accused of being selfish, but I would argue who shouldn't be selfish when it comes to designing their own life?  Building one's personal philosophy, setting goals and deciding how to live one's life is a wholly selfish endeavor.  After graduating from Emory, Chris donated his $24,000 trust fund to charity, a decidedly unselfish act if you ask me.  However, in the two years he spent on the road, he never touched base with his parents, and that's a little unfathomable.  I can't imagine what his parents must have been going through during that time (or how they could never have attempted to find him??).  His disagreement with the way they chose to live their lives led him to cut ties with them, and perhaps he knew they'd prevent him from doing what he was doing. 
One of the things about Chris's personal philosophy that really struck home with me was his distaste for American consumerism and materialism.  The book stated that his room in college consisted of not much more than a bed on the floor and some milk crates.  When he set out on the road following graduation, he didn't take many possessions and eventually burned all his money!  His desire to disconnect from the 'more, more, more' mindset of our modern society is admirable.  After leaving an industry whose sole focus was indeed money, I've had the same sort of feelings.  It seems the more we have, the more we want, and the more we think we need.  It's a vicious cycle.  I always felt somewhat out of place in my prior career because my ideals about the world didn't really jive with the moneymakers I worked with.  I often long to live more simply.  Do you ever notice how many messages we are sent daily from all forms of media telling us we need this or that to make us happier, skinnier, prettier, etc?  All short-term fixes.  I don't know about you, but I tend to be happiest when I am communing with nature, spending time with people I love, or following my heart - all of which cost nothing. 
What I take away from this book is a powerful message to live your life fully, according to your own design.  Who are we to judge the way someone else chooses to live (or die)? I don't think Chris McCandless was mentally ill.  By all reports found in his journal notes throughout his two year adventure, he seemed like he was living his dream.  It's sad that his parents had to suffer and that he didn't make it through his ordeal, but whether you believe him to be a fool or a hero, probably would be of no concern to him anyway. 
I'll leave you with a poignant quote from Chris which I think sums up his message tidily:
"It is the experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found."
Your turn!
Have you read Into The Wild?  What were your thoughts?
Do you have any big, wild, maybe crazy, dreams of your own?

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Georgia Trip from A to Z (Well, mostly...)

I'm baaaaaaack!  My two weeks down South sure went by in a jiffy, but it also feels like forever since I've blogged.  I was going to try to post a few times down there, and also keep up to date on reading my favorite blogs, but the reality of what a day with two kids under the age of 3 entails hit hard!  After putting them to bed and getting our workout in, we only had an hour or two a night to ourselves.  I don't know how my sister does it alone every day!  Just another piece of evidence supporting the statement that Moms really are Superheroes :)

Enjoy the recap of my trip below in keywords and pictures:

A - ATLANTA!  My destination.  The New York of the South.  The Big Peach.  Hotlanta.  The ATL.  Ok I'll stop.

B - BLUEBERRY PICKING.  We did this twice while I was there.  My niece loved it and so did we.  There is nothing more delicious than fresh produce you pick yourself.  We had pounds of fresh blueberries to eat all week and even made some blueberry muffins.  YUM!

C - COLD.  I came down with my very FIRST cold of 2013 on this trip.  Knock on wood, I rarely get sick, however never underestimate the germ-carrying power of small children and the places they frequent. 

D - DRINKS!  We went out to the movies one night, and to my surprise there was a BAR in the movie theater!  What a great idea.  Not sure if they serve alcohol in the theaters where you're from, but they don't around here.  Aside - We saw "We're the Millers" and it was unexpectedly hilarious.  Could've also been the alcohol I was drinking but I recommend checking it out :)

F - FITNESS CHALLENGE.  I kept up with my Push up challenge on the trip, although I will admit with all the activity going on during the day, there were a few days I forgot to do my push ups, which meant the following day I had to double up.  Yep, days of 120 push ups have already happened.  I am liking this challenge though because it's getting me to focus on my arms.  I do standard (not knee) push ups and can usually do 40-50 without a break.  Then I'll rest for 30 seconds and finish up.

H - HUMOR.  This sign seen outside a bar...

L - LACTATION MUFFINS.  No I'm not lactating, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy plenty of these delicious concoctions made by my sister the past two weeks!  They contain ingredients like flax seed and brewer's yeast which apparently are good for nursing mothers.  And me.  (If anyone is interested, I can get the recipe from her.  They are seriously good.)

M - MOMMY'S NIGHT OUT.  Apparently goes like this...

N - NIECE and NEPHEW.  Behold the cuteness.  I can only hope my future children are half as good looking as these two.

P - PAINTING NAILS.  My niece is only 3 and is already obsessed with having her nails painted.  She asked us to do it nearly every day, and she wanted every nail painted a different color! Hahaha.  I decided this was awesome and did the same...

S - SKY ZONE - A giant indoor trampoline center that I took my niece to.  They also apparently have adult fitness classes (on trampolines!) and recreational dodgeball leagues.  So much fun.  Will be requesting my next date take me here.

T - TWINS!  My sister and I get asked constantly if we are twins.  Sometimes we say yes, sometimes we tell the truth! Haha (We're actually a year apart.)  On my last day there we were out eating lunch and the counter person asked which of us is the better fighter?! What?

V - VODKA.  We went out in The Highlands one night (my first time in this neighborhood) and happened upon a bar that made their own house-infused flavored vodka.  I ordered orange-pineapple-vanilla bean, and it was delicious!

W - WALKING.  This was my workout most days.  Truly, I had wanted to do more low impact activities like swimming, HIIT or core work, to give my legs and their accompanying tendon/muscle issues more rest time, but this was great sister time.  My sister goes on a nightly walk after she puts the kids to bed most evenings and this is something we did together.  We walked a 5K nearly every night I was there.  However, my legs seem to be bothering me more.  My 8 weeks of training for the Runner's World Half will begin this week, so all I can do is start up and see how they do :/

Y - YUM!  My sister and I went out for a sushi date one night and tried someplace she had never been before.  This place had some of the best, freshest, sushi I've had in a long time.  It was also really cute and the owners were very sweet and attentive.  If you live in the Smyrna, GA area, I'd definitely recommend it - Village Sushi and Gourmet. 

Z - ZAC BROWN BAND!  Great concert.  Kind of weird seeing a summer concert indoors (Georgia Dome) but it didn't take away from the music - I've wanted to see this band live for years and my dreams finally came true. 

Ok I skipped a few letters here and there, but this gives a good picture of how I spent my time down in Dixieland.  Just wish my sister lived closer so I could spend more time with her on the regular.

Questions for you today:

Where was your most recent trip?

Does your family/siblings live nearby or far away?

Have you picked any fresh produce this summer?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Georgia on my Mind

"Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane, Don't know when I'll be back again"  Well, yes I do.  Anyway, tonight I am catching a plane down to Atlanta to spend two glorious weeks with my sister, brother-in-law and these little Georgia peaches:

I can't wait!  I love the ATL.  I love the sunshine, the weather, the people and of course seeing my sis!  Every time I travel south I am reminded just how much friendlier the people are down there and how much I love HOT weather.  I know Georgia was pretty rainy earlier in the summer so I'm hoping we get a string of rain-free days. 

I am also super excited because Saturday night we are headed to the Georgia Dome to see these guys in concert:

I CAN'T WAIT!! I've been wanting to see them for years and now it's finally happening, and in their home state no less.  What's crazy is, before these guys were world famous, they were playing in dive bars all over Atlanta and my brother-in-law used to go listen to them.  He even bought one of their CD's at a bar long before the songs were being played on the radio, so he knew all of their hits once they came out.  How cool is that?!

I'm hoping to be able to blog down there, but what usually happens is 90% of the day is spent occupying the little nuggets, which only leaves 10% for eating, sleeping and other necessities...Hahaha.  In any case, I'll definitely be updating Instagram and Twitter with pictures and tidbits so we can keep in touch there.  And I'll also be keeping up with the 30 Day Push Up Challenge as well (hopefully I can rope my sister into that!). 

Hope you all have a great couple of weeks!

How about you?  Have you been to any concerts this summer?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mid-Summer Goal Check and August Arms Challenge

Today is the first day of a new month.  That always feels so good doesn't it?  Like a fresh start in so many ways.  I can't believe it's August already though.  I guess this 'mid-summer' goal check may be a bit late, however according to the calendar, summer technically doesn't end until September 21st so let's go with that :)

I'm not sure if I ever actually stated my summer fitness goal on the blog, but I wanted to incorporate more cross training into my workouts this season.  In the first half of this year, I really slacked on any kind of cross training - I was just running, running, running constantly - and I was afraid this would lead me to re-injure areas I had problems with last year.  I'll back up for a minute and explain those injuries. 

Last year I was elated to find out I had won a spot in the Nike Women's Half Marathon out in San Francisco, so I was training all summer for it.  However, I gradually started to experience pain in my shins and lower legs that I thought was shin splints, but I continued to run through the pain.  The last experience I had with shin splints was when I ran track in high school, and I'm pretty sure we just iced our shins and continued training.  I don't ever remember taking time off or missing meets because of it.  Well, the pain got pretty unbearable last July so I went to see an orthopedic doctor who thought I may have developed stress fractures along my tibias.  She ordered a bone scan to check it out.  What a strange test that was.  They inject you with radioactive dye in the morning.  Then you come back to the lab a few hours later and they take pictures to see where the dye has migrated.  The tibia in both legs was lit up so darkly with dye, the technician said he had never seen inflammation like that before!  Then the doctor came in and said I had severe tibial periostitis and I had to immediately stop running or I was in danger of getting stress fractures up and down both legs!  Im addition, I was diagnosed with posterior tibial tendinitis at this time as well. 

This pretty much crushed my dream of going out to San Francisco to run Nike.  So I started physical therapy, and very reluctantly took some time off running.  But apparently not enough time.  After a few weeks and against the advice of my physical therapist, I started running a little bit a few times a week.  Bad idea.  This just prolonged the injuries.  The thing that really frustrated me during this time (other than not being able to run, which was REALLY hard) was that none of my doctors or physical therapists could pinpoint what had caused these injuries and how to prevent them in the future.  I still don't have an answer for that.  So I took some more time off through last Fall and that's when I got into CrossFit.  LOVED CrossFit and if I had the money to join a box I would definitely have continued.  I think the conditioning I got during my trial month was probably some of the best workouts of my life. 

So fast forward to early this year.  I found out I won a spot in Nike's Inaugural Half Marathon in DC and was PUMPED! With all the time off and conditioning I did through the fall, I felt this was my reward for missing San Fran.  So I trained from January through April for that race, but only by running (I never learn!).  I developed a nagging issue with my right knee before that race but it wasn't enough to stop me.  I still don't know what that was.  I had a great race, not a PR, but I felt really good the entire race, which to me is a WIN!  After the race in late April, I never took any time off from running.  In fact, I've not take any rest weeks or time off since the beginning of the year.  (You can probably see where this is heading.)  A few weeks ago, I started to feel pain on the inside of both ankles but kept running through it. It got progressively worse and I also noticed some tenderness in my left tibia.  I think at this point I realized the tendonitis in both ankles had resurfaced and my shins were hinting at some inflammation as well.  This is what I get for NOT cross-training.  Even though I told myself at the beginning of the summer that I would be more conscious of adding non-running workouts into my schedule, I failed to do this. 

So it's now been about 3 weeks since I've gone for a run.  I have the Runner's World Half Marathon coming up in October and I don't want a repeat of last Fall.  In the past three weeks I have been swimming, biking and lifting like a maniac.  I probably should add in some total rest days here and there, and I know I also need to be doing some strengthening exercises like these as well:

Video via Runners World

In the meantime, I continue to search for answers as to WHY I keep getting the same soft tissue injuries in my lower legs.  I personally think the surface I run on is part of it (I run solely on concrete and asphalt) but I also think my form is part of it as well.  After reading Born to Run, it just seems heel-striking is not the most natural way to run.  I've also been connecting with some teachers of Chi Running on social media and am interested in picking up a copy of that book next.  I read an article in Runner's World recently about a woman who would cycle through the same overuse injuries between every race until she took a course in Chi Running and has now been injury free.  Proponents of Chi state that it is a more relaxed, natural way of running that reduces injury.  After I've had a chance to read the book, I'll post a review up here.  When I start running again, I may go back to the treadmill for awhile to see if the softer surface helps at all.  (I haven't run on a treadmill in probably over a year, ugh!).  I'm hoping if I really stick to taking some time off, doing some strengthening exercises and cross training, I will be ok to start training again soon and do Runner's World in October.

One of the things that actually did force me to incorporate cross training were the monthly Challenges that I started this summer.  Remember Plank A Day for June?  And last month was the 30 day Squat Challenge:

If you squatted along with this entire challenge, you did 3,295 squats this month!  Give yourself a giant pat on the booty for that :)
I've decided August will be for Arms and this is the challenge I'm doing for the month, if you'd like to join:

I mean we need to balance out our hugely muscular thighs now right?!
Here's to hoping by the end of the month, my legs are feeling healthy and fresh.
Questions for you today:
Have you experienced any running injuries?  How did you deal with them?
Are you participating in any Fitness Challenges this month?