Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Accessory Giveaway

The Chicago Runner Girl blog started about two years ago after I came to the sudden realization that I wasn't holding myself accountable in regards to my running. At the time I wasn't really doing any speed workouts, I didn't keep track of my mileage or how my body was responding to the exercise stimulus that I was putting it through, I wasn't setting goals for myself, and mentally my head was a mess (you can check out my first posting here).

Through this blog I've met some really great people that I've learned quite a bit from and have found the path that I want to venture down in life. After two years of building relationships with you all and having some out of this world experiences in my running life, I would just like to say thank you. You all inspire me to make the most out of this short life and to keep on keeping on with a smile on my face.

I enjoy reading each and every one of your blogs and comments and feel very blessed to have come into contact with all of you wonderful souls that I wouldn't have met otherwise. So thank for continuing to stop here at Chicago Runner Girl.

As a thanks to my readers, one lucky guy or gal will score some new running accessories.

Giveaway includes:

1 Lululemon hand held water bottle that has a secret pocket to stash your belongings
1 Lululemon Brisk Run Toque Hat in black
1 Lululemon headband in lavender
1 package of my favorite Clif Shot Gel, mocha flavor
1 package of my favorite Clif Shot Bloks, black cherry flavor

All you have to do is comment below:

(1 comment) Tell me your favorite running accessory and why
(1 bonus comment) Tweet about the giveaway @Chirunnergrl

Giveaway ends Sunday 2/5 at midnight and winner will be announced Monday 2/6

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gearing up for another cycle

Today started at the ugly hour of 4 am for me to ensure I could squeeze in a much needed strength circuit. Sure it would have been easier to just turn the alarm clock off and snuggle back into the covers a little bit more, but it's 2012 and I've got some fairly lofty goals
I've got to do my best to #makeitcount. Everyday.

So as I said on my twitter page yesterday, thank the Lord for coffee.

Speaking of coffee, any other coffee drinkers out there who wear a heart rate monitor while running or strength training? Just curious as to how coffee effects others, it usually shoots my heart rate up 10-20 bpm.

Last posting I discussed a bit about how I've decided to take a new approach to my next training cycle. This time around all workouts will be stemming from intuition rather then the do it because my plan says so method that I've held myself to in the past. I've always been a planner that would spend copious amounts of time sitting in front on an excel spreed sheet and studying pacing charts analyzing how to best take on my latest goal for weeks before jumping into a new training cycle. Very time consuming and often times not very fun.

Planning out a 16 week training cycle all at once may work for some people, but it's no longer working (nor do I think it really ever worked) for me. It doesn't leave the wiggle room I need and often times leaves me feeling frustrated and anxious when adjustments have to be made. So I'm throwing out my old way of doing things in order to be more in tune with what is going on with my body so that I can get one step closer to actualizing my goals.

Next Monday marks week 1 of spring half marathon training 2012 for me and this is what my schedule looks like: 

Yup, that's how I'm doing it this time around. 
Blank slate with TBD days.

We are all different and there isn't one type of training that works for everyone. For me, I've found that as I've aged and become more confident with my physical abilities as well as more comfortable with myself, I feel motivated and inspired to challenge myself differently in my training. With each passing year my body responds differently to training and I haven't always been great about making necessary training adjustments when I have a packed schedule that tells me a specific workout must be done on a specific day. So this time I'm not committing to workouts weeks and months in advance, instead they will be planned more spur-of-the-moment by gauging where my daily fitness puts me in relation to my long term goals. 

For me this is the most effective way to be training and it's a shame I didn't realize this earlier. But it's better late then never.

If you're like me and you need a book to bring common sense into your own training, check out Matt Fitzgerald's book "Run: The Mind-Body Method Of Running By Feel"

Excited about this because it leaves more room for:

Fun runs with some of my new running pals and my hubby
Rest when appropriate without the guilt
Impromptu cross training opportunities
Potential for a few 2 a days
Stress free workouts 
Ease of mind

On a gear related note...

Tonight was the first time I was able to try out the clip-on LED light I received for Christmas while running.

The Saucony Ulti Mitt II mittens have a special pocket where the LED light sits. 

But the light also has a clip and can be worn where ever you'd like.

Who else suffers from the self-induced guilt which comes on when making adjustments to training?

Friday, January 20, 2012

keeping an open heart

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" Proverbs 16:18

Deena Kastor, American record holder in the marathon, after finishing in 5th at last weeks trials
Sometimes even the best of athletes need to take a time out and reassess where the road ahead is leading them.

Life around this neck of the woods has been awkwardly fickle like this as of late. Days seem to whiz by throwing well meaning plans out the window and leave me clinging by the seat of my pants as I often shuffle off from one place to the next. I'm a planner and I enjoy diligently detailing the unseen days with lists of "to-do's" and the quests my heart longs to embark upon. Then life happens, and it laughs hysterically at my planned ventures where the wind is constantly blowing me in the opposite direction.

I made a plan for the spring. Sure it was tentative, but my mind already begun to settle into the ideas of my future adventures. After my battered and beaten body crumbled to pieces last fall at the Chicago marathon, my head was more then ready to take on a rematch. 

Me vs. the marathon.
And this was a battle I was going to win. 
No doubt about it.

As the logistics of my less-the-thought-out-plan begun to catch up with me where my heart finally caught up with my head, I realized that I am insane. 

My plan for the first 6 months of this year was to be a running machine. Spend my days pouring myself once again into marathon training where I would somehow still be able to pick up enough speed to run an 8k PR in late March and a mind-blowing 10 miler 6 days post marathon. I was mentally confident that my bodies physical abilities were ready for this challenge, until the logistical part of my brain decided to join the rest of the party and shine some light upon reality. 

I know myself and how I pour my everything into the things that liven my heart bringing about blissful moments that make me want to dance through the streets of Chicago. Running does this for me. It makes me feel alive and unchained where caution is thrown into the wind. Yet, my heart is staggering when it comes to the marathon, especially at this point in time. I want to like this distance, I want to chase down a dream, but I more so want to cross the finish line of my races this year and be hugged with all of the race day glory and radiate positivity. My fear right now is that venturing down marathon lane at this point in time is going to turn me into a rigid-fiery beast where all I'm going to be doing is chasing down a number, and honestly I don't want to do that.

So I'm calling it...I'm pulling the spring marathon plug and changing the game plan.

Doing what makes my heart flutter is more important at this stage in my life then playing a numbers game with the marathon. Sadly for me the marathon hasn't been made my heart flutter in ages, instead it has been making it flat line and leaving me feeling frustrated and stale. I think the two of us need a break this spring and maybe consider rekindling our flame in the fall, and I feel peace with this decision. Actually I feel pretty stinkin great about forgoing the marathon at this point in time as I'm trying to allow myself to run more by my intuition.

What now?
Loose plans.

March will host a start in the elite corral of the Shamrock Shuffle 8k, a spring half marathon that will hopefully host a delicious PR, and a little race called the Soldier Field 10 Mile that attracts a mere 10,000+ runners and is by far the best Chicagoland race all year. And maybe a fall marathon with the husband.

Friday, January 13, 2012

winter has finally arrived

my last 24 hours...

a little bit of snow...

and some positive encouragement.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Women Need Fat: A Blogher Book Club Review

 "Why Women Need Fat: How "Healthy Food Makes Us Gain Excess Weight and the Surprising Solution to Losing it Forever"

By William D. Lassek, M.D. and Steven J.C. Gaulin, PH.D.
Hudson Street Press 2012

I’ve never been a dieter. I don't buy low-fat or fat-free anything. I don't find value in restricting or counting calories. You will never find an ounce of margarine or trendy sweeteners like Truvia in my household. I eat food, real food, when I’m hungry and feel no remorse about it.

Why Women Need Fat initially peaked my interest because I’m one of those crazy rare people in America that believes in eat whole foods, getting frequent exercise, and acknowledging that my weight is what it is because the way my body is programmed and a diet may not permanently change that. I recognize that fat is just as necessary as muscle and that I am not defined by my weight. I cannot modify or alter my DNA in any way, shape, or form and I'm okay with this. My body looks the way it does because it was meant to look this way.

That being said, I think 100% of all diets are bogus and often find myself extremely frustrated that the American public is often mislead and buys into unsupported diet claims that rarely lead to results and leave people feeling like they are on a never ending cycle to conquer those last few unwanted pounds.

But I generally keep those opinions to myself because I am fortunate enough to be naturally thin and no one wants to hear a thin woman rave on and on about how no matter how much she eats her weight is easily maintainable.

I'll just punch myself in the face for that now.

Why Women Need Fat addresses some of the common misconceptions that Americans have regarding weight and the standard American diet. The amount of food-like substances that we ingest is this country is insane where processed convenience items have somehow overtaken our diets and considerably outweigh real foods. What ever happened to the days of full fat milk and eggs fried in bacon fat?

These food-like substances that we swear by are filled with chemical compounds to resemble the real foods we are so afraid of and contain high levels of omega 6 which actually increase weight. And the worst part...most of these faux foods don't even taste good!

My favorite quote in this entire book,
"Trying to fool Mother Nature is not always a good thing"
page 145

Well said gentlemen.

What I like about this book:
  • It doesn't tell you what and how much to eat to get to your desired weight.
  • There is no multi step plan that promises to melt off those last few pounds.
  • The last 65 pages of the book have been dedicated to the resources by which the authors have come to their conclusions.
  • The book has a logical layout and begins with providing background info of why our country has the misconceptions that it does.
  • It shows that education is the key to any successful weight maintenance and to not believe every claim you hear. Do your homework people, know what you are eating!
  • It brings to surface logic in relation to weight. Unfortunately for women, we all cannot be 5'6 120 lbs. Our bodies are meant for childbearing.

What I don't like about this book:
  • At time my mind was lost in the overflow of scientific terms. Omega 3, DHA, Omega 6, alpha-linolenic acid, hypothalamus, leptin, EPA, etc. Not necessarily a reflection of the book, just the way my mind takes the information in.
  • There were a lot of hypothetical persons in hypothetical scenarios throughout the book, it was difficult to keep all of their elaborate stories straight.
  • I think that this book could be perceived by people who have been on the unending quest to conquer their weight poorly because it very clearly concludes that we cannot all be thin.

If you are like me and are interested in learning more about why women's bodies are programmed the way they are, I would highly suggest picking up a copy of Why Women Need Fat and maybe joining in on the Blogher book discussion.

Disclosure: This is a paid review for Blogher Book Club, but all the opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lululemon Warehouse Sale!!!

If you're a sweataholic like me, you are probably all too familiar with Lululemon.
Love the clothes, hate the prices. 

But, if you live in the Chicagoland area there is good new for you...

Lululemon is having a warehouse sale January 27th-29th...

in Chicago!!!

Check out their Facebook page for more details

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Time to admit that I was wrong...I hate this part

As I boldly stated in my last posting, one of my goals for 2012 is to be more forthright in admitting when I am wrong. I am terrible at this, and it is quite possibly my greatest flaw. It's not so much the part of being wrong, it's more so when I have to verbally acknowledge it to another and say the two most difficult words of the English language for me...

"I'm sorry"

Yes I had a truly successful 2011 in regards to running, but I made mistakes...a lot of mistakes. There were times when I allowed myself to become so fixated on my goals that I lost focus and common sense that resulted in plenty of novice moves that I know better then. Instead of fessing up to myself and gaining control of the situation, I instead kept my logic tucked away and continued on in blissful ignorance tra-la-la-ing through Brittland where there is never the need to admit wrong doings.

Don't let this sweet prematurely wrinkled face fool you.
I'm brash and stubborn, and hate admitting so.

So body, I'm sorry. I put you through a lot of hell last year and there were times when I wasn't really listening to your needs. I was selfish, and 90% of the time I was most likely wrong and blinded by my own desires. We have big plans for 2012, and the only way we can get there is together. I love you and I need you, Could you find the will to forgive me?

Okay wonderful.

Thursday night I had a dream that brought a rush of adrenaline through my body the instant I woke. In this dream I crossed the finish line for my spring marathon in 2:55. What an awesome way to start my day.

Truth is that I have a insanely aggressive goal pertaining to my future in the marathon that I've only yet to share with my husband. While I'm not going to share it today, I will say that it's big. Like REAL BIG. But if I ever want to get anywhere near this dream, I have to start being more conscious about the decisions I'm making with my training. And folks lets face it, I'm not so great at the marathon training thing and haven't quite figured out what works best for me at this distance yet.

But the good news is that after the marathon tragedy of 2011, I learned quite a bit about my body and more about what it needs to conquer this distance successfully. There is a severe disconnect in my head where my training isn't always the same for my brain as it is for my body and the revelation of this in past months has caused me to reconsider the way I train myself. I always will learn more from my mistakes then from my successes, but the tricky part is taking those lessons and turning them into something useful. 

Things I'm going to do differently this time around:

Recovery. I messed this up big time last year. I am a rock star at reminding others to take the easy days as easy as possible in order to take the hard days like a champ, but I'm terrible at taking my own advice. Last year I made an epic fail allowing myself to be a slave to my GPS where the pace often dictated how I felt.

Right now for what I'm trying to accomplish in 2012 recovery runs have to be 100% about reality and actual active recovery for me. Honestly, these days I'm counting my blessing that things didn't turn out worse for me in the late stages of 2011 and that I was able to slap some sense into myself before my body completely gave out due to my constant desire for progress.

Recovery is just as important as progress. Recovery is just as important as progress. Recovery is just as important as progress.

Things like this should not be happening on an almost daily basis

Bumping up the speed sessions. I've always been a once-a-weeker in the speed work category, which has worked fine for me in the past. But with the aggressive goals I have for this year, I'm not going to get anywhere near them if I stick to what I know. If I want to gain speed this year, I'm going to have to put in a few more quality workouts and challenge myself to do things that put me outside of my comfort zone and routine.

The body needs constant change in stimulus to gain strength. I need to stop doing the same tempo run that I love every week because it is comfortable. I'm sure that Paula Radcliffe didn't do the same workout nearly every week when she chased down the marathon world record...you know because we are so similar...

Taking the long runs differently. I love a good progressive run. Love. Love. Love. But I think that this is an area where I have allowed myself in the past to get a bit too aggressive and carried away. I often found myself saying:

"Sure crazy lady, finish the last 6-8 miles of your 22 miler at 6:45 pace even though you know that 6:45 is going to be nowhere near your marathon pace."

22 mile runs should never turn into an unexpected tempo just for shits and giggles.
Whoops, learned that one the hard way.

It's time that I start being more realistic about my training and not just always dangle the idea of running fast in front of my eyes. Speed cannot be beaten out of me, and wearing the hell out of my body day in and day out will never have a decent outcome and will end up looking something like this:

Can we say ew...

That ain't cute, ain't cute at all

It is okay to take a long run slow, tragic world events will not occur because of it and the sun will still shine just the same at a 7:45 pace as it will at an 8:45 pace.

I'm sure most of you are sick of hearing about goals and how to go about achieving them after being saturated with this information for the past several weeks, but I think there is only one thing you do need to know about your goals...

The answers to your dreams and successes lies in your failures

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"I thank God for all I've missed, cause it led me here to this"

I've been allowing myself some slack the on proclamation of my 2012 goals, after all it is still the first week of the new year so I'm technically not that delayed.

Quite honestly, I've known most of my 2012 goals for months and have been writing them down on random pieces of paper that are now scattered throughout my home. Some were scribbled on receipts or bills in random moments of clarity that came at the oddest timing, others were jotted down in the notes of my iPhone while waiting at a stop light or in my beloved note book that I've been toting around with me everywhere as of late. Collecting the mess of papers I've made in the past few months and trying to make sense of my unorganized, and sometimes illegible, thoughts is taking some work. Because I hate to hold on to nonsensical papers and have recycled most of my well thought out life plans while on spur-of-the-moment cleaning rampages, logically putting together the mismatched pieces of the puzzle has become quite a challenge.

I'm sure Sir Isaac Newton jotted down his first thoughts for the laws of motion on the back of his cable bill just like I would have.
Thats how I roll.

Even with the rocky road that I've been traveling down in last few months of 2011 that I'm still trying to ride out today, I'm still somehow embracing the power of one truly successful year. It has actually been difficult for me to even comprehend the progress that I've made with my life in 2011 and what that means for me in 2012. Since I've been lacking major organizational direction so far for 2012 and my life has seemed to have came to a stale halt because of it, there is no better time then the present to whip myself in order for the year.

How I became an unorganized-organized planner that hangs onto promise of the unseen is still a beautiful mystery to me.

This is what I'm focusing my efforts on for 2012 so far. Because successful goals constantly need to be adjusted and reanalyzed, this is a work in progress and serves just as a starting point for me with 2012. 

This year will not be for the faint of hearts. I will push harder and be bolder then ever before holding on to the promise that tomorrow will never come and we only have today.

2012 Running Goals in Numbers

  • 5k: Sub 19 minutes
  • 8k: 31:00
  • 10 Miler: 1:04
  • Half Marathon: 1:24
  • Marathon: Sub 3:10

This woman rocks my socks off.
2012 Fitness Goals
  • Stay healthy and be conscious of what is going on with my body. No injuries!
  • Keep the focus on functional fitness with strength training sessions.
  • Stretch and foam roll on a frequent basis without making lame excuses.
  • Try the activities that I've always been too shy to try in the past. Spin, dance, boxing, crossfit, anything and everything.
  • Pay attention to what is going on with my body. Listen to the signals that exercise stimulus is sending and respond in a logical manor.
  • Be more involved within the fitness community. Continue sharing my love of health and well being with others leaving positive footprints behind.
  • Focus equal efforts on recovery as on progression.
  • Successfully build my own home gym.
  • Let my heart be the leader in my training for marathon # 7. May the adventure out weigh the outcome.  

2012 Professional Goals
  • Continue expanding my training knowledge as it applies to running and other forms of movement.
  • Grow my virtual coaching business and continue helping others actualize their running dreams.
  • Pursue the certifications that I have been speaking of for some time now. Yoga, Group Exercise Instructor. 
  • Improve my writing skills and have publish works.

2012 Life Goals
  • Do not settle! For anything!
  • Embrace blessings and give thanks on a daily basis.
  • Buy a house and expand our family to include a little one.
  • Work everyday to continue to become a better Christian, wife, sister, daughter, and friend.
  • When complications and obstacles come my way, do not give up hope or become fearful. Instead press forward remembering that no worthy accomplishment in life will ever come easy and trust that the Lord's plan for me won't always be clear.
  • Learn to admit when I'm wrong, and be more clear in my apologies to others.
  • Strive to keep my life balanced and not let any idol ever overpower Him.
  • Support my husband in all of his endeavors and appreciate his progresses as much as my own.

writers note: the pictures on this post were updated 1/12/12 

Monday, January 2, 2012

An Accidental 20+ Miler & Some Strength Training For The New Year

I woke up this morning to brisk 19 degrees temps as I walked my dogs in icy conditions and a light layer of snow gently blanketing the city. Well hello 2012, you've decided to come in with a bang haven't you?

We've actually been quite spoiled the last few months here in Chicago with rather mild temps and only traces on snowfall. While meteorologist have been dubbing this winter as the worst Chicago has yet to see, luckily enough that tricky weather they've been speaking of for most of 2011 has had yet to visit. I suppose that 2012 may be a different story, so I brace myself humbly.

I was even lucky enough to meet Charlyn up for an accidental 20 miler on Saturday in the wee morning hours where we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise and very comfortable running temps. It was actually the perfect running day. No wind. No chill. Just pure and simple beauty and peace stirring the city.

Sunrise over Belmont Harbor
But yes, I accidentally ran 20ish miles on Saturday and haven't ran over 13 miles since the Chicago marathon last fall. But the company was great, my legs felt spunky, and the morning was beautiful. I felt very blessed to have those early morning hours be as perfect as they were, and it was a great run to close out 2011.

The only problem with throwing a random 20 miler into the mix is that the legs definitely feel it the next day. As soon as we stopped running, I think that I already had lost about 50% of my flexibility. And by Sunday morning, I felt kind of like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz.

While I know that I've lost a lot of my fitness in the past few months, it is comforting to know that I have somehow managed to retain my endurance. With time, and loads of work, my strength and fitness level will come back stronger then ever and my spring marathon will be the time of my life. Counting down the days...only 139 to go.

Want to know my secret to holding onto that endurance???


Yes that's right folks, strength training has magical powers that go well beyond strengthening those muscle fibers enough to lift a parked car. 

There are so many different ways to strengthen the muscles of the body, the variables for manipulation are endless. After the marathon it was apparent to me that my body needed a different type of strength training in order to recover fully from the race. Like I previously mentioned, it was important post marathon that I kept my focus on functional strength and dynamic movements. The majority of exercises that I have incorporated into my training engage multiple muscle groups and keep the core active. The combination of all of this activity can really get the heart rate going and basically acts as a form of interval training. 

So even while my body has not allowed me to run for endless amounts of time in the last few months, it has allowed me to take it through a wide variety of movements that allow my heart rate to rise and fall keeping my cardiovascular fitness sharp. By manipulating the variables of training, I've been able to figure out a way to keep my endurance while not having to run a billion miles and still allow my body some time to recover.

The body is pretty cool huh?

This may sound like a lot of work and tricky to figure out, but I swear it really isn't. All it takes is a bit of planning and some thinking time analyzing the training concepts you are already familiar with.

How I did this for myself:

Thought about the movements I needed. 
My body needed dynamic movements that engage multiple muscle groups at a time. No more working isolated muscle groups because my body rarely acts in isolated actions.

Thought about the muscle groups I needed to engage. 
I fall into the category of runners who neglect strength and balance in their hips and butt, so my bum needed quite a bit of attention.

Thought about the load and time. 
In order to engage my muscles appropriately and retrain them to move in accordance with one another again functionally, the load would need to be extremely light or nonexistent at first and worked over a longer duration of time. Once the muscles begun to adjust and rebalance themselves, then and only then could the load be increased. 

Thought about balance.
My muscles needed some focus on maintaining balance. What good is strength within a gym if I cannot stand comfortably balanced on one foot outside of the gym during normal life movements?

Putting all of these variables together, 
this is what I came out with for my last strength session of 2011.
3 different circuits with dynamic movements, some weighted and some not, worked over a longer period of time to get my heart rate going while strengthening my muscles.
Slightly similar to the last strength session I posted.

1st Circuit

Hands on Bosu. On the down portion of the pushup crunch opposite knee to opposite elbow on each side. Repeat.

Sumo Squats
Squat down, then do a bicep curl with a "wide grip". Engage core and butt the entire time.
12.5 lb weights.

Tricep dips
Built an incline with step equipment. Focused on posture and squeezing the muscles of the bum throughout the exercise.

2nd Circuit

Lateral lunge
Lunge while again in upright position with core engaged laterally. Hold the lunge on the down and shoulder raise laterally with the symmetrical side.
10 lb weights

Plank into burpee
10 lb weights

Toe touches
Lie on mat with feet up in the air engaging the core. Hold weight above head with both hands and press to feet. Upon lowering do not allow the shoulders to come to a complete rest on the mat.
15 lb weight

3rd Circuit

Turkish get up's
Lie on mat with right arm in air and left foot on the ground with the knee bent. Place left arm out to the side. Engaging the core, use it to lift the body into upright position and slightly over to the left side of the body giving the core a slight twist and keeping shoulders relaxed and away from the ears. Lower in a controlled motion. Repeat on opposite side.
10 lb weight

Tricep Skull crushers
Lie with shoulder on stability ball. Clench the bum muscles while keeping the body straight, should engage the core. Keep shoulders relaxed and away from the ears.
2 12.5 lb weights

Single leg dead lift
Standing balanced on one leg and engaging core, lower weights towards the ground while keeping back straight. Bring back to upright position. While working the right leg, bicep curl. Repeat on other side, but switch the bicep curl for a frontal shoulder raise. Maintain balance by engaging the core throughout the exercise.
2 10 lb weights

I did 2x15 for each circuit before moving on to the next. This workout took me about 50 minutes to complete. 

Time and proper muscle engagement always trumping load.

Happy strength training in 2012!