What Worked, What Didn’t: Half Marathon Edition

Now that I’ve had over a week to rest and recover from my half marathon, I thought I’d explore some things I did and used that worked well for me, and some things that didn’t work at all. (None of the links are affilliate links, just FYI)

Plantronics BackBeat FIT Wireless Headphones
Oh man, these TOTALLY worked! I know they say to never try something new on race day, but the day before my race my mom gave me an early “way to finish your teaching program” present. These ear buds were amazing! I was worried they wouldn’t stay in my ears as nicely as my previous buds, and I didn’t think the over-the-ear design would fit with my glasses. But I was totally wrong! I was able to last the entire 2 hours and almost 40 minutes with them in and didn’t have a single complaint! Awesome sound, easy controls (including volume, which my previous buds didn’t have), and surprisingly comfortable! I barely noticed them most of the time!

Running Playlist
I’m a firm believer that one should not be judged based on the music in their workout playlist. This is no exception. I’m always adding and subtracting songs from this list, but for the most part, it stays the same. There’s enough on it that every run has different songs, but they are all motivational enough to keep me going. Yes, even J-Lo’s song “Booty.”

Nathan’s Trail Mix Hydration Belt
WORKED! I actually bought this a couple months ago, and have been using it on my long runs. It is actually really awesome! I wasn’t sure how I’d feel wearing a belt, particularly one with water bottles. But it fit perfectly to my body, didn’t bounce around, and was awesome to have a place to store my phone, ID, gels, and water. I wore it during the race because there were only 4 water stops, none of which were timed with when I needed to take a gel, and I CANNOT take a gel without water. It wasn’t a problem at all until I finished the race and wanted NOTHING touching me!

GU Gels
Well, they worked in that they gave me the boost I needed to keep going. But MAN do these things taste nasty!

Clothing
I wore my tried and true Asics short sleeve top (purchased at an outlet mall last fall) and a new pair of Under Armour compression capris. I was planning on wearing the coordinating Under Armour tech shirt, but I’d done a long run with that shirt the week before and got some weird chafing under my arms, so that was a no-go for race day.

Sunscreen
I was a smart lady and remembered to use sunscreen. Only I cheaped out and bought Target brand “sport” sunscreen. Even though I applied it about 45 minutes before the race so it’d have time to absorb, it still managed to make me feel slimy and greasy and I feel like it just dripped down my arms, making my hands sticky and yukky. So this definitely did NOT work. Suggestions on a good sport sunscreen?

Garmin Forerunner 10
I love this watch. There’s really no reason for one, especially with cell phones these days, but dang do I love this watch. It helps keep my sanity when I feel like I’m just running in place. It also contributes to my insanity when I feel like I’ve run two miles but it’s only been .2 miles. This watch doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but quite frankly, I don’t need them. The only thing that sucked about it was near the end of the race when I was SO tense and had a wicked knot in my left shoulder. I could barely lift my arm enough to check my watch it hurt so bad. Then it would have been nice to have vocal updates from my phone. But otherwise, I love it!

Shoes
You know I can’t hate on my Asics GT-2000 3s. Love those suckers!

Training
I have a lot to say about my training. I’d like to say I followed Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 plan, but I didn’t. I mean, I did…to a point. And then with about a month left I discovered I liked his Novice 2 plan better. So I switched plans. Kinda. Then I just sort of made it up as I went along. Then my knee started acting up. So I took some time off to rest. Then I took more time off in the name of “tapering.” And I didn’t do ANY hill training. There was a total of ZERO days of cross training. And the first two months of training were almost exclusively treadmill running, which I have learned is COMPLETELY different from road running. Not necessarily in a bad way, but I’ve noticed I have totally different form on a treadmill than I do on the road. I really think that affected me negatively on race day. I didn’t have the stamina to finish strong. I had ZERO ability to run up a hill, even in the early miles. It was just bad all around. I definitely hit the start line under-prepared.

Next time (yes, there will be a next time) I’m going to have to really focus on my training. I may even hit up a local running store and see about joining a running group or get some guidance to help me be better prepared.

So, what are some running things you have used that you enjoy or hate?

Just Do It (and other ways to start running)

I hate these “Keep Calm” posters.

More than any other question I’ve been asked since I started running is HOW I started. This is not a surprise. Anyone who knows me at all, even a little, knows that I am not an athletic person. My idea of a good time is a plate of chicken wings and a nice long nap. Sure I ran cross country in high school, but only because I thought I HAD to do a sport in high school and cross country didn’t require try outs. I’m still proud that I finished every cross country race I started and I never finished last!

But after fall of 1999, my relationship with running disappeared. Gone. I tried the well-known Couch to 5K program but always quit after a week. I never EVER saw week two.

So what makes this time different? Why am I still running at least three times a week in October when I started in June? What was the magic answer for me?

Short answer? Pride.

In June when I decided I wanted to start running at some point, I did a bunch of research before committing and buying shoes and picking out insoles. Foot Facts has a great resource for insole buying. Check out their post: The 7 Best Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis. I checked out different phone apps like MapMyRun and RunKeeper. I ended up liking the training plans that RunKeeper offered. There are a lot of great plans, and I ended up picking one called “Beginner 5K training plan” that spoke to me. Unlike the traditional Couch to 5K program, it offered a variety of workouts other than “run for X amount of time, walk for X amount of time” with progressively more time spend running. This program had about two days a week of running a certain distance, one day of “speedwork” (slow/fast or walk/run intervals) and one day of timed activity (running or walking, your choice as long as you go the entire time).

The distances started at 1.5 miles and progressed to three miles in an 8 week time frame. It isn’t a plan designed for speed or reaching a certain finish time or even running the entire distance, which I liked. I could do it my own pace, my own way.

After all that research and finding my perfect plan, what kept me at it? Honestly, money. The second I ordered my shoes and picked a program, I found a 5K exactly 8 weeks from my start date and registered. I ran every scheduled workout I was supposed to run, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the evening. I was determined to finish that race!

For me it became a matter of pride. I wanted to prove to all the (non-existent) nay-sayers that I could do it. Mostly I just wanted to show myself that I can do anything I want. And I wanted this. Oh, how I wanted it.

When people say to me “I wish I could start running, I just don’t know how!” I want to say “JUST DO IT! Just start running!” But I know that for many people, myself included, it isn’t that easy. Then again you don’t want to get so caught up in researching all your options that it becomes overwhelming and you quit before you begin.

Instead, I just tell people that yes deciding to start running and sticking with it is hard. But with the right amount of motivation and determination you can do it! I tell them the program I used and the addiction I’ve developed to racing. Then I say “Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can” which I know is totally cliche, but oh so true!

Tomorrow’s topic? Staying motivated, which is way harder some days than others.

Chest Exercises

Remember: Depending on what kind of gains you are looking for, whether it be strength, endurance or muscle gain, depends not on the exercise you are performing but a variety of other factors which I have outlined on the workout routine page. You can get there by Clicking on this link. This page also goes over the amount of reps and sets you should be doing why it is important for reaching the goals you have set.

Bench Press

Equipment: Any workout bench with a rack will do. Many workout benches come with safety handrails to catch the weight in case the weight is too much for the person to handle and he cannot return it to the rack. These are highly recommended, and you should never attempt to bench press without a spot or safety rails.

Position: Lie down with your shoulders flat to the bench. Upper back and feet should remain in contact with the bench and floor, respectively, through the duration of the workout to ensure proper support while bench pressing. The bar should be at about eye to chin level when lifting the bar off the rack. This is so you have the necessary amount of room to prevent the bar from hitting the rack during reps.

Whether you want to work your triceps more or your chest more, determines where you will put your hands on the bar. The closer your hands are together, the more the triceps are worked, and the further apart, the more the chest is worked, but generally you will want to put your hands at a little wider than chest width. Lower the bar to the chest in a smooth motion. Try not to lower the bar too fast, as this will decrease the effectiveness of the workout. Remember to inhale while lowering the bar. Like-wise push the bar back up while exhaling. This is one rep.

Fly Press

Equipment: Ideally, for this exercise, you will want to have a flat bench and two one-handed dumbbells of the same weight.

Position: Lie down with your shoulders flat to the bench. Upper back and feet should remain in contact with the bench and floor, respectively, through the duration of the workout to ensure proper support.

Lift the dumbbells above you with arms straight out, palms in, and dumbbells together. Slowly bring your hands outwards keeping your arms as straight as possible. The fly press can often times be harder to get used to than most other chest exercises, so if the weight is too much to handle, adjust accordingly, and start over. When your hands get to about level with your chest, slowly bring the dumbbells back to starting position. As always, inhale while lowering the weight and exhale while pushing it back up. This is one rep.

Dumbbell Press

Equipment: As with fly press you will need a flat bench and two dumbbells of the same weight. The weight used for dumbbell press is generally a bit heavier than that used for fly press.

Position: Lie down with your shoulders flat to the bench. Upper back and feet should remain in contact with the bench and floor, respectively, through the duration of the workout to ensure proper support.

Lift the dumbbells above you with arms straight out and dumbbells together. Your palms should be facing downward toward your toes as though you were doing a bench press. Slowly lower the weight down until the dumbbells are at about chest level, then smoothly return the dumbbells to starting potion. Always remember to inhale on the downward motion and exhale when pushing the weight back up.Some people like to start this exercise with their palms facing inward, rotate them down on the downward motion and then back in on the upwards motion. This gives their muscles a wider range of motion, but its effects are minimal at best, so it’s completely up to you.

What is creatine and is it safe?

What is Creatine?

The creatine supplement, creatine monohydrate, is a substance used by athletes to increase strength, size and endurance. It is also a naturally occurring substance in the body made by the liver and stored primarily in skeletal muscles. We also get about half of our natural creatine from our diet, in foods such as red meat and fish.

What are some creatine side effects and how safe is it to use?

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Lemairemeel.jpg

Through creatine is a relatively new supplement, it has already made a huge impact on the weightlifting scene. Many athletes swear by the safety and benefits of creatine. Numerous studies have been done since its introduction in the early 90s, and none have shown it to cause any serious side effects or health hazards when taken in low doses. The only noted creatine side effects are muscle cramping, diarrhea, and pain in the lower legs, but since these side effects usually only happen when creatine is taken in unusually large doses, the majority of creatine users have nothing to worry about. When taken in large doses of 20g per day or more for an extended period of time, cases of kidney dysfunction have occurred in otherwise healthy individuals. Because of this, people with preexisting kidney problems should not take creatine. Overall, the benefits of creatine far outweigh the risks and side effects since, for the large majority, there are none.

How much should I take each day?

Generally, you should mix about 5g of powdered creatine with your beverage of choice and drink it right before your workout each day. Try to take it around the same time each day, even on days you don’t workout. Other sources may tell you that you should double this to 10g or even 20g for the first 5 days or so. They call this the “loading phase”. Though this may help speed the initial process along and make the creatine begin to work faster, most health professionals will tell you this is an unsafe practice. You’re just putting yourself at a higher risk for unnecessary kidney problems and muscle cramps.

How does it work?

Creatine’s main appeal comes from its ability to provide a seemingly endless supply of energy during workouts. It creates this extra energy by refreshing the ATP in our muscles. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the chemical that gives our muscles the energy it needs to perform work. Once a molecule of ATP is used, it becomes a different chemical, ADP (adenosine triphosphate). Once your body’s supply of ATP is all used up, you must rest awhile, and let your ATP levels get back to normal. Since the body usually has limited supplies of creatine to work with this can take awhile, but with creatine supplementation you will have a constant supply of creatine to work with. With higher levels of creatine in the muscles, more reps can be performed before having to rest, which leads to bigger gains in muscle mass. Aside from its ability to refresh the ATP in the muscles, creatine has also been attributed with the ability to speed up recovery times outside of the gym. This can be especially useful if you workout many time per week.

What can I expect from taking creatine?

From my personal experience with the supplement, this is what you can expect when taking creatine. For the first 1-2 weeks you will see little change in your workout. This initial phase can be shortened by taking a double dose for the first week, but like I said above, this isn’t advised. After the first 1-2 weeks it goes pretty much like this. You’ll gain 5-10 pounds very quickly. It should be noted that this is water weight and not muscle gain. The extra creatine in your body causes your muscles to retain more water, thus the initial weight gain. Right around the same time, you will start to notice higher energy levels when you lift. For me it was quite noticeable, but these results vary from person to person. It has been suggested that about 20-30% of people aren’t affected by creatine at all. After 2 weeks you should begin noticing a significant increase in energy, and you should be able to increase the amount of reps you do while keeping the same amount of weight of the bar. For example, if you usually do 6 reps of 150lbs on bench press, you will quite likely be able to do 8-10 reps or more with the creatine boost. Like I said before, not everyone is affected by creatine supplementation. The best thing you can do to see if it’s right for you, is to slowly work it into your routine. Take the recommended dosing and don’t overdo it. Too much of anything can quite often be a bad thing.

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Weightlifting Motivation

If the thought of heading out to the gym for an hour of intense physical workout sounds downright daunting and incites thoughts of afternoon napping, it may be time to come to grips with the facts. You have a serious lack of weightlifting motivation, and in the world of weightlifting, that’s an instant showstopper.

Of course, acknowledging this problem does NOT qualify you to accept it in any form or fashion. This is your ultimate enemy. You should fight this problem with everything you have until it’s a faint memory in your weightlifting past. To do this, you need a plan. The steps I’ve provided should serve as a good starting point. Whenever you feel weightlifting procrastination churning up inside, keeping these steps in mind will have you on the road to weightlifting motivation in no time:

Step #1: Be consistent with your exercises

If you’ve just gotten started lifting weights, your workout routine might go a little something like this (random exercise, random exercise, random exercise – “hmm, I’m tired” – leave gym). If this is you, then it comes as no surprise that you lack weightlifting motivation. “Gym drifters” are easily identifiable by the way they mosey from one station to the next, seemingly unsure of what to do at each station. To avoid becoming a gym drifter, you need to have a solid workout routine with specific exercises that you do every time. Of course the thought of going to the gym is daunting if you have no course of action. It’s like trying to build a house with no blueprints – guaranteed to fail. So make a routine and get going.

Step #2: Record everything – and I mean EVERYTHING

If you’re anything like 99.9% of the population (and I’m 99.9% sure that you are), then you love seeing yourself becoming better at your hobby of choice. In the weightlifting world, recording your stats is a way to actively “see” yourself changing over time. Far too many people rely on the old mirror test to chart their progress. It’s easy to see the flaws in this method however. It’s sort of like watching yourself grow older over time. It may take you months or years to see changes in your body, but someone who doesn’t see you everyday will likely notice the changes before you do. The only way for you to actively “see” the fruits of your labor is to record certain data points. These are things such as: amount of weight used for an exercise, body weight, body fat percentage, and measuring the dimensions of your body (arms, chest, calves etc.) Once you see these numbers progressing from the very start, you’ll have a good reason to continue. It also makes it much easier to mentally “see” how long it will take you to reach a particular goal.

Step #3: Set realistic goals

Never EVER set goals before you have a good vantage point from which to set them. In other words: Don’t get in over your head! If you’ve never lifted weights a day in your life, it would be unrealistic to set a short term goal to bench press double your body weight. Your first goals should be to get your routine in place with the right exercises, begin recording data, and THEN you can begin forming realistic goals based on what amount of weight you can comfortably exercise with. You should have short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. The chart below gives examples for each.

Short-term goals Complete workouts without missing a rep Make sure you are meeting your protein needs Read about correct lifting technique
Mid-term goals Go one month without missing a workout Gain/Lose 10lbs Add 20 pounds to your bench press max
Long-term goals Decrease your body fat by 5% Add 4 inches to your arms Bench double your body weight

As you can see, the hardest goals are defined as long-term. These goals will likely take years of hard work. In the mean time you can satisfy yourself by completing short and mid-term goals. The better you become at making goals for yourself, the more likely you are to achieve them.

Step #4: Build a social foundation for support

This is listed as step 4, but it can be incorporated whenever the opportunity presents itself. Having a weightlifting partner is an ideal motivation to workout. You should come to push each other, each relying on the other for weightlifting motivation when it’s really needed. I’ve lifted for long periods of time with and without a partner, and I can honestly say that I made the biggest gains during those time spans that I had a consistent partner to push me along. Watching each other grow and sharing your experience is a huge motivator. It may not always be possible to have a real life workout buddy. If this is the case, I would encourage you to join an online discussion forum to share your progress and weightlifting ideas. You might be surprised at how quickly you make friends and gain motivation through online social networks.

Step #5: Progress as a natural motivator

This final step is one that comes automatically after the first three are executed. It’s called progress, and it’s the most amazing feeling in the world. When you do what you need to succeed, progress will come, and once it does you will never second guess hitting the gym ever again. You’ll realize the amazing benefits weightlifting has to offer, and it will become second nature to you. Ask any experienced weightlifter and he’s likely to tell you that this is when the journey becomes incredibly easier. You no longer have to MAKE yourself exercise. It will be on your mind ALL the time and you will be relieved to finally get to the gym and make yourself better than you are now. It’s the ultimate weightlifting motivation, but first you have to get there.

If you follow these steps correctly, I KNOW you can be successful in weightlifting. If you ever feel like you have absolutely no weightlifting motivation, reach down inside you and push yourself with everything you have. Have an ideal “image” of yourself on your mind at all times, and then become that person. Never let yourself be less than what you think you should be. Refer to this article as often as you need to. The road to ultimate weightlifting motivation is long and hard, but with time you WILL get there. Good luck and happy lifting.

Leave “Weightlifting Motivation” and return home.

Aerobics Classes

Choose from a variety of the best fitness classes on the planet! Group exercise involves the total you – lose yourself in the intoxicating high-energy of those around you. It’s one of the most exciting ways to get the results you want in an atmosphere that can’t help but bring people together. Let our talented instructors show you how productive your exercise time can be – whether you choose an indoor boot camp-type class, high-intensity cycling, or outdoor water fitness – you’ll be part of the group from day on

Aerobics…

AGELESS FLEXIBILITY: A wonderful 60 minute stretch and flex class to increase your flexibility, balance and strength.  Gentle yet effective.  Come enjoy!!

CARDIO KICKBOXING: A full body workout you can’t help but love! Classes provide cardio-vascular conditioning through drills, choreography, and performing punches and kicks with proper form.  A good time and great workout.

POWER PUMP: A weight training class set to fun music that provides a full-body workout in 60 minutes. Barbells and dumbbells, as well as other resistance training equipment are used in a high repetition/variable weight training method.  Individuals tone muscle, burn fat and increase strength in a fun and safe class atmosphere.

PI-YO: A combination of Pilates and Yoga, providing flexiblity and core stabilization.

PILATES, MAT FLEX & BALL: A 60 minute strength and flexibility training class utilizing the Pilates & Mat flex techniques, tube bands, Dyna-bands, ankle bands, stability ball and weights. Emphasis is placed on improving core stabilization (abdominals/back), strengthening additional major muscle groups, and increasing flexibility- all in a low impact environment. Safe and effective technique is stressed with modifications shown for all fitness levels.  Excellent for beginner through advanced athletes.

STEP: A 60 minute step class including a 30 to 45 minute cardiovascular segment, abdominal work, and stretching. Classes may include some more complex choreography, interval training with sprints of high intensity cardio, and strength training using weights, balls, bars and/or bands.

SILVER & FIT: A circuit training workout where upper-body strength work is alternated with low-impact cardio intervals.  This workout is designed to be modified for any fitness level.  Tubing with handles and hand-held weights are used, a chair is available for seated and/or standing support.

GROUP CYCLING: Students in this class cycle to fun music at their own pace and at their own fitness level. Classes can be very intense for the hard-core exerciser, or a fun ride for a beginner. Anyone can take this class, ride at their own level, and work to reach their own personal best. Please sign up for each class at the Front Desk.

WATER AEROBICS: An excellent class for students of all levels. Provides a cardio-vascular and muscle strengthening workout with little to no impact.  Students with injuries or arthritis can work gently in this class, but athletes of all levels can also push themselves for a good workout. Note: Please bring water shoes, a water bottle, and a friend!  Students only are allowed in the pool during classes.

YOGA: A mixed level yoga class influenced by Traditional Hatha Yoga, Astanga-Vinyasa, and Wise Earth Ayurveda.  This class is designed to increase balance, strength, and flexibility, and to nourish the body and mind throughout the seasons.

POWER WEIGHTS & ABS: A full-body weight training  class using a variety of exercises and equipment.  Part of this class will focus on strengthening the core muscles with additional abdominal exercises, using Pilates and other techniques.

ZUMBA: A fusion of Latin-rhythms and international dance steps in an easy-to-follow, fun and aerobic, cardio-dance class.