Fitness

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My experience at Barry’s Bootcamp [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

For many years my fitness routine consisted of running and the occasional group exercise class.  Even now that I focus on weight lifting and the occasional cardio, I still enjoy a good group exercise class. I particularly enjoy classes that are full of HIIT (high intensity internal training) workouts or ones that combine cardio with weights, such as Orangetheory. I’d heard of Barry’s Bootcamp but, honestly, didn’t know much about it when I was invited to attend a workout at their location in Lincoln Park.

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Event sponsored by Kona Deep water

The studio waiting area is quite “Instagram-able” and also has it’s own smoothie bar. I fully admit that when I go to a workout class, even if it’s a free perk, I’m really bad about taking pictures. I  mean, I’m there to get in a workout!

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And maybe a smoothie…

So, uh, here’s what the empty studio looks like.

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Barry’s helpfully sent an email beforehand explaining their workout so that I would have a basic idea what to expect.

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I was there on a Sunday so I got the “full body” workout. I was assigned treadmill 6 and told to start there. We did mainly 30 second jog/run/sprint/ intervals followed by one minute recovery walks for the first 10 minutes. Then it was down to the floor to do some stuff with dumbbells and body weight for 10 minutes, mostly in sets of 30 seconds.

The workout itself was fine, although the treadmill portions felt rather repetitive. The instructor was super high energy, even with a broken arm! Yes, he had his arm in a sling so he had to demonstrate everything one-handed. For the strength portion we did typical dumbbell moves (chest press, tricep press, curls, rows), squats, step-ups, planks, and some various types of crunches. So, again, nothing groundbreaking.

Overall, I wouldn’t say that my experience at Barry’s was worth the hype that it’s gotten in some fitness circles. I’m still a bigger fan of Orangetheory or Fit36 if you’re looking for a class of this type. Although, I did only take one class at Barry’s Bootcamp so maybe my experience was atypical.

Have you taken a class at Barry’s Bootcamp? What did you think?

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When you might want to try a meal kit service even if you like to cook

Fitness

Last week I wrote about why you might want to try a meal kit service even if you like to cook, but this week I’m writing about when you might want to try one.

As I mentioned last week, I set up a Blue Apron delivery for when I was going to be out of town for a weekend. That way when I got back we would have dinner taken care of for a few nights without me needing to go to the grocery store or worry about sending my husband.

I did the same thing when I went on my Sonoma vacation but this time I tried HelloFresh. I ended up enjoying that process so much more. We got Chicken Parm Salad, the Juicy Lucy Burger, and Zesty Crusted Catfish.

Each meal comes in it’s own little box which I LOVED! The meat is separate but all the other items are corralled together. This warmed my organization loving heart.

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First up, I made the catfish. I’m always a bit hesitant to make fish, but HelloFresh made it super simple. The fish seasoning could have used a little more kick, but the rice was outstanding. I never thought to add lemon zest to rice! It really takes it up a notch. I ended up doing the same thing with a lime later that week on my own. So, thanks for the idea!

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Next, I made the Juicy Lucy Burger. That recipe taught me how to make onion jam which was, in a word, amazing. I want to eat it on everything. This burger tasted just as good as a gourmet one I could have gotten at a restaurant, except I wasn’t tempted to order fries with it. The nutrition stats are a little higher than I would like, but I didn’t use all the cheese they sent and I had plenty of onion jam leftover.

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The Chicken Parm Salad was also a winner. Mixing the roasted potatoes with the dressing and spinach was something I wouldn’t have thought to do but it worked really well. Also, they sent us an extra chicken breast so I ended up having leftovers. Score!

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Overall, all three recipes were simple to make AND I got some ideas I can put into practice on my own. Most of the veggies were pre-chopped (not so with Blue Apron) and the recipes didn’t require me to use every pot or pan I own.

I actually ended up getting a second HelloFresh order this past week because I forgot to skip the week. Oops. But, it ended up being a nice way to get some more info about how HelloFresh fits into our life.

The second box had recipes that were a bit more involved and required a few more “pantry staple” items (butter, olive oil, sugar). If you’re absolutely a kitchen novice or you never cook then this might be a problem. I have all those things on hand so it wasn’t an issue for me. Of the three recipes in the second round I loved two of them and thought one was just okay.

I do find that the HelloFresh instructions aren’t quite as thorough as Blue Apron and that they tend to underestimate how long to cook the meat items. So, again, maybe not the best for kitchen novices.

However, I think using a meal kit delivery service like this is perfect for:

  • When you won’t have time to go to the grocery store for a full week’s worth of meals
  • When you’re traveling (you could have it delivered to your AirBNB!)
  • When you’re tired of making the same recipes over and over again

Many of you commented that you wouldn’t use a service like this every week and I actually agree. But, I definitely think it’s a nice ace to have in the hole when you just can’t fathom meal planning.  If you want to try HelloFresh you can get $40 off your first delivery when you use my referral link!

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Why you might want to try a meal kit service even if you like to cook

Fitness

I have a routine. On Sunday mornings I get up, make my breakfast and coffee, open my laptop, and pull up my calendar and my Pinterest boards. I grab a pad of paper and a pen and I make a menu of dinners for the week and a grocery list. Then, once all my coffee is gone and the breakfast dishes are washed, I head out to the grocery store.

I actually don’t mind cooking. My husband will say I’m actually pretty good at it. Over the years I’ve gotten good at looking at a recipe and determining if it will be easy to make on a weeknight or if it’s something I need to save for a weekend. I look for meals that require the fewest number of pots and pans but which also incorporate proteins and vegetables and not that many bread-y carbs.

But, you know, after awhile it’s really nice to let someone else do the thinking about what ingredients you need and what recipes you’ll make. Especially if you’re going to be out of town on the day you would normally do your grocery shopping.

That’s what happened over Mother’s Day weekend recently. I was out of town and while, yes, I could have make the menu and grocery list before I left town and sent my husband to the store on his own, I thought, “hey, why not try one of those meal kit delivery services?” I figured this would be a great alternative for times when I can’t get to the grocery store.

I started with Blue Apron because, yes, I listen to podcasts and they advertise on ALL OF THEM. After a slight snafu with getting an account set up (apparently you can only have an address in their system once and the people who lived in our apartment before us also used Blue Apron), I was able to place my order.

I ended up with Roasted Pork & Mustard Pan Sauce, Tandoori Style Chicken & Rice, and Stir-Fried Wonton Noodles.

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So, what did I think?

The good:

  • Saturday delivery worked out perfectly
  • Mobile app is easy to use
  • One of the vegetable ingredients wasn’t available but they swapped it out for a different veggie and put a card in my shipment indicating that
  • The meat quality was good
  • Most of the veggies were fresh, although one of the cucumbers was soft on one end by the time I got to it

The not-so-good

  • Making these meals was STRESSFUL! Many of them required more than one pan and lots of fiddly ingredients. So. Much. Chopping.
  • The recipes used way more cooking oil than I’m used to. I tried to make them as written so I could give an honest assessment, but I’m just not used to using multiple tablespoons of oil in a recipe after years of tracking fat macros.
  • At the time I placed my order, I could only choose two meat-based meals and one vegetarian one. Both Jason and I like to eat meat. I ended up purchasing chicken at the grocery store to add to the stir-fried wonton recipe. Which, by the way, was one of the worst things Jason and I had ever eaten. The recipe, that is. Not the chicken.
  • The pork recipe was almost identical to something I already make, except the one I make (a variation on this one) is much simpler.
  • The chicken recipe was okay, but it still required more work than I wanted on a weeknight! Poor Jason had to listen to me complain almost the entire time. And I usually don’t mind cooking!
  • No leftovers! Jason and I (well, mostly I) take leftovers in our lunch 4 out of 5 days. The only Blue Apron meal that had enough leftover for another meal or two was the wonton noodle one. I’ve heard other people claim that their Blue Apron meals made more than they could eat, but apparently Jason and I eat a lot.

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All of the veggies for the roasted pork dish…for two people.

Overall, I was not impressed with Blue Apron. I know that some people like them because they try to use in-season items, source from local or sustainable farms, use non-GMO items, etc and even have a recycling program where you can ship back the packaging. However, I fully admit that those are not top priorities in our house. Except recycling. I like to recycle!

I’m much more interested in using a service that makes my life easier, not harder. But that doesn’t mean I gave up on meal kit delivery services! Nope! Instead, I tried HelloFresh with MUCH better results. But this post is already pretty long so I think I’ll tell you all about that next Friday. How’s that sound?

Do you use a meal kit delivery service? Which one do you use? I recently got a promo code for Sun Basket and I might try it, too.

P.S. This post is NOT sponsored by any of the companies mentioned. Although my HelloFresh link will get you $40 off your first box and $20 credit for me!

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How to be a Ninja Warrior [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

After Bethany posted about her workout at Junior Ninja Warriors I knew I HAD to go check that place out. And then Maggie asked if anyone wanted to join her for a class so of course I jumped at the chance!

The Junior Ninja Warriors facility is located almost exactly 2 miles north of me so I decided to get in a short run at the same time. I ran from my house to the facility so I was already nice and warmed up. Oh, and did I mention it was leg day with my trainer at my regular gym so I’d already done a strength workout?

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Normally Junior Ninja Warriors is reserved for kids, but a few nights a week they have adult hours. An instructor shows you how to do three different groups of obstacles and the idea is that you practice a few times and then go through each grouping for a time.

Let’s just say that we didn’t always get to the being timed portion of the obstacles! However, I realized that I have so much more upper body strength than I thought. All that strength training over the past 2+ years is actually working!

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Among other things, we did monkey bars, scaled the warp-wall (here’s video proof!), conquered the Spider, and tried our hand (feet?) at log rolling.

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It’s interesting but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become less afraid of hurting myself. For example, after we did the spider we had to do what basically amounted to parallel bars. I managed it find the first time but the second time my hand slipped on the last bar and I fell flat on my back (on mats, of course). Maybe it’s all those trapeze lessons I did in the past, but falling like that doesn’t phase me anymore!

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I had a BLAST and would love to go back. I love being able to put my strength to use and actually see the results of all the hard work I do in the “regular” gym.

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My unintentional fitness modeling gig [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

Last year Chewie and I ran the Super Sunny 5K and, before the race, one of the volunteers snapped a photo of the two of us.

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Little did I know that that photo would become a full page ad in a local magazine!

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Isn’t that just the cutest? And, yes, we’ll be there again this year. It’s a great local race benefiting a great cause, and it’s one of the few in the area where you can actually run with your dog.

If you’re in the Chicago area and are looking for a 5K to walk or run, come join us! Chewie promises to be on his best behavior.  Plus, maybe you’ll get a chance to unintentionally become a fitness model, too.

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Sky Yoga at 360 Chicago [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

Remember when I got to learn about this summer’s events at 360 Chicago? Well, after that party I got an invite to attend one of the Saturday morning yoga sessions on the 94th floor of the Hancock building.

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I fully admit that my morning did not start out very zen-like. I had Lyft issues and then it was clear when I arrived at the Hancock Observatory check-in that I would have to contend with tourists. Something to keep in mind: yoga starts at 9:30 AM. They tell you to get there at least 20 minutes beforehand, but I would recommend you get there right when the observatory opens at 9AM, if not earlier. Either that, or just bust your way to the front of the line like I did!

The views were worth it, though.

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We had a perfect weather day, which was quite a bit different from the last time I was there!

I’m not generally a yoga person, but after a hectic morning it was really nice to be forced to meditate and focus on my movements instead of all the other thoughts in my head.

Plus, we didn’t do too many sun salutations and we did my favorite pose: tree pose.

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Can you figure out which one is me? 

The instructor was lovely, the views were great, and the company was good too (I joined my friend Emily for the morning).

Post-yoga we walked over to Beatrix for brunch followed by doughnuts at Do-Rite. Overall, it was a wonderful morning in a part of the city where I don’t get to spend much time.

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Whether or not you’re into yoga, I still recommend you try this out. It’s every Saturday from now until September and costs $25, which includes general admission to the observation deck for as long as you want (normally $10.25 for Chicago residents or $20.50 for non-residents). You do need to bring your own mat and I hope they work out the timing for arrivals of regular guests and yoga class attendees, but it’s still worth it on a beautiful Chicago day.

Note: I was not asked or paid to write about this, but I was given a complimentary entry to 360 Sky Yoga. 

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Fitness Goodies Reviews [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

Now that marathon training is over and I’m back to focusing on weight lifting and the occasional cardio (and the occasional class at Fit36), I thought I’d treat myself to a few new fitness-related goodies.

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Cropped Leggings | Water Bottle

My thoughts on the leggings – These are definitely compression material! I ordered them in size small and I probably could have gone up to a medium. They are a nice fabric material, not shiny or slick. I’ve only worn them to the gym to lift weights and they stayed in place. I haven’t taken them running, yet, though.

My thoughts on the water bottle – Okay,  I love this thing. It has the same type of top as my Camelbak which means it doesn’t leak. It’s a few ounces smaller than my Camelbak (24 oz vs 25 oz) but I think the hilariously accurate saying is worth the one ounce size difference. This has now become my main water bottle at work and at the gym. And, no, I don’t get pizza after every workout. I usually eat a salad and a protein shake. But I wish it was pizza!

And here are a two other fun things I’ve gotten for to try for free lately.

Click Protein Powder

As I mentioned, I have a protein shake after every weight lifting workout and I swear it keeps me from being sore the next day (well, AS sore, at least. We’ll see how I feel after these 100 squats my trainer had me do on Thursday). When I had the opportunity to try Click Active protein powder via Fitfluential I didn’t want to pass up the chance.

I’ve only recently gotten into coffee (like, in the last three years) and I still rarely drink more than one cup a day. But I’ve been using this stuff after workouts and I really like the way it tastes!

Yes, it has caffeine in it in the form of real espresso (see ingredients here). Yes, it tastes like mocha. No, it does not taste like the fake sugar that I hate.

I also like that it has whey and casein in it. I’ve read that casein is slower to digest helping you feel full longer.

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I’m not personally a fan of “meal replacement shakes”, which is why I like that this is marketed as a recovery tool. I do think it makes a difference! And, since I workout at lunch, it’s nice to have a little energy boost to keep me awake afterward.

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I received this free from Influenster and, well, it’s water. With some magnesium sulfate and potassium bicarbonate (aka electrolytes). In a pretty bottle.

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Yes, these are the Express leggings

I honestly haven’t tried this yet. But it does make for a pretty photo! Each bottle has different art on it. This one is by MOMO. They sell this brand at my gym and I noticed my trainer re-uses one of the bottles for her pre-workout drink.

And that’s it! Have you had any fun fitness finds lately? Do you like this style of post? Should I just be quiet now?

I received the Click protein powder and the LIFEWTR for free for testing and review purposes. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are my own. #InspirationDrops #2017 #contest

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The things you can do in 36 minutes [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

One of the perks of being a blogger in Chicago is sometimes you get invited to check out new stuff….for free. The latest perk? A class at the brand new Fit36 in Lincoln Park.

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The idea behind Fit36 is that your workout is 36 minutes long. That’s it. But it’s 36 minutes of basically non-stop moving. You do 12 different strength or plyometric exercises each for one minute with 30 seconds of rest between each. And then you repeat the 12 exercises again for a total of 36 minutes.

They limit classes to 24 people so that there is a max of two per workout station. Each station is a different exercise and for the strength exercises it’s either body weight or you can choose a weight. You rotate through twice and, let me tell you, the exercises that felt easy the first time through might be a struggle the second time around!

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They leave time between classes so you can get warmed up using the video they have playing or just on your own.

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Old Navy top | Fabletics capris | Nike shoes

Fit36 also has what they call an A/B workout format. Meaning Monday/Wednesday/Friday are the same workout and Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday/Sunday are the same workout. Which allows you go gauge your progress.

Fit36 also provides heart rate monitors, although in our class we didn’t spend any time going over what our goal heart rate zone should be. They do send you a post-class summary, though.

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This particular location has two bathrooms but no showers. They provide deodorant, dry shampoo, hair ties, and baby wipes, though. Still, if you go to an AM class be prepared to shower somewhere else or make do with a bird bath in the sink.

Because you will get sweaty. So sweaty!

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No, we didn’t use 50 pound dumbbells in class. I’m just goofing off.

They had two instructors for our class and they were both great about providing encouragement, feedback on form, and helping us when we were struggling to figure out an exercise.

Our class also ended with tasty treats from JuiceRX, although I think that was just a blogger perk. Sorry!

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The Fit36 studio is located at 1730 W Fullerton and is right off the 74 bus. Or, if you prefer, you can drive because there is a huge parking lot! And a Starbucks next door.

I actually won a free month of classes so I plan to check them out a few more times in the next few weeks. I already do a ton of strength training on my own, but I like having a HIIT-style class handy for days when I want to get my heart rate WAY up. Plus, I didn’t see any treadmills so if running isn’t your thing then Fit36 might be for you!

They have several more free classes coming up during their soft opening, including this Saturday and Sunday (March 4th and 5th) at 9:30 AM if you want to check it out yourself. Just RSVP to lincolnpark@fit36fitness.com. Or you can get your first week free any time after Sunday.

These sweaty bloggers recommend it!

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I attended this class for free but all opinions are my own.

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How picking up weights will help you speed up your running pace [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

Have you ever heard the saying, “In order to run faster you need to run faster”? Have you done your speedwork and your tempo runs and your long runs and not seen much improvement in your running paces? What about instead of running more you actually started running less, but still got faster?

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Think it’s crazy? It’s not. And the secret is strength training. But by strength training I don’t mean using hand weights or dumbbells in a group exercise class. I mean getting friendly with that big heavy Olympic barbell in the gym. Picking up weights that are heavier than your purse or backpack. And running less.

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Here’s how it works: four or five days a week you do 45 minutes of strength training. Two days a week you do 20 to 30 minutes of high intensity interval cardio. One of those can be running and the other can be swimming, rowing, cycling or using the Stairmill. One day a week you do a longer endurance cardio workout of your choice.

I’ve personally been following this plan for over two years and I’ve dropped a significant amount of time from races and my overall training pace. When I started marathon training in October 2016 my long run pace was 8:45 per mile when it used to be closer to 10:45 per mile!

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My paces at each of my five marathons

The key is to flip your paradigm. Instead of thinking of weight or strength training as a way to ward off injury or as something you should do in addition to your running, start thinking of your cardio as something you do in addition to your strength training.

Strength workouts are most effective when you combine low rep, high weight full body power lifts with “assistance” endurance exercises. Full body lifts include deadlifts, bench presses, squats and overhead presses. While you might typically think of these as “upper body” or “lower body” exercises, they are actually also working your core, your back, your arms and your legs all at once. The assistance exercises, such as barbell rows, kettlebell swings, dumbbell curls, hamstring curls, lunges and a variety of other moves done with slightly lower weight and more reps help with your muscle endurance. And, of course, you can’t forget the ab work!

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4×8 sumo deadlifts! Yes, I make weird faces when I lift.

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Figuring out much to lift for each exercise can be a challenge at first. Lower rep, higher weight power lifts should be done in three to five sets of three to eight reps each at 75 to 85 percent of your one rep max. Your assistance endurance exercises should be 2 to 4 sets of 12 to 20 reps each at 60 to 70 percent of your one rep max. Hold on. I can see you scratching your head and saying, “Huh??”

First, pick an exercise. Let’s say a squat. Pick a weight with which you’re pretty sure you can do at least 10 reps. If you can do all 10 reps and feel like you can do more, pick a heavier weight. Do this until you can barely eek out 10 reps with good form. This weight is 75% of your one rep max. The chart at http://bit.ly/OPRCchart can help you figure out the rest of the percentages.

Let’s keep using the squat as an example. Your workout starts with 3 sets of 8 squats. If you did 10 squats at 45 pounds you should do your 3 sets of 8 with anywhere from 45 to 51 pounds.

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Source: Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 4th Edition

You want the last rep in the last set to feel like you can’t do anymore. If you feel like you can do two more reps you’re ready to up your weight!

Workouts should consist of one or two power exercises, two to four assistance endurance exercises, and at least one abdominal muscle specific exercise. Although, in reality, most of the other exercises you’re doing are working your abs, too! In all of the power lifts you need to keep your abs tight to protect your back. In many of your assistance exercises you’ll be keeping your abs tight as well.

Form is incredibly important if you want to see results from strength training. If you’ve only ever lifted on your own or in a group exercise classes you’re missing out on some great tips. Has anyone ever told you when squatting to pretend like you’re trying to keep a big rubber band from pulling your knees together? Or when doing a kettlebell swing to thrust your hips forward instead of raising your arms? Or how to correctly do a deadlift so you don’t hurt your back? If not, I highly recommend doing a few session with a personal trainer. Be specific about what you want to learn. If you want to learn to deadlift, tell them you want to learn to deadlift. If you want to have them help you with your squat form, tell them that. While you can get some great tips from http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises there is some feedback that only comes from someone watching you do an exercise.

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Picture taken by one of my trainers

Learning that heavy weights are not as intimidating as you probably once thought will open up a whole new world. Lifting heavy and running less will not only change your pace, it will change your attitude! It’s empowering to look at a weight and know you can move it yourself. If you’re struggling in a race you’ll not only have the muscular strength to power through, but you’ll have the mental strength as well. And if you track how much you lifted each workout you’ll find you can get PRs in strength training, too!

So, flip your paradigm and try putting the emphasis on strength training and see what kind of results you get. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

I put together four weeks of workouts plus even more information at http://bit.ly/oprcstrength. And, of course, ask me questions! I don’t want to be all evangelical about this, but it really worked for me and I’d like to see it work for more people.

Note: I am not currently a personal trainer although I put together this information based on study materials for the certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Always consult with a personal trainer before trying any new moves. I’d hate to see you get hurt! 

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Fitness Friday: The Miami Marathon

Fitness

Almost every summer and fall I get a little twinge of “FOMO” when I see so many people I know training for the Chicago Marathon. I hadn’t trained for a marathon since early 2013 and there was a part of me that was missing runs of longer than 9 or 10 miles. I was also wondering what I could do with the speed I’d acquired thanks to tons (literally) of strength training.

Which is why, when my favorite triathlon store and training group announced winter marathon training targeting the 2017 Miami Marathon, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up.

For the most part, the winter in Chicago cooperated. We only had one bitterly cold day (I think it was like 4 degrees) but even that was sunny and not very windy. We never had a major blizzard. We never had a major rain. I even managed to get in one long run at altitude while visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Sure, I had to do a lot of my shorter runs on the treadmill and sure I had to skip a few shorter runs towards the end of training due to time constraints, but overall I had a really good training cycle. I kept up my weight lifting. I avoid major injury. I enjoyed most of my runs and I definitely enjoyed my training buddies.

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My only concern was what the weather would be like in Miami on race day. Humidity is my kryptonite and I’d been warned it could be quite humid. Thankfully, race morning brought cool temps in the 50s, low humidity…and rain. I honestly don’t mind rain, though. Give me that over a hot, humid run any day!

My coach and my main training buddy both told me I would easily break the 4 hour mark. I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe them. My best marathon time previously was four hours and 26 minutes. But, I have gotten faster so I decided to line up with the 3:50 pacer and see what happened.

Turns out that what happened was that I ran every single step of that race, averaged an 8:34 pace, and finished in 3:44:58.

Yeah, that’s a 42 minute personal record.

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I’m still kind of in awe at how well the whole thing went.  Other than not being able to find my group’s tent after the race and getting caught in a downpour after I finished, it was a perfect day for me. I created my own mantra of “No bonk, no wall” that I repeated to myself whenever it started to feel difficult.

I ran without a fuel belt, a first for me. I didn’t walk a single step, also a first for me. And clearly breaking the four hour mark by a quarter of an hour is also a first for me. I attribute these successes to several things:

  1. An amazing coach who believed in me, gave me workouts that pushed me, and gave me some great advice about race day pacing
  2. An amazing run buddy who stuck with me on our long runs even though he was training for a different race (and pace!) entirely
  3. My personal trainer at the gym who knows nothing about running but knows everything about making me stronger
  4. My husband who didn’t complain at all during my training (and who I forgive for staying in the warm and dry hotel room instead of spectating in the rain)
  5. Live Grit. Without them I don’t think I would have done a lot of the things I’ve done over the past few years.
  6. The weather gods. I asked for cool weather and I got it.

I’m not rushing to sign up for another race right now. I’m going to bask in this accomplishment for awhile. And work on building back up all the glute muscle I literally ran off while training!

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