Fitness

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My own six pack ab experiment [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

I recently read an article titled “I Got Six-Pack Abs in Six Weeks. Here’s How I Feel One Year Later” and a lot of it really resonated with me.

Granted, I didn’t get six pack abs in six weeks, but I did get them over the course of about a year and a half.

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November 2015

I was lifting weights 4-5 days a week, doing HIIT training one or two days a week and doing a long run on the weekend. I was also tracking every gram of fat, carbs and protein (aka macros) I ate about 85% of the time.

I felt amazing. I loved how I looked. And I didn’t think it was affecting my social life too much. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I lost my period (yes, I’m talking about that again). I mean, I’m not planning on using my reproductive system but I understand it’s not healthy to go into amenorrhea.

So, I kept my workouts pretty much the same but stopped counting every macro I put on my plate. I posted about specifically trying to gain weight this past February. Well, I’ve definitely put weight back on.

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November 2016

I still look pretty good, though! And while my jeans aren’t falling off me anymore, they all still fit. I’m still feel awesome, can still lift really heavy and, heck I’m training for a marathon!! Someone at work recently asked if I was still following my meal plan and I said that since I was marathon training I needed to eat more. So, I do.

But here’s the rub: just like the author of that article, body image is weird after you get six pack abs and then (kind of) lose them. You think, “Oh, I have to keep it up! Everyone said I looked amazing! What will they think when I don’t look like that any more?” Or, “My love handles didn’t used to hang over these pants…did they?”

It’s weird. So weird. I can’t imagine what people who do body building or bikini competitions go through!

Still, though, I’m glad I did it. I actually learned a lot about how to eat to fuel your workouts and re-fuel afterward. I learned a lot of new recipes that I still make. I still love lifting and refuse to cut back even though I’m marathon training. But I also learned that I love wine and ice cream and pizza. However, I admit, I still feel a bit guilty when I eat those things. So, yeah, if you want to get six pack abs and you’re not naturally predisposed to them, just know you can probably do it, but it might not be easy physically or mentally to get them or keep them.

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  • Monday 11/7 – Lower body strength workout + 5 mile run
  • Tuesday 11/8 – Upper body strength workout
  • Wednesday 11/9 – 5.5 mile run
  • Thursday 11/10 – Lower body strength workout
  • Friday 11/11 – 2 mile run (treadmill) + upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 11/12 – 10 mile run
  • Sunday 11/13 – Rest
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Hiking at Starved Rock [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

So, we’re all still here, yes? Some of us might not want to be right now. I know I’ve spent the past few days with that feeling you get when you could cry at any minute and there’s a heavy ball that moves between your chest and the pit of your stomach. But, I have to remember that there are still beautiful and wonderful people and places in this world and that we all fight for what we believe in, yes?

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One of those beautiful places (ugh. I feel so ridiculous writing that. Anyway…) is Starved Rock State Park. I distinctly remember going there as a kid but, until last weekend, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been there. My friends Margaret and Vinod invited Jason and me to tag along on a photography outing last Sunday. I honestly had no idea what to expect since it had been so long.

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We met up with another one of Margaret’s friends and they chose our starting location. We ended up hiking from Parkman’s Plain to Kaskasia Canyon, which I’m guessing is about two miles. I was wearing my GPS watch but didn’t turn it on because I just wanted to enjoy the walk.

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Oh, yeah, I was also carrying all Jason’s camera equipment. He’s been my sherpa at enough races, we figured it was about time I did some work around here!

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The boys taking photos

I figure it was about a four mile hike, round trip to the waterfall in the canyon and back. We started our hike around 9:30 or 10:00 AM so there weren’t that many people on the trail. It was lovely and peaceful. img_1902

And we would have stayed out there for longer if we had brought more food! As it was, we (okay, I) got hungry and needed to find a real meal STAT.

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I think this farmhouse is a little too far away to ask if they have sandwiches

So, back to the car we went and, after a few snafus, we ended up at a great restaurant in downtown LaSalle called the Uptown Grill. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in the area!

Overall it was a nice day with some fun memories and something I’d like to do again. I hear it’s quite lovely in the winter, too. If you need an escape and have the means to get to Starved Rock, I would recommend it.

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  • Monday 10/31 – Upper body strength workout + 4 mile run
  • Tuesday 11/1 – Upper body strength workout + 4 mile run (6×400 on treadmill w/ warm up & cool down)
  • Wednesday 11/2 – Rest
  • Thursday 11/3 – Lower body strength workout + 6 mile run
  • Friday 11/4 – Lower body strength workout
  • Saturday 11/5 – 9 mile run
  • Sunday 11/6 – 4 mile hike
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Why did that run feel so miserable? Maybe it’s hormones.

Fitness

This past week I decided, kind of last minute, to head to a suburb and run a 5K to help support my running club. However, I also had to run 8 miles that day so the 5K would just be a part of my run.

And then I caught a cold. And a few days later I got my period.

Yes, we’re going to talk about periods. Feel free to skip this post if that weirds you out.

I took an extra rest day on Friday but my run on Saturday morning was, in a word, miserable. I did a two mile warm-up and was already dripping sweat. The 5K race started and I could barely hold an 8:00 minute pace. After the race I grabbed a water bottle from the finish line, turned around, and ran the course again to get in the rest of my 8 miles. I was struggling to keep a 9 minute pace when just the week before I breezed through a 7 mile run at a sub-9:00 pace.

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Smiling even though I felt like death

I’ve always been curious about how hormones affect running and fitness because, anecdotally, I feel much stronger and faster the week or two before my period than I do the week of or even the few days before.

Turns out there might be something to that. If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken female anatomy, the menstrual cycle comes with ups and downs of estrogen and progesterone. Apparently estrogen is a “runner friendly” hormone and you feel better when estrogen is high. So, basically, days 10-20 or so of your cycle depending on the woman.

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Progesterone is not as friendly and it also affects your body temperature set point as well as your breathing. This means you won’t start sweating until your body reaches a higher temperature and you might feel winded more easily. Kind of a problem when it’s hot or humid. So, running and working out is harder during days 20-28 or so.

Guess when my past two 5K races fell? Yep, during days 20-28. And it was humid at each race. BLARGH.

Guess when my marathon is scheduled to happen? During days 20-28. Also BLARGH.

Being a woman is so much fun, am I right?

Source 1 | Source 2 | Although I just realized both sources are written by the same guy. And why is a guy the apparent authority on this topic, anyway??

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  • Monday 10/24 – 3.5 mile run + lower body strength workout
  • Tuesday 10/25 – Upper body strength workout + 4 mile run
  • Wednesday 10/26 – Rest
  • Thursday 10/27 – Lower body strength workout + 5 mile run
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – 8 mile run
  • Sunday – Rest
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Marathon Training This Time Around [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

I’ve been slacking on writing my Fitness Friday posts. I kept meaning to lump them into my October goals post but that didn’t happen, either. Maybe my slacking at blogging is because I haven’t been slacking at workouts.

As I’ve mentioned briefly before, I’m currently training for the Miami Marathon at the end of January. I’m training with Live Grit and we’re in week 3 of training.

It’s fun, for once, to have someone else give me a training plan. Although I’ve run 4 other marathons I’ve either used a training plan I found online (typically Hal Higdon) or made one up myself. I’ve never marathon trained with a coach or a group so this is a new experience for me!

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Illinois Marathon 2013 | Las Vegas Marathon 2011 | Milwaukee Marathon 2011 | Chicago Marathon 2010

However, I’m not giving up my strength training regime until it’s absolutely necessary. Thankfully I have a job where I can hit the gym on my lunch break to do the strength training stuff and I’ve been running before and after work.

Of course, it’s dark before work right now and if my run is any longer than 4 miles it gets dark before I get home. I prefer not to run in the dark by myself, even though Chewie would probably eat anyone if they tried anything funny. Still, I’d rather not take the chance.

Plus, after training for Gasparilla last winter I know I can do my runs on the treadmill if need be so I’ve been doing that here and there instead of running the dark. I’m going to make it work because I have plans for Miami.

So, here’s to marathon training for the first time in almost 4 years!

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  • Monday 10/3 – Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 10/4 – Upper body strength workout + 4.5 mile run
  • Wednesday 10/5 – 3 mile run
  • Thursday 10/6 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 10/7 – 4 mile run (treadmill w/6×30 second buildups)  + upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 10/8 – 5.3 miles
  • Sunday 10/9 – Rest

 

  • Monday 10/10 – Leg strength workout + 3.5 mile run
  • Tuesday 10/11 – Rest
  • Wednesday 10/12 – Upper body strength workout + 3 mile run (treadmill)
  • Thursday 10/13 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 10/14 – 4 mile run
  • Saturday 10/15 – 6 mile run
  • Sunday 10/16 – Rest

 

  • Monday 10/17 – 3.1 mile run + leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 10/18 – Upper body strength workout + 4.5 mile run
  • Wednesday 10/19 – Rest
  • Thursday 10/20 – Leg strength workout + 4.75 mile run
  • Friday 10/21 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 10/22 – 7 mile run
  • Sunday 10/23 – Rest
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Redemption in the form of the Hero 10K [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

Remember how I said on my Park Ridge 5K post that I have more fun when I just run and don’t worry about my time? Well, the Hero 10K I ran on Sunday was proof.

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This was my third time running this race (and every time it was thanks to a giveaway from Valerie) and it’s still one of my favorites.

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I love wearing my costume. I love the course that goes through the Indiana Dunes park (not the dunes themselves, though. Thankfully). I love the small town feel and, I have to say, the fact that I win an age group award because the race is so small.

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First place in my age group (and second woman overall!)

I had zero expectations for this race. I ran my 10K PR at this race last year but since I’d been 5K training and not 10K training I didn’t think I had a chance of doing anything too spectacular.

Not to mention the liter of beer I drank the day before.

Anyway, the weather was cool but still a bit humid. It was really windy on the beach but once we got into the wooded areas there was no breeze. Still, I was having a good time dodging puddles and admiring the leaves. Lots of people commented on my costume and cheered me on when they realized I was in the top five women!

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I swear I’m having fun

There was another woman who passed me in the last mile but for some reason she didn’t show up in the results (I think she accidentally registered as a male) so I’m still claiming second woman!

You know what I get to claim? A new 10K PR!

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See, I told you I run better when I don’t put any pressure on myself. I got myself a 20 second PR and I am still stoked about it. I suppose that’s a pretty good start to marathon training, don’t you think?

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  • Monday 9/26- Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 9/27 – Upper body strength workout
  • Wednesday 9/28 – Rest day
  • Thursday 9/29 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 9/30 – Upper body strength workout + 20 min HIIT on the stepmill
  • Saturday 10/1 – 3 mile run
  • Sunday 10/2 – Hero 10K
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Park Ridge Charity Classic 5K [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

As you probably know, I’ve spent the last 8 weeks training for a personal record in a 5K race. Specifically, I wanted to break the 23 minute mark. I would have been happy with a 22:59. My PR is 23:24 which I hit in April with no 5K specific training, just HIIT, some long runs, and lifting weights.

I had my eye on the Park Ridge Charity Classic 5K because it’s known as a fast and flat course. Basically, perfect for PRs.

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Sadly, to cut to the chase, I did not PR at the race last Saturday and I didn’t break 23 minutes.

I honestly don’t know what happened. Was it my training? Did I not do enough fast runs? Did I not hit the right times on the interval and tempo runs I did? Did I do too much strength lifting and not enough power and conditioning lifting? Was it too humid? Was I too stressed out?

I do know that when my friend Annabelle ran alongside me towards the finish line, yelling encouragement at me, all I could say was, “I don’t know if I can do this.” And then I burst into tears.

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Was it hormones? Was it not enough confidence building runs? Was it that I’ve gained some weight since April?

I cried when I finished. Several other runners asked if I was okay and gave me encouragement. But it still sucks to fail at a goal, you know?

Was I so upset because I’d told everyone about my goal and then I didn’t achieve it? Did I feel like I was letting everyone down?

Running is so funny. You can train and do everything you think is right and you can still not hit your goals on race day and you might never know why.

I’ve never trained specifically for a 5K PR before. I have to say, though, it’s really discouraging to do the training and see basically no tangible results. Jason kept saying that maybe I would have done worse if I hadn’t done the training (I finished in an official 23:44, by the way), but I’ll never know.

I’m debating doing another 5K race this fall. I just don’t know if I have it in me right now to set a goal time. I will say, I had much more fun earlier this year when I was just running with no time goals in mind and being pleasantly surprised when I PRed.

So, I have some things to think about. For now, though, I’m going to enjoy lifting and doing whatever cardio I want. At least until marathon training starts!

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  • Monday 9/19 – Leg strength workout (easy & light)
  • Tuesday 9/20 – 3 mile run and upper body strength workout
  • Wednesday 9/21 – 30 minute tempo run (treadmill)
  • Thursday 9/22 – Leg strength workout (easy & light)
  • Friday 9/23 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 9/24 – 5K race (with .8 mile warm-up)
  • Sunday 9/25 – Rest
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Doing the Chicago Triathlon as a Relay Team [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

Last year the Chicago Triathlon was my “big” race for the year. Although it wasn’t technically my first triathlon (I did the Esprit de She tri earlier that summer), it was the one I’d been training for for most of 2015.

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This year I had plans to sign up for the sprint distance again but then my neighbor and friend ended up getting injured and needed someone to fill in for her as the runner on team “Tri Me a River.” They were signed up to do the Olympic/International distance as a relay team. One person would do the 1 mile swim, one person would do the 25 mile bike, and I would do the 6.2 mile run.

Although I attended the mandatory course talk before the race there was very little information provided about the relay portion of the event. To be honest, the two other times I’ve done a triathlon as part of a relay team they also provided very little information! Something about the relay aspect just always feel tacked on. Still, I knew as the runner I had ALL morning to figure it out. As long as I showed up near the “Run Out” sign before my cyclist got there, all would be well.

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My knee was acting up a bit so I got it taped at the expo on Friday. Not pictured? The iced coffee I went and got while I waited for my turn.

Interestingly, for as strict as they claim to be about who can get into transition, there were NO volunteers manning the relay corrals. For all the warnings we got about not leaving bags laying around unattended, that’s mostly what was going on in the relay area. We had two fenced off areas outside transition where swimmers come in and runners go out. Thankfully our cyclist had her bike racked within spitting distance of the relay transition area so I could easily see her coming.

However, other than the slightly weird logistics, our race went well. Our swimmer did better than she expected and we had no missed hand-offs with our timing chip. The run was HOT though. Oh so hot. Thankfully some of the aid stations had ice that I was able to dump down my sports bra and the Chicago Fire Department had a water truck out and were spraying water on the course.

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By the time I finished I was just as drenched as if I’d done the swim myself!

I ended up having a lot of fun but was really glad that I wasn’t doing the whole race all by myself in that heat. Whew! Hopefully next year, when I plan to do the Olympic distance on my own, the weather will be better.

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  • Monday 8/22 – Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 8/23 – Upper body strength workout
  • Wednesday 8/24 – 35 minute tempo run
  • Thursday 8/25 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 8/26 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 8/27 – Rest
  • Sunday 8/28 – 10K run portion of the Chicago Triathlon
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Nike Unlimited Chicago Decathlon: Olympics for the Mere Mortal [Fitness Friday]

Fitness

Last Thursday evening I rode a Divvy bike over to Soldier Field to partake in a Nike-sponsored decathlon-type event. Nike hosted this event so we could all get a taste of what their sponsored decathlete, Ashton Eaton, had to do as he competed for Olympic gold that same evening!

I knew very little about the decathlon other than an article I’d read about a week earlier. I wasn’t even sure what the actual 10 events were! And I had no idea what the 10 events Nike chose were going to be. Pretty sure they weren’t going to let us throw a real javelin, though.

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Not me! But this is a photo from the event.

Anyway, I was one of a team of five Windy City Blogger Collective members and two boyfriends who gamely agreed to be the male part of our co-ed team. Our team of seven was assigned a “pacer” who would make sure we got from event to event and that our scores were recorded.

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From L to R: Caitlin, Zachary, Emily, me, Ali, Sheena, and Aleisha

And what were our events?

In order we did:

  1. 100 meter dash
  2. Standing long jump
  3. Shot put
  4. Vertical jump
  5. 400 meter run
  6. 60 meter hurdles
  7. Medicine ball throw
  8. Sled pull
  9. Javelin
  10. 1500 meter run

I totally forgot to take a picture of my final scores! Actually, I forgot to take pictures of a lot of things. Honestly, I was having too much fun! Well, up until the javelin where my lack of dinner and the almost 9PM hour were making me grumpy.

Each person on the team got to attempt each event at least once and our pacer recorded our best scores. Each team had 10 minutes to complete each event so for some of them we got to try more than once. My personal favorite was the hurdles. Leaping over things while running is probably as close to flying as you can get.

Emily is doing a great recap of each of the events so if you want more detail I suggest you check out her blog! For me, I just want to focus on the highlights and lowlights.

Highlights

  • Free shoes! Seriously. As a “media” participant I got free shoes, a free duffel bag, and a free pin. The pins are allegedly even the same ones that Team USA took to the Olympics to trade with other countries.

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  • My fastest 400 meters ever (probably)!
  • Second best vertical jump on my team
  • Not knocking over a single hurdle

Lowlights

  • Feeling really strong until I saw how awesome other people were! In the end, though, this just made me realize that we’re all good at something and, for not having any previous track and field experience, I’m not bad! That’s right. I never ran track and I never ran cross country!
  • Hitting myself in the head with the javelin. Thankfully it was a plastic toy javelin. Still, it hurt!
  • Getting tired, hungry, and grumpy by the 8th event. Now I know why real decathletes break their events up into two days!

The event ended with all the participants doing the 1500 meter run and ending on the field in Soldier Field. Then we took a bunch of photos before watching the awards ceremony while eating pizza in the stands. They put the Olympics up on the Jumbotron but I was way too tired to stay and watch.

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I promise I’m in this photo. I’m actually in the second row hidden behind a sea of raised arms.

After this event I have so much more respect for decathletes! You have to be super well-rounded and have lower body, upper body, and core strength galore. So, props to Ashton Eaton for winning the gold in Rio this year! You have my utmost respect.

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5K PR Training

  • Monday 8/15 – Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 8/16 – 3 mile run & upper body strength workout
  • Wednesday 8/17 – 6×400 run
  • Thursday 8/18 – Leg strength workout and Nike Decathlon event
  • Friday 8/19 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 8/20 – Rest
  • Sunday 8/21 – 6.4 mile run
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Something new on race day

Fitness

The rule of thumb for racing is, of course, nothing new on race day. Meaning that you should wear clothes you’ve worn before, eat foods you’ve eaten before, and don’t try anything you haven’t practiced.

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Well, I had to throw a big piece of my triathlon “training” out of the window on Sunday at the Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie Sprint Triathlon. You see, the water temperature in Lake Andrea was 82 degrees. According to USA Triathlon,

When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees, but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wet suit at their own discretion, provided however that participants who wear a wet suit within this temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards.

So, yeah. I mean, I probably wasn’t going to get an age group award anyway, but the announcement that wetsuits weren’t technically legal freaked me out. See, I’d never done any open water swimming without my wetsuit. And I’d never done swam in a pool longer than 25 yards. And now I was going to swim a half a mile without a wetsuit in a lake?

Gulp.

But, you know what? I did it. I swam that half a mile without a wetsuit. Sure, it took me 16 minutes longer than the world record (that means it took me just over 20 minutes for those of you who aren’t watching the Olympics) but I did it.

And I felt really strong on the bike. The run was tough but I think that was because of the lack of shade.

Overall I finished 22nd out of 113 in my age group. But I think the biggest takeaway is knowing that I CAN swim half a mile without a wetsuit. My mantra for the day was “she thought she could, so she did.”

And I did.

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5K PR Training

  • Monday 8/8 – Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 8/9 – Upper body strength workout & 3 mile run
  • Wednesday 8/10 – 30 minute tempo run (on treadmill)
  • Thursday 8/11 – Leg strength workout
  • Friday 8/12 – Upper body strength workout
  • Saturday 8/13 – Rest
  • Sunday 8/14 – Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie Sprint Triathlon
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5K Training with a PR in mind

Fitness

In 2007 I decided I wanted to run a 5K. Several of my online friends were doing it and I thought, hey, if they can do it so can I! So I found a group in Urbana, Illinois called the Beginning Women’s Running Group that had a goal of getting you to run a 5K by the end of the summer.

I had a BLAST, met the woman who is now in charge of the Illinois Marathon along with many other awesome women, and I ran my first 5K in September 2007. Since then I’ve run more 5Ks than I can count, 19 half marathons, 4 marathons, 3 sprint triathlons, and many races of a variety of other distances.

My 5K PR is currently 9 minutes and 59 seconds faster than my very first 5K. But other than that first 5K I ran back in 2007 I haven’t ever trained specifically for a 5K.

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Photo from my very first 5K. Yes, that’s me.

All of that changes now. This past week I started the Intermediate 5K training program from Hal Higdon with my eyes on trying for a new personal record at the Park Ridge Charity Classic on September 24th.

I haven’t followed a running training plan for quite a while. And I’m certainly not giving up my strength training. Plus I’ve got one more sprint triathlon on the calendar. So, it’s going to be interesting figuring out how to fit it all in.

I plan to include my current week’s training in upcoming Fitness Friday posts so I hope you’ll follow along if you find it interesting!

Training started in earnest on August 1st and this is what I did:

  • Monday 8/1- Leg strength workout
  • Tuesday 8/2 – Upper body strength workout and 3 mile run
  • Wednesday 8/3 – 5×400 run w/1 mile warmup (on the treadmill)
  • Thursday 8/4 – Rest day
  • Friday 8/5 – Upper body strength workout and 3.25 mile run
  • Saturday 8/6 – Half mile swim and 5 mile run
  • Sunday – Rest

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P.S. If you’re looking for a fall 10K or half marathon to run I highly recommend the Hero Half & 10K. As you can see from Valerie’s race entry giveaway post, I even like to dress the part. Head over there to enter to win a race entry yourself and join us. Super hero costume not required but definitely encouraged.