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.
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!
They leave time between classes so you can get warmed up using the video they have playing or just on your own.
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.
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!
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!
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 email@example.com. Or you can get your first week free any time after Sunday.
These sweaty bloggers recommend it!
I attended this class for free but all opinions are my own.
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?
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.
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!
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!
4×8 sumo deadlifts! Yes, I make weird faces when I lift.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
An amazing coach who believed in me, gave me workouts that pushed me, and gave me some great advice about race day pacing
An amazing run buddy who stuck with me on our long runs even though he was training for a different race (and pace!) entirely
My personal trainer at the gym who knows nothing about running but knows everything about making me stronger
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)
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.
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!
Several months ago I was invited to check out AquaMermaid Chicago. After seeing it on several other blogs I was VERY interested! A swim workout that is as much about play as it is about swimming? Yes, please. Even though I’ve done several sprint triathlons, swimming is still not my favorite. But playing around in the water? I’m totally down with that. It took us a while to find a date that worked, but once we did I was IN!
Photo courtesy of AquaMermaid Chicago
(that’s me in the pinkish red tail!)
The lessons currently take place at the UIC student rec center on their west campus which is just an easy Divvy bike ride from me. It was really chilly the day I went, though, so I was happy that Emily joined me and that she drove. I didn’t really factor in biking home with wet hair!
Thanks to Emily for the photo!
I fully admit that the logistics of putting on a mermaid tail are a bit weird and it took the instructor a bit to get around to helping all of us. If you go, be sure to get there early! But not too early (like me) since they tend to have classes back-to-back and you might be standing around awkwardly for a bit.
First you put your feet into the fin and adjust the straps around the backs of your heels. I have weird feet that are wide at the front and super narrow in the back so I struggled the whole class to keep my fin on! They recommend that if you have smaller feet to wear water socks or neoprene booties. I wish I’d had some. They might have helped.
Anyway, once you have your fin adjusted you actually take your feet out and pull on the tail. It has a zipper on the bottom that you then put the fin into, place your feet in the fin, and zip it up. Ta da! You’re now a mermaid!
A mermaid who wears goggles. And a nose clip. But still a mermaid!
Once you’re in the water you basically have to learn to swim with your core and your legs. After spending two years trying to learn how to swim WITHOUT using my legs as much, this was quite challenging for me. I started to get the hang of it right at the end but, man, it was more difficult than I expected.
Photo courtesy of AquaMermaid Chicago
We learned to swim through hoops underwater, do somersaults and underwater flips, and, of course, handstands. If you take more classes you eventually learn to do some synchronized swimming as well as some more advanced tricks.
Photo courtesy of AquaMermaid Chicago
One of which should be how to take a good underwater photo. This was our best attempt.
Anyway, this was a fun thing to try! Especially if you love being in the water but hate swimming laps. They do classes for all ages, too, so if you have nieces (or nephews!) this would be a fun thing to do with them. If you’re uncomfortable in deep water they have pool noodles to help out or you can just ask to stay in the shallow end.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit AquaMermaid Chicago on Facebook, Instagram or on their website. You can even buy your own mermaid tail!
Thank you to AquaMermaid Chicago for having me! And, yes, they let me take the class free of charge but all opinions are my own.
A little behind on my marathon training summaries, so here’s two weeks in a row.
Monday 11/21 – 6 mile run + lower body strength workout
Tuesday 11/22 – Upper body strength workout
Wednesday 11/23 – 4×800 treadmill run + lower body strength workout
Thursday 11/24 – 6 mile run
Friday 11/25 – 3.5 mile walk
Saturday 11/26 – 12 mile run
Sunday 11/27 – Rest
Monday 11/28 – 6 mile run + lower body strength workout
Tuesday 11/29 – Upper body strength workout
Wednesday 11/30 – 8×400 treadmill intervals (6 miles total)
Thursday 12/1 – Upper body strength workout + 6 mile run
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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
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.
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.
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!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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