Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

How to Survive a Long Run

When I first started running as a chubby teenager trying to shed some pounds, I liked how running required the least amount of equipment. After all, running is the most basic of human activities, so you should be able to just lace up some good shoes, take a water bottle with you, and just go.

I continued running off and on in my 20s, and that remained the case. Throughout that decade, how I listened to music along the way evolved; first I clipped an ipod to my waistband, then it got smaller and the shuffle clipped to my shirt, then it got bigger again as my phone became a part of it, and I banded my phone to my arm. Other than that though, equipment never really changed as I would run on average 3-4 miles to keep in shape.

But now that I am training for my first marathon, I am realizing that it requires a lot more gear. Without investing in the following, I would not be able to run more than 10 miles:

A good sports bra.

I have big boobs, so proper support while running has always been an issue. Since they don’t make many sports bras that can really hold my ta-tas securely in place, I used to wear a cotton underwire bra underneath a medium- support sports bra. But after running several miles, that Ian issue. The bra underneath began to rub and dig in painfully underneath my breasts, to the point where it left huge blisters and even rubbed the skin raw. A blister between the boobs is not something anyone should ever experience. It also rubbed painfully deep grooves into my shoulders. I learned the hard way that investing more money into a very supportive sports bra is the only way to go.

Running socks.
I used to think socks were socks, and I just wore plain Hanes white cotton socks while running. Like the boob situation, I had to learn from painful blisters that not all socks are the same.

I use these and have not had any foot blisters since. I was resistant at first because they’re pretty pricey for socks, but, my tootsies are so happy I did.
When I used to run shorter distances I would either drink water just after a run, strategically hide a water bottle,  or carry a bottle with me. None of those work when you’re running 15 miles. For me, the most comfortable device is one of these waist packs.
I like this one with the two bottles; they sit at about where your kidneys are and the curve of the pack and the bottles make them pretty comfortable. I should be upgrading soon to one of the 4 bottle belts, but since my run takes me through state and city beaches, there are water fountains every 1/4 mile, so I usually just refill my bottles during the run. Something about the 4 bottle belt reminds me too much of Duff Man from The Simpsons:
When I realized that you need to consume something during a long run, at first I was like, whaaa? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? But I quickly learned after running more than 10 miles that yes, you need to refuel at some point. For instance, according to my run keeper app, my run yesterday burned 1800+ calories. You need something along the way to keep your potassium and electrolyte levels up. So far I use these:
They’re a strip of gummy chews that you can break off and chew very quickly. I like the texture and the flavor of them, but I haven’t tried many other products, so I am open to suggestions. I also bring along with me a packet of iodized salt (you know those little packets you can find at fast food restaurants) for a salt lick,  and I add just a little (less than half) of a small bottle of zero-calorie Powerade to my water. 
Body Glide.
Okay, so I was a little embarrassed at first about buying this. I chalked it up to having fat thighs and hoped that several weeks of training would eliminate my need for this. It doesn’t work that way. Everyone, even skinny people, chafe from running long distances. Sweaty skin rubbing against sweaty skin = chafing, and it doesn’t mean you’re fat if you experience it. 
A flashlight headband
Does it look dorky? Yes. But is it a good idea? Absolutely. Running on streets during the day is dangerous enough as it is, but at night, you’re just asking to get hit by a car or to trip on uneven road. Safety first, yo.
I am learning so much as I go about what it takes to make it to 26.2 miles. Are there other products that I should know about? Has anything worked well for you?

 photo signature_zpsb909305c.png


Marathon Training Weeks 9, 9 1/2 and 11

First, shout to new followers; there are quite a few of you, and it really means a lot to me.

So for those of you who are just tuning in, this girl is training for her first ever marathon. I finally officially registered for it– to be honest, I was filled with a lot of self-doubt and worried about dropping $165 before I knew I could actually do this. But I now know I can.

via Pinterest

So I am following a training schedule that you can find here, but I haven’t exactly been following it to a “T.” You’ve maybe guessed that from the title of this post. You see, training plans like this one are great in theory, and putting it up on my fridge keeps me motivated to stick to it the best that I can, but what you have to know is that life gets in the way of 20 week plans like this. Sometimes you twist your ankle or get a bad bladder/kidney infection (both of which have happened to me during this), or you have weekend plans, or you just can’t work up the motivation to run on a certain day. It happens. You have to just move on.

Case in point: week 9 was one of my best running weeks. I was scheduled to run 12 miles, but since it was a few days before my birthday, I decided what the heck and went for 13.1, or a half marathon, just to round out my year. Ya know, just for kicks (don’t worry, I am rolling my eyes too).

Then Monday rolled around and I took off to run an easy 4 miles, only to feel incredibly fatigued with a throbbing soreness in my lower back, and had to cut it short by a mile. By the next night, it was clear that the lower back pain was coming from my kidneys screaming at me. I had a bladder infection that had spread to my kidneys, and I spent the rest of the week feeling weak and woozy, and definitely not in running condition. I used that time as an opportunity to get a Keratin treatment in my hair (look for an upcoming post about this) which meant that I couldn’t get my hair wet for 3 more days.

So there went week 10.

I spent most of week 11 on a road trip vacation, but did manage to squeeze in a good 8.5 mile hike, which I decided was a fine substitute for shorter week day runs.

That brings us to the week 11 long run– 14 miles.

I told myself that I could just do 10 since I had taken a hiatus, but the stubbornness in me decided to go for it, 7 miles up the coast and 7 back.

Along the way I got really hot (it was around noon, and I normally run at sunset). I also got really hungry and kinda tired. It was then that I decided that it was time to stop beating myself up about time and speed, and to just let myself walk. Either way, I covered the 14 miles on foot, and according to RunKeeper, I burned 1500 calories in doing so. It doesn’t mean that I have to put an asterisk next to the run (which I actually did the time I had to walk the last mile of a 10 mile run), or that next week I need to do it over again, or that for the next few weeks I am also going to walk off half of my run.

via Pinterest

It means that I just had an off day. It means that I just have to move on.

When it comes to any type of training plan or schedule, remember that they are only suggestions. A skipped workout, an extra treat, a slow time, or a bad day are proof that you aren’t perfect, but you are human. I’ve had to learn from all of this that punishing yourself is a waste of time. With training, as with life, really, you have to just move on. 

via Pinterest 

 photo signature_zpsb909305c.png

Marathon Training Recap weeks 7-8

I like saying that I am training for a marathon. It makes me sound like a big shot, and lets me justify the occasional food binge. But during the past couple of weeks I have gone from

 “I am going to run a marathon!”
“I am going to….run….a…marathon??”

If you’re just tuning in, my marathon training plan consists of short runs throughout the week and one long run on the weekend, with that long run increasing in distance every weekend or other weekend.

So last week, during week 7, my Saturday run was 10 miles.
I was really nervous about it as I began, seeing as I had only run 8 miles the weekend before, and it left me pretty sore. But as I ran, I felt great. I cruised on up the coast to mile 5 and turned around, just as the sun was setting.

Then as I got to mile 8, everything started hurting. My hamstrings, my neck, my stomach, you name it. I let myself walk a few yards to slow it down, then pushed on to mile 9. But as I hit mile 9, that fatigue and stomach pain started to really get to me, and so I slowed down to a walk again, except this time I felt nauseated, and next thing I knew, blech. I threw up right there on the trail, on a small bridge. By that time it was dark and no one was around to see it. I tried to brush it off and continue walking, when I realized that it wasn’t just dark, it was dark. I reached a stretch of the beach without streetlights on the strand. The path had sunk down below PCH, so the lights from the traffic in my direction weren’t doing much to illuminate the path, and the lights from cars heading towards me would blind me every few seconds. Walking there alone didn’t seem all that safe, but when I tried to fix my eyes on objects in the dark while bouncing along (is that a trash can or a homeless person about to stab me??) I became more nauseated, so I had to walk the last 3/4 of a mile.

I felt defeated. I couldn’t run 10 miles without puking, and I was completely useless the rest of that evening from exhaustion. The rest of the week, I kept procrastinating running, even putting it off for a few days.

If I couldn’t even run 10 miles, how was I going to be able to run 26 in June?!

I didn’t run on Saturday of week 8, and having a hangover was my excuse. That is a completely legit excuse to not run 10 miles, BTW.
At least I tell myself that.
So Sunday I tried at it again. My training plan only had me running 8 miles this weekend, but I needed redemption, and so I set out to run 10.

I was pretty nervous about it, but I made it through. In fact, half way through I felt so good that I decided that I should run 11 miles, but I changed my mind when I hit mile 10 and realized how hungry I was.

So the thing is, marathon training is hard, yo. I know that sounds like I am stating the obvious, but I mean that it can also be hard on your psyche. Each weekend is a struggle to get out there and to go the distance. And sometimes I fail at it. And then when I compare my time to what other runners are blogging about, I feel like I am the slowest runner there is.

And that’s part of why I chronicle this process here. I know that other people are training or thinking about training for a long distance race, and I want to encourage it. I want to encourage it by showing how hard it can be, and showing that if you feel discouraged, you’re not alone. I’m not one of those sexy chicks that glistens as she bounds across the finish line. I’m that girl drenched in sweat and trying not to throw up on herself. But if I can do it, you can do it. There’s no shame in being slow or having weeks where you totally suck and feel discouraged.

I’d love to hear from fellow runners– what’s gotten you past those sucky weeks?

Marathon Training Recap weeks 5-6

For anyone just tuning in (hi new followers!), I am training for my first ever marathon–this June in San Francisco.

Weeks 5 and 6 were supposed to be pretty standard, distance lengthening weeks, with the longer Saturday run being 6 and 8 miles, respectively.

But it has not been an easy few weeks.

During weeks 3 and 4, I had been having some obnoxious stomach pain, and not just while running. I kept thinking it would go away, or that it was from eating something too spicy (I eat a lot of spicy food) but it kept worsening until it made it too difficult to run. I found myself having to stop in the middle of runs and refrain from doubling over, as it felt like my stomach was a bubbling cauldron of poison. The more I ran, the more it felt like I was going to vomit bile. I was popping Tums all day, but to no avail. Not fun!

Fortunately, my doctor it also my loving boyfriend, and he put me on Omeprazole, which is the same thing as Prilosec. Thanks to horrible marketing, I associated Prilosec with big fat rednecks who want to eat more chili dogs without heart burn– that’s not at all what my problem is!

This is not me.

But Omeprazole is also what doctors use to treat stomach ulcers and gastritis, which are more likely the cause of my pain.

So without the stomach pain, running felt enjoyable again, and I was like, let’s do this! On my weekday shorter runs (4 miles) I was feeling great, but then, on a Saturday in Chinatown, I sprained my ankle.

Nooo! It was only a minor sprain, fortunately, but it did sideline me from running for 10 days.

So this week, on what is actually my 7th week of training, I jumped back into week 6. I ran a little slower and more gingerly on my ankle at first. Yesterday, on Saturday, I went out for the 8 mile run.
I was nervous at first– after all, it had been a couple of weeks since I had run 6 miles, and that was a lousy 6 miles thanks to the stomach issues. My ankle still needed bracing, and I was tired and sore from a strength training work the day before.

But I did it. I ran 4 miles up the coast to Sunset Beach and back, only stopping at the half way point to adjust that ankle brace. I still ran slower than I’d like, but I did it. I completed the full 8 miles without stopping or slowing down.

I took this picture minutes after I finished, around 5:30 p.m. at Huntington Beach.

Now that’s what I call a congratulatory sunset! Thanks sky, I am proud of me too.
Last night I was pretty sore, and I can still feel it a little bit today. I have a 3 mile easy run later today, which will hopefully help shake off some of the soreness. And while it hurts to go up and down the stairs, it is totally worth it. I have to remind myself that that pain is just weakness leaving the body. And every week as I get a little bit stronger, and run a little harder, I realize that I can do this.

Workouts: Ballet Beautiful Total Body Workout

Since I have to take about a week off from running thanks to a minor ankle sprain, I had to find some sort of work out to keep me on a fitness routine. I know myself, and I know that one week off from working out can lead to a very slippery slope that ends in cupcakes and self loathing.

 A bad ankle rules out a lot of possibilities, but when looking through my Amazon Instant videos, I remembered that the Ballet Beautiful work out involves relatively little ankle strain.

I know that sounds counter-intuitive; when I think of ballet I think of it being all about strong ankles and being en pointe, but this workout is more of a mat workout, with a lot of pilates-esque moves to strengthen your core and limbs.

Ballet Beautiful is a workout system created by Mary Helen Bowers, Natalie Portman’s trainer for Black Swan. We all know ballet dancers have graceful muscle tone, and I wanted to see if this video would deliver on the promise that it transforms your body. That, and I love the convenience of workouts that are available on Instant Video on Amazon. Anyway, there’s a whole Ballet Beautiful series, and classes that you can buy online, but this is just a review of the workout that you can buy on Amazon.

As I said, there is very little ankle strain involved. The first section is a bridge series– you know, that move that was in all of the 80s aerobics videos where you lie on your back and thrust your hips in the air?

 She has you do a lot of these, with various modifications to work different muscles. With my bad ankle, I was relieved to hear that it was perfectly acceptable to do them flat footed or in demi pointe.

With each of the series, you do 4 reps of 8 counts of each movement, much as you would in a dance class. In many of the exercises, she has you pause on the last count and do 4 more reps of 8 counts in a smaller, more pulsing movement– this would seem familiar if you ever took dance classes, and it definitely pushes your muscles when they are fatigued.

The next series, the abs series, really kicks my butt. She’s basically having you do crunches, but I discovered that by focusing on maintaining a long, elegant neck, keeping my shoulders down and my toes pointed, that the crunches became that much harder and more effective for me.

The inner and outer thigh series are very similar to most pilates workouts. They’re challenging, but doable.

The arm series follows, and that is my least favorite part of the workout. Sitting on the floor, you do “ballet push backs,” where you push the air behind your back with your arms over and over. My triceps and shoulders were definitely feeling the burn, but it also felt awkward. You do several sets of them, and to be honest, I started feeling bored. The muscle fatigue was good, but it’s not my favorite upper body workout.

The last few minutes are a standing series, and this part I often skip over. I don’t really get much out of it, and it’s too short to really feel any substantial cardio. It’s a nice cool down for all of your muscles, but if you’re short on time, skip it.

Even though I skip the last portion, I do really like this workout. It leaves me incredibly sore the next morning, especially in my abs and butt. I like Mary Helen’s guidance and encouragement, and it helps that she sighs and grimaces during the last few counts of most exercises too. The music is all classical piano, as if you were in an actual ballet class, which I find relaxing.  But more importantly, it makes me focus more on my posture and keeping my movements graceful.

As I watch Mary Helen, I know I will never look THAT graceful, but it’s a nice compliment to the huffing and puffing of a long run on other days of the week.
Most workouts make me feel like a bad ass, and I love that, but this one makes me feel, well, pretty.

Gettin’ My Run On: Week 3

This week marked the third week of my 20 week marathon training plan, and it was not my best week.

This week one of the mid-week shorter runs lengthened to 4 miles. I’ve actually lengthened a couple of 3 mile runs to 4 miles in the past couple of weeks, but this Wednesday when the training plan actually demanded this, that run sucked. It was hot (70 degrees or so and really sunny) and I had heartburn from the coffee I had an hour before. I was slow and miserable.

I was supposed to cross train on Thursday, which I did not. Actually, I tried by starting a yoga workout in my living room after work, but after about 20 minutes I was too hungry, feeling weak and distracted. So a 50 minute yoga work out turned in to a 20 minute half-assed workout, so I couldn’t count it as a full cross train workout.

I didn’t do anything Friday, either– except going to Canters deli in Hollywood and then drinking more wine than I should. B T Dubs, Canters is ridiculously good.

So Saturday, thanks to the late night and over doing it on wine, I had zero energy. I was supposed to run 6 miles, but I honestly couldn’t get off the couch. Like really; I slept something like 14 hours and did nothing but watch movies.

I was supposed to run an easy 3 miles today, but instead I ran yesterday’s 6 miles. I was amped and excited to finally get in this run. Unfortunately, it was just as warm out as Wednesday (maybe I need to rethink these noon runs), and the ginormous breakfast burrito I had that morning was still sitting heavy in my stomach. From miles 2.5 on, I alternated between trying to keep that burrito down and walking through some stomach cramps. I pushed on as best I could, until about mile 4.5 when I formed a painful blister on the bridge of my foot (ouch!) and had to walk every other block or so.

So it was a discouraging week, to say the least.

But this is a good thing! Without set backs and disappointment, I wouldn’t have the drive to do better next week, or to appreciate a really good run. I wanted to beat myself up today over such a dismal run, but I realized, Hey. I finished the 6 miles; even if I had to walk parts, I still went the distance. I still got my heart rate up and burned calories, and I did a whole lot more than most people did on Superbowl Sunday. 

And that is what I need to keep reminding myself during training: that the failures are still small triumphs in their own way, and that if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.

Also I need to remind myself to run closer to the shore when it’s hot and to not eat breakfast burritos before a long run.

Love Your Heart Month

Happy February, everyone!

I know that just about every month has some “raising awareness” cause attached to it, and February is no exception. In fact, February has a cause that is, well, close to my heart. (Sorry, I had to.)  February is Go Red For Women month, a month about raising awareness and prevention of heart disease. What many people don’t know is that Heart disease is the #1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. Think about the for a second. Think about all of the pink merchandise you’ve bought in October, or maybe that run/walk 5k you did for the Susan G. Kommen foundation. Now realize that heart disease is more deadly than all forms of cancer.

But the great news is that we have the power to prevent heart disease with a healthy lifestyle. So for the month of February, I encourage all of the women in my life, and all of the men who care about women in their lives, to use these 28 days to develop at least one healthy habit. Go for a walk with girlfriends to catch up. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a yoga class with me.When you see a friend or family member making a healthier decision, let them know how proud you are.  I’ll be posting more updates in my blog about my marathon training, and I want to hear about the ladies in my life making and achieving their fitness goals, no matter how big or small.

Also, wear red on February 10th with me!

For more facts, tips, and how to get involved, visit here: