Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl, Super Fit

Should you be so lucky to be packing to hop on a plane bound for Tampa to watch the Super Bowl live, don't despair that your workouts are going to disappear faster than the beer, nachos and pizza you might be taking in on Sunday. You're traveling to the land of nearly year-round summer--with a few random days of rain or icy chills--and it's simple to stay on top of the fitness, even if the snacking goes through the roof. Take your pick of running groups, cycling routes, swimming beaches and pools, you'll be hard-pressed not to find something to keep you moving beyond laps in the stadium.

Active Tampa
has a website devoted to active pursuits in the bay area, and stocked with training plans, advice and nutrition tips, it's helpful even if you have no plans on going to Tampa in the near future. Not only does Get Active tell you about running, cycling and triathlon clubs and events in the area, it has even picked out a few routes to get you out of the hotel room.

Need someone to hold you accountable for a run Saturday or Sunday morning? Join the Tampa Bay Runners, the Brandon Running Association, the Forerunners Track Club, the West Florida Y Runners, or the Tampa YMCA and Fort YMCA Blue Shark group for distances ranging from 4 to 20 miles. Or if you're in town Saturday morning and want to race a 5K, the new Run for Pride kicks off in Tampa at 8:30.

While you could say it requires more planning--finding a bike, or bringing one from home and piecing it together--Tampa also boasts several cycling clubs and group rides that hit the roads on the weekend. And if you're like me--living through bone-chilling hell right now--the chance to take a bike for a spin off the trainer is a godsend (my bike hasn't seen daylight since September, sadly).

Get the triathlon season started early by making a trip to Sarasota Sunday morning for the Super Bowl Y-Tri at the ESJ YMCA at Potter Park. It's the perfect way to jump-start a day, and rev that metabolism for all of the imbibing later. Plus you're not dealing with the usual competition at the hometown races.

But we're not all lucky enough to be making the trip to Florida this weekend, instead either watching the game from a bar or house party. If you're not fortunate enough to swap those tempting Super Bowl snacks that Liz mentioned for options that won't pack on the pounds or put you in calorie end zone before game time, then maybe it's off to the gym or outside for a run to aid the overeating and lessen its impact (for me, anyway).

My Sunday spin instructor and gym like to get into the spirit and hold a Super Bowl spin where we spin longer than the scheduled hour and 15 minutes and ride anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. Or growing up I remember my mom taking us skiing at the local ski hill Super Bowl Sunday because the place was deserted and we could ski all day with minimal lines (and at a place where the lift line was longer than the actual run, that was a good thing). Some training groups around Chicago are kicking off programming for spring races this weekend: Team in Training has a kick-off party on Saturday and Chicago Endurance Sports' spring marathon training program starts on Sunday. What are you doing to stay active this weekend? Even shoveling snow counts. Photo grabbed from Pete Prodoehl at flickr. Posted by Kate

I Want It! New Garmin FR60 Announced Today

I started out as a running know, one of those people who thought a good pair of sneakers, some music and some shorts and a tank were all you needed to be a runner. This past September, I added a heart rate monitor (HRM) and now I'm pretty much addicted to that sucker. (It's awesome watching your effort and performance improve over time....the proof is in the data and that's very satisfying.)

Since jumping on the HRM train, I've been secretly obsessing over the the Garmin Forerunner. My Dad (who loves gadgets) raves about his; he's got hundreds of runs saved on his computer with intense calculations of pace, route and distance. I read an essay by a Garmin-lover in Runner's World a couple of months ago that further fueled my fixation. And now, Garmin is seriously making it impossible for me to resist its siren call, thanks to the release of the FR60.

This fitness watch is meant to be used for more than just running--you can use it on your bike, on a cardio machine, even in a gym class (it still has the famous Garmin GPS technology, but now it's housed in the model's smaller, more traditional watch). FR60 tracks time, calories burned, heart rate and other data from linked fitness equipment (think: treadmills, ellipticals and Spinning bikes), then--with the supplied ANT+ USB stick--wirelessly transfers that information to your PC or Mac (yay!) when you get close to your computer back at home. And cylcists can add a bike speed and cadence sensor and a bike mount.

The models come in black, red, and lilac and range in price from $129.99 to $199.99 depending on if you ante up for a "slimmed down, featherlight" foot pod. Now for the bad news: They won't be available until the second quarter of 2009 (so there's plenty of time to start saving pennies so you can have one). To learn more about the FR60 and Garmin’s other products and services, go to and Posted by Liz

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yoga That Gives You Wings

Photo grabbed from

As endurance athletes, we've probably all been told or read at least once the benefits of yoga on the body. The improved flexibility and strength of balancing your own weight. The hope for injury prevention and muscle toning. But sometimes, at least for me, I'd take cardio over yoga. That is until this morning when I came across AntiGravity Yoga (thanks Google). The picture alone looks more like Cirque du Soleil (with supports) meets playtime. But if I could stretch and contort my body in those directions, maybe I'll finally feel those benefits of the discipline.

I'll admit, my lack of flexibility--plus a bad experience with a yoga instructor who made fun of running blisters on my feet--turned me off from being a yoga fan. Sorry to all the yogis, but I'm just not keen on stretching my body in ways it doesn't want to move until three steps down the road. Yet even though I struggle through more than half the moves, this class grabbed my interest.

AntiGravity Yoga takes you further into yoga poses and armed with a way to hold challenging poses longer. Crunch, one of the gyms offering the classes, describes it as a class where you learn suspension techniques to move you into inverted poses with only the help of a fabric hammock as a prop. Sounds like fun, but for me, I might be battling with letting my feet leave the ground and go into freefall. Yet the benefits it boasts--relieving compressed joints and aligning the entire body--I'll take those any day.

While I still have to check out the class for myself--definitely something I'm adding to the To Do list to prep for my race season ahead--other news outlets are toasting AntiGravity's benefits. Nike Field Reporter Ashley Johncola recently described her experience at a Crunch in New York. And just labeled it as one of the top fitness trends of 2009. The class is offered at Crunch gyms across the country--even watch a video of the moves before checking it out for yourself. Maybe now I'll finally be able to do a headstand without flopping on my back. Posted by Kate

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Taste of VQ Week One

I survived! That's all I could think about when the clock struck 8:28 and I could stop pedaling like a maniac to wrap up my 40-minute time trial on the CompuTrainer at my first Taste of VQ. I'm sitting in a pool of sweat (note to self: next time bring a towel, a large one), reaching for my water bottle that I was too focused on cycling to fumble for during most of the ride, and silently wishing for my legs to stop feeling like Jell-O. No exaggeration.

What started off as a comfortable ride, turned into torture. But good torture, the kind that leaves you thinking that which kills you only makes you stronger. Anytime I'm struggling through a workout, a long bike ride or a marathon I remember those words in hopes that they'll help get me through the finish line. And that's exactly what I was thinking Monday night roughly halfway through my first Taste of VQ session.

Before leaving for class, I really thought I was going to be in trouble. I haven't touched my bike since September (not even on the trainer), and noticed I still had the Ironman stickers attached and some sticky Gatorade spots that I missed in my hasty wipe-down. And of course my tires were flat, but I made the mistake of trying to fix it at home and thought I almost popped a tube (I'm not very good with bike mechanics). Not to mention, did I still remember how to ride the bike?

I thought I was two steps behind when class kicked off. Everyone seemed to know one another--turned out half of the group was making up a class--and what they were doing, and I was the lone rider in the second row, desperately struggling to catch up. Because as predicted, I forgot how to ride, and thought that my gears were comfortable as I spun practically nothing and couldn't get my speed up to 27 mph as quickly as everyone else. But technology issues aside, once we started riding I got settled in the saddle and could pedal with everyone else at the steady 5 pace--on a scale of one to 10--that our coach, Dave Noda, called for.

But we weren't holding that 5 pace for long. Pretty soon the CompuTrainer screen switched displays and it was time for that baseline I had originally feared: Ride for 40 minutes, keep the effort level at about an 8, switch gears as you would outside, and pedal on the downhills even if it seems weird. And the catch: Watch your wattage on the screen and try to keep it consistent, especially in the last 5 minutes when you don't want the average wattage to drop but to increase.

Sounds simple enough, but definitely not. I'm feeling comfortable until Dave comes around and asks how I feel level-wise...and I give the wrong answer. See I missed the part about going at an 8 for the full ride and I answered 6-7. Boom, time to push harder. And I did--or thought I did--until my legs were telling me they were at 8, but my face appeared too calm to register at that intensity. Go harder, watch the number of feet separating you and the rider ahead and get closer, Dave says. I'm trying, I'm trying, just after a while I think my legs have had enough of my urging.

Ugh, but ah, this is going to help my cycling. Even if I do have the Jell-O legs by 8:30, even if my face turns beet red and I've left sweat puddles around my bike, even if I feel the need to throw up. I'm just hoping next week won't be as tough. But with the promise of core work on the schedule, I'm sure I'm in for another beating. But bring it on...I'm ready. Posted by Kate

Photo grabbed from

Shoes News: Under Armour Launches New Line January 31

You've purchased tickets for midnight movie releases before. You've stood in line for midnight electronics releases like the Wii. You've waited for midnight album releases. But have you ever said you waited for a midnight release of running shoes (yeah, the camp-out at the Nike store for a new release of Air Jordans doesn't count)? On Friday night/early Saturday morning you can...and you don't have to wait in line. Under Armour's new line of running shoes launches to the public on January 31 at midnight.

Rather than wait in line for the unveiling of the shoes, Fleet Feet Chicago has turned the launch into a party that starts around 11 p.m. on Friday, January 30 and wraps up around 2 a.m. on Saturday, January 31. Not only does the store plan to have refreshments and a raffle--true party style--but what running store event would be complete without a run? You can test the UA shoes or wear your regulars when the group takes off for a 3- to 5-mile midnight run.

Normally, I'd just be excited for the promise of refreshments to refuel after a run (I kid you not when I say that post-run pizza and Chipotle lured me to my first fun run), but there's even more to entice a runner on Friday night. Try on a pair of Under Armour shoes and you'll score a UA Athletes Run T-shirt. Head out for the run and you'll be equipped with a blinking light to flash a warning to traffic--and light up the Lakefront Path. And if you stick around for the raffle, you have the chance of winning some Under Armour shoes and other great prizes. Now that's my idea of a fun Friday night--even if I do have to get up early for a triathlon workshop the following morning. Register at Fleet Feet's website to participate and for more info. Posted by Kate

P.S. While searching for an image of Under Armour shoes, I came across this 2008 Time story about the company.

Lightening Up Super Bowl Snacks

Pigs in a blanket. Seven-layer dip. Mountains of nachos. Bowls of guacamole. Now that it's almost February, we can finally breathe a sigh of relief that the gluttonly of holiday eating is behind us...and then here comes the Super Bowl. Whether you're rooting for the Arizona Cardinals or the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night (or are just watching for the commercials), it's always a game day challenge to indulge in all of the yummy food without going to bed feeling larger than a linebacker.

Most well-meaning S'bowl snacking articles extol the virtues of swapping crudites for chips or drinking H2O instead of beer....but those tips aren't a lot of fun--and aren't easy to follow when you're watching at a party and are at the mercy of what's on the buffet table. Enter Eat This, Not That, an updated book by the folks at Rodale and Men's Health/Women's Health magazines (part of the same family as Runner's World, Prevention and other healthy lifestyle pubs). They offer a slew of S'bowl snack suggestions, in the spririt of "we know you're going to splurge while you watch the game, and that's okay, but here are some ideas for how to indulge without totally going crazy."

Here are a few of the swaps that should be easy to make. Instead of six chicken wings (650 calories), eat a cup of chili (300 calories). Instead of cheese fries (750 calories), have three chicken fingers (310 calories). Instead of a Micheloeb Light (133 calories) have a Beck's Premier Light (64 calories). For more ideas from the book, click here. And click "comments" below to share your suggestions. Go Steelers! Photo grabbed from Posted by Liz

Photo grabbed from poulsbo at flickr.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fit-Coach: You can't calculate heart

While Kate was probably still winding down from her first VQ class, I was in bed early last night and was all butterfly-ish because my Boston training schedule called for an all-out mile early this morning. I had plugged my marathon PR into the McMillan calculator and knew that 6:22 was the split to shoot for. In the grey of dawn I jogged over to the gym (8 degrees, 0 degrees real-feel, in case you're interested...haha), warmed up for another 20 minutes and cranked up the treadie to the predicted pace. Twenty seconds in, my legs already felt trashed and I slowed the pace. And continued to slow it. And slow it. Ugh. I finished in 6:43. I know it's early in spring race training, but this was a disheartening reality-check.

Since September, I've gotten in the habit of sharing my training highs and lows with my coach, Adam Zucco. I feed off of his reaction to my performance (which is always honest, but also always motivating). Basically, he makes me feel accountable for my workouts, and I think that's a really good thing. (Especially when it's so dismal, cold and dark outside that I've found myself wondering more than a few times why I am even doing this!) So, I typed Adam an email as soon as I got home (yep, I'm a nerd) and I'm going to share his words in the hopes it inspires other winter workout warriors to keep going through the single digit days and tough workouts. "It is simply unrealistic to plan on always being top form early spring living in the city we just have to roll with it a bit. Stay off the calculator sites. They don't calculate heart." I love that...even though I'm a lot further behind than I'd like to be, I'm not giving up. I'm keeping the heart. Posted by Liz

Photo grabbed from

Works like an ox

In honor of the Chinese New Year and welcoming in the year of the ox, I thought it might be fun to take a look at athletes born in this zodiac year. When I think of an ox, I think of characteristics like strong and hard-working, which are also adjectives I'll hear often enough to describe an athlete. While there's probably no correlation between the year you were born and your athletic prowess--just coincidence and luck of the draw--I was curious to see who might be predisposed to ox-ness. And I was pretty surprised at the results.
The quick requirements on this list: these athletes are born in 1961, 1973 and 1985, and they have participated in sports like running, cycling and swimming. Also, most happen to be American, but I think that's due to my wikipedia search.
  • Gunn-Rita Dahle, Feb. 10, 1973, Norwegian cross-country mountain biker who won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and won six World Championships and six European Championships.
  • Amy Van Dyken, Feb. 15, 1973, U.S. Olympic swimmer who won four golds at the 1996 Games.
  • Cathy Freeman, Feb. 16, 1973, Australian athlete who won gold at the 2000 Sydney Games and carried the Olympic flag to kick off the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
  • Jenny Thompson, Feb. 22, U.S. Olympic swimmer who competed on four teams: '92, '96, '00, '04. She's also one of the most decorated Olympians in history with 12 medals, eight gold.
  • Antii Autti, March 15, 1985, a Finnish snowboarder who won gold at the 2005 Winter X Games.
  • Haile Gebrselassie, Apr. 18, 1973, Ethiopian long-distance runner who currently holds the fastest marathon time--for the first time under 2 hours and 4 minutes--and numerous other running accomplishments.
  • Greg LeMond, June 26, 1961, U.S. road cyclist. Before there was Lance there was LeMond--LeMond won the Tour de France three times.
  • Michael Phelps, June 30, 1985--U.S. Olympic swimmer. After Beijing, he almost doesn't need an introduction...capturing eight golds in a single Olympics.
  • Carl Lewis, July 1, 1961--U.S. track and field star who won 10 Olympic
  • Inge de Bruijn, Aug. 24, 1973, 1973, Dutch swimmer with four Olympic wins in freestle and butterfly.
  • Lindsey Vonn, Oct. 18, 1985, U.S. skier who's currently tearing it up on the World Cup circuit.
  • Levi Leipheimer, Oct. 24, 1973, U.S. cyclist who won a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games in the time trial and races the tour circuit.
  • Jan Ullrich, Dec. 2, 1973, German cyclist who won the Tour de France in 1997, medals in the 2000 Games and finished second to Lance Armstrong in the Tour a few times. (Monica Seles the U.S. tennis star shares his birthday)
  • Laszlo Cseh, Dec. 3, 1985, Hungarian swimmer who finished second to Michael Phelps in three events at the Beijing Games.
  • Paula Radcliffe, Dec. 17, 1973, British runner who holds the marathon world record for women.
Talk about an impressive list between Tour de France wins, speedy marathoners and Olympic talent. I wonder if competition in the year of the ox can work in a non-ox's favor and turn out some steadfast races. A clever and quick-witted monkey or a soft-spoken and reserved rabbit might appreciate and little rub-off of the ox's endurance through hardship, especially in those last miles of a marathon or at mile 75 of a century. Note: if you know of any triathletes born in these years, please share. I was hoping to find at least one and came up empty-handed. Posted by Kate

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wii-lly funny

There have been mixed reactions among fitness editors and writers who have tried the Wii Fit. Jenn over at Fit Bottomed Girls isn't so smitten she'd actually buy one, but she'd be stoked to play with it with friends, just for fun. Runner's World digs it for cross-training. When I wrote about it for TOC, I found the yoga helped boost my flexibility (something I realllllly ought to work on more, sigh), but found that a real yoga class is a lot more relaxing and fun. (Duh.) Anyway, I haven't gotten on my Wii Fit in a while, but I received the Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2009 (who, as you know, Kate and I are obsessed with as The Biggest Loser fanatics) game in the mail a few weeks ago, and I want to give it a go this week. I already use Jillian's DVDs on time-crunched mornings I can't bear to brave the cold (her workouts rock), so I'm hoping her Wii Fit game is just as effective. Stay tuned for the results! By the way, this hilarious art that inspired this post was spotted in a round-up of chuckle-evoking tech-y cartoons on the Wired blog. If you have a Wii Fit, I'm betting you can relate! Posted by Liz

Fit-tip: Listen to a podcast

While whining to a coworker about the copious amounts of time I've been spending on the treadie lately, I received this suggestion: Download some podcasts and listen to them when there's nothing decent to watch on TV. So that's what I did on Saturday morning and I'm happy to report, it hugely improved my enjoyment of my long run. First I listened to some interesting info regarding 2-week training cycles on the Dump Runners Club podcast, which I'd heard about on the Pigtails Flying blog earlier this Fall and never gotten around to listening to. It was the perfect running motivation for a super-dork like me. Then I spent over an hour listening to Jay and Jack disect the season premiere of Lost. So, listening to podcasts isn't as riveting as watching Top Chef or a great DVD, but it's distracting enough to make the treadmill a step up from miserable--so I'm sticking with 'em. I'm officially on the hunt for awesome podcasts to add to the rotation. Got any suggestions? Please click on "comments" and let us know. Posted by Liz

Photo grabbed from

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monday night rides

Photo grabbed from

Well, I did it. I bit the bullet, plunked down my credit card and signed up for what I hope will improve my cycling when I take it to the road once the ground thaws. You might recall from my New Year's Resolutions that I wanted to get better on the bike--more confidence and speed would help too--for the 2009 triathlon season. So I registered for the eight-week program, A Taste of VQ, held at Vision Quest Chicago.

VQ was started by Robbie Ventura who raced with Lance Armstrong and raced on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team. Now that's he no longer on the racing circuit, Ventura heads up Vision Quest and has dipped his foot into triathlons--he completed Ironman Canada last August and had a blistering time on the bike pushing that tough course (just take a look at the elevation map and you'll see what I mean).

As for Taste of VQ, I guess you could say it's a chance to ride with the big wigs? That and an improvement on my cycling--the class description boasts that participants improve more than 12.8 percent on average. Just what I wanted for the new year.

Yet why do I have butterflies in my stomach? Why am I second-guessing myself? Why am I wondering what I got myself into as I re-read the class description to make sure I bring everything I need for night one?

I think the baseline test has something to do with it. That and riding for an hour and a half (I'm assuming) every Monday on a trainer when I can't even last 15 minutes in my living room without taking a break. Informative, quantifiable, productive training session. I have to stare down those words, knowing that's the goal, that's exactly what I want and why I signed up in the first place.

VQ, have at me. Just keep me in one piece so I can tell my story along the way. Stay tuned... Posted by Kate

Saturday, January 24, 2009

End to Healthy Weight Week

Photo grabbed from juliaf at stock.xchg

Apologies for not mentioning earlier in the week that this week, January 18-24, was Healthy Weight Week. Even without knowing of this unique week to keep the calories in check, the fridge stocked with healthy items (or a list of restaurants to hit that won't throw your weight out of whack), and visits to the gym plentiful, were you able to feel satisfied with that number on the scale? Maybe those Christmas cookies finally sweat out of your system, you parted ways with the snacking, you tried a new fitness class or you went outside to move around. How did you keep moving?

I surprised myself when I look back on the week. I hit the gym every day, even if some were less-than-stellar workouts, sweat my butt off at Sunday morning and Thursday night spinning, rode my bike even though it was 20-something degrees, experimented in the kitchen with new salads and Trader Joe's Freekeh (loaded with fiber and protein), tried Circular Strength Training at Equinox, lunched on healthy cuisine at Spa Cafe, and passed up a sweet treat pit stop since I had already splurged on a Carol's cookie. I'm thinking I'm going to have to continue the trend to keep the needle from rising this winter and enlist myself in Healthy Weight Week Part Deux.

If you're regretting some of the choices you made during Healthy Weight Week, why not vow to start over on Sunday and create your own week of eating right and working out? Sure, we all need a little motivation now and again, but missing out one week doesn't mean you can't rebound and get back on track. And for me, I'm using Tuesday night's The Biggest Loser to keep me on the bandwagon. Watching all of those pounds disappear from week to week and I'm thinking I can't allow my fitness to falter or pick up the pounds the BL contestants are shedding.

Plus January has more unlying motivation that runs the entire 31 days. January is Oatmeal month and National Lose Weight, Feel Great month--two more reasons to work for that healthy weight. Keep these in the back of your mind and those pounds to shed and fitness goals to achieve can be within reach. Posted by Kate

Hurry scurry for Shamrock Shuffle

Photo grabbed from Garmin at

I might even be too late in posting this, but I received an e-mail that prompted me to hop online and share the news: Shamrock Shuffle is filling up. If you planned on participating in this unofficial start to the 2009 running season and haven't registered already, HURRY! This race closes fast once that e-mail goes out. And I know because I ignored its urging last January and just barely missed grabbing a spot--the press release announcing the registration closing hadn't been sent when I went to register, but I saw the red warning label telling me I couldn't proceed further. I warned of it when I announced signing up for the Shamrock Shuffle and hope that no one misses out on the fun and has a race calendar thrown out of whack.

And while you're thinking running in Chicago, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon registration opens on February 1. The race is in October so there's plenty of training time, but this race closes fast and closes earlier every year. I used to register for it in July and be fine, now if I'm not committed by April, I'm SOL. More to come on the marathon though. Posted by Kate

Snooze clues

So today was my first long run of spring marathon training. Since January 4, I've been doing 10 milers--which are plenty long, don't get me wrong. But todat was a 15 miler and in my book, it's official, that's a long run. Because it was (shock of all shocks!) only 5 frigid, frosty degrees outside, I ran a mile to the gym, did 13 on the treadie, then ran the mile home. It went fine. I felt a little wobbly toward the end (never a good thing on a moving belt) and I forgot to bring a gel so that was annoying, but I survived. Yip! In honor of doing my first long run I also enjoyed my first post long run nap. Ahhhh. This is perhaps my very favorite part about training. To me, there is nothing as awesome as finishing a hot shower and falling into bed after a hard workout. It's a luxury we don't get on weekdays, but today I happily took advantage of nap time.

I only snoozed for 45 minutes because my dreams were wacky: I was still running on the high heels, dealing with work stuff and taking phone calls. I mean, what the heck? I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I've always dreamt about whatever activity I'm newly plugged into at that time in my life. In high school basketball seasons I would dream I was in a game--playing defense and trying to steal the ball for a fast-break--and I would wake up (often as a passenger in a car, where I've always been able to fall asleep in 5 seconds flat) when my hand swatted the door or seat so hard that it roused me. (Very embarrassing.) Last summer, when Kate and I were riding together a few mornings a week, I used to dream at night that I was still on my bike. And every single time I've done a marathon, I can pinpoint when it's getting close by the arrival of rather disturbing race dreams: they always involve some crazy scenario where I'm late to the start line, running too slow, going too fast, etc.

Now I'm treadmill running in my sleep. I guess I've been doing enough of it this brutally cold Chicago winter we're having that this was inevitable. Instead of calling me crazy, how about we say I'm practicing visualization. That's a good thing for athletes, right? Yeah, that's it, I'm doing visualization drills! Photo grabbed from Daehyun Park at flickr. Posted by Liz

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fit-Site: More Bargain Shopping

So I jumped the gun a little with my previous post about the greatness (in my opinion) of shopping on While doing my usual perusal of outdoor bargain shopping sites--the typical rotation of Steepandcheap, REI Outlet and Campmor--last night, I realized that I neglected a few sites out in cyberspace similar to the Steepandcheap platform.

Before any retailers scream and shout, "What about me?", here's what I stumbled across. And if there are other sites out there, please show yourselves...I'm in need of all the online shopping I can get, especially pertaining to active gear.
  • Tramdock. I spotted this link during one of my peeks at Steepandcheap and was mesmerized by the cheap skis being advertised (if they're $200 or less, my eyes light up). Turns out Tramdock offers gear for those in search of powder. According to their mission, you'll find sick deals on the skis, boots and ski-specific gear to get you out on the mountain or into the backcountry. Now that's my kinda shopping.
  • Bonktown. Similar to Tramdock, this one is specific to bikes. Need a trailer or roof rack? How about a new frame or wheels? Bonktown offers all that and more (try a plug for removing your carbon footprint) at discounted prices.
  • Backcountry. If you missed a deal at Steepandcheap--maybe too busy weighing the options of needing or passing up a deal--sometimes you can find that item offered at a not-quite-as-good discount in Backcountry's closets. After all, it's Backcountry that's supplying the Steepandcheap merchandise, plus even more gear than Steepandcheap could even fathom circulating during a day. And when shopping, you can view the inventory to see how many North Face Denalis are left in your size and color preference.
  • Moosejaw. Based in Michigan, not too far from my hometown, Moosejaw is always a favorite in my book. Lots of gear, always a sale or discount, and tons of fave brands. BUT the discount site that I remembered Moosejaw starting--my hypothesis is to serve as a rival to Steepandcheap--no longer seems to exist. Moosejaw's main page featured links to The Lowdown, which featured one item at slashed prices for 24 hours. If you were too late and the gear was gone, you'd have to wait until the next day. Just because the 'deal of the day' didn't seem to fly, don't mark Moosejaw off your shopping list.
Time to go shopping! Posted by Kate

So THAT'S why...we're hard-wired to indulge!

Ladies, listen up. Has it ever irked you when a guy friend goes on a diet and loses, like, 10 pounds in a week--no problemo? Is the siren song of the vending machine louder than walking under the El? A new study that looked at the brains of men and women finds that females have a much harder time saying no to their fave foods and controlling hunger. A quickie recap of how the study worked: Scientists made the subjects smell, look at and taste a yummy food (bacon & egg sandwich, chocolate cake, etc). Afterwards, they asked them to quell their desire to nosh on the food. Both men and women experienced less desire to nibble tempting foods when they were told not to, but the brains of the women were all lit up in the areas associated with eating, like emotional regulation, conditioning and motivation. Translation: Their brains were all hyped, so it was harder to say no to tempting foods. So, the next time the man in your life passes on dessert like it's no biggie, keep this study in mind. It's not your fault, it's not a lack of will-power: Blame it on your brain. Posted by Liz

Photo grabbed from ellenmac11 at flickr.

Applebee's fattening up dieters?

In an effort to help dieting folks stick to their (less-caloric) guns while dining out, Applebee's recently rolled out a health-conscious menu, displaying calories, fat and Weight Watchers points next to lighter menu items. Even if you're not on a diet, it's easy to appreciate how this makes it easier to find something tasty and healthy at a restaurant, which is often no small feat. That endeavor gets an A+ in my book, but the chain loses points thanks to the next part of the story. When a news station ordered the healthy items and had them analyzed for nutritional content, the dishes were waaaay off what they promised to be. More fat. More calories. More WW points. It's hard enough to eat right when you're at a restaurant, but finding out your virtuous attempts don't even matter is a real buzz kill for dieters hoping to budge the scale.

The news broke in the summer (I just heard about on the Today Show this a.m., thanks Meredith!), so I'm late to the party in writing about it now, but as I contemplate my midday meal, it's on my mind. (This morning my husband hijacked last night's lefties--salmon vindaloo with Basmati rice, yum!--and we're out of bread. So I'm buying lunch in the Loop today.) I'm sorta craving Chipotle and according to the, I can get a Burrito Bowl salad with chicken, black beans, veggies and salsa for a lean 479 calories. But, is that really how many calories Chipotle salads have? I'm not so sure. Now, there's nothing wrong with splurging when you're eating out (um, have I mentioned my addiction? Forget the sandwich, gimme the fries!), but when you think you're being healthy and you've been misled, that stinks. The only way to be really sure of what we're eating for lunch, friends, is to brown bag it. I'll get back on track with that next week. Posted by Liz

Photo grabbed from PunkJr at flickr.

Fit-Fact: Trees at Deer Valley

That's skiable--the trees aren't as tight as they look--Centennial at Deer Valley

While I'm really trying to move away from the skiing references--after all I've been back in Chicago for two weeks--I still have skiing on the brain. Of course, it doesn't help that I whine about the weather all the time (and sorry for mentioning it constantly, too), wishing I could trade Chicago flats for Rockies peaks. But as I'm yearning for more ski time and sorting through my pictures from my last trip, it's really difficult to part with thoughts of Deer Valley, Park City and Alta, and all of the interesting things I learned about the areas. That Park City was a mining town and the old structures on the mountain--there's one near the Bonanza lift and another by Thaynes--were used for mining the mountain. That Alta operates snowcat skiing but on a very limited basis. That Deer Valley prunes its tree skiing spots.

Prunes its trees?
I thought I was hearing things when Craig McCarthy, Park City Chamber of Commerce Communications Manager, confirmed that Deer Valley picks through its forests each summer to make for pristine tree skiing in the winter. No forays into the forests only to hit a pack of trees so tight you can't pick your way to the bottom. No dead-ends or random branches to hit you. No wonder I like these tree runs--I can actually pick my way through them without tumbling into a tree well or wrapping myself around a trunk (and trust me both have happened). I'm someone who tries to avoid trees at all costs--even if it means skiing a green--yet at Deer Valley the trees seem less intimidating, still challenging, and offer the hope of untracked powder on a snow-less day. My faves: Centennial off the Lady Morgan Express lift and Ontario Bowl. Posted by Kate

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Swimming sucks sometimes

I'm sorry, I know that's a really downer headline. But I'm struggling with my swim workouts. See, I'm not a born swimmer. I didn't do swim team as a kid. I basically have enough of a stroke that I don't drown or totally humiliate my self in the pool (well, that "humiliate myself" part is actually debatable). But, none of none of that explains why swimming sucks sometimes. Why it sucks--right now, in winter, today--is because I haaaaate thinking about getting into the water when it's freezing outside. I imagine myself shivering and cold in the pool. I visualize the crystalline-blue lap lanes and wonder why I put myself through the agony (I know, so tragic!). I dwell on the inevitable aftermath: my hair freezing into icicles on the walk home.

Of course, the hardest part is getting to the gym. Or, rather, actually putting on my suit, goggles and cap instead of tying my running sneakers in the locker room with a "Argh, I don't need to cross-train, I'm going running!" But I do need to cross-train, I think it's the whole reason my running improved over the summer and I'm really worried I'm losing my running mojo because I'm such a wimp about doing my cycling and swimming workouts these days. And the truth is, I always warm up once I get into the pool and the water is never chilly like I fear it will be. And, afterwards, I feel as awesome and as accomplished as I do after a tempo training run (such is the dread and drama I create before both swim and tempo workouts). So swimming, as much as you suck sometimes, I'm trying to commit. Bear with me! Posted by Liz

Obama works it out

The final flutterings of confetti had long-since fallen to the floor at each of the Inaugural Balls when I watched the Today Show early yesterday morning while slogging through a treadie hill workout. Meredith and Matt began speculating about what the Obama family was up to that morning. "I wonder if he's gotten that first intelligence report?" they wondered. "Hopefully sleeping in..." they suggested. And finally, "No, he's probably already gotten in a workout."

So true! Obama is well known for his religious morning sweat sessions and I'm willing to bet money that no matter how late he stayed up dancing at those Balls throughout D.C, or how he zonked he was from the exhausting day of Inauguration hooplah, there's no way he pressed snooze and skipped his first workout as President of the United States of America. As anyone who works out regularly knows, the days you are most tired, most nervous, most excited, most anxious, most sad, most....whatever....those are the days that exercise is elevated from "this makes me feel good inside and outside" to "my mind, body and heart might all explode if I don't exercise today." The days I skip a workout I feel fuzzy, fatigued and sorta bummed out. When I get in my gym session, I'm noticeably more clear-headed, energized and happy (really, just ask my husband if you don't believe me!). 

I'm psyched our new Prez is on our team of OCD worker-outers: There's something strangely comforting about his exercise habit. Posted by Liz

Photo grabbed from

Fit-Site: Steep and Cheap

Who doesn't like to do a little shopping on the weekend? And save money on labels like Mountain Hard Wear, The North Face, Patagonia and Icebreaker?

It's even easier when you can do it from home. Check out for its ever-changing inventory of merchandise for men and women. The site is partnered with and pulls goods from Backcountry's closet to offer at a discounted rate--usually 50 percent off or more--for 30 minutes at a time or until the product runs out, whichever comes first. You'll find everything from camping gear and sleeping bags to jackets, graphic tees, sunglasses and trail runners. It's tough to not find something that suits your likes.

But be's addicting waiting for the latest gear and tempting if you can't turn away a sale. Or at least that's my problem. Posted by Kate 

Photo grabbed from

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Take Triathlon Indoors

Photo grabbed from Mickey B. at

Sick of mindless workouts at the gym? Too cold or icy to run outside? Missing the hectic summer event season? Fight the winter blues and work on triathlon in the off season by taking it indoors. Yep, that's right. Swimming, biking and running at the health club and for timed intervals to see how far you can go in the pool, on the stationary bike and on the treadmill or track.

The first of the Fitness Formula Clubs Indoor Triathlon series kicked off this past weekend, but it's not too late to join the fun. Chicago's Fitness Formula Clubs still has three more races in its series before the start of spring. The next indoor tri kicks off February 7 at FFC Gold Coast, followed by a March 7 race at Union Station and a March 21 race at East Lakeview. The challenge? Test yourself in a 10-minute swim, 20-minute bike and 15-minute run and see how far you can go. Check out the registration site for more details.

Fitness Formula isn't the only gym in the area serving up indoor tris in the off-season. Set your scope outside Chicago's city limits and you'll find a selection of other events. The Midwest Indoor Triathlon Series takes place at four suburban Chicago fitness centers and raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The dates are January 25, February 8, February 22 and March 8. Read more about the suburban Chicago locations on the event website.

Or combine a trip to the outlets at Pleasant Prairie, Wis., with some exercise at LakeView RecPlex. RecPlex's first indoor triathlon is set for Sunday, January 25, with the second installment on March 1. The indoor events consist of a 10-minute swim, 10-minute transition, 20-minute spin bike, 5-minute transition, 15-minute treadmill run. Read more about it at 3-Fitness Triathlon or register with RecPlex.

Last but not least is a triathlon series that's not just for triathletes living in the Chicago area. If you have a Life Time Fitness in your area then you can indoor tri. The clubs offer an indoor challenge consisting of a 10-minute swim, 30-minute bike in the Cycle Studio and 20-minute treadmill run. Find dates and registration information for a club near you at Life Time's site.

So are you ready to race indoors? Posted by Kate

Yum...Celebrate National Granola Bar Day!

Get is National Granola Bar Day. (FYI, it's also Squirrel Appreciation Day.) To celebrate, I bought a Balance Bare Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter bar (yes, despite those PB recalls Kate mentioned earlier this week). It's a step up from the bars I was addicted to as a kid: Quaker Chewy Granola Chocolate Chip. (Sadly they don't sell them at the kiosk in my office building's lobby.) You know what I realized? I haven't given granola bars (or nutrition bars, same difference to me, though I'm sure that's totally inaccurate and unfair to lump all bars together) enough attention in my go-to snack arsenal since I tired of my obsession Chocolate Pecan Pie Luna Bars a few years ago. Really, the only time I think about granola bars is when I'm at a race expo and I'm greedily grabbing for samples the companies hand out. Kate and I hit the Accenture Chicago Triathlon expo back in August and we stocked up on some yummy samples from Luna, Clif and--my personal favorite of that bunch--LaraBar. Anyway, yum. I have really been missing out by snacking on Chex Mix, er, fruits and veggies.  So get me up to speed...what are your fave bars? Anyone have a good granola bar recipe? Posted by Liz

Photo grabbed from MGF/Lady Disdain at flickr.

Fit-food: Potbelly 'wiches get a makeover

When I'm eating lunch al desko, but was too rushed or lazy in the morning to brown-bag it, one of my fave spots to buy a cheap, healthy meal on a workday is Potbelly. Sans cheese, the turkey and tuna salad sandwiches both weigh in at under 500 calories and cost less than $5....and are super-filling and tasty. I always ask my sandwich-barista to add extra hot peppers--spicy and delish! Now Crain's is reporting that Potbelly is hiking prices and making-over its menu, offering more healthy sandwich options (I'll be interested to see what that entails--customers have always been able to order a sub "skinny," which means they use a third less bread, meat and cheese), as well as larger sandwich options (9-inch subs instead of 7-inchers). According to Crain's, the menu additions and price changes are in response to  amped-up competition from Subway, and reflect the fact that folks are simply going out for lunch less often than they used to. As long as they keep those hot peppers, I'll keep Potbelly in rotation. Posted by Liz

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Plan now for event season

Photo by shadowkill at stock.xchg

Spring and summer certainly seem like a long ways away as the thermometer dances below freezing (or far below in the case of last week), snow or flurries are almost always in the forecast, and my current idea of a distance workout at the moment is seeing how long I can tolerate the treadmill or Spinning on Sunday mornings for two hours. But even with the warm temps only looming in the distance, the height of the event season will be here before we know it. And while it hurts to put a pinch on the wallet, now's the time to sit down to plan out the race calendar before the races fill up or the fees increase.

What races are some of the must-dos for the season ahead? Or what's happening close to home and fits into the schedule? I've called myself the walking calendar of events at times, once I hit an event I somehow manage to remember it year after year, usually to make sure I sign up for it again, or if it's really bad to remind myself to find a different event for that particular weekend. In between arguing over the dates and distances of the Lakefront 10 and the Soldier Field 10 and providing a list of spring marathons and half marathons to a friend, I thought dissecting the race calendar might be in order. So stay tuned in the coming days for a tour around the Midwest--plus a smattering of destination races--divided up by race distance or sport. Posted by Kate

Fit-Fact: Happy Birthday Alta

Alta in 2009

With all of the cold weather and snow we've been having in Chicago, I've wanted nothing more than an escape to ski country, one of the few places where I can tolerate--and love--the hours outside and pray for another snow dump. So when I read about this ski news, it had to become a Fit-Fact for the week.

Alta Ski Area, one of the last skiers-only areas left in the states, turned 70 years old. While I knew it was celebrating its 70th season, I didn't realize that the date of opening was pinpointed and recognized. Turns out that Alta opened its lifts to skiers on January 15, 1939. The Collins lift, Utah's first ski lift and the fifth in the U.S., opened to 350 skiers.

Here's a little comparison for what's changed (or hasn't) in the past 70 years at Alta:
  • In 1939, a lift ticket cost 25 cents for one ride, $1.50 for the full day.
  • In 2009, a lift ticket costs $59 for a full day, plus a $5 charge for the reusable Alta card that serves as your pass for the day.
  • In 2005, the Collins lift, which was upgraded a few times since 1939, was replaced with a high-speed quad that travels higher up the mountain, also christened Collins.
  • In 2002, Alta and Snowbird paired up to offer a joint ticket for skiing between the resorts.
  • Alta continues to use the same World War II howitzers to blast for avalanches in the area.
  • Alta still is for skiers only. Snowboarders have to stay in Snowbird. Posted by Kate

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fit-Food: Give me back my peanut butter

Help! My favorite food, peanut butter, has been recalled. Although most of the concerns deal with PB products I don't eat (I'm a straight-out-of-the-jar gal)--most recently Austin snack crackers and Little Debbie snacks--I have to admit I'm a little scared to keep it as a daily staple. The FDA lists the products in danger on its website and states that name brand peanut butter sold in grocery stores most likely isn't affected. Yet it's still advised to avoid products that may contain peanut butter while testing is still taking place.

So what's a girl to do? Fortunately there are still other ways to get that peanut fix and its benefits.
  • P.B. Loco. This company came from three individuals who wanted to open a peanut butter store in 2003. Now they jar their crazy concoctions--asian curry spice, banana, raspberry white chocolate--for the masses and available at specialty retailers and online.
  • Whole Foods. Hopefully you can't go wrong opting for the freshly-ground peanut butter made on-site from the peanut grinder. And its jarred peanut butter made of peanuts and salt is always a winner, especially right now since it's not listed among recalled products.
  • Trader Joe's. I can usually get by without peanut butter simply by visiting the nut section at Trader Joe's. Between the blister peanuts and the roasted peanuts, I'm always satisfied peanut-wise, but I'm also a fan of any of the other nuts, too.
  • Peanut Butter & Co. Break from the norm and try peanut butter mixed with sweet and spicy extras like white chocolate, dark chocolate, honey, maple syrup, hot spices and cinnamon raisin. The company also posted a notice that its peanut butter is not affected by the recall. Yay!
Yay for peanut butter products that don't appear to be affected by the recall. I don't think I could go without its stomach-filling qualities, and appreciate its lack of trans fats. Even though peanut butter was once touted as having too much fat for daily consumption, studies have shown its cholesterol-reducing powers. Richard Mattes, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at Purdue University, says that peanut butter has been associated with lower total cholesterol, lower ldl/bad cholesterol and lower triglycerides which can positively affect cardiovascular-disease risk. Read more about peanut butter in an article by CNN and Cooking Light.

Now here's to hoping that my worst suspicions don't come true and that the peanut butter world doesn't completely crash down through more research. It wouldn't be a century ride without peanut butter sandwiches at the rest stops or noshing on PB to refuel during Ironman. Posted by Kate

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fit-chef: Rachael Ray makes me hungry

Normally a reference to Rachael Ray from my mouth isn't a good thing. I'm turned off by the EVOO references, the somewhat raspy voice, and the copious amounts of dressing added to a salad or spread added to sandwich bread. But I caught an episode of 30-Minute Meals that left me hungry and scrounging around the kitchen looking for the ingredients to whip up this quick and healthy meal. And on a cold day, what's better than a hearty-without-being-unhealthy burger--too many indoor workouts aren't friendly to my waistline--and some spicy greens? I'm sold on the salmon burgers with Caesar slaw.

Here's the recipe (thanks, Food Network!):
  • 14-ounce can of Alaskan salmon, drained and flaked
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • Handful of parsley leaves, with a fine chop
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 anchovies, finely chopped (I couldn't bear to include these, not a fan)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • a couple of handfuls of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 2 hearts of romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1 head of radicchio, shredded
Add the egg whites, parsley, zest and juice of one lemon, 2/3 of the chopped garlic, bread crumbs, pepper, and a little salt to the flaked salmon. Mix together and mold into either 4 large patties or 8 mini patties.

In a salad bowl, add the remaining lemon zest and juice, remaining garlic, chopped anchovies if you decide to use them, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk in about 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil and cheese. Add black pepper but no salt. Add shredded lettuces to the bowl and toss to evenly coat. If needed, season the slaw with salt to taste.

Preheat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (or coat with cooking spray to save on calories) in a nonstick skillet over medium to medium high heat. Cook salmon patties 2 to 3 minutes per side for mini patties, 4 minutes per side for larger patties.

Serve patties atop the Caesar slaw. Serves four and takes less than 30 minutes to prep and cook. Next time I play in the kitcken I'll add a picture of the creation. Posted by Kate

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recovery from High Intensity Training

High Intensity Training at East Bank was brutal. I don't know about you, but Monday is definitely the day when I can use a good butt-kicking to rev myself into gear for what's to come for the rest of the week. My trainer, Dan, gave me the butt-kicking, but instead of gearing up, I think I spent most of the week rolling in reverse.

More than 48 hours since H.I.T. and my quads are still killing. It hurts to get up from my desk, I'd rather lay on the couch, legs extended, and not have to move for the remainder of the day. I brace myself before I cough or sneeze, knowing my abs will ache which each shift of my torso. The bed sounds more inviting than getting work done and bundling up to embrace the bone-chilling cold is the last thing on my mind. Sitting still seemed like the best form of recovery at the expense of everything else to get done. Now I understand why you'd only want to lift twice a week with H.I.T.--anything more and you'll likely find permanent muscle damage, or enough aches to feel like you've aged 50 years in a day.

It finally took a Powernap (more on that to come) and Budokon class at Equinox to stretch out those lingering pains. Maybe it was the deep breathing, stretching my limbs in directions they normally don't move (I NEVER do yoga) or the constant returns to down-dog. Whatever happened in that hour and a half, thank goodness, because now I want to go back and work my muscles to the max all over again. Posted by Kate

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fit-Tip: If the pudge won't budge, eat grapefruit

Photo grabbed from AnnaMaciel at stock.xchng

Maybe Mom was right. For the past six months or so, my mom has been on her own weight-loss get-fit mission--adding more walks into her weekly schedule even when it's cold, meeting with a personal trainer two or three times per week and tracking her daily steps with a pedometer. She also reads a lot of health and fitness advice, especially as it pertains to her diet. I recently called one of her facts a fake, but am now realizing she may have been right after all.

This time her advice comes in the form of citrus fruit. Over the holidays, my mom continued to praise grapefruit saying that she read about its benefits in aiding metabolism. Meanwhile I refuted her information by reciting readings about food myths and food truths and how the grapefruit diet was revealed as one of those diet tricks that just plain didn't work.

But now I'm having second thoughts both thanks to Mom and a recent RealAge Tip. RealAge reported that obese people who participated in a 12-week study where they ate half a grapefruit before each of three meals lost more weight than their counterparts. And while grapefruit juice and grapefruit capsules are powerful agents against weight gain, they're not as poweful as the whole fruit, which also contains fiber and its appetite-controlling benefits.

And now I'm thinking that it was merely the Grapefruit Diet that was receiving all the disapproving nods. Six-hundred calories consumed in one day? That's just asking for disaster from shrinking metabolism to not meeting the daily requirements of at least 1,200 calories consumed. Posted by Kate

A Fitting Mantra

I subscribe to a Runner's World email list that sends an inspirational quote to my inbox at about 4am every night, so new words of motivation are waiting to encourage me when I groggily surf the web over coffee each morning. This one came through the other day and I can't seem to shake it (and I don't think it's because I studied Latin in high school and college). The words make me want to run outside and do something

"Citius, altius, fortius....swifter, higher, stronger." -Olympic Motto

Cool, right? Posted by Liz

Fit-event: A New Half In Town

An email announcing the inaugural 13.1 Marathon Chicago on Sunday, June 7th just arrived in my inbox like a gift from above. Here's why I'm psyched....

1) It's 7 degrees with blowing snow today, and the forecast only looks worse for the next 24 hours. Having a warm-weather running event on the radar thaws my weather-related grumpiness. I know June is going to rock!

2) Washington Park, where the race starts and finishes, is the proposed site of many of the 2016 Olympic events. There's going to be a great vibe there that day.

3) The runs through my 'hood, Hyde Park. That'll make traveling to and from the start-line a total cinch. Yay!

Go to to sign up and start the countdown to--granted, wishful thinking--warm, sunny June 7 (144 days to go). Posted by Liz

Photo grabbed from Darren Larson at flickr.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Taking It Up a Notch

I've been putting in some QT with the treadie, but the "Hill Run" I completed this morning took our relationship to a new level. Designed by coach Adam Zucco, the workout is below--make sure to stretch afterwards (especially your calves), either it's pretty killer or I'm a big wimp. 

10-20 minutes: Warm-up at easy pace.
5 minutes: Set incline to 4% and select a pace you can maintain for the duration of the workout. 
10 minutes: Increase incline to 5%.
10 minutes: Increse incline to 6.5%.*
10 minutes: Increase incline to 7.5%.**
10 minutes: Cool-down at easy pace, 0%-1% incline.

*I started out running 10 minute miles, but at this point, I bumped it down to 10:30s.

**Oops--legs screaming and doing everything possible to control my breathing--I had to take the pace down again, to 12 minute miles. Clearly, I have a lot of room for improvement on "hills"! Posted by Liz

Crawling out of the weight room

Total. Muscle. Failure. I was warned of these three words before starting a High Intensity Training workout at East Bank Club, but I was ready to take on the challenge anyway. After all, there was no disclaimer saying "attempt at your own risk". But, within minutes of starting on the weights, I was ready to quit. Or throw up. Or both.

Dan, my trainer, assured me this was normal. He even said that some people start to feel dizzy or light-headed as he works their muscles to the max. Well OK, at least I didn't feel like I was going to faint. But a million thoughts on failure and self-doubt did race through my head. Leg press: Am I really this weak? I thought my legs were my strong suit. Leg lifts: Is it normal to be sweating this much while raising my legs in the air? Isolated leg lunges: Am I actually doing these right? Are they supposed to hurt this much and why are my muscles twitching? Chest press machine: Did Dan lower the weight, he must really think I'm a weakling. Lat pulldown with handles: I used to like this why are my arms in so much pain? Breathe, go slow, breathe. Chest press on bench: Whoa that's a lot of weight (50 pounds), um, help? Chin up: I'm going to crumble to the ground! I...can't...hold...this...for...a...minute. Lateral raise: Chains? Are my arms lopsided? Why is my left arm not moving at all? Don't make the chain links jingle--slow and steady, slow and steady. Argh, ugh, keep going, last one.

Chains drop and I'm done. Oh and ouch! I can feel every muscle in my forearms writhing in pain and soreness. My legs are still pulsating and when they see the stairs say no thank you. I have the option of working my wrists--Dan explains that the females he trains typically don't do the wrist moves--and I give it a shot anyway. I'm gripping an inch-thick bowel, winding a string with a weight tied to the bottom around it, raising and lowering, until I'm ready to quit. I swear I thought my hands would give out as my wrist muscles throbbed. Talk about a strengthening workout...and to get it done in 45 minutes or less? Crazy that something could be so painful so fast.

Now it's Matt's turn and I can really see how it's done. Dan and Matt train together, putting each other through this intense torture twice a week, sometimes three. I'm watching Matt rotate through some of the same machines I just did--and with way more weight--and adding a few others to work more muscle groups in his neck, abs, quads, biceps and triceps.

Matt's sweating, breathing heavy, turning beet red, grimacing to finish the reps (yay, just like me). I glance around at others and Matt looks like the only person actually having an effective workout in the weight room, working himself to sheer exhaustion. Did he just say his quad gave out on a leg curl? Was that 360 pounds on the chest press? Did he just do the leg press with one leg and then switch? And as he's breathing heavy and letting the red color drain from his face, he tells me he has a client to meet with afterward. At least after 37 minutes of pushing to the max, he's set to recover for three days until it happens all over again.

As for me, I think I need a nap.

Photo grabbed from Personal Training Corpus Christi at flickr. Posted by Kate

Monday, January 12, 2009

Snow way!

As I've mentioned, I'm training for a spring marathon. I'm putting in most of my miles on the treadmill (or the "treadie," as I've begun faux-affectionately referring to it), but the gym is a mile from my apartment and unless the wind chill dips below zero, I run over in whatever Mother Nature throws at me. This weekend, it was snow. Lots of it! At first it's kind of pretty and festive. But then it gets in your eyes and stings (note to self: wear a baseball hat under my stocking cap) and it's slippery and you sorta feel like you're running on uneven mounds of beach sand...except without the sunshine, salt water smell and crashing blue waves.

Since it took me a whopping two minutes longer than usual to get to the gym (and I couldn't get going fast enough to rev up my heart rate), I wondered if I was doing myself any training favors by running through the snow. I did some Googling around and came across a Runner's World article that says runners burn 1.6 times as many calories when they hoof it on the sand instead of asphalt. I figure snow is pretty similar in terms of consistency, so I'm giving myself extra credit points for every mile I log in the white stuff. Posted by Liz

Fit-poll: Is this supermodel fat?

Sometimes you read a news story and it makes your stomach turn. That's how I felt when I stumbled across a piece dissecting supermodel Karolina Kurkova's weight. People have buzzed about her "missing belly button" and after recently walking a Victoria's Secret fashion show, the word is that she's too love-handled, too cellulite-y, too...fat. Here is a beautiful, toned, genetically-blessed woman who is getting totally picked apart. I wish we could all leaver her alone. It happens all too often...remember the Jennifer Love Hewitt weight controversy? Posted by Liz

Making Excuses

Photo grabbed from Hammock Inc. at flickr

Do you think it's safe to say that every once in a while we all make excuses? We have a reason for procrastinating on an assignment, an explanation for why a project isn't finished, an argument--with visuals--for why we didn't reach or surpass a goal. The list of possible situations is endless and the idea of making excuses really comes to the forefront when thinking of New Year's Resolutions. How often do we hear people say they reverted to smoking or broke their diet--two common resolutions--before January is up? A lot.

And in just this week, not only did I find myself making excuses for why I could eat that last cookie I brought back from Deer Valley--and the last piece of brownie from Alta Lodge--but I read about one of our favorite media icons caught in a web of excuses as well--Oprah. What's not to say about Oprah? Always in the news, featured in tabloid rumors, gaining even more publicity.

Oh Oprah...we read about your admittance to tipping the scales at 200 pounds. Oh Oprah...we heard you were launching a program--Best Life--in 2009 to lose weight. Oh Oprah...we know you want to combat your thyroid problem and reach a healthy relationship with food. But offense, but even you're making excuses these days. We read the confession you posted on your website about your weight loss then gain and how you desperately wanted to hide your body for magazine cover shoots. But didn't it ever occur to you that the downward spiral often starts from making excuses for the eating or skipping the gym instead of tackling the problem head-on?

Betsy Dru Tecco says it simply in her book, Food for Fuel, "...YOU can control your weight. YOU decide what you eat and how much you eat. YOU decide how active you are...."

Guess it's time for me to take that action and head to the gym before I settle into a TV-watching ritual this evening. Posted by Kate


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