Friday, May 29, 2009

Vision to Tri to the Rescue

What's stopping you from trying your sporting legs in a triathlon? Is it the training? What about the motivation? Or maybe you're just unsure of your bike handling skills, swimming technique or surviving the run after a swim and cycle? Whatever the case may be, if you have thoughts of completing a triathlon this summer and need some guidance getting you to the finish line, Vision Quest Coaching's newest program is just the ticket. The last thing you want to do is drop out of competition before race day--or worse yet midway through the race because you just cannot move your foot an inch further--or arrive without an inkling of what you need to do to set up your transition area or pace yourself through each of the three disciplines. Any and all Chicagolanders new to the sport can whisk these fears away by signing up for Vision To Tri.

This beginning triathlon training program kicks off June 2 and runs through the summer to prepare its participants for either the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon on August 16 or the Chicago Triathlon on August 30. For $395, you'll get three days of training per week focusing on the swim, bike and run, plus time to work on your transition, core strength and flexibility. You'll learn the importance of brick workouts (bike to run training for newbies), how to translate pool laps to open water swimming, strategies for race day nutrition and injury prevention, and more. And you'll run through dress rehearsals so you're ready to knock race day out of the park and not look like a deer in headlights when you go to set up your transition gear or are waiting to start the swim.

Participants also have access to Vision Quest's coaching staff as well as its new Highland Park training facility. If you're participating in the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon, Vision Quest will be on site that day with its tent and providing race day support. And who doesn't like a little gear too? You can sport the VQ name and get some cool tools for your training just for joining: a race singlet, water bottle (how many times have we lost those on the bike?) and Polar heart rate monitor. Plus you'll meet a great group of training buddies, which makes the effort far more fun than doing it alone.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up today so you're not out of luck come race day, and so all of those triathlon terms that seem so foreign now just roll off your tongue by August. Photo grabbed from Vision Quest Coaching. Posted by Kate

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Free Fitness Tonight

Quick! Drop your plans for fitness tonight if you're in Chicago. Head over to HiFi Fitness at North Avenue and Kingsbury in the Lincoln Park neighborhood for another free fitness class. Core Fitness, which brought a free Beach Body workout to the beach on Monday, is offering another freebie tonight at 7 p.m. This time you'll get to experience Core Running without having to dole out cash from the wallet.

Perfect for any runner or wannabe runner looking to improve stride, speed, overall fitness and prevent injury, Core Running gets to the heart of the matter in an hour full of drills, stretches and strength moves. It promises to get your sweat on and add a spring to your stride next time you're out for a run. And if you have any tender spots prone to injury (i.e. me and an ailing hip), you'll learn some stretches to help strengthen those areas to keep you healthy on the trail.

Need more convincing? Check out the class description at the Core Fitness website and just think about the dollars you could be saving for a post-workout snack. Posted by Kate

Fit-Pic: Beach Body Slide Show

I had far too many pictures showing the workout on the beach I described yesterday. And since I suspect I did a poor job describing all of the moves we ran through in an hour--the blur of activity is to blame--I figured a slide show was in order. So while I got my butt kicked during the Core Fitness Beach Body class on the beach, I lent my camera to one of the trainers who captured us recruits running through the moves.

Simon says, shuffle right, shuffle left, shuffle right...

Time for push-ups

Simon says, run forward

Time for sit-ups (ugh, that's me)

Funny running: hold hands with a partner and sprint back to start

Funny running: put your hands on your head and run backwards

Even these kids on the beach joined in--and they made the sand dives look easy

How many times can you throw your stomach down on the sand and stand up in a minute?

Ah, the cardio blasting is done and we're focused on breathing and cooling down.

Check out Beach Body at North Ave. Beach at 6 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your body will thank you. I'm still a little tender today but it was well worth it. Posted by Kate

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Butt-Blasting Beach Beating

Whether you need an excuse to head outdoors on a cloudy day to workout or you have some body parts that aren't ready to go bikini bare as we zoom into swim season, there's always a will and a way to get beach body ready. And in Chicago, that couldn't come in better form than a free Memorial Day workout on the beach thanks to Core Fitness and its Beach Body class at North Avenue Beach. The class kicked off at noon--perfect for anyone wishing to sleep in on a day off or squeezing in a workout before an afternoon BBQ, or as yesterday would have it before rain clouds covered Chicago and washed away any sort of outdoor plans--and the usual $20-per-session fee was waived, appealing to both my unscheduled laze-away day and perpetually penny-pinching wallet.

Rarely--and by this I mean once--do I use the beach as a training tool but Core Fitness proved me wrong during Beach Body. Not only did I not care about sand sticking to my sweaty limbs and running down my shirt and pants, but it worked me out far more than an elliptical session covering the same amount of time could and would. The sand can be great to lay on to catch some Vitamin D rays, but it's even better for providing a butt-blasting, gut-wrenching workout. Or I'm just really out of shape (which I don't deny after plenty of lackluster workouts all winter, constant failures at Vision Quest cycling classes and a bonk at Saturday's race).

Plus all of those moves I always tell myself I should do to give myself a better workout--lunges, sit-ups, push-ups, yoga moves like plank and side plank, and even basic stretches I'll talk myself out of (bad me, I know)--are covered and there's no escaping their wrath. You'll be corrected by the Core Fitness trainers if you do it wrong and encouraged--or yelled at depending on how you look at it--by them if you skip out and quit. It's not easy or for the weary, but if you're looking to get fit fast or get fit and fast, this'll do it. The sprints kicked my legs in gear and made me feel every ounce of Saturday's run and Sunday's bike ride. The push-ups left my arms on fire, while my abs thanked me for the sit-ups. My hips, especially my right half-injured one, are feeling the mountain climbers, lunges and side shuffles. But no complaints because trust me, I needed the workout.

Reluctant to go at first because of the forecast of rain on the horizon, clouds covering the sky and chilly temperatures that had me wishing I could rewind to Saturday, I honestly was shocked to see the crowd already gathered at the meeting spot when I arrived and how many kept coming in the minutes afterward. A cloudy day doesn't stop this group--nor is it limited by age and gender. A long line of us ran through Lincoln Park on the way to the beach, kicking off the workout by jogging single file for half the distance then picking up the pace with the last runner in line sprinting to the front until we reached the beach, something about an Indian and running but I missed the exact term. A little chaotic when some runners surpassed others--I think I screwed it up when I saw I was last in line and took off toward the front--but good for getting the blood rushing. We hit the beach, dropped our gear and shed our shoes, and within moments, Mike from Core Fitness has us lining the beach to start the first part of the challenge, dynamic stretching. We're sprinting from one set of cones to another, adding other elements like skips, knee grabs, lunges, grapevines and shuffles to spur the joints into action. Then we're adding down dogs with foot stretches to the sky, cobra to stretch out the back and neck, mountain climb lunges that stretch out the hip flexors--think feel-good pain.

Next step, if my mind serves me correct, it's time to add perpetual motion to the training. Now we're sprinting then doing drills to work the rest of the body. Definitely not something I'm used to, both in getting friendly with the sand as I throw myself onto the ground seven times before sprinting back to the cones to hold in plank or Superman stretch, or really anything that starts to inflict achiness after holding it repeatedly. Later we were introduced to funny running--if only it merely consisted of laughing through a workout, ha. Take your usual running but mix it up by putting your hands on your head, running backwards, or partnering up to hold hands as you sprint back to start. Good news is you do get breaks between exercises, and sometimes they can't come fast enough. And that's especially true before the last round of cardio jolts. Think Simon Says kicked up a notch for this one. We're shuffling from left to right, sprinting forward and back, depending on the hand signals we see from Mike. Just as we start to shuffle right it's time to move left or we're sprinting forward about to run out of sand when we're directed to run backward then side to side. There's a time limit attached and in between the shuffles we're down in the sand doing push-ups, sit-ups, or mountain climbers before moving through the routine again. Note to self: I need some help with my push-ups and need to watch those around me before not following suit with my sit-ups or mountain climbs. Oops.

Anyone would love the last few minutes of class. After dropping to the sand and standing as many times as we can in a minute, it's time for cool down. Forget the blood-rushing, endorphin-inducing drills we just went through, lay down in the sand and simply concentrate on breathing. I felt like a disco ball was spinning above me at first--I think as a result of all the ups and downs and side to side motion my body just went through--but what a good wind down. And definitely something I'd want to do again, especially for all the core benefits I often ignore. Good for cardio, muscle toning, stress relief and more, who can complain about a little grunting in the sand? The 6 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday option might kill me--and send me straight back to bed rather than energize my day--but the class also meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Talk about an easy way to whip into shape and at no greater location than the beach. And among the Memorial Day Weekend activities I mentioned not to miss--Beach Body is easily among the top three if I were to rank them. Find out more information about the class by visiting Core Fitness' website at, or check out some of the other choices bound to whip you into shape. Photos taken by Core Fitness trainer Cortez--thanks for using my camera while busting my butt. Posted by Kate

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Searching 5/25

Thanks to a little misfortune from the weather gods, my Memorial Day outdoor plans came to a halt when the rains came pouring down. So for lack of motivation to plan in the chilly rain, I'm once again catching up on some online reading. Sure, I'm probably doing far too much of that these days--especially since I find myself reading far more than writing and keeping up with the trends at Fit-Ink, or taking advantage of the start to warmer weather--but it can't be that bad being a bookworm. Among the stories, here are a few favorites:
  • The Today Show uncovers eight health mistakes that even those who try to stay on top of being healthy are prone to make. I'm guilty as charged off the bat at No. 1: ordering a salad.
  • Meet the Yoga King. He has everyone--including celebrities--flocking to his Los Angeles classes and embracing sun salutations, asanas and more.
  • Need a healthy recipe to add some variety to your dinner regime? Find new eats and healthy treats at the Rodale Recipe Finder (click either here or here to check out two slightly different versions)
  • Prevention uncovers meals you can make in five minutes that promise to keep your belly tucked and trim. Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, good fats from olives, seeds and nuts, they sound tasty, savory and downright delicious.
  • Go U Northwestern! I'm just too excited to share the news from my alma mater as it collects yet another win in women's lacrosse--fifth national championship for the Wildcats. And for an inspirational read, check out this New York Times article about Jaclyn Murphy and her connection to this dynasty.
Photo grabbed from LAXBUZZ. Posted by Kate

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ten Ways to Kick Off Your Memorial Day

I'm still having a hard time believing Memorial Day Weekend is here. It's always one of those weekends that looms on the horizon once the snow melts and the trees start to bloom, the mark of summer's start across the Midwest, and the perfect excuse to get out and play. And after being spoiled with 80-degree highs for part of the week, I couldn't be more psyched for this coming weekend. Not only because of the time off, the promise of nice weather, the opening of the beaches along Lake Michigan and the chance to play outside from now until September, but also because it's been a long time since I've been able to enjoy the holiday without going anywhere. Three years ago it was a Wisconsin cabin, then Costa Rica and then another Wisconsin cabin last year. And while it's great to get away--even if we do have to battle traffic on 90 and 94 to escape the city on the Friday of a holiday weekend--I'm not minding staying at home this year. There's a ton to do in Chicago this weekend from bike rides to runs to hanging out.

Here's my top 10 list for spending a Memorial Day Weekend. Some are specific to Chicago but that doesn't mean you can't find a similar event or activity close to home.
  1. Soldier Field 10--I haven't run this race since 2005, but since it first burst onto the running scene it's been a Chicago fave. Not only do you get to run along the Lakefront but the 10 miles finishes on the grass at Soldier Field. What gets better than that? Well, cooler temps, a medal and a post-race festival always helps too.
  2. Bike the Drive--The Windy City's infamous Lake Shore Drive closes to cars on Sunday morning and floods with cyclists. Recumbents, training-wheeled rides, road bikes, hybrids, Burleys and more take over the four lanes on both sides of the median to ride up and down the road. You'll definitely see more bikes than cars on this Sunday morning regardless of where you're traveling.
  3. Green City Market--I'm scared to experience this farmer's market touted by Alice Waters as one of the best in the country on a Saturday, but fresh foods of all kinds don't go unnoticed at this market in Lincoln Park. Fresh cheese, fresh baked bread and pastries, made-to-order sandwiches and treats, farm-fresh produce and naturally raised meats are just some of the booths you'll find. And that's speaking from what I've spotted when the market opens on Wednesdays--I'm too busy shopping the market down the street from my house on Saturday.
  4. Swim in Lake Michigan--So it might be a little too cold for this activity since Lake Michigan is chilly even in August. But with a wetsuit and a little bravery, the open beaches mean that lake swim no longer need to be secret. And it's a great jump start for the triathlon season.
  5. Kayak Chicago--Once May hits this fleet of kayaks is out and about touring the Chicago River for architecture tours, night time paddles, fireworks watching at Navy Pier, lessons and more. It's a unique way to see the city and perfect for maxing out the outdoor hours this weekend. Grab and friend and get going.
  6. Beach Body Boot Camp--While torture and butt-kicking are two words that probably come to mind before fun when thinking about boot camp, you'll want to hit up this class. Core Fitness is offering its Beach Body Boot Camp for free on Monday. Good news is that you can still sleep in and get in a workout that boasts functional movement, tones lean muscle and busts your chops--and it's on the beach, North Ave. at noon to be exact.
  7. Shopping Sales--Time to revamp your workout wardrobe? Look no further than the annual Memorial Day Sale at Fleet Feet Sports. The sale runs all weekend long--until the store closes at 5:30 p.m. on Monday--and features half-off savings on last-season apparel and 30 percent off select footwear. Or if you're heading to the beach this weekend don't go without a pair of flip flops, especially if they'll only set you back a dollar at Old Navy. Score your size and fave color fast before they sell out on Saturday.
  8. Long bike ride--Whether you're not ready to engulf yourself with the masses on Lake Shore Drive or you simply want some solitude and long miles, take your bike out for a long spin. Check out for some routes of varying distances near you. I have some friends talking about riding from Gurnee to Lake Geneva or riding from downtown to Fort Sheridan around here--I've considered riding the Ironman Wisconsin bike course although I think my legs will kill me on those rollers.
  9. Soaking in the sun--Maybe this isn't the best idea since May also happens to be Skin Cancer Awareness Month (and today is Don't Fry Day), and according to Al Roker's weekend weather report, UV indexes are expected to reach some dangerous levels during the long weekend. But with a little sunscreen lathering or avoiding the rays between primetime, you can still enjoy some chilling in the sun. Remember we all need a little vitamin D and there's nothing better than adding a little color to the skin.
  10. Beach reads--Relax! It's a holiday weekend. Take a good book or magazine and kick back and read. My stack of must-reads has piled up all winter so stay tuned for some recommendations from my bookshelf for some summertime reading.
All of these activities are making me eager to get outside. I think some people around here have already gotten a jump start on the weekend--I could see the traffic building by noon and am scared to venture to a grocery store with all the BBQ buyers or the highway for bumper-to-bumper cars. But I'm excited to also get in some treats--healthy or not--this weekend. The Protein Bar officially opened shop and there's a new smoothie place--Doc's Juice and Smoothies--to give me a break from my Jamba Juice obsession. Whoo-hoo, gotta love the celebration of summer in Chicago. Photo grabbed from theta_sigma at flickr. Posted by Kate

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Keep the Feet Running

Did you have your eyes set on running October's Bank of America Chicago Marathon only to have your dreams dashed when the general event registration closed last month? Granted you can still sign up for a charity team, slots are available through select charities by checking the event website, but Nike poses a challenge for any runner seeking a sold-out spot. Challenge your feet, legs and endurance to a battle of the fittest--or maybe it's furthest--in the 100 Miles to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Challenge through Nike+. The goal: to see how far your legs can take you running through May 31 and to reach at least 100 miles on your Nike+ system. If you reach the 100-mile mark by May 31, you could score a coveted entry into the Chicago Marathon. And if you are the lucky winner you'll not only know where you'll be running on October 11 but you'll be featured on the Nike Running site. Talk about 30 seconds of fame.

Sign up for the Nike+ challenge online at the Nike+ site and start, or continue, logging your miles through May 31. With Memorial Day ahead, it's the perfect chance to work on those miles and rack up the distance while enjoying the outdoors. And it's not bad for toning those spots that aren't quite swimsuit ready. Are you up for the challenge? Check out all of the details here. Sample Nike+ challenge, photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Roxy Rocks A New Active Wear Line

I am all for cute workout clothes, so I was psyched to hear today that super-cute surf-wear line Roxy is introducing sporty, performance line of fitness apparel called Athletix. Yay! Click this link to check out the goods. I promise these images of active women (many are pro surfers and X-games athletes endorsed by Roxy) wearing bright, peppy, creatively-cut gym stuff will make want to make a beeline for the door to sneak in an outdoor workout. Photo courtesy of Roxy. Posted by Liz

Keep on Voting for Charitable Giving

A while back I posted the news about voting for one of five organizations competing for Redwood Creek's top prize in the Greater Outdoors Project. Well, it's not too late to vote--you have until May 31 before the contest ends--and your vote can make a difference in determining the winner. Among the five finalists the competition is close and they're all vying for the $50,000 grant and chance at appearing in a national ad campaign.

While some of the project may not directly affect you or your community, they're definite worthy causes. I keep thinking that I'll come to thank one of the project's work, if not more, in the future thanks to vacation, relocation or helping to inspire a project close to home. That's the other reason I'm having so much trouble casting my vote although Redwood Creek makes it easy and allows me to vote twice per day, once online and once by text, from now until the contest's end. So even if I'm undecided I can mix up the voting. Maybe not the best idea since the competition is already close, but it works for me.

A reminder on the projects:
  • Arizona Trail Association: The Arizona Trail is a continuous, non-motorized 817-mile scenic trail. Today, 95 percent of the trail is complete. The grant would be used to build some of the most difficult remaining miles. Due to the remote location in a rugged wilderness area, these miles must be constructed by hand. Not only will the grant help complete the trail, it will allow access into backcountry near Tucson and protect a sensitive riparian area as well. Text code: trail
  • Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey: Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey protects rare wildlife populations and the habitats they depend on. With the grant, it will plant over 20 acres of wildlife habitat at Ponder Lodge, a former golf course. Located on the popular Cape May Peninsula, the project will maximize the site for use by wildlife, especially migratory birds, and people for outdoor recreation. Text code: conserve
  • Friends of City Park: Friends of City Park is dedicated to the preservation and improvement of 150-year-old New Orleans City Park. The grant would be used to reestablish 19 acres of ecosystems in the Couturie Forest, a popular woodland, nestled at the center of the park’s 1,300 acres, that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Text code: park
  • National Forest Foundation: The National Forest Foundation promotes the health and enjoyment of the National Forest System. The grant would be used to establish 10 miles of trail that lead to Whychus Creek in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains using the most appropriate path to protect natural resources. It would also replant 10 acres of native species to enhance streamside habitat. Text code: forest
  • WildEarth Guardians: WildEarth Guardians protects and restores wildlife, wild rivers and wild places in the American West. Its Santa Fe River “Stream Team” project coincides with the city’s 400th anniversary this year. The grant would be used to restore a three-mile historic stretch of waterway and build a trail reconnecting the community with its namesake river. Text code: earth
To vote, head to the online portal to select your organization of choice or text one of the above codes to 39668. Find out more details at the Greater Outdoors site by Redwood Creek. Posted by Kate

Monday, May 18, 2009

Contests, Giveaways and a Special Celebration

We're all about sharing the blog world love here at Fit-Ink. Without some of our favorite reads online--half of which we probably still have to share with you all as it's been a busy month now that the weather's getting nice--we'd be a fledgling idea with nowhere to go and simply something that Liz and I would talk about over e-mail or during bike rides (which we're hoping to start up again soon, if I could get over my fear of taking my bike out for the first ride of the season). And we like to think there'd be no Fit-Ink without some blogs preceding us in cyberspace--and we hope we're not stepping on any toes with content and such.

Anyway, one of these inspirations that proved to us that starting Fit-Ink was indeed possible is celebrating a birthday this week--Fit Bottomed Girls. We met one of the gals behind Fit Bottomed Girls last October while at the Nike campus for the launch of the Sister series shoes and some cool new women's training gear. By chance, I shared a ride to the airport with Erin from FBG, learned about their start, and by the time I was boarding my plane back to Chicago, I was convinced that our ideas had to move beyond paper. But the cool part is that the Fit Bottomed Girls are celebrating their one-year birthday this week. Yay and congratulations! And the best part is one that we can all benefit from. To celebrate their site they're offering some great giveaways all week long, and some fun posts to look back on their first year. Check out the schedule for the week and try to score some of the awesome fit items. I'm gunning for the TRX system--I tried it at a class earlier this month (stay tuned for a write-up in the June issue of Windy City Sports if you're in the Chicago area) and was hooked. And if I could win it...I'm all for freebies as I've hinted or stated before.

The Schedule at
Post: The Fitties
Giveaway: The Firm Balance Ball

Post: 2009 FBG of the Year
Giveaway: Reebok EasyTone Sneakers

Post: Fun FBG Stats
Giveaway: Anchor Bay workout DVD packs

Post: Best FBG One Liners Taken Out of Context
Giveaway: A lucy outfit

Post: What Would You Like to See More of?
Giveaway: Nike gym bag

Post: Most Popular Posts on FBG/FBG's Fave Posts
Giveaway: Acacia Workout DVD packs

Giveaway: A TRX Home-Training Bundle and 3 FBG tees

Photo from Fit Bottomed Girls. Posted by Kate

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chicago Gets Moving

Need an excuse to get the weekend started early? Seeking some motivation for a lackluster Chicago day? Venture over to Daley Plaza in the loop between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. for the celebration going down for Chicago Moves Day. The Plaza is filled with activities to get the body and mind moving on the healthy front. You can browse the tents filled with information on good eating, health club deals, giveaways and more. Or stand by for the programs on the main stage that will encourage all in attendance to get moving--think calisthenics warm-up, yoga, dance, even adapted aerobics for those with limited mobility.

My favorite session? There are two: the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Fire Department workouts. OK so I haven't been at the event in a few years--blame that on a poor memory and not getting a press release about it--but the firefighters stick out in my mind. More because they were working their arms and legs hoisting fire hoses, squatting and performing perfect push-ups. While I'd love to watch them again--maybe even pick up a few moves to incorporate into my own workout, sans hose, of course--I'm also curious about how the police get and stay fit. And not just those who cruise the streets by bike.

Here's a sample of the workout schedule from the Chicago Park District:
11:10 a.m. Marine Martial Arts / U.S. Marine Corps
11:20 a.m. Cardio Dance / Bally Total Fitness
11:30 a.m. Firefighter Fitness / Chicago Fire Department
11:40 a.m. Teen Time / Girls in the Game
11:50 a.m. Lunchtime Yoga / Fleet Feet Sports
12 p.m. CPD Workout / Chicago Police Department
12:10 p.m. Cardio Latin Dance / Chicago Park District
12:20 p.m. Army Boot Camp / U.S. Army
12:30 p.m. Fit Kid Fun / Namaste Charter School
12:40 p.m. Bhangra / Bally Total Fitness
12:50 p.m. Adapted Seated Aerobics / Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago/National Center on Physical Activity and Disability

And if you pick up a passport at the event and acquire five stamps by making the rounds at various activities, you can score an event goodie bag. I don't know about you, but I'm all about freebies and an excuse to get moving during the day (especially since I hit snooze at 5 a.m. instead of attending a make-up bike class). And a note to remember for next year: Check out the Chicago Moves Day 5K. If the event is still around next year, I'm totally signing up. The 5K kicked off this morning at 6:45 a.m. and free for 200 interested runners. I wish I had checked the calendar earlier because that's just the type of running I needed this morning, and a great wake-me-up. I'll just have to stay on top of the news at in the future. Photo grabbed from the City of Chicago. Posted by Kate

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bike Friendly or Frenemy?

Between steadily rising gas prices, nicer weather, a need for exercise with little time to spare and the thought of being able to pocket the $20 or more in parking costs, I was doing National Bike Month proud. The car didn't take a trip out of the garage--not even for a late-night grocery run, which I often do to avoid peak store hours and unstocked shelves--and I practiced my pedal power to travel around town from work to play, two places that were walkable although not in a time-crunched day.

After attending a conference downtown where I've been learning about the food we eat, our nutrition habits and the importance of physical activity, my husband and I decided to ride our bikes to the Bruce Springsteen concert at the United Center last night. I threw out the idea days before more because I was looking for an eye roll than agreement, but he asked how we were getting there and suggested the ride. And this time I was the skeptical one, not only because I was surprised that he found it a good idea but because after suggesting it I realized we might run into complications with locking our bikes. Chicago's pretty good in terms of bike lanes and promoting cycling safety and awareness but oftentimes I find I can never spot a rack where I need to lock up, or said rack is the only one available and there's not a spot to spare. But the United Center claimed to be a bike-friendly venue--not sure what website my husband found that on but I bought it--so we decided to give it a shot, knowing we'd cut down on the drive home after our last foray where a 20-minutes max ride took closer to an hour and we could save our parking money for a snack or concert tee.

However, I'm having a hard time finding the bike friendly nature of the United Center. We pedaled there no problem, managed to avoid a huge line of traffic accumulating from the lots and traffic lights, and even found the traffic controllers helpful in having an idea of where the bike rack could be located instead of receiving an "I don't know." We never did find the rack and opted to lock our bikes to a parking sign adjacent to a peripheral parking lot--the guy waving cars into that lot was awesome and assured us someone would be around the whole night and we may as well lock them together instead of separately and high-fived when we were done. For a brief second we both thought his comment meant the exact opposite, that parts would be missing from our bikes when we returned, but he was so friendly we dismissed the thought.

But the security outside the United Center truly gave me the bike-frenemy vibe. I'm fully prepared to allow them to search my backpack--smallest one I could find that held the helmets and a sweatshirt and jacket in case the temps cooled off on the ride home and about the size of a larger handbag--but they start looking at me like I have horns coming out of my head. "What's in there? You can't bring that in. You can't bring that in." I don't even remember the exact words but the gist was that the backpack was an absolute no-no and couldn't even pass as a purse. For a bike-friendly locale, I was having difficulties finding the friendly aspects since my pack only held a sweatshirt and windbreaker for the ride home, my wallet so it didn't bulge from my pocket and space for my helmet with my husband's clipped to an outer strap. And I wasn't about to leave my helmet with my bike, since I have enough trouble getting the lock to wrap around the front wheel and thick frame. Plus the pack has passed the bag check at U.S. Cellular Field before when I've gone to a baseball game. But apparently it's a no-go at the United Center.

At least amidst all the to-do to enter the arena--I was seriously thinking they were going to make me ditch the pack somewhere as I've seen contents discarded at other venues--security was nice enough to point me directly to the guest services window just inside the doors to check my bag. And to them it seem all-too-common for someone, me, to be showing up with a too-large item. The woman behind the counter didn't hassle me about checking my bag--made it look like it happens all the time and that it would be safe in this spot--and just went about her routine bag-checking measures. I had a tag stapled to my ticket and strapped to my gear without having to wait in line or fuss before heading to our seats. All I had to remember was exiting from the same entrance and hopefully avoid a line on the way out.

No complaints during the concert, once we figured out a way to sit together in our cheap seats (I'm still cursing myself for not waiting to purchase tickets at the last minute through stubhub but that's another story entirely). Being bag-free was a good thing--more room to move around the seats and rock out to Dancing in the Dark, Rosalita, a spur-of-the-moment cover of Mony Mony, The Promised Land and Born to Run, to name a few. I'm the nutty fan who'll stand during the entire show, mouth the words to the songs from my cheap nose-bleed seats and wish I could have scored a floor spot, dance and even lose my voice.

Enough on the concert and back to the bike journey. Once Bruce and the E Street Band went backstage for the final time and the lights came on, we quickly pushed our way through the meandering crowd and found the stairs leading back to the ground level without putting us out on the street. It was just as easy as when we entered, no massive crowd flooding out, and no wait or herd encroaching the guest services window. While another woman picked up her camera, my bag was retrieved--and even remembered by the attendant, probably because of its size. Now all we had to do was walk back to the bikes and hope they hadn't been manhandled while we were inside. And nope, they were untouched, even from our makeshift bike parking on the sign pole. We unlocked, turned our bike lights on and manuevered through the crowd of people and stand-still cars to start our ride home. Aside from a bus on Madison Ave. honking at us everytime it whisked by--only to cut us off at a bus stop might I add--it was a nice night to be riding home and faster and less stressful than taking the car. That's the kind of trip I like even if I did lose my voice from belting the lyrics to Rosalita and couldn't shout the directions to get home. Photo grabbed from wallyg at flickr, I love how the Michael Jordan statue is far more visible outside than the bike racks. Posted by Kate

Monday, May 11, 2009

Twitter Your Way to a 5K

Twittering...tweeting...tinkering...whatever you call the postings, news and status updates at is going running. Literally. From now until the end of May (May 30 at 11:30 PDT to be exact) you can make your mark on Twitter with the Tweet 5K, a virtual 5K with friendly competition and fundraising involved. Keep those status updates (I hope that's what they're called as I'm more of a Facebook user than a twitter-er) going and see just how fast you can run.

For $10--$40 with a T-shirt or free with tee if you raise at least $100, which goes toward Athletes for a Cure--you can sign up to be part of this virtual run, gunning for rights to be one of the first, largest or unique virtual races ever run. Or as the organizers like to call it the first race run in 140 characters--you know, those limiters to how much you can write on a twitter feed. But you have to be on the honor system as you submit those 5K results, either running the 3.1 miles in a local race, on a certified 5K course (need a course? can help find one) or around a 400m track. And you only have three shots at submitting your fastest time so you have to make them count. It's the fastest time that can make you eligible for some cash rewards, $1,000 for the first male and female overall, and then prizes--cash or cool--for age group winners.

Just like a typical 5K, but at least this time you're not bound by time restraints. Maybe there are some fast midnight runners out there? While I've never done it--and honestly not about to start now--I wonder if I'd run faster when it's dark and late at night with my mind racing that someone is going to scare me? Photo grabbed from Mykl Rovertine at flickr. Posted by Kate

Note: I know I said I'm more Facebook than Twitter, but you can follow Fit-Ink at Twitter. Just search for us at Fit-Ink or runchirun.


When I purchased my road bike back in, umm, 2004, the shop eyeballed my height and adjusted the seat post accordingly. Done, bike fit. That was fine for a fitting, since I only rode the thing a few times before moving to Chicago, let it sit for another year, and then finally gave it the attention it deserved last summer. (I know, shame.) And once I got into riding somewhat regularly, the fit seemed...well, fine. But after hearing how some tweaking over the weekend gave Kate tons of the extra oomph she'd been missing in her VQ workouts, I began to wonder if that eyeball-technique in the bike store more than five years ago was really the best fit for me.

A trip to my neighborhood shop down in Hyde Park, DJ's Bike Doctor, wasn't too fruitful. It's a friendly little shop if you're a 10-year-old looking for a cruising bike or an adult looking for some help with a flat. But ask about aerobars, bike computers or--gasp--bike fit, and you'll get a blank stare (or, upon pressing, a "looks fine" followed by an exasperated sigh).

So I decided to head to a legit tri-friendly store for a more in-depth look. And that's just what I did yesterday. The kind folks at the newly opened Mox Multisport in the West Loop (formerly Mission Bay, the same peeps who hooked me up with aerobars last August) were more than happy to check out my fit over the course of a half hour or so. Turns out, they thought there was a fair amount wrong. For starters, my handlebars were so far forward that I was using a lot of upper body strength to stay stable (good to hear my splayed arms and biceps/triceps soreness after a ride isn't necessarily ideal). And my aerobars were so close together that it was obvious why my upper back and shoulders have felt pinched. And the bars were too high, too. Mox took out my stem, effectively reducing my drag since I'll be angled down and forward instead of sitting so upright. They also moved my seat forward and higher.

Whew! That's a lot of changes. It felt good in the store, but we'll see how it goes out on the road--that's the real test. I'm hoping I get a chance to find out as early as this weekend, I'm desperate for some outdoor cylcing after so many months cooped up indoors on the trainer.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sayonara to the Spa, Bienvenido to the Bar

When Liz shared the news in March that our mid-day meeting spot, Spa Cafe, was no more, I was shocked and saddened. Not only was it always crowded--even on wet and dreary or super chilly days--but the menu always left me wanted to come back and try more healthy options. So when the concept changed to Lunch Rolls--now open with a menu that leaves me questioning calorie counts and playing guesswork with nutritional value--we knew we'd have to find a new Loop locale for our get-togethers. And while spring has left us buzzing with little time to spare, we've had to put those meetings on hold, which also buys us some time for finding a new joint that leaves the mayo, heavy dressing and greasy cuisine behind.

Well, I think I may have found a new location. It's a little bit longer of a walk for Liz and a shorter ride for me (the ideal would be the exact opposite), but Protein Bar, expected to open in mid-May at 235 S. Franklin, might fill the void. Or at least work in a pinch after some of our heavy training days when we need some heavy protein to aid in muscle repair. Protein Bar is located mere steps from the Sears Tower, offering a fast-casual spot with an array of grab-and-go smoothies on the menu. Select from favorites named after neighborhoods and hot-spots around the city or create your own concoction of protein base, flavor, fruit and liquid add-ins as you move down the assembly line. Owner Matt Matros is all about keeping the sugar content low in these drinks so you have a healthy sipper as part of a high-protein eating plan.

Still not sure if it's the right meal for you? Try it out Monday, May 11 at Lincoln Park's Urban Fresh Market at 1910 N. Clybourn. Metromix is hosting an exclusive tasting event from 5:30-8 p.m. where $5 will get you in the door to enjoy wine tasting and sample snacks from some of the city's new dining ventures. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

The Biggest Loser Marathon

Liz and I admittedly have an addiction to The Biggest Loser. Maybe we're not as gung-ho as we are about marathoning and Kara Goucher, but nevertheless the feel-good programming makes its way into our regular TV viewing or recording. And with the latest season of the Biggest Loser on NBC is nearing its end, I was just waiting for what crazy challenge they'd give the competitors' next. I've loved past seasons where the cameras catch up with contestants and show them at a triathlon (Lael and Nick), or they have to complete a triathlon on the show at their less-bulky weights (season three with the representatives from 50 states). Or on the current season where the kicked-off competitor talks about life after the show and how he wants to do an Ironman (black team member Blaine) or he's running most of a marathon with his wife (cousin Dane). If you haven't watched Tuesday's episode yet, I'll warn you there are spoilers below.
With only four contestants left on the ranch (or maybe it's more commonly called the campus these days), they've already experienced a few endurance challenges throughout the season. First painful to watch as they tried to run with extra weight and added bulk and then motivating as you watched their fitness improve over the season and logging workouts that would make me pooped. But the kicker--and surprise--came in Tuesday's episode where the final four packed for 30 days at home to then face the scales one last time before the Couples' finale on May 12. The task? With just 26 days to train, the final four learned they'd be coming back to California to weigh in and complete a marathon.
Talk about the challenge of all challenges with only 26 days to train for 26.2 miles. Contestant Tara put it best when she said on camera that many people train for this kind of race a year out or months out, but not with less than a month to spare. I mean I'm giving myself my own challenge in running a marathon with less time to prepare than I'd ideally like but I've run more than 10 of them and like to think I've figured out some of my body's functioning. And judging from my own marathon experience, I could completely understand why she and the rest of the contestants were freaking out a bit and why trainers Jillian and Bob were shaking their heads in a combination one could only put together as a Nooooo, Don't do this, Why now and Why a marathon. If I don't put in the mileage, or give myself enough time to train, which can vary depending on the rest of my year's race schedule, then my race barely leaves the start line before failure starts to take over. And for poor Ron, how was he going to complete 26.2 miles when he barely walked four (I think) of the half marathon? Even Bob was advising against that one.

But anyway, for a cast that was called the heaviest of all the Biggest Loser seasons, they sure did soar through the challenge with flying colors. Even though they've worked out for massive amounts of time day in and day out, they weren't necessarily logging the miles and practicing the pounding for a marathon. And I hate to say it but I'm still wondering who came up with the idea to run since the trainers didn't seem pleased with the idea and marathon runners I know scoffed at how they could prepare in 26 days with non-marathon focused training at that point. But somehow they pulled it off. Tara probably could do even better at the distance if she had more time to train finishing in less than 5 hours and basically doubling the half marathon time she had run earlier--you go girl! Helen didn't even show her 48 years as she ran to the finish. Mike made the walking look easy--although I'm a little disappointed he didn't at least give the running a shot since he said he ran five miles every morning--and had some reassurance from at-home season five winner Bernie (who ran the 2008 Chicago Marathon and was still full of life when I saw him in the finisher's area). And I'm still shocked that Ron's body held out for all 26.2 miles. Talk about setting an example for his other son Max to go from fat to fab.

With all of these milestones already in the books, what is the finale going to bring? I'm the dork who's already on the edge of my seat waiting in anticipation. And ironically it's the one episode of the season I won't be able to watch live, but I'll be cheering for Tara, Helen and either Mike or Ron (did you cast your vote? Apparently voting already closed or I'd provide the link.) to win that $250,000 prize. And congratulate them on all of the weight they've shed. In the meantime, I think I'll play in the kitchen and try out those mini meatloaves Tara made. Posted by Kate

Kara Goucher's Comeback Marathon Announced

When we talked to Kara Goucher a couple of days after the Boston Marathon, she revealed she was considering a summer race. After a heartbreaking, almost-first-place finish in Beantown, Kara wanted one more crack at racing 26.2 miles before taking some time off to think about starting a family with her husband, Adam. And now Track & Field News is reporting that Kara has officially made her decision: She'll run the marathon in Berlin at the World Championships on August 23. Go Kara! We'll be rooting for you again, and hoping you have an awesome summer of training. To read the full article, click here. Posted by Liz

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Taste of VQ Week Six

So my time on the trainer this winter and spring is starting to near an end, and I feel like I'm finally starting to reap the benefits of all of the strength and threshold training I've been putting my legs through for the last 12-plus weeks. The sad part is twofold in that my Taste of VQ sessions are nearing an end--only two classes to go--and I think that I have to credit part of my elation from this last class to a seat adjustment, not my legs.

Part of the reason my Taste of VQ recaps have drifted off is due to my own sense of failure (plus I missed two classes in April with travel) when we started focusing solely on threshold work. The time in the saddle was leaving me feeling inadequate on the bike rather than reassuring me that I'd be strong enough to hit the pavement with the coming of warmer weather. As the threshold intervals increased, my legs couldn't handle the pressure so I didn't want to repeat myself week after week with words like mission unaccomplished or failure to launch. Think more self preservation for a battered ego than anything else.

But after Monday's class, I seriously feel like I'm floating on air and no longer dreading next week's class (which usually happened while fearing the return of failure during the threshold challenges). And if I had to pick one word to describe it, rejuvenation continues to stick in my mind when I think about Monday. Total trepidation when I saw the workout on the computer screen--10 minutes warm-up increasing from roughly 50 to 100 percent of our threshold, then five minutes easy before starting two 20-minute threshold blocks with a 10-minute break--and guesswork in my head for when my legs would give out on me. But rejuvenation, redemption and a breath of "Thank God" when I survived.

I waited for my legs to burn and start to give out on me--that's how I left my last class when we only had to do 15-minute blocks--then watch my cadence drop with no chance of picking it up to recover from the slip. But it never happened. And I'm totally not trying to brag with this accomplishment, I'm just chalking it up to a bike adjustment. Bike fit is imperative to cycling prowess--just check out a story I recently wrote for Windy City Sports about some fit basics--but I never expected it to make that much of a difference indoors on a trainer. It makes sense but I always figured I was tired from spinning for two hours the day before VQ, not that my seat height was impeding my pedal stroke. I'm no expert, but it seems to be the only logical conclusion. To prepare for the outside season of riding, I went to have my bike tuned (learned my lesson last year on the importance of a tune before riding, but more to come on that another time) and begged for some fit adjustments. I was fit properly on my bike last June when I bought it, had someone else watch me ride in January who insisted on making some adjustments, and spent the winter wondering if the lower seat height was the right move as I struggled through my indoor workouts. After dull hip ache that left me worrying about the return of a running injury, pain from sitting on the saddle just for an hour, and beginning to think I was squatting on my bike again (the main problem with my old bike), I was convinced something needed fixing. And I was right: with some videotaping, measurements and analysis, my lower seat height was wreaking havoc on my hips and making them jiggle more to cycle through each pedal stroke. Raise the seat and it's more fluid and I'm looking less cramped with each leg movement.

I know it's only one week in the saddle and my legs could always give out next week, but at least I've given myself some self confidence the next time I start riding. But I'm definitely hoping I've found my place on the bike--it's been a long time coming if it is indeed here. Posted by Kate

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Before the Fiesta and Cerveza, Try These Cinco de Mayo Moves

Margaritas, nachos, Corona, cerveza, tacos, burritos, guacamole. Yes, I'll admit that Mexican-themed food pops into my head before the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo--one holiday that Chicagoans seemingly love to celebrate. But after reading an Eat This, Not That article looking at the 9 Healthiest Mexican Foods at some popular chain locations, I was a little fearful of battling the bulge after a little too much fiesta. So if you're looking for a workout before the imbibing and fried-food feast begins, check out a few of these options:
  • Ride your bike to work. We've been so lucky to finally see signs of spring's warmer weather and more sun, so take the two wheels out of the garage and cycle your commute. You'll feel refreshed, even energized from the ride, burn some calories and can easily get away with skipping the gym tonight.
  • Make it a female fun run night. Head to Fleet Feet Sports Piper's Alley for the women's night fun run. The run starts at 6:30 p.m. and women who attend regularly can log miles to earn cool Nike gear. Plus you'll get refreshments after pounding the pavement and know you've revved your metabolism enough to go out later.
  • Go coed at Running Away. At North Avenue, just off Ashland, Running Away Multisport kicks off its fun run at 6:30 p.m. and is open to men and women. Store your gear at the store and then hits the streets.
  • Pick a class. Gym schedules don't change unless it's a major holiday like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter or the Fourth of July. So whatever you've had your eyes set on for Tuesday night--yoga, Pilates, Spinning or boot camp--you can still plan on attending.
  • Bike tour. You might have to play hooky to take part, but if you want to tour Obama's neighborhood, check out the Bike Obama tour by Bobby's Bike Hike. Bikes and helments are included in the 20-mile tour that travels the lakefront and through Hyde Park.
  • Salsa dancing lessons. The cool part about this option is you can already be out at Nacional 27 to take part in this dancing workout. The latin-themed Lettuce Entertain You Chicago hot-spot is serving up free salsa lessons for beginners.
  • Bikram yoga. Sweat it out in a 105-degree room at Bikram Yoga Lincoln Park as you move through traditional yoga moves. You'll leave panting and wet (change of clothes is advised) but with a good workout under your belt.
These are just a few of the happenings around the Windy City for the day, but there are plenty more ways to stay active whether you're sharing the city with us or living elsewhere. More events, more sporting options, more excuses to head outdoors. What are you planning for your Cinco de Mayo? Posted by Kate

Monday, May 4, 2009

Celebrities, Reality Stars and Two Wheels

I watch way too much TV when I'm working out, especially reality TV like Survivor, The Biggest Loser, The Real World and its spin-offs. And when I'm not working out, I'm guilty-pleasure reading my celebrity news at or scanning bios of contestants on their appropriate sites in hopes of finding a sporty twist. How does fit into fitness? I love it when my celebrity sites provide info with an active spin, and lately I've been lucky with more findings, especially those with a bike focus. And with National Bike Month underway it seemed all-to-appropriate to celebrate the bike.

Caught in the act? These celebrities have appeared occasionally sporting two wheels on the Star Tracks pages of People magazine or
  • Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Patrick Dempsey
  • Dean McDermott--I'll never forget the episode of Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood where he left the ride early to be home for a very pregnant Tori Spelling
  • Matthew McConaughey--I've seen him running more than biking but I swear it's happened at least once. Plus he was a competitor in last year's Malibu Triathlon so we know he took to the bike for that.
  • Mary Kate Olsen and Miley Cyrus--I was trying to aim for some female power to the list, but these were the only two recently two-wheeling across town. Not road biking, but hey, at least they were pedaling.
Reality shows have been seeing their fair share of cyclists these days. It started with Tyson on Survivor: Tocantins--or at least he was the first I noticed--a former professional cyclist trying to make a go at the million-dollar prize. Until he was blindsided at tribal council a few weeks ago, he was dominating the immunity challenges and looking to be a force to reckon with at camp. I wonder if the six years he spent as a pro cyclist in Switzerland, Austria and Belgium have anything to do with it. Then when The Duel 2 premiered on MTV with past Real World and Road Rules cast members, it brought back Landon Lueck, a Real Worlder from the Philadelphia cast, who now dabbles in mountain biking and Xterra races. When he's not working landscape design, he's tearing up the singletrack first as an amateur and now as a team member with Mafia Racing. He also had a stint working at the Trek store in Madison, Wis., and as a wakeboarder with the University of Wisconsin club team.

Now the latest news is that the next season of The Bachelorette will have an Olympic cyclist among the bachelors up for grabs. Hmm, I probably could search for single Olympians to figure out who it might be, but I'll wait until the cast is introduced. At the moment I'm more curious about how he'll mesh with the rest of the men and what other types we might see--and wonder if the athlete stands a chance after the last season where snowboarder Jesse Csincsak was selected by Deanna Pappas and then dumped before the nuptials.

While I'm waiting for the mystery cyclist to be unveiled May 18, I'm wondering who's going to show up next? Photo grabbed from Jack Claassen at Posted by Kate

Friday, May 1, 2009

Riding the Trails

Hard to believe it's May already? I am. April flew by on my calendar in a total blur, whether it was from slightly improved weather conditions (I had had enough of winter) or just busy every week and weekend while not training for a particular race or having an event to attend. While I am a little sad that April sped by, I am looking forward to one event in particular that May brings. And it's an excuse for me to ride my two wheels and keep the car in the garage.

May marks the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Month, promoting a bicycle-friendly environment across the country. The fun with this is that several cities get involved with their own programming to encourage cycling to work and for play. Think events like Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day, community bike rides and races, workshops that often included fixing flats or simple bike maintenance, contests and more.

For any Chicagoans out there, you have to wait until June for the bike celebrating to begin, but no worries, the city and the Active Transportation Alliance (formerly known as the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation) go all-out with the events and cycling opportunities. And the city celebrates cycling beginning now and lasting through September, encouraging residents and visitors to bike the Lakefront, tour the city via bike, cycle to festivals with convenient bike valets and more. For everyone else, the fun starts as early as this weekend with bike valets at farmer's markets, bike commuter safety courses, mountain biking outings, bike maintenance and tuning workshops, and century rides. The League of American Bicyclists has compiled a great list of resources with events across the country.

With the weather promising to be nice here at home and my bike finally tuned, I think I'm ready to hit the roads. Will you? Posted by Kate


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