Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Walk or Run Through the Rest Stops?

I've always wanted to know what the consensus is about walking or running through water stops when you're racing. With marathon season nearly upon us, the water station question seemed like an appropriate one to ask. Do you walk or run through them? Does it depend on the race and the distance? Do you have a pattern that you follow?

I've known people who swear by walking through the water stations at the marathon. They say they can't drink from the cups unless they've slowed down. They've been instructed to do so by a coach or pace leader and then reconvene with the group after stopping for fluids. They say they reached the point in the race where they can't run anymore and walking takes over and it's better to walk the stations and attempt to run after leaving the station to make it to the next station faster where another walking break is waiting.

Then there are others who only run through the stations and run the whole race and sometimes don't even care who they take out in the process. You know these people: the ones who hit you from behind, spill liquid on your feet or steal the cup out of the volunteer's hand that you were going to reach for. Or they know that if they stop to walk there's no way they'll be able to resume running.

As for me? I'm more the in between. At the beginning of a race, if it's a marathon, I'm always running through the stops. I try not to squash people in my wake but I've definitely had a few cups that I've eyed but watched go to another runner. Depending on how I feel, I'll either run through the stations later in the race or walk through. The walk through, at least for me, signifies I've kinda thrown in the towel on the race and I'm just waiting for the finish line--it's a no PR day. Not glamorous but I guess I'm lucky that I'm able to grab the cup, pinch it to form a crease and then funnel the liquid down? That's at least how I felt when an accomplished marathon friend said she never runs through the stops mostly because she gets more water on her than in her mouth. That could work on a hot day but then you could be leaving yourself dehydrated at the same time.

The only time the running method doesn't work so well is when the stations are stocked with plastic cups and not paper ones. I'm still not sure why some of those stations at the California International Marathon used tiny plastic cups to quench the thirst of the runners--the plastic cups crunched on the ground almost posing a running hazard, I definitely spilled liquid down my front when the cup wouldn't give, and what I did get down left me wanting more but having to wait another two-plus miles to get it. I loved the race, but that was the one frustrating part I remembered as I logged those 26.2 miles.

I'm a runner through the water stations with an asterisk for not-so-good race days. What are you?  

Photo grabbed from Ella Baker Center at flickr. Posted by Kate

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Late Night Running Fix

I'm one of those people who used to enjoy running late at night. That was college when I could convince a friend to go for a run at 11 p.m. and then we could sleep in the next morning to recover, not having to arrive at class until afternoon. And it went out the window as soon as I was both partnerless--other friends and boyfriend, now husband, didn't quite understand the midnight thrill--and faced with real world demands of rising early and sitting at a desk from nine to five, give or take a few hours.

So when I have the chance to feed my midnight run frenzy, I'm all for it, even if I'm not running. Like the Nike Run Hit Wonder when it hit the streets of Chicago around 9 p.m. one year (I could be wrong on the start time but I remember riding my bike home along State Street at midnight). Or the LATE Ride that takes cyclists along city streets from midnight until dawn. Or sitting at home in front of the TV watching the Olympics, ski racing, or the latest marathon or triathlon on Universal Sports. But it almost feels like an extra special night when those sports celebrities move out of their arena--or the pool if you caught Michael Phelps doing the night show circuit this summer--to chum around with the likes of Leno, Letterman, Conan, Carson or newbie Jimmy Fallon.

And that's just what I'm waiting for tonight when Jimmy Fallon welcomes lightning-fast Usain Bolt to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The Jamaican tore up the track in Berlin at the World Championships, setting world records in the 100m and 200m sprints and leaving the crowd gap-mouthed in disbelief over how fast he could cross the finish line. Bolt has been cruising around New York since last week on a media spree which he wraps up tonight before returning to Jamaica on Wednesday. Question is: Will he be talking about the World Championships, his speed or his New York events on late night? The countdown is on and the tele is tuned to NBC for all the action. Photo grabbed from Brunel University at flickr. Posted by Kate

Monday, September 28, 2009

Whoa, What's Going on with Crunch?

Crunch is bankrupt, that's what. Unless you're a member of this gym, the news could easily have flown under your radar.

I totally missed it--even the clues for gym closings around the country--until last weekend when checking the news on my gym's website. And even there I almost didn't see the announcement that Fitness Formula Clubs had stepped up to offer memberships to those who'd be without a workout center when Chicago's Crunch location at Grand and Wabash shutters on September 30 (good news is that the North and Sheffield location is still open, supposedly). Plus I didn't make the connection when an old friend posted that she was enjoying one last workout at Crunch before it closed--I just assumed that the Atlanta locations were consolidating. But apparently it's been in the news since May when Crain's New York Business reported the chain was "crunched by recession."

Crain's first reported that Crunch would only be closing one of its 25 locations, that being in the middle of Manhattan. That was May. Now Atlanta locations shuttered shop by August and have disappeared from the website under gym locations. In Chicago, Fitness Formula Clubs have acquired the memberships of those belonging to the Grand and Wabash Crunch location so those members won't lose out on service--check out their agreement here. Yet the confusing part is that Crunch's website still lists that location and makes no mention that the club is closing in only a few days. And if you search other cities with Crunch presence--Miami Beach, San Francisco, East Bay, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and New York City--with the exception of the Big Apple, you'll notice only one or two locations in those cities as opposed to mass quantities. Chicago for example used to have five or six spots with the first three quietly closing in 2007 or 2008--Orleans, Marina City and Diversey.

But relief is that Crunch's cool classes are still available where you can find Crunch like AntiGravity Yoga or a new class that spoofs off the Fame musical currently hitting the silver screen. Gotting love classes where the working out doesn't actually feel like work yet you wake up with sore abs in the morning. Fingers crossed that they stick around for even more fitness innovation. Crunch is just too good at coming up with revolutionary fitness classes that spark curiosity. Photo grabbed from stirwise at flickr. Posted by Kate

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tweeting for Fitness Fun

It's safe to say that Twitter is taking social networking world by storm. It's easy to learn and quick to post--it's just that I'm guilty of being terrible at sharing info (you can follow Fit-Ink with @fitink but I can guarantee that the updates are few and far between at the moment). I'd prefer to read rather than write--after thinking about posting here and other writing I do, my fingers need a break now and again.

So it's always through the reading portion of my day where I'm sifting through Twitter in hopes of valuable information. On numerous occasions this year I've found Twitter to amount to some good beyond random updates by those who find it important to share their every waking moment with the world. From articles in Women's Health to Kara Goucher's marathon schedule to Robbie Ventura's adventures in France during the Tour de France, my mind would fill with snippets of information. And admittedly I learn something I couldn't track down elsewhere.

Well, Twitter has gotten me once again. Except this time the reading has something that benefits our readers too. One of our friends in the blogosphere, Fit Bottomed Girls, is offering a contest via Twitter where one lucky winner can win a Fitness magazine prize pack and a Fit Bottomed Girl T-shirt. The catch? You have to get your thinking caps on and arm yourself with your best wordsmithing arsenal to devise the next great saying to be printed on a Fit Bottomed Girl tee. Read more about it here, but the basics to remember are clever, original and fitness-related when creating your saying, motto or phrase. Then tweet it to the FBGs by Friday at 1 p.m. eastern time and you're in the pool to see your handiwork on the mainstage.

Good luck! Photo grabbed from the Fit Bottomed Girls. Posted by Kate

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fit-Pic: San Fran or Chicago?

If it weren't for the Aon Tower, John Hancock Building, Lake Point Tower and Navy Pier dotting the skyline on my daily bike ride and the flatlands I pedal more than an occasional bridge-crossing hill, I could have sworn I had been transported from Chicago to San Francisco. Our typical clear and often sunny morning was replaced with a fog that's more often seen in the Bay Area than the Windy City, covering the tops of buildings and lurking like an omen for rainfall. It's situations like this--picture-perfect skyline mornings, clear evenings with a farmers moon in view, sunsets with unique cloud formations and coloring--that make me regret leaving my camera at home. Such was the case when the fog hit yesterday and then again this morning.

Yes, we crab a lot about the weather here at Fit-Ink, but I think it's safe to say that both Liz and I have been frustrated with the conditions we've faced this season especially when it comes to planning morning cycling workouts. While the fog didn't keep us from riding, it did create an eerie atmosphere, especially as I rode home alone and no longer feeling the ride euphoria I usually get on sunny days. So yesterday was no exception, at least for my crabbing, when my sun was replaced with that uncharacteristic fog. The first skyline shots were the best renditions I could muster up from flickr artists to depict the morning. Meanwhile the final shot--which I have yet to post--is the one I took post-ride of the actual conditions (I cheated and opted to take the picture from my house rather than walk back to the Lakefront to show the scene I saw on my ride). But thank goodness it wasn't rain--we both needed and wanted Tuesday's ride and it was well worth it to get out there even if my pristine conditions weren't available. Granted teleporting to San Francisco wouldn't be bad either, both for the hill workout and location change.

This one is similar to what I saw on my ride, as I rounded the turn by the Oak Street Beach.

Photos grabbed from Andrew Ciscel and biblicone at Posted by Kate

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

T-Minus 10 Days...Are You For Chicago 2016?

October 2 is creeping up on the calendar faster than we know it. While in most years that date would seem pretty insignificant unless it was marked by a birthday or anniversary, but this year, especially for those of us living in the Windy City, it marks a special announcement. And the end to years worth of campaigning, planning, plotting and presenting. Will Chicago host the Olympic Games in 2016?

The International Olympic Committee announces its decision on October 2 from Copenhagen, Denmark. They're choosing between Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, all of which have been involved marred by bad news at some point during the selection process that could have ruined its chances. And all of which have people for or against the vote. Take Chicago where some locals not backing the bid at home are urging for Rio to get the Games. Or look at the online betting sites where odds are circling over which city gains the greater chance of being named.

In Chicago, the word on the street is that President Obama needs to go to Copenhagen to voice his support of holding the Games in Chicago for his presidential pull and Chicago connection. And the big news yesterday was that Obama was indeed planning to travel to Copenhagen for the October 2 announcement, as rumor had it that Chicago wouldn't get the Games unless Obama made an appearance. Now he's saying he wants to go, while others make a case for Michelle Obama being able to represent her husband just as well especially since she's the Chicago native. For now it's just wait and see for what pans out over October 2.

But in the meantime the all important question is who do you predict will host the 2016 Olympics? Make your vote known and feel free to share any opinions in the comments.

Posted by Kate

Monday, September 21, 2009

Today Show Triathlon Viewing Party

Race day wouldn't be complete without a little video footage. The below videos showcase Natalie and Hoda's triumphant day from squeezing into the wetsuit to biking along the shore to crossing the finish line. Natalie recounted getting hit in the head in the swim as a horrific moment and Hoda confessed she got panicky in the water when she saw Coach Rob from Terrier Tri next to her. Natalie with her sub-7s off the bike could even leave her day job to make a career out of triathlon, quipped Coach Rob. And for as much as Hoda downplayed her accomplishment, she did not look like an old lady out there.

And as Hoda said, "It's official. Natalie and I are triathletes!" Videos grabbed from The Today Show. Posted by Kate

Today Show Triathlon and the Results

Want to know how Natalie and Hoda fared at Sunday's War at the Shore Triathlon in Long Branch, N.J.? Have no fear, my addiction to looking up race results had me perusing the computer last night in hopes of finding out how our Today Show tri-newbies performed in their first race.

Natalie: In her first triathlon, this seasoned runner finished fifth in her age group, 82nd overall, with a time of 1:04:49. It took her 7:26 to complete the 400m swim, 32:21 for the 9.5-mile bike and 21:16 for the 3-mile run. For someone who's never raced before, she certainly made it look easy at least on paper.

Hoda: Judging from the pre-race talks and jeers, I honestly expected Hoda to be one of the last finishers of the triathlon. More because of the swim segment I caught where Hoda confessed she swims "granny style" with her head above water and breaststroke kicking. But alas, Hoda exceeded expectations and finished far from last. Hoda finished ahead of more than 100 triathletes at No. 260, and eighth out of 19 in her age group with a time of 1:17:38. Her swim took 11:30, her bike lasted 34:58 and her run took 25:26.

Congratulations to these first-time triathletes! Question is: Will they tri again? Can't wait to hear the full report on The Today Show. For more results from the race, click here. Photo from last year's War at the Shore grabbed from Posted by Kate

Note: Natalie announced on today's show that she finished fourth, not fifth as the results stated, in her age group. She ran someone down at the finish line.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Marathon Specific Shopping

Your shoes are looking a little shabby after that recent 20-miler. Your favorite running outfit has seen better days. Your socks are causing more blisters than comfort on your feet. You need a outfit overhaul before that big marathon ex'd out on your calendar. And Nike is here to help with its 26.2 Marathon Shop, filled with all the goodies you could ask for before you toe the line race day.

With Nike sponsoring the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco next month, most of the gear is specific to those races, but the site also features training essentials for any race--like any running shoe imaginable, even customizable ones, Sportbands and SportKits to track your pace and mileage, and gear for whatever weather is thrown your way. As for the race-specific gear, check out the hats, training tees and tanks for Chicago, plus the hoodies and tees for San Francisco. I won't even be close to recovered for the Nike Women's Marathon on October 18 but I wish I were just to sport a hoodie or fleece post-race. No complaints though as I'm equally in love with the Nike Map tee for my Chicago race on the 11th.

Some favorites I have my eyes on:
  • The LunarGlide+ shoes. I'm already a fan of these on the run, but one model online is decked out in blue and I'm loving that even more than the neon orange with white combo.
  • Dri-Fit Chicago Marathon Running T-shirt. The material is so soft on this one, I'd almost rather wear it to bed than take it out on the path. But it is great at wicking away the sweat and a perfect layer as the mornings cool off.
  • WM '09 Fleece Hoodie. You'd probably catch me wearing this one even though I'm not running the race. I just love it and the design too much.
  • Distance Long Airborne Tank Top. In a race top, I need pockets, I need sleeveless and I need something that doesn't bare my belly. This top has all three, plus I'm a fan of the blue.
  • Race Day Boy Shorts. I don't know what it is, but I've had to retire my running shorts in favor running in my tri shorts. But if I can shed the padding and find a run-specific version like these boy shorts, I'm all for it. If it's cold however, I'll have to whip out my capris--something about the spandex and lack of chafing I tell 'ya.
Happy shopping and tapering down to the last mile! Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Ryan Hall Goes the Distance

Ryan Hall brought his speed to Philadelphia and came away with a win in this weekend's ING Philadelphia Distance Run. Just barely. He edged out Samuel Ndereba for the overall win by four seconds, to finish in 1:01:52. For this American record holder at the half-marathon distance, this wasn't his fastest time--his record stands at 59:43--but it is faster than the half marathon he ran at the NYC Half in August where he finished in third place with a time of 1:02:35. And that's just preparation for the ING New York City Marathon on November 1, a course he excelled on in 2007 at the men's Olympic Trials.

Whether you were running the race and missed the head of the pack action or just want to see how fast Hall ran on Sunday, check out the replay here. The only problem is that technical difficulties ensued at the finish and Hall can't be seen crossing the line. But watching the battle for first is just as exciting, not to mention the women's race where Catherine Ndereba edged Irene Limika by three seconds to finish in 1:09:43.

Did you race on Sunday? View your results here, while you're relaxing your feet today. Photo grabbed from Chris Kantos at flickr. Posted by Kate

Friday, September 18, 2009

Get Out and Run

It's Friday. Summer's official close is unfortunately too close for comfort (next Tuesday). And the best reason of all--it's warm enough to want to be outside and sunny enough where it's too hard to pass up. Need a reason to leave the office today? Here's one: National Run @ Work Day.

Enlist your coworkers, don your running clothes and tell your boss you're having a meeting outside the office on the running trail. With National Run @ World Day, the Road Runners Club of America hopes to encourage people to run for at least 35 minutes before or after work or on a lunch break in an effort to get people engaged in daily exercise. Check out more about the event here. In the meantime, get running! Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Chicago Marathon Cover Girl or Guy

If you've ever dreamed of seeing yourself on the cover of a magazine--or remember posing for a mock cover as a kid--you could score the real deal next month. Time Out Chicago has announced a contest for those running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 11 that could place one lucky runner on the cover of the magazine's October 8 issue. Just imagine the notoreity of landing in mailboxes, bookstores and drugstores, and on newsstands around the city. Or how you could stick it to any friends, family or co-workers who doubted your seriousness in running a marathon.

But you only have until noon on Tuesday, September 22, to convince Time Out Chicago that you're the one they want to photograph for the cover. To enter the contest, e-mail with your name, a picture of yourself and a few details about your marathon training. TOC will select a winner and photograph that runner to the cover. That's something to race for as taper time sets in.

Read more here at the Time Out Chicago blog. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Today Does a Triathlon Update

Ocean swim? Check. Bike training off the stationary trainer? Check. Running 3 miles? Check. Surviving to cross the finish line? Almost.

For Today Show personalities Natalie Morales and Hoda Kotb, race day is almost here for their first ever triathlon. And if you're like me, you've looked forward to watching the weekly recaps during the show's fourth hour from week to week where we've watched Natalie and Hoda take their workouts from the gym to Kathie Lee Gifford's house to the beachfront boardwalk at Coney Island. They've gone from pool prowlers to open-water divas, recreational cyclists to road warriors, joggers to speedy sprinters--or in Natalie's case, just feeling comfy transitioning from bike to run since we know she runs an impressive 3:30 marathon.

The latest video, unveiled just days before their race in Long Branch, N.J., shows Hoda and Natalie practicing at Coney Island, which you can watch below. My favorite scene? Squeezing into their wetsuits and getting some yanking assistance by Coach Rob Pennino of Terrier Tri. Just way too similar to situations I've gone through. And while they did swim, bike and run, they opted to mix up the disciplines and swim last, although that could probably be explained by the overcast and chilly-looking weather.

Want to join Hoda and Natalie this weekend? Check out all the action or get your race gear set for the War at the Shore Triathlon in Long Branch, N.J. Not only will Hoda and Natalie be sporting two cute tri outfits designed by SELF magazine, but the triathlon itself features two distances to test your triathlon prowess. And as many of us know all too well, minus California and the South, it's only too soon that we'll be either bundling up for outdoor rides or hibernating in the gym. Visit for more info on the race.

And the best news of all is that this triathlon program isn't just for Hoda and Natalie's eyes. Coach Rob of Terrier Tri developed a four-week triathlon training plan exclusively for SELF readers. It helps make the sport approachable and fun and proves that you don't have to train all year for a race. "I look forward to broadening the message that triathlon is a great way to have fun and get fit to the American TV viewing public, and seeing the sport explode in popularity even beyond its current status," Pennino said when the program was first introduced on the Today Show in August.

Good luck to all those racing this weekend and I can't wait for the full race report next week! Videos grabbed from Posted by Kate

One more video from earlier in the training:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tips from a Pro to Race Like a Pro

Recently complete an Ironman and clueless about recovery? Registered for an upcoming Ironman and looking for any and all race tips? Signed up for next year's Ironman Wisconsin and already wondering how you’re going to survive the training and racing? If you can answer yes to any of these questions—and even if you can’t—you won’t want to miss the next VQ Expert Series Clinic. Featuring pro triathlete Chris McDonald and his wife Marilyn—also a pro triathlete and elite cyclist—Vision Quest Highland Park hosts this event on Wednesday, September 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Hear about how Chris survived back-to-back Ironmans, winning the second race, Ironman Wisconsin, in 2008. Learn how he survived 2009, like the more than 2,000 other finishers, during a Madison heat wave to finish fifth overall. Listen as Marilyn, who races with Team Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus, shares her insights on triathlon and racing from a woman’s perspective. Receive tips, motivation and strategies for your next race so you can shave off precious minutes, avoid the bonk or recover without passing up an upcoming event. At this clinic you’ll learn about post-Ironman recovery, pacing, race day nutrition and race day tips. Even if you don’t have an ounce of desire to complete the distance and would rather cheer from the sidelines, it’s a great opportunity to learn about the sport.

For more information and to secure your spot for this event, check out or e-mail Posted by Kate

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Biggest Loser Returns Tonight

Set your Tivos and DVRs if you're a Biggest Loser fan. The competition and weight loss returns for a eighth season tonight--tune into NBC at 8 p.m. eastern, 7 p.m. central time. Talk about sneaking up on me--I knew the next season would be set to premiere in the fall but instead of being sooner, I thought it was later. Plus I was still hyped up over all of the endurance sports we saw last season with the modified triathlon, the half marathon and then the marathon, not to mention the massive amounts of weight lost and the transformations from bloated to buff.

As for season eight, we still have to get to know the contestants a little better. Yes, their bios are online--in fact you can read them here. But who's the largest of the bunch? And the lightest? Who is the rumored heaviest female? Who has the most potential at weight loss? Who's the biggest threat to the others in the house?

Let's meet the season 7 contestants--and a little commentary:
  • Abby, 35, Texas--I hate to say it but by looking at the pictures she looks far less bulky than her female competitors
  • Alexandra, 20, Pennsylvania--Again, I hate to say it but looking as large as she does as such a young age only proves the point of the rising obesity rates in children that was reported on The Today Show this morning.
  • Allen, 44, Indiana--He reminds of a football player who got a little pudgy after his playing days were through
  • Amanda, 19, New Jersey--Same comment as for Alexandra
  • Antoine, 23, North Carolina--He too reminds me of a washed-up athlete who maybe had one too many meals from the fast food counter while working hard.
  • Daniel, 20, North Carolina--We first met him last season when he was the chubby kid who never knew what it was like to be slim (he weighed in at 454 pounds and the heaviest male ever)
  • Danny, 39, Oklahoma--According to his bio, he's carrying around at least 427 pounds.
  • Dina, 28, California--Sounds like she's made some bad food and exercise choices but can most likely get on the right track with some prodding by Jillian and Bob.
  • Julio, 40, Illinois--Again, another I hate to say it but it looks like Julio's passion for Cuban food got stuck in his middle.
  • Liz, 49, Tennessee--Same comment as for Abby, she looks smaller than her competition.
  • Mo, 56, Kentucky--This ex-football and basketball player perhaps forgot that he couldn't eat like he did in his athletic days if he's not working out much.
  • Rebecca, 25, Iowa--Minus the glasses, she looks a bit like Amy from season 6.
  • Rudy, 31, Connecticut--Another ex-football player, he's tall and large and described as a real life Paul Bunyan (must be the beard).
  • Sean, 29, Oklahoma--He looks to be carrying an awful lot of weight on that 6'2" frame, I'm scared to see what the scale says.
  • Shay, 30, California--I hate to say it but my bets are on Shay as the largest female. Just reading her diet alone in the bio--laden with fried chicken, biscuits, and mac and chese--leaves me suspect.
  • Tracey, 37, Texas--I wouldn't have believed her to weight more than 250 pounds until I read her bio which says she went from 113 to over 250 after having her fourth child. The camera really didn't seem to add 10 pounds here.
I can't wait for all the action to unfold and pick my favorites for the final three (granted I fully expected either Mike or Tara to take the crown before Helen last season). And more importantly, I'm probably more excited about the workouts and challenges that will be unveiled. What endurance sports might we see this season? Posted by Kate

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fit-Food: The Periodic Table of...Energy Bars

Tired of the same old flavors of Clif Bar, PowerBar, Luna, Kind, Balance and more? Not seeing the results you hoped for in an energy bar, find yourself allergic to an ingredient or inable to tolerate it in your digestive tract? Or do you dream of playing in your kitchen to concoct your own food products but either don't have the time or would rather pay someone else to do it? You could be just the candidate for a design-your-own bar, custom built for your taste and ingredient preferences. Meet two of the contenders:

Element Bars. While winding down after an exciting Ironman Wisconsin yesterday (no I didn't race but I have a spectator report that I need to find time to write and post) I found myself watching Shark Tank on ABC. The first negotiator introduced a product he developed in his kitchen and turned into a business, Element Bars. You can build your bar online either picking from popular favorites or playing with your own mix, check the nutrition count so you don't overload on calories and get a natural, personalized product in return. And I swear I went to college with the entrepreneur, but that's beside the point. It's fun to play on the site and experiment with different flavors in hopes of finding a portable, race-friendly food your body can handle.

You Bar. It's all about custom food at You Bar: You can also create your own trail mix and shakes. Same concept as the Element Bar and you can watch the nutrition facts change as you add or switch ingredients. You can even recommend your own suggestion for a base and make special requests in each section. I'm a fan of the descriptors so I know just what I'm adding as I play chef in the kitchen.

But as for actually trying them? I'm a novice at the moment, opting for convenience over personalization. I'll just pick up a bar when I'm at Trader Joe's and know I need to eat one on the spot or have a race coming up where I could use it. Plus I know if I had a whole box of bars at home, they probably wouldn't last very long...too tempting to eat every day. Posted by Kate

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Party Like It's 1999

Flash back 10 years ago to 1999. Lance Armstrong won his first of seven Tour de France victories; he was practically a no-name then. Turin, Italy was named as the host of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. In the pool, men's freestyle events, specifically the 200 and 400 meters, suddenly became all about the Thorpedo as Ian Thorpe crushed the longest-standing world record in the 200 free at the FINA Short Course World Championships.

Meanwhile, a little closer to home, the Chicago Marathon was still called the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, the running store Vertel's was still in operation, the Chicago Triathlon had yet to set a Guinness World Record for the largest triathlon, people were still running the Park Forest Scenic 10-miler, and Chicago marathoners not only had the fall classic but they could also run the popular Lake County Marathon in the spring, to name a few.

Also close to home, Universal Sole, a running store, was setting up shop in the Lakeview neighborhood on Lincoln near Paulina and Roscoe and a quick walk from the Paulina stop on the Brown Line. Paul Peters--a runner who made his mark at Gordon Tech and Indiana University (read more about Peters here)--was at the helm, introducing running to a community north of downtown where you'd find Vertel's and north of Piper's Alley where Fleet Feet was also just getting on its feet. Some people probably doubted the store would survive but Peters worked the grassroots angle to create a name for Universal Sole at local races with a fast running team and on the local race scene by running events that became local favorites like the Lakefront 10 and the New Year's Resolution Run.

That little store that could is turning 10 years old this month. And while the man who started it all, sold the store last year to Joel Feinberg, Universal Sole is still alive and kicking at 3052 N. Lincoln, a few blocks up from its old location. The good news is that the store has events planned throughout September to celebrate its anniversary, from fun runs to weekly specials to raffle prizes. Tune in for the anniversary party this Thursday, September 10, from 6 to 9 p.m. where you could win some raffle prizes from Saucony, Brooks, Mizuno and Adidas. Or join in the fun run series held each Monday until the end of the month (the first run was held yesterday due to Labor Day) beginning at 6:15 p.m. Runners meet at the store, head out for a refreshing post-work run, and reconvene at the store to cool down and listen for their names to be called in the raffle. September 8 is the Adidas Fun Run (sorry this one has already passed), September 14 is the Mizuno Fun Run, September 21 is the Saucony Fun Run where the Saucony van will also make an appearance, and September 28 is the Brooks Fun Run. These vendors will be raffling off some cool prizes after every run including technical tees.

Happy Birthday, Universal Sole! Photo grabbed from gotbrimmed at flickr. Posted by Kate

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Score the First Lady's First-Class Arms

What's the secret to Michelle Obama's toned arms that have left us trying endless pull-ups, push-ups and shoulder presses in the weight room? Not much anymore thanks to the Today Show and Women's Health magazine. They spilled the beans to reveal the First Lady's workout straight from her long-time trainer Cornell McClellan. And if you're determined to sport similar guns, you can work your way through the 9-Minute Arm Workout, a two-move super set that works the biceps and triceps hardcore.

Fact: Mrs. Obama has been working with McClellan since 1997. Since that time he's put her through 1,872 workouts.

Fact: McClellan runs Naturally Fit, a fitness studio in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, that Mrs. Obama started frequenting more than 12 years ago.

Fact: Her workouts took place as early as 5:30 a.m.

Fact: McClellan puts Mrs. Obama through a full-body workout complete with lunges, bench presses and more to work multiple muscle groups. Thanks to McClellan her training "includes strength, cardiovascular and flexibility training."

Read the full story from the Today Show here. Or check out this Michelle Obama Arm Workout courtesy of Fitness magazine that offers a few different moves. Photo grabbed from AlexJohnson at flickr. Posted by Kate

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Chicago Triathlon Is Over...Now What?

Whether you braved the chillier-than-normal temps at this year's Chicago Triathlon last weekend or you already know you're ready to put your triathlon races on hiatus until next season (maybe switching over to marathon training, fall road races, fall century rides or cyclocross), you can still get your triathlon fix in the off season. Check out these ways to squeeze in some off-season training...or start the ball rolling for a stellar season in 2010.
  • Equinox Fitness' Equi-Tri Cycle--OK this may have been designed to prepare you for the Chicago Triathlon but just because the race is over doesn't mean you have to quit attending class. Taught in Chicago by Michael Wollpert, an Equinox instructor and personal trainer who has raced the Tour de France and spent part of August racing through South Dakota with the Primal Quest Eco-Challenge, you'll feel the leg burn whether you attend the lunchtime class in the Loop or the hour-long challenge the Lincoln Park or 900 N. Michigan locations. Plus, you'll have a chance to work on your cadence without having to dodge runners and walkers out on the Lakefront.
  • Equi-Tri Tread--The counterpart to Equi-Tri Cycle, the running component takes you to the treadmill usually immediately after getting off the bike to give you an indoor brick workout. Most of the hard-core triathletes bring heart-rate monitors to track their progress, but even if you don't have one you'll still benefit from this interval workout. Not to mention the instructor can watch you closely in this set-up to make the workout easier or more difficult depending on how you look.
  • Masters swimming--Again, this is another one of those activities you probably wish you had practiced more before the race than after. But with the lake about to be technically closed to swimming until next Memorial Day, the fall swimming season is about to kick off indoors. Check your gym for its swimming schedule or consider swimming with Max Multisport or Vision Quest, to name a few, as the temperatures cool off. You'll find yourself able to stroke stronger through the crowds come next year.
  • CrossFit--If you need a fitness boost but don't want to swim, bike or run, CrossFit could be the answer. Taking the best exercises from a variety of fitness disciplines, CrossFit pushes you to your max in a combination of moves that really work the core. The intensity is spot on too and you'll find your body morphing into toned form just by adding the workout of the day to your mix.
  • Indoor cycling--Don't have a Spinning class you like or access to an Equinox Fitness? Find a place that offers indoor cycling on Computrainers and you're all set for winter workouts. You won't be trapped at home on your trainer, mindlessly pedaling away to whatever you can tolerate on TV and not tracking threshold, resistance or intensity. Around Chicago you can sign up for a Taste of VQ, a eight-week session that promises to improve your cycling, at Vision Quest Coaching; or check out the classes available at Element Multisport where you can sign up to ride up to four times per week in a six-week session; or consider one of the cycling options at Well Fit that can improve your endurance, strength and technique.
Now the only problem is staying motivated when the sun goes into hiding and you don't have to bare it all on the beach. But if it means faster times comes next season, the inspiration shouldn't be a problem. Photo grabbed from at flickr. Posted by Kate

Thursday, September 3, 2009

'Gator Gives You Guns

I never thought I'd find myself reading workout tips from People magazine. I've tracked marathon milestones and triathlon triumphs, but I never expected the celebrity mag to teach me something useful about fitness that didn't involve what Audrina Patridge wore to the gym or who's label Hayden Panetierre sported on a hike (those were the most recent features). But the alligator push-up? That was a new one...and after reading its description, I have a feeling I'll be trying it during my next strength workout.

Promising to work your triceps, trainer Eric Paskel taught Kristin Cavallari the gator push-up to work her triceps and shoulders. As Paskel told People magazine, "Start in a plank pose and lower down, just hovering above the ground and using hand and feet, walk yourself forward three steps and three steps back." And Cavallari's not the only Hollywood actress harnessing her inner animal. Sarah Chalke of Scrubs adapted a modified version of this push-up to her core workout.

But don't be confused with the below Kung Fu video showing an alligator push-up. It looks more like a version of the centipede dance move than an alligator creeping along the group, plus it starts in more of a downward facing dog position and races into cobra before moving through the exercise again.

The results? The alligator is no easy move--at least if you lack upper body strength as I do. With back and shoulder strength, I struggled through the alligator push-up as much as I do with a regular push-up. That's mainly because I constantly drop my butt when I get into push-up stance. But I do like how the gator makes you hold the lower stance longer than you would in a normal push-up--I can get down into position and often find myself getting stuck on the way up. And if there's the promise of defined triceps and toned arms? I'll take it. Video from Posted by Kate

Today Show Does a Triathlon

It's not often that I have melting moments while watching the Today Show. Yes, it's my morning guilty pleasure and probably the only way I'll find out about what's going on in the world and other newsworthy stories since I'll watch trash TV in the evening before tuning in to the news. And yes, I like watching some of the random features from the travel clips to the real estate for sale to the Joy Fit Club inductees. Other times it's really easy for me to tune out the voices, use it as background noise or allow it to serve as a snooze button of sorts. But then there are those moments where it's way too good that I tuned in that morning and I'm nearly bouncing off the walls with excitement. Take Natalie Morales when she was training for the NYC Marathon. Or Matt and Al testing their skill at the Winter Olympics (or baring it all in those tight tight luge speed suits). Or the running 'Today Throws a Wedding' couple.

Once again the Today Show did it. And not just with any sport but with one of my now faves: triathlon. That's right, Natalie Morales and Hoda Kotb are training for a triathlon. Time is ticking down before they complete the sprint race--roughly two weeks to go--but they've been putting in some training hours that viewers can even watch on TV. I seriously thought I was hearing things when triathlon was mentioned before a commercial break a few weeks ago, but as I tuned in was literally overjoyed to watch the training coverage and then hear more about the race. OK, I part of that enjoyment came from feeling better about skipping out on a morning bike ride (Liz and I either mutually decided to pass or the weather was bad) and knowing that I would have missed this news had I been pedaling on the Lakefront. Rumor has it that the instigators were trying to get Kathie Lee Gifford to train with Hoda, but she became the team's cheerleader instead, even holding a swim workout at her home. Nevertheless, trust Natalie to tackle the sporting event and leave Hoda apologizing over her self-coined granny swimming and feeling like a slow poke. Both are training with the Terrier Tri group out of New York City and have coach Rob guiding them through the lap swims, cycling workouts and runs. And they can get some first-hand tips from SELF editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger who's a speed-racing triathlete.

Anyone know where are they working out? I'm curious because the location has it all from spots to put road bikes on trainers rather than simulate on stationary bikes to a desolate swimming pool (my favorite situation for a good workout). Track all of the progress and watch video footage at click here for the first training video and here for the second. Meanwhile, I'm just glad I found a silver lining to skipping a workout and got to watch others in the act. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Fatty Rewards of Exercise

Can exercise make you fat? A recent article in Time Magazine likes to think so. And the sad truth is that the author and the article are right, especially if you look at some of habits that follow post-calorie burn at the gym.

The simple argument is we go to the gym to workout, burn some calories in hopes of staving off those lurking extra pounds, clock a good sweat session or stress reliever, or train for the next event on the race calendar. But many of us use that gym time to make excuses for what we put into our stomachs post-workout--although I think you could easily argue the opposite that you go to the gym because of what you put into your stomach earlier in the day--and reward ourselves with the junk food, zero-calorie snacks and several nutritional no-nos more at home in the Not That category of the Men's Health Eat This, Not That list. And we do it mainly because that revving of the metabolism, that exercise, not only reenergizes our system or calms our stress but it stimulates hunger. And as the article states, "Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder."

Maybe not everyone is guilty of that reward after the workout, but I know I certainly am--just take a look at me chowing down on a massive burrito after the Heatstroke 100 century ride. My family already poked fun at me for that one, especially since I made my food choice so public and so large (I swear the burrito alone weighed five pounds, a little gross in retrospect). And they're in denial over my next admission--or what that's me who's in denial and they're making the oh-so-true accusations.

Yes, I'll eat a burrito after cycling 100 miles. If a Dairy Queen, Culver's or other cold treat is in the vicinity of a long bike ride, you can guarantee that I'll be making a refueling stop afterward. The first thing I craved after finishing the Ironman--and even recently after the Steelhead 70.3--was pizza. After marathons I've literally made a beeline to Weber Grill for a post-race snack mainly consisting of onion straws and a hot fudge sundae. I'll nosh down a larger, not-so-healthy breakfast--like a stuffed french toast concoction or a Walker Bros. apple pancake--if I sweat in Spinning beforehand. And if you really want to get specific, post-race snacks or meals after major races include a massive burger and fries (California International Marathon), pasta and salad buffet followed by Scooter's custard (Udder Century), Ray's Ice Cream where a single scoop is like singlehandedly cleaning up a pint of Ben and Jerry's (Motor City Triathlon), fries and a hot fudge banana sundae at Betty's Pies (Grandma's Marathon), Kopp's Custard (Spirit of Racine), pizza buffet followed by dinner at Morton's Steakhouse (Steelhead 70.3), post-race picnic and Scooter's custard (Chicago Triathlon).

So my diet is far from the best and I'm sure I'm a nutritionist's nightmare. One look at the above run-down and it reads more like something you might find listed in a food journal for a Biggest Loser competitor before the refrigerator raid not for an endurance athlete. But all that exercise makes me hungry and I want to eat--and tend to gravitate toward those foods I try to avoid while training with the exception of the ice cream and ignore the nagging voices in my head that those fries and sundaes aren't healthy.

Wouldn't you do it too, at least on occasion? Maybe it's me but I'm definitely guilty of slogging through a workout just so I can gorge on a meal later. Not all the time that's for sure, and I know I'm not seeing the needle on that scale drop when I do it. Yet even if we try to eat or refuel with more of a smart snack, we could be doomed for failure. Take a five-mile run where on average you'll burn about 500 calories, 100 for each mile. You're thirsty and the heat and humidity made you sweaty so you down a Gatorade to replenish lost electrolytes. Now your stomach is growling so you opt for a Clif bar over a bagel, donut or muffin since it offers the sweet with at least some semblance of good-for-you to it. But once you total the calories between the Gatorade and Clif bar, you've just given yourself the caloric-equivalent, roughly, of a can of soda and and a donut. Healthier option? Maybe. But when it comes to watching the waistline...not so much.

It's easy to argue both sides of the argument and I know I'm not going to stop the exercise anytime soon. Will I lose weight? Probably not anything like Biggest Loser proportions, but I'm not trying to. Could I change my post-workout habits? Most definitely, although cutting out Scooter's would be no easy task. Where do you weigh in? Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate


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