Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pedaling to Those New Year's Resolutions

Whether you asked for a new bicycle for the holidays or you’ve watched your current ride collect dust over the last few months, you know you don’t want winter hibernation to get the best of you and win in the battle against personal fitness gains. Forget the excuses the your new ride isn’t ready for worn tires, you don’t want to clear the bike cobwebs, or it’s too cold, gloomy, snowy, icy, insert-winter-adjective-here to pedal until the ground thaws. We have a solution to break in the new ride, whisk the dust bunnies away and prevent you from feeling sorry for yourself when you’re frustrated over bike splits come spring. And what's even better is that it comes to town right after the holidays are over, meaning even more motivation to stick to those New Year's resolutions that often fall by the wayside just days into January.

Meet the latest round of Taste of VQ, the Vision Quest Coaching program designed to let you sample world-class coaching and structured cycling workouts that have seen proven results among past participants. If you've ever wanted to train with a professional cyclist, here's your chance as Vision Quest was founded by Robbie Ventura who once rode with the U.S. Postal Service Team that helped carry Lance Armstrong to a Tour de France win (I hope I'm describing that right). Plus it will help you feel fitter and faster—even besting a few competitors who had the one-up on you before—in the saddle when winter’s over and you’re ready to ride—or race—outside again.

You know you're already starting to plot those resolutions after feeling like you've packed on the pounds in the last week. And the timing couldn't be more perfect...this next Taste of VQ session starts on January 3, right after you've watched almost all the bowl games you can handle, eaten the last of the holiday cookies and told yourself your diet starts now. The session runs through the week of February 27 and offers eight sessions of bike training to prep your body for successful cycling come next season, drop a few holiday pounds and take your power levels to new heights. Instead of feeling like you’re trapped indoors, you can be laying the foundation for the upcoming year—and getting a head start on those goals you fell short on last season or what you want to accomplish in the future.

Taste of VQ can help you address your weaknesses and improve your skills while working on cadence and pedaling abilities. You’ll also see plenty of short VO2 intervals with lots of rest and some strength endurance work, which will help you maintain the development level you achieved in the last season while continuing to grow. 

Once a week, you can come and train using VQ equipment and have access to the staff. This package is perfect if you are unfamiliar with the benefits of a performance center versus a gym, or if you are unsure that structured workouts really make a difference. And at $150 a session, it won't break the bank, especially if you're feeling a little tapped dry from the holidays. To learn more and to sign up, check out Then prepare to be pushed to your limits and beyond.

Photo grabbed from

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christian Vande Velde Visits Garmin Chicago

Christian Vande Velde at 2008 USA Pro Cycling Championships
He's a world-class professional cyclist. He races with Team Garmin-Transitions. He contended for the yellow jersey at the 2010 Tour de France before pulling out with two broken ribs. He's won a stage of the Giro d'Italia and finished as the overall champion of the 2008 Tour of Missouri. He's the one and only Christian Vande Velde, a familiar name among the cycling world and even more familiar, perhaps, among Chicago circles thanks to his suburban roots (Vande Velde was born in Lemont).

It's not every day that you have the opportunity to meet a cyclist of Vande Velde's caliber, but your chance comes this week for Chicagoans or anyone else hanging out along Michigan Avenue come Wednesday. Vande Velde will be at the Garmin Store at 663 N. Michigan Ave., on Wednesday, December 29. From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., the 34-year-old cyclist will be on hand to sign autographs. And maybe you can sneak in a photo op or a question that needs a pro's answer.

Whether you're off from work this week or still plugging in a few days before the New Year, this is one diversion you could use. But be sure to arrive early...I've heard that a similar event last year had crowds in the store and out the door. And do you really want to pass up a meeting with this cyclist who's not only the Team Garmin leader but a leader among the field?

For more details about the event, contact Garmin Chicago.

Photo grabbed from fsteele770 at flickr.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Fit-Q: What did Santa bring you for Christmas?

By now the presents have been opened, the stockings emptied, and the stomachs stuffed with holiday breakfast, dinner and all the snacks in between. So the all important question that's on most people's inquisitive minds is what did Santa bring you for Christmas? Being that we like to talk about fitness, we're wondering what fit finds found their way under the tree this year.

Was it that new Garmin that you wanted to track your runs? The road bike you'd been eyeing all year but couldn't justify purchasing on your dime? Did your parents or mate outfit you with new racing gear? I could go on, but it's no fun to only list items I've received over the years. I need some new hints for my wish list, and want to hear from others. Please share in the comments! And hope you had an enjoyable holiday!

Photo grabbed from jimmiehomeschoolmom at flickr.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fit-Pic: Snow, Ho, Ho

Think Santa can only be found at the North Pole prepping for the big Christmas delivery? Wrong. Santas are in full-force this time of year. At the mall, ringing bells on the street corner, at the holiday party--the obvious spots that this mind could name. Then there are the not-so-mundane, as this video illustrates. Santa knows how to shred--and shred well--at Keystone's A-51 terrain park. I couldn't resist...I've heard of Santa on the bike and Santa on the run and Santa on skis (even those who could ski free at The Canyons on December 18), but the snowboarding was a new one.

Any unusual spots you've seen Santa that don't require the Norad tracker that goes into full force on Christmas Eve?

Video courtesy of Keystone Resort at youtube.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

David Barton Wants You...

David Barton wants you to sweat. David Barton wants you to burn calories. David Barton wants you to enjoy guilt-free holiday eating--or at least try. David Barton wants you to get Carved at Thanksgiving and Trim at Christmas. But who is this David Barton and what doesn't he want you to do this holiday? David Barton is a body-building entrepreneur, in short, who's the namesake behind DavidBartonGym. And he doesn't want you to pack on the pounds over the holidays, especially tomorrow on Christmas Eve.

"How so?" you ask. DavidBartonGym locations in Chicago, South Beach, Seattle and New York's Astor Place and 23rd & Seventh are opening their doors to anyone looking for a workout on December 24 between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. (according to the Facebook invite, anyway). Not a bad deal for anyone who happens to be in these locales without a gym membership or spot to workout while visiting family or friends--perfect, actually, since some fitness center guest fees can run upwards of $20 per day. Or if you're a local, this freebie offers an ideal chance to no-holds-barred check out the gym, change up the usual routine and try something new.

But you don't have to only hit up the cardio machines upon your visit. DavidBartonGym is practically begging you, in a good way, to check out TRIM, a new, intense 60-minute class. Developed by David Barton, this hour-long weight training class is designed to target all the muscle groups and guarantees  to prevent post-dinner or holiday party weight gain. Bonus for a day often filled with eggnog, Christmas cookies and nibbles at every turn. The magic formula: Start indulging within two hours of working out to maximize your metabolism. Your workout will help bring your body to a hormonal state that prevents you from storing fat and gaining pounds.

For more information and to register for the free 12 p.m. class, check out Your body will thank you for it come December 26. Or if you can't make it this time, give yourself a jump-start on those New Year's Resolutions with another round of freebies on New Year's Eve.

Photo grabbed from DavidBartonGym.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eight Reasons to Run During Tonight's Lunar Eclipse

I know what you're thinking, Chicago: The weather is ruining your total lunar eclipse plans, especially if those plans included tonight's Lunar Eclipse run and Nike LunarEclipse+ launch at Fleet Feet Sports's Piper's Alley location.  It's cold. It's late--that 1 a.m. gathering time and 1:30 a.m. departure to catch the eclipse at 1:41 a.m. is going to require a nap, some caffeine and a little rallying. It's snowing and the Lakefront Path has definitely been covered by Old Man Winter. And you know the cloud cover and continuing snowfall are too thick to see tonight's total lunar eclipse. But don't let Debbie Downer win tonight, keeping you indoors, dry and warm and snow-free. Here's why you still want to make the trek to Fleet Feet for an event that's sure to go down in Chicago running history:
  • The last time a total lunar eclipse coincided with winter solstice was back in 1638, and it's only supposed to coincide one more time this millennium. Twice in one-thousand years, people.
  • It's the longest night of the year and the shortest day, you may as well have a fun event planned around running in the dark. 
  • Whether you've run through all of the city's other snow spectacles like the Shamrock Snow-Shuffle, last week's Rudolph Ramble or the year of the snowy Chicago Marathon (and that's not even all the events marred by our crazy bad-timing weather), or you've never braved the elements, you'll earn your bragging rights tonight. Snow covering the ground, sub-freezing temps, and a run that starts when you would ordinarily be in bed? I'd award a badge on the spot.
  • An event with Fleet Feet and Nike involved? From fashion shows and shoe unveilings at Fleet Feet to Nike's special runs back in March and April, I haven't been disappointed yet. 
  • You'll get a chance to trial the newest shoes to join the Nike family, the LunarEclipse+, before most others.
  • If you're one of the first 75 people through the door, you'll score a limited edition Nike tee. 
  • And if you spend more than $50 on Nike product, you'll go home with a gift valued at $30--perfect for any gaps on your gift-giving list or to gift yourself.
  • Music, food, drinks and a raffle? That's better than spending the night at the bar, with a workout to boot.
So come on, what are you waiting for? Tonight could be the closest you get to a bona fide snow day--and those who think you're weird for playing with the powder will all be in bed. I'm still planning to attend (I live too close to find a good excuse to skip out anyway), are you?

Photo by Alison Rezabek, featuring the way Chicago looks tonight as the snow falls.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Watch Ironman from Your Couch

You know that Ironman races typically last at least eight hours (a pinch less if you're a pro on a fast course) when some of the professionals start to roll in, all the way up to 17 hours when the day's clock strikes midnight. That's a long time to be watching a race as my family can attest--or racing if you're a triathlete who draws the line at the shorter distances--even if you're in paradise to watch or compete in the Ironman World Championship. So if you can watch a collection of the 140.6-mile race's best parts in two hours, wouldn't you do it? Of course! But you'll have to tune into NBC on Saturday afternoon beginning at 4 p.m. EST to catch all the highlights, stories and finish-line glories from this year's race, which was held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, back on October 9. It might be two months after the fact, but if you couldn't make it to the Big Island to watch the showdown in what's been touted as one of the most exciting finishes in Ironman history, it only means the excitement has been building since race-day wrapped. I should know...I was sitting at dinner scrolling through my phone's feed until the winner was announced.

Instead, let the lava fields' action come to you. Expect to see plenty of footage of the eventual 2010 champions, Chris McCormack and Mirinda Carfrae, as well as Julie Dibens, who led a majority of the women's field until Carfrae passed her on the marathon leg, and Craig Alexander, who was looking for a three-peat. My guess is we'll also catch some of Chris Lieto's pedal power--he went into the race as a favorite thanks to his cycling speed and his steadily improving run. But the jury's out on whether Chrissie Wellington will make a showing--remember, she withdrew from the competition after feeling ill and missed out on her chance of trying for a grand slam World Championship win (No. 4). I can't say for sure as I've skipped the youtube video has been previewing the last few days, keeping my anticipation growing for Saturday.

But the coverage is never all about the professionals. The NBC airing always promises to unveil a few other stories on a human interest level. Remember Jon Blais and his fight against ALS, followed up the next year by Brian Breen, the Chicagoan who won a lottery spot and dedicated his race to the War on ALS and the Blazeman Foundation? Or what about Bob McKeague, who is still the oldest man to finish the Ironman--if Lew Hollander keeps racing though, he'll have McKeague beat by next year? Or Sister Madonna Buder, Brian Boyle, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, and Biggest Loser season 2 winner Matt Hoover who's quest for Ironman fell a bit short on the 2009 course when he couldn't finish the marathon before the 17-hour cutoff? There are plenty of stories of trials and triumphs, some I've already heard from people who conquered the course and more than I'll learn in a few days. And then there's Al Trautwig, whose voice is a narration fixture and all-too-fit for the story-telling.

What are you waiting for? It's freezing outside (if you live by me, anyway) so you know you can avoid leaving the house. The bike is collecting dust in the corner now that it's the off-season, and your workouts these days are mere jokes in comparison to the miles you put in during the heavy build periods (or is that just me?). Plus, there's no Ironman to follow online until the 2011 season calendar kicks off in early March. Three months without a race to keep tabs on? Yikes, better catch the big Kahuna on Saturday!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Biggest Losers Did Run the Marathon

So I'm a little obsessed with The Biggest Loser in its final weeks. A post earlier today. A reference last week to being hooked on BL. Guessing the contestants sent home a few weeks back. Countless thoughts that got self-edited--just in case you were starting to think that the only time I updated Fit-Ink was before an airing of the show (yes, it might seem like it at times but those life-changing moments manage to motivate me to write, surprise, surprise)--before posting to spare you the frustrations (sometimes), and tips and inspirations (always) from the show. This isn't a Biggest Loser blog, afterall.

But it happens to swing that way on a night when there's rumor of a marathon. And not even rumor, if I had been paying attention earlier and caught this NBC story, confirming the marathon run to be seen tonight. Or that the Biggest Loser Club featured information on marathoning that made the task seem less daunting than it did when Tara, Helen, Mike and Ron became the first finishers. Or that most of the contestants were expecting a 26.2 miler should they surpass the competition to be among the finalists at the ranch. So where was I? Apparently in excuse city, denying that such an event would take place again, just like several deny the need to work out to combat those extra pounds--or Elizabeth last night, rattling off all the reasons for how hard it was to workout, eat right, stay focused, run through a calf cramp, insert-excuse-here now that she was home.

Yet back on the ranch, they came, they saw and they conquered the marathon course. And Ada, who I latched onto long ago when she started shedding weight as fast as some of the heavy-hitting guys, set her sights on beating Tara's 4:55 from BL 7. She cruised to the finish line in 4:38 and change--and that time includes a bathroom pitstop! For someone who was morbidly obese just two months before, 10:37 per mile is pretty darn fast for a first timer. Hmm...could we potentially see a match up between Tara and Ada in the future? Tara did however run a 4:23 at the 2009 ING New York City Marathon with more time to train, not 26 days as given the first time, and this latest batch of Losers appeared to be running much more than those from seasons past.

As for Elizabeth, Frado and Patrick? I'm convinced that some careful editing made those last five miles look a little easier than they actually were--either that or they didn't suffer from my syndrome where I'm looking for the finish line at mile 22 and literally dragging myself up Michigan Avenue to reach the Chicago Marathon finish. But to go from zero to 26.2 in a few short weeks--and still toting extra weight--is pretty darn cool. And they all finished within the time limits that some races have for its participants--8 hours--before diverting them to finish on the sidewalks. Patrick crossed in 5:45, Frado in 5:51 and Elizabeth in 7:27. Congratulations runners, and I really hope you didn't feel too much pain afterward and could jump back into those weight-loss workouts.

I still have to ask the question about how these four survived the marathon and its training with an abbreviated schedule. Doesn't too much too soon spell out injury? Did they really accomplish enough at the ranch to be ready? Yes and yes, but with a little gray area.
  • Most marathon training plans follow a 12- or 16-week schedule, while this group had about four. But as Brendan told That's Fit, their workouts are easily marathon sessions of their own--with eight to 10 hours in the gym every day and only one to two hours of that in the intense zone. I don't have the science know-how to back it up (and I'm going to pull the lazy card and opt out of the research for the moment) but I figure based on personal experience that those sessions could help build a somewhat solid base to train for the marathon.
  • You don't have to be Speedy Gonzales on the marathon course. We're not all as fast as Kara Goucher or Desiree Davila or Josh Cox or Meb Keflezighi, but sometimes--and most times--finishing the marathon is more about getting it done rather than the time it takes. Not to go all cheesy but you can accomplish anything you set your mind to--marathons included. 
  • To back that up, take the suggestions from Michael Scholtz, Biggest Loser Club fitness expert. He says that as long as you can walk comfortably for 45 to 60 minutes, you can finish a marathon, even if it's two weeks away. The keys are to walk more of the ran than run it, and train with an interval style that integrates running bursts into your regular walking routine. You'll be comfortably tired at the end of the workout but not so exhausted that you can't get up the next day to do it again. And you'll build your endurance at the same time. Sounds a little familiar to the workouts seen during the "Last Chance Workouts" on the show with Bob and Jillian pushing them to run faster interspersed with treadmill walking scenes. 
But now the question is who's going to be making up the final three? We know Patrick and Frado are already in the competition--Frado's face showed plenty of weight loss before he even weighed in last night--but who's going to win out between Ada and Elizabeth? I can't even guess how America will vote, but my vote is for Ada. If you set a marathon record, finally see the positives in a rocky relationship with your parents and only now fall below the yellow line, you need a second chance even if that was the theme from another season. Regardless, here's where you can cast your vote.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Will the Biggest Losers Run a Marathon?

You know how time flies when you're having fun? I think there's a new phrase in order as it relates to this season, number 10, of The Biggest Loser: Time flies when you're losing weight. Maybe that's not the case for the contestants, but it sure seems that way to me, the viewer. I'm still having a hard time believing that next week I'll be tuning in for the season finale, and that tonight the final contestants will be traveling home to continue their journeys. And this is coming from someone who usually half-heartedly watches early on and grows more attached--or more annoyed, depending on the game play--to the competitors as the weeks progress. I've seen every episode, got interested from the start because of some early competition, and still tuned in even when my favorite endurance challenges from seasons past--the half marathon at home, the cycling relay, the swim--have been replaced with balance challenges, a stairclimb, and the tote-the-weight-you-lost for step-ups and a mile run. Nothing wrong with those challenges, I just miss some of the others.

With that being said, I can't help but wonder what's in store for tonight and I'm asking myself if I'm going to see what has become a tradition of late--the Biggest Loser Marathon. Frado mentioned it one week--that his daughter wanted to run part of it with him. Ada has shown her running prowess much like Tara did a few seasons back. And then others, in Ron fashion, showed they're not necessarily cut out for the running, even if only for a few miles. Brendan, the 3-time Boston Marathon runner, struggled. As did Mark, although his treading behind could easily be blamed on his extra weight and still weighing in as the heaviest competitor. While these two got the boot last week, Elizabeth still remains on the ranch, battling with her body as much as she fights with the others to stay above that yellow line. Question is: if the four left on the ranch, Patrick, Frado, Elizabeth and Ada, do indeed have to run 26.2 miles, who's going to win? My money is on Ada, even though they're all winners for completing such a feat and for having far less time to train than most marathon plans suggest. But I'll save that conversation for another time...and that's only because I have to make a mad rush to the pool now.

Photo grabbed from katielann12 at flickr.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's your strangest race reminder?

After the 2007 Chicago Marathon, race director Carey Pinkowski and the rest of his planning team enacted a flag warning system to notify runners of changes to course conditions in the days and hours leading up to and during the 26.2-miler. I noticed a similar flag system when I ran Grandma's Marathon in 2009--a black flag hanging near the mile 21 aid station on a day where temps reached 80 and the cool breeze that typically blows off Lake Superior was nonexistent. But these are weather warnings for snow, ice, rain, bone-chilling cold and extreme heat. Nothing like the following warning a friend of mine shared yesterday morning: First trail marathon this weekend comes with this pre-race warning. yikes. We strongly suggest wearing bright colors for your day in the woods. It is still deer hunting season for archery and muzzle loaders.

I couldn't help but laugh the first time I read it, from the deer hunting season to the comments that followed about shopping Farm and Fleet for some neon orange. But that's no joking matter, especially when I remembered this trail race is taking place in Indiana where, no offense, the runners are in the minority among the hunters, couch potatoes and not-so-physically-active population.

So it got me thinking...are there other races out there with these slightly wacky warnings? And Badwater doesn't count--2010 winner Zach Gingerich already told me about his SAG-ers and Bart Yasso referenced it on more than one occasion. I'm a city girl and the most remote running my legs get are on the northern Wisconsin roads and even then they're paved and lined with houses but lack the water fountains and heavy traffic I get at home. What's the strangest pre-race instruction/warning/rule/advice you've received?

Photo grabbed from at flickr.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Favorite Top Chef All Star

I have an addiction to reality TV, one that's strong enough to rival my fitness obsession. And not just of The Biggest Loser variety--which, I might add, has sucked me into its evil vortex once again where I don't want to miss a week and I cheer for Ada as I did for Tara in season 7. I found a sporty bunch of Survivors vying for that ultimate Survivor title in Nicaragua. I had my picks for The Apprentice (let's see how that unfolds this week), and I drooled over desserts post-workout for Top Chef: Just Desserts. But tonight unveils one premiere I've been waiting for for weeks. Not just because the foodie in me wants to catch up with the Top Chef alums who fell just short of the top prize, but also because a few of my all-time favorites are returning to the kitchen in Top Chef All Stars.

Call me a sucker for the Chicagoans cooking in the kitchen like Dale Talde, who helped open Vong here at home but now lives in New York, and Dale Levitski, who waited tables at Sola between his season 3 and the live finale and now mans the kitchen to rave reviews at Sprout. But a running chef? Sorry Dale and Dale, but Carla Hall wins out in my book. I can't wait to watch her in the kitchen this season after growing to love her last time around in season 5. So when I had the chance to interview her earlier this year, I was all too excited but saved the reveal until now.

Kate: During Top Chef, you candidly equated the competition to being like a marathon, which tipped me off that you might be a runner. How did you get into running?

Carla: I joined a running group with a friend to be her workout partner for a 10K. I honestly didn't think she would last, but several races and two years later I was entering a marathon.

K: What do you like about running marathons?

C: I enjoyed the personal challenge. Each workout pushed me. The rush, however, was finishing in a better time than expected.

K: I heard that you ran the Paris Marathon for your 40th birthday and had a unique experience from the race. Would you mind sharing that?

C: My mom and a couple of friends had scheduled a visit to Paris at the same time as the marathon. This being my mom's first experience as a race spectator, I had to school her on cheering, standing at an agreed upon place, and how to hand off my fresh water bottle. There was no mom at the first spot, the five-mile mark. I was crushed. I admit I shed a couple of tears. I needed and wanted my mama. The second spot came and went--the 21st mile marker. I wasn't as crushed this time. Perhaps my mom was wrapped up in a French experience. At mile 22, I see her on the left side of the street--I was on the right--waving her arms and yelling for me. I threw my arms up as if to say "I can't get my water bottle from there."...Just seeing her was great, but I kept on running. The next thing I knew, I heard these quick footsteps behind me and the faint calling of my name. It was my mom! She was now running in the race and her coat was flying out like a Batman cape. She was determined to get me the water bottle. She finally caught up with me and I stopped and hugged her. It was the best! The other spectators cracked up, but that one gesture was fuel for my soul. I soared through the next few miles like it was the first. There's nothing like a mother's love.

K: How do you juggle your catering business, being a Top Chef star, spending time with your family and staying fit?

C: I have to admit it's hard, and I'm not always successful. Sometimes a workout is taking several flights of steps instead of the elevator or a few sun salutes first thing in the morning.

K: Are you still able to keep up with running? Where are your favorite spots to run, especially in the metro D.C. area?

C: The running has slacked off, but it's one of my fitness goals for 2010. My favorite place to run is along the C&O Canal.

K: I read that you practice yoga. How did you become interested in it and have you found that it helps you in the kitchen?

C: Yoga is an excellent practice for centering yourself and strengthening your center for correct posture. I spend most of the day prepping and standing over a table with rounded shoulders. If I don't constantly correct my posture, my back screams at me the next few days.

K: What's your favorite post-workout snack or meal?

C: Clif bar, apple and an energy drink.

K: Do you have any fitness goals for 2010?

C: No marathons in the forecast, but I would like to run a 10-miler.

And I'm sure win Top Chef All Stars would be a goal too had I asked. Now here's to cooking in the kitchen--I just hope Carla can surprise us all like she did the last time around. And maybe provide a few running analogies in the process.

Follow Carla at her website and stay tuned to Bravo on Wednesday nights for the latest season of Top Chef at 10 p.m., 9 p.m. central.

Photo grabbed from DC Central Kitchen at flickr.


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