Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fit-Pic: Abdi Abdirahman Runs Chicago

At the risk of embarrassing myself, here goes nothing. That's me above with 3-time Olympian, 4-time qualifier, Abdi Abdirahman. I'm bundled up, overdressing for the spring-like temperatures outside. I'm lucky that I put on some run-looking attire as I jetted out the door after an afternoon chained to my desk. And unlike the other 300 or so in attendance (or my estimate since the event was limited to that number), I didn't run because my leg still felt tight from Sunday's stair climb and I needed to gear up, or try, for tomorrow's scheduled run. But you don't really care about my story...hearing about Abdi is way cooler.

Fresh off the Houston course where he qualified for his fourth Olympics, his first in the marathon distance (don't quote me on that just yet though I know his other three Olympic berths were in the 10,000m if nothing else), Abdi landed in Chicago to help launch the registration opening for the 35th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon. He ran. He got a run for his money from the Sandburg cross-country team (I'm convinced they either chased him or sprinted so he'd have to run really fast). He signed autographs and posed for pictures (not sure how there wasn't a line stretching through the event space but I barely had to wait). He talked to the crowd about his running experiences, making me feel very sloth-like in the process. You see, he doesn't eat fast food. He only stares at weights in the weight room. And his high mileage weeks run somewhere in the 120-mile range. It's no wonder he's an Olympian...and one whom I can't wait to follow when the London Games happen this summer.

Tri-ing to Save Race Money in Chicago

The weather might have us fooled that summer is just around the corner. The mercury is pushing 60 degrees in Chicago, and we've left our winter coats and layers behind to sport short-sleeves, shorts and capris on the run, maybe took the bike off the trainer for the rare opportunity that it's warm enough--and not too icy--to ride outside mid-winter, and maybe even thought about being one of those Lake Monsters that take a dip in Lake Michigan regardless of time of year or water temperature. OK, that last one might be a bit of a stretch, but who says we can't dream that we'll soon be swapping pool laps for open water?

But there are still a few hours left of January. Before the month comes to a close, there's one thing many a triathlete (or a wannabe) might want to consider: registering for the Life Time Chicago Triathlon. You see, race registration opened on January 1--talk about a way to kick off a New Year's resolution to complete a triathlon by already confirming a race to the schedule--and a price increase is right around the corner. And when you're a regular racer--one like me who's trying to save any buck she can get--you know how much the wallet can start to hurt as the race registrations add up.

At the Chicago Triathlon, the race registration fees will increase by $15 when the clock turns over to midnight, Feb. 1. The sprint race is currently $115 and will increase to $130, while the international distance will increase from $150 to $165. If you have to pay for a one-day USA Triathlon license, there's your cost right there.

The sprint and international distance races are set for Sunday, August 26. Plenty of time to learn how to swim, bike, run or perfect the disciplines. For more details on the 2012 event, visit chicagotriathlon.com. Who's thinking about racing?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend of Workouts?

Outdoor yoga, where more is merrier. Source: lululemon
Did the New Year's resolutions to exercise and be more fit in 2012 just kick in? Did people suddenly decide to get their sweat on this weekend after hibernating for most of January? What's with this weekend's workouts?

At the start of the new year the gym regulars are always warned to watch out for the crowds creeping in on our territory. You know, those first two to three weeks of January where the skeletons come out of the closet, sweat it out on the treadmill or in a group fitness class, then disappear for the next 11 or so months. But unless it's because I changed my schedule to try to accommodate the crowds (swimming an hour before closing, running when I want to watch TV, which is never immediately after work), I haven't encountered as much of this New Year Traffic as I have in the past. Practically none compared to the year where I had to arrive at least 10 minutes early to score a Spinning bike on a Monday night--for three weeks straight I missed out--or fight over ellipticals, treadmills and bikes on the main floor. Until this weekend...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fit-Pic: Nothing Like Powder Days

Wish I could be here...

Park City, Utah (Jan. 22)
Video provided by Park City Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau

Or here: Arapahoe Basin, Colorado (Jan. 22)
Photo: Kimberly Trembearth/Arapahoe Basin

Or here: Beaver Creek, Colorado (Jan. 27)
Photo: C. Downard, Beaver Creek
Can I be magically transported to one of these spots, or any other place that has tons of snow, now? Who's out there taking advantage of the new snowfall?

Photos and video provided by Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, Kimberly Trembearth/Arapahoe Basin, C. Downard/Beaver Creek.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Top 10 Workout Songs for January

Need new songs to update or add to your workout playlist? I know I am. Give or take a few songs I've swapped out because my iPod ran out of space, I've had the same core playlist for years and it's the shuffle option that saves me from hearing the same selection every time. I can't help it, I'm a creature of habit. But even the best lists need a little refreshing; it's just tough when you're blindly deciding which songs will be the most motivational for a run or a workout. I've made the mistake of adding a song, only to find that I skip over it every single time it hits my ears when I'm running. What I needed was Run Hundred, the internet's most heavily trafficked site for workout music, to help guide me.

The site polled its readers to find out their favorite, current workout songs to compile a top 10 list to keep people motivated during the time of the year when it's hardest to get up and exercise. And what's even better is that they've broken down the tunes to their beats per minute. You know, in case you need faster beats to add a spring to your step--something this runner has yet to experiment with. As for the list, Chris Lawhorn, who operates RunHundred.com, says that the top 10 contains a mixture of songs you'd expect and some surprises.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

These Stairs Are Going To Hurt: Step Up for Kids

It seemed like a good idea when I told my teammates that I’d join them at the Step Up for Kids, a stair climb race where participants climb 38 or 80 floors of the Aon Center. My tentative plans to ski fell through, husband had to work, and this stairclimb was one that I wrote about more times (four, I think) than I had actually participated (a big fat zero). Add in the fact that it benefits Children’s Memorial Hospital—a spot near and dear to husband’s heart—and the more than 148,000 kids that will visit the hospital for treatment, and I was sold. Not only because I never turn down a workout, especially one with as rewarding a view (promised by ABC 7 reporter John Garcia, who I’ll be climbing with) but also because it was my way of supporting my husband’s daily toils.

There’s one problem: I forgot how strenuous stair climbing can be…especially when you NEVER climb stairs. I live on the 13th floor—the only stairs I’m climbing are when the elevators break down.

As I was so kindly reminded, stairs offer one heck of a calf workout (and glutes and quads, too). That’s good for anyone who wants killer legs when they’re sporting heels and skirts, but most of my running injuries, er ailments, stem from tight calves. The last thing I need is to put them into overdrive and curtail my running season after it barely has started.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top 5 calorie burners in Park City

Tradition brings me to Park City, Utah, every holiday season. While it's great to have a guaranteed ski trip in the books, this season's trip proved that it's not always ideal to ski in December. And much to my husband's dismay, that you don't always have to ski when you're there. Sure the 2011-2012 season start might be a fluke, but it got me thinking about other activities to do in this mining town when the skiing's just not cutting it. Or even when the skiing is awesome, yet you don't want to take to the snow that's outside your window (like when the Sundance Film Festival encroaches on Park City every late January).

A recent snowfall proved that winter has once and for all arrived in this mountain--think four feet of snow in four days--just in time for the celebs attending Sundance, but also with plenty of time to salvage the ski season. Or save winter, depending on how you look at it. Ready to hit the snow and burn calories in the process? Here are five ways you can do it in Park City:

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Spy...a Lululemon Sale

You know something has to be big when a Twitter account is created for it. That's exactly what Lululemon expected of its warehouse sale when the company created the Twitter handle @lululemonWHUS. And big is only half of it.

Lululemon's no stranger to hosting massive sales, but this is the first time that such an event is hitting the U.S. But not just anywhere, the lululemon athletica Warehouse Sale opens in Chicago on January 27 at 9 a.m. and runs until 9 p.m. on January 29. Granted it requires a trek out to Rosemont to take advantage of the slashed prices and piles of products--and either paying for parking or the El to reach the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center--but it sounds like it's worth it. As long as the discounts are more than 25 percent off--I passed up a pair of pants at Core Power Yoga because $73.50 was still too much for me to spend. And as long as it's somewhat controlled chaos. With the Facebook attendee list pushing 5,000 and counting, that's a lot of people to push through, no matter how good their pants make your butt look. But it sounds like lululemon has addressed all my fears, provided I can tolerate being patient in line. That's manageable considering the payoff of new workout gear. Hooky-worthy, too!

What's your plan of attack at the warehouse sale?

Photo grabbed from lululemon athletica at flickr.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing 1/22

Ah, Sunday. Not to be followed by fun day. You see, I'm avoiding changing into my cycling gear and entering the pain cave to sweat and pant my way through the bike workout I should have done yesterday when I opted to snowshoe instead. I'm ignoring the growing pile of laundry (I go through a lot of workout clothing in mere days!) and the to-do list I wanted to tackle. Nah, I'll save that for Monday. Instead I'm doing the usual: puttering around online. Here's what I'm reading:
  •  Kids aren't the only ones saying the "darnedest" things. Videos following the theme of "S*&t insert-group-here say" have gone viral, but I got a chuckle--and a chance to blush with embarrassment--when I read this list that applies to triathletes. How many have you heard yourself, or your friends, utter on more than one occasion?
  • Have you ever found yourself absolutely hating a yoga class? It's not the instructor or the music that's always to blame: your expectations could be stuck in the wrong style.
  • You don't have to be a mama to benefit from the Fit-Bottomed Mamas 20-minute workout. Its 12 moves will challenge even the fiercest competitor.
  • New year, new workout gear? Check out these DailyCandy picks to upgrade your collection.
  • This Chicago event could be the toughest 15-minute workout I'll do all winter. The view from the top is totally worth it, it's the getting there that scares my calves. Anyone want to join me?
  • Muscle mass might be on the down and out as we age, but exercise, triathlon especially, could be responsible for lean muscle preservation--even when you're 74. Here's to hoping my body can hold out that long.
    Any other share-worthy sites that I should check out?

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Learn Bike Fit from a Pro

    Steinmetz has helped Rinny and Crowie with their bike fit.
    What do Craig Alexander, Mirinda Carfrae and Julie Dibens have in common? Aside from being world-class triathletes with 70.3 wins under their belts, they're all connected to Mat Steinmetz. Mat who? Steinmetz might sound like a nobody when you line his name up with the likes of these A-list triathletes, but he's certainly not one to be forgotten...once you look him up like I had to (yeah, I'm clueless sometimes when it comes to who's working with who unless I revert to Google). The reason being: Steinmetz works with three-time Ironman World Champion Alexander as a training advisor, coaches Dibens, and has helped Carfrae with her bike fit through his work as a Retul bike fitter. And he's an accomplished triathlete in his own right. According to his bio, he was the 2008 USAT Age Group Long Course National Champion in the men's 25-29 age group.

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Fit-Pic: Winter's Happy Place

    I'd be lying if I said it wasn't snowing buckets outside my window right now. In fact, the weather has only grown worse as the day has worn on. Now snow might be a welcome sight for some places, namely ski country, but around these parts it just wreaks havoc. You can't drive, you don't want to leave the house, and you can't work out outside--at least not easily.

    Ah, but you can work out in the elements--and have fun doing it. I might have to take a good, long look at this picture to remind myself of that. But the minute I spy snow and skiing--whether it's of Arapahoe Basin, such as the above shot from Jan. 19, or any other spot in Colorado, Utah or the like--I think of my "happy place." Adam Sandler's version may have had a land full of greenery, a gleeful grandma, a little person riding a tricycle, and a two-handed Chubbs playing the piano, but mine is just as much about the simple pleasures. Give me snow, my skis and steeps and I'll be grinning, even when it's overcast and frigid (well, to a degree). Who's with me?                     

    Props to anyone who can guess where at Arapahoe Basin this picture was snapped. My bets are on Montezuma Bowl though that's based solely on how I remember Zuma's chairlift.

    Photo courtesy of Arapahoe Basin.      

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Hooked on the Winter Teva Mountain Games

    Skin a ridge ski mountaineering Credit: Liam Doran, Vail Resorts
    Thrill seeker? Adventure hunter? Endurance junkie? Self-described ADD athlete who can't slog through the same fitness regimen without mixing it up? Not that I'm trying to categorize anyone, including myself, but some of the events featured at the first-ever Winter Teva Mountain Games stretch far beyond my Ironman-trained mind. It's one thing to swim, bike and run all in a day's work, but it's an entirely different monster to pursue the Games' snowy sports.

    Ski mountaineering? Snow biking--and not the kind you can rent at Vail's Adventure Ridge? Climbing on an apparatus that looks far more complex than an indoor climbing wall? Ultimate Mountain Challenge that I'm construing as the Games' answer to Ironman? My legs and lungs hurt reading the descriptions alone. I might consider myself good on skis, but take them off and plop me in the snow, and I'm a disaster. Let's just say that the boot run, which could be considered one of the easier, more fun events to participate in minus the Tough Mudder-like obstacles, could render me helpless, and hurt--I'm just that clumsy.

    Yet there's something about these endurance events that make me want to overlook the clumsiness, the burning sensation that's bound to appear in several if not all of the challenges I've eyed, and the fear of finishing last, and focus on the intensity and thrill that I can only assume coincides with this inaugural event. It might be a little tough to take on the six events I shared at buzz.snow.com with my non-altitude trained legs, but I'm willing to try anyway (anyone can participate). As long as I can find a flight. I guess I better start looking...and then training.

    Photo courtesy of Winter Teva Mountain Games, taken by Liam Doran, Vail Resorts.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Make Me Some Magic Legs: CW-X Stabilyx Tights

    When running gear gets too technical, I tend to bow out. Sure I'll lust over it, but the chances of it finding its way into my closet is slim. First, and probably foremost thanks to my budget biding, the price tag scares me off. Can you blame me for passing up $90 spandex when I can find something similar for half the price? Then I question how effective said product really is. Do I truly need all those bells and whistles especially when I can dig through my drawers at home, double up on a layer or two--yes, I'm the one who completely overdressed for a 25-degree day run and was soaking wet upon my return, not from falling in the snow--and gain the same benefit? Give me a good pair of shoes and a sports bra and I’m set. I'll piece together the rest: $1 stretchy gloves, a fleece headband I've had since I was 12, the $5 fleece-lined jacket I bought so as not to ruin my favorite, more pricey number. Except after trying the CW-X Stabilyx tights, and their gift of magic legs as I like to call them, I’m eating my words in the gear department. If you can put a price on super powers, here's a case where you can't object to the price and you'd be remiss to pass up the targeted support component.

    Magic legs? Stability that starts in the core and works all the way down my calves to keep my muscles in go mode without weakening beneath my flimsy ankles and injury-prone tibias? You can’t compromise that. In November, I ran five miles at a speed I couldn’t match three months prior (when my darn injury finally let me hit the roads again). Last week, I ran intervals until my legs should have fallen off. Yet they didn’t and I’m no worse for the wear. Nope. It's like the ankle brace I'm tempted to wear when my shins ache as I pad around the house masks itself in the tights and holds everything in place when I run. Even while sitting at my desk in my tights--like when yesterday's run ran afoul and landed on the treadmill instead of the trail--I feel locked and loaded. Must be that "harnessing of the midsection" that my mind is embracing. My muscles are digging the compression even though the performance benefits might be minimal—it’s all about psychological wellbeing here, no "glowing review" to appease the peanut gallery from this wear-tester. And when the weather turns cold, I need those magic legs and the running-on-air sensation for as long as I can get--even when I feel like a stuffed sausage. Nah, I'll take the sausage casing look if it makes me faster.

    Note: a version of this appeared in a compilation at ffcheer.posterous.com.

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Fit-Pic: In Tebow We Trust

    Credit: Vail Resorts

    Truth be told, there's a shortage of snow at some of our favorite ski resorts across the country. Unless you're hitting Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee and Sun Valley, to name a few, you're stuck justifying a reason for hitting the slopes when there's not much to ski. And that's especially true when there's NFL playoff to be had and your favorite team is facing off for a playoff berth.

    Ah, but Breckenridge created a reason to ski regardless of the less than stellar conditions and the recent foot of snow--besides the obvious that regardless of the terrain conditions you're still getting in an awesome workout that hands down beats any day in the gym. In the process, Breck may be calling to a divine power for even more snow, just not Ullr, the Norse god of winter they've been celebrating all week. That lucky charm is Tim Tebow. If you've followed even an inkling of the current NFL season, you know what he's done playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos (getting them into the playoffs after a slow start to the season).

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Fit-Pic: Hello Winter!

    We've had everything from below freezing temperatures to balmy spring-like days this winter. People running in shorts along the Lakefront in December. Crowds walking and riding bikes last Friday when the temperatures soared near 60. Me actually running in January--and not on the treadmill. Trust me, this never happens. But if look out the window today, snow is falling from the sky, not just leaving a dusting like it did at New Year's but layering the ground enough to freak out drivers, delay flights and leave the bikes on the racks.

    I'm glad I'm not the owner of this bike. What a mess to dig out! But that's winter, right?

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Compression Obsession

    Sporting my CW-X Stabilyx Tights
    When you write about sports and fitness, namely running and triathlon most days, you come to hear a lot (and I mean a lot) about compression gear. In turn, you also get curious…about their effectiveness, how they work and why everyone, especially those darn Ironmaners, are wearing them.

    I’ll admit I cracked down for compression sleeves a few years ago and fell so in love with them that I’d wear them in the most unusual of places—um, like under my jeans while at a bar (in my defense, the bar is next door to my house, I had finished a half Ironman hours before and some visiting friends ushered me off my couch) and paired with flip flops and shorts while shopping at the grocery store. If you want to start up a conversation with a Trader Joe’s employee, let me tell you that’ll do it.

    But I feared the full-on compression tights. Runners and triathletes might swear by them—or buy them because it seemed like the right thing to do—yet there was something about looking like a stuffed sausage when the compression panels pulled and tugged my muscles into place that turned me off. I’ll never let that happen again. Instead I fell in love with my CW-X Stabilyx Tights, only fitting since I already cherished one of the sports bras the brand made (can I say it’s literally the only one I wear for marathons?). I’m going to chalk it up to the simple fact that the tights dispelled all of my preconceived notions--and then some.

    The Myth: Compression tights are hard to pull on and just as hard to pull off.
    The Truth: The package warned that these tights wouldn’t be easy to pull up your legs and I expected a fighting match when I wiggled into mine on Thanksgiving morning thanks to a lack of running but flood of food in the last 30 days. I was mistaken. Not hard. Not gut sucking. Not glued to my legs post-run.

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Running Gear of the Year: 11 Items to Have from 2011

    Nike's Vapor Flash glows in the dark!
    I'm the type of person who forgets to write the new year on her checks and paperwork until February. So being that it's only the first week of January, I'm still in 2011 mode, recapping the past year before moving forward into 2012. One such stop: reading old magazines. I unearthed my December copy of Runner's World and realized I never unfolded the pages to look at the gear gifts by Sarah Bowen Shea (p. 100). And then I wanted to pick out my personal favorites from the last 12 months, the running items that found their way into my closet or wish list, even if they were released long before 2011 and my woman-behind-the-times status only recently caught on. Give me some credit, I had to do it before the latest and greatest for 2012 starts to hit the shelves.

    Gear can be so subjective, one man's treasure is another man's trash, but here are the items I either craved or carried in 2011:
    1. Garmin 310XT. It's old news that this Garmin GPS watch is water-resistant enough to endure a triathlon swim, but it's other bells and whistles left my 305 in the dust. The watch vibrates at every mile of a race (so what if it's sometimes short from the satellites) or training run to tell me my pace per mile, the data uploads quickly online (my 305 data seems stuck on the device, never transferring to the computer program), the swim can produce accurate data when you put it on the right setting, which I did...once. And it's less bulky than its predecessor.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Got Epic? Go Ski Big Sky--For Free!

    Vintage Big Sky (circa Dec. 2002) with its Lone Peak
    Remember how last year around this time you were practically swimming in snow there was so much of it at many of the country's resorts that you just couldn't wait to go skiing again and again? I still remember the snow piles taller than the cars that lined the canyon road to Alta. Remember the forecast for a repeat of La Niña for this season's weather patterns? Funny how things work out. Fast forward to the 2011-2012 season and chances are you're doing a snow dance every spare moment in hopes that the fluffy white stuff starts falling--and fast--from the sky before you skip out on that ski day to hike or bike instead.

    It's easy to say that the snow is far from plentiful in some parts of the U.S., mainly favorites like California, Colorado and Utah. It's always snowing somewhere, as Warren Miller would say at the end of every one of his movies. Except this year that snow is missing a large chunk of the country. So while California, Colorado and Utah are waiting for their dumps to arrive, Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, Big Sky and Sun Valley, to name a few more northerly locales, are living it up with some of the best late December/early January skiing they've seen in years. Maybe best is stretching it, but in comparison, it's pretty darn good. Just ask the Salt Lake local we rode the lift with last Thursday--he was taking off for Jackson the following day in search of powder.

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Trendsetting Workouts for Skiers and Snowboarders

    Sweating it out at a Zumba fitness class. It's cross-training!
    Can you tell by this title that I have winter on the brain? Between skiing all last week, arriving home to a frigid Midwest and snow on the ground, and knowing that I have to deal with chill and wet for the next three months, give or take, I can't help myself. But there's a good reason for it: applying the new year's fitness trends to my outdoor pursuits.

    Here I am stuck resorting to gym and indoor workouts back in Chicago, waiting, and hoping, that I return to the mountains to ski soon. But I'm not about to go hopping on the treadmill--or dreadmill as I affectionately call it--to stay in shape between ski trips. I can't. Not only do I get bored within minutes, seconds on a really bad day, but my legs can't handle the every day pounding. And sometimes the routine, the running, the biking, the basic weight room strength training need a makeover.

    Each fall the American College of Sports Medicine releases the results of a survey of fitness professionals that predicts the top fitness trends for the year ahead. Though it's only a prediction for what's in store for fitness fanatics this year, the trends provide good ideas for how to amp up your training regimen, especially when it becomes stale. And if you need to fuel your skiing and snowboarding fire when you can't run repeats down your favorite run, you can try some of these trendy exercises to keep your body in check. Not sure what I'm talking about? See what 2012 fitness trends can be applied to fitness for skiers and snowboarders at my latest post for buzz.snow.com.

    How do you plan to stay fit in 2012? What exercises do you pursue when you can't ski or snowboard?

    Photo grabbed from Cimm at flickr.


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