Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Run of 2012

Maybe you ran today. Maybe you ran last week before all the holiday hoopla. Maybe you haven't laced up those running shoes since the cold air came in or since you ran that fall marathon (that's usually when I toss my shoes in the closet and let them collect dust until March). Maybe 2012 wasn't your year to run and you can't wait to get a jump start on 2013. Or maybe you're making that 2013 commitment at tomorrow's New Year's Day 5K or Commitment Day Run. Whatever the case, where was your last run of 2012?

Mine was two days ago. I ran to the post office and back, which can be quite enjoyable when you have the view pictured above and not the stop-and-go I'd get back home in Chicago (thanks crosswalks). And it can also be quite challenging. I'm currently in Colorado, trading my running legs for my skiing ones, where the elevation makes even a 3-mile easy run hurt, mostly in the lungs, and where running layers are thrown out of whack--26 degrees and I'm sweating in my fleece-lined gear. Yeah, I know I should be piling on my running layers and lacing up my shoes one final time today to get in a few last miles before 2012 comes to a close--you know, to make up for all the miles I couldn't run in 2011. But the closest I'm going to get is an indoor workout today followed by tomorrow's Commitment Day 5K--my first run of the new year and my first January 1 run ever. At least I'm starting 2013 on a running foot.

In my defense, I'm usually skiing--family tradition puts me in Utah, skiing at Alta's torchlight parade every New Year's Eve. This year, I may not have made it to Alta, but Colorado's just as good when it comes to hitting the slopes (unless all the storms land in Utah and they've dried up by the time they pass over Colorado). I skied yesterday to the point of extreme quad burn and my 5K "recovery" will be another ski day.

OK, your turn. Where was your last run of 2012? Where will you be running in 2013?

Note: A version of this post also appeared at

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Best Fitness Gift to Give or Get

The person who has everything. The one who's hard to shop for. The gifter who hasn't had time to shop. The giver who can't decide on a gift. Whether it's on the giving end or the receiving one, we've all been there before. But there is a solution to those gifting problems, at least if you're shopping for the health and wellness-focused individuals on your list.

Enter KLUTCHclub, the monthly subscription service that specializes in fitness, health and wellness. For roughly $17 per month ($25 when you add shipping costs), KLUTCHclub members receive a hand-picked, themed box full of holistic health, fitness and wellness products. The box itself is full of items valued at $50 or more. It's a simple way to learn about new brands and products that fit the healthy lifestyle (or can encourage one to jump on the healthy train), and receive exclusive deals and offers from companies that share those values.

For anyone looking for a last-minute gift--and you're not ready to resort to a rush order from your favorite online retailer just yet--it's a no brainer to go with a KLUTCHclub box. You're getting more than what you're paying for, you can send it directly to the recipient, and you've giving what sounds like an awesome assortment of goodies with different boxes of treats for men and women. And you can choose from a selection of box options, from the yearly subscription with one box per month to the 'best of' box that's full of the club's favorite items.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to Survive the Holidays...Without Packing on the Pounds

Holiday parties, social obligations, family dinners, nights out on the town. It's tough to squeeze these events into our already hectic lives. If there's one thing that gets the short end of the stick this time of year, it's not the parties but the workouts. Who wouldn't prefer to catch some extra zzz's especially after a late night out, avoid a dark walk to the gym, or grab some down time where you can just veg?

I know I'm guilty as charged. I've done all three this season. Skipped a morning workout (and that was minus the late night out) at least once by ignoring my alarm--or failing to set it. Skipped the dark walk to the gym after a long day in front of the computer (even though I really could have used the sweat session to help me think). And skipped--more like delayed--the workout until the last hour possible to watch hours of Christmas movies, lay on the couch and periodically doze off.

Turns out I should have read these tips from Lis Settimi and Catherine James, the co-owners of The Bar Method Chicago, the popular workout that merges the fat burning of interval training with the muscle shaping of isometrics and the elongating of dance conditioning, before Thanksgiving when my routine went haywire. The duo not only knows how to teach the routine that promises lean thighs, a lifted seat, flat abs and sculpted arms, but they also know how to keep you moving through the holidays and into the New Year. And as The Bar Method celebrates its fifth anniversary in Chicago in January 2013, here are their five suggestions to avoid feeling like a slug come mid-January.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fit-Pic: The Christmas Chariot

Two days ago I practically chased this bike down the sidewalk (here's the link to that awful picture). Tonight the Christmas caroling pedicab was parked outside the Lincoln Park Zoo, waiting to transport people to and from Zoo Lights. It was worth returning to Zoo Lights (I fled the crowds Friday night) just to see this bike again.

Its driver didn't want to be photographed but he was more than happy to point out all of his bike's bells and whistles. Literally. I think he counted 11 different bells--and one very loud blow horn--that he and his passengers could ring. The Christmas tunes blasted from the stereo system in his wreath-adorned bike basket, and his outfit could have easily walked off the stage production of A Christmas Carol--top hat, sprig of holly and all). And he told me I'd have to take a ride. Next time...though I'd beg to pedal it before sitting as a passenger.

Have you seen this pedi-cab pedaling around town?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fit-Pic: The Jolliest of the Jingle Bell Runners

I'm not into running in costume. I have a hard enough time choosing a basic outfit especially when I'm running in colder weather. But I have to hand it to these two Jingle Bell Run participants who got into the holiday spirit.

Many of us were buried under windbreakers and rain gear, yet not them. Same goes for the guys wearing their fleece one-piece jammies. If I had been handing out candy canes to the top finishers, they would have taken them all.

And can I just say I really want her socks? Nothing against the striped ones I wore a few weeks ago at the Ugly Christmas Sweater Run (and because of warm weather and lack of ugly Christmas sweater, the extent of my holiday attire), but the faux fur cuffs make these better. Time to make a Target run--the guy in front of me at gear check said that's where he got his.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Pedaling: A Cool Christmas Ride

To the cyclist who decked out his pedi-cab in full-on holiday decor: You are awesome. The picture to the left doesn't do his transportation justice (it's my fault for leaving my camera memory card at home, leaving me to quickly catch him pedaling by...with my iPhone). And it certainly doesn't caption the full-on Christmas vibe when you see it pedaling toward you.

The bike: It glowed with Christmas lights woven through the spokes and around its basket, which had some greenery--garland or wreath, I didn't get a good look--on it.
The cyclist: Talk about the playing the part. Was this guy really supposed to be shuttling Chicagoans to and from Zoo Lights or did he belong on the stage at the Goodman Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol? His top hat and overcoat looked like they walked off a page of the Charles Dickens classic--or maybe I was staring at Ebenezer Scrooge...before he saw his past, present and future in his nightgown.
The passengers: As Christmas carols boomed from a stereo on the bike, its passengers rang bells to match the tunes.

While I'd prefer to walk from the Lincoln Park Zoo entrance to my next destination--whether it be my car, however far away it was parked, or a nearby restaurant--I'd suck up the calories to ride in that festive transport. It's too amazing not to, and it'd be my escape route from a crowded zoo scene (if you don't have kids, don't go to Zoo Lights on a Friday night when it's not snowing and it's not frigid--it's total insanity). Anything to get into the holiday spirit?

Hey Chicago: have you gone to Zoo Lights and spotted this bike transport? Are we missing any of the holiday details? We're on a mission to find this pedi-cab again--and get a better picture.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Top 5 Gifts for Techie Athletes

Athletes like data, most of them, most of the time, anyway. Runners have their pace watches, beeping near the mile markers. Triathletes have their bike computers and power meters. Fitness fans have their heart rate monitors and calorie calculators. Those might be generalizations for who uses what, but we all know we track our data either religiously (with charts, logs and analyses) or periodically (when a race tells you your splits). We use data trackers and gadgets to power our workouts--working out harder, running faster and farther, hitting what once seemed like an unattainable goal. 

The problem is that sometimes we don't like to buy these gadgets for ourselves. Or after we've paid for the races, maintenance, training facilities, shoe updates and apparel, we're not left with much money to spend on these training tools. That's my excuse--and I wouldn't even call myself that techie (based on the fact that I have yet to buy a tablet, attempt to read a book on a Kindle/Nook, or update from phone to an operating system that would run all the apps I want to use). 

But maybe you know someone who's into fitness yet not into technology (and doesn't know the first place to start unless you gift her a device). Or maybe you know someone into technology but needs some fitness motivation to get up off the couch. Or maybe you're simply stumped on what to gift your fit friends. Keep reading as Fit-Ink shares some of the favorites we've uncovered this year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Have a Fit 12/12/12

Everyone wanted to get married on 7/7/07. The Games of the XXIX Olympiad opened in Beijing on 8/8/08, a special day in the Chinese calendar. Digitally remastered versions of all the Beatles studio albums were released on 9/9/09; beyond that I couldn't think of anything significant about the date. We could run marathons and other races on 10/10/10, probably the coolest day to participate in an endurance event. A horror film bearing the name 11/11/11 was released on that auspicious date.

So what's 12/12/12 going to bring? As far as I can tell, it's shaping up to be a very fit-minded day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Run Run Rudolph

Elves. Santa Claus and his sleigh. Reindeer. The only thing missing from Sunday's Rudolph Ramble was the Christmas tree. Or maybe I just missed it, which wouldn't surprise me. Do I really not remember anything but foam antlers, which I have stashed in a bin of Christmas decorations, and snow from the last time I ran the Rudolph Ramble?

Snow must have scared me from becoming a regular Rudolph Rambler--that whole December, snow, cold weather bit. Judging from Sunday, it certainly couldn't have been the race atmosphere, which was fun and festive. I learned after the fact that Santa, his reindeer and the elves were new this year, but a lot can change when you don't run a race in nine years.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Power Nap: We Need One This Time of Year

Catch some mid-day zzz's at Equinox's PowerNap. Credit
Holiday shopping. Parties and gatherings eating into our free time. End-of-the-year projects. December's holiday season might be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also the busiest.

One way to combat all that stress: a power nap. Research shows that those short, mid-day sleep sessions make you more alert, reduce stress and improve cognitive function. But try drifting to sleep for 20 minutes, the typical length of a power nap, at the office and you're bound to run into some issues.

What you need is a class that Equinox created specially for December's hustle and bustle: PowerNap. Offered on Tuesdays from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. at Equinox's Loop location throughout the month, PowerNap guarantees a revitalizing workout. Class starts with yoga flow and finishes with a restorative 20-minute meditation session designed to put your body into a deep-slumber state. During class, a wearable mp3 player called the Playbutton is powered with music by Brain Sync, technology that pairs meditation techniques with harmonically layered brainwave frequencies in soothing music. The idea is to activate your brainwaves through meditation and music, with delta waves helping you drift into a quality nap. You'll wake up refreshed, more patient, more efficient and ready to tackle that project that you desperately need to finish.

And you don't have to worry about getting caught snoozing on the job or at the punch bowl.

Photo grabbed from Martin Cathrae at flickr.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Top 10 Workout Songs for December

What tunes are you sweating to? Credit: stefan.eissing
Like the song goes, December is the most wonderful time of the year. Holiday parties and decorations, gift giving, jingling bells, and plenty of good cheer. But here's another reason I'm loving this month--and it has nothing to do with Christmas traditions and celebrations. It's Run Hundred's top 10 workout songs for the month that have me smitten. The site, which happens to be the web's most popular music blog, polls its readers to find out their favorite workout songs to compile a top 10 list, perfect for keeping the motivation going during the busiest time of the year.

The list is eclectic. It has some of my personal favorites (so what if I've only blasted them on the run and haven't tried them at the gym yet?). It has some beats that are perfect for pumping up the adrenaline. And it's easily my highest ranked list of 2012.

So what are we so excited to download and listen to in December? Here's the full list, according to votes placed at Run Hundred.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Crowie's Coming to Town

Crowie and a fan at the July 2012 Runners High 'n Tri event
What do you do when you hear that an Ironman world champion will be in town? You drop everything, including the day's workouts, to attend.

That's what I did in July--and two years ago--when Runners High 'n Tri hosted Craig Alexander and Dave Scott (two Ironman champions in one room, can you blame me?) at what has seemingly become a summer ritual of sorts. Crowie races Racine, Crowie talks to triathletes in Arlington Heights.

But next Tuesday, no one needs to drop everything to drive out--or train it--to Arlington Heights to meet the three-time Ironman world champion (five-time if you include his wins at the 70.3 distance). Sure, it's nice to get out of the city every once in a while (and Runners High 'n Tri always puts on a great event), except for when said location involves driving on 90/94 at rush hour. And you decide to attend said event at the last minute, didn't do your workout for the day (that whole I'll get it done after work backfired), and technically should still be cranking in front of the computer. It's just that this time, on December 11, Craig Alexander is coming to the Core Power offices, which are located in Chicago's West Loop at 1001 W. Adams.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fit-Pic: Take a Hike

What do you do when it's 60-plus degrees and sunny in December? The obvious answer: Get outside and take advantage of it. Even if that means hiking alone because your partner-in-fitness-crime has to work.

I wasn't the only one hiking today. With vistas like the above, can you blame me? The gym parking lot wasn't nearly as packed as it had been a week ago, but the open spaces' lots were nearly full. I think we all wanted to hike, bike, mountain bike, climb, bask in the sunlight, you name it. Hey, it beats burning calories indoors on the elliptical, unless there's a really good round holiday movies playing. But really, how many times can you watch Christmas VacationElf and Home Alone? I'd still take my frozen fingers, the thoughts I had on the Contemplative Trail (still trying to remember them though), and the outdoor exploration.

How were you active today?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fit-Pic: Skier Spotting

Look who we spotted at the 2012 Audi Birds of Prey World Cup at Beaver Creek. He's a bit unrecognizable sporting his Movember mustache, but that dapper fellow is none other than Ted Ligety, 2006 Olympic gold medalist in the combined (slalom and downhill) and three-time giant slalom World Cup champion. Basically, he's one fast skier--and the favorite to win Sunday's giant slalom race as a fellow fan told me on the bus ride back to the Beaver Creek base.

Considering it took me for-ev-er to drive to Beaver Creek (a later-than-planned start, super slow drivers,  and overestimating the length of the downhill event), catching Ligety signing autographs and taking pictures in the finish line area completely made up for the action I didn't catch. I missed hiking up to the pumphouse to watch--and feel because they're skiing so fast--the racers whiz by. I missed Aksel Lund Svindal's second place run. I missed Ligety's run--though that might be for the best considering his GS strength and his 31st place finish today (granted he'd still make the super scary top section look easy, like Jonny Moseley on moguls, while I have to timidly ski across the mountain, making some of my most cautious and slowest turns to avoid slipping and skidding on the ice). I missed the rest Team USA's runs--minus Bode, who ruled this downhill last year but has an uncertain ski season ahead.

But hey, when you spot a skier, a World Cup skier who you recognize right away, hanging at the finish line--and most of the crowd is heading down the mountain instead of hanging out--you have to stop and say hello. Or clam up and not know what to say beyond, "Thank you!" A "good luck" or an "it's awesome to watch you race" probably would have been better conversation starters.


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