Embracing Change, Part 2

The fitness community is a funny place. Lately, my social media feeds are littered with updates from people about training, upcoming events, daily “accountability” posts, etc. etc. It’s awesome and interesting to see all of the different activities happening within my friend-groups. Just two days ago, I took a stroll downtown and ran into a friend and a group of his soon-to-be teammates, armed with rucks, about to embark on a GORUCK challenge. It was a surreal experience for me; shaking hands with the cadre, watching them line up and bust out burpees, explaining to passersby what was going on– I couldn’t believe it’s been almost three years since my own GRC. But, although there was a part of me that wanted to slap a ruck on my back and run with them for 12 hours, something bigger than that clicked into place in my brain.

GORUCK Class 1500

GORUCK Class 1500

A few months ago, I wrote a post on here about how my goals were shifting. How the idea of training no longer interested me, and races were becoming something that bored rather than excited me. And for the past several months, I’ve waited for that feeling to go away. I’ve felt some guilt over it, thinking, “This is who I am. I find weird-as-shit events, and I do them cause they’re fun. What’s wrong with me?” As I watched my friend and the group of strangers in front of me get ready to have this great experience, I felt nostalgic. And with that nostalgia, I finally got it: Nothing is wrong with me — I’m evolving, and this is the next phase of my journey.

I started running competitively five years ago. I thrived on the competition, the goal, the timeline. My anxious, neurotic personality was well-suited for the rigors of training. But over the years, exercise has become a pathway toward peace for me. And in the process of mellowing out a bit (in some ways), my goals shifted– rather than obsessing about being “race-ready”, my major goal is sustaining life-long health. I care about being fit enough to enjoy my life fully. If I get invited to participate in something like hiking a giant mountain, or going surfing, I like being able to accept with enthusiasm, without worrying that I’ll be unable to physically do it. My fitness goal is to simply have every awesome life experience that I can.

Like swinging on a tree-swing in the Dominican Republic, for example!

Like swinging on a tree-swing in the Dominican Republic, for example!

What has that meant for my workouts? Funnily enough, nothing’s changed. I still push myself on my runs. I still fling kettlebells around and wake up way too early to fit in some PiYo before work. These things make me happy– that’s the motivation. Do I want to do a tri this summer? Sure! But I’m interested in it because it’ll be a shared experience with someone I love. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up doing some crazy mountain marathon at some point? All I know is that I’ve finally realized that it’s okay to grow and change. It’s okay to go rock climbing instead of going to the gym. It’s okay to do backflips in the pool and body surf in the ocean for an hour without doing an organized lap swim, too. It’s okay to explore new avenues without having a schedule and an agenda attached to them.

Ocean runs are my favorite :)

After an ocean run– my favorite scenery :)

I’ve seen this issue come up with others lately as well, so that’s why I wanted to share this. Embrace wherever you are in your journey. If you’re knee deep in a training plan– awesome! Keep doing that! If you’re super stoked on your newest P90x adventure– cool! If you’re quietly practicing asanas in your backyard each morning with no other purpose than freeing your mind–fantastic. Allow yourself to just simply be.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Embracing change.

Maybe this post doesn’t belong here, I don’t know. I started this blog four years ago for a class assignment, intending to fill it with some workout ideas and maybe a few nutrition tips for a couple of months. That’s nice, I guess. But I wish I’d known back then how much wellness starts and ends with the mind — We are a creation of our thoughts. I don’t think enough people understand the magnitude of that. So, forgive me for going off the beaten track a bit today, I’m in the mood to share it all.

Change is an interesting thing. Sometimes it’s welcome; sometimes, not. Regardless, it inevitably provides the opportunity to search within ourselves. For me, change has crashed over my life in perpetual, difficult waves throughout the past year. I’ve waded through soul-crushing grief, exacerbated by the burden of secrecy. I’ve experienced the joy of accomplishment, the hope of opportunity, and the anxiety of doubt. Empty journals that were tucked away in drawers of neglect are now bursting with emotional scrawl, documenting every painful or blissful detail. Why am I sharing this? Because I realized at some point how grateful I am for the ability to feel. Even when it’s excruciating. Because when we try to numb ourselves, or run away from our emotions, that’s when we start to treat ourselves like shit. Under-eating, over-eating, chasing addictions, drowning in work — it can take a lot of forms. Embrace your bruises and your jagged scars. Embrace your successes and growth. Wherever you are, be patient with yourself. Breathe. IMG_3935 Connecting this back around to fitness stuff: On the very first day of February, I was slated to run a 10-mile race. It was supposed to be prep for a half-marathon in April and a full marathon in May. I’d been running quite happily and consistently until a couple weeks before the race when suddenly, I lost interest in all of it. We got pummeled by blizzards, which didn’t help, but I just. did. not. want. to. do. it. Any of it. I was having so much anxiety about having to train, and I actually felt guilty for not going out in the snowstorms to run. Guilt? Seriously? What the fuck, man. No.

Clearly, we were really jazzed about this race.

Clearly, we were really jazzed about this race.

The morning of the race came, and I woke up from a night of no sleep with a fever of 101 and aches all over my body. And you know, what? I felt relieved. LB and I sat in my kitchen, clutching mugs of steaming tea and watching the sunrise over the city. Instead of running the race, we met up with my brother for brunch. I earned my first DNS (Did Not Start), and I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel upset over it. Maybe because I ran the course a couple weeks earlier, or maybe because the fever went on to ravage my body for two days afterward. I don’t know. But all I could think about was how happy I was to be warm in my favorite restaurant, in my favorite city, enjoying a meal with two people I love.

Getting sick forced me to take a rest I desperately needed, and with that came a lot of clarity. For the first time in 5 years, I ditched my race plans for the entire season. I want to deepen my pilates practice. I want to go paddleboarding every day in the summer if I feel like it. There are no rules, and that fills me with peace. Maybe I’ll race, maybe I won’t. The point is that I don’t want to plan for things anymore, I want to just take them as they come. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone else, but as a Type A person who has an obsessive need to plan everything, it’s a big change for me. Sometimes you need to give yourself space to realize what it is you really want, and what is healthy for you.

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We tried something new for LB’s birthday :) Change can be good!

Anyway, the point of this post was to encourage you to feel your feelings. Sit with them. Experience them, because sometimes the hardest things are precisely the things we need. Release the “shoulds”. Love yourself enough to be patient. Whatever it is, you’ll figure it out.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Unbiased PiYo Review!

Have you ever heard of PiYo? It’s somewhat of a pilates/yoga fusion as the name suggests, but more intense. I heard about it while I was triathlon training, and was super intrigued because:

  • A.) Y’all know how much I love pilates-type schtuff
  • B.) I was looking for something different to add to my workout schedule.

After doing it regularly for a few months, I figured it was time to post a review. ReadySetGo!

I should start by saying that the PiYo program I’m reviewing is a BeachBody product, but PiYo itself exists outside of the Beachbody realm. They definitely didn’t invent it, and you can find a bunch of YouTube videos with free workouts if you want a taste of what it’s like. I’ll also tell you that beyond having a couple of friends/acquaintances who are coaches, I’m not affiliated with the company in any way (and to be honest, some of the things they do really irritate me). So you’re getting a completely unbiased review, which can be hard to find. Hooray!

Pro #1: PiYo is fricken amazing. Love. Lovelovelovelove. I noticed a marked improvement in my triathlon/running after adding it into my routine regularly. Not only that, but just basic life things got easier. (e.g. moving all of my belongings out of my second floor apartment and up to a third floor apartment sucked slightly less than it might have otherwise).  I never had brick legs during my triathlon, I sincerely enjoyed a half marathon that was mostly uphill, and my flexibility has increased substantially (meaning less chance for injury – woohoo!). So, that’s cool.

Pro #2: The workouts range from 20-45 minutes, which is perfect for waking up the body in the morning. When I was dealing with moving, I didn’t have time to go to the gym, and I only had 30 minutes a day to get something done. This program was a life-saver. Zero equipment, zero workout-dreads (You know how sometimes you dread doing a type of workout? Ugh, that’s the worst. Do something else if you feel that way).

Pro #3: It’s intense without being intense. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s hard to explain. Basically, you’re building solid muscle and working up a sweat without breaking your body. When my training mileage gets up pretty high, I stop lifting heavy because it impedes my progress. But strength training is SO important. This allowed me to increase functional strength, without feeling like I was killing myself to do it. Know what I mean?

Con #1: We get it, Beachbody. You want to sell Shakeology. Do you really have to put a commercial before every single workout? And do you really need to have Chalene Johnson talk about it before the workout is even over? And do you really need 5 commercials after it’s done trying to sell supplements and pills and whatever else? Cut it out!! I don’t need to listen to a sales pitch when I’m sweating all over myself. Put a flyer in the box, and call it a day, ok?

Con # 2: They market this program by saying there are no jumps or impact exercises, but there are a few workouts that include burpees, and ski jumps. You can obviously modify the exercise if you don’t want to be jumping around, and they’re not in there too often, but still. Just a heads up.

General Comment: There is one token dude in each video, and I’m almost positive a crew rubs oil all over his chest in between takes.  I mean, I laughed, but it’s also incredibly unnecessary, and probably a little offensive.

Overall, I’m a huge fan. I will say that I think it could be dangerous if you’re not coming from a pilates or yoga background. The first video teaches fundamentals, but if you’re new to these movements, you might not know your form is off. Plus, timing your breathing is HUGE with pilates, and they don’t really talk about that at all. So, I’d really recommend understanding form and breath and all of that before getting into PiYo, especially because the movements do flow together fairly quickly. By the way, it looks like they raised the price by about 20 bucks since August, but you can buy the DVDs for $60, which is a steal compared to how overpriced everything else usually is that BeachBody sells.

Now, I had originally put together a short, embarrassing video to give you a taste of what you can expect with this program, but my laptop died and the video died with it. So, instead I’m giving you a link to a different PiYo workout. It’s not the same, but it at least kind of gives you an idea.

So, what do you think? Have you tried PiYo? Want more information? Leave me a comment and let’s chat! And as always, Remember to breathe.

My First Half Ironman Adventure: Part 2, RACE DAY!

In case you missed it, here’s Part 1: TRAINING!

I will be forever grateful to endurance sports for teaching me the power of positivity. You can train your body physically as much as you want, but training the mind is so much more important. I firmly believe that being kind in thoughts and actions, not just toward others, but toward ourselves is the key to happiness. I’m sharing this here because being conscious of the type of thoughts I accept and embrace has had a profound effect on my athletic endeavors (and life in general) over the past year and a half. My attitude towards racing has changed a lot since getting into triathlon. It’s the work you put in before race day that is most important. All of those quiet hours you spend at the lake, on the roads, trails, in the gym or wherever, getting to know yourself, becoming the person you want to become, strengthening your body and your mind — those are what count. Of course we all want to have a good race, but race day is just the cherry on top of the whole journey. In the week leading up to yesterday, people kept asking me how I was feeling. Honestly, I don’t know that I ever gave a coherant answer because it’s not really a feeling I could describe. After spending months of ups and downs working so hard, I just wanted to see what I could do. I wanted to be out there with all the other athletes who love the same sport. I wanted to experience the feeling of sprinting down that finisher’s chute, knowing I poured my heart into it. I’m so grateful I got to do just that.

So, details! The night before the race, I laid out all my gear on the living room floor and walked through my transition/nutrition plan. While doing so, I realized I was out of Gu — d’oh!!! Fortunately, a local sports store was still open and they had plenty. Yea, I know I should use whole foods for fuel, but shhhh. I’m lazy and I trained with Gu and Cliff Bars, ok? We all have our vices. I also discovered a few weeks ago that my wet suit was way too big, but I really didn’t feel like spending $300 to replace it, so I just went with it. It wasn’t ideal, but it ended up okay. After my usual pre-race ritual of eating pasta w/ chickpeas and watching an episode of Gilmore Girls, it was time for bed! IMG_3704

3 a.m. rolled around and I got up feeling chipper and excited. I loaded up the car, ate a slice of bread with some jelly, and double checked my lists. I had the idea to write a few positive words on my arm in sharpie, and I am SO glad that I did. If I could share one tip with everyone gearing up for a big race, it’d be to do this. I must have looked at my arm 87,000 times throughout the race, and every time I did it gave me a happy boost. I decided on one word for each discipline:

1.) Courage for the swim.

2.) Strength for the bike.

3.) Love for the run. I wanted to complete the last leg of this journey entirely with my heart. Running just means so much to me.
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I also wrote the words Dream Catcher on my arm because it’s the name of a “Set It Off” song, and I wanted it in my head. There’s a line that says, “Does it seem out of reach? Hit the ground and run with both your feet.” and I knew it would help get me through. Have I mentioned that endurance sports are riddled with ridiculous mind games? We all have our tricks.

The car ride to the venue was filled with fun songs and obviously lots of car dancing. It was still pitch black when I got there, but cars were steadily trickling in. I set up my transition area, then headed down to look at the water and breathe. Despite being nervous and excited, this was the most peaceful I have ever felt before a race. I was just SO happy to be there and even happier to feel like I deserved to be there. No matter how the day went, it had been an incredible experience getting to that start line. IMG_3706

I headed back to the transition area to put on my wetsuit and choke down a few dates before the pre-swim meeting. As I looked up, I ended up locking eyes with one of my high school boyfriends who was standing on the other side of the fence– how random! We both cocked our heads to the side at the same time, gave each other a “what?? Huh??” look, and laughed. Turns out he was there to cheer on his girlfriend who was also competing. After a quick chat, I waved him goodbye and headed down the hill to get in a quick warm up swim, and wait for the start.

As I mentioned, endurance sports are all about playing mind games with yourself. Whenever I started getting nervous, I closed my eyes and pictured people I care about. It’s a weird trick, but picturing the smiles of wonderful people in my life always helps me stay calm. Finally, it was time to start! A girl started singing the national anthem, but then she forgot the words… so all of the athletes started singing with her. (This is why I love the triathlon community.) My brother and LB ran over 5 minutes before my swim wave started, with huge smiles and giant hugs. It was such a boost getting to see them at the start line!!!

I love these people so very much.

I love these people so very much.

We all piled into the corral, heard the “GO! GO! GO!” and jumped in. Unfortunately, this course was a loop swim, so right as we were starting, all the swim waves before us were looping around in the same spot, so everything was chaos. The most important thing in open water swimming is to stay calm, but I was definitely struggling with panic for the first 5 minutes. Arms and legs were flying on all sides, you couldn’t see anything with all the splashing, seaweed was getting wrapped around our bodies, it was insane. I just told myself to keep my heart rate down and sight every two strokes until I could push past people. I swam hard and finally broke free of the crowd and was able to get up a steady rhythm. I was so incredibly impressed with the course organizers for supplying us with adequate sight buoys. I was able to swim straight the entire time because they were so well placed. Thank you, race directors!!

I remember feeling so much joy during the swim. It was the discipline I was most confident about, and I kind of didn’t want to get out. But after no time at all, we were rounding the last turn buoy and heading for shore! A quick run up the big hill to the transition area, and it was time for some quality time with my bike :) IMG_3720

The bike course was challenging, but it wasn’t really as bad as I anticipated. There were plenty of good hills, but no super, super steep climbs. I’m a mediocre biker, so it’s always the hardest part, but I ended up averaging about 16 mph, which is quite good for me. Not going to lie, the bike course was a mind-EFF because you bike 30 miles (yay!!) and then realize you have to do another loop (no!!). My quads started yelling around that point, so I knew I needed to find a way to distract myself. I’m about to enter the TMI portion of this post –sorry, not sorry! Anyone who knows me knows that I have the tiniest little bird bladder on the planet. I had to pee the ENTIRE ride (which feels terrible every time you go over a bump, by the way), which spawned a very long, humorous commentary in my head about what to do about it that kept me laughing. People probably thought I was nuts. I also forgot I put my phone in my camelbak, so of course I got two text messages in the middle of the ride. Whoops! You’re not supposed to have any electronic devices, but it’s not like I was playing music, so I think it’s ok. Mile 40 was about the time I started going crazy, so I decided to start belting out some songs (Re-reading this is making me realize that I’m the most obnoxious athlete ever.). Most notable were “White Dress” by Parachute (“IIIIIIIIII wanna looooooveee youuuuu mooooooorrreeee!”), and “Crazy About You” by Artist Vs. Poet. Honestly, when you’re biking for over 3 hours, you have to find ways to entertain yourself. I spent a lot of time just appreciating the scenery, saying hi to the horses I rode past, and genuinely feeling happy to be there. I tried to compartmentalize each discipline, and not think about running 13.1 miles after. You really just have to focus on the task at hand and know that you’ll handle each piece as it comes. IMG_3718

Finally, I crested the last hill and was ready to start the run! After racking my bike, I grabbed my other camelback, race bib, and sneakers, collected solid high fives from my bro and LB, and raced out of the chute feeling super strong and full of smiles. I was averaging a 9 min/mile pace, and I knew I needed to slow it down because it was getting really, really hot out — PLUS, I still had to pee! Finally, at mile 4, at the very top of a big hill I saw a porta-potty, and I swear it had a brilliant glow and angels singing around it. Anyway, that was the only minute during the whole thing that I wasn’t running. I had made a race plan with myself that if I was really hurting, I’d do a 3 minute run, 1 minute walk strategy, but I always hate doing stuff like that because all the lactic acid builds up in your legs and it makes everything so much harder. Fortunately, I didn’t need to! I was so surprised how strong I felt throughout this entire race. I ended up running the whole thing, and felt really good on all the hills. I also really liked the run course because since it was a loop, you were always surrounded by other athletes. There were a ton of people who were very clearly hurting and walking, so it gave me a chance to yell words of encouragement and smile or clap for them. And you know, every time I did that, they beamed giant smiles at me. I’ve never felt so inspired like that before. All these incredible athletes just pushing with everything they have to finish. It was amazing to experience. The volunteers were phenomenal too. There was a turnaround where they had set up a boombox, so naturally I started dancing and singing, and the volunteers all joined in! Love it when that happens!

Around the 5/10 mile markers they had a long line of motivating signs that kept me laughing. Stuff like, “Your butt looks fantastic!” and “You’re smart…….” *10 feet later* “……And pretty!”. I should also mention that they offered sponges soaked in ice cold water, and they were such a life saver. There was barely any shade towards the end, and lots and lots of hills, so the heat was a concern. My calves started cramping around mile 11.5, but I knew if I took another Gu and kept drinking water I would be able to stay fairly steady. Because of the heat, I didn’t bother shooting for a pace time, I just focused on keeping my heart rate down and my breathing calm. Looking at the words on my arm reminded me just how much I love this sport, and how much I truly was running every step from the heart.

Finally, I could hear the cheers of the crowd, and I could see the venue in the distance. But the last .5 miles were up a giant hill. AGH! That was the only part of the race I was frustrated with. My calves hurt and I was sooo close. But before I knew it, I was rounding the corner and sprinting down that finishers chute, hearing the announcer call my name, seeing Nicholas and LB yelling for me, and feeling that whoosh of overwheming emotion. I did it!

Finishing!

Finishing!

IMG_3707All in all, the whole day was amazing. I feel a huge amount of gratitude for my family who came to support me with hugs and love, and to my friends who tracked my race or texted me well wishes. 900 miles, 5-6 months, endless hours of training. It’s been an incredible journey.

Thanks for reading my story! It was a day I will never, ever forget. <3

P.s. If you didn’t see it, here’s Part 1, TRAINING

And as always, Remember to breathe.

My First Half Ironman Adventure: Part 1, TRAINING

1.25 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run. That’s what yesterday held and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all. Even though it lasted over 6 straight hours, I feel like the whole thing flew by so fast! It was honestly one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I’m trying to figure out how to capture the feeling of it all in words. (Note: If you don’t care about the training portion, feel free to skip to Part 2: RACE DAY). Here goes!

This whole adventure started over a year ago when the idea of doing a long-course triathlon popped into my head. I thought a lot about the kind of experience I wanted to have, and I decided I wanted a community-type atmosphere rather than an Ironman branded event, at least for my first time. So, I landed on the Pumpkinman Half Iron. I knew it was extremely well organized, had great race swag, and since my bro and LB did the sprint last year, I knew how cool the venue was (Plus, pumpkin decorations everywhere? Um, yes!). I finally signed up in December, and it’s been at the forefront of my mind ever since.

So… training? In February, I participated in a beautiful 10-mile race along the coast as an incentive to keep my running endurance up over the winter. I fully admit that I did not bike a single time from October until March, but I did keep swimming at the pool once a week after last season ended. I had about a month of pre-season training in March where I started biking on my indoor trainer, getting back into pilates, lifting, and transitioning back into a structured routine. April 1st marked the “official” start to my training plan, but really it’d been going on for a while before that.

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Dis is da best gym :)

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We spent a lot of hours together this summer.

I created my own training plan based (very, very, very loosely) on Matt Fitzgerald’s post on Triathlon.com. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I believe in structure with a lot of flexibility when it comes to training. It’s so important to listen to your body and adjust your plan based on feel. In general, if you have a bike ride planned on Wednesday, but you really just feel like swimming, go swim and adjust your schedule accordingly. There were a few times where I had speed workouts planned on the trainer or in the pool in the mornings, but I just wasn’t feeling them. So, instead, I’d drive up to the lake after work and play outside instead. It kept things fresh, and I didn’t feel like I was a slave to my training plan. As long as you get all your workouts in during the week, do what you feel like doing. Were there a lot of days where I pushed through fatigue? Of course. But that’s because I wanted to train my body and mind to be able to do so in a race situation. Yes, there are going to be days where you have to push your butt out the door when you don’t necessarily feel like it. But there’s a difference between being burned out and being lazy. It’s important to recognize the distinction.

Instead of typing out 5 months worth of workouts, I’ll just post pics of my dry-erase workout boards. I have to apologize in advance because sometimes the numbers refer to mileage, and sometimes they refer to time — I know what they mean, but it’s probably hard for anyone else to discern! If you have questions, please feel free to ask! Anyway, every week was different, but they all followed the same structure: Speed work in the middle of the week, endurance work on the weekends, bike-run bricks every other week, and a ton of pilates. The mid-week bike workouts were mostly from triathlon.com. Mid-week runs were mostly Over-Unders, intervals, or tempo runs, and mid-week swims were generally 40-60 minutes of 200 yard sprints, intervals, and drills. I made lots of time for fun activities too, like yoga classes and stand-up paddle boarding. Remember, fitness is all about balance! I should also mention that my friend introduced me to something called PiYo. Since I usually have to stop heavy weightlifting once my mileage gets above a certain point, I rely on bodyweight exercises to keep strong. I noticed huge strength/flexibility increases once I started doing this program, and I highly recommend it.

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You’ll notice that there are a few periods of time where I had several rest days in a row. I suffered a shoulder injury that took a really long time to heal (still hasn’t, actually), and I had to take a little bit of time off here and there to rest it. Also, there were A LOT of super highs and super lows throughout this training period. Triathlon can be a really lonely sport. In general, I like training alone, but sometimes taking on something so huge and spending hours upon hours upon hours with just yourself and your thoughts can be hard. I started to struggle a lot in July when it got hot and it completely stopped being fun. At one point I even “decided” I wasn’t going to go through with this race at all. I think I always knew in the back of my mind that I would bounce back, but there were two days in July where I fully intended to just walk away. I remember talking to a few people about it, and everyone was supportive of the idea of me not doing it, but I think subconsciously I wanted someone to push me. Finally, I went paddleboarding with my brother, and our conversation turned things around for me. I don’t even necessarily think it was about the words he said, because he was supportive either way, but talking to him helped me realize how much I really wanted that finish line. So, thanks, bro!

Anyway, the most important piece of this training that I want to share is that although I worked really, really hard, I also made time to have a life. Even during August when every aspect of my life got extremely busy, I still made it a point to go on dates, spend time with friends who were in town, travel, and see my family. Balance, balance, balance. Ok, time for Part 2: RACE DAY!

Have any questions about the training process, or have your own story to share? Leave me a comment! I love hearing from folks!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

 

Freelance Writing

Hi, friends! Just a quick little update to tell y’all that I’ve been a bit quiet here because I’ve been blogging for those cool folks over at One Green Planet. I talk all about plant fuel, athletics, and health stuff on the site, so feel free to check it out! http://www.onegreenplanet.org/author/jen_porto

And as always, Remember to Breathe.

Open Water Swimming Tips for Triathletes

Every time someone finds out I enjoy triathlons, they remark the same way, “Oh, that sounds like fun, but I could never do the swim.” Somehow I’m in a minority of people who love to swim, but only kinda-sorta like the bike. (Sidenote: Seriously though, why is the bike portion 56 miles, yet the swim is only one? Ugh.) Since open water swimming is a sore spot for a lot of folks, I thought I’d share some tips with y’all to help you conquer the weakness — and hey, if you love biking, please feel free to share some tips with me, please and thanks.

1.) Stay Calm: Everything in swimming comes down to three things: Form, breath, and pace. In fact, that’s true for most things in fitness. But the only way you can focus on those things is if you stay calm. That’s a lot easier to do when you’re in a pool where there are straight lines at the bottom, a lifeguard next to you, and you’re about 2 feet from an edge to grab onto at any given moment. So, when you step into the lake or the ocean, you have to keep your mind clear. Tell yourself that there is no creature from the black lagoon waiting for you at the bottom. Focus on your breathing, and count your strokes. Whenever I feel myself start to panic a bit, I clear my mind and focus on my strokes and my breath: 1-2-3-4-5 *breathe* 1-2-3-4-5 *breathe*. Swimming is extremely meditative if you let it be that way.

Swim caps make me look like an alien.

Swim caps make me look like an alien.

2.) Be Confident: Depending on where you’re swimming, the current can be a bit unpredictable. The best thing you can do is have confidence in your strength, and go with it. Anecdote time! Last summer, one of my races was an ocean swim, and I wanted to practice at the race venue. I went alone (which, incidentally, I really don’t recommend ever doing), and swam straight out into the middle of the cove. I was about 20 minutes or so from shore when the tide changed — Oh, frick! It would have been pretty easy to panic in that moment since no one knew I was swimming there, and it wasn’t a popular swimming spot. But, I’d been training all summer, so I stayed calm, and put confidence in my strength to get me back to shore safely. Basically, everything about that situation was stupid except for my strategy to get back. If you’re in a race situation, and people are bumping into you, and the waves are crashing everywhere, you just have to think strong. Trust that you deserve to be there, and power through it. It’s kind of silly, but you have to treat open water like it’s an animal that can smell fear. If you’re intimidated, it’s going to be that much harder. Be stronger than the water, so to speak. And remember, you can always doggy paddle or turn on your back if you really need to.

3.) Practice: This is probably the most obvious of all the tips you’ll ever receive in your life, but it’s still true. Open water swimming is quite a bit different than being in a pool. Yes, your form is the same, but you have to follow sight buoys, maneuver waves and people, and get comfortable with seeing a whole lot of nothing when you put your head under water. The only way to get comfortable is to do it. If you don’t live somewhere where that’s easily achievable, try to schedule a few extra days to your trip before your race so you can at least have a few practice sessions. For sighting, I found this website to be pretty helpful. If you find that you’re having a hard time, try just standing with your torso out of the water and going through the motions with your arms and your breathing, so you get used to the timing. Then try the motions with your face in the water, but with your feet touching the ground. That will help you feel more comfortable having your head under water when it’s dark. The more you practice, the better you’ll be.

Let swimming be peaceful instead of scary

Let swimming be peaceful instead of scary

Here are some links for help with proper form and a workout to help you with pace.

Is there anything else you’re curious about? Any other advice you’d like me to share? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan

Half marathons are super cool. They’re long enough that they’re a big accomplishment, but not so long that you’ll be knocked on your butt recovering for days after. I think there’s a misconception about distance running, though — people seem to think that you have to run 5-6 days a week to be ready for a half marathon, and that’s totally untrue (of course, if that’s your jam then go for it)! Since some of my friends expressed interest in tackling their first 13.1, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share the plan I created for my first half (remember that story?) It’s loosely based on Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan, but tailored to the athlete who likes variety and doesn’t want to run more than 3x a week. Everyone’s body is different, but I believe that if you can run a 5k, then this 12-week plan will be perfect for getting you across that finish line feeling strong.

First thing’s first: this training plan allows for a fair amount of variety in your activities, BUT you must understand the importance of consistency over time. What does that mean? That means, feel free to mix up your non-running days with yoga, lifting, cycling, kickboxing, or whatever else you like, but don’t overwhelm yourself and start skipping workouts. Yes, sometimes life happens and you might have to do your mid-week run on a Thursday instead of Wednesday, but in general, try not to tinker with your training schedule too much. If you find that heavy lifting sessions are zonking your legs and compromising your runs, then dial it back. Maybe schedule a second rest day in there instead. Use your intuition. And the most important rule of all: DON’T CHEAT ON YOUR LONG RUNS. The long run is where you build endurance. They increase in mileage each week, so pick a day of the week that you can consistently have time for these and stick to it. **Note: Run your long-runs at 30-90 seconds slower than race pace. Take your time.

You’ll notice that on Monday, it switches from 30-20-10 to sprints & HIIT around week 6. Feel free to keep doing 30-20-10 or any other running speed workout of your choice. That’s mostly in there because I find that switching things up a little keeps it from getting stale. But do whatever you feel works best for you. Wednesday switches back and forth between moderate runs and goal race pace runs.

Above all, be patient and trust the process. Small increases each week will get you where you want to go. Oh, and remember to have fun :)

 

Week           M                    T                   W                 TR                 F                 S            Su

1             30-20-10            Lift            3m  Run          Rest        Cross Train       4m        Pilates

2            30-20-10            Lift           3m  pace           Rest        Cross Train       5m        Pilates

3            30-20-10           Lift            3m  Run            Rest       Cross  Train       6m        Pilates

4           30-20-10            Lift            3m  pace           Rest       Cross Train        7m         Pilates

5          30-20-10             Lift            3m  Run           Rest       Cross Train        8m         Pilates

6     Sprints & HIIT        Lift           4m  Run            Rest        Cross Train      5k Race    Pilates

7    Sprints & HIIT         Lift           4m  Run            Rest         Cross Train        9m          Pilates

8     Sprints & HIIT       Lift           4m  pace            Rest          Cross Train      10m        Pilates

9     Sprints & HIIT       Lift           5m  Run             Rest          Cross Train      11m        Pilates

10    30-20-10               Lift           5m  Run              Rest          Cross Train    10k Race  Pilates

11     30-20-10               Lift           5m  pace            Rest         Cross Train      12m        Pilates

1 2    3m & Core           Rest           2m  Run             1m             Pilates            Rest         RACE!

 

All of the training schedules I’ve created over the past couple of years have used the same basic principles outlined in this training plan: Speed work, pace work, long/ slow distance to build endurance, strength training, and stretch/rest days, so I hope it can help you prepare for your own endeavors. Now, pick a race and get going!

Got questions? Did I miss something? Are you digging this plan? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not a certified coach. Workouts I post on this site are what work for me and my body, and you should use your own judgment about attempting them. Consult your healthcare professional before starting a new diet or exercise regimen. 

Bike-Run Brick Workout!

Triathlon season makes me the happiest kid on the planet. Especially right now because I get to wake up with the sun, and the weather is still reasonably cool. Ahhh, the best! Long workouts are tougher as the weather becomes more hot and humid, so I’m soaking up as much of this month as I can. Today’s session was so much fun, I couldn’t not share it with you all. If you’re looking for something different to spice things up, or if you’re a triathlete and want to work on your bricks, hopefully you’ll enjoy this as much as I did!

Bricks are workouts that combine two or more athletic disciplines. In this case, biking and running. They are especially important for triathletes because it helps the body become accustomed to the bike-run transition so you can avoid running on legs that feel like lead. Even if you’re not a triathlete, bricks are advantageous; they help you strengthen different muscles in the same workout and allow your body to adjust to different types of demands. Plus, they’re fun :)

For this, I set up my bike on my indoor trainer and ran hard outside, but do whatever is most convenient for you!

Total time: 60 minutes(ish)

Warmup: Bike 5 minutes easy

Main Set:

-Bike 10 minutes hard effort

-Run 1 mile

-Bike 5 minutes easy, 5 minutes hard effort

– Run 1 mile

-Bike 5 minutes easy, 5 minutes hard effort

-Run 1 mile

Cool Down: Bike 5 minutes easy

Feel free to play around with this to fit your fitness level and goals. For example, you could:

1.) Include three 30-second sprints in each mile run

2.) Run the first mile easy, second mile moderate, third mile hard effort

3.) Add 15-second pickups at the end of each minute on the bike portions

4.) Alternate biking hard with biking easy every minute for 10 minutes

5.) Do two rounds of bike-run, rather than three

There are endless ways to customize this to fit your needs. Have fun, work hard, and try something new :)

Triathlon transition area -- everyone was out on their bikes!

Triathlon transition area — everyone was out on their bikes!

Did you try this brick workout? Leave a comment and let me know how it went!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a certified coach. Workouts I post on this site are what work for me and my body, and you should use your own judgment about attempting them. Consult your healthcare professional before starting a new diet or exercise regimen. 

 

Pilates Fun!

Happy spring, friends! It’s a little ridiculous that I’ve had this blog for 3.5 years and I’ve never once featured the amazingness of pilates, so today, I’m correcting that. Ready to change your life? Cool, let’s go!

Picture 5

Pilates is hands down one of the most incredibly beneficial forms of exercise you can do. It stretches while strengthening your muscles, helps improve your balance and posture, teaches you to use your breath to ease through movements, and helps you build strong core muscles, which are SO important for everything single activity you do. As if that’s not enough, it’s an energizing workout. You should leave a pilates class feeling calm and ready to take on the day, rather than exhausted like some other types of exercises. It’s especially perfect for people who are new to the fitness world because it teaches essential movements, without being overwhelming. Plus, you can do it from the comfort of your own home, which is great if you’re not quite ready to venture into a gym. And by the way, don’t think it’s just for women. I see a lot of men in my classes, and they always do great. Health welcomes all ages and genders :)

In my own life, pilates is the foundation for everything I do. It’s the reason I am able to be a distance runner. It’s the reason I could comfortably swim on day 1 of training last year, despite never swimming competitively in my life. It helps me retain proper form and timing when I lift weights. And when I first became interested in fitness, pilates is what helped me become strong and confident enough to venture into other forms of exercise.

Teaser is everyone's fav.

A blurry version of Teaser :)

In any type of workout routine, stretch/strength days are truly important to include. If you’re like me and you have a hard time being patient enough for yoga, this is a great alternative (Although, I recently took an Iyengar yoga class with LB that was amazing, so maybe there’s hope yet!).

So, of course I’m going to provide some YouTube recommendations so you can start your pilates journey right away, but first I think it’s important to state a few key points:

1.) Breath and proper form are the most important things in pilates. Exhaling through a movement can make everything instantly easier. Adjusting your body 1 inch during another movement can make everything instantly harder. This is why I really recommend going to a pilates studio at least once if you’re a beginner so a certified instructor can help show you the proper way to perform the exercises. If you can’t do that, try and find a YouTube video that offers modifications for moves, or provides breathing instructions for each movement.

2.) Be patient. Like anything, it takes time to become comfortable, especially if you’re new to it. If you can’t do something with proper posture, modify the exercise. For example, if you’re unable to balance in a High V pose at first, you can bend your knees to 90 degrees and keep them at chest height. Do what you can and leave the rest. The great thing about pilates is that you can reap benefits no matter what your ability level is.

3.) Keep your core engaged at all times! Don’t let your stomach just be chillin’. It’s a workout, remember? Keep it tight and strong.

Ready to try it out? Choose one of the videos below based on your ability level:

Beginner: 

I LOVE Ellen Barrett! This video is perfect for beginners because she offers modifications, and gives you breathing cues. Even if you’re not a beginner, I recommend it. This is actually the very first pilates video I ever did and I still incorporate it into my routine every once in a while before a big race, or if I’m in the mood for an oldie-but-a-goodie.

Beginner/Intermediate:

Aside from the weird green unitards, this video is great because it includes a lot of very standard pilates moves. Plus, it’s only 20 minutes. If you’re just starting out, this video can help you become familiar with a lot of traditional exercises.

Intermediate:

No, really, I love Ellen Barrett. Haha. How cool is ballet pilates?! I sent this to a friend of mine who just started getting into pilates, and she told me that this video was challenging, so I’m rating it as intermediate. I work this into my routine about once/week, and it’s been great for maintaining calf strength. Let me know what you think!

Intermediate/Advanced:

This video is great because it’s broken up into 10 minute segments based on body part. I like to do this if I’m in a rush and want to focus on one area. I wouldn’t call it crazy advanced, but some of the moves can be challenging.

Advanced:

Full disclosure, this one is nuts. Enjoy.

 

If you try any of these, please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you think! How has pilates played a role in your life? Do you have any questions or want more recommendations? Let me know, I love hearing from you all!

And as always, Remember to Breathe.

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