Active Dates

The way I see it, working out with one’s significant other accomplishes two tasks at once:  1. strengthening the relationship and 2. staying physically fit.  You get all the benefits of exercise–lower risk of heart disease, better mood, lower stress, better sleep, etc.–plus the added benefit of spending quality time with the person you love and knowing they are reaping those benefits too.  While we certainly do not work out together every day (Andrew does not share my passion for running,) we try to squeeze a few “active dates” into our weekly routine.

Yesterday afternoon we pulled the bikes out of the garage for the first ride of 2013 (with the exception of riding my bike to the start of the 10k last weekend, but that was for transportation purposes.)  There is a great park a few miles from our house, so we biked there, cutting through neighborhoods to avoid the main roads.  This particular park has a paved path as well as some dirt and root filled trails on which to ride–it’s a pick-your-own adventure park. 🙂  We opted mostly for the trails.

 biking2 biking


In some places the trail was so narrow and had so many roots that it was less of a ride and more of a “keep your hands on the brakes and your butt off the seat” controlled downhill. 🙂  To add to the adventure, it’s inchworm week!  Okay, I don’t think “inchworm week” is a thing, but right now there are tons of those little green guys hanging from trees.  As we rode through the park we’d have to lean one way or the other to avoid running into them, and we stopped periodically to pick them off ourselves.  Hah!  (And just in case you were wondering, our wedding occurred during inchworm week last year.  As my grandmother often reminds me, “It was a lovely day… even with all those green worms everywhere.”  Thanks, Grandma 😉 )

In just a couple of hours of biking yesterday, we accomplished great things for our hearts, marriage, and general well-being, which may not have occurred if we’d chosen to sit on the couch watching TV all afternoon.

Here are some other ideas for active dates that can easily be incorporated into your week (especially now that it’s warm outside!):

      -Taking a walk after dinner

      -Hiking on a Saturday

      -Throwing a frisbee in the yard

      -Kayaking

      -Taking a yoga class

      -Playing tennis

      -Swimming in the river/lake/ocean (whatever is nearby)

      -Rock climbing

      -Exploring downtown

So many great possibilities!  Whatever you like to do, just get out there and move with your sweet thang 🙂

Do you have any active dates planned for this week?  

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Race Week Workouts + Thoughts on Yoga

Tomorrow is race day–time to see if all my training has been enough.  To be honest, I am not feeling entirely confident I can achieve my goal of breaking 50 minutes for the 10k.  I know I put in some great training runs, but I started a little late, and my legs have felt achy in the last week.  I’m going to do my best to push the doubts out of mind and just go for it tomorrow!  I can break 50 minutes.  I can break 50 minutes…

The week leading up to a race is tricky in terms of workouts.  I try to strike a balance between working out enough that I don’t lose any physical fitness, and resting enough that I don’t wear myself out before the race.  Here’s what my week looked like in terms of workouts:

Sunday: Rest

Monday: Run- 30 minutes, easy

Tuesday: Weeding the yard (Don’t even try to tell me that’s not a workout.  It’s like doing squats for two hours [we had a lot of weeds ;-)] )

Wednesday AM: Run-30 minutes, easy

Wednesday PM: Yoga- 60 minutes (more on this later)

Thursday: Walk-30 minutes

Friday: Rest

In the few days leading up to a race, I’m pretty sure resting is more beneficial than any workout!

About that yoga.  Andrew and I have started taking a class at our gym on Wednesday nights (we’ve been about five times so far.)  Prior to this, I’d taken a few yoga classes here and there but always preferred a good 30-minute run to an hour of thinking about breathing and trying not to laugh.  A few years ago, in an attempt to be proactive about relaxing and controlling stress, I bought a yoga DVD.  I did it a few times in my living room, but I’d always fast forward through the 5-minute “warm-up,” which consisted of lying on my back, breathing, and thinking, “I don’t have time for this…”  In retrospect, I think I may have been missing the point. 😉

Recently we decided to give it another shot (Andrew had never been to a class or fast forwarded through a DVD.)  After a few weeks of consistent yoga, it turns out we really enjoy it!  That doesn’t mean we are good at it (we are not,) but we do find it rewarding, and it actually is a very good workout.

While we are becoming more comfortable with yoga, we still have a long way to go–I know; it’s not really a destination, but we’re definitely newbies.  Inevitably during each class there is at least one situation that makes us giggle.  It usually happens when the teacher gives an instruction that, whatever she meant to say, arrives at my ear sounding like this:  “Lifting your right leg to the side, wrap your left arm around your ankle twice, right arm on blue, left foot green, and lean back.  Breathe.”  😉

Without fail there is also always some instruction given for which I think, “I must have missed something;  it’s impossible to look at the ceiling from my current position.”  I come out of the position to look at the instructor and discover that, yes, yes it is possible to look at the ceiling from that position.

Additionally, Andrew and I are potentially the two least flexible people on the planet.  This week in class we did a lot more stretching/flexibility positions than usual, and it was painful–not so much physically, but painful how bad I was! (I know, that’s not really what yoga is about.)  At one point she instructed us to sit with our legs in a wide straddle and lean to the right.  I thought, “Lean to the right?  Or lean over my right leg?  For you it’s the same thing, but for me the two are very different.  I have like a 90-degree angle going on…”  I was thankful that most people in the class could bend over and touch their faces to the floor so they couldn’t see me essentially sitting up straight. 😀

The verdict:  We are sticking with it.  At the very least, it is a great means to improve our poor flexibility!

With that I am off to rest…well, not workout, anyway.  I am going to the race expo this afternoon with my friend Gabe to pick up our numbers and race packets (and get free samples!  Gotta love race expos :-D)

Anyone else racing this weekend?

Elliptical Climb Workout

I am not the type of person who can step onto a piece of cardio equipment at the gym and pedal mindlessly for an hour… Or even half an hour… Or 15 minutes.  If I am not engaged in the workout and frequently pressing buttons to change the speed, level, etc., I become very bored.  Here’s a workout I did yesterday on an Elliptical.  It’s more complicated to explain than it is to actually do, so I created a graph (time on the bottom axis, level going up the side) :

Elliptical Graph

 

Basically I warmed up on levels 5-9, then at the 10-minute mark I moved to a level 10.  At 15 minutes I started the climb–each minute I’d alternate increasing the level by 2, then decreasing by 1, until I reached level 15.  At that point, I began the descent–decreasing the level by 2, then increasing by 1 until I reached level 10.  At the 30 minute mark I completed a few intervals–1 minute at level 15 followed by 1 minute at level 10.  From 35-40 minutes I decreased the levels to cool down.

It was a tough workout, but it kept me engaged and not (as) bored.  As was the case with this elliptical workout, the levels here are relative;  the peak of my climb might be your warm-up level, so make sure to adjust so that the workout is challenging for you!

Hopefully, if you are like me in terms of cardio equipment boredom, this workout will help ease some of that boredom. 🙂

Treadmill Tempo Run

Yesterday I finally registered for the Monument Avenue 10k–one of the largest 10k’s in the country with over 40,000 participants, and an especially great race in a city known for doing races very well.  On April 13, a large majority of Richmonders will be running, walking, or spectating.

While I only registered yesterday, I have officially been training for a couple of weeks, and have assumed I’d run the race since last year…and the year before.  For someone who loves running, this is not a race to miss.

Four years ago, I surprised myself by finishing this 10k in 50:03.  I had no idea I could run that fast and gained a new running confidence as a result.  The next year I did not run the race.  In fact, I only ran at all three times in the period of about six months, but that’s another story–one that involves a scarring 20-mile run with 25 mph wind and bad directions.  I digress.  The following year (two years ago,) I made a comeback and finished the race in 50:28.

Last year, having been so close to running sub-50 minutes in the previous years, I trained hard.  When race day arrived, I was ready.  My legs felt good, and I was completely confident that I’d see  49:__ when I crossed the finish line.  I ran my the first four miles at approximately a 7:55 mile pace, which  would put me well under 50 minutes at the finish.  Then, just after passing the marker for mile 4, I felt a sharp pain in my side.  I slowed down to allow the cramp to work itself out, but it only worsened.  I walked.  I stretched and took deep breaths.  When the pain subsided a bit, I began running again, knowing I’d banked enough time to still achieve my goal.  Unfortunately, the pain kept returning (and it was not a pain I could push through.)  Severely disappointed (and a little embarrassed), I walked/jogged/hobbled the last 2.2 miles of the race, finishing in 55:03.  

This year I want so badly to break the 50-minute mark, and I am kicking myself for only beginning training a month before the race.  (I do run regularly, so I am not starting from scratch, but still…) Believe it or not, the purpose of this post was not to give a four year race recap, but talk about a specific training run 😉

The Tempo Run

The short: running at a tough, but manageable pace for 2+ miles, to train your body to maintain speed at longer distances.

The long: Eh, just read this article.

Tempo runs are a great tool for getting faster, which is exactly what I want to do, so I have been incorporating them into my 10k training.  Here’s what I did last week:

Treadmill Tempo

Hopefully I will be able to run the tempo miles faster in time, but this is where I am at the moment!

Anyone else running the Monument Ave 10k?  Do you have a goal time?

Happy running!

Elliptical Interval Workout

It’s 8:15 p.m., and you’re at home.  The gym closes at 9.  You’re still planning to honor your commitment to squeeze in a workout before going to bed.  By the time you arrive at the gym you will have no more than 25 minutes to workout.  What do you do?

High intensity interval training.

HIIT is essentially a workout in which you alternate bursts of intense activity with periods of less intense activity.  The benefit?  Greater fitness in less time.  Perfect for such a night as described above.

That was last night for Andrew and me.  Here’s the workout I did on the Elliptical machine:

elliptical workout

Now, I should note that the levels are all relative.  While level 16 for me means I am working nearly as hard as I can and my heart rate is way up, that was Andrew’s warm-up level.  He literally weighs 100 lb more that I do, and gravity helps move those pedals!  Because it can vary so much person-to-person, focus more on how you feel than the number on the machine.  You should be breathing heavily on your sprints and feeling your heart rate come back down on the “easy”s.

ellipticalI have no idea what the 24.2 speed means.  I wasn’t going 24.2 anything.

post workout

Thumbs up for a good interval workout and a sweaty face.

Now, gather your belongings from the locker room, and walk out the door at 8:59 p.m. to avoid receiving the stink eye from any and all gym employees.

A Week in Workouts

Each week I have a general idea of what and when my workouts will be;  I make a plan, but it’s a very flexible plan.  This is what I typically aim for:

Monday: Run (30-45 minutes)

Tuesday: Weights (30 minutes) + Walk (30 minutes)

Wednesday: Run (30 minutes, speed work)

Thursday: Weights (30 minutes) + Walk (30 minutes)

Friday: Long run

I can usually count on doing something active with Andrew Saturday or Sunday–hiking, taking a walk, biking, tennis, yard work, etc.– so I don’t plan a workout.  If we end up doing nothing, that’s okay too.

What actually ends up happening most weeks?  One of the runs turns into a walk because I’m tired, I hit the snooze button and only have time for weights on Thursday, my “long run” becomes a “not-so-long” run, etc.  And again, that is okay.  I think it’s important to have a plan, but also to allow yourself some grace.  Discipline is great, but rigidity?  Not so much.

I mentioned in my last post that we recently joined a gym.  At first I was hesitant– if you can stay in great shape without paying for a gym membership each month, why would you pay?  About a year ago I remember thinking, “If I never step on another Elliptical, that will be just fine.”  However, so far we have thoroughly enjoyed our gym.  While you certainly don’t need a gym to stay fit, it helps ward off boredom and eliminate the “it’s too cold outside” excuse to not exercise.

The gym has also changed my weekly workout plan.  Here’s what this week looked like for me, in workouts:

Sunday: Elliptical trainer (35 minutes, with Andrew)

Monday: Yard work/hauling wood (youth group service project)

Elder Homes   556043_10151318630033553_998197572_n

Tuesday: Walk (60 minutes, with my friend Kate)

(We walked to Maymont and got to see the goats… I. Love. Goats.  I ask Andrew at least once a month if we can get one.  So far he’s only been opposed to the idea.)

goat

Wednesday: Cycle class (45 minutes, with little bro Ross)

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Treadmill run (40 minutes, intervals + warm-up/cool-down)

treadmill

Saturday: Weights (I’m planning to, anyway…it’s only 8 a.m.)

Looking back I had lots of social workouts this week, which is rare for me, but I definitely enjoyed it.  I’m also really feeling the group fitness classes at the gym–being surrounded by other people is good motivation not to cut a workout short!

Clearly my weekly exercise plan is changing with our gym membership.  I am looking forward to shaking up my routine and trying new activities… though running is still my first (fitness) love. 🙂

Do you prefer to workout at a gym or at home/outside?

No Excuse Workout

If you and I are friends on Facebook, you may have seen this in your news feed yesterday morning:

cold running

As much as I love running (and all my fantastic cold weather running gear), some days I simply cannot motivate myself to get out the door.  One winter in college, I was training for a half marathon with my good friend and housemate Kate.  Kate’s bedroom was downstairs, and mine was upstairs, and we made a rule that if one of us wanted to bail on the morning run, we had to tell the other person face-to-face–no texting and no instant messaging (side note: remember when AIM was a thing and everyone was on it all the time?)  Often the hardest part of the run was just getting out of bed when the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m., so by eliminating the option of sending a text message saying, “I really need another hour of sleep,” we had better accountability.  We knew that if we could just get ourselves up and out the door, the run itself would be no problem.

One cold morning, my alarm buzzed, and it took everything inside me to put my feet on the floor (Okay, that’s pretty dramatic.  I really didn’t want to get out of bed, all right?)  I got dressed, walked downstairs, and acknowledged Kate, the whole time thinking, “Once I get out the door, I’ll be ready to go.”  Kate and I stepped outside, walked down the sidewalk towards the street, prepared our watches to start timing the run, and as we stood in the middle of the road, one of us (I honestly can’t remember who) said,

“I really don’t want to do this.”

And the other said, “Neither do I.”

And we walked back inside, put our pajamas back on, and crawled back in bed.

My point is this: sometimes the run simply is not going to happen.

What then?  Do you climb back in bed, sleep lightly for 30 more minutes, then at 4 p.m. regret not working out because you know you feel better when you do?  Well, despite the implication of my Facebook post from yesterday, I did squeeze in a 30 minute cardiovascular workout…from the comfort of my living room.  I’d like to share with you that workout as part of what I hope to make an ongoing series of “No Excuse Workouts”–those you can do in your living room, with little or no equipment, or when you are short on time–because, hey, we all have those days. 🙂

_______________________________________________________________

The Excuse: It’s 16 degrees outside, and I want to hear “Today’s Professionals” on the Today Show give their unprofessional opinions on whether it matters if Beyonce lip-synced at President Obama’s inauguration.

The Workout:  No Rope-Jump Rope Cardio Circuits

Perform the following exercises for 1 minute each:

Jumping Jacks

Jump Rope

Mountain Climbers

Jump Rope

Butt Kicks

Jump Rope

Plank Jacks

Jump Rope

High Knees

Jump Rope

Repeat twice (complete the cycle a total of 3 times.)

The key is to keep moving to keep your heart rate up.  Can’t do plank jacks for an entire minute?  Go for as long as you can (then 5 seconds more because you can probably last longer than you think!), then jog in place until the minute is up.  Just keep moving!

DSCN7278Thumbs up for a pre-makeup living room workout 😉

You’ve completed your 30 minutes of physical activity for the day, you didn’t have to suffer the cold outdoors, and you now know that Star Jones was “inspired” by Beyonce’s rendition of the National Anthem, lip-syncing or not.

beyonce-inauguration-2013(Photo source)

Win, win, win. 😉