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.)


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

Thursday: Rest

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


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. 😉

Bob Harper’s “Hit the Deck” Workout

On Monday night, Andrew and I sat down to watch our my favorite show, The Biggest Loser.  In case you aren’t a faithful viewer (although I can’t imagine that such a person exists…), this is how the show typically progresses:

When the show opens, the contestants are either in the gym walking effortlessly on a treadmill or standing around in the kitchen making breakfast.  There is likely some heavy product placement happening at this time.  Then, host Alison Sweeney enters the room and presents a challenge that will introduce some type of twist into the game–a temptation challenge that allows the person who eats the most donuts to rearrange the teams, a trivia game that gives the winning team a 5lb advantage on the scale, etc.  It could be anything.

Once the challenge is complete, we see the contestants break the news to their trainers that they have no gym access for the week or that they ate 23 double cheeseburgers (but have a 2lb advantage!)  The trainers are astounded.  Every time.  They had no idea this twist would be thrown into the game this week.

They somehow make do, and the contestants workout, learn about healthy living, and have tearful breakthroughs with Jillian Michaels.

Next comes a second, physical challenge that no doubt required a team of civil engineers to construct: one member of each team is harnessed in and suspended 20 ft in the air and from their aerial view must guide their teammates through a goo-filled maze; each contestant holds a rope that’s connected to a pulley system that is holding their trainer on a platform, and if they all let go, their trainer will will fall into hot lava a swimming pool. This could go on for hours.

The Biggest Loser       biggest-loser-water-challenge

The show ends with the weigh-in and one person being sent home, but immediately before that, the contestants endure the Last Chance Workout.  Basically, the trainers kick their butts in the gym.  No fewer than two contestants will cry, fall off a treadmill, and/or vomit.  Jillian Michaels will likely be on someone as they do push ups or push a giant tire across the room, and Bob Harper will be laughing at the crazy workout he has dreamed up for his team.

I was quite intrigued by Bob’s Last Chance Workout this week.  It looked grueling.  I decided to give it a try.


Bob Harper’s “Hit the Deck” Workout

Equipment needed: deck of cards

He started with a deck of cards and assigned a different exercise to each suit.  Then he drew the cards, one-by-one, and the contestants had to do the exercise and number of repetitions indicated by the card (with face cards being 10.)  For example, a jack of hearts meant 10 push ups, and a nine of clubs meant nine burpees.


I couldn’t remember exactly which exercises were assigned to each suit, so I modified:

Diamonds= Sit ups

Spades= Squats

Hearts= Push ups

Clubs= Burpees

DSCN7198   DSCN7200 DSCN7208   DSCN7215

It took me roughly 30 minutes to make it through the deck/workout, stopping briefly a few times for water.  For the sit ups I used our ugly ottoman to hold my feet– it’s just heavy enough to provide some resistance, but light enough that I had to use my abs rather than my legs ;-).  If you have something you can tuck your feet under, I’d recommend using it; if not, crunches will get the job done.  When I’d finished, I didn’t feel as rough as TBL contestants looked, but it was definitely a good workout!  The cards are shuffled (obviously), but for each exercise you’re doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions (that’s a lot in and of itself) plus 1 set of 9, 8, 7…2.  By the end, my burpees were nothing to be proud of, and I may have done a few sets of “girl” push ups.

Will I do it again?  Absolutely.  Not this week–my chest is going to be sore for a few days, I think– but it’s an excellent workout to shake up my routine a bit.

Bob Harper, you ‘da’ man.