Find your own way

True or false?  I have a slight obsession with diet/fitness podcasts.

Ummm that would be true.  Very true.  Yep, that and country music are pretty much all you find me listening to these days.

And, most of these podcasts are produced by proponents of the paleo diet, or some other form of lower carbohydrate diet, most from an endurance training-based perspective.  Lets just say that most of them propose alternative ideas for nutrition than those traditionally adopted by endurance athletes.  Some propose a paleo and/or low carb diet for optimal endurance performance.  Some propose the idea of “minimalist” training, where individuals may do much lower volume and higher intensity when training for very long endurance events than what is often prescribed.  But all of these challenge traditional approaches to health and fitness, and all proclaim huge changes in these variables by adopting these alternative approaches.

So, whats a girl to think?  We know that performing high volume training to prepare for endurance training works.  But, what if (at least for some people), this “minimalist” approach works better?  Research demonstrates that carbohydrate supplementation helps with endurance performance.  But, what if (at least for some people), paleo or low carb or something in between works better?

This is what I DO know.  I train much differently than I used to.  I used to try to put as many miles in on my bike, running shoes and in the pool as I could.  What was the result?  I was 25-30 lbs heavier, and a heck of a lot slower.  My legs constantly felt like crap.  Not really sore, but just completely and totally dead.  Now if you are training a lot this happens…but I think I spent about 4 years of my life like this.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best way to train for me.  I was definitely sacrificing quality for quantity.  And to be fast, you need some quality.

I stopped doing traithlons and other endurance activities and spent about two years just working out like the “average” American…30-40 minutes of cardio most days of the week.  I drastically changed my diet, decreasing carbohydrate intake and counting calories.  I lost weight, along with fitness.

But then in 2011 I decided to try to run again.  And this time I approached it from a different perspective.  Instead of the traditional plan where you increase your long run each week for 2-3 weeks in a row, then take a “recovery” week, I decided to only increase my long run every OTHER week.  And on runs in between I actually did some hard, high quality workouts.  This was vastly different to my previous training plans.

And wouldn’t you know it, I got faster.  Ok, I know the weight loss had a lot to do with it.  But when I ran the Pittsburgh half marathon that year I broke my previous PR by about 25 minutes.  For those of you not familiar with half marathon times I will break it down….thats a hell of a lot of time to take off.  And Im sure my training and diet had a lot to do with it.

I remember talking to a man after a 10k I ran that year.  We were discussing what runners typically discuss…running!  We were chatting about our race and our times and then training, and somehow it came up that I was only running three times per week.  His mouth gaped open in disgust and he said “you only run three times a week.  Thats not enough!”  I just smiled and nodded and muttered something about cross training and recovery…but all I could think was “well, I just kicked your ass by 5 minutes.”  Not sure he had much room to talk about my training plan.

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Now Im back to training again, and minus some IT band issues (which is a whole different topic) things are going better.  Im still focusing on lower volume and higher intensity during the week, and a longer run on the weekend.  In terms of diet, Im experimenting with a lower carb approach.  Im not counting carbs, but trying to limit grains (1-2 servings per day at the most) and avoiding wheat and added sugar.  Therefore, my carb intake is naturally decreasing.  Not sure what the end result will be, but for now Im just my own personal science experiment.

I think this post and random stream-of-consciousness on training can be summed up by a quote I heard from Dean Karnazes on a episode of “The Paleo Runner” that I was listening to last week:

“Listen to everyone…follow no one.”

Thats what Im trying to do.  Listen to what works for lots of people, pick and choose what I want, and figure out what works for me.  Again, not sure what the end result will be.  But Im crossing my fingers that it means breaking my PR in the half marathon in a few weeks!!!

So my advice to everyone is just to follow what Dean said.  Pave your own path, listen to your own body, and find your own way.

Happy training! :)

Fresh foods and recipes

Well summer is slowly coming to an end.  At least I hope the end will be ssssssllllllllooooooooowwwwww and we will still have a little bit of warm weather and a long and glorious fall.  Lets be positive people!

Anyway, the point that one of the best parts of the end of summer is the bounty of fresh, locally grown (and cheap) fruits and veggies.  And I am personally in healthy eating heaven!  Some people may look forward to superbowl sunday treats or christmas cookies….but I am most content when my fridge is overflowing with fresh produce.

So I haven’t written much about this, but I signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share this year.  Each week I get a bag full of whatever they picked that week at the farm.

In the beginning this was a little…err…challenging as for a few weeks we got a huge bags full of nothing but greens!  I mean, I love lettuce and kale as much as the next girl, but some weeks it was a little out of control:

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Luckily I found I have a hidden love for collard greens, and managed to blanch and freeze several bunches to break out in the bleakness of winter.

But recently things have gotten a little lot more interesting!  Here is this week’s bag.  I could barely carry it upstairs…

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What was inside?????

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Here we have a cantaloupe, several apples, spaghetti squash, regular tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, cucumber, a zucchini, peppers, broccoli and beets/beet greens.

I havent used much so far, but here was some of my food prep for the week:

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I just chopped up the zucchini and larger tomatoes and cooked them up in the grill pan with just a little bit of Trader Joe’s “Everyday Seasoning.”  I go through several containers of this a year.  Thank goodness I go back to Pittsburgh frequently enough to re-stock!

I also had some corn I roasted and then cut off the cob (random fact about me….I hate corn ON the cob.  But cut it of and Im a happy, happy girl).  I didn’t get corn in my CSA, but they were selling it for @2.50/half dozen at the farmers market across the street…and I couldn’t resist.  So now these veggies are prepped and can easily be added as side dishes or to salads, etc.

I did also do some “real” cooking the other night, and finally got to try out a recipe that I have been coveting for quite some time, yet has just been sitting on my Pinterest board. I made Thai Turkey Burgers with Peanut Sauce by Iowa Girl Eats, and then also found this recipe for Lemon-Lime Cilantro Spaghetti Squash to help me work on my squash supply and use up some of the cilantro as well.

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Both were super yummy.  I made a few changes to the turkey burgers, but nothing really worth  noting.  I say stick with Kristin’s recipe and adapt to suit your own needs.  The spaghetti squash was also great, except I think my squash was on the smallish side so there was a little too much lemon and lime juice.  But thats my own fault!

Hope everyone else is enjoying the “end of summer” bounty.  I guess it’s a consolation prize for the academic year starting again?

If anyone has any recipes to share please do!

Presque Isle sprint tri recap

Well I am happy to report that my first tri in 5 years went surprisingly well last weekend.

Im not going to lie.  I was pretty nervous.  And excited.  But mainly nervous.  Especially about the swim!

However, the swim caps they gave us for the race were PINK.  YAAAAAAAY.

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A pink swim cap always means it is going to be a good day!

Sooo here is a little insight into my triathlon history.  I did the first one in 2002 (I think) and did several races a year for the next few years.  When I started out I was NOT a good swimmer.  Like, I was embarrassingly awful.  In my second race  I posted the 2nd slowest swim time out of about 400 people.  Over time I improved, and eventually the swim became my best leg.

But then I started grad school and swimming took a backseat.  Then I moved to Pittsburgh and had no where to swim, so there was a three year drought (pun intended) in my swimming.  Ive been in and out of the pool a few times here in Erie, but still nothing consistent except for the past month.  And even then Ive only been in the pool once or twice a week, and my longest swim was 1300 yds…pocket change for serious swimmer.

So basically, when I was standing on the boat ramp on Saturday getting ready for the swim, I felt like I had been transported back in time several years to when I just wanted to cry before the start of every race because I was so scared of the swimming.

But that all changed when the race started.  I wouldn’t say that the swim was necessarily FUN, but it wasn’t as dreadful as I had imagined.  The water was much choppier than I would have liked, and the algae was out of control.

My time wasn’t bad, 14:14 for .35 miles.  That is actually a pretty slow time, but with the waves I still did pretty good compared to other women.  The good news it was a lot faster than I thought it would be, so I was pumped to get on the bike.

The bike was fun.  The course was just one giant loop around Presque Isle, and it is FLAT and FAST.  I don’t have much endurance, but considering it was only 13 miles I decided to get into aero and just go.  I was in a later swim wave so I just tried to pass as many women as I could.  I finished the bike in 37:05, the second fastest in my age group.

The worst part of the race was definitely the run.  I remembered that it really, really, REALLY sucks to run after a bike ride.  What I forgot though was just how bad it sucked.  I felt like I was crawling through sand for the first mile or so.  I definitely wanted to walk, but kept trudging along.  I don’t know for sure when I started to loosen up because there were no mile markers.  Eventually I felt like I could run, and finished the 3.5 mile run in 28:20, or third in my age group.    Not the fastest time ever, but considering my lack of bike training and length of the race in general I was pretty happy.

The best part of the race was that I had FUN.  There is an energy in a triathlon that just doesn’t exist in running races.  Music in the transition area, athletes chatting and getting all of their stuff ready…and then the race. It is definitely the most fun I have had in a race in a long time.

The best part is I got to do it with friends :)

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And I finished the entire race in 1:22:19, which got me 2nd in my age group.  And this cool award!

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Normally I don’t really get too excited about placing in my age group in local race.  But I was pretty stoked about this considering my swim and bike training was less than ideal.  I guess Im excited because I hope it means that my overall fitness is in a good place, and that it means good things to come later this fall.  More importantly I felt like my head was in the game the whole race, and that I can replicate this in my half marathons and other races this fall.  But MOST importantly, I had fun.  I was so excited to be out there on a beautiful day enjoying physical activity.  Considering my struggles with injuries this winter, this is a great place to be.

Fingers crossed for the next few months!!!  Happy training!

Long time no blog

Ummm yeah.  Apparently Im struggling with the whole concept of blogging consistently.  So of course, it makes perfect sense that just as Im gearing up for the new academic year I suddenly get the itch to blog again.  I mean, really Annie?  Oh well, it is what it is.  And who knows, it might be another three months until I get motivated to post again.  Or maybe you will get lucky and it will be three days.  Or even better…three hours.  I just like to keep people on their toes.

So I will admit I know why there has been such a lapse in blogging for me.  I really dont know where I want to go with this.  I had a lot of thinking to do this summer, and I think I managed to put a lot of things in perspective for myself.  But at the end of the day, I like exercising and eating healthy.  And I like talking about it.  And I like writing. So, I will continue to blog about it…even if it is inconsistently at times.

But I figured I would do a little updates on my summer fitness activities and goals for the next few weeks/months.  Basically, my summer has been focused on getting back into running shape.

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I believe that last time I posted I was determined to work on shorter and faster races (5k and 10k).  Well somewhere along the line I started playing with the idea of training for a half marathon.  I was looking at some races around Niagra Falls, and then my friend informed me that some spots for the Wineglass half marathon were opening up.  I had already told her I would go to the race with her (what can I say, she bribed me by promising to go wine tasting), so I figured if I could snag a spot the next morning then I would just chalk it up to fate.  And wouldn’t you know it, I got a spot.

Aaaand then a week or two later, I suddenly decided it would be a good idea to do the sprint triathlon on Presque Isle at the end of this month.  Never mind that I hadn’t been on my road bike in FIVE YEARS.  And had barely been in the pool either.  But I went ahead and registered, and spent the past few weeks “training.”  And by training I mean swimming once or twice a week, and riding the exact bike course once a week.     Ill keep you in suspense about the results until another post since the race was Saturday (although Im well aware that 99% of the people reading this already know how the race went via talking to me or Facebook…but a girl can dream that somewhere in the deep, dark corners of the interwebs there is some reader on the edge of his/her seat waiting to hear about my little sprint tri).

Anyway, since things things tend to come in three’s, I decided to make another impulse registration for another half marathon.  I realized that I probably wouldn’t be in good enough shape to do as well as I want in time for Wineglass, and I have wanted to go back and run in Richmond for a long time now.  Oh, and I have some friends to catch up with in the area.  Yes, apparently knowing I have someone to drink wine with after destroying my body for 13.1 miles can lure me into whipping out my credit card for a registration fee.  I never claimed to be rational.  

So there is it.  I did the sprint tri last weekend, and am going to use Wineglass as a hard training run in October, and hopefully PR in Richmond in November.  That is if my IT band decides to cooperate through this whole ordeal.  Fingers crossed!!!  Lets just say Im pretty happy to be running again :)

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Well, I guess that is my fitness update for now.  Hopefully there will be more to come soon!

The secret to running fast and a 5k report

Ive been studying exercise physiology and fitness for…umm…a long time now.  And Im about to share with you the secret to running fast!  Are you ready???

RUN FASTER!

I know, its crazy!

Ok, ok, Im definitely oversimplifying this here.  There truly is a science to to applying training principles in a very systematic way in order for someone to try to run their fastest race at a specific time of year.

So really my point is that in order to start running faster you have to train at a faster pace than you are used to.  This can happen in many different forms:  running with someone faster than you who will push your pace throughout the entire run, doing intervals (on the track, treadmill, road, etc), or racing.

Basically, the goal is to get out of your comfort zone.  In order to make improvements in any area of fitness (speed, endurance, strength, power, etc) you have to work harder than you need to.  If you just keep running the same distance and the same pace, you aren’t going to get any faster.  Trust me, Ive tried it and it doesn’t work.

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Since my goal this summer is to “get back in running shape” which Im defining as PRing in the 5k and/or 10k, I need to practice running fast.  My goal is to have one tough run a week…either intervals on the treadmill, running with someone faster than me, or a race.  You can’t run hard all the time, but you need to kick your own ass occasionally to see improvement!

So this Saturday I decided to practice what I preach and did another local 5k.  My time is still about 1:30 slower than Im shooting for, but I was faster than 2 weeks ago.

It was a beautiful day for a 5k…

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…minus the heat and humidity that finally arrived in Northwest PA (here is my red-faced sweaty selfie after the race)

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And while Im not as close to my PR as I want to be, Im pretty happy with my progress when I reflect on my running over the past 6 months.  Which either sucked or was nonexistent, compliments of my IT band and sprained back.  However, I DID have a new first at the race yesterday:

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This was the first time I have ever placed overall for women!

Now, Im almost embarrassed to tell people about this, because my time wasn’t anything to brag about, and it was a pretty small race with not too much competition (obviously, since my less than impressive time got third).  But I Im just proud of my effort.  I made it my goal to pass as many women as possible, and since it was an out-and-back race I was able to judge my place.  After a mile into the run I made it my goal to place as high as possible.  So at the turnaround I passed the 3rd place girl, and managed to hold her off for the rest of the race.

So I guess the take-home message is this:  run faster in training to run faster in a race, and little by little its possible to improve!  Now I just have to see what the next few months bring!  Keep your fingers crossed I stay healthy :)

 

Summer school and strawberries

Lets just say the past week of my life has been filled with two things:  Teaching a summer class, and a HUGE box’o  strawberries.

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And Im not going to lie, the strawberries definitely make up for the summer school!  Last week I went strawberry picking for the first time and came home with a big box of them. WOOOOHOOOO.

For some reason I have been particularly obsessed with strawberries this year.  I just cant get enough of them!

So took them home, and washed them (soaked them in vinegar per pinterest and a friend’s reccomendation) and laid some out to dry and freeze.  Note that the strawberries in the bowl below were only about 1/2 of what I picked!

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The rest I used in a jam and muffin recipe…they weren’t the most photogenic things in the world so I will spare you.

In other news, Ive been crazy busy with summer school.  Im teaching exercise physiology for the second time, so I figured that it would be pretty easy in terms of the prep since I already taught it once.  BIG. FAT. LIE.  I should know better than to entertain such notions!  Of course there was stuff I didn’t like from my first time teaching that I wanted to change.  And change = work.  New labs, new guidelines, new documents….you get the picture.  BUT I will say that while this week was pretty crazy I think I have a lot of the initial work done and should MOSTLY be tweaking lectures for the next few weeks.   But Im not getting my hopes up.

Molly tries to help as much as she can….

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But she isnt much work when it comes to prepping my lectures….

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So on top of everything else, Im trying to still focus on working out and getting back in running shape.  Strength training has (again) taken a back road, but my runs are starting to feel better.  So since things are so busy (and the weather has been AMAZING right now) Im trying to focus on running 3x per week, and doing SOMETHING else the other three days that involve moving.  I went into this week with a plan, and have pretty much stuck to it.  But on days where it is 70 degrees and a bright blue sky (and my dog has been neglected due to summer class prep) Im saying “screw spinning” and taking her to the park.  And I dont feel guilty about it.  I will have PLENTY of time to catch up on indoor activity starting in October…

Now I need to schedule some time to go pick some more strawberries!!!!

Motivation Monday: Scheduling workouts during busy times!

Well, I think it is safe to say that summer vacation is over for me.  For the next 7 weeks I am teaching 4 mornings a week, and two of the days include labs.  So life is about to get a lot busier here in these parts!

But after a good month of very few responsibilities, it actually feels good to get back to being productive.  So this morning I started the week out on a good note, with a nice sweaty Tabata session on the elliptical.

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Then the whirlwind began at 8am…

Luckily, I have a plan going into this week.  I did some food prep yesterday, and now that I am busy during the day it is suddenly easier to get myself out of bed at 5am to workout.

This is definitely my summer to get back in shape!  Im still in decent shape, but not where I want to be for running speed and body composition.  I have some goals in my head, and while most people benefit from putting them down on paper, Ill just say that I want to PR in the 5k and 10k this year.  I have some times in mind, but I worry that if I spread those around I will become a spaz about times and likely just end up injured from pushing hard.  So I will just update if those PRs do happen!

But what I WILL put down on paper is my workout plan for the week:

  • Monday –  Cross train (CHECK)
  • Tuesday – 30 minute run and CX works class (or upper body/core conditioning on my own if other obligations prevent me from making the class)
  • Wednesday  - spin class!
  • Thursday – Run and kettlebells
  • Friday – Some form of cross training depending on how Im feeling…might just be taking a long walk if the weather is nice
  • Saturday – 5k race!  And no, I do not expect to PR at this one.
  • Sunday – off

So I am starting the week off on a positive note.  I think summer teaching is going to take more time than I hoped, but Im determined to make working out and eating an even bigger priority than it had been.

Hope everyone else is having an awesome Monday!