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???


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.


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…


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



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:



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.


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….


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


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.



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!


Avoiding “all or nothing” thinking

Just thought I would take a few moments to share some thoughts on the importance of avoiding “all or nothing” thinking.  I wanted to write this because in all honesty I need this as a reminder myself, but hopefully it will help some others as well.



I know that I have shared some of my thoughts on focusing on progress, not perfection already.  Well, spoiler alert…”all or nothing” thinking is a similar concept.

I am sure you have heard that “diets don’t work” and and that you need to “make lifestyle changes”, and “allow for splurges”, “calories in versus calories out”…and other similar statements.  Well, there is a reason phrases such as these  continue to weave their way through popular magazines and diet books:  Its the freaking truth!

“Diets” dont typically work.  Losing weight, and maintaining the lost weight, requires serious lifestyle changes.  If you have spent any time looking at the weight loss literature, there is a common pattern that appears:  People can lose weight for 6 months (by decreasing calories consumed and increasing calories burned…no “magic bullet”), but then they start to re-gain the weight starting at the 6-month time point.  One of the reason for this phenomenon is the tendency that we have as humans to engage in “all or nothing thinking.”  Either we are all in on a diet, or all off.  Either eating 1500 calories every day and doing 60 minutes of exercise, or sitting on our asses and stuffing our faces with chocolate, cupcakes, pizza, etc.  And that attitude is a surefire way to fail at weight loss or weight loss maintenance!

Now, Im not trying to oversimplify this issue.  There is obviously more to this problem than just a certain attitude.    But in the three years I spent working in a weight management research center I can attest that the individuals who lost the most weight and KEPT it off were not engaging in this type of thinking.  Again, when trying to lose weight or increase fitness the goal is to strive for PROGRESS…because striving for perfection is a guaranteed way to fail.


I am writing this post because I f have found myself engaging in this thought pattern in the past, and noticed that I have been slipping in this attitude recently.  I lost a bunch of weight in grad school by counting calories obsessively.  And, it worked, albeit a little too well, as I was probably a little too thin.  Then for about two years I maintained the weight with no problem.  Why?  I was NOT engaging in “all or nothing” thinking.  If I had a social event and new I would eat more calories than normal I would exercise a little more that day, eat a smaller lunch and some low calorie snacks, and then enjoy myself at the event.  Then the next day I would go back to normal eating habits.

Well, something happened within the past few months and I have found myself back in the “all or nothing” thinking.  If I ate too much on Friday night, I would do the same on saturday because I would just say to myself “well you already screwed up, might as well throw in the towel for the whole weekend and start a super strict diet on Monday.”  Ummm yeah, it didn’t work.

So Im challenging myself, and those of you reading, to STOP this type of thought pattern.  Because nothing good comes of it.  This holds true with anything in our lives…diet, exercise, budgeting money, housework, etc.  Its such a simple concept, yet most of us struggle with it.



So just a friendly reminder that none of us will ever be perfect.  You have to enjoy life and the food you eat.  I have heard dietitians say its a matter of how much and how often you eat certain foods…you CAN have your cake and maintain you weight but budgeting your calories and physical activity appropriately…but you cant have your cake every day if its making you go over your calorie goal!

I would love to hear other individual’s thoughts on this if you want to share.  Any tips to avoid “all or nothing” thinking???

Motivation monday: One step at a time



It really is simple.  Just run.

For me, this has been the one thing I could hold on to through the past few years.  I moved away from my family and friends in Virginia, started (and finished!) a doctoral program in Pittsburgh, and then moved to Erie to take a job as an assistant professor.  Stress much?  Ummm yeah, lets just say that this was my mantra over the past few years….


Most people who know me for any length of time know how important this is to me.  No matter how busy I was at work, my fellow grad students and co-workers have always known when to say to me “its OK Annie…just go run.  You need to.”  They knew I wouldn’t be any help until after I laced up my sneakers and had at least 30 minutes to myself, with nothing but my iPod and the road.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a mileage junkie.  I typically only run 3 times per week.  But those three times per week keep me sane!

And, as I have complained about in the past, those three times per week were not really happening this winter.  Stupid f’ing injuries.

But, I feel like things are slooooowly starting to fall back into place, one step at a time (literally).  This weekend I did a small 5k which was the first race I have done since new years day.  I had no idea what to expect.  I told myself I was just going to take it at a moderate pace and see how I felt.

Haha…I should have known myself better than that!  Of course I ran somewhat conservative the first mile.  And then I played my favorite game:  try to pass as many women in front of me as I can!  Im happy to report that I caught a few, and was *only* about 2 minutes off of my PR.  For those of you who speak runner, you know that is a lot.  But considering my current training status, Im actually pretty happy with that.  And, the competition was pretty slim at the race, so I got second in my age group.  It at least provided a confidence boost if nothing else.


So basically, Im finally starting to feel like myself.  Not sure what my future holds with running, but Im hoping that this next year my running shoes and I can have a better relationship!

See you at the finish line 🙂

Current obsessions

So I am a total creature of habit.  And once I find something I love, I am typically at least temporarily obsessed.  So…here are a few of my current favorite things:



After dealing with injuries for a few months, I feel like Im FINALLY starting to get back on track.  Ran my first race yesterday in 6 months.  Didn’t come close to a PR, but considering my current training (or lack thereof, to be more specific), Im fairly happy with the results.  And even more importantly, it gave me the motivation I need to crack down and take running more seriously again.  I have a 5k time in my mind I want to hit, and it might never happen, but Im ready to give it a try!  I know that my VO2 max is finally on the decline (stupid 31st birthday) and its now or never 😉

Sorry for the nerd alert there…

So keep your fingers crossed Im not posting in two weeks that I hate running and my IT band.  But for now Im just rolling with it.  Only time will tell!



Quest Bars

Ive been reading a lot about these, and finally decided to seek some out the other day.  And they are pretty delicious.  Very high in protein and fiber, no gluten or sugar.  Unfortunately they are also very high in price.  But I think it is going to be my new “treat.”



OMG I love strawberry season.  I am currently obsessed.  Im eating them at every meal, and putting them on EVERYTHING.  This is a pic of my breakfast this morning:  Cottage cheese, chia seeds, protein powder, some unsweetened coconut, little bit of a chopped chocolate Quest bar (yep, combining obsessions here) and of course, strawberries!  Not going to lie, I may have shed a tear when it was all gone.


Fruit-flavored green tea

Ever since I had to give up coffee about two years ago (stupid stomach) I have tried to find various green tea blends to perk me up in the morning.  I thought this would be a perfect summer beverage, and I was right.  I will drink it hot (with a little stevia and almond milk…yes I put milk in my green tea, apparently I’m British or something) in the morning, and iced for lunch.  Super YUM!


THIS balsamic vinegar

My dad had this….and I may have stolen it from him (don’t worry, he can replace it).  Just simply amazing.  If you like balsamic vinegar and have access to trader joes, go buy this STAT.


This sweet face

Ok, ok, I know I am always obsessed with the pug.  But ever since I finished with the spring term I have actually been able to spend time with Molly.  She was my travel partner over the past few weeks, and we had plenty of time to hang out in Virginia.

So there are my current obsessions.  Some of them stick around for weeks/months/years, and some will be replaced in a few days.  Just how I roll.

So now Im going to take the pug dog for a walk, and on the way home try to get my hands on some more strawberries!!!!

Motivation Monday: Sugar detox in June

First of all, for anyone who read my post yesterday, thanks for bearing with me for a bit of an emotional moment.  Hey, Im human.  It happens.

But I thought I would do a post introducing my goal for the month of June (starting today).  I decided to jump on board with a *modified* version of the 21-day sugar detox.

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For those of you who have never heard of this, the 21-Day Sugar Detox is a 21-day (duh) program developed by Diane Sanfilippo, a Holistic Nutritionist and author of the book “Practical Paleo.”  The point is to beat sugar and carbohydrate cravings by basically eliminating them from the diet for three weeks (or drastically reducing them in terms of carbohydrates).

If anyone is interested all the information is in an e-book you can buy online, and for someone considering doing something like this I would highly recommend it!

Here is the guidelines of the foods that you can and can’t eat, and those you should limit:

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Now, I am planning on making several modifications with this program.  Im going to make it a little more flexible, and plan on doing it for the rest of the month.  So instead of the entire “detox” Im going to follow the above guidelines about 90%.  Here are my modifications to what is on the sheet above:

  • I’m including nonfat dairy, which is technically a no-n0.
  • Im not necessarily going to limit my consumption of “starchy” vegetables such as butternut squash.
  • Im letting myself have more than one serving of fruit per day, and am going to include fruits such as berries, peaches, etc.  (Hellllllo, it’s summer and the fruit is AMAZING right now).
  • Im going to make sure I eliminate gluten, but will let myself have gluten-free grains that are not included on the above list.
  • I will still use a small amount of stevia in my tea.  It will keep me from hating my life.
  • I am going to drink wine.  Sue me.

So really, it would probably be MUCH simpler to say what I wont have!  That includes any refined grains, potatoes, corn, etc., any added sugar, artificial sweeteners except stevia, and all gluten.

I will always suffer from a “sweet tooth,” but it actually hasn’t really been out of control lately.  But I want some time to focus on my diet, and see if sugar, artificial sweeteners and gluten may be contributing to some of the fatigue, trouble sleeping and moodiness I have been experiencing…for well, the past several years.

So I will try to keep some updates going about how it is going.  Ive survived day 1 with no major problems.  I will say that being home in VA and having my dad available to grill every night makes following this a lot easier!  Im going to have to break out the George Foreman when I get back to PA.  Yes, Im 31 years old and still use a Foreman grill..thats what happens when you go to grad school forever and are still living in an apartment with no deck/porch.

If anyone wants to join me you are more than welcome.  Time to say BUH BYE to sugar!!!