Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Running and Volunteering Go Hand-in-Hand-WOW Link-up

I am again participating in the WOW (Workout Wednesday) link-up hosted by the awesome ladies at Femme Fitale Fit Club, The Frugal Exerciser, Work Hard Eat Hard and Mean Green Clean Eating Teen. This link-up is designed for link-minded bloggers who are focused on wellness to link up and share stories and ideas. Please check out the great blogs in the links above!

Why Running and Volunteering Go Hand-in-Hand

As runners, we are routinely putting ourselves out in the community in a way that isn't that typical these days. We hit the streets routinely, traversing our neighborhoods and our cities on foot while many people are whizzing by in their cars, never really taking it all in.

We also participate in races that often wind through downtown, historic districts, large parks and other areas that host cities like to showcase. Through our running we can see the best and the worst our communities have to offer.

We get to see our parks at their best with freshly mowed lawns, blooming flowers, bubbling fountains and clean paths. We have races that take us past beautiful museums, bustling waterfronts, sprawling universities and all the other wonderful sights there are to be seen in any given area. When I see these things in their glory, it makes me appreciate them even more and makes me want to keep them that way. I want to be a supporter of these parks and museums and schools, because I both use them as a resident of our City and I feel pride when they are showcased for others to see. I know they make my city a better place to live.

The flipside of this is that we also see some things that other people in the community don't see because they're not on the ground daily like we are. That dog that is always on a chain, the local school with broken windows or broken play equipment, the kids who have nowhere to go after school, the stop sign near the park where you run that people blow through on a regular basis. We see all those things.

So what does this mean? To me it means that runners are uniquely positioned to identify the best things about their community that they want to ensure remain and the things that could be made better with change.

Runners are doers. They are the people who have a focused goal and just get up and get on with it, despite what is going on in their life. Runners are needed in their community to bring this focus to the issues that need it most because runners always find a way.

I'm sure you've often seen the hashtag #ifeverybodyran. This would be an amazing thing to achieve, to have everyone out there working toward a common goal. I also think that #whatifeveryrunnervolunteered would be a an equally amazing thing. To give credit I think that MANY runners already do volunteer in their community, but if you haven't because you don't know what to do, consider the following:

Volunteer as a coach with Girls on the Run or start a site at your local school
Start a running buddies program at a local animal rescue or shelter (our largest rescue Stray Rescue of St. Louis does this where volunteers run with shelter dogs in conjunction for training for races!)
Volunteer at a race
Sign up to help clean up at your local park
Conduct neighborhood safety meetings
Ask your local school if they need volunteers for after-school activities (especially focusing on health and fitness)

The options are endless! Thanks for reading

How do you volunteer?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Conquering THE Hill-#bestfoot

Just like last Monday, I am participating in the #bestfoot Monday link-up hosted by the awesome ladies at  Run to the Finish, Sweet Life Ericka and Darwinian Fail. Please check out their blogs as well as the other linkers!

Most runners I know have "a hill". This is a hill that you study and ponder but don't quite feel ready to face. I actually have two of these hills that I think to myself when driving them "I'm going to get you one day."

Well, this past weekend, I officially ticked one of them off my list. I have been running my long (6 miles right now) runs in Forest Park, which is about 2 miles from my house. Forest Park is a HUGE urban park (bigger than Central Park) and is a really amazing benefit of living in St. Louis. There is an incredible amount of things to do and see there, so running it is always a new experience.

One of the best parts, for a runner, is the fact that there is a foot path for walkers/runners that circumnavigates the entire park, forming a nice 5.66 mile loop. Normally I begin running south from my preferred starting point so to avoid "the Hill" which is the western edge of the park along Skinker Blvd. It has a climb of about 219 feet in .7 miles. I know that's not huge but it is a long constant hill. I decided that this Saturday, I was instead going to begin my run north and face it.

The start of the run was good, but we are quickly moving away from ideal running temps here into hot/humid conditions, even fairly early in the morning. I could really feel it on the run as it seemed like the sun was much hotter and the air was thicker...and it's only April, it's just going to get worse!

By the time I got to the hill I felt ready for it and just plowed on ahead. As I was running it I reached three separate times when I thought I was "at the top" but forgot about "one last turn". I kept reminding myself that I wasn't worried about maintaining pace (which would be crazy) but only with maintaining effort. By the time I finished it I was SO happy for it to be over and also really feeling drained.

It made me realize that with the increased temps, I really am going to need to start hydrating on my runs, even ones that are only an hour. I probably made it for another 3/4 of a mile after reaching the top before I did something that I haven't done on a run in well over a year...I stopped to walk. I know many people are fans of walk/run intervals and I think they're great for those for whom they work. For me, I've always found that it's that much harder for me to start running again if I stop to walk and it's just not been my thing (this could change when/if I start training for a full marathon). I only walked about 20 seconds or so and then got back to it.

However the second half of my run was just bad pace wise, I had forgotten that after "the hill" the back half of the park consists of quite a few rolling hills, and I ran over 11 minute miles, which is slower than I've been doing lately. Overall I was not happy with the run. I didn't like slowing, I didn't like having to walk, and I was super annoyed that my hat blew off twice (I hate distractions like that). So why in the world am I including this for #bestfoot? I'm including it because I beat the hill, even though it took its toll. I faced something that had been a fear of mine and lived to tell the tale. It wasn't a great run, but that's just the way it crumbles sometimes. I'm still proud of myself for doing it and ready to face it again!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

WOW Link-up-Happy Heart 5k

I seem to have gone a bit link-up crazy lately, but as a new blogger I think it's a great way to interact with other bloggers and to share tips, ideas, stories and inspiration so here I go again!

The awesome ladies at Femme Fitale Fit Club, The Frugal Exerciser, Eat Hard Work Hard and Mean, Green, Clean Eating Teen are hosting a Workout Wednesday (WOW) link-up to connect like minded bloggers to link their posts on fitness, healthy eating and general wellness. I like the idea that this link-up is open to a variety of ideas and topics!

Happy Heart 5k-

This morning I participated in the Happy Heart Virtual 5k to support Krysten at Darwinian Fail. Krysten is a great blogger who has overcome a variety of health issues, including a rare heart arrhythmia, to live a fit and healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately Krysten lost her dad at the age of 61 to a heart attack and is raising money for the Happy Heart Project to benefit the Heart and Stroke Foundation. If you would like to participate or learn more, please click the link to her blog above!

Every day that we, as runners, get to lace up our shoes and hit the streets or the treadmill is a gift. We often take for granted the health that we have that allows us to pursue our chosen athletic and fitness endeavors. Some people will never have the opportunity to walk, run, or anything else that some of us do without even thinking about, we are lucky.

When you do your run, bike, swim, spin, weights, walk, yoga or whatever it is you love to do today, please take a minute to remember those who cannot do the same and add a little extra gratitude and purpose to what you are doing!!

Have you had to overcome health issues to reach your fitness goals?
What can we do to be more grateful for the gift of health?


I've been participating in the #FFaprilabs Plank-a-Day challenge from Fit Fluential. I've been posting my times on Twitter and Instagram and I'm pretty pleased with my progress. Over the course of April, I've gone from holding it for a minute to a minute and a half, and got to two minutes earlier this week. While it doesn't seem like a lot, I'm happy with a 50% improvement on average and a 100% improvement every now and then! I did have some wrist issues yesterday that made me stop at 1:30, so I really need to focus on form over just trying to hit a certain time at any cost. The last thing I want is a plank injury!!

What do you do to improve your planking form?
Do you have a planking goal?

Thanks for reading and please remember to check out the blogs of the link-up hosts!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

#Bestfoot Link-up

Hi all,
I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! The weather here was gorgeous which allowed for a lot of outdoor activity including a 6 mile run on Saturday around Forest Park (biggest urban park in the country).

Today I'm joining the #Bestfoot link-up hosted by Run to the Finish, Darwinian Fail and Sweet Life Ericka ...three awesome blogs that you should really check out.

#bestfoot is about keeping yourself accountable and writing about how you put your best foot forward the week prior to keep your progress moving forward.

As anyone who has read this blog before knows, while I'm not new to the world of running, I'm new to the world of racing, training, etc. I am running my first half-marathon in October with a goal on eventually running a full marathon sometime in the future.

In order to start my progress toward my half-marathon, I know that I need to increase my weekly mileage totals. Right now I'm not too focused on pace, just on building my endurance.

This week, I put my #bestfoot forward by increasing one of my weekly runs by 2 miles and rolling/stretching daily. I know in the grand scheme of things adding 2 miles to one run isn't a huge deal, however this move is designed to help me transition my weekday "short runs" from my typical three miles into something more, thereby allowing me to get to a place where I can increase my weekend long run more significantly.

So on my Thursday run instead of 3 miles, I did 5 and I felt great! I then did another 6 on Saturday, brining my weekly total to 20 miles. This is my highest weekly mileage to date, and my goal is to replicate that for the next two weeks or so before increasing it slightly again.

So how did you put your #bestfoot forward this week?

PS-Congratulations to all those who ran Boston today and to those volunteering and cheering them on. I watched the coverage of the elites and now have the live feed camera on to watch two of my friends cross the finish line!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Five Link-up: Fitness Goals

Happy Friday all and Happy Holidays to those that are celebrating a holiday!

I participated for the first time last week in the Friday Five Link-up hosted by You Signed Up for What?!, Eat Pray Run, DC and Mar On the Run. Thank you ladies for hosting this link-up and for giving us great ideas each week!

This week is 5 Fitness Goals. This was a great one and really got me to focus on my fitness goals are in general and for the immediate future. So without further adieu, here they are:

1- Complete My First Half-Marathon

I am registered for the Rock n' Roll St. Louis Half-Marathon on October 19th and I'm incredibly excited for it. Last year I went and cheered on some of my friends and sister-in-law who were all running and wondered, "When are you going to get there?" At that point I was just running 3 miles a few times a week and had a few 5ks under my belt with no real specific plans for more. After my first runDisney event a few weeks later, the race bug had taken full hold. So now here I sit with a few more 5ks, a 6k, a 5 miler, a marathon relay and a 10k under my belt and I'm feeling good about this goal!

2- Get My Pacing Correct

I run about 10 minute miles. During my leg of the marathon relay, I ran 9:36 or under for the first 3 miles, but that's the most I've ever done at that pace. The thing is whether I'm tracking myself or not, that seems to be my pace and truth be told, I think I can run faster. I feel like I just have too much left over at the end of some of my runs. I know training runs are not supposed to be difficult, but I feel like I'm just kind of hanging in this space where I could be doing more. Last night I ended a 5-miler with a pretty steep hill. While it was awesome to feel so good finishing 5 miles, I know I should probably have left more out there. I'm not going to do anything about this until I meet with my new running coach (yay!) on May 6th. I do not want to assume anything and would rather go with what he prescribes after talking about goals and watching me run, etc.

3- Hold a Steady Plank for 2 Minutes

I know this seems like a small one, but I'm currently participating in the #plankaday challenge on Instagram and increasing my hold time is not going as fast as I'd like. I'm finding it's taking me a few days to hold 5 more seconds. I'd like to get to the place where I'm holding a plank for at least 2 minutes, steadily and with good form...which will hopefully be helped by my next goal-

4- Backin' it Up!

I, like so many others, do not focus nearly enough on my back strength and conditioning. It's so stupid considering it's the thing holding the rest of me together! When focusing on core strength, I tend to focus too much on ab work and throwing a few Supermans (Superman's...Supermen...who knows) in just for good measure, but I know to really achieve a strong core, it's all in the back!

5- Just Breathe

During my awesome runs I don't even notice my breathing too much because I am just in the zone and doing everything I need to be doing without doing a mental checklist. But I'll admit that as a new-ish runner there are times where I know that my breathing is off and that I should be more focused on getting it in line. I know I'll be a more effective runner with proper breathing so it's something I really want to work on as I move towards my half-marathon. This is also something I plan on addressing with my running coach.

Thanks for reading and have a GREAT weekend...hope Spring has sprung wherever you are...unless I randomly have some Southern Hemisphere readers then I hope that the Fall is treating you well!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekly Chase Link-up

Mindy over at the awesome Road Runner Girl has a weekly link-up entitled the Weekly Chase where you post your goals for the week just to give you a little added accountability ;)

This is my first time doing this, so I don't have goals to report on from last week, but here are my 5 for this week:

Goal #1- Get 20 miles of running in...this will be a slight increase to my weekly mileage, but I think it's a good aim as I move towards upcoming 10ks, 15ks, 10 miler and 1/2!

Goal #2-Roll and stretch daily. I'm haven't been good at developing a stretching routine so I used one that I found on Amazon Prime Instant Video called Ultimate Flexibility. It was a good one and has three different levels for differing levels of flexibility. (side note...I finally convinced Joe to roll yesterday and later in the day he said, "I didn't want to admit this earlier but my calf feels like 110% better..LOL!)

Goal #3-Do at least one day of yoga. I have done yoga in the past but really felt like I could not get out of my own head enough for it to be effective (if that makes sense). However, I know my running will likely improve with regular yoga since it focuses on flexibility and breathing.

Goal #4- Get at least three strength training session in. I'm obsessed with kettlebells so my goal is to get at leas three kettlebell workouts in at some point (I've even been known to bring them into my office!)

Goal #5- Eat salmon at least once. I know this seems like a crazy simplistic goal, but the truth is that while I don't hate salmon, I'm not a fan of fishy tasting fish. I know the health benefits are so high and I know that it's likely something that I'll love once I find different and interesting ways to cook/pair it.

What are you goals for the week??

I'll check back in next Monday to let you know how I did and what I'm working on for that week!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Five-Transitioning from Neighborhood Jogs to Races

So since I'm new to blogging this is my first "Friday Five" and my first blog link-up. I apologize profusely if I did something wrong in the linking or the mentioning, but I am so appreciate of  You Signed Up for What?! Mar on the Run! and Eat Pray Run DC for hosting!

Since it's a "free" Friday and we can choose our Friday Five, I've decided to go with my five tips for runners who are transitioning from running around their neighborhood to participating in races with the goal to challenge their endurance and speed.

1- Find a Group!

As we all know most of our life's big goals are best accomplished when we have someone alongside us who wants to achieve the same thing. The mutual support and accountability can be invaluable. Local running stores, running clubs, MeetUp groups, etc. are all great options. I have recently started the Women's Running Series at Big River Running in addition to attending some of their group run. This has been a great experience and I've met some awesome ladies who invited me to run with them. I'll be joining their half-marathon training program in July which is free!

                                                    Yoga at our first session of Women's Running Series

2-Get the Right Shoes!

There are A LOT of cute "running shoes" out on the market right now and it can be so tempting to buy ones that are your favorite color or look. When I first started running consistently a few years ago I threw on whatever athletic shoes I had at the time. Most of the time these were cross-trainers and not designed for running. I would often end up with an injury a few weeks in and I know having improper shoes played a large role in that. Once I was fitted it made all the difference
 A store specializing in running will fit you for the proper shoes by analyzing your gait, build and a variety of other factors. However if you feel like you're being pressured or upsold, you don't have to buy whatever they tell you! While giving them your business is good if you feel comfortable, you can certainly utilize the information they gave you about your needs and take time to weigh the options.

                                         Even the property fitted shoes come in cute colors!

3-Slow Your Roll!

I think for any person who is just thinking about making the jump from running a lap around their neighborhood once a week whose goal is to compete in a distance race, a 5k is the absolute best place to start. You can have ideas in the back of your head of getting to Boston someday, but focusing on the more manageable goal of a 5k is a great way to get bitten by the race buy. First it's a manageable distance that people with baseline running levels can complete with a non-intrusive training program. Secondly the atmosphere at most 5ks is that of a casual and fun environment which is a great way to introduce yourself to racing. Starting with the ever-popular Couch 2 5k program is a great way to get used to running consistently multiple days per week and really does give you the base for moving onto longer distances.

                                                    One of my first 5ks!

4-Run Outside!

Now I know a lot of you love your treadmills and that they can be necessary in certain weather and I'm not advocating of never using a treadmill under any circumstance. However, for me, one of the greatest joys of running is being outside and just being out there, in your neighborhood or on a long country road, city park, field, trail, etc.

Moving around your world powered only by your own two feet is an amazing feeling. I ran to my office this morning. It's only 5 miles but it was such an amazing feeling knowing that I was doing my commute on foot. The energy from being out there is carrying me nicely through the rest of my day.

                                          Pic taken while running at Forest Park...this is what it is all about!

5-Don't Get Overwhelmed-

The running community is one of the most inclusive and encouraging group of folks and they are so supportive of anyone who wants to get out there and run. That being said when you're first starting out reading/talking about the gear, the races, the fuel, the rolling, the pacing, the tempo runs, the speedwork and all the in-between can seem SO overwhelming. Remember running is really putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, you don't need to jump into all that stuff right away to be a "runner" just need to run! Sooner or later you'll want to scratch the surface a little more as your distance increases to see what it's all about, but for now...just get out there!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Marathon Relay Recap

So this weekend was the Go! St. Louis Family Fitness Expo and Races. I participated in the marathon relay event and I just have to say that I absolutely LOVED being a part of a relay team. While my goal is to run 1/2 marathons as they seem like the distance for me, I can see myself doing the relay event at this race each year, even though it's the big spring race in St. Louis and the 1/2 here is a big one.

Being a part of the relay added a whole other level to the race and it was just fun to get to be a part of  team and have accountability to others. I was a team-sport athlete all the way through college so I think being part of a team is just something that is ingrained in me.

First things first, however was the expo! I love race expos, there is a such a great vibe and the most of the vendors there are so chatty and friendly. I had a seminar for work that was close to the expo center so I went during the lunch break to check it out. It was at Chaifetz Arena, which is the arena where St. Louis University plays their basketball games (Go Billikens!). I really liked having it in the arena there, however parking there is a nightmare! No, I don't want to pay an additional $5 to park for the expo after I've already paid my $75 entry fee...thanks very much! I chose street-parking instead, but that meant about a 3/4 mile hike in some pretty brutal wind.

The expo itself was great though, the vendors were, as mentioned above, very friendly and chatty. I got some fuel samples (Sport Beans and Gu) some Zoom Immune Booster supplements, a pacer tattoo to help you keep your pace without having to do math or have an app for it, some awesome lime-green shoe laces and a variety of coupons for local running stores and future race entries.

Of course I couldn't go and only get free stuff though, now could I?! The two big race expos in STL during the year are also the time when some of our local running stores have their best sales. I was on the lookout for a pair of Ghost 6's and wouldn't you know that I found a my size...for $85!! Score!

Love the colors and love the shoes!

I also snagged a Handana as I've been on the lookout for something like this for a while. The day before, in spin class, it was so humid that my hands were sleeping off the bike wheel and my towel fell off the bike twice. This worked really well for the race and was great at wicking away the sweat without absorbing it!

                                            image courtesy of Handana

So leaving the expo about $100 poorer, I was ready for the race!

Saturday we took it easy, I did some kettlebell work and took the dogs for a long walk to stretch out, but I didn't do any running. I had been fighting off a sinus infection all week and hadn't really decreased the exercise at all, so I thought it best just to take it easy before the race. We went to see the new Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the afternoon (I'd recommend it, I thought it was really good!) and then did an early birthday dinner for my mom. I had pasta primavera in a light olive oil sauce which was delish.

I hit the hay by about 8:30 to prepare me for the 5 AM wake-up call. I will have to say this was the tricky part about doing the relay when I was up, dressed and out the door before 6 AM, but not actually running until about 10:30. This made breakfast and warming up a bit tricky. I had a Greek yogurt and a cup of coffee before leaving the house then brought a banana that I had about an hour before I ran. I probably could have used a bit more food, maybe some peanut or almond butter on the banana...but overall it seemed fine.

It was pretty cold at race start (about 36) and the wind was kind of nasty. I was happy that I was the jacket Sherpa as it meant that I could wear my teammates jackets over top of my own to stay warm!

All of the relay stations were close to stops on our light-rail system, the MetroLink and travel on the link was free for race participants. So after each leg, we'd hop on over to the other one to watch our teammates in. Since I was the anchor, I was ferrying a lot of bags and the like, which also meant no pic were taking of my teammates (so bummed about that!).

When it got to my anchor leg of the race, I was so pumped that I foolishly took off like a bullet. My goal was to maintain 10 min/miles as this is a pace I'm comfortable with for 6 miles, however I did my first mile in 9:02, second in 9:19 and the third in 9:36. However after that my time began to increase and the course got hillier, my fourth, fifth and sixth miles were all over 10 with the 5th being 11:38 and basically uphill for the entire mile. Overall I ended up with a 9:54 average and I was really happy with that.

Despite the fact that we hadn't really come up with a plan for meeting, Joe managed to get to the finish line a few minutes before I arrived there and snapped some pics. I really like this one.

After the race we walked around the post-race festivities for a bit, although none of the food really appealed to me as it was all "St. Louis themed" and pretty heavy stuff. We decided to head to a local Mexican place to get some lunch and I attacked the chips with gusto and had a celebratory margarita!

I went home and rolled, stretched and iced my left knee (arthritis from an old field hockey injury) and we rented some DVDs from Red Box and got take-out from my fave Crazy Bowls and Wraps after hitting up Lowe's for some stuff we needed for spring landscaping. I made a comment to Joe that it was so funny how you reach a certain age and life is waking up early to run and spending an afternoon at Lowe's. What would our 21 year-old selves think of it?!

I had also taken off work on Monday as it was opening day for our St. Louis Cardinals (big fans over here) and we had tickets to the game in the afternoon. I was glad because my legs were still a bit sore from my too-fast first few miles of the race, so I got some much needed walking, stretching, rolling, etc. in.

The weather was rainy and cold but the festivities were still in full swing downtown and we loved taking part in it. We met some of Joe's friends at a stadium bar for a pre-game drink then headed into the stadium early to watch the Opening Day festivities. One cool thing they had were a bunch of ice sculptures to commemorate the beginning of the season and our great season last year. Kind of cool, huh?!

The Cardinals won the game and we headed home. I hit the hay early as it had been a long day out in the wind and rain but it was great nonetheless!

Have you ever done a relay, and if so did you like it?
How do you fight the urge to head out fast when the racing adrenaline is high?
Are you a sports fan? Who are your teams?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When did you decide you were "really a runner"?

I feel like this is a common theme on many of the blogs I've been reading since I decided to enter this little corner of the internet. Most of the bloggers that I'm following and admiring seem to describe an early phase in which they "didn't really feel like a runner" and "didn't think they should call themselves a runner".

Right now I'm trying to move out of that phase. I've been actively running for a few years but I just started participating in the running/racing community. For some reason this makes me feel like I shouldn't call myself a runner or that it is doing a disservice to people who have run faster and longer for me to put myself in the same category as they are. As if they are going to look at me and think, "you don't get to say that you run...only I run!" I know that's not the case and if anything, it's just the opposite! My very first group run on Monday, I met two really nice and friendly gals (I use that word a lot, I just like it better than "ladies" or "women" as gal to me kind of means "friend") who talked to me and gave me the lowdown on the group runs and invited me on another group "pub run" that is coming up in a few weeks. This was all within a few minutes of meeting them!

Last night I attended the first in a series of 4 Women's Running Clinics at my favorite local running store, which was aimed at nutrition for female runners and yoga for female runners. The content was great and I can't wait for next week where we focus on apparel (what girl doesn't love some new duds!). However I questioned myself even while sitting in a room with women of varying ages, fitness levels and the like. I still thought, "I wonder if they know that I haven't done a half-marathon yet if they would still think I belonged here." What the heck is that about?! When did I become Sally Insecurity??

I am going to try and change this mentality and have decided that my new mantra will be, "as long as you get out there and put one foot in front of the other, you're a runner."

Did you ever have trouble calling yourself a runner?
When did you decide it was ok to make the leap?
What can we do to encourage people who want to run to do so without stigma?