Friday Favorites [Race Edition]

 I have called myself a runner for the last eight years, but my running for the first four years looked a lot different than my running of the last four years. For a lot of reasons, this is a good thing, but I am definitely not as speedy as I once was, and as I think about my upcoming race this weekend, I am feeling a little defeated before race day is even here. This is all my own doing…I always mentally think I am better and faster than I am. I think this train of thought means that I can go big places with my running, but I still need to be realistic about where I am right now instead of holding myself to previous goals. And in the end, I will still have another awesome race memory. For now, I’m going to highlight my five favorite things about racing!

– Gear –

Clothes, shoes, fuel, belt, headphones, charged devices, bib, safety pins, ponytail, headband…it all needs to be laid out and ready the night before. Race morning usually comes at early o’clock and I like minimal thinking to happen when I roll out of bed. But picking out my outfit is always so fun. Dressing for success and all that. 😉

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– Start Line Anticipation –

Getting warmed up, finding my corral, double knotting my shoes, singing the National Anthem, and hearing the gun go off…it’s the little moments leading up to the race that make you feel so excited about being part of the running community.

– Spectators & Signs –

Crowd support is the absolute best. When you are running along and feeling your best, those cheerleaders make you feel like a million bucks, and when you hit a wall, the crowd is still there pushing you along. I love when someone I don’t know reads my bib and calls out my name or cheers my on by the color of my shirt. Even if you mentally know where your friends and family will be along the course, a stranger’s words of encouragement go a long way!

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Sarah and I spectated the Marine Corps Marathon last year, and this is the race we will both be at this weekend! I am running the 10K, and Sarah is running her first marathon, along with two of our other friends who are basically marathon pros at this point. 😉 But two of my other running friends and I got together last night to make signs for this weekend and I am so excited to cheer once the 10K is complete!

– Race Photos –

I might be in the minority on this, but I love spotting the race photographer and doing something silly. They can catch you at the worst of moments, but I can’t deny that race photos are some of my favorite. You will always have memories of the happy/sad/hard/awesome times during the race. Plus, putting a smile on your face can totally change your attitude and we have to remember why we’re out there running in the first place…because we love it.

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– Digging Deep –

Whether you’re running for fun or trying to get a shiny new PR, there are always moments that feel harder than others. Pushing past mental or physical barriers that you put on yourself is the best feeling, and probably why so many of us continue to run day after day. We all need to feel like we’ve accomplished something, and nothing feels better than leaving it all out there on the race course.

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At 7:45 AM on Sunday morning, I’ll be toeing the start line of the Marine Corps 10K and reminding myself of all of these reasons that I love to run and race so much. My running has changed a lot in the last 8 years, so while I won’t be chasing a PR in the 10K distance, I will be chasing a 10K PR for me where I’m at in my running right now…and if I can do that with a smile on my face, then mission accomplished. 🙂

Linking up with Five on Friday and Friday Favorites 

Running Revelations

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Reasons my 4 mile run was terrible:

– Good news: I have muscle now. Bad news: my lungs forget the capacity they need to run.
– Hills.
– You don’t get to stop every 12-15 reps like you do when you lift. You’re just expected to keep going?!
– Awkward left turn at the end of the run when we were so close to being done. NO THANK YOU, I WILL PROCEED STRAIGHT DOWN THE SIDEWALK AND MEET YA BACK THERE.
– Spitting rain. Either rain or don’t. Actually, please don’t rain. Please just snow. #teachersolutions
– Phantom hip aches (now THAT’S an old injury) and shin pains (go AWAY for the love).

Reasons my 4 mile run was awesome:

– I can count the number of times I’ve gone running in the last six weeks on two hands. SO AT LEAST I WENT.
– Even though I was bringing up the rear the entire time, I was always running near someone or talking, which was nice.
– One of my friends got engaged and I haven’t seen her (or her ring!) since it all happened and she was running with our group, too!
– I ran the half mile from home to lululemon before the run, so I added a little bit of distance.
– I always run faster with groups than I do by myself, SO YAY FOR SPEED.
– I finished.

Running is not an easy sport. It is so rewarding and it is so fun, but it takes a lot of work. Sure, you can decide to go for a run on any random day, but if you aren’t running consistently, you will likely feel slow and frustrated at some point while you’re out there. I define myself by the six days a week I used to run 4-6 miles per day at an 8:30 pace and that is just not where I am anymore. Could I get back to that point? Absolutely. But I was not going to get there last night. I was not going to feel that ease, that speed, that feeling of happiness you get when you are out there running the distances and the speeds you know you can handle with no problem. Last night was all about survival. Ha!

For some, that is part of the fun. I know I enjoy the challenge of “starting over” from time to time. But it can also be mentally challenging. You are so angry that you have continued to workout, but you’ve lost running fitness. You are so frustrated that you are, in fact, breathing while you run, yet it feels like you can’t catch your breath. But, as I told my students about writing yesterday, you aren’t going to get better at something unless you do that thing. You won’t be a better writer if you don’t practice writing, and you won’t be a better runner unless you are actually out there running.

Strength training plays a HUGE role in a runner’s life, but I was kind of using my strength training as an excuse to not run. I figured hey, with all this hard work, I’ll be so strong and fast that I can just pick up where I left off! Not true. Though I do have plans to finish the Hammer & Chisel workout calendar I am completing now, I also need to get my running game back together. I am set to run a half marathon at the end of March. AH! What have I gotten myself into?!

For now, I’ll lace up my pretty new shoes, wear my favorite running leggings, and pretend to be the person running below. Because she’s fast and awesome and not angry while she runs. 😉

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Running: What Do You Really Need?

It has been said that running is the easiest form of exercise to partake in because it’s so low maintenance. All you need is a pair of shoes and you’re good to go! For those who are avid runners, you know this just isn’t true. There are many more things we “need”! And for those of you who run just every once in a while, you know it’s not the easiest thing to just start doing. It takes a lot of mental patience as you get better and stronger!

Today we’re talking about the Running Oldies But Goodies…you know, those pieces we have in our closet that we just can’t live without. We all have them! They bring us luck, make us faster, and tend to give us a feeling of ease as we head out the door, no?

Shoes

If you plan on running often, any old pair of shoes simply won’t cut it. Different shoes work for different people! I’ve worn Asics, Brooks, Mizunos, and New Balance, and it seems like it just depends on the season of life I’m in with my running as to what works best. The last two shoes I have purchased have both been Asics Gel-Kayano®. First I had the 20s, then I switched colors and bought the 21s. I wanted to go back to my beloved Brooks Ghost…

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How cute are these?! But they don’t offer as much stability as the shoe I am in now since they are a neutral shoe. I also noticed (after wearing the Gel Kayano’s for one training cycle) that the gel makes a huge difference in the feeling of the shoe! I can’t let the Asics go just yet. I am due for a new pair of shoes, and I don’t know if I can handle change yet. 😉

Clothes

My biggest tip about running clothes is this: invest in dri-fit or sweat-wicking fabric. It feels so much more comfortable when you are running if your clothes aren’t sticking to you! And honestly, these clothes will transfer to your other workouts, too. As you can see, I wore some of my favorite running clothes to teach a Spinning class…

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…and the reason cotton t-shirts just don’t cut it can be seen above! Ain’t nobody got time for a soaking wet shirt during their workout. 😉 As far as brands go, I am not loyal to any particular one. I love the lululemon tops and bottoms that I own, but I have found just as many pieces that I love from Target and Gap. To each their own with clothing brands! As long as it soaks up my sweat, I’m good.

Fuel & Hydration

Fuel Belt

For longer runs or days when it is really hot, a fuel belt can be a lifesaver. I have a SPIbelt which stretches to fit my keys, my ID and any other cards I bring with me, and my huge iPhone 6 Plus. I also have a New Balance belt that has a small zippered pocket and two small water bottles on each side. I have to carry my phone in my hand when I wear this belt, but I do that most of the time anyway so it doesn’t really bother me. And I love having water or Powerade Zero on my hip! I usually wear it off to the side (not on the front as shown in the picture) because it doesn’t move as much that way for me.

Fuel

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Gu of the chocolate variety is my fuel of choice. Vanilla Bean actually made my list of accepted flavors, though! I have tried Shot Blocks, but their gummy texture just isn’t for me while running. I like water, water with a nuun tablet, or Powerade Zero for hydration.

Recovery

Foam Roller

My foam roller was a cheap find at Marshall’s and it does just as well as its more expensive counterparts from Dick’s Sporting Goods! I am forever rolling my calves, glutes, and the outsides of my hips. It’s definitely a “hurts so good” kind of feeling, but it is so helpful post-run!

The Stick

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My brother purchased The Stick for me as a gift last Christmas and I LOVE it! It feels much harder and more intense than the foam roller, and that’s exactly why I love it. I mentioned earlier that I always roll out my glutes, and I have found that the pressure from The Stick isn’t as helpful in that case, but a golf ball will do the trick! You can improvise. 🙂

Compression Socks

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Or should I say sleeves? It took me a long time to invest in PROCompression socks, mostly because I was being cheap. This summer, there was a sale on their calf sleeves. You could order a grab bag of three for only $55! One pair of compression sleeves is $45, so I feel like the grab bag price is a steal. The catch: you can’t choose what colors are sent to you. 😉 I don’t much care if I match (as you can tell from the above photo), but I ended up with baby blue, purple, and a red and white striped pair. I LOVE wearing these sleeves after a long run or when I feel like my shins are acting up post-run.

Headphones

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Everyone seems to have a very specific opinion about which headphones are best. I, personally, am a fan of the regular ol’ iPhone earbuds! I buy extras when mine get lost and steal my brothers’ when they get new phones. They fit my ears perfectly, they never fall out, the sound is great…I just have no complaints! And no need for wireless ones, though those are really popular too. Note to self: don’t wear a necklace and headphones while working out. It will end badly.

One last note about winter running gear since I’m in the middle of Winter Storm Jonas over here in D.C. 😉

I am not one to advocate for buying a whole new running wardrobe just because it is winter. I am all about the layers. I wear some of the same long sleeved tops and bottoms that I wear on chilly spring or fall days, but instead of wearing one long sleeved shirt, I wear two. That kind of thing. My favorite cold weather headband is from Target (because hello cheap gear) and my favorite gloves are any pair that cover my hands. I do have a neon green pair from Nike, but they are just as warm as the $3 pair from Target. 🙂

Have a few pieces with fleece on the inside. My bright pink pullover and blue and grey Nike pullover are both fleece-lined, and with a long sleeve shirt underneath I can usually get away with them during cold weather months! On especially cold days, I add a random jacket over top or I run on the treadmill. Ha! I was lucky enough to receive a lululemon running vest for Christmas as well as one of their scarves, and while they truly ARE warm, they mostly just help me feel more fashionable. Pieces that have changed the game = my grey North Face jacket. That thing is warm for everyday life AND running life. It’s a win, win. Except that it is always in the washing machine so it doesn’t smell like sweat when I wear it in real life. #runnerproblems

So tell me…what pieces can’t you live without?!

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Linking up here!
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5 Things You Should Know About Running

Did you happen to know that I really like to run?
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I have run three 5Ks, one 10K, two 10-milers, four half marathons, and right now I am currently training for my first full marathon: 26.2 miles. I have been a fast runner, I have been a slow runner, I have been an injured runner, and I have been a healthy runner. Along the way, I have learned a few important things. These tips apply to you whether you consider yourself a runner or not!

Note: I am not a nutritionist, personal trainer, or running coach. I am simply sharing what has worked for me in the past. 

– ONE –

Get out the door.
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The hardest part of your run is deciding to go. The hardest part of MY run is deciding to go. But once we are out there, it feels so good! Don’t overanalyze it. Just go. Decide when you are going to go for your run and go at that specific time. You don’t cancel appointments with your doctor, and you shouldn’t cancel appointments with yourself to better your health (unless of course you are sick or injured). I personally like to run in the morning because I have no time to think about running…I just wake up and go. I start the day full of energy and feeling accomplished. There is something to be said for evening runs too…sometimes it’s cooler outside, sometimes you’re meeting up with friends, sometimes that’s the only time YOU can make it work…but again, just decide. You are going to be a better you in ten or twenty or thirty minutes when you return home, so go kick your own butt and come back feeling like a rockstar. 🙂

– TWO –

Don’t JUST run.

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It doesn’t matter if you are a brand new runner or you are in the middle of training for a race…running cannot be your only form of exercise. Running takes a toll on your body. You are pounding your legs into the trail or road or treadmill over and over again. You need to stretch, you need to bike, you need to swim, you need to lift weights, and you need to lay around and do nothing. You can still do cardiovascular exercise without running, and you should! Keep your fitness up while you give your body a break. It is easy to think that you will never get better or faster if you don’t run all of the time, but you are actually helping yourself when you take it easy a few days of the week! I wrote more about running recovery here.

– THREE –

Feed yourself.

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Maybe I am only talking to myself when I say this, but you must remember that running takes you down to E and after your workout, you have to fill your body back up to F. If you are running for weight loss, of course you don’t want to over do it and cancel out everything you just did on your run, but you NEED food. I was having a moment tonight where I legitimately felt hungry. It wasn’t one of those “am I hungry or am I bored?” moments. No, I was legitimately hungry. And instead of going to get food, I drank water because even though I ran today, I kept telling myself I ate enough today and I was fine. Not true. If your body is telling you to eat, you need to eat. If you went for a run today and you didn’t eat anything substantial, you need to. Pay extra close attention on the days that you run so that you know you are getting proper nutrition. And just so you know, I ended up eating yogurt with nuts and broccoli with salsa. Not at the same time. Don’t ask me about my snack choices. My pantry is bare. Hahaha

– FOUR –

Don’t beat yourself up.

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Look, sometimes we just can’t run. Our muscles are sore, we have 10,000 things on our to do list, we didn’t get enough sleep…the list goes on. Just like your body can tell you when you’re hungry, your body can also tell you when to take a day off. Don’t be a slave to your training plan, whether it’s official or not. You might be following a specific training plan and you might have just decided that you were going to run X amount of miles today. Either way, when the day rolls around, if your body doesn’t feel 100%, don’t hit the pavement, and don’t feel bad about it. Today I was scheduled to run 3 miles and then my next run is 13.1 on Saturday. My hip is acting up so instead of pushing myself through 3 miles, I made the (very hard) decision to workout on the elliptical and save my strength for Saturday. Did I want to do that? No. Do I feel like a failure because I didn’t follow the training plan? Kind of. But I know what I can handle, so I need to give myself some grace. You know what you can handle too, so do that. Be proactive in preventing a possible injury. Runners don’t always make the best choices about when or when not to run…but that’s because we’re crazy and we love it so much! 🙂

– FIVE –

Make it fun.

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What do YOU like? I like running outside, I like running with friends, and I like signing up for races that aren’t in my hometown. Whatever is your running happy place is the thing you should do most often! Running isn’t all about pain and agony and hunger and sleepiness. 😉 More often, it’s about being social, making yourself feel better, and exploring the world around you! It’s easy to look at social media and think that we have to be a certain kind of runner…but we certainly do not. You might like to run at the track while I like to run around the city. I like racing, you might never sign up for a race in your life. It doesn’t matter. If you are having fun, then you are a successful runner. 🙂

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Linking up with the Friday Five Link Up hosted by DC area bloggers Eat Pray Run DCMar on the Run and You Signed Up For What?! Visit the hosts and share some love with the other bloggers who have linked up!

National Running Day

Good morning. It’s my favorite day of the year.

Do I love Wednesdays? Well, no. Not particularly. Actually, my favorite day of the week is Thursday. 😉

Is today my birthday? Nope.

Am I going on an exotic vacation today? Big ‘ol no.

So what is going on, you ask???
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It’s National Running Day. I know, you are so excited, you can hardly contain yourself!

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Every year since 2009, the first Wednesday of June has served as a day for runners across the country to claim their crazy passion for running. I shared the love of National Running Day on Instagram in 2013 and 2014. It’s funny how I look at these posts and remember both of those runs!

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On this particular day, I left my local YMCA after doing some strength training to go running outside. Because you just can’t run INSIDE on National Running Day –> thoughts of my crazy brain. 😉 However, if you live in Plum and you run in Holiday Park, bless your little running soul. SO many unexpected hills. This day was also very humid, which didn’t help!

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Last year, I shared my “why” for running…getting lost in the miles is definitely not the reason I started running, but it is definitely what keeps me running! I wrote all about my running story HERE.

2015’s Instagram post (because did it really happen if it’s not on social media?!) will be me running with my small group at church. How awesome is it that we get to run together and then eat and talk and pray together afterwards?! I am so happy I found this church and these people. 🙂 I am also super excited because I have been inviting one of my friends to come to running group with me and she is FINALLY able to come tonight. How perfect that she will meet all my other running and church friends on National Running Day!

Running is special to me for many reasons, but the PEOPLE are definitely one of the biggest, whether it’s with my friends, or with one of my poor family members that I make come with me…

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Color Me Rad 2013

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…or even my dogs! This is the front yard at my Mom’s house, and no I’m not holding onto either of their leashes, because after a few miles with these crazies, you just have to let go! Ha! They are actually pretty easy to manage once we get going. Colby (the golden retriever) is a brat and spends the first half of the run turned around trying to chew his leash off. Yes. That is reality. Amigo (the pitbull) is 65 pounds of MUSCLE and if I’m not careful, he can very easily put himself in charge of the run by pulling us along. He’s a fast one! BUT, overall, my neighborhood is pretty quiet and the dogs leave each other alone, so the perfect run consists of running down the middle of the road with the two of them right next to each other. In the middle of the road, they aren’t distracted by mailboxes and front yards. I can’t have them pulling my arms off. 😉

I love running for a purpose, whether it’s to get rid of stress, stretch my legs after sitting at school or work all day, or honor others. In 2013, I was part of the Steel City Road Runners club in Pittsburgh, and we dedicated one of our Saturday morning runs to those suffering the aftermath of the horrible bombing at the Boston Marathon.

I love running because it gives me an excuse to shop…

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…shoes, belts, Gu, new clothes, comfy socks…these things are NECESSARY for a great run. I kid. They definitely make running more comfortable but they really just help me have an excuse for “retail therapy”. 😉

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New shirts from races never hurt, either.

Running is the perfect way to explore, whether you’re in your own town or on vacation in a new place. That’s the best part about running: you can literally do it ANYWHERE! Of course, then you have to sacrifice your travel outfit to wear your running shoes OR sacrifice space in your suitcase to pack your running shoes. I usually choose the latter. You will make it work if it’s important to you! Nothing beats exploring by foot. 🙂

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Running also gives me the excuse to order dishes like this…

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Let me just say, “carb loading” is a real concept. However, you don’t need to eat massive amounts of carbs before you run. You DO need to fuel and refuel your body, which means eating some protein + carbs, but running is definitely not an excuse to eat whatever you want. Your body will definitely tell you that you messed up! Imagine this: a girl running down the National Mall a good half mile behind her friends because she ate a ridiculous amount of peanut butter and jelly out of their respective jars with a spoon two hours before running. No, that never happened to me. I have no idea who would do such a thing. #sonauseous #worstrunever

Running gives me a lot, but it also takes a lot. I don’t always feel like lacing up my shoes and even when I do, I don’t always return on cloud nine.

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You have to take care of your body. You have to stretch, you have to walk or jog after you finish your run, and you have to give your body some time to rest. But, the views that you see while you’re out there make it worth it. Listen to great music, listen to nothing at all except the sound of your feet running, just take it all in. There’s nothing wrong with running and taking a million pictures on your phone…or running to a really pretty spot in your city and just taking a little break.

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Running is what YOU make it. You are not an Olympic athlete, and neither am I. Just put on some shoes, walk out your front door, and put on your game face. You might just come to love it.

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So tell me…do you like to run?!

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Right now, I am participating in the Runner’s World Run Streak! The goal is to run at least one mile a day from Memorial Day until the Fourth of July. Find out more about the #RWRunStreak HERE and read all about my daily fun (and struggles) HERE!

Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Weekend Recap

This weekend, my favorite friends came to visit! They got into town on Saturday in the early afternoon so we headed straight to lunch at Busboys and Poets. We had many other exciting things on our agenda like checking into our hotel and going to the Race Expo to pick up our bibs;) I only live about 8 miles from the nearest monument but because it was the Cherry Blossom Festival Weekend, everybody and their uncle was in town and I didn’t want to risk rushing around on race morning! We shopped and ate and ate and shopped…then passed out by 10:30 PM to be ready for our wake up call Sunday morning. 🙂

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We woke up at 6 AM to get ready but I was pleasantly surprised to see the sun coming up while we were still at our hotel! Ate English muffins with peanut butter, pinned our bibs on, made sure our devices were charged…race morning rituals. The race started on 15th Street and Independence and the walk there wasn’t bad at all! But as soon as we walked up towards the Washington Monument, we saw all.the.people.

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We hung out and took some photos and then started to walk towards our corrals when the elite women started running. The race officially began at 7:30, but the elite men and women started a bit earlier. Trying to get into our corral was interesting…we squeezed through a fence. There didn’t seem to be any way to get up front besides starting at the back and pushing forward and I always feel bad doing that! While we waited in our corral for our wave to start, the race announcer told us they had to modify the course. Like while the race was happening/about to happen. Apparently, there was some kind of accident involving a pedestrian between miles 4-6, but once we were running, I couldn’t even tell where we made a detour! And there isn’t too much info about the person who got hurt but they are okay! Technically we ran 9.85 miles because of the course modification, but we’re all calling it 10. Go with it. 🙂

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Each corral started running about 3 minutes apart which, in theory, is nice, but there were SO many people in each corral that I really felt crowded the entire time! The first mile was super slow as everyone found their footing and by mile four, I felt like I had a little bit more room to move. Still, I felt like I was driving my car at some points! I had to look over my shoulder, check my blind spots, “merge” into the open space next to me…ha! There were many times where you could find me running in the grass next to the road;)

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Of course, I tried to play photographer WHILE I was running. I’m sure that didn’t look strange at all. 🙂

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It was probably even less strange to see me taking selfies. Honesty hour: I took about 15 selfies before I got an acceptable shot. I needed a normal face, some sun but not too much, and a pretty tree. The people around me definitely thought I was crazy. Yes.

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Miles 1-6 did a nice loop around the National Mall, over the Memorial Bridge towards Arlington and back, down towards the Kennedy Center and back, and then we set off on the path down past the Potomac River. Which is very pretty. And very cherry blossom-y. And very flat. And very boring. Granted, there were water stops…and bands playing…and a bride and groom getting photos taken…and a golf course to look at…but I really felt like I was running on the road to nowhere. The monuments were behind me at this point and I knew that’s where the finish line was so I just tried to figure out when we were going to turn around and it felt like it was never going to happen. Ha! Luckily, I got pretty pictures like the one above. 🙂

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Then at mile 9, I saw a bunch of girls on the side cheering and making a scene and really entertaining all of us tired runners…and then I realized these nice spectators had little Dixie cups of beer and jello shots. Did I take a jello shot while racing ten miles? You may decide the answer to that one. 😉 The last 800 meters of the race was uphill so that was great after 9.5 miles of FLAT! I put on a really loud mean song and legit ran to the finish line. Usually I have nothing left until I can actually see the finish line…yesterday, I was out there to eat that hill for breakfast. And I’m pretty sure there was a photographer on that part of the course so THAT is going to be a pretty picture. Ha!

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This is the race I have been talking about and training for and working towards. I get so nervous about running and racing now that I’ve been hurt and I think I get stuck in my own head. I CAN do hard things and I WILL recover and do it again! Even though the course was cut a tiny bit short, all three of us PR’ed in this race! I think that is amazing. And maybe also due to the fact that it was mostly flat and we are used to Pittsburgh hills but either way, we earned our medals!

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And celebrated with Baked and Wired cupcakes. Because we earned those too. 🙂

I’m still on a runner’s high and a “I love my friends” high so this Monday is going to rock. Do something today to make your Monday rock. You can do hard things! Like make it through the first day of the work week;)

Running Recovery

Runners do this thing where they love to run so much they forget to do anything else. I talked about how too many miles led me straight to injury, and how post-injury I have to pay attention to rest days and recovery so that I am properly taking care of my body. Still, there are days when I have thismuchtime to get my run in and warming up and cooling down feels like it gets in the way!

Usually my cool down looks something like this…

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Perfect 9 mile recovery: laying on the floor of your apartment. Ha!

Two VERY important reasons I (and you!) should be cooling down:

1. Avoid cramping and dizziness.
Your blood pressure rises when you are working out and so stopping abruptly and not allowing your blood pressure and heart rate to slowly come down can cause the blood to pool in your veins and give you a kind of dizzy feeling. Also, your muscles will rebel and you’ll start to cramp. I’ve definitely hopped off the Spin bike too soon and gotten a Charley horse!

2. Let your muscles recover for your next workout.

If you just jog it out after a run, your range of motion isn’t big enough to work out every muscle in your body. Obviously working every muscle in your body is a difficult task, but doing more dynamic movements will release the tension in more of your muscles, and you can avoid future injury (source). Do some high knee marching, high knee skipping, or straight leg shuffles. I can do it while I walk back towards my apartment…you can do it while you walk back to your car…we can make this cool down thing happen.

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I like to take pictures of my feet. Judge me.

I know what I am supposed to do…it’s just so hard to make myself do it. Usually when my GPS rings and I know my run is over, I immediately slow down and start walking. For the chorus of a song, for an entire song, for the amount of time it takes to upload a picture to Instagram…it’s a very carefully timed walk. Not. But after that, I will typically jog a quarter of a mile at a slower pace to let my heart rate come down. Then I’ll walk a little more and usually by that time, I am home. Outside of my apartment, I’ll do some simple leg stretches (hamstrings and quads) and stretch out my arms. I also bend over and touch my toes because I feel like that’s necessary, but apparently that can really strain your lower back. 😉

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And of course I have my trusty foam roller and massage stick once I’m inside! At times, we’re all slackers. We’re all busy with 104 things to do. If you’re slacking on a legitimate cool down you should at least do these three things:

1. Massage your muscles.
Use a foam roller or a massage stick…you will be glad you did.

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Colby tried to chew foam rollers in his youth.

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The hurts-so-good Stick.

2. Flush it out.
I know all the hoopla surrounding ice baths…the cold helps repair the little tiny tears in your muscles and the soreness that comes from repetitive workouts like running…but I just cannot bring myself to do it! I am a chronically cold person so exposing myself to more cold doesn’t sound good. Ice packs are the way for me!

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Mismatched socks are my favorite.

3. REFUEL!
EAT! AND DRINK! Your body needs protein and carbs after a hard run (or workout) and you need to replenish fluid and muscle glycogen and repair muscle damage (source). Once you remember why you have to do these things, it really reminds you that you are kind of beating up your body when you work out so you BETTER take a little bit of time to recover!

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All the beverages.

 My favorite protein + carb combo is eggs + sweet potato…and my love for ketchup knows no bounds.

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 Even though I’m talking about running, this recovery should come after every kind of hard workout! When I teach Spinning classes or PiYo classes, there is designated time at the beginning and end of our workout to warm up and cool down. We have to get our bodies ready to work hard and we have to bring our bodies back to reality when the craziness is over!

Happy working out and happy Tuesday!

My Running Story

The first time I heard someone say they were going for a run…well, I can’t even tell you how old I was. For as long as I can remember, my aunt has gone to the park or the track to jog almost every single day. When I was younger, she was one of my favorite people to spend time with (she still is!) so hearing her say she was going somewhere without me was just not cool. 😉 Sometimes she would let me come with her and I really would run and try to keep up! But I never made it too far and my mom was always nearby to pick me up when I needed it. Even with my aunt’s inspiration, my running career didn’t start until high school. Occasionally I would go running in my neighborhood, which, by the way, was completely uphill no matter which route you took, and that was about the extent of my running abilities until I went on vacation. Then I was one of those “OMG I love running on the beach” people. But let’s be honest, the beach is a prime running location!

Senior year, I decided to take running a little more seriously. I joined the cross country team. Do you know why?

Because I wanted to be on a team.

I am not a talented team sport player, so I figured I couldn’t really mess up in cross country because I was only in competition with myself and the clock. I learned so much about running during that year and I still use some of that knowledge to this day! What shoes to wear (I got shin splints real quick), what to eat before and after a race, what not to eat before and after a race, how to breathe properly, how to stretch…some good stuff.

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All of the seniors were recognized at the end of the season with a huge banner in front of their house. Remember when I said I wanted to be on a team? Hahaha

Then I went to college. I will spare you the woe-is-me-freshman-weight-gain story because there really wasn’t MUCH wrong with me at the end of freshman year besides the fact that I just felt gross. I had gained about 12 pounds and I ate and drank pretty much whatever I wanted but I had so much fun. Life is about living after all, right? The summer of 2011, I committed to being more healthy. I started going to the YMCA more often and Spinning became my #1 workout. I loved it so much that I spun my way through sophomore year and found myself in a certification class to be a Spinning instructor. 🙂

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No one likes to Spin during finals week. 😉

During the summer of 2012, I worked in the one of the Education department’s offices at Duquesne (where I went to school). This meant I had to make a decent commute downtown from the suburbs and I kind of felt like a real person for the first time. Was I supposed to wake up early and workout? Or was I supposed to work out after work when I most likely felt like crashing on the couch? I settled on morning workouts and I would do 30 minute fartleks around my neighborhood (we moved…now it is flat, thank goodness). I had no idea I was even doing fartleks, I just knew I was running quickly for 30 seconds and then jogging for 30 seconds…or maybe I would sprint mailbox to mailbox. I was basically doing speed work for short distances just so it was over quickly and I could get to work. Then I went back to the beach and fell even more in love with my soul mate workout.

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From the summer of 2011 to the winter of 2013, I typically ran 5 miles a day 6 days a week. I was starting to get really excited about how far I could go and how fast I was getting! On any given morning at 7 AM, you could find me running around downtown Pittsburgh. During holidays, family members joined me. In the warmer months, I signed up for races. It was a really great season of life.

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August 2012

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September 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

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Christmas 2012

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February 2013

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July 2013

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September 2013

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October 2013

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November 2013

By this point, I had run 2 half marathons, a 10 miler, a 10K, and three 5Ks. The half marathons were more “serious” races for me…I had a goal to finish under two hours, and I did that in 1:54 and 1:56. In the 10K, I wanted to finish in less than an hour and I just made it with a time around 58 minutes. The 10 miler and the 5Ks were just for fun (and yes, I realize how ridiculous it sounds to say I ran ten miles for fun but…). I did Color Me Rad twice and I ran the Jingle Bell Run during the holidays with friends. I have no idea what happened to me during the Jingle Bell Run but I was flying. I finished in 21:05 and that is honestly my favorite race to date because it showed me how much my body is capable of in the running world! But maybe you can see how with all of these races and an almost every day schedule of running, my body started to say no to running. I just wasn’t ready to listen. I was signed up for the 2014 Pittsburgh Half Marathon and I was convinced I was going to change my entry to the full marathon, so I started “building up my base”. Aka running more miles than I was ready for. And I ended up not even being able to lift my left leg to put pants on.

It was never a catastrophic injury…meaning I didn’t fall over while I was running or feel a great deal of pain. On New Years Day 2014, I went for a run around my neighborhood. Just 3 little baby miles to start the new year off on the right foot (or sweat out the alcohol…you will never know;))! But less than a mile into the run, my left hip just felt weird. Not pain exactly, but enough to make me say “enough” and turn around and walk home. I didn’t feel defeated because I was listening to my body and I honestly didn’t think anything serious was wrong…until this pain continued to happen every time I went running. I took a few days off (because who needs doctors) and then I paired up with my best friend Elliptical. Nothing seemed to be helping this pain/ache heal, and when I could feel the pain during my favorite hip hop cardio class, I knew something was actually wrong. I finally made an appointment at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine. I was not messing around. After a few appointments, a bunch of x-rays, and a prescription to continue not running (I was secretly dying inside), the doctor informed me that I had a tiny tear in the muscle in my left hip. This is an injury that typically isn’t surgically fixed unless you are a real athlete…which I am not. I do not get paid to run. I am not in the Olympics. I just really, really like it. So my job was to go to physical therapy and not run. After that, we could talk about running again. The doctor promised it would be possible, but it definitely wouldn’t be the same as before. I may have actually sobbed and yelled at him while he was telling me all of this. I am a really great patient. 🙂

Six weeks and many hours of Netflix+elliptical later, I was cleared to run. I legitimately left my doctor’s appointment and went straight home to change and get outside. It was so fun! But I was really surprised at how different I felt. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be and I didn’t feel motivated to get out there and run again the next day because I was too scared.

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March 11, 2014

Instead of changing my half marathon entry to a full marathon entry, I tore a muscle in my hip. The worst part of the whole injury was that I essentially did it to myself. I added too many miles to my schedule too quickly and my muscles weren’t strong enough (as in I really only ever picked up weights if it was raining or something equally as silly). I spectated my first race last May…and it was actually really fun. I thought I was going to be really depressed watching everyone do what I couldn’t do, but it was fun to be so supportive, especially because I knew so many people running! I ended up selling my race entry to a teenage boy (our moms work together) and it was his first big race so it was a great feeling to know I could give him that! And even though I wasn’t officially running, I still had a tight schedule to keep as I ran to different places on the course watching my friends! The most exciting moment was finding my best friend at mile 24 and running next to her for a few seconds to give her a pep talk during her first marathon. 🙂

IMG_2930Running and I have an interesting relationship these days. My brain wants to be invincible Kylie of 2013 and my hip is always quick to remind the rest of my body that I cannot, in fact, run every day. I have to actually follow training plans now (which I should have been doing all along…sigh) and I have to actually cross train, strength train, and stretch. All of those things that us runners sometimes slack on because we are so excited about just the running part.

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First race post-injury: The City Spree, June 2014

I ran a “Hat Trick” this past fall…a 5K and a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. I think it’s safe to say I’m back in the game. But really, I don’t feel that way all the time. Many, many days when I step outside, I have the mindset of my old running self (which is great for motivation) and then I actually start moving and I remember…my body is different now. I don’t feel like I move as quickly and sometimes I don’t even feel like a “real” runner because I’m not out there being hardcore on the daily.

Really, who decides what a “real” runner is?

I’m deciding for us.

Real runners are people who run. PERIOD.

And take selfies. #realrunner

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I’m currently on week 6 of a training plan (I’m training for a 10-miler) and I am frustrated that I am this far into the plan and running every day is still not an option for me. Example: last week I ran on Wednesday, so on Thursday I should have done no running at all. And I didn’t. I had plans to go to the gym and lift. But the gym is 0.7 miles from my apartment…so I thought…what if I run 0.5 there and walk the rest of the 0.2…and then run the 0.5 home and walk the rest of the 0.2…

THIS IS WHAT RUNNER’S BRAINS DO PEOPLE.

THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN NO RUNNING ON THURSDAY.

So I did that ridiculous bit of running which really did what? Add 1 mile to my day and get me to and from the gym a tiny bit faster? And then I woke up on Friday and immediately knew my run that day was not going to feel good. It’s times like these that make me secretly hate the people who can run every day and take it for granted OR don’t use their gift. Yes, I call it a gift. But I have to remember that I was one of these people once. I don’t get to be upset with other people for their abilities. I just have to focus on my own. And that is hard. I get frustrated and want to stop trying. But I never will because running is my most favorite thing ever and I will do whatever it takes to make sure I can participate in the sport for as long as I can. If the day comes that I really do have to hang up my hat…well, I’ll probably cry first, but then I’ll have to find a new passion to pursue. I know there are MANY people who do not understand the thrill of the run. But for me…it’s relaxing even when it’s hard, it’s rewarding, it helps me focus, and it relieves stress. I get to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets and I get to do something good for my body.

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In the meantime, I’m focusing on trying to enjoy the running that I am able to do, and I’m going to try to take better care of my body. Because I only get one body and I beat it up pretty badly before. Plus, there is a bright side to the whole I-can’t-run-everyday thing. It gives me time to Spin and lift weights and go to yoga and do all of those things I felt like I didn’t have time for before. Now I just need to practice appreciating those things. Because usually, I’m wishing I was outside looking like this.

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Run happy, everyone. 🙂