Saturday, December 19, 2015

Holiday Sweat Challenge Week 5 & 6 Update

It doesn't seem like a good sign to be able to combine two weeks worth of fitness into one blog post. However, even though I was taking a break from running, I was still working on strength and anything else to make my muscles happy!

After four weeks of the Holiday Sweat Challenge and 63 days of a run streak, my legs told me to rest. I'd been treating a tight right calf knot for about a week when on my last run (day 63) I picked up on a little twinge in my left adductor.

Time for some serious rest. After two days off to start Holiday Sweat week 5 and doing nothing beyond walking and foam rolling, I pulled out the low impact workout cards. Here are some of the workouts I did:

Lower Body Blast - Amanda Miller
Happy Hips Yoga - Happy Fit Mama
Lose the Pooch Abs - Pop Sugar Fitness
Booty Hips - Amanda Miller
Hip Strength - Runner's World (July 2015)

By Sunday, I was feeling like it was time to test the legs. The only good thing about this run was that I ran. For the first .25 everything seemed ok, but then the familiar tightness in my right calf came back (although not painful). Worse though, was the painful trigger point in my left adductor, near my knee.

Needless to say, I was crushed. The weather has finally turned cool here in Shenzhen and I can't run. I knew that feeling sorry for myself wasn't going to get me anywhere, so I went for distractions. Some things that helped keep my mind off the failed return to running: a really good book and some really good tasting snacks!

Again, I started week 6 of the Holiday Sweat Challenge in rest-the-legs mode. I focused on foam rolling and yoga stretching for the first two days and then mixed up my low/medium impact workouts. Here's what those workouts looked like:

Hip Strength & Stabilty - Jasyoga
Cardio Drills - Booya
Dirty Dozen Arms - Your Path to Fit
Pilates Abs - Run to the Finish
Not So Easy Circuit - Booya

This morning I laced up my running shoes for another test of the legs. It was going ok, just a couple of twinges in the calf and adductor. I thought it was ok to run through it.

As I neared the two mile mark, my left knee kind of gave out a little. Startled, I stopped and walked a bit. Bending and flexing my left leg. It didn't hurt, so I gave it another try. A couple of steps later the same thing happened. Run over.

As I sit here typing and icing my knee, I have no idea what this means. My knee (which has had a hard life) is unstable and I need to figure out why...what can I do to help it...and how will it affect my fitness life.


Some of the workouts I mentioned are from Booya Fitness. Booya Fitness is an online gym. Your membership gets you access to a large variety of online classes that can be done at your convenience. There are also dozens of workout training plans available for a small fee.

I have teamed up with Booya to create a 4 week training plan that is perfect for the winter months, but can be done anytime of year. It is also a great cross training option for runners as the plan has options for 30+ minute runs. Take a look here.

Are you currently following a training plan?
How do you distract yourself when you're injured?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

6 Holiday Gifts for Runners

Every year my list of gift ideas for runners pretty much stays the same: store gift cards, massages, books, magazines, etc, but I like to highlight my favorite products. These are the ones you see see me using, wearing, and going ga-ga over on Instagram. Click here if you've been missing out!

All of these items are easy to order and ship online, but can probably be found in most running and sports stores in your neighborhood, too. (I've linked to my favorite brands, but I'm not being compensated for doing so.)

My faves:

Head bandsBAMR Bands - Love! So many pretty and affordable bands to choose from, plus 10% of sales goes to charity. Win, win.

Running shoesMizuno - I'm currently wearing Wave Rider 19s, although I've worn other styles and loved them just as much.

Running socksFeetures - I don't know how I ever ran without these socks. They are so light, but at the same time the softness feels like a cushion.

Recovery shoesOofos - I wear these babies all the time. My feet and legs just bounce with happiness.

Training LogJournal Menu - I just started using a journal to keep track of my workout details: distance, pace, weather, route. This one also has room to jot down injury notes (which in my case is very helpful) and race plans. Oh and you can design it yourself!

Water bottleSimple Hydration - Best hands-free option out there. Holds just the right amount of water and makes hydrating during your run...simple. Just hook it on your waistband or Flipbelt.

Other favorites of mine not pictured:

Oiselle Distance Shorts $46 - These shorts are the best because of the front pocket that makes it easy for me to carry the gate fob to our apartment villa plus more in the back pocket if needed.

Athleta Relay Capris $69 - These just make me feel like a rock star...

Flipbelt $29 - Perfect for carrying my iPhone 6 and other essentials as needed.

Nike Racerbacks $25 - They fit just right and they're longer than other brands which is important since I have a longer torso. I have a lot of these because they're often on sale at sports stores.

What gifts do you recommend for runners?

Do we have any faves in common?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Shenzhen International 6K Recap

Getting into races in China is not easy. It took me six months to find a race, register (in English) for the lottery, and be accepted (after first being denied). The whole process was as foreign to me as I am to China!

Photo taken by my friend Adele

Let me start from the beginning...

Registration for the Shenzhen International Marathon opened only 5 weeks before the actual race date and was a lottery. For three days, runners had a chance to sign up for the marathon, half marathon or 6K. For runners doing one of the big races, I guess you just train and cross your fingers! 

I found out about the race from a friend who saw it in the newspaper and emailed me the link. I was in the US with mrC at the time, so after working out the time difference, I hovered over my keyboard until the clock ticked 9PM and the website opened for registration. It took about three tries to enter all of my information for the 6K and submit it successfully. I was caught off guard with questions asking my blood type, my passport number, and PayPal account to pay (no credit cards! what??).

A week later the lottery results were issued. When I checked my account, it said that I "lost the lot." I was bummed. A couple of weeks later I went back to the website to check on my refund and discovered that I had "won the lot!" 

Packet Pick-up:
I found out about packet pick-up the day before the race when I was researching how to get there.

mrC and I took the 40 minute metro ride to Civic Center Square to pick-up my race materials. The pick-up area looked like any typical race: a large tent with numerous windows for each event manned by volunteers. We approached one of the 6K windows and were greeted by young smiling Chinese volunteers who spoke no English, but indicated that I needed a form, which I did not have. After a few minutes, a volunteer who spoke some English was located, and he pointed me in the right direction to get my form, at a different window.

After showing my passport and a screen shot of my "won the lot" registration page, I was given my Race Articles Collection Sheet and sent back to the 6K windows to pick-up my bib and other race goodies. What I did NOT get was a disposable timing chip; only marathon and half marathon runners would be officially timed.

Although the Civic Center Square is a huge place, we did not see any indication of an expo.

Race Day:
We arrived at the race about 40 minutes before the start to discover that the Civic Center Square was for runners only. mrC wished me luck and sent me through the security check point to find my way to the start line on my own.

Once I was inside the runner's area, I took a moment to look around and then followed the mob going in the direction of the starting corrals. I knew the corrals were lined up by event: marathon, half marathon, 6K. What I didn't know was how hard it would be to walk to that last corral!

While waiting in the corral, runners all around me were waving and yelling at helicopters that flew over, holding up their flags and balloons, and taking lots and lots of pictures. A friendly Chinese girl took a photo for me and then we started moving. Ten minutes to get to the starting line.

The first half mile of the race was in slow motion. There were SO MANY people and almost impossible to RUN. Finally the crowd started to spread out, but I still came upon large groups running together blocking the whole course, runners stopping to take photos of EVERYTHING including other runners, and walkers.

Photos taken by my friend Adele

After crossing the finish line, we were herded off to the side of the runner's area to claim our bag of finishers goodies including a medal.

There was a lot of post race activity inside the runners only area including a place to get stretched out and what looked like sponsor booths. Some Chinese drummers were performing on a stage. I didn't hang around since mrC was stuck waiting outside for me.

There were 25,000 total runners, and 9,000 ran the 6K. I've run in bigger events, but always with pace corrals which really do make a difference (even if people pace themselves incorrectly). I've seen runners dress up in crazy outfits, but this was the first time I've seen the big flags and balloons carried like a parade. It was crazy, but it was fun.

Pictures: here

Video of the race:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Holiday Sweat Week 4 Update (from Osaka!)

It feels a lot like I fell off the fitness bandwagon because I haven't been doing much besides my morning runs and putting a lot of walking miles on my shoes. My calf that started bothering me a few weeks ago started to get better, but then after a long run I felt the knot firm up again. For some reason, dealing with another injury, albeit minor, has zapped my fitness mojo.

On top of that, last week was just one of those crazy weeks where it felt like there was not enough time to do everything I wanted or needed to do.

That's one reason I try to start my days with a workout.

Monday morning I beat the sun to get in a quick run before heading to JAPAN to meet up with mrC. He had a trip and was going to be there for a few days, so we decided I should join him and see it for myself.

Before heading out for a day of sightseeing on Tuesday, we explored a little around the hotel with a morning mile. The hotel was in a business-y area, but it was runner friendly with wide walking paths and some waterfront areas.

We spent the whole day walking around and exploring Kyoto.

On Wednesday we took our morning run to a little canal path we found the day before. It was very peaceful there.

Then we spent the whole day walking around and exploring Osaka. We were blessed with two beautiful days for sightseeing.

It was rainy in Japan on Thursday and without the proper gear, I opted to run in the fitness center. I'm pretty sure mrC was happy about this because it meant he didn't have to run too. It was a small crowded space, and right away I missed the cold.

Back in China, I got out for my morning mile along the waterfront and was greeted by an unusually close up view of some fishing boats in the harbor. I was feeling very lazy on Friday, and even skipped Pilates.

Saturday was RACE DAY! I haven't said that in a very long time. It was a 40 minute metro ride to the Civic Center Square, so we had an early start. I'll do a proper race recap later, but it was the craziest race experience I've ever had.

Sunday I ran my usual morning mile and mrC joined me. My legs were tired, but it felt good to wear my MRTT long sleeve shirt. I love cold weather for running.

Have you ever been in a fitness slump?
How do you get over it?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Holiday Sweat Challenge: Week 3 Update

Week 3 of the Holiday Sweat Challenge was about getting moving and having fun!

I'm all about making fitness fun. At the beginning of the week I celebrated reaching day 50 of my run streak. And, on Thanksgiving Day I joined the Runner's World Holiday Run Streak Challenge to add some extra motivation to streaking through New Year's Day and because it just sounds fun to streak with runners all over the world.

How about a little pineapple spin to make a plate full of freggies fun? mrC and I found a great little Thai restaurant at one of the malls near us and I couldn't resist the sweet and sour chicken with veggies and pineapple.

Getting moving means getting hydrated too. I use my Simple Hydration bottle to make running with water easier. Easier for me means I'm more likely to keep my body hydrated properly and that keep me moving!

I'm the type of person who likes to have fun and get moving with a group. I used to start Thanksgiving Day with a 10K race in Cincinnati, but this year I joined a group of SWIC ladies for an awesome 4 hour hike on Lamma Island in Hong Kong. I will also add that at two different times that day, several of us were running to catch a bus!

For most of my life I have been fortunate to have the day after Thanksgiving off from work so fitting in some post-turkey fitness has usually been easy. This year was no exception. After a Thanksgiving dinner buffet at the local Hilton, mrC and I got out to burn off some of those calories with a morning run.

I'm thankful that I am still able to get moving and have fun despite having moved to the other side of world away from family and friends. I'm thankful for the technology that lets me keep in touch with my loved ones and still enjoy the important moments. I'm thankful for mrC and this amazing adventure that we are able to experience together. I'm thankful for the three incredible step children I have in my life. I'm thankful for the new friends I have met, the old friends that remain in my life, and my best friend who is there no matter what miles separate us.

What are you thankful for this year?
How did you get moving and have fun last week?
Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Holiday Sweat Challenge: Week 2 Update

Week 2 of the Holiday Sweat Challenge with Fit Approach was all about the core!

At the beginning of the week I set my core strength goals. My focus is to continue to increase my core strength, but I needed a way to test myself. At the beginning of the week I could hold a plank for about 1 minute and I could barely do 1 full range of motion push-up (not on my knees).

Every day I practiced my planks and push-ups and completed a core workout. I found some good ones on Pop Sugar Fitness, but the one I liked most was from RunToTheFinish's Amanda. She puts together good dynamic core workouts, ones that combine strength and stability.

The call for creative core workouts inspired me to think beyond my normal plank routine and challenge my body in different ways. I've always heard that it's good to mix things up and make the body work in ways it's not used to.

On Thursday I hit my plank goal! This was just what I needed to motivate me to keep working on my push-ups which continue to be a struggle for me.

On Friday, my core workout took place at Pilates. 60 minutes of strength, stretch, and sweat on a yoga mat. Sometimes during class, it feels like all I'm able to accomplish is slip and slide in my own sweat, but then later my muscles tell me that I actually did work my body.

At the end of the week, I could hold my standard and forearm plank for 90 seconds. Push-ups have always been harder for me. I was able to increase my full ROM to 4 (squeezing out that last one), but I still have a lot of work to do to get to 10...and then more.

Did you reach your fitness goals last week?

Friday, November 20, 2015

How to Watch TV without a TV: Perfect for TM Long Runs

Whenever I was forced to do a long run on the treadmill, I queued up something to watch on TV. I was usually limited to whatever I could find playing at the time and let's face it, sometimes there is nothing on TV!

Now watching TV without a TV is not a problem thanks to NBC TVEverywhere. And if you are a runner, this makes treadmill long runs just a little more bearable.

NBC TVEverywhere makes it easy to watch full episodes the day after they air, or as I like to do most often, binge watch full episodes of your favorite shows right from my laptop/desktop.  NBC TVEverywhere is better than a DVR because it works no matter where you are. Just log on to the website, find your show, and hit play. 

I've recently developed an interest in CIA/FBI/spy programs, so the NBC show The Blacklist quickly became one of my favorites. The 3rd season is about a manhunt for FBI agent Liz Keen who is on the run with a known criminal. Meanwhile a major manhunt is being led by her former colleagues and she is trying to stay one step ahead of them. It's intense. Maybe watching Agent Keen on the run helps me keep my legs moving?!

I've also been a big fan of The Voice ever since a local Manchester, NH man was invited to compete in the vocal competition. I didn't get to see every episode, but I remember he did win his first battle. The show has been on now for 9 seasons and the competition just keeps getting better and better. This show is like a live concert and music always makes my runs go by faster.

mrC has been a fan of Chicago Fire ever since his cousin was hired as an extra in an episode where there was a train wreck. I like the show because you get a day in the life view of what it's like to be a fire fighter. And my BFF's husband happens to be a fire fighter/EMT, so I feel like I'm rooting for him when I watch the show. 

Try it yourself. Click any image above to find out how easy it is to watch TV without the TV!

Which show would you choose to watch during your treadmill long run?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Catching Up: In Pictures

Friday morning I went on a 4 hour hike. The SWIC hiking group explored Phoenix Mountain in Shenzhen.

Later, I dodged some down pours to get in my run. The weather was cool, which was nice, but I was so tired from the hike. I'm happy to see my pace is back to my "normal."

This morning I went to a Health & Wellness Fair. It was in an area of Shenzhen that I had never been to before, but I found my way there. It was small, but nice because it was an English speaking event. I attended an interesting talk on positive energy, browsed the displays, and tried Body Flex fitness (which focused on breathing during exercise). I also came home with a nice gift bag and some goodies that I couldn't resist purchasing.

When my heart is heavy, I run.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Three Reasons to Love Planking

Each week I leave my apartment with the hopes that someone will be waiting to join me for a run, but lately it has been just me. I used to walk to the meeting place for the running group, but today it dawned on me that I really should be running. I hate to admit it, but I figured no one would be there, and it seemed silly to waste my time walking.

After waiting about 10 minutes, I continued to do one of my regular routes to the Peninsula light house and then down to the mermaid statue and back. Even though the sky looks kind of ominous in the picture, it was nearly a perfect day for running. If the temps are going to stay in the 70s, then thank you very much for cloudy skies.

Today's prompt for the Holiday Sweat Challenge asked, what's your favorite strengthening move? For me, without hesitation, it's the plank. When I got to the lighthouse, I thought it would be a perfect backdrop for a plank photo and that got me thinking about why I love planking so much...besides the obvious strength benefits.

1. I can stop and plank anywhere (as demonstrated above). This makes it convenient to do even a little strength training at home, in the gym, when traveling...ANYWHERE!

2. There are so many ways to plank that it's very easy to keep it fresh and new. In the photo I'm doing a standard plank, but I also like to challenge myself with some dynamic planks like spiderman or up-downs.

3. No equipment needed. This makes it easy to do planks anywhere because all you need is you! No need to worry about buying weights or finding a gym, just stop, drop, and plank! *On a side note, adding props can increase the difficulty of a plank. For example, balance hands or feet on a bosu, medicine, or stability ball.

PopSugar has a great 1-minute video that shows how to do 12 plank variations:

I mentioned the other day that my right calf was feeling tight and a knot had formed on the inside. Add a lot of jumping at Zumba last night and it was feeling tighter. Before my run this morning, I foam rolled my whole body, but spent extra time on my calves, then I stretched. I recently read that it's just as important to stretch after foam rolling as it is after your workout.

My calf felt much better during today's run than the last couple of days. After completing my daily F2F Challenge workout, I brought out the stick and spent just a couple more minutes rolling it out.

One part of the Holiday Sweat Challenge is to track your freggie (fruit & vegi) eating habits. I don't eat nearly as much as most people. Today I tossed some spinach into my scrambled eggs and felt pretty proud of myself.

What's your favorite strengthening move?
What do you love about planking?
Favorite way to sneak in more freggies?