Sunday, July 29, 2012

ElliptiGO Outdoor Cycle–Review!

I’ve mentioned that UltraIronHubs is dealing with plantar fasciitis right now, but I haven’t really gone into detail about how bad it is.  It’s bad.  He hasn’t run for over three months now and he is such a crabby apple that he is spoiling the whole darn bunch.  The awful thing about PF is that there’s no end in sight.  With a stress fracture, you slap on a boot and two months later you’re back on the streets.  But with PF, healing could be quick or it could be really, really, really slow.  Right now it’s looking like the second one.  Boo!

UIH has been training for a half-iron aquabike event to keep himself from going insane, but neither swimming nor biking are his strongest events, so his excitement level for this race is mediocre at best.  He’s been religious about doing PT exercises every day and sleeping in the Strassburg sock every night.  He stretches, he ices, and he strengthens, but there’s been very little relief from his pain.  He cautiously started very, very short runs with a new-and-improved midfoot strike, but that has been almost more aggravating because it’s running, but it’s not enough – so close and yet so far away, you know?  At this point, his foul mood seemed permanent.

Enter the ElliptiGO.  You probably read about it in Runner’s World last month.  It’s an elliptical machine-slash-bike thing that is basically the best of all worlds:  a no-impact, outdoor, wind-in-your-hair workout.  We bought one for UIH last week and all I can say is, “Hallelujah!”  Now he comes in from a workout looking like this:

ElliptiGO 012He’s smiling!  SMILING!  I haven’t seen that for months!

UIH has taken the ElliptiGO out for a spin several times now and, like everything he does, he made it look so easy that I figured I should give it a try.

ElliptiGO 001Heading out for my maiden voyage.  Wish me luck!

If I had to summarize my review in one sentence, it would be this one:  Riding the ElliptiGO is not easy!  This is actually a huge compliment, even if it doesn’t sound like one.  Here’s what I mean:

  • It’s a whole ‘nuther sport altogether.  You might hop on the ElliptiGO because you’re an injured runner looking for something that feels like running.  Or you might be an avid cyclist and think you’ll enjoy being on a different set of wheels.  Or you might even be a gym rat who loves the elliptical machine and you’re thinking about taking that love out to the bike lanes.  Lemme tell ya, this ride is like nothing you’ve ever done before!  I spent a good portion of my ride reminding myself, “This is not a bike.”  But the thought also went through my mind that this is not an elliptical machine, this is not running and this is not a scooter (I know that last one sounds funny, but the position of your arms and your body are a lot like riding your kid’s Razor scooter!)  The ElliptiGO has elements of all of these exercises, but it is in a category all by itself.
  • It is a serious workout!  Watching UIH zip around our cul-de-sac like a speedy little butterfly had me thinking that the ElliptiGO was going to be a fun little cruising-type workout.  Umm, no.  I went just three miles this morning at a speed roughly halfway between my biking and running averages and my heart was hammering out of my chest.  The ElliptiGO used every single muscle in my body!  My core was engaged throughout the ride in a way it never is on my bike and I was surprised at how much upper body strength it required, even though your hands are stationary on the handles.  And my glutes!  OMG.
  • It’s a mental workout, too.  Let me clarify first that I am a girl with coordination issues. The reason running is my sport is because running plus kicking/throwing/catching a ball is waaaaaay too much for me to do all at once. In short, I’m a doofus and my learning curve is always pretty steep, so I suspect that with time and practice many of the things I found challenging about riding the ElliptiGO will become second nature.  Specifically, getting on and off was more difficult than I was expecting.  I almost fell off before I even got going the first time because I couldn’t get any forward momentum and yet I was higher off the ground than I thought, so my foot didn’t know where to catch me.  Silly foot.

If you’ve been to the ElliptiGO website, you’ve noticed the big price tag.  It’s expensive, there’s no two ways about it.  Thankfully, we’re triathletes around here, so dropping thousands of dollars on something with wheels isn’t a shock.  Ha!  Seriously, though, it’s an investment and one that I think is worth making.  We got the 3-speed ElliptiGO because we live on flat land and I think it’ll be plenty usable around here.  As for quality and construction, the ElliptiGO is again in a category by itself.  It’s heavier and sturdier than a road bike, but lighter and more durable-feeling than your standard home gym elliptical machine.  The tires are thicker than a bike’s and for their small size (20 inches), do a decent amount of shock-absorption.  The brakes are responsive and the platforms for your feet are both thick enough to feel substantial but light enough to move quickly.

And have I mentioned yet that it’s just plain FUN?

In case you were wondering, I did not get paid for this review and I purchased the ElliptiGO myself.  Of course, if the ElliptiGO company wanted me to try out their other products (there’s an 8-speed and 11-speed version), I would absolutely make room for his-n-hers versions in my garage!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Running Games

You know how sometimes you go for a long run and, even though you finish up tired, you feel really great the whole time and you’re super happy you did it?  Today was not that day.  In fact, today’s 18-miler was more of a “hope I don’t crap my pants” kind of run. (Thank goodness I didn’t actually poop myself, but it was pretty dicey there for awhile.)  Truth be told, I was completely done by Mile 7.  But at that point I was 7 miles from my car and if I turned around right then I would still have run 14 miles and dammit if I was gonna run 14 miles I might as well finish what I started and do the whole 18.  So, 18 miles it was.

There were several reasons why today was not destined to be a fabulous run, including a busy week with lots of long-distance driving and poor eating choices, but I was still a little disappointed to run out of gas so early on.  Even my music, which usually gives me a little energy, was driving me bananas.  B-A-N-A-N-A-S.  To keep myself moving forward, I had to play a lot of mental games:

  • Count the Dogs.  This one’s an old favorite, because I love dogs, but I am lousy at actually keeping track of how many I see.  Today’s estimated number was 17, but I could be off by as many as 12 in either direction.  My favorites were the mini Australian Shepherd who thought there was something that smelled amazing at the base of a tree and the two teeny, tiny poodles who might have weighed a combined five pounds.
  • Spot the Shirt.  Another one I play a lot, especially when I run on the American River Parkway (as I did today), because most of the people you see there are pretty serious runners who like to show off the races they’ve run.  Most of today’s shirts were the usual local race suspects, though I also saw several I didn’t recognize.
  • Catch the Slow Person.  Some days this means other runners.  Today it mostly meant walkers and even some of them were moving faster than I was!
  • The Most Ridiculous Thing.  Every time I ride or run long, I see something that catches my eye and makes me wonder WTF?  Today’s Most Ridiculous was pretty awesome (in fact, it was doubly awesome – about a half mile after I saw one of these, there was another!  I smiled at the second guy and said, “There’s two of you?”  He laughed.  “Yep.”  Then I bade him good morrow and continued on my way):

No, this is not my photo.  I wanted to take a picture of the guy, but felt really weird doing it.

  • Something to Look Forward To.  I actually play this game sometimes on short runs, too.  There’s pretty much always something to look forward to, like being done.  Today’s Somethings included walking breaks, bathroom breaks, reaching mile markers, reaching half-mile markers and not puking.
  • What Kind of Wild Animal is That?  Sometimes this game is easier than others, like today.  I saw a flock of wild turkeys, hundreds of squirrels, dozens of bunnies and one sweet little deer who was baffled by a fence.  Nothing I couldn’t identify, which is a pretty successful day for me.
  • One Last Thing.  I totally just made this one up today.  When I got started this morning, I felt pretty good and less than a half-mile in, I noticed this totally random flight of stairs.  Now, I have run this path many, many times before and somehow never seen these stairs.  Or at least never consciously thought about them.  But today I promised myself that I would finish up by running those stairs, maybe even a few times.  You already know that I felt like dog crap by the time I saw those stairs at Mile 17.75, but I am completely unable to resist a challenge, even a self-inflicted one.  So I ran up those stairs five times and then of course had to take a picture.

Running Stairs at the end of a Long RunA challenge means nothing unless you photograph it and post it on Facebook.

What kind of mind games do you play on long runs?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Well, This isn’t Wordless at All!

But it does include a fun picture of me in the pool with a tether around my waist.

Tether Swim 004

I’m taking a three-pronged approach to swim training for my upcoming tri:

  1. Getting my butt in the water several times a week.  Yes, this is Swim Training 101 right here – practice, practice, practice.  I should be perfect aaaaaaaany day now.
  2. Positive Self-Talk.  Oftentimes, my clients will approach a new exercise with the attitude of, “Oh, I can’t do that.”  It drives me crazy, so I make them do burpees and listen to me lecture them about negative self-talk.  And then they still have to do whatever exercise it was that they thought they couldn’t do and they always discover that they can do it.  Imagine that!  Well, not too long ago, I realized that I do my own Negative Nelly with regard to swimming and I really need to reverse the damage it's doing to my swimming self-confidence.  So I’ve started my own personal campaign of Positive Swimming Self-Talk.  Basically, fake it ‘til I feel it.  Now, every time I think about getting in the pool, I say to myself, “I’m a good swimmer.  I like to swim.”  And gosh darn it, people like me.
  3. Tethered swimming.  It’s the poor man’s endless pool, swimming on a rope, and it’s sure not doing my form any good by being anchored at the waist, but it is helping with my biggest fear – not being able to breathe.  When I swim laps, I grab onto the edge of the pool and frequently take more than one breath before heading back in the opposite direction.  I’ve always known this was lousy training for open water, but whaddya gonna do?  Short of practicing in actual open water, this seems like a good first step.  I’ve been working on calming my water fears by counting my strokes and closing my eyes while on the tether.  It’s strange to swim for time rather than distance, but I’ve worked my way up to 20 minutes without touching my feet down.  That’s pretty huge for me!

Do you ever have to bolster your confidence with forced positive self-talk?

Have you ever tried swimming on a rope to train for open water?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sweaty Sixteen

Now that I’ve done my long run on Friday two weeks in a row, the verdict is in:  it’s awesome.  You know how sometimes you get more productive when you have a deadline looming?  Running long on Friday – a work day – forces me to get up and be a little more disciplined about getting stuff done.  I have some minor concerns about just how early I’ll need to wake up when my mileage goes crazy, but for now it looks doable.  Today was a 4 am wakeup so I could be out the door at 5 – Mama doesn’t run without her coffee and a little time on Facebook! – for my 16-miler.

For your Friday reading pleasure, here are some bullet-tastic observations about my long, wonderful morning run:

  • The moon and the stars were so beautiful in the pre-dawn light that I instantly regretted not bringing my camera.  Several times in the first mile I considered pulling my phone out of my backpack, but I didn’t want to stop running and getting myself out of the backpack didn’t seem like something I could do while running, so I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it about the sky.  Or get up tomorrow around 5 am and go take a gander yourself.
  • Lots of people in my town lose their footwear on the sidewalk.  First I saw a lonely little shoe, which was small enough that I suspect somebody kicked it off while riding in a stroller.  I’m sure her mother was thrilled about that.  About a mile or so later, on a different street, I spied with my little eye a single sock that looked about the same size as the shoe, but was more boy-like so probably not from the same child.  And about two miles after that, I found not one but two pairs of those flimsy flip-flops they give you when you’re getting a pedicure.  These were near a bus stop and for the life of me, I can’t imagine why somebody would get on a bus barefoot.  Gives me the willies just thinking about it.
  • Low lighting apparently makes me hallucinate.  When I finally ran past the large cable box that happened to have two low flags waving in the wind next to it, I could tell what it was, but for the longest time it looked like a GIANT German Shepherd scratching its ear.  I almost changed my path to avoid a dog that huge, but I couldn’t figure out why he would be just sitting there, scratching away for so long.  Because he was a cable box, that’s why.  Also, a passing car’s headlights caught my glasses at just the right angle that I thought…well, I don’t really know what I thought it was, but it scared the bejeezus out of me.  Even though it was much cooler in the dark, I was pretty happy when the sun came up and I could actually see my surroundings.
  • I love other early morning runners!  I had two runners wave at me across six lanes of traffic this morning and lots more (on my same side of the street) smile and say good morning.  Everybody’s happier when they run, it’s a fact.
  • I’ve spent too much time in the car lately with my kids.  There I was, running along, and I saw a bicyclist heading toward me.  Well, at the same time, I also noticed a VW Beetle driving toward me and all I wanted in the world was to punch that cyclist and yell, “Silver one!!”  I refrained.
  • I desperately need to update my playlist.  I remembered just in time this morning that I ran out of music on last week’s long run, so I loaded a bunch of older songs on my iPod before I left the house, but they didn’t really do it for me.  I used to rotate songs pretty frequently and buy new ones all the time, but lately nothing’s really catching my ear on the radio or in my Genius suggestions.  I did notice, however, that I have not just one, not even two, but THREE songs that feature whistling in them.  I’m sure that says something about my musical tastes, but I’m not sure what.
  • Just because it was cool-ER doesn’t mean it was cool.  When I left the house this morning, the temperature was somewhere in the 60s, which was freaking awesome considering the 100+ days we’ve had this week.  By the time I got home, it was only in the low 70s, but that was still hot enough for me to get the whole drenched-in-sweat-tomato-face thing goin’ on.

Sweaty Sixteen 001Why there was a dry spot on my left, uhh, “chest” is a mystery I may never solve.

What are you listening to on your iPod these days?  I need suggestions!

What’s the earliest you’re willing to get up (or the latest you’ll stay up) to get your long run in?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What I Do All Day

I love being a personal trainer.  Pretty sure I’ve mentioned that before, but it bears repeating.  I seriously spend my entire day thinking about exercise!  Every client I have is like a puzzle that I get to figure out:  what’s going to work best for losing weight or keeping them motivated or gaining muscle or getting faster?  I love watching my clients work harder than they thought they could - I actually joke that if they’re not swearing at me, I must not be working them hard enough!  Of course, it’s also hard to watch them struggle when I know they are giving it their honest best.

When I was losing weight, it was much MUCH easier to get my butt out of bed for exercise than to eat right.  I still have to work at eating right!  For a lot of my clients, though, the whole reason they hired a personal trainer is because they’re not super motivated to work out on their own.  And many of them either can’t or “don’t like” to run, which boggles my mind.  (And, yes, I put it in quotes, mostly because I think everybody should love to run.)  To get them moving, then, I have to get creative.  Frequently, I sneak in some cardio with their strength training so they get a good burn while building muscle.

eat sleep sweat repeat pin

Before I got certified, cross-training meant biking or swimming and the occasional core work.  Emphasis on the word “occasional.”  Of course I understood on some level that strength training was important, so I’d throw in a push-up here and a squat there, but I didn’t really love it.  For me – and probably for most people – enjoying an activity motivates me to do more of it.  That’s why I try to make workouts fun for myself and fun for my clients, so everybody wants more!

I know there are lots of resources out there for exercise ideas, but I’ve started making videos of some of the more interesting workouts I do with my clients and thought I’d share them with you, too.  This one, for example:

Even though I would almost always rather go for a run, I really have learned to love strength training, too.  It’s challenging.  It’s not boring.  It can make you an even better runner – yay!  And if you put together a good workout, every inch of your body can have that super-jelly-just-went-for-a-great-run feeling, and what’s not to love about that??

Do you make strength training part of your fitness routine?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fourteen Mile Friday

Before I tell you about my 14-miler today, lemme tell you about something that happened on Wednesday:

Van CrashPoor Ethel!  (My last car was a bright red Camry named Lucy.  When we brought home this big ol’ Mom-mobile and parked it in the garage next to Lucy, it was sort of inevitable to name her Ethel.)

I was on my way to see a client, minding my own business and maybe singing along to One Direction when a car made a left turn on a red light directly in front of me.  The singing turned into screaming, “NOOOOOOO!!” and then *crash* I slammed into the other car at 45 mph.  Thankfully, Ethel gave up her front bumper for me and I’m actually fine.  I’ve got a couple of real nice seatbelt burns on my butt and my collarbone, plus an airbag burn on my right hand, but nothing else.  Even my back, neck, and shoulders seem to be doing okay.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am to still want to and be able to run today!!

I recently re-arranged my training plan for like the fourth time because the race I was planning to run in November has disappeared from the internet.  I emailed the race director about it, but haven’t heard back, so I assume it’s a non-event.  Searching for another race this fall, I came upon this little beauty:   The Rock’n River 50-Miler.  As soon as I read the course description, I knew this was my race – it’s the American River 50-Miler (that UltraIronHubs ran and I paced in April) BACKWARDS!  It’s downhill!!  Well, net downhill.  There are obviously still a ton of uphills, too.  I’m mostly excited because at one time or another, I have run every single mile of this race already, so it’s all familiar ground, and that sounds like the perfect first 50.

Ahhh, but the race I had been planning to run was in November and this one is in October.  Guess I’ll be piling on the mileage a little quicker than the training plan called for.  Plus, we got Big Boy’s cross country schedule for this season and it looks like every single Saturday from now until Thanksgiving will be taken up with his running, so I moved my long run day to Friday.  And that’s why I ran 14 miles today. 

(I think that might be the longest intro to a blog post I’ve ever written)

I got up at my usual 4:30 am and dawdled got ready to go.  Slowly.  I was only a little nervous about running long so soon after the accident, but I really do feel good, so figured I should stay on track with my training.  I have absolutely NO pace goals AT ALL for running 50 miles, so my long runs these days are pretty casual affairs.  I still wear my Garmin, but I really never look at it except to figure out if I’m going to hit my mileage.

About three miles in, when all my joints had finally stopped creaking and groaning, I realized I needed to go to the bathroom.  I’m always surprised by this feeling in the middle of a run because I go no fewer than three times before I leave my house and all business should really be taken care of.  I ignored the feeling.  Sometimes it just goes away.  I hate to stop in the middle of a run – seriously, it’s way up there on my list of Annoying, Stupid Things – and I especially hate to use public restrooms.  Call me crazy.  I’m totally okay with porto-potties on race day, but the bathroom in McDonald’s freaks me the freak out.  Blech!

Well, by Mile 7 it became quite clear that a stop was in my near future.  I considered just peeing my pants, but decided against it because A.) I am 100% certain that I am not coordinated enough to run and pee at the same time, and B.) That’s disgusting.  So I stopped, and yes I took a selfie in the mirror.  Why not?  I wasn’t in a hurry.

IMG_0578Of course I lavo-ed my manos and triple-checked for seat cover pieces stuck to my sweaty legs before taking this picture.

I haven’t run long in town for several weeks and it was actually a really nice change of scenery to run on all that flat asphalt.  I pretty much zoned out and cranked up my music and just let my feet go.  It was awesome.

IMG_0580The view from the highest spot in town, a railroad overcrossing I climbed twice for a total elevation gain of about 80 feet.  Go Me!

Around Mile 11, I was getting a little tired, so I cranked up my music even more to get some energy going.  At some point, I think I started singing out loud.  I can only imagine what I must have looked like, a sweaty, scrawny middle-aged white girl rapping to a remix of Public Enemy’s Bring the Noise – “5-0 said FREEZE and I got numb/Can I tell em that I really never had a gun?” – complete with the whole yo-yo-yo hand movements.  Yeah, boy-eeee.

I made it back home, happily tired, with just a little over 14 sweat-tastic miles on the books.  I think I’m going to like getting my long run done before the weekend even begins.

What embarrassing things do you do during a run?  Check all that apply:

  1. Pee on yourself, either intentionally or not.
  2. Sing out loud and/or bust out some dance moves.
  3. Take 18 increasingly dreadful selfies because you can’t see the little shutter thing closing and you think your stupid phone isn’t taking pictures.

Selfie Collage