Weekly Update: 5/18 to 5/24

Standard

My run mileage has been going up and I had a solid month of increasing everything – swim, bike, run – so I cut back on my swim and bike miles this week. I could feel the bike mileage catching up with me by Thursday, and my right calf started feeling a little weird on Saturday. My coach doesn’t really give me bike workouts – I add those in myself because I find they help increase my endurance and make me stronger when running hills. I hadn’t had an easier week in quite awhile and I know I have about two more weeks of peak run training before the taper begins, so I dropped a bike and a swim workout this week.

Monday2600 Meter Swim + Strength/Core/PT/Stretching
Not much going on here – just an easy swim and some lifting to recover from the weekend workouts.

TuesdayYoga/Core + 11 General Aerobic Run
My morning yoga practice felt great, but I’m going to start naming Tuesdays “Terrible Tuesdays” because my Tuesday run has sucked every single week for the past three weeks. My coach wanted me to do 10 miles with negative splits. Ha. I called my splits that day “survival” splits. It was humid and awful out. Moving on…

Wednesday 10 miles w/Hill Sprints and Tempo + Yoga/Core
Ahhhhh MUCH better! Tuesdays might suck lately, but I feel like a new person on Wednesday. My legs should have sucked even more since I did the longish run the day before. I was supposed to warm up for 2 miles, do 6×2 minute hill sprints with jog recoveries (about 2 miles), followed by 2 miles @ 7:30-7:45, and a 2 mile cooldown. Should have been around 8 miles. What I really did:

  • 2 mile warm up
  • 3 miles of hill sprints. I was just sprinting for 2 minutes and I kept trying to fit in more distance on each sprint. It was fun!
  • Two tempo miles @ 6:59, 7:08 :)
  • Cooldown, 3 miles
  • Total miles, 10. Oops!

Instead of the terrible hot weather that we’ve been having, it was 64 and breezy. Gorgeous. I made my way down the cinder trail to cool down from the hill sprints and wanted to keep going. I turned off on the road instead of running back on the trail because I knew it was a little longer and would add about a mile. I couldn’t help it!

I started the run with my form drills and ended with my MYRTLs. When I got home, I popped dinner in the oven (had it all ready to go!) and unrolled my yoga mat while it cooked and did about an hour of yoga and foam rolled. Felt amazing to stretch out.

Thursday 7 Mile Recovery Run + 16 mile Ride + Kickball Tournament
I was so confused yesterday when my legs felt decent on my run. I fully expected to have dead legs and just feel like crap in general. Well, that came on Thursday instead. I did an easy paced (though it felt anything but easy!) seven mile run before work. My legs didn’t hurt – nothing concerning – they just felt like I was running through mud! Yup, my peak marathon training weeks are here!

After work, I was playing in a kickball tournament but wasn’t playing until 5:00. I help out with a club at the school, DECA (it’s basically a business/marketing club) and the kids were holding a tournament. The teachers that chaperone the events put together a team (we were called the Old Farts, haha!) and played. Our day is over at 2:30, and most of the other teachers were going home to grab their kids or run errands. I strapped my bike on the back of my car to squeeze in a quick ride before the game. It was cool, cloudy and a bit windy…one of my friends was coming out of the school and nearly fell over laughing at my cliche biking attire:
image

We got completely destroyed by the kids playing kickball, but here we are ready to play (totally got photobombed!):
image

Kickball!!!!

imageThey picked me to be the first batter because I run, so they expected me to get on base. However, they completely underestimated my lack of team sports skills. Yep, give me a pair of running sneakers, a bike, or a bathing suit and I can hold my own. Tell me to play a sport where I have to score points or goals and I’m screwed. Just as I expected, I suck at kickball! I got to kick twice and didn’t get on base either time – I had these girly kicks that flew in the air that the kids caught. We got destroyed – it was something like 7-1, ha! So fun. Great group of kids!

FridayREST!
I woke up and was supposed to swim, but I stayed in bed and thought I’d go after work. After kickball on Thursday, I ended up going out for dinner with my husband and I got in pretty late. I went to work, and I had to sit and listen to graduation projects all day long. The kids that are in their junior year have to do a project on a variety of topics (career research, job shadowing, cultural studies, etc) and present. The teaching staff are put in teams and listen to a bunch of the projects and pass or fail them. Most of them try to bribe us with food so we pass them (and honestly, it often works). So Fridays are already always my “cheat” day anyway, so that worked well.

By the end of the day, I was really feeling exhausted and completely run down. I realized that it was exactly one month since I actually had a rest day. I took two days off after Boston, and resumed and haven’t had one day off since. I also knew I had a long run on the schedule for super early in the morning. I was scheduled to meet my group at 6:30 am. If I worked out, I’d have less than 12 hours of recovery in between workouts which is not ideal before a long, difficult run.  I couldn’t tell if I was being lazy or if I really did need a rest, so I asked my coach his thoughts. He told me to rest and nap – don’t have to tell me twice! I spent a glorious night on the couch eating pizza and sleeping. It was wonderful and much needed.

Saturday20 mile Run + 21 Mile Ride + Stretching/Core
I got out of bed and everything still felt “eh”. I slept as long as I possibly could, got up and ate my bagel/almond butter, coffee and GU brew. My friends like to meet early, and while I like to run early, 6:30 on a Saturday is rough. On the other hand, I never mind the early mornings at the end of the run, because it’s still early and the hardest part of my weekend is over. So we began our run…and I felt awesome. After the shitty run on Tuesday and the dead legs on Thursday, I needed to feel awesome. We averaged a 7:26 pace for 20 miles, and I was the one pushing the pace! I haven’t felt that good on a long run in months. I probably won’t feel that good on a long run for another few months…but man, it was great.

I did my form drills, MYRTLs, and core when I got home. After some lunch and some chores around my house, I headed out on my bike. It was an absolutely gorgeous day but I wasn’t sure I felt like riding – until I got out. I had intentions on doing my normal 16 mile route but did an extra loop to make it a little longer! I ended up with 21 miles. My pace was pretty slow because I was just kind of cruising and spinning my legs out. My right calf felt a little weird on my bike so I hit up my foam roller when I got home.

Sunday9 Mile Recovery Run + Stretching/Core
I headed back up to the Trexler Game Preserve for another Sunday trail run! I made a wrong turn and added a little distance, but I was surprised how my legs actually felt decent at all. I ran with Jo, one of the girls that runs cross country and track at the school where I teach. She’s a junior and a badass runner – was running 5Ks in the 18s by the end of the cross country season, and just finished up with track. I was so excited to show her the game preserve because I feel like she’s going to be into trail running someday. Just as I thought, she loved it there. We had a great run. I skipped my long bike and did some stretching, foam rolling and core. My right calf still felt tweaky when I ran. Not bad, just a pinchy feeling. I strained my calf last summer so I know what a calf strain feels like and this doesn’t feel like that. I just know it was aggravated when I biked on Saturday, so I thought I should cool it with the bike miles. It was a shame because it was a really beautiful day outside. So to enjoy the weather, I stretched and foam rolled poolside, and since the water was freezing I soaked my legs in it!

image

 

We have an old farmhouse that was built in 1890, complete with our own barn. The whole ordeal (barn, house, etc) needs work and we’ve been restoring it for the past three years. We haven’t started any work on the barn since we’ve been focusing on the house, but it makes a great backdrop for the pool!

Totals
Swim: 2600 meters ♥ Bike:  36 miles ♥  Run: 57 miles

It was a good week volume wise, and just an okay week based on how I felt. I’m concerned about my calf, but I am going to stay positive and keep just keep my eye on it. Two more tough weeks, then TAPER TIME!

How was your week/weekend? Any fun training runs or races?

Friday Five: 5 Ashtanga Yoga Poses for Runners

Standard

Since I’ve been back on my yoga mat recently, I’ve been feeling pretty good. I’m being very cautious and making sure I don’t overdo it like I once did. Being too flexible can be a bad thing for a runner looking to see an improvement in speed. We absolutely need to stretch and need some degree of flexibility, but being too flexible could cost you seconds, even minutes. It’s all about balance and priorities. I’m not saying you can’t have a sick yoga practice and be a runner, that’s totally fine. Once I dropped my daily practice, I also dropped about 25 minutes off of my marathon time. However, I also started having some injuries that I never, ever had with a daily practice. I never had muscular/fascial issues, and I started getting muscle strains (hamstring, calf), plantar fasciitis, and for the coup de grace – Achilles tendonitis. It’s obvious that yoga, to some degree, is extremely important for me and I needed to find some balance. So since my goal is to go sub-3 in a marathon, it means laying off the yoga and taking it down several notches. Like there was a time that being able to do this was a totally normal thing for me and happened on a daily basis:

imageSorry for the blurry picture – it actually came from a video that someone took of me once! My leg definitely doesn’t go there anymore, by the way. Anyway, that’s the world of Ashtanga Yoga, and the posture above (called durvasana) comes from the third series (also called Advanced A). These days, my practice doesn’t go further than primary series, and occasionally some second series because I like to do back bends (that’s a post for a different day). Since I’ve been dabbling in the Ashtanga world again, I’m realizing how many postures really can be beneficial to runners – particularly from the standing sequence. As runners, there are the traditional stretches that we all gravitate to – like triangle pose (trikonasana, one of my favorites), or pigeon pose. These are poses we all know (to some degree) and love. But there are so many postures out there that can really benefit your running. The next time you unroll your yoga mat to stretch, give these a try and see how they feel!

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

imageEveryone knows downward facing dog – that’s an awesome stretch for the calves, hamstrings, Achilles, low back, etc. The next time you are post run and find yourself hanging out in down dog, lower down to the floor and try this counter stretch out. The only body parts in contact with the floor are the hands and tops of the feet, but you could drop your legs onto the mat if it’s too much. Drop the shoulders down the back and be conscious not to hunch the shoulders up by the ears. You also don’t need to drop the head back so far – that’s just how my teacher made us do things. Looking straight ahead is totally fine. Some of the benefits from this pose include:

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens the spine, arms, wrists, and glutes
  • Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
  • Stimulates abdominal organs

Parsvakonasana A & B (Extended Side Angle)

Parsvakonasana A

Parsvakonasana A

Parvakonasana A: If you do this pose correctly it will be an amazing hip opener and stretch the side of your body out. Next time you are doing triangle pose post run, drop into a lunge (don’t let the knee go over the ankle!) and reach overhead. Focus on turning your hips forward rather than squaring them over the thigh and you will feel an incredible hip stretch. If you hand doesn’t reach the floor, no worries: just bend at the elbow and rest it on the top of your thigh.

Parvakonasana B: I like to do a modification of this pose. Drop the knee down (don’t hyper-extend here: keep the knee and ankle lined up!), square your chest over the thigh, and sink into the hips for a deep hip stretch. On your exhale, rotate so that the outside of your arm connects with the outside of the thigh. You don’t have to put your hands in prayer, even the smallest twist will be beneficial and therapeutic. The full expression of the posture keeps the back knee off the floor, but I find that dropping the knee and sinking into the hips is a better stretch for my hips and gets me deeper into the twist.

Prasarita Padottanasana, A-D (Wide-Legged Forward Fold)

Most runners do forward folds to stretch the hamstrings, but playing around with your hand positioning in a wide legged forward fold can change the effect. If you just came in from a long run, chances are more than just your legs are sore. Your neck, shoulders and back might be sore from maintaining an upright position. From parsvakonasana, you could stand up and make your feet parallel and begin this sequence. It’s a set of four forward folds, and you can do all four or just do one or two. I like doing all four. It’s like the first one (A) is just releasing the hamstrings and relaxing. The second one (B) is a deeper hamstring stretch because there’s less support. The third (C) is my favorite, because it opens the chest and shoulders and finally the last one (D) is the deepest of them all. I come up to standing after each fold and readjust before going into the next one.

When completing this posture, be sure to keep weight in the balls of the feet. Some of the benefits from the pose:

  • Strengthens and stretches the inner and back legs and the spine
  • Tones the abdominal organs
  • Relieves mild backache

Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

imageI used to really hate this pose. I don’t really know why. In Ashtanga, you are supposed to hold each posture for five breaths, but I would always count really quickly when it came to this one. When I hurt my Achilles, I can’t remember who mentioned to me about Utkatasana being a really good stretch for it. I never thought of this posture as a stretch, I thought of it more as a strengthening posture. Oddly enough, once I looked at it a little differently, I started to enjoy it. You don’t have to reach your arms up over your head – you could simply extend them out in front of you of reaching is too much on your shoulders.

  • Strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves, and spine
  • Stretches shoulders and chest, calves
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs, diaphragm, and heart
  • Reduces flat feet

Uthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose)

image

Another posture that used to hate has recently become a favorite. I get a really good stretch down the back of one leg while working on my leg and ankle strength on the opposite side. If you can’t reach your toe, don’t worry – just bend at the knee and hold the outside of the knee gently. The posture actually has three parts: the first is holding the leg out in front of you, and then you open up the hips by rotating the leg out to the side. Once you’ve held each for about five breaths, you bring the leg back to center release the toe (or knee) and hold here – now you are working your core.

  • Strengthens the legs and ankles
  • Stretches the backs of the legs
  • Improves sense of balance

There are tons of posture out there, and these are just from the standing sequence of the Ashtanga yoga syllabus. Next time you are post run and looking for some new ways to stretch, try one or two of these!

Do you stretch or practice yoga post run? What are some of your go-to stretches/yoga postures?

Recipe: Avocado Salsa!

Standard

Summer grilling is in full effect, and on Tuesday I made a super simple chicken dish with some grilled pineapple and avocado salsa. I’ve been all over avocado salsa lately – I personally feel like it’s a glorified guacamole but whatever. It’s been showing up frequently in some of my recent Pinterest conquests, but I made up my own recipe because I never really follow recipes (unless I’m baking. I’m not as confident with baking). I’ve used my “salsa” on salmon, chicken, and last night topped my lettuce wrapped burger with it. I do the Paleo thing, so I love these fun toppings/sides to make my food more flavorful.

I had an absolutely horrendous run last night (it was a total shit show from start to finish) and the last thing I felt like doing was cooking – so I fired up the grill for burgers, and the avocado salsa leftover from Tuesday in my fridge was clutch. Here’s my personal take on it:

Avocado Salsa

  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 of a red onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Juice 1 lime
  • 1-2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 tomato, diced

It’s easy: prepare the ingredients from the avocado all the way through the cilantro (and the tomato, if using), toss them in a bowl and give it a quick mix. Grab your seasonings and season to taste. You could omit the cumin and/or the cayenne if you aren’t into that. I love those flavors so I do a generous sprinkle of cumin, and a pinch of cayenne for a kick. Mix together gently. I haven’t actually made it with the tomato but I’ve done a guacamole variation with some diced fresh tomatoes and it’s pretty fantastic, so if I had more tomatoes on hand I would have totally thrown one in.

image54

That was from my easy dinner on Tuesday…wish I took a picture of it on my burger last night but I was inhaling it before I could even think to do that!

Weekly Update: 5/11 to 5/17

Standard

“Running gave me a whole new life. I can’t even remember my past—it’s like it wasn’t me. I have a good life now, and it’s all because I run.” – Bill O’Shields

I might have overdone it with the pictures…but it was such a gorgeous week!

Monday2600 Meter Swim + Strength/Core/PT/Stretching
Besides feeling like a truck hit me from the weekend run and bike miles, it was pretty uneventful! Took me awhile to warm up in the pool and I felt weak when I was lifting. I stretched and foam rolled at home later that night.

TuesdayYoga + 10 General Aerobic Run
I felt pretty stiff when I hit my yoga mat, but put in a solid hour of yoga before work, including core work. It felt great to start the day with low impact activity. After work, it was 87 degrees and SUPER windy. It was such a pretty day, even though the weather was not ideal:

imageI was supposed to do 8 miles between 7:45-8 minute pace, but I ended up doing 10 at 7:58. Not as fast as I’d hoped – I wanted to be closer to that 7:45. Even though I couldn’t pick it up, my splits were very consistent and I didn’t feel like I was being tortured, so I added distance to compensate for the lack of speed. There was so much pollen in the air that my throat felt like I swallowed sand, and my whole body was coated in it by the time I finished. I started the run with form drills, did MYRTLs after, and spent time foam rolling and stretching while watching TV later that night.

WednesdayTrack Workout (3 x 3200 @ Goal Marathon Pace) + Yoga

imageNo, I didn’t do hurdles :) I would eat sh*t if I tried those.  I did some core work in the morning and headed to the track at Parkland High School after work. I reeeaaaalllly dragged my feet in getting started. I don’t do 3200s that often (or ever, really), and I hadn’t done a single track workout since late December. It was right after Christmas, and right around the time my Achilles freaked out on me. I wasn’t trying to hit 5K pace and I know I’ve done some speed since then, but I was scared. I didn’t want to set myself back with my Achilles or feel like crap in general. My goal marathon pace is 7:00/mile. My workout was to warm up for a mile, do 3×2 miles at 7:00 pace with two minute jog recoveries, and cool down for a mile. Here’s how the workout really went:

  • Warmup: 1 Mile @ 8:34 (Easy Means Easy!)
  • 3200 #1: 6:54, 6:52
  • Recovery: .32 miles @ 8:37
  • 3200 #2: 6:48, 6:41
  • Recovery: .31 miles @ 8:16
  • 3200 #3: 6:54, 6:43
  • Recovery: .38 miles @ 8:43
  • Cooldown: 1 mile @ 9:09
  • Overall Pace: 7:27

I. Was. STOKED. I had so many positives that came from this run, and only one negative. The positives: I negative split each 3200 (I was trying to). My first one was my slowest one, but usually my last one is my slowest one because I burn myself out by going too hard. It was my first track workout in forever and I felt like I nailed it. I felt good, and my legs felt fresh. My achilles didn’t ache during (a little after, but totally normal). My only negative was that I wanted my last repeat to be my fastest. I was pretty happy that my final mile was the second fastest of the entire workout, though.

I left and did a short yoga practice – about 40 minutes. Not the full hour I’d planned on, but I felt good after the track workout and I was glad to stretch it all out. I made sure to foam roll and ice my Achilles while watching TV later that night – being consistent seems to really be making a difference.

Thursday 5 Mile Recovery Run + 25 Mile Ride
It was a true spring morning and I headed out with the intention of running four easy miles. I expected to feel terrible from the speed workout but my legs felt decent. I still kept the pace nice and easy, averaging 8:23 (right in my recovery zone) but I ended up running five miles. It was 42 degrees and the sun was coming up! After work, the weather was still pretty incredible so I headed out for a nice ride and found some great new roads while exploring:

imageI came home and did MYRTLs, core, stretched and foam rolled. It was a great day!

Friday2700 meter Swim  + Strength/Core/PT/Stretching
I had zero desire to swim when I woke up and almost skipped it. But I told myself if I went and started and still felt badly after the first set, I’d listen to my body and hit the hot tub or the sauna. I made it through the warm-up and the first set, so I kept going and felt better than I thought. After work, the last thing I wanted to do was go back to the gym, but I went and busted out my strength/core/PT in record time. I just really wasn’t feeling it on Friday.

Saturday18 mile Run + 18 Mile Ride + Stretching/Core
I got up early, ate my bagel and almond butter, packed my gear and headed out. My plan was to run a loop near the trail that I often run on, but to stick mainly to roads to get a good dose of hills. I’d planned to run parts of the trail to switch up the surface and give my Achilles a rest. My route ended up being absolutely perfect. It was overcast, humid, and drizzled every so often (which felt great). I started easy- actually, I was running easy for the first eight miles, averaging 7:45-8s (but closer to the 8 minute range for most). Once I hit the trail for a stretch around mile nine, I decided to get my sh*t together and pick up the pace. I used a strategy that comes from my girl Ashley over at PrettyPinkLaces (check her out – badass Ironman/triathlete/runner!): at the beginning of a mile, she picks up the pace for one minute. I like this strategy because when you relax and kick back, you have higher turnover from your pickup and hold a stronger pace. It’s like a glorified fartlek. I decided I’d try it for the middle portion of my run and see how it went. Well, I averaged well under 7:30 for the remainder of my run, with the exception of one or two miles in there where I hit some pretty nasty hills! Overall pace, 7:39. Success!

I met up with my buddy/neighbor, the one and only Bart Yasso and Bill (keep reading for more about him) for coffee at Starbucks. I spent time chatting and recovering before I hopped on my bike and did a nice recovery ride. It was just over an hour and I covered 18.39 miles. Since I didn’t have to start from my house, I didn’t have to climb the HUGE mountain that I live on the other side of to get to the area where I enjoy riding. By this point, the sun was shining and it was absolutely perfect out:

image

I waited until after my run to do form drills, but I still did them. I wanted to save energy but I didn’t want to skip them. I did the drills, MYRTLs, core, stretching and foam rolling once I finally got home.

Sunday8 Mile Recovery Run + 51 Mile Ride + Stretching/Core
I felt surprisingly good when I woke up on Sunday and got the bright idea to head to Trexler Game Preserve to run the Border Trail as my recovery run. I was inspired by Jen Chooses Joy, who has been KILLING it on the trails lately! The elevation kind of makes the word “recovery” obsolete:

btrail

However, the pace was sloooowwwww because much to my surprise, my husband decided to join me! Here we are at the creek crossing – you have to go through the water to stay on the trail:

image

I don’t know the trail at the game preserve well but I want to start going there more often. It’s got some sick climbs and uneven terrain so when he got wind of where I was going, I think he offered to come out of concern. But I didn’t care. However, dude hasn’t run since ummmm…2009? And he goes and busts out 8.5 miles with 1,500 feet of elevation gain? Way to just jump back into it. He doesn’t work out – he has an extremely physical job, but he doesn’t have any sort of regular exercise regimen. Not one crunch, push up, etc. I wish I could say I hate him…but he’s pretty great :) I’m pretty sure it took me almost an hour longer with him tagging along, but I didn’t care. He can come every week if he wants to. Here are some more shots from the creek:
image
image

And from the mild sections of the trail:

image image

After our run, I would have been good with calling it a day but I had planned a long ride for the afternoon. My coach didn’t give me bike rides for the weekend but I truly enjoy being outside so I add them in. Plus, I’ve been feeling REALLY strong after a few weeks of ramping up my bike miles. Emily and I hit the road with a route in mind but I was considering cutting it short if my legs felt fatigued. Once we got moving, I felt great. I’d come up with a fun new route that had a whole bunch of new roads to explore. We did about another 3,000 feet of climbing. The loop we did looks pretty cool on a map:

Untitled-1

Since the morning run took longer than expected and I hung around with Emily for a bit after the ride, I bailed on everything else: my form drills, MYRTLs, core, etc. I did foam roll and ice my Achilles, though. I don’t feel bad about it – it was one missed day of those, and I’ve been diligent for the past three weeks.

Totals
Swim: 5300 meters ♥ Bike:  89 miles ♥  Run: 50 miles

Other fun events from the week…on Friday night, my friend Bill was in town. He’s actually a friend of Bart Yasso’s that I met when we all traveled to a the Marshall Marathon together. He was featured in the November 2011 issue of Runner’s World. They did a story about how running changed his life. He was incarcerated for 14 years and began running at 36 years old, and it saved his life. He went from being a several pack per day smoker to running 70 miles per week on a half mile “track” in prison. He’s truly an amazing person with an incredible story. He reached out to Bart when he was in prison to tell him his story, and they’ve been friends ever since. In the fall, he qualified for Boston at a race down south – ran something like a 3:11! When I ran a marathon in Columbia, SC last year, he met up with us and ran it:

20140312-050436.jpg

Bil on the left, Mark A. in the middle, and me!

He’s from South Carolina, and he came up this weekend and stayed with Bart to run the Pocono Run for the Red Marathon on Sunday. To get him all carbed up and ready for the race, Bart had a little pizza party for him with few of us that know Bill. Bart lives five minutes from my house. It was such a fun night! Bart is pretty into biking these days and was showing us his amazing bike collection…and his dusty Zipp wheels:

imageYup, those are COBWEBs collecting on those amazing wheels! What?! I’ll take them off of his hands and clean them up any day!!

Oh yeah – the weather was hot,humid, and extremely sunny on Sunday. Our buddy Bill pulled a 3:17 in the marathon! I heard there were a TON of DNFs at the race due to conditions, and he goes and kills it anyway. Incredible!

Have you ever gone trail running? Anyone else feel like becoming a runner has changed your life and had a positive impact?

The “Inverted” to my Sneakers: 5 Minute Yoga Ab Workout

Standard
20130722-081840.jpg

Forearm Headstand – Hands are clasped and in a triangle shape for support. Weight is in the forearms, not the neck!

I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training in 2009, and using it in moderation can be a great way to stay injury free. I really need to practice what I preach and get back on my mat more often. In my attempt to get back to some good habits, my goal is to do two one hour yoga practices each week.  I follow the basic primary series syllabus, which already has a ton of core work throughout the whole practice. The sequence finishes off with closing postures, which is a sequence including backbends, a shoulderstand sequence, and a headstand sequence. Since I almost never like to do things traditionally, I use the final posture, headstand (sirsasana), to do some extra core work. I was going through the little sequence that I came up with, and thought it might be fun to share for anyone who is up for the challenge.

This workout assumes you have a headstand practice, but I’ve included some modification tips for those who don’t do headstands, or are just learning how to lift up. For some tips on how to lift into a headstand, check out these videos from my favorite Ashtanga yogi, Kino MacGregor (I tried taking a video of my own for the whole sequence but can’t figure out how the heck to upload it – it’s 5 minutes!):

She’s pretty amazing, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet and practice with her on several occasions. Her tips have helped me immensely with several challenging postures! If you’re more familiar with a tripod headstand, you could absolutely modify this sequence using that method. If you’re experienced, I’ve provided some tips on how you can make this sequence more challenging. Here is the basic sequence:

1. Lift up into a forearm headstand with straight legs, and hold for one minute. Once you are up and comfortable in your headstand, try to work up to holding for one minute.

  • Modifications: If you can’t do a headstand, try working on dolphin pose or practice trying to lift into a headstand for the same length of time (about a minute).
  • If you can do a headstand but can’t lift with straight legs, bring your knees into your chest and lift from there, or spend your minute working on trying to lift with straight legs. Straight legs = stronger core!
  • If you can lift up but can’t hold for a minute, just hold as long as you can and try to work up to that one minute mark.
  • To make it more challenging, hold your headstand for a longer period of time.

2. Lower into forearm plank. From your headstand, lower with straight legs until your toes touch the ground and walk your feet directly back, into a forearm plank. Once in the proper position, try to work on holding for one minute.

  • Modifications: If you need a break, move into child’s pose until you are ready to resume the workout.
  • If you never lifted into headstand in the first place, get into a forearm plank at this point.
  • If you can’t lower with straight legs, lower down by bringing your knees into your chest and make your way into forearm plank.
  • To make it more challenging, increase the length of time you hold your plank.

3. Switch to side plank. Without dropping down from your plank, shift to side plank and try to work on holding for 30 seconds. Switch sides, moving through plank pose – don’t drop down!

  • Modifications: If your arms need a break, move into child’s pose and hold until you are ready to resume the workout.
  • In side plank,  you can always drop the knee closest to the floor and use it like a kickstand. Same great ab workout to build those core muscles!
  • To make it more challenging, increase the length of time that you hold your side planks.

4. Side plank with leg lift. Switch sides again, and lift the top leg and hold for 30 seconds. Or, you can do side plank leg lifts (my latest preference – it’s HARD!) by lowering and lifting the top leg. Either way, I do 30 seconds on one one side, and then switch to the other side without dropping down.

  • Modifications: If your arms need a break, move into child’s pose and hold until you are ready to resume the workout.
  • If you can’t lift your leg, omit the leg lift and just repeat the side plank until you feel ready to attempt the leg lift.
  • In side plank, you can always drop the knee closest to the floor and use it like a kickstand. You could still lift the top leg from this position OR do the leg lifts. Same great ab workout to build those core muscles!
  • To make it more challenging, increase the length of time that you hold your side planks with the leg lift.

5. Lift back up to headstand. Move back to a forearm plank, readjust your positioning and lift back up to a headstand – try to lift with straight legs! Once you are up, hold for 15 seconds to steady yourself.

  • Modifications: If you can’t do a headstand, try working on dolphin pose and practice trying to lift into a headstand.
  • If you can do a headstand but can’t lift with straight legs, bring your knees into your chest and lift from there, or spend your minute working on trying to lift with straight legs. Straight legs = stronger core!
  • To make it more challenging, hold your headstand for a longer period of time.

6. Leg lifts. Keeping those legs straight, lower them slowly and tap your toes to the floor (don’t put weight in the toes!) and lift. Repeat, repeat, repeat…until you can’t repeat anymore!

  • Modifications: If you can’t do a headstand, continue working on dolphin pose and practice trying to lift into a headstand.
  • If you are struggling with the straight leg thing, just lower as far as you can go with straight legs (even if it’s only an inch!) and lift. Try to go a little lower with each practice.
  • Or, try an upside down cannonball: from your headstand, take your knees into your chest and hold in your headstand, and then lift back up into your headstand.
  • To make it more challenging, repeat as many leg lifts as possible.

7. Pike. With straight legs, lower your legs halfway to pike pose and hold for 15 seconds. Raise back to headstand, and then slooooowwwwllllyyyy lower to the floor and relax in child’s pose. You’re done!!

  • Modifications: If you can’t do a headstand, continue working on dolphin pose and practice trying to lift into a headstand.
  • If you are struggling with the straight leg thing, just lower as far as you can go with straight legs (even if it’s only an inch!) and hold in your mini-pike. Try to go a little lower with each practice – you’ll get it!
  • Or, try an upside down cannonball: from your headstand, take your knees into your chest and hold here for the duration of the hold, then lift back up into your headstand.
  • To make it more challenging, hold your pike longer.

Give it a try! It’s a lot of fun and a hell of a core workout!

♥ Namaste ♥

Can you do a headstand? Do you have any special go-to ab workouts you love?

Bone Broth: A Crock Pot Cure, or Crock of Sh*t?

Standard

“Good broth resurrects the dead.” – South American Proverb

Back in early April, when I was ramping up my miles for Boston and trying not to make matters worse with my Achilles, I read an article about the hottest food trend in 2015 coming out of NYC – bone broth. Yep, actually drinking broth made from random animal bones is supposed to be all the rage. In Brooklyn, a chef even opened up a broth “take out” window- Brodo- devoted to sippable broths due to its increasing popularity. I’d read about it before – about how broth can boost gut health and fight inflammation by providing a dose nutrients like magnesium, potassium, calcium, amino acids, and collagen. Blah, blah, blah. And being a somewhat devoted follower of a Paleo diet, bone broth comes up in my recipe search on Pinterest more and more often. I wasn’t jumping on the broth band wagon and even read a hilarious article about the new trend from USA Today that convinced me it was probably unnecessary for me to try it.

Then, a moment of desperation. I think I Googled something along the lines of, “magically fix a jacked up Achilles” or something. Can you guess what popped up? Apparently, all I needed to be doing all along was sipping on some bone broth and all would be right in the world. To intrigue me even further, there was an article about Kobe Bryant. Supposedly, he healed his torn Achilles in record time and came back and scored like a bajillion points or something in the same season, and he credited it all to bone broth. Please – I know nothing about basketball (is that even what he plays? Do you score points or goals?) but suddenly, I was all in. I left work that day, bought myself a chicken and got started. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I haven’t stopped with the bone broth since. Almost.

I did a little research and understood the cooking methodology around the whole ordeal (read: even if you suck at cooking, you got this). I call it an ordeal because the process is quite lengthy. Since I don’t have piles of animal bones lying around the house, the broth making process involves me having to cook some sort of animal prior to even beginning the actual broth. I realize you can ask a butcher for a bag of bones (that just sounds so gross) but I haven’t gotten that desperate yet. Here’s my process, in a nutshell: I buy a whole chicken (I shoot for something over 6lbs, if possible). Season and roast said chicken in my crock pot on low for eight hours. De-bone the chicken (I use the meat for dinner or chicken salad or something). Roast the bones, put them back in the crock pot with the drippings from the chicken and some random veggies, and cook on low for 24 hours. Voila…bone broth. I’ll break the process down for you a little later. It really isn’t very involved at all – just long.

So I showed up at work the next day with my mason jar of broth. I heated it in the microwave – I hate microwaves, but desperate times and a jacked up Achilles call for desperate measures –  and started sipping. I swear when I got up and walked down the hall a few periods later, my Achilles felt better. So I kept drinking. And making more batches of broth. Over a month later and I’m still riding the “bone broth a day keeps the doctor away” train. I did get through Boston and was pleased with my time, and I certainly didn’t try any magic spells that I found on the all-knowing Google. But I did try bone broth.

My  mid morning dose of bone broth

My mid morning dose of bone broth!

Is it really magic? I have no idea. But I’m so not stopping now – I have a batch going in my crock pot as we speak. I’ve tried all kinds of crazy crap to heal an injury, and bone broth has got to be one of the weirdest. What can I say? Don’t knock it until you try it. Here’s my own personal recipe for the concoction:

Bone Broth

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs of bones (I usually use chicken bones, but any combination will work)
  • Random veggies: onions, carrot, celery, garlic, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • Filtered water
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Optional: any of the giblets or organ meats from your animal (seriously, I know it sounds gross but I’ve done it both ways – it really does give it a richer flavor!)

Method

The first part of this process is optional but it makes your broth a little darker in color and supposedly more flavorful, so I always do it: Preheat your oven to 375, toss the bones on a cookie sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes. I do this, you could totally skip it if you are not trying to make it more of a lengthy process.

Toss the veggies in a crock pot. You can keep the onion skin on, and just do a quick rough chop. I quarter my onions and roughly chop my carrots and celery – the pieces are usually quite large and I don’t peel anything. If you are using the giblets or the “gross” stuff (I do), toss those in, too. Add your apple cider vinegar – it’s a crucial ingredient to promote breaking down the bones to infuse your broth with all of those nutrients found in the marrow – and your bay leaf. Cover with filtered water.

Cook on low. Cooking times will vary. For chicken bones, you’re looking at 24-36 hours-ish. I am finding I like to cook mine longer. I end up switching my crock pot from “low” to “keep warm” (mine keeps it really hot and should say “keep scorching” so it works) around the 24 hour mark. Beef bones take longer to break down and you are looking at more of like a 48 hour kind of deal. Last time, I had a mix of chicken and beef bones (I had some chuck roast with a bone in it – you would have thought I hit the lottery with my reaction when I realized I had beef bones for my broth) and the beef bones were MUCH more dense and didn’t break down as quickly.

After you’ve cooked it for what seems like an eternity, strain it through a fine mesh strainer and into whatever storage container works best for you. Refrigerate your magical concoction. TIP: Don’t strain or scrape the fat off the top when it separates in the fridge. The fat will settle on top, creating a “seal” – it can keep up to six months in the fridge if you “don’t break the seal”! When you heat it up, whatever solidified in the refrigeration process will become liquid. For me, it all goes down the hatch – fat and all.

I get about a half gallon of broth and I pour mine into 8 oz mason jars and take them to work everyday. It’s portable and easy for me to have it as a hot beverage sometime during the day. But you could use the broth and make a soup recipe to enjoy as a meal, or even just use it in your regular cooking whenever a recipe calls for broth or stock. I love soup, so for me, I enjoy my daily dose of bone broth and look forward to it. Does it work? No clue. I’ll wait until after my next marathon to stop and find out, though.

What do you think about bone broth as a possible cure for ailments? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever tried when you find yourself sidelined with an injury?

Weekly Update: 5/4-5/10

Standard

imageHaha. Happy Monday. That was a gift from one of my fellow weekend running buddies. Totally appropriate for my weekly update post! Overall, it was a pretty good week. It was the first week that I added some speed back to my workouts. I had some good runs, some ugly runs, and some decent cross training sessions. I’m not going to go through my whole checklist of areas I’m trying to improve on, but I will say that I was successful in being more consistent.

  • Monday2500 Meter Swim + Strength/Core/PT/Stretching
    I only have a limited amount of time to swim in the morning, so it was impossible to fit in more than 2500 meters before I had to get ready for work. It was uneventful and felt good on my body to be in the water. After work, I headed back to the gym for a strength session. I like beginning the week with a swim and strength workout – after whatever volume I run on the weekend, it’s like taking a little breather.
  • TuesdayYoga + 6 Mile Progression Run
    It felt amazing to get up and practice yoga for about an hour! I haven’t made the time to do that in a long time. I practiced the Primary Series: I warmed up with some sun salutations, completed the standing sequence, worked through as many seated postures as I had time for, and then went to some closing postures. After work, I headed to a trail near work and warmed up with some form drills. My goal was to run six miles: two at 7:30 pace, two at 7:15 pace, two at 7:00 pace.

I was stressing about this run all day because I was so scared it was going to aggravate my Achilles. Besides Boston, I hadn’t done any faster paced running like that since…who knows when. I began running and as I suspected, it felt HARD. Starting with the first step I took, I really had to work for this one. It was hot and humid, and it felt like I couldn’t breathe. My legs felt sluggish, and I had to fight for every single mile. But I got it done: 7:23, 7:20, 7:12, 7:07, 6:54, 6:52. Overall pace was a 7:08. Before this whole Achilles thing, that run would be hard, but not as hard as it was on Tuesday. The best part? My Achilles felt totally normal – the WHOLE TIME. It was slightly tender to the touch after the run (which is completely “normal” at this point) after. Something must be helping so I was even more motivated to come home, do my MYRTL routine, abs, a 1:30 plank, foam roll and stretch.

  • Wednesday5 Mile Recovery Run + Yoga/Core
    Woke up and ran before work. Just as I suspected, my legs were deaaaddddd! Normally a speedy six miler like Tuesday’s would make them a little sore or stiff, but my legs were just really fatigued. Rough. But that’s how it goes – not every single day is going to feel good. I did my form drills before, and my MYRTLs afterwards. I got on my foam roller for a few minutes before I had to get to work.

My original plan was to bike for about an hour after work. My coach didn’t tell me to, but earlier in the week it looked like the weather would be great for it. But I left work and it was raining, and I was still feeling pretty exhausted. I decided on a nice yoga practice and some core work. It was a the right choice – I started the practice feeling fatigued and worn out, but finished feeling fresh and energized.

  • Thursday Core + 10 Mile General Aerobic Run
    I warmed up with my form drills and realized it was extremely hot out – the first day I’d be running that far in summer weather this year. My run was supposed to be five miles at 7:30, followed up by 5 miles at 7:00 pace. I know when it warms up that I often struggle with faster paced afternoon runs (the school year can’t end fast enough at this point!). Oh, the struggle was real on this one. I was lucky if I could keep the pace around an 8:00 mile and averaged 8:04 for the run – a far cry from the workout I was supposed to complete. My stomach was a mess, I felt lightheaded and dizzy and had to stop a few times because I thought I was going to pass out. The heat definitely played a factor in why this run felt so awful, and I’ll get used to it as the weeks go on. I spent all day getting ready for the run: staying off my feet when I could, eating bland foods (I had a plain sweet potato, six ounces of plain roasted chicken for lunch, and a banana for lunch) but no luck. My legs felt like lead on top of it all. After the run, I went home and sulked a little…but then I did my MYRTLs, core, foam rolling and stretching and felt a lot better.
  • Friday2500 Meter Swim + Strength/Core/PT/Stretching
    Another uneventful AM swim/pmstrength day. I was still feeling a little rough from Thursday’s 10 miler and it took me a good 1600 meters to get warmed up…and I only fit in 2500 in the time I had so more than half the swim was a bit of a struggle.
  • Saturday16 mile Run + 16 Mile Ride + Stretching/Core
    Though it wasn’t as fast as last week’s 14 miler, I was able to manage a 7:39 pace and felt very comfortable. It’s possible that I could have cranked it out a little faster but I felt good at that pace and really, all of my runs in the heat all week left me so drained that I just didn’t want to feel that way again. I met the speedy crew of Cassie, Danielle and Jon at Sand Island in Bethlehem for a good old loop around the city. I hadn’t run with that crew through Bethlehem in a long time – since well before my Achilles crap. It was such a fun run! They were running 12, I had 16 so we did a loop through the north side of the city until we reached close to 10 miles and were back at our cars. They continued on the towpath, which is a nice flat trail in between the canal and river, but I still had six miles to go and wasn’t in the mood for the out and back deal. Instead, I finished the run on the roads and crossed the bridge to do a loop in south Bethlehem.After my run, I did my MYRTLs, and some core work. I finished the day off with about an hour(ish) easy bike ride, covering about 17 miles. It felt great to spin out my legs after all that, and even better to relax on the couch and eat sushi that night!
  • Sunday8 Mile Recovery Run + 47 Mile Ride + Stretching/Core
    It was Mother’s Day and my family was coming for brunch, so I was out running super early to fit it in. I’ve never run that far the day after a long run, so I was conscious to keep the pace conservative and in my recovery zone. I ran in Lehigh Parkway, and felt surprisingly good but resisted speeding up. I felt extremely fortunate that I could run the intensity and volume that I did all weekend with out my Achilles flaring up, so I held back. I did my form drills before the run and my MYRTLs after. I saw my buddy, Bart Yasso, running that morning in the same area. He lives in the Lehigh Valley (like five minutes from my house) and he’s become a good friend over the past few years. He really gets to know the local running community and when he’s not travelling, he’s spending time with local runners. You feel a little cool and giddy when you are passing a group of runners and Yasso yells to you, “Hey Allison, I’ve been meaning to text you to get together for a bike ride soon!”Later in the day when brunch was over and everyone was gone, I headed out on my bike. My husband was actually out of town for the weekend so I didn’t have much to do at home, so I wasn’t sure how far I’d go. I was either going to do my one hour loop from Saturday with a few options to add on if I felt like I wanted to keep going. I packed a few snacks and before I knew it, I was nearing the 30 mile mark and still a good distance from home! I tried a whole bunch of new roads – some awesome, and some super challenging. It was sooo super hilly – the total ascent for my ride was 2,800 feet! Check out the crazy elevation chart:Untitled-1

Totals
Swim: 5000 meters ♥ Bike: 65 miles ♥  Run: 46 miles

I didn’t take any good pictures running this weekend, but here’s one from Sunday’s ride. It was at the top of one of the huge climbs, but it’s amazing how it looks like absolutely nothing!

image

How was your week/weekend? Did you run any races? Is the heat impacting you and your training?