Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Running Speedy

I know speed is all relative, and fast for one person is super slow for another. But lately I have been trying hard to push my pace on my runs and work on speed -- speedy for me anyway. It is seriously so much fun. I think I have underestimated myself for a while!

The last three weeks during my long runs, I have run some of the fastest times I've ever done at those distances. Each week my average pace has gotten consecutively faster too, even while my distance has increased. Basically, I think my comfortably hard pace has dropped at least 20 seconds/mile. I'm not sure if this is all a result of pushing my distance in the fall for my marathon, or the speedwork intervals I've been doing this month -- either way, it is awesome! I'm so excited about it!

I have one more higher mileage week before my first of two March half marathons. I am really getting pumped for these races! I can't wait to see how I do.

Besides running and P90x-ing, the last few weekends have been busy. Last weekend we went to San Francisco to see a friend. We had amazing weather, and enjoyed time outside. We walked up Twin Peaks and had a gorgeous view of the city. Check out these photos! Seriously beautiful.

This weekend we had a great time celebrating a few friends birthdays. Ryan found these AWESOME giant peanut butter cups at the store! They were delicious, but I could really only eat a bite or two because they were so sweet. I was glad we had friends to share them with!

Have you ever had a big/sudden increase in your running speed?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to: Pull-Ups

In my last "How To" post, I talked about pushups. Today I want to write about pull-ups. Pull-ups can be tricky because they involve many different muscles groups, but in this post you can find the general form for pull-ups, and ways to improve your strength to do a pull-up if you have never done one before. If you don't have a pull-up bar at home, that doesn't mean you can't do these exercises. A bar that can support your weight is all over the gym, or you could even use monkey bars at the playground.

Setting Up 
Grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Let your body hang down - try to keep your chest up and shoulders back. Two of the basic pull-up forms are:
Pull-up: palms are facing away from you. Works both biceps and back muscles.
Chin-up: palms are facing toward you. More emphasis is on your biceps.

I think one of the keys to getting up with a pull-up is focusing on squeezing your back muscles. You can also think about pulling your chest to the bar and driving your elbows down. Pull yourself up until your chin is just above the bar. Pause for a moment before lowering yourself back down. Do your best not to swing your legs around to get yourself over the bar. Keep the movement controlled rather than jerking up.

Chin-ups are often the easiest form for most people, and wide grip is often harder. Some other variations you can do are L-pullups (keep your legs stright out in front of you during the pull-up), close-grip, or with uneven hand heights. Similar to pushups there are many varieties.


Many people are afraid of pull-ups. Because pull-ups are a body weight exercise, your strength to body weight ratio can be a factor. It takes some time to build up your upper body strength to be able to do them. If you cannot do a pull-up today, don't worry -- with practice you will get there. I think even more than pushups, pull-ups can really take patience and effort to do.

There are a few ways you can to improve your strength to lead you to eventually get a pull-up right at the pull-up bar.

1) Supported pull-ups. Use a chair or band to support some of your weight. You can put one foot on the chair to take away some of the weight from your arms. The less weight you apply to the chair, the harder the pull-up is.

2) Do negatives. Basically a negative is where you get up to a completed pull-up position using a chair (or jumping, or someone assisting you) then lower yourself slowly without support. Try to count to 10 while lowering. When you get to the bottom, try to hang on for 5 seconds. This exercise gets your arms used to supporting the weight of your body.

3) Static hangs. Get yourself to the top of the pull-up position, as mentioned in negatives. Hang with your arms flexed as long as possible. This will strengthen all the muscles required for a pull-up including forearms, biceps and back. If you can, complete a negative on your way down after your hang for added difficulty.

Some other exercises you can do at the gym to prepare yourself for pull-ups are: bent over rows, lat pull downs and bicep curls.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How To: Push It Up

In P90x, almost every weightlifting day incorporates pushups, pullups, or both exercises. These moves are great because they are body weight exercises. They not only will improve your upper body strength, but also your core muscle strength.

Many people struggle with pushups and pullups, so I wanted to give you some tips on form, modifications, and ways to improve. Today I'm going to start with pushup form, and I'll save pullups for another post. Pushups are especially great because you can literally do them anywhere -- no equipment required!

Setting Up
Start with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. When you are in the up position (like a straight arm plank), your shoulders should be over your hands.Your hands should be in a comfortable position, which for me is with the fingers facing forward. If this hand position bothers your wrists, you can try pushups on your knuckles (with a soft surface underneath!), or use dumbbells as supports. From the top of your head to your feet should be a straight line. It is key to not let your butt hang low or be up too high -- Try focusing on tightening up your glutes and abs through the whole exercise. Be cautious not to look up or tuck your chin to your chest -- remember your body should be in a straight line. Put your feet at a comfortable distance apart. The further apart they are, the more stable you will be.

Completing the Pushup
In a slow and controlled way, lower your body, while keeping it straight head to toe, your arms are bent to 90 degrees or more. I like to lower until my chest barely touches the floor. Once you have reached the lowered position, pause for a moment, then use push back up to the starting position.

If the full pushup is too hard for you, it can be modified by placing your knees on the floor. Over time as you gain strength, you should be able to do pushups on your feet. Another alternative is do incline pushups. This is where your hands are up on something stable rather than on the floor (like a table or a park bench). As you progress, you can find lower items to be elevated on, slowly progressing toward regular pushups.

There are many many forms of pushups you can do including wide, narrow, diamond, decline, hands or feet on medicine balls, or plyometric to name a few. Try doing some of each type if you can already do standard pushups. Challenge yourself!

Pushup workouts
Here are just a few workout ideas:
1) Do as many pushups in a row as you can until your form starts to break down. For example, your butt might begin to sag, your elbows are flaring out wide, or you are really struggling to push up. That is one set. Do 3-4 sets. Take a minute or two rest between sets.
2) Follow the 100-pushups plan
3) Try a pushup streak -- do a couple sets of pushups every day for a month. You will be amazed how much you improve!

Up Next: Pull-ups!

By the way, ActiveGearUp is having a deal on ProCompression socks today! Only $24.95. Check it out.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Be My Valentine?

This morning I celebrated Valentine's Day by wearing pink on my run.

So far, I have gotten my two weekly speed sessions in! I am doing much better this month than last on this goal!

My speed session last week was 4 x 800m, and today was 8 x 400m.

Since I'm new to speedwork, I didn't really know what my interval paces should be. Instead of just going out and guessing, I used the McMillan Pace Calculator. You can plug in your race times (or goals), and it does some crazy calculations to predict what other race times, and your training paces should be. I thought this was a good start for helping me figure out where I should be, even though it make sure to note that these are just estimates.

I don't live very close to a track I can use for my intervals (or at least I don't know of one), so I have been setting my Garmin to help out with that. It's pretty simple -- check out the pictures below. All you have to do is press enter to select. I apologize in advance for the terrible pictures. I attempted to take these while riding the bus this morning.

Once you have finished entering the distances/times you want, just press enter over Done and you are ready to go! If you are using a warmup/cooldown, it will ask you to hit the lap button when you are ready to start your first interval. From then on, all you have to do is what the watch tells you -- and it even beeps when you start and stop your intervals. So easy!

I think all the other people at the park walking and jogging were wondering what that crazy girl was doing, and what all the beeping was! I got some funny looks this morning.

Have you ever used the McMillan Pace Calculator? If not, I recommend checking it out -- it's pretty cool!

Are you doing anything special for Valentine's Day? Ryan and I are going to yoga tonight, and tomorrow we will cook a special dinner together. Nothing crazy, but so fun to enjoy some time together.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Your P90x Questions: Answered!

I know, I've been a bad blogger and not posted recently! I really have been thinking of you guys though. Work has just been pretty crazy the past week. Forgive me?

In my last post, I asked you guys for some of your questions about the P90x workouts. I got some great questions, and hopefully this post will give you all the details. As always though, if there's anything else you are wondering about -- just ask!!

How does the program work? Is it repeat workouts?  In general, P90x is broken up into 3 months of workouts. For a month, you repeat the same workouts each week for 3 weeks, with the 4th week as a recovery week Each week has three weight lifting days and three cardio-type days, and one rest/stretch day. Here are's what a typical week looks like in month 1:

Monday -- Chest & Back, Ab RipperX
Tuesday -- Plyometrics
Wednesday -- Shoulders, Biceps & Triceps, Ab RipperX
Thursday -- YogaX
Friday -- Legs & Back, Ab RipperX
Saturday -- KenpoX
Sunday -- Rest day, or XStretch

In month 2, the Monday & Wednesday workouts are changed to Chest, Shoulders & Triceps, and Back & Biceps. For month 3, the "month 1" and "month 2" workouts are alternated over 4 weeks with a fifth week being the recovery week.

The recovery week takes out the weightlifting and plyometrics and adds in a workout they called Core Synergistics  -- This week of workouts is designed to lighten the load on your muscles to allow them some time to heal -- sort of like tapering before a race.

What exactly are plyometrics and kenpo?
Plyometrics is jump training. This workout focuses on explosive moves to work on both strength and speed. It can improve running speed, jump height and functional fitness for many sports.
Kenpo is a form of karate/martial arts. This workout keeps your heart rate up while doing a few series of karate kicks and punches. It can also improve your balance and flexibility.

How long are the workouts?
Many of the workouts are around 55 minutes to 1 hour. The Ab Ripper video is an additional 15 minutes. Yoga is the longest video at 90 minutes. Because of this, it does take some dedication to stick with the program. I am thankful to be doing these workouts with Ryan and another friend, so we help keep each other going when someone isn't in the mood -- just like meeting up with friend for running would do!

What are the workouts like? Are they really intense?
Most of the weightlifting workouts are set up in circuit-style. For example, on the Shoulders, Biceps, Tricps day you do one exercise focusing on each area and repeat twice, then move on to another small circuit. I will admit, the workouts are hard...but that's kind of the point , right?!? There is not much time between many of the moves, and often only have a few 30 second breaks. Many moves (especially with pushups and pullups) are supposed to be done to your maximum number of reps. The good thing is that there are ways to modify almost every move if you are struggling, and you can make it as hard as you want. I think the first two workouts (Chest & Back, and Plyometrics) are the hardest! If you decide to start this program, give it some time... sometimes you just need to get in a rhythm... and over time you will make improvements. These types of circuit-style workouts will focus on improving muscular endurance, muscle tone, and cardiovascular fitness.

What equipment do you need?
P90x was designed to use minimal equipment. Here is a list of what I use:
Free weights (could also be substituted for exercise bands)
Pullup bar (could also be substituted for exercise bands)
Yoga mat (just so I'm not sweating all over my carpet!)

How do I modify the program to work with running?As I mentioned in my first post about starting this program, I want to keep up my running while I am completing it. I the best method of modifying the program would probably be differently for everyone, but here's what I'm doing. On the weekends, I do a swim or bike ride one day, and my long run the other day. During the week, I can add in a short run in addition to another workout (usually on Thursday with yoga), or substitute a run (usually something longer or more intense -- intervals/tempo) for the plyometrics day. I have been changing this up just depending on the week and what's going on.

Hope I've answered all your questions! And hopefully I'll get back to a bit more regular posting this week.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

P90x: month 1

P90x Review

I started the P90x program on January 8. See my post about starting the workout series here.

If you don't know much about P90x, the general program consists of 3 weightlifting days (two focused on arms, and one focused on legs/back), as well as 2 cardio days (plyometrics, or kenpo) and one day of yoga. 

Weekly Thoughts
Week 1: One week in to the P90x program, I am feeling SORE. Almost from head to toe, but mainly in the upper body. Unfortunately we had to start on a Tuesday, so we will likely be doing an extra week of "month 1" workouts. Since we started with the Plyometrics routine, late in the week my calves were screaming at me! My sides are pretty sore from pullups and abs from the AbRipperX workout. But, I know I'm already improving. Feels good to be in a nice strength routine!

Week 2: Plyo's was much easier this week than last week.  Legs & back really wiped me out this week. Not really so much on the day of the workout, but more that I was SUPER sore the next day -- mostly in the glutes.

Week 3: Small improvements this week, but starting to make progress, I think. Getting better especially with the pull-ups. Still had glute soreness after the legs day, but not as bad.

Bonus week for "month 1" workouts: We decided to do another full week of month 1 to get on track with our days. Didn't complete the legs workout this week because I ran a half marathon Sunday. Changed around the schedule this week a little due to being excessively tired Monday. Yoga on Monday. Completed lifting days on Tuesday and Wednesday.  P90x+ Intervals workout on Thursday. Took Friday off, and swam on Saturday.

Overall thoughts so far:
This is a very tough workout, but they do a great job of showing modified moves if you are new the program. The first two days are the hardest workouts (Chest & Back, and Plyometrics). My first time ever through these workouts, I had to take a break during plyometrics because I thought I was going to faint! And I even felt like I was in pretty good shape at the time! So if you try these workouts, don't get discouraged. Use the modifications to get through it, and you will improve over time.

What I like about this program is although there are a few rest breaks built in (and I do believe it is enough time), you definitely get your heart rate up for most of the workout. Sometimes in going to the gym it is easy to wait a long time between sets or give yourself too much rest.

The next month changes up workouts for the two upper body lifting days. It will be fun to change things up!

Anything you want to know about the program so far? Ask me some questions!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Davis Stampede Race Recap

Race day for the Davis Stampede started with my usual morning wakeup. I had a bar and a banana for breakfast and went back to bed for 2 more hours.

The race started at 8am, and was only 20 minutes away, so I didn't have to get up too early. My second alarm went off at 6:15.

Once we got to the race start area, we got all our stuff together. Time seemed to go quickly and the bathroom line was pretty long, so we ended up jumping in the start line with only a minute to go!

My initial goal was to aim for about a 2:00 half marathon.

The first mile I completed at a 9:08, and felt great! The pacer for 2:00 passed me after 1.5 miles-- she was going a little too fast I think, but I decided to just stick with her. She slowed down after realizing she was going too fast, but I was feeling so good that I decided to keep up the speedy pace.

At mile 6 I stopped for a quick pit stop. What felt like a short stop actually increased my average pace by 7 seconds! Killer. But I kept plugging along.

Miles 6-8 were on a gravelly path, which felt much more difficult than running on pavement. I give props to those who do trail running!

In the last few miles, my legs were really feeling tired, but I kept myself moving as fast as my short little legs could carry me.

My final time was 1:56:06. A PR by 5 seconds!!

 I am SO proud of this since I don't feel like I did my best training, and I also had the pit stop. It makes me so much more excited to see how I will do in March after putting in some more mileage.

Not only did I PR, but Ryan had a HUGE PR in his 10k. He beat his previous time by 3 minutes! I am so excited for him.

 We celebrated another great day of racing by hanging out with friends, playing games, eating lots of amazing food, and watching the Super Bowl (in compression gear, of course).

Rockin' the ProCompression socks and CW-X capri's

Can't wait to see how the rest of my 2013 racing season goes!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

1st Half of 2013

Tomorrow I'll be running my first half marathon of 2013 -- The Davis Stampede! I'm both excited and nervous. I haven't done as good of a job preparing as I have for other races, but I know I'll be able to make it across the finish line.  I'm kind of considering it as sort of a training run for my March half marathon.

My friend was able to pick up my race packet on Friday for me, so I'm all set to go in the morning. Luckily it is only 20 minutes away from my house so we don't have to get up too early. Whoo hoo!

After the race we are having friends over to hang out and watch the Super Bowl! 

Can't wait to tell you all about it! Looking forward to half #9!

Who are you cheering for in the Super Bowl? I always want to see a good game. :) But I will be cheering on Joe Flacco and the Ravens since Flacco graduated from the University of Delaware where I also went to school. Go UD!
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