Monthly Archives: January 2014

Blizzard of 2014 Training Tips

The Blizzard of 2014.  The Polar Vortex of 2014.  Call it what you want, but it’s been cold and snowy for lots of people all over the U.S. the last few weeks.  It’s been ridiculous around Virginia Beach.  School’s been out for two days, and it’s unlikely they’re heading in tomorrow as well.  The reason for this better-to-stay-home-than-brave-the-roads attitude is almost understandable.  Driving on unplowed, untreated roads with a bunch of people Blizzard of 2014who don’t have a clue how to operate a motor vehicle in slippery conditions is a recipe for disaster.  The number of people scooting around town with snow piled on the roof, hood and trunk of their car is plain old scary.  Please, stay home.

While the less than perfect driving conditions have been sensationalized here in the 757, outdoor running conditions haven’t.  Running in the snow can be dangerous, too.  Very dangerous.  Here are seven tips to help keep you safe when you have to, or want to, go for a run in the white stuff.

Slow down.  You won’t want to run your usual pace in slippery conditions because it’s harder work.  Much like running in sand, muscles in your inner and outer thighs that don’t work very hard on solid ground will be pulling overtime, making you feel fatigued sooner.

Use trail shoes, spikes or Ice Grippers.  Making sure your shoe has ample traction is incredibly important.  Good treads, spikes or ice grippers add traction to each footfall and mean you’re less likely to slip, slide or take a spill.

Two pairs of socks.  If you’re heading out in the snow, you’ve probably already faced the fact that your feet might get wet.  Help keep them warm and dry with two pairs of sweat wicking socks.  Make sure your shoes still fit with an extra pair, but don’t be afraid to loosen your laces.

Change your stride.  A shorter stride will help you balance, lowering the risk of slipping and falling.  You can also improve balance by making sure your foot lands directly under your hips.  This increases the surface area of your foot that touches down and better stability.

Find fresh snow.  At least snow that’s crunchy.  Plowed, packed snow is much more difficult to navigate that fluffy stuff that helps you grip.Blizzard of 2014

Think with your eyes.  You want to be seen, so dressed in brightly colored clothing and wear a safety vest or reflectors.  You also want to avoid potholes and icy patches, so be sure to constantly scan your surroundings.

Focus on effort.  It’s hard to run adjust your stride and run in snow.  Be sure to account for the extra work your muscles are doing when you choose how far or how long to run.

The Blizzard of 2014 is over (hopefully) and running in snow won’t be an issue for much longer, but take these seven tips to heart and stay safe the next time you have to, or want to, go out for a run in the snow!

Meredith

How do you feel about snow?  Has the Blizzard of 2014 messed with your training schedule?

I’m a Proud Non-Streaker

I am a non-streaker, and even though I do not go on run streaks, there are tons of people who do.  They challenge themselves to see how many days in a row they can go without missing a run.  I’m happy for them, and hope their streaks last as long as they want, it’s just not for me.  Run streaking can be a great way to encourage weight loss, living an active lifestyle and increasing physical fitness by providing a bit of accountability.  These goals are noble, but I’m not interested.

Yes, I attempted the Runner’s World Run Streak this past non-streakerHoliday Season, and yes, I quit.  I needed a day off.  My legs were tired, my knee was starting to ache and the rest of my body was burned out after six months of training and racing hard.  So, the Run Streak this non-streaker attempted was only 56 days from Thanksgiving to New Years, and at the outset, I thought it was totally do-able.

It was.  I’m sure I could have done it.  The length of a run required to meet the streak requirements is only one mile, but early on there were times I flat out do not want to run one single step, let alone two thousand.  I ended up choosing instead to listen to my body and take the rest I had originally scheduled for that time of year before rolling into my 2014 training program.  Starting, and completing, a run streak isn’t for the brand new runner or the weak of will.  Even the United States Running Streak Association/Streak Runners International is aware non-streakerof the potential dangers of shooting for the lofty goal of running at least 365 days in a row.

As an experienced runner, I know that consistency is paramount to making gains in speed and endurance.  I also know that resting is the only way to make those gains stick.  My body has to have time to recover so I can keep training and stay injury free.  A run streak takes that opportunity away.  Even if it’s just one mile, when I’m forcing myself to do it, it’s probably worse for me than not doing anything at all, especially mentally.

Yes, I could consider my daily one mile run as recovery from the previous days workouts.  Sometimes, however, my foam roller and a bag of ice are what my knees, quads and calves really need.  The small effort running an easy mile requires doesn’t get my blood flowing much more than a good stretching and rolling session (plus I don’t have to put running shoes on) and I’m not afraid of loosing any fitness in 24 hours.

Maybe when I’ve finally hit my as yet to be determined ultimate running goal, I’ll back off and mix up my easy runs for a few hundred days in a row.  Until then, I’m taking my scheduled rest days and liking it.

Meredith

Do you run streak or are you a non-streaker?  How do you feel about them as a training tool?

Bitter Cold, Bitter Runner

Shamrock Week 5 wrapped yesterday with a nice round of strength training and two recovery miles to finish up a tough week.  The weather was against me, with very unfriendly temperatures waiting outside on Wednesday, for a 45 minute tempo run, and Friday, for my 90 minute long run.  The bitter cold that welcomed my Wednesday early morning run was around 18 degrees with 20+ mile an hour winds and just enough to send me indoors.  I quickly became a bitter runner as I climbed on the dreadmill for a pretty decent 45 minute session, but it hadn’t gotten any warmer by the time I went back outside.

I carried my bitter runner self into a balmy 35 degree day Thursday, which was great for indoor strength training and outdoor speed work, and felt the bitterness slipping away heading into Friday’s 90 minute outing.  A 21 degree afternoon that featured 15 mile an bitter runnerhour winds kept me cool for my long run, but it was unexpectedly good and bitter runner failed to return.  Oh, how living down here in the South has weakened me.  I have half a mind to walk around all winter in flip flops just to remember how it feels to really be cold and appreciate what I’ve got going on here.

In spite of being a bitter runner this week, my body overpowered my mind for once and made Shamrock Week 5 a success.  Hopefully, Week 6 will hold more good training days to help me get in Race Mode.  My head still isn’t totally there, but with 7 weeks left to go, I should figure it out.  With last year’s schedule, I didn’t have time to really take a big break after the spring before heading into fall training, so while it’s nice that I’ve had the time to really unwind between the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, I’m finding it tough to get fired back up.

On the way to Race Mode I’ll need to get through Week 6 Training that looks like this:

Monday: Tempo 45
Tuesday: Crossfit
Wednesday: Race Pace 4
Thursday: Crossfit and Speed Work
Friday: Long Run 90 Minutes
Saturday: Crossfit and Recovery 2
Sunday: Rest Day

Here’s to a good Week Six and warmer temperatures!  Hope you had a wonderful weekend and this week’s training goes great.

Meredith

How’s your Spring Race Training going?  Do you get moody when you can’t run where you planned to?

Time for A 2015 Race Plan

Eek!  We’re barely a three weeks into 2014 and it’s time to start thinking about my 2015 Race Plan!  With my plan to run 50 Half Marathons in 50 States, planning is an important part of figuring out each year’s race schedule.  And budget.  I’ll have 8 states crossed off when 2015 shows up, which isn’t too shabby for one year of trying, but I certainly don’t expect to check the other 42 off in the next few years.

Speaking of those 42 remaining states, I’ve already chosen the races I want to run in a bunch of them, and luckily that helps give my schedule a direction.  For example, I’ll kick off 2015 with Washington D.C. (Rock n Roll USA) and Kentucky (Run the Bluegrass).  These races are two weeks 2015 race planapart, at least the last two years they have been, and that works out wonderfully for a training schedule.  Those two are definitely going on the 2015 Race Plan, with the added bonus that both places are easily reached without heading to the airport.

Beyond that?  Not much.  My last 2014 race is the Rehoboth Beach Half Marathon on 6 December, which would leave me in good shape for a January event (Rock n Roll Arizona), but would also mean training straight through from August 2014 to March 2015, and that’s a bit much.  That means I’m 2015 race planlooking into the spring, summer and fall for the rest of the year, but in May, I’m stuck with two events on the same weekend, Nebraska (Lincoln) and Ohio (Flying Pig).  Choices, choices, and it’s a good thing I have plenty of time to make choices, work out a training schedule I like and figure out where I can afford to travel.

The most important part of my 2015 plan is that aforementioned training schedule.  I don’t think I’m going to particularly like the way my schedule worked out for 2014, with a trio in the spring, a mid-summer race, and a pair in the fall preventing me from getting a really nice break between training cycles like I did in last year.  I’d like to lump races and get a break during the hot summer months in my 2015 Race Plan, and so far I think I’m on track with DC and Kentucky.

Hopefully, as 2014 rolls on, I’ll be able to find races that make my 2015 Race Plan work out perfectly without putting too big a squeeze on the budget.

Meredith

Do you group races together?  How much time do you like to take between training cycles?

Lone Survivor and Cheating

This weekend, Doug and I did something we rarely do:  go to the movie theater.  We say we’ll go all the time, but for some reason or another, it never ends up happening.  We stuck to our guns this time, though, and managed to rally for something important.  Lone Survivor.  I knew I was in for a gut wrenching, tear-drop inducing two hour feature that would make no apologies for its portrayal of a hard and painful reality, and that’s exactly what I got.

Based on Marcus Luttrell‘s novel of the same name, the film follows the journey of four lone survivorNavy SEALs who are dispatched to rid the world of an evil man.  I expected violence, I expected explosions and as I settled in with my cheat-tastic salty, buttery popcorn and large Sprite, I was ready.

The film introduces its audience to the always tight-knit SEAL community by showing a glimpse of the hardest physical and mental training a person can endure.  The bonds between the men who fill and support teams, as the film goes on to show, are quite possibly the most powerful around.  Your brothers might be the only lifeline you end up having and the camaraderie between members of the Spec Ops community runs deep.  Through scenes of everyday life to a mountainous battle ground, Peter Berg‘s film takes you with it into the hell of war with the world’s most elite fighters.  You’ve seen the men laughing, working for their futures and planning the mission, so by the time they’re under fire, you’re firmly attached to them.

It’s this attachment that makes you feel the pain of each bullet that hits its American target, the deafness that rings after a RPG lands feet from the men and sense the unbelievably hopeful spirit they each possess when the mission becomes compromised and an unfair gunfight of David and Goliath proportions begins.  The will to survive is never stronger than in the face of an enemy and as Matt Axelson states in the middle of this hellacious firefight, “You can die for your country, I’m gonna live for mine.”  Never giving up hope or breaking, these four valiant men put their bodies through torture while making decisions with life changing consequences.

Unfortunately, as the film’s title belies, not all of those who began Operation Red Wings make it home, Axelson among them.  A stirring film, well shot and beautifully developed, Lone Survivor’s most poignant moment surprisingly occurs after the movie’s last frame.  Photographs of each man who lost his life during the ill-fated mission are marched across the screen, showing mothers, fathers, wives, children and dogs that lost their sons, husbands and fathers and if that doesn’t bring make it a little harder to breathe, I don’t know what will.

I walked away from my seat full of popcorn, able to say nothing, wanting to Murph until I puked.  Lone Survivor is a serious reminder that the men of the United States Special Forces are the strongest, toughest and bravest in the world, and when politics get in the way of fighting an enemy without rules, bad things happen.  Every American owes them a debt that can never be repaid.

Meredith

Have you seen Lone Survivor?  Did you enjoy it?

Shamrock Week 4

2014 Shamrock Week 4 Training is in the bag.  I got a lot done this week, including getting a hotel for my first April Race, the April Fool’s Half Marathon in Atlantic City, and an shamrock week 4awesome bed and breakfast for April’s second event, Rock n Roll Nashville.  Two more states off the list with those!

The most fun, and important, thing I did (other than running) during Shamrock Week 4 was to start a FitNicePT YouTube Channel.  It’s much harder than I expected to sit in front of a camera and make everything you want to say come out just right on the first try, but in spite of getting tongue tied, I’ve managed to get three videos out and learn a lot.  I’m excited to put tons of good running based content out there, including workouts, exercises and nutrition advice, to help new runners start their running careers and keep long term runners healthy.  Subscribe today to get every post!

In addition to making my first YouTube video this past week, I tried something new with my training.  I had a few reschedules in Week 3 that ended up moving my speed work from Tuesday to Thursday, right before my long run.  I was nervous about how that would work, but it ended up being great.  I rocked my long run and thought it could have been because of the schedule change.  I stuck with the immediately pre-long run speed work this week and had an excellent 90 minute run yesterday.  I’m liking this change, and thinking I’ve found something that works for me, have decided to switch my speed work day for the remainder of this 12 week plan.  Change in place, Shamrock Week 4 wrapped up after today’s strength training, and here’s what’s on tap for Week 5!

Monday:  Race Pace 3
Tuesday:  Cross training
Wednesday:  Tempo 45
Thursday:  Crossfit and Speed Work
Friday:  Long, 90 minute run
Saturday:  Cross training, easy 2 miles
Sunday:  Rest Day

I don’t have anything special on tap for the weekend, but stay tuned for a new clip or two on the FitNicePT YouTube Channel.  Hopefully Shamrock Training Week 5 will kick off Monday and be just as good as the last two!

Meredith

When do you do your speed work?  How often do you change your training pattern?

Two Books are Better than Two Movies

Movies are great.  Except for when they come from a book.  I’ve recently finished two novels, one of which is about to hit theaters and the second of which is slated for a fall release.  February 7, 2014, Robert Edsel’s The Monuments Men will be in your local movie theater, while Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places will show up in September.  I won’t recommend either film, but I won’t put the kabash on going to see either of these movies either.  Why?  Because the book is always better than the movie, and I loved both books.

dark placesHaving read these two wonderful novels back-to-back, it was interesting to sit back afterwards and think about how they would translate into film.  Dark Places seems ripe for translation to screen, while I really struggled to see how The Monuments Men will work in another medium.  Of course, lots of books seem like they’ll make great movies and end up being, eh, not-so-good on the big screen.  Take one of my all-time favorite flicks, The Godfather, and one of my favorite television series, Game of Thrones, a a pair of examples.  The movie/show is amazing.  Until you read the books.  Writing rich in detail, plot lines that twist and turn, and small but important characters are dulled, dropped and deleted from film editions.  For me, that sometimes makes the movie a disappointment, even though I understand the difficulty of taking a book to the big (or small) screen.

The Monuments Men was a fantastic tale of war, friendship and adventure that I really do not see making a good film at all.  The production company has enlisted a stellar cast and, I’m sure, not spared a dime in its efforts to create a success.  With pages and pages of moviesfootnotes following the story’s end, it’s hard to imagine how that much history will appear on screen.  Intricacies in the characters’ relationships, in their missions and the history lessons they teach the reader won’t be easy to put on film, and to be honest, I’m not sure I want to see it there.  Each sentence that doesn’t make it from the text to the script will feel like a gaping hole in the tribute to a group of people who fought valiantly to save both our own culture and the enemy’s.

Dark Places, on the other hand, is sincerely a thriller.  This is one I can’t wait to see.  The novel’s plot, characters and design beg to be taken to the movies.  I’ll be interested to see what is left out of the film, and unlike with The Monuments Men, believe absences won’t necessarily hurt the genuineness of Flynn’s story.

In in the end, I expect to find The Monuments Men a let down, but wholly expect to enjoy Dark Places.  Nothing can ruin the books for me, but the books sure can ruin the movies.

Meredith

Do you think books make good movies?  What are your favorites?

Honey Sesame Chicken

Honey Sesame Chicken is a recipe I made to feature in the FitNicePT blog, where I try to post a new, healthy recipe every week (check them out here).  I aim for low carb, low fat and low sugar dishes, and although this meal features a 3/4 cup measure of honey, it’s not as bad as the Asian style food you’ll find at P.F. Chang’s or the local take-out.

The FitNiceRunner version of honey sesame chicken is baked, rather than deep fried, which keep calories and fats low, and while it’s picture served over white rice, I usually serve on a bed of snow peas.  Easy to make at home, everyone on Team FitNice loves this simple, but delicious recipe and I’m excited to share it with you!

Honey Sesame Chickenhoney sesame chicken

Basics
Servings: 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Difficulty: 4

Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts – cubedhoney sesame chicken
1 cup cornstarch
3 eggs
Salt and pepper as desired
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oilhoney sesame chicken
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Additional sesame seeds for garnish as desired

Instructions
1.  Preheat oven to 325, season cubed chicken with salt and pepper.
2.  Place cornstarch in bowl and gently beaten eggs in separate bowl.  Coat chicken in cornstarch then cover with egg batter.
3.  Brown battered chicken in canola oil over medium heat then place in greased 9×13 baking pan.
4.  In medium mixing bowl combine honey, soy sauce, ketchup, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and cornstarch.
5.  Douse chicken with sauce and bake 45 minutes, or until cooked through, stirring frequently to cover chicken in sauce.
6.  Toss cooked chicken in medium sized mixing bowl with additional sesame seeds, if desired.
7.  Serve over edamame or snow peas.honey sesame chickenThat’s your recipe for Honey Sesame Chicken!  One of the best things about it is you can easily substitute white vinegar or olive oil for rice wine vinegar and canola oil, making it accessible even to those who don’t have an exotic spice rack.  Remember to keep it healthy by accompanying with greens, like edamame or snow peas, rather than carb heavy rice.

Polar Vortex Survival

I survived the Polar Vortex of 2014, coming through without a single snow or ice injury.  That, of course, could be because we got practically none of either here in Virginia Beach.  It was a pretty cool weather phenomenon, though.  An occurrance that hovers around both polar vortex 2014the North and South Poles every moment of every day, the Polar Vortex got a bug in early 2014 and decided to come visit the good old U.S. of A.  Bringing with it record low temperatures and bone chilling winds, it was a rough few days for everyone, especially runners.

I’m not one for perfect timing, at least often, but with a post schedule to publish Tuesday featuring tips for running in and dealing with cold weather training conditions, it couldn’t have popped up at a more perfect time.  You can check it out here, but hopefully things have warmed up a bit in your neck of the woods like they have here in VB.

polar vortex 2014In spite of the Polar Vortex of 2014, I completed my scheduled Shamrock Week 3 Training yesterday in 60 degree air and am looking forward to Week 4.  The fourth week of Spring Half Marathon Training marks the long run switch from distance to time.  My last three long runs have been based on distance, regardless of time, but I’m ditching the mileage for a 90 minute outing next week.  Here’s a look at the rest of Week 4’s training schedule:

Monday:  45 minute tempo run
Tuesday:  Crossfit and speed work
Wednesday:  Race Pace 5 miles
Thursday:  Crossfit
Friday:  90 minute long distance
Saturday:  Crossfit and easy 5K
Sunday:  Rest!

The weather guessers aren’t calling for another Polar Vortex to cover the U.S. in ridiculous cold any time soon and Week Four’s weather is looking good.  I’m excited for the next six days of training!

Meredith

How was your Polar Vortex experience?  What’s on your training plate for this week?

Elevation Education

Elevation is a big difference maker when it comes to running, an even bigger factor than the cold weather I wrote about Tuesday.  The thinner air associated with increased elevations means less oxygen to muscles, and that means more work for slower performance.  Cold, or cooler, weather, alternatively, tends to improve performance.  The stress of increased elevation makes it no surprise that some elite distance running athletes elevationstrain in Colorado Springs, CO at elevations beginning 6,035 feet above sea level.  If you can perform well at high elevation, with limited oxygen reaching the most important muscles in your legs, a decrease in elevation will only help.  Well, what is a sea level dwelling runner to do?

As part of my Run 50 Half Marathons in 50 States goal, I’m going to face races in places that are above, or far above, sea level.  I don’t face any serious elevations in 2014, but I’ve chosen the Missoula Half Marathon as Montana’s race at 3,209 feet of elevation, and much like the races I’ve already picked to check Colorado (Rock n Roll Denver, 5,280 ft) and South Dakota (Brookings, 1,621) off the list, that’s some serious altitude.

Unfortunately, I live at, give or take, sea-level.  I run on or within 10 miles of the Atlantic Ocean’s beach, so I’m not sure I can get any less elevated if I tried.  I kicked off my 2014 Shamrock training in Pasadena, where I had a small taste of being above sea-level.  I know the 864 foot elevation of the Rose Bowl is significantly more than VB’s 12 feet, but how the heck do I prepare for Missoula, the Mile High City or even Brookings?

I could, of course, just face the fact that I don’t have the right training environment and move, but until someone pays me to relocate, it isn’t going to happen.  I could head out west two weeks before each race starts to adjust to the increased elevation, which would give me time to explore each city, too, but again, that is just not feasible.  I need elevationsomething I can do right here at sea level to make my body get used to having less oxygen.

My first thought is an oxygen restriction mask.  Not only would running on the beach in a neoprene mask make me look bad ass, it would probably induce a fear of suffocation and be immediately removed.  Unfortunately, dressing up like Bane might be my only option.  Specialized oxygen reduced air equipment is way, way out of my budget and completely unnecessary, especially since these races aren’t even on my calendar yet.

I’ll have to put more thought into the training situation as I schedule them, but until then, I’ll deal with the elevation by slowing down and simply trying to stay on my feet.

Meredith

Have you raced at altitude?  How did you train?