Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lose It Wrap Up + My Results!

After taking the summer off from running and training, I was feeling rather out of shape and pudgy. Lucky for me, the Wisconsin Athletic Club started its Lose It program mid-September. The 12-week program was focused on losing weight and body fat and improving overall fitness through small group training sessions.

And what a difference 12 weeks can make! Going into the challenge, I was hoping to see results but was a little unsure about how much change I could actually make. However, I was focused and made it a priority to succeed. Although I'm not yet sure how I did compared with others in the program, here are my results:

Weight: -12.5 pounds
Body Fat: -9%
Fitness Tests: 
  • 1-mile run (improvement)
  • Timed plank (improvement)
  • Timed push-ups (improvement)
  • Timed stair climb (improvement)
  • Timed walking lunges (improvement) 

I'm thrilled with my results and I can tell that my fitness is so much better. Looking back, there were a few key things that really helped me be successful:

Working out all. the. time. I went to as many Lose It workouts as I could fit in my schedule (there were typically 3-5 in addition to my 1-hour training session). I also did additional workouts at the Downtown YMCA. A typical week for me included two-a-days on Mon-Thurs and a workout on Friday and/or Saturday for a total of 8-10 workouts per week.

Focusing on strength. Before doing Lose It, I believed for a workout to be effective, it had to be fast paced. I quickly learned HIIT was not the only way to shed pounds. One of the trainers forced me to slow down, lift heavier and do every single rep correctly. It was a total mindset change for me as I've always been used to banging out a high number of reps as fast as possible. I totally fretted that these sessions were not going to help me achieve my weight loss/body fat loss goals, but in the end I think they were the most helpful. So while I lost weight/body fat, I gained a lot of confidence in my strength and ability to lift heavier (thanks Travis!).

Joining Weight Watchers. I knew I had to clean up my diet to go along with all the working out. Joining Weight Watchers really helped. While no foods were off limits, I knew exactly how much I could eat. And because the plan is pretty flexible, I could also enjoy small treats here and there, which really helped me stay motivated throughout the 12 weeks.

Eating the same foods. My breakfasts and lunches were the same almost every day. Turkey Bacon and Egg Wrap. Tuna/Chicken, Sweet Potatoes & Corn Arugula Salad. Popcorn. Veggies. Light String Cheese. It's boring to eat the same thing all the time but my body responded well to those foods and it made things easy.  

Now that Lose It is over, I'm focusing on maintaining my weight through the holidays. I'll continue working with one of the WAC trainers these next few weeks until Lose It starts up again at the end of January. During the next round of Lose It, I'd love to shave off another 4-6% body fat as well as lose more weight!

If you're in the MKE area and need a kick in the pants to help you lose weight - or just improve fitness and strength - you have to check out the WAC's Lose It program. I totes recommend it and can't wait to participate in the next round of the program!

Finally, many thanks to the Downtown Wisconsin Athletic Club and the trainers I work with - Ellie, Travis and Mike - you guys are great!

Tell me: What are your best weight loss tips?

- ST

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ALL the Christmas Cookies + It's the Last Week of Lose It!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I absolutely love the holiday season with all the celebrating with family & friends, gorgeous decorations, festive music, delicious food and sparkles galore. 

Last week/weekend I really started getting into the holiday spirit and helped decorate two Christmas trees at work, put up stockings and a few decorations around my own home and went to the most amazing Christmas cookie sale with my mom. The cookie sale was so awesome that I somehow ended up with nearly 10 pounds of cookies. Oops. 

Those cookies went straight into the freezer since I can't afford to indulge these next few days. That's because ... it's the final week of Lose It!

With it being the final week, there will be a weigh in and multiple fitness tests on Thursday evening. So this week is all about bringing my A-game to every workout to sweat off every last tenth of a pound.

Workout 1: 2 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Workout 2: Y-Blitz

Workout 1: WAC Burnout Workout
Workout 2: Y-Blitz + Mini Kettle Bell Workout

Workout 1: 2 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Workout 2: WAC Sprints & Bodyweight Workout

Workout 1: WAC Supersets Workout
Workout 2: WAC Small Group Training

Friday - Rest Day


Sunday - Rest Day

I'm so tempted by all the cookies stashed away in my freezer. However, I'm determined to be strict and stick exactly to my diet plan. With the weigh in on Thursday evening, I'm avoiding all alcohol and carbonated beverages and limiting my bread/pasta/dairy/salt intake to reduce bloat.

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Wrap + Banana 
Snack 1: Raw Veggies + String Cheese
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad  + 2 Clementines

Snack 2: Popcorn
Dinner: Ham & Bean Soup + Spinach Salad + Apple

After this week, I'll be back in my normal workout mode and will likely start incorporating more running into my routine. I can't wait to see what my results are on Thursday and will be sure to report back!

Tell me:
  • Have you ever participated in a weight loss or fitness challenge? How did it go for you?
  • What is your favorite thing about the holiday season? 
  • What's your favorite type of Christmas cookie?


- ST

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2018 Race Schedule - A Work in Progress

Hey everyone! Can you believe how quickly 2017 flew by? We basically have just one month left this year and that means it's time to start planning next year's races. 

So this year was a bit of a wash for me as far as running is concerned. I pretty much stopped after a few spring races and took a much-needed break from racing. But after several months off, I'm looking forward to getting a few races on my schedule. 

I still haven't been doing a lot of running but my basic fitness is back. So come January, I'm going to start running more to get back into race shape. 

Here's what I'm thinking of racing this upcoming year:

Pettit Indoor Half Marathon Relay - I'm super excited to race this one with the same team of gym friends from last year's Indoor Marathon Relay. We'll be focusing on shorter, faster intervals this year. I'll consider it a good workout for my upcoming 5k races!

Luck of the Irish 5k - This one is a maybe, depending on the weather. If it truly sucks, I'll race the First Call 5k instead.

Nicolet Bay 5k - I love this 5k in Door County and hope to do it every year that I'm able to run. The course is flat and fast and winds through Peninsula State Park. This will likely be my spring goal race.

Kings & Queens 4 Mile - I ran the Kings & Queens Half Marathon a few years ago and really loved the course. This time I'll likely opt for the 4-miler instead - it's a new distance option for 2018. I haven't raced many 4-mile races - in fact, this will only be my second one! Being only one week after the Nicolet Bay 5k, this may end up being more of a fun run for me. 

Wisco Mile - I've had this race on my radar for a few years now but it's never worked out for me to run it. Depending on how fit/fast I feel mid-June, this may be the year. I really like the idea of racing a fast mile on the track!

Rock 'n' Roll Chicago - This is another one that will always be on my race calendar. I love racing Chicago in the summer and Rock 'n' Roll races are always super fun because they are large-scale, well organized and super high energy! The only thing to decide is which distance to race: half marathon, 10k or 5k - or maybe I'll do the Remix Challenge this year and do the 5k + either the 10k or half marathon.

Lake Country 5k - Yet another race that is always on my race calendar. I've been doing this one since I started running. It's a hillier course but I love the challenge. 

And then ... I'm not sure! I'd love to add a few more fall races but haven't picked any yet. Whatever I end up adding will likely be shorter distance - something in the 1-mile to 10k range. 

Tell me: What's on your 2018 race calendar? Any fall race suggestions?

Enjoy your Tuesday!

- ST

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Try It: Swanson Health Products

Let's face it - we're all incredibly busy these days. But that doesn't mean we want to resort to eating junk when time is tight. One way to make sure you're able to maintain a healthy diet at all times is to keep your pantry stocked with the basics so you always have ingredients on hand to whip up a delicious meal. 

A few months ago, Swanson Health reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in checking out their online shop and trying a few products. Of course I said yes! Healthy products + the convenience of online shopping? Score!

I had heard of the brand but wasn't super familiar with all of their offerings. It turns out the website has thousands of products. Everything from vitamins and supplements to food and cleaning products. There are even beauty products on the site! 

I immediately went to the food section to pick out a few items to stock my pantry. Here I found a great selection of nuts, oils, baking products, protein bars, pasta, grains, soups, and even cookies! I was expecting to pick from just a few products but it was like shopping the aisles of any brick and mortar health food store. 

A few of the things I added to my cart:

  • Pistachios
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Organic medjool dates
  • Honey
  • Almond flour

I was especially excited about the macadamia nut oil as it's a harder-to-find item. I like drizzling it on salads and pastas to add a nutty flavor. 

It's a good thing I stocked up on these things because I was recently in the mood to bake and found I had all the ingredients I needed to try Running on Veggie's Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies. These cookies are so easy to make - just add dates, peanut butter and 1 egg to a food processor, blend and bake. So simple and so good!

I would order from Swanson again (if you sign up for their email list you'll get discount offers almost daily) for the convenience and selection of products. It's definitely worth checking out - particularly if you don't have health food stores near you or if you don't have time to get to one!

Tell me: What's your go-to health food shop/website? 

- ST

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hell Week, My Way

A few weeks ago, some of my friends started talking about Hell Week at Orange Theory Fitness. The idea is that there are eight themed OTF workouts during the week, and they will try to do as many as possible to push themselves and sweat like crazy.

I really love the idea of making a hard workout push for a week. Even though I'm not an OTF member, I decided to create my very own Hell Week. My version includes 10 total workouts - a combination of Lose It workouts, WAC group workouts and Y workouts. I know I'll be beat by the time my Sunday rest day rolls around but I'm looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish!

Here's my plan for the week:

Monday: 20 min walk + WAC Sprints & Core + WAC Cardio Circuit
Tuesday: 20 min run + Y-Blitz + WAC Squat Til You Drop
Wednesday: 20 min walk + WAC Triceps Training + WAC Kettlebell Circuits
Thursday: 20 min run + Y-Blitz + WAC Small Group Training
Friday: WAC Pump It
Saturday: 30 min run + Y-Blitz
Sunday: Rest Day

And because results don't happen without a healthy diet, here's a sample day of meals/snacks:

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Wrap + Banana
Snack: Raw Veggies + Light Babybel Cheese
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad + Clementine
Snack: Popcorn
Dinner: Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup + Honeycrisp Apple

Fall temps recently hit MKE making it perfect soup weather. I spent Sunday evening making a large pot of Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup for dinners this week. It's a super simple recipe and calculates out to only 3 Weight Watchers Smart Points per serving!

Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup
Serves 6 (3 Weight Watchers Smart Points per serving)

1 tsp olive oil
1 container Trader Joe's Mirepoix Vegetable Mix (onions, celery & carrots)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 AmyLu Italian Chicken Sausage Links, diced
1 15oz can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
6 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 Tbsp Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle (basil, oregano, thyme blend)
10oz raw kale (cleaned, chopped, stems removed)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add Mirepoix veggies and garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes, then add diced chicken sausage. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until veggies are soft and sausage is lightly browned. Add beans and diced tomatoes. Cook 1-2 minutes before adding chicken broth and Pasta Sprinkle seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Stir in kale and season with salt & pepper to taste.

A little sprinkle of Parmigiana Reggiano could be amazing on top of this soup but it will add an extra Smart Point.

So that's it for me this week - it's just about grinding through the next few days and getting all my workouts in! Tell me:
  • Have you ever completed a workout challenge? What did you like/dislike about it?
  • Are you celebrating Halloween this weekend? If so, what's your costume?

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

- ST

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My Weight Watchers Foods List

My first few weeks on Weight Watchers were challenging. In the past, I've been more concerned about the number of calories in food and nutritional value. But on WW, foods are assigned a Smart Points value (based on calories, fat, sugar, protein, etc.). 

I quickly discovered even foods that are lower in calories can have a lot of Smart Points. For example, my favorite Kashi Go Lean cereal is off limits due to its high point value. I've also had to cut back on or eliminate many of my old diet staples, such as quinoa, farro, tomato soup, legumes, etc. All are too high in points to incorporate in my everyday diet. 

Fortunately, as the weeks have gone by, I've discovered a few lower point items to work into meals. This list doesn't include the obvious things like vegetables, fruits and lean meats. These are more little things I've found to create low-point meals or to eat as a small snack. 

0 Smart Points
Bumble Bee Tuna Pouches (My fave is lemon & pepper)
Dill Pickles
Turkey Bacon Bits
Egg Beaters
Whole Foods Nonfat Whipped Topping

1 Smart Point
Mini Babybel Light Cheese
Light String Cheese
Tumaro's Ancient Grain Wraps
Boca Vegan Burgers
Turkey Bacon
Lipton Cup-A-Soup Chicken Noodle 
Nestle Rich Milk Chocolate Fat Free Hot Chocolate Mix
Peanut Butter & Co Mighty Nut Original Powdered Peanut Butter

2 Smart Points
Sargento Ultra Thin Cheese Slices
Flatout Light Wraps
Halo Top Vanilla Ice Cream

3 Smart Points
Alexia Smart Classics Crinkle Fries
La Panzanella Mini Rosemary Crackers (half serving is 2 points)

Here are a few ways I've used these food items:

Cheese Plate (3 Smart Points): 3 La Panzanella Mini Crackers + 1 Mini Babybel Light Cheese + 1 Honeycrisp Apple 

Ice Cream Sundae (2 Smart Points): Halo Top Vanilla Ice Cream + Sliced Strawberries + Blueberries + Whole Foods Nonfat Whipped Topping

Breakfast Burrito (4 Smart Points): Tumaro Wrap + Egg Beaters + Turkey Bacon + Sargento Cheese Slice + Salsa

Cheeseburger & Fries (7 Smart Points): Boca Vegan Burger + Sargento Cheese Slice + Lettuce Bun/Wrap + Alexia Smart Classics Crinkle Fries + Dill Pickle + Ketchup & Mustard

It really comes down to how creative you can get. I'm still discovering low point items to add to my list and finding new ways to combine things to make tasty and interesting meals and snacks. 

Tell me: If you're on Weight Watchers, what are your favorite low-point foods? Or, if you're not on Weight Watchers, how do you keep your meals light & healthy?

- ST

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Zoodles Two Ways

Some people could take or leave a big bowl of pasta. I'm not one of those people. I LOVE pretty much any type of meal involving spaghetti, angel hair, linguine ... you get the picture.

Unfortunately for me, it's pretty much off-limits on Weight Watchers. 

So what's a girl to do? 

As much as I've made fun of zoodles in the past, I've had to embrace them these past few weeks. And I've discovered they're not bad! In fact, I've actually looked forward to my zoodle meals because it turns out they're pretty satisfying and help take away the craving for a giant bowl of pasta.  

Below are two of my favorite zoodle recipes. Mangia! 

Tomato Basil Zoodles
Serves 1 (3 Weight Watchers Smart Points)

1 tsp olive oil
1.5 cups grape tomatoes, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups zoodles 
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Basil, chiffonade
Truffle salt, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add grape tomatoes and garlic and cook until softened. Add zoodles and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until zoodles are heated through. 

Transfer zoodles to a bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with cheese, basil and truffle salt. 

Zoodles with Meat Sauce
Serves 1 (5 Weight Watchers Smart Points)

3oz ground beef, 93 percent lean
1/4 cup white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
3/4 cup tomato sauce (I used Hunts)
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
3 cups zoodles
1 Tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Add ground beef to a large skillet and cook over medium heat. As the meat cooks, break it apart. Drain off any excess fat. 

Add onion, garlic and grape tomatoes to the meat and cook another 2-3 minutes until softened. Add tomato sauce and Italian seasoning and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add zoodles and cook another 2-3 minutes or until zoodles are heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer zoodles to a bowl. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  

I'm getting hungry writing this post! 

Help a girl out: What's your favorite way to prepare zoodles?

- ST

Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Birthday to Charlie!

When Charlie first came into my life, he was a tiny kitten - only three months old and four pounds. He was so small it was hard to imagine he'd ever grow up. 

But here we are - Charlie is celebrating his 1st birthday on Saturday!

In kitty years, Charlie is an adult. But he's still a baby in my mind. Shortly after I got him he went through a goofy growth spurt. He looked kind of awkward for a bit with a long body, long legs ... and tiny face with big ears. But he's evened out and has grown into a gorgeous kitty. He's right around 9 pounds - so still small for a male cat.

He behaves like a small child or adolescent - he's always exploring and playing and if it's ever quiet for more than a minute or two I know he's up to no good. He's so active and constantly sprints around the house, attacks and throws toys, and sometimes he even attacks me (all in good fun!)! He's also quite the jumper/climber. Although he's small, he has long legs and I've watched him fly between pieces of furniture and climb to the top of tall bookcases. 

He's also the most joyful kitty. His expressions kill me and he talks all the time. There's constant mewing, happy squealing, chirping, purring, etc. He's not one to sit silently in a room!

But when he's ready to rest, he loves to be held and cuddled. He's a lap kitty at heart and if I let him he'll stay there for hours. And when it's time to go to bed, he curls up next to me. 

I love my little Charlie so much and it's been an absolute joy to watch him grow. Looking forward to seeing what the next year brings :) 

- ST

Monday, September 18, 2017

Losing It

Back when I did regular training for running/racing, weight was something I thought about but not something I worried about too much. I knew I had to be leaner to run faster but because of all the running and other training I did, I didn't have to diet - it was more about eating quality foods to support the work I was putting in.

But after taking the summer off from running, I've found myself needing to work at losing a few extra pounds. So I'm excited to share I joined Weight Watchers and am also doing a 12-week program called Lose It at the Wisconsin Athletic Club.

Most of you probably know what Weight Watchers is even if you don't know the exact details of the plan. All foods are assigned a point value and the goal is to stay within a certain point total every day.

Lose It is more fitness based and includes a 60-minute session with a trainer each week as well as small group training sessions throughout the week. Participants work to lose the largest percentage of body weight as well as improve body composition and overall fitness.

Originally I was only going to do the Lose It program but decided to join Weight Watchers on a whim. I think it was a smart decision as it will force me to make better food choices throughout the Lose It program and hopefully lead to more weight loss. In addition to doing the Lose It workouts, I'll also continue to do some running - I'm slowly starting to get back into it but building miles won't be my focus during the next few months - as well as do a few classes at the Downtown YMCA. By the end of the Lose It program, I want to be in position to start doing more run training. Right now, I'm mega slow!

So this week's fitness plan looks like this:

Monday: 4 mile run + Y-Core + WAC Class
Tuesday: 4 mile run + WAC Training Session
Wednesday: 4 mile run + Y-Core + WAC Small Group Session
Thursday: 2 mile run + Y-Blitz
Friday: 4 mile run
Saturday: 30-minute walk
Sunday: Rest Day

And the diet plan looks like this:

Breakfast: Egg & Turkey Bacon Breakfast Burrito (7 points) + Banana (0 points) + Non-Fat Plain Kefir (3 points)
Snack 1: Raw Veggies (0 points) + Light String Cheese (1 point)
Lunch: Tuna, Chickpea & Sweet Potato Salad (6 points) + Watermelon (0 points)
Snack 2: Popcorn (2 points)
Dinner: Turkey Pepperoni Flatout Pizza (8 points) + Spinach Salad (1 point) + Apple (0 points)

I'm really excited about the next several weeks and can't wait to see how much I'm able to accomplish. As I told my trainer, Ellie, I'm all in and will do whatever it takes to maximize results. It's going to be challenging at times but I know I'm going to feel so much better as I get back to my normal self and - fingers crossed - can start running faster again :)

That's really it for now - how about you tell me a bit about what's happening in your life:
  • What's new and exciting in your life?
  • Have you ever been on a diet (Weight Watchers, Zone, Slow Carb, Whole 30, etc.)? If so, what did/didn't you like about the plan? Were you able to stick with it?

I hope you have a wonderful start to the week!

- ST

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Quinoa Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas

I recently had a craving for enchiladas with a creamy verde sauce. So I decided to use a little creativity and make one of my favorite comfort foods a bit healthier!

During a recent shopping trip at Whole Foods I picked up a package of Frontera Fire-Roasted Tomatillos. I had a feeling they would be a great base for a verde sauce once pureed. When combined with the plain Green yogurt, it's a deliciously creamy sauce that tastes super high-calorie/high-fat but is actually pretty healthy. 

Don't let all the steps scare you away. This one is worth a little extra prep time!

Quinoa Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas
Serves 4-6

8 soft-taco size tortillas (corn or flour)
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups spinach
1 package Frontera Fire-Roasted Tomatillos*
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano
Salt & Pepper
1 cup chihuahua cheese, shredded
Cilantro, chopped

*Purchased at Whole Foods

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add quinoa to a medium-size pot and toast over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add vegetable broth, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1 tsp chili powder and bring to a boil. Top pot with a lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer until quinoa is cooked through - about 15ish minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, add the tomatillos, Greek yogurt, 1 tsp cumim and 1 tsp Mexican oregano to a food processor. Process until smooth and well combined. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and black beans and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cooked quinoa and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted and mixture is heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1-2 Tbsp of tomatillo sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Add about 2 Tbsp quinoa filling to each tortilla and roll. Place each enchilada seam side down in the casserole dish. Top with the tomatillo sauce (you will probably have extra - freeze it for another batch of enchiladas or use on leftover chicken) and sprinkle with the chihuahua cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes - or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired!

This is delicious served with a side of Mexican Street Corn Salad or with a simple avocado salad.


- ST

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Summer of (Not) Running

Hey everyone! I'm super sorry I've been MIA lately. It seems like these past few months have gone by in a blink of an eye. One moment it was the end of winter and the next moment the middle of summer. But I guess it's like the saying goes - time flies when you're having fun :)

But if I'm completely honest, I also haven't been posting because I haven't had a lot to say about running because ... I haven't been running.

It's kind of hard to explain. For the past several years, I've been all about running and I never once considered it wouldn't play one of the most major roles in my life. However ... something changed during the past few months. 

It started back in May. My body felt like it was breaking down again and I was losing motivation to train. If I really think about it, I guess I would really point back to a year and a half ago when the injuries started and never really seemed to stop. I would get injured, recover, then immediately get injured again, which meant I haven't been able to train as consistently as I did a few years ago. And once I started taking a few days off here and there, my motivation also decided to take a vacation.

When I had a run on the schedule I'd dread it for hours, wondering how it would go and if I'd be able to hit my times for the day. And when I finally did get out to run it was a chore that I just wanted to get done as fast as possible so I could cross it off my to-do list. You know all those motivational quotes that talk about pushing through day after day and never giving up? I told myself I was just going through a bad patch and in time I'd be able to push through and get back to where I wanted. I didn't want to be that girl who gave up, but I knew I was only digging myself a hole. 

So I decided the only hope I had of getting back to loving running was to take an extended break. I was really anxious about it at first because the past few years my life have revolved around running and fitness. Suddenly I didn't have a routine and all this extra time. As weird as it seemed at first, I grew to love having things less structured. A few weeks in and I found I hardly missed running.

I still went to the gym but only did a normal 4-5 workouts per week. To someone who used to force herself through 8-10 workouts every week, this seemed like nothing. I felt better rested and had more time to do other things I love like catching up with friends over drinks, going out dancing, following fashion and style, reading, etc. I also had time to try out new workouts, such as OrangeTheory Fitness.

The only thing that gave me pause was losing fitness as the weeks went by. Things that used to be easy suddenly weren't and my speed and endurance definitely took a hit. But I told myself I wasn't going to push myself to train for anything - or even follow a fitness routine - until I felt ready again.

Although I wondered at times if I was done with running, I've finally started feeling like I want to run again. It's been little things like getting excited about certain races or feeling inspired while watching the Track & Field World Championship races. And I've actually started to miss the routine of structured training and working toward a goal race.

It's going to take some time to get back into things but I think I'm ready. I'm not in the best shape right now (read: super slow) but I think if I work hard and regain the fitness I've lost, I still have plenty of fast times left in my legs. 

So that's where I'm at right now. Plugging away, slowing building up and hoping to get back to running fast again. 

It's been a long time, friends - tell me:
  • What have you been up to this summer? 
  • How is your running going? Any fall races on the calendar?
  • Have you ever taken an extended break from running? How did you know it was time to start up again?


- ST

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Carlsbad 5000 Race Weekend Recap

In the weeks leading up to my trip to Carlsbad, California, several people I know told me they couldn't believe I was traveling across the country to run a 5k.

Let's set the record straight. Carlsbad 5000 isn't your ordinary 5k race. It's the world's fastest 5k (16 world records have been set on the course!) and a must-run event if you're into shorter distances and/or just love running and racing. 

Racing Carlsbad 5000 has been on my bucket list for awhile because it's an event that's all about the 5k distance. Most races these days focus on the marathon or half marathon as the main event and the 5k is often considered a distance for newbies or walkers. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say "I'm just running the 5k" and I'll admit - I'm even guilty myself of saying it at times. But when you truly race a 5k, it's never "just a 5k" - in fact, it's likely one of the most painful and challenging distances you'll race!

The Midwest does not offer any large-scale 5k events (at least that I know about) so even though Carlsbad 5000 meant flying across the country, I didn't mind one bit. I couldn't wait to experience the race!

Because it's a large race, Carlsbad 5000 is divided up into heats: Masters Men, Masters Women, 29 & Under, 30-39, Elite Women, and Elite Men. I really like this format because I got to watch the other heats and it really made it seem like a festival of sorts. The only thing I didn't like was having to wait til later in the morning to race. But more on that later ...

Waiting for my race to start!

So race morning Mom ran first and it was great being able to cheer her on at the start and finish of the race. She lucked out because her race was earlier in the schedule so it was just starting to warm up - I believe temps were in the upper 50s at the start. Every race we do, Mom is always so worried she won't be able to finish. But as always she looked great at the end of the race and finished strong.

After Mom finished up, we headed over to the VIP area to sit down for a bit before my race. All Rock 'n' Roll events offer VIP access for purchase and it's well worth it. At Carlsbad 5000, we had access to an indoor space, private gear check, indoor restrooms, and pre- and post-race food and drink. It's a totally good deal and I highly recommend it.

Before my race started, I got to meet up with a group of people I know through the Rock 'n' Blog program. It was fun meeting a few people I've previously only known on social media. I also got to catch up with Nicole, my Bird Camp roommate. It was so great seeing her again and I can't thank her enough for all the great Carlsbad recommendations she made in the week's leading up to my trip!

 Thanks for the pic, Carlee!

Nicole and I lined up together at the start of the race. I was thinking we would be able to run the first mile together or maybe even the whole race but it was crowded and I lost sight of her soon after crossing the start line. My plan was to run conservatively during the first mile and I think I did a decent job of this considering how excited I was when I started running. Usually this leads to me taking off for the first half mile or so but today I kept it nice and easy. Or so I thought. 

After hitting the halfway point, the sun and heat really started to get to my Wisconsin girl self that is used to running in a cloudy 30-40 degrees. I could tell the wheels were coming off and I was slowing big time but I desperately tried to hang on. I remember looking over to my left and seeing the beautiful coastline and all I wanted to do was run across the beach and dive in the ocean! Nicole passed me with about a mile to go and I was toast soon after. It was a very slow slog to the finish line and I ended up with a pretty bad time for me.

At first I felt bad about flying across the country to run such a bad time but then I started feeling better when I realized how hot it was at race start - 70 degrees and sunny. If I do this race again I will definitely incorporate some heat training into my routine so I'm better prepared. I also hope I'm in better shape since I know lack of running fitness also played a role. 

After my race finished up, it was time to spectate the elite races. Mom and I stood near the finish line and it was amazing to see all the tiny elite men and women fly across the finish line. They were all so gracious after and some even ran back to high five spectators and pose for pics. Afterwards, Mom and I headed back to the VIP area to get our gear check bags and many of the elites were there as well. I noticed none of them were indulging in dessert! ;)

 Shannon Rowbury (1500 & 5000 American Record Holder)

Paul Chelimo - 2016 5000 Silver Medalist

I didn't hit the Beer Garden area after but it's worth noting there was one with a large concert, beer and pizza. It looked like a super fun time - more like a street festival than your typical post-race party. 

This race is definitely worth a trip. Rock 'n' Roll races are among my favorite and I love the series even more for offering an event like Carlsbad 5000. The organization was top notch and the atmosphere was unlike anything you'll find at other 5k races. I liked it so much, I'm already signed up for next year's race!

The race was the main reason for the trip but Mom and I also did plenty of walking along the beach, shopping and, of course, eating! We stayed at the cutest resort - Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort - and it was the most perfect location - right in the heart of the village and across from the beach. It had the cutest cafe on site and Mom and I ate breakfast there every day. We also visited the ice cream shop on site every evening. We were on vacation! 

When you're deciding where to race in 2018 I hope Carlsbad 5000 makes your list. If it does, I'll see you there!

My questions for you:
  • What's the furthest you've traveled for a race? Why did you decide to race there?
  • How do you prepare for warm weather races during the winter months?
  • Do you race 5ks? What do you love/hate about them?

Missed Carlsbad 5000 but still want to run a Rock 'n' Roll race this year? Use code RnB15 to save $15 off marathon and half marathon races at many U.S. and Canada tour stop locations!

- ST