Category Archives: fitness

Insanity: Fit Test 2

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I’ve been doing Insanity in hopes of getting back in to somewhat shape, and am having marginal success with it. I do fill stronger in the thighs and do feel that it’s really upping my cardio. But I dont worship the program like so many others do. (Then again, I’m not selling it either). I have been putting in at least 90% effort in to the workouts and am eating much better than previous weeks.

I finished week 2 on Sunday, took a break on Monday, and I just finished my second scheduled fit test about two minutes ago. Seriously, I am sitting on my bedroom floor in a workout bra and shorts whilst drenched in sweat. Appetizing. I know.

Here are my results compared to week 1:

Day 1 Knee Kicks: 84
Day 13 Knee Kicks: 101
Difference: +17

Day 1 Power Kicks: 35
Day 13 Power Kicks: 46
Difference: +11

Day 1 Power Knees (left): 60
Day 13 Power Knees (left): 70
Difference: +10

Day 1 Power Jumps: 21
Day 13 Power Jumps: 31
Difference: +10

Day 1 Globe Jumps: 5
Day 13 Globe Jumps: 8
Difference: +3 (or 12 extra jumps)

Day 1 Suicide Jumps: 5
Day 13 Suicide Jumps: 10
Difference: +5

Day 1 Push Up Jacks: 11
Day 13 Push Up Jacks: 13
Difference: +2

Day 1 Oblique planks things: 33
Day 13 Oblique plank things that I still dont know what they are actually called: 45
Difference: +12

… My conclusions are that I still suck hardcore at anything that puts me in a push up position (suicide jumps and push up jacks). But the good is that my lower body cardio has improved overall, which you can see by the endurance portions in the “power” exercises.

As for weight loss and measurements, I stupidly forgot to measure myself, but I am down about 4lbs in two-ish weeks.

Next fit test is in 13 more days, so I’ll see you at day 36.

Plank-A-Day

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I’m not very consistent. I dont like to do things over and over and over again. That’s why I try to make my fitness or nutrition challenges different each week. Nothing can ever get boring if you try to spice it up a bit.

But then I got word of the #plankaday challenge going around twitter, and I though, “Hmmm… that could really be awesome!”

But wait- didn’t I just get done saying that I hated routine? Wouldn’t doing the same strength training exercise over and over again defeat my never ending goal to mix up my workouts?

Yes! and No!

Planks are fabulous. They challenge your core and shoulder strength. Unlike crunches, they challenge your entire abdominal area and lower back. And you dont have to do a million of them to see results.

But the best part is that there are a bajillion different versions. Sure, there are the standards:

Standard, forearm plank

But then people improved upon it. They added side planks:

Raise the arm in the air for a more yoga-like pose.

And then, made it more complicated with twists:

My favorite: Thredding the Needle

Of course, someone got the great idea to add props!

Stability balls scare me to death.

And, why not just work your shoulders and core? Let’s add legs!

Arms and Legs! (I dare you not to look at her chest)

Some people get really hardcore in their planks:

Sure way for me to fall and break something...

But you can make them easier by dropping to your knees, criss-crossing your feet, changing your hand or forearm position, etc.

I even do these some days when I'm not feeling it.

… and all you have to do is hold it.  I know people who do interval planks where they are in plank position for 10 seconds and then rest 10 and do it all over again. Others can hold planks for minutes at a time. I can do a regular forearm plank for about a minute twenty before I fall in to a heap.

Put multiples versions of the plank together and you’ve got a pretty formidable core and shoulder workout. You can even add them to your yoga routine (vinyasas) for a more soothing version!

What’s your favorite plank?… and no, I do not mean this:

Streaking!

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You may have guessed that I survived the pasta throw down. I have spent the last three days making up for my loss with fettuccine.

But, that’s neither here or there.

It’s time for a new challenge! And this time, it’s going to be BIG. Like that damn commercial…

15 Minute Physical Challenge!

Starting tomorrow, I am challenging myself to work out for at least 15 minutes a day from Thanksgiving till Christmas Eve (11:59pm). That’s 30 days straight of working out. Impossible? No. 15 minutes is a moderate amount of time that anyone, including me, can fit in to their routines.

First, here are my rules:

  • The exercise must be deliberate and intentional. This means that my walk to and from work do not count as that minor effort is already required of me. Also, I am not counting are stairs unless I am doing them intentionally. So, say I got to Woodfield and decide to take the stairs to avoid bulldozing the annoying teenagers in front of me… that’s great, but it’s still not exercise. Climbing the 10 flights of stairs in my apartment building to get my heart rate up… that’s intentional.
  • The exercise does NOT have to be continuous. I could do 5 minutes of planks in the morning and then 10 minutes of squats and lunges at night. It still counts. I could even do 1 minute of shadow boxing in my work’s bathroom 15 times and it would count.
  • The exercise does not have to be strenuous, but it has to be more than stretching. Yoga and pilates, unless intense, are fabulous ways to work out and tone without getting your heart rate up. They count. Touching my toes or doing quad stretches on the other hand… nope.
  • I must track my “streak” on sparkpeople or dailymile. My dailymile name is my facebook login and my sparkpeople name is Chelles_Bells. I’ll be logging fitness minutes on both sites if you’d like to follow along or make your own account to join in. But on Spark, I’ll be tracking a “streak” as well. It’ll look like this:
  • There is one exception to these rules… my vacation. I go on vacation to Disney World starting December 17th-21st. I full anticipate getting in a workout on the day I leave and come back. That leaves 3 days in which I must find time to work out. Considering I will be on my feet for over 10 hours a day at an amusement park, I will count that as intentional exercise. But, I plan on wearing a step counter and I’ll pick a large amount of steps I must get in order to count the day as a workout. I’ll also make a nutrition goal to go with vacation.

So that’s my challenge. If I complete it, I am going to give myself bi-monthly private swim lessons for 3 months.

Are you up for it? If you’d like to join in, please let me know. I love acountabiliabuddies!

Getting Started…

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I’ve had a couple people (hey y’all!) ask me how I started running when I was out of shape and overweight. So much so, that I am going to write this out. Please note that I am not a doctor. People’s individual conditions (asthma, injuries, heart conditions, etc.) should be taken in to consideration before you start any program. I hate to say it, but I firmly believe that many people have bodies that are not meant to run because of these conditions. However, I’ve been proven wrong before. So what do I know… again, not a doctor.

Why yes... I've been watching Doctor Who non-stop for the last week.

First of all, you CANNOT run if you cannot walk. I am dead serious on this. You cant just go out there and run unless you are in great shape or completely healthy. I recommend building up slowly by walking 30 minutes a day for four to six days a week. When that becomes too comfortable, find some high tempo music and walk faster. Then add some hills. Treadmills are great ways to amp up your workout. Most modern brands have different types of workouts. Even now, when I’m too tired to run or it’s an off day, I’ll set it on a random hill workout and let the treadmill dictate my workout.

When you are able to walk 3 miles outside or on a 1-2% treadmill incline without stopping AND with it feeling like a medium level effort, then you are ready to run.

Running will not happen automatically for the majority of us. It will frustrate the hell out of you. You WILL want to give up. You will burn out. There will be plenty of bad days that can certainly outnumber the good ones. Avoid burnout by:

  • Limiting how many days you run. DO NOT run every day. Your body is essentially building up new muscles. You need time to rest and recover. When I started, and even today, I only run 3-4 times a day.
  • Start SLOOOOOOWWWWWW. Speed comes with time. I promise. My first run was a 14 minute mile. A year later, I can run 10:30s. If you insist on running at a certain pace for whatever reason, then give yourself:
  • Time to get better. Just as speed will come, so will endurance. Your first run may only last 10 seconds (or less). Be proud of that. Write it down. Tell your super supportive and understanding friends. Send me an email! Try to run at that same level for a 2 or 3 more runs until you try to run for longer. Add on another 5 seconds and repeat. Celebrate, record it, run at that level a couple more times, and then add on. In a month, you may go from running 10 seconds at a time to running for 4 or 5 minutes.
  • Sign up for a race. Be realistic. For most people starting at my level (which was obese and overweight), give yourself 3-4 months to train. Or, if you are ready to go, try interval running (which I will go in to) or walking a race. 5Ks are the best way to start. They are 3.1 miles long and are a great distance to play with.

And with that, comes my next recommendation. Typically, I would tell everyone to try Couch to 5K. It’s a pretty popular program that has gotten great results. I did it… twice. But here’s what they dont tell you: Couch to 5K doesn’t build you up to a 5K unless you can run a 10 minute mile. Instead, it builds you up to running 30 minutes straight. That’s great if that is your goal (and can be a great one)…

But what if you cant run 30 minute straight? What if your body needs that walk break? Are you still a runner? Can you still become one?

YES. Yes, you can. And dont let anyone ever tell you that you cant.

How do I run 10:30s? I do it with intervals. I run 3:1… in other words, I run for 3 minutes at a 9 min/mile pace and then I walk for 1 minute at a 17 min/mile pace. And then I repeat… over and over again.

I can run a straight mile. In fact, I can run a 5K straight. I’m pretty sure I could run 5, if I really wanted to. But I dont. Running intervals has kept me injury free, helped me avoid burn out, and has made me fall more in tune with my body. And it’s all thanks to this guy:

I bought this book about two weeks before my first 5K in March. A week before that same 5K, I tried it out. I ran a 5K at my normal pace (a 14 minute mile) and finished in 43 minutes. Respectable, but I pretty much wanted to die afterwards. Two days later, I tried to do the 5K with intervals (I started with :45/1:00… run for 45 seconds and then walk for a minute). My time on that run? 41:40. With the race a week away, I turned to Jeff Galloway’s many message boards on Spark and, with their support, ran the race with those same intervals. I did it in 40 minutes.

I was blown away! How could walking while running longer distances help so much?  And even better… I was in no pain. I finished my race feeling like I could go another mile. And with a few exceptions, I’ve felt that way after every single one of my runs ever since. I’ve ran the Galloway method for over 8 months now and I will not be going back to straight running any time soon.

But ultimately, it comes down to what works for you. There are a MILLION plans out there that will get you going. Some will have you run almost every day. Others will have you running only once a week…. your level of commitment should be reflected in the plan you chose. And when you hit a milestone (say, run your first mile or minute), reward yourself. Make it a fun game.

And with that game, make sure you’ve got ample support. People who laugh at you, tell you that your slow, or try to squash your plan are not support. If you end up with no one, send me an email. I’m not joking. I’m here almost 24/7 to help you, rant with you, and jump with joy when you cross the finish line.

And, while I’m thinking about it, I’ve got one more major tips: BUY RUNNING SHOES. Dont just go to payless and pick out the prettiest pair of Nikes you can find or the cheapest pair in the store. Invest in your fitness. Get yourself to a running store and ask to be fitted. Running shoes fit differently than your regular shoes (I wear an 8 in regular shoes, but an 8.5 Wide since I need more room in my toe box and my feet and ankles tend to swell). They will watch you stand, walk, and run to determine your shoe support needs. Shoes can be expensive, but be honest with them. If you cannot afford $150 pair of shoes, then let them know at the start. They will give you options.

So, that’s it. Start slow, avoid burn out, and try different plans till you find the one that works for you. When you do poorly, let it go and move on. When you do great, celebrate.

I hope this helps!

Day 4, 5, and 6 of The Weekly Challenge (Weekend Wrap Up)

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Whew. Been a couple days, right? Sorry for the delay. I had a recap written about Thursday, but wordpress stole it. Then both Friday and Saturday were pretty hectic. Last thing I wanted to do was sit down and write a blog.

But, all in all, I’ve done well. And I’ve done it by making little changes.

For example, on Thursday, I searched my fridge for something healthy to eat with my PB&J lunch. Apparently, we at some point last weekend acquired a veggie tray. For two days I’ve been munching on homemade hummus, cherry tomatoes (a new favorite of mine), celery, and carrots. For a girl who HATES veggies (this is a big leap). My nutrition for both Thursday and Friday were pretty decent:

Thursday- a bit low on calories, but never exceeding any of my limits.

Friday- Still low, but I didn't workout at all and I was carbo-loading for the race the next day.

And in case you are curious of what carbo loading entails… I basically ordered a 10 inch cheese pizza and some bosco breadsticks and ate half of it. Yummmmmy. And so worth it.

As for the race, I’ll be honest when I say that I was dreading it. My running lately hasn’t been up to my normal standard. I’ve been feeling sore and beaten up on almost every run, even when I take it easy. And even though I built myself up to 8 miles, I felt like the distance (15K, or 9.3 miles) might do me in. I vowed to myself that I would take it easy. I would run slower than my usual 12 minute mile pace (in fact, I wrote down 13 minute mile markers on a piece of paper that I occasionally referenced during the run).

Also, let me take a moment to express extreme frustration with RAM Racing. This will most likely be one of my last RAM races. I found it extremely expensive. The expo they advertised was nothing but four booths and a whole bunch of (much more) expensive merchandise. But my main complaint was the lack of trained (and friendly) volunteers. Rant done.

So, Saturday comes and I reluctantly put on my outfit, gathered my gear, and got myself on the 6:30 bus downtown. Here are some pics:

Black Racer

I was really digging the black look...

Grant Park

The weather, at least was beautiful... about 35 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

The 5K portion of the race took off around 20 minutes late and I began to warm up. Feeling some stiffness in my legs and still unsure of my new shoes (that I only had run on once), I ran about a half mile up and down the start line as the runners began to line up. Knowing that I wanted to go slow, I put myself in the 12-15 min/mile start group. We slowly marched to the start line and I put on my ipod to some slower tempo music.

The first 3 miles went by so quickly. This race followed the same path as my half marathon for the first part. Then it wrapped westward towards the United Center where the Blackhawks played. It was certainly fun to run around that area, but miles 4-6 were a complete bore. To be honest, everything was pretty much a blur once I left downtown. I passed the same people over and over again with my intervals, and I just listened to my music at full blast so I couldn’t really hear anyone around me.

The last two miles were the most fun and challenging. My intervals were becoming slower and slower and the pain I had felt over the last month was beginning to act up. Yet, I was so close that it didn’t matter. As we winded our way downtown and on to Michigan Avenue, I began to push myself harder than most of my past races. However, like a good Chicago runner, I knew that I would have to face the worst thing any runner may face at the last mile… Mt. Roosevelt Road. While only a quarter mile long, Mt. Roosevelt Road is known world wide as being a major biiiiitch. I told myself that I should walk up the damn thing. But the other, more stupid side, wanted to keep trucking up it. By the time I got to the top, I was completely out of it. My energy was at a zero. I ended up skipping my last run interval and walked until I saw Brendan at the finish line. I mustered up enough strength to run the last tenth of a mile.

My watch time was 1:56:06. That’s a 12:30 pace. For someone who spent the night making contingency plans on how to exit the race in an emergency… I’ll take it. I also graciously took the chocolate fondue and cup of hot chocolate at the “after party.”

Spent the rest of the day relaxing until dinner came. We went out to the Chicago Diner to celebrate. SO GOOD.

Ok, as for today… Here are my goals:

  • Clean the bedroom and bathroom
  • Dance Dance Party Party
  • Gentle, non-leg strength training
  • Knit until my yarn is gone
So that’s it. One more day to go!

 

Day 2 of the Weekly Challenge

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Let’s just get to the good right off the bat:

Look who hit the minimum calorie intake on the freakin’ money! To be honest, it was probably more. When I eat restaurant food, I always use spark’s tools to search for the dish (in this case, left over beef stroganof), but then pick the highest calories and sodium option of the bunch because I’d rather be realistic about what I ate.

And on top of eating right, I got in a good 5K. My time was 36:30. Not bad. One day I’ll hit the elusive 35 minute! My only complaint was that my shins are still killing me. I’m thinking that once this race is over on Saturday, I am going to limit my running to 3 days a week of 5Ks only. Or, I might make the 10K my weekend long run while we are in the winter. I just need to ease off of my legs and give my shins a good rest.

The rest of the week during the off season will be focused primarily in strength training. I’m going to do my best to attend as many yoga classes as possible and try out some weight training classes as well.

Anyways, so eating and cardio were a positive check. The only thing that was a fail was…

Getting in my 8 cups of water!

Normally, I’m great at this. But on mornings when I have a smoothie, it’s really hard for me to get my typical three glasses in right away and thus my commitment to making it up later in the afternoon falls by the wayside. Of course, I felt pretty bloated this morning which most likely showed when I got on the scale. Meh. Today’s a new day and I’m half way to 8 already.

As for my other goals: I got laundry done, wrote/re-wrote 2 pages of my paper, and made some chicken tacos for dinner. Score.

Tonight’s goals are:

  • Write another page or two of my paper
  • Pasta with earth balance for dinner with a small portion of chicken
  • Drink 8 glasses of water

Vacay

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Remember how I wrote that my post-race injury report only included two blisters and some underarm chafing?

Yeah. Forget that.

A day after the race, I started to notice that my left shin was super sore. As in, my ankle to my knee felt both stiff and warm at the same time. The same hip is also acting up.

I have been getting shin splints intermittently throughout my training. Most people do. Rookies get it from wearing non-fitted shoes (get yo ass to a specialty running store and have them watch your gait). Intermediate runners like myself get it from running too hard or too long on hard, cement based surfaces.

Eventually, all that wear and tear results in painful… um… tears in the front part of your shins. Here’s a helpful medical drawing:

 

The only way to cure it? Well, dont do anything on it until it stops hurting. Really, there is no way to make this better. No stretches you can do that will make the soreness go away, and frankly, even icing it just dulls it for awhile. It needs to be coddled like a baby.

And then you can run again…

Which means, that I am out of commission this week. It’s lucky because this weekend’s planned 8 miler would have been hell with Air and Water Show traffic along my path. I prefer my runs to be quiet reflections, not adventures in tourism.

And because I’m taking a week off running, I’m taking off a week of exercise- which sounds horrible. (and it is)

To be quite honest, I ran that race with just about everything in me. The little fibers of my body need to rest and recover right along the duly injured shins. I’ve been dealing with lower back pain for about a month now. Thinking that I would be able to afford myself a nice, professional massage after this race, I ignored it and kept pushing it. Now, well, even sitting is making me cringe.

On a side note, if you could spare about 80 bucks for me to go see a professional, I’d be so ever grateful. I’m taking donations.

So, that’s what is happening this week (aka… nothing).

But, in other news, I finished applying for my Master’s program yesterday. So exciting and scary. I really, really wish I would have focused more in my undergrad on my non-music electives. Some of those classes really hurt my overall gpa. Oh, and that Jazz Tech class, which I stupidly took my freshman year before I understood jazz chords. Frack.

The man, the myth, the lengend... Doug Beach. Yet, even he couldn't teach me how to snap my fingers.