This Could Be Just What I Need

“In my mind, you just commit to something and then get it done, no matter what.” -Joe De Sena, Spartan Race found and author (with Jeff O’Connell, editor in chief at Bodybuilding.com) of “Spartan Up!” being released May 13. (Go here to pre-order on Amazon.)

You might have figured out I’m a fitness book junkie by now. So when I got an email asking if I’d like to preview an excerpt of “Spartan Up!” I was on that like…well…like mud on a Spartan Racer.

I, myself, have not “Spartaned up” enough to participate in one of author and race-founder Joe De Sena’s events, which involves running through mud pits (dirty), crawling under barbed wire (potentially painful) and jumping over fire (scary). Those sound tough, but really the one obstacle that could keep me from trying a Spartan Race (besides what De Sena would probably tell me is my own mental weakness) is CLIMBING WALLS. Not a climber.

One thing I didn’t realize, however, is that participants can get specific workouts from the race to train. Maybe with a little preparation I’d be able to conquer that wall (the mental and physical one) after all.

Joe DeSena
Joe DeSena

Anyway, back to the book. The author, De Sena, is basically a self-made badass. In one week, he completed the 135-mile Badwater Ultra marathon, the Lake Placid Ironman and a 100-mile train run in Vermont.

He also founded something called the Death Race (do I really need to explain it?), and Olympic and military people often come to him for training.

So you can probably understand that De Sena thinks we’ve gone a little soft as society. (Okay, “a little” is definitely not what he would say. De Sena doesn’t beat around the mud pit.)

He explains in this video here:

De Sena hopes “Spartan Up!” will inspire readers to shake things up. Get people out of their comfort zones. Readers will learn how to incorporate the Spartan way to every aspect of their lives, including food/diet, working out, health, business or work, education, relationships, and parenting.

spartanbook“Although this isn’t an exercise book, my hope is that readers will want to put their newfound confidence and capabilities to the ultimate test,” writes De Sena. “You won’t win every race you enter or crush every obstacle but each experience of success or failure can be a profound learning experience. You become faster, stronger, more resilient.” Listen to an excerpt of “Spartan Up!” here (mp3 file) or here (wav file), or visit the book’s website here.

My 30s have been all about getting out of my comfort zone: I ran a marathon. I participated in the Hood to Coast Relay. I ran tons of half marathons. I did a triathlon.

Those are great physical accomplishments. But I need to get with the “Spartan” on my writing career. Need to just “commit to it” and “get it done,” like De Sena says. Maybe his book will help give me the kick in the pants I need.

Here are the ways I need to “Spartan up”:

  • Get over myself (or fears or whatever the hell it is) and write my damn film/book/whatever-it-is already!
  • Gorging on snack foods (get control, woman!).
  • Letting others influence my opinion of myself (yeah, that’s just sad).

Do you have some areas in your life that could be “Spartaned”? Share yours below or I will wish 100 burpees on you. I’d do it. Don’t test me.

Why Isn’t It Working?

I’m doing really well at finding ways to lose fat that DON’T work for me right now. How do you like that for positive spin?

I was doing really well last fall. Even up until Christmas. Then something happened. I think it started with lifting weights in a traditional way. Great for getting me stronger, but not so great for helping me lose fat (remember, everyone is different). Perhaps, they weren’t heavy enough.

Here’s the only unit of measurement I kept last fall till now:

weight032114

It was mid-February when Kim and I wrote our articles about The Metabolic Effect Diet book. What was funny was I wasn’t doing ME workouts at that time. I was doing regular strength training. But I needed to assess my goal. I wanted to lose fat first, then get stronger. So I restarted them, and you can see my weight dropped a little. My fat percentage did, too, just teeny bit. But now I’ve been stuck for about a month. Not just at 153/154 pounds, but also I’m not losing fat.

Why? I’m not really sure. I think what I did last fall was more in line with ME’s Eat Less, Exercise Less model, and lately, I’ve been doing the Eat More, Exercise More philosophy…but I’m not entirely sure I’ve been “eating more.” Or I was eating A LOT MORE. And I know how well the Eat Less, Exercise More plan works for me. It doesn’t. I know because that’s what I did for four years.

Luckily, I keep track of my workouts. I WISH I would’ve been at least writing down my food last fall, but I wasn’t. Going back and looking at my workouts, I was doing a ME workouts three times a week. I was walking more–at least 4-5 times per week–and most of my runs were sprint sessions.

Lately, I’ve been following and endurance protocol ME shared a few weeks ago. Maybe, I need to take it down a notch. I’ve tried the ME protocol for two weeks and there was very little movement with my progress. I went down a half a pound last week, but back up this week. So, for the next week or two, I will do go back to what I was doing in the fall:

Food will look like this (actually won’t change much, but I will write it down in case I need to evaluate what I did during the week):
protein smoothie for breakfast
my typical huge salad for lunch with lots of protein
2 small snacks if needed (apple and 1T of PB or a pear and a few almonds or a protein bar on the go)
Extra snacks or carbs on long-run day, Friday (because I am training for a half)
protein-focused dinner with lots of veggies

Workouts like this:

Sunday:
ME weights
walking for 30 minutes or more optional

Monday:
walking for 30 min. or more required
Run sprints (for 20 min.) with warm up, should get me to 30 minutes of running

Tuesday:
ME weights
walking for 30 minutes or more optional

Wednesday:
walking for 30 min. or more required
Run or cycle sprints (for 20 min.)

Thursday:
ME weights
walking for 30 minutes or more optional

Friday:
long run
walking optional

Saturday:
Walking and rest

Okay. Let’s see how this goes. Off to run 8+ miles today…

 

Do You Do Cardio Before Weights? Here Are 5 Reasons Why You Should Switch the Order

I’ve been training like a boss this week. Here’s what my week looked like…and in this order:

Monday: Weights and cardio (scroll down to find out why you should do weights before cardio)

  • Metabolic conditioning workout (weights)-20 min. I’m up to 15-pound weights now (I use these by CAP), and am able to complete four rounds of the workout!
    12 squat w/ bent over flys
    12 pushup/rows
    12 static squat with a row/tricep extension
    12 squat with a press
  • Sprint intervals on my bike (cardio)-20 min. I go 30 seconds hard on a difficult setting, and then 1 minute easy. And I have been watching The Voice. 🙂

Tuesday: Same as Monday, weights followed by cardio.

This is the set I have by CAP.
This is the 40-pound adjustable dumbbell set I have by CAP. Works great, and I like I can store it when I’m done.

Wednesday: 40-minute tempo run. I had some scheduling issues, so I only had time for 35 minutes, but I did get in 4 miles (8:36 pace-booyah!). Funny thing happened on my run, too, you can read about it on my DailyMile post if you want.

Thursday: Sprint intervals on my bike (cardio).

Coming up: Today (Friday) is a rest day, then Saturday I have to run 8 miles. Hoping I can join the local running group or find someone to run with for this. I will rest again on Sunday, and then start over again. 🙂

Fat Loss Results: I changed my weigh-and-measure day to Friday as it’s just better for me. Monday’s are hard enough. Besides, I find I actually stay focused on my goals better if I weigh on Fridays because then I am motivated through the weekend. This week, I lost a half of a pound, but I also lost a half of an inch off my belly, which is probably why my jeans felt a teeny bit looser. (Couldn’t tell if it was because I’d already worn them once or if I’d actually lost some of my belly. Probably a little of both.) I only lost .25% of fat. But I’m calling that a win…and also reminding myself that I checked in two days early. And, also that these things take time and dedication.

loosejeansSo here’s something that’s been on my mind…

Do you ever go for a run, then come home and lift weights? If you do, you’re doing it wrong! 😉

I once read you should always try to do weights before cardio because you’ll have more energy to lift your weights (or do strength training), and you’ll be less likely to get hurt (because you won’t have burned up all your energy doing cardio). Those two “rules,” were enough reason for me, but it turns out there are some other good reasons to do weights/strength before cardio, especially if your goal is fat loss, as I discovered in this article from Builtlean.com, written by John Leyva, CSCS, CPT:

Why You Should Lift Weights Before Cardio

1. Lifting heavy weights requires lots of energy. If you do cardio first, you’ll have depleted your energy and not be able to lift as heavy. Remember, lifting heavier weights will help you build muscle more effectively and muscle helps burn fat off your body.

2. Another great reason is that you’ll have less chance at hurting yourself.

3. And, some studies have shown cardio AFTER weights produces the best afterburn effect. (In other words, you’ll burn calories longer after your workout.)

4. During exercise, the hormone cortisol is released to break down muscle in order to keep you going during a workout. An increase in cortisol during a cardio session can inhibit muscle building. But, when you strength train, cortisol and testosterone increase at the same time, which is what you need to happen to build muscle. So, if your goal is fat loss and/or muscle building, do weights first in order to get that beneficial hormone combination before you do your cardio.

5. There are these things (yeah, I’m super technical like that) called mTOR pathways, and  they remain clear when cardio is done AFTER weights. The mTOR pathway is basically the pathway that tells your muscles to grow. From the article: “When you do cardio with strength training and especially before strength training, this muscle building pathway becomes inhibited, making an already difficult situation that much harder.”

There are more, but these are the ones I found most interesting. Do you know someone who is “doing it wrong”? C’mon, guys. Friends don’t let friends workout wrong. 😉

Have a great weekend!

I Got Struck by “Old-Man Hands”

I have been using 15-pound dumbbells during my Metabolic Effect weight-training workouts. *taking a bow* The bar on these dumbbells is metal with engraved cross-hatches, which are there, I assume, so the weights don’t slip out of your grip. Instead, they give you calluses. Everything in life is a trade-off. You should know this by now.

Yesterday, I did my weights routine for 20 minutes and then immediately got on my bike trainer for 30-second sprints (with 60-second rest intervals) for 20 minutes. Because I worked later than normal yesterday, I had exactly 45 minutes to get both of these 20-minute routines (and a warm up) done before it was time to go get my son from the bus stop. I just made you do math.

Here’s my weights routine right now:

  • 12 squats with a bent-over fly
  • 12 pushups with a row (I have to use my 12-pound ‘bells for this one because the 15-pounders are round and roll away…it’s kinda funny when I think about it, but not when it’s happening)
  • 12 static squat with a row, then tricep extension
  • 12 squats with an overhead press

On Monday, I did exactly 4 rounds of each in 20 minutes. Yesterday, I was again able to do 4 rounds of each, plus one more round of the first exercise. Surprising since my arms were shaking so bad! Now, when I shake, I’m like: This is where the magic happens! I used to be like: I’m going to die!

Like I mentioned before, after the weights, I got on my bike trainer. This is no problem since I’m a freak and love working out. Plus, I’m three shows behind on The Voice.

I start with one-minute super easy pedaling (seriously slow at like 5 mph). This is also a good time to fast-forward commercials on the TV. Then I switch to a harder gear and pedal like crazy for 30 seconds (don’t try to use the TV remote at this time), then back to super easy (okay to employ the 30-second skip on the DVR now).

On Monday, I was able to get up to 20 mph in the harder gear, but yesterday, my legs were shot and I stayed in a middle gear and could only get up to 17 or 18 mph. So I only went 3.17 miles yesterday as opposed to Monday’s 3.5 miles in 20 minutes.

Yesterday, I was definitely feeling the burn! In a good way, of course. And I was racing the clock. I finished the bike with 2 minutes to spare. I hopped off my bike, threw off my cycling shoes, ran to my closet to grab a sweatshirt to cover my sweaty sports bra, and slipped into some running shoes. Then, I wobbled down the street with shaky Jell-O legs and arms, and I even had a little time to get the mail first…all junk as usual.

My son, who is 5-1/2 and in kindergarten, got off the bus and, as we normally do, we held hands to cross the street. But mid-way, he shook me off and yelled in horror, “You feel like you have old-man hands!”

Gee, thanks kid. When I work out, my hands get puffy okaaaaaay? (Although the calluses probably contributed some to his comparison.) Of course, later I got to wondering: Why do my hands get so swollen after I work out? It goes away pretty quickly after HIIT-type workouts like the ones I did yesterday, but I notice it after running, too.

Here’s my hands will look after today’s 40-minute tempo run:

Seinfeld’s on a date with “man hands.”

Luckily, to get the answer to my question, we have the Internets, a place where we can waste an hour in what feels like 5 minutes discover and learn about the wonders of the universe. According to an article on RealSimple.com, during exercise (especially running), blood vessels expand to rush oxygen to the muscles, which makes the muscles pump blood back to the heart. No problem for our large muscles, but not so easy for the smaller, less efficient, ones in our arms and hands. They don’t circulate extra blood as well. And if they have to fight gravity, it’s even worse. So the blood pools in your fingers’ veins.

If it bothers you while running, Sosena Kebede, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, offered this tip in the article: Raise your arms over-head and pump your fists to keep blood flowing while you jog.

My advice: Act like you are crossing a finish line every couple of minutes while you’re out on a run in your neighborhood or on the treadmill in the gym or on the track at your local high school. Make cheering noises, too.

I mean, what’s worse? Being called “weirdo” or being called “man hands”?

Wrong! Being called “jumping jacks pants-pee-er,” is worse. Ha! I’m surprised you didn’t know that.

Some People Don’t Mind, but I Do

I can literally hear your eyes rolling in your heads right now and, sorry to tell you, it sounds a little hollow in there. But I know. I know! Another post on fat loss? You are wondering: Does this chick think about anything else?

As a matter of fact, I do think about else. I think about a lot of else, such as: Is my son having fun at school today? Why do people watch The Bachelor? And, is someone working on an app that can wake me up with the sounds and smell of bacon?

I don’t mean for this to become a weight loss blog where all I do is talk about how to lose weight (and by weight I mean, fat weight), especially since—you might want to sit down for this—I’m not an expert in weight or fat loss. My expertise is…um…okay…perhaps I’ll explore that another day.

For me, though, losing the excess fat on my frame is very much connected to my running. And, this is a running blog. Although, I’m not expert in running either. Damn it. What AM I an expert in?

See, the thing is: The lighter I get, the stronger I get (less fat, more muscle), the faster I get. And I like to run fast. So I can’t help it.

As I sit here with my stomach squishing over the top of my jeans, I have somewhere around 27% body fat, which is the high end of average. In my opinion, 27% is too high for me. I’m wearing size 6 pair of jeans for goodness sake. How do I still have all this squish?

i dont always do sit ups

It pisses me off, actually. I have been dedicated to exercise and healthy eating for four and a half freaking years. My percentage should be lower than that.

To be fair to myself, which I rarely am, I only really discovered how to eat and exercise specifically for fat loss (and not weight loss) a few months ago as I talked about in this recent post here: I Wanted to Lose Weight by Running, but What I Learned 4 Years Later Surprised Me.

Anyway, in no way to do I hate my body or hate the way it looks right now. I think I look pretty good. But it doesn’t feel good to have my belly spilling out over my belt—it’s quite uncomfortable. However, I am what I am at this moment in time. That being said, I don’t hate my body, but I’m not content to stay where I’m at. I can be healthier. I can have less squish. That’s just me. Everyone is different. Some people don’t mind the squish. To each their own.

I’ve made significant progress in becoming healthier inside and out. But I’m not done.

I’m not the kind of person that can just accept things as they are when something can be done about them. Unless it’s vacuuming. The dust bunnies are fine…I kinda like them, in fact. I named my favorite one Hef. I got him a tiny silk smoking jacket. The bunnies can stay.

But, the fat must go. I choose not to accept all of this excess fat on my body. I choose to do something about it. In a healthy way, of course.

After all, I consider myself an athlete. And I’m a competitive person. Remember when you were in high school and you were forced to run the mile in PE? Yeah, I loved the mile. The mile was my Olympics. I win! Every time.

To be a better athlete, I want more muscle and a lighter body. That’s what these fat loss posts are all about, Charlie Brown.

Hot Chocolate Seattle 5K Recap: Awesome Event, Poor Personal Performance

I have a love-hate relationship with 5Ks. I love them because the training doesn’t take as much time. I hate them because they are like a 3-mile sprint.

On March 2, I ran the Seattle Hot Chocolate 5K with friends Zoë, Tall Mom Mel and Tall Sister. (I also got to meet up with other friends I hadn’t seen in a while, including Kim and Stacie who were there for the 15K.)

Kim, me and Mel post 5K and 15K.
Kim, me and Mel post 5K and 15K in the Armory staying warm.

The race itself was very well organized, and extremely fun. Even with the threat of snow, there were places to stay warm. There were plenty of potties. Few lines. And start corrals. I hadn’t realized the race was as big as it was until we were there.

From L-R: Stacie's daughter, Stacie, Mel, me and Mel's sister. Not often when I'm the shortest one in the picture at almost 5'8"!
From L-R: Stacie’s daughter, Stacie, Mel, me and Mel’s sister. Not often when I’m the shortest one in the picture at almost 5’8″!

Me, Zoe and Mel lined up in Corral A. There were a lot of fast-looking runners around me and I wasn’t feeling my strongest. I had an icky tummy and I’d only had about 4 hours of sleep. I kept joking that I was going to walk, which is why I hadn’t made plans to run with anyone. I really wasn’t sure how this race was going to go. The cigar smoker sitting right next to our corral didn’t help things either.

Me and Mel had positioned ourselves further back in the corral than Zoe, who is running super fast right now. The race started and Mel took off fast. She looked comfortable right away. I, on the other hand, had issues. I hadn’t warmed up really at all so my legs were stiff. I remembered that I’d done a strength workout the day before the race and the day before that, I ran 6 miles. I usually take two days off completely before races. So I had those mistakes in my head.

My other issues were dumb, but they bothered me: I’d started the wrong playlist (a slower one more for halfs or long runs), and my earbud kept popping out. Also, my iFitness belt, which holds my gigantous phone was bouncing because I positioned it over my shirt instead of under. A quick fix, but I’d say for the first quarter mile, I was completely distracted. This was unfortunate because that was probably the only flat part of the course.

The next half mile or so was down, down, down. Won’t complain about that, but I should’ve played my cards better and banked some time. Instead, I worried about falling (because the asphalt was craggy and wet), and kept my pace in check.

Then it was uphill the entire way to the finish. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but that is how it felt. If there were anymore downhills or flat portions of the course, they were few and far between the uphills.

I’ve been running on my treadmill a lot this winter. And I never set it to add hills. Mostly because I don’t want to hurt myself. When you’ve had shin splints and even a fracture, you get paranoid.

My quads and glutes burned on the uphills. It probably had a little to do with the multiple sets of squats I’d done less than 24 hours before the race. But mostly it had to do with no hill training.

The other thing I had going against me was my brain. I was very negative in my head, saying things like, “I hate this. Running sucks. I can’t wait for this to be over.” I plan to work on this. I don’t want to think like that while I’m running. I really do like to run.

For most of the race, I was focused on the ground (broken asphalt and potholes everywhere!) or on the person’s back or heels in front of me. I really was running as fast as my lungs and legs would let me. That’s the thing about a 5K—it’s an all-out sprint for over 25 minutes! Not easy!

After the race, people talked about the view of the Puget Sound in the first mile and other landmarks. I remember none of that.

I do remember heading through the tunnel in Mile 3 that is the same tunnel that leads to the uphill finish at Rock ‘N’ Roll Seattle, which made me even more negative than I already was. It’s possible I swore out loud.

After the tunnel and the steep uphill, then you continue just slightly uphill to the Hot Chocolate finish…so I was never able to get my lungs or legs back for a sprint. That’s always such a disappointing way to finish a race. But it is what it is.

Despite my poor-for-me race performance, I had a fabulous time. Yet, I don’t know if I will do the race again because of the early start time (6:45 a.m. for the 5K!), but maybe I’ll do the 15K next year instead (starts at 7:45 a.m., which is a little better). The hot chocolate and chocolate fondue afterward is awesome, and there is a building open with tables so you can sit and enjoy your treats with friends. Loved it.

Unfortunately, after I got home, I got sick to my stomach (possibly from the breakfast we had after the race or maybe connected the icky tummy I had pre-race???), and I felt horrible for the rest of the day, and could only eat apples, soda crackers and brown rice.

I got a big surprise when the results came in saying I placed 11th out of the 671 women in my age group (35-39)! And my time is about 90 seconds slower than my 5K PR (90 seconds is a lot in a 5K).

Originally, I thought I had 10th, I guess someone's time was missing because they added a person to the total and I was bumped to 11th. Oh well, still not bad!
Originally, I thought I had 10th, I guess someone’s time was missing because they added a person to the total and I was bumped to 11th. Oh well, still not bad!

I guess the lesson is that if you have to deal with the hills, so does everyone else, so just do your best and tell your brain to suck it up. Right? Right.

All in all, the Hot Chocolate 5K/15K is a super fun event even if the course was hilly. Highly recommend!