Friday, January 4, 2013

Excuse me, I burpeed.

I have an exciting recipe for you today. It's so exciting that I'm not even going to bother coming up with a story to serve as a clever introduction. Nope. Just the recipe for us.

Humble Pie

1 semi-in shape gal
1 12-pound dumbbell
2 10-pound dumbbells
25 rounds
32 ounces water
120 burpees


Directions: Do that shit.

A local YMCA branch offers a class called RAW for advanced exercisers, promising them a challenge and a chance to take their fitness to the next level with circuits, strength work and plyometrics. I sampled the class last week for a column, and I knew immediately that it could do amazing things for my running.


I headed back on Wednesday for the class, which one participant described as like "Insanity," but what I took was just insane.

The instructor had a 365-rep class to kick off the New Year, with everyone doing one rep for each day of 2013. There were 25 exercises, to be performed back-to-back with little rest. The kicker? Every other round was a set of 10 burpees.

I'm fairly certain that she modeled the class after one on but she took it to a whole new level of pain by incorporating challenging burpee variations. We did two round of burpees with tuck jumps. There were pure competition bupees. There was a variation with a frog jump and another with a jump forward. One round incorporated a tricep push-up and jumping with the weights. Two more included the obliques - one set jumping side to side, the other a side plank with rotation.

The Mac Daddy of them all? A single-arm burpee with shoulder press at the end. And, yes, there were two rounds - one for each side. I'm going to go ahead and be honest. I didn't even try that most challenging variation. The idea of face planting after 300+ reps, 100 of which were burpees (at that point) didn't seem like fun.


What did seem enjoyable, apparently, was attending the class for a second time - this time being more sociable and dragging Mark with me. The jerk could, of course, do the single-arm burpee but did find it a butt-busting, ego-crushing workout just as I did.

text message

And he will tomorrow, too. Of course, he doesn't have to teach BODYPUMP. Now that will be fun.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

(pv) Body conscious

Warning: Rage induced rant ahead ...

You can't swing a resistance band around the blog world, Twitter and Facebook without getting smacked in the face by pv.Body.

Seemingly the latest incarnation in the subscription fad, pv.Body is a company that hand selects workout ensembles for women based on a questionnaire. The company promises that the outfits they put together are from quality activewear companies, even throwing around the name lululemon, as a result of relationships its built with the manufacturers.

Many of the outfits I've seen from blog reviews - and there are too many to list - have not been lululemon but American Apparel, Nux and Colosseum. I've not worn those brands and can't be sure of their quality but the pieces didn't seem to be anything special. Not the way lululemon pieces are.

Nonetheless, I couldn't help but feel jealous that I didn't have the opportunity to review the service, and I waffled for a good two weeks about whether to join. I tweeted about it, in a shameless, vain effort, to get a free box and took the style survey a number of times. I even put the subscription in the cart before canceling it, deciding that even the discounted rate of $39.95 would be better spent on a race fee.

I should note that during my shameless tweets that I did get responses from the company.

But when I received a coupon code via email for 40 percent off just before Christmas, I decided to bite the proverbial bullet and try it out.

Just one problem: The coupon didn't give me 40 percent off. It gave me 20 percent off - not what I wanted. I had hit order too soon, though, and despite hitting the back button, it went through.

I immediately emailed the company, asking them to cancel the order and refund my card before the outfit was shipped. I explained that the coupon did not come off correctly, and the coupon was the sole reason I was trying it. I got an automated email saying that they were busy but would get to my case. A few hours later, another email came saying that my case had been resolved.

For them.

My card is still charged, an outfit has been shipped and I have had no response from the company now that I'm unhappy and unwilling to try the service. I will admit that the holidays could be causing a delay but I've seen tweets from their account and no response to complaints via twitter nor a followup email. I've since emailed a third time and have received an automatic response that my request will be reviewed. I also called as that's what was instructed on its Facebook page in response to other complaint. No answer. Message left.

As for the outfit? I have yet to receive it - according to FedEx, it's still in California - so I can't attest to its quality. But what I can tell you is buyer beware. Sure, a whole lot of bloggers got to try outfits, made exchanges effortlessly and fell in love ... because it was free and the company was trying to spread the word. Now that the word is out, they either can't handle it or don't want to.

And I'm not cool with that.

Editor's note/disclaimer: I feel like I should mention that while I do like to participate in product reviews and giveaways and I do feel somewhat obligated to do them right, I do my best to be honest and fair. When I feel like I haven't (read: MOTOACTV), I try to revisit the topic and update you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Off to the races

My last run of 2012 was not a big send out. There weren't fireworks shooting off from the treadmill and "Auld Lang Syne" didn't blare from the speakers. I wasn't magically faster nor did it feel fantastically effortless. And the only thing that dropped was my iPod ... onto the ground.

In fact, the run was more of a beginning than an ending. The 5 miles of hill repeats was the first run on a training plan that will take me through not one but two spring half marathons and help me build a base for - gasp - a fall marathon.

I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to do a marathon in 2013 but then I told Mark if we  have a second baby, I wanted to run a second marathon first. And though I'm still uncertain on baby No. 2, Mark agreed. Then, on Saturday, I was chatting with the Veterans Marathon race director and there was this deal if you register today, you could do the full for $40 and well, yeah. I'm running the Veterans Marathon in November.

But back to things of more immediate importance: the half marathons.

On March 30, I am participating in Run the Bluegrass, formerly Rock 'n' Roll Lexington. The race starts in Keenland Race Park and promises fun with my favorite tweep, gorgeous scenery and hills. Lots of hills. Then, the first weekend in May, I will be headed up to the Chicagoland area to cheese it up at the Wisconsin half marathon. The race promises to be fun, with some of my fantastic ladies in attendance, and will hopefully earn me a nice, shiny PR.

Every workout between now and May 4 will be working toward that sub-1:54. And, yes, I have them mapped. Sort of.


My training for Run the Bluegrass is all about getting strong and getting ready for the hills. I'm finally womaning up and committing to doing hill work on the treadmill. One week will be longer repeats {Monday's workout: 2 minutes at 4% incline, 2 minutes at 6% incline, 2 minutes at 4% with 4 minutes recovery} and the next will be sprints. I'll also be doing interval and tempo workout under the principles of "Run Less, Run Faster" in the event I can only manage three runs a week. I'm not really set on distances - I'll just run as far as time allows in the morning.

The clincher of this plan, initially, is getting strong via a RAW class at the YMCA. We managed to snag a free month, and this class is high intensity, interval training ala Cross Fit or P90X. The instructor (my new hero) is a triathlete and is able to complete the races - and do it strong - with the cardio base she has from these classes.

I'll take that fitness and endurance base to the Wisconsin plan and take the training up a notch in the hopes to PR.

I know it's a lot and, if I think about it too much, I get overwhelmed. But I posted on the Nathan Performance Gear website that I wanted 2013 to be epic. I wanted to take it up. And when I got scared, I wouldn't run away; I would run harder.

And that's what I'm going to do.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Promises, promises

There are certain things you should know by the age of 31. Whether through just the inherent wisdom that comes from aging or trial and error, some things should be given.

1. Unless you are a board certified cosmetologist, do not attempt to trim your own bangs. While your efforts are someone improved since the disaster that was third grade, you will (more than likely) do more harm than good and find yourself at Regis in the mall, handing over the $5 you tried to save, while your child flails in the stroller.


For 2013: I promise not to trim my bangs nor put off tasks of personal maintenance because a) "I don't have time;" or b) feel guilty for spending money on such things. It's not unreasonable to spend $20 every six weeks for hair-free vision and a clean upper lip.

2. Do not yell at your husband for throwing away a $10 cream cardigan from Old Navy before thoroughly retracing your steps. Not only do you look bat shit crazy tossing boxes out of the recycling bin in the garage, you will more than likely scare your child. And - horror of all horrors - have to apologize to your husband once you (possibly) remember taking it out of the bag and using said bag to lug a change of clothes to work.


Even worse, you discover (even later) that you wore it on Christmas.

For 2013: I promise to be more patient and not yell in front of Miles ... most of the time.

3. Ripping down wallpaper in a fit of boredom one Saturday night does not mean that you'll actually prep, prime and paint the walls. Rather, you will find yourself apologizing to holiday guests for the less than stylish back hallway that looks like someone wiped ... well, something on the walls.

For 2013: I promise to put some thought into the house. Miles is getting older, and we've been there for almost two years. The jig is up. We're there and I have time.

4. Giving your dog a (used) peppermint tea bag does not mean he will eat it nor does licking it mean he will have minty fresh breath. While Miles was the one to do such a thing, I did not stop the exchange in the vain effort that Denali's breath would go from rotting fish food to spearmint gum.

For 2013: I promise to pay more attention to my adorable pooch. He's gotten to be the red-headed stepchild of the family (as opposed to just the red-headed child) and he deserves some love.

5. Children are mimics. They will say and do just about anything you do - with the exception of eating dinner while fully seated and peeing in the toilet. If you say something that begins with "f" and ends in "k" when you can't find the dang YMCA in an effort to cash in a coupon for a free month, your toddler will be able to say it. With distinct clarity and pride.

Obviously not evidence of the crime ...

For 2013: I promise to pay more attention to my words. They have great power.

Fit to be tried: Gear

With the new year - and its resolutions - rapidly approaching, I'm highlighting some of my favorite fit things of 2012. 

◊ ◊ ◊

People like to tell you that all you need to run is a pair of shorts, shirt and shoes. You lace up and head out the door in this romantic fashion, complete with a bouncy step, midfoot strike and effortless pace. The skies will be clear, the sun out and the air temperate. You go for as long as you like, your body cooperating with every step.

OK. Now that whole scenario is just getting ridiculous.

While I'd love to be an old-school runner who would feel best in cotton,drawstring shorts and an old cotton race Tee, I'm not. I need things. Technical things. I rely on wicking fabrics to keep my comfortable, gadgets to help me test my limits (and keep me in check) and accessories to keep me fueled.

Clothing. This year, I got my first tastes of lululemon, Running Skirts  and a more minimal shoe but I think my favorite product has been the handful bra. It's comfortable, the straps don't slide and, to be frank, it makes me look like I actually have something going on.

Gadgets. Wouldn't it be awesome if I put the MOTOACTV here? Just kidding. While I'm still using the MOTOACTV nearly a year after trying it and like the interface, it doesn't come close the reliability of a Garmin. Period.

My favorite gadget has been the BodyMedia FIT armband. It seems like a bit of a luxury for me, someone who is merely maintaining weight loss, but the amount of information it provides is so helpful and motivating. You know how many calories you burned throughout the day, how many steps you took and whether any activity was considered vigorous. As long as you are tracking your calories honestly, there should be no surprises on the scale.

Accessory. I was running 12 miles through the pouring rain the morning of the women's Olympic marathon. My Under Armour hat was pulled down over my head and I braved the streets of Fort Wayne in just a pair of shorts and sports bra. On my left wrist was the MOTOACTV and, in my right hand, was a plastic baggie of Swedish fish. A baggie.

While it's definitely functional, carrying a baggie for 12 miles was no more comfortable than keeping them stuffed in my cheeks - though an interesting idea. It was after that run that I ordered myself a SPIbelt.

The SPIbelt allows runners to think a fanny pack is still cool. Made of  Lycra and Spandex, the belt has a pouch that expands to fit everything you need on a long run - phone, key and Swedish fish.

Or, if you are a badass ultra runner, some salted potatoes.

Did you try any new gear this year? What was your favorite?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fit to be tried: At home workouts

With the new year - and its resolutions - rapidly approaching, I'm highlighting some of my favorite fit things of 2012. 


I woke up at 5 a.m., just two minutes shy of my alarm. I was surprisingly alert and ready for the day as I rolled out of bed, leggings and tank already on, and headed downstairs. I made myself half a mini bagel with homemade nut butter and gulped a glass or two of water before grabbing my laptop and heading to the basement for class.

Class being Turbo Fire in my quite scenic unfinished basement.

But as I inserted the DVD for the day's workout, I was disappointed - mad, even - to discover that the DVD drive on my laptop was on the fritz. I tried a different workout and still no dice. Ready to give up on exercising for the day, I turned around and discovered I had an old pair of running shoes next to the treadmill. I begrudgingly laced up for a 6-mile sweatfest.

While running will always be my first love, I've come to enjoy adding DVDs to mix things up, improve cardio conditioning and build strength. They are also great options when the weather turns frigid or the skies open up or wee ones are sick.

Turbo Fire. When I came off the marathon and headed into late fall, I made it a goal to focus on cross training to improve my cardio fitness in the vain hope that it would translate to faster runs. I had considered investing in Insanity (and it really is an investment) and trying my hand at what I could find at the library. However, as fate would have it, a Facebook acquaintance posted a deal for TurboFire. For $53, one would get more than 10 DVDs, a resistance band, meal plan and workout schedule - a program that regularly retails for $119.

It was definitely an impulse purchase but one that I don't regret. Not one bit.The workouts are fun yet challenging, and I've been surprised by just how not annoyed I am with Chalene Johnson. I like her delivery, instruction style and the class atmosphere of the DVDs. From the workouts, I've noticed more definition in my back from the punching, and I truly believe the HIIT workouts helped me bring home a PR in the 10K

There are two strength workouts that use a resistance band - sculpt and tone - but I don't find them to be challenging enough, and I find some of the moves to be awkward.

Bob Harper's Total Body Transformation. This workout is tough. Super tough. The workout is a total body one, utilizing compound movements and weights to build strength and cardio endurance. It's an hour of lunges, arms and abs.  And, if you can get past a few things, it's definitely worth giving it a go.

Those things? Slow order processing and delivery, Bob's cargo shorts and some bad form on the part of the other people in the video.

Jillian Michaels' "Get Ripped in 30." Everyone seemed to love Jillian Michaels' "30-Day Shred," and this workout builds on that model. There are four workouts, meant to daily for one week before moving onto the next, and are about 25, 30 minutes in length. She leads the workouts in a circuit style - 3 minutes of strength, 2 minutes of cardio and 1 minute of abs.

And even though I feel like they shouldn't be hard, they are. I like to do a Jillian workout when I need a bit of resistance training but don't have the time to rehearse BODYPUMP. It also allows me the chance to lift a bit heavier than I would to improve overall performance.

Of course I have tried others - a ballet inspired promo and yoga workouts - but these were the ones that stuck. And, if they stick, they are a good investment. Or so says Mark.

The Power-HUFF girl

Despite some sliver of promise in my early academic career (read: second grade), I am not very good at math. It's probably why the 3-mile run I planned at lunch on Friday became a 4.1-mile journey through the crunchy snow of downtown Fort Wayne.

However, I feel safe making the following declaration: I've thanked hundreds of people along the various race courses I have ran. The people directing traffic, the kind souls passing me water, the neighborhood crews cheering on the crazy or brave. I've been so grateful for the people who have made not just my experiences positive ones but made them possible.

And Saturday, I got my chance to give back. Just a little bit. To be the one whom people thanked.


I volunteered to man the Three Rivers Running Company aid station (aka Cramp Central Station) at this year's HUFF 50K trail race. If you have an amazing memory, you'll remember that I ran this race last year as part of a 3-person relay. It was the most challenging race, mentally and course-wise, that I have ever done. A marathon was hard but trudging through cold, knee-deep water is soul (and sole) shaking. It's an experience like child birth - so traumatic that you forget the pain and want to do it again. I nearly considered keeping up my mileage after the marathon and doing the race until deciding my interests would best be served by volunteering.


My shift was from 2 to 6 p.m. and being the eager beaver (or nervous Nelly) that I am, I showed up about 1:30 p.m. The station was set up about a mile from the finish, and the 50Kers were about 5 hours into the event. There was a pretty crowd going, and I did my best to hand out the what they needed to finish the last bit of the race.


There was water, Gatorade and Coke. Later it became water, Gatorade and root beer. Even later, it was water, Gatorade, root beer and smiles. I'm a charmer, what can I say. (Inside the tent, they had bananas, oranges, Jolly Ranchers and salted potatoes.)


I also did my best to keep spirits high, doing a dance here and there. OK, it was mostly to keep my body temperature warm as it was cold with a capital frigid. My poor toes felt like ice cubes and I had my digits shoved into three fingers of my gloves. As for the runners, they were more enthused to hear there was less than a mile left than seeing my jig. Sad, I know.

Editor's note: For all of you who worry about my mental sanity, there was music going. I was not dancing to the beat in my head.

Not sad: The spirit of these runners. They were so friendly and thankful after running more than 32 miles in the snow, ice and sub-freezing temps. I'm pretty sure I would have been a complete ... um, not nice person. Some were chatty, others not. Some broken down, some strong. For some, it was their first 50K and others were veterans. I saw many a folk wearing Marathon Maniac shirts - one guy estimated he had ran 110 marathons.


Color me astounded. I can barely decide to do a second marathon much less 110. (I did have some encouragement as I got to chat with the race director for the Veterans Marathon - the only 26.2 race that I could do without traveling. Anyone up for it?)

A light snow began to fall as the last of the runners trickled through the aid station. Soft, white flakes danced in the air, catching on my eyelashes and dusting the aid station. I filled a few more cups of Gatorade to feel like I was doing something. Something small for runners who were offering me so much - inspiration, motivation, thanks.

And, maybe, a bit of crazy.

Crazy because I'm already thinking of doing the one-loop fun run next year. And then volunteering.