Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Low Can You Go? Stop && Squat!

Lets clear the air, shall we? So yesterday I was reading some articles yesterday about strength training. I'm helping one of my friends train for the Chicago Marathon this year and she asked me to put a training plan together for her. Now for me, lifting is an important part of training, and I had to learn this the hard way by getting injured. I did my first marathon in 2011 and I trained on my own. In my mind, runners just need to run and body builders lift. Plus I didn't want to get bulky, I needed to drop weight to get faster, right? Well all of that came to a halt when I ran into knee and IT Band problems. I had to go to the doctor for anti-inflammatories and was told to pull back on running. In the midst of my injury depression one of my friends told me that I could prevent injury by doing certain lifts to strengthen my muscles. She explained to me that, while lifting isn't necessary every day, strength training is important to maintain stability and actually help you run stronger. Two years later and I find myself writing in this training plan, "Eat your meals but take your vitamins." Meaning do your runs as scheduled but make sure you lift 2-3 times a week as a supplement. But what lifting moves are going to be the most beneficial?

Whether you are just a runner or a triathlete the BEST strength move you can do for yourself is the squat. I didn't actually start squatting until about a year ago, yikes.
--> The reason why squats are so beneficial is because they will work almost every single muscle group in the lower body, giving you the most bang for your buck in terms of strength training. Since actual triathlon training is so time consuming already, the more benefit you can get from each exercise, the better. Any athlete doesn't want to waste valuable energy on exercises that don't provide for maximum delivery, so targeting one highly effective movement that focuses on a high number of movements all at once, you’ll be far better off because of it. 
And for my fellow triathletes and/or cyclists: When on the bike: The body needs to be in that powerful aero position where you’re able to generate a lot of power through your hips through the entire range of motion. We don’t just want power through half the pedal stroke but at the top as well when our hips are in that crunched position. A lot of people tend to curve their back and that shuts down the glutes. If you’re pushing with your quads, you’re missing out on your most powerful muscles, the glutes. The squat position is very similar to proper bike position. You want a nice flat back and activate the glutes so you’re able to transfer that power. So when you’re squatting, you’re actually training for more power on the bike.
So how does one start squating? Lightly. Grab two hand weights and simply practice your form. Watch yourself in the mirror (it may seem funny or weird but honestly form is everything with the squat, if you're doing it wrong you're only hurting yourself). Then when you're ready, grab one of the bars (without plates at the end) and practice squating with it behind your head. Once you've got all of that, add a little weight. But I highly recommend either having a spotter or putting a bench down if you're alone. Sit down on the bench but make sure to stand right back up, don't rest! 

Finally, it's important to also have balance. For this reason, other leg exercises that focus on your leg strength, like hamstring pulls, leg press & leg lifts are also important. But for now, stop, drop and squat!

Bad Timing && Boston Bombing

Friday April 19th: 3pm: I picked up one of the last copies of the Red Eye from that day and the cover said it all. It was a picture of a red reset button and under it read, "That was a rough one, who's ready for next week?" After a week of bombings, explosions, and flash flooding, I think all of Chicago was on the same page. But there I was on a Friday afternoon, ready to cash in my chips!

Monday was one of the most devastating days for runners everywhere. One of the biggest races in the world, that people work so hard to qualify for, for months on end, fell victim to a terrorist attack. About 4 hours into the race an explosive was set off just a few feet from the finish line. 2 minutes later another one went off just a few blocks down. 3 people died. Hundreds were injured. For the rest of the evening I was fixated on the television, watching this atrocity happen over and over again. I received quite a few phone calls and text messages from friends and family, some of them crying, because they thought I was there. More so, they knew I finished the Chicago Marathon this past year around that time. It became clear to me that Boston was targeted because of the large number of people that were that day, but it still leaves most of us inflicted with fear. The fact that someone would target Boston, a marathon nonetheless, is mind numbing.

The very next day I decided to support my running family. I went to school in a full running outfit and safety-pinned my Chicago marathon bib to my shirt. It meant a lot to me that I did this, but the best was yet to come. Upon seeing this, my kids were concerned for me, was I in Boston yesterday? How was my family? Did I know anyone there? We had a talk in each class and I went home with a strong sense of compassion and love, even more so than before, for my students who cared for my and my values.

But for anyone who has ever had hiccups before, you know that they don't stop at one. The last time we had a flash flood was in 2008 and it hit HARD. This time around, it was worse. Needless to say: It's gonna RAIN! Businesses and schools were shutting down, while sink holes were opening up and eating cars! Surely this has got to be the end of the world right here! That or someone is playing jumanji....

So by Friday, I think I could speak for everyone in saying that we were tapped out. What an awful week! But the weekend was ahead, and I took every opportunity to soak it up. Caught up with some friends I hadn't seen, or who give me grief for not going out on week nights, ate breakfast-for-dinner and supported The One fund with my friend Alison and bought a "Runner's for Boston" shirt. It was a nice pick up. But even better was getting to take my bike out on the lake path Sunday afternoon for the first time since last fall. It was a good end to a series of unfortunate events.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bike Bananzaaaa!!!!

Because I don't have kids, I can't say I know what it's like to feel badly for one's child when they are sick. But I do have a tri-bike, a Gwen, and this past week she has been "under the weather". Ok, actually Chicago has been under the weather, Gwen just hasn't been able to go outside because of the snow....and flooding.....sigh. But even more so, I was still struggling with this tire issue, why wouldn't it stay inflated? I had changed the tube twice, checked the tire tape and the tire....nothing made sense. So I gave in and took her to Performance. Or well, I took the back tire into Performance. By this time I had taken her apart and put her back together so many times that it was exhausting, and it was clear she needed not be put back together until this was fixed.

Shout out and props to the coach lady and her soon-to-be-hubby, Jeff, who showed me the ins and outs of how to change a tire. The first time I had to do it alone it took an hour almost and I thought to myself, "If this happens in a race I'm just going to pull out the 'damsel in distress' card". But it got easier, the 4th, 5th, and 6th time around. And at this point I can honestly say that I would have a fighting chance of getting her all fixed up in a decent amount of time that it wouldn't set my bike time back an hour :) Honestly I would recommend anyone who is doing a longer race, half or full IM pull someone aside and have them show you how to do it. I hated training for Racine last year, hitting the bike path and thinking in the back of my mind, "If my tire pops, game over." It offers a good sense of control and eases the mind.

Anyways, the point of this post is that after all of this, one of the guys at Performance had found the TINIEST hole in my tube. I couldn't even see it, but he put it up to my face and asked if I could feel the air. I felt kind of silly, especially after coming in to the store telling him and another sale's associate that I had taken it apart too many times to count. They didn't seem to see it that way though, they were actually more impressed with my ability to take the bike apart. So much so that as we kept talking they offered me an application to the store. I had to laugh, didn't I just go through this? And didn't I just decide I didn't have time? The guys were awesome though and assured me they would work with my schedule if I really wanted it. And, well, next thing you know I'll be starting at Performance in May. Oh geeeeze!

As I walked out to my car, fully filled tire in hand, I felt a great sense of accomplishment! The tire issue was solved and I had in my possession 5 new tubes (hopefully I don't need any of them for a while!) and a new connection to the endurance world. We'll see how this goes....stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Life's Tough, Get a Helmet

Not everything is peaches and cream, in life and in training, but more often than not the two seem to coincide...or collide? Maybe that's why they say to get a helmet :S Despite it only being 9 days into the month, April has been no exception. I came back from my "stay-cation" thinking I'd be refreshed and ready to get back into the swing of things. But really I just found myself living for the weekends again, sigh.

I ended up getting up at 3:15am the past two Monday's to do my long bike ride from Sunday. Now if there was any question about me being crazy, 3am makes me bat-shit crazy. I'm still baffled how I felt energized enough to get out of bed. But you know what they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Little did I expect that by the time I got off work, I'd be hit by the boom-a-rang effect and pretty much fall victim to my bed for a few hours. Needless to say it kind of messed up my sleeping schedule.

So lets fast forward though to this past weekend, that's the good part. Friday night after getting off work, I ventured up to the north side to pick up my trusty training partner, as we had planned to ride for the first time outside the next morning. I was beyond ecstatic about this, so much so that I went over to Performance and picked up a ton of stuff-and-junk to be ready. Well around 9:30pm we were checking out the "proposed" weather report which said it was supposed to rain. The voice of reason, (that of my coach's fiance, Jeff) said he was all for mental toughness but rain is not something to tough out right now. I was slightly bummed but maybe Sunday would be better.

7:30am the next day I woke up, looked out the window and realized not only was it sunny, but it was WARM! Words cannot express how miffed I was, and well I seem to have a new vendetta against the weather man. Even still, I tried to make the best of it, so I headed to the pool with Kris. Apparently bad juju doesn't have boundaries because he had some leaky goggle problems and we called it a day. Ok, no worries, lets try running. You can't really have any problems running, right? Haha...haha...hahaha....

I still am not sure why this happened but my legs, actually more of my hips, ached and cried as I tried to get in a measly 6 miles. Are you kidding me body?! At this point I had just given in, and after about a mile and a half I made Kris stop so I could play at the park. We went another mile and a half before I pulled a detour and ran onto the beach to chase seagulls and play in the frigid water. Poor guy, here I make myself out to be training for an Ironman and his experience training with me is a wimpy 6 mile run broken up into child-like play. But it was just one of those days, and it only makes things harder to fight back.

After a much needed stop at Portillo's for a maybe-not-so-deserved-but-I-wanted-it-anyways meal of baked mostacholli and chocolate cake, we ran over to Fleet Feet to fix this goggle problem. Kris got a new pair of goggles and I indulged in a new pair of smartwool socks with some yankz. Sometimes getting a new something helps motivate training.

Ok so, my 1:40 run was kind of caboshed for the day, surely Sunday I would be able to go out for a nice long bike ride. Surely if I hadn't fallen asleep at 7pm only to wake up at 10pm would this have been easier. Or maybe if I didn't stay up until 2am and sleep until 11:30 the next day, maybe it would have happened. I can't say I was disappointed, seeing as I had already given in to the wacky-weekend woes, I decided that the trainer would be a safe bet.

If you haven't caught on yet, because at this point I certainly hadn't, I probably should have just not tried at all. But I am a go-getter kinda gal. So when I got home I decided to install the bottle cage I bought on my bike before settling in for a ride. Now it was about 4:30pm and I was hoping to be on by 5, but I noticed that my tires were flat. Which was frustrating because I thought I had just filled them. So I took the back tire off, filled it, and went to put it back on. But there is was, flat again. Ok, maybe it needs a new tube. I went through all the motions of changing the tube and luckily the tire was full. It was now about 5pm, so I worked diligently to get the tire back on. As long as I don't drop the chain....opps.....

I'll save you the dirty details, but basically another 30 minutes later I got the damn tire back on the bike but I was covered in grease and frustration....and somehow I split my finger open. Fabulous. After touching a hot pot a few times, at some point, you will finally realize not to touch it. At 7pm on Sunday night I realized this weekends training was a mess and I had officially waved my white flag.

I'm not sure if there was a helmet strong enough to protect me from the hard-fall of this weekend. There are always going to be obstacles getting in your way, trying to prevent you from getting things done. And when it comes down to it, the best thing you can do for yourself, the best helmet you can wear, is a positive attitude. It doesn't matter what brand or type of helmet you have, if you're not wearing it right, it's not going to do anything for you.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Rule of Thumb

You know that saying, "A Rule Thumb is...." I feel like growing up I heard it a lot from parents and teachers as a lesson-learning mechanism for when I made a less than intelligent decision that clearly was obvious to them. At the age of 24 though, I am still making mistakes, but it's kind of on me to patronize myself and say, "Well Sam, a good rule of thumb is to..."

There are some lessons we all learn the hard way. Some of my favorite, and I know my Dad's are: Put things back where they belong, and they won't ever get lost; or think before you speak (that's probably one of his favorites!) Often I have stumbled upon brilliance from bad choices: losing my keys too many times to count or saying something that has me putting my foot in my mouth immediately afterward. The same seems to go for triathlon training....although I wouldn't recommend putting your foot in your mouth...

So for this post, I'm going to share some of, what I think, are good "Rules of Thumb"....which really just gives me an image of being on my bike, in aero, staring at my thumbs on the gears. Triathlon on the brain!

1) Order of Operations: There are many days that I don't have time to break up my workouts and so I find myself doing them back to back. Yesterday I did a 7 mile tempo run and then went off to the pool for a 3,000-something set. Needless to say I was tired afterward. But the order in which I do my workouts is important. Often times I save pool workouts for last or first thing in the morning when I know that I can break up my workouts. I read an interesting article about how when we swim we get more tired because our body is working harder to maintain it's core temperature. And well, let's be honest, when I finish a long set I want nothing more than to take a hot shower and sit in the sauna for a few minutes...not rush off to another workout!

2) Core before Brick: This one is similar to the first; on today's agenda: 60 minute ride w/ high cadence and 25 minute run off the bike. I had a great ride and my run felt like I was barely pounding pavement. I felt so great I actually went for about 35 minutes and told myself I would break for 10 minutes and then do some core exercises. Well, I got through one set of exercises before calling it quits. Lesson learned, when you have an intensity and endurance workout in the same day, do the intensity first!

3) Fuel your Fire: When I first started training I was embarrassed by how much I would eat, and how often. It wasn't until I did some reading that I found that I need close to 3-4,000 calories a day to put back what I worked off. But you can't just put anything in. My body has become very particular to the types of foods. Everyone is going to be different but the underlining point is that as triathletes we need carbs...carbs are our friend! Without them you have no fuel for your fire, and with no fire your workouts will not make you feel like a hot-shot ;)

4) Drink a glass of water right when you wake up. I didn't start doing this until about a few months ago. But if you think about it this way, you have been asleep for 6, 7, maybe even 8 hours, in which you have not had any water (OR FOOD!) so your body is in need of hydration and fuel.

5) Cont'd from 4: ALWAYS eat breakfast! I never used to eat breakfast, especially when I would eat a lot before I went to bed. I'd wake up feeling like everything wasn't digested and my logic was that my body would just use whatever it didn't digest. That's crap. Or if you're one of those people who says your stomach can't handle food early in the morning I really have to ask, who runs your body? Your body needs the nutrients and starving it of that is only going to make it more upset.

6) Plan out your workouts before you do them. Set out how long, or how far you are going to go so you have a goal to work towards. Then once you have that determined make sure you have eatten something within the last 30 minutes so your body has something to burn. Lastly, and I do this mostly because I like to train alone, make sure someone knows where you are. Find your person and designate them as your go-to. If I swim in the lake or am on the bike path I have a wrist band with all of my important information on it and I usually send "my person" a text. I scared my dad the first time I did this, saying, "Hey Dad I'm on the bike path by your house, I should be by you by 6pm, check in on me if not." He texted me back saying, "Are you expecting something bad to happen?! Watch out for lions and tigers and bears!" haha. what a jokster!

7) Lift frequently, 2-3 times a week. But when it comes down to a triathlon based workout or a lift...skip the lift. I can't tell you how much it brings me down to think how much upper body strength I've lost since I stopped consistently lifting. But then I think to myself, there is a gain in this, because I am strengthening the muscles that are going to get me through 140.6 miles

8) Food over supplements. For the past few months I have been heavy on amino acids and protein shakes for recovery. But since training for triathlon I've moved away from this and focused more on whole foods. The first month I would recover by the means I was used to. But let me tell you, after a long endurance workout, a protein shake is not going to cut it! Your body needs whole foods to replace what was lost. So occasional supplements are good but the real thing is always better :)

9) Respect the bed time: Just like when I was younger, I have a bed time. But the difference between the 7-year-old and the 24-year-old me is that I don't put up a fight. After a long day of work and workouts my body is usually dragging me into bed by 9pm. It's almost become an unspoken rule of mine that if I can't get at least 7 hours of sleep the night before there's no way I can honestly expect my body to get up at 4am for a workout. My body works really hard for me, getting extra sleep is the least I can do for it.

10) Don't obsess over workouts. I still struggle with this one occasionally. But if I find myself on the bike at 60 minutes and my "gas tank" is on E, but I have another 15-20 minutes, I call it a day. At that point you're really just spinning your wheels and you want to get the most out of your workout. Don't get me wrong, for those longer rides you want to do your best to stay on for the full 2-and-a-half-hours by means of nutrition and caffeine, but don't sweat the little stuff. You have to be just as present mentally as you are physically to put out a good workout.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Catching Up

I told myself I wanted to stay on top of my blog this time around training because I enjoy going back to old posts and reviewing what I've gone through. It's also a good reminder of what NOT to do. But life happens and the last few weeks have been less than smooth sailing. Work dropped a heavy load as some of my kids were wrapping up community service projects and others were beginning. But spring break finally came and I took a few much needed days of vacation. I got my workouts in but it's safe to say that they weren't my first priority. Only three months into training and I feel like I've learned so much about my body and it's boundaries.

So now it's April. Which means that I am officially in-season training. This means longer weekend workouts and more time outside. I'm nothing less than ecstatic to be at this point, but there's also a lot of nervousness that comes along with it. That much closer to Madison and I want nothing more than to make mistakes now so I know how to handle them later.....which also sounds terrifying.

 But also on my plate currently are this list of goals I put together in January, and wanted to accomplish for myself. As of now I'm looking at one of my tests for social work coming up in 2 weeks, applications out the wazooo for new jobs AND I just found a new apartment. A lot of ground covered in the last few weeks but it's nice to sit back and look at all of that knowing that I accomplished that much WHILE fitting training in. I'll also be starting, part-time, at Fleet Feet. I'm really hoping this position will offer me more of a connection to the running-triathlete world that is within Chicago. But the extra income helps too :)

Time is definitely my most valuable resource right now. I'm looking at 2 months-ish until my first race at Big Foot. I'm antsy to race, that's for sure, but being a shorter distance I'm really hoping to RACE this one and come in with a good time. Only time will tell though ;)