Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Zen-eration

Some people love the zen of running without music. It gets them in tune with their bodies and their surroundings. I am SO not one of those people. I can barely walk to the end of my driveway without music! Our generation has come to expect accessibility and mobility of music, and fortunately for all of us, gone are the days of running while carrying a Walkman (please tell me I wasn't the only person who did that). In addition to staving off boredom, the right song can help you find that extra motivation when you're getting tired, and it can even help you work out more efficiently.

Research has shown that the optimal turnover rate for runners is 180 foot strikes per minute (see this article). So, listening to music that is at (or near) 180 bpm is effectively like having a metronome in your ear (and is slightly less annoying). A simple Google search can provide a list of songs that are around 170-180 bpm, but a couple from my personal library are:

"Basketcase" - Green Day
"My Friends Over You" - New Found Glory
"A Praise Chorus" - Jimmy Eat World
"Livin La Vida Loca" - Ricky Martin (shut up)
"Monkey Wrench" - Foo Fighters

To add a little more flexibility, remember that a song at 90 bpm will also provide this same pacing - you will just have 2 foot strikes per beat instead of 1 (trust me, I have a math degree). Some songs at 90 bpm are:

"Proud Mary" - Ike & Tina Turner
"What'd I Say" - Ray Charles
"(There's Got to Be) More to Life" - Stacie Orrico
"Scars" - Papa Roach
"All the Things She Said" - Tatu
"Behind Hazel Eyes" - Kelly Clarkson
"Fat Bottomed Girls" - Queen

If you find 180 bpm a little fast for your running gait, see the article linked above for instructions on how to calculate your current rate, or simply find a song that seems to fit perfectly and then go find songs in a similar range (or slightly faster if you're working on increasing your turnover rate).

Of course, music is important for workouts other than running. Classes like BodyPump are so popular because they put strength training to great music. The bpm used in BodyPump varies but is usually in the 130-150 neighborhood. Songs in that bpm range can be helpful for keeping you on track when you're lethargic during strength training, circuits, abs, or any other workout. With any exercise, form is key. It will help you get the best results, and it will keep you from getting injured. Different lifts require different rates, so it's important to remember not to get so caught up in the pace of your music that it starts to affect the way you're performing the exercise.

Regardless of bpm, we all have those songs that always get us fired up. It might be a song from a movie (hello, Rocky!) or a song that reminds you of a certain event. Those may be different for everyone, but I really like "Headstrong" by Trapt and "World's Greatest" by R. Kelly for these purposes. Finally, we need to round out our playlist with songs that we just plain like. They may not have a certain bpm or be particularly inspiring, but they do pass the time. That will likely be a good portion of your playlist.

Once you have some songs in mind, it's also important to make sure your playlist stays fresh. Especially if you're listening to it every day, those songs (no matter how great they are) will get There are a few things I've done to help alleviate this. First, I've simply created a massive music library that will last me about 6 hours. So, even though I listen to it every day, my songs don't repeat that often. Second, I found some great free software called Audacity that lets you play DJ and mix music. It did take a little while to learn, but I've taken snippets of songs and mashed them into 15-20 minute mixes that keep me entertained. Now if all this sounds time-consuming, another option is to use Pandora. You use the ability to filter by bpm, but you can at least get songs in a general genre that will be different every time you listen. Yes, mine is based on Britney Spears, but you can pick an artist or even a song that you like, and the mobile app is free! Other web-based applications like Grooveshark do allow you to build your own playlist, but its mobile app is not free (although it is pretty cheap). The biggest problem with any internet app is that you shouldn't use it if you don't have unlimited data plans, and you will likely have to deal with delays and buffers. I had Pandora shut down mid-way through a long run. I had 5 miles to find that "zen" that our silent runners experience, but all I can say after that experience is, Bring on the Britney!

I'm always looking for recommendations for new songs to add, so if you have some songs that really amp you up, I'd love to know what they are!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Short Circuit

Remember that feeling when you took your last final for the semester in college, and you thought, "What am I going to do with all this free time?" That's kind of how I feel now that the half marathon is over. I plan on still incorporating running into my workout, but not as frequently as before. Tackling the half marathon was a huge accomplishment, and let me tell you, it did great things for my booty! But, I feel like I neglected a lot of muscles, and forget strength training. Between all my running and teaching 2 TurboKick classes a week, I have been a cardio queen. I'm so excited to be able to switch it up a little bit.

Whether you've been training for a half marathon or even going to the gym regularly, I'm reminded of how important it is to continue to switch up your routine. First, it keeps you from getting bored. It's so much more difficult to get to the gym when you expect it to be tedious.

I spent some time today going through some old Women's Health magazines and building up a library of some total body workouts that I can incorporate into circuit training. I blame it on smartphones, but we have become a multi-tasking society, and I'm no exception. A lot of combo moves used in circuit training work arms, legs, and core in one exercise. This is great for 2 reasons: first, you get more bang for your buck. One of my biggest complaints about strength training is that if you don't have a lot of time, it can be difficult to sufficiently work out your entire body in one outing. Second, the moves are more complex, so you don't get bored. By continuing to switch it up and combine moves, you're constantly required to focus on form and think about what you're doing. Also for those who dislike cardio (even though I'm not one of them), a circuit allows you to knock them out in small portions.

Now, not everyone can (or wants to) spend the time to seek out these combo moves and design their own circuits. One option is to check out a boot camp (or other circuit class) at your gym. Now group classes aren't for everyone, but if you try it once, you can get some ideas of moves you can do on your own...or if you REALLY don't like group classes, maybe just peek in on one here and there, or ask a trainer for some suggestions - particularly if you're unfamiliar with some of the moves, it is crucial to make sure you understand appropriate form.

It's so easy to get into a rut with a workout regime, but remember my favorite mantra: "Nothing changes if nothing changes." Our bodies get used to the same moves, so we need to continue to shake things up if we want to see results.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wine 'Em, Dine 'Em...

After returning from my first runDisney event, the Disney Princess Half Marathon, earlier this year, I couldn't wait to go back and experience it with my husband. He must have had a moment of weakness, because he actually agreed to do it with me! We signed up for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which was to take place during EPCOT's International Food and Wine Festival. One of the most inspiring things about the Princess half was just all the women who you probably wouldn't classify as "fit" out there walking the course and just doing something positive for their health. Adam's mom loves to travel (and would LOVE EPCOT), so we invited his parents to join us in joining us, walking the race if they wanted to. Much to our delight, they both signed up and booked their trip! 

Now, Adam's not a runner, but he is one of those people who picks everything up immediately. We wanted to provide a proof of time so we didn't get stuck in a corral with all walkers, but since he had never run a race before, the first order of business was to get him in a race. Hospital Hill was coming up, so he signed up and ran the 10k (the minimum distance required for valid proof of time). He ran it with no training at all, and ended up running under a 9-minute mile. Unfortunately, this may have made him a little cocky because I believe his exact words were, "I think I could go out and run 13 miles right now without a problem." Oh, how the mighty are humbled.

In July, Adam and I started our training plan. It was similar to the one I used for the Princess half. We ran 3 days a week, with 3-4 miles twice a week and then a long run on the weekend. On one of our first training runs together, as I put in my headphones, Adam said, "Oh, you're listening to music? I thought this was something we could do to talk and spend time together." He changed his mind after a couple days of running with no music. I love my husband, but I hate talking while I run. Fortunately, he learned pretty quickly that he felt the same.

Unfortunately, at Labor Day, we found out that Adam's parents were no longer going to join us for the trip. So, we changed all our dinner reservations (yes, you need these...well in advance if you don't want to eat dinner from a kiosk every night) for 2 and got ready to go! 

The best part about the Wine and Dine race is that yes, there's wining (not whining) and dining involved!   Since it feels less pathetic to drink at night, the race starts at 10pm, and it ends at EPCOT, where runners get their own finishers' party, complete with food and drinks from all over the world. We flew in on Friday night and just went straight to bed. On Saturday, we got up and went over to Wide World of Sports to pick up our race packets. We stayed at had lunch and watched some college football games and then went back to the hotel to try to nap before the race. Adam was a nervous wreck...not because of the race, but because Nebraska was playing Wisconsin that night. Unfortunately, we weren't going to be able to watch it. We got on our shuttle at 7:45 and drove over to Wide World of Sports. This time the corrals were very close to where we were dropped off, so we didn't have to walk really at all, but the down side is that there wasn't much to do for the hour and a half we were stuck there before the race started. The line for pictures with Mickey and Minnie was absurdly long, so we walked around a bit and then sat down. The concrete wasn't that comfortable, so we had to get a little creative. 

Soon we got up to go to our corral (B...yay!!) and got ready to start the race. The fireworks went off, and soon so did we! I have to admit, compared to the Princess half, I was completely underwhelmed with the amount of entertainment along the course. We passed one band and the guys on stilts before making it to Animal Kingdom at mile 3. We spent miles 3-6 running around/through the park, but the course narrowed so much and was rather uneven through the park, which made it really difficult to do anything other than try not to get hurt. Probably because of the animals, the park was not lit much at all, so we really couldn't see much of it at all. I was honestly glad to get out of the park and back on the road. The road went back the same route as the first 3 miles, so we passed the band and stilt-men again, and then after a Clif shot (chocolate...yes!!) it was on to Hollywood Studios. We came in near the Aerosmith ride and then past Darth Vader himself! I got a little disoriented after that, but we remained in/around the park for quite a while. I got slightly distracted by the huge room where all the costumes are cleaned and tailored. Sequins and ruffles and colors, oh my! 

We had run the entire way, but at around mile 11, I started to get a little delirious. The darkness was making me feel claustrophobic, and I had a minor mental meltdown. Soon though, Adam leaned over and said "only 1.5 more miles" and that got me going. We picked up the pace and started passing people left and right. The last mile took us through I think the Boardwalk resort. It was really pretty, and there were a lot of people there to cheer us on. After what seemed like a lot more than a mile, we finally came around the corner to the finish line. Maybe it was the endorphins, but we win the cheese-ball award, as we crossed the finish line hand in hand. I was hoping for a 2:10, but we found out later that our time was close, but I'll take it! Based on our RunKeeper, we ran 13.4 miles anyway, so I'll call it a victory.

We ate all the snacks they provided and then changed clothes in these large changing tents. Oddly, after 13 miles, modesty heads right out the window. In dry clothes, we headed into EPCOT to redeem our drink vouchers. Unfortunately, that meant Bud or Bud Light...not a glass of wine like the name "Wine and Dine" would have implied. Not to be callous, but I think they sold too many spectator tickets for the finishers' party because it was pretty crowded. We started walking around World Showcase to pick out our dinner, but we got distracted when we came across Donald Duck in the Mexico pavilion. 

I don't think I ate enough during the day, and I was starting to feel really sick, so we left without actually eating anything (although Adam did have some sort of dark beer at the Germany pavilion). We made it back to the room and went to bed around 3:30. Adam is physically incapable of sleeping past 8am, so I was a little scared that he'd be crabby for our magical first full day at Disney, but somehow we both slept until noon. We grabbed lunch and then went back to EPCOT to relax and enjoy the festival. I had lunch at Singapore (beef rendang and rice...delicious!), and then we went on some rides. With FastPasses, we never waited more than 20 minutes for anything. For dinner, we had fish and chips with beer at England, and for desert, I went over to France and had creme broulee with a glass of merlot. Pure heaven!

We saw the fireworks show, which Adam said was the coolest thing he'd ever seen ("just wait until Magic Kingdom," I thought). Monday morning, we went to Animal Kingdom to see it in the daylight. My favorite part was the safari!

In the afternoon, we went over to Magic Kingdom. This was the only park where I was concerned that Adam would get impatient and grumpy, but all in all, he did pretty well. We went on Space Mountain and then to dinner. After dinner, we staked out a good spot for the fireworks show. I don't think Adam understood why we were there so early, but he found out soon as the crowd really started to grow.

If you haven't seen the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, it's an absolute must-do, along with the show right before it, "The Magic, The Memories, and You." There are no words! The park was open late, so we went on the rest of the rides after the fireworks. I have to admit that Splash Mountain made me very nervous, but it was kind of cool in the dark. I was SO excited to have Adam go to the Haunted Mansion. **SPOILER ALERT** At the climax of the pre-ride section when the lights go completely out, some woman had her cell phone on and was COMPLETELY oblivious to the fact that she ruined that moment.

Since I'm ob-sessed with the Grand Floridian but didn't have the $500/night required to actually stay there, we booked breakfast reservations there on Tuesday morning. It was a beautiful day, so we walked around the property for a while and then hopped on the ferry.

We spent a few hours at Hollywood Studios, and just my luck...Adam's favorite ride was the Tower of Terror - the only ride that truly scares the bejeezus out of me! And even worse, the wait was only 5 minutes, so we went on it at least 3 times. Here we are in the little room where you watch the Twilight Zone clip.

The Muppet 3-D movie was more my speed.

Finally after a long few days of Disney, we took a bottle of wine to the hotel room and relaxed a bit before dinner. We took the water taxi to Downtown Disney, where we had dinner at Paradiso 37 and put down another bottle of wine, completing the "Wine and Dine" weekend in style! 

Adam and I get so busy during the year that it was really great to spend a few days together. Even after all the running, stroller dodging, line-waiting, shuttle-riding, and riding "It's a Small World," we had an amazing time. But, I think we'll hold off on going back to Disney until we have kids...who are old enough to not need a stroller. 

For those of you considering any kind of a race (5k up to full marathon), I highly recommend considering a runDisney event. They put the same thought and detail into organizing these races as they do into everything else they do. Even if you've never been a runner, take some time and make your health a priority. Remember that the journey of 1,000 miles (or even just 3.1) begins with a single step!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Earning My Tiara - Part VI: Coronation

After 3 months of training, it was finally time to actually get on the plane and make this a reality. With the race on Sunday morning, we were required to go to the Expo on either Friday or Saturday afternoon to pick up our race packets. I didn’t fly down until Saturday morning, to save a night at the hotel. BAD IDEA!! What I didn’t consider is that hello…it’s winter in MO. I woke up early Saturday morning to a thin sheet of ice covering EVERYTHING. It had drizzled all night and then frozen. Seriously, pulling out of my driveway, I thought my brakes were jacked up, so I went inside and woke up my husband to have him check. Nope, brakes were fine, just the entire street was a sheet of ice. Good thing I budgeted 2 hours to get to the airport, instead of the 45 minutes I would normally need (see previous post regarding my Type-Aness). On the way to the airport, I saw more cars off the road than I’ve ever seen in a single day. I maxed out at about 40 mph on the interstate but did finally get to the airport about 20 minutes before my flight. As long as it’s not delayed, I’ll be in good shape. Fortunately, the flight left on time. If you’ve never flown to Orlando, the fun begins the second you get to the airport. There were the requisite kids who were just finding out they were going to DisneyWorld, and Kelly and I spent a few minutes texting each other from our respective terminals describing some of the folks that we would be sharing a plane with. The magic of Disney extends well beyond the park itself and actually back to any terminal flying to Orlando. Disney has this magical power of making people blind to any fashion rules any reasonable human being would normally adhere to in any non-Disney location. I saw more jorts (jean shorts) with braided belts and fanny packs than I care to remember.

Kelly and I arrived in Orlando at about the same time, so we met at baggage claim and then made our way to the Magic Express (which is VERY difficult to find by the way). We checked into our hotel (Caribbean Beach), which I’d rate as “fine.” It was pretty dated, but I didn’t plan on spending too much time there, so no big deal. By a random stroke of luck, Kelly’s parents were in FL for a conference the week before the race, so they drove up and met us at the resort. We grabbed some lunch, and then we hopped in Rick and Debbie’s car to head over to Wide World of Sports. One tip, don’t take a wrong turn on the Disney property – it takes FOREVER to get turned back around! Once at the expo, there were a ton of cool things to see. My favorite part was the funny running shirts. I personally liked on the back of a shirt “Dear God, please let there be someone behind me to read this.” And “This was a good idea 3 months ago.” There were a lot of cute 13.1 charms, stickers, etc. but Kelly and I both felt that it was presumptuous to buy one before having completed the race. Jeff Galloway and other experts were giving small seminars throughout the day also. Around 4:30, we headed back to the hotel, where we laid out all our clothes and accessories for race day. 

We had an early dinner of chicken and pasta, and said goodbye to the parents and settled in for the night. Although we had been up since 5am, the nerves of course kept us from sleeping. We both drifted in and out of consciousness until the alarm went off…at 2:59AM!!!

We wanted to get on the shuttle around 3:30 (4am was the last shuttle), so we got dressed and put on a little makeup…hello – pictures, forced down some breakfast (half an English muffin with PB), and were off. The shuttle took us to the EPCOT parking lot, about a mile walk away from a pre-race party. We were there WAY early, so we walked around and then just sat and watched people roll in for a while. They started announcing that we needed to make our way to the start line, so we followed the crowd along to a huge bank of porta-potties. We decided to make one last pit stop, which took at least 30 minutes. Little did we know, we were still over a mile from the start line. We walked through back roads and past several other less-used port-potties (Grrrr) and eventually made it to our corrals.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Before the sun came up, it was a little chilly, at around 62 degrees. I had on an old hoodie that I planned on throwing out during the race anyway. I ended up throwing it off actually before the race even started. We were in Corral D, so we were pretty far back, but everyone at that point was pretty laid-back, many of us experiencing our first half marathon (or like me, our first race altogether). There were fireworks and a good luck spell from the Fairy Godmother at the start of every corral, and with each celebration, we got closer and closer to the start line. Finally it was our turn, and we were off!

The road was wide, but with 16,000 runners, it was still difficult to get through, so we started off pretty slow and comfortable. There was plenty of good people-watching and some really fun costumes to keep us distracted. Also, starting at about the half mile mark, there were bands and other attractions to look at, so we were really never bored. Kelly’s shins started hurting, so we started alternating running/walking at each mile. By mile 3, we could see the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, so that perked our spirits. Once we got close to getting into the park, the road narrowed, and it was impossible to do anything but walk, so that was a little frustrating, but there’s no denying the energy there with the crowd (not that we had any friends/family in the crowd, but just knowing people are there is nice). We, like everyone else, turned into giddy children when we started running down Main Street. Kelly tried to take a picture of me with the castle in the background. She said, “Just keep running,” but I’m clearly a bad actor. J

Of course the highlight of the race was running through the castle (around mile 5.5). There are trumpet players on the balcony, and Cinderella and Prince Charming were there also (although the line to take pictures with them was SUPER long). 

A girl even got engaged just in front of us once through the castle. I still haven’t figured out if she kept going or dropped out of the race at that point. What would you do? Just past the castle, we ran into a couple of our favorite characters from Toy Story 2!

Kelly’s shins were still bothering her, but I was starting to get really hot and really hungry, so I decided to break off at around Mile 7. Miles 9-11 were pretty exhausting, but by 12, we could see EPCOT again, and it was gorgeous! Finishing the race was an emotional experience that I can’t really explain (at 2:39, by the way), but it brought tears to my eyes, and I was sad that my husband wasn’t there to cheer for me. I received my medal (my official tiara!!!), snapped a picture, and anxiously awaited Kelly's arrival, just about 15 minutes later.

I used both Pandora and RunKeeper on my phone throughout the entire race (though Pandora kept cutting out), and I still had over half my battery! RunKeeper said that I burned 1800 calories, so that made it clear that the rest of the day was party time!! We went back to the hotel, got cleaned up, and headed out for a day at EPCOT. We were so proud of our accomplishments and felt justified wearing our medals to the park in case anyone didn't immediately recognize our princessness.

Throughout the rest of the week, we visited EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Universal Studios. Here are some of the highlights. 

I returned from the trip still on my runners high, so I decided to try my powers of persuasion to try to convince my husband (a non-runner and Disney virgin) to try one with me. Stay tuned for the next post to see if I was successful! :)