UPDATE: The 7-Minute Workout (Can it Work?!)

Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Perhaps you are skeptical about a workout that’s only 7 minutes long? Don’t get me wrong, I was skeptical as well, and still am! I have, however, found that it is a really great addition to any cardio you’re already doing. So often I finish a 2 or 3 mile run and wish I had something to do besides my 30 minute Jillian Michaels workouts (because those are killers).For the past few weeks I have been adding this 7-minute challenge to the end of a run or bike for the extra push. All you need are a chair, a wall, your body weight, and a little motivation!

Laugh if you want, but I guarantee you you’ll be breathing a little heavier by the time you finish. You can download it on your phone as an app for free of your can visit the website HERE.

The New York Times made this awesome graphic about it to accompany their “scientific” article:
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It’s essentially a high-intensity interval training (HIIT)  workout (just shorter than usual). You do each challenge for 30 seconds and move onto the next after a 10 second break. 7 minutes later you will have completed 12 different exercises and I promise you, you’ll feel better because of it. The reporting around this little 7-minute miracle is pretty bogus in my opinion…it’s NOT a quick fix…BUT it is a great addition to any workout. As a runner, and not a weight lifter, I often forget about strength training. This little app helps me add in 7 minutes of strength training using my own body weight after each run. That’s why I like it!

The application itself is free and user-friendly with tutorial videos, a count down timer, and a simple interface.

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Tip #1: Explore the workouts ahead of time so that you have a better understanding of the proper form used. Proper form = a better and more effective workout.

Tip #2: Give it your all! The key to this is HIGH intensity at MAXIMUM capacity. You want to be sweating at the end of it…not just going through the motions. It’s only 7 minutes long, so make those 7 minutes count. Your arms , core, and legs should be shaking by the time you get to the side planks.

Tip #3: Don’t fall into the myth that a 7 minute workout is enough…because it’s not (sorry!). It’s great to get your heart pumping, and a great addition, but this is not a “quick fix” for weight loss and you will not lose weight by doing a 7 minute workout once a day. Quick fix solutions are toxic ladies and gents!

Tip #4: Don’t have time for the gym but want to use the app to workout? Do 3 or 4 of the 7-minute workouts in a row — that’s far more effective than a 7 minute workout alone.

Tip #5: Want something longer than 7-minutes? Checkout the Seconds Pro – Interval Timer app. You customize your own circuit with personalized exercise and break times.

I apologize to all the lovely readers out there who thought they had found the miracle quick fix. The 7-minute workout is a great addition to any cardio work you do and is perfect for getting a working out in the privacy of your own home. However, I’ve been doing it for several weeks now and I know that 7-minutes alone are not going to make me an elite athlete and it’s far from a miracle worker. But if free and easy to use programs like get people more active – then I am all for it! It could be a great starting point for beginners as well!

UPDATE

My lovely friend, Broke Millennial, feature the 7-minute workout on her latest Frugal Find Friday post. Head on over and check her out!

This got me thinking…what other apps are out there that are free and/or cheap but worth it? Here are a few that I use.

Free:

  • Hot5 – free 5 minute workout videos
  • MapMyRun – tracks your millage and plots out running routes for you…for free (in it’s basic form)
  • RunKeeper – similar to MapMyRun, with a few more features like pace (not really sure how it figures that out…)
  • Couchto5k – one of the most popular apps out there…a great first step for beginner runners
  • FitnessPro – teaches you how to properly use equipment in the gym
  • LoseIt! – a calorie counter and weight loss program to hold you accountable

There are also some really cool charity apps which I have not downloaded yet..but should! For example, Charity Miles tracks your workouts and gives 0.10 for every mile bikes and 0.25 for every mile you run/walk. You can donate the money to Stand Up To Cancer, Feeding America, The Wounded Warriors Project, and many other great organization.

Not free but REALLY cool:

  • TempoRun – changes music based off of your pace to help you with tempo runs for $2.99
  • PocketYoga – 30, 45, or 60 minute yoga sequences for $2.99
  • Moves – Think of it as a cheaper version of a fitbit that uses the gps on your phone for $2.99

What are your thoughts? Have you used it? Do you supplement your running with additional strength training? Let us know in the comment section below!

Embracing Hills

I’ve never been a big fan of hills…ever! As a matter of fact, I try to plan my runs to avoid them as much as possible (guilty as charged) and I stick to flat surfaces. My high school track team practiced in a particularly mountainous area of Hong Kong (the whole island is just little mountains really) and on hill workouts I would do everything I could to get out of it – fake sick, get a side stitch, claim dehydration. If any of my high school track coaches read this, please consider this an apology. But seriously…this was the area around my school (pictured bottom left)! Holy Hills Batman! Pretty? Yes, but you had to run up a hill just to get out of the gates!

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This brilliant avoidance plan of mine, however, did not make me any faster…and I want to be faster! Everything I have read has pointed me towards hill running and interval training. Last week I kicked it into high gear (pre-snowstorm)! The theory is pretty basic: if you want to improve strength and speed, run hills.

We live in Capitol Hill so there are plenty of “hills” to choose from (ok really only 2 big ones). There is one hill in particular (pictured below) that I went out of my way to run up during each run this week. I wanted to focus on hill intervals (aka repeats) this past weekend so I set of goal of running it 4 times in one run. Run up, down, up, down, up, down, up down…you get the point. 4 was my goal and 4 repeats were accomplished. Now I have my base-lines! And Capitol Police think I am crazy!

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Over the last few weeks I have read several articles on hill intervals and I wanted to share them with you.

  • A study out of New Zealand confirmed the theory that hill training makes you faster. 20 well-trained runners were tasked with running a 5k at their best times possible. Next they trained on hills for 6 weeks and ran the same 5k course to gage improvement. Each runner was (at least) a 2% improvement. That’s PR territory right there!
  • If you want to increase the amount of calories you burn and don’image (32)t have an hour to add to your workout time, add an incline! On average I burn 100 calories/mile on a run. On my 4 mile hill intervals this weekend I burned over 500. Check it out!
  • According to Runners World, on uphill sections your muscles contract more powerfully than usual because they are forced to overcome gravity to move you up the hill. The result is more power, which in turn leads to longer, faster running strides.
  • Shift gears both mentally and physically and prepare to attack the hill; don’t let it attack you. Each repeat gets stronger and you’ll feel like a beast when it’s over! As your endurance builds, it will also make the flatter portions of your runs easier.
  • Hill actually lessens the risk of injury because the slope of the hill naturally shortens the distance you have to “fall” and lessens impact. The reverse is also true…so be careful on downhills!

So what do I do on these hill runs?

The hill itself is 350 meters long…so it’s not a mountain (though it feels like it) with an elevation change of over 75 feet during those 350 meters. 350 meters is a pretty solid distance for hill intervals. This is how it works:

1) Fast uphill (my heart rate shoots “our of zone” for workout during this time
2) A rest (I walk for about 45 seconds)
3) Steady downhill (for every uphill there is a downhill, right?)
4) A rest (again, I walk for about 45 seconds)
5) Repeat!

Hill Repeats

Side note, I like to begin is a 10 minute run to warm up before I get to my hill to make sure I’m ready to go. Maybe hill intervals are not your thing? No problem! There are other types of “hill runs” to take a look at as well: short hill repeats (think 30-60 meters long), long hill runs, hill bounding, downhill strides, etc, you just have to play around and figure out what works best for you.

What are your thoughts on hill training? Share them in the comment section below!

The Joy in Training

There’s one thing I love more than setting and completing race goals that I set for myself…and that’s helping people I love set and achieve theirs!

Last fall several of my friends signed up to run the Marine Corps 10k in support of our girl Amanda. We all live in different parts of the country, so physically training together was not a possibility for most of us. But Beth lived just down the road from me…and this was her first 10k! We had run the Color Run together the previous fall and she set her sights on the Marine Corps 10k as her longest race to date and I could not have been more proud. I loved creating a running plan for her for the next 2 months, and loved joining her on weekly runs, and wish I could have done even more.
 I created a plan for her that was based off of the Couch to 5K program…but accelerated! Each week we upped her millage until we were at the 6.2 miles she would need for race day and used Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run method to make she she would feel confident and rested. The plan worked well and I was proud to cross the finish line alongside Beth and know that running is in her future! Sharing in friends running goals and watching them become stronger (stronger than me, certainly!) brings me as much joy as crossing the finish line. I think it goes back to my love for making new friends on the race course…I’m just a people person!
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 I’ve talked about my dad on this blog before as a source of my inspiration. He’s over 50 (I won’t reveal his age so he won’t kill me!) and is a sponsored cyclist and triathlete. He’s crazy! He can still solidly kick my butt at any sprint tri or race…even on my best day! As far back as I could remember, my dad used to put me on my bike with training wheels and have me ride along while he would do his evening runs after work. Sometimes this would mean him sprinting after me down a hill since I couldn’t find my brakes (good thing I am a military brat and we lived on safe bases!). For part of high school we lived in Hong Kong which is incredibly hilly. My dad started competing in triathlons in Hong Kong because of the great weather and proximity to beaches. I would wake up with him on Saturday mornings to help him work on his running as he competed in 10 and 15k races and wanted to better his running for triathlons. I ran track in high school, but I would get on my bike and bike along side him for 10+ miles and loved it.
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This is dad competing in a Olympic distance triathlon several months ago in the Philippines. He’s sponsored by a local bike store called Bike King and Pocari Sweat (a really yummy sports drink in Asia). I’m a proud daughter!
Today, I had the opportunity to help my husband train. Although I have competed in more races than he has, he is still a MUCH faster runner than I am. He has his eyes set on a marathon this year (we still have to pick one!) and is working on building up his endurance. He’s competed in half-marathons and runs 4+ miles daily, so he is in good change to up his mileage. Today’s goal was 10+ miles and I wanted to help…but would not be able to keep up with his pace. Instead, I mapped out a course for us that would take us ALL over DC.
  He rarely runs with a water bottle and relies on race course support for long distances races (yeah, he is crazy). So today I biked with his keys and ID’s, water bottles filled with Nuun Hydration he needed, and energy snacks. We ended up running 11! It reminded me of biking with my dad and helping him train as a kid! Max is really good at pacing himself, but said that he liked having me there to clear out a path (urghhhhh tourists) and to have someone to chase the entire way.
 I used MapMyRun to plan out our course (we strayed a little from this, my extra turns and non-bike friendly paths bad it a little longer). Here’s a rough estimate:
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Here are some photos from today:
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We aren’t the biggest fans of “group running” but here are a few of my tips on encouraging your friends and family/helping someone train:
1) Start slow – I am a big fan of Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run method and swear by it. It’s an easy way to get people into running when they know they don’t have to run a 6 minute mile and that breaks are allowed. There’s no shame in walking when you need it!
2) Plan it out – make a plan and help them stick to it. Print it out, tape it up, check off the runs your complete and make-up the ones you miss. Accountability is key.
3) Run with them – don’t just cheer on the sideline…lace up those shoes and hit the trail with them. Or if they are faster than you but need the encouragement…bike along!
4) Celebrate the mile stones – take a picture, post it online, grab a smoothie, make a toast with Nuun! Enjoy the moment and celebrate each milestone. Max and I celebrate big runs/races with Chipotle. We rarely eat at Chipotle but running double digit miles certainly allows you to do that guilt free! In fact, I just finished a burrito bowl and he just finished a burrito!
5) Offer guidance – I get a lot of e-mails from friends, family, and readers about what shoes to buy or races to sign up for. I love it! I’m a running geek that spends my free time reading shoe reviews and the “next big things” in running. I love getting to share that with people (especially new runners). If you’re knowledgeable share it…and if you are not…offer up the opportunity to do a little research.
6) Humble yourself – I am a slow runner and I am far from perfect…chances are you are too! She your struggles and running short falls with those you train with. They can make you stronger, might have solutions for you, and can help new runners feel less overwhelmed or “slow”.
7) Avoid competition – It’s easy to turn a partner run into a race…but try and avoid it. Max and I love the Seahawks mantra of “always compete” but we also need to remember that we are not always racing each other even though we are signed up for the same race or running the same daily route. Gosh that would be an unhealthy marriage! There are some races I would be better at (probably sprint tri’s) and plenty of races he would be better at (all of our running races this far, haha). Instead of competing, encourage each other…that’s the beauty of running…you only have to compete against yourself.
So share with me now! how do you help your friends and family train for races? Do you have a running partner?

Wear Your Helmets, Kids.

Kids and adults alike should always wear their helmets when riding a bike. Tonight, I found that out that hard way…but am thankful I was taught to always wear my helmet and has one on when my head hit a brick road and bounced repeatedly (thanks dad!).

As many of my bloggers know, I love to bike! Ir’s excellent cross training and works muscles that complement running well. I bike to and from work (about 15-20 minutes each way) because I love stretching my legs and getting a good warm up in before my evening runs. In the mornings it helps wake me up and get the day going…and Lord knows I need help waking up! DC is a very biker friendly city and we have bike paths/lanes from our front door all the way to my office – and that’s a real blessing! It makes biking to work fun, safe, and enjoyable. I always wear my helemet, I have a reflective backpack, ankle band, and light on my bike. I also always obey signs and pedestrians.

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The bike lanes take me along some of our Nations treasures: the Capitol, Smithsonian Museums, the National Mall, embassies, and even the White House. I take the same path every single day and could probably do it blindfolded (but don’t challenge me). Those of you familiar with DC probably know Lafayette Park. A beautiful little park behind the White House blocked off to cars where bikes and pedestrians can crisscross in and out of NW DC. It’s essentially the back entrance to the White House and many of my commutes have been diverted by closures, the Obama’s leaving for school or dignitaries coming in for meetings. The usual. 

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Notice those pillars and the brick? Well today the car gates were blocked off with cones so I rode onto the sidewalk instead as instructed by the Secret Service police. This happens all the time so it was not unusual. I was cruising along on the brick sidewalk heading towards a couple of posts like the ones pictured above and that’s where my memory gets fuzzy.

I remember my a missing brick on the pathway and my tire hitting it which caused my handle bars to hit those lovely black posts above and send yours truly flying. I don’t remember actually hitting the post, or being airborne, or my clip-in shoes clicking out, but I sure remember hitting the ground. My left side of my body hit the ground the hardest – hip, wrist, elbow, and shoulder…and my head. Ahhhhh my head. I remember my heading bouncing on the ground multiple times and could see where from my helmet dents.

It hurt like hell. I remember laying on the ground and trying to figure out what the heck just happened as a Secret Service cop shook my arm trying to get my attention. He kept asking if I was alright and then radioed for a medic. Oh crap. Medic, Secret Service, White house…I just wanted to get home and go on my evening run! The guy was right behind him in seconds with a bag and helped me up. They took off my gloves and checked out my arms, wrist and fingers. Checked my neck and head and legs. They even made me call home to make sure someone was going to be there because they were worried about being alone if I had a concision. Needless to say  I was crying, embarrassed, and Maxwell was scared as hell!

Before they gave me the all-clear to go, the officer told me that he ran over because he could hear my head hit the ground. He said he could hear my helmet hitting the ground and that without my helmet that the crash would have been a lot worse. I believe him. Was I going too fast? Probably. Should I have been paying more attention to the road condition? Probably. But the bruises on my hip, leg, shin, shoulder, and elbow along with the throbbing pain in my head will be solid reminders this week for me to slow down, pay more attention, and always wear my helmet…and that I will probably be taking the metro this week!

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So wear your helmet blogger fiends! Those dents aren’t standard and your head will thank you later!

So here are a few of my bike tips for the night:

  • WEAR A HELMET
  • Ride with reflective gear
  • Use a bike light at night (one that flashes too)
  • Don’t ride with music
  • Check your brakes, tire pressure, and chains regularly
  • Never ride against traffic
  • Obey traffic signals
  • Use hand signals and let others bikers know when your are passing
  • AND WEAR YOUR HELMET!!!!

Winter Cross Training

This week has seen some of the coldest weather across the U.S. in HISTORY! -30 in the Midwest, 0 in Boston, 9 in DC? And that’s before windchill! Let’s be honest, few things deter this runner than the words “arctic blast” or “frigid” and “negative X degrees” so thank you Weather Channel (below) for inspiring this blog post.

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Thankfully we have a gym and I was able to run indoors when I needed to this week…but I am happy to say that I did get a snow run in on Friday and loved every minute of it. But what if we can’t get out and run in the sub zero weather? What are our options?

1) Move it indoors.Hit up your local gym (one of the biggest pro’s of living in an apartment in DC is that we have one downstairs), join a spinning or barre class, sweat it out in hot yoga, or slip in a workout DVD. One of the coolest things about the new Xbox One is their partnership with Jillian Michaels, Tony Horton (P90X), and Shaun T (Insanity) through Xbox Fitness which gives you access to great (and usually very expensive) workouts with the click of your controller. Looks like I do like my husbands Xbox after all! So to my male readers, if you are looking for that perfect excuse to buy n Xbox One and your significant other is against it…you can use this…and you can thank me later.

2) Find an indoor pool. Check with your local YMCA, near by schools, public pools, and universities for open swim hours. Before I competed in my first (and only to date…gotta change that!) sprint triathlon I would train at the indoor swimming pool at my alma mater. It was free to me and their open swim hours started after I got off of work each night!

3) Find your missing motivation. Some days are harder than others…but the bulk of my “hard days” seem to fall in the dead of winter. It might have something to do with my warm down comforter…but dig deep and remember what’s motivating you to get moving. Print it out/write it down and stick it somewhere you can see every day.

4) Enjoy winter sports. Use the Sochi Winter Olympics to inspire you and test out one of these great winter sports. Yesterday Max and I traded in our long-run day for a day on the mountain with my mom and dad. I was so happy to get my snowboard back on the mountain and get used to the sport all over again. It’s been at least 2 years since I was last on my board! It took only one run down a green slope to remember what a workout snowboarding is on your quads! Think squatting for an entire day…

Snowboarding – burns 430 calories in an hour

Ice skating – burns 300 calories in an hour

Snow shoeing – burns 500 calories in an hour

Cross country skiing – burns 500 calories in an hour

Downhill skiing – burns 430 calories an hour

Broom ball – burns 470 calories in an hour

Sledding – burns 450 in an hour (walking up those hills!)

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But like many of you, nothing can replace the feeling of finishing a good run…even if it is 9 degrees outside and you cannot feel your legs! Runners World has a great calculator for what you should be wearing in various temperatures. I’ve used it for each of my races and they have been spot on. My general rule of thumb is add 20 degrees to whatever temperature if currently is and you should be set since you’ll warm up once you get running.

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Stay safe and warm if you do venture out into Narnia my friends! So what do you do for your winter cross training? How do you stay motivated? I’m off to try out p90x on the XBoxOne now…I’ll let you know how it goes. This is my first time doing any of the BeachBody workout videos. Yikes!

Last Race of 2013 and a #RaceRagz Giveaway!

Winter running can be a bit of the pain in the butt for me. Does anyone else out there feel that way? First, winter races (of any distance) are few and hard to come by. This makes goal-setting a little difficult for me since those races are a great source of motivation for me. Second, it’s really stinking cold most days! How do you get over that slump?!

The weekend after Thanksgiving, Max and I ran the Huff And Puff For Your Pumpkin Pie 5k and it was our last race for the year. This is the second year we have run this race and have love it every time. They DOUBLED in size this year and eve offered a packet pick up day! It’s put together by one of my favorite running groups – Seashore Striders. They are very professional, chip time all of their races, have great course support, and give out medals to the top finishers in all of their races. They make every race fun!

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Max was the true rock-star of this race. Let me brag about my husband for a minute because he is one of my biggest inspirations in my running journey. He finished in 22:23.8 and finished 4th in his age group (20-24). he shaved over a minute off of his time from last year and would have had an even fast time had he not started in the back of the pack with me! There’s always next time :) bring home the gold! The best part about running races with Max (he finishes WAY ahead of me) is that he gets to see how much he has improved. The man behind him took 1st place for the masters category and found Max after the race to let him know that he tried to keep up with him to pace him the entire race and that he had great running form. The man is a veteran multi-marathoner and knew his stuff so his comments were greatly appreciated. Max went through quite the weight loss transformation while we were in college and has become a very talented running – and it makes me so proud to see him excel!

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My goal was to finish in 30 minutes and I did! I always say that I am a proud slow runner, but I always tell Max that I feel like racing gives me an opportunity to help other runners. At the back half of the pack you don’t get the runners who are breezing along at a 7 min/mile pace. You run the run-walk-run gang busting it out with bigger hearts than lions!

I stuck to my 2:1 run-walk-run ration and knew where that will put me and that I would finish strong and not dying (or injured). For the first mile a high schooler and I kept pacing each other (that awkward continual passing) so I finally turned to her at the 1 mile marker and asked if she waned to run together. She was on board with the Run-Walk-Run method as her parents were using the same method to train for their Disney marathon. They were closer to a 5:1 ration! We talked the whole way, realized we both lived in DC and were visiting family for the weekend, and she told me all about here injury-filled cross country season this year. Just as we passed the mile 2 marker, we caught up with young girl who was home for college. She had stopped and was hunched over with a stitch. After stopping to check on her,  I asked if she wanted to run with us and told her we were doing a 2:1 moderately slow pace and that there was less than a mile left. She was happy to have people to run with and we encouraged her along the way (side stitches suck!). We saw the clock ticking at the 30 minute mark and sprinted across the finish line together where Max was waiting with his camera!

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Race Ragz was kind enough to hook me up with my own customized shirt for for my final race of 2013 – and now it is your turn to win your own! It’s easy-peasy and you can pick a shirt form their pre-made collection or build your own.  I built my own using their customization tool and added some of their pre-made designs. The entire process took about 5 minutes and my shirt was in my mailbox a week later!

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So how do you win one of your own? EASY! Leave your first name and twitter handle (or a username of your choice) a in a comment below! I will be entering the names into a generator on NEW YEARS DAY and will notify the winner on this blog, twitter, and through their comment – so keep an eye out! BE SURE TO CHECK THE “notify me of new comments/replies” BUTTON SO THAT YOU CAN BE NOTIFIED IF YOU WIN!

Run-Walk-Run

I love reading comments and e-mails from fellow runners. Really – you guys make my day! The question I am most frequently asked my family, friends, and new runners is:

How do you run 13.1 miles?

Plain and simple: I do not.

WHAT?! I repeat…I do NOT run 13.1 miles consistently. I am a big fan of Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method and have stuck by it for years. I feel better, my splits are better, and I run injury free when I use this method and most of all – I can finish a half marathon!

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Many of the “Couch to 5K” programs are based off of this method and many marathon training program follow the method as well. It’s not “new” to the world of running by any stretch of the imagination, but it is gaining popularity with new runners.

Straight from the mouth of the man (Jeff Galloway) himself:

“The continuous use of the running muscles will produce fatigue, aches and pains much more quickly. If you insert a walk break before running muscles start to fatigue, the muscle can recover quickly — increasing your capacity for exercise while reducing the chance of next-day soreness.

The run-walk-run “method” involves having a strategy. By using the right segments of running and walking, for the individual, it’s possible to manage fatigue. At the end of a marathon the muscles will be tired, but correct use of walk breaks from the beginning will mean little or no slowdown during the last six miles. This is the portion of the race where most runners slow down dramatically and walk a lot.

Beginners will alternate very short run segments with short walks. Even elite runners find that walk breaks on long runs allow them to recover faster. There is no need to reach the end of a run, feeling exhausted — if you insert enough walk breaks, for you, on that day.”

Pro’s:

  • You can easily increase your millage from 1 to 3 miles to 6 to 10 miles by giving yourself those short walk breaks. Those walk breaks help you slow your breathing and rest your muscles.
  • Because of the rest you will be less sore the following day (always a plus!).
  • The walk breaks make the running less difficult on your body (knees, hips, ankles, etc.)
  • The calorie count for 90 minutes of running and 90 minutes of the run-walk-run strategy are the (basically) same.
  • You can constantly transition between different run:walk paces and can eventually phase it out if you become comfortable running longer distances without the break.

Con:

  • The stigma. Sometimes I don’t feel like “a real runner” when I need to take a 30 second walk break 2 minutes into a run. That’s mental! One day I hope to easily run 13.1 without stopping, but that’s not for me.

photo (13)Above is photo of one of the first times I really “tested” the Run-Walk-Run method. I used the 2:1 for a 12 minutes mile goal to make sure I would be able to sustain it for me half marathon. I was happy to come in under 12 min/miles for my first two mile splints (pictured above). The biggest “pro” for me is the decreased strain on my very-tight IT band. I would need to stop and stretch with runs anyway – but the RWR method allows me to run and instead of needed to stretch every big…simply walk it out for a minute! My IT band relaxes and it allows me to run pain free for the next 2 minutes…then repeat.

So you use the run-walk-run method? What are your thoughts? What pace to you use? Share them!

Race Recap: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon

This weekend Max and I ran the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon through Virginia, DC, and Maryland. Pretty cool! The race was originally scheduled for October, but was moved to November due to the pesky government shutdown. Luckily for Max and I, this fit right into our schedule. After watching Amanda run the Marine Corp Marathon we were inspired to sign up for a distance race as well.

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The race is small in size (capped off at 5,000) and is young as far as area races go (in it’s 4th year). The half marathon starts at the beautiful Mount Vernon Estate of President George Washington and heads down along George Washington Parkway and over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge before coming into National Harbor for a big finish.

Max and I stayed at the race hotel the night before to make parking and the morning transition a little easier. We checked into the hotel on Saturday and were excited to receive a cute gift bag from the hotel with popcorn, water bottles, and a cookie when we checked in (hello, Holiday Inn Express points!) to start the day off. We then went to the mini-expo and picked up our race packets and bags in the hotel lobby. All of this took under 15 minutes — very efficient!

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We hung around the hotel relaxing and watching Lockdown on TV before our dinner reservation at Bonefish grill that night. We love their food and the hotel was so close! They give you crayons to draw on the table with and we got a little creative (ok…maybe I asked for them…) which included Star-wars, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. The waiter got a chuckle out of our drawings.

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We were hungry and devoured our jumbo coconut Thai shrimp appetizer, fish and chips (Max), and salmon and veggies (me) before finally saying “no thank-you” to the pumpkin cream brule. after dinner we stopped by Safeway and picked up a pack of water bottles before heading back to the hotel to kick-start the hydration process. I know I always cramp with distance runs and worked hard all week to overload with Nuun and water. Apparently I did not do enough — more on that later!

Our alarms went off at 4:30 AM the next morning and we ate our Cliff bars and bananas for breakfast (mmmm the delicious life of a runner) and by 5:30 we were walking out of the lobby to board on of the race shuttles. The ride from the hotel to Mount Vernon has to be one of the most terrifying parts of the race. It was pitch black and felt like it lasted forever! The whole time I kept thinking “oh gosh…I have to RUN back here…and that’s 8 miles?! I’ve got how many after that?!” but I knew it was just my nerves getting the best of me. Once we arrived at Mount Vernon we hit up the ever-so-lovely race porta-potties and stretched our cold muscles. A group of Ethiopian runners (who ended up placing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) started stretching right next to us. We felt out matched but inspired at the same time!

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7:00 AM was there before we knew it and we got in line with the 13:00/mile pace group and took off. Max started the race with me…but I really wanted him to PR so he took off running and ran closed to an 8:00/mile pace.

The course itself was absolutely beautiful! The first mile was almost entirely downhill before you hit a series of rolling hills and the bridge. Miles 1-5 flew by and mile 6 was the first mile marker I really noticed. I was in the zone and running a sub 13:00/mile pace and felt great! The view was stunning, the leaves were bright yellows and reds, and we ran along the Potomac River for the entirety of the race. Thankfully I had the view to distract me as my IHeartRadio App stopped working at mile 2!

At mile 7 I started to hit a bit of a wall and sucked down a chocolate Gu Gel with some Nuun and made friends with a fellow runner named Teri. I ended up running most of the next 5 miles with her and her husband and they were a ton of fun! I love meeting people along the course and helping out fellow runners who look like they could use and encouraging word or two. Along with Teri I met a group of 3 guys: 2 of whom had run the MCM followed by the NYG ING marathons back to back and were helping a 3rd friend finish his first marathon. Were they not in pain?

Mile 8 was the cut off point and you had to reach is by 9:00 AM (2 hours into the race aka a 15:00/mile pace). I was not too worried about the cut off, but was sad for runners who I had met along the way who fell back…and I am not sure if they made it to the cut off (aka “The Rude Awakening”) or not. I hope they did!

Mile 8 led up to the foot of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and we were greeted by rows of balloons, a water station, and police officers cheering us on. This was where I planned to kick it into gear! I had made it to the bridge..I could see National Harbor…and I knew I had a 10k in me to kick butt and take names! This is where I grabbed that 2:30 PR!

I picked up speed from mile 8 to mile 9 and kept my eye on my Polar Monitor for a 12:00/mile…and then…BOOM! Calf Cramps! I was half way between mile 9 and mile 10 and my right cramp seized up. I let out a loud exploitative I will not share on this blog, apologized to the runner next to me for swearing, and used the bridge railing to stretch. I started to slow jog and made it to mile 10 before…BOOM…left calf cramps! This is when I cried (just a little) because I saw my PR disappear as I starred at the distant Gaylord Hotel.

Max sent me a text message to let me know what he had finished in 2:01 and I told him that I was coming in slow with calf cramps. I had to walk most of miles 10 to 13.1 and tried my best to smile and cheer other runners on as I hobbled along the course. By now my PR was gone…I watched my Polar Monitor tick past 2:30 while I passed mile 11 and kept a smile on my face (thanks to the wonderful volunteers who encouraged me along).

My mom and sister came out to see us finish the race and were having brunch at the Westin hotel when runners started coming in. They just watched a runner in little more than a swimsuit (hard core in that cold weather!) run by following the group of Ethiopian runners we stretched with…so they thought they had some time still! They were still eating when speedy-Max came running into the finish line! My mom jumped up with her iPad (yes, iPad)  to head out and take pictures of him before he crossed the line. They finished up their yummy brunch and waited for me at mile 12. As I rounded the gravel heading into mile 12 I could see my sister and started waving. I was SO excited to see them! This was the first time my mom had seen my finish a race since my high school track days and this was the first time Alicia has seen me finish since my first Marine Corps 10k in college. Alicia jogged along in her boots and cringed at the site of my charlie horse cramps. Mom jogged for about 20 feet and was tired. Alicia joked with her that she needed a Gatorade and needed to run faster — the funny thought took my mind off of my calf pain. I knew the finish line was just around the corner now and Max was waiting for me there.

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The crowd was pretty loud as I came in and I was happy to hear it! I think people felt bad as they saw me slow jog it in, draggin’ my rock-solid cramped right leg along with me…but I needed the cheers!

I may not have PR-ed…but I finished and I enjoyed the race, the beautiful course, the wonderful volunteers, my family, and the small size!

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After the race, we headed back to the hotel to shower, grab some coffee, and head out to watch the Seahawks beat the Falcons at our favorite bar. We also started a new post-race tradition of Chipotle dinners :) I see a lot of half-marathons in our future and am thankful for a husband who is as competitive as I am!

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Lesson #1: Increase pre-race sodium intake and always run with salt tablets for distance running. This is the second half marathon where I have cramped at mile 9 and I could not be more angry with myself. I was on pace to set a PR and double calf cramps set me back. Salt tablets are little miracle workers for distance athletes and I should have taken my dads advice and run with them. This is why runners often eat pretzels or very salty snacks before a run. Salt tablets, like SaltStick, help replace electrolytes, enhance fluid absorption, and minimize muscle cramping. Next time round you can bet I will be taking one before the race and will carry one for mile 9! I also need to eat a more high-sodium diet leading up to a race. I was great about Nuun and EmergenC, but needed to eat a dinner higher in salt content.

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Lesson #2: Ice after every race. Around mile 6 I felt a strange tingle on the outside of my knee. I shook it out and kept trucking along. The hip pain I had from two weeks ago has almost entirely subsided and I ignored it for the entire race. Turns out the 2 were connected –> IT Band! I iced immediately for the first 24 hours and foam rolled my IT band and the pain is almost entirely gone. I even experimented with a bit of KT tape and that seemed to have sealed the deal. The thought of foam rolling the pain away in the first 24 hours was brutal. I essentially started at my foam roller and considered it foam rolling…but now the recovery work begins (I promise)!

So what’s next? Turkey Trot 5k for Thanksgiving!

Keep finding your strong!