Race Recap: The Reston Bike Club Century

Today I finally rode over 100 miles.

Today I got pushed up hills like a baby by my awesome and wicked strong rider dad.

Today I rode in my first organized ride.

Every year for the past 32 years the Reston (VA) Bike Club hosts the Reston Century and it draws 1,500 riders from all over the area. This was my dads third time riding this century and it was my first. Now that the pain is over and done with and the muscles are icing up, I can say I loved it!

RBC

They offer 3 routes:

  • Half metric (35.7 miles)
  • Metric (67.4 miles)
  • Century (103.5) — or a little longer if you miss a cue card or sign (woops)

The biggest different for my between cycling and running is trying to remember that this is an organized ride and NOT a race. That’s does not mean that we are going slow by any means…but it does mean that I need to remember that each person that comes up to me is not trying to race me (you hear that, dad?!).

To save an hour of sleep in the morning I decided to spend the night at my parents house. We had a healthy power dinner of grilled chicken, brown rice, and a lot of spinach and veggies…oh and then we split a Lindt chocolate bar (woops). We were in bed by 7:30 pm and up at 4:00 am to start getting ready. Oatmeal and eggs over toast for breakfast with 2 cups of coffee for both of us! We arrived in Reston at 6:30 am and were on the road at the starting line at 7:00 am. Looking around at all of the DC Velo and pro-team jerseys I know that I was in trouble!

Throughout the entire ride there really were few spots where we were ever on our own out on the road. The first sections were a little crowded for my liking (eg. where all 3 routes were rolling together) but then it thinned out as different routers headed in their own direction. I was pretty proud of being able to keep up with the “big boys” for the most part. Mom met us at the finish line and it was great to see here there so proud!

A few observations:

  • Cycling is a very male-dominated sport. At every rest stop I would run into 1 maybe 2 other ladies and 20+ men. Let’s change this ladies!
  • The RBC did a fabulous job of staffing and filling the rest areas. Every 15-20 miles there were marked rest stops in community centers or parking lots. Each stop had mechanics from bike stores, water, gatorade, bathrooms, racks for your bike, maps, and tons of food (PB&J, muffins, breads, trailmix, vanilla waffers, rice krispy treats, bananas, oranges, cheese-its, power bars, fig newtons).
  • RBC also did a great job keeping riders safe! There were electronic signs saying “cycling event, share the road, etc), state troopers at major intersections, SAG wagons for those who needed to quit or got hurt, and my favorite was the motor bike that took the main front group we were in through a particularly confusing area so that we knew where to go…I felt like I was on the Tour de France). Everything was very well marked!
  • RBC (again) did a great job with their post-race party. The finish shirts look great and there was a delicious spread of salads, pastas, chicken, fruits, an ice-cream truck on hand to give out ice cream treats, and a massage company there to help role you out.
  • I was so proud to see so many riders out rocking their Bike MS jerseys. I spoke with each one I saw and thanked them for their help!

What I want to improve on:

  • I want to be stronger! My poor dad had to push me up some gnarly hills (check out those peaks in the map! I am sure you can guess the 2 “hills” that were the killers). Big strong riders were stopping on hills from cramps, pulling off to the side of the road, it was bad. Dad would not let me quit and kept coming back to get me, give me a push, or (literally) push me up the hill in our granny gears. I cried on those hills…they will be scars in my mind for a while.
  • I need to eat and drink better on rides. I didn’t eat as much as my dad did on the century (my total for all of the rest stops was: 2 half PB&J sandwiches, half a bag of pretzels, half a bag of cheese-its, half a bag of trail mix, 2 orange slices, a Gatorade snow cone, and 1 banana). On the bike I had 2 gu gels when I really struggled, 4 shock blocks, and over 10 bottles of water).
  • Stop drinking gatorade. As you know, I am a HUGE Nuun fan. 2+ years of drinking Nuun as my sports drink of choice reaffirmed how sugar loaded Gatorade is. I got sick to my tummy today from it. WAY too sweet and sticky.
  • Intervals. I need to dedicate a day each week to interval training to get those muscles built.

All in all a GREAT ride, full of hills (the should re-name is the Never-Ending-Hills Century), and I am so proud of us!

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Look at all of that food!

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(right) How I actually felt about dad after that ride/hills/telling me it was a “flat course”/convincing me I could do this

(left) loving my pops

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Riders enjoying the massage section and all of the great food

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Feeling strong after completing my first century!!

Final States:

Miles – 103.5

Kilometers – 167

Time – 6:46 (5 rest stops with about 10 minutes at each stop for stretching/restrooms/filling water/eating)

Lessons from a Newbie Cyclist

I am SO excited to share some exciting news with my blogger friends: my cycling dreams are coming true!! Two weeks ago I got a Cervelo R3 and basically cannot stop staring at it. I am in love! This is my first “real” road bike and I can’t wait to see how I grow as both a cycling and a runner because of it.

So here’s the R3 (name pending…open to suggestions!)…

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We took her out on her inaugural ride that weekend and it was great. I met my dad at 7:30 AM at his house and we applied tons of sun screen, checked our bikes, and headed to the trail. My parents live near a long stretch of great riding called the Washington and Old Dominion trail and we headed out for a 70k (44 mile) journey.

I’ve done portions of this ride before with my dad on my hybrid bike but never this far. We passed Falls Church, Vienna, Fairfax, Reston, Herndon, and Ashburn before we turned around. I don’t drive that far out – let alone bike it! Once we hit our turn around mark I started to hit the wall. I struggled to keep up with my dad and we climbed over little rolling hills and, as he put it, I was in survival mode. My goal was just to get to our final destination. There was no more passing people or channeling my inner Tour De France.

Just when I thought I could not make it any further we stopped in at the Green Lizard Bike Shop/Café in Herndon and grabbed a cup of coffee. It’s a neat bike shop with a coffee bar right off the trail. The coffee hit the spot and I was back to riding with some energy again – woohoo! Dad took a look at my full package of Shot Blocks and two bottles of Nuun and pointed out that I needed to be eating those more and that I should be finished with my Nuun by now…and I had only finished ½ a bottle at that point. Fueling for a 3+ hour ride is something I need to learn more about! Thankfully my dad is as big of a Nuun fan as I am.

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When we got home dad made us poached eggs and toast for breakfast and we watched the Tour de France (of course) before tuning up our bikes. I’ve watched the Tour with my dad since I was 8 years old and he really got into cycling a few years ahead of the Lance Armstrong wave in America. It was only fitting that I got my first road bike on the first day of the Tour!

The following weekend (last Sunday) we did another 70k starting out in Herndon and riding to the end of the W&OD! My old man is kicking my butt…but I am keeping up with him! Long story short, my butt hurts from hours in the saddle, my shoulders are sore from holding myself up (and tennis), and my kit was stinky and covered in sweat to wash…but I loved every minute of it! Thanks dad!

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No, I did not ride in that shirt, I have a jersey and bib to match the bike of course!

Now I’m no cycling pro…but I did grow up with a dad who is one! My real cycling adventure has just begun and I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way:

PICKING A BIKE

Take your time. I took 2 months of bike shopping, online reviewing, and test riding bikes with a very patient husband before I finally picked my bike. It takes time and a lot of patience…but you need to know what’s out there.

Watch the market. If I would have bought my bike 2 months prior to when I bought it (the first day of the Tour de France!) I would have paid an additional $700. Summer usually means sales! Watch out for holiday sales or dates when new models are being pushed out. The next model of the Cervelo R3 is being released so the current R3 was marked down. Same great bike and huge savings.

Get professionally fit. After buying the bike, we spent an hour on a roller and table with a fit expert who got everything set and ready to go from adding arch support into my bike shoes to tightening every screw. Nothing is more awkward than having to watch yourself riding a bike in slow-mo on a big screen TV…but it makes all the difference! If you buy your bike from a high-quality bike store like FreshBikes, your fitting should be free.

LEARNING TO RIDE

Yes, I already know how to ride a bike and have been riding daily for quite some time…but not on a road bike! I quickly got the hang of the areo position, clip in pedals, and razor thing tires, but I still have a lot of learning to do.

Find a mentor. Latch onto a seasoned rider who can take you through the in’s and out’s of riding. Luckily, my dad is my mentor and he just moved back to the US meaning we can ride together every Sunday morning. As my mentor (he calls me Weed Hopper, haha) he’s teaching me how to properly shift, change a flat tire in minutes, properly clean and care for my bike, how to fuel, and know the different between the good gear and the bad. Oh and he is there to yell at me when I walk on his hard wood floors with my bike shoes as well!

Build your strength. Now I am not just talking about building up your strength and time in the saddle…but muscles you might need to strengthen now that you’re biking. As a runner my legs are pretty strong. I hated those “thunder thighs” in high school, but they power me though my runs and rides, and now I love them! Want to know what’s not strong? My shoulders and my core! Immediately after my first long ride I turned to my dad and said, “I really need to look up some shoulder gym moves and do a whole heck of a lot more sit ups!”

Pick a ride. Just like with running, riders should find a race, tri, or ride to sign up for to help them train. Knowing that my dad and I want to ride a century (100 miles) at the end of August will help me wake up early and ride in this summer hear because I have something I am working towards.

Invest in good gear. The first thing my dad told me when I told him I wanted to start cycling was “well if you’re going to ride with me you can’t look like a fool out there.” What he meant was that I can’t be out there in running shorts and a baggy t-shirt…I needed to be aerodynamic. Your butt will thank you for a solid bib or pair of biking shorts and your speed will thank you for the tight fitting jersey with handy-dandy pockets in the back. Luckily my dad has a closet (really…) of bike gear that I get to inherit when he’s done with a piece. He also has 3+ of everything so I got his gloves, UV sun sleeves, helmet, skull cap, etc.

Learn to draft. Every watch professional cyclist riding wheel to wheel? There’s a science behind that and this weekend I have conquered my fears and am learning how to ride right up against my dad’s front tire. Heading into a powerful head wind? Well tuck in behind your dad and BOOM let him pull you. As we ride I started a little mantra of repeating “just let daddy pull you, just let daddy pull you” which we ride so that I don’t give up or get too far behind him. So I now know how close I should be and where I should be looking ahead. Next up: figuring out how to do it continuously and use it to my advantage.

Cross train. I love that running further and stronger will help my biking and that biking further and stronger will help my running. They are complimentary!

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Happy riding! Do you have and tips for this beginner cyclist? Share them in the comments below!

Guest Post: Transformation Thursday and Hypothyroidism

Welcome to Finding My Strong Blog’s first ever guest series. Over the course of the next 4 weeks I will be adding two guest posts from a wonderful writer who not only happens to be my best friend, but happens to be finding her own strong this year. Her journey through cancer, weight loss, and Hypothyroidism is one you won’t want to miss! Christy is a professional counselor and Mobile Crisis Team Specialist living in Annapolis, MD. Between lifeguarding for six years and subsequently responding to crisis situations with local police, Christy has learned to handle adversity, keep her cool, and how to make a plan of action. Christy is a strong believer in gaining support and learning from others and hopes to pass on some of what she has learned along the way. Christy’s journey to finding her strong is ongoing and you can follow Christy on Twitter: @beachnative27, on Instagram: beachnative27, and even on Snapchat for motivational gym snaps: (you may have guessed it…) beachnative27. Now join me as we learn more about to to build strong and healthy bodies through Christy’s inspiring journey.

Christy
Hypothyroidism… Heard of it? I hadn’t heard of this endocrinological condition until I was 19 and had to face what it meant in regards to my life. Basically it is a condition where your thyroid gland is slow and doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone. The major issue here is that an underactive thyroid upsets the normal balance of your body’s chemical reactions and the more severe your thyroid impairment is, the more severe your symptoms are. Now the thyroid can have issues with being too fast or too slow and the graphic below covers the symptoms on either side of the spectrum… this post however, will focus on my experience of hypothyroidism.

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Hypothyroidism officially came into my life when I was 19, but it was actually wreaking havoc for years prior to my diagnosis. My slow thyroid is the culprit of mood fluctuations that I experienced as a child and as a teen. I would slip into severe depressions every couple of years, but did not know at the time that it was abnormal. These depressions included irritability, chronic fatigue, an immense lack of motivation for day-to-day activities, self-loathing, and thoughts of killing myself when things got bad enough. I grew up in an active and social family family and I am no exception. I have a wonderful family and a multitude of friends whom I did not want to alarm, so I learned to hide my depressions when they struck by gluing a smile to my face and excelling in school, sports, and in life.

The game changed when my family moved across the country from San Diego, CA to Annapolis, MD and my depression hit hard. Suddenly I had to finish high school away from all my friends and I was angry. I stopped playing sports to take more AP classes and I got a job at the local movie theater to take up time on my lonely weekends. … The weight started to pile on. I was no longer running around all the time and burning enough calories to compensate for my increased emotional eating. I’d never been skinny, but I’d also never been fat… then suddenly I was 193lbs at 17 years old. At 5’8” I still wasn’t fat, but I was no longer my healthy self. Then the depression hit harder and I proceeded to cope by eating. My happy façade fooled people enough that I had plenty of friends and no one gave me a hard time for putting on weight, but by the time I graduated high school I weighed 227lbs. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that it was suggested that I get a thyroid test… a very easy blood test. Sure enough my results came back positive. I had some facts to face. The first and foremost is that I now take a pill called Synthroid every day to provide my body with the extra thyroid hormone that my thyroid gland cannot produce. I will have to continue taking Synthroid for the rest of my life to stave off the worst of my symptoms.

So what now? I was a college sophomore and I was hovering somewhere in the 230-240lbs range, taking a pill every day and miserable. Suddenly the majority of my mood symptoms vanished, but I was left to contend with my struggle to lose weight. I say struggle because having hypothyroidism makes losing weight approximately 4x harder than the average person (a fact provided by my primary care physician). For the typical person it is a matter of calories in vs calories burned, not for those with hypothyroidism. You have to work even harder to get your metabolism up to speed… because as you may have guessed by now, a slow thyroid means a glacially slow metabolism.

My goal is to be healthy and to be strong so I made a commitment to myself when I was 19 that I was going to turn things around. I got involved with my university’s lacrosse team (Go Saints!), I began taking part in group activities, I swam every day in the summer and I did lose weight. But then I’d gain it back if I slipped in my diet, even just a little. I learned then that this will be a struggle I battle every day, for the rest of my life. I had to find the fight within me.

At 22 I went off to grad school and my weight was an even bigger struggle because insane time constraints can make the poor health choices easier to make. At 24 I recommitted to myself and started running. I may not have been very fast and the weight may not have fallen much, but I dropped 2 pant sizes in a month.

At 25 I graduated with my master’s degree and my graduation present to myself was to join the 24 Hour Fitness gym here in Annapolis. I took control of my typical excuses by finding a gym that is close to home, is open 24/7, and it has a pool. I sweetened the pot when I decided to start working out with a personal trainer. He’s expensive, but he’s worth every penny. I began working with him about five months ago and I am still working to dip below the 200lbs line, but I have dropped 7% of my body fat and I have lost inches all over my body. My commitment to myself and working with a professional trainer has gotten me onto the right track to become healthy and reach my goal of getting the heck out of the 200s. It’s a struggle every day, but I have achieved so much more than I ever would have imagined when I was that hopeless, heavy 18 year old. I had to find my inner fighter and tell myself that just because I am faced with some extra hurdles does not mean that I cannot overcome them. I ran from the girl I was and hid in the food I ate. Now I run for the woman I want to be and I work out to make sure that she is as strong as she deserves to be.

A little trip down memory lane…

When I was young and then at my heaviest:

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Taking my life back:

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A couple fitness tips for people with hypothyroidism:

  • Commit to yourself and appreciate who you are
  • Develop a fitness routine that you can stick with and set realistic goals
  • Eat healthy meals 3x/day with two snacks in between (eating approximately every 3hrs will help kick start your metabolism)
  • Keep carbs to earlier in the day
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get others involved in your goals (your doctor, trainers, work out buddies, and moral support in general can be a big help)
  • Do your research to better understand your diagnosis and how to work with it

For those of you struggling with hypothyroidism or any other chronic health condition: do not give up on yourself… not ever. Weight loss is a challenge, but with the right support you can do it in a healthy and safe way. It is important not to compare your progress to those around you because your body chemistry is different and it is painful to watch sedentary friends lose weight while you consistently kick your own butt in the gym … at least it sure is for me. There are plenty of books and accounts out there for you to check out about hypothyroidism, remember that your experience will be unique to you as mine has been to me. I wish you all the best of luck in your fitness endeavors.

Laura’s Note: I am so incredibly proud of Chrity’s transformation. She’s a beautiful person inside and out — and a HUGE inspiration to me! I am also proud to announce that Christy has officially signed up for her first half-marathon this Fall. Join Christy and I (and Maxwell!) as we run the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon on October 5th and let us know more about how YOU are finding your strong.

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Race Spotlight: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon

This weekend I had the pleasure of helping promote one of my FAVORITE half marathon’s in the DC area. Drumroll please…

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You may recall my race recap from this race in 2013. Max and I stumbled upon it after the Marine Corps 10k as Max was bitten by the half-marathon bug. This was his first half and he absolutely kicked butt! For me, it was my worst half-marathon time to date and I got double calf cramps at mile 9…but it is still one of my favorite races! That says a lot about the race and I’ll explain why:

  1. Microbrews. Runners know that most races hand runners Michelob Ultra at the end of a race, but the WWBHM let’s you pick a a delicious microbrew.
  2. The course. This race starts at Mount Vernon Estates, runs down GW Parkway, into Old Town Alexandria, and over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into National Harbor. The views are breathtaking!
  3. The size. The half is capped at 5,000 runners so it’s not too big and not too small.
  4. Support. I’m a middle of the pack runner. On this run I was a back of the pack runner. Calf cramps and poor hydration on my end pushed me to the back and I was happy to see that I had course support (water, cheering groups, etc) the entire 13.1. Thankfully that was very different than Heather Gannoe’s experience in the back to the pack.
  5. New 6k. New to running? Not up to the half marathon distance? No problem! Try the 6k option and join the party at the finish line!

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We will be back this year!

So this weekend I joined the official mascot of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon at the Purple Strides 5k in DC. Now Woody is pretty heavy…but don’t let that fool you…because he is fast! The crowd loved taking pictures with him, racing him on the course (he runs a 28 minute 5k!), and competing. Woody’s a pretty big mascot so he needs a little big of help to get around — so was more than happy to play Secret Service for the morning. Here are a few of the highlights:

DSCN0233 Even U.S. presidents have to pay for parking.  Tickets are no joke!

DSCN0260 Playing around on the Foosball, ping pong, and basketball games set up.

DSCN0273 Helping some new friends stretch so they’re ready to run the 5k.

DSCN0255 Snapping a TON of photos with the 4,000 people running/walking the 5k.

IMG_3168 Hitting the 5k course strong on a beautiful sunny day.

IMG_3299 Recovering with a banana and water post-race.

IMG_3345 Challenging a new friend to a push-up contest.

Want to learn more about the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon and 6k? Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter for more information and dive in! 

WWBHM FAQ

Guest Post: The Burning Truth About Skin Cancer

Welcome to Finding My Strong Blog’s first ever guest series. Over the course of the next 4 weeks I will be adding two guest posts from a wonderful writer who not only happens to be my best friend, but happens to be finding her own strong this year. Her journey through cancer, weight loss, and Hypothyroidism is one you won’t want to miss! Christy is a professional counselor and Mobile Crisis Team Specialist living in Annapolis, MD. Between lifeguarding for six years and subsequently responding to crisis situations with local police, Christy has learned to handle adversity, keep her cool, and how to make a plan of action. Christy is a strong believer in gaining support and learning from others and hopes to pass on some of what she has learned along the way. Christy’s journey to finding her strong is ongoing and you can follow Christy on Twitter: @beachnative27, on Instagram: beachnative27, and even on Snapchat for motivational gym snaps: (you may have guessed it…) beachnative27. Now join me as we learn more about to to build strong and healthy bodies through Christy’s inspiring journey.

Growing up I was that kid at the beach. You know… that pale kid… slathered in sunblock… wearing the oversized shirt… under the enormous umbrella. That was me from the time I was born until I became a teen and could conveniently “forget” to put on sunblock, or I could choose to toss off the shirt and escape the umbrella in search of a tan. I’m pale, that’s just a fact of life for people with strong German and Irish heritage; so the sun can be a major problem. I’ve always been pretty good about wearing my sunblock when I’m outside, and even though I have never once stepped foot inside a tanning bed, I still got cancer.

I love the sun! Growing up in San Diego on the beach and then lifeguarding each summer after moving to the East Coast meant that I saw a ton of sun as a kid. I still see it all the time between my various activities because my favorite place to be is outside. I was 18 years old when I was diagnosed with my first Stage 1 Melanoma. It was a small spot on my arm that I overlooked given my many freckles and moles; it simply looked like an extra dark freckle with a light colored ring around it. I asked my dermatologist for a mole check to have a baseline – for future problems I thought – when I was 18 and walked out with a bandage over my biopsy site thinking it was no big deal… but it was. I had cancer.

I am very blessed that all three of my melanomas were caught early and I have not had to undergo aggressive treatment like some of the people in the attached video. I have had one removed from the topside of my right forearm (2007), one removed from my left shoulder blade (2012), and one removed from the backside of my right ear (removed one month ago). The common factors about all three sites are that they see a lot of sun when you are not careful and consistent with sun block.

I’ve played sports my entire life, and currently I have gotten involved in league sports as well as pursuing fitness for my own goals. As I mentioned previously, I love to be outside so sunblock has become a permanent sidekick of mine. The various manufacturers have made it so convenient to wear that there are no good excuses to skip it. I’m outside a lot so I carry lip balm that has sun block in it with me at all times, and I make sure to apply sunblock at least ten minutes before my activity and then reapply every hour to two hours.  I also make sure to use a spray sunblock to go over the part in my hair and my scalp. I’m not perfect, I still get sunburns, but I do my very best to protect myself from further sun damage and cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, the sun is your friend. You need vitamin D for strong bones and you need sunshine to improve mood; but you don’t want to get so much that it ends up harming you. Learn from my experience and don’t face going in for biopsies of suspicious sites every six months (I have 12 scars from skin biopsies), wear your sunblock. When you go out running, swimming, biking, hiking, or any other type of outdoor activity… WEAR YOUR SUNBLOCK! Wear your sunblock even if you are only planning to be outside for an hour and wear it even if it is cloudy outside (cloudy days and water activity are deceptively dangerous for sun damage).

If you have freckles and moles, no need to panic! Just make sure that you know your body; keep track of your freckles, moles, and skin in general. If you notice changes in size, color, or shape be sure to get it checked out by a dermatologist. It’s smart to get freckles and moles checked by a dermatologist every couple of years just in case. As my dermatologist put it… skin cancer can pop up where the sun don’t shine … and she ain’t kidding.

If you really want that tan, consider getting a spray tan. Check out the link below and consider this… “Just one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20%1; and people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75%2. Knowledge is power, learn from others’ experiences and protect your skin so that it can protect you.

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For more information please visit: http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts

 References:
Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012; 345:e4757. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4757
Lazovich D, Vogel RI, Berwick M, Weinstock MA, Anderson KE, Warshaw EM. Indoor tanning and risk of melanoma: a case-control study in a highly-exposed population. Cancer Epidem Biomar Prev 2010 June; 19(6):1557-1568.

Seven for Saturday

What a week! I missed Five for Friday this week, so I thought I would join in on Seven for Saturday instead. Here we go!

1) Vega

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As a #SweatPink Ambassador I had the opportunity to review Vega Sport as part of the #FueldYourBetter campaign. I was originally introduced to Vega through their Vega One wellness line and was happy to see them dive deeper into a sport-specific line. The Vega Team sent me a box of sugar-free (super important!) pre-workout energizer packets in the lemon-lime flavor. The energizer is taken 20-minutes before a workout and enhances mental focus, increases energy, and boosts your endurance. At least 4 times a week I bike to and from work, and run when I get home. I find that after a long work day I am exhausted by the time I ride the 4 miles home and it is difficult to get my butt back out the door for a run. This week has been a little different! After being sick on Sunday and Monday I got back in gear on Tuesday and started using Vega Sport before I got on my bike. By the time I got on my run I felt stronger and was able to run my hill intervals at a more consistent pace than a usual work-day-drag. My super picky (but lovely) husband has even take packets to his office to use for his runs. A co-worker saw me mixing my packet and cringed at the green (and I mean GREEN) color of Vega and I let him try an ice-cold mix. He cringed a little more when I read off the plant-based ingredients, and he grew a little skeptical, and held the cup with caution. He was happy to find out that it in fact did not “taste green” but tastes a lot like a glass of iced tea! Vega Sport products come in three phases: prepare, sustain, and recover. I’ve only tried their prepare stage — so I cannot account for their other phases — but I am very impressed with it so far!

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2) Mother’s Day
This year we are spending mothers day with my mom by having brunch with my mom, cousin, sister, and her fiance. My mom loves the Elizabeth Arden perfume line, so we got her one of their spingy scents as a mothers day gift. Mama B is in the midwest so we mailed her a care package with a set of Bell & Jack preppy beachy earrings and a Super Bowl 43 shirt (Go Hawks!). Now go hug your mothers everyone!

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3) EnergyBits
As I mentioned above, I was out sick for a few days. I fit in a short run on one of those days (not advised) and sat out the second day. Whether it was food poisoning or a stomach bug I will never know…but I sure am happy it’s gone. On day 2 I received a great little package from ENERGYbits with a tin of their bits to try. Ever heard of them? They are tiny tablets of organically grown NON GMO spirulina algae and chlorella that eliminate fatigue and hunger instantly in just 1 calorie tabs. I took one as soon as I got the package with the hopes that it would help bring me back into the world of the living as far as my stomach problems went. The smell is a little hard to handle, but once you swallow the pill there’s barely any taste. It kind of reminded me of feeding my fish as a kid! I haven’t used EnergyBits on too many runs yet, but I am really looking forward to carrying it on longer-runs and half-marathons to take with salt tablets as a source of energy. We tested it out today at the 5k and loved it. Kyle compared it to drinking coffee post run minus the jitters, I agree. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. If you would like to try ENERGYBits out you can use the promocode “blog” when you check out for a 10% discount!

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4) Truckeroo
Once a month DC food trucks get together outside of National’s ball park for a food truck rally with bars, live music, yard games, and tons of great food trucks. My friends Christy and Kyle were over for the weekend so we rounded up the troops and went over for dinner. It may not have been the healthiest choice before a race day…but I knew we were taking this race easy and indulged a little! YOLO! Sorry…I said YOLO…moving on! My dinner included a Maine lobster roll, corn fritters, ice cream, and cider. Cheat day? Sure! But who could say no to this?

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5) MyOatmeal
Several SweatPink Ambassadors are big fans of MyOatmeal and I’ve read several reviews of their product. I was really happy to partner with them in reviewing their oatmeal. They have a really neat feature where you can customize your own blend from a whole host of ingredients and toppings in three different sizes. I made two “small” blends to try — and the small packages were actually larger than I expected and were packed full to the top! You really do get your moneys worth. The first mix was a “cookie” themed mix with oats, cookie dough, snickerdoodle, sugar cookies, flax seeds, pecans, and brown sugar cane. The second mix was “apple” themed and contained oats, apple pie, apple, gingerbread, apples, chia seeds, walnuts, and brown sugar cane. The flavors are AMAZING and I love all of the add-in’s like chia seeds and flax seeds that they offer. It’s hard to pick from so many amazing choices. For the past 2 weeks I have kept one bag of my “cookie” flavored mix at my office and one bag of my “apple” flavored mix at home. I use the at-home bag for snacks and breakfast and the at-work bag as a morning snack to eat after I bike into work. My little morning bike workout can leave my hungry during the day, but a small cup of oatmeal fills me up until lunch time and give me the energy I need to focus during the day. They’ve also extended a 15% discount on their oatmeal and PBLean blends for my readers. Simply enter “healthy15” when you check out! Oatmeal’s often listed as one of the “cheaper” health-foods and I 100% agree…MyOatmeal just proves that!


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6) BrokenMillenial
My best friend from high school has an amazing blog and writes for several outlets including Forbes and most recently TaxAct. Erin interviewed me for her most recent piece. Check it out!

7) 5k
Today we ran/walked the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure 5k in DC. My mom is a breast cancer survivor, as is my mother-in-law, and they are both some of the strongest and most wonderful women I know! My mom actually took part in some of their breast cancer research while she underwent surgery and treatment here in DC this past year. It was great to come full-circle and be there with her on this special day. My mom, sister, and her girl-friends walked the 5k and me and two of my friends ran the 5k. You know me, if there was a 5k run option…I had to run! It worked out well because we were able to get photos of my mom finishing and set up a cheering section for her. It was also really great to run with some of my best friends on this special day – these races always get me choked up. After the race, we headed to my mom’s house and we hosted a PartyLite party through Kyle along with a brunch for family and friends. Check out her site! And lastly, one of my cousins came into town this weekend to start his internship on Capitol Hill for the summer so he joined us as well. All-in-all a blast!! I will leave you with some of my favorite pictures from the race:

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Race Recap: Nike Women’s Half Marathon

This weekend goes down in the record books as one of my favorite races to date! For two years I have tried (unsuccessfully) to win a spot in the lottery for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC. On Friday, I got the call of a lifetime and was offered a sport to run as a charity runner and used my lunch break to zip down to the “expotique” (just a few blocks from work) to write my donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and pick up my packet. 30 minutes later I was back at work and on cloud nine! Everything ran so smoothly and as soon as I got the call I knew I could not turn this opportunity down.

My only hesitation was that I was not in “racing shape” because I had not been training for a half marathon. I am, however, down 15 pounds since my first half marathon a year ago and am running more consistently than when I trained for any of my other races. Knowing that I was in better overall shape now that I have been for any previous race in the past two years…I knew I could do it!

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Nike knows how to put on an adorable expo! Once I picked up my packet I went and picked up my dri fit shirts. I wore it while running errands on Saturday and it was so comfy – it will be a new favorite running top. Then I headed into the “expotique” and took a look at their Nuun stand, the adorable course map, the gear they were selling, tested out some Luna Bars, and checked out the adorable Paul Mitchell Salon inside the tent. Women’s races are fun!!

On Saturday Max and I ran our usually Saturday routine of visiting the farmers market (to pick up muffins from Enzo the muffin man of course) and grocery shopping. In the afternoon we attended a friends wedding mass and reception. Sadly no drinking or candy for me because of the race on Sunday. On Saturday, we took a little pit-stop at Road Runners Sport to pick up some last minute race day essentials. I picked up a new running tank top with headphone holes and a phone pocket included, a new pair of no-slip running glasses, salt stick pills, Nuun, a honey stinger waffles for a pre-run snack, and honey stinger chews for each mile. Their VIP membership saved me $10 yesterday alone. WORTH IT!

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I know I broke the cardinal “no nothing knew on race day” rule…but it was worth it. Nothing chafed, everything agreed with my belly, and everything fit well. This was the first race I used Saltsticks with and I will NEVER run a race without them again! AMAZING! They kept my legs from cramping the entire 13.1 miles…even on my dreaded mile 9 “sure cramp” mile!

My jitters on Sunday morning we so horrible that they had me up at 3:30 AM…so with less than 5 hours of sleep. I kept having horrible thoughts about calf cramps, not training (ok…I didn’t train), not meeting the race course cut off times, and not finishing. So sad! So I woke up and started to stretch and eat breakfast. I always eat a banana and a piece of toast with peanut butter on it. Today was no exception! I finished 1 bottle of Nuun while getting ready, packed one to drink while I stretched at the start line, and carried one in my holder. I applied half a roll of KT tape on my legs and created a secure masterpiece that I am sure help keep much of my pain at bay throughout the morning. Finally, I packed my bag and opted for an Uber car to pick me up and drop me off at the start line. After all, they were a Nike Women’s Half Marathon sponsor and I had a $10 credit to use as a participant! I hate feeling rushed on race morning, so I was at the start/finishers village at 5:30 for out 7:00 AM race.

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I used that hour to get some really great stretching in and finish a bottle of Nuun while listening to music to calm me down. I was wide awake and really enjoyed that calm before the storm. Since it was freezing cold I wanted to wait as long as possible to check my gear in and lines were short. Luckily, Max’s co-worker Lindsey, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the NASPA 2014 conference in Baltimore, MD, was also running the race so we lined up together. We were in the third (last) wave of runners to start and I had a fan girl moment when they announced that Shalane Flanagan would be running with us 15,000+ runners! Makes sense…since she is sponsored by Nike! Before we knew it…we were off…

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The first two miles zoomed by and we kept a great 10:50 pace until I was side lined by having to go to the bathroom. Anyone who has run a race knows just how horrible the portapotty lines are which also really mess up your time. Waiting in line took at least 3 minutes off of my times…oh well. Not much you can do! At mile 3 we hit the orange station at the Manadrin Oriental Hotel which was deliciously refreshing on a sunny day like today. Throughout the entire course supporters were cheering and high-fiving runners which was excellent motivation. The stations and aid kept getting better from there! Unlike previous races I hydrated really well in the 48 hours leading up to the race and I wrote out a plan for race day. I carried 1 small honey stinger chew for each mile after mile 4 and carried a bottle of water with me in my holder. I planned to take BOTH 1 Nuun cup and 1 water cup at each station AND take the course aid (shock blocs, etc.) and that really helped. I felt hydrated and fueled the entire 13.1 miles…no bonking! We are what we eat!

The views were phenomenal and I tried to snap as many pictures as I could. Here are a few:

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Some of the highs:

  • I really loved having Nuun at every aid station
  • Great supports like Luna Bars, Shock Blocks, and the chocolate mile
  • The beautiful course through DC
  • Awesome supporters cheering along the course and bands every few miles
  • Great weather with just a slight breeze
  • No blisters or chafing (thanks BodyGlide)
  • A new PR! More on that later!
  • Texts like these from my Ohana, friends, and family throughout the race to keep me going

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My friends are awesome!

Some of the lows:

  • Having to use a porta potty and losing my running partner
  • Speaking of which…porta potty lines as way too long
  • Haines Point felt like it was a never ending straight match
  • At mile 8 my left knee started to hurt and gave me problems for the rest of the run
  • As I rounded the corner of mile 13 my left calf finally cramped

One of the biggest highlights of my day was setting a new PR! I am a proud slow runner and seeing friends finish with sub 2 hour times is such an inspiration! My Rock and Roll DC Half Marathon time in 2013 was my PR (2:55:50) and my Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon Time was slightly above that. When I got to mile 7, just over the half way mark, I took a look at my watch and did the math…I could PR if I keep this pace…and there’s some wiggle room. I didn’t want to psyche myself up for disappointment so I tried not to dwell on it. Once I hit mil 11 I knew it was within reach and at mile 12 I knew it was mine! I could see Max at the finish line and crossed the clock at 2:41:04. I beat my previous PR by 14 minutes and 46 seconds today! AHHH! I look at my watch when I crossed the finish line, did the mental math, and broke down and cried on the “red carpet” finish line. A police office saw me and asked if I was hurt and needed medical attention. I laughed and told him I was fine. He looked relived and said, “did you PR?” and I nodded and he asked if I wanted my picture taken, haha!

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I made my way down finishers village and was wrapped in a heat blanket, handed an ice cold water bottle and chocolate milk, and given a treat bag of snacks from Whole Foods. Then the moment we all waited for…the Tiffany’s & Co. necklaces/medals!!!

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At the end of the street I was able to find Max and together we went to pick up my checked bag. We had planned to take Uber home as well, but the weather was beautiful and I needed to walk out that calf cramp that was starting to develop, so we decided to walk. We were only about a mile and a half from home so it wasn’t too bad! On the way home we found this sign at a bus stop and I had to take a picture:

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The rest of the day was spent on the couch with my legs up, compression socks on, and ice on my knees. Ladies and gents…what distance running REALLY looks like:

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I’m feeling great so far, had a delicious steak dinner courtesy of the hubby, and have ice cream waiting! Ahh the joys of eating whatever you want because you just burned 2,000+ calories! Have a wonderful night everyone! Keep finding your strong!

5 for Friday!

#1

Both my mom and my mother-in-law are breast cancer survivors and 2 of my favorite people in the world! Last October I was able to run a 5k with my mother-in-law when she finished radiation to support breast cancer research and on May 10th I get to run/walk the Susan G Komen 5k with my mom! My mom picked this race because she participated in a research study while she underwent treatment. The research doctors were at each of her surgeries and appointments and she knows firsthand how important the research is. If you are in the DC area we would love to have you join our team and walk with us! If not, we would greatly appreciate your prayers, positive thoughts, and donations to research if possible. You can check out our page HERE.

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 #2

This week I threw my name in the ring to be part of Saucony’s 26 Strong project. Saucony pairs up 26 veteran marathons with 26 cadets (or first time marathoners) and together they train and run a marathon this year. I first followed the project when NYCRunningMama was selected as a coach last year. As you can tell, Saucony is the inspiration behind my blog and the maker of some of my favorite shoes! To make it even better, a local DC area coach whose blog was the first running blog I followed, Mile Posts, was selected as a coach for 26 Strong. There are so many amazing and inspiring applicants so I am trying to not get my hopes up too high – but I would be SO stoked if I won it! I met all of the criteria (having run a half marathon, no injuries, etc.) and find out on the 17th if I made it. Only 26 do…AHHH!! I often watch these Saucony ads when I need a little pre-run inspiration (it works) and thought I would share. The second video is actually Mile Post’s Saucony ad!

 

#3

Marathons have been on my mind (hello, 26 Strong Project) but so have triathlons. My dad is a triathlete and I’ve been feeling a strong tug towards more distance biking and triathlons. Right now I am very overwhelmed with the sticker shock of road and tri bikes because my hybrid bike is not going to cut it…especially if I need to keep up with my dad! My dad needs a biker buddy when he moves back here in July and I want to add biking in as cross training…so I am hoping he will help me out with a road/tri bike! Right now I am in the research phase and would love any input from triathletes on entry level tri/road bikes that won’t break the bank. The only bike I’ve test-driven so far is the Specialized Dolce. I loved it, but I am open to suggestions. Until then, I am pinching every penny so I can make this happen!

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#4

Easter is (almost) here! God is good! I am very thankful my boss gave us off for Good Friday and Monday to celebrate. It was wonderful to sleep in a little today and I am really looking forward to baking a ton, cooking Easter dinner with Max, and celebrating Easter. This is our first Easter without our parents near by (mine are in the Philippines and his as in Missouri) so we are cooking a feast for two this year! On Saturday my sister and some friends are going to a tapas lunch and watching Heaven is for Real. We lived in Spain for 4 years so Alicia and I will jump at any chance to drink sangria and eat paella! Gift giving is definitely one of my love languages and over the last 2 weeks I have made 3 Easter baskets (one of Max, one of my sister-in-law Natalie at college, and one for our friend Tim). I love making them and can’t wait for people to enjoy them. I’ll post pics after the Easter Bunny visits because I don’t want to give any secrets away!

#5

KT tape. Every heard of it? I don’t have any injuries but everyone has the occasional ache or pain. When these aches or pains flare up I love to help them out by using KT tape. Think of it as a tape brace! I use it on my hips, IT band, shin splints, knees, everything! I was first introduced to a KT-tape like product in high school when I dislocated my shoulder but needed to tape it down to play volleyball. I’ve been “stuck to it” ever since! This weekend I wrote out a message on my tape as a reminder to offer up the pain or struggle of running for those who can no longer run. We are all #BostonStrong this week!

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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!

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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!