Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Crossfit Experiment

There's a huge element missing in the world of triathletes:  strength training.  We all KNOW we should do it, but it seems to get pushed to the back burner in favor of longer bike rides, mammoth training runs and hours and hours in the pool.

Which is why I'm crowning 2012 The Year Of Strength.   I've piddled around in the gym here and there for....well, forever.  I've done personal training and body pump classes.  But I've never put strength training as a priority.  January 1st I'm going to change all that with Crossfit Endurance.

This is an experiment for myself.  I know I can run 26.2 after riding my bike for 112 and swimming 2.4.  I've done it four times.  But not being able to do a decent push up?  There's something wrong with this picture.

So I'll be documenting my six-month journey here on ye ole' blog.  I'm going to try and take my longer-is-better training strategy and do a 180, focusing on shorter, more intense training sessions.  I met with Crossfit trainer Dave Eaton yesterday for my fitness evaluation -- and let me tell you, I can barely walk today. 

With no Ironmans scheduled this next year, it's a perfect time to give this new philosophy a whirl.  Escape From Alcatraz is in six months.  Let's see if Crossfit Endurance will turn me into a better, stronger athlete.  Bring it on 2012!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Biggest Loser To Run Phoenix Marathon

Do you..
want to run...
with this guy?  
I do!  
Introducing John Rhode, the latest winner of 
NBC's The Biggest Loser.  

Rhode began his journey on the Biggest Loser Ranch at a whopping 445 pounds.  A coach and high school teacher from Mesa, Arizona, Rhode beat out the top three contestants at his final weigh-in of 220 pounds.  That's 225 pounds of weight loss, folks.  

Along with his new found physique is a healthier, more active lifestyle.  That includes RUNNING!  John has committed to race the Phoenix (half) Marathon on March 3, 2012.  We are excited that he is joining our growing list of competitors.  

So become a loser, who is really a winner, and sign up today. is the website.  This inaugural race is an event for the record books -- downhill, cool temps and a super fast PR course.  And, the chance to run from the paparazzi, who will most surely be out to check on the new celebrity runner.   

See you at the race!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Swap Outs

In these weeks of perhaps less training hours and more calorie intake, food choices can make or break the triathlon or marathon plan.  A 2007 Runner's World article had some smart "swap outs" in the food department.  After all, it is a lot easier to skip the 25-calorie Hershey's kisses than it is to run them off (a quarter mile).  Or is it... you decide.

Here are a few of my favorite suggestions:

Choose olive-oil based dressing instead of cream dressing.  Top your salad with an olive-oil dressing and save about 90 calories per two tablespoons over creamy blue cheese or ranch.   A reduced-fat olive-oil dressing saves a whopping 120 calories per serving.

Choose Kefir over yogurt.  Yogurt is a great source of calcium but often comes with lots of sugar and without healthy live bacteria.  Try Kefir, a low-fat liquid yogurt with extra live cultures to boost immunity. 

Choose natural peanut butter instead of standard peanut butter.  When you pair natural peanut butter with a real fruit spread that lists fruit as the first ingredient, you eliminate added sugar, corn syrup, sucrose, and high-fructose corn syrup from your diet.

Choose whole-grain past instead of refined pasta.  Fresh whole-grain past contains more health-boosting anti-oxidants and fiber (to fill you up) than refined versions. 

Choose ground turkey over ground beef. Cut 10 to 20 grams of fat per three-ounce serving by substituting ground turkey for ground beef. 

Choose baby romaine and spinach over iceberg lettuce.  Iceberg lettuce offers little nutrition, while young romaine and spinach leaves are rich in carotene and other phytochemicals.

Choose snow peas, peppers, radishes over carrots and celery.  Carrots and celery are a good start, but add peppers for vitamin C, snow peas for the electrolyte potassium, and radishes, which contain compounds that protect muscles.  

Choose low-carb tortillas for white-flour tortillas.  White-flour tortillas pack 150 calories and zero fiber.  Low-carb versions offer eight grams of fiber for just 90 calories.   

Choose pomegranate or cranberry juice and club soda over sugary fruit drinks.  Try club soda mixed 1:1 with 100-percent fruit juice like pomegranate or cranberry - both of which are loaded with the powerful cancer fighter anthocyanidins - to save 50 calories per serving over a sugary fruit drink.  

Choose Omega-3 eggs instead of standard eggs.  The Omega-3 fats in these enhanced eggs boost immunity, protect against Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and cancer, and may lesson symptoms of depression. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Best Kept Secret, Times Two

I KNOW it sounds crazy to swim outside in the morning in the winter.  Baby, it's cold out there, even in Arizona!  Wearing a quarter yard of Lycra fabric when the temp reads 38 degrees just doesn't seem right. 

Here's the best kept secret in the triathlon world:  morning swims are the greatest when it's cold outside.  As the pool tarps roll back and the steam rises up off the water that's been heated and reheated all night long, there's not a much more comfortable place to be. Cycling and running can chill you to the bone on a cold winter's morn -- frozen fingers and drippy noses -- you know what I'm talking about.  Swimming however, is the womb-like sanctuary for all climate types.  You can swim while it's snowing, you can swim when it's windy -- if the water temperature is sufficiently heated, you're good to go!

And here's another swimming secret you should know about:  the swimmer's snorkel.   The swimmer's snorkel was designed for competitive swimmers to specifically train better form and larger lung capacity. 

According to Finis: The Swimmer's Snorkel allows swimmers the ability to focus on stroke technique without the interruption of turning your head to breath. Allowing for a full range of motion this tool can be used for all strokes. Relax in the water and maintain body alignment to improve stroke efficiency. 

There's a bit of a learning curve to this apparatus.  You'll need to start out slow and remember not to turn to the side and breathe.  But the steady focus you get while using it allows complete concentration on body position, arm rotation and kick efficiency.  The coaches at Mesa Aquatics Club call it the single most effective piece of equipment a swimmer can own.  And for less than $40 retail, that's a pretty great deal. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Calgon, Take Me Away

Take heed all you candy cane lovers, there's more to peppermint than just Christmas treats and breath mints.

Recently I was introduced to peppermint oil.  My first encounter was at yoga, where the instructor lightly misted her students with peppermint water while we were in savasanah.  It was delightful and added a nice fresh mist to the stinky yoga participants.  I had such a complete love for this spray that I had to know more -- why was that mist so refreshing and why did my body seem to crave it?

Lucky I have a friend in the biz.  And she happens to be family.  Joni Lang is a cousin and also a rep for doTerra Essential Oils.  Joni and I had a little sit down and I ordered a few oils of my own just to keep them handy around mi casa.

So last night, feeling all achy and tired, I tapped a few drops of peppermint oil into my hot bath.  And, oh-me-oh-mi, my bathtub instantly transformed into a luxurious stay-cation in the fountain of perfection.  The oils soothed my aching joints and the aroma opened my airways and filled my lungs with heavenly goodness. 

I don't know too much about essential oils.  But I do think they have healing properties and health benefits.  I'm looking into them.  (I've heard lavender oil rubbed onto the feet is a peaceful sleep remedy.)

Stay tuned.  I've still got lemon to try.  And if you don't want to wait around for me, contact Joni for all your doTerra Essential Oil questions and advice. 

And if you DO know more about all these magical elixirs, leave a comment and school me.  I would love to know more.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"I AM a Runner"

Sacha joined Gorilla Multisport just three months ago.  She ran her first 10k this Thanksgiving.  And she will be running her first half marathon in January at the PF Chang's race.  I was so proud when she crossed the finish line at the Turkey Trot.  This is what makes coaching so worthwhile.  
This was the first year I have participated in the Turkey Trot. I would have probably considered it in the past as an event I would participate in with friends and family but would most likely have walked most of the way. This time I ran, because I could, which made it much more fun. 

I asked a friend of mine, Kristi, to join me and she did. We had a great time struggling to find a bathroom to use before the race... NOT!  The lines were incredibly long and so as most others were doing, we found a bush and went.  

During the race, the crowds all seemed to stay together so it was pretty hard to pass at times, but we figured it out. I made it in under one hour and four minutes which is so far the fastest I have ran. I could not have imagined running the entire six miles before.  If  you would have asked me a year ago if I could do it... my response would have been "No, I am not a runner."  

But what exactly makes a runner? If you ask me it takes dedication and commitment, for me almost to the point of obsession.  You are a runner if you are willing to, and want to, run rain or shine, hot or cold, tired or not, pain or not -- no excuses .  I have been running since the middle of September without any excuses stopping me. I have taken a vacation and ran.  I have worked over 40 hrs during the week and ran.  I have been sick and ran and I have ran during the busy holidays. 

If I can do it, anyone can!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spicing Up The Treadmill Run

It's inevitable that as the weather gets colder, the treadmill seems a little more friendly.  But if you can't stand the sight of that big machine of pain, try these simple workouts, courtesy of David Schipper of Men's Health magazine. 

You may not know it, but every treadmill comes factory equipped with a "faster results" button. Push it and you'll burn more fat, build stronger legs, and boost your fitness level to an all-time high—without adding a second to your workout. There's just one problem: This magical interface is labeled "incline" on the control panel. And that means hardly anyone touches it.

It's easy to understand why: Running on a grade is harder, even though your pace is slower than on a flat surface. But that extra effort is the driving force of a more efficient workout. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that uphill running activates 9 percent more muscle each stride compared with exercising at the same relative intensity on level ground. And if you're not dialing up the incline, you're practically running downhill: English scientists determined that a 1 percent treadmill elevation is needed just to replicate the energy requirements of running on an outdoor track.

Of course, that hill up the road can accomplish the same thing. Feel free to attack it—just follow our advice. Hills deliver an exhilarating workout and great results for racers, from a PR in your weekend 5K to Meb Keflezighi's silver medal in the Athens Olympic Marathon, which came after he added extra hill work to his training. Either way, moving your workout to higher ground yields greater dividends from the same time investment.

Because you can control the degree of incline, treadmills provide an added benefit beyond protection from the elements. "Exercising on a machine allows you to structure hill work that is very specific to your goals and level of fitness," says Rick Morris, author of Treadmill Training for Runners. Ramp up your workout and tap the full potential of your treadmill with our guide to indoor hill training—it's as easy as pushing a button.  

The Workouts
Choose the workout that best fits your goals, or rotate workouts. Varying your approach each session is a great way to reap the benefits of each type of training while banishing boredom. Before each workout, warm up for 5 to 10 minutes by walking or jogging at an easy pace.  

The Gut Buster Your goal: Fat loss
Carrying extra pounds makes running harder and increases your risk of overuse injuries, particularly to the knees. But a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that an uphill grade of just 3 degrees reduces leg shock by 24 percent. That's why this workout from Men's Health contributing editor Michael Mejia, C.S.C.S., intensifies by incline, not speed. "It not only eases the stress on your knees, but also increases the involvement of your hips and hamstrings, which quickly elevates heart rate and calorie burn," says Mejia. Warm up, then increase the belt speed to 4 mph for 3 minutes. That's enough for a fast walk. (Most people don't need to break into a run on a flat surface until at least 4.5 mph.) Maintain that speed for the duration of the workout and simply adjust the incline according to the chart below. You'll notice that the session grows more difficult as you pro-gress, so be prepared to push harder as you go. If it's too hard: Lower the grade to 0 percent for each 2-minute segment, while keeping the 1-minute intervals as shown in the chart.
Time Grade
1 min 2%
2 min 0%
1 min 4%
2 min 2%
1 min 6%
2 min 4%
1 min 8%
2 min 6

If it's too easy:
Set your speed to 4.5 mph for the duration, or simply continue the wavelike progression as long as possible. (So your next step would be a 10 percent grade for 1 minute, followed by an 8 percent grade for 2 minutes.)

The Champion Builder
Your goal: Maximum endurance
Swedish researchers found that marathoners who ran hills for 12 weeks improved their running economy by 3 percent. This translates to a 2-minute reduction in your 10-mile time and 6 minutes off a marathon— without exerting any more effort in the race. To put that in perspective, consider that 6 minutes was the difference between a medal and 26th place in the 2004 Olympic Marathon. For you, it might mean breaking 4 hours in your first marathon or setting a personal best in your next 10K.
"This workout features steep, gradual, and rolling hills, bringing all the aspects of hill training into one session," says Morris. You'll be able to recover energy on the short hills in order to charge the long climbs. Set the treadmill to a speed that's about 90 seconds slower than your normal mile pace. So if you usually run 8-minute miles (7.5 mph), set the treadmill to 6.3 mph, the speed equivalent of a 9-minute mile. Then change the incline of the treadmill at the indicated mile marker.
Mile marker Elevation
0 to 1 1%
1 to 2 2%
2 to 2.5 5%
2.5 to 3 2%
3 to 3.5 8%
3.5 to 4 2%
4 to 4.5 5%
4.5 to 5 2%

If it's too hard:
Stop when you've had enough, and progress by trying to run 10 seconds longer in your next workout.
If it's too easy: Repeat as many segments as you can, starting at the first mile marker.

The Mountain Challenge
Your goal: Sports conditioning
Over the years, professional athletes have used hill training to prepare. And no venue is better known than "the Hill"—a steep 5-mile trail in San Carlos, California's Edgewood Park. It was the site of the legendary off-season training program of former San Francisco 49er and Oakland Raider Jerry Rice for more than 20 years. The rigors of the perpetual ascent simultaneously improve physical conditioning and mental toughness, the X factor of athletic performance.  Use this mountain workout from Morris and you can train there, too—even if you live in Wichita.

After your warmup, raise the treadmill grade to 5 to 8 percent (lower for beginners, higher if you're a seasoned vet). Then set the speed to a pace that's about 3 minutes slower than your best mile time.
So if you can run a mile in seven minutes (8.5 mph), you'll set the speed to the equivalent of a 10-minute mile pace, which is 6 mph. Run at that speed and grade for as long as you can maintain conversation in short spurts (three or four words at time). Once you're breathing too hard to talk, shut it down and record your distance.
You should strive to run a little farther—even if it's just 1/10 of a mile—each time you repeat the workout. One to two miles is good for starters; make it to 5 and you're ready for the hall of fame.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Keeping Up The Motivation

Brrr.... it's getting mighty cold out there.  And if you're anything like me, the motivation to get up and out for a run in the dark, frigid temperatures wanes in favor of the toasty warm comforter and soft sheets that hug your body in your bed. 

What gets you up and out in the morning?  I'd love to know.

As for me, I really enjoy visual motivation.  And the Runner's World calendar helps keep me excited about running, even as the weather does not.

The RW Calendar is an optional purchase to all Runner's World subscribers.  I have ordered the calendar every year because I love it.  It's a great visual reminder to keep on running in all kinds of places and it all kinds of weather.  The calendar has beautifully inpiring photos of fabulous running routes around the world.  The biggest and best marathons are marked in the date boxes.  And on the sidelines, the RW editors pack in tidbits of advice and inspiration to improve running performance, stay injury free and dedicate your days to this fabulous sport.  The back page of the calendar has a pace chart, so you can predict your next marathon time or plan your strategy to set a new PR.

You can order the calendar separate from the Runner's World magazine.  But if you have a runner on your Christmas list, or want to become one yourself, I suggest a RW subscription AND the calendar to start the year off on the right runner's foot!  Go ahead and pick your races and plan your year.  A race on the calendar is one of the BEST ways to Just Keep Running! 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Lyke These

I get a lot of jabs for the watches I wear -- and by jabs I am mean laughs behind my back for lack of fashion sense.  Most of my watches are digital, have a face the size of a small computer, take my pulse rate, chart my elevation,  and come with an attractive chest strap.  Which is why I like to switch things up a bit -- be a little more funky and fresh.

Here's my latest find:  Lyke watches at  Lyke is a fun alternative to the sports watches athletes wear on a daily basis.  These timepieces come with one basic face, and up to 10 different wrist bands to mix, match and personalize any one's style. 

Lyke watches are perfect for the older set like me, who lived and loved the Swatch watch craze of the eighties.  And teenagers love them because they "go" with everything.  Plus, at $60 for one watch and five different colored wristbands, they're affordable and stylish too!

Best of all for me, da da da dah! they're WATERPROOF.  No more concern about jumping into the Master's pool with your "good" watch again.  Leave the Cartier at home, it's Lyke time, baby.

Check out to see what this new craze is all about.  Christmas is only twenty something days away -- and I can't think of a better gift for anyone on your list than this happy, new, fun watch! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Swim Cap Accoutrements

As the final registration and medical tents were being taken down at Ironman Arizona and all the swag and paraphernalia was being jammed back into the 18 wheelers, one of the paid staff handed me three boxes of leftover goodness: inside, stacks and stacks of Ironman swim caps.

"I hate to see these get thrown into the trash" she said.  "If you could find a swim club that could use them, we would be so appreciative." 

So without further ado, may I present the fabulous Mesa Aquatics Club modeling some of their finest swim cap creations.  Thanks for making this fun, Coach Laura.  A swim cap design contest was a splendid idea.

Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True