January #GoalGetter2013 Check-in

In case you haven’t realized it yet, today is first day of February.  So that means four things.

  1. Tomorrow is Groundhog day.  Now that I live in the South, this doesn’t mean much any more but to my Northern friends, it’s still a fun tradition.  I’m betting good old Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow.
  2. This is officially marathon month – EEK!
  3. The Super Bowl is this weekend.  I’m not going to pretend I actually follow football, but I will be cheering on SF.
  4. It’s time to recap my January goal.  (Yep, I only had one.)
How could anyone care more about a football game then this cute little guy? It's the overbite that does it for me.

How could anyone care more about a football game then this cute little guy? It’s the overbite that does it for me. {photo source}

But before I recap my January goal, I want to brag for just a sec.  That sounded totally narcissistic, didn’t it?  Anyways, I had a killer training month! I logged a total of 205 (+change) miles in January. I ran 141 miles and cycled 60.  Woot-woot!! Alright, I’m done patting myself on the back and can now move into the rest of the post.

If you remember, some of my fellow blends (bloggers + friends = blends) came up with a fun Instagram challenge to keep us on track with our 2013 goals.

goalgetter2013

My goal for January was to increase my upper body strength.  If you remember I tried to increase my upper body strength last year through my 100 Pushup fail challenge.

Before: Taken 11/17/12After Taken: 12/30/12

Before: Taken 11/17/12
After Taken: 12/30/12

But I didn’t see any visible results.  When something doesn’t work for you, don’t quit.  Try something new.  So to the drawing board I went to create a new plan of attack and came up with Big Blue, my new tool for success.  I also set mini goals of going to the gym once a week to hit up the weight machines.

How did I do??

Taken: 1/29/13Ignore my awesomely sweaty self.  That's what 7 miles of speed work does to me.

Taken: 1/29/13
Ignore my awesomely sweaty self. That’s what 7 miles of speed work does to me.

I by no means turned into the Incredible Hulk but I’m so proud of my baby biceps! Might not look like much, but there was a lot of hard work that went into that teeny-tiny bulge.

Even though January’s firmly in the rear-view mirror, I’m not giving up on my strength goal.  This is just the beginning of progress.  I have a whole year to develop the muscle tone I want. Watch out 2013, I’m coming for you!

February’s Goals:

  1. Run marathon #2 aka Rock-n-Roll New Orleans.  I don’t have an official time goal.  I want to finish somewhere in the 4:20s.
  2. Sub 2 hour 1/2 marathon (PR). I’m not sure if this is going to happen. With marathon training, I’ve been focusing more on endurance then speed so I’m not sure if I’m conditioned enough to run a sub 2 but I’m going to give my best effort.
  3. Spend more time in the kitchen.  These past few months I have gotten way too comfortable with blending my meals (smoothies / protein shakes) instead of taking time to cook something.  This often leaves hubby hanging for supper which means he seizes the opportunity to get fast food. #WifeFail

Those seem totally doable.  I have a 20 mile run on tap for tomorrow and then bring on the taper! How did this marathon sneak up on me? It seems like just yesterday I was just starting to train for it.

Question:  Do you think Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow?  Who do you want to win the Super Bowl?

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Kettle Whaaaat?

For those of you that follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen noticed this picture I posted on Friday.

Say hello to my little friend.

Say hello to my little friend.

Let me introduce you to Big Blue, my newest tool to help me reach my core / upper body strength goal.  Yep, I named my kettlebell.   Thanks to my friend Stacey, I’m now the proud owner of a 15lb piece of pain inducing, muscle making cast iron free weight.  Yippee!!

After owning up to my 100 Push Challenge flop I wasn’t ready to give up on my goal of increasing up core and upper body strength.  Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

Don’t ask why I just randomly quoted Dirty Dancing.  It seemed appropriate to me.  But I digress…

I remember the first time I heard someone talking about doing a kettlebell workout, it was about two years ago and all I could picture was a huge cow bell.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to swing a cow bell around as a workout.  Oh, Gina.  *sigh*

Yeah, I'm not ashamed to say this is what came to mind when I first learned about kettlebells.

Yeah, I’m not ashamed to say this is what came to mind when I first learned about kettlebells. Whoops….

Fast forward to me getting back into shape and the light bulb comes on… Oh, you mean it’s not actually a cow bell?  And it’s not just for upper body strength?  Cool!  I’ve actually been wanting one of these torture devices for about a year now but every time I thought about buying one I needed new shoes, or I registered for a race, or bought workout clothes, err, you get the point. So when Stacey offered to give me her’s I jumped at the opportunity.  SAHWEET!!  I love freeeeee.

I took my new prize home and immediately started googling.  I’m a dork and like to know the history behind things, how they work, why they work, etc… so I did some research on kettlebells.  Turns out they’re not new at all, just to me.  They were developed in Russia in the 1700s and were used as part of their army training programs well into the 20th century.  Cool right?

220px-Russian_stamps_no_534_—_Dumb-bell_lifting

Russian stamp featuring a kettlebell.
Source: Wikipedia

And kettlebells aren’t just for building upper body / core strength.  They’re actually a really great total body workout tool.  I quickly found out that it’s one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can have at home.  The versatility should make my hubby the minimalist happy because it means less equipment he has to try to find a space for.

After checking out the history  and benefits, I naturally wanted to give it a try.  I turned to the best free video resource out there….Youtube….and found a workout video that looked doable.  It was only 12 minutes long and had you do a 3 sets of shoulder presses, kettlebell swings, bicep curls, and clean and presses.  Sounds easy right?

HOOOOOOLY TAMOLE

The first 120 seconds went well.  I’m like this is cool, challenging, but cool.  I finished the first set.  During the 2nd set I started to feel the burn and by the time I finished the 2nd set, my body was full on, OMGeeee, what the heck are you doing to me?! I didn’t do the third set but I was really happy with my workout. Plus it gives me something to work towards.  If you’re curious to check out the video I used, here is the link.

And then, because I’m a total glutton for punishment, I did 6 miles of speed work immediately after my kettlebell workout.  Hello Yassos!  My goal is to run a sub 2 at my next 1/2 in February (2 weeks before the Rock-n-Roll marathon) so I need to start focusing more on speed.  All-in-all, I’m really excited about incorporating the kettlebell into my routine.  I plan to do it twice a week along with using the weight machines at the gym once a week.  After the beating I gave it last night, my body hates me today, but doggoneit I’m making good on my upper body strength goals!

Question:  Have you ever done a kettlebell workout? What’s your favorite way to strength train?

100 Pushup Fail

If you remember about 7 weeks ago (I know, that was like an entire year ago) I wrote about my 100 pushup challenge.  The basic premise of the challenge was to increase my upper body and core strength through a 6 week program designed to get you to 100 pushups.

pushupsIf you’re the type who skims posts, I’ll give save you the trouble and give you the short and not so sweet version:  I failed.

For those of you still reading, here’s what happened.

I started the challenge out with realistic expectations.  I had very little upper body strength and wanted to do something about it.  So I downloaded this 100 Pushup app and set on my merry way.  I did a fitness test before starting the challenge to see what level I should start on. I was able to do 10 good form (boy) pushups which meant starting on level 2 (there’s only three levels).  The program has you doing pushups 3 days a week and uses a rep/rest pattern.

pushups

This was the day I quit on. At first glance it seems harmless until you realize that you do 14 pushups, rest 45 seconds, 14 more, rest 45, 15 pushups, rest, and so on & so forth. The final tally is 150 pushups for the day.

Week one went by and yes, it was challenging but doable.  The first day I had to do 25 pushups and by the end of the week 1 (day 3) I was up to 42 pushups.  Week 2 came and I found myself still trucking along at a total of 60 good form pushups at the end of week 2 (day 3).

Week 3 (day 1)  started with 72 pushups and the last day ended with 88 pushups and a fitness test.  Apparently I failed my fitness test because I actually got knocked down to level 1.  I’m not going to lie, I was pretty happy to be demoted.  Also, during week three I wrote a brief update on my dislike for the program; I hadn’t yet been demoted.

The gratitude of being demoted didn’t last long because I soon found level one kicking my tail.  Week 4 came and went and then I made it through my first set of 100 pushups on week 5, day 2.  I thought I was going to die.  I managed to do all of them the regular “boy” way but found myself with a whole slew of problems during the last few reps.  My wrists and palms started hurting really badly, I developed a shoulder ache in my left shoulder and I was having trouble breathing. Not to mention I’m pretty sure I altered my form to help ease some of the issues I was having.

This is exactly how I felt.  Like someone cut my arms off and then beat me with them.

This is exactly how I felt. Like someone cut my arms off and then beat me with them.

Week 5, day 3….120 pushups.  Oy, what was I doing?! Week 6, day 1….130 pushups.  This was where I quit.  I made it almost all the way, I only had two more days left and I would have finished the program.  However, those 130 pushups killed me.  In fact, around 100 I had to stop doing ‘good form’ and finish with the girl ones.  I found myself almost in tears after finishing those stupid 130 pushups.  Tears from both pain and frustration.  I’m not one to quit but I knew there was no way I was going to be able to complete the 150 pushups week 6 day 2 had scheduled or the 170 pushups week 6 day 3 was prepared to heap on me.

So what did I learn from this?  First to forgive myself; I’m not a failure.  It’s ok to draw boundaries and acknowledge what I’m capable of.  I was not physically capable of finishing the last two days.  Does it irritate the snot out of me that I didn’t finish something? YES! But do I feel bad about it? Nope.  I did notice an increase in my strength; mainly my core, shoulders and back.  I was really hoping to increase the muscle tone in my arms but as you can see from the before/after shots, that didn’t happen. Oh well.

Before (100 pushup challenge) edited

IMG_2545

I was trying so hard not to laugh while taking this picture.

Would I tell people about this app? As much as I hated it, I probably would.  Would I give it a glowing endorsement? Definitely not.  I really think this program should be stretched out to 8 weeks.  The intensity of going from only doing 10 pushups in a day to 130 (170 if I had finished it) is just way too much for me personally to handle – at this time.  To end on a positive note, I will at least say I enjoyed the structure of program.   And I did manage to do a total of 1,049 pushups during my 5 weeks and 1 day.

So there you have, the good (what there was of it), the bad and the ugly. And I guess I’m a masochist, I’m actually considering trying it again.  I hate that something got the best of me.

Question: Have you ever reached a physical or mental breaking point? What did you do to overcome it?

100 Push Up Challenge

Thank you all so much for the encouragement and support from Friday’s post about my brother’s death.  It means more to me then you may ever know.  I had a blast over the weekend celebrating my brother’s life by getting splattered with paint at The Color Run in New Orleans.  I’ll have a full recap on it next week but here’s at least a bit of a teaser shot for you. 🙂

Looks fun, right? Well, it was!! I’m still finding random splotches of blue on me….

Onto the the heart of the post….If you are even a part time peruser of my blog than you know that it’s no secret I have basically 0% upper body strength.  And I’m not being modest; although, I wish I was.

As a runner, obviously, most of my energy is focused on my lower body but by doing this, I’m totally cheating myself out of the benefits that upper body strength can bring to the table.   Not only does have a svelte upper body look great but it also increases endurance in running.  Think about it this way, the faster and longer you can swing your arms while running, the faster and longer you can run.  During marathon training when I was doing 8 miles of speed work, I would feel every bit of those miles the next day in my traps and deltoids.

Now that I’ve started training for my second marathon, I want to make sure to address this deficiency.  And, I’m not going to lie, I kind of really want that svelte look I mentioned earlier.

I said svelte, not stacked, Arnold!

Several times throughout this past year I’ve gone to the gym and lifted weights only to find myself stopping after a few workouts for whatever excuse I could concoct.  I have the type of personality that responds really well to structure like training plans and challenges (like my no sugar detox which ends today) so when I found  100 Push Ups, I was pretty stoked.  Plus I can do it right in the comfort of my own home….in my PJs. They even have an app for your smart phone (their website’s pretty simplistic but the app is better).

If you’re wondering why I would rather do push ups instead of targeted weight training at the gym, the answer is simple: push ups are one of the most effective upper body exercises you can do.  Pushups work numerous muscle groups simultaneously and you’re already equipped with everything you need to do them – no fancy gym equipment required!

All the muscle groups worked by pushups.
Source

The 100 Push Up Challenge is a 6 week program that is supposed to take about 30 minutes a week.  30 minutes…I think I can handle that.  It starts with an initial assessment and then works on increasing the amount of push ups you can do.  I was only able to do 10 ‘good form’ pushups so that’s my starting point.  Meh, there’s only one way to go and that’s up, right? Realistically, do I believe that I’ll be able to bang out 100 push ups at the end of 6 weeks? No.  But, if I can even get to 50 consecutive push ups, I’ll be completely satisfied.

I started the challenge last week and let me tell you, my arms have never felt like jello this much!  Saturday was the end of week one and I had to do 42 good-form pushups.  Yowza!  At least the program has you do a rep/rest pattern. To give you an idea, the break down of Saturday’s program went like this: 8 pushups/rest 120 second, 10 pushups/rest, 7 pushups/rest, 7 pushups/rest, and finally 10 pushups….Done, son.  I’ll give updates on my progress periodically over the next 6 weeks and hopefully I’ll have a great before and after picture to share. So here’s the before picture….GULP!

No filter used; just a bad self-timer. Can you spot the photo bomber?

Question:  Do you do any weights workouts to compliment your lifestyle?

Spartan: Am I Tough Enough?

So often with this blog I just ramble about my life (that’s what a blog is for, right?) but today I really need your advice.  I have been wanting to do a mud / obstacle run for about a year now.  So far my race schedule hasn’t worked out to do any and I’m reeeeeeally getting antsy.  I mean what girl doesn’t want to get covered in mud and jump over fire?!

At the beginning of this year I discovered the Spartan Race.  The  best way I can describe it is the Warrior Dash’s big brother…on steroids.

I watched the video, thought to myself these people are insane and then promptly searched for locations in my area which yielded nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nothing even close.  However, it turns out that the Gulf Coast has lots of crazy people that wanted a Spartan Race to come near us.  Pretty soon there was a Facebook page called The Gulf Coast Demands a Spartan Race and then I started seeing petitions to have one come down here.  Next thing I know the Gulf Coast is getting a Spartan Race – yippee!

Alright, so I know you’re thinking “at the beginning of the post she said she needed my advice where the heck is this going?”  Well this is where you come into play.  See I really, really, REALLY want to do this race but unfortunately it’s only 13 days after my first marathon.  I have no idea what shape I’ll be in or if my legs will even still be functioning.  Plus, I think I’ve failed to mention that I have 0 upper body strength.  It’s pitiful, I can do like 10 boy pushups before my form starts to breakdown.  (Hello strength training??)  To give you an idea what I’m talking about, these are some images from the Spartan Race Website.

So, my lovely readers, what are your thoughts?  Am I tough enough to Spartan or should I play it safe and recover?  What are your experiences with back-to-back intense events like this? The final thing I think you should know is that I’m already registered for the Color Run on November 17th.  If I register for the Spartan race I’ll be racing 3 (if you want to count the Color Run as racing) out of 4 weekends in a month.  I’m a compulsive race register(er) and I’m worried I’m suffering from the ‘eyes are bigger then my stomach’ syndrome…. The deadline to sign up for discounted registration is August 15th.  HELP?!?!