Strength Training & Running: Rep Fitness Equipment Review

Disclaimer: I received a free set of free weights and kettlebell from Rep Fitness Equipment in exchange for an open and honest review. Thanks! Hello again! Today, I wanted to press pause on all of the running and speedwork talk and switch gears for a minute to talk about strength training.

Rep Fitness EquipmentMy first experience with strength training was with forced lifting sessions in my high school gym when I was doing indoor and outdoor track.

2 Generations Running. Long Jump.

Possibly my favorite throwback pic of all time.

It was a tiny little room crammed with machines that was always PACKED when the track team shuffled in to do our workouts. I was not a fan. It always seemed relatively pointless and boring. I didn’t see how any of it was going to make me faster on the track. Running hill repeats made sense to me, as painful as those were. Calf raises and squats? Sure didn’t seem like those were doing much.

I’m pretty sure I rushed through the exercises (probably with horrible form) so that I could get out of practice early. Needless to say, when I got back into running on my own in college, weight training was never part of the agenda. I’d happily run my miles, shower, and take off for class – no stretching or pre-hab of any kind.

Fast forward a few years, and I started working with my coach, Mary the genius behind Lift Run Perform. Mary has always preached to me the importance behind strength training for injury prevention in running. The fact is, all of us have imbalances in our bodies. All of the pounding we put on our bodies by running high mileage adds up and often leads to problems down the road.

My most recent injuries are a testament to just how true this is. First with the Achilles tendonitis – probably the result of imbalances in my calf muscles. Now my physical therapist has me doing all these variations of heel raises to work on creating truly bullet-proof calves. And I can already tell it’s working – my tendonitis is essentially gone (after lingering for MONTHS.)

Fast Half Marathon Race Recap

Eeked out a small half marathon PR… and a case of Achilles tendonitis.

Then there was the hamstring strain. This one was pretty unfortunate in that I was actually trying to work on strengthening my hamstrings when I hurt myself. I was doing some hamstring curls with an exercise ball when I felt the muscle tweak and immediately stopped. A few days later, doing speedwork in the Rock n Roll Montreal Half, it gave way, turning into a very painful strain.

It’s becoming very clear to me that to train at the level that I want to, I HAVE to put in some work outside of running miles. That’s why I was so excited when Rep Fitness reached out to me. I have slowly been working on building my own little home gym so that I have no excuse to skip strength training. I love the free weights and kettlebell they sent me. I opted for 10 lb weights – versatile enough to use on a variety of different exercises and a 25-lb kettlebell (which strangely enough I’ve started referring to as Big Bertha in my head.)

Rep Fitness EquipmentOther equipment that I highly recommend for a home gym:

  • Exercise mat
  • Set of lower weight dumbbells (you’d be surprised at how hard some exercises can be only using 5 lbs!)
  • Resistance bands

rep fitness equipment

As my hammie recovers, I’m looking forward to using my kettlebell in some deadlifts and squats to really get to work on strengthening my hamstrings and preventing future strains. With the addition of my new free weights, I’ve already gotten back into doing some of my favorite Fitnessblender videos – Tank Top Arms Round 1 and Round 2.

I think it’s important to remember you don’t need to have an expensive gym membership to be able to strength train (especially if you are the type of person who has difficulty motivating yourself to get out the door and actually go to the gym). Choose a few key pieces of equipment and utilize resources on the internet (TRUSTED RESOURCESnot just any old website) to learn about correct form and various exercises.

Do you strength train? What’s been your worst running injury?

Advertisements

Riding the Roller Coaster

So remember all the confidence I was spouting off about in previous posts as I nailed workouts and tempo runs in the previous weeks?

Well, I think that is pretty much out the window.

The hamstring issue does seem to be a minor one and it is healing. I went for a 5 mile easy run on Tuesday with no discomfort whatsoever, which is good. This past week, my physical therapist cleared me to resume running as usual – but no speed work yet. But the fact of the matter is, that I have essentially lost at least 2 weeks of training. Last week, I ran a whopping 2.5 miles on Sunday and while I’m resuming my routine this week, my long run will only be 12 miles.

Philly is 6 weeks away and I have yet to crack 15 miles.

I know it is better to go into a race a little under-trained than over-trained and that is what I keep telling myself, but I’m frustrated and upset that a stupid little hamstring issue is derailing what was the start of a great training cycle.

I don’t know what this means for my time goals for Philly. My stretch goal was a BQ (which would have to be around a 3:32 for my age group). I always knew that was going to be hard, but that 8:00/mile pace was starting to feel really comfortable and I was beginning to think I might just be able to do it. Now, I don’t know.

Am I considering that time completely out of the realm of possibility? No. I am still going to work as hard as I can during these next 6 weeks to get to that starting line feeling strong and healthy and ready for 26.2 miles. I just feel like it suddenly became infinitely more difficult.

Anyway, I had to vent my frustrations. Pity party over, time to get to work.

46 days to Philly.


Rock n Roll Montreal Race Recap

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Rock n Roll Montreal] as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

This past weekend, I got to check off 2 items on my running bucket list –

  1. Run an international race.
  2. Run a Rock n Roll race.

Check and check!

Montreal is about a five hour drive for me making it a very doable road trip. I enlisted a couple of friends to join me for the adventure and we made the drive up the Friday before the race.

As far as fitness goes, I was feeling extremely prepared for this half marathon (my 19th!). I’ve been regularly running long runs in the range of 12-14 miles and I was excited to use the race as a tempo workout since my main focus is on the Philly Marathon right now. Yeah, my Achilles had been giving me some issues but it had been responding very well to physical therapy and dry needling so I didn’t anticipate that being an issue at all. I was correct in that it wasn’t my Achilles that gave me issues, but I’ll get to that…

My friend and I finally got to our hotel around 5 pm on Friday. We were staying at a Holiday Inn in downtown Montreal that had been listed as one of the recommended hotels on the RnR website. This worked GREAT. We were about half a mile from the expo and right across from the metro station (which was free for all runners to use on race day!).

Saturday, I woke up a little early and went out for an easy 5 miler in the city, only getting slightly lost in the process. It was a nice quiet morning, but even at 7 am, you could tell it was heating up. According to one of our Uber drivers, this weather was very unusual for Montreal – it was 85 degrees on Sunday! Race organizers even decided to cancel the full marathon that was originally scheduled to take place along with the half marathon. While I feel horrible for all the folks who spent months and months preparing to run 26.2 miles this past weekend, I do think this was the right decision. There was not a lot of shade out on that course and those are just brutal conditions to run a marathon in. Participants had the option to downgrade to the half marathon, transfer to a different Rock n Roll event, or get a full refund, which I think was a fair solution to a bad situation.

After getting a nice carb-loaded breakfast with my friends, we walked over to the expo. It was in a large convention hall which was definitely a little confusing to navigate. We weren’t really sure if we were going the right way a lot of the time and we saw other runners who looked a little lost as well, but we finally made our way to the entrance hall. I had printed out my confirmation sheet with my bib and corral # on it earlier in the week, so I breezed right through to pick up my bib and shirt (which I LOVE!).

Rock n Roll Montreal

The expo was pretty big with plenty of vendors and my friends and I had a blast walking around and checking it all out. We had plenty of samples, did a little shopping, and tested out the coolest foot massage machine EVER (I may need to add this to my Christmas list).

Rock n Roll MontrealEven with none of us speaking French, we had no issues communicating with anyone or figuring out where to go once in the expo. I didn’t know quite what to expect in terms of a language barrier, but thankfully we never had any problems.

The rest of the day we spent walking around touring the area. If I had been trying to PR, I would have been more worried about all the time on my feet, but I knew it wasn’t going to be that type of race so I didn’t stress about it. I tried to just focus on constantly hydrating to prepare for the temperatures.MontrealMontreal Rock n Roll Marathon

Rock n Roll MontrealAll the walking around definitely tired us out because my friends and I were happy to chill in the hotel room in the evening, eating dinner from our beds and watching a couple of movies. I had a little trouble falling asleep, but slept well once I finally passed out.

Finally, it was race morning! I got up at 5 and prepared my usual pre-run breakfast of toast with almond butter and honey and coffee while I got dressed. I headed out to the train station around 6 am, wanting to be on the early side for the 7:30 start. Thankfully, there were plenty of other runners in the train station and I had zero issues figuring out where to go. I had to switch lines after a couple of stops on one train and when I got on the second train, I found myself standing right next to another Bibrave Pro, Bradley! It was great having a friend to chat with about running and other Rock n Roll races as we made our way to the start.

Rock n Roll MontrealOrange is the new fast!!

As we climbed up onto the Jacques Cartier bridge where the race began, we got incredible views of the sunrise, the amusement park La Ronde, and all the corrals stretching out across the bridge!

Rock n Roll Montreal

I was pretty excited to be starting in Corral 2 (I put 1:45 as my seed time which I was surprised put me this far up!). The only thing about starting on the bridge was that it made it logistically challenging to warm up. Most of the bridge was reserved for the corrals with a narrow driving lane on one side for police and race officials. I had wanted to run a mile pre-race, but that didn’t really end up happening. I settled for dynamic drills in my corral.

Rock n Roll MontrealRight on time, we were off! The elites in Corral 1 started first and then my corral was up, about 3 minutes later. The first section of the workout my coach had written for me for the race was 2 x 2 miles at 8:01/mile with half mile recoveries. My first 2 miles were 7:54 and 8:00. A teeny bit fast, but the first mile was shaded and downhill, so I didn’t think it was an issue. I slowed down for my half mile recovery and gave myself a little pat on the back for hitting my first few paces. For the second set, I ran 8:02 and 7:53. I was feeling on top of the world, thinking to myself that I was going to NAIL the workout. The course was pretty flat so despite the warm temperatures, I was feeling really strong, enjoying the bands and the whole race atmosphere.

The next section of the workout was 2 x 2 miles at 7:32 pace with mile recoveries. I knew this was going to be tougher than the 8:00/mile pace but I felt pretty confident I would be able to handle it. For the first mile, I was right on target for around 7:35, but dropped to a 7:40 after slowing slightly at a water station. Still, pretty good. Then, there was a somewhat sharp turn up a steep ramp onto a bridge to take us back into Montreal. As I pushed up this ramp, I felt my hamstring twinge. I tried to keep pushing along at my 7:30 pace, but the pain along the back of my knee kept intensifying with every stride. Not good. I realized it was not a cramp and that it was not going to resolve itself, so I backed way off. Running around a 9 minute pace with smaller strides seemed to help so I settled into that while I tried to figure out what to do. I thought about dropping out. I didn’t want to do any serious damage. I honestly didn’t know how that would work though. I was worried about finding my friends after the race (we weren’t able to text since we had all turned our cellular data off) and I thought if I dropped out that I would get caught up with the medical and wouldn’t be able to connect with them.

I decided to keep going, but I let go of the idea of anymore sub-8 miles. The race really switched for me at this point. It went from being totally awesome/such a great day/so much fun to I just want this to be over/don’t cheer for me, this sucks/what the eff do I do. I tried to think back to what the hell had brought this on and I remembered when I had been strength training on Monday that week. I had gone to do some hamstring curls with an exercise ball – I did one and felt my right hamstring twinge. I immediately stopped and thought to myself, “That didn’t feel good, I think I’m done with those.” I had run plenty of easy miles later that week and kind of forgot about it since everything seemed fine.

Apparently not.

I dramatically slowed down from Miles 9-13 and tried to focus on enjoying the setting and the race itself. Back in mainland Montreal, there were TONS of spectators and so much cheering. I was really sad that my leg wasn’t cooperating because it was literally the perfect atmosphere to push yourself – I don’t think I’ve ever run a half marathon with that many spectators. I started to feel a tiny bit better between miles 10-12 and thought I might be able to finish at around 8:30-ish pace. I ran 8:49/8:37/8:18 for miles 10,11, and 12. And then my hamstring seized up even worse than the first time. It almost felt like a cramp, it felt so severe.

I pulled over to the side and tried to stretch for a few seconds, but I didn’t have much hope that it was going to help. From there, it was a slow shuffle to the end. I was constantly getting passed and mentally I just felt like a wreck again. By this time it was really hot too. Thankfully, there were tons of fire hydrants that the city had opened along the course so that runners could cool off by running through the spray.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally reached the finish line. I got a cold soaked towel, my medal and a bottle of water. My official time ended up being 1:52. I really wanted to find the med tent to get some ice but I never found it. The park where we finished was pretty big, which was great but did make it a little tricky to find things. Thankfully, my friends and I had picked a spot to meet up at and we quickly found each other.

Rock n Roll MontrealLove the medal!!

Overall, I was very impressed with the Rock and Roll experience. The bands along the course were frequent and added such a festive element to the race. They had also clearly taken a lot of precautions to keep the runners safe in the warm temps (plenty of water stations, opened fire hydrants, misters along course). While there were a few moments when I wished there had been somewhat better signage/direction, it was pretty dang smooth for a race with 10,000-ish runners. Sunday wasn’t my day, but I’ll just take that as a good excuse to start looking for another Rock n Roll race to sign up for!

 


3 Weeks to RnR Montreal!

Hello and Happy Labor Day!

Hope you all enjoyed the long weekend! I got in some great workouts, got ahead on some food prep for the week, and generally enjoyed a pretty low key weekend.

I had a couple of tough workouts this week that I absolutely NAILED, which has me feeling pretty excited for Rock n Roll Montreal. It’s only a few weeks away at this point and I am so stoked!! I’m getting to participate as part of my Bibrave ambassadorship and I can’t wait – my first Rock n Roll race AND my first international race!

I worked on Saturday this past weekend, but then had Sunday to myself to get in my long run. The workout was 2 mile warm-up, followed by 4 x 2 miles at marathon pace (8:01/mile) with half mile recoveries, and then a 2 mile cool-down. I LOVE these long tempo runs and I was excited to give this one a shot. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t looking great for Sunday and we were supposed to get hit with the remnants of Hurricane Harvey. When I started the run, it was cloudy and lightly drizzling, but not bad at all. I had my phone safely wrapped in a plastic baggy, but I was hoping I’d be able to finish up before it got too crazy. No cigar.

The rain and wind progressively picked up as I ran and by the time I got to the third set of 2-mile repeats, it was really pouring. My shirt was soaked through and felt like it weighed 5 lbs. But I was crushing my paces, so I focused on staying tough and reminded myself that I have no guarantees for what the weather will do in Philly so I might as well get used to it. During the last set of mile repeats, my wireless headphones died from all the water (currently trying to revive them using the old bowl of rice technique).

Splits for the 4 x 2 mile segments were: (1) 7:59, 8:01 (2) 8:07, 8:03, (3) 8:08, 8:06 (4) 7:59, 7:48. BOOM! I was really surprised by how controlled I felt at this pace. Not super easy but it doesn’t feel like an all-out sprint the way it used to. Progress is happening, I can feel it!

I also spontaneously tried my hand at a mile race on Thursday night! It was a track event called the Mob Mile

Mob Mile

I’ve never raced a mile before (track or road) and I was excited but admittedly nervous to try it. I think my best mile time before this was a 5k I ran last year where I went out WAY too fast and ran a 6:57 for my first mile. So I guessed 7 minutes for my seed time, but I figured I could probably run under that.

(Not a great photo considering it was dark but gives you a sense of what the heats were like!)

It was so fun to be out on the track again and when my heat went off, I tried to focus on staying calm and not going too hard in the first couple laps. I really wanted to make sure I would have something left over at the end so I wouldn’t have to crawl across the finish line. Mission accomplished!

Mile race

My official chip time was a 6:43, but you can see looking at this chart from my Garmin that I was speeding up at the end – I felt so strong!! I’m aways off it now, but someday I’d like to break 6 minutes for the mile.

Oiselle VoleeI also got to meet some of my new Oiselle Volee teammates! I joined this group back in April and it’s been so much fun connecting with other women who love this sport as much as I do.

Anyways, sorry for the rambling post, but that was what I was up to in my running this past week!

75 days to Philly

19 days to Montreal

 


Long Runs and Dry Needling

Hello!

So despite having a lot of time on my hands (I start my new job next week), I’ve been totally lazy about blogging. I’m not sure why, but I guess I’ve been feeling a little bit of writer’s block.

Anywho! Let me update you on what’s been going on of late.

Last week, I ran an awesome 12 mile workout. There was a 4 mile warm-up, followed by 6 miles around goal marathon pace (I was supposed to start these around 8:15 and then cut down to 8:01/mile). Then 1 mile at 7:32, followed by a 1 mile cool-down. As you see, I didn’t quite hit my splits, but I was really happy with how well I did considering this was the longest block of miles I’ve run at goal marathon pace since I started training.

12 mile workout

Though it wasn’t bad, I was still feeling some discomfort in my Achilles on this run. I stopped and did my ankle circles which helped, but I was feeling annoyed that here we are, 4 months later, and I’m still dealing with this. That afternoon, I did a little research on places where I could get dry needling done as I had heard really good things about that treatment method. Because who wouldn’t want a bunch of needles stuck in the back of their ankle?!

Count me in gifI found a place very close to my apartment and gave them a call that Monday. To my complete amazement, they had an appointment available the NEXT DAY.

Without going down too much of a rabbit hole here, the place is awesome. The doctor I saw spent just over an hour with me, getting my history, assessing my movement/flexibility, coming up with a treatment plan, and yes – dry needling my ankle (which was not as painful as I would have expected actually). I’ve never felt so excited about physical therapy before. I have a whole bunch of appointments set up for September and I feel really really good about the whole process.

After the dry needling, I took a day to rest my Achilles with no running. I did do a lot of walking around that day and while it was a little sore and looked kind of bruised, it wasn’t too bad at all. The following day I ran 35 minutes easy and it was like MAGIC. I couldn’t believe how good my ankle felt. I had gotten so used to having to stop after half a mile to do ankle circles to loosen it up, but for the first time in ages, I didn’t feel like I needed to stop at all. If you are reading this and dealing with Achilles tendonitis, do yourself a favor and go get some dry needling done ASAP! Don’t be an idiot and wait months to try it the way I did.

My ankle has continued to feel good into the weekend so on Sunday I did 90 minutes easy with 4 strides, which worked out to 10 miles on the nose. I slept in and took my time getting out the door and kind of paid for it with how sunny it was out. I was carrying water though so that definitely helped.

So my mileage dropped down a bit this week with all the Achilles stuff going on, but it will likely pick back up again this week since I’m feeling good. I have another round of PT on Monday as well.

83 days to Philly! This Friday I start my new job! Very excited about all the things going on around here. 🙂


Exciting Things Are Happening

Hello and Happy Monday!

CallieHere’s another cute picture of Callie because she is my fave and whose Monday can’t be improved by looking at a cute cat picture?

This week in running featured a good speed workout and a 12-miler on the weekend (eee, longest run since May!!)

On Wednesday, I ran the following workout-

Speed workout

The distance worked out to about 7.6 miles (my cool down was a little over a mile). I didn’t have a track to run this on so I just used a nice flat stretch of my usual running loop. It was a little awkward looking down at my watch to see where I was at on distance for each repeat. Overall, I think I did pretty good and my last set of 200s was nice and fast.

We officially hit this mark –

I was thinking the other day that I’m kind of glad I still have 3 months to go till this race. I haven’t had to do any 16-20 milers yet, and maybe (*fingers crossed*), we will make it into the cooler Fall weather before I have to run that long. I remember SUFFERING through some hot and humid long runs last year training for Baystate and I’m kind of glad marathon training hasn’t been like that this year.

My 12 miles on Saturday was fueled by Nuun performance hydration mix. I picked up some of this at the Boston Marathon expo back in April and I’ve been waiting for some longer runs to really test it out. I LOVED it on my run today. It’s not as sweet as Gatorade but it still gets you those electrolytes.

Pre-long run there was coffee. Obviously.

Nuun

And then on the run, there was Linkin Park.

Linkin Park

I loved Linkin Park when I was in high school but I hadn’t listened to them much recently. After learning about Chester Bennington‘s passing, I started listening to more of their music again and remembered how much I loved it. And it is AWESOME running music.

My total mileage for the week bumped up to just over 37 – keep the miles comin’!

In non-running news, I have an exciting announcement (that actually is kind of running-related)! After 2 years working in the obstacle course racing industry, I am changing jobs! I will be working at a local running store in the Boston area and assisting them in putting on local road races. I am SUPER excited. 🙂 It will mean less travel and it won’t be the typical 9-5 office job. I’m sad to leave my coworkers but overall I think it will be a great change of pace and I’m glad to be a little bit more immersed in an industry I am absolutely passionate about.

So lots of happiness and excitement going on in these parts.

Hope you had a great weekend! Have you been watching the IIAF Track and Field World Championships at all? Emma Coburn’s performance in the 3000m Steeplechase was AMAZING!


Welcome to the Family!!

Happy Monday everyone!

I have some exciting news to share….

Callie

CallieI’d like to introduce you all to Callie, my new kitty! I adopted her last weekend and we’ve been getting comfortable with each other ever since. She likes to stretch out by my running sneakers and pretend like she was the one who went for the workout.

FlexibilityShe is such a sweetheart and I’m so glad to have a new furry friend in my life. 🙂

Anywho, let’s talk running! I am just about 100 days out from Philly and happy to be sinking my teeth into training again.

This week’s workouts included:

On Wednesday – 2 mile warm-up, 4 x 1 minute @ 6:32, 1 minute recoveries, 2 x 2 minutes @ 7:32, 2 minute recoveries, 2 x 3 minutes @ 7:32, 3 minute recoveries, 4 x 1 minute @ 6:32, 1 mile cooldown. I won’t lie – I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep all these intervals straight in my head while running so I wrote the workout down on my hand.

I wasn’t super excited about this workout – I just don’t really enjoy the feeling of constantly changing pace and never really settling into a rhythm. Still, I was happy when I was done and most of my splits were spot on or a touch fast.

Sunday was long run day with some marathon paced miles. THIS was a workout I was excited about. 3 mile warm-up, 2 x 3 miles @ 8:05/mile, with a 3 minute recovery, 2 mile cool-down.

Here’s how I did:

SplitsI was a little nervous after the first 3 miles that I was going to fall apart on the second set, but I ended up being more on target than the first set, running 8:04, 8:00, and 8:04. Still, it didn’t feel easy (or like I could run 26 miles at this pace). My plan is to keep assessing as we get closer to Philly on whether I need to adjust my goals.

While this run was pretty solid, I did something weird with my gel where there was still some left in the wrapper when I shoved it in the little holder I had for my handheld water bottle. Next thing I knew, during my cool-down miles, I realized I had brown goo (not the brand GU, I was actually using a Huma gel) smeared all over my white shirt. Not sure how I did that, but I’ll need to figure out a better system.

Just over 35 miles for the week and my Achilles has been feeling good so I’m feeling optimistic and excited to see what’s coming! **Funny fact: One of the things that always used to make me hesitant to work with a coach was because I liked to be able to look at a training plan for a race and see the whole picture and know what I was getting myself into. Now, I kind of like getting my workouts/training plan on a weekly schedule because it’s kind of a fun surprise to see what I’ll be running! Plus, I trust that my coach is thinking of the whole process and taking into account where my body/fitness is right now, which a training plan can’t do.

Do you have any pets? Any cat people out there? (I used to be strictly a dog person but I’ve come to love cats too now – clearly!)