Friday, February 27, 2015

5 Things I Love About the Nike Plus Running App

I am an app person.  If there’s something to be done in life, I probably have an app for it installed on my phone.  

One of my favorite apps is the Nike Plus Running App.  It does more than just log my miles; it also helps motivate me to keep on running.

Here are the top 5 reasons I love the Nike Plus Running App:

1)  It tracks my overall mileage.  I love opening the app and immediately seeing the number climb up to my total mileage to date.  That visual reminder is really a huge motivator – it helps me see how far I’ve come and gets me excited to keep adding to that total.

2)  It has a great GPS system.  I am a huge fan of finishing a run and feeling as if I’ve accomplished something.  Seeing a big yellow outline of the course I just ran is so powerful.  It brings me so much satisfaction knowing that I ran that distance and that I can definitely do it again!

3)  It allows people to root for me.  There is a feature on the app that submits a post to Facebook whenever I head out for a run. If one my friends “likes” the post, the app automatically plays applause and cheers in my earbuds.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a particularly difficult part of my run, struggling and tempted to give up, when a cheer comes in.   It gives me just the boost I need to keep going and finish strong.

4)  It lets me challenge myself and others.  Running is usually an individual sport, but it can still be really fun and inspiring to connect with running buddies.  The Nike Plus App allows you to set up challenges with your friends to see who can cross the finish line first – choose a distance, find friends who are also using the app, and then get running.  A little healthy competition never hurt anyone, right?

5)  It has a built-in running coach.  Training for a half marathon? Want to start with a 5K?  If you have any kind of running goal in mind, the app’s built-in “coach” is a lifesaver.  You select the distance you want to reach, and the app will populate a personalized calendar to tell you exactly how far to run each day.  It takes all of the guesswork out of training and lets you focus on getting to race day in the easiest way possible.

The app is available on iTunes and Google Play.  Give it a try!

Today, I'm joining the Friday Five Link Up (hosted by DC Bloggers MarCourtney, and Cynthia). 

Do you use the Nike Plus Running App?  What is your favorite running or fitness app?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Music Makes Every Run Better

Whenever I go running, I fire up my iPod, turn on my music, and get moving.  Sometimes I listen to an audiobook if it’s a real page-turner, but usually my feet move best to certain tunes.  On my last run, I realized that my running playlist is actually one of the main reasons that I always make it to the end of the course.  The songs don’t necessarily make me run faster, but they do help me stick with it and keep going.  I become immersed in a song, and the feelings of achy muscles or tired lungs mostly go away.  When I have a great song in my ears, I can run anywhere.

Many of the songs are probably not what you would expect to see on a pump-up-and-run playlist (Celtic music, alt rock, electronica, among other more traditional fitness fare), but these particular songs have a way of filling my head and making me forget that I’m exercising.  They help the tough part of working out seem easy, and I feel as if I’m dancing along to the finish line.

This is my personal running playlist:
Mirrors – Justin Timberlake
Madness – Muse
Let’s Dance – Craig David
Siulil A Run – Celtic Woman
Just For Now – Imogen Heap
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Glee Cast
The Mummer’s Dance – Loreena McKennitt
Little Wonders – Rob Thomas
Undressed – Kim Cesarion
Be Without you – Mary J. Blige
Animal I Have Become – Three Days Grace
Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
Not A Bad Thing – Justin Timberlake

And the latest addition (I just added this yesterday):
One Last Time – Ariana Grande

Some seem pretty strange, huh?  They work wonders for me though!

What are some songs that you have on your running playlist?  Do you ever run and/or exercise without music?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Movie Fitness: 3 Movies That Inspired Me To Get In Shape

Today, I’m joining The Fit Dish Link Up (hosted by Jill and Jessica) to talk about the movies that have inspired me to make a change to my once-sedentary fitness level. This is the perfect topic for me, because I love movies.  I am frequently found in the midst of a Netflix marathon - the only kind of marathon for which I am currently a Grand Master. There is often a stigma surrounding pop culture’s ability to cause people to act, particularly if those actions are negative.  Still, some movies can inspire people to do amazing things and make great changes.

There are 3 movies that have helped shape my own interest in running, in fitness, and in making wellness a bigger part of my life.

1) Run Lola Run 

This was one of the first movies that really got me interested in giving running a try.  Never mind that the titular character Lola was running primarily to save her boyfriend’s life from thugs.  She still looked cool doing it, and I imagined how I might run through the streets while barely breaking a sweat.  In reality, my runs actually go something like this:

      2) Premium Rush 
      Damn, bike messengers are amazing athletes!  Seeing them dodge in and out of rush hour New York traffic was like watching a ballet of strength and fitness.  Now, that’s a workout that gets the heart pumping and the legs moving.  Man, I really need to get to spin class!

      3) G.I. Jane 
     This goes without saying – Demi Moore was in phenomenal shape for this movie.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve replayed that training scene in my mind – the one-armed pushups, the reverse crunches, the pull-ups.  I always remember the quote about her struggle to pull her own body weight out of the water.  G.I. Jane helped me realize that fitness is about more than being skinny; it’s also about gaining muscle, getting strong, and pushing past your physical limits.
What movies or scenes have inspired you to get in shape? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Weekend That Was: 5 Awesome Things That Happened, Plus Some Monday Motivation!

Time for a quick recap of my weekend, plus a little Monday Motivation to get us all up and moving again!

My weekend was fantastic!  I got all of my favorite things in – running, pirates, Disney, new clothes, and ice cream (well, sort of...).  Here are the top 5 things that happened from Friday through Sunday.

1) I found a new running track.  I was super excited to discover that there is a little hidden track in a recreational area near my house.  I can’t believe that it’s been there, all this time, ready for my feet to hit its pavement!  It’s nothing fancy, but it seems uncrowded and within walking distance from my house.  Score!

2) I watched Black Sails. Mike has learned by now that I have a Saturday night date every week with my guilty pleasure TV show, Black Sails.  Since Sons of Anarchy (my previous go-to show) is over, Black Sails has filled that spot for me.  I’m addicted to the pirates, the sets, and basically everything about the darn show.  As I've said before, I get excited about the little things.  :)

3) We had breakfast with princesses.  As annual passholders for Walt Disney World, we frequently take the hour-long drive over to Orlando to spend the day at our favorite place.  Mike and I decided that we’d try something different this weekend, and I made reservations for the Princess Storybook Dining at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in EPCOT.  It was amazing!  The girls loved having one-on-one time with the princesses without having to wait in long lines and walking in the Princess Procession.  Oh, and did I mention that the food was great?!? We didn’t walk out of there hungry!  (Plus, we arrived at the same time that the Princess 10K was finishing up - bonus!)

4) I received my first StitchFix box.  I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first StitchFix box.  StitchFix is a subscription service that pairs you with a stylist who sends you new clothes monthly (or more frequently, if you’d like) based upon your personal style profile.   Whatever you don’t like, you simply send back in an envelope that StitchFix provides.  It’s perfect for me, because, honestly, I just don’t have the time to go to the store to get any fresh updates for my wardrobe.  While I liked everything in the box, I absolutely loved two of the pieces, which I'll keep (the arrow-print blouse and the blue polka dot cross back top) – the other items will be going back today.  I can’t wait to see what comes next month!

5)  I exercised extreme willpower!!  On the way to pick up Taylor from her Girl Scout cookie booth, Mike, Emma, and I took a quick detour to Cold Stone Creamery.  I was so proud of myself – I ordered ice cream treats for everyone but myself.  I consider that a major achievement for me.  Just a few months ago, I would have asked for a pint of chocolate ice cream with brownies, M&Ms, and peanut butter cups mixed in – this time, I didn’t really even feel tempted.  Go, marathon training!

And now, a little Monday Motivation…

Today, I'm linking up with Running 'N' Reading's Weekend Update.  Go check out all of the other awesome weekend recaps too!

What was one fun thing that you did this weekend?
Do you have a busy week ahead?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Five Races to Run in 2015 (Or Rainbows, Forrest Gump, Ice Cream, Rivers, and EPCOT!)

Today I’m joining the Friday Five Link Up (hosted by DC Bloggers Mar, Courtney, and Cynthia) to talk about the five races that I’m most looking forward to this year.  I have more races scheduled in 2015 than in any year before, so I’m excited about really adding up the miles.  I have a goal of running in at least 15 races before December, and at this point, I’m already signed up for 18!  Some of these are old faves of mine that always find their way onto my yearly list, and some are brand new to me.

1) Color Vibe – 3/21/15: This is a fun tradition for me, because my daughter Taylor and I always run the Color Vibe together.  In fact, this was Taylor’s very first 5K a couple years ago, so it does hold a special place in my heart.  Besides that, there really isn’t anything cooler than running through a blast of colored paint powder and coming out rainbow-covered from head to toe.

2) Easter Beach Run – 4/4/15: This 4-miler is sponsored by Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant, so naturally Forrest Gump shows up in his running shoes for pictures with everyone.  It starts and ends at the Daytona Beach Pier and has the distinction of being the oldest footrace in Florida history.  Plus, the medal looks like a super shiny Easter egg!

3) NSB Sundae Beach 5K - 6/28/15: OK, be honest.  Is there really anything wrong with ice cream for breakfast?  Not in my opinion.  Needless to say, the Sundae Beach 5K is right up my alley.  Held on the hard-packed sand of New Smyrna Beach, runners are treated to a make-your-own sundae bar at the finish line.  That’s what I’m talking about!

4) Remarkable River Run 15K – 9/13/15: This 15K is part of a race series that takes place throughout 2015 with different distances along the Halifax River at each event.  I will be running in all of the events, but I’m looking forward to the September race the most.  It will be my first actual 15K – yes, I’ve run races much longer than the required 9.3 miles, but the River Run will be my only dedicated chip-timed 15K to date.

5) RunDisney Wine & DineHalf Marathon – 11/7/15: Yippee!!  I am a diehard RunDisney fan (and I have been since my first Disney race two years ago).  Last year, I had to bow out of the Wine & Dine Half, thanks to the flu that kept me down for weeks.  This year, I’m even more fired up about completing this night run that culminates in a foodie’s paradise after-party.  The course takes runners through three of the Disney theme parks, which is a dream come true all on its own. 

It’s going to be a great year for running!

Will I see you at any of these races?
What race are you most looking forward to this year?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: My Very First RunDisney Race – Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler

In honor of the 2015 RunDisney Princess Half Marathon this weekend, I thought it would be fun to reminisce about my very first race at the happiest place on earth – the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler.

Two years ago, after months of late night runs and early morning cross-training, I arrived at Walt Disney World for race weekend on a humid October day.  I only live an hour away, but it was still a nice staycation with Mike, since we decided to make a weekend of it.  

My first stop was the Health & Fitness Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  I was almost more excited for the expo than I was for the race, because I couldn’t wait to have all of the vendors and products that I’ve admired from afar right there at my fingertips.  I spent more money than I really needed to, but hey, everyone needs a new pair of compression socks, right???

Afterwards, Mike and I walked EPCOT for a bit (I can never resist a creme brulee from France) and then lounged in the hotel for the rest of the day.  I couldn't wait for the evening so I could put my training into action and see all the awesome costumes that the other runners had created. I knew that one of the coolest parts of participating in a RunDisney race is wearing a costume, but since it was the longest race I’d run at that point, I decided to go simple with mine.  I painted a Maleficent-style pair of Mickey ears onto my shirt, and I made myself a matching hair bow.  Cheesy?  Yes, but totally me!

Once the sun set, I got decked out in my gear, and then we headed over to Hollywood Studios to get ready for race time!  

I walked anxiously over to my corral for the long wait.  It was nice to look at all of the costumes (some were so elaborate!) and chat with my fellow runners – I discovered that I wasn’t the only nervous person there that night.  Once the corrals started moving towards the start, I honestly had a moment of feeling like we were all in some sort of death march (OK, that’s a little extreme and dramatic, but I couldn’t help myself – my nerves always get the best of me!).

Each corral had its own special fireworks display.  That’s one thing that I love about RunDisney – they create more than just a race; it is an event.

When my corral was given the go-ahead, I was in motion!  I didn’t even think about it, I just started running down a corridor of green laser light overhead (one of the cool little touches from RunDisney).  It was exhilarating! 

As much fun as I was having, I was also utterly terrified of being swept.  Trust me, I had read about the “balloon ladies” and bicycle pacers, so I passed by the Old Hag, Jafar, Dr. Facilier, and a handful of other awesome villains.  I didn’t stop for a single character photo.  That is one of my biggest regrets from that race – there were characters on-course that I have never seen elsewhere in the parks - but I just couldn’t risk stopping for long lines, even for the Haunted Mansion Gravediggers (boy, do I regret that!).  I did manage to snap a few photos though…

This gigantic spider:

These card guards:

This haunted baseball field (which was really awesome to run on, by the way):

I felt surprisingly good through the first few miles, but once I hit Mile 7, the real struggle began.  I don’t know if the adrenaline of the surreal experience had finally worn off at that point, but I suddenly became acutely aware of the ache in the muscles of my legs and arms.  My feet felt like bricks that I had to shuffle along beneath me.  I had a flash of a thought – “I don’t think that I can do this.”  Of course, it was too late to turn around and go back, so I took a deep breath and just kept going. 

The miles ticked by.  I was just about ready to give up, ask the sweepers to scoop me up and carry me away.  Then, I saw it – the Hollywood Studios sign.  That’s when I knew that it was all going to be OK.  As soon as I stepped into the backstage area behind Lights, Motors, Action, I felt an immediate surge of excitement and pride – I was finishing this race after all!

With my newfound energy, I perked up and ran through the park, spurred on by the cheers and applause from the hundreds of spectators.  It seemed to take forever around dozens of turns and volunteers shouting “You’re almost there! Just a few more feet!” but when I rounded the last corner and saw the Tower of Terror looming before me, I felt a smile creep onto my lips.  I had seen that Tower many times before at night during one of my previous visits to the Studios, but for some reason, it was the most beautiful sight that evening, all lit up and welcoming me over the finish line.

I received my sweet medal, graciously accepted the box of post-race treats and goodies, and endured the uphill climb to the finisher photo area and then on to find Mike amongst the other spectators.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and it’s been my motivation during all other races and runs that followed.  Whenever I get that inevitable “what-have-I-gotten-myself-into” feeling that I sometimes get mid-run, I remember how I survived this race.  I remind myself that I am actually capable of achieving so much more than I ever thought possible before, and I have proof of it.  I realize that I am strong, even during times when it seems that I am weak. 

I ran the ToT again last year too, and I was disappointed to see that it wasn’t on the list of 2015 RunDisney races.  Oh well – I have the Wine & Dine Half Marathon to look forward to at the end of this year and the full Marathon at the beginning of the next!

**On a side note, I have a little happy moment to share: I found my new favorite side dish for dinner last night - Uncle Ben’s Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic.  90 seconds to heat, then ready to eat.  Delicious, AND filling.  Oh, where has that been all my life?!? (yes, I’m easily excited, and yes, I'm a dork) J

Have you ever participated in a RunDisney race?
Are you running in the Princess Half Marathon this weekend?
What is your favorite race that you’ve completed in the past?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Squats, Why Did It Have To Be Squats?!?

One of the things I most want to work on as a developing runner is the strength in my legs.  I hear over and over again that powerful legs will make running easier (seems reasonable, doesn’t it?).  To achieve that desired result, I endure the dreaded squat.

So why squat?  Simply put, squats build muscle strength.  While running helps your muscles gain endurance, squats work to make those same muscles very strong.    That means that you will be able to run faster and longer.  I think that’s every runner’s ultimate goal, regardless of the distance or the level of experience.

Here are my top 3 tips for getting through a love/hate relationship with your squats:

1) Practice proper form.  If you’re not doing it the right way, there really isn’t much point.  When I first started doing squats, I leaned way too far forward, putting my weight in the wrong places.  Instead, you should keep your back straight with your weight on your heels.  I also make sure that my arms are in front of me instead of at my sides.  To truly master the form, try facing a wall with your feet firmly planted on the ground at shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed out about 45 degrees and touching the wall.  Slowly bend your knees until they touch the wall as well.  Keep your chest up, and pretend that you are about to sit down in an invisible chair below you, bringing your legs to a 90 degree angle.  All of the correct muscles will be engaged this way.  Take a look at this great visual example from Runkeeper.

2) Challenge yourself.  I make games out of all my exercise activities, because I’m weird like that.  J  It helps keep you motivated though, especially if you’re just beginning to get serious about fitness.  I mix up my routine often, trying different challenges every week to keep my muscles guessing.  My current challenge (found here) adds 5 additional squats every day until reaching the pinnacle of 250 squats on Day 30.  Ooh, I feel the burn already, just thinking about it!

3) Spice it up.  Try adding in some variations to the plain old squat.  Do a little jump when you come up from your squat, or raise up on your toes like a ballerina while in the squat position.  Squat on one leg, or twist and pivot through the movement.  There are so many ways that you can make this necessary evil exercise a fun and even enjoyable activity.  Check out Shape magazine’s cool options for bringing your squat out of the doldrums.

Alrighty then…go drop it like a squat!

Do you incorporate squats into your training schedule?  
What techniques do you like for strengthening your legs?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How Treadmill Running Helped Me Get My Groove Back

When I first began running (not so long ago), I wouldn’t dare venture into the gym.  The thought of sweating it out with several dozen people who were much more fit than I was really didn’t float my boat.  Treadmills were daunting, and I certainly wasn’t going to embarrass myself by hopping on a moving belt to risk flying right off.

The problem?  I was also nervous about running in public in general.  Even jogging around my neighborhood struck me with worry about what people would think – would my couch potato awkwardness be blatantly obvious? 

Starting out, I only ran very early in the morning before sunrise or late at night when the darkness could cloak me.   After awhile, logging my miles became so fun that I actually forgot about people sitting out on their front porches or cars passing me as I ran by.  Eventually, though, the weather became an issue, and I needed an alternative to running in the heavy Florida heat.  The excuses started to pile up again, and I just stopped running altogether.  My groove was gone.

I decided to suck it up and get to the gym.  I chose the treadmill in the furthest darkest corner.  The panel looked like something that might control a spaceship, but after a few button pushes, my feet were moving.

Amazingly, I didn’t fall off.  Instead, I had fun.  I loved playing around with inclines, and the treadmill automatically gave me a warm-up and cool-down (things that I didn’t normally do otherwise).  I could even measure my heart rate if I held onto the handles.  I set up the screen to play a TV show, and the miles just zoomed by.  After just one workout, I was hooked.  Every time I stepped on a treadmill after that, I ended up gaining my motivation back, because I was able to try a new way of running that ultimately helped me get back up off the couch again.  And as for the other people in the gym with me, I didn’t even notice them once my earbuds were in and my legs started running.

I still prefer running outside, my feet pounding real pavement, but the treadmill definitely gave me the umph to keep going whenever I feel like running, even when the conditions aren’t right for it.

Today, I’m linking up with Patty, April, and Erika for their latest installment of Tuesdays on the Run.  Go check out all of the other awesome posts about treadmill running!

Do you prefer the treadmill or the road?
Have you ever lost your fitness groove?  What did you do to get it back?