Bringing the Thursday Thunder

I forgot to do a Workout Wednesday yesterday, so I decided to do an alliterative workout post for Thursday.

Don’t worry Thursday Thunder is not becoming a thing. Also, forgive me if this post is a little jumbled, my brain is still getting itself back together after doing the workout outlined below.

As I’ve written before, San Francisco is full of hills (duh), which make the perfect DIY cardio machine.

That, my friends, is an SF hill.

In attempt to rebuild a little little cardiovascular fitness (read more about that here), I decided to do some hill work.

I am literally SURROUNDED by hills, I just had to pick one to sprint up and down multiple times. Competitor.com says to pick a 7-10% grade for all out short efforts, but the SF hills near me didn’t feel like cooperating so I picked this one…

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and this one-

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As I said, I’m surrounded by really steep hills. Make sure the hills are about .10 miles.

So with the .1 mile-long hills picked, here’s the workout:

Hill Workout

Easy, peasy on paper, but if you go all out on these, you should really be feeling it.

You can either do five repeats at steeper grade and a less steep grade (like me!) or do all of your repeats at a 7-10% grade.

Extra points if you listen to the song below while while doing this workout-

Ha. Get it? It rhymes.

 

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Heading for the Hills

If there’s anything that San Francisco has an abundance of, it’s hills.

Hills? In San Francisco? (Also, check out that view! That’s Alcatraz in the background)

Rosie and I took advantage of the hills over the weekend by doing a quick hill-based workout. We chose a hill in my hood that has a 14.1 grade. That’s right 14.1 percent grade change over one block. Trust me, I calculated it just to make sure-

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We sprinted this hill 10 times; it took us about 30 seconds to sprint up and a minute or so to leisurely jog down. Even though it was a short workout, we went all out the entire time and I, at least, felt the burn. Rosie, on the other hand, was just contemplating her association with me by the end.

Rosie at the bottom of the hill (R) and then at the top (L)-Both times she's asking "Why, mom? Why?"

Rosie at the bottom of the hill (R) and then at the top (L)-Both times she’s asking “Why, mom? Why?”

Why did we did this, you might ask. Well here are a few of the benefits of adding hills to your running repertoire-

If you’re ready to run for the hills, check out these five workouts from Running Times.

See you at the top!

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No, this is not me. It’s a fellow hill warrior who was crushing it.

 

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Hips Don’t Lie

My coworker Laurel is 3 weeks away from running the San Francisco Marathon, which will be her first 26.2 race (yay Laurel!). As we were walking home yesterday, we were discussing our training and she mentioned that her hip muscles had been bothering her, so I stopped in the middle of sidewalk to show her a few of my favorite hip flexor stretches-I’ll do anything in the name of a good stretch.

That's hip.

An inner view (source).

Anyway, so you might be wondering what a hip flexor is and what it has to do with running. Hip flexors are a series of muscles that help to lift your leg up, so they’re obviously pretty important in that whole running thing.

After a hard running session, your hip flexors deserve a good stretch so here are a few of my favorites.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Happy hips! (source)

Warrior I (one of my favorites!)

Want to learn more about your psoas and ways to get it nice and relaxed? Check out this article from Running Times and this article from Yoga Journal

Foam Roller Psoas Stretch (it’s like a mini back massage too-great after a long work day)

Anyone have a favorite hip stretch? Share below!

Also, it’s Friday the 13th! Anyone out there superstitious?!

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The Sound of Silence

I recently read a Reuters article about the effect of music on a workout. In the piece, Shirley Archer, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise notes that “Music is powerful because it stimulates different neural pathways in the brain and taps powerfully into our emotions and our memories.”

I completely agree with Ms. Archer and other researchers who recognize the benefits of exercising with music. I’m usually disturbingly attached to my iPod for long runs-it serves as a distraction and motivates me when things get tough.  But on Saturday’s long run I tried something different.
I ran in silence. For two hours and thirty nine minutes.

I was mildly very skeptical about running sans music.

And it was glorious.

At first, I was a bit panicky and I thought about taking out my iPod, but I decided to try it for a mile, then a mile more and then I just forgot about wanting my iPod at all. Without the distraction of music or a podcast, I was able to let my mind wander. When portions of my run got tough, I talked myself through it (literally-I yelled “Get it D. Wolfe!” multiple times). At the end of 18 miles, I saw that I had run my most evenly paced long run and held an average of 8:53.

But wait a second!

I had always thought that music would help me run faster, so I decided to do some investigation into why my run seemed to be more evenly paced and dare I say, enjoyable?

Runner’s World suggests that this might be because running without music makes you tune in to running mechanics essentials, like foot strike and breathing and also makes you conscious of your environment, so you’re able to focus on the here and now rather than the finish line.

So am I ditching my iPod? Absolutely not. Like many runners out there, music amps me up and helps me have fun during tough runs (a recent study backs this up). Whatever the case may be, I’ll definitely start doing more iPod free runs.

Are you for or against music during long runs?

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Month of the Core and More

Although I was able to cross train a fair amount while travelling, being on the run interrupted my running schedule, so it was great to get back into the swing things yesterday.

The master plan (oh, I like the sound of that) called for five miles. In order to spice my routine up a bit,  I did a  one mile warm up, followed by three miles at a challenging pace and one mile cool down. Since I ever so conveniently forgot my Garmin, my MapMyRun app came in handy-

Wish I had some splits

If  only it had given me splits-oh well.

After collecting some ingredients on the walk home, I made BBQ Quinoa Salad, another delicious recipe from Kristin over at Iowa Girl Eats (her photos are infinitely better than mine, but bear with me here).

Delicious and quick-winner, winner chicken dinner!

It’s delicious and looks indulgent (hint, the sauce is made with Greek yogurt!), but is really healthy. It’s also easy to put together-it probably took me 20 minutes from start to finish.

After dinner, I decided to embark on what I have proclaimed “THE MONTH OF THE CORE”, which in reality is just me making a better effort to build up my core. Aside from the obvious and very superficial reasons, building up my core is important to my goal of breaking four hours at the San Francisco Marathon. How does your core relate to being a speedy runner you might ask?

  • Deep abs stabilize the pelvis by keeping it in a neutral position, so that the back of the legs can push your entire body forward, rather than just wasting power just stretching the low abs (source).
  • The core is the bridge between the upper and lower body, left and right sides. In such a position it transfers power between these different areas to produce efficient movement. If there is a dysfunction in the core movement is inefficient and the risk of injury increases. (source)
  • A well developed core stabilizes the pelvis, reducing risk of running injuries and increasing running economy (source)

I’m not looking to do anything insane, since marathon training already eats up a bunch of time anyway. According to Runner’s World, just 15 minutes a day should do the trick.

To start things off, I did Jillian Michael’s Women’s Health Magazine workout 3 times last week (ow). The workout is in this month’s magazine and I’ll post it when it goes live on the web. In the meantime enjoy this interview with Ms. Michaels-

Moving on.

To continue the month of the core, I did a great core series that I found on Athleta’s blog yesterday-

I did not smile like that.

Check out the entire workout here-and repeat three times for good measure. The scissors are killer.

Another added benefit of doing core work and foam rolling is that it gave me the perfect excuse to catch up on my favorite Real Housewives franchise (New York!). Turns out the floor provided the perfect vantage point for getting the full effect of Ramona’s crazy eyes.

This was pre-pinot grigio, so the Ramona eyes are tame.

Check back tomorrow for the next installment of the next workout from THE MONTH OF THE CORE-it’s a good one!

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A Weekend of Running

First off, 16 miles with San Francisco Running Club.

Renee invited me to take a test run with the group a few weeks ago and this Saturday I finally took her up on the offer (and we got to meet IRL for the first time!). This week’s long run meet at Ocean Beach and it was gorgeous. So gorgeous that I didn’t bring my camera. Of course. So here’s someone else’s photo of the view from mile 15-

Anyway, I was a little concerned about running sans iPod and with a group of strangers, but after spending 3 miles catching up to my pace group, I was put at ease. The group run provided a change of pace (literally) and I also got to meet fun and interesting people-including a nurse practioner and an assistant high school principal-which made the run (almost) fly by. I actually went into total dork/sappy mode and told these new running mates (who are probably now afraid of me) that “This is so much better than running alone!”, to which one of the runners responded “Awww. That’s…sweet.”, probably because she thought I had no friends. Oh well!

After my run, man friend and I took our friend Ken to pick up his Bay to Breakers race packet where we saw this guy-

Yep! That’s Meb Keflezighi, a.k.a the top U.S. Olympic Marathon qualifier. He can basically run a marathon in just a bit more time than it takes me to run a half marathon-we all felt speedier just being within feet of him. Ken even got him to sign his t-shirt that has a bunch of other Olympic runners’ autographs on it

All smiles.

and then promptly jumped into my man-friends arms out of excitement :)

Everyone gets excited when they meet Meb.

Which brings us to Sunday (I know, I’m a pro at the segue).

It was a cross training day and also uncannily warm, so I took my workout outside to do some stairs. It was so pretty out, I took a video to share with you. There were parrots chirping in the background (Yes! There are wild parrots in San Francisco!) and a narration of the landmarks in the scene (you can see Alcatraz in the distance, followed by the Bay Bridge, then downtown and finally Coit Tower)…but I forgot that my headphones were plugged in so you won’t get to hear my voice. Oopsy daisy.

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

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Achieving Goals with Negativity

Not negative thinking…negative splitting!

Not this kind of negative split either. Probably the most entertaining (disturbing?) illustration I found of negative splitting

Negative splitting is finishing the second half of the race faster than the second half. Runner’s World explains that it can take several miles for your body to warm up, so if you play your cards right during the first half of a race, your body will be warmed up and ready to race for the second half. [Pros often use this method-click on the image below to see how Geoffrey Mutai took the NYC Marathon by negative splitting]

If the pros can do it, I can too

After signing up for the San Francisco Marathon, I researched the race course,  read race recaps and ultimately decided that since the course is front loaded with infamous San Francisco hills, negative splitting would be the only way that I would reach my goal of a sub four hour marathon time.

Of course, one large problem stands in my way: I have not been the best at negative splitting in the past.  Although no catastrophic slowing occurs, I tend to get excited,  go out faster than planned and end up slowing down until the last few miles. Exhibit A.

Yesterday, I set out for a slower seven mile marathon pace run. My legs felt great and the miles were clicking away, so I knew I was going to run faster than marathon pace-I told you I wasn’t good at committing to paces of any kind. Since I scrapped my original plan, I decided that this was the perfect time to try out negative splitting. In order to reign myself in, I committed to running the last three miles at progressively faster pace. Apparently threatening myself works.

I reigned it in and ended up consciously negative splitting, for probably the first time ever! I’m definitely going to keep this workout in the wings for marathon training. As I’ve found out, negative splitting is something that has to be practiced and learned, so here are a few articles from the experts full of tips and workouts to help master the negative split.

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Fitness and Friends

Judging from the weird entries and photos I post on this blog-

Cereal and cats-a winning blog combination

you might not believe that  I’m pretty shy and quiet in  real life. Well, until you get to know me, and then you just want me to behave in public and stop talking. I’ve always found it difficult to meet new people and try new things, because usually the first thought in my mind is “Oh they won’t like me” or “What if they think I’m weird/not cool” the list goes on and on.

Don’t believe me? Let’s flashback to my freshman year of college.

From the moment my mom and I arrived on campus for freshman orientation, I begged to go home. Stage one clinger, right here.

Probably in an attempt to stop my desperate pleading, she spotted a table for women’s crew and said “that looks fun, you should try that”, so I signed up for the team as a walk on.  Long story short, over the course of many painful erg sessions the next few months and years, girls who started off as strangers turned into teammates-

Best friends for life.

and ultimately became some of my best friends- friends that I will most likely have for the rest of my life.

I think we've bonded.

Okay, enough with the sappiness.

Regardless of your activity of choice, I think that sweating (not anxiety-ridden type) is one of the best ways to meet new people and make friends.  It’s a win-win situation. By  taking part in a group activity, you know you have at least one thing that you have in common. For instance, I was definitely nervous during my first blogger group run, but I knew that if worse came to worse, we could just discuss running… the entire time (luckily it ended much better).  More often than not, chatting about the activity at hand naturally shifts to conversations about daily happenings that are the stuff that friendships are made of.

Bloggers on the run

Another benefit of working out with new friends is that focusing on an activity diverts your thoughts away from being nervous (“Do I look weird?” “Did I really just say that?”) and towards said activity. There’s also incentive to show up and sweat because you don’t want to stand up your prospective new friends. Physical activity is also a stress reliever, so working out will automatically reduce any meet-up anxiety.

I hope you enjoyed that warm and fuzzy moment. I know I did.

Have you ever made friends through group workouts?

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The Hunger Games

You thought this was going to be about Katniss didn’t you?

Well, you’ve been tricked again!

But this post is about running.
On our run over the weekend, my friend Liz and I started to discuss how we were ALWAYS hungrier on days off than on days when we had worked out. In my mind, that seemed counterintuitive-on the days I burn more calories, I would expect to be hungrier and vice versa.

Well, I did a little digging and found out that what’s happening to us isn’t abnormal- it’s actually normal.

According to a recent study from researchers at the University of Chile Clinical Hospital in Santiago found that exercise creates higher levels brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a blood protein that mainly serves  to promote the survival of nerve cells, but was also found to be linked to appetite suppression. Therefore, more exercise–>higher levels of BDNF–>appetite suppression.

Another study done by the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior examined the release of appetite suppressing gut hormones in exercise experienced rats and found that the animals who exercised more released more of the gut hormone that limits meal size and also helped the rats to lower their food intake.

And no worries if you’re hungry on those recovery days-here’s an entire page full of recipes and tips on recovery day snacking from Runner’s World.

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Guest Post: Running an Ultra Marathon

About a week ago, you met Aron from Runner’s Rambles as part of my “Ask A Blogger” series-and this week she’s back again, this week it’s to discuss her big undertaking, the American River 50!

When I first met Aron, I knew she loved running, but I didn’t know how much she loved it. Like, loved it enough to commit to training for and running a 50 mile race. Aron started training for the American River 50 mile Ultra Marathon in December of last year and when I found out she was training for an ultramarathon, I was dying to ask her a few questions like  “why?” and more importantly “how?”. Aron was nice enough to answer these question and more on training for an ultra. By the way, Aron’s race is tomorrow – so head on over to her blog or tweet her your good vibes- you can find her @runnersrambles!

Aron hitting the trails

What made you ultimately decide to do an ultra?

After 4 years of running marathons and constantly being intrigued on how it would feel to run further, I finally hit the register button.  I wanted to do something that scared me, that I wasn’t sure I could do, that really pushed my limits and that took me to a new level in training.
What’s the toughest part of training?
It’s really time consuming!  At the peak of training with the big back to back long runs, running took up my entire weekend.  I used to think training for marathons took a lot of time, but now I have really learned what time consuming is.  Not only does it take a long time to run 30 miles, but when you are running really tough courses (and driving to the trails), it takes even longer!  My longest run I was running for over 7 hours and out there for almost 8, and add a commute to that - it was like a full day at the office!  I have loved {almost} every second of it though and am so glad I decided to do it.  I have definitely learned how to be efficient and prioritize, and chores are saved for rest days.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself during training?
I learned that I am stronger than I thought I was.  I was constantly amazed at how well my body adapted to training and how well it recovered.  With the right steps and precautions, the body is pretty amazing and can do some crazy things!
What do you think about during your long runs?
I always say the best long runs are the ones when I have no idea what I was thinking about and just get lost in the running zone.
Best piece of advice for someone who’s thinking about doing an ultra, but is on the fence.
Be ready to really commit a lot of time to running, but also be ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
Go Aron!
Interested in running an ultra? Check out Runner’s World’s “Ultimate Ultramarathon Guide”
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