Friday, July 25, 2014

Fitness Challenge

One of my favorite series on television is Mad Men on American Movie Classics.  It’s a show about an advertising agency set in the 1960’s and features stories, fashion and advertising from that era.  Much like Mad Men, fitness is making a comeback to the masses. What was once only for “those people,” fitness is experiencing a renaissance with a boom in popularity, attention and participation.

Last week I introduced you to the lasted electronic devices in personal fitness trackers!  These devices are usually worn on the wrist and track your steps and provide feedback on your activity level. Like other personal devices like smart phones, tracking your activity can be addictive and in this case this obsession can be a healthy one, literally!

Now that you have your personal fitness device, what’s next?  Another new element to the fitness boom concerns health and fitness challenges.  I was very excited and happy to see my employer institute a two month fitness challenge for employees that will reward the prizes for those with the most minutes of activity with the overall goal of getting people active and on the road to good health.

Participants can link their personal fitness devise to their heath challenge account and can also manually enter data.  While I am very active with all my training the fitness challenge even raised my level of activity and awareness and has provide for some fun dialog with coworkers.

Fitness challenges can be an excellent way to help you get and stay active.  While there are many national challenges to choose from, I found that most people experience the most success when setting up their own challenge with friends and family. Here are some ideas for helping you set up your challenge with friends and family.

Identify those closest to you that will be active in the challenge and will be supportive of each other. Remember the goal is for everyone to get fit and healthy and enjoy the process.

Set goals for the challenge with prizes or a big celebration for the top three in the challenge.

Setting up a private group on Facebook is an excellent way for members to share their results and share encouragement with each other.

Texting workout results to the team is a great way to stay connected and can motivate others to get moving.

The challenge can be set up in many different ways.  For example you can have your challenge be a set of exercise everyone does every day for 30 days then compare the pre and post challenge fitness results such as pounds or inches lost. Another idea for a challenge is award prizes for the top three individuals that have the most active minutes in a predetermined time frame.

No matter what you choose for your challenge, remember the goal is to get moving, have fun and enjoy the process.  Fitness challenges can be really fun and you may be surprised to find you have a very competitive side. 

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fit To Be Tried?

It seems today if we don’t have a devise in our hand or on our body that provides loads of data we can’t function as a human race.  While smart phones and sports watches (they started the data thirsty craze) have been around for a few years, there is a new partner joining the party. 

Interesting this new entrant is so new; we have not yet crafted a “catch all” name like smart phones.  The newbie in today’s fitness technology is host of wearable tech gadgets that track your every move, the number of steps you take, the calories you burn, your active minutes and can even track the quality of your sleep.

While the new gadgets don’t tell you to put down the donuts, scream at you to run faster or play soft music when you are not sleeping well (that would be a bit too close to the Twilight Zone) they do provide a lot of data to those that are keen on using technology to improve their health.

While most technology is designed to make us inactive, wearable technology such as Fitbit, Jawbone UP24, Nike+ Fuel Band and the Garmin Vivofit among others does exactly the opposite.  What estimates to be a $30 billion industry by 2018, these “get off your butt” gadgets are flying off the shelves with one in 10 Americans now sporting one of these devices.

Being a highly active person, I was hesitant to see the value in these modern day pedometers. Giving into peer pressure and never being at a loss to purchase something new, I bought the Fitbit for May and me. It didn't take long for me to see the value these devices hold for anyone.

A 2010 study of 123,216 people, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that the more leisure time spent sitting, the higher risk of death!  While I’m not sure we had to spend buckets of money to come to that conclusion, wearable trackers can shine a light on the inner couch potato you don’t know you had.

The main benefit of these devices, in my opinion, is the awareness users have regarding their activity level, calories burned and sleep patterns.  Based on the Hawthorne effect, a sociological phenomenon in which people behave better when they are being observed, these gadgets provide a constant stream of data that can be viewed on the device or in an app on your smart phone.

Fitbit says its users take 43% more steps than they did before the bought one.  Add in the social features these devices offer such as sending friends cheers or taunts or simply receiving an “Atta Boy” for achieving your goal, the modest costs is well worth the investment to add a little awareness and self-pressure to improve your fitness.

Ironically we now have another device to bury our heads into and instead of talking about the ball game last night; conversations are turning towards “Hey did you hit your step goal?”  While my office is usually as quite as an abandoned building, I often hear a periodic outburst of “Yes” or “I Nailed It!”  No they are not crazy but I do know they just hit there step goal for the day and that motivates me to get up and walk around…after all I have to have the most steps for bragging rights during our coffee talk the next morning.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Things I Learned - Xterra Harbison Half

As I like to do with many of my events, I want to give you a light side look at Things I Have Learn – Xterra Harbison Trail Half Marathon Edition!  Enjoy!

Things I Learned:

·         I REALLY LOVE trail running
·         The make trail shoes for a reason and I have two pair, maybe next time I will actually wear them.
·         Not eating an early breakfast before a body jarring event is stupid, unfortunately I continue to repeat this issue….time for a mental check in
·         Trail running is very technical and requires a lot of looking at the ground and the runner in front of you.
·         I crested the hills strong, eased down the other side to save my thighs and then picked the pace back up on the flats seemed like a sound strategy.
·         Some people fall with grace and some don’t, but the near misses are a thing of beauty!
·         GPS watches don’t work as well in the woods as out in the open….trust your time and gut, not pace and mileage.
·         Avery Dominick at 15 is a Gazelle – running the course in 1:21 and winning the race by over 3:00!
·         A lot of IRONMEN did the trail race, as if 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running isn’t hard enough.
·         I spent two hours in the forest and didn’t see a bird, squirrel, deer or anything…no wildlife, just a bunch of sweaty, dirty, huffing and puffing runners.
·         Spider Woman trail is really tough and that is where I made my move…guess it was good practice for the mountains of Colorado.
·         I can’t wait to get to Colorado.
·         I am glad I wore my water pack – that was one thing I did right!
·         Now I want a mountain bike!
·         I would love to do a Xterra Triathlon – see previous bullet point
·         The off season will see a LOT of squats to build up the quads.
·         My feet and ankles are in good shape, my quads are sore.
·         I need to learn to run downhill with grace….well I just need to learn to run downhill more effectively.
·         Core and upper body strength training definitely make me a stronger runner.
·         If I could learn to swim as well as I run, I would be in good shape and that would lead to …see 5 bullets points above this one!
·         Watching Elli run and play was as good as the race. She so loves to do what her Mom and Dad do, she will be a runner.
·         Moe’s always tastes good but after a hard run, it’s especially good.
·         Seeing May and Elli at the finish line ringing the cowbell NEVER gets old and pulls me through the end of my races.
·         Many people go out WAY too fast and look good doing it, by the end of race many of them are asking “Why did I do that?”
·         You need to do recon and pick your places to make your move!
·         Half way through the race I wondered how they would get anyone out that had a severe injury…so goal number one was NOT to suffer one.
·         A trail run is about the only place you can be covered in sweat, dirt and even some blood and people will openly and freely hug you.
·         The ice water rag at the end of the race was better than the medal.
·         I can never remember if they called my name as I crossed the finish line…I was still too busy looking at my feet to notice.
·         I had to hang on to Elli’s had really tight as we walked from the car to Books A Million as if she got away and ran, I don’t think I could have caught her.
·         I had a blast and will do it again…looking for another one today.
·         Tuesday I am back to the roads for a sunrise 10 miler.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Xterra Trail Racing Series - Harbison Half Marathon

Well I am now officially a trail runner!  The Xterra Trail series made another stop on Sunday, July 13 in Columbia as the series came to Harbison State Forrest for is second stop of the year.

I was excited for this race, as I have planned to do three other Xterra races at Harbison but have either been a week out from the Disney Marathon trip or have been sick.

A beautiful morning greeted all runners with sunny skies and a wonderful, but very humid 71 degrees.  Having no idea for what I was in for, I elected to wear my Camelbak hydration pack as although there were five aid stations on the course, I was concerned with just how much room and water was carried deep into the woods.  It turned out to be a good decision!

The second big question was concerning footwear.  While I am an ardent Saucony Kinvara 4 fan and I do have a pair of Saucony Kinvara 2 trail shoes, I was torn what to wear today.  Unfortunately I was not able to practice on the trails so I had to make a decision based on friend’s advice and gut feeling.

With a 62-mile week in the books, my left foot was a bit tender and my Kinvara 2 trail shoes, while flexible were still a bit stiff and I was worried the stiffness would affect my foot.  After changing shoes twice, I opted for my Kinvara 4 minimal road shoes and off to the starting line I went.  That turned out to work but I will need to find a good trail show that has some support and cushioning but still a minimal feel.  I think the Saucony Kinvara 2 Trail Shoe will work, I just need to practice in them.

It was good to see Elliott and Lish Dominick, Ann and Scott Prince, Cindy Long, Betty Best and Dr. David Hale at the event.  Elliott and Lish’s 15 son Avery was also running the event. Avery is an avid and talented runner and ended up winning today’s event with a time of 1:21 and beat the second place person by 3:06, an amazing time and an even better young man. (the triathlon bug has also bitten him and he has a ton of potential in both running and triathlon)

The race was a total blast!  As I thought, the course was very technical and it took a lot of concentration to watch the ground and the runners ahead of you.  While I saw several people meet the ground in a less than graceful fashion, I also saw many “award winning” near misses and great saves that would make a ballerina proud.  One goal was to stay on my two feet the entire race and good, clean hands at the end of the race would mean goal number one was complete –and it was.

Another goal was to run this race as a training run and not get swept up in the moment and overrun my ability on a trail course, seeing as I don’t have any experience and didn’t want to end up injured.

The races stated with a “spirited” pace but soon settled in to a nice run.  The first two miles of the course were relatively benign and relatively flat which made for some fast running. I always get a kick out of the start of races as a lot of folks get caught up in the moment and go out in a flurry of speed, only to blow up or tire considerably before half way.  Although I’m not fast, I am a decent runner and its always a good feeling knowing I settled into the race and am able to catch a lot of these folks as the race continues.  Today was no exception.

Miles 3-7 were very technical and hilly as we entered the “Spider Woman” trail. While never one to walk in a race, the boulders and rocks, coupled with the intense elevation called for brief bits of walking to make sure I had secure footing and didn’t do my best Humpty Dumpty impersonation.  Goal accomplished.

While making a HUGE mistake in not eating when I got up (while do I always do that) I had a good plan and stuck to it. I let the race come to me, controlled my pace and watched my footing.  I was very pleased with my conditioning as I figured I was moving faster than I had anticipated or planned for but due to the dense forest, my GPS watch was less than accurate so I had to run by feel.

I had 62 miles of running this week and 60 miles on my bike, which I realized before the end of mile one was a “bit much” for what this course was going to dish up. No time to think about that or burning thighs so on with the race.  My GPS told me I was running at a 10:37 pace but I felt it closer to 9:30 I did my best Forrest Gump impersonation and just kept running.

While learning the technical aspects of the race while on the run, literally, my plan was to take advantage of my hill running ability and crest each hill strong, take a controlled down hill approach to save my thighs and once on the flats let my heart rate settle down and settle into a manageable pace.  I had to laugh at mile three as I had one person behind me breathing so hard I was praying he did not drop over from heart or respiratory failure.

I am sure Harbison State Forrest is beautiful but with very narrow trails and a lot of sharp climbs and descents I only saw about 10% of it. Once through the elevation and rocks of Spider Woman we were rewarded with a nice stretch of wide trails and a mile of flat, beautiful trail.  I did learn that the trail was so narrow in spots it was literally impossible to pass so a little advance recon was in order and I had to pick my spots and make a move.

Once clear of Spider Woman, the trail thinned out and I had a lot of space to work in.  I was able to regain my race pace and cruised relatively easy to the finish. While there will still some hills to work, I shortened my stride and was able to climb the long, mild grades much easier than some of the other racers.

I was very happy to see the finish line and see May and Elli, the best support team anyone could ask for!  Elli was ringing her cowbell and I was especially happy for the ice-cold towel and the ability to sit enjoy the moment.

I ended up with at time of 2:01:27 and a 9:17 pace, much faster than I thought.  I was 55 out of 177 men and was 76th overall out of 309 entrants. My foot was also in good shape. While tired and my thighs were extremely sore, I was in good shape and my IRONMAN training along with my strength training definitely paid off.  I was surprised to see a lot of fellow triathletes competing in this race and we all shared some good conversation.

I was happy with my first trail race and based on some of the mistakes I made (no food prior to race and high mileage week) coupled with a cautious approach to the race, I think I can shape 10-12 minutes off the next event on that course.

It was a great event and great morning for a quiet romp through nature. Elli had a great time playing with other children, looking for rocks and doing a little running herself.  As you can see, she was pooped on the way home.

Elli’s favorite place is Moe’s Southwestern Grill so off we went (after a great show) for tons of veggies in The Homewrecker Burrito and then off for some errands and a fund Sunday.  I am definitely hooked and the experience codified my desire to head to the mountains and take on a long ultra race next year.

Happy training and racing everyone!