Monday, December 31, 2012

Asylum: Volume 2: X Trainer

Today, I did the first official workout in the Asylum Volume 2 program, X Trainer. I had prepared yesterday by doing the Agility Training DVD which highlighted all the speed and agility foot-work that we'd be doing in the ladder in today's workout. I was very glad I did this because the X Trainer workout is go-go-go.

Many people have compared this workout with the Speed & Agility workout in Asylum Volume 1. I think that this is an apt comparison. The focus is mixed between cardio moves (focusing on speed, agility, and plyometrics) and strength moves (combination moves with weights and moves like push-ups that use your body as resistance).

As with my first go through Speed & Agility, with X Trainer, I think that doing this workout many times will improve my performance. The moves here are more complicated than in Asylum 1 and the workout is slightly longer, clocking in at around 50 minutes.

The workout started with some standing agility ladder drills where you had to move your feet quickly throughout the ladder. There were also some jump rope sequences. I, unfortunately, don't have enough room where I exercise to use a jump rope and always do these parts of the workout sans rope.

I've noticed that, compared with Asylum 1, the X Trainer workout had more moves where you're hopping in the ladder instead of running across the ladder. I definitely find this to be a bit trickier, especially towards the end of the workout when my legs were getting tired.

In addition to cardio moves, this workout featured quite a bit of resistance training, actually more than I was expecting. Dumbbells are required for this workout. There was a set of moves, similar to the cardio dumbbell rotation on the Asylum 1: Strength DVD. You did rows, hopped back into plank, did push-ups, and then jumped back up and did shoulder presses.

Without a doubt, the most difficult part of the workout was what instructor Shaun T called matrix push-ups. This was three minutes of push-ups (alternating between triceps push-ups, standard push-ups, and wide push-ups) moving through the ladder. I had to drop to my knees after a minute or two. One thing that I loved was that one of the ladies on the DVD actually did some of the push-ups modified on her knees too. I have often had to do this when doing Insanity and Asylum 1 and was happy to see that I wasn't the only one.

Shaun T is big on the push-ups. The workout also features moving jumping push-ups followed by jumping into a squat and then jumping up in the air. For this first time through the workout, I modified these to be standard moving push-ups until I get more confident with the feel of the move.

The final difficult upper body push-up component was one armed triceps and standard push-ups. Fortunately, this upper body strength training work was broken up throughout the workout and alternated with the agility training drills that featured on the DVD I did yesterday.

I really enjoyed the complex agility footwork, which is much harder than in Asylum 1. As I said before, there is a lot more hopping in the ladder, which, I feel engages the core a bit more.

The workout finished with lateral jumps over the ladder, increasing from one box to the entire length of the ladder, or however far you can laterally move. This was taken directly from the Asylum 1: Vertical Plyo workout and remains as hard as ever.

This workout definitely delivered. It was a completely intense 50 minutes that did a great job building on the agility, plyo, and strength skills acquired in Asylum 1. The moves are more complex and feature more components. The strength moves are definitely harder. Going through this workout a few times will be great as familiarity will allow me to increase my skill a lot. As with Asylum 1, I think the second time through this program will be a wonderful experience. You can do this many times and still have room for improvement.

Overall, this workout was a lot of fun and a great challenge. I can't wait to do this again and get better. I'm also looking forward to tomorrow's workout, Upper Elite. More news to come!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Home for the Holidays

I had a wonderful visit down in Connecticut with my family for this holiday season! I headed down to Bethany last Sunday morning with the idea of spending three days there with Mom and then Wednesday in Glastonbury with Dad and Lisa.

I was extra excited for Christmas this year because of some amazing news: my brother was hired as a police officer for Bristol, Connecticut and will be starting the Police Academy the first Friday in January! I'm so very happy about this. Greg has been trying very hard for a long time to get a job as a police officer. I know he's going to do an amazing job. Of course, he'll have to work over the holidays for the next few years, so I was looking forward to spending this Christmas with him especially.

We spent most of Sunday just hanging out, which was great. Mom made a bunch of cookies and candies. I got to spend a lot of time with my wonderful nephew dog, Demo. His grandmother spoiled him and gave him one of his holiday gifts early.

Monday morning, Greg and kicked off the day with a trip to the gym. I wanted to do some running and Greg has been keeping up with all his fitness for testing for the police and the academy.

I had gotten to visit with Seth's family before I left for Connecticut. They got me an amazing Nike gym bag that I got to take to the gym for the first time over the holiday. The bag is amazing and held my towel, gym clothing, shoes, and accessories. There is even a cool pouch that's felt-lined for my iPhone and delicate items. The bag also had a place where you could put a laptop making this bag work for more than just the gym.

After the gym, we headed home for Christmas Eve. Mom and I made steamed wontons and bacon with water chestnuts. For dinner we had steak with spinach and cheese, which Mom had ordered from the market. They were absolutely giant. Greg, Mom, and I all shared one.

We also took time on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts. Demo, like last year, got a giant bone.

I got Mom new L.L. Bean slippers (in blue!) and a car part for Greg's new BMW M3. I received a running hat from Greg and the Insanity: The Asylum Volume 2 exercise DVDs from Mom. Asylum 2 is the next program after the Insanity and Insanity: The Asylum DVDs that I have done a couple of times before. I just finished a second round of Asylum to prepare for this new workout.

I plan to start the Asylum 2 30-day program tomorrow. The program consists of seven workouts and, like Asylum 1, seems to focus on sports training, strength, agility and speed, and plyometrics. As with Asylum 1, you use hand-weights, resistance bands, and an agility ladder.
Today, in preparation for starting the program tomorrow, I did the 25 minute Agility Tutorial workout. This was an introductory workout designated to familiarize you with the agility moves you'd be doing in the ladder for Asylum 2. I thought, having done Asylum 1 where I did lots of work in the agility ladder, that this would be easy for me, however, the moves are much more complex and involved than in Asylum 1. I ended up doing the Agility Tutorial workout twice so that I could make sure that I really had the moves all ready so that I can go fast when I start the program tomorrow. I'll post more complete reviews of each DVD as I do them over the next few weeks.

Tuesday morning, I woke in Bethany for Christmas Day. I made a call to the Sibley's to with them a happy holiday and talk with Seth. I then jumped into gear helping Mom get everything ready for when Aunt Geraldine and Uncle Jimmy came over. The theme for this year's table was minimalist "white Christmas".

We had a wonderful day celebrating as a family, eating tasty hors d'oeuvres and dinner, and just enjoying each other's company.
Late in the evening, Greg's girlfriend, Grace, who unfortunately had to work, came over to visit. She and Greg gave me the most amazing gift!

This tea set was made by a woman Grace knows at work. As an extra special bonus, Grace helped make the saucers. The teapot is very squat and reminds me of some of the Japanese cast-iron teapots I've seen with a similar shape. I love this set, and am drinking tea out of one of the cups now as I blog.

Wednesday morning, I was planning to head over to Glastonbury with Greg so that we could celebrate with Dad and Lisa. Since we didn't have to be in Glastonbury until lunch time, I had time for one last meal in Bethany.

My favorites! Home-made cinnamon rolls (or "sticky buns" as they are known in our house).
In Glastonbury, we had a delicious and healthy frittata for lunch and then did one last gift exchange with Dad and Lisa. I had gotten Dad and Lisa both running clothing as they are both getting more and more into running and had just gotten a treadmill from the gym where Greg used to work. (The gym is moving and was selling some of their equipment.)
Some of you might remember that I was knitting Lisa a beautiful cabled wrap for Christmas. Unfortunately, there was a disaster with the finishing.

Very sad. Mom and I are working on cleaning it up so that I can maybe give it to Lisa for her birthday in April. I'm thinking at this point, it would only be for around the house. At least it will still be warm.
After a great visit with Dad, Lisa, and Greg, I headed back to Amherst very eager to start work with my gift from Dad and Lisa, a beautiful Chinese teapot.

Dad ordered me this Yixing Duo Zhi teapot from my favorite tea store, Tea Trekker. I was super excited to start making green-style oolong tea in it. (This was the tea I chose to use with this teapot. With teapots like this, you can steep green-style oolong, dark oolong, or puerh teas. You pick one variety and use the pot for that only.)
Before I started using my teapot though, I had to clean it and prepare it for usage. The teapot came with detailed instructions for cleaning and "raising" your yixing teapot.
I had to first rinse the teapot in warm water, then I had to place it in a large pot, cover it with water, and simmer that water with the teapot in it on the stove for thirty minutes. I was careful to make sure the water stayed at a constant simmer and didn't get too hot.

After the teapot got off the stove and the water cooled, I rinsed it again, this time in hot water, and then set the teapot aside for two days to dry.
The teapot was dry on Friday night, but I felt like it still had a strong new clay smell, so I went ahead and did the entire cleaning process again with the rinsing and the sitting in simmering water. I'm glad I did, the teapot smells much cleaner this time and should be ready for it's first usage this evening. I can't wait!
Over time, the pot will become seasoned from the tea I put in it. I actually want to see if I can find someone who does tea ceremony, so I can watch them with their teapot and see how they wash the outside of the teapot when they make their tea. (This is supposed to help give it a nice luster.) I know there is a woman at Mount Holyoke who does tea ceremony on Wednesday evenings. She does Japanese tea ceremony, and I have a Chinese teapot, but I think it would be worth going anyway.
It was a wonderful holiday season! I had a great time visiting with my family. Now, Seth and I are looking forward to having his parents and mine over on New Year's Eve for our annual party. I'm also looking forward to going down to Bristol on Thursday to see my brother sworn in as a Bristol police officer. Such exciting times!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tough Mudder

This Tuesday was my last day of work until the new year. I celebrated by doing something truly exciting: I registered for the Boston 2013 Tough Mudder taking place on May 11th.

For those of you not in the know, a Tough Mudder is an obstical race that takes place over a 10 to 12 mile course. It's very intense. Obsticals include (but are not limited to):

1. Jumping into a pool of ice cold water.

2. Swinging over a pit of cold water on monkey bars.

3. Crawling through tubes filled with mud.

4. Slidding on your belly through mud to avoid shocking wires above.

5. Climbing a half pipe.

6. Crawling underneath a giant cargo net.

7. Scaling 12' walls.

8. Transversing a bunch of stewn logs.

9. Hauling yourself through mud that goes up to your waist.

The races usually have around two dozen obsticals over the length of the course. Because the course is so challenging, you need to have a team to work with.

While you might think that no one would want to join me for the craziness listed above; I'm in luck. At my office there is one person, our newest arrival, Iryna, who is just as excited about this challenge as I am. We've created a team, which, due to lack of creativity on my part, is currently called Iryna and Nicole's Team. (We're working on a more creative name -- suggestions are welcome.)

Since we would definitely do better with more than two people, we're looking for additions to our team. My brother and his girlfriend are a maybe. (I hope very much that they are available because my brother, with his strength, could totally be the team MVP.) Seth's friend Patrick, who introduced me to the idea of doing this event, might take part as well. I also asked one of my friends from the gym at work. I'm hoping to get together at least a few more people. Seth is a no, as would be most reasonable people, and he plans to come and cheer me on. I know he'll be a huge help, as he always is!

The Tough Mudder website offers a training plan to get you ready for the race, but I've decided that I want to put together my own schedule. I'm planning to give myself two to three months to train with training starting in February. This will work perfectly because I want to devote the month of January to doing Insanity: The Asylum Volume 2. I just completed Insanity: The Asylum Volume 1 for the second time and am very much looking forward to Volume 2, which my mother is getting for me for Chanukah/Christmas.

I know that for the Tough Mudder I am going to need to have three things:

1. Endurance

2. Strength

3. Mental toughness

I'll need to be able to run basically half marathon distance and also have the upper body strength to pull myself through tunnels and the lower body strength to jump and grab onto walls. (Just to name a few.) In order to focus on endurance, I need to do running. In order to focus on strength, I need to continue doing a program like the original Insanity program or Asylum.

When I did my half marathon training, I ran three days a week. I did my "shorter" runs of 3 to 5 miles on Monday and Wednesday and my long runs (up to 11 miles) on Saturday. That left three days to cross train and a rest day. I purposefully did this schedule because I love to do a variety of cross training activities and didn't have any goal beyond completing the half marathon.

My plan for training for Tough Mudder is to do the Insanity and Asylum hybrid schedule and mix it with running. My plan would look like this:

Monday: Run

Tuesday: Insanity / Asylum

Wednesday: Run

Thursday: Insanity / Asylum

Friday: Insanity / Asylum

Saturday: Long Run

Sunday: Rest or stretch

The Insanity / Asylum hybrid schedule is 30 days, but with running every other day, it should take me the two months I am targeting. If I decide to do three month, then I can just repeat a few of the weeks. I also see that the hybrid schedule for Insanity / Asylum has some days with two workouts scheduled. Because I will be doing plenty of cardio (and in the interest of time), I will do the more strength focused workouts on days with two workouts listed. Of course, if I have extra time and am feel extremely motivated, I might do both workouts. I've been known to do that before.
I'm fairly confident that I can physically prepare myself for this challenge. I'm very dedicated to exercising and have prepared for a half marathon before, so I feel ready for this aspect of the Tough Mudder. What I am most concerned about is preparing for the mental aspects, specifically, the cold.
I admit it, I am terrified of the idea of plunging myself into cold water or of being cold. I dislike the cold with a passion! (So much so that I was willing to spend $5,500 to get a pellet stove for my cold house.) I cannot imagine how difficult it will be to force myself through cold water and to continue throughout the race wet. This is the part that really worries me.
Seth, a clever man, had a good idea because, after all, I don't want the day of the race to be the first time I jump into cold water. He suggested filling the bath tub with freezing water and submerging myself. I plan to do this as May gets closer. I also plan to try to go out running on some really wet and cold days. (I've done this before and think it will serve as good practice.) Acclimating myself will allow me to prepare myself for the challenge and also help me to be mentally tough in the area that will most be my weakness. Of course, this is always the option to avoid an obstacle on the day of the race, but I hope to avoid that.
I also know that having moisture wicking clothing will help and that having fewer items of clothing could be an asset. My skin will dry more quickly letting me get warmer (or less cold) more rapidly without wet clothing sticking to me. I have a good top for the event but was thinking I should really get some compression shorts. With this in mind, I picked up this pair.
I've resisted getting super tiny compression shorts in the past because my upper legs are my least favorite body part and I like to keep them covered. That being said, I think these shorts will be practical. I also have come to terms with my legs. They are my largest part, but they give me curves. They are also strong and were able to power me through 13.1 miles, some seriously tough kickboxing, and an extremely difficult fitness routine with almost 40 straight minutes of jumping. To sum it up, they are some pretty powerful legs and they do right by me, keeping up with all the crazy fitness I enjoy. They might not look perfect, but whose body does? I've got to love a body that can do all the stuff my body can do.
Overall, I'm super super excited for May and think that being registered for this event will keep me motivated to train throughout the winter. Seth and I also have a race planned for March, the Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon.
This race is put on by the Hartford Track Club, the people who did the Hogsback Half Marathon, which I took part in this fall. They did an amazing job with the half marthon, so when I saw this race, I wanted to sign up. Seth has been wanting to train for a 10K this year. A 1/4 marathon is 6.55 miles, versus the 6.2 mile 10K, so I figured this would work out well for him. Also, the race was only $25 and you get a finishers medal and a tech shirt. I know the race will be well organized and fun, since this group did such a great job with the half marathon. I think this will be a great first longer distance run for Seth.
I've got a busy spring planned, but this is great because it will keep me going during the winter. (I love the training just as much as the competing!) I'll be sure to keep you up to date with all the training details and post my finalized Tough Mudder Training schedule with the details worked out.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hot Chocolate Run

This morning, Seth and I drove into Northampton to participate in the 9th Annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage.

This morning was very cool and very chilly. While the promised high today is 50 degrees, I have yet to see it. While it was supposed to be in the mid-forties at the time the run was supposed to start, I decided to bring my running jacket, layered over my warm tech-shirt, just in case. Boy am I glad I did.

We arrived in Northampton at 9:00 a.m. Seth's back has been hurting him, so he elected to participate in the 2 mile walk, which he was going to do with my friend, Maddy. The walk started at 9:30 a.m., and we had left our house early in case we got stuck in traffic. (Luckily we didn't because I drove us a crazy back way. Further luck had it that my awesome colleague, Katie, who manages the Phonathon with me, lives about a block away from the start line of the race and generously let us park by her house.)

I had picked up our bibs on Friday night at the Northampton Running Co. to expidite things on Sunday morning. The Hot Chocolate Run was a sold out race with almost 5,500 participants, so I didn't want to have to worry about bib pick up.

The place was quite busy with sponsor tents and people every where -- this was by far the biggest event I think we've ever done; even bigger than the Bridge of Flowers 10K.

Pretty soon after we arrived, the walkers started lining up. We found Maddy, quite the feat in the crowd, and she and Seth set off on their 2 mile walk.

After Maddy and Seth took off, I had about a half an hour wait. I was quite chilly -- the weather was in the low thirties and misty with an unpleasant chill in the air. I had though I might check my jacket at the bag check before the race started, but now I knew there was no way I was letting it off my person. I was so glad I had brought it.

At around 9:40 a.m. everyone started to line up in the chute for the 5K run to start. The chute was massive. It went along Craft Ave, and then turned around a corner where there were even more spaces to line up. Since I had finished my last 5K in around 29:30 and run 9:30/mile, I decided to line up at the 9:30 marker, just around the bend in the road off Craft Ave.

Finally, after a cold wait we were off! The number of people running was so large, it took me almost two minutes to reach the starting line. Honestly, this was fine. I had been shaking from the cold and this allowed me a brief warm up. It took until around the 2K point in the race for me to begin to feel my toes which had gotten frozen during the long wait.

The race started with a small climb up Craft Ave where we were greeted at the top by a small band. Then we ran along Main Street, through the main downtown of Northampton.

We then turned a corner onto Route 5 by the Academy of Music and ran through some local neighborhoods, this entailed another bit of a hill but nothing too serious. We made a sharp turn and started heading back through the Smith College campus. The route took us past the gym, and up College Lane. This was the hardest set of hills for the course. There is a hill along the road that runs by Ainsworth/Scott Gym, along West Street, and then another hill that goes up College Lane. It was very nice to have spectators all along this hill cheering us on. At the top of the hill was the Smith College cheer leading team. A nice motivator.

We ended the race by turning onto Elm Street. I knew that everything would be downhill from this point on. I actually ran past my office building before continuing through the downtown again and finishing by taking the hill down Craft Ave.

I crossed the finish line with the clock reading over 31:00, however, I had spent almost 2 minutes getting out of the chute, so my actual race time was much shorter. My Nike+ had me finishing at 29:41, just a few seconds over my UMass Homecoming 5K time. I'm pretty pleased with this because the Hot Chcolate Run was a much more challenging course with the multipe hills. It was also a bit of a slower course because of the number of runners. You had to navigate between people carefully, and I was slowed down on the many turns on the course.

After finishing, Seth found me and we went to get some hot chocolate in our awesome new mugs!

The hot chocolate was quite good. I had finally warmed up at around the 4K mark of the 5K race, but was starting to get chilly again as I cooled. After enjoying our beverages, we headed back to Amherst.

Now, I am super releaved to be sitting in my warm house after a chilly but fun morning. This was my last race of the year, and it was nice to have it be such a big community event.

As you can see, Lily is helping me put my race last race notes of the season in my Race Day book.

I had a lot of fun with my running this year. While, I am going to keep running over the winter, and continue doing some running outside, I will definitely be cutting back, as I do my Asylum programs. I'm already excited for next year though and starting to plan some 2013 events!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Spinning Class

As I have mentioned before, Smith College, being a truly awesome employer, offers a set of free drop-in fitness classes through a program called, Get Fit Smith. Those of you who read my recent blog post know that, inspired by the fun I had at Smith's climbing wall, I decided to sign up for one of the Get Fit Smith spinning classes.
I have never tried spinning, and was looking forward to trying something new -- I signed up for the Friday, November 30 noon-time class with excitement.

In this moment of excitement, I must have had a moment of brief amnesia in which I forgot that I don't really like cycling. In my experience in the world of fitness, I have found there are people who like to run and, separately, people who like to bike. (There are the rare people who like to do both. These people are called triathletes and complete in triathlons and are either the most inspiring or the most crazy people one knows -- take your pick.)

I'll be honest I am a running person. I also like a good walk, cardio kickboxing, aerobics, HIIT training, or any of those totally crazy seeming at home fitness DVD programs. My preferred forms of exercise are those that don't involve sitting. Not to say that exercises that involve sitting, such as cycling or rowing, are easy. This not the case at all. However, I like to jump when I exercise, and I feel I sit enough during the rest of the day. I want my exercise to be in a completely vertical position.

Regardless of all of this, I was still in my state of happy forgetting-I-don't-really-like-to-bike amnesia when I entered the spin class today. The instructor was not very present until the exact start of class, so I was left more of less to myself to adjust the complicated spin bike. (This may have led to my lack of enjoyment in the class -- who knows.)

At exactly noon, the instructor arrived and put on some music, above which I could barely hear her. However, I did understand that we had a 50 minute class in which we'd warm up, do four 10 minute drills, and cool down.

This was all more or less fine. The drills incorporated interesting things like standing and "jumping" (which was not really jumping at all, but instead a movement where you sit and stand and sit and stand while pedaling). We continually adjusted a tension wheel to simulate climbing hills. The course we took seemed quite hilly.

My overriding problem though was the bike seat, otherwise known as a saddle, if you are a cycling person in the know. The seat was super uncomfortable. I feel as though my entire backside, where it was in contact with the seat of the spin bike, is bruised. This is not the discomfort of using new muscles but the discomfort of sitting and bouncing too long on a very hard surface. I'm hopefully that my running made my legs prepared for the rigors of spinning. They feel fine now, although this might be premature, and I shall wait for tomorrow to see for sure

It was interesting to check out something new with the fifty minute spin class, and I'm glad I was able to try for free at work. I think that spinning is definitely a good cardio workout, plus it works your legs hard. As a bonus, it's non-impact, so it's great for cross training days for those of us who do high impact activities. All in all though, I can't say I enjoyed the exercise that much. Perhaps this was because of the very limited instruction. I might try again with my step-mother, who's a spin instructor, and see if I like it better.

Either way I have a lot going on. You might think I am referring to the running streak I had pledged myself to last week. Alright, I admit it -- I have abandoned this effort after a miserable run in cold weather with a sub-freezing windchill last Saturday. I love to run, and I love to run outside. I don't want to get to a point where I hate to run because I force myself to do it just to keep up my streak.

Instead, for a holiday season challenge, I have decided to do another round of the fitness program Asylum, that I got for Chanukah/Christmas last year and did late last spring. I am getting the second set of DVDs for the program for the holidays this year, and I want to be ready. All this running had been great, but I need to keep up my strength and power -- Asylum is going to help me with that. I'm about a week in, having started on Sunday and am having a great time.

I am also looking forward to a fun running event Seth and I are doing this Sunday, the Hot Chocolate Run. This race will be a 5K in Northampton to support the charity Safe Passage. Apparently, the Hot Chcolate Run is one of the biggest races in Western Massachusetts drawing around 5,500 people this year. I think that this is going to be a very exciting local community even this weekend. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and fill you in!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A New Challenge

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good exercise challenge, which is why I was so excited to hear about the Runner's World 2012 Holiday Running Streak.

Making time to exercise during the busy holiday season can be difficult. The 2012 Holiday Running Streak challenges runners to run every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Because everyone needs a rest day, people only have to run at least one mile to keep the streak going.

I started off the challenge on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, with a trip to the gym where my brother works. I had planned to do a five mile treadmill run. Unfortunately, I forgot my favorite running shoes back home in Massachusetts (and was in Connecticut for the holiday). All I had were my Nike Free Run 3.0s. I love these shoes for walking and wear them all the time, but, for some reason, they give me blisters when I run. I hadn't worn the shoes in a while for running though and was hoping I might have broken them in and made them better for my runs. Alas, this was not the case. I made it to just under four miles before my feet were bothering me too much to continue. I finished up my exercise by doing fifteen minutes on the elliptical.

I returned from the gym to enjoy the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and some delicious home made cinnamon rolls my mom made.

For Thanksgiving afternoon, we headed over to my Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Geraldine's where was had an amazing Thankgiving feast!

Everything was beautifully done. I had a wonderful time celebrating with my family!

Friday, I woke up ready for day two of the Holiday Running Streak. Friday was supposed to be a rest day for me, and I still had a blister on my foot, although it wasn't bothering me too badly. I borrowed a pair of running shoes and did a quick mile and a half run around my hometown neighborhood. The weather was absolutely wonderful, and I had a great run.

Post run, I have a nice visit with my friends, Molly and Clela, and then traveled to Glastonbury to visit with my dad and step-mother, before finally heading home to Amherst.

Today, Saturday, I got up ready for run three in my streak. The weather looked sunny and nice. The iPhone's integrated weather app told me it was a moderate temperature -- in the upper 30s. I put on a warm running shirt and tights and headed out.

It was absolutely miserable! The weather was freezing. It was blustery and the wind cut right through my clothing. My ears were ice. I ran just under four miles, taking a challenging course with hills to ensure I got some good, albeit brief, exercise and headed home. What a terrible run!

So far, the running streak has been going a bit rough -- there was a the blister on day one and the terrible cold weather on day three. I'm still eager to keep up with the challenge. Since running is not the only exercise I do, I plan to do just quick one mile runs on days where I want to do resistance training or some other form of cardio (like aerobic class or kickboxing).

I definitely think the streak is a fun and interesting idea and look forward to getting a lot of running in before the new year, when I plan to change gears for a little bit. I'm getting the intense athletic training fitness program Insanity: The Asylum: Volume 2 for the holidays from Mom. (This is the sequal to the Insanity and Insanity: The Asylum programs I did in the past). Once the new fitness program comes, I'm going to be cutting back on my running to focus on more cross-training with increased strength training and plyo work. Until then, I hope to run daily from now until New Year's and meet the challenge set by Runner's World!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Considering Food

The holiday season is fast approaching, and I am sure that many of you, like me, are thinking about how to keep your eating in check.

I rarely write about food and nutrition for a couple of reason:

1. I am not a nutritionist and have no nutrition training. Fortunately, the things I know about nutrition are from my brother who studied nutrition in college. He's a pretty big help.

2. I am not that interested in food. I hate to cook and don't want to make anything that take more than half an hour or less.

That being said, I think I keep a fairly good diet and eat clean at least 70 - 80% of the time. To do this, I have a couple of strategies. I snack, and I eat a salad for lunch every day.

I am very set about my meal and snacking schedule. My meals and snacks from breakfast until (but not including) dinner are set. That means, I eat basically the same thing at the same time every day. This helps me make sure that I am getting some of the nutrients I want.

Here's a standard day for me:

7:00 a.m. Breakfast: The goal here is to have something fast requiring minimum to no preparations. I like to have breakfast out of the way in 15 minutes. Here are some of my standards.

Nutrition shake

Kind bar or Lara bar

Ezekiel bread with peanut butter (two slices)

Kashi cereal with milk

10:00 a.m. Snack: I always have a 10:00 snack, especially when I am at work. When working, I go to the gym from noon until 1:00 p.m. and need a snack to power me through.

Fage Greek yogurt 0%

Stretch Island fruit flat (Which I rip up and put in the yogurt. Yes, fresh fruit is better, but this won't go bad in a week. You could subsitute honey too.)

1:00 p.m. Lunch:

Salad (More on this later.)

Crackers -- Lately, I have been enjoying Stacy's Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips. I put them in a small snack bag, so I only get aroung 150 calories worth, since this isn't the most healthy food -- it's not unhealthy; just kind of neutral.

3:00 p.m. Snack (optional): I may not have this snack if I am eating dinner early or if I am not doing any afternoon exercise and am not hungry.

Cinnamon apple rice cakes with peanut butter (two cakes)

TLC bar -- I like the cherry chocolate one

We usually have dinner between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., depending on our schedules. What we eat for dinner varies. We choose what we'll eat for dinner at the beginning of the week when we do our shopping. Stapes include: pasta with lean meat or veggies, tacos with beans, baked eggplant with sauce and cheese, tomato soup, fish with rice and veggies.

As I mentioned before, a staple in my diet is a good salad. I make my salads at home every day. They look like this.

I start my salad with a bed of mixed greens with spinach. Then I add grapes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes (I like the orange ones), avocado, and top it with goat cheese (which contains protein and is lower in fat than lots of cheeses). Totally easy.

I love eating a salad every day. I know I am getting good vitamins and minerals from the fruits and vegetables, plus eating a salad just makes me feel healthy.

With my meal/snack schedule, some salads, and some portion control, I hope to make it through the holiday season while keeping a healthy diet!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Workout Routine

I have this week off from work -- I took vacation time. To kick off the week right, I accompanied Seth to the Mount Holyoke College gym this morning. He wanted to show me the track, where he likes to run, and their new fitness center.

Similar to the gym at Smith, the Mount Holyoke gym is brand new with a ton of treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes, all with their own televisions. Also, like Smith, they have weight machines and free weights.

Seth and I started our workout at the track, which seems to be around 1/10 of a mile in diameter -- a bit small. Seth did some training for the Hot Chocolate Run 5K that we are doing the first Sunday in December.

This was my first time running on a track since high school when, during my short stint on the field hockey team, we used to run mile runs on the track some days to warm up. I was pretty eager to check out the track again because I have been wanting to try some speed training.

I'm such a new runner that I am able to improve my times just by running normally, but I know that speed training is something that I will probably want to do in the future. Plus, I thought it would be interesting to check out a new style of workout. I find that reading about speed training workouts can be a bit daunting, so I decided to just fool around and do some fartlicks -- basically the running equivilent of doing whatever speed work you want.

I warmed up and then decided to do one lap of the track fast. I ran fast as I felt I could sustain for 1/10 of a mile (which for me was just under 7:00, which would be slow for lots of people). After the fast lap, I recovered by walking for 30 seconds. They I did two laps of the track at around 10:20, which is close to the speed I ran when I did the run portions of my half marathon. I did this workout for only around twenty-five minutes, but it was fun and interesting to try something new. I plan to look up some "real" speed workouts in my running books and try some different things.

Seth has been saying that he wants to do some toning, so after our time on the track we headed over to the fitness center so that we could do some resistance training.

Based on what I do for weight training in my aerobics class and a routine I got from my co-worker (who met with a trainer), I put together a workout for Seth. I think that the free weights are easier than the machines, so I started Seth there. Since he wants to build lean muscle instead of bulking up, I recommended more reps with lighter weights instead of doing fewer reps with heavier weights. When I train, I alternate between both approaches, doing light weights with lots of reps in my class and doing heaver weights with fewer weights when I am at the gym on my own.

I set up the following workout for Seth. For each set of exercises, I told him to do eight reps at 1/2 time (contract for two counts then release for two counts), then do eight reps with a 3/1 count ratio (contract for three, release for one), followed by eight reps with a 1/3 count ratio (contract for one, release for three). After that, he can do sixteen reps single time. Here were the exercises we did. I started him with the weights I use, but I think he'll be able to go heavier once he gets the form.

Warm up: 5 minutes on treadmill or elliptical

Chest: Chest press (8 lbs.) or fly (5 lbs.)

Shoulders: Row with a press (5 lbs.) or side raises (3 - 5 lbs.)

Back: Lat rows (10 lbs.)

Legs: Squats (two 5 lbs. or one 10 lb.) or moving lunges (5 lbs.)

Triceps: Dips or extensions (10 lbs.)

Biceps: Curls (8 - 10 lbs.)

Abs: Crunches on the ball (with the single count reps as oblique twist).

The workout should take around forty minutes, which I think would work with his schedule. We just went through a couple reps of each type at the gym today, in the interest of time, but plan to do the entire workout at home together tomorrow morning. (I have the weights we need.)

After Seth gets comfortable with this, we can try some stuff with heavier weights, but I think this will get him the results he wants -- toning of the upper body.

It was lots of fun going to the gym with Seth today. I am very excited that he plans to alternate resistance training with his cardio and can't wait to see his results!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Smith College Climbing Wall

Today I did something very exciting; I climbed at the Smith College climbing wall.

The climbing wall at Smith is located in the same room as where I have my aerobics class, and I have often looked at it wistfully thinking that it must be really really neat for the people who get to enjoy the climbing wall.

Monday night at the Phonathon, I was talking with one of the student callers. She mentioned that her girlfriend worked at the climbing wall. I said that I had been interested in checking out the Central Rock Gym, a climbing gym in neighboring Hadley, but would love to try the climbing wall at Smith first. Good news! The Smith climbing wall was free and open to all members of the Smith community.

The student caller kindly e-mailed me the climbing wall hours. I was happy to see it was open from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. on Thursday nights, which worked well with my schedule. I promised myself that I would go.

I headed over to the gym after work today and was warmly greeted by my student caller's girlfriend who took great care of me during my first time at the climbing wall. She hooked me up with a harness and climbing shoes and, after a quick safety introduction, invited me to get warmed up by doing some bouldering.

The bouldering was great! I was able to climb about a third of the way up the wall without being on belay. It was a nice way to get a feel for what was to come, especially considering I have only done any climbing twice, both with school fields trips in junior high and high school.

After I was warmed up, I was attached to safety equipment and after more of a safety lesson was able to start climbing. There are a number of different courses you can do on the rock climbing wall. I navigated my way up the wall three times, two times on the same stretch of wall doing differing courses and the second time on a different wall.

The climbing was such a great experience that I definitely want to go back in future weeks. I also have to make it a point to go to the Central Rock Gym where I can do even more climbing. (I have a free day pass but will still have to pay for equipment and someone to belay me, unlike at Smith where everything was free.)

I had initially been worries that I would feel uncomfortable climbing. After all, a lot of people say that heights are scary. This wasn't the case at all. I felt very comfortable in my safety equipment and was well cared for by the staff at the climbing wall, who are absolutely awesome! (My student caller's girlfriend really made me feel like a VIP.)

I found that I really like the strategy involved with climbing a specific path or trail along the wall -- I was constantly trying to figure out how to best navigate to my next point.

I think it's wonderful that Smith offers so many wonderful opportunities to its employees. I hope to take advantage of more of the great classes and facilities at the gym. Later this month, I want to attend one of the free Get Fit Smith classes that the Exercise and Sports Science program offers. I've been dying to try spinning, especially since my step-mom is an instructor, so I signed up for a free class at Smith Friday during lunch in late November.

I plan to keep exerimenting with my fitness options at work and also make sure to go to the climbing wall again soon!

Blogsy Test #2 (still Seth!)

Okay, so I'm back. I know, that was fast. But there was one more thing that Nicole wanted me to test with Blogsy: links. Yeah, she had some trouble last night linking to the Barnes & Noble website, so I'm going to give it a shot and see what all the fuss is about.

(FYI, if Blogsy continues to be a pain, I already told Nicole I'd buy her the Posts app off the App Store!)

Well, would you look at that-- I just linked something! This was much easier than dragging a photo into the blog draft. I'm not sure what was going on last night, but this looks good to me so far.

Okay, I mean it now. You'll hear from Nicole next. I think Blogsy should be fine for her blogging needs, but if she keeps having problems, there are other alternatives out there.


Blogsy Test #1 (by: Seth!)

After the... marginal success of last night, I, Seth, am here to give this Blogsy app another try! We're going to stick to mostly text with this one, because I want to gauge how well the app handles all of Nicole's various blogging media.

So, text... well, I think that Nicole is planning on a blog post about her recent (read: today's) trip to the Rock Wall at the Smith gym. She enjoyed it a lot, and she said that I should go with her... which isn't going to happen (height phobia, after all...).

But I'm sure she'll fill you all in on that a bit later. For now, let's try something like a numbered list to see how Blogsy handles that:

2. This is also a list, but slightly longer.1. This is a list.

3. Third time's the charm, and third list's the charm too!

Okay, now that we've done text, and a list, let's get really crazy-- a picture! This is where Nicole started having problems last night, so wish me luck...



This is a recent picture of our lovely daughter-cat, Lily!


Phew! Positioning pictures with Blogsy is a bit of a chore... but I think I finally got it (only took me a couple of minutes! heh).

Okay, well, I think I've said enough here. Let's publish this and see what we get. You'll be hearing from Nicole again soon; until then, enjoy the new blog design (made by yours truly!).



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New iPad Mini

Exciting news! I am posting this on my new iPad mini.

The new iPad mini was purchased to replace the netbook that I had purchased several years ago. Usually, I protest the purchase of any new thing. (Seth ignores me and gets me things anyway.) For a while, I was insisting that my netbook (an Asus Eee PC) was just fine.

Sure, it couldn't manage certain webpages. (Notably, the TRX website made it freeze and have to hard reset every single time.) Sure if I opened more than a couple of tabs in my browser things would stall. The important thing was they would eventually start moving again. You know, if I waited long enough.

The final straw -- the moment that even I had to realize that my netbook was no longer working for me -- came about a month ago. I was updating my blog. I was also trying to listen to some tunes on Spotify. All of a sudden, my Eee PC let out a startling and continuous grinding noise. Everything froze.

I was not deterred by this "minor" setback. After all, the netbook has crashed before. (Recall the TRX website trouble.) I hard reset my computer. I logged back into Windows 7 Starter Edition. I re-opened my blog post. I re-opened Spotify. After all, I was only streaming music and updating a text box online. And this was a netbook -- designed to surf the net.

After my netbook froze two more times, I gave up, listed to Spotify on my iPhone, and realized that if I was very very gentle, maybe my netbook could just update blog posts.

I could have gone on in this state of extreme denial for a very long time had Seth not heard of the situation. He insisted that this made no sense -- I had a computer I could barely use. It was a three year old netbook, apparently old for a netbook.

Next thing I knew, Seth was requesting I consider a quotation for free engraving for the back of my iPad mini that he was ordered online. (I chose a Tennyson quotation from "Locksley Hall".)

I was not home last night when the mini arrived, since I was working the evening at the Phonathon, Seth took a quick video to introduce me to the new mini.

I have only been using the iPad mini for a little while. (I was at work until 10:00 p.m. last night and then went in for 8:00 a.m. today -- my normal Tuesday night hours to Wednesday day hours switch.) There are already a few observations I have.

1. The iPad mini had a great form factor. It is compact and light, weighing about the same as my Nook Simple Touch Reader. The mini is very easy to bring around, as a result and comfortable in the hand. I put the mini in my bag and brought it to work today -- it was so light I barely noticed it.

2. For anyone with any device the uses iOS, the mini is a great tool. Everything between my iPhone and iPad is automatically synced, including apps, photos, my calendar, and task lists.

This is especially handly for pictures. In the past, I would take pictures on my iPhone and then have to upload them to Dropbox to get the on my netbook for posting on my blog. Now my photos from my iPhone automatically are on my iPad -- no extra effort needed.

3. I am considering using the iPad mini for reading. I do most of my reading on my Nook and get most of my books from the digital library, powered by Overdrive. When I want to get out a book for my Nook, I have to download the book from Overdrive into Adobe Digital Editions using my computer. I then have to hook up my Nook and transfer the file.

With the iPad mini, I can use the Overdrive app to take out and return books completely wirelessly -- no PC needed.

4. I am planning to use the iPad as my main computer, especially for blogging. So far, I have been experimenting with the app Blogsy -- the Blogger website doesn't allow me to pull from my photo roll and the Blogger app is terrible.

So far, Blogsy has been quite a bit buggy, despite good review on the App Store. I will have to play around to see if I keep it or go for another option.

All in all, I am very excited about the mini. I think it is without a doubt the best small tablet on the market with much more support than the Nook Tablet or Kindle Fire and much better hardware and software (including apps). I am excited to see more about what this device can do. I am ready for a life with just mobile devices.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cider Donut Run 10K

This morning, Seth and I headed about 10 minutes down the road into North Amherst. I was registered to run in the first even Cider Donut Run 10K to benefit the Amherst Survival Center.

I had learned about this run from a flier I received at the Bridge of Flowers 10K. I had signed up for the race early this fall. It seemed perfect -- the fact that it was local meant it was an easy drive, and my registration was benefiting an important local charity. In addition, cider doughnuts -- how could one go wrong? I also think that the 10K distance is probably my favorite for racing. It's long enough to make you feel accomplished (and I like that I don't have to run super fast). At the same time, it's not so long that you feel completely exhausted at the end.

The race started at Mill River Recreation Area. We arrived a bit early and parked around a five minute walk away, as requested. When we got to Mill River, it was hopping! There were balloons and signs everywhere.

In it's first year, the race had turned out 400 entrants. The atmosphere was very energetic. There was music and loads of people. Even a dog had decided to support his team on the shorter 2.4 mile walk/run that was happening.

I went ahead and registered. This was a bit chaotic, as the people handing out the numbers didn't seem quite as organized as everyone else, but things went fine. After registering, I went over to preview the course map, posted on the wall. I had reviewed the course and knew it passed through UMass and had an elevation gain, but I wanted a reminder.

Shortly after that, Seth and I met up with Maddy and Dave who had just arrived. Dave was running the 10K too. 

Right before 10:00 a.m., we lined up, heard brief announcements, and were off on our run.

The first mile took us out of Mill Valley and up along North Pleasant Street. At this point, the road has a slightly uphill continuous rise. It wasn't killer, but I decided to keep my pace very conservative at around 9:50 per mile, as it looked like the course was going to be hilly. 

Right before mile two, we turned on a road and headed into UMass, passing the North, North East, and Sylvan residential areas. This road , probably around a half mile in length was the most significant hill of the run. I had been worried about this hill, as it's decently long and somewhat steep. I was happy to stay that I tackled it without too much of a problem. I was able to run the whole way up keeping my pace in the moderate 10:00 to 10:15 range. The last little bit of the hill, I was encouraged by a band of around a dozen people playing at the top. 

I was happy to make it to the top of the hill and turn onto East Pleasant Street. Finally, after around two and a half miles of running we were going downhill. 

I had thought there would be more hills even after the one by the UMass dorms, but the last 3.5 miles of the course proved to be downhill or flat with only the occasional very slight rolling hill. 

I kept my pace fairly even along East Pleasant Street, wanting to maintain my energy in case there was another hill (which there wasn't -- I should have studied the map more). For the last two miles, we turned and headed towards Puffer's Pond and passed through some beautiful areas of forest and parks in North Amherst. With only two miles left, I decided to give it my all and increased my speed, running the rest of the race in around 9:15 per mile. I achieved a nice negative split (probably most people did on this course with the hill at the start). 

The entire run was very well populated with people who cheered us on. There were frequent water stops. The course took us along some heavily trafficked roads, but there were a lot of race volunteers and police officers, who all did a wonderful job with managing traffic. I felt very safe. All in all, the race was very well organized, especially considering it was the first time. 

I arrived back at Mill River with a good amount of energy and raced towards the finish line to lots of crowd support and fun music blasting on the speakers. It feel like a wonderful community event. I was very glad to see how successful everything was in this inaugural year.

I finished the race in around 59 minutes with an average pace of 9:38 per mile. (*As of this post, official race times haven't been posted yet online -- these times are from my Nike+ sensor.*)

After the race, Maddy, Dave, Seth, and I hung out for a little while enjoying some tasty cider doughnuts and cider from Atkins.

In sum, thought that this race was a whole lot of fun. I really liked that the hilly and difficult part of the course was right up front. I was able to tackle the challenging part before getting tired and was able to know I could go as fast as I wanted at the end. 

I was very encouraged by my stamina on the hill. I have been doing some more hill running (including a really lovely but hilly run in South Amherst from the commons on Friday), and I think that this experience made me have a successful run today -- it was great to see the progress I've made. 

Today's run took us through some really nice parts of North Amherst I had never seen (although were were on some heavily trafficked roads, which was probably a big bother for drivers). It was well organized and just fun. I definitely think this will be a run I will do next year with Seth joining me.