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!