Rocky Time: Own the Stairs

Stairs. Just the very word has such an element of power to it. Stairs are very important in boosting your overall conditioning and are a great alternative for hills. Shake up your workout by adding one of these stair workouts:

Long Distance Stair Workout:

This type of workout is to build endurance while focusing on the mental aspect of pushing through a long run. Find stairs at least 200-400 steps long. It isn’t hard, research the nearest Stadium or Track for long sets of stairs.

The Workout: It is impossible to base your entire stair workout off a mileage goal so run based on time. If you are going for an endurance workout go for 30-40 minutes of stair repeats with a minute of jogging at the top and bottom of the stairs. You will end up running the stairs at least four times at a slow and steady pace; make sure to not go out too hard on the first one.20160710_095840.jpg

Speed Stair Workout:

This type of workout is working on getting the cadence of your feet faster and to get off your feet faster while running. Find a set of stairs that are about 20-25 steps long, look near schools and universities.

The Workout: The final result will be 9 stair intervals. Run the first set of stairs at 70% effort and jog back down. Repeat two more times. Run the fourth set of stairs at 80% effort and jog back down. Repeat two more times. Finish the last three sets at 90-100% effort. For a more condensed version:

Interval 1-3: Run the whole set of stairs at 70% effort

Intervals 4-6: 80% effort

Intervals 7-9: 90-100% effort

These should be quick reps, focusing your attention on quick feet.

Strength Stair Workout:

Running/walking stairs will always help build strong hamstrings and calves but if you really want to go the extra mile will leg strength here is the workout for you. This is also good for people who are planning on going on an especially strenuous hike.

The Workout: Find a set of light ankle weights, about 3-5 pounds and attach them to both ankles. Walk up a long set of stairs (100-300 steps) going at a slow pace and focusing on driving each leg down to propel yourself upward. Repeat 2-3 times.

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Tips for running stairs:20160710_100051.jpg

  • Dress like it is 10-15 degrees warmer outside due to the amount of effort exerted during these workouts.
  • Drink lots of water prior because you will probably sweat more than a usual run
  • Go with a friend! Not only is it safer but also for encouraging high fives as you ascend and descend the stairs
  • Bring music (see below for some of my favorite stair-specific songs)

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Stair Running Playlist:

  • Take you back (Frank Stallone)- yes this is from the Rocky movie
  • New Man (Ed Sheeran)
  • Another part of me (Michael Jackson)
  • Be alright (Ariana Grande)
  • He’s the Greatest Dancer (Sister Sledge)
  • Lush Life (Zara Larsson)
  • Working Man (Rush)
  • Rocky Theme Song- Okay I’m a little obsessed with Rocky

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Why I run stairs:

In Seattle there is a variety of hidden staircases that makes this city so fun to run in. I live near a particularly long staircase that is about 400 steps long and have been running them with my Dad since I was 13. They are motivating and exhilarating, and nothing can compare to the feeling that you get at the top of the stairs. A sense of accomplishment. I have run a variety of staircases in my life, from the staircases at Safeco Field to the painted staircases of San Francisco. Maybe my favorite movie Rocky has something to do with it, or maybe I just like the rewarding feeling at the end. Either way, I’m always up for the challenge.

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First-Timer’s Guide to SoulCycle

“Wow, what just happened?” were the first words that came out of my mouth as I left my first SoulCycle class. I was pushed, I was challenged, I was empowered; I loved it.

I showed up 10 min. early which wasn’t early enough for a first-timer because I felt rushed and didn’t have enough time to get a feel for the bike. Everyone is helpful and you first need to acquire a pair of shoes from the front desk that lock into your bike Everyone was assigned a bike beforehand and I was bike #33 which was in the middle row and in front of the instructor.

The room was dark and at first the music seemed overwhelmingly but it was powerful in the end. The music matches the motions on the bike and pedaling is perfectly timed. Everyone moves as one as we listened to the instructor to start doing push-ups on the bike and sways to the left and right. My arms were burning while my eyes were fixed on copying the person in front of me who seemed to know exactly what she was doing.

As we simulated going up a hill, we were instructed to turn the knob on our bike to the right to increase resistance. It increasingly got difficult and my legs burned for rest but I was too committed to wimp out and stop. The class works in HIIT intervals, where you do an extremely fast and hard workout for about 10 min. and then take a short break, and repeat.

I was very surprised yet again when we were told to grab the weights on the shelves on our bikes. I scoffed to find that they were only three pounds, only to be breathing hard two minutes later as we upped the resistance while doing punches with the weights. I liked how the instructor did’t point out what we were doing wrong and instead had us independently figure it out and follow our group-mates. SoulCycle is built on community and everyone working as a team. There was no leaderboards, no competition; it was everyone working together in this empowering environment and pushing ourselves to our maximum potential. The instructor kept reminding of this: “Think of one more minute of pain, push yourself for one more minute, think of your fellow bike members also pushing themselves through this minute.”

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At the very end we dismounted our bikes and stretched. The final words that she told us were “this is a judgement free zone.” That stuck with me, that an exercise class could also be a community. The rules were posted, “Leave your cell phone, stress, and negative thoughts.” It was a spin class with a yoga mindset. When you “click in” to the bike, you are “clicking in” to a new mindset. There is something fun about riding to your max, not caring how much you are sweating, wearing your cutest workout clothes because that is the norm, and plugging into 45 minutes of Cycling Nirvana.

I invite you to try something new and go to SoulCycle. I guarantee you will not regret it.

Hydration is Key

Here’s what happened when I started to drink 70 oz of water a day:

A few weeks ago my running was feeling off and my legs felt weak trying to hit times that I had hit easily a week ago. It was frustrating as you can imagine, and I decided to see if it was because of hydration issues. Spoiler: It was. I bought giant 50 oz water bottles and tried to drink those over the course of the day resulting in a lot of unexpected benefits.

No more “Side Stiches”: You know that horrible feeling that feels like stabbing in your ribs when you run? Yeah that can be an effect of dehydration, often occurring in morning runs when your body loses over a pound of water at night!  After drinking so much water during the day I didn’t feel these anymore.

I felt more awake. Starting your day with a giant glass of water is not only refreshing but it also wakes you up entirely. Now after keeping my body hydrated all day I no longer had that lingering tired feeling.

Less Hungry. Usually I was always hungry, even after meals which was probably due to a lack of water intake during the day. After I started drinking 70 oz during the day I wasn’t that hungry during meals or at night.

I felt stronger. That weak feeling that was ruining my runs was no more, I felt stronger than ever.

More likely than not, most people are not getting as much water as their body needs, so start drinking a little more water each day and reap the above benefits!

 

Missing an Important Race

Us runners spend weeks upon months training not only for the thrill of it, but also in hopes a gaining a new PR(!!!). But sometimes things don’t go as planned and, inevitably, we all eventually have to miss a race whether due to injury, illness, or prior commitment *gasp*.

Missing a race sucks. Whether it be a marathon or track meet it feels like the end of the world for those of us who literally fantasize about racing (yes, I’m guilty of this). There are only so many races we get to run and missing just one is literally more painful (emotionally) than running the last lap of the 3200m.This is a totally dramatic reaction of course, and if you react like this it means yes, you are dedicated, but realize that maybe you’re a little too dedicated. 

It’s hard seeing other people having an amazing time and PRing when you can’t do anything, no matter how happy you are for them. It’s hard not being able to reap achievements after putting so much time and effort into training. It’s hard hearing others complain about racing when you don’t even have the chance to try.

Despite this, you can’t let missing out on a race dictate your mood and day because it will just make you miserable. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Don’t worry about FOMO and make the day you do have a great one anyway. Realize that other people have worse problems than you, heck some people can’t even run so be grateful that you can at all.

Bottom line, missing a race (or even races, sigh (I’m experienced)) isn’t the end of the world. Believe it or not there are other things in the world besides running. Feeling sorry for yourself isn’t  going to change the fact that you still can’t race. Also there will be other races to run. 

If you are having trouble coming to terms with having to miss a race, it’s okay to mope around a little bit, but realize that it will make you twice as driven for your next race. Remind yourself of your frustration when you can race again and channel that as motivation. 

And just chill, even if you’re missing the race you were looking forward to all year, just know that you weren’t meant to race that day. Who knows, maybe if you did end up racing, something terrible might have happened like a bad fall or twisted ankle and you might be set back even more… or forever \_(•_•)_/. (Ok that was a bit dark but it could be true).

In it for the Long Run

    Long runs in my opinion, are one of the most important days of the week. Even if it’s just 6 miles, your long run helps you build endurance and stamina while strengthening slow-twitch muscles (for those of you who run long distance). Long runs can be enjoyable and even fun if you make them, here are some tips:

Running with music can be a big motivator especially when you are running in a boring landscape (I once ran 8 miles on a Track!) or need upbeat songs to keep you going. But, although music is excellent at keeping you moving I recommend taking a break from the headphones sometimes. Recently I have ditched the music on my long runs because I use these days to listen to my body and become more in tune with it (no pun intended). Without music on these long runs, I am alone with my thoughts and reflect on the week; or I notice my breathing pattern or if my left hip is bothering me. Music is entirely up to you but I wouldn’t rely on it every run, running without music can give you more insight about yourself/body while running.

20170116_105342.jpg   New gear always make me want to run longer and faster. As you know I just got some new compression socks that I always wear on my long runs, because I believe that they keep the lactic acid in my legs from building up and prevents soreness. Even if its just that new pair of leggings, a new clothing item gives a new “pep in your step” that makes you confident during the run.

Location, location, location. Long runs can be an opportunity to explore your city or beautiful scenery. You don’t have to stick to the same route, running longer opens up new areas and distances to cover. I even recommend sometimes driving 15-20 minutes away to a beach, boardwalk, park or anywhere near the water.20161105_164203.jpg These new places will keep your mind off the miles and focus on the sound of the water or the way the light hits the trees. On New Year’s day I drove to the boat docks and ran along the water, it was fascinating and so beautiful that I ended up running farther just because I didn’t want to leave.

Time your runs so that you come back while the sun is setting. Everybody loves a sunset so why not race the sunset? If you know about how long your run will be, look up the local sunset time and plan to start finishing your run around that time so that you can watch the sunset while you run. 20170101_162753.jpgThese are the runs that make me realize how amazing our sport is and it is so invigorating and relaxing to end your day running along those beautiful oranges and golds in the sky. It’s almost poetic.

Do an out-and-back long run: by only running out let’s say 4 miles and turning around it makes the run seem shorter and more manageable. When choosing the distance for the long run, it should be about ¼ to ⅓ of your daily mileage and at a moderate/easy pace. Don’t push yourself too hard with the pace, take the time to slow down and flow through the mileage.

Reaching new distances is always exciting and creates a sense of accomplishment, so go out there and enjoy those long runs because they help not only the body but also the mind. Running long and far keeps you in touch with yourself and maybe you will like it more than you think? 🙂

 

   

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Staying in Shape During Vacation 

School breaks are coming up, which means many people will be leaving for a nice, relaxing vacation full of sun and amazing food. Or at least, that’s what would be ideal. Realistically though, for us runners the excitement for vacation is deflated when we realize: how can I stay in shape!? Training can’t come to a halt for vacation (I wish!). Unfortunately, traveling is tiring and running everyday just isn’t always possible. Your hotel might not have a treadmill, you may not have time to workout, or you may not be comfortable going for a run in a new, unknown area. Luckily, here are some tips to stay in shape while on vacation.

Go hiking: Hiking is a great way to build muscle and it allows you to explore new areas and views along the way. You can also get a lot of cardio in if you search for hikes with lots of elevation change. It may not be a run, but long taxing hikes can be a great workout! 

Here’s a great hike I did while in Noosa, Queensland that was 3 miles of steep upgrade. It was a definite quad workout! 

Walk instead of drive: If you are in a large metropolitan area, take a day to just explore the city! Walk to places instead of driving; this is an awesome way to get a closer look at the city, it saves you taxi/rental money, and walking around for a few hours will cover a lot of mileage! When I was in Sydney we walked around downtown for a total of 5 hours and covered almost 11 miles. The key is instead of setting aside time to exercise, make your entire day a workout instead. 


I used this tip while exploring downtown Melbourne. Add a 20lb pack pack all day and you’ll be exhausted at the end of the day- in a good way!

Beach runs: If you are headed to a tropical destination, go for a beach run! If you go early in the morning or if the beach generally isn’t too crowded, running on the sand provides a challenging workout. Especially if the beach isn’t too large, it’s great to run strides on the sand instead. This way you can get in a great workout while enjoying the beach and it doesn’t take up a lot of your vacation time. 

Featuring a rare empty Bondi beach, this is great, especially if the sand is soft. 

Swim: If you hotel has a pool, use it to your advantage! Many pools are opened early in the morning or late at night. This way you can go without interfering with day plans and you can avoid kids. Swimming is a taxing cardio exercise that is great if you have been relaxing all day. Maybe even try aqua jogging.  

Kayak/paddle board: Another way to explore your new surroundings is getting out on the water (if possible). Take a guided kayak or paddleboard tour to learn about the ocean, or just rent them to paddle around. Both are great upper body workouts, honestly, kayaking is great for core and arms. You might be sore the next day though. Even renting a peddleboat is a good leg workout since you are basically riding a bike with increased resistance. 

On Lake Washington with a perfect view of Mt. Rainer. The view from the water is also an added bonus!

Just chill: Or you can just take a few rest days! Relax and sit back with no worries. You legs could use a break anyway, they deserve a vacation too. In some cases, a few days of rest can actually be conducive to faster racing the following week. Personally, I took a 5 day break from running last spring break and PR’d by 13 seconds in following week in the 1600m. 

Overall, vacation is meant for relaxing and exploring, so don’t worry too much about improving as much as just staying in shape in general. Just remember that the important thing is having fun! 

How to Make Gym Workouts Survivable

As runners, we are used to the freedom of being outside and being able to choose our running routes or just being spontaneous while being outside. Let’s be honest; gym workouts are a sad alternative to this. It’s usually hot, cramped, and crowded. I always feel like people are watching me while I workout which is just really uncomfortable, needless to say, I avoid the gym when I can. But sometimes, it’s just unavoidable. Maybe it’s too hot or too cold out, or you’re on vacation so you don’t feel comfortable running in an area you don’t know. Or maybe it’s just the most convenient in your schedule. No matter what the reason, we all go to the gym at one point or another and ultimately it’s never fun to run on a treadmill with many other people next to you for an hour. It makes me feel like a hamster to be honest. But I have developed a few habits and tips when I go to the gym to make it more bearable and… maybe even fun?

Listen to NEW MUSIC: Sure, running to your favorite artists is great, but I find that it gets me into a routine and eventually hearing the same music over and over again (even if it’s your favorite Taylor Swift pump-up playlist…) can fade into the background. But listening to new music will keep things fresh and exciting! Whenever I go to the gym, I pick a random Spotify playlist and play it for 20 minutes, then chose an entirely different playlist (and so on…). It keeps things fresh, gives you something other than your treadmill to concentrate on, and it might even help you find a new favorite artist. I discovered that I really enjoy 2000’s pop-punk while running; who knew? It’s a great way to expand your horizons and keep you from getting bored.

Bring a friend: Try to drag one of your friends to the gym with you! Don’t worry if they’ve never been before; most gyms have free guest passes that go with your membership so you can get them in for free. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a workout buddy who will motivate you to try harder during core, or up the speed on your treadmill. Also, personally I feel self conscious doing weights and core alone at the gym, but with a friend, you’re not alone. I find myself in better spirits and feeling more motivating when I have a workout buddy. However, I don’t recommend bringing multiple friends; you don’t want to take up a whole row of machines or gossip too loudly. Don’t be those people, please. You’ll just annoy other people trying to get through their own workout.

Change the machines up: Gyms have so many machines, it would be a crime to just stick to the treadmill and bore yourself to death. I like to alternate (if possible) from the treadmill, to bicycle, to elliptical on 20 minute intervals to keep things interesting. They are all leg strength/cardio machines, so they are serving roughly the same purpose. One of my favorite things to do is go forwards on the elliptical 5 minutes, backwards another 5, and so on. You might get some weird looks, but trust me, it’s fun and it gets some variety into your workout. So next time you’re at the gym, try a new machine out. As runners we go out and run everyday, so why use the treadmill for another hour when you can try something new

Watch TV: If your gym has TVs on your equipment, take full advantage of it! On my really lazy days I jump on the treadmill and flip directly to the Food Network channel. The content isn’t too heavy or dramatic and it reminds me of all the yummy food I get to eat when I get through my workout! I like to use kind of a fartlek style if I’m watching while running. I’ll run at an average pace during the show, and pick up the intensity during the commercials. This makes the time fly by so much faster! I’ve even watched the news while on a treadmill. It helps me multitask by both exercising and keeping up with the world at the same time. Honestly, it makes me walk away from the gym feeling 150% more accomplished and educated. If this is possible for you, I’d highly recommend giving it a try!

With all this being said, it’s important to still be aware of your surroundings and body. I’ve been so carried away with my music that I didn’t notice the person behind me waiting for a turn, and once I was so engaged in watching Iron Chef that I over did it on the treadmill and had sore shins for the whole week. So while you should try out new ways to keep the gym exciting, it’s also important to not get too carried away. 

ps. unfortanutly, this article doesn’t have any photos because my gym does not allow pictures in the workout area as courtesy of other people.