Chasing Zzz’s

As I’m sitting at work, staring at my screen, feeling like I could literally fall asleep with my hands on the keyboard…I’m realizing it’s only 9:30am and I’ve still got 6 hours to go. Geez. In the past week, I’ve had a few late nights (late for me – hit the hay at 2:30am) combined with my usual wakeup time of 5:30am. And frankly, it’s been killing me. KILLING me! I’ve done stuff like this before, and I always know what it’ll be like and that I won’t love it, and for some reason I always forget just exactly how hard sleep deprivation is on my body. Especially when I’m training!

So, what better way to pep talk myself about going to bed earlier than write a post on the importance of sleep? Though I’ve had fun choosing to stay up with friends, boys and life in general, I know I need my sleep in order to function during the day.

We’ve all been told that we need to get X amount of hours of sleep per night to live a “healthy” lifestyle. Well, when you’re training, the same rings true. Your body NEEDS things – things like water, nutrition, proper amounts of good fats and sugars AND sleep. Think about it. Who doesn’t love sleep? Or a good nap?

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Sleep is a necessity. For example, when recovering from a long run or intense workout, sleep is just as important as rehydration and refueling. For real. Studies have shown that lack of sleep directly interferes with the metabolism of glucose, which is what muscles depend on for proper recovery, and even though it will vary for each individual, generally speaking, someone who’s training for a marathon or other race will need more sleep than someone who isn’t training to rebuild muscle tears and support muscle growth. All for the recovery process (and because you’re usually just tired after you run 25+ miles). Sleep, along with proper hydration, nutrition, stretching and strength conditioning, should be incorporated into your training schedule – regardless of what you’re training for.

Silhouetted Woman Running at Sunset

Sleep also directly affects your immune system. Get this – those who have 6 hours or less of sleep per night have 50% LESS immunity protection than those who get 8 hours of sleep. If you’re training and feel you may be getting a cold, make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night! One, for recovery and two, for immunity strength so you can continue in your training instead of holding off for healing.

Lack of sleep has also been linked to weight gain. There’s a hormone in your brain – Leptin – that regulates your appetite, and when you don’t get enough sleep, it isn’t secreted in accurate amounts, which can lead to more cravings during the day…more eating than normal…and weight gain. True story.

Now, the amount of sleep needed for top performance will be different for everyone. You may be able to function just fine on 4 hours while your friend needs at least 9 to perform well. Figuring out where you land on the sleep spectrum will totally help with your training!

If you can’t sleep the night before a race – don’t sweat it too much. Experts have found that just like nutrition, it’s the sleep you get 2 nights before a race that your body will be relying on for the majority of your race. I have lots of friends who carb load the night before a race. Though I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I don’t follow it religiously. The same is with sleep – I have one friend in particular who runs ultra marathons and two days before any race, he’ll take either some melatonin or Tylenol PM and knock himself out for a good 12 hour night of sleep. Says it helps him with the mental battle you deal with while running 50+ miles. That’s what works for him.

One thing is for sure – I know that when I stick to my sleep schedule and don’t vary on the weekends, my mind is more clear during a race and my muscles don’t fatigue quite as quickly. My recovery is also better and I’m able to get back to training right away instead of taking days to recoup and nurse my muscles back to health 🙂 This has been true during holidays, when I’m on vacation or just during a “regular” week of work and training. Plus, I’m always naturally happier when I get enough sleep! EVERYONE IS. And who doesn’t want to be happier?

All that being said…time to start chasing some zzz’s! Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream…

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How to Survive a Relay Race (And Live to Tell the Tale)

While sitting in the airport on my way to the Ragnar Napa Valley Relay, I was told several times how crazy I was for doing relay races. “You don’t really survive and I don’t know why anyone would put that stress on their bodies.” – random grumpy guy next to me. Well, good news, buddy…you totally can survive. There are definitely tricks of the trade and I’ve got a few up my sleeve 😉

Whether it’s a Ragnar or another relay race, there’s something hilariously fun about constantly driving around in a decorated van with a team of 12 people who are all decked out in costumes, munching on a smorgasboard of food and goodies, keeping the windows down for the smell, cheering on teammates and other runners, pulling to the side of the road to sleep for 2.4 hours and having energy to all cross the finish line at the same time. 2013-06-22 18.20.01

Sounds a bit tricky, eh? Well, it’s somewhat easier than you think. Trust me. It’s totally doable! And there are great things about relay races – meeting new people & making new friends, traveling to new places, seeing new things, discovering new tricks/treats for your next running adventure and, if you’re planning on more races, it can be good for training.

So how to survive the lack of sleep and running on and off for 24 hours and be able to walk the next day? I’ve done a few Ragnar in my day (5 total-my favorites are the trail relays! Try them out). Here’s my 10 all-emcompasing tips I always share about relay races:

  1. Before you go, do your research. Become familiar with which legs you’ll be running. Know the distance. Know the elevation changes. Know if you’re running on pavement or dirt trails. Mentally prepare yourself for however long, short or strenuous your legs will be. story-27-ragnar-2-205914
  2. Do a pre-run shake out & post-run stretching. Regardless of what time it is. It could be hot or cold, windy or rainy. You might be running 9 miles or 2. It doesn’t matter-warm your body up and cool it down (and don’t eat too close to when you run). stretch-me-out-skinnyrunner_thumb
  3. Get out of the car any time you can! Take the chance to stretch your legs and body. Move around when you wait at the runner exchange. Don’t be sedentary and stay crammed in the car until it’s your turn to run. No bueno. Picture-8
  4. Share your goodies. Letting others eat your frozen banana-peanut butter bites is, strangely enough, a great way to bond. They might love them and it could start a running recipe exchange. By trying things everyone brings (a pot-luck of goodies), you’ll find things that you bring that others like and things others bring that you like and you might be surprised if you find yourself sick of the food that you brought. images-2
  5. Sore? Tired? Hungry? SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. So please, don’t whine. Do something about it! There will be food in the car – eat it. There will be jackets/pillows – take a nap on one. There will be moments to stop – get out and stretch. Duh. 1 Ragnar Lupe Sleeping
  6. Cheer on your team (and other runners). You never know when all that one person needs is a little encouragement from a random car passing by. You might hit your own mental wall and need some motivation from others! image25
  7. Take care of your team! Be aware if runners need more hydration, pain killers, gu or other things to munch on. If the weather changes, ask if the want their visor, jacket or more water. One of the BEST things that my team did for me during a 4 mile 2,000ft elevation climb in 99 degree weather – toss a spray bottle filled with ice water out the window. I spent that 45 minutes constantly squirting myself and other runners with cold water. Couldn’t have survived without them! 2013-06-22 12.46.53 2013-06-22 14.21.09
  8. TAKE WIPES. 24 hours of stinky runners crammed into a car-they’re a portable shower. Just trust me on this one. Remember, even liquid awesome can smell bad. 9a87f0f828a4854245d193affb6718eb
  9. Take pictures. Take them of your car decorations, the entire team at the starting and finish lines, runners smiling (or not) during their legs, people sleeping, strange things that happen, the scenery that you drive past, team members making funny shapes…anything and everything. Beautiful scenery (there’s tons on the Ragnar-pretty sure they do that on purpose). It’ll be more fun 🙂 422052_10100879747066799_1810023603_n
  10. If you’re not having fun AT ALL, you’re doing it wrong. Though there is a competitive air that comes with any race-Ragnar included-one of the greatest things about the Ragnar though is that it can be an absolute party. Seriously. Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 9.36.23 AM

Wear clothes that won’t but (or chafe you). Sleep any chance you get (for real). Make new friends. Have a team splurge meal after the race. Have a team meal before the race. 478876_10100245036698224_601272120_o

Love the new scenery-there are some absolutely beautiful running paths on the Ragnar. Embrace the craziness. Have massive amounts of fun. Run your own race. Own that 24+ hour relay like a total boss.

So, good people of the running world – keep calm and Ragnar on #fistpump

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Lost Your Running Mojo? Time to Get it Back

Morning comes. You hit snooze three times before finally slinking out of bed to pull on your running shoes and hit the trail. You’d rather cut your exercise time down because of some tiny excuse that, at the time, seems like a totally legit reason to not go. You’re discouraged because you’re no longer loosing weight like you were months ago. You get tired, not physically…it’s more like you get sick of your workout routine and therefore just don’t want to do it.

Ever had this happen before? It happens to everyone – seriously. Losing your drive to exercise isn’t uncommon and the great news is that it’s not permanent! Only if you don’t allow it to be permanent, though. YOU have a whole lot of control over choosing to rekindle your love for pounding the pavement or leave it where it is and let things fizzle out.

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One of the biggest reasons I think we can loose our fitness mojo is because we forget that exercise, though it’s physically demanding, can be and should be fun. That’s right – FUN. When we were younger, running and biking were our main modes of transportation. The games we played centered around physical activity (Red Rover, street hockey, water gun fights, kick the can, steal the flag, all forms of tag) and we’d all run till our sides were sore and then keep running because the happiness we felt from the fun we were having outweighed the side stitches. I’ll get back to this – promise.

So what do you do when your exercise drive is gone? And how do you get over it? Well, it’s different for everyone.

Just like how you needed to change things or shift them around when you first started your path to personal fitness, you’ve got to do some shifting again. Some things may feel weird at first, especially if you’re not use to them yet. You may not initially like these changes. Trust me, it’ll be TOTALLY worth it in the end.

Here are a few tips for getting your mojo back! Try one of them; try a few of them. It’ll take time and patience to find something that works well and really lights a fire under you. Basically, you’ve got to find a way to put the ‘fun’ back into your run 🙂

  1. Change where you run – if you’re always running the same trails or the same streets, it’s time to find a new path! Find a new river trail or lake path to run along. Take a new turn, explore the area around you. One great way to do this is to run while on vacation! You’ll see new places, smells, people and it’ll help take your mind off of your lack of mojo.
  2. Join a running group/club – being accountable to someone or something helps get you out the door. It’ll also help you meet new people, which can refuel your motivation to get yourself pumped and excited to get up and move!
  3. Give yourself a destination – I love this one though it can be a little tricky. Run to work. Run to a friend’s house. Run to a new park. Plan a place where you’ll go to and get there-don’t worry about the time it takes, just enjoy the journey! The tricky part is that with things like this, if you don’t want to run back, you need to either leave a car somewhere so you can drive home or have someone come and pick you up.
  4. Change when you go – if you’re always running in the mornings, try an afternoon run or a mid-day run. Some of my best runs have been between 11pm and 1am (granted, I don’t go by myself on those). Believe it or not, just changing the heat, lighting and amount of city life can help you keep going.
  5. Mix it up – don’t underestimate the power of variety! To break up your long runs, add in a day of speed, sprints or “hills of insanity” (find a good, long incline, whether it’s in the city or out in the country, sprint/run up the hill to the top, do a 1 min plank, jog back down–do 3xs).
  6. Run without a watch – if you know you’ve got a good chunk of time with no appointments to be to, don’t take your watch. Just run. Don’t be afraid to stop, stretch and look around you. Don’t worry about how fast you’re running or how many miles you’ve gone – just run.
  7. Quit your old playlist – running tunes slowing you down? Scrap the playlist you’ve got and start a fresh one! Ask friends for suggestions of their favorites for running. Pick songs that make you happy AND motivate you. If you need to, rock out on the trail mid-run. It helps.
  8. Healthy is happy – check out your food intake. Has anything changed? Maybe you’re a little more lenient with the sugar? Decide if you need to make some adjustments and then STICK TO THEM! It’s hard – totally doable though.
  9. Hit the trails – if you’re a city runner, time to head to the mountains. Fresh air, unsteady terrain, killer climbs and amazing views help to clear the demons from your head and keep you going.
  10. Race, race, race – sign up for races. Giving yourself a goal will help pump the motivation back into your muscles! If you want to go further, pick a marathon or half marathon to run in 6 months and add in 5k/10k races into your training.
  11. Too tired to run? – instead of not running, break up your run with walking breaks. That being said, I’m more of a fan of speed walking breaks. Run when you feel you can, if you need a break, take one! Just don’t STOP-keep moving! Something to keep your heart rate up, to keep your legs moving and to keep moving your forward!
  12. Pool running – might sound a little crazy, but it’s amazing. AND it’ll help you get in your “running” workout without overheating on the pavement.
  13. Have a daily goal – Scott Jurek says “Maybe it is a technique goal, maybe a pace goal, maybe a goal of running faster at the end…” Give yourself something specific to work on for each workout.
  14. New suede shoes – well, running shoes aren’t suede, but getting a new pair along with new shorts or tops will help you want to use them. If you feel you look good in your workout getup, you’ll want to wear them and show them off! Win-win.
  15. Reward yourself – for small things, like running 0.06 seconds faster than your last run or adding more miles to up your distance. Give yourself something to look forward to-your favorite iced drink, a new running top, chocolate milk (hey, it works). Anything. Little rewards for small accomplishments, big awards for big accomplishments. A favorite of mine is to schedule a massage after I finish a race and that’s my reward for my training and performance 🙂

Something important to keep in mind when getting your running mojo back is to listen to your body. Maybe you’ve just plateaued. On the other hand, maybe your body has been overworked and needs a break. One week, one month – listen to your body! Cross train. Stretch. Nourish your muscles with proper fuel and hydration.

It’ll take work. It’ll take time. It’ll take patience. It’ll take experimenting and figuring out what works for you.

Runner Resting with Hands on Knees --- Image by © Bernd Vogel/Corbis

Good news is – it’s ALWAYS worth it.

Running on Empty…on Vacation

Let’s be honest. Who works out while on vacation?! Well, I do. Maybe I’m slightly different from others – whenever I’m on vacation, I always do some kind of workout. ALWAYS. Regardless of how much fatty, greasy foods I’ve ingested, how much my sugar intake has increased or how much sleep I’ve lost. It can be killer! Sometimes, vacation means taking a break from my regular eating habits, which totally comes back to bite me in the butt when I realize mid-run that my tank is literally empty. And though it’s empty, I keep pushing myself without totally ruining myself.

Thing is, even though it may be a shorter run and my pace slows down and I had to literally drag myself out of bed to get going, I never regret running while on vacation. Even if it’s one mile or a 15min leg/butt/core workout followed by stretching, I never regret being active while on vacation.

It’s a great way to start your day! To get up, get moving and not feel like a blob just lying in bed. It’s also cleansing – gets the junk you’ve stuffed into your body moving, pushes toxins out of your body and gives your brain/emotions a quick pick-me-up for the day! I don’t drink, but the friends I’ve roadtripped with who DO drink say that making a run or some kind of workout happen the next morning helps with the detox process of getting the alcohol out of their system. They call it their “margarita mile.”

Just came back from a quick trip up to Washington to see my new niece. My brother and sister-in-law live 5 min from her family, and since they have a huge house, that’s where I stayed. It’s a farm house that sits at the front of over 700 acres of tart cherries, sweet cherries, peaches, apples and asparagus. Their farm is surrounded by other farms, and those farms are surrounded by more farms…you get the picture. Got there Friday and of course we stayed up late, eating ice cream and all sorts of junk. Delicious junk, that is 🙂

I had packed my running stuff as well as a few other things (roller stick and TRX bands) to use while there. My brother’s in-laws would roll their eyes any time I said I was headed out to run in the morning. I’m training for an ultra marathon in December and then aiming for a 50 miler in 2014, so I’ve gotta train! I’d start at 5:30am, not too early, and head out on the backroads of the orchards and surrounding farms. I love running in the clean air on brisk mornings on the dirt roads. It’s cathartic.

Saturday morning – 10 miles at a faster pace (I live 4,000ft higher up than here).

photo[2] Monday morning – easy 8 miles, yoga and TRX in the cherry trees

photo[3] Super pretty run through the vineyard

photo[4] Sweating pink all the way 🙂

Sunday evening walk with the family through the orchard hills. SO beautiful.

photo[7] Monday afternoon – boating! Swam across the dam, arms got a good workout wake boarding, volleyball on the beach, nap (soooo needed) and a little vinyasa flow to warm up (didn’t realize till I was there that my shorts matched my sweatshirt).

photo[5] Did I mind that people there thought I was crazy? Nope. Did I love their reactions when I’d answer their questions of what I was training for? Totally. Is working out worth it while on vacation? Stupid question. Should you exercise while on vacation? In some form or another (stretching, walking, biking, kayaking, hiking, running, yoga, frisbee, hola hooping – whatever), yep. I highly recommend it. You won’t feel like too much of a couch potato when the vacation ends and getting back into your running routine won’t be as difficult 🙂

The Day I Became A #sweatpink Ambassador

For starters, I don’t believe in bad days. There are good days and great days – never ‘bad’ ones. That’s just my belief. Mainly because you choose whether or not it’ll be good or great. That also means that you choose if you’re going to let the things that happen during the day influence you to choose to have it be a bad day. There are bad things that can happen and we can decide if it’ll taint the entire day or just that piece of it. Confused? I’ll write more about it soon.

So. Now that that’s explained…it was a great Monday. Why was it so great?

  • Started the day off with yoga & TRX
  • Had a delicious breakfast (avocado & tomatoes on whole wheat toast)
  • Hit every green light on my way to work (ka-ching!)
  • Finished all my work projects early
  • Learned my sister and brother-in-law are moving back to Utah
  • My new Lululemon Bitty Bracer bra finally came in the mail (I’ll write a quick review on this later-all you need to know right now is that I love it. One of the best sports bras I’ve had)
  • Found $20 in my back pocket
  • New pair of Newton Running Shoes came – LOVE these guys
  • After work I was meeting up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years for a trail run

Sounds like an overall great day, right? Right! I got home and changed to go running. While heading out the door, I was skimming through emails on my phone and read, “Sweat Pink Ambassador – welcome to the team!” Honestly, when I first read it, I thought I had read it wrong. I had submitted the application form to be a Sweat Pink Ambassador about a month earlier and hadn’t heard anything, so I for sure did a double-take! Read through the email. Giggled with excitement. Started my car with a HUGE smile on my face. Turned the radio on and this song was playing:

Went and picked up my friend Jess, told her about my new Sweat Pink adventure and the rest of the car ride consisted of us brainstorming what gear/clothes I could buy that are hot pink. You know, to match the awesomeness of it all. We got to to trail, singing and dancing along to the radio, and began the 12 mile loop. With our dance backgrounds combined with a great day, great news, the excitement of seeing each other and the songs stuck in our heads, there were moments during the run that were kinda like this:

Yes, we may have skipped, grooved, body-rolled and cartwheeled numerous times. And yes, we’d stop, strike a pose, and sing to the valley from the side of the mountain. You know, keeping things fun on the trail. I just hope it was quality entertainment for the houses that backed the trail.

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So now I get a sweet badge on the side of my blog (see?) and I have mass connections to other fitness ladies in the exercise world. They’re all super supportive, willing to help, comfortable to ask any questions and love every level of exercise. It’s great 🙂 And I’m convinced that I actually do run faster in pink shoe laces. FAmantramailer01

Best day ever? This year…pretty much. It was amazing.

{and I recommend that you all try dance walking at some point-it’s actually very freeing}

Training, New Gear and Ultra Motivation

I FINALLY signed up for my very first ultra marathon.

I pressed, “Submit and Pay”

Huge amounts of “This is gonna be SO AMAZING! Super excited!”

And, “What the hell was I thinking?!”

Good news – the ultra is at the beginning of December and the race is at sea level. Totally helped calm my sliver of “I’m an idiot.” Training at home will be great. I live at an elevation of 4,700ft and majority of my trail runs start at 5,000ft and head up to 11,000ft, so I figure that’ll help with my endurance.

Even so, as my piano teacher always said, “perfect practice equals perfect performance.” This past week – training week numero uno – was fun. Really! I like running, especially when I get new gear that I’ve been waiting for!

  • Monday – 6mi
  • Tuesday – yoga
  • Wednesday – 8mi (with my new Ultimate Direction hydration pack-the Wink. Though it wasn’t my first choice from their collection, it’s one of the only ‘women’ packs they’ve got and it’s great! Lots of zip pockets for stashing gels, bars, phones, toilet paper, whatever. The pack stays up on your shoulders/back and does’t bounce around. The S-shaped straps make it a great fit for women. Highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking)
  • Thursday – taught bootcamp, circuits and did TRX with some running buddies
  • Friday – 12mi at a steady pace (ran with my Wink pack again. New product today was ENERGYbits as an alternative to GU or Clif Blocks for energy. I did the mistake of smelling them before taking them-they’re made with Algae, so they don’t exactly smell appetizing. Once you get past the smell though, they’re a great, natural and healthy boost to be used before/during your runs. Check them out here.BSZk13vCYAArba3
  • Saturday – 8mi with the last 2 miles as sprint drills. Followed this one up with yoga for runners. If you don’t do yoga and you run, YOU NEED TO DO YOGA. It’s not just for granolas or women – guys, if you want to improve your game you seriously need to get in on this!
  • Sunday – rest day! Woot! Every single athlete needs a day to rest their body to recoup for running the next week. I’ll probably go on a walk, stretch, maybe some yoga, and do mental prep.

It may not seem like I’m doing a ton. Trust me, for where I am now, I’m right where I want to be. Each week I’ll add mileage, hills, sets/drills and change up the elevation that I run at. December is a few months away and though my ultimate goal for the ultra marathon is to survive (when you think about it…I’m pretty sure those who run ultras never ask you what your time was but they just ask you if you finished), I’m doing everything I can now so that when race day comes I can not only survive but kill the course without killing myself 🙂

Every now and then, on long runs or when little thoughts of doubt start to bleed into my mind, I’ll whip out motivational quotes I’ve collected on my phone. They’re not always the pep talk kind of quote, just something that’ll keep me going. Here’s my favorite from this week – so great:

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Recovery Mode

If you’re like me, I have a really hard time not running at all when I’m in recovery mode. Yeah, you can do other exercises and that’s great and all…but there’s just something about running. One friend made a recommendation and now it’s my favorite go-to when I’ve got to take a break from running. And depending on your injury, it’s totally doable. 

Running in the pool. 

Yes. Still running. Just more weightless. 

It’s an awesome workout, it’s great cardio and still fills that runners fix that you need. Plus, it keeps you extra cool on those hot summer days! Weightless workout. Awesome. 

Really guys, you should give it a try sometime. It’ll rock your socks.

Next time I need to run while in recovery mode…you can bet that this is what I’ll be doing. For at least two more weeks.