5 Reasons to Factor Some ‘Heart’ Into Your Workouts

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In light of this week’s announcement from Coeur Sports — I’m thrilled to be a part of the team again in 2015! — and in honor of our “heart & courage” rallying cry, I figured it’d be an opportune time to talk about something I’ve shied away from until only very recently: heart rate training.

Why? As much as I love to quantify my fitness, somewhere between doing the heart rate zone math, finding the correct workouts to hit my zones and then licking attaching the device and syncing up to whatever software is needed, I inevitably drop the ball. Let’s face it, adding another element of discipline can be tough when the alternative is to just lace up and head out the door.

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But the wiser older I get, the more I’ve realized that there are some terrific benefits to taking heart rate into account when training. Here are a few of the reasons why I’m starting to incorporate it into more of my workouts:

1. Train smarter. There’s a good chance that, like me, you tend to overdo your easy days and don’t push quite hard enough when it is needed.

2. Change focus. If you’re in an exercise rut, it’s fun to add a gaming element with heart rate workouts by setting some specific, measurable goals.

3. Recover effectively. Are you sure you’re not undercutting recovery days? Heart rate monitors can be incredibly helpful in helping you rein things in.

4. Stay healthy. Over-training and improper pacing can knock you off your A game, leaving you susceptible to both overuse and acute injuries.

5. Get better. Whether you’re looking to raise your level of fitness, stick to a program or race faster, fine tuning your workouts by heart rate can help.

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Ok, you’re probably thinking, that’s great, but how do I get started? Well, here’s a four-step cheat-sheet that simplifies the process:

First, determine your maximum heart rate, which can be done with a reasonable amount of accuracy by subtracting your age from the number 220 (for men) or from 226 (for women). There are a number of other equations that can be used, but that one’s a good rule of thumb.

Second, establish your resting heart rate, which should be done first thing in the morning with your feet still between the sheets. Find your pulse, count the number of beats that occur in 10 seconds, and multiply that number by six to find your rough count for beats-per-minute.

Third, calculate your training zones, which will allow you to customize your workouts to your heart rate and current fitness level. You can do the math according to the chart below, or use this handy calculator to do it for you.

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Now that you have your heart rates and zones, the fourth and final step is to create a training program and track results. This, of course, will vary according to your ultimate goal(s), but here’s a great article that outlines the different types of workouts you’ll want to consider when creating your program.

The best part is that you don’t need any fancy equipment, aside from two fingers and a jugular, to get started. If you decided to stick with it, though, I’d strongly advise purchasing a heart rate monitor, which will deliver consistent readings and track your workouts for you.

My favorite right now is the Wahoo Fitness TICKR ($100). Not only does the built-in memory mean you have the freedom to train without a phone, but I also find the motion analytics (measures running form across three dimensions; click here for details) fascinating because I’m looking to improve my form and become a stronger runner.

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As for my verdict on this type of training, the jury’s still out. I’m by no means an expert, meaning I’m still playing around with it and trying to learn as much as I can, but from what I’ve been reading I do think it could help give me an extra edge to stay healthy in 2015.

The only downside so far is that — for someone who has always set goals based on pace — I’ve had to check my ego at the door for pretty much every workout thus far. Effort-wise I feel great, but the monitor says I’m training at levels where I’m exerting myself too much, which (contrary to what you’d think) doesn’t actually serve me well in the long run.

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So what can you expect if you try this at home? Well, surprisingly, the biggest shift may be more of a mental one that physical. Gone are the subjective “run by feel” workouts; using a heart rate monitor gives you a very concrete, objective way to gauge exertion and progress.

Other than that, get ready to slooow down. Almost painfully so, as you’ll likely add a few minutes to your per-mile pace initially. But by taking back control of your workouts, you should start to see progress fairly quickly — in the form of being able to do more while maintaining a lower heart rate, which means you’re becoming an aerobic machine!

After struggling with injuries last season and feeling like I’ve hit a plateau with my speed, I’ve got nothing to lose: It could work like a charm or (what I’m really afraid of) end up slowing me down, but either way, I figure I’ll learn a lot in the process!

Do you train with a heart rate monitor? Any feedback and/or tips to share?

Portland Fit Fix: 9 Reasons to Try 9Round Fitness

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One of the most exciting things about moving from San Francisco to Portland has been getting to know another city, meeting new people and, naturally, scoping out a fresh fitness scene. It also means playing athletic guinea pig and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, usually testing the limits of my coordination (or lack thereof?), as well as my stomach’s ability to keep lunch down.

Case in point: 9Round Fitness, a 30-minute circuit training kickboxing/boxing workout in Portland’s Pearl District. As much as I’ve been around the proverbial exercise block, this was my first taste of any kind of punching/kicking program…and on my first visit I’m pretty sure both the double-end and speed bags hit me more than I hit them.

Yet, like Vince Lombardi said, it’s not how much you get knocked down (or in my case, around), it’s about getting back up. So two visits later, I finally started to get the hang of things, and now I’m hooked. Here’s why:

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1. With 30-minute circuits, you get an efficient, effective workout in the time that it takes to watch your favorite TV show.

2. There are so many health benefits to boxing for fitness; it’s the ultimate High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout.

3. The challenge of learning a new skill makes it all the more rewarding, especially when you can finally (wo)manhandle a speed bag.

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4. New rounds start every three minutes, so you can swing by at your convenience and don’t have to worry about rigid class times.

5. Kickboxing and boxing are terrific ways to mix up your cross-training, build strength and confuse complimentary muscles into working harder.

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6. Workouts are supervised by a trainer, which not only encourages proper technique and form, but also keeps you from slacking off.

7. Rest assured, you’ll hit all your major muscle groups in this total-body workout after nine rounds of different exercises.

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8. You won’t get bored, either, because no two workouts are the same; trainers switch things up each day, so expect something new every time.

9. Finally, there’s something to be said for breaking a sweat with friends; whether you’re struggling, cruising or simply laughing through the workout, it’s an incredible way to spend some time together.

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Interested in giving this workout a whirl? Visit 9Round.com for more information.

Recipe: Easy Oven Ribs

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There’s just something about good BBQ that makes me downright giddy. Probably because I’ve developed an appreciation for how difficult it is to properly nail that beautifully subtle balance of tenderness, juiciness, smokiness, sweetness and mouthwatering tang.

Although this recipe won’t necessarily give the professionals a run for their money — full disclosure: it still needs some work in the smoke department — it does cover all the other categories quite nicely and will satisfy your mid-week rib craving just fine!

Easy Oven Ribs

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs baby back ribs
  • 1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 oz apple juice/cider per package
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon powdered garlic
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 225 F
  2. Divide ribs into smaller pieces so they can be arranged on a baking sheet, and place each section in a large piece of foil
  3. Mix together dry ingredients to make a rub, rub ribs with mixture and fold foil around ribs (leaving one end open to create a pouch)
  4. Pour 1 oz of apple juice/cider into each pouch, carefully folding the open end of the foil to create a closed pouch
  5. Repeat for each set of ribs, and wrap all in a second piece of foil so liquid won’t leak out while cooking
  6. Arrange rib packets on a baking sheet and cook for 1 hour per lb of ribs
  7. When they’re fork tender, open packets, swab with BBQ sauce and place under a broiler until BBQ sauce bubbles
  8. Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly before serving

If you’re stumped on how to fold the foil packets, here’s a step-by-step tutorial from Bon Appetit that does a good job of breaking down the process.

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The shot above is post-broiler — ideally, you want to keep it under the heat until the BBQ sauce loses its “wet” look and appears more bubbly and caramelized. This is key to deepening the flavor and texture — i.e. getting you one step closer to finger lickin’ goodness.

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Pair with some steamed greens, baked beans and cornbread, and you’ve got one of my all-time favorite meals!

Booty-Blaster: 5 Band-Based Exercises to Activate Glutes

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Ever since my most recent marathon-training injury, I’ve been on a mission to get my sleepy glutes firing again on all cylinders. Studies link glute weakness to Achilles tendinitis, shinsplints, runner’s knee and iliotibial-band syndrome, along with a host of other overuse injuries (i.e. my medial tibial stress response), so a strong booty is key to not only keeping a steady core, but also the body’s entire kinetic chain from getting out of whack.

My PT prescribed a series of exercises using a Thera-Band, which got me race-ready. But during my post-marathon running hiatus I’ve been kicking it up a notch with the ReXist360 resistance training system, which is designed to intensify band-based workouts without any unwanted pressure added to the back, knees or ankle joints.

Read on for my five favorite butt-busting resistance exercises!

1. Clamshells

Place band above your knees. Lie on one side, prop your upper body up on one arm and stack your legs on top of one another with knees bent. Slowly lift top knee toward the ceiling, keeping feet together and body in alignment. Hold for a second at the top, squeezing glutes, before lowering in a controlled manner. Repeat 20 times before switching to other side.

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2. Glute Bridges

Place band above your knees. Lie with back on the floor, and bring heels close enough to be able to touch them with your fingertips when arms are extended down by your sides. Place hands on hips, and open knees slightly so they press out against band to activate glutes. Driving your heels into the ground, lift hips toward the ceiling, and squeeze glutes before lowering. Repeat 20 times.

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3. Monster Walks

Place band above your knees (or around ankles to make it tougher!). Step legs out until they’re hip- to shoulder-width apart. Sink butt into squat position, making sure that knees don’t extend beyond your toes — think about sitting further back and lowering your behind into the position to protect knees. Maintaining that wide-legged stance, slowly squat-walk across the room. After about 30 steps, turn around and repeat.

As you can see, I’ve still got some work to do on my ankle mobility to get down into the correct position!

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4. Side Lifts

Place band around knees (or, again, ankles to make it more difficult). Use bottom arm to support head and top arm to steady yourself. Straighten and stack legs, lining up hips, knees and ankles. Keeping core engaged and top foot parallel to foot on floor, slowly lift top leg toward ceiling. Pause at the top of the movement, squeezing glutes before lowering. Repeat 20 times before switching to other side.

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5. Squats

Place band above knees. Stand with feet parallel and hip-width apart. Slowly sink your butt back until legs are at a 90-degree angle (thighs are parallel to the ground). Again, take care to keep knees from caving in toward one another or extending beyond toes, and keep chest up as much as possible (I’m still working on my form, hence the mat under my heels). Hold for a second before driving back up through heels to come back to standing. Repeat 25 times.

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Disclaimer: I’m not a PT or a doctor; these are simply some exercises I’ve found helpful for getting those glutes firing again! If you’ve got an injury or concern, though, be sure to check with your own health care provider first so you can make a plan of action together.

Race Report: Portland Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis

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‘Tis the season for a themed holiday run! Throw some friends, costumes and a charitable organization into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a pretty great way to spend a Sunday morning.

We rounded up a fun crew for the event, too, including Kristin and Carolyn, two of my LUNA Chix PDX Run Team teammates. This was Carolyn’s first-ever race, so I planned on pacing her to a strong finish so she could set the bar for our upcoming 2015 season.

But first, Ben and Kevin demonstrated proper pre-race stretching technique, much to the horror of surrounding parents will small children ;)

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The course was a quick out and back near the waterfront toward the Pearl District. It’s been a while since I’ve done a 5K, plus I’m still in the process of easing back into running after my marathon injuries, so the shorter distance was a welcome one.

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About 10 minutes after we arrived, they released the first wave of runners and we were off! The boys led the way, and we ran to the sound of jingle bells attached to everyone’s shoes.

Carolyn and I had discussed using coach Jenny Hadfield’s yellow-orange-red plan in which we’d tackle the race a mile at a time and run by effort rather than a strict pace per mile. After all, any time would be a PR since it was her first race, and I wanted this initial experience to be a pleasant one.

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We stuck to the plan, and the first mile was smooth sailing. During mile two, we settled into a good pace, and Carolyn dug deep to push through the third and final mile to the finish. I was so proud! Not only did she run the entire race, but she also met her goal of finishing in under 30 minutes.

After the run, we dug into the post-race spread. Unfortunately, though, we were a little late to the doughnut table. As you can see, runners take their carbs very seriously!

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Injury-wise, I felt pretty good on the run. Cross-training for the past five weeks has been helpful for maintaining overall fitness, but I’m definitely waaaay out of running shape.

My left hamstring is also still giving me some trouble — literally, it’s a “pain in the butt” — and I’m thinking it’s something having to do with the attachments or tendon. So my plan is to slow my roll on my return to running and keep cross-training in the meantime.

As difficult as it is to restrain myself from 2015 race-planning, I want to make sure I start the year as healthy as possible. Forget visions of sugarplums; the only things dancing in my head for the next few weeks will be massages, foam rollers and lacrosse balls…happy holidays, friends!

How I Run: Extreme Athlete & Author Dane Rauschenberg

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See Dane. See Dane run. See Dane run a lot.

I first spoke with extreme runner, author and motivational speaker Dane Rauschenberg last year as he launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a film that tells the tale of his solo running of the 202-mile American Odyssey Relay in 50 hours.

Since then, the project has been funded and completed (watch it here), and Dane has continued to log miles, race successfully and provide witty commentary via social media, despite dealing with a few nagging injuries throughout the year.

Let’s just say that I share Dane’s pain here, so I figured it was high time to sit down again and pick his brain about our mutual passion (even if we’re both temporarily sidelined): running.

1. What’s your favorite route? Well, if you ask anyone from my time living in Salt Lake City, it is the 1.5-mile loop in Liberty Park. Situated across the street from my home, it was there I figured out (due to my love of spreadsheets and my meticulous running log) that I ran over 3000 miles around that loop in my four years of running there. I will often just use that loop as a math problem in races when the going gets tough. For example, “Only three more loops of Liberty Park and I am done.”

2. What shoes do you wear? I have been wearing Karhu shoes now for close to two years. I love not only the way the shoes work for me, but also the way the company is structured. There really is not a great deal of difference between most running shoes, so it is subtle nuances which make a shoe and its company great. Karhu does the little things right.

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3. What other run gear can’t you live without? If I am not wearing my ROAD ID I simply feel naked. With as often as I travel to far-flung places, usually by myself, I need to know if something were to happen to me leaving me unable to respond, that the right people would be contacted to know who I am and what to do with my corpse.  (Just kidding on the corpse)

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” Not washing clothes is helpful as I don’t need to think about what to wear. Plus in races, people will stay far away from me because of runner’s funk.

In all seriousness, though, I find running routes directly from my doorstep and make sure they vary in multiple ways. Driving to run or searching for routes seems like such a waste of time. Even though I live close-ish to renowned Forest Park in Portland as well as the Columbia Gorge, I run in them very infrequently as I don’t want to spend 30 minutes in a car either way to get to where I can run. That’s an hour I could be spending do a variety of other things.

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5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? I doubt I am at the top of any one ladder when it comes to running. But I am extremely well-suited to look at my running history up to a point and know what I need to do in a race or a workout. I rarely have horrible days at the races because I don’t over-reach too often. If that means I tend to play it safe, then so be it.  No race is as important as my health.

6. What do you listen to while running? The tortured souls of the runners who I crush near the finish because they do not know how to pace. Oh, you mean, music? I don’t listen to music. Or I rarely listen to music. For the most part I want to hear my breathing and my heart in my ears so I can pay attention to how I am feeling. I am not a frou-frou be in touch with my inner Dane type, but I know how to respond to my body appropriately.  If I am lost in the dulcet tones of “Rumpshaker” I won’t be able to do that as effectively.

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7. What are you currently training for? I have no big “Oh wow!” thing on the docket. After more than a few years pushing my boundaries (52 marathons in one year, solo running of the 202 mile American Odyssey Relay, etc.) I would like to take some time to get into really good shape for the shorter stuff. I have a ton of personal bests which are very ripe for the picking. This year was supposed to be about that for me, but a weird illness and some lingering side effects from both a bike crash in 2012 and a staph infection in 2013 shelved a lot of my plans. So I am simply picking up and starting again.

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? I am a night owl.  I have to constantly remind myself to go to bed before the sun rises. When you live on the West Coast this can cause lots of problems functioning with the other time zones. Given how much I hate mornings, I have no idea how I possibly get ready on race day.  But there is something about the morning of a race that just gets my engine roaring.

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9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? No one really gives a damn about how fast you run. Learn what you are good at and simply try to be the best at it. If it isn’t fast enough for someone, let that be their problem.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? Part of the reason I have written two books already, and am working on two more is because I have so many wonderful running memories I wish to share. My go-to answer for this would be when I inexplicably ran my first ever sub-three hour marathon in my 42nd marathon of the year in 2006. There really is no reason for me to have run a six-minute PR after 41 previous marathons, but it happened. Hard to top that memory.

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with… My dad. He was crippled in a hunting accident before I was born, and we never so much as played catch. He passed away two years ago, and being able to go for a jog together would be pretty nice.

Thanks very much, Dane. I’m looking forward to hearing about your continued success in 2015!

Runner friends of all levels, please email me — info (at) kineticfix.com — if you’d like to be featured.

Recipe: Green Eggs & Ham Scramble

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Earlier this week, I wrote about the health benefits of eggs, so I wanted to follow it up with one of my favorite breakfasts. Not only is this recipe perfect when you’re short on time in the morning — just throw everything into the pan at once and stir to cook — but it’s also not super scientific, so feel free to tweak the ratios of ingredients and experiment with different meats, cheeses and other add-ins.

Green Eggs & Ham Scramble (serves 4)

Ingredients: 

  • 8 eggs
  • 4 slices ham-off-the-bone, diced
  • 4 slices cheese, diced
  • 2 leaves kale, finely minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: 

  1. Prep your add-in ingredients first; wash, chop, then set aside.
  2. Crack the eggs into a pan that’s been heated with a little olive oil to coat the bottom.
  3. Add all the other ingredients, and stir until cooked to your desired consistency.

When I made this, I just happened to have deli chicken on hand, so I used that instead of the ham. And cheese-wise, I went with a Gouda, which lent a nice hint of smokiness to the dish.

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Wash, dry and finely mince the kale before tossing it into the pan with the other ingredients. That way it’ll cook down properly; the last think you want is to feel like you’re eating scrambled eggs mixed with a salad (ew).

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I happen to like my eggs on the drier side, too, so I cook everything longer — and this also gives the kale a chance to soften up. Make sure all the ingredients are incorporated evenly, and season to taste.

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Still not sure how you feel about eggs with kale? Well, in the words of our beloved Dr. Seuss:

You do not like them, so you say.
Try them! Try them! And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.

Happy, healthy eating! :)