The Ultimate Pre-Race Running Checklist

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Throughout the course of your running career, there’s a good chance you’ll experience a few of those race-mornings-gone-haywire, whether it’s sleeping through the alarm, overdoing it on the carb-loading or forgetting a crucial piece of gear.

Yup — been there, done all that. Still kicking myself for forgetting my time chip in the Nike Women’s Half a few years back.

While it’s true that ideal race-day conditions — the sweet spot when you feel “on,” have fueled correctly and don’t arrived stressed at the start line — are never a guarantee, there is one major thing you can do in advance when it comes to setting yourself up for success in that next event: Make a checklist.

Taking inventory will not only help you combat the surging adrenaline and dancing butterflies, but you’ll also get a better handle on those little things that can be easily forgotten or overlooked amid the excited tension. It’s a frequently overlooked, yet critical, part of training leading up to the actual race.

I like to test all my clothing, shoes, fuel, hydration and tech accessories ahead of time during training, making sure they fit well, don’t rub, agree with my stomach and are fully charged, respectively. Then it’s just a matter of laying everything out and going down the list to make sure (and double-confirm) that everything’s accounted for.

Depending on the length of the race, give yourself at least a week to start getting organized. By the night before, everything should be locked and loaded so you can operate in autopilot once the race-morning brain fog hits.

Then it’s just a matter of taking a final gander at the weather forecast, setting two alarms, prepping your pre-race breakfast, and you’re good to go.

Below is a handy infographic that may help; happy racing, friends!


Source: Fix.com

What’s on your race-day checklist?

The Case for Yoga Pants (+ prAna Discount Code!)

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Throughout my high school and college running days, “workout gear” meant — quite literally — anything hanging on by its last thread: extra-large cotton t-shirts, stretched-out tube socks and over-sized shorts with elastic waists, for example. You get picture.

But my attitude changed in 2002 when I bought my first “splurge” item — a Brooks long-sleeved tech shirt — at the Chicago Marathon expo. In a classic rookie move, I wore it for the first time to run 26.2 the next day…but miraculously it performed beautifully in all of its sweat-wicking, non-chafing glory.

That experience forever changed my view of workout gear: No longer were my tops and bottoms merely “something to sweat in;” they became part of my training arsenal — not only to keep me comfortable and to help me perform, but also (occasionally) to be a major motivating factor in getting my butt up and out the door for workouts.

Because, let’s face it, when we look good, we feel good. And when we feel good, we can take on the world. Or at least a 6 a.m. spin class.

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Case in point: When prAna and Fit Approach partnered up last month for the #TakeTheLeap challenge in which we were encouraged to #BringYogaBack for 30 days.

I knew it was going to take a lot more than old fashioned willpower to get myself on the mat throughout the month. Don’t get me wrong — I love yoga — it’s just a challenge being present and working quietly when your default is hard-charging, goal-oriented workouts.

But when prAna sweetened the deal by throwing in an outfit from their new Early Spring collection, I knew we were speaking the same language. If you build it, they will come; it you make it cute (and comfy), they will om.  

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First on my wish list was the Florence Capri in Neon Orange ($79). Because neon orange.

If the color’s not enough to get your heart pitter-pattering, the design will have you swooning. From the flattering wide waistband to the compression Chakara performance fabric to the smooth seams, these pants fit like a second skin — without being overly constrictive.

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And then there’s the Piper Top in Cool Green ($69). I stepped slightly out of my wheelhouse with this one; I’m not usually partial to blousy tops, but sometimes you just need a nice, relaxed drape to skim, rather than squeeze, your stomach.

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Another lovely detail is the drawcord hem; loosen it up for longer coverage, or cinch it up to shorten the length and for added security — aka if you’re not into baring that belly during inversions.

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But my favorite feature that made this pick a no-brainer? The straps!

They’re adjustable, and I’m not just talking about the bra-type sliders. Nope, these babies can be converted from traditional shoulder straps to an X-back for both support and style purposes.

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Mindfully designed. Built to last. And best of all? Available at a discount, just in time to brighten up your wardrobe for spring! Use KineticFix’s special code (psps15KF) at checkout for 15% off your entire order.

Happy shopping — and sweating, friends!

5 Tips for Starting (& Sticking With) a Healthy Living Routine

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Whether you’ve got a few pounds to lose or the pressure of a big event looming, it can be tempting to seek a quick fix, such as a juice cleanse, exercise binge or fad diet. You name it, people have tried it — out of desperation, with varied luck and yielding only temporary results.

Why haven’t we learned by now that these short-sighted “solutions” only end up backfiring on us in the long-run? If our goal is finding equilibrium when it comes to a healthy weight and base level of fitness, a slow-and-steady approach works much better than engaging in erratic behavior.

I get it; eating well and working out aren’t always easy when you’re short on time, stressed and out of shape — but maintenance is much easier than bouncing back and forth, up and down, in and out. Those latter options are, quite frankly, exhausting.

So if you’re committed to forming a more sustainable diet and exercise regimen, here are a few helpful hints:

1. Think about the bigger picture

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It took a while for you to settle into your current situation, so don’t expect any short-cuts for getting out of it.

Start by making a commitment for just 30 days. Mentally, a month is an ideal block of time to devote to a change since it easily fits in your calendar.

Once you get through that initial phase, it’ll start to become a habit. Then it’s a matter of turning that habit into a routine for at least three or four months when you’ll start to reap rewards in terms of seeing results.

2. Set yourself up for success with S.M.A.R.T. goals

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Do you want to lose weight? How much, and by when? Improve your game? What would that look like, and how will you measure success?

Start by writing down a simple goal and quantifying it. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time in which to achieve it, and then plot out each of the milestones between Point A and Point B to keep yourself motivated along the way.

Say, for example, you want to lose 20 pounds before a wedding next month. Not gonna happen.

A better goal would be to say you want to lose 20 pounds between now and your high school reunion in the fall, based on the fact that it’s safe to lose one to two pounds a week with healthy eating and exercise.

Start by making sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, and you’ve taken the first step toward making them a reality.

3. Take your interests into consideration

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The trick to keeping consistent with exercise is taking the “work” out of workouts.

There’s something for everyone, whether you thrive off the competition of a team sport, the adrenaline rush of outdoor adventures, the challenge of improving upon a race PR, the contemplative nature of yoga or even the comfort of a repetitive of a walk around the neighborhood where you can simply zone out.

If you don’t know what you like, try it all until you find something that scratches that itch you never knew you had!

4. Buddy up for better accountability

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It’s true — misery loves company, especially when it involves things like huffing and puffing through a run or learning to love vegetables.

If you’re hesitant to start a routine on your own, team up with a partner who has similar goals. Help keep each other motivated while getting over the initial hump, whether it’s empowering each other to make healthier food choices or distracting one another from checking the time on the treadmill.

Not only is sweating together more fun than going it alone, but partnering for fitness may also push you to work out harder.

5. Know when to use your “ace in the hole”

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Finally, as with anything in life, personal accountability is crucial — both with positive and negative remifications.

Make a painful consequence — as in, if you don’t hit the gym three times this week, you have to wash and wax the car by hand this weekend — and tackling those mid-week workouts won’t seem so bad.

Positive reinforcement works just as well. Make a deal to splurge on fitness attire, a new workout gadget you’ve been eyeing, or even something as simple as a beer with dinner (within reason!), and you’ll find yourself actually looking forward to those daily sweat sessions.

What helps you stick to your healthy living routine? 

February Goal Check-In

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Two months down, 10 to go!

I wrote previously about the five goals toward which I’m working this year, and since this is my little corner of accountability on the Internet, here’s my update on how things are progressing:

1. Seeking Balance. I’m actively restraining myself from signing up for #AllTheRaces this year — which is difficult when you’re in a new state! — so you’ll see that my schedule for 2015 is still very much a work in progress. My strategy is to try to target new events, and I’m trying to mix things up rather than build toward a specific A race this season.

2. Training Smarter. Heart rate training went out the window this month in favor of a metric ton of cross-training. I’ve been barre-ing my butt off at PureBarre in an attempt to build more glute and core strength, riding at Revocycle to make sure I’m road-bike ready come spring, and testing out all kinds of other classes via ClassPass (post with details to come). Variety is the spice of life…and fitness, right?!

Ben and I also completed our own version of Whole30 (more like Whole45 since we had two minor cheat weekends with company in town), so nutrition has also been a major focus this month. As much as I used to pride myself on being able to eat whatever I wanted, I’ve got to admit that I feel so much better eating clean, unprocessed food and cutting down on added sugar.

3. Facing Fears. Ok, you got me — there’s not much progress to report on the swimming front. I haven’t been making regular weekly sessions, and although I’ve got a few standing offers for technique guidance, I haven’t had a chance to drag Ben to the pool to take videos of me in action. Hoping to remedy this in March!

4. Pushing Myself. I’m officially registered for my second ultramarathon — a 50K in May. I’m also eyeing a century ride earlier that month, as well as trying to decide between a sprint triathlon or Olympic duathlon in June. Throw in two overnight relays, and it’s looking to be an active summer!

5. Giving Back. We’re still in our pre-season for the Team LUNA Chix Portland Run team, so fundraising hasn’t started quite yet for the Breast Cancer Fund. However, we’ve been so excited to get going that we’ve gotten a jump on things by holding group runs once a month to touch base.

In the meantime, our potential century ride has fundraising component for the American Lung Association, so if we decide to bite the bullet on that event, Ben and I will be hitting up our friends and family to donate for another great cause.

Other than that, we’re looking forward to March coming in like a rainy lion and out like a damp lamb here in the Pacific Northwest…how about you?!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Fave Fix: BioSkin Calf Skin Sleeves (+ giveaway!)

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During a particularly mucky morning workout recently (#BecausePortland), I bit it while running up some slick stone stairs and slammed my right shin directly into the corner of a step. It was one of those moments where your heart stops, your stomach drops, and a split second before the pain hits you try to do a full-body scan to assess the situation.

Fortunately, it was nothing too serious (aside from ego damage). It’s taken a few weeks, but the nasty bruise has finally subsided.

Unfortunately, though, this incident coincided with me needing wanting to ramp up my mileage base to get ready for the upcoming race season. And although a goose-egg lump and lingering tenderness certainly didn’t pose a huge threat, I figured it’d be the perfect opportunity to test a new pair of Calf Skin Sleeves that BioSkin sent me to check out.

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BioSkin designs and manufactures compression supports, orthopedic braces, and human performance gear for the orthopedic, sports medicine, and recreational sports markets worldwide. They’re an Oregon-based (Ashland) company, and I love their mentality — i.e. they chose the location not because it’s the easiest place to run a manufacturing business, but because it’s such a great place to live.

It’s this kind of attitude — quality over quantity — that usually carries over into great products. Especially because they also believe in focusing on the little details, which can make a big difference when you’re talking about products that people wear on a daily basis.

So, why compression? Well, it not only cuts down on muscle vibration, but also helps ensure that your muscles are in the proper position to maximize force production without wasted energy. Decreased muscle fatigue and improved proprioception also protect you from injury by giving you more precise control of your body.

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My first thought, out of the box, was that these aren’t your average compression sleeves. I wear a good amount of compression gear, but I’ve never run across anything quite like this; BioSkin uses a special material (non-neoprene and non-latex) that not only allows your legs to breathe, but also keeps it from sliding down your leg during vigorous activity.

They feel less like a sock and more like a super-thin wet suit. Getting them on can be a workout in and of itself — these suckers are tight! — but throwing on a thin sock makes it easier to shimmy them on over your heel and onto your leg.

The feel does take some getting used to at first; like I said, they’re designed to fit snugly. But I’ve been actively seeking a higher level of compression for my legs since my tibia injury last fall, especially because I envision it being a free mini-massage with every step.

And as much as I like them for workouts, I l-o-v-e them for recovery days. Whether it’s an easy session of running or biking, or just an off day, I’ll throw them on and feel noticeably less discomfort and soreness. BioSkin for the win!

Speaking of winning (I know; horrible segue) BioSkin’s been kind enough to provide me with a $20 gift card for one lucky reader. Enter here via a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Are you a fan of compression wear? When do you wear compression sleeves/socks? 

The Almond Milk Experiment

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Our recent Whole30 experience left Ben and I between a rock and a hard place when it came to morning coffee: Either drink it black or pay a hefty $1 or so per ounce for the deliciousness from Portland Juice Company.

Now wanting to blow through our grocery budget, I knew there had to be another way. Sure, we could fudge our way through with store-bought almond milk, which even when it’s organic and free of lactose, soy, gluten can have some nasty additives (just Google “carrageenan,” for example).

So that left us (read: me) with one, final option: Making it home-made, which I was trying to avoid at all costs — literally and figuratively.

A little math:

  • Nut-milk bag: $10.99
  • 6 oz package of raw almonds: $4.99
  • 12 oz package of dates: $6.99
  • Finally getting over the fear of using my food processor: Priceless

Is it worth it? Well, I might not be the best person to ask since I love my dairy and have since added it back into my diet — in moderation, of course (#BecauseIceCream). But almond milk is a delicious alternative for people with dietary restrictions — especially with the addition of dates as a natural sweetener and pumpkin pie spice for an extra kick.

Making it on my own not only was a learning experience, but it also got me thinking about all the extra gunk I’m consuming in my usual store-bought, sugar- and chemical-laden creamers, so although I don’t expect to make it regularly, I will add it into my repertoire of “every-now-and-then” recipes.

Here’s a look at the process:

Step one: Purchase nut-milk bag. Get mocked by husband when you tell him you’re “going to the store to buy a nut bag.”

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Step two: Soak almonds. Overnight, ideally, but for at least a few hours or until the nuts plump up.

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Step three: Rinse almonds and place in food processor with 3-4 pitted dates and a few cups of fresh water. Blend.

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Step four: Clean up explosion of water from said food processor. Locate manual and read instructions about not filling above “fill line.” Oops.

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Step five: Repeat step four. Clean up second mess, and wonder if you assembled it incorrectly. Nope — just too much liquid. Again.

Step six: Finally blend (for 1-2 minutes) until white and frothy. Smells lovely.

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Step seven: Hold open nut-milk bag over a large bowl and pour mixture into bag to strain. Gently squeeze to get excess liquid out.

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Step eight: Store in airtight container. Preferably a mason jar, particularly if you live in Portland, to cement neo-hippie status.

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Now…what do do with the almond remnants? I’ve got a recipe for that, too! Stay tuned…

Have you made home-made almond milk?

Don’t Just Sit There: DIY Standing Desk

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It’s funny how your body can speak volumes to someone without even saying a word.

Case in point: Every time I go in for a massage lately, my therapist gets stuck on my back. Or, rather, my back gets itself stuck, and then my massage therapist has to spend an hour convincing it to loosen up.

You see, working from home is a double-edged sword. Now I’m not complaining — my commute rocks, my workout-wear attire is comfy and my four-legged office-mates are pretty chill (unless they hear a knock at the door, then all bets are off). But the drawback is that sometimes the lack of ergonomics can be a pain in the neck — like, literally.

Some scary facts:

  • The moment you sit at your desk each morning, your calorie-burning rate immediately drops to one calorie per minute
  • Sit for six hours a day, 14 days straight: Muscles stop burning fat, blood sugar rises and maximum oxygen consumption drops.
  • After a year of sitting six hours per day, weight gain would be noticeable, as would higher cholesterol levels and loss of bone mass.

But the real kicker comes 10-20 years down the line. Us desk jockeys may need to augment retirement savings to account for medical bills. Sitting affects almost every part of our bodies from head to toe, raises risk of death by nearly 50 percent and creates a stunning 125 percent increase in the risk for cardiovascular disease.

So I’ve decided I’m not taking this sitting down. In fact, I’m taking a stand…as in, using a DIY standing desk.

Why? Well, our budget is zilch, and we’re lucky enough to have a bar-height butcher block table in the kitchen that works, so I’m trying that out for now. But Plan B is to “hack” our space using the specs and ideas below to create something that’s cheap, comfortable and won’t undo all the good I try do by way of exercise.

So, athletes, consider this my little PSA: We talk about the benefits of recovery because that’s where the body bounces back and the real gains happen. But if you’re sitting at a desk all day, you’re still doing yourself a disservice.

Get up, stand up. Stand up for your life.

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DIY Desk

DIY Desk
Infographic by CustomMade

Are you ergonomic at work?

Have any tips for doing it effectively (and on a budget)?