Race Report: LifeTime Fitness 2015 Indoor Triathlon

IMG_3603

Although I said I’d hold off on registering for another triathlon until I work on my swim, I couldn’t help myself when I found out that the Indoor Triathlon Hour powered by Life Time Tri and IRONMAN would be happening while I was in Michigan.

In an effort to inspire the community to consider and commit to racing triathlon in 2015, LifeTime Fitness created the event as a way to offer an inspirationally-charged, safe and indoor environment for athletes of all fitness levels to experience the nation’s fastest growing sport of triathlon.

I did a similar event last year at a different location, and while my distances were slightly shorter this time for the same time-frames (damn!) — 10-minute swim/30-minute bike/20-minute run — I can’t complain too much because my training has been consistent but not particularly focused lately.

My wave — the first of the day — started promptly at 8 a.m., so I arrived about 20 minutes early to check in, get my cap and number and get organized in the locker room transition area. And then it was go time!

Swim: 10 minutes = 17 lengths

Clean, clear water and only two people to a lane? Now, that’s how I start to get my swim mojo back.

And apparently my lane buddy, Eric, had the same idea. He’d done outdoor triathlons before but had a bad swim experience recently, as well, so both of us joked about just wanting to just get through that part of every race.

IMG_3595

Since the lap pool there has five lanes, they limited each heat to 10 people. By the time I had arrived, people were already starting to warm up, so I hopped in and swam one length to try to get the pre-race jitters out.

This is about when I also noticed that my wave-mates were a pretty athletic looking bunch. I was one of three ladies, and I could tell quickly that this wasn’t a group who was trying triathlon for the first time; these people were here to kick off their seasons, so I figured I’d just try to keep up.

IMG_3594

My adrenaline didn’t work in my favor because I went out way too quickly. And the combination of being against the wall (aka swallowing back-splash) and getting bumped a few times took me right back to my Olympic triathlon back in April, and I could feel myself start to panic.

This is where the giant countdown clock came in handy, though, because I’d raise my head at the end of the lane and think, You can do anything for five more minutes. Gradually, I got my rhythm back and, thankfully, the whistle blew for us to stop after I’d gotten 17 lengths under my belt.

Bike: 30 minutes = 7.7 miles

Although they gave us a generous 10 minutes to transition from the swim to the bike, the time flew by. I tugged off my suit in the locker room, threw on my Coeur kit and headed upstairs to the bike area that they had sectioned off by the cardio equipment.

For some added motivation, we could watch Ironman videos on the projection screen, so I snagged a front-row seat for the action. I didn’t have my bike shoes to be able to clip in, so I secured my running shoes in the pedals and prepped my nutrition: a bottle of water and a trusty Chocolate Peppermint Stick LUNA bar.

IMG_3596

And we were off again! The music pumping nice and loud, so I tried to ride to the beat and turned down my resistance as much as possible to gain some of the ground I lost in the pool.

I got the feeling that a few of my heat-mates train together because they rode in a group and were encouraging each other throughout the ride, which was inspiring to hear. We pedaled furiously as a small crowd gathered to watch us push onward, still dripping a bit from the pool, but smiling from ear to ear.

IMG_3598

I think the bikes may have been calibrated differently from last year’s race because my just-under-eight-miles seemed like a conservative estimate for how strongly I felt like I was riding (especially after getting a comment form one of my heat-mates to the same effect). But, regardless, I stayed pretty steady throughout, ate and drank consistently, and was proud of my overall effort.

The second wave came up to join us with about 10 minutes to spare in our ride, so we pedaled as a large group for the final portion. Their energy was a breath of fresh air after hammering away on the stationary bike, and just a few minutes after they got settled the whistle blew for our final transition.

Run: 20 minutes = 2.69 miles

We had five minutes to get from the bikes to the treadmills, but they were just a few yards away, so I grabbed a towel and got situated quickly because I already had my Hoka Conquests on.

My heat-mate next to me had a treadmill malfunction at the very last second, so he scooted over to another machine just as they started a countdown to the third and final portion of the event.

IMG_3601

Because I’ve been managing what I’ve self-diagnosed as some SI joint pain (note to self: must continue to work on my lack of ankle mobility, which is likely the culprit!) since my marathon, my plan was to run a conservative first 10 minutes and then gradually increase my speed over the next 10 minutes to warm up properly.

I started off at 6.8 mph and increased to around 7.5 when one of the volunteers came by, daring me, “I think can go faster than that.” Yep, she was right; I wasn’t really out of breath, so I pumped it up a few tenths of a mile every minute or two until I was up to 8.5 mph 15 minutes in.

IMG_3599

I was hoping to inch up the speed to 9.0 mph like last year, but I started feeling a little lightheaded with three minutes to go, so I gritted my teeth and ran on. Maybe increasing the speed wasn’t an option, but I sure as hell wasn’t backing down at that point!

When the final whistle blew, I ended at 2.69 miles. Not PR territory, but a solid performance with an average pace of 7:26/mile, so I’ll take it…especially considering I’ve eaten my weight in Christmas cookies over the past few weeks.

It was also a wake-up call: Fitness-wise, I’m close to what I was last March, so I’m happy to have been able to maintain. Training-wise, however, I’ve got to dial things in better if I want to progress. And, nutritionally, I think I did ok, but probably could have used some extra oomph for the run in the form of Osmo or Tailwind in addition to the LUNA bar.

All in all, it was an event I’d highly recommend, especially if you’re looking to kick off your training with a low-pressure race and get a baseline in place.

Congrats to everyone who participated, and cheers to a successful 2015 racing season!

Advertisements

5 Tips for Building a Budget-Friendly Home Gym

modern-home-gym

Bring your workouts closer to home for 2015 — meaning, in it. No matter how small your space or budget, it’s easier than you think to build an effective gym without breaking the bank.

Here are five ways to become a healthier homebody — and for shrinking your waistline, not your wallet — in the New Year:

1. Go weightless.

These aren’t your father’s push-ups and sit-ups; today’s body weight exercises are high-performance maneuvers designed for building and maintaining muscle strength and endurance, along with interval training. Don’t believe me? Check out this video and tell me that’s not an intense workout!

2. Think DIY.

Function often trumps form when it comes to gym gear, so before you buy it, try making it on the cheap. Use hot water bottle bladders under your feet in place of a pricey Bosu balance trainer, tap into your woodworking skills to build your own plyo boxes, and make medicine balls from old basketballs and some sand, for example.

3. Buy secondhand.

Wait a few more weeks, and plenty of New Year’s resolutionists will be hawking their (barely used) exercise equipment on Craigslist. But don’t stop there: Visit stores such as Play It Again Sports to snag a deal on pre-owned gear, scout your local gym for used equipment sales after yearly upgrades or ask for discounts on floor models at retailers.

4. Press play.

There’s an app for that — or a video game, a gadget, a DVD, etc. Whether it’s tracking activity with a Runtastic Orbit, turning your smartphone into you own personal trainer with Nike Training Club or popping in a video from home-fitness giant Beachbody, harness technology to keep you healthy and active throughout the day, not just in the confines of a gym.

5. Embrace co-op.

Finally, if your motivation comes in the form of group fitness, consider creating a co-op gym space with relatives, friends or neighbors. Split the cost of equipment (either by machine or overall, depending on how your crew wants to divvy it up), and store everything at one home where everyone can congregate for workouts.

How do you curb your workout costs? 

Sweat like a pig, look like a fox…and smell like neither (+ giveaway!)

soiled-air

Ever play that game where you see if you can squeeze in just one more workout out of an outfit? Well, trust me, it’s a scenario in which no one wins.

And now that we’re headed into winter (i.e. indoor workout season), I’d like to make a public service announcement: Please do yourself, your nose and the noses of those around you a favor and regularly de-funk that fitness gear.

Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up from trial and error over the years, along with some new tips for feeling so fresh and so clean next time you hit the gym.

But first — why so smelly?

Blame those moisture-wicking technical fabrics. Sure, they keep you from getting soaked during sweatfests, but their water-repellent technology also means it takes more than a simple wash cycle to penetrate those fibers. Plus, we’re used to our street clothes getting slightly soiled; workout gear gets downright dirty with trapped oils and residue, so it takes some special TLC to get things totally clean.

picard-so-much-win-bo

Ok, so what should I do?

Short of burning it or buying a whole new wardrobe, there are a few things I like to do to keep my gear from getting too gnarly:

1. Strip Down: Lounging around in sopping-wet clothing is a no-no for several reasons (ladies, you know what I mean); get it off ASAP.

2. Hang Dry: If you can’t wash clothes immediately, at least drape them over a shower rod or door handle to air out and dry.

3. Soak Up: I let super stinky stuff set for 15-30 minutes in the bathroom sink with water and one cup of vinegar before washing.

4. Wash Well: I used to think my usual detergent was sufficient, but I’ve recently been converted to WIN (details below), a detergent designed specifically to treat fitness and sport clothing.

5. Dry Thoroughly: Dry clothing on the hottest dryer setting that’s appropriate for the materials. Or hang air-dry items outside in direct sunlight to kill any remaining bacteria.

If all else fails, know when it’s time to throw in the towel (or sports bra or bike shorts) — if it’s still full of stink after several washes, wave the white flag and throw down a few bucks for a new pair!

IMG_2132

As I mentioned above, I’ve always relied on traditional detergent for washing my workout gear. Even if something seemed fresh when I pulled it out of the drawer, though, I’d occasionally notice that yucky mildew smell on some pieces as soon as they got wet (like my sports bra during last weekend’s trail race, for example).

But all clothing detergents are pretty much the same, I thought. Right?

Nope.

IMG_2253

Enter WIN, which I heard of previously while at a race expo but only recently got a chance to test. It’s specifically formulated to remove oils and residue that cause odor from synthetic fabrics — it literally breaks up all that gunk that’s accumulated on the fibers, removing the source of the smell and truly cleaning the garment.

My verdict: This stuff really works. Clothing smells good coming out of the wash, even better out of the dryer…and stays that way. So much so that I (who at one time may or may not have stocked up on so much underwear I’d only have to do laundry once a month) have done a load each day this week. Yep, it’s WIN for the win.

IMG_2254

But you don’t have to take my word for it — you can try WIN yourself! Enter via Rafflecopter below, and you’ll have the chance to win two bottles of WIN detergent (one regular and one green) to try at home on your stinkiest of workout wear.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Got any best practices for keeping the stench out of your gym clothes? I’d love to hear!

A big thank you to Fit Approach for the opportunity to check out WIN. While I did receive samples of the product, all opinions are my own. I would never promote something I didn’t believe in.

Make exercise more fun with The Fitness Games

10629692_10100286123598153_778189155746530908_n

After being sidelined from running for a bit, I’ve been on the lookout for alternative ways to fuel my competitive fire. Enter The Fitness Games, a new app that aims to make exercise as addicting as Candy Crush Saga.

Some background: I met founders Arya Farzin and Joseph Phillips, two nationally-certified trainers with a combined 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, at this year’s IDEA World fitness conference. Not only are they super-nice, extremely-passionate guys, but there’s a great story behind the creation of the app: Obese for most of his life, Arya decided to make a change when he was 19 years old. After losing 200 pounds, he made it his mission to help people all over the world make the same positive changes…and have fun while doing it.

photo 1

So here’s how it works: Instead of having to go it alone each day until my marathon training resumes, I can challenge anyone, anywhere, to any type of workout, post photos and videos to show progress, or simply challenge myself with one of the app’s workouts. What I love most, though, is that I can find a partner  — regardless of geography or time zone — to connect with via GPS so we can compete and track our progress in real time.

Whether it’s a virtual elliptical buddy (yep, I need some help staying on the machine for 45 minutes) or motivational match-up for some strength training, all I do is post the the workout I want to complete via the app dashboard. Other users respond if they are interested in doing the same workout, and then it’s go-time!

photo 2

Workouts are divided into four categories: Cardio, Strength, Full-Body and Cross Training. Each category operates on a unique scoring system that was carefully designed to determine how hard users exercised to determine the winner of each head-to-head contest.

Points earned during challenges can be used to level up, as well as unlock free workouts. And all workouts performed are tracked, scored and saved so users can see their progress over time.

photo 3

If you’re looking for a way to get motivated and make workouts a team effort, this is a simple, yet effective, tool for tricking yourself into being more consistent. And, let’s face it, there’s nothing like a little friendly competition to get us all stoked for that next sweat session, right?

Let the games begin!

This post was sponsored by The Fitness Games through their partnership with Fit Approach. I was not compensated monetarily, but was provided the Platinum Version of the application for review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Barry’s or Bust: Taking to LA to test the ‘Best Workout in the World’

 

photo 4 (4)

It’s a good thing typing only requires moving my fingers — because pretty much every other muscle in my body is sore today after yesterday’s field trip down to LA for my first taste of the serious sweatfest that is Barry’s Bootcamp.

The Los Angeles-based company, whose popular program combines treadmill sprints and strength-training intervals for hour-long workouts, is coming soon to San Francisco thanks to Adam Shane (owner of the SF franchise). He invited a group of us to see firsthand how the brand earned its reputation as the “Best Workout in the World” among celebs, athletes and enthusiasts alike.

photo 1 (13)

Among our travel crew were a few of the new Barry’s SF instructors, who just so happen to boast beauty, brawn and brains (we’re talkin’ Ivy league-educated, PhD-toting fit pros here), which is very much by design. Shane hand-picked the team himself, selecting some of the city’s top trainers with a goal of whipping the Bay Area into shape like never before.

On the day’s agenda? A double-whammy workout with not one, but two (!) Barry’s classes — some morning madness at the Sherman Oaks location with master instructor Martin George, and some afternoon abuse with ‘entertrainer’ extraordinaire Seth Gee.

photo 1 (14)

By the way, get to know these faces — Barry’s SF instructors Tommy, Erica and Tommy — because you’re going to develop a love/hate relationship with them when they kick your ass in class come this spring.

photo 1 (15)

Back to the workout: Each class is split between high-intensity treadmill cardio and weight lifting moves on the floor. But the real kicker is that the instructors switch it up every time, so you never know what to expect — and neither does your body, which is what makes these moves more effective that some other super-repetitive routines.

Thursday was ‘core’ day, so George told us to grab a few dumbbells and take to the makeshift step stations for a series of crunches, lifts, twists and other forms of abdominal torture. All I know is that I was seriously struggling — and that every bit of my midsection got worked to submission.

And just when I thought I may have to wave my white towel in defeat, we swapped placed with the treadmill group.

photo 2 (13)

I relaxed a bit as I cranked up the speed — after all, I’m a runner, and the treadmill is my ‘security blanket’ — but after a series of sprints, hills and backwards drills (on a 12 percent incline, no less), it sunk in that there would be no room for slacking off, zoning out or taking a breather during class.

George seamlessly struck a balance between monitoring both groups, shouting out intervals to the runners and counting down sets on the floor, plus orchestrating music and lighting changes while simultaneously giving feedback on form.

We swapped places twice more for a total of three different treadmill segments and three floor sessions each, and before we knew it the class was coming to an end. We did a quick cooldown stretch and promptly collapsed outside in the sun for a few moments to recover and figure out how we were going to make it through another hour of this kind of intensity later in the afternoon.

photo 2 (14)

After a quick snack (it’s important to refuel within 30 minutes after class to help your body recover and repair) and change of clothes, we headed down the street for lunch and to meet with company CEO John Mumford and President/Founder Rachel Mumford to learn a bit about how Barry’s came about.

The story’s a great one — Mumford recognized the potential in developing Barry’s Bootcamp’s program and lifestyle into a recognizable brand after religiously taking bootcamp classes from Director of Curriculum/Founder Barry Jay years ago. She convinced her husband to invest initially, and then eventually take on business operations and strategic planning — and the rest, as they say is history.

photo 2 (15)After a little time to digest (apparently if you puke mid-class, you get a t-shirt; no thanks), we headed over to West Hollywood to the original Barry’s Bootcamp location for our afternoon class with Gee. I was concerned the session might be a bit repetitive due to the same cardio/core focus as our morning workout, but Gee immediately had us grab a weighted ball and set the treadmills to dynamic mode (you’ve got to propel the belt yourself)…there’s no such thing as the same two workouts here.

Although we followed a similar class structure — three sets on the treadmill and three sets on the floor — the exercises, intervals and overall feel of the session were completely different. In between ‘sprints’ where we ran with all our might on a non-powered treadmill, we did kettleball-type swings, dead lifts and a bunch of Russian twists — but no single exercise on the floor or segment on the treadmill was repeated from the morning’s workout.

photo 5 (4)

Don’t let those grins fool you — we were happy, but certainly hurting, after a double dose of Barry’s. In fact, after a ride back to the airport and a quick dinner together, most of us looked like this on the plan ride home: Exhausted!

photo 3 (14)

My takeaways from the day?

It’s a serious workout. Don’t expect to waltz your way through class; although the moves are modifiable, you’ve got to bring your A-game. At more than one point, as I was struggling for just. one. more. rep, I looked around and saw that everyone else around me was hurting just as badly (yes, even the biggest, buffest guys!).

It really works. Not only does the body part focus change each day, but the individual instructors have their own respective styles and moves. You might swap back and forth from floor to treadmill all workout or you might have a 30-on/30-off day, so your body and mind are constantly working to adapt.

It’s ideal cross-training for athletes. As I was telling Shane on the plane ride home, I’ve been slacking on my strength training, core work and interval training in my quest for pure mileage on the bike, in the pool and on the road during training season. So this is an awesome way to mix things up and train away any weaknesses in between — not to mention a great way to maintain fitness during the off season.

It’s damn fun. Between the instructors, lighting and music, the mood in the room is amazing. Very no-nonsense — you’re gonna get a hardcore workout — but you’re not gonna get yelled at or intimidated. You can focus on beating your personal best, or motivate yourself by trying to keep up with the person next to you…but either way, the time will fly by and you’ll be wanting to come back for more.

For more information on Barry’s Bootcamp, check out their website here. And stay tuned, Bay Area friends, for the opening of the new SF location this spring! 

Work out where you work – and do both better

How-to-Workout-at-Work

The key to better productivity in the office may just lie in getting out of it.

Studies have shown that exercise not only boosts work performance in individuals by improving brain function, upping productivity and reducing stress, but it also has a profound effect on the workforce, as a whole. (I can definitely vouch for this, via our SweatGuru crew’s weekly “runch!”)

“Absenteeism is reduced, morale is increased and long-term health care costs are substantially impacted,” says Jim Colvin, M.P.H., fitness and health educator and trainer at Bay Club Silicon Valley.

So next time you’re temped to fight the mid-day slump with a second cup of coffee or a trip to the vending machine, think again. For managers and employees alike, Colvin offers four tips for merging physical activity with your 9-5 routine:

1. Take meetings at the gym. A new study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that participants showed significantly increased signs of focus and ability to retain and use new information immediately after a 20-minute yoga session. If you’re in a position to schedule off-sites, consider a health club venue: “The key is to build in a break to do a team workout with one of the classes being offered. The rejuvenation you will find between body and brain will result in a more stimulating discussion when the team returns to business,” says Colvin.

2. Walk and talk. “Walking for 15 minutes will burn approximately 100 calories each time,” says Colvin. Need one-on-one time with a coworker? “Instead of going for coffee, circle your floor or the block while you chat and reap the benefits of the endorphin release in the brain.”

3. Reschedule your workout. Typically work out at the end of the day? It’s a great stress reliever. But for a mental energy boost during the work day, consider hitting the gym on your way to the office or on your lunch break. Or, take 10-minute breaks throughout the day to climb a few flights in the stairwell or bang out a set of push-ups behind your desk.

4. Create a “mobile” office. “Many companies have incorporated walking treadmill stations in the office, and studies have shown that the additional steps taken resulted in reduced waist-to-hip ratios,” says Colvin. If you’re lucky enough to work from home, you can create your own treadmill desk by making a platform for your laptop across the handlebars and setting the treadmill between .7 and 1 mile per hour to be able to type comfortably while you walk. Or, for those who normally retreat to the local cafe, consider setting up shop at a work-friendly gym instead.

How do you squeeze physical activity into your workday?

Are you guilty of one of these workout time wasters?

girlfriend-girls-chatting-gym

We’ve all had those days when, even with the best of intentions, your workout gets sidetracked once you set foot in the gym. But with time at a premium, efficiency is a critical part of the fitness formula is you want to keep making progress.

“Almost everyone could benefit from getting a more effective workout in less time and reaching their goals sooner,” says Jennifer Beaton, VP and general manager at Western Athletic Clubs and a certified personal trainer at Bay Club San Francisco.

So take a look at these four common workout time wasters, and make a mental note to avoid them if you want to maximize your next trip to the gym:

1. Excessive rest. All those minutes spent sitting on the bench staring at your watch really add up. “If you can sit down and read the paper between sets, you are likely resting too long,” warns Beaton. To see better results with the very same moves, and to optimize your time, try super-setting exercises, such as push-ups and squats, to allow rest of a muscle group while you work another muscle group. Replacing station rest with active rest such as 30 seconds of high intensity cardio can also optimize calories burned and muscle recovery.

2. Steady-state cardio. In other words, those marathon (no pun intended) treadmill sessions. “We see many members who do the same 60 minutes of cardio at the same intensity every day for 15 years. These individuals no longer see improvements and often start to see declines in overall condition. They would benefit by mixing up their routine, adding intervals and high intensity work,” says Beaton.

3. Isolation exercises. “Life is full of dynamic movement, and therefore our workouts should simulate and enhance those efforts by using multi-joint, compound movements, such as squats, lunges and pull-ups as opposed to, for example, adductor/abductor machines or bicep curls. To get the most bang for your buck, focus on performing movements that recruit as many muscles as possible; those smaller secondary muscles will get plenty of work as they support the larger muscle groups during those movements,” Beaton adds.

4. Endless crunches. Likewise, if your goal is a great-looking midsection, ab-isolating exercises may miss the mark. “I often see people doing 15-20 minutes of crunches in hopes that it’ll deliver six-pack abs,” says Beaton. “Their time would be better spent on nutrition, a solid full-body strength routine, and a balanced cardiovascular program.”

How do you make the most of your time at the gym?