Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hop Hop Half Training Week 3 & NROLFW Phase 2 Week 1a


Monday: Easy run 3.0 miles (13:04 pace)

Tuesday: Speedwork run 4.0 miles (11:35 avg pace)

Goal: 0.75 warm-up, 2 x 1 mile at 5k goal pace (<10:00) with 0.5 recovery, 0.75 cool-down
0.75 warm-up: 13:03
2 x 1 mile: 9:31 (!!!), 9:44
0.5 recovery: 14:55
0.75 cool-down: 13:07

New adult mile record! Was 9:5x - I think 9:51? 

Wednesday: Very easy run 2.0 miles (13:52 pace)

Thursday: Run 4.15 miles (11:57 pace)

This was kind of a hybrid workout. I wanted to get in some tempo miles at half marathon goal pace. I also wanted to do the HIIT workout that's part of the NROLFW workout B for this phase. (Though this wiped me out enough to not do the lifting part of workout B that night, and I didn't get around to it later in the week either.)

Goal part 1: Warm-up 3 min, 4 x 1 min hard (<9:00)/2 min easy, cool-down/transition 3 min
Goal part 2: 2 miles at HMGP = <11:30, 0.5 cool-down
Actual part 1: 1.5 miles (12:10 pace)
Warm-up 3 min: 13:12
4 x 1 min hard: 8:38, 8:02, 8:25, 8:22
4 x 2 min easy: 14:40, 14:26, 13:34, 14:00
Cool-down/transition 3 minutes (plus 14 sec to round mileage): 14:16
Actual part 2: 2.65 miles (11:49 pace)
2 tempo: 11:22, 11:24
Cool-down: 13:10

Friday: Rest day! 

Saturday: Long run 11.05 miles (12:40 pace)

1 - 4: 12:37, 12:38, 12:51, 12:44
5 - 8: 12:59, 12:40, 12:34, 12:39
9 - 11.05: 12:46, 12:20, 12:33, 0:41 time for 0.05

Damn! My half PR is a 12:57 pace, so doing a long run, at an easy-ish long-run-pace under that? I'm very proud of myself! Enjoying the beautiful sunny day and distracting myself with podcasts (a new thing on long runs - mostly Freakonomics and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me) certainly didn't hurt, but this never felt truly hard. 

Sunday: Easy run 3.1 miles (13:32 pace) + 1:15 plank + 0:50 wall sit

Total running: 27.3 miles

Based on my current 5k time, according to the McMillan calculator I should be able to run a mile in 9:10, and a quarter mile at just over a 7:30 pace! I'm currently running those distances at NOT those paces! But inching ever so much closer.

Though I've been pretty steady at just under 60 hours per week at work for the last month or so, it's felt harder to squeeze in more things around it. The cumulative effect of that workload over time adds up to it feeling more stressful, I guess. So I've been dropping more and more of the crosstraining stuff. Hitting my mileage is my highest priority, followed closely by the NROLFW strength training. Swimming, biking, and yoga would be nice to do, but there's a point where it's more stressful to make it happen than the workout would relieve. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

PMT Style Challenge: Belt Something (Not Pants)

Or, why wearing belts for purposes other than to hold up pants is really really weird if you think about it.

This week's challenge is to wear a belt in a way other than on pants. Can you imagine if we wore suspenders with sweaters or dresses? Like, hooked the end of the suspenders to the waistband of a dress, not holding anything up, just adding visual interest to the outfit. I realized that's what we're doing with belts. Which doesn't keep me from wearing belts as such: this year I actually have, so far with cardigans over dresses.

I still feel a bit silly when it's a cardigan with buttons; though I can say the belt is keeping the cardigan closed, it's not like it's needed to do so, the cardigan already has a built-in option to do that itself. So in order to venture into the oh so extreme territory of belting a cardigan with pants (of all things!), I was glad to have recently picked up this flyaway style sweater for cheap at Old Navy. At least in this case, the belt truly is the only available method within the outfit to keep the sweater closed. 

The other day a coworker was wearing a black sweater (not cardigan), slightly long-ish in length, with a self-belt at the natural waist. Combined with this week's challenge, got me started on the above thoughts about how arbitrary wearing belts in such a fashion is. Not that most of fashion isn't arbitrary, this seems to be extra arbitrary. 

On the other hand, I did feel way more polished with this than I think I would have had I left the fly away cardigan and flying away. I got the coziness and even some flowiness of the fly away, but the polish and tailored feeling with a defined waist and a belt.

On a scale from 1 to 10, how weird to you think non-pants-holding-up belts are?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NROLFW: Phase 1 Recap

The tagline on the book is "Lift like a man, look like a goddess". Which, if I hadn't heard some great things about it already, could very easily have turned me off of it entirely. It's also a book for women written by a man, so... that's kind of odd and potentially bad. But actually, I really like his tone; I think the book is funny, information, and helpful.

FYI - I'm trying to talk about my experience with the program, and provide info (mostly for my own reference) about my progression through it, as well as info (for people considering the program) about how it works. But of course this is a specialized, published program, so I'm trying to carefully walk the line between discussing the content, without completely giving away the background or specific workouts or violating any copyright laws. For example, I'm listing the exercises (mostly - I subbed some based on equipment I have available at home) and showing the weight I used and number of reps for one set, for comparison purposes from beginning to end of a phase, but not explaining how many sets are done per workout or what rest time between sets is prescribed.

What are these "new rules"? 

Basically, don't stop eating and just do cardio to burn all the calories. You can't "tone" or "lean out" your muscles; low-weight, high-rep exercises will only build muscle endurance, not muscle strength. Lifting progressively heavy weights is what will make your muscles stronger, and they'll get bigger and women do have the same muscle fibers as men, but it's still not likely that you'll end up "bulking" up in a way that the average women doesn't want.

It's really just common sense. Especially if you're trying to build overall health, not just create a certain physique - lifting 2 pound weights 50 times might make you really good at lifting 2 pound weights, but that won't be as helpful in being able to lift a 20-pound toddler. Though not strictly "functional fitness" types of exercises, it definitely is a similar mindset.

There are also some general eating guidelines; not specific food recommendations, but there is a 40/30/30 macro suggestion. It's basically eat whole foods, not processed crap. I haven't fully complied with that aspect of it, though I am making strides in that direction.

There a few ways to track progress for this kind of program: body weight, body measurements, appearance, increased lifting weight. Though it'd be a lie to say I'm not in this to lose weight, the book focuses on tracking performance, not appearance, which is a much healthier place to focus. I've reached that state of mind, most of the time, on my running, and am aiming to stay there in this case, as well. The probable fat loss and improved appearance are byproducts, not the primary goals of improving performance and health.

Performance progress

Phase 1 is 6 to 8 weeks, depending on how many workouts you do each week. Since I was fitting this around other goals and tax season, I had fewer per week, so it was 8 weeks of alternating the workouts (plus a break week between 5 and 6, just because it was a bad week), plus the last week of "special workouts", which are as many reps as possible (AMRAP) at the weights you used the first week, to see how you've progressed. A note - I couldn't use exactly the same weights on some, as I'd traded up to a heavier adjustable dumbbell set (gave the old set to my mom), that only had increments of 5 pounds instead of 2.5 and didn't go down to 7.5.

For the assisted pull-ups, I have a doorway pull-up bar, and use the 1 1/8" (purple) + 1 3/4" (green) Body Bands loop bands combined to provide counter resistance, so I'm not lifting up my entire body weight (this combo is at least 90 pounds of resistance). As I build strength for pull-ups, I'll eventually move down (up?) to just the thicker band, then just the thinner band, and eventually, hopefully, entire body weight with no resistance. 

Workout A

Workout B

Appearance progress

Though I'm trying to keep the focus on performance and actual strength, I do appreciate that this program should make me smaller, lose fat, and look better. As such, I took some progress photos and body measurements at the beginning. I may or may not share the photos eventually - maybe once halfway through and at the end, when there might be a more noticeable difference? 

I lost 5 pounds (from 146 to 141) over the course of 11 weeks (8 weeks of phase 1, one week break in the middle, last week of progress "special workouts", and one week break before starting phase 2). I don't think it's necessary or particularly helpful to share all of my body measurements, but I lost at least a quarter inch all over, and a half inch in many spots.

Overall thoughts

Most of the exercises I've done at some point in my life, so though I looked at the instructions in the book to confirm specifics and good form, I wasn't learning anything completely unknown. However, I don't do these exercises all the time, so it was nice to only focus on a handful at a time for an extended period (phase 1 had two workouts each with 5 exercises; phase 2 increases that slightly but not tons), to remember how to do them right. Yet on the other hand I also liked alternating between the two workouts each week, rather than repeating one workout for a week or more (as, for example, in the Jillian Michaels DVDs that I've done). Mixes things up enough, but not too much.

Some of the exercises clearly assume a gym setting with access to barbells and machines, however I'm doing this at home with a set of adjustable dumbbells (first with a set from 7.5 to 12.5 pounds; now with a set from 5 to 25 pounds), a in-doorway pull-up bar and resistance bands, a stability ball, and a staircase. For barbell exercises I just use two dumbbells; most of the machine-based exercise instructions give home-gym options that work the same muscles. There was one that didn't show an alternative, but a small amount of googling found something.

I'm pretty sure even the 9 weeks of phase 1 is the longest I've ever stuck with a weight-lifting program, so you can trust that I'm pretty excited about this! I know this is great for overall health, but I also suspect this is a significant factor in my recent running improvements. This program isn't dumbed down, but it is designed to make it pretty mindless in terms of figuring out what to do, which makes it convenient and easy to commit to.

Monday, February 23, 2015

PRC Winter 5k Series: Predict Race

Portland Running Company's winter 5k series was 3 races, in December, January, and February. I thought this was pretty awesome when I first saw it, for several reasons:

1. It's nearby, about 10 minutes away.

2. It's in the suburbs, so this PRC location is in a mall with plentiful free parking. 

3. It's a nice course, on quiet streets and into Greenway Park. 

4. There are (reasonably enough) very few, if any, races this time of year. I think aside form this there's a 5k in December with the Holiday Half, and then nothing until the Shamrock Run in March.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to make the first two of the series - out of town for one, and the other was the same morning as the stair climb, though Abe and I did go over to run the course once several weeks ago

It was important to run the course at least once, because this third race that we did sign up for is a predict race. You submit a predicted pace ahead of time, aren't allowed to use a watch during the race, and prizes are awarded based on how close you finish to your predicted finish time (rather than by finishing first).

I though about my 5k PR (10:16 pace), and while my tempo and speedwork paces have been decreasing, I wanted to make sure I predicted a time that was doable even if circumstances weren't perfect. I was definitely not gunning for a new PR, so I submitted an 11:05 pace (just under 34:30 time).

The race start is about  block up from the PRC Beaverton location, so the store is open for checking in and waiting. At about quarter til they announced that we should head to the start line. There were just over 100 people, and based on the prior race results, I knew that while there would be a fair number of finishers in the 30 - 35 minutes range, beyond that only handful, so I lined up pretty close to the back.

The course was an out and back (it was supposed to loop in the park, but a section of the path has been closed), going from streets to park around the 1 mile mark. Half of the road was open to traffic, but it's pretty quiet on a Sunday morning. Right about when I hit the park entrance, the leader of the race crossed going back (finishing in under 18 minutes); knowing that approximate finish time from the earlier races, I tried to use that to estimate my pace for the first mile, but really didn't know. The course is flat-ish, but some ups and downs.

I was leap frogging a few people in the first mile, and then they started walking more. I was definitely putting forth a tempo effort, but it didn't feel completely all out. I caught up with a couple women at the turn around point, passed one quickly, and then was just behind the other for a ways, before picking it up on an uphill and passing her.

In the last half mile or so, maybe a bit more, there was a guy alternating walking and faster running (not intentional intervals, it appeared, but just running out of steam), so leapfrogged with him for a bit. He went ahead in the last 0.1, and I just maintained my speed. It was a little weird in the last mile, the field was pretty spread out, so it would have been rather easy to lose energy; that plus not wearing a watch it hardly felt like a race!

I ended up finishing in 32:24 - a couple minutes too fast! That was a lot closer to my PR pace than I thought it was based on exertion level - 10:23 pace. Though I had some brief stomach discomfort that I considered taking a walking break for in the second mile, I never felt the need to walk just because of running out of power, as I usually do when I'm attempting a 5k PR.

Though the great thing about a prediction race is that anyone of any skill level has a shot at placing, I kind of put myself out of the rurnning. My 0:42 difference per mile was on the higher end of differences. Some of the people who placed in age groups had up to a 25-ish seconds discrepancy, but the top ten overall were 2 seconds or less off! That's seems crazy! Though I figured my difference was a bit too much, I stayed for the awards ceremony. They had grilled cheese and PB&J sandwiches available after, which was surprisingly appealing! Perfect to refuel before heading home to do the remainder of my long run that was scheduled for that day.

I'm pretty pleased that the relatively (for me) intense training I've been putting in - speedwork intervals, tempo runs trying to keep up with my coworker, higher weekly mileage - appears to be paying off. :) I'm definitely going to aim for a PR at the Shamrock 5k coming up in a few week.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

PRC 5k Training Week 8 (Race Week) & Hop Hop Half Training Week 2


Monday pm: Easy run 3.6 miles (12:56 pace)

Tuesday am: Bike trainer 3.35 miles (13.3 mph)
Tuesday pm: Tempo run 2.6 miles (10:27 pace) + easy run 2.0 miles (13:12 pace)

Ran again with my coworker Jessie, who's significantly faster than me. On Monday she ran with some other coworkers in the 7:00s range, so my fast run is her recovery run from that, I guess. :) We ran together a couple weeks ago in the low 11:00s, now in the mid 10:00s... if I keep this up running with her, I'll be beating my 5k PR in no time! This was definitely a hard effort level, but it didn't feel as hard as my 5k race effort.

Wednesday pm: Xtend Barre class (60 minutes)

Thursday pm: Fartlek run 3.0 miles (11:25 pace)

Friday pm: Easy run 3.15 miles (13:20 pace) + 1:05 plank + 0:45 wall sit

Saturday: Rest day - unplanned but I felt so tired, and hadn't had a rest or even really light day all week, so it was definitely needed.

Sunday: Run 10.1 miles: PRC 5k race (32:24 - 10:23 pace) + 7 miles (13:06 pace)

Goal: 10 - 11 miles, including 5k race at about 11:00 and rest about 13:00
5k: 10:23 average pace
Long run: 13:25, 13:43*, 12:58, 13:20, 12:54, 12:29, 12:55

*Uphill and into the wind

Total biking: 3.35 miles
Total running: 24.5 miles

Friday, February 20, 2015

ClassPass Fitness Night Out: Xtend Barre Portland [Sponsored-ish]

I was invited to attend the class in this post for free from ClassPass for promotional purposes and attendees at this free event received a small gift bag, but did not receive any other additional compensation. Blog posting and other sharing on social media with brand hashtags was encouraged, but not required in exchange for receiving the products. All opinions are my own. Please see my ClassPass disclosure post for additional information, and let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

On Wednesday I was able to attend a class at Xtend Barre Portland, courtesy of ClassPass. ClassPass is a program that provides unlimited monthly access to fitness studios in the network, and just came to Portland a few months ago. There are limitations (such as a max of 3 visits per month to each studio), but it ends up costing the same or less than what an unlimited pass at most studios would cost, and you can try a variety of classes throughout the month. 

Check out the map of participating fitness studios (accurate to the best of my knowledge as of February 2015, or possibly November 2014 - underlying source). As I'd expect, they're pretty concentrated in Portland itself, but there are a good handful on the westside suburbs where I live and work! Plus, the yoga studio I go to (when I get around to doing yoga) is included.

source/interactive version

The studio

Xtend Barre Portland is in SE on Division, in between 30th and 31st. 

I would recommend arriving by bike or TriMet if you can; parking is definitely limited! I thought I was familiar enough with the area because I've been to the Bhaktishop at Division and 26th, but no. At about 28th the vibe changes from leisurely commercial to straight out busy commercial, and parking is difficult to find. I ended up just one block down and a couple blocks away, but it's not like spots were abundant even there; whereas down by 26th I can easily find space less than a block away either on Division or down a side street.

The inside of the studio is a nice Portland-y, slightly-industrial vibe. It's set up like a ballet studio with wood floors, a literal barre, and cozy retro blue tones. There are cubbies inside the studio section to put your stuff during class. They provide the equipment needed for the workout, but also require grippy socks be worn, which they sell for $13. 

The studio is mostly Xtend Barre classes, of course, but also has TRX (the suspension band strength training).

The class

Our barre class was taught by Jessica, the founder of the Portland location. She's a very upbeat, enthusiastic instructor, greeting everyone as we came in to ask if we had questions or any injuries to be aware of. During the class it was a bit difficult sometimes to hear her cues over the music, but I'm sure that's at least partially because I was near the end of the studio by the speaker. She mentioned they are getting a microphone, so at least they're aware that that can be an issue!

Xtend Barre is a fusion of dance, ballet, and pilates. It utilizes a non-weighted ball, light handweights, and a mat. There are various segments that each class always follows, although the specific elements may vary. I don't recall the exact order, but there's a warm-up, arms, abs, legs. 

The arm exercises use very light weights - 1, 2, 3, or 5 pounds - and you hold your arms up for extended periods of time. I stuck with 1 pounds since I didn't know exactly what to expect, and that was sufficient! Legs were worked mostly at the barre, lots of plies, squats, lunges. Many exercises incorporated both legs and arm movements. Core and ab exercises took place on a mat. With all segments, there tended to be full range of motion movements (e.g., a full plie), followed by holding mid-way with pulses, and then tiny tiny pulses. The fairly quick reps and going from one exercise to another made it a cardio workout as well as strength.

This is clearly a program that focuses on the concept of "leaning" and "toning". So I found it kind of entertaining that I had the opportunity to do this class in my break week between phases of New Rules of Lifting for Women - which is very anti this concept. I have a post in the works about the first phase of NROLFW, which hopefully I'll get up early next week. According to NROLFW, that type of low-weight, high-rep strength training builds endurance muscles, but not strength of muscles, so it unlikely to produce the results that a typical woman wants from strength training.

Which is certainly not to say that it doesn't do anything. As I write this about 24 hours after the class, I'm definitely feeling it in my arms, shoulders, abs, and lower back! Whether it's truly building muscle in a way that would be beneficial long-term, is something I'm less certain of. It definitely felt like a good workout, in terms of cardio and calories burned, I'm just not convinced of it from a strength training viewpoint.

The cost would be the biggest reason I'm unsure if I'd go back. It's $20 per drop-in, or $16 - $18 if you buy a package of 5, 10, or 20 classes. Unlimited monthly pass is $159. That's just too much for me! By comparison, the yoga studio that I can justify spending on is $14 per drop-in, and as low as $10 per class in a 20-class package. If I did ClassPass, though, to bring down the cost per visit, it would definitely remain on my list of studios to visit.

What Does "Sponsored" Mean: ClassPass

See background on my disclosure standards and why I'm doing this post here. This post will be somewhat of a living document, and I'll update it if relevant information - either my own decisions or standards set by the sponsor - changes.

Sponsor: ClassPass
Type: Comped product (direct from company)
Contract length: N/A - So far on an event-by-event basis. 
Compensation: Product only - class and small swag bag (water bottle, shirt, tote).
Terms: N/A - Not part of a formalized ambassador/affiliate program.

Sponsor hashtags
  • #passthehappy and #classpasspdx
  • #xtendbarreportland for the event I attended that was hosted by both ClassPass and Xtend Barre

My hashtags
  • #sponsored 
  • or #sponsored-ish - The one-off events aren't very formal in the sponsorship sense. Obviously they let us attend for free because they want to hook us and/or have us spread the word, but it's more of a free sample than product compensation.

Blog post disclosures
  • The labels "sponsored" and "ClassPass" will be indicated. (These are listed in the footer to the post.
  • The following disclosure will be inserted at the very top of the post: I was invited to attend the class in this post for free from ClassPass for promotional purposes, but did not receive additional compensation. Blog posting and other sharing on social media with brand hashtags was encouraged, but not required in exchange for receiving the products. All opinions are my own. Please see my ClassPass disclosure post for additional information, and let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Summary of requirements: There are no explicit requirements in exchange for attending one-off free events. Sharing about the event and the company is encouraged, and will presumably improve odds of attending future events or receiving additional products/services, but was not required or explicitly requested.

How it works

I was contacted by a representative of ClassPass, to potentially do a month of their service and blog about it (though that hasn't come to pass yet (pun not intended but leaving it once I realized)), and invited to a free event while they had a couple representatives in town hosting events to promote the company. 

This was a class at a studio that participates in ClassPass' network, but this session was closed to just invited attendees, all free of charge (I presume all bloggers or otherwise active on social media). We participated in a one-hour class, and received a small swag bag (tote, shirt, water bottle, a couple small Sephora items) and had some goodies including fresh juices from a Portland company. We were able to enter a raffle for some Athleta items and a free month of ClassPass.

At no point did the company ask or require us to post about the experience, but it was encouraged and hashtags were promoted. 
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