Sunday, June 30, 2013

July Health & Fitness Challenge

First things first...if you're on Facebook, add the Ultra Health and Wellness: Fitness Challenges group! We will be posting daily challenges as well as the monthly challenges! 

You can also join us by hash-tagging on either Twitter or Instagram #JulyHealthandFitnessChallenge (if you're doing all three), #30DayPaleoChallenge, #30DayPlankChallenge, or #30DayGymPactChallenge. This will help us network, encourage one another, and show off our progress across the month!

1) 30 Day Paleo Diet Challenge

Last July, I decided to do a 30-Day Vegan Challenge. It was successful (sort of), but I decided that completely removing meat from my diet wasn't for me, and I did a terrible job at eating enough plant protein. What I did learn though was that I feel best when I eat a largely plant-based diet, so this July I'm going to do a 30-day Paleo challenge. For those of you who aren't familiar with what a Paleo diet entails, it's basically the "Caveman" diet consisting of lean meat, veggies, fruits, nuts and some grains; no dairy or gluten. Pretty much what people could either hunt for or forage for back in the day. For the past few months I've tried to eat healthy but more or less just ate whatever I wanted. While this is fine and dandy, I really believe that both my racing and overall health will improve from a consistently clean and balanced diet. 

My favorite new water-bottle. Stores your protein powder and vitamins in separate compartments! This will help me manage my protein intake :) Right now I'm using a Vegan protein powder called Vega-One. It's high in protein and has a ton of plant-based nutrients. I may not be Vegan, but I definitely love this stuff more than regular protein powder, which to be honest, freaks me out.

2) 30 Day GymPact Challenge

I've also started to realize the importance of cross-training. I spend so much time running that I forget that there are other activities that will both benefit my running and improve my physical capabilities. So for the month of July I am using the app GymPact that I described in my previous post. I am committing to 3 gym work-outs a week, for the entire month of July. If you've struggled going to the gym in the past, I suggest downloading the app and make some fitness goals!

You can also sync the GymPact app with the RunKeeper app. You can choose to run instead of go to the gym as your month-long challenge. I'm going to be going to the gym 3 times a week in addition to my normal running routine.

3) 30 Day Plank Challenge 

Lastly, at this point it's probably obvious that I'm a big fan of month-long challenges, so I got the idea that my friends and I should do a plank challenge. For thirty days, we will all practice our planking (haha) as best we can, and at the end of the month, whoever gets the longest time wins. Also being a fan of a little money-incentive, we are each putting in $15. Whoever wins gets the moolah. Pretty motivating, no? If you want to join in on the plank challenge, get at least 3 or more friends in on it (at relatively similar fitness levels, otherwise it's totes not fair), and send each other screen shots of your times at the end of every day. It's pretty fun and very motivating! 

This is an example of my first screen shot for the plank challenge. I used an app to add the writing, but you get the jist :)

May the force be with you all :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Five Things To Do After Finishing Your First Ultra

1. Wash your clothes. And hydration packs/bottles. And shoes. 

Image via

I forgot to do this, and two weeks later my dirty/smelly/disgusting shoes and clothes looked petrified. I found my handhelds with the remnants of soda stuck to the inside of each bottle. Half-eaten packs of energy gels shoved into my race vest. It was an ultra-disaster (couldn't help myself) and it could have easily been solved if I took care of it earlier.

Save yourself this misery and take care of it right away.

2. Go on vacation (if you can). Or plan a really fun day of relaxation.

Three days after I finished my first ultra I went to Austin, Texas to visit my best friend Laura for a week. It couldn't have been more perfectly planned. It was my second time visiting the city, and I was endlessly grateful that I wasn't very sore. I spent the week shopping, exploring, saving turtles (they like to cross high-ways, bad idea little dudes!) and even a little trail running!

Can you believe this is in the middle of Austin?

What was the best part of vacationing after an ultra, you say? 

The food.

Which brings me to my next point.

3. Eat a delicious meal. Or two. Or three.

One of the best parts of ultrarunning is the guilt-free eating. I normally try to be pretty good about what I eat, but for this week, it all went out the window. Yes, but the end of the week, I was starting to feel very...well...terrible. But. It was worth it. I'm serious, you guys.

I'll let the pictures do the speaking for this one.

If you're ever in Austin, drive straight from the airport to Gordoughs. They have Maple-Bacon Donuts. Someday, I'll put on a race where there are donuts and bacon at the aid stations.

Oh, Amy's Ice Cream. Do yourself a favor. Go to this place too. Absolutely delicious!

Ok, so I totally took this picture off their website, but I had the best Chicken & Waffles of my LIFE at this place called Bacon. They also put maple-glazed bacon on top. It was amazing. Funny: When my friend called to see about reservations, the guy answered the phone simply by saying, "Bacon!". Could you imagine?

4. Relish in your victory. Then, reflect on areas for improvement. Running is not the only way to get ready for an ultra.

GymPact: A Fitness App that's really motivating

I think it's important to not forget there are other sports than running. For the past year, I haven't focused on any other physical activity than running and a little bit of yoga (which is pretty sporadic). Not surprisingly, I wasn't in the best shape to run an ultra. I mentioned before that I didn't train enough, but I knew it wasn't just that. I had endurance but I didn't feel strong.

Research has pointed to weight-training as a great cross-training activity for a number of reasons. It helps build muscle, increases your metabolism and makes you feel better. All of these things positively impact your speed and how you feel while you run. Fact: Running is not the only way to get in shape for an ultra.

My goal for this next year is to focus on weight training at the gym. At least THREE times a week. How am I going to motivate myself, considering I haven't been on top of it in the past?

This little app called GymPact.  It basically ties you into a contract where you establish how many days per week you will go to the gym, and through some GPS-fueled magic, it keeps track of whether or not you keep your promise. Here's the trick: If you do, you make a little bit of money (like a buck per gym visit). Downside? If you miss a visit, you get charged a fee, you pick. One of my friends has it charge her $10 if she misses a visit. "It's really motivating," she told me. "It actually works." 

To be honest I'm a bit hesitant to do something like that, and could foresee a great dent in my bank account if I have a spell of laziness. And, what about vacation?!

"If you go on vacation," my friend told me, "You just have to plan it ahead of time into the app."

For the month of July, I'm going to try this little app and see if it works. Do it with me, and join along on twitter with the hash-tag #GymPactJuly!

5. Pick your next race. Enjoy!

My first race after my first ultra: a Boogie Nights 5K with Michelle, Rock N' Roll Themed!

At some point over the first few days following my ultra, I realized I could sign up for another one. Since there was always the over-arching possibility of a D.N.F. (Did Not Finish), I wouldn't let myself think beyond the race.

Now that it was over, I decided to start creating some race goals for the next year.

Last year I wanted to run the Red Rock Marathon, but I ended up volunteering instead. Because Luis Escobar is awesome and gives free race entry fees to his volunteers, I was able to sign up for this next year.

I also jumped on the bandwagon and signed up for next year's Born To Run Ultramarathon 50K. I think I signed up only hours after Luis opened the registration. My friends Bobby, Michelle, Meaghan, Alexis and Alexis' sister are now all signed up as well. All for the 50K. It's really exciting to have my close friends along on this journey.

I'm also hoping to run Luis' Penny Lane 50K in February. 

Then there's the Caballo Blanco Ultramarathon. 

I didn't make it out this past year due to financial difficulties. This next year I'm unsure because I have so many research conferences to go to. But it's always a possibility :) For now, it's on my race wish-list!

2012/2013 has been amazing. I can't wait for this next year in running, racing and staying healthy!