5 Ways CrossFit Has Been Great for My Running

From November to March, I took an extended break from running. During that running break, I started attending about three CrossFit classes a week (obviously quite a few less than that while I was busy with Dogfight). Since I picked up running again, making time for both has been a bit challenging, but has also had some excellent benefits.

Obviously, CrossFit is not for everyone, but for me, combining CrossFit with running has been doing great things for my running, and I hope to continue with both. Here’s why.

Physical Strength
I’m sure it goes without saying, but being strong is great for a runner. I’m physically stronger now than I’ve ever been before in my life, and I’m only going to keep getting stronger. My legs, core, and arms are strong and balanced, so running feels a lot easier than it ever has before. I used to have occasional pain in my right hip after longer or harder runs, probably due to some un-diagnosed weakness or imbalance, but those days are gone.

Mental Toughness
Just as mental toughness is essential for a runner, it’s essential for a CrossFit athlete. At least once during every CF workout I think, “How can I possibly keep this up for another x number of rounds or minutes?” But I don’t give up. I take a breath, adjust my pacing, and keep going. I remind myself that I haven’t quit on a workout yet, and if I’ve gotten through in the past, I will this time too.

That mental toughness totally translates into running. I’ve gotten practiced at pushing through to the finish even when I’m gasping for breath and my legs are shaking and I just want to quit. I just remind myself that I’ve done harder things before, and keep on moving.

CrossFit has been an INCREDIBLE confidence boost. I’ve done things I never thought I could do, lifted weights and executed movements I never imagined I was capable of. My form and strength have improved boatloads since I started. My friends at the box only ever encourage me, and congratulate me every time I reach a new milestone. I know for a fact that I can do hard things. And that is VERY powerful.

CrossFit is Harder Than Running
I do not in any way intend to offend with this statement. I know running is very hard. But for me, CrossFit is harder. The average CF workout is WAY harder than an average run, so now, running just seems… easier by comparison. Especially just run-of-the-mill steady state running. It makes getting out there and hitting the pavement a lot less daunting.

Knowing My Limits… And Pushing Beyond Them
A big piece of CrossFit is learning how to push outside your comfort zone (in a safe, measured way). It’s about setting a one rep max in a workout, and then maybe a couple of weeks later, setting a new one. Or repeating Fran a few months after your first attempt, and finishing faster, or using heavier weights.

In my running, I was often afraid to push too hard during a race because I was afraid of blowing up or “failing,” but failing a movement is just a normal part of CrossFit. You try to add some weight to a movement, you give it a shot, and if you can’t do it, no big deal. You can try again next time. Getting used to trying hard things, to adding more and more weight, to failure, has been so instructive for me. For so much of my life, I’ve avoided taking chances for fear of failing, but CrossFit doesn’t really allow me to do that.

Now, I know what the “edge” feels like. And I’m not afraid to step right up to it, maybe put a toe over, and see what I can do. And I’m SO EXCITED to see what that attitude will continue to do for my running.

Have you found a form of cross-training that’s the perfect compliment to your sport of choice?


Instituting “The Dailies”

I have this little thing called the Spartan Sprint coming up in little over a month. I signed up waaaay back in February, thinking that I’d have plenty of time to do some strength training and get into shape. Spoiler alert: that didn’t really happen. So now I’m running out of time and feeling thoroughly unprepared. My schedule lately has been so busy that I’ve barely had time to fit in my running, let alone Body Pump or CXWORX.

Still, though, I need to do something. And not being able to make it to the gym isn’t really an acceptable excuse for slacking on basic strength training. Therefore, I’ve decided to adopt a daily routine of quick, simple, bodyweight exercises that I can do in my own home, whenever I have time. I’m calling this routine, “The Dailies.” I may not remember to do it every day, but at least having a plan should help me fit some strength training in more often. In case you’re interested, here’s what I’ll be doing:

The Dailies

Please Note: I am not a personal trainer, coach, or expert. This is just a routine that works for me. Please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

What’s your go-to at-home exercise?

Trying Out Pilates

For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading about how Kristen at Run Away with Me has been trying out a Pilates boot camp class. At first, she wasn’t into it, but now she loves it, and the results speak for themselves–she lost almost 5 inches over the course of 4 weeks! I was really jealous of her awesome results, but the only Pilates studio I know of near me has absolutely insane prices that I just couldn’t justify paying.

And then last week, I got an email from our office manager that our company would be sponsoring a 5 week Pilates mat class series–one class per week every Wednesday night, with a drop-in price of $12, or all five classes for only $50. At first I waffled, because I already spend a lot of money on my gym membership, and they have Pilates classes that I could take free of charge. But then I decided to go for it, because the classes are literally IN MY BUILDING. I would have to walk right by the room to go home, so it would be super easy. I’d also be in class with friends and coworkers, and $10 per class is a GREAT price.

We had our first class on Wednesday the 29th, and I’ll admit I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was actually quite familiar with a lot of the moves due to having been exposed to them in lots of dance classes. Unfortunately, I felt like I was a bit short-changed on the basic knowledge, because this class has been going on for a while and was only recently opened up to my division. This meant that everyone else in the class had been doing it for weeks, and the instructor very obviously had already given them the core principles and I was just sort of left to figure it out on my own.

Despite that, it was a very fun class. It’s a small group of ladies who are all very friendly and don’t take themselves or the class too seriously at all. And it’s a GREAT workout. My abs were sore for two full days after class, to the point where sneezing was painful. I think this will be a good supplement to running and Body Pump, since it focuses on core strength. And the timing is perfect–the last class is the last week before Chess rehearsals start up on Monday, Wednesday, Sundays, so I can just transition right into rehearsals.

Have you ever tried Pilates? Did you like it?

Manic Monday – 11/10/14

Welcome to another edition of Manic Monday, where I recap the previous week, and lay out a plan for the upcoming week.

The focus this week has been recovery after the RaceVermont Half Marathon.  I wanted to take a couple of days off, and then slowly build up a fitness routine again.  As I said in my November Goals post, this month my overall focus is on wedding preparations.  That being said, I’m still trying to keep up my fitness as well, especially going into the holiday season of excess.

Monday 11/03/14:
I was definitely a bit achy on Monday.  My hips in particular were sore, so I spent some time with my foam roller after work.  My quads felt better after, but my calves actually were even more sore on Tuesday.

Tuesday 11/04/14:
I intended to do more foam rolling, but just couldn’t force myself to do it.  I did five modified (from the knees) push-ups, 5 dips, a 30-second plank, and 30-second planks on each side.  It wasn’t much, but it felt good to work my muscles a bit.

Wednesday 11/05/14:
I was more than ready to get back to the gym after a couple of days off, but my left calf was still curiously tight, so I decided to spend some quality time with the recumbent bike instead of jumping back into running.  I did 10.5 miles in 45 minutes, thanks to the ever-creative Nicole telling me a funny story.  I also did 6 modified push-ups and a 30-second plank.

Photo Nov 05, 5 37 21 PM

Thursday 11/06/14:
Instead of going to the gym or running, I did a short leg circuit that I made up on the fly.  I definitely need to work on my balance, and on my hamstring strength–they’re so wimpy!  I also did a few modified push-ups and a 30-second plank.

Friday 11/07/14:
I had intended to finally get a run in, but my left foot had been getting more and more achy throughout the week, and by Friday I didn’t think it was a good idea to run.  I had a couple of beers after work and relaxed for a while, then went to bed relatively early (for a Friday night).

Saturday 11/08/14:
Saturday was a big cleaning/productivity day.  I did a load of laundry, cleaned and vacuumed our room plus the rest of the basement, put clean laundry away, and helped my future MIL paint trim in the basement addition.  After a shower, Ben and I had a few drinks over at our friends’ house, and came home to a late dinner of homemade lasagna.

Sunday 11/09/14:
Another super productive day around the house.  I put away the rest of the laundry, cleaned the bathroom (including clearing out the enormous medicine cabinet with 10+ years worth of expired medicines and junk), and helped with some more painting.  Then I spent the rest of the day in my PJs playing video games.

While I didn’t get in as many workouts as I would have liked, I think my cleaning binges this weekend helped to get me off my butt and burning some calories.  My foot is feeling much better today, so I’m going to try to get some lunch miles in.

This Week:

  • Monday:  2-3 miles easy.  Ease back in after a week off.
  • Tuesday:  Rest/light cross-training
  • Wednesday:  Final wedding dress fitting!!!
  • Thursday:  2-3 miles easy or yoga
  • Friday:  2-3 miles easy
  • Saturday:  Rest
  • Sunday:  Rest

Happy Monday!  Tell me something you’re excited for this week!

Manic Monday – 08/04/14

Welcome to another edition of Manic Monday, where I recap the previous week and lay out a plan for the upcoming week.

Ummm, holy crap, it’s August!  How did that happen?!  This year is just flying by…  Anywho, this week was a good week.  While I didn’t manage to do my long run, I had a couple of great shorter runs, and did some at-home cross-training, so I feel good.

Monday (Scheduled Cross-Training)
Monday turned into an unscheduled rest day.  It was POURING most of the day, so I only walked TO work (~2.2 miles), and Ben picked me up in the evening for grocery shopping.  We made a quick dinner, and were in bed, lights out by 9pm, which we both totally needed.

Tuesday (Scheduled Hill Repeats)
I actually woke up 5 minutes before my alarm (5:10am, ugh!) and got my tushie out the door.  This time, I did 4 repeats of Battery Street instead of 3, and my average pace was a whole minute faster than last time I did hill repeats!  Woo!  Progress!  I also walked to and from work (~4.4 miles), did a 1 minute plank, 10 push-ups, and some clam-shells for my hips.

Photo Jul 29, 6 07 52 AM

Wednesday (Scheduled Cross-Training)
I walked to and from work (~4.4 miles), did a 1 minute plank, 10 push-ups, and clamshells.

Thursday (Scheduled 4 mile run)
I got up at the ungodly hour of 5:15 am and did 4 awesome miles. I felt really good the whole run, and probably could have gone further if I’d had more time. I’m definitely getting faster-woo! I also walked to and from work (~4.4 miles). After work, we had dinner with our friends Aimee ad Andrew. Aimee is 40+ weeks pregnant, so we spent a lot of time trying to convince the baby to come out 🙂

Photo Jul 31, 6 11 35 AM

Friday (Scheduled Rest Day)
We had a long day of driving.  Ben and I drove down to MA to meet up with our friends Pepe and Shannon so we could all carpool to a wedding in CT.  Our friends Jayson and Lauren got married 🙂  But since hotel rooms were $189 (!!!!), we drove back to MA that night and crashed at Pepe and Shannon’s.

Saturday (Scheduled 7 Mile Run)
This ended up being a rest day.  After a big brunch and driving home, we only had about 2 hours before we were due to go to a dinner party at our friend Erik’s house.  The spread was AMAZING.  We started with a soft cheese plate, then had a spinach salad with walnuts and goat cheese, and the main course was a pork, veal and beef meatloaf with a glazed bacon topper, and we finished with a chocolate espresso Dacquoise (Google it, it’s amazing).  Holy hell, it was delicious.  Before bed, I squeezed in 10 push ups and a few sets of clam shells.

Photo Aug 02, 10 00 50 PM

Sunday (Scheduled Rest Day)
Ben and I slept in till about 10, which was totally necessary after yet another whirlwind weekend.  After a leisurely breakfast and some blog catch-up, we had a very productive day of cleaning, packing, sorting through crap, and meal planning.  We were both exhausted, though, so we didn’t actually make it to the grocery store.  Oh well!  Right before bed, I did some squats and push ups using the Runtastic Squats and Push Ups apps (thanks for the heads up, Lauren!), and also did some clam shells and leg lifts for my hips.

My main goals for this week are to keep up with some light cross-training like hip strengthening exercises, push ups, and planks, and to fit in a long run this week.  I may need to squeeze the long run in during the week, because we have another wedding weekend in Maine this coming weekend, and I’m not sure what running conditions will be like.

How was your weekend? Did you manage a long run?

Plan/Goals for the Second Half of the Year

I started this whole running thing without any specific goals other than finishing my first half marathon.  Now that goal has come and gone (read about it here), and I find that I’m lacking motivation.

Click for Source

Click for Source

Yes, I could go ahead and sign up for a bunch more races (and I will), but for the moment, I’m kind of enjoying not being in “training mode.”  I like that I don’t have to forgo social engagements because they interfere with my running schedule, or avoid having a few beers on Friday night so that I can complete my Saturday long run.  In short, I like having my life back to normal.

That being said, I don’t want to just stop running.  Far from it.  I want to keep running and improving.  And I definitely want to complete another half marathon before the snow starts flying, which in Vermont, could be some time as early as October.  I’ve been seeing a lot of mid-year 2014 goal check-in posts, and they have inspired me to set some more concrete goals for the second half of the year, which will hopefully help keep me motivated.

So without further ado, here’s what I’ll be working towards for the next 6 months:

  • Sign up for and complete another half marathon
  • Sign up for and complete a 10k race (probably virtual)
  • Incorporate speed work and/or hills at least once a week, with the goal of consistently running 5k under 3o minutes
  • Get back to yoga.  I know this is kind of wishy-washy and non-specific, but I’m not sure what the yoga class schedule will be like at my new gym, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure right off the bat
  • Strength train at least once a week.  My hips were incredibly sore for a couple of days after my half, and I want to make sure that my muscles are able to support me on longer runs
  • Focus on recovery after runs.  I’ve been skipping the stretch and roll routine after runs a little too often, and I know that’s not good for me.  I’m pretty sure my tight calves are contributing to the pain in my foot, so I want to protect myself from injury and really limber up my muscles

That’s all for now.  I don’t want to have too many plates up in the air at once, especially since I’m still working on my #Chewsday Challenge as well.  I plan to do a monthly check-in on these goals to help me stay accountable and on-track.  I may also add or alter goals as things occur to me.

My running/training plan for the next little while will look something like this:

Monday:  Cross-train (yoga/body pump/strength train)
Tuesday:  Alternate hill repeats and speed work
Wednesday:  Cross-train (yoga/body pump/strength train)
Thursday:  Short, fast (for me) run (3-5 miles)
Friday:  Rest
Saturday:  Long, slow distance (6-8 miles)
Sunday:  Rest

Basically, I want to maintain my fitness, but not spend every Saturday recovering from a long run.  Once I sign up for my fall half, I’ll increase my long run mileage each week to get ready.

Do you set specific running/fitness-related goals? How do you stay motivated?

Cross-training? What’s that?

It’s not a secret that cross-training (biking, yoga, strength training etc) can help your running performance.  At the outset of my half marathon training, I was really good about getting to the gym once or twice a week to “pump iron” or hit the elliptical.  But as the weather got nicer, those gym trips became more sporadic, and then stopped altogether.  I realized recently that the only “cross-training” I’ve been doing for the last two months is riding my bike to and from work.  While that’s great, and certainly better than nothing, I could probably benefit from doing some strength training too.

I have had a membership at the local Planet Fitness for a while, but it’s just far enough away that Ben and I find it a pain in the butt to get over there.  And as I’m sure you know, PF isn’t exactly the cutting edge as far as gyms go–weights, a circuit training area, and cardio–not terribly stimulating.  So basically, I’ve been paying $10 a month to NOT work out.

The good news is, through my job I can get a discounted corporate membership with a local fitness company that has FIVE different locations in the area.  For $40 a month, I have access to all 5 facilities, which include:

  • Lap Pools
  • Aqua Classes
  • Spinning
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Indoor track (!!!)
  • Les Mills
  • Zumba
  • Hot tub

And more!  So, I finally bit the bullet and signed up.  One of the locations is about a 5 minute walk from my office, and one is halfway between Ben’s parents’ place and my office.  I’m really excited about the opportunity to try Zumba and Body Pump, and have access to an indoor track for speed work and rainy day runs.  I’m also hoping the fact that I’m paying significantly more per month will force me to actually go a couple of times a week.  I guess we’ll see about that!

I’m really excited to see what kind of impact additional cross-training will have on my running.  Before we left Massachusetts, I was attending several strength and conditioning classes a week in addition to running, and I was really strong.  I’ve already talked a bit about how I’ve gained some weigh since moving back to Vermont (and no, it’s not muscle, trust me), so I’m hopeful that mixing up my routine will also help me get back to where I started weight-wise.

Do you have a gym membership?

What’s your favorite form of cross-training?

Manic Monday – 05/12/14

Welcome to another edition of Manic Monday, where I recap the previous week, and lay out goals for the upcoming week.

Well, we all know that last week was very exciting for many reasons.  Engagement, birthday, race… Lots of awesomeness.  And what’s even more awesome is that I actually managed to (mostly) stick to my training schedule for the first time in weeks.  Yay!

Scheduled cross-training day, so I did 45 minutes on a recumbent bike.  I like this position a lot better because it doesn’t squish my lady-bits (maybe TMI, but it’s true).  I put it on a level 10 hill setting and I was really sweaty and tired after.  I also did some planks and stretching.

Photo May 05, 7 15 23 PM

Scheduled run day.  I decided to do some hills, so I went to one of the biggest hills nearby, on Battery Street along the water front.  I ran half a mile to get there at an easy pace, then ran up and down this hill 3 times (ugh), and half a mile home.  That’s all I had the feet heart for since the Asics hadn’t been exchanged yet.  It ended up being 2.7 miles.

This guy sucks.  A lot.

This guy sucks. A lot.

Scheduled cross-training day.  I just didn’t have any energy left.  I didn’t get a lot of sleep last weekend, and since we’re house-sitting for Ben’s parents, we’ve been getting up at 5:30 every morning (cringe) to let the dogs out, feed them, feed the horse, feed the chickens, shower, eat, etc, all before a 45 minute commute to work.  Instead, I went and exchanged my shoes and went home.  We did do some laundry and cleaning around the house, though, which is better than nothing.

Since all week, Ben was the one rushing home after work to take care of the animals, I thoughtfully volunteered to go home tonight so that he could go play basketball with his friends.  Aren’t I nice? 😉  I decided to do some yoga, stretching, and foam rolling instead.

My birthday!  I did 10 push-ups before work, just because.  Then I snuck in a super quick 2 mile run after work, showered, and met Ben at Vermont Tap House for wood-fired pizza and beer.  No, no pictures.  Bad blogger, no cupcake.  But we had delicious Buffalo Chicken pizza.  Nomalicious.  And we bumped into one of my dear high school friends I haven’t seen in years!

photo 3Saturday
In the morning was the VT Respite House Jiggety Jog 5k (recap coming soon) and then in the evening was my birthday party.  It was a busy, awesome day, especially because I got to take a nap in the afternoon.  There were tacos, beer, a bonfire, and lots of my best friends and family helping me celebrate.  What’s not to love?

We woke up with a house full of guests and made lots of potatoes, eggs and coffee.  After that, Ben needed a nap, so I headed out to Lang Farm Nursery to buy my mommy some Mother’s Day flowers.  It was great to hang with the fam and celebrate my beautiful mother.  Then, Ben and I had dinner at Burger Barn, and went to bed at 9pm.  Yeah, we’re old.

Now, let’s see how I did with last week’s goals.

  • Complete scheduled runs on Tuesday and Thursday (3 miles each)
  • Take the stairs.
  • HAVE FUN at the Jiggety Jog on Saturday.

I’m happy to report that I met all of these goals this week!  I did some biking and some yoga last week for cross-training, I have taken the stairs every day (sometimes twice a day!), I did my 2 short training runs, and I had an absolute blast at the race on Saturday.  Yay, achievement!

Now, some goals for the upcoming week:

  • Continue taking the stairs (I’m just going to make this a permanent thing, so I won’t be listing it going forward)
  • Take care of my foot.  It’s much, much better, but still not 100%.  I got an awesome foot massager for my birthday, so I’m going to continue to stretch, massage, and rest it as much as possible.
  • 10 push-ups every day.  I’d like to make this an ongoing thing where I add one push-up each week.  My arms have always been something I’m self-conscious about, and with a wedding on the horizon, I’d like to feel better about them.
  • Run in the morning once we’re done house-sitting.  Getting up at 5:30 these past few weeks at Ben’s parents’ house has made me realize that if I can get up at 5:30 to let the dogs out, I can definitely do it at home to run.  As we head into warmer weather, this is going to make getting my runs done a lot easier.

Did anyone else race this weekend?  How did it go?

Is anybody in the early morning run club?  How do you find the motivation to get up and out early?