Coffee is a social unifier, people are constantly meeting up for a cup, professing their addiction love on everything from t-shirts to internet memes, and it’s a go-to gift for the person who has everything (because you can never have enough coffee, am I right?). While coffee brings us together, it can also set you apart in your athletic endeavors if optimized properly within a training diet.
Today, I’m spilling the beans on how coffee can improve performance and endurance, increase focus, and provide that extra edge your looking for on race day. Continue reading →
This post is sponsored by Matrix Fitness, however, all opinions, exercise instruction and enthusiasm are my own.
In a perfect world, I would prefer to challenge my running abilities in the great outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the scenery and practicing my fancy footwork on any obstacles thrown my way. However, all too often, 21st century life gets in the way of marathon training and outdoor adventuring like bounding up real rocky trails or jumping puddles in an intersection. But, sometimes the weather is just too bad, daylight has vanished or you’re traveling and worried about safety or getting lost on a run. That’s when a treadmill becomes a most welcomed tactic in your training battle plan.
Yeah, sure, die hard runners will train in the elements, whatever they may be – rain, sleet, ice and snow. While you should try to do this occasionally to acclimate for potential race day conditions, there is no reason to put yourself in harm’s way, Get struck by lightning or plowed down by a car that didn’t see you in a downpour and you’ll not be enjoying bananas, high-fives and a shiny new finisher’s medal at the end of your marathon. There’s no need to be a modern-day martyr and suffer needlessly to prove your toughness. Sometimes a little bit of comfort and convenience go a long way in nailing your marathon race goals.
So, for safety, convenience and comfort, I will frequently knock out my marathon training, especially the speedwork) on a treadmill. This also helps me when I don’t have a faster running buddy to help push the pace – the treadmill keeps me on task and working hard. By the way, I’m a huge fan of the treadmills from MatrixFitness.com, more on that in a bit. Today, I’m sharing my “Special Ks” Treadmill Run Workout that will help you learn to battle fatigue in the later miles of a marathon. Building up this speed and endurance will make you unstoppable and unbreakable and undeniably more race ready than yesterday.
Remember to PIN THIS and make it part of your next marathon training cycle!
After finishing this nearly 7.5 “fast-faster-fastest” workout with very little rest in between 1k intervals, you’ll probably stop looking at the treadmill as the weenie way to get in your workout. A good treadmill can give you so many workout options that will challenge your stamina, raw strength and relentless grit. You just need to have access to a good treadmill (why not buy one for home use?!) and know the machine’s capabilities. As I mentioned, I like the treadmills from MatrixFitness.com and I have my eye on one with all the bells and whistles that makes a runner-geek like me feel woozy with excitement. My goal is to have my very own in-house by mid-December as a little early holiday present for myself. With as much as I spend on race entries, travel and other must-haves for my fitness lifestyle, I feel like this is justifiable purchase. Plus, I’m worth it – haha!
These Matrix treadmills aren’t at all like those puny, pathetic ones that can’t keep up with my relentless workout style. With heavy-duty frames, extra-thick decks and super durable cushions, and they hold up beautifully for miles and miles of “getting after it.” The high-def consoles make it easy to monitor the status of my sweat fest and many models offer cutting-edge functionality including entertainment options, preprogrammed workouts, data transfer popular exercise/fitness apps, Bluetooth connectivity and some even with Passport compatibility, a “visual booster” that puts HD destination athlete point-of-view landscape footage on your home big screen television.
For recovery days, my body responds to “riding” a gentle, ergonomic elliptical machine – active recovery is so important people! Just think how amazing it would be to have an Elliptical sitting in the corner of your bedroom or basement ready and waiting for 20 minutes of active recovery the day after an intense workout.
Check out MatrixFitness.com to find out what model of treadmill or elliptical suits your needs – they have quite a few options to suit your price point, space availability and workout needs. It’s an investment in staying fit and strong for life!
Today I am sharing a couple passions that are near and dear to my heart – 1) furthering the sport of women’s running for athletes of all abilities and 2) helping to give girls and women around the world the tools, skills and opportunities they need to live a safe, happy, healthy and abundant life. I’ve partnered with If Girls Ran the World, a non-profit running fundraising event to help put some wind (and hopefully a windfall of support) under the wings of these causes I so deeply care about. It was truly an honor to be chosen as a Role Model for this program and work alongside so many talented and amazing women!
As a fit foodie, the charity I’ve chosen to support is The Hunger Project, a strategic non-profit dedicated to the sustainable end of world hunger. Their vision is a world where every woman, man and child leads a healthy, fulfilling life of self-reliance and dignity. I love how this organization has used native WOMEN as key change agents in the more than 24,000 communities and rural villages they’ve worked in – women rock and they know how to get the job done! I say, “Don’t stand in the way of a Mama Bear”!
During the entire month of October, members of my team (you can join) will commit to running as many miles as our hearts and legs lead us to. Please Register! You run on your time, at your pace, wherever and whenever it works for you. Whether you choose to walk 1 mile or run 10 miles or 1,000 miles, you set your own goal and pace. It’s easy and fun, you can use fitness tracking apps like Strava or MapMyFitness to track your miles or enter manually. Challenge yourself. Run often. Run happy. Run to feel good. Run to do good. This isn’t a competition, it’s a beautiful cause! This is important, EMPOWERING WOMEN AND GIRLS IS IMPORTANT. And, it’s also a nice side effect that we’re all out there exercising!
I hesitate “hit” y’all up for a donation, but you can still register (use BFF for 50% of the $25 fee) and join my team. Once you read through mission of If Girls Ran The World and The Hunger Project, I’m pretty sure you’ll want to chip in a bit. It doesn’t have to be a lot – even $5 or $10 would help me get to my goal.
Register for the Virtual Running Event (you don’t even have to run) and then head over to align yourself with Team Jennifer – TheFitFork.Com . Don’t forget to use code BFF to save 50% — which makes the event only $12.50 – in addition to doing good, you get the opportunity to take part in weekly fitness and fundraising challenges with prizes such as an Oiselle prize pack, a Fitbit Blaze, a year supply of Kind Snacks, Hoka One One shoes, a $500 donation to your cause of choice, and more. Plus if you personally commit to raising $250, you get some cute swag! Drop a comment or email me at email@example.com if you have any questions (the sign up process is a little confusing since there are a couple steps).
Thank you so much for reading all the way through and for your consideration of this important cause! If you have troubles signing up or joining my team, please send me a message. Love ya! XOXO – Jennifer
I could have named this post “Watermelon Wednesday,” but the current title seems so much better because variations of the events that unfold below could happen any day of the year. For reals, I’m always #LivingOnTheWedge , y’all!
5:15 am: Wake up, drink coffee, check my Instagram feed and remember that my friends @WatermelonBoard are hosting a fun photo contest on Instagram. Tag your pics of watermelon #100DaysofWatermelon for chances at prizes all summer long.
6:00 am: Trying to get out the door fast, so I eat a protein bar and chug some watermelon juice – it’s just the hydration I need to tackle my 8 mile run on this hot and muggy morning. Also, research suggests that drinking watermelon juice before an intense exercise session can help reduce heart rate and next-day muscle soreness (thank you L-citrulline)!
6:48 am: Mid run full-bottle chug of Nuun Active (watermelon flavor, natch) – packed optimal electrolytes, made with clean ingredients, low in calories and sugar – plus vegan and gluten-free. Save yourself 20% with discount code NUUNAMBASSADORFRIEND
6:00 pm: Make a batch of my Super Red Watermelon Quinoa Salad that almost got me on a season of Master Chef, but got thumped in the end. My delicious jumble of healthy foods and warrior spirit couldn’t quite compete with the OCD craziness of a lady who cried when her raspberry rolled 1 millimeter out of place.
This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links.
It was so fun to spend Saturday at my favorite 5k – the Fit Foodie Race Weekend. This amazing event is where food meets fitness meets reconnecting with old friends (and making new friends) interested in living a healthy lifestyle. I haven’t missed a single race day since this event debuted in Austin, Texas a few years back and this year’s John Hancock Hosts the Cooking Light & Health Fit Foodie Race Weekend was definitely the best yet – thank you John Hancock! Someday I hope to get to one of the other venues in Fairfax, San Diego and Tampa.
Of course the race was so much fun before, during and after the running. I was goofing off too much with Ryan Hall and Bill Rodgers (John Hancock elite athletes and marathon legends) at the start and didn’t hear the air horn blast! When I finally had my feet moving in the right direction,
I blazed (in my mind at least!) through the brutal humidity straight to the finish line – oh except that part where I ran off the well-marked course about 200 yards (seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this in races)! In the end, I found the finish line (it was obvious) and was able to defend my Master’s title for another year! Pretty sure I was running so fast to get to the food quicker, haha!
There were so many informative culinary demonstrations and delicious food and beverage samples in the John Hancock Vitality Village – the Strawberry Watermelon Punch was probably my favorite (it’s currently in the July 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine). That’s because (and y’all know it) I’m a huge watermelon fan and love to get on my soapbox (preferably in a handstand) about how watermelon is a great way to hydrate, fuel up with healthy carbs and possibly gain more endurance and recover more quickly thanks to specific nutrients (like l-citrulline).
I really appreciate how John Hancock Hosts the Cooking Light & Health Fit Foodie Race Weekend shows that healthy eating and staying active not only helps with maintaining steady progress toward a healthier lifestyle – but can also be fun, flavorful and a reason for celebration! My mom just walk-ran her first 5k and started making green protein smoothies for breakfast recently. I think she’s hooked on her new health and fitness journey and knows that small steps can turn into big changes! That’s worth celebrating!
Some people seem to focus on diet and forget about fitness or vice-versa. I’m more the “vice-versa” type and often have to remind myself that “You can’t out run a bad diet.”
Both daily activity combined with mindful, whole-food nutrition is the key to optimizing your health for life. That’s why John Hancock has introduced Vitality, a life insurance program that rewards people for the healthy choice they make – such as exercising, visiting the doctor and now even purchasing healthy foods at the grocery store! Participants in the HealthyFood program earn points that lead to significant savings on their life insurance premiums and can also be rewarded with up to $600 in real time discounts and/or cash back on nutritious food purchases. Visit JHRewardsLife.com for more information!
What small steps are you taking to improve your health? I’d love to chat, please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
I received compensation in exchange for writing this review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own
This post was sponsored by MinuteClinic, however all opinions and enthusiasm are my own.
Even though I’m smiling, my seasonal allergies were in overdrive at my first trail race of the spring season. Really, it’s quite ironic. After persevering through the fickle winter weather in Texas, rescheduling and rerouting many runs while wishing for green trees and wildflower-lined trails to return, all I wanted to do during this trail run was run inside on a treadmill. Comfort for my watering eyes and sneezing was trumping the beauty of nature. My eyes were watering so bad, I was having trouble seeing the nooks, crannies and tree roots on the trail – that’s dangerous!
If you don’t know what seasonal allergies are, lucky you – you must not be suffering. Or, you’re sneezing, coughing and rubbing itchy eyes, but blaming it all on the common cold. However, a common cold should only last 3 – 14 days, while seasonal allergies go on as long as there is contact with the offending substance, typically February through September. Find out more on colds vs. allergies here. Ugh. So, what are these offending substances that torture us so? Well, seasonal allergies are caused by airborne proteins, molds and fungi that come from the onset of plant grow.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
Itchy eyes and nose
More tears than normal
Post nasal drip
If you want to get outside and enjoy a trail run or walk through the park, there just seems no way to avoid these nasty little allergy creators that float around in the air – but there are some ways to lessen your reaction to them and make exercise more pleasant. Here are some things to consider:
Is it a bad day? Check the pollen and mold counts before you plan your run, or decided to skip. You can get this info from the local weather forecast or go to a website like the National Allergy Bureau and type in your zip code. You may want to take your runs indoors on the days with super-high counts.
Is it a bad hour? Consider running later in the day when pollen counts are lower and molds have had a chance to dry up a bit. Also, a nice rain tends to wash away allergens temporarily – so, running in a light rain or after a gully washer is always optimal.
What about OTC medication? Sometimes, there is no leeway to “plan” a run – especially if it’s at a race (typically at the highest-count time of day) or you have a busy work and family schedule. Over-the-counter medications are a viable option when used according to direction. However, traditional antihistamine products like Benadryl can leave you feeling dried out and sleepy – groggy and dehydrated is no way to start a run! An article at Runner’s World says that the second generation of over-the-counter antihistamines such as Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec are better for runners because they are non-sedating and non-drying. You can be assured, I’ve stockpiled for the season at my neighborhood CVS Pharmacy.
Is it time to visit a medical professional? If seasonal allergies are really interfering with quality of life, stop suffering. Head over to MinuteClinic (found inside your neighborhood CVS) and get checked out. You don’t need an appointment, and on-site nurse practitioners and physicians assistants are ready to recommend the right over-the-counter medications and write prescriptions when medically appropriate.
Are you cleaning up post-run? Remember that trail running and being outdoors this time of year leaves everything on you exposed to allergens – your shoes, your clothes, your hair and skin. That’s why you should leave your running shoes in the garage and head to the bathroom to remove clothing and take a post-run shower ASAP – otherwise the allergens will be nagging at you all day. You might even want to consider bringing wipees if you are driving to and from your running location. Also, it’s a good idea to wash your sheets at least once a week during peak count times to get rid of any lingering pollen, mold and such that you may have picked up just walking back outside to check the mail.
Love to run, but growing weary of the city clatter and chaos on your route or, worse yet, being stuck inside going nowhere on a treadmill? Well, let me remind you of an “all natural” alternative to these running woes – trail running! Trail running has become a popular diversion from the everyday road run, is a great way to add new challenges that kick up your road running game, and is a legit sport in its own right. Because the terrain on trails is more rugged than pavement (think gravel, rocks, mud, sand, tree roots), secondary muscles are called into duty to help achieve balance and maximize agility. Due to this extra action, trail running can burn up to 10 percent more calories than running on the street, according Health Magazine. Before you the trail, check out my Six Trail Running Tips to prevent any unfortunate fails!
Focus on the run, not your pace. No trail is the same; the ups, downs and obstacles vary tremendously. That’s why you can’t measure success on a trail run in hours, minutes and seconds. By leaving your ego at home and forgetting about PRs, you can concentrate on your running form and biomechanical feedback, the inherent joy of running and the sheer beauty of the great outdoors.
Keep your feet functional. You’ll probably want to wear shoes that have a bit more stability and cushioning to protect your feet and ankles in rough patches. Also, slightly wider soles with substantial tread will help on muddy, wet and other slippery terrain. Also make sure that you have a little extra room in the toe box so that you don’t end up with bruised or blackened nails from extended downhills. Thin, quick-drying socks help prevent blisters if you sweat profusely or have to run through water. I am loving the Altra Running Superior 2.0 right now — they get a good grip on gnarly, rugged terrain, yet feel light and agile enough to fly fast through any obstacles in my way.
Gear up or go home. You don’t need to bring EVERYTHING with you on a trail run, but sometimes additional gear is nice to have (if not life-saving) during an off-road run. For example a cell phone for emergency calls, a GPS watch to track locations and, of course, your own ration of water and snacks. Other useful items to have are sunglasses to protect your eyes from not the sun and also inadvertent run-ins with tree branches, bug spray and knee-high socks to keep away chiggers and other pests, and a headlamp and/or knuckle lights if you are running through dusk into the night.
Put Safety Fist. It’s always best to run with a buddy, but at a minimum let a loved one know your route and estimated return time. It’s a worst-case scenario, but research any native wildlife dangers (snakes, bobcats, bears, etc.) that may be lurking and educate yourself on the best way to handle an emergency situation. You’ll want to hear all of the cues that Mother Nature is communicated, so don’t wear headphones. And, again, bring that GPS watch and phone in case you wander off course.
Maintain a mind-body connection. Trail running requires the use of multiple senses – sight, sound, feel and so on. While it’s easy to let your mind wander during a road run you’ve been on a hundred times, you need to remain focused on the task at hand in trail running to avoid dangerous situations. In rough terrain, the first instinct is to keep eyes focused downward at the feet – but this doesn’t provide timely feedback about what lies ahead! So, instead, keep your gaze straight ahead, analyze upcoming obstacles, and adjust your form accordingly. Also, always keep a mental notes of mile markers or other visual landmarks passed (a trail of crumbs, so to speak), so that you can find your way back on an out-and-back course.
Don’t Forget to Fuel Up: You’ll likely want to bring your own water, sports drink and snacks give the more spartan running conditions — I’ve yet to see an emergency convenience store pop up like a desert oasis in the middle of a long trail run! There are so many options in hydration gear, it really just depends on the length of your race and personal preference for carrying (eg. hand-held vs. vest, belt or backpack . Also, stash some on-the-go snacks to provide on-going energy –eat before you deplete! Store-bought gus, gels and chews are fine, but I also like to make my own trail run fuel so I can tailor exactly to my needs. These are a few of my favorite trail run recipes:
To date, I’ve only have 3 obstacle course races under my belt, but I’m trying to nab a coin for the Spartan World Championship . . .maybe that’s a lofty goal, but I think it’s in my reach, especially if I can optimize my performance with a fast run. However, the races I’ve done, like 2015 Spartan Beast Dallas and 2015 Spartan Spring Houston have been so flooded and muddy that I’ve had the wind knocked out of my running wheelhouse. Oh, yeah – but that spear throw is also standing in the way. I am 0 for 3 on the Spartan Spear Throw obstacle, that’s no surprise considering in I am 1 for 40 in the accuracy baseball pitch at an annual 12-event fitness competition I do (although, I do hold the female course record in the mile – whoot, whoot).
So, I gotta practice. Practice, practice, practice, so I nail the obstacle and don’t have to take the burpee penalty. With my crazy, busy life, I don’t have time to go to any sort of obstacle course training gym – so I’m bringing some of the obstacle to my plain vanilla, suburban back yard.
If I can make a Spartan Race Spear in less than 10 minutes, you can too. Girl power! Here’s the supply list – it’s amazingly short and available at home improvement stores for less than $10 :
1 60” replacement ash rake handle with ferrule (metal cuff on end) – $8.50
1 12-inch galvanized spike or nail – $0.70
Duct tape or masking tape – pennies
Decorative Duct Tape, optional
You will also want to get a few bales of hay from a feed supply store, out here it’s about $12 per bale. I’ve seen it quite a bit cheaper on Craigslist, if you’re willing to drive out to the boonies for your haul.
So, how do you make a Spartan Spear? Easy-peasy! Follow these steps:
Use hack saw to remove head off nail. You have to put some elbow grease into this, let’s see what you’ve got!
Wrap a few rotations of duct tape or masking tape around bottom of nail where head was sawed off. This thickens it up so that it will fit snugly into the ferrule.
If you choose, pour a bit of glue into ferrule and stick in nail head to secure. Let dry. However, I prefer to just wrap tape so that I can remove the nail tip if I want to transport my spear in the car (would hate to get impaled if I slammed on the breaks).
Wrap decorative duct or grip tape around center of handle to indicate where to hold (or to just look fancy), if desired.
And, just how do you do this? Sheez, I don’t know . . .that’s why I’m practicing. I do have some tips though from my limited experience:
Quickly scan for a spear without a bent tip, and no blood or vomit on the handle.
Make sure tether is hanging on opposite side of fence from you to prevent tangling up around your legs.
Step into the spear launch and throw hard with a slight upward trajectory.
Show good sportsmanship when completing your 30 burpees and congratulate the successful competitors at this obstacle who are kicking up mud in your face. Okay, hopefully not this!
The Spartan Race Obstacle Guide says you have “One attempt to throw the spear and have it stick into the spearman (wood or hay). The spear can’t be touching the ground.” This means it can’t stick in the hay and then fall out or brush by the hay and land on the ground. Failure to perform on your single try is 30 burpees – yay!
I also want to give you the heads up on Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena’s new book, Spartan Fit. Basically, it’s everything you need to know to prepare for a Spartan Sprint or just get in the best shape of your life in 31 days, without a gym or weights. You also learn how to build your fitness from one race to the next and will be motivated by stories of inspiring Spartans. There’s also diet plan in the book, I’m really interested to see what Joe’s philosophy is on eating since that’s kinda my thang. This is essential reading for the Spartan athlete, newbies or veterans! Pre-order now, it ships August 30, 2016.
If you want to run a Spartan Race – from Sprint, Super, Beast or some of the ultra endurance events like the Hurricane Heat, Hurricane Heat 12 hour, Ultra Beast, and the new Summer Agoge use the code SPARTANBLOGGER at checkout for 10% off your registration.
Also, come back next week — I’m giving away a free race registration. AROO!
So, how’s YOUR aim? Good at throwing stuff like spears, footballs, baseballs . . . or maybe just throwing fits of frustration when you miss, like me?! Have you ever run an obstacle course race? If so, what was the biggest challenge for YOU? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer