Sunday, November 2, 2014

October Workouts

Here is another recap of all of the workouts I've done in the past month. Since it does appear that I'm getting back into a regular schedule, I'll try to do these more often. Then I can avoid giant posts like this! If you aren't interested at all in my running and workouts, then feel free to skip this post. Food posts will be coming soon :)

As a general recap of the month, I really got back into running. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I decided toward the end of September that I just wasn't ready to train for the Richmond Half Marathon on November 15th. My base mileage was way too low to start increasing the miles steadily. Once I got over the initial disappointment, I found this to be pretty freeing. I could go out and run if and when I felt like it, and I could do a lot more activities without having to worry about how that would affect my run the next day. The funny thing, is that without having to follow a rigid training schedule, I actually ended up running a lot more than I had in previous months.

Wed Oct 1:
I did a 3.25 mile run, which ended right near the gym at my apartment complex, so I popped into do some exercises there. I used Runkeeper to track my run.

Negative splits always make me happy :)

Thurs Oct 2:
I did another 3.25 mile run, using a slightly different route than the one the previous day. This time I tracked my run using Joey's Garmin watch. I called it a day after the run, and didn't do anything else.

Mon Oct 6:

I finally did a KB workout! I modified an old workout, to something that would be more manageable with my "weakened" state haha.

Tues Oct 7:

Here, I'm going to talk about my running "road rage." I get super angry whenever people hog the sidewalk. Being right on a college campus, this happens a whole lot. For some reason, undergrads find that it's necessary to walk 3 people in a row, making it impossible for anyone to get past them. Usually, when you're walking toward them and they can see you, they won't really move out of the way. If you're lucky, the person closest to you (who is completely on the wrong side of the sidewalk) will kind of tilt their body, so you'll probably end up brushing into them unless you go onto the road. I've started lifting up my arms/elbows, almost like I'm trying to adjust my ponytail, when I see people walking toward me who refuse to move. It's amazing how the threat of an elbow to the face makes them move out of the way. (I'm obviously not going to smack someone in the face, I just need to SELL that I will haha) However, the people walking in the same direction as I'm running are the worst. Even when I yell out from behind, either saying excuse me, or coming through, they completely ignore me. Sometimes it's difficult going around just one person, especially when they do something that I call "drunk walking." Basically zigzagging all over the place so it's impossible for me to easily go around them. I refuse to have to step out into the road, especially when there's no shoulder, just so people can walk three across. Anyway, I get really irritated when this happens, and during this run, it happened a whole lot. The only good thing was that this rage fueled me to go longer than I had planned, and to be speedier throughout. To those of you who were in my way - you know who you are...
I used Runkeeper to track my run - mostly because I wanted to just go out and have an easy run, and didn't want a visible reminder of my pace throughout. I ended up going fast anyway...
Also, it started raining about 1 mile into the run.

Thurs Oct 9:
We were in Harrisburg, PA Wed Oct 8 through Sat Oct 11. Thursday morning was one of the only times we knew would have some extra time, so we both did a run. It was actually a really nice run. The weather was pretty good (a bit chilly, but not bad), it was beautiful running along the river, and it was really flat. I went a lot faster than my usual pace, because it was so flat compared to running in Charlottesville. I felt pretty great :)
I used Runkeeper to track my run.

Mon Oct 13:
After taking the rest of the weekend off, I decided to go on a run on Monday. I normally do strength workouts on MWF (usually not all of those...) and run TuTh. This just flipped around Monday and Tuesday, but it worked out pretty well for my Tuesday workout with a friend (below). This time I used the Garmin watch. I went faster than originally planned. It definitely didn't feel easy or comfortable, but still felt good in the end. I was glad to see that I could hold that pace, even when I wasn't on a super flat course.

Tues Oct 14:
Like I said, my days got mixed around a bit, so I did my strength workout on Tuesday instead of Monday. I did it with a friend, and we modified one of my old workouts so it was a different format. I had some good results with a workout last month, where I did AMRAP in 8 minutes for each of 3 circuits. This time, there were 5 exercises in each circuit instead of 4, so we got through each circuit 4 times in the 8 minutes. We jogged a few laps around the indoor track (10.5 laps = 1 mile) between each circuit.

Thurs Oct 16:
This was a really nice day, absolutely beautiful weather. Joey was leading frisbee practice, so my plan was to go on a run starting and ending at the field. I was a little nervous that it would actually feel too warm, and I would get overheated, but it ended up feeling great. The only bad part was that I got a stitch in my side toward the very end, but that didn't end up affecting things too much.
I used Runkeeper to track my run.

Basically negative splits :) The side stitch probably affected the pace for the last little bit

Tues Oct 21:
For this run and the next one, I had to be into lab super early. I basically had to get there around 7, do maybe 10-15 minutes of work, and then I had a 5 hour break. I've done this experiment a lot, and I know that by the end of the day, I'm pretty tired. And unless I have an additional experiment to do in that 5 hour break, I don't do anything productive. Even more annoying is that the buses don't start running until 7:30, so I have to walk in. I decided that I would run into lab (almost a mile), which would get me there much faster, do the 10-15 minutes of work, and then continue on my run. This worked out really well, with the exception of it being really dark during that first bit! I didn't have to be in quite as early on Thursday, so the first part wasn't as dark then. I felt like I was really flying in that first mile, but really wasn't going as fast as I thought. Then I thought I was super slow in the second part, but wasn't as slow as I thought. I guess it all evened out...
I used Joey's Garmin watch to track my run.

Thurs Oct 23:
Unlike Tuesday's run, when I felt like I was going really fast in that first mile, I really was! The rest of the run was much hillier, and I was proud that I kept my pace going up the hills. I used Runkeeper to track my run.

Sun Oct 26:
This was such a beautiful day, and I was looking forward to going out on a run. I planned a 5 mile run, which was probably already a bit ambitious considering what I had been doing lately (a lot of 3-4 mile runs). Once I got to about 4.5 miles, I thought I could do a little more. I basically did the last mile (mile 6) in honor of a good friend, who is having leg issues and isn't allowed to run, even though she really wants to. I used Joey's Garmin watch to track my run.

Mon Oct 27:

I got back into doing workouts with my friend, and this time we did a KB workout together. After our workout, I did the first of my workouts geared toward being able to do an unassisted pull-up!

Wed Oct 29:

I did another strength workout at the AFC, this time mostly built around my pull-up exercises. This is going to be a workout that I don't necessarily recommend you repeat, since as Joey put it, I did "ALL of the pull-up exercises." I was so sore after this. I just got so excited about wanting to do a pull-up that I overdid it a bit. Now I know better for next time!
In this case, purple = an exercise specifically for the pull-up workout, and blue = a leg/ab exercise so I wouldn't completely kill my arms
I ended this workout by walking home from the gym - 1.6 miles - while carrying lots of stuff! My arms were dying!

Thursday, Oct 30:

I ended up doing another 6 mile run that was mostly unplanned! I plotted out something that was ~5.5 miles, and knew that I would be walking ~0.15 of it (super steep hill that is 100% unnecessary to run). Toward the end, I decided that I wanted to make it 6 miles, but didn't have the energy to think about what I would need to do for that to happen. This meant I just ran up and down my street a few times until the watch told me I had gone 6.00 miles! The funny thing is that I ended up doing almost exactly the same average pace as my previous 6 mile run - this run was exactly 24 seconds faster overall.

Friday, Oct 31:

This was a weird day. I planned to do my workout at the AFC, so I packed my clothes and brought them with me to work. While I'm trying to focus on pull-up exercises, I want to go to the AFC as often as I can, since that is the only place (I know of) that has an assisted pull-up machine. It ended up being a blah day, and I really didn't want to stay through the end. I also accumulated a lot of different things I needed to take home with me, and didn't want a repeat of Wednesday, having to carry it all home. I decided that I would take the bus home early, and then I could drive over to the gym. There was so much traffic! I always forget that Friday afternoons are the worst, and this was even worse because of Halloween. They have trick or treating on the Lawn, so everyone brings their little kids there. It took at least 15 minutes to get home on the bus (probably more like 20-25), and I knew that I didn't want to get stuck in that traffic driving. I had already done a long run the day before, and I was planning on doing some kind of run over the weekend, so I didn't think about running there. I also planned on doing a sparty-style workout, which usually has a lot of cardio. Joey suggested that I run to and from the gym (which I knew was 1.6 miles from my walk home the other night), and that I modify the workout so it was "sparty-lite." This way I could avoid traffic, and still do what I had planned. This worked out pretty well, with the exception of way too many people walking around (see running road rage above), but I just had to deal with it. We modified the workout so I wouldn't be doing anything for time, since I didn't need the extra cardio.

I don't feel the need to put up maps for the run - I averaged about 16 minutes for each portion, so just about a 10 minute pace each way.

Monthly Totals:

Running: 43.9 miles
Strength workouts: 4
KB workouts: 2
Yoga: 0

I am very proud of these totals! I did almost twice the number of miles that I did in September (23.5), without even following a training plan. I was saying to Joey the other day that it's almost like I'm doing a training plan, with the way I've been naturally increasing the number of miles. I think I'm doing it just as a challenge to myself. Part of me wants to start training for a race, but part of me thinks that it might take the fun out of it. I think for now, I'm just going to continue doing what feels good, and take it from there. I'm running the Richmond 8k in 2 weeks, and probably the 10k in Wilmington over Thanksgiving. I'm not training at all for either of those - I just know that based on the runs I've been doing, I am prepared to do those distances. The times won't be great, but I'm (mostly) okay with that.

I really want to be able to keep up with my strength workouts. I think that they will improve my running, and make me feel better about my overall fitness. Most important, I want to be able to do a pull-up!! This would be such a huge accomplishment for me, and I think that with some hard work, it's possible.

Obviously the one thing that I'm missing is yoga - that's a big fat zero. I really need to try out some videos - anybody have any recommendations? Only free ones please :)
I love going to Ann's yoga classes, but since I don't have a multi-class pass for the AFC right now, it seems a little expensive. It's $7/class, which can really add up. If I find enough classes that I think I'll go to, I might get the 5 class pass for $25. My problem is that I always end up with leftover passes that I don't use. We have a 4 month period of time to use the passes, when I think that they should stay valid for an entire year. I think I always got 10 passes in the past, so hopefully if I get the 5 class pass, I'll manage to use those up!

Review: The Flex Belt

This is not a typical post for me. I'm all about the healthy lifestyle, which to me means a combination of being active and being aware of what you're putting into your body. There are so many gimmicks out there that promise you a rock hard body, but I'm usually a big believer of hard work to see results. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. So that's what I thought, when I was contacted by someone representing The Flex Belt. They asked me if I would like to try out their product, and then write a review on my blog. At first I thought that it was a scam - I don't get a huge amount of traffic to my blog, so I was really skeptical that someone wanted to offer me a nice product for free! I did some research, and saw that some other blogs had done similar reviews, so I figured that this was real. I talked it over with my boyfriend Joey, and he said that he would actually be interested in trying it out.

The Flex Belt was shipped out pretty quickly to us, and we did some reading on their website before getting started. We saw that this is recommended for people who are already in good shape, and who work out regularly, which made us more optimistic about what it would do for Joey. Joey already works out 5-6 days per week, and at a pretty high intensity. For me, my biggest question was whether it would do anything that his workouts weren't doing already. Although we started out being a little dubious/skeptical, we figured that it couldn't hurt at all to do one of the 30-day programs. Each of these programs includes rest days, so you end up using it 5 days/week.

So, here's some information about the Flex Belt, and what we thought about it.

The Flex Belt came with 9 different programs built into it, that range from 20-30 minutes at a time. That made it pretty easy, since you don't have to do any programming yourself. The remote clips in really easily to the belt, and one of the best features is that there is a pocket that you can slide it into during the session. Once you start up the belt with the remote, you can set each side individually, on a range from 0-150. You probably want to keep each side around the same, but it's a nice feature that they can be changed separately. One thing that was very helpful is that if you hold the "i" button down (information), it locks the keys, so you can't bump into the remote and change things while you're in the middle of your session.

If you have any questions about the programs or the setup, you can look at the videos here

The instructions were very clear for how to set up the gel pads, and it was easy to do that. We were unsure that they would last the entire 30-days actually, but surprisingly, they lasted just fine. I don't think they would have made it through 30 days of both of us using it, which is one of the reasons why only Joey tested out the product. The covers come off very easily and actually stick back to the gel pads every time, which was pretty surprising.Basically, there is some noticeable wear and tear to the pads and the covers, but not nearly as much as we expected.

One note - for anyone with a hairy chest, it will be a little more difficult to stick, but not in a way that it impedes the connection. It will just be easier for a girl, or a guy with a smooth chest.

There are a lot of different programs, and the first two are intro programs that are ~20 minutes, so Joey started on Program 3, which was the lowest program that was a full 30 minutes. He started with Level 40 on each side. As he got used to the intensity of the belt, he increased the level as well as the program he was doing, and ended with Program 6 and Level 150 on each side.

I asked Joey how he knew when he was ready to increase levels or programs, and this is what he said:
The instructions say to go to the highest level that you can stand to do it at, so if he felt completely comfortable with a level and a program, he moved up. You can feel it through your whole midsection as you go up, that everything starts contracting. When he started at Level 40 in Program 3, he could feel his abs contracting as a response to the belt. Eventually, he stopped feeling the contractions - he could feel the belt "buzzing"/"vibrating," but he could tell that his muscles were used to it, and were not really responding in the same way. At this point, he increased the Level and the Program settings until he could feel his abs contracting.

One point - this is not a defect in the product, but just something to be careful about - make sure that you have the belt centered. At the very high levels, if he was off a little, it started to hurt different areas because it was trying to contract something that wasn't there and lined up. Once he centered it, everything went back to normal. It's just something you want to be very aware of once you're at the highest level, and if it becomes misaligned, you will notice!

Also, if you've just done some abs exercises, don't do the Flex Belt right away! This isn't like doing 50 crunches, this is some serious abs work. If those muscles are already tired, this can be way too intense, and can actually cause cramping. I think that right there shows that this is a real workout.

At the really high levels, when it was really contracting, he felt like he had to clench his abs. If he didn't, the amount the belt tried to yank would hurt. In the end, this made him work his muscles even harder. Whether or not that's by design, he felt that it made the belt pretty effective.

So now it has been a few weeks since he completed the 30-day program, and he hasn't used the belt since. The real test is if he has any lasting results!

Joey said that the changes/results he achieved from the belt, he can still see. He has been maintaining the rest of his workouts since he stopped using the belt, and does feel that this helps maintain the results. He feels that if he had stopped workout out at all, that he probably would lose Flex Belt results a lot sooner.

In the end, I think that your own use of the Belt will depend on what you're doing in addition. This is generally a great way to amp up your midsection strength. If you're working out regularly, this could be a good thing to do every once in a while - whether it's the whole 30-day program, or just as a single abs workout. You could build it into your normal workout, or even use this while traveling, since it's pretty compact. If you aren't super active, then the 30-day program might be best for you, and you might want to do it at least every other month. I think this would be perfect for someone who has a desk job, and has a hard time keeping active. You can easily put it on while you're at work (although once Joey got up to the highest intensity, he definitely made some funny noises...)

Joey liked it enough that he bought a 3-pack of replacement gel pads. He envisions each set as lasting about a month, based on how the first set lasted, and would feel okay with buying one of those 3-packs each year. And now that we have this new set of replacement pads, I want to try it myself! I'm impressed with the results I can see, and even more, with the results that I can feel on Joey's midsection. I'm definitely not a great photographer, so it might be hard to see some obvious differences in the two pictures, but believe me, the differences are there. The "v-lines" are much more defined, and Joey says he just feels different, that his abs feel so much tighter. His stomach has also leaned out a bit.

Expect another review in the coming months, once I try this out myself!

If you're interested in trying out the Flex Belt yourself, click on this link.

Before picture (you can see the packaging for the Flex Belt in the background)

After picture