Friday, December 30, 2011

The New Year

Some commercial came on the television today, and the voice over caught my ear, "Instead of looking back on the year, why don't we look forward toward the future?" A good idea, I thought to myself. What does 2012 hold for this kid? A timely question, I'm sure.

Because 2011 held so many personal changes for me (new job, new living situation, different athletic choices were some of those fresh challenges), I am entering 2012 with a solid base. Not athletically. Not occupationally. But humanly. I feel that I stand on solid ground. For someone (me) who has always sought "more" and "better" and "faster" in the future tense instead of the present tense ... that is a positive change.

Because my blog relays my athletic endeavors, I'll limit my '12 musings to the endurance world. At present there is one unexpected but exciting wrench thrown into my world as of yesterday.

In my heart, I am a coach. Working with folks to tap into their potential - athletic and otherwise - brings me great joy. And I've seen joy on the faces of those I've worked with. So while my own, personal athletic goals are important to me, I really get more pleasure out of helping others.

Coaching Makes Me Smile

Me and Traci at San Diego Full Marathon 2010

Last week I was approached about a coaching opportunity for this upcoming Spring/Summer. I'd planned to take time off from coaching to focus on my Ironman Canada training. But after some thought and reflection on what makes me happy, I have decided to forgo the Ironman-2x dream and return to as the Head Run Coach for one of the LA Chapters of Team in Training. This Summer group will be a new group for me - a new set of faces and a new staff to work with. And that is extremely energizing.

When I started running 5 years ago, I would not have believed that I would get such joy out of 1)Marathon Training and 2)Marathon Training that had nothing to do with me!

Alas, the beginning of 2012 finds me in a very content and potentially fulfilling place as an endurance athlete: teaching others, learning from others, and ultimately leaving my sneaker-prints along many miles for a good cause.

So suddenly, my August 29th, 2012 is free. I will cheer on the TNT Ironteam from the sidelines. And I will hopefully reflect on another life-changing (for many) season with the Greater Los Angeles TNT program. San Diego and Alaska half and full marathons - watch out, the purple people are on their way!

Insanity: Day 6

A whole free day meant some quality exercise time. I'm due for another rest day - maybe Sunday or Monday. But today was a "work" day.

40 minutes of hills this morning, with 875 feet of elevation over 4.7 miles. The cloud cover coming off of the Pacific Ocean kept the temps comfortable. After the run, I had to do some late Holiday shopping for one of my best friends who is back in town soon. Prior to shopping, I downed 2 whole breakfast burritos from a deli down the street. Monstrously delcious.

Shopping wiped me out, so I faceplanted on the couch. I knew I had to get in Day 6. But I didn't want to. I just. didn't. want. to.

But keeping the promise to myself means taking the action long after the thrill of making that commitment wore off. So, on goes the DVD player.

Day 6: Cardio Abs

The first bit of good news is that this workout is only 16minutes and 30 seconds long. There is no warm up or stretch. There is just abdominal work. The second piece of good news is that you do not do a single crunch or sit up during the workout. Of the 14mins of abs (2:30 cooldown/stretch), we did multiple C-sit moves (twists, bicycle) and high and low plank moves.

The workout was challenging during those 14 minutes, but it did not bowl me over like yesterday's Pure Cardio workout. Maybe I'm just getting used to the Program, but I've noticed that even in this single week of training, my recovery time is getting quicker. Maybe that's in my head, but then agian, it doesn't really matter as long as it is real to me!

Followed the workout with a bike ride down to the beach and back. Half of the bike path was clear and sunny while the other half - close to the water - was under the marine layer. The air was cool, the ride was nice. About 45 minutes of leg work.

Takeaway from six days of Insanity - it will make you mentally stronger and able to deal with the challenges of muscle confusion. It will make you tired. It will probably be worth it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Insanity Day 5

Back in LA and enjoying the reverse jetlag - I'm up at 6:30 without a problem, and since it's vacation, that means I get to sip some coffee and amble into my workout without worrying about getting to work on time.

Sunrise from my Balcony

I haven't ridden my bike in over a month, so I decided to ease back into riding with an hour workout along the Balona Creek Bike Path and the strand along Dockweiler State Beach.

The Strand

The workout was enough to wake me up and warm me up for the next Insanity workout. I took yesterday off completely because I was exhausted from traveling. The day before was the Cardio Recovery Workout. So it has been two days since I've gotten a tough workout in.

Insanity Day 5: Pure Cardio

Once again, the workout did not disappoint in the pain-and-punishment section. We did the familiar warmup circuit and stretch. During the stretch Shaun T admitted that he was nervous about this workout because it was "pure cardio" and really tough. It was kind of nice to hear the instructor concede his humanity!

The main set was 17 minutes straight. You only took a break when you needed, and then jumped back in. Each move was 1-minute long, and the torture included mini-sprints/pivots, squat jumps, switch kicks, burpees, power knees, frog jumps, scissor kicks and push up jacks. All in a row, as many as you could do. No stopping unless needed.

"I'm not trying to hurt you. I'm trying to make you better." -Shaun T, mid workout

I did this workout with my HR monitor on. My HR got up to 172 at its max, which is not too far from the top of my range. I recovered quickly during the 7-minute cooldown stretch and was back to the mid 90s by the end of the workout.

Blurry shot of the DVD in progress

I'm finding one of the greatest parts about these workouts is the yellow timer down at the bottom of the screen. It counts down the entire workout (30-45 minutes) as well as the time for each indivdual drill and set. It's much easier to push yourself when you can see that you only have 15 seconds left before the moves change up or you get a water break.

All-in-all, I'm really digging this program!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Insanity: Day 4

Today's workout was split into two sections. My morning consisted of a 6-miler on the treadmill to shake my legs out from the resistance work yesterday. I woke up feeling much less sore, and the run took any extra aches out of my muscles.

This evening I just completed Day 4's workout - Cardio Recovery.

Much like the interval/rest dynamic in Insanity workouts, the great structure of the program also allows for a "rest interval". That was today's workout - a 33-minute session that reminded me of yoga.

Focus was on deep stretching, ab work and muscle work. No water breaks. Shaun moves from one exercise to the next with a few 10 second rests during which he explains the moves.

Anyone who does yoga will be comfortable with this workout. Other than a couple sets of squats, lunges and advanced leg lifts, maybe of the moves feel like yoga poses. 75% of the workout was stretching, the other 25% was body-weight exercises: planks and the aforementioned squats and lunges.

I didn't sweat, my heart rate didn't climb and only briefly did I wince in lunge-induced pain. This was a great break from the traditional high-intensity workout. And tomorrow (after the 13hrs of traveling back to the West Coast), I look forward to Day 5 kicking my butt!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Insanity: Day 3

Went to bed last night, sore. Woke up this morning, sore.

But soreness is not injury. Soreness is the recognition that you've done some good work. And there's 57 more days of work ahead. To what end? To what reward? I'm not sure. But this is a fun challenge regardless of the outcome.

Before I took on Day 3 of Insanity, I went for a run around our town lake, the shores upon which my family's home sits.

The Lake

It was colder than I'm ever used to running in, but the windy and the clear air were nice. I looped around the lake, and through a couple different neighborhoods, up a big hill and then home. Maybe 800ft of elevation over 4.5 miles. That was my warmup.

Onto the 40-minute workout with Shaun T. and the crazy fitness folks behind him.

The focus of the workout today was Cardio Power and Resistence. Meaning, you do a lot of deep jumping (squats, power jacks, globe jumps, power jumps) and a lot of pushups (three or four variations). There was a bit of kickboxing in there too.

The first 29 minutes of Day 3 were either 1) Warm Up, 2) Stretching or 3) Water Break. However, that's not to say they were easy. The 10-minute warmup is easily the equivalent of other "normal" workout DVD main sets. And the stretching for me today was crucial. The past two days have tweaked right hamstring, lower back and core.

When your muscles are sore, you are hyper-aware of how you engage them during a workout. So it was easy to feel just how much my sore core was engaged in today's workout.

Like Day 2, the main workout is 2 circuit. Each circuit is made up of three or four exercises that you complete over the course of 3 minutes. These are meant to really raise your heart rate and push your muscles into unocmfortable places. Then you are given a 30 second break. Then you do that same circut twice more. After a 30 second break, you move on to circuit two. You finish with a cooldown and stretch.

My quads and core felt the workout the most today. I definitely stopped and rested at points when I saw my form go. But once you correct your form, back to work!

It takes about two weeks to see real results, so I'm not expecting to be able to bench press a car anytime soon. But as I said above, if nothing else, this is a new and different challenge. And paired with a little running, it's a sufficient workout for this endurance junkie.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Insanity: Day 2

I will have to invest in a sweat-proof keyboard because writing these recaps right after I do the Insanity workouts will surely cost me hundreds in short-circuited electronics.

For the past four years or so, I've logged double-digit miles on the treadmill on Christmas Day. I'm usually months into marathon training and the peak workouts fall around the holidays. But thankfully this year, I am not. So I've saved myself 3+ hours of hamster wheeling while watching CSI repeats.

Instead, I did Day 2 of the program. Since the Fit Test was Day 1, this was the first real workout - a 45-minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session broken up into Cardio and Plyometric circuits.

About 10 minutes of "warm up" and stretch- deceiving high intensity. I was sweating by the middle of it.

Two circuits (each repeated three times) made up the workout. Lots of squat jumping, core work (push ups with various leg movements) and some "fast feet" drills that reminded me of college preseason way too much.

It was awesome. So unlike endurance training or anything I've done in a while. Compact in its time - 45 minutes. Yet it really feels effective. If you can push through a little pain, then you should give this a try.

Hopped on the treadmill for a cool down mile, but I was warmed up and not flat out exhausted that I cranked out a nice tempo pace. Walked to cool down.

Tomorrow will be a long run outside in the chilly CT air, and then Day 3!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Insanity - Day 1 - Fit Test

Remember how the first day of school used to feel? It was easy to wake up at 5am, hop out of bed, put on the new clothes and ride the bus? Everything was slightly new and your little body was running on an adrenaline kick. Everything was interesting and nothing was difficult.

Insanity Day One is much like that ... except for the "difficult" part.

The first DVD consists of two segments - Dig Deeper and the Fit Test. Dig Deeper is an introduction to the program, its philosophy and the four main movements that are incorporated into training.

The face of Insanity is Shaun T. He's ripped, he's encouraging, and he is very nice to look at. No offense Bob Harper and Billy Blank... but Shaun T wins my vote for cutest workout video dude.

After the introduction, you are run through a battery of 8 tests. Each are 60 seconds, and you get 30 seconds of rest. The goal for each is to see how many repetitions of the exercise you can do in that minute.

Biggest issue I had right away: SPACE. This is the kind of workout you need atleast two arms/legs lengths around you free. Our workout area at my parents house has a treadmill, bike, elliptical and weight bench. It's great for all those exercises, but I definitely had to pay attention to not hitting things with my arms and legs as I lunged around.

Nevertheless, the Fit Test kicked my butt. I found myself doing well on some workouts (switch kicks, power planks) and bad on others (globe jumps, suicide jumps/burpees). At the end of the 25-minute session I was exhausted! I had warmed up for a mile, and the cooled down for two. I had no desire to push my cooldown pace faster than 9:30/mile. I was beat.

Here are the results for the first day of Insanity!
1-mile warm up and video-guided warm up
Switch Kicks (russian kicks) - 100
Deep Jacks (squat jumping jacks) - 41
Power Knees - 61
Power Jumps (squat jumps) - 30
Globe Jumps (box jumping) - 6
Suicide Jumps (burpees) - 10
Push Up Jacks - 17
Power Planks - 39
2-mile cooldown

Going Insanity

I'm reaching the end of the 2011 Winter Team in Training Marathon season that I'm coaching, and 2/3 of the group has already completed their events. We've got a small but mighty group headed down to Walt Disney World for Marathon Weekend - the half, full and Goofy Challenge races.

Though I'm not an official race coach, I do have a bib for Goofy and will run both races, most likely at a casual, enjoyable pace, as I have not trained properly to "race" it. In fact, I've been off a training schedule for a while. I complete the weekend miles with my team, but my midweek workouts have been stale. I've needed a change up from running.

Daylight savings has left me little time to take my bike out - curse you darkness! I just recently (ie. the day I left for holiday brake) purchased a new bike trainer (on the cheap side - Cycleops Mag). I loathe the trainer as much as I do the darkness. But my tummy's growing and my brain is itching to do something else ... Enter: Insanity.

Insanity is a 60-day high-intensity, cardio workout from Beachbody, the company that distributes P90X. Focused more on aerobics rather than on lifting, Insanity provides a guided workout with a "reverse interval" style. Shaun T, the leader, pushes you during a 3-minute lung-or-muscle burning exercise, and then allows you 30 seconds rest. This style of training goes on for the entire workout, about 45 minutes. There are 10 or 12 DVDS, I can't remember. But they are all a little different. So in the same approach as Tony Horton's muscle confusion method, your body is constantly challenged day after day.

After informally polling the twitter community about the My friend and teammate Petty loaned me her set of DVDs. I've been putting off doing the workouts because I did not want to see how out of shape I am doing HIIT training. I can run forever, slowly. It's much harder for me to move quickly over short bursts of time. So I packed the DVDs in my carry on for home, and whipped them out on my second day here.

For the next 60 days, I'm going to blog my progress with the program. Either day-by-day or every couple of days. No before and after pictures ... or maybe just awesome after-pictures :) But definitely a chronicle of what it's like to do the program and if its worth the time.

It's exactly what my mind and body need to shake them up.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Run

For me, the holidays means trading in light long-sleeves for heavier winter running clothes and braving the inhumane (20-degree) temps of New England. There are few foes more persuasive to talk you out of an outdoor run than Father Icicle.

So, to counter his nastly, chilly presence, I'll share my most recent ipod playlist in hopes that the crooning of Drake, Lupe Fiasco, Usher and others get you out the door and running through whatever winter temperatures you may face.
Creator - Santigold
Man in the Mirror - Adam Levine and Javier Colon
Headlines - Drake
Show Goes On - Santigold
Yead x3 - Chris Brown
Where Them Girls At - David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj
More - Usher
Maybe - Sick Puppies
Soul Survivor - Akon and Young Jeezy
Otis, N in Paris - Kayne and JayZ
Tonight, Tonight - Hot Chelle Rae
We Run LA - Dr. Hollywood
I'm Yours - Jason Mraz (old school, cool down)

Run fun and enjoy!

Hawaiian Dreams

I posted part of this quote on twitter the other day, and it attracted a lot of retweets, so I thought it was worth a little more exploration. And since it was voiced by one of my favorite athletes and inspirations, Josh Cox, I am all-the-more ready to talk about it.

Don't lose sleep over what you can't do; don't waste time complaining and making excuses. Each of us have been entrusted with a unique combination of gifts, truly unique - unlike anyone else. Find your gifts, cultivate them, be relentless, surround yourself with positive people who work hard, ignore the critic, & work your butt off to make your dreams a reality.

-Josh Cox, professional endurance athlete.

It's the last sentence of the thought that strikes a chord in me - find your gift, invest in it and invest in people who recognize it. The only power naysayers have over you in the power implant doubt in your mind. They cannot make you say, do or believe anything. Their words must first penetrate a wall that you fortify. And if you strengthen that wall enough, then their words fall short. Their criticism die out. And your talents, passionates and gifts continue on.

I recently returned from a trip to Honolulu, HI where I witnessed 10 of my amazing runners cross the start and finish lines of the city's annual marathon.

Waikiki Beach

Each one of them ran 26.2 miles in one day. Each one of them wore a purple shirt that symbolized their commitment to fighting cancer. And yet, each one of them possesses unique gifts. They are not all the same. Some are outspoken, others taciturn. Some shy, others outgoing. They have each found their gift - the power of touching others' lives - and through this season, have cultivated that.
Diamond Head in the distance. They climbed it twice.

To see them literally "work their butt off" and cross that finish line was the kind of feeling any coach aspires to feel. They turned their marathon dreams - because as well all know, when we get obsessed with running, we dream in marathon miles - into reality.

And as a coach, for me to see them do so is that same, blessed dream-to-reality metamorphisis.

Whatever your gift, athletic or otherwise, put your trust in it. Have faith. Invest in yourself. Watch yourself transform. Watch your gift grow. Reap the benefits. Make your dreams into your real life.