Exercise

Worlds Collide: Healthy Eating on the Road

Hello friends! Long time! I have been craaaaaazy busy with so many things, including lots of travel, a busy work schedule, and a busy social life! I was away for a week in Puerto Rico for pleasure, and in Denver for a long weekend for work before that. October basically flew by before I even knew what was happening, and now somehow we are almost half way through  November. I digress.

Yesterday at my day job, I gave a presentation on Healthy Eating on the Road. You may remember I did another presentation on Healthy Lunch Options a while ago, and it was kind of crazy to be at my day job talking about healthy living stuff, since those two worlds rarely cross paths. But yesterday, they did again.

I opened up the presentation with asking about what is challenging about being healthy when traveling. Everyone was in agreement that it’s definitely difficult and people were pouring out their ideas for why. Here are the challenges we identified:

  1. Lack of healthy options and not being as familiar with the options as you are at home.
  2. Wanting to enjoy new food as part of the travel experience.
  3. Time constraints/stress lead to limited time for exercise/making healthy choices.
  4. Social influences/drinking more than when at home.
  5. Lack of control over the menu/not knowing what is in the food that you’re eating (catered meals/restaurants)
  6. Kids.
  7. Portion control when eating out.
  8. Food being around all the time.
  9. Vacation mentality. (Feeling like you deserve to eat everything).
  10. Being out of your routine.
  11. Budget (healthy options cost more)
  12. Cultural Challenges (ie. not being able to turn down a 10 course meal)
  13. No scale to check in on your weight.

Originally I wanted to go through the challenges one by one and identify the tips and tricks that might work for each, but in the interest of time, we only got to a few. Here are the tips that we came up with:

  1. Do some research before you go so you can identify some accessible spots to eat and locate a grocery/convenience store not far from where you’re staying.
  2. Bring a water bottle, healthy non-perishable snacks, and workout clothes with you no matter what.
  3. Ask the staff/server at a restaurant or hotel what’s in the food and/or how it is prepared if you don’t know.
  4. Ask the hotel to put a refrigerator in your room before you get there so you can stock up on some healthy staples.
  5. Focus on eating a lot of the local fruit and veggies as part of the experience.
  6. Pay attention to portion control when you’re having heavier dishes and have less control over what you’re eating.
  7. In general, simpler foods where you can identify what is in it tend to be better for you than dishes where you can’t.
  8. 10 minutes of exercise can be enough. If you don’t have time for a full workout, just do some pushups, sit-ups, and/or jumping jacks. You can get a great workout and it doesn’t require any equipment and not much time, either.
  9. Carry healthy snacks with you so that you don’t let yourself get ravenous. Being ravenous is the worst way to be if you want to make healthy choices.
  10. Realize that just because you’re eating out for every meal does NOT mean every meal is a celebration. Sometimes it’s just lunch.
  11. Choose one between bread, dessert, and booze when dining out.
  12. Take a look at all the options before you choose what you put on your plate. That way you can make room for what you really want.
  13. Ask for half your meal to be wrapped up before they even bring it out to the table.
  14. Order two appetizers instead of a full meal for your entrée.
  15. Physically put yourself away from the food if it’s out all day. If it’s within arm’s reach, you’ll tend to eat a lot more than if you have to get up to reach it.
  16. Choose your splurges wisely. Ask yourself, “is this really the best cookie/brownie/etc I can get? Is it worth it to eat it just because it’s there?”
  17. Treat yourself with things other than food. Maybe go see a museum, exhibit, or show in the town you’re traveling as a treat instead.
  18. Plan a splurge meal for towards the end of your trip so help keep you on track leading up to the splurge.
  19. Stay within your routine as much as possible, even though you are in a different location.
  20. Take extra whole fruit from the breakfast buffet for later.
  21. A lot of hotel gyms are equipped with a scale, but use your clothes as a gauge instead if you can’t find one.

Lots of good stuff!

Do you struggle with being healthy when traveling? What’s your biggest tip for staying on track?

Run for Parkinson’s: Take Two

Below is a guest post from my dear friend Amber about the process of organizing a race for a cause you’re passionate about and some of the logistical hurdles that come up along the way. You can read her first guest post here, which talks about everything that went into planning her first race! The race will take place next Saturday, April 13, at 8am. Details below!

This year marks the second annual Run for Parkinson’s. Over a decade ago, my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson ’s disease, an extremely debilitating neurodegenerative disorder. After going through the difficult journey that comes with such a scary diagnosis, my mom and I felt channeling our experience into something productive for the cause would be the best way to focus our energy.

The story really begins with a run Beth and I did a few years back on the Capital Crescent Trail Towpath. After the run, while we were engaging in all that post-run good stuff (photos and free bananas!) I struck up a conversation with the run’s organizer, John Brathwaite. John has a non-profit called DC Running Club which partners with organizations looking to host active events and helps them plan and execute their event from start to finish (pun intended).

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His business model is to take half of the registration fee to cover the cost of the race and his personnel who handle all of the logistics. The other half is donated to the partner organization’s cause. It seemed like fate as I had been dying to plan a run but had absolutely no clue where to start.

We met a few months later to start planning the first Run for Parkinson’s, which was held last April on Hains Point. John took the reins organizing the event while I followed him around trying to absorb all of the details that go into the planning process. The first step was filing for the permit with National Park Service and learning how much police detail is required per number of runners anticipated at the event. We had to carefully choose the start and end times based on the distance of the run and requirements of NPS. Then we had to figure out all of the other nitty-gritty details – such as accessibility via public transportation and parking, placement of trash receptacles, and how many volunteers we’d need to set up on time and hand out bibs.

Marketing the event was up next. John has an account with Active.com, which is very helpful for registration. We had a really tiny budget for marketing, so we had to get creative! Many of last year’s participants were from our various networks, and I have to say it was a very powerful feeling to have that kind of support from so many people. Friends, family and colleagues were quick to sign up and get involved. So out went the mass email blasts, Facebook invites, blog articles, and any other free advertising opportunities we could get our hands on, such as a digital ad donated by Bisnow.com (thanks, guys!).

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This is always the most stressful aspect for me because so much goes in to the organization of the event, to the point sometimes you forget you actually have to get people there! Our first event came and went with great success. We attracted close to 500 runners and raised almost $10,000!!

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I anticipated the second time around would be easier after the know-how I had gained from the first event. However, it has proven to be full of new challenges on top of the same marketing dilemmas and logistical mishaps. Just when we thought we had things under control, we got a call from National Park Service last week saying that our location was double-booked with another run and we would have to change the location, even though our permit was filed almost a year ago.

Alas, having the backing of DC Running Club has saved us again. John scrambled to work his connections with the Capital Crescent Trail Towpath and we were confirmed two days later at the new location. Now the run is just a couple weeks away and we’re working hard to get everything ready for the big day. We hope that with some help from the race Gods all will go smoothly, and of course we would love to see you there! April 13th at 8am at the Capital Crescent Trail Towpath.

Register at RunForParkinsons.com.

In His Words: Matthew’s Redemption Marathon Story

In case you missed them, check out Matthew’s other guest posts:

The Chicago Marathon was the most fulfilling day of my life. It was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to changing my life and being healthy.  But truth be told, I was disappointed in myself after that race.

Minutes after crossing the finish line, I knew I could have done better.  Both the physical and mental breakdown I had during that race were a product of my lack of training.  Granted, I had some setbacks along the way, but I knew in my heart I was under trained.  I decided I wanted another shot at the marathon to redeem myself, which came in the form of the Rock n Roll USA Marathon this past weekend.

To prepare for this race, I decided to use a significantly different training plan than I did for Chicago.  It had me running six days a week and included weekly speed training sessions and tempo runs.  I knew it would be difficult, but I was up to the task.  Starting on November 15, I spent 18 weeks training my butt off.  Over that time I ran a total of 622 miles, dropped 23 pounds and 4% body fat, and saw my average pace drop by 45 seconds per mile.

side by side

Race weekend came and, once again, my mother was here to support me.  She has been there for all of the most significant moments in my life and she did not want to miss this one either. We both awoke at 4:30am on race day morning and got everything we needed together.  I had a light breakfast, got dressed and collected all of the gear I had packed the night before.  We set out at 5:30am to catch the metro to the start area, which was right by the Washington Monument.

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I had never felt so calm before a race.  Despite knowing I was about to run 26.2 miles, I felt so good about the shape I was in and the training I had done that nothing made me nervous.  My running buddy Rachel met us outside of my corral about 10 minutes before race time.  I hugged them both and went into my corral, and twenty minutes later I was off and officially running my second marathon!

Start to 10k

After crossing the start line, I immediately felt a tad emotional.  I had to make sure not to start off too fast, so I kept checking my Garmin to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it.  After my usual three miles to feel fully warmed up, I really started to feel good.  I ran with a fluidity that I hadn’t experienced in the past.  I was smiling, taking in the sites of the city, and actually having fun.  The hill just before we hit Mile 6 looked to kill most of the other runners, so I just put my head down and charged right up it, my quads burning the whole time.  I knew my Mom and Rachel would meet me around this part of the course, but we missed each other.  I didn’t let it deter me and hit the 10k mark at 60:43.  I was pumped.

10k to Half Marathon

This was my favorite part of the run and I was now keep a comfortable pace of 9:30.  To say I was in a zone would be a complete understatement.  During this stretch I knew I had a couple groups of friends who were cheering on runners.  I saw my friend Caroline around Mile 7 and then a group of friends at the water station near Mile 9.5.  I was so pumped to see them I actually ran UP their stairs to give them all a high five.  Here I was running a full marathon and I did some steps along the way.

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Ten miles is my favorite distance to run and when I passed the 10 mile marker I looked at my watch and saw that I had PRed!  I then picked up the pace a little more and charged toward the halfway point. The marathoners split off from the half marathoners and the road became like a barren wasteland.  I saw my Mom and Rachel for the first time on the course, gave them a high five, said “Gotta go!” and hit the half marathon marker at yet another PR of 2:05:54.  I was on a roll!

Half Marathon to Mile 20

During my first marathon, I had a physical breakdown just after passing the half marathon mark.  This time was so much different.  I continued to barrel through at a 9:30 pace and just felt like I could do anything.  13, 14, 15, 16, the mile markers just kept ticking away.  However, there comes a time during the course of running 26.2 miles where your body just runs out of energy and that time finally came for me at Mile 17.  I had run without stopping for seventeen miles in a time of 2:43:34.  At that point I knew that I was already a shoe-in to beat my Chicago time, the thought now became “by how much?”.  Over the next 3 miles I took a GU and walked a short portion.  I knew a person in the band at Mile 20 and he gave me a high five as I passed.  I then saw my Mom and Rachel for an embrace and another pair of high fives.  20 miles down in 3:16:54.

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Mile 20 to the Finish

This was the most difficult portion of the race for me.  My pace slowed significantly but I still did not let that break me.  I ran the majority of the way and took a GU at Mile 21 to give me the extra energy I needed to finish strong.  I dug so deep to keep pushing forward.  There seemed to be more hills during this portion of the race than the rest of it.  That seemed so unfair!  With less than a mile to go I came into what seemed like a straight away portion of the highway.  I saw RFK Stadium in the distance and knew it was only a matter of time before I would cross the finish line.  I ran as hard and as fast as I could the rest of the way, never stopping.  I managed a 9:00 minute pace the last half mile and burst across the finish line giving it every last ounce of energy I had to give.  For the second time, I became a marathoner.

second time

I was winded, I was hurting, but nothing could have dampened just how good I felt about what I had just done.  I collected my medal and gave it a big kiss.  I had earned that piece of hardware and it felt so good to feel it around my neck.  I walked very slowly through the finish area festivities, seeing all of the elated runners along the way.  I knew many of them had to be feeling as amazing as I did.  As I met up with my Mom and Rachel, finally, we all embraced in a moment I will never forget.

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They were both so proud of me and it felt good to know that I had that kind of support, not just for that day, but in my life in general.  My mother’s presence in my life has allowed me to grow into the person I have become and without her support I really don’t know where I would have ended up in life.  I certainly would not be a two-time marathon finisher without her that is for sure.

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Having had some time to process the entire experience I came away with a few thoughts. First, no matter how hard you train, running a marathon is hard.  There is no getting around it, but completing it will change your life forever.  Second, the marathon is so much like our lives.  You have ups and you have downs, but you ultimately learn how to get through all of those times to come out better when all is said and done.  Lastly, and most importantly, it taught me that I am STILL capable of so much more than even I think I am.  That applies to all of you reading this too.  It is so important to always believe in yourself and never sell yourself short. Ever.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read another of my stories for you.  I truly appreciate all of the comments and support.  In closing, I will let the numbers speak for themselves:

  • Chicago Marathon – 5:24:45
  • Rock N Roll USA Marathon – 4:24:03

Redemption at last.

The Half Marathon that Wasn’t

So, spoiler alert if you didn’t pick it up from the title of this post, but I didn’t run the half marathon this past Saturday. And you know what? I’m actually feeling pretty good about my decision not to.

I first started running almost four years ago. I wrote a post about How I Started Running, and it remains one of my favorites to this day. I know it sounds super cliché, but I honestly never in a million years would have imagined myself being able to run, much less enjoying it. When I first started, I was impressed with myself with each extra minute I could keep going. The constant sense of accomplishment I felt with each new obstacle was fulfilling in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Running became a huge passion and an outlet, and it made me really happy.

I vividly remember running my first 5k, moving onto my first 10k, and then my first double digit race – The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. After that, I tackled my first half marathon, and the feeling of crossing that finish line was beyond anything I’d ever felt before. Once I had one under my belt, I wanted to do them stronger and faster, and ended up running 4 more, and knocking 11 minutes and 10 seconds off the time of my first over those two years. During that time, I also decided it would be a good idea to try to train for a full marathon, but after working up to running 16 miles, I decided it wasn’t a good time for me and to drop out of the marathon.

Lately, I’ve been feeling in a very similar place to when I quit training for the marathon and my heart just hasn’t been in it. This past weekend would have been my sixth, and there were many times during the training cycle that I tried really hard to psych myself up. Sometimes when you’re in a rut you just have to give yourself a good pep talk and you can snap out of it. But not this time.

I stayed up with being active, but the long runs were something I was literally DREADING. I know long runs are often a runners least favorite part of training, but I was in a place where thinking about having to do the run would cause me so much anxiety and dread that it just put a dark cloud over my days. So I often skipped them, which caused more negative feelings associated with running and the guilt that often followed.

As this race was approaching, I had a really uneasy feeling about the whole thing. I did a lot of thinking and then realized I just didn’t WANT to run a half right now. And then I had to ask myself, well why am I running it then? I had been trying to make myself do something that I wasn’t dedicated to, and it was causing me to resent running in general.

Sometimes it’s really easy to get caught up in something you think you should do, and I think that running so many races has caused me to constantly be looking for the next big thing. Not that that is bad at all, but I feel like this constant searching has caused me to feel like running races is more of an obligation than a choice. It’s like I can’t be happy to just keep doing what I’m doing, and have to always been looking for, and working towards, something bigger.

I do love the feeling of crossing the finish line, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing such a big task that I’ve dedicated myself to. But what I don’t love is not being able to identify WHY I’m doing it and feeling like I’m being forced into it. Because if I don’t want to, and it’s making me dread a sport that I’d grown to love (in smaller doses), then really, what’s the reason?

I do strongly believe that being active is a nonnegotiable part of healthy living for me, but I don’t believe running half marathons all the time has to be. There are many, many other ways to stay and be active and to continue to dedicate myself to a healthy life. I’m not saying I won’t be running races anymore – in fact, I have the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler coming up on April 7, which will be my fourth time in a row running it. But what I am saying is that I think I’m going to take a break from distance running after that for a bit, until I find myself back in a place where I am doing it because I want to, and not because I feel like I have to.

Double Digits

This past Saturday, I ran 10 miles for the first time in a LONG time. It was my friend Matt’s 30th birthday and he was starting the day with a 10 mile run, so I decided to join him in the spirit of actually sticking with my training plan. Somehow, my sixth half marathon is coming up just three weeks from Saturday, so there’s no more time for excuses! Not that I really had a choice with my minor surgery which sidelined me for two weeks, or getting knocked down by strep for five days, but I haven’t been very consistent this go-round with training.

The day started with a 7:30am wakeup call, and I immediately made coffee and got dressed. I almost always have an english muffin with nut butter of some sort for pre-run fuel, but I haven’t been keeping nut butter in the house lately because I can’t trust myself around it. So, I tried something new-to-me before a run:

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An english muffin with smashed avocado and sea salt. This has been one of my favorite things to eat recently, and it definitely did the trick as a pre-run mini meal.

I drove to Matt’s house and we headed to the trail, and before I knew what I had signed up for, we were off. We ran on an area of the Mount Vernon Trail that I haven’t run on in years, and it was hillier than I was used to. There was a water fountain at the 2.5 mile mark, then the 5.0 mile mark where we turned around for the out-and-back loop, so it worked out well for us to not have to carry water.

The first couple miles went by quick, but I felt like it took a LONG time to get to the turnaround point. Matt has been running way more than me lately, so 10 miles to him was no big deal, but for me it was definitely a stretch. Around the turnaround point, I took a new-to-me Clif Shot that I acquired at my last half marathon.

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Which was fine. Vanilla Bean GU is still my fav, but the price was right on this one so I went with it.

Once we got to the 7ish mile mark, I was really ready to be done. I had to slow down a bit and mentally talk myself away from wanting to stop running. I kept playing mind games with myself and taking it one mile at a time, and soon we were at 8 miles and then 9. When we had less than a mile to go, Matt took off a little ahead of me which was good because I was able to finish the run at my own pace. And then, at long last, I hit the 10.0 mile mark and stopped immediately.

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My body will never cease to amaze me whenever I run a double digit run. It is always a challenge in more ways than one, and I ALWAYS feel like a million bucks when it’s over.

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The one thing I forgot about was chafing! It honestly didn’t occur to me that I often chafe on my collar bones when I run in anything other than a tank top, and once I stopped I realized my neck was super irritated.

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Ouch. It’s already gone down considerably since then, but I can guarantee you I will not forgot body glide on this weekend’s long run!

Even though the run was really hard for me, it definitely helped me feel more confident about the upcoming half marathon. I am going to attempt 10 miles again this coming weekend, and I’m hoping it’ll be a bit easier for me this time around. I know that the challenge was more mental than anything because I wasn’t sore at all after the run or the next day, so I really just need to work on the mental part of things over the next few weeks.

Do you struggle mentally with runs? Any tips for overcoming it?

Taking the Guess Work Out

I never was a planner. Before I really committed myself to Weight Watchers, I always just kind of flew by the seat of my pants when it came to eating. I’d wait until I was extremely hungry and go out and buy something for breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every single day. That hunger led to less than stellar decision making when it came to eating, and just perpetuated the cycle of extreme hunger, followed by extreme fullness.

People always ask me what the biggest change for me has been since really changing my life around, and I would hands down say that it’s putting more thought into planning my meals. I never had snacks on hand, and certainly never planned ahead enough to bring breakfast and lunch to work every day like I do now. When I have a plan in place, I go to the grocery store to pick up what I need, and it takes the question out of what to eat. Besides that, I feel a little guilty when I don’t eat the food that I’ve purchased, so that helps me stick with my plan even more.

The same thing goes for exercise. Not that I approached exercise without a plan before because in reality I just didn’t approach exercise at all, but I’ve found that when I have a plan in place and actually schedule it in, it makes it so much easier to stick with. This is a large part of why I continually sign up for races – having them on my calendar sort of forces me to stick with my plan so that I am not in bad shape come race day.

So for me, I think the bottom line is that planning really helps take the guess work out of being healthy and helps me keep it together during the week.

Without further ado, here is what’s in store for my week food wise:

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
Monday english muffin w/cottage cheese fajita chicken with peppers and onions whole wheat egg noodles w/goat cheese, pistachios, & craisins (YUM!) Greek yogurt, frozen grapes, chocolate chip cookie
Tuesday oatmeal w/pumpkin + cottage Cheese Out for Peruvian Lunch tofu w/soba noodles + veggies greek yogurt + banana
Wednesday Savory Oats w/spinach + cheese tofu w/soba noodles + veggies + ginger sauce Fajita Chicken Salad cottage cheese w/frozen cherries
Thursday Egg sandwich w/avocado + cheese tofu w/soba noodles + veggies + ginger sauce farro salad w/chickpeas, roasted red peppers, feta apple w/string cheese
Friday Egg white veggie omelet w/toast farro salad w/chickpeas, roasted red peppers, feta soft boiled eggs w/english muffin cottage cheese w/grapefruit

 

To help make this easier, I grilled chicken breasts and cooked the fajita veggies on Sunday, and then Monday went grocery shopping and made a batch of plain oatmeal to carry me through some breakfasts this week. I also pressed the tofu yesterday (with this thing which I LOVE) so that tonight’s dinner (and the next two lunches) are easy peasy. Spreading out the work over the weekend also helps it not feel that overwhelming.

Exercise-wise, here’s what my plan is for the week:

    • Sunday: Rest (not hard)
    • Monday: 4 miles + weights (afternoon)
    • Tuesday: Rest
    • Wednesday: 45 min tempo run (before work)
    • Thursday: 3 mile run + weights (before work)
    • Friday: rest
    • Saturday: 10 miles

Are you good about planning ahead? Do you find it easier to plan meals or exercise?

ActiveLink Review

I have been meaning to write a post about the ActiveLink for AGES now, but it’s better late than never, right!? Full disclosure, as a Weight Watchers Leader, I did receive an ActiveLink for free to try out before they were out in meeting rooms, but that doesn’t influence how I feel about the thing.

activelink

So what is ActiveLink?

ActiveLink is an activity monitor that you wear all day long. It measures movement from side to side, front to back, and up and down, as well as acceleration, so it goes well beyond a pedometer. As you can see in the photo above, it’s a USB, so you plug it directly into your computer to import all the activity data. You can wear the monitor clipped to your chest, loose on a necklace (!?), clipped to your belt, or in your pocket. You wear it all day long except when you’re sleeping and it is waterproof so you can even wear it in the shower (which I have NOT done). I usually wear mine attached to my bra, or else clipped to my top if I’m working out.

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When you plug it into your computer to import the data, you get feedback on how many minutes of moderate activity and high intensity activity you’ve done that day (separately), as well as a bar graph showing how much you’ve moved each hour of the day.

So what do I think of it?

I absolutely LOVE, love, love the ActiveLink. One of the key ways that it works is that you have to hit your activity baseline before you earn any activity points, which the old system of tracking points doesn’t account for.  The idea is that the personalized daily target of points is based on doing a certain amount of activity we should be doing anyway without getting credit or extra ActivityPoints for. We’re supposed to be moving 5 minutes per hour while we’re awake WITHOUT earning any extra points, and then anything we do beyond that is where we earn extra points that we can then eat.

So basically, I have to hit this activity baseline before I earn any extra activitypoints to eat. As you probably know, I am pretty self motivated when it comes to working out, but it has really changed the way i go about the rest of my day and makes me move so much more.

A good example is that sometimes I’ll go on a run in the morning for 3 or 4 miles, and I won’t earn any points! At first, that was so annoying, but then I realized all those miles went towards hitting my baseline, and every single thing i did from then on out during the day would earn me points. It made me want to walk an extra loop around the block, take two trips from the car, get up often during the work day, and earn points just from walking to/from anywhere.

I’m lucky that I live in a city so I move a lot more just by virtue of walking everywhere, and now I feel like I get “credit” for everything, which I like. For example, sometimes I’ll opt to walk rather than drive/metro to somewhere that’s about 2 miles away, just to get in extra movement. Before, I wouldn’t have entered this as activity since I didn’t break a sweat, but now that I’m wearing the ActiveLink it accounts for that movement on top of everything else.

One other way it has changed the way I move throughout the day is that I am more aware of standing still. Like, if I’m microwaving my oatmeal at work, rather than standing there staring blankly at the microwave, I’ll walk around the kitchen or back to my desk. Same thing if I’m waiting for an elevator or doing something else where I am idle.

What are the downsides?

Honestly, not much. The device itself costs $39.95 which is a LOT cheaper than other similar things. You do have to agree to $5/month to keep it active and connected to your eTools, but that doesn’t seem like a lot to me considering how easily I can throw around $5. The one thing that is annoying but temporary is that when you first start wearing it, you have to do an 8 day assessment. During this time, you go about your regular activity and then at the end it gives you a summary of how active you are and sets a goal for you to work towards over the next 12 weeks in the form of an ActiveLink Challenge. During this 8 day assessment, you get no feedback on your movement and don’t “earn” any activity points! It was so annoying to not earn a single point that first week even though I was working out regularly, but that is only for the first 8 days so it’s not the end of the world.

Done!

Life has been a little on the hectic side lately, but I wanted to stop by quick to share with you all that I did run my fifth half marathon yesterday morning in Philadelphia, and spoiler alert, I finished despite being injured!

Half Marathon PR

And, not only did I finish, I PRed by almost 4 minutes, finishing in 2:05:08. Wahoo!!

Full recap to come soon!

A Different Kind of Long Run

Despite my injury, I still have my eyes set on running the Philadelphia Half Marathon, which is less than two weeks away. I haven’t done a long run since the one that triggered the injury, and I’ve been worried about not getting in enough mileage to be prepared.

On Thursday during my PT session, we talked about how I’ve been missing my long runs and I asked her if there was anything I could do. Since the onset of the injury, I’ve been able to comfortably run 4 or 4.5 miles, so she suggested I run 4, do 4 on the elliptical, and then get back to running for the last 2-3 and see how it felt.

So yesterday, I did just that!

Since the weather has been a lot cooler lately, I didn’t even set an alarm and just let myself wake up naturally. I had an English muffin with mashed banana for a pre-run breakfast:

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Got myself geared up:

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And out I went! I ended up wearing running crops, a running tank and sports bra, and then a running jacket over it. This way, I could do the first part of the run outside, take the jacket off when I got to the gym, and then put it back on for my walk home from the gym, and it worked out quite well.

Breaking up the run into 3 segments also worked really well because each of them felt manageable. The weather was a little chilly but perfect for running, and the first 4 miles outside went smoothly, except that I pressed reset mid-run on my running app…

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+

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= 4.01 in 34:43, or an 8:39 pace.

I ended the 4 miles right by my gym, and it actually was great because I got a drink and used the bathroom before hopping on the elliptical for the next segment.

I used this elliptical:

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Which I’d never used before, but this sign got me:

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The 4 miles on the elliptical were uneventful…

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And EXTREMELY fast. Too bad I can’t run at an 5:39 pace in real life…

After the elliptical portion, I got another drink of water and took an Espresso GU.

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I’d never tried that flavor before, and it was pretty good, but Vanilla Bean still has my heart.

After refueling, I hopped on the treadmill for the last part of this run to knock out 3 miles.

I started at 6.0 mph, and upped it by .1 every couple minutes, ending on 6.8 mph.

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In the end, I finished the 3.0 miles in 28:15, or a 9:25 average pace.

And then, at long last, I was done and super sweaty!

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I stretched a ton and foam rolled out my legs and IT band, and then called it a day.

After I was done, I kind of felt like I had cheated. Since 4 of the miles were on the elliptical and those miles went SO MUCH quicker, and were so much easier on my body, I just felt like I hadn’t actually done the mileage. But the truth is, I was doing the opposite of cheating – I was doing what’s good for my body right now. It took a little bit of a self pep talk (in my head, don’t worry), but I was able to walk out of the gym feeling proud.

As I should have been! I got 11 miles under my belt, no matter the method, plus 1 hour, 25 minutes, and 36 seconds of cardio, which is the farthest and longest I’ve gone in a LONG time. Here’s to hoping I feel this great in 2 weeks!

In His Words: Matthew’s Marathon Story

Hello readers, this is Matt writing to you again. You may remember my In His Words story featured in back in September. In that story I spoke of my intention to run the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2012. The responses to my story and the requests to hear about my marathon experience were enough that I asked Beth if I could do a follow-up piece for you. She was more than happy to feature it and here I am again.

There are many experiences in life that no matter how prepared we feel, we cannot be 100% prepared for.  The marathon and its 26 miles and 385 yards is most certainly one of those experiences.

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Race day is always such a special day for so many reasons.  No matter what the distance or how many races I have done, my emotions always seem to be all over the map.  The marathon was no different for me.  My 4:45am wake up call came and I jumped out of bed.  I was so excited to run my first marathon.

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I had my pancake breakfast, showered, stretched and got dressed to leave.

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The Chicago Marathon is a very well-oiled machine I’ll tell you.  It was nearly a 2 mile walk to my gear check area because there were three different gear check areas depending on your starting corral. My mom came with me as I got my things in order, stretched a bit, and dropped my gear off.  She gave me a big hug and off I went into Corral L around 7:45am.

It was time.

Standing in my race corral, surrounded by 45,000 other runners was really a breathtaking sight. As we inched toward the start line I found myself becoming more and more serious.  Gone were the days where I could train.  Gone were the days where I could daydream about this moment.  And gone were the days where I was not a marathoner.  The moment had come to actually do it.   At around 8:15am, I blew a kiss to the sky (something I do at every race for certain loved ones no longer with me), started my Garmin, and was off.  It was official, I was running my first ever marathon!

Start to 10K

As I began to run, a huge smile crept over my face.  I just kept thinking “I am running the Chicago Marathon.  This is so cool!”  The 10K distance went by in a blur.  The streets were lined with thousands and thousands of spectators.  That, coupled with adrenaline, had me feeling so good.  I hit the 10K mark in 1:05:48, feeling fresh and confident.

10K to Half Marathon

This might have been my favorite stretch of the race.  I knew going into the race that I would see my friends Jon, Steph, and baby Samantha (people I consider true family) at the Mile 7 marker.  I saw them right where they said they would be.  They jumped up and down and screamed when they saw me and we shared a hug.  I gave baby Sam a kiss, took a photo with Jon and Steph, and was off and running again.  It was such a boost to see them.  Miles 7 through 10 flew by as I was feeling great and knew my Mom would be waiting for me around Mile 10.  As I approached I saw her and my friend Jillian. My mom started jumping up and down like I knew she would.  I got a hug from both of them and a “You got this.” from my Mom and off I went. As I crossed into double digits and hit the half marathon marker I felt so good.  I passed the halfway mark at 2:20:19, ahead of my projected finish time, and figured if I kept at this pace I would be just fine.

Little did I know…

Half Marathon to Mile 20

This was, by far, the most lonely and challenging part of the race for me.  As I passed the Mile 14 marker my body began to do something it had never done in two years and nearly 1000 miles of running … it began to breakdown.  My quads began to violently twitch and spasm.  At first I thought it was a temporary setback and pushed through it the way I had pushed through everything else along the way in life.  The pain became so intense that it forced me to begin walking and, eventually, come to a complete stop.  I was so unprepared for something like this, as I had never experienced it before.  To look down and actually see my muscles spasming to the point that it nearly buckled me was scary.  I did what I could for the next two miles knowing my Mom had said she MIGHT be at Mile 16.  Well, Mile 16 came and went and I couldn’t find her.

At the time it was crushing.  It may seem odd for me to tell you that in a field of 45,000 runners and almost 2 million spectators that I was lonely, but I truly felt that way.  For a split second I thought “I still have ten more miles to go.” but immediately stopped that line of thought.  I made a tough decision and decided to lay down the fierce competitor in me.  The race became about finishing and not about time anymore.  When I finally got to the Mile 20 marker I saw my Mom and she knew something was wrong.  She gave me a tight hug and said exactly what I needed to hear. “Do what you have to do Matthew.  I love you.”  It was then I decided not to seek medical attention because I knew there was a chance they wouldn’t let me back out to finish.  I was willing to risk permanent injury to make this dream a reality.  I was finishing this race … by any means necessary.

Mile 20 to Finish

They say the real race begins at Mile 20.  I can’t really vouch for that, but I can tell you I learned a lot about myself during those last 6.2 miles.  My quads were still spasming but I began to figure some things out.  I shortened my running stride and was able to run easier than walk.  I ran/walked (more like a shuffle) the rest of the way.  I was able to put together a 10:45 pace when I did run and felt pretty good.  I saw the the “1 mile to go” sign and decided to run that last mile.  As I turned the corner past the Mile 26 marker and saw the finish line it dawned on me … I was about to finish.  After 5 hours, 24 minutes, and 45 seconds, I raised my arm to the sky and crossed the finish line.  It was official.  Matthew Frates had become a marathoner.

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In the weeks since then I have had some time to really think about the whole experience. While training for this took place in 2012, the real journey toward this moment started back in 2010 when I decided to get my life together.  As much as this race for was for me, I realize now that it was as much for those I hold close as it was for me.  I received an overwhelming amount support along the way and I know I would never have achieved all that I have without it.  I was fortunate to not only have my Mom there, but four of my closest friends as well.

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I will never be able to truly express what that meant to me and I know that no matter where my life takes me I will never forget this experience and everything they contributed to making it such a success.  26.2 miles is a humbling distance and the experience of running it taught me many things.  The most important thing it taught me is that no matter what life throws my way, I will never again think or feel that I cannot do it.  I am a marathoner and no one will EVER be able to take that away from me.  Thank you so much for reading my story.

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