Tag Archives: Running

Weekend Warrior

23 Jun

Last weekend started with a dear friend’s bachelorette party, since this isn’t a party blog I won’t go into the details of what we did. Instead I’ll share with you some of the food and beverage choices I made starting with dinner on Friday at Adobo Grill a fairly traditional Mexican Restaurant.

There were eight of us and we shared a bunch of small plates. We ordered tamales, sopes, quesadillas, ceviche, salmon tacos and guacamole – which is some of the best in the city. A woman rolled out a cart to our table and made it our heat preference: mild, medium and hot.

Adobo Guacamole Cart

Adobo Guacamole Cart

They make guacamole just like how I would make it at home, amazing! We loved it so much that we ordered a second bowl.

Adobo Guacamole

Adobo Guacamole

The sopes, they look pretty but were disappointing in flavor. The first one was filled with plantains in mole sauce, the middle was filled with shrimp in salsa and the third one pork with goat cheese. The pork one was my favorite of the three, but I wouldn’t order these again.

Adobo Sopes

Adobo Sopes

During dinner and the rest of the weekend I didn’t pay attention to food portions, calories, ingredients, labels or protein intake. Whatever was in front of me I ate. I didn’t feel guilty nor do I regret what I ate. In fact I enjoyed most of it, it was delicious. What I didn’t enjoy was the full feeling I had, the feeling of the tortilla chips sitting in the pit of my stomach until the next day and the insatiable thirst I had due to  high sodium intake and putting on 3 lbs of water weight. Eating junk food once in a while and going overboard is a reminder of why I choose to eat clean everyday. Also, I had two alcoholic beverages the entire night, I can only imagine how much worse I would’ve felt had I drank more.

Later in the weekend…

  Warrior Dash

Warrior Dash

For those of you not familiar with Warrior Dash it’s a 3.3 mile obstacle course with cargo nets, mud pits, barbed wire, fire and more mud. This race was awesome! We signed up for the second run of the day at 8:30am, a very smart decision. The course gets muddier and muddier throughout the day as thousands of people run through it.

This is how it started.

Sqeaky Clean

Squeaky Clean

This is how it ended.

Muddy Muscles

Muddy Muscles

Muddy Muscles 2

Muddy Muscles 2

I finished with a time of 39:33.60 that put me in the top 20% overall and top 7% for my gender age group. Because of all the muddy obstacles I couldn’t run with my Polar heart rate monitor, normally I rely very heavily on it. I felt a little naked at first but once I got going I didn’t worry about it. This was the first race where I pushed myself so hard that I had to stop at one of the water stations to pour the water on my head to calm down. What can I say, I got excited. I’m always trying to beat my own time and do my personal best. I also know that my racing was impacted by the way I ate over the weekend. I definitely felt slower than normal, I won’t have to learn that lesson again.

Have I mentioned how much I love racing culture? If you’re reading this and have never participated in a race I don’t care how slow you think you are, DO IT! You can thank me later.

I’m considering a new kind of challenge for next year the 10-mile Tough Mudder. I wonder who I could get to do it with me. Who’s in?


More than Running

13 Jun

I’ve officially completed my first week of half marathon training. So far so strong.

Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Joanna's First Half Marathon

As I mentioned I signed up for a special 10-week training program with Armando at my gym. (P.S. He has a guest post coming up soon about massage therapy). The training program includes a boot camp class once a week, a personal training session once a week, a 10-week running schedule and a nutrition expert looking at how I’m eating. Given all I have learned about my body this past March (the resting metabolic rate and SubMax tests) I want to be under careful supervision for this race.

What I’m most excited for is fine-tuning my training. In the past I’d created workout plans for myself for races and that worked just fine. I now want to focus on taking racing to the next level to be stronger, faster and more efficient. I’ve set a goal of finishing this race in under two hours, it’s really going to take some diligent training on my part to accomplish that.

Some things that are different this time around are that I’m focusing on strength training, stretching, foam rolling and eating for endurance sports. Yeah I will do the running, but I really think that for me to get faster and stronger I need to incorporate all of these other aspects of training.

The first week’s schedule looked like this:
Monday – Personal Training Session, focus on agility, balance and strength
Tuesday – Rest day
Wednesday – Boot Camp
Thursday – Running Club, 50 minute run
Friday – Strength and stretch, chest and abs
Saturday – 6 mile run
Sunday – Strength, legs

For you runners do you think about strength training and stretching when you’re training for a race? For you non-runners, does this make running races more appealing to hear that stretching and strength training are crucial components to running?

I am not a Runner

10 Jun

Recently I told a friend that I am not a runner. Really. I’m not.

As a young girl, I watched Ironman competitions on TV thinking it was the coolest thing ever and that I could never do that because I am not a runner.

In high school, I had a hard time running a 12-minute mile, I think my fastest was 13:30. Always in the back with the slow pack. In college I dabbled in treadmill and never made it much past 2-miles @ 12-minutes a piece huffing and puffing the entire time.

Then came the late twenties when I tried my hand at triathlon, I did 6 my first year. I’d smoke most people in the water, I felt strong on the bike and everyone would pass me when it came to the run. The fact that they were all  passing me didn’t even matter, I felt slow. My legs were heavy and my lungs never quite big enough. I was not a runner.

I don’t like feeling limited. I don’t like to feel like I can’t do something. So I signed up for a 15k race. Had Armando train me for it. I finished with an awesome pace. I signed up for a 10K. Armando kept training me. A month later I ran it and shaved a minute off my pace. All of sudden I was capable of running 9:15 miles. That was fast for someone who’s not a runner.

This year, I completed a 3.5 mile race and to my surprise was the fastest woman in my company. Two days later I completed a 10-mile race. The 10-mile run felt awesome. Sure people were passing me up, but I felt fast. Legs were strong, I had plenty of space in my lungs, I felt like I was flying. I was a runner.

Running Club

Me after a midweek run

Now I wonder what else I’m telling myself that I’m not capable of that I can actually do. I have a few ideas, but I bet I’m not alone. All those things you don’t think you can do, I bet you can.

Is there something you’ve recently accomplished that you were sure you couldn’t do? What’s something you tell yourself you can’t do?

Racing and Blogging Friends

8 Jun

Where oh where have I been lately? I’ve been exercising, racing, eating well, meeting blogger friends, traveling, co-planning fundraising events and enjoying the Chicago summer.

For a quick update, in the last two weeks I ran a 3-mile race, a 10-mile race and registered for a half marathon:
Chase Corporate Challenge – Finished in 29:54, I was the fastest female at my company.
Soldier Field 10-Miler – Finished in 1:42:11, 10:14 pace, my longest distance race to date.
Rock N Roll Half Marathon – Registered for this race and signed up for a special training program at my gym. This will be my longest race ever. I’ll be blogging about my training as I go along in the coming months.

Also in the last week I met some blogging friends: Tiffany, Amy and Stacie. Thanks to Tiffany for coordinating the meet-up and picking a great spot, Coast Sushi in Bucktown. I officially love blogger meet-ups. Usually I get nervous meeting new people but you would have never known it with these ladies, we were chatting it up like old friends the entire three-hour dinner!

I ordered a seaweed salad and sashimi, two different tunas and salmon.


I’m not terribly picky about sushi, very easy to please. This place was especially fresh. I love sushi because it’s so easy to eat clean as long as you avoid the mayo and fried stuff. Sashimi is my dish of choice, unless brown rice rolls are available.

For dessert three of us split four pieces of mochi ice cream.

Green tea and tiramisu mochi ice cream

Green tea and tiramisu mochi ice cream

The pink one (tiramisu) was AMAZING! A small bite was the perfect end to the meal.

And here are the gorgeous ladies (excuse the red-eye):

Amy, Tiffany and Stacie

The beautiful Amy, Tiffany and Stacie

I was very happy to break my routine of staying in on Thursdays and go out to meet these women. Looking forward to the next meet-up.

What have you all been up to in the last couple of months? How have your fitness goals been going? Has anyone competed in any races or fulfilled on a weight loss goal? I’d love to hear from you!

Resolve to Fulfill on your Fitness Resolutions in 2011

11 Jan

With the New Year having just arrived and everyone making resolutions, I don’t think I can escape at least one post. This post isn’t going to be about resolutions per se, it’s about achieving your fitness goals and the difference it makes to work with a personal trainer, regardless of the time of the year. Some people see working with a trainer as a luxury or for people just starting out, I see it as a necessity for someone who is looking to make a real impact and change in their approach to health and fitness.

Over the years I’ve changed the way that I workout from massive amounts of cardio (triathlon training) and almost zero lifting weights to primarily supplementing weight training with cardiovascular exercise and stretching. I used to go to the gym and hit up the treadmill or elliptical for 60-90 minutes and these days I head straight for the free weights. I’m now well versed in the benefits of weight training. I have never had better results in terms of changing the shape of my body than with weight training. I didn’t learn this on my own and I don’t train on my own. I have a personal trainer and his name is Armando.

Even before working with Armando I had a triathlon trainer to coach me in the right amount of training for racing such long distances. My coach was and iron man competitor. I like to be trained by the best!

Working with Armando I have completely transformed the way I approach exercise and the way I relate to food. Relate to food? Yes, that may sound strange and it is something that you may never think about, but it’s crucial to producing results. He has not only taught me about how to most effectively workout for the type of results I want to achieve but also how to eat for performance. In the three years I have been working with him, I went down four pants sizes from 12 to 4. I really never thought it would be possible for me to wear a size 4, that my body was just not made that way I was wrong and I am still losing weight and gaining muscle. Additionally, under Armando’s care it took me less than 2 months to go from running an 11-minute mile to 9-minute 10k pace. That’s an insanely fast increase and I’ve never been that fast or had such an extreme jump in pace – not even with my former Iron Man trainer!

So you can get an idea of what going from size 12 to 4 looks like, here are some embarrassing photos of me in Vegas:

Me at the pool in Vegas

Me at the pool in Vegas

Another one of me at the pool in Vegas

Another one of me at the pool in Vegas

Me in Vegas

Me in Vegas

And here’s a YouTube  video of me jumping rope. You should know that before my training with Armando, I couldn’t walk without tripping. I just wasn’t that coordinated or balanced!

This is what convinced me that Armando is a specialist at what he does; he knew what I needed to do to enhance my performance.

I could go on and on about why training with a trainer is a great idea, but I will let the expert tell you in his own words. Thanks Armando for sharing your expertise!

Armando, personal trainer

Armando, personal trainer

What does a trainer provide that people can’t get from a book?
A trainer provides accountability. That word represents many things when used in relation to a personal trainer. First and foremost, there is having someone actually there with you pushing you along as you exercise. Exercise can be a ‘solo’ activity and often times that alone turns people off to idea of training.

A good trainer knows that he/she will be your cheerleader (sometimes the only one) and that his/her role is crucial in having you continue and be successful – a master trainer knows that it will take much more than just that. A crucial part to achieving any kind of success is having a community of people around you moving in a similar direction.  How do you do that?  How do you get others around you to be in sync with what you are out to accomplish even if they aren’t committed to that? Well, an expert trainer can and will have this happen. This is one area that has me stand out among the rest. I focus my attention on getting the people in my clients’ lives to support them in their fitness goals.

The bottom line is that there is an emotional connection with food. If you are human, you have this emotional connection. No exceptions.  A highly skilled trainer will not only help you work on your physical/biological muscles, but also will aid in you transforming your relationship to food.  Why is this relevant?  Nobody can just switch from one form of eating to another; I don’t care who you are.

A good fitness coach/personal trainer is in so many words, someone who can communicate effectively to people and above all, a leader.

What should someone take into consideration when they are choosing a trainer?
Make sure they are certified.  It matters that they know what they’re talking about. Anybody can tell you to do certain exercises – ANYBODY. A certified/educated/specialized trainer will not arbitrarily have you do that. He/she will know how to start you off and why to start you off that way.  It isn’t just about grabbing weights and taking off – oh no, not at all – this is a very common thing average trainers will do.

Is the trainer in shape, do they have the type of physique that you want?
I’m a long time athlete and former amateur bodybuilder. I have trained with and by the best.  I prefer to know that my trainer isn’t just someone who read a book and knows a bunch of stuff. I want someone who knows it AND has lived it. I want someone to look at and admire as I bust my ass.  I need a look at a desired future in front of me, not a reminder of why I am working out in the first place.  Finding the combination of both the scientific knowledge and the matching physique is a rare commodity, but trust that when you find that combination it will matter to know and see what you’re working with.

Do they live the lifestyle themselves (eat healthy, etc.)?
They better! I would want someone who has deep seeded roots in what it is they do for a living, someone who is a walking billboard of what it is that they say they are about. In other words, are they living it – or are they your average prototype personal trainer. You wouldn’t hire a business coach who doesn’t own his own business and furthermore not been successful with it – well the same follows suit.

Is the trainer only knowledgeable in creating workouts?
Once again, exercising is so much more than working up a sweat and calling it a day. As I told you earlier, ANYBODY can come up with a workout. A world-class trainer will know to test/look for imbalances, structural deficiencies, postural alignment, testing for appropriately firing muscles – oh yes, muscles have an order in which they are meant to fire.  You’re in a heap of trouble if your trainer doesn’t know how to look for that and correct it.  This is only the beginning…

Do they have, at the very least, foundational knowledge about nutrition?
Personal trainers are not nutritionists (unless they actually are), but I personally feel that anybody who says they train/teach people how to exercise HAS to have more than an adequate amount of knowledge in what to eat. There is so much more than simply eating.  Knowing what to eat, when to eat, and sometimes how much to eat will make or break an exercise program. Period. I strongly believe that the client should most importantly know WHY it is they are eating what they are eating. The second there is a reason, a context, if you will, for why you are ingesting what you are ingesting – the most crucial part has been connected. Once you know why, most will be able to envision it, feel it, and even taste it (yes, the experience of food can alter the second you view it as something other than food).  All the tremendous success my clients have experienced have been only after they knew the in’s and out’s of it all.

Are they fun?
Training is not always enjoyable. Especially if you are continually being asked to go beyond what is comfortable for you physically. Do they not only make the experience fun and enjoyable and have it not seem like “work”, but do they change things up and keep you mentally stimulated. This is crucial especially to people who get bored easily.  An excellent trainer will know that changing things up will keep the muscles growing while still maintaining the catered goals/workouts all intact.

If you have any questions for him, leave a comments, he will answer right here.

Turkey Trot 10K

7 Dec

On Thanksgiving I started off the day with a Turkey Trot 10k in my Five Finger shoes. (I know it’s way past Thanksgiving time, but everyone can take away the value of maintaining a fitness regimen during the holiday season.) I’ve been breaking my Five Fingers in slowly, increasing a mile or less at a time.


Five Fingers

On race day it was about 40º F, I thought I had dressed appropriately…

Me Pre-Race

Pre race me

…I wore compression pants, sports bra, dry weave t-shirt, dry-weave long sleeve shirt, vest (that came in the race goody bag), gloves and a hat. I stood around outside waiting for the race to start for about an hour. I thought I was freezing. I was worried about my toes and body before the run, my mind started to go into a mild panic and I began to have thoughts like, “maybe this was a bad idea,” “what if my toes are numb the whole way,” “I should have never worn these stinking Five Fingers,” “I should turn around and go home.” I guess you can call that pre-race jitters, I get these each and every time I race.

Well, there was no need to panic because after the first 10 minutes of running, everything warmed up and I was sweating. I think I had put on just enough layers to stay comfortable and my toes were just fine.

A few tips for those of you doing cold weather racing:
• Dress for 20º warmer than it actually is
• Your toes will warm up if you’re wearing Five Fingers once you get moving (in 40º weather)
• If you’re running with a buddy and their race starts first, don’t check your bag with them

As for race results, I did some personal bests!
Time: 57:03
Mile: 9:12 (that’s 30 seconds faster than any mile pace I’ve ever run)

My next race isn’t until the end of February, I’m doing the Hustle up the Hancock. My goal is to beat last year’s time of 20:30.

Is anyone doing any cool races this winter? I don’t know about you, but I love the challenge of a winter run.

Hot Chocolate 15K, Done!

9 Nov

I did it! I ran 15 kilometers! And I ran them in 1hr 30 min 23 sec at a pace of 9:42. So not only did I run the longest race of my life I ran the fastest pace of my life. This is what I looked like after running 15K.

Jo with chocolate

Jo with chocolate (photo courtesy of Carolyn Rogowski- Liptak)

Here I am with my friend Carrie, who did her first 5k. She loved racing so much she’s going to do another run this weekend.

Carrie and Jo

Carrie and me (photo courtesy of Carolyn Rogowski- Liptak)

This is a photo she took of the amazing view:


Chicago Skyline (photo courtesy of Carolyn Rogowski- Liptak)

It was a great run, I felt completely prepared after two and a half months of training. If you remember I created this training regimen a back in August.  Here’s what I did and didn’t do.

The daily actions I will be taking from now until November 6 are:
• Logging my food intake everyday
Stopped logging food intake late September. I started to feel a bit obsessive about it, so I stopped with the intention of returning to it in October but I never did pick it back up.
• Doing my workouts and logging them everyday
I was 80% effective in logging my workouts and I did most of them. I ran at least twice a week every week and I did plenty of foam rolling and stretching. I was also consistent with weight training 2-3 times per week.
• Getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night
I stopped logging this when I stopped logging my food intake, but I did become much more aware of my sleeping patterns and generally have started sleeping more.

• Ask at least one person per day one of two questions:
What are your dreams? What do you like about your life? What are you grateful for?
I started this off pretty consistently, asking my office mates, friends and family these questions but about a month into it I stopped.

In addition to the daily actions I will take some other miscellaneous actions:
• Host a ‘Clean’ dinner party at my home once a month Have not done this, but I do have a dinner scheduled at someone else’s home next month.
• Get a Sub Max test Did not do this, yet.
• Clean two closets Cleaned one closet.
• Paint bedroom walls Did not do this.

The conclusion is that I was too ambitious in declaring that I would take all these new actions and then not effective in scheduling them. Sometimes I would think about all the things I said I would do and it would make me tired and even distract me from my workouts. Next time I will focus on 2-3 actions and if I choose any miscellaneous actions I will pick a date and put them in my calendar right away, even if they’re two or three months out.

As for recovery after the run, my plans for the next week are to eat well, stretch, drink plenty of water and go to at least one yoga class. I’m signing up for a couple other races, I’ll post more about those later in the week.

I know at least a couple of readers who ran this weekend, how was your experience? Are you happy with your time? What’s next for you?

Coldest Running Club

29 Oct

Chicago’s had its first string of cold fall days and yesterday marked the first cold running club. When I signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15k I knew I’d be doing some training in the cold. So far we’ve been very lucky to have a warm October from mid-60s to mid-70s. But not yesterday, it was 45º and windy! A few brave souls came out for the run.

Running Club

Amanda, Me, Eugene

Although it wasn’t freakishly cold yet, I wanted to be sure to be prepared for the run. I did a little research on cold weather running and here is the most valuable information for running in 30º-45º:

• Wear layers so you can take stuff off as you get warm.
• Don’t over-dress, dress for 20º warmer than the actual temperature. It’s OK to be a little chilly when first getting outside.
• Warm up and stretch inside prior to going out for your run.
• Wear running gloves or mittens, and mittens are a better choice on colder days because your fingers will share their body heat.
• Wear a hat.

As you can see in the photo above, we were dressed adequately for the most part.

We ran for 58 minutes last night and I felt good the entire time. I was a little slower than normal, but I never felt cold once I started running. The two things I wished I had were running gloves and a hat. I’ll be researching and shopping for those over the weekend.

Does anyone have suggestions for a good pair of running gloves and hat?

Stick to the Original Plan

14 Oct

Last night I had one of those nights where I had every valid excuse in the world for not working out. First, my legs were sore from Tuesday night’s workout. Our running club run was scheduled for 4.30pm. Then, some things came up at work that had us start later than expected. When I finally got around to changing at 5.30pm I realized I was missing a very important piece of equipment, my sports bra. I could have taken this as a sign, maybe the heaven’s don’t want me to run today my legs hurt, we’re running late and now this. While that may be so, I decided that I was going to be the one that get’s to say when I run and when I don’t.

My running partner, Amanda, and I devised a plan. We made a pit stop at TJ Maxx to buy a sports bra and continued with our running plans. I got my sports bra and bought a new long-sleeve running shirt, threw away the stained, holey t-shirt I was wearing (it was time to retire that thing anyway) and took off for our run along the Chicago lake front.

It was a tough run, I’m not going to lie, my calves and my quads were sore the entire time. Even after a warm up I couldn’t get my muscles to stop hurting. Typically on Wednesdays I work on heart rate training, yesterday it was all about finishing without stopping. We would up running four miles up and around Navy Pier and we got to watch the sunset over the beautiful Chicago skyline.


Navy Pier in Chicago, view from Aon Building.

Image via Wikipedia


In the end I felt great, not because the run made me feel better but because I took control of what I was going to do. a I did not give in the circumstances of forgetting stuff at home and having sore muscles. (As a side note, I am not injured, I am following a training schedule under the supervision of a personal trainer where muscle soreness is expected. I also have days for rest, recovery and massage. If you are injured or have extreme muscle fatigue please consult a health professional before pushing yourself.)

What made the experience great yesterday was that I chose to stick to my commitment. Exercise in and of itself has many benefits but it is the ability to have a commitment and stick to it that had this experience be so rewarding.

So next time you want to skip a workout just because it seems like things aren’t going smoothly, just stick to it. You will feel better that you did. I have yet to regret choosing gym over no gym.

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