Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two More Great Interval Workouts To Keep You Going!

Here's a couple more great interval blasts to kickstart your holiday month.

First, from the Fitness Explorer, a "deadmill" workout that will toast you in no seconds flat!

And if that wasn't enough, tonight when you watch Glee (or tomorrow when you watch it on Tivo or Hulu), try Ben Greenfield's awesome Official Glee Indoor Cycling Workout posted over on Trifuel.com.


Monday, November 29, 2010

No Time to Exercise? No Excuses! Choose Intensity

This time of year, the daylight hours are short, schedules get crazy, holidays intervene with parties, visitors, and special events. Who has time to exercise? Sometimes I might only get twenty to thirty minutes here or there in a busy day. It's very easy to just throw in the towel for the day. After all, what's the point of just getting a fifteen minute workout?

Actually, there is a point. You can craft a workout that takes less than fifteen minutes that will give you the equivalent of a longer distance slog if you use intensity. Here's four easy (nah, I won't call them easy, in fact you'll feel like puking) high-intensity workouts that take less than twenty minutes:

1. Hill Repeats: Can be done running or on a bike. Pick your favorite local hill (or, if you live in Florida, a highway overpass). Warm up for at least 5 - 7 minutes. Run or bike as hard as you can uphill for three minutes. Turn and head back downhill. The downhill part will take less time, but too bad. Repeat 3 - 5 times for a killer workout that will help your strength and stamina on a hilly course.

2. Tabatas: The beauty of the Tabata Protocol is that you can do it with any exercise. I've done it with the rowing machine, done it running, done it with squats, pullups, pushups, or other bodyweight exercises. The main part of the exercise only lasts four minutes, but those four minutes hurt. Like really hurt. Don't do this if you're not already in excellent shape, because you should be flat-out going as hard as you can. Don't pop an artery trying this if you're not already in good cardiovascular health.

The Tabata protocol is simply put:

  • 5 minutes of warm-up
  • 8 intervals of 20 seconds all-out intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • 2 minutes cool-down
If you have extra time, spend it on the warmup, it's best to approach the Tabatas completely warmed up. By the end of four minutes, you should be completely spent.

3. The fat-burner 30:90. I got this workout from Dr. Mercola in this excellent article It's worth taking the time to read it all, because it explains how this workout pumps up your human growth hormone (HGH) levels, and how to keep them higher after the workout is over.

This workout consists of a few minutes of warm up, then eight intervals of 30 seconds ALL OUT (yes, that's ALL OUT in ALL CAPS because that's how this one rolls), with each followed by 90 seconds of rest. This one is a doozy, and like the tabata you can use it running, on a bike trainer, on a rowing machine, or in any number of variations (burpees would be good!)

4. The Ladder: This is a good limited-time technique, and I use ladders frequently while running or swimming. Simply put, you do intervals of intensity that get longer, then shorter. Here's one example of a ladder:

Warmup: 5 minutes
Ladder: 1 minute HI (High Intensity), 1 minute recover
2 minutes HI, 1 minute recover
3 minutes HI, 1 minute recover
4 minutes HI, 1 minute recover
3 minutes HI, 1 minute recover
2 minutes HI, 1 minute recover
1 minutes HI, 1 minute recover
Cool Down

You can make the ladder as long or as short as you want, and you can vary the intensity from very short intense bursts to longer near-threshold levels.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Snap: Prissy Dog Meets The Elements

Normally Small Evil Dog does not like bad weather. She's really a prissy Manhattanite kind of dog - she would do well in a toasty apartment being taken out for walks wearing an Oscar de la Renta custom doggie sweater. She's not really bred for the harsh Northwest winters of sleet and freezing rain. This may be TMI, but if you put her out in the rain to do her business, she won't even walk out onto the wet cold lawn. She'll go to the edge of the deck and hang her dainty behind off and poo with all four feet planted squarely on the decking. That's when she doesn't just decide to heck with it and poo on the deck. Any wonder I call her Small Evil Dog?

But when the snow fell this week and the kids headed outdoors with great whoops of joy, sleds in hand to slide down our hill on a scant quarter inch of slushy white stuff, both dogs followed and romped around in the snow. Now in this photo, Callie looks like she's wishing she could head quickly back in by the fire, but she really did have a good time in the snow, I swear. What I'm terribly, terribly afraid of is that hubby will buy her some of those little doggy shoes to go with her ridiculous rain coat. And then I really will not be able to be seen in public with her at all.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Motivating the Unmotivated

There is a particular form of lethargy that settles on me after a long car trip. Maybe it's because as a kid we lived in different places around the country but always drove home to Oregon for holidays. Whether it was from Oklahoma City, Albequerque, or San Francisco, my parents would throw us in the back of the enormous Vista Cruiser station wagon and start driving. Car travel became associated in my mind with sleepiness, one reason I won't drive after dark without downing copious amounts of caffeinated food and beverages. As hubby could undoubtably tell you, I can fall asleep in any moving vehicle at any moment, often in mid-sentence.

So here I am, post-Thanksgiving-holiday-car-trip, trying to motivate myself to head out to a garage that's colder than hell's backside in order to do some kind of workout. It ain't happening. As you noticed, I'm obviously sitting in front of my nice warm keyboard, happy purring cat curled on lap. When we reach the finish line of  a race, or the achievement of a big goal like the black belt I'm working toward, the sweet taste of success is measured in moments such as these. These are the times that try an athlete's soul and measure their worth. Or, as Bruce Lee (who would've incredibly been seventy years old today, November 27!) put it A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”. 
So how do we motivate ourselves when we are absolutely at the bottom end of unmotivation? I think for myself, I'm going to go up on Crossfit's website and find the hardest workout I can do with the equipment I've got. Sometimes when I least want to be challenged, that's when I need to put the biggest challenges in front of myself. Then I'm going to crank up the tunes and go to it. I know I'll feel better when I'm done. Then maybe it's time to rent a Bruce Lee movie or two.

How about you? How do you motivate yourself to work out when you really don't want to? What is it that separates those of us still exercising now in the darkest days of November from all of the New Year's resolutionists who will start on January 2nd and fizzle out by mid-February?

Happy Birthday Bruce, you are still an inspiration!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Guaranteed Burn, Optional Hurl

Hubby and I did on a grueling mud-drenched seven mile trail run this morning, came across this sign. I love the "Guaranteed Burn, Optional Hurl" of this trail. It was strangely prophetical as the trail wound up a challenging grade covered with clay mud so slippery it was like ice skating up a 15 degree slope. Not to mention, our shoes had so much mud and leaves stuck to them it was like running with two-pound ankle weights.

Still, you can see the sun shining through the trees, and we took Sophie the AdventureDog along and got to have an uninterrupted hour+ of conversation doing what we love the most: being together, outdoors, active. Now that's something to be thankful for! So on that subject, yesterday's body part on my list of thankfulness had to be my mouth. What an amazing thing, to be able to taste all of those good foods, to savor all of the wonderful ingredients of the day, not to mention have the feast available to us that we had. Pecan-coconut yams, green beans in a maple-mustard-balsamic sauce, and a turkey roasted up just right. My mom even went to the trouble of finding a humanely-raised antibiotic and gunk-free bird this year, which was so thoughtful of her, and local cranberries from an Oregon bog that made a sauce so tart and scrumptious, it was just the right tangy counterpart to the turkey.

Today I'm grateful for my strong ankles. They carried me over roots, rocks, and slippery slide slopes of mud with nary an ankle-turn. I feel lucky to be able to be out in my childhood stomping grounds, running through the woods I played in as a kid, feeling the freedom of a body that moves just right. Happy day after Thanksgiving folks!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

If I Only Had a Brain

Recently, I held a human brain in my hands. It seemed... strangely empty. And rubbery, definitely rubbery, though that might've been the formaldehyde. My son and I got to spend a couple of hours in a cadaver lab as part of a homeschooling excursion (don't we homeschoolers do the funnest stuff?) and that's how I came to be holding brains (as well as hearts and other assorted organs).

Which brings me to the body part I'm most thankful for today: my brain. Specifically, as it relates to exercise, the parts of my brain that hook up to the parts of my body and make them move right. Most of us take this for granted, right? I want to move my right arm in a certain way and voila! My right arm moves. I don't even have to think about it, it just miraculously happens. But that's not the case for everyone.

My son was born with some real brain-body connection problems. They were more or less summed up under the umbrella term "Sensory Processing Disorder" but one of the things this meant is that he couldn't cross the center line of his body with either hand. His left brain-to-right-hand connection wasn't quite wired up right. Ever tried to dress yourself without crossing your center line? How about cutting up something on your plate? He even drew pictures by drawing one half of a boat or person on one half of the page, then switching the crayon to the other hand to draw on the other half of the page. It took years of motor skill therapy and vision therapy to get everything working more or less correctly. That's one reason my smile is so huge when I watch him do karate now. For him to be able to coordinate moves fluidly, quickly, and powerfully is not something to take for granted.

So on this second day of body thankfulness, I'm going to be thankful for my brain and all of those little nerves and wires and stuff that connect it to my muscles. They all work! I can move my body the way I want to (unless I try to put on some hip hop moves, in which case they aren't really quite up to the task). As I coach people, I can readily see that people have widely varying motor skills. For some people, all you have to do is say "move your left hand more this way" and they can do it. Bam! Their brain-body connection is strong and they have good mental control over their muscles. For others, it can take months of drills and concentration just to change their hand position by a few microns. It's not something to take for granted if you're reasonably coordinated.

It just hit me yesterday that I've always tended to be drawn to sports where coordination is a big part of competence. Swimming, karate, volleyball, these are things that I can do well in. Sports that just take the body with very little brain, well they're not usually my forte. If I could get better at running by using my brain more, I might just be a better runner. But sadly it seems to be mostly the legs that count when you're running, and mine aren't ever going to be particularly fast. So for today, I'll be grateful that I have a brain, and unlike the one in the cadaver lab, it's still humming along nicely inside my skull where it belongs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks, One Body Part at a Time

It's a week that many of us in America choose to focus on thankfulness and gratitude. And where better to start than with something many of us are not thankful enough for: our bodies. We may moan, groan, whine, complain, bitch, , and despair over our bodies, but rarely are we truly grateful for the miracles we inhabit. Ever look back at photos of yourself from your twenties and say "Why the hell didn't I appreciate THAT?" My skin was smooth, you could bounce a quarter off my ass, there were no ripples, wrinkles, or dimples (other than in my cheeks, the ones on my face thank you very much.)

Well guess what? We're going to be eighty someday (at least I hope so) and we're going to look back at these bodies we have right now and say "Why the hell didn't I appreciate THAT?" Everything works! It doesn't take me twenty minutes to get out of bed in the morning or use the bathroom. I still have all my teeth, and don't wear bifocals. My skin doesn't look like a topo map of the Badlands.

So in this week of gratefulness, let's take a moment and pick a body part to be thankful for each day. We can start the day with something easy. Not one of the toughies, not the backs of our thighs or the wiggly part on our upper arms. Let's just appreciate something good. Mine today is my feet. A friend in karate the other day said "you're so lucky,  you have good feet" and you know what? She's right! My arches are high and steady, my feet are flexible enough to kick strongly when I swim. I don't get blisters when I run. Not even in the Ironman did I get one single blister. That's a minor miracle right there. I don't have bunions, corns, warts, plantar fasciitis, ingrown toenails or varicose veins. My feet work. Day in and day out. A ten mile run on a rocky trail, two hours of karate barefoot on the mats. They work. I love them. Today I am thankful for my feet.

What about you? What's an easy body part to be grateful for today?

Monday, November 22, 2010

How I'm Pissing People Off This Thanksgiving

It used to be that I pissed people off at Thanksgiving by being a vegetarian. You know, I was that pesky person who brought their own Tofurkey to the traditional carnivore's feast. I was the one averting my eyes as they fired up the electric carving knife to saw through the sinews and muscle fibers of a large dead bird. But all that's behind me now, I can go to a Thanksgiving meal and dig into some deceased fowl with abandon. And you know what? I feel a lot healthier for it too. No more pale-skinned drag-through-the-day anemia. No more soy-induced thyroid cysts, no more grain-overdosed joint inflammation.

But, extremist that I am, I couldn't leave it at that. In the past year or so my personal pendulum has swung in the other direction and just kept swinging. Not content to merely jettison the Tofurkey, I've gone wholeheartedly Paleo, sending the grains and potatoes packing as well. So long stuffing, Auf wiederehen white bread, Hasta Luego mashed potato! You might say I'm taking Thanksgiving much closer to the meal that was probably enjoyed by the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims. I doubt they had Stouffer stuffing at their microwavable fingertips, though they did eat corns and grains.

So what exactly am I eating at Thanksgiving this year? Most of the stuff that everyone else is: the turkey, the salad, the green beans (which I like to make with a balsamic/maple/mustard sauce), yams (I add coconut, butter, and pecans), and I'm going to try this sausage stuffing recipe from Rational Jenn's website. One thing I like about this stuffing is I can make it almost 100% locavore since we have sausage in our freezer, fennel, onion, and garlic still from our garden, and local mushrooms coming out our ears at this time of year.

I'm saving all of my non-Paleo goodness for some real pumpkin pie. I'll make it with pumpkins from our garden, eggs from our chickens, and raw goat's milk from a local farm. I cut the sweetening in the old-fashioned Betty Crocker recipe way down, since my taste buds are not used to too much sweetness, but do use some raw sugar. And real whipped cream of course!

So hopefully no one will be offended if I pass many of the dishes right on to the next person and just enjoy the parts of the meal that make my body feel great.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Snap: Camouflage

You can tell why she's the perfect hunter. Here's my cat Patches moving through the forest at a dead run.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Don't Step Into the Middle of a Dogfight

Today Small Evil Dog decided to pick a fight with Wonderdog. In case you're wondering, Small Evil Dog is the one on the right. Don't be fooled by her cute face, she's like Cameron, the cute girl Terminator in the Sarah Connor Chronicles: she might seem like your friend but you never know when her chip is going to go bad. Today the chip went Wrong and she turned into the Terminator edition of a cute Beagle/Jack Russell terrier. Small Evil Dog chased one of our cats, got swatted for her troubles and decided to take it out on Sophie, who is normally so mellow that she'll happily submit rather than tangle. But today Wonderdog had had ENOUGH of Small Evil Dog's attitude and decided to give it back.

That's when things got ugly and I had to try to break it up. It's hard to pull apart two dogs who are going at it, and although our two play fight a lot, I've never seen them this angry. I ended up picking up Small Evil Dog, but Sophie was still attached by the jaws, and in a contorted position trying to lift sixty-five pounds of dogflesh-gone-mad, my back and shoulders are now paying the price. By halfway through my trail run this afternoon, my shoulders had climbed up to my ears and I had the approximate gait of Igor. Of course, this would also be the day when I promised Asa I would take her to the gym to play raquetball (following my own advice to keep the kids active in the winter). Thank god for the hot tub at the gym or I never would've survived.

This week I'm making hubby keep his word about that remote-controlled shock collar...

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Black Belt: What It Takes

Have you ever wondered what it means to be a black belt? When I started in martial arts training, like all of the other lower belts I was in utter awe of the black belts. It was like the superheros from Justice League had descended to earth to walk with the mere mortals.I knew what I had to accomplish to get to my next belt level, but I had no earthly idea how someone attained a black belt. All I knew is that they had to be very very good, I could tell that when I watched them practice. They were fast, lightning fast. Their moves were powerful and sure, their stances were strong and steady, their kicks looked like they could break you in two. At the time, my punches felt awkward, my stances a bit shaky, and kicks... well let's just say that kicks were my weak point for a loooonnnggg time.

So now that I'm at the point where my goal has gone from achieving a gold belt to a blue to an orange, purple, green, and brown... I'm staring at what it takes to become a black belt.  By now, the years of drilling the basics (blocks, punches, stances, kicks) have moved my technique from the shaky to the solid, from the slow to the at least reasonably fast. Adding in the kickboxing recently has started taken my kicks and punches to the next level of speed and power. I'm beginning to think that they might be approaching black belt quality. That's good!

But wait, there's more. A lot more. Learning the basics is like learning the alphabet: you can say your ABC's but you can't really read a book. Being a black belt isn't just about knowing the alphabet, it's about stringing together words, sentences, paragraphs. So the next thing you learn is combinations. This comes in the form of sparring combos (backfist, sweep, punch), defensive techniques (in our dojo, each belt learns a new defense, from defending against wrist grabs to bear hugs, chokes, and eventually to defending against knife and gun attacks), and elbow techniques (deflecting an attack and following up by using your elbow as the primary weapon). These techniques comprise the "words" of karate, just as the basics were the alphabet.

But words are no good if you can't put them together into something meaningful, and this is where kata comes in. A kata is a series of moves that you learn, almost like a dance routine (think Electric Slide, but with kicks and punches). Some of the kata are quite ancient. My favorite, Bassai Dai has many different versions, and has a lengthy history, dating back over 400 years. It is comprised of somewhere around 40 - 50 moves, depending on the version. For our black belt test, each of those moves will be watched by the hawklike eyes of the other black belts in the dojo. They will be scrutinized for form, speed, power, recoil, timing,  targeting and more. So in a nutshell, each of those moves has to be perfect or as close as we can get it.

But wait, there's more. For black belt, we have ten kata to memorize. Each of them with many moves, each of which must be performed approaching perfection. We think about and practice every detail, down to which direction our toes are pointing on each move, and where our eyes are looking.  I'm breaking out in a cold sweat already just thinking about it.

And that's just the start of it. For each kata, there are Bunkai, which are the applications of the moves in the kata. Every section in the kata is a combination of blocks, punches, kicks, turns, fisthammers, heelhands, knees, and sweeps. Each section has its own Bunkai, which is several of these moves put together and practiced with an attacking and defending side. There are often 5 - 10 bunkai per kata. You perform these with a partner.

For the cherry on top, there are the two-person sets. This is a combination of all of the bunkai in the kata, plus some other moves thrown in for good measure. Now there is no longer a single attacker and defender, but the action flows backward and forward between the two people. One person downblocks and punches, the next executes a rising block, then a strike to the forearm to take down their opponent, a kick to the chin and punch to the head. The opponent dodges backward, throwing their own rising block, followed by a fisthammer to the temple. And so it goes, trading back and forth the moves of the bunkai which have been extracted from the kata. We have five of these sets for our black belt test.

So, getting  a black belt is pretty straightforward but utterly intimidating. Simply, be a superhero. Where did I put my WonderWoman belt anyway?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mind-Body Workout of the Week: Extrospective Intervals

How many times do you hear it:

"My workout time is my "me" time."

"I use my long run to organize my thoughts"

"I just need some time to myself to think"

It's not a bad thing, but for many of us our workouts are a time of introspection, a time to draw inwards and have some time to ourselves. As busy people, we often need this time to recharge. As a mom, I know a lot of my day is spent doing something for someone else, so I feel that I need to take that time to just do something for myself.

Occasionally though, it's nice to break out of the introspective rut, and use our workout time to send our energy elsewhere. Enter this week's workout: Extrospective intervals. These intervals are guaranteed to blast your fast-twitch muscles, increase your post-workout levels of HGH (human growth hormone), and take your spirit to a new level as well. Best of all, you can do this workout anywhere and with anything. I've done it with a rowing machine, with bodyweight exercises (squats, pushups, pullups) and running but feel free to use your creativity and whatever you have at hand to do your intervals.

The Body Workout:

This part is simple: Warm up for at least 10 minutes (I prefer 15 if I'm going to sprint). Then do the following intervals:

30 seconds ALL OUT no holds barred going as hard as you can
90 seconds rest

Repeat eight times. Yes, I said eight times. The rest periods may feel long at first, but if you're really going as hard as you possibly can in the intervals, you will be completely tapped out at the end of this.

The Mind-Spirit Workout:

Here's what I challenged myself with for the Extrospective part of the workout. During each rest interval, I thought of a different person in my life and just appreciated them. For the first 30 seconds of the rest period. I thought of all the things they do that make me smile or make the world a better place. I didn't allow any negative thoughts to creep in. For the next 30 seconds I just pictured that person surrounded by glowing light. For the last 30 seconds I just tried to rest and prepare for the next interval (grab a sip of water, get in the right position, etc.)

I used my watch for this one, setting it on 30 second repeats made it easy to keep track of both the work and the rest intervals. At the end of it, perhaps I didn't get that feeling of "me time" where I just went through all of my innermost thoughts, but it made a huge difference in how I felt about the people in my life. Sometimes we're so entrenched in day-to-day living we don't always take the time to really just appreciate our family and friends like we should. This workout is a great way to get in the Thanksgiving spirit.

The Ironmom Extra Mile:   If you want to read more about how this workout increases your HGH levels and how to keep them higher afterward, check out the background on this workout from Dr. Mercola's website

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Five Easy Ways to Get Your Kids ActiveThis Winter

I don't know about you, but for me it's easy to get the kids to stay active in the summer. We practically live at the pool and we ride our bikes everywhere. Taking the dogs for a walk is actually pleasant instead of a chore to do in the pouring rain and there are hiking trails and beaches that beckon in the sunshine. But now the dark days of a Northwest winter are setting in, and like hermits we are retreating into our caves. Even for seasoned athletes, it gets more challenging to stay physically fit in the winter. So here's five easy ways to make sure your kids don't spend the winter huddled around a warm X-box:

1. Go hiking anyways. Sure, the weather stinks. There could be snow on the ground or rain pelting from the sky, but you can still make going for a family hike a weekly event. It could be an urban adventure, exploring the local trails, or a stroll along a winter beach, but get them out and get them walking. Last winter we had a regular Sunday hike with another family whose kids are close in age to ours. Kids always seem to hike farther (and with less complaint!) when they have a friend along. Some families choose activities like GeoCaching to keep kids interested in moving along.

2. Get to the pool. If you are already a member of a YMCA or local club, make it a habit to get to the pool at least once a week. Forget swim lessons, just get in the water and play with your kids. Bring balls, diving toys, torpedos, or other things to keep the fun and energy going. Most indoor public pools have wintertime family swim hours, and some even have fun activities like movie nights where you can swim while watching a movie projected on the wall. Instead of going to a sit-down movie, make Friday night a family fun night at a local waterpark or pool.

3. Play Indoor games. Especially when kids are little, you can keep them busy with games in the house: Hide-n-seek, tag, pillow fights, wrestling on a mattress, building forts are all perennial favorites. When my kids were smaller, I used to build them obstacle courses around the house with sections like "cross the hot lava" (pillows as "stepping stones" across the "lava" of the living room rug). Take some chalk in the garage and make a hopscotch or foursquare area on the garage floor. Get creative and watch your family grow closer while the kids have a blast and get some exercise in the process.

4. Get some small fitness equipment that your kids can use while you watch TV. A rebounder is one of the best things you can get for this, and I've often found them for $25 or less at garage sales or on Craiglist. Leading by example, you can show them that we don't always watch TV while sitting around. Our kids are used to wintertime movies accompanied by mom on her bike trainer or dad on the elliptical machine. When they were smaller, they begged to use these devices, and now that they're big enough to have a bike that can fit on the trainer or use the elliptical safely, they get to do that while we watch a movie alongside us.

5. Take a class with your kids. Community centers, YMCAs, Yoga Centers, and Martial Arts schools often offer classes that both parents and children can take together. I've been taking Karate with my kids now for five years. We started out as white belts together and have encouraged each other as we grew in skill and experience. Now my 14 year old is a brown belt who is hoping to test for his black belt next year, and my 11 year old is a green belt whose self-confidence and physical abilities have blossomed in our family-friendly karate classes. Best of all, it's something we did together. They could see me struggle with the difficult moves and came to realize that just because a lot of things look like they're easier for big people, we have to work at it just as hard to get proficiency. It's important for kids to see adults take on new things and maybe even fail (a favorite family story is when hubby forgot his kata in the middle of his test for his blue belt). The kids love to know that we struggle too, and it encourages them to try harder when they see us put in the effort alongside them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

Just wanted to pass on this terrific little article by Triathlon coaching stud Ben Greenfield on Trifuel.com. It's called Weird Words That Will Help You Swim Faster. 

The only "weird word" that I disagree with is "hide head". I see a fair number of athletes getting themselves in body position trouble by trying to push their head underwater. This also (not surprisingly) makes it difficult to breathe. If you follow the first Weird Word of "Push Lung" and you keep your head and neck aligned in a neutral position, you shouldn't have to hide your head underwater or push it down any further. Other than that, this is full of great tips to swim better.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Get Twitterpated

I have to admit: Twitter defeated me. This totally messes with my self-image, because I like to think I'm kind of  a with-it techie kind of a gal. Most computery stuff makes total sense to me, and after all I've had an email account since 1986. Yeah, the old kind with a blinking green cursor on a black CRT screen (that's Cathode Ray Tube for those of you born into the LCD era). Yeah, I know that really dates me. Really.

But for some reason, any rationale for tweeting eluded me. I actually did have a Twitter account for the last year, but every time I went there it just seemed like a gigantic cacaphony of people posting senseless things about their laundry or what they ate for lunch. It took a social networking maven to straighten me out and help me to see the light of the Twittery dawn. @juliejulie from the Chubby Mommy Running Club (now coming to a city near you!) is my go-to gal for all things social on the computer. So now I'm a little more dialed in, I get the whole tweeting interaction thing, and if anyone wants to follow me or converse over there in tweety bird land, I'm @Evrymom2Ironmom . Plus there's a new little button on my sidebar. So if you already know the lay of the Twitter land, you can come welcome me, the new kid on the block.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Think Running a 10k is Hard? Try Swimming One!

Brutal. Challenging. These are words that describe how world-class athletes train. Fran Crippen was one of the best in the world, and what he excelled at was swimming distances that would turn most of us into a quivering pile of mush.Think about 10k. Think about swimming 10k. Kind of frightening, isn't it? But he excelled at it. Unfortunately, in a tragic event in a 10k race in water that was warm enough to cause competitors to suffer heat-related issues, Fran Crippen died last month. But he left a legacy of videos, interviews, and workouts that challenge any swimmer to aim for excellence in the sport.

Since my Master's swimmers are taking on the challenge of a five-mile swim across part of Crater Lake this summer, I'm starting to challenge them with distance sets and workouts that are increasingly difficult. This Saturday's workout has to stand as one of the hardest we've ever done, and I found myself in the pool once again wondering why the heck I would write something so hellish on our workout board! When it was done, just about every muscle in my body was fibrillating and twitching. So this is one to use if you really want to challenge yourself. Instead of drafting behind each other, we swam side by side in the lanes to push each other to go our hardest.

This workout is a variation on the Fran Crippen workout recently posted on GoSwim.tv:

Warm Up

4 x 75: 50 Drill, 25 Swim
200 Swim
4 x 75: 50 Drill, 25 Swim
200 Pull
4 x 100 Kick IM Order
50 EZ

Main Set

All at anaerobic threshold +  (we swam these at a near-sprint):

25 on :30
50 on :60
75 on 1:30
50 on :60
50 on :60
75 on 1:30
25 on :30
25 on :30
50 on :60
25 on :30
50 on :60
25 on :30
25 on :30

50 EZ

Set #2:

4 x
(300 @ aerobic (distance) pace
rest 5 seconds
50 @ anaerobic threshold+
rest 10 seconds

50 EZ

Repeat Set #1 at nearly all-out (if anything, we went harder the second time through)

25 on :30
50 on :60
75 on 1:30
50 on :60
50 on :60
75 on 1:30
25 on :30
25 on :30
50 on :60
25 on :30
50 on :60
25 on :30
25 on :30

150 EZ

Total Yardage: 4350

The Ironmom Extra Mile:  Here's a great article from distance swimmer Terry Laughlin with tips and experienced advice on how to become a better distance swimmer.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My 4 x 9

This little quizzy thing came my way via Shane, a very cool guy who bicycled across America and stayed at our house in the process (via Warmshowers.org, which is NOT a XXX site involving bodily functions, but is a site that hooks up cyclists with places to stay). He is planning to cycle through Africa sometime soon, and has lots of cool cycling stories and photos on his blog at Shanecycles.com so check him out! 

If you want to do a 4 x 9, post the link to your list in the comments below. I want to read everyone else's!

Here's mine:

Four jobs I’ve had in my life
- Can Can Dancer
- Software Engineer
- Movie actor (educational films, but still!)
- Guitarist in a punk band (well, we got paid mostly in beer)

Four Movies I can watch over and over
- The Princess Bride
- Lord of the Rings
- The Shawshank Redemption
- Life of Brian

Four places I have lived
- Oklahoma City, OK
- Albequerque, NM
- San Francisco, CA
- Seattle, WA

Four TV programs I love to watch
- Star Trek
- Dexter
- Battlestar Galactica
- Glee

Four places I have been on holiday
- Italy
- Palau
- Tanzania
- Belize

Four websites I visit daily
- Trifuel.com
- Facebook
- Huffington Post
- Blogger

Four of my favorite foods
- Chocolate
- Steak
- Bacon
- Pomegranites

Four places I would rather be right now
- Scuba diving in the Maldives (esp. before they go underwater due to global warming)
- Biking through the rest of Italy
- Australia
- Snowboarding fresh powder in Montana

Friday, November 12, 2010

Runs With Dog

I'd like to think of myself as a Woman Who Runs with The Wolves. There's me, running naked and free through a primeval forest with my hair streaming out behind me in long golden waves and a pack of graceful beasts fanning out all around me, stopping to let out a wild high howl to the sky... Except that naked part. Okay, strike that. With forty-four years and two kids behind me, too much would jiggle. And let's face it, I got tired of my golden hair streaming right into my face when I run, so I hacked it down to a short 'do a few years ago. And well, the closest wolves in Oregon are the Wenaha pack near the Idaho border, but that's really a long ways from here.

I guess I'll have just have to settle for being a Woman Who Runs With Dog. Luckily, I can do that clothed, with short hair stuffed under my running cap, in broad daylight. For the past few weeks, I've been taking my one year old Heeler/Aussie Shepherd mix Sophie running on the Ridgeline trails with me. Unlike Evil Small Dog (my husband's Beagle/Jack Russell Terrier mix, the one who broke my arm running back in January), she is a terrific running companion. She doesn't chase squirrels or deer and she doesn't really care much for other people so she will  just skirt around them on the trail. Ditto for other dogs, she's not even into playing a game of sniffy-butt, she just keeps on truckin' down the path. If she gets too far ahead, she stops and waits for me with a very patient expression, understanding that my speed and endurance are limited compared to hers.

I know that in thirteen or fourteen years, I will repay her thoughtfulness as the tables turn and I walk with her into her old age. I may even put her into a trailer and wheel her along her favorite trails as I did with my wonderful Sabre, my best buddy and running companion of my twenties and thirties. Through the arc of our life together, we will have many adventures, but I know from painful experience that the times we can run together carefree down life's trails will be limited to about a decade. My years as a runner will far exceed hers, no matter how easily she springs ahead of me through autumn's leafy wonderland this morning. So I vow to enjoy this time we have together on the planet. She's all that I could ask for in a furry partner and more. Today we'll hit the trail together and run like we're wild and free.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Airbag For Your Head Makes Cycling More Stylish

This goes in the "too good not to share" category. An airbag for your head, instead of a helmet. Because one of the things I really admired when we were in Italy was how glamorous everyone looked while cycling around town. There's just no way to look this stylish when you're wearing a clunky piece of polystyrene on your noggin. Plus there's that whole helmet-hair thing. So far this new technology is only available in Sweden, but we can all hope it gets to this side of the pond soon.

This video is worth watching, not only for the cool crash-sensing airbag for the head, but just for the pure geek factor of watching a crash test dummy endo a bicycle in slowmo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ironmom's Locavore Breakfast and the Dark Days Challenge

Locavore: yet another internet word that has popped up in the last few years. The dictionary manufacturers couldn't even keep up if they ran their presses night and day. Then again, who buys dictionaries anymore when you have Wikipedia at your fingertips? If some terrorist plot took out the entire internet, schoolchildren would fall to their knees in despair at not being able to look up words. I admit, I'm one of those moms who actually makes their kids look things up in books from time to time, just for kicks and grins. If they still kept the Dewey Decimal cards in those little wooden drawers somewhere in the library, I'd probably torture them by making them look up books that way from time to time as well.

But locavore is a good word, a word that wouldn't have a reason to exist a century or two ago, kind of like the fact that there's no word for faith in the Lakotah dialect. If everyone has something, there's no need to name it.  But now locavorism (is that a word?) is a great first step toward food security, environmental stewardship, fostering community, and most important to this Ironmom, eating healthier. Food that comes from local sources is naturally higher in important stuff like Omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals than food that is processed and shipped from far away.

For instance, eggs from chickens who free-range have 20 times more Omega-3 fatty acids than conventional eggs. They also have 10% less fat and 34% less cholesterol, they produce HDL or "good cholesterol" and help lower bad cholesterol. This helps to explain why despite eating eggs for breakfast almost every single day, my cholesterol numbers are far lower than when I was a vegetarian and even a vegan.

So here's what went into my locavore omelette today:

Eggs from our lovely lady chickens. As you can see, we treat them very well! This one, my son's chicken "Voodoo" had a foot problem, so she's getting a spa treatment.  No, I'm not kidding! We treat our chickies very well and as a results they have very few health problem. We let them out to free range around the yard and they take care of our ants and garden grubs, among other things.

Milk from a local goat farmer. We buy this on a weekly basis in 7 big glass jars. This photo is my daughter actually hand-milking one of their goats. She's pretty good at it! We have had a relationship with these folks for many years now, not only just purchasing milk but going out to their house when their goats had babies or their dog had puppies. This is not the same at all as picking up a gallon of milk in a plastic jug at the store. Building relationships within your community strengthens not just your physical health, but emotional and mental health.

Spinach and tomatoes from the garden. I wasn't much of a green thumb when I started vegetable gardening (my house plants tend to even look anemic and wilty) but I've found it's not as difficult as one might think. Even just growing a few of the things we love to eat provides a big wallop of nutritional benefit over produce picked green and shipped long distances.

There's also local pork sausage in my omelette. I don't have a photo of the pig, but we bought part of it (a third to be exact) from the contractor who helped us with our sunroom last year. He just so happened to mention he was about to slaughter his pig (doesn't that come up in everyday conversation around your house?) and we filled our freezer with  a bunch of pork chops and sausage.

The last ingredient is some chantrelle mushrooms. These grow all around the woods in our part of Oregon, and local folks harvest them and sell them by the side of the road or at farmer's markets. Luckily, these are very easy mushrooms to harvest, with no poisonous relatives that your local mushroom gatherer could get confused. They make a very tasty addition to my morning eggs and give a seasonal flair to any meal you add them to, since they're only available right now and not at other times of the year. There are very few things you can say that about any more, with produce shipped from all over the globe, so I look forward to my little seasonal treats. Some year I want to go out in the woods and actually pick some.

Last year I participated in the Dark Days Challenge, which is to cook four meals each month (1 per week) focused on SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients with only local foods. I'll be doing it again this year, and if anyone wants to join me, I'll post some updates here with links to your posts about eating local!

The Ironmom Extra Mile:   Jason from Life of an Aspiring Triathlete asks "Where are those goat farmers here in Dallas?" In answer, the website RealMilk.com is a terrific resource for connecting with local farmers wherever you live. In their "Where Can I Find Real Milk" page, I found that there is a goat dairy in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that sells goat's milk by the gallon. The dairy's page is: www.lattedadairy.com. There is also a dairy in that area that sells raw cow's milk. Additionally, this website has dozens if not hundreds of listing for raw milk (cow, goat, and sheep) for all over the U.S. and for other places in the world. It's a terrific resource. So if you want real milk with real nutrients (pastured, raw, and not full of antibiotics and other nasty crud), check out this site.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Niftiest Pacing Tool Ever!

Clif Bar has a nifty little online tool that will create a custom marathon wristband for you. If you enter your desired finish time, it will have splits calculated out for every mile of the marathon for you printed on the wristband. Of course, every 3 - 4 miles is highlighted in yellow as a good time to "eat a Clif Shot or 3 Clif Bloks" but whether you enjoy Clif products or not (I happen to, their Mocha gels are my go-to race gel), it's a good visual reminder to keep on your nutrition schedule.

You could easily use this to pace an Ironman marathon or a half-mary or half-IM as well.

The Ironmom Extra Mile: Here's a nice short-n-sweet article on marathon pacing by a 25-time marathon finisher:
And here's a great downloadable PDF of Marathon Racing Strategies by the same author, Mike Stapenhurst.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday Snap

Something new in my blog starting this week. I'm going to post my favorite photo of the week as my "Sunday Snap". Happy Harvest time everyone. This little squash was just too beautiful to eat.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Toe Shoes Deserve Some Toe Socks

I remember my first pair of toe socks like it was yesterday. They were rainbow striped to match the rainbow striped handle of my big-assed comb that fit neatly in the pocket of my painter's pants. Yeah, it was 1981 baby. That comb was sorely needed so I could feather my hair back and then flip my whole head down and then up so my hair looked just like Farrah Fawcett's for at least three seconds. Once I did that hair-flippie thingie in church and almost knocked myself unconscious on the pew in front of me.

But toe socks have come a long way since then. Then, it was all about the fashion. You needed cool socks to wear with your roller skates for Saturday night when they fired up the big disco ball at the Roll-A-Rena. But now, toe socks are for wintertime running if you happen to like running in shoes that resemble your bare feet. Plus (and this is a HUGE plus in my book). They STILL come in rainbow stripes. I got myself a pair of Injinji running toe socks to go with my Vibram Fivefingers, hoping to extend the range that I can wear them into the colder months. I was a bit worried about how they would fit, since the Fivefingers are fairly snug, but these socks are thin enough to be comfortable, and not even bunchy around the toes. As someone who spends at least 10 minutes getting the bunches and seams just right on my socks as it is (can you say "sensory issues" anyone?), I appreciate this fact.

Even better, I made my daughter extremely jealous and now she wants toe socks all her own. I did have to mention that then she would be wearing fashions straight out of 1981. "Oh, but mom... Retro is in!" she replies. Sigh. I'm so retro.

Friday, November 05, 2010

When Good Veggies Go Bad

It's like a horror movie where some dumb blonde just can't resist going into the dark room even though the freaky music is playing and your fingernails are permanently glued to the arms of your seat. You KNOW what's going to happen. That's how it used to be with my refrigerator when I thought about opening the produce drawer. You know what I mean. Scary creepy moldy slimy freaky Vegetables Gone Bad. You bought them with the best of intentions. They were healthful, vibrant, full of nutrients. They started looking a little wilty and you thought "we really should have some broccoli tonight", but you didn't have the time to cut it up because Tommy's Little League uniform got muddy and Susie couldn't find her pointe shoes for ballet. So the broccoli sat another day. And got meanier and uglier and slimier. Until one day you open the drawer and scream like the dumb blonde in the movie when surprise! the guy with the hockey mask and the freaky dagger hands jumps out to kill her after all.

I used to wonder why the vegetable drawer in my refrigerator was called a "crisper" when what it seemed to do was ensure that my veggies turned into a soupy mess. But fortunately, the freaky slime-vegetable syndrome can be avoided with some proper planning and prep work.I discovered that the key to actually eating my veggies instead of feeling guilty every time I opened my fridge drawer to another slimy glop of former salad is to make them into useful meal-fodder as soon as I buy them. This takes a little bit of time when you get home from the grocery store, but saves time, money, and the disgusting chore of cleaning out the goopy vegetable drawers.

What I do now is plan to go grocery shopping when I'll have about twenty minutes afterward for food prep (no rushing home, throwing everything in the cupboards and fridge and dashing back out again. Then as soon as the vegetables come out of the grocery bags, I wash them and put them on dish towels to dry. After patting them off, I slice or dice them into whatever form I'm actually going to use them in. This means that onions, green peppers, and zucchinis get diced up for use in omelettes, stir-fries, and burritos. Red peppers are in long slices that the kids like to dip in hummus. Carrots get sliced into sticks. Yes yes, I know you can actually buy bagged baby carrots, but I think real carrots taste way better and they last a heck of a lot longer. Plus, the baby carrots only have 70% of the beta carotene of regular carrots. And just for fun every year (and because my kids will eat way more of them) I grow purple carrots in our garden. They're gorgeous!

I also discovered that container shape matters. You might think that whether a container is round or square has no bearing whatsoever on how many vegetables you'll eat out of it. But I found that round containers don't stack as well, take up more space in the fridge, and tend to get pushed toward the back of a shelf where the contents turn evil. Square containers stack nicely, and use space much more efficiently. That means they tend to stay toward the front of the shelves where I use them frequently. I really like these Snapware Glasslock containers that I just happened to pick up one day at Costco.

You still have to eat the vegetables within a reasonable time frame of course. They will eventually go bad, even in glasslock containers. But because they're already pre-prepped, you're so much likely to just throw them into breakfast, lunch or dinner when you're in a rush. You can easily build a salad, an omelette, or a skillet meal in 5 minutes or less when you have your vegetables under control. Side bonus is you actually eat better and save money by not throwing out expensive produce.

The Ironmom Extra Mile: More than you knew about baby carrots here at Wisebread.com

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Em2Im: Kind of Like an Angry White Male Rapper, But Not Quite

Welcome to the new Ironmom blog. As you can see, it's now not simply all about me. No, the old self-indulgent me is gone (well, okay maybe not totally gone, maybe on temporary vacation then), and this blog is becoming about the journey, what it takes to get from where we are to our goals and dreams. I want it to be more about us than about me, so please chime in with comments, criticisms, and thoughts on your own journey.

Absolutely everything on the internet  needs a catchy acronym these days:  AFAIK, we r  LOL while we txt r BFF some TMI, IFKWIM??
So my new blog title, it just naturally lends itself to being EM2IM, no? Which sounds vaguely like this angry white guy who makes exceptionally good although horrendously misogynist rap music, whereas I'm this really non-angry white mom who never ever really looks tough like this. Well, maybe when I tell my kids they have to clean up their rooms, then maybe I do just a little. Yeah, clean 'em up. Or else Em2Im is gonna come down on you like a ton a bricks.  Damn straight.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Fly Like a G6: The Runner's High

I have to admit it: I listen to crap-filled rap songs with shitty language that are mostly about drugs and misogynistic sex and drinking and other unsavory stuff. And I like them. Even my teen and tweenaged kids are frequently horrified by what I will listen to. My son once famously went through all of my workout tunes and looked up the lyrics online, growing more and more hysterical with each obscenity and satanic-message-filled song until he was literally howling with laughter. Why is it that all the raunchiest or bad-message songs are the ones that get you going? Hey, I told him, at least it's not like what I listened to when I was a teenager (how about "I Don't Care About You, F**! You" for a song title?)

But really, deep down it disturbs me that so much good music goes to promoting such dangerous pastimes. Am I sounding like an old fuddy duddy yet? Probably so. Or as the title of this interesting documentary film that explores the Christiam music phenomenon asks "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?" And I do sometimes put the radio on the Christian music station, but lets face it: most of it sucks. Yeah, send me straight down to the hot place for saying it, but there's nothing on there that will get your blood pumping like Motorhead's Ace of Spades. Nothing.

But today when I was running up our local mountain trail over and over and over just for kicks and grins, what I was thinking was how sad it is that the rappers and the rockers and the listeners of this stuff don't know just how high you can get when you push your body hard. Whether you call it a "runner's high" or an "endorphin rush", it's powerful stuff. Our body creates these amazing chemicals that act on our brain as an opiate and leave us feeling giddy and just downright blissed out. After a good set of hill repeats, I'm like Sherlock Holmes in an opium den, feeling better than any rapper "gettin slizzard" on sizzurp, whose side-effects include euphoria, lethargy and extreme drowsiness. Hmmm, sounds like me after a session at the track or at home in the gym. No thanks on the drugs please, just pass the kettlebells.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Don't Be Surprised: Changes Coming

In the next week or so, I'm going to overhaul the appearance and to a certain extent the theme of the Ironmom blog. When I started with this blog, it was more or less a journal of my Ironmom journey and took the form of whatever random thoughts entered my head about training toward that goal. Then I started trying to introduce more helpful content: swim workouts, shoe reviews, books, coaching tips, etc.into the blog Over the last few years, I've come to feel that my triathlon training made my own fitness focus too narrow. I was "fit" in one aspect, but lacking in many others. My attempts to include Crossfit and martial arts in my own training have been working toward a goal of becoming a more balanced athlete and incorporating the things I was lacking: strength, speed, dexterity, and work in more muscle groups than just the ones used in triathlon training.

So the blog has become more than just a journey to that one particular goal: the Ironman.. For me, it is now about the journey toward ultimate health and fitness, toward becoming a well-rounded athlete who is physically, mentally, and spiritually fit inside and out. I want to broaden the scope of the blog to reflect that. To share more insights into that journey, and hopefully to include more insights from other athletes as well. So you'll see a new design to the blog coming soon, and a gradually changing emphasis from just triathlon training to a lifelong fitness journey. I will also have a new URL to reference the blog, but the old "ironmom.blogspot.com" will still work as well.

As always, I welcome any thoughts and comments. Hopefully it will be a positive change!