Bringing in the New Year: How to build a home gym

Our basement is my favorite room in our whole house.  It all started with a treadmill, wp-1472224822536.jpgwhich also happens to be my favorite piece of “furniture”.  🙂  Then, over time, my husband and I started adding other favorite items. I’ve got to say, it’s pretty convenient to roll out of bed and head to the basement for my workouts in the morning, especially since Cadence was born.  It really doesn’t take too much investment for some basic pieces that will help build a great strength training circuit though. (I still posit that a good ol’ push-up is one of the best strength workouts that you can do, which does not involve any equipment at all!)

Here are some of the items in our gym.  Whether you work out at the foot of your bed or in your own basement, there is something for everyone.  Don’t get overwhelmed by the list.  Any one of these items will give you many options for a variety of workouts.

  1. Basic dumbbells: I use 5, 10, and 15 pounds for just about everything.
  2. Bosu Ball: I bought mine at Target, and I love it for stability training.  There are specific workouts that you can do on a Bosu ball, but you can also stand on it doing basic moves like a dumbbell curl.  Just the act of standing on the Bosu ball will help increase stability.  For an extra challenge, stand on one leg while doing your strength work.
  3. Medicine ball: I bought this 10 pound medicine ball, and it adds variety to strength work by activating more of the core when holding it.  Even just holding it while doing squats or lunges makes the exercise more of a core workout.
  4. Kettle Bells: my husband bought me kettle bells for mother’s day (he’s a romantic :), and I love to sling them around!  A great workout that forces you to stabilize and utilize your core!
  5. Two frisbies: this is one of my favorites for its simplicity and difficulty.  I learned this move in my Oh Baby fitness classes as a newly postpartum mom.  Get in push up position with one foot on each slider or frisby.  Then use your arms to “walk” yourself forward while feet slide along the ground with the sliders.  It’s a really tough workout for the core and arms and it only takes a room and two sliders to slide up and down for a great workout!
  6. A stair step: I inherited my step from my mom, but any type of step will do.  This is great for stair lunges, calf raises, and any other stair exercise.
  7. Yoga ball: other than giving birth (no, I did not bring my ball to the hospital-ha!), this ball is great for ab work, and it serves as a replacement for a bench if you want to do arm work while sitting on it.
  8. Resistant Bands: tie off the band so that it is a loop, step in, and try to do side lunges.  Then you’ll understand the beauty of these little bands.  Also good for clamshells and a variety of other exercises.
  9. Barbell: I don’t really use the barbell very much, but my husband does.  It’s a great piece of equipment, but my coach doesn’t incorporate it. I like to do squats and deadlifts when I’m not following my coach’s plan.
  10. Pull up bar: I was so excited to get a pull-up bar, but I do not use ours anymore because I had hernia surgery in May, and the force is more than I want to risk.  But, if you did not recently have hernia surgery, this little bar will humble you and make you tremble!  🙂
  11. Treadmill: this is pretty obvious, but I love my treadmill. I run at least half of my weekly runs on the treadmill, and I have found that I especially like it for “hillwork” and for some of my standard weekly runs to see how I’m responding when the variables are all kept constant.  You can read more about treadmill selection here.
  12. Spin bike: My husband bought our spin bike, but I’ve gotten more use of it for my cross training than he has.  It was great to complement running through pregnancy, and I love to use it for recovery.  It’s not just for easy riding though.  You can get a mean workout in with the spin bike if you crank up resistance, increase cadence, or incorporate standing while riding.  Read more about the spin bike for cross training here.
  13. Stair stepper: This is another piece of equipment that I love for cross training.  I used it a lot during pregnancy because I could get a great cardio workout without all of the pounding.  It was also the first machine that I used during my postpartum recovery.

A lot of items can be purchased on Craigslist or some other consignment/second-hand store.  We bought my treadmill, bike, stair stepper, and barbell set secondhand.

My training plan involves a lot of strength training, and this actually turns out to fit our lifestyle really well because Cadence enjoys playing in the basement while we strength train. I trained for my first 100 mile race this past summer with Cadence playing beside me while I trained for most of it.  We “baby-proofed” the basement as much as a gym can be baby-proofed, and it has made all of the difference to allow my husband and me to have the freedom to work out and spend time together.  I also attribute not getting any injuries despite a high intensity running schedule to the amount of strength work in my plan.

What is your favorite piece of exercise equipment? (Shoes don’t count! 😉

Spousal Support: how to love your runner

I left Saturday morning for my training run, and the whole time, I couldn’t stop thinking img_20161105_150210about all of the ways that my husband, Jon, loves me through his support of my running. (#2 below is what started this string of thought that lasted me through most of my run.) I know this sounds sappy, and don’t get me wrong, just like every marriage, there are plenty of opportunities for both of us to work on, but when it comes to supporting my passions, Jon has it nailed. And honestly, if you asked whether I would prefer a husband who cooked and cleaned, or a husband who supports my running, I’m going to go with running every day of the week.  (And Jon will argue that he does cook and clean, but I will say that our versions of those responsibilities are a little different. :))

So here is a list of some of the ways that Jon loves me through running.  If you are a spouse to a runner, you may want to take notes.  If you wish that your husband supported you a little more, maybe slip this link into an email (but be prepared to receive a list in return! ;)).

  1. All of my nicest and best running gear is from Jon.  I hate to shop, and Jon and I are both really conservative spenders.  But Jon bought me my first Garmin when I started to show an interest in running in 2013, he researched hydration packs and bought me the best one as a surprise for my first trail ultramarathon in 2014, and all of my nicest brand name running outfits came from him as gifts.
  2. Jon has never expected me to get up early on the weekends to get in my runs so that I can free up our time together.  Now that we have a baby, Jon is especially conscious that I don’t get much sleep during the week, and he watches Cadence on Saturday mornings whenever I finally make it out the door, no complaints. (He wanted to do a spin class this past Saturday morning, but shrugged his shoulders and said, “Why don’t you just get in your run instead.”)
  3. He helps me maximize my time with the baby, despite that fact that I am training all of the time. This is seriously one of biggest gifts that Jon could give me.  He brings Cadence down to our basement gym to say hi when I’m running before work, and he often plays with her during my strength training after work so that we can all hang out together.  I get to take her in the stroller for hours at a time, even though that means that he doesn’t get to hang out with her at home.
  4. He reminds me of my goals and helps me reach them, even if it means more sacrifices for him.  There are so many times that I get discouraged or burned out, and Jon is always there to encourage me to keep training hard, even though that means more time away from him.  I don’t know why this still surprises me, but he truly has my best interest at heart when he gives me advice.
  5. We budget for the expenses of running and racing, and Jon doesn’t complain.  I don’t even want to know how much we spent to allow me to run the Yeti 100 mile race, but I know that the AirbNb alone was over $600.  I have a coach, I get massages when I feel like an injury might be coming on, I replace shoes as soon as I think they are getting weak, I sign up for distant races, we have a fully outfitted home gym, etc.  Always in the budget.
  6. Jon is at the finish line (with a baby) when I need him.  He doesn’t go to the races that I tell him are just for training, but he has spectated in the pouring rain and freezing cold to watch me cross the finish line for goal races. (While getting his MBA, he did a group project from the car while I ran a marathon in Nashville so that he could be there to support me.)  He was critical on my crew for the Yeti 100, even running the last 16 miles with me.
  7. He joins me in my training efforts even when it’s not what he had on his agenda.  The other night we were running through the park with headlamps on so that I could get in my second run for the day, and I was thinking of how thankful I was to have Jon by my side because I would feel uncomfortable running those trails by myself in the dark, and I certainly wouldn’t have brought Cadence along for the run if Jon had not been with me.  His presence is always a great motivator to get out the door, even if I don’t feel like it.  There was one day when I was training for my 100 mile race where I called him from the park and asked for him to bring me a gel and told him that I was really flagging.  Not only did he show up with the gel, but he also came dressed to run so that he could help me finish the workout.
  8. Jon knows the details of my training, splits, goals, and schedule, and he can carry on a really convincing conversation about all things running, even though he doesn’t share the same passion. He helped me map out my race plan for the Yeti 100 with paces, crew stops, and nutrition, and we ended up being spot on with the planning.  He knows me so well!
  9. I gave up wine and I go to bed earlier than he does every night, and he still wants to be married to me.  Ok, so just kidding here, but really, I’m not as much fun anymore now that I am training so hard, breastfeeding, and not sleeping.  With so many demands on my body, I never like staying out late, and I am really careful with what I put into my body (unless it is chocolate, of which Jon buys me Costco quantities).
  10. Jon knows that vacations for me are not vacations without running and working out.  We’ve picked hotels based on the hotel gym, and Jon has run up and down the streets of foreign cities so that I could get in a run.  One of my favorite memories is running all over Berlin with him.  What better way to see a city?!

There are times, like in any marriage, when I get frustrated because my expectations are not being met.  But the items on this list always bring me back around to nothing but gratefulness and a full heart.  And it’s also a good reminder to me that I need to support Jon and show him love in the way that it matters to him.  We might have a dirty house and a baby with only one shoe on her foot when we run out the door, but we have learned in the last six+ years of marriage how to love each other.  And I’m so thankful that Cadence will see her father’s love as an example when she starts to understand all of the ways that she is loved.

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Anyone else want to brag on their partner?

Christmas Wish List: Silver white winters that melt into springs, These are a few of my favorite things

In the spirit of Christmas, I thought I’d share some of my favorite running things. Maybe this can help serve as a gift guide (giving or receiving!).  I do not like to shop, so if I can order an item online, I will do that every time.  My running wardrobe is nothing fancy, so you won’t find a pair of $400 tights in this list.  Haha.  But there are a few things that have made running more enjoyable to me, and they are listed below.

  1. Apple Shuffle: I love to listen to fast beats while I run, but I do not like to us
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    Shuffle, Ultimate Direction Jenny vest

    e my phone for music.  Instead, my preference is the shuffle. Also, my favorite jam for running fast is MotionTraxx music with a bpm of 180 or more.

  2. Lacrosse balls: I’m a fan of foam rolling, but I’m an even bigger fan of lacrosse balls.  I ordered the pack that comes with two balls, and I keep one in my purse and the other in my bedroom. I use these balls daily to help work out tight spots, and they seem to get deeper than just a foam roller.  (If you are in the car, stick the ball under your hamstring and work away!  Safer if you are the passenger. 😉
  3. Flexibility: while you can’t really give someone flexibility, you can help them achieve their goals with a subscription to ROMWOD (range of motion workout of the day).  This is a $13.95/month service, so if you give it as a gift, be prepared to keep giving… and giving… But my husband and I have found that we feel so much better after completing the daily ~20 minute sessions of ROMWOD together.
  4. Milestone Pod: this is a new toy that I started to use, and the price of $24.95 is super reasonable to give as a gift to your favorite runner.  The gait data points are pretty cool, and any running junky will love it!
  5. Compression Socks: I like to wear compression socks after hard runs to help speed up recovery.  I’ve really noticed a difference!  Also compression socks are nice for speedwork days because they minimize the vibrations that your calves experience.  I like Pro Compression because they seem to have the best prices when accompanied by a discount code.
  6. Hydration Vest: I love my Ultimate Direction Jenny vest!  I’ve tried other vests, but this one fits the best to me.  I wore this vest for my 100 mile race, and it was perfect.  I do  not wear a vest for the shorter distances, but any trail runner who aspires to be outside for a couple of hours should invest in a good vest.  For shorter distances, I like a handheld.
  7. Running in the dark: two things that have made early mornings safer: my Nathan Streak vest and my cheap but good headlamp.  You can buy great expensive headlamps, or you can buy good cheap ones.  I’ve used this headlamp for both a 50 mile and a 100 mile race, and it served me well. It also does great on my early morning runs. The batteries need to be switched every ~4 hours for optimum brightness, but it is super bright and not too heavy for general running use.
  8. Fanny pack: ok, so not really a fanny pack, but a running belt is fantastic!  I started running with my phone after I got pregnant, and I now I like to have it in case I need the baby (or the other way around ;).  I use the SPIbelt, but I think any belt would be fine.  My belt is not water proof, and it will bounce when I go really fast,
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    Thule Urban Glide, Milestone Pod, Coast headlamp, clip safety lights

    but for most of my runs, it sits snugly around my waist. I can fit my phone and a couple of gels without a problem.

  9. Essential oils: There are several different uses for oils, from topical to aromatherapy. My favorite oils that I feel have helped me with running are aromatherapy with lavender (there are studies that show that lavender helps reduce cortisol levels), and melaleuca for skin abrasions (I have taken many falls on the trails, and this is my favorite!). I use doTerra, and I also like their Deep Blue product.  If you are looking for a kit, the athlete’s kit is my favorite.  Also, here is the diffuser that I use.
  10. Strength training: I love the Bosu Ball, medicine ball, and elastic bands for strength work.
  11. Thule Urban Glide: this would be a pretty expensive gift, but it is hands down the best running accompaniment (along with the baby!).  It is the smoothest stroller around, and it handles long distances and fast speeds.  Also look for the rain cover/windbreaker, snack tray, and console. These lights are also good to strap onto the bars of the stroller or these can clip to the stroller or clip to your clothes.
  12. Books: you guys know that I love love love reading.  Here are all of my favorite running books and reviews.  I also highly recommend Run Fast, Eat Slow.

Bonus: I do not use my RoadID bracelet very often anymore, but I had one made when I got pregnant and printed PREGNANT as my medical condition.  This was important to me in case I needed emergency attention so that the first responders wouldn’t give me anything that could harm the baby.  At some point, it becomes pretty obvious that you are pregnant, but in the first few weeks, sometimes it’s good to spell things out.

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Bosu ball + cute baby

Do you have any favorite running items that I can add to my list this year?

 

Race Report: Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon

This is the second year in a row that my husband and I have run the Atlanta Track Club Thanksgiving Half Marathon.  Last year, my husband ran it with me because I had asked him while I was still pregnant if he would sign up with me.  (How can a husband look at his very pregnant wife and say no?!) This year Jon is the one who asked me to run because he wanted to complete the Atlanta Track Club Triple Peach series, and this was the final race in the series. I’m never one to turn down a race! (Or a running husband!)

Jon’s family had come into town from Arkansas, and his dad signed up to run the 5k while we ran the half marathon.  (Jon’s family is amazing, and we always look forward to visits with them.  His aunts and uncles are all hardcore athletes.  It’s pretty cool.)  The three of us drove down to the start area while Jon’s siblings stayed behind to watch Cadence at our house.  We gave ourselves plenty of time for parking, and I pumped in the car in the parking lot once we got settled.  The temperatures had been projected to be in the 30s-40s, but as the sun started to come up, we realized that it would be a warmer day than forecast.  I changed into shorts in the car, and I’m so thankful that I did! (Below, don’t I have a hot husband?!)

When it came close to the race start time, Jon and I went to the portapotties for one last try, and then we ran to the corrals.  We probably cut it a little closer than we should have (especially after just sitting in the car waiting), but we made it to the middle of corral A before the gun went off.  There was a lot of weaving in the beginning, and I have to admit that I get pretty annoyed when very slow runners decide to start at the front of a competitive race.  I am very supportive of anyone who wants to run, but I think we would all have a better time if we started in the appropriate wave. (Right?)

I was hoping to use this race as a gauge of my current marathon training cycle, so I wanted to target at least ~6:50 pace.  Lately I have had some ankle pain, and I was afraid that this might limit me.  Once the race started, I felt light and free, and I was able to easily knock out paces in the mid- 6s.  The course was very hilly, but that did not seem to affect me until about halfway through the race.  I did have to slow down on the hills by around mile 8, but I never felt like I was racing with all of my effort.thanksgivingsplits

I finished with an average pace of 6:41 (gun pace of 6:48), and it definitely wasn’t easy at the end, but I always felt like there was something left in the tank to push harder.  The hills in that race (and every Atlanta race) are no joke, so I’m hoping that a flatter marathon course will be all the easier for me to knock out my paces.  I know that there is a huge difference between the half marathon and the full marathon, but I still feel encouraged by my results.

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Overall, I finished 8th female out of 3,582 female runners, and 3rd in my age group.  The Atlanta Track Club hosts some competitive races, so I am always humbled to try to keep up with the big dogs! 🙂

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On another note, I’ve been having fun with a new running toy, the Milestone Pod, to help me stay aware of my gait mechanics. Below are some of the data points that the little pod offers.  My stride length is normally in the mid forties on training runs, so it is interesting that it is longer in a racing environment.  I’m hoping to improve my ground contact time, but so far, I haven’t managed to lower it.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  Now on to Christmas!!