Saturday, October 25, 2014

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Getting My Fitness On: ClassPass Chicago

It has been 13 days since the Chicago Marathon and I have been laying low on my training and exercising until I figure out what I want to do next. I know that I want to keep running and that I definitely want to do another marathon, but other than that, I feel like I have no structure or goal to work toward accomplishing. So basically I've gone from a strict training schedule with lots of structure, to wandering aimlessly and looking up yoga classes online trying to figure out what I can fit into my busy work-family schedule.

The biggest problem I had been coming across is that because my hours can be a little erratic, it would be hard for me to commit to going to classes at one studio consistently. This past week alone I had three random slots open and, if I wanted to take a class during those times, I would have had to go to three different studios and paid three different fees. Not happening as I need all the extra money I can get for running events :)

Then, I remembered coming across a few posts on Instagram about ClassPass, a monthly recurring membership program that includes unlimited access to certain gyms and studios. ClassPass is available in Boston, New York, DC, LA, and San Francisco and recently became available in Chicago. The membership offers unlimited classes a month, but limits the member to three classes per location. At first, you may think this is a drawback, but when you consider that Chicago has close to 70 studios that offer everything from cycling, yoga, Pilates, and strength training, you realize that the drawback is not having enough time to go to all the participating studios. 

I was given the opportunity to review ClassPass so make sure to check back in 30 days for my review and follow me on Instagram @thecookierunner to know more about my ClassPass fitness journey. I can already tell you that I am excited about the studios ClassPass covers as most of them have been on my radar since I moved to Chicago and I am loving the monthly membership price as it is cheaper than most of the monthly memberships at the local studios.  If you are too curious to wait for my review, head on over to the ClassPass website to learn more. Let the fitness exploration begin!

ClassPass gave me a complimentary month-long membership, but all the opinions in this post, my review, and on Instagram are my own. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

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Race Recap: Chicago Marathon

It has been 10 days since the Chicago Marathon. The race I had been training to complete for the past five months of my life. So much of my focus and effort was, with reason, on preparing for the race. I wish someone would have prepared me for post-marathon life. Now that I am not training for a race, I feel just a little lost with what my fitness goals should be. I'm crazy enough to even miss my late night runs on the track!

The week before the race I was in Canada for a conference and that was probably the best thing to happen to me because I was forced to taper. Kind of hard to run every day when you've only packed two workout outfits, right? I was still anxious about the race and my ability to complete the race. Things started settling for me when I went to expo on Saturday and picked up my bib. I was actually going to run this race! The night before the race I did the crazy thing of estimate my time. My goal had always been to finish under 4:30, but that night, with the numbers I saw, I realized that under 4:15 was within reach and, if I really pushed myself, a 4-hour marathon could be possible.

Even with that, I woke up race morning with the idea that 4:30 would be my goal and anything under that would be the sweetest cherry on top of this magnificently long victory lap. I did not make it in time to get in my corral (G) because Cati woke up early and was not too happy about me leaving to run a race, but I was able to hop in on corral H.

I started running at 8:18am and told myself that what mattered was how I felt, not the time on the watch. I saw my family in that first mile and was cheered on the rest of the way by friends and family through the Motigo app (best. app. ever.). Looking back, I remember the first half of the marathon so much better than I do the second half. I did the first half in 2:02 and was so proud of this time. Here I was, running comfortably and happily knowing I still had 13.1 more miles to go, and I still managed a 2:02 half marathon. This was just the bit of encouragement I needed to get through what I felt would be the hardest part of the race for me: miles 13.1 through 20.

Like I said, the second half of the race is a blur. I remember running, but I wouldn't be able to tell you where I ran, what I ran past, who I took water from, or the faces in the crowd. Once I hit mile 20, the mental pep talk began: 6.2 miles more to go, 60 more minutes of movement. That pep talk continued for every subsequent mile. When I saw the mile marker for mile 24, I almost lost it. I wanted to cry, explode, yell, anything to release the sense of pride that was building up in me. I WAS DOING IT. I WAS TWO MILES AWAY FROM BEING A MARATHONER.

Those last two miles were the most emotional miles of my life. Just thinking about those last two miles brings me to tears. I worked so hard, I sacrificed so much, and I worried even more and I was so close to seeing the payoff of all that work, dedication, and commitment. I kept telling myself to keep it together because I didn't want people to see me and think I was in pain and falling apart. I mean, I was falling apart in that the old me who thought she couldn't was crumbling away to make space for the new me that knew she could.

Crossing that finish line was amazing. It took every ounce of my strength to not stop right then and there and sob. I was so proud. In the days after the marathon, I likened the experience of running and completing the marathon to being pregnant and giving birth. The months of training were like the nine months of pregnancy, full of hope and preparation. Then running the actual course was the labor, a mixture of feelings and sensations. Crossing the finish line was the birth and that medal the baby. As with my births, I recall the feeling of being there and experiencing all the pain, but I cannot remember specifics for the life of me or remember just how bad the pain was during labor. This is exactly how the marathon was for me with fuzzy details and a real out-of-body experience.

Once the running stopped, it was as if the pain of the previous 4 hours rushed to my legs. I had heard others talk about lactic acid, but I was not expecting that kind of pain. I could still walk (although I was afraid to sit down), but any other motion seemed like murder to my legs. I tried to numb my pain through free Goose Island Beer and talking to my Instagram friends. I think what really helped me was the mile walk home. What didn't help was the giggling girls who seemed to only want to jump, climb, and sit on my sore legs. The day after the marathon was the worst on my legs, but the soreness subsided after three days. I waited longer to run (7 days) because I wanted to soak in the finish and take a break from the intensive running.

I finished the marathon in 4:07:32. So much better than I ever imagined for my first marathon. I finished with a smile on my face and with deeper connections to Chicago and the running community up here. I still prefer the 13.1 distance, but there is something so magical about 26.2 miles.

This post is long enough, so I will end things with saying that I cannot wait to run my next marathon! For more on my running follow me on Instagram @thecookierunner 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

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The Fitness Games App Review

2014 has truly been the year of fitness for me. I got new PRs (personal records) in the 5K and half marathon distances and I completed my first marathon (Chicago! Post coming soon). My yoga practice has improved and, in general, my commitment to fitness has changed my whole outlook on life. Yoga has taught me how to live in the moment and running has taught me that, when times get tough, all I can do is keep moving forward by putting one foot in front of the other. 

With fitness on my mind, I jumped at the chance to review The Fitness Games, an app that aims at creating a social fitness community where you can connect with "workout partners" from around the world, share workout pictures and videos, and challenge your partners to workouts. I love the idea of this app as I'm one of those people who will randomly text people with "workout commands" of 10 squats or push-ups or other moves that can be done almost anywhere. 

The app has four categories: strength, cardiovascular, full body, and cross training. Within each category, there are workouts at the beginner, intermediate, and expert level. Once you select a workout, you can challenge yourself, a friend, nearby, or worldwide. You can also create a workout, which might be the coolest part of this app. In this part of the app you can select pre-existing exercises based on the body part and, for those exercises, there are pictures and video tutorials. Taking it a step further, you can create custom exercises and upload your own pictures and video tutorials. Other features of this app are the feed section, where you can see the pictures and workout summaries (similar to Instagram) of your workout partners, the workout tracker calendar, and rankings (couch potato, gym rat, athlete, and rookie to name a few).

What I didn't like about the app was that I didn't know how to use it at first in terms of finding workout partners and challenging them. That was honestly the only complaint I had about the app and, once I played around with the app some more and actually paid attention to the video tutorial all was good. I love the motivation and the way you can create your own workout. One of the biggest challenges of working out and sticking to that lifestyle is motivation and accountability and this app is looking to address those shortfalls by connecting you to others, allowing you to challenge yourself, awarding points for workouts, and giving you positive messages after each submitted workout.
I still have more toying around to do with the app as my review for it came at the peak of my marathon training and my brain was only registering running. The Fitness Games app has varying versions and you can buy workouts for $0.99.

This post was sponsored by The Fitness Games through my partnership with Fit Approach as a Sweat Pink Ambassador. I was not compensated monetarily, but was provided the Platinum Version of the application for review. As always, all opinions are my own.

For more on my approach to fitness follow me on Facebook and Instagram @thecookierunner 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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Race Recap Spartan Run!

This past weekend I learned how difficult and rewarding it really is to be a mom and an athlete. I'm not a professional athlete, but I dedicate enough time and energy to my fitness that I feel like an athlete. Before we moved to Chicago, I signed up to run the Chicago Spartan Race. Back then, my plan was to run the Super Spartan and I even managed to get my cousin in on the action. Fast forward to last week and being superwoman by working full-time, being a mom, and training for a marathon, I kind of forgot about the Spartan Race. Me forgetting means, I forgot to tell Alex so that he could make sure he wasn't scheduled to work. What happens? He's scheduled to work the weekend and there's no getting around that. Saturday's Super Spartan was not going to happen as I had no one to watch the girls. Thankfully, there was a Spartan Sprint scheduled for Sunday and I did have someone who could watch the girls that day. Lots of scrambling and emails leading up to Sunday, but I was able to get myself signed up and was able to run without worrying too much about my girls because they were at the best place possible: my cousin's house with lots of toys and even more snacks.

My cousin was able to switch his date too and we were both able to experience Spartan for the first time together. This would be my 9th mud run and my cousin's first so I was really hoping he would love these runs as much as I do (I need a mud run partner). Complete success! The Spartan Race did an amazing job at putting Sunday's event together. Checking in was easy and so was trying to change your time to earlier waves. The people were great and their course was stocked with volunteers. This is the first mud run I have ever done where volunteers were at the showing station looking out for open showers for the runners. The trails were no joke and I wish I had a watch so that I could have recorded the level of upness.

As expected, the running was the easiest part for me, even with those trails. I am proud to see that I have gotten stronger with my upper body. The mud was something else; this was definitely the thickest and most slippery mud I have even experienced. The obstacles were as expected with lots of climbing, but there was no way to prepare for that mud. As horrible as the obstacle was, crossing the mud mounds and ditches filled with water between the mounds, was probably my favorite obstacle. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard at myself or worked so hard to get myself out of mud.

Spartan Race hits you with the obstacles in the last 1/4 mile: rock climbing wall where you can't touch the floor, climbing up a slanted wall, straight rope climb, swim, wall climb, another slanted wall climb, and jumping over fire. When we first got to the race we watched people climb that last wall and we wondered what must have happened over those 4+ miles to make the runners look so worn and tired. Now I knew.

As soon as we finished, I felt so accomplished. I love doing these events because I feel like a complete badass. I feel strong and, really, just incredibly proud of myself for going outside of my comfort zone and trying something new. I was especially happy I did this event because I felt I deserved a good physical challenge after the mentally challenging week I had before the race. This race reminded me so much of how I felt after my first mud run that it has me dreaming of accomplishing the Spartan Trifecta (Sprint, Super, and Beast) next year. I also got to try Pumpkin beer, so that helped with my elation.

What I liked:

  • The camaraderie: I crossed the monkey bars on my cousin's shoulders. 
  • The course was definitely challenging with those hilly trails. 
  • The obstacles were challenging. Holy cow, were some of them hard. The hardest one for me was carrying a 65-lb stone. 
  • Free beer!
  • Cool medal. 
  • Easy packet pickup. 
  • Lively crowd. 
  • You could get your time as soon as you finished. 
  • Finish line obstacles were perfectly set up for spectating. 
What I didn't like:
  • I'm cheap so I didn't like paying $10 for parking and $5 for bag check. 
  • I liked the shirt, I just didn't like how big it fit me. 
  • Burpees, ouch! (I'm just being a baby)
Next official race is THE CHICAGO MARATHON!!!! I'm so over marathon training so October 12th can't get here soon enough.

For more on my running and training for the Chicago Marathon, follow me on Facebook and Instagram @thecookierunner