Training Apps (Nike+, NTC)

photo photo-4

If you are a college student running on a budget, or really anyone who can’t afford to dole out the big bucks for the best running accouterments, there are several options out there for you. When I was younger, my parents instituted a rule in our household after the discovery of my rather rapid cycling through interests. The rule was that if you took up a new hobby, you had to stick with it for at least a year or two before any big purchases could be made regarding it. For example, I now have a sewing machine and guitar that I had to earn through years of borrowing other’s equipment. This mentality has stuck with me throughout the years, so when I started running, partially because of my childhood rule, and partially because I’m cheap as hell (correction, I just don’t like spending money when there are perfectly good, cheaper options available) I decided not to invest in any serious running equipment, with the exception of shoes and clothes.

Being the anal person that I am though, I needed to be able to track the distances and times I was running, so I did a little research and found the Nike+ app. I’m sure many of you have some vague idea of the Nike+ chip you can put in your shoe to track miles, but Nike+ is no longer just about that chip. My dad has been using Nike+ for years moving from the chip, to bracelet, to watch, but I discovered, you don’t need any of that stuff!

 The Nike+ app for iPhone is incredible. I’m sure there are many other apps out there that track your miles and times for free, but this app has a few special features that I really enjoy. Before I get into the things that make the app special, I just want to say that after having used this app, I probably wouldn’t invest in any of the other Nike+ technology because you have to upload it to your profile to see your stats. With the app you can see and listen to your time/distance as you go, so for a person who loves instant gratification, as well as is following a training program, the app is great.

 

Best features of the Nike+ app:

Social Networking: The app not only tracks your activity, but also allows you to connect with your friends who use Nike+, and pits you in friendly competitions with them. This makes running less of a solitary activity and also gives you some motivation to keep your mileage up.

Trophies: Again a great motivational tool, when you reach certain benchmarks, trophies are added to your profile. There are awards for anything such as running a certain number of days/weeks/months in a row or number of miles logged in a certain time period. Regardless of their triviality, it feels good to rack up trophies.

Some of the trophies I've earned.

Some of the trophies I’ve earned.

Motivational Speakers: This is probably my favorite aspect of the app, as silly as it is. When you finish a run or if you set your run for a certain distance, when you’re in the last portion of it, famous runners/Nike affiliated athletes will come on and congratulate or motivate you to keep pushing. I don’t care that it’s pre-recorded, Ashton Eaton can come on my headphones and tell me I’m great any day of the week!

Data Collection: The app does a great job of collecting ones running data including, weather, how it felt, and what surface you ran on and creating not only an individual page for each run, but also graphs of running data for the month.

photo-1 photo-2

Powersongs: The app talks to you throughout your run, giving you your average pace at each mile and if you set the distance you’re going to run, when you’re very close to finishing it, it will give you the option to start a powersong. A powersong is a pre-set pump up song of your choosing, taken from your phone’s iPod.

While I may eventually try and acquire a Garmin watch, for now, the Nike+ app is a great resource that not only tells me what I’m doing, but also gives me another level of motivation thanks to it’s personal bench marks.

Another fitness app I love to use is the Nike Training Club (NTC) app . Also free, it provides targeted workouts for strengthening specific areas of the body with great video instruction. Oftentimes when I run out of ideas for my own strengthening exercises I will use this app for some variation, or to target an area that I don’t know any exercises for.

photo-5

Advertisements

Cape Cod Rail Trail

This past weekend I reached the point in my half marathon training program where the weekend long run was farther than I had ever run before. Having done 7 miles the week before, 8 seemed daunting, but doable. While I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 training plan to a T, I hadn’t actually read any of his descriptions of each of the workouts. To my surprise, I discovered that you’re actually supposed to run 30-90 seconds slower than your race pace during long runs. My theory up until this point had been that you should run as fast or faster than your race pace in training to make it feel easier when you were actually racing. Given the strain keeping this pace put on my body, I was more than happy to oblige Hal’s advice and run slower than I had been. This also eased some of the anxiety I had about my first foray into what I consider true distance running.

I was on Cape Cod this weekend in Orleans with a friend from school. Before leaving for the beach, I did some googling of places to run on the Cape. The most appealing and accessible appeared to be the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 22-mile paved trail, running from South Dennis to South Wellfleet, passing through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet.

My friend and I drove to the trail and entered at Nickerson State Park. After a massive rainstorm the night before there was no humidity and at 10am it was about 78 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. We began running SW towards Brewster and Harwich. There were tons of bikers out, in addition to runners. The company was welcome in the way in which seeing other people out there working and suffering gives comfort and solidarity.

I am accustomed to city running, which can be frustrating regarding pedestrians, but I find enjoyable because the scenery is always changing both in terms of landscape and people. The Rail Trail was beautiful, but monotonous. The entire thing was virtually a concrete road encompassed by a tunnel of greenery, with occasional breaks of sun when town roads crossed the trail. The greenery provided very welcome shade, but virtually no variation, which got a little boring. My friend and I fluctuated between 9 and 10 minute miles, meeting our goal of 9:30 average miles. Due to my city running, I stop pretty often for stoplights. As this was a rural trail, there was no reason to stop except pure exhaustion. In the end, we ended up stopping every 2 miles (3 stops total), which I am very proud of!

Last week on my 7 mile run, I tried running with a water belt. I found it wildly uncomfortable and ended up just carrying the bottle in hand. After that, I went to Marathon Sports in Boston and got a small bottle with a hand strap. I tested it out on the 8 mile run, and while not the most comfortable thing ever, it did the trick! The other thing I got at Marathon Sports was a bunch of gels/chews to experiment with. I took the Chocolate Outrage GU Energy Gel with me on this run and stopped at mile 6 to eat it. I loved the taste and when I finished my run, and later into that day, I didn’t feel as depleted and dehydrated as I had after my 7 mile run.

Overall it was a great experience and made me feel as if I might actually have it in myself to finish the half marathon. While I’m very excited for the half, I’m really nervous about actually being able to run that far, and being able to run 8 miles was the first time that I really thought, okay, if I can do this, I can do 13.1. And if you’re looking for a place to run on the cape, look no further than the Cape Cod Rail Trail, despite the monotony it was beautiful and nice and shady.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Power Smoothie

Chocolate Peanut Butter Power Smoothie.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Power Smoothie.

One of the best parts of being home is that my mom has a Vitamix. I don’t really know what differentiates Vitamixes from regular blenders, but based on people’s general reaction to them I think they’re like the Cadillac of blenders? Any who, I love smoothies. I mean there are just so many reasons to:

1. They taste delicious.

2. You can hide super healthy stuff in them.

3. It’s a great way to stay hydrated pre/post exercise.

4. Summer heat makes me not very hungry, so smoothies give me an alternative way to

get nutrients.

My mom is an expert at making green drinks, but when using the Vitamix myself, I prefer to make protein/potassium packed smoothies, partially because those are important nutrients for running, but mostly because the green drinks my mom makes are full of really weird things that I’m totally down to drink, just as long as I don’t have to see them in the making.

Recently I’ve started making what I call the Chocolate Peanut Butter Power Smoothie. It’s super filling, delicious, and works great as a breakfast. Blend all of the below ingredients together, makes about a glass and a half. It it pretty sweet and thick, much like a milkshake, to adjust this, add more ice or an unflavored milk like coconut milk.

 

Ingredients:

Foundational ingredients of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Power Smoothie.

Foundational ingredients of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Power Smoothie.

1 “juice box” container of chocolate almond milk

1 small banana (6-7 inches)

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 cup raw spinach

2 handfuls ice

*Feel free to add any powdered vitamins/minerals; I often add Vitamin C, and Healthy Tummy Fiber.

 

Nutrition Info:

Silk Pure Almond Dark Chocolate Milk

120 calories

120mg potassium

23g carbs

1g protein

45% daily calcium (based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet)

 

Banana (small 6-7inches)

90 calories

362mg potassium

23g carbs

1g protein

Wild Harvest Organic Peanut Butter (2tbsp) (I use this brand because it is one of the only brands that doesn’t use soy oil which I’m allergic to.)

210 calories

6g carbs

8g protein

 

Raw Spinach (1 cup)

7 calories

1g carbs

1g protein

 

*Banana and Raw Spinach nutritional info from www.nutrition.self.com

 

Vitamix full of Chocolate Peanut Butter Power Smoothie ingredients.

Vitamix full of Chocolate Peanut Butter Power Smoothie ingredients.

 

 

 

Daddy’s Girl

*Disclaimer: This article is not to say that my dad and I weren’t close, or had trouble connecting before I became a runner, or to say that the only way we could connect was through sports. That would be a narrow-minded dishonor to our relationship. But I will say that running has kicked down new doors in our relationship, allowing us to communicate above words, through the magic sound of feet pounding pavement.

My mother and I have the type of connection that can only come from sharing the same birthday. There is some inextricable link between us, akin to the bond I imagine twins share. My mother is the heart and soul of our family. She is vivacious, talkative, expressive, and loving. For whatever moodiness, or brooding that the rest of the family, myself included, brings to the table, my mother’s kindness softens those edges and envelops us all. I am my mother’s daughter in so many ways, words and feelings seem to bubble from the two of us incessantly, but for all of our similarities I have a very prominent streak of my father in my makeup as well. If my mother is the heart and soul of our family, my father is the backbone.

My father is a diamond in the rough. He is the type of man by which I measure all others, and most fall very short. He is quiet, stoic, brilliant, modest, quirky, and deeply kind. A man of few words, he makes what he says count. As a daughter, I think I baffle him. I talk a mile a minute about trivial teenage girl drama and I’m not deluded enough to think any of that could be of interest to him. I know though, that he cares. It is through his words and pep talks that I have found the strength to overcome all challenges, both athletically, and in day-to-day life. When I have stopped believing in myself, my dad has always been there with a steely faith to keep me going. It is through his even keel and unwavering support that we connect.

He may not say much with his mouth, but I’ve learned that he speaks through his feet. For as long as I can remember, my dad has been a runner. Through good times and bad he has disappeared outside to pound out his grievances on the pavement, returning sweat covered and lighter in demeanor. While he was never disappointed in my decision not to be a distance runner in high school, I was disappointed in myself that I couldn’t give him that common ground between us. Instead, he learned about jumping, came to my meets after long days in the office, standing far enough away as to not distract me, but close enough that I could feel the comfort of his presence.

When I finally got into distance running, I wanted it as much for myself, as for my dad. I didn’t want to take his hobby, but I wanted to be a part of it. My dad shares so little of himself in the ways that I consider conventional, but I realized it wasn’t an issue of sharing, so much as learning to listen. So I laced up a pair of running shoes and started listening to the pavement.

Two days after my first run, that fateful DC spring day when I decided I was going to be a runner, I went to NYC for a family member’s wedding. I asked my dad if he wanted to go running with me. We did a five-mile loop around the Central Park Reservoir. No matter how many races I run, or how many training runs I go on in the future, this run will keep a very special place in my heart. Since that run I haven’t felt as undeniably happy and invincible while running. The weather was crisp and cool, the view was beautiful, but it was the companionship that made it so special. My dad and I didn’t talk much, but our feet were communicating. Sharing such a triumphant and trying experience such as running, with another person is the stuff that unbreakable bonds are made of. The simple sound of my father’s panting and the crunchy beat of his feet on the gravel was the most comforting and beautiful way for him to say I love you.

Our first daddy-daughter run around the Central Park  Reservoir.

Our first daddy-daughter run around the Central Park Reservoir.

Another trait I get from my father is my hyper-competitiveness. Every run for me is a competition with myself and I am constantly looking at all things with a competitive mindset. My father though, always lets me set the pace, staying a half foot behind so as to never pressure me to go faster. I never thought much of this until doing a race with him and seeing the speed he is capable of. When we first started running together, I was running 10:15 miles, well over 2 minutes slower than his average pace. Knowing how competitive he is, I realize how much it means for him to slow down to run with me. I love running with my dad, and true to my personality, I am vocal about it. My father, also true to his personality, is not. I could easily interpret that as meaning he doesn’t enjoy running together, but that would mean I wasn’t listening. Our side-by-side footfalls mean the world to the other.

While I will have the art of running my entire life, running with my dad has meant, and will mean, more than any other accomplishment I ever achieve in running. Running has been a part of my father’s life for more than 40 years, and it is an undeniable privilege and honor to be able to share in this world that has meant so much to him.

Summer training run.

Summer training run.

Favorite Pandora Stations For Working Out

This year I’ve been experimenting with which are the best Pandora stations to run and workout to. There are several stations that are designed for working out, but few of those have worked for me, so below is a list of all the stations I’ve used for any type of exercise, categorized by what they’re best for. As with any Pandora station, there is only so long you can use it before you tire of the songs, so this list includes the stations that I have tired of but served their purpose when I could still stand the songs.

CARDIO:

I Love It Radio

Absolutely the best for running. The tempo really keeps me motivated and in a good mood. Features artists such as Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris, Icona Pop, Avicii, M83, and Ellie Goulding.

Scream And Shout Radio

Good for running or any type of cardio. Very similar to I Love It Radio, featuring some of the same artists, but slightly more main stream, pop music. Features artists such as Icona Pop, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry.

Drop It Like It’s Hot Radio

Good for gym cardio like biking and elliptical and light core work. Features artists such as 50 cent, The Game, G-Unit, and D12.

Pop and Hip Hop Power Workout Radio

If there was a station designed for getting you through the monotony of gym cardio machines, this is it. Features artists such as Pitbull, will.i.am, David Guetta, Flo Rida, and Usher.

Today’s Hip Hop and Pop Hits Radio

Best for a more gentle cardio workout. For some reason I can’t run to it, something about the poppyness of it or the softness of the beats, but I love it on the elliptical. Features artists such as Jason DeRulo, Jay Sean, Akon, and Chris Brown.

GENERAL GYM EXERCISES/CORE:

Macklemore Radio

I was starting to get bored of I Love It Radio and wanted to be able to run to the music from this station. It’s a little too soft to run to though, but it’s great pump up music and fun to listen to at the gym while doing light core work. Features artists such as Eminem, Jay-Z, Imagine Dragon, Kid Cudi, and Mac Miller.

Pumped Up Kicks Radio

Fun for core/muscle strengthening. Features artists such as Metric, Tegan and Sara, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Naked and Famous.

LIFTING/STRENGTH:

Rap Strength Training Radio

Great for lifting or any type of slow paced strength exercises. Features artists such as DJ Khaled, Lil Wayne, Drake, Young Jeezy, and T.I.

Finish At The 50 5k/10k Race Recap

The second race my dad and I signed up for this summer was a 10k that took place at Patriot’s Place, home of New England’s NFL team, the Patriots. (http://www.harvardpilgrimfinishatthe50.com) Now I’m not the biggest football fan, but I was so pumped for this race! I mean how cool, you get to run onto the field where beautiful Tom Brady has stood, and finish at the 50 yard line while they show you on the jumbotron!

This race had the potential to be awesome, if it weren’t for the horrendous heat. I should’ve expected this considering it was on July 3 (Boston in July is never pleasant) but I was not at all prepared for the heat and humidity. I had been out of the country until a week before the race, and hadn’t run at all while I was gone.

The day before the race, my dad and I were both feeling really sick and my hip was really hurting. We considered not doing it, but decided to go ahead with it anyways. When we got to Gillette Stadium and felt the heat I decided to drop down into the 5k race instead of the 10k, which I am wildly glad I did because my chest was so tight the entire race, I felt like I was having a heart attack.

Besides the heat and humidity, the course of the race was nearly entirely on black concrete with no shade, which did not help the situation at all. The 5k route basically took us around the parking lot, then all the way up the crowd control ramps into the stadium, around the stadium, down the ramps on the other side, around the stadium again and then out onto the field. The ramps really messed with my speed because at every turn, a lot of people would stop and walk which made it hard to keep a consistent pace given how narrow they were. By the end of the race I was so overheated I couldn’t even enjoy how cool it was being on the field. All of the water was on the outside of the field and once you left you couldn’t reenter, so I kind of missed the coolest part due to exhaustion.

Best part about doing the 5k though, was that it was at 5:30pm, an hour earlier than the 10k, so I got to cheer my dad on! My awesome friend Molly braved the heat to hangout with me after my race and watch my dad. We were able to see him cross the start line and at two other places on the course. By the time he finished, he did not look like he was doing too well, a rarity for him, but not for the race. All around, there were elite, extremely fit runners taking knees and panting.

For the dignity of my father and I, I will not mention our times, but lets just say it was no one’s best day. We were both around 5 minutes slower than our average pace. Despite the heat, and the fact that they only had women’s large t-shirts left, it was a really cool place for a race, and probably the only way I’ll ever get on the field at Gillette Stadium. Also, as we were leaving, we saw Team Hoyt, who have participated in over 1000 races. My dad said that he ran past them during the race and gave the father, Dick, a pat on the shoulder. Overall, another very cool running experience.

Pre-race

Pre-race

The daunting race ramps

The daunting race ramps

Post-race

Post-race

Dad at the start of the 10k

Dad at the start of the 10k

Newton 10k Race Recap

Victory pose, post race

Victory pose, post race

Daddy and Daughter right after the finish

Daddy and Daughter right after the finish

Rocking the Newton 10k race t-shirt

Rocking the Newton 10k race t-shirt

The Newton 10k was my first race, with the exception of some 5k fun runs I did as a little kid. It took place on June 2,2013 and at that time, I had been running for a little under two months. Mid-May I got strep throat so I stopped running and had only about a week back on the pavement before the race.

I was wildly excited for this race, partly because of my extreme competitive spirit, partly because I got into running because I missed the electric and fun experience of track meets, but mostly because I got to run it with my dad.

Ever since I can remember my dad has been a runner. I actually plan on writing an entire blog post on the whole daddy-daughter running thing, but this will suffice for now. When I got into track but not distance running, I was really worried that I was disappointing my dad. I imagined that he had always wanted a kid he could run with and train with, and that was something I wanted as well, minus the act of actually running. Much to my dad’s credit, he was never once disappointed in my choice to not run distance, but when I got into this year, I think he was pretty pumped.

While I was still away at school he called me and asked me if I wanted to run this race with him. I said absolutely and now here we were on race day. The forecast for the day was something like a high of 88 degrees, which for an Oregonian such as myself is quite daunting. I have a 10 degree range of temperate from 65 to 75 in which I’m comfortable, and other than that I’m too hot or cold.  The race started at 8am though, so it wasn’t too hot until near the end of the race.

We arrived at 7am to beat the non-existent crowds, explore, and hit the port-a-potties. It was a really manageable sized group, around 650, and after running other races, I have come to realize that this was an exceptionally well-organized race, so shout out to Fattman Productions for that. There were no time corrals, people just gathered down the street from the starting line. People didn’t push and it was very relaxed.

When I first started running in April I was running 10 – 10:30 minute miles. I’ve now gotten myself down to 9 minute miles, and that is my goal for half marathon. My dad, who runs much faster than me, dutifully ran the first mile with me, which we did in 8:40, and then I freed him to go tear it up. Despite the heat, the race was so fun. The sky was stunningly blue and it was awesome to see bobbing neon bodies snaking up ahead. Oddly enough, I ran nearly the entire race with about a 5-10 foot radius of no people around me. The course ran through beautiful residential Newton, and some of the residents came out to cheer us on which was really nice, and gave a very helpful boost. The course also utilized some of the Boston Marathon route and at the bottom of one of the hills, someone dressed in a gorilla suit with a heartbreak hill t-shirt was high fiving the runners, which was hilarious.

I skipped the first water station because I have a little bit of a complex about showing off and being strong which is super stupid, so I need to just get over it and stop when I need to. There were three water stations placed around mile 2, mile 4, and mile 5.5. I suffer from abdominal cramps when I run and I had a pretty gnarly one from around mile 3 to 5 so at the second water stop I decided to take a rest. Once I’d drank half my water, because it was hot and I thought it looked hardcore, I decided to dump the rest of my water on my head. Queen of the idiots over here dumped it right into her ear and short-circuited her headphones. By the third water station I was feeling good so I decided to get water but, against my father’s advice, drink it while I ran. As my father had warned would happen, I choked on it.

Once my cramps dissipate, I typically get a second wind for my last mile. By the end of this race, I was unbelievably hot, but wanted to finish strong and kicked it into high gear. As I came down the final stretch I saw my dad standing right next to the finish line cheering and it gave me the extra boost I needed to finish strong. When I crossed the line, my dad gave me a huge hug and despite feeling like I was going to throw up, I was filled with some serious elation and endorphins.

I really liked the post race offerings. I discovered Hint Water there, which is really mildly flavored water and is so refreshing after running. They also had free samples of Unreal Candy, which I’m obsessed with. I’d discovered the “unjunked” candy a few weeks earlier and my favorite is their version of a Snickers bar. Right before we were about to leave, we checked the results and it turned out I’d gotten third in my age group (I mean there were only eight girls in the 16-19 age group, but hey!) which meant I got a prize in the form of a New Balance water belt! I ran a 55:32.5, 8:57/mile pace, and got 319 out of 647. My dad, beast that he is, ran a 48:45 7:51/mile pace, and got 15th in the 50-59 age group, which is incredible considering the Newton 10k was a Massachusetts Senior Olympics event, meaning that my dad was running against the states’ top senior runners. Overall he got 132 out of 647.

After the race, my dad and I went to a hip Lebanese café nearby (my dad specializes in the discovery of hip cafes) for a celebratory drink and pastry, proudly sporting our finishers t-shirts, which were really nice, fitted dry-fit type material. I’m hoping to make a tradition of running this race with my dad; it was a great size, well run, and a beautiful route. Besides the joy of getting to run with my dad, this was my first exposure to the elite 20-30 year old runners, which has given me something to aspire to.