Knitting Is My Therapy
Earlier pandemic, I was outside A LOT. Now that it's colder, and darker, and Minnesota is in another round of closing entertainment venues (specifically roller skating rinks), I'm knitting more again. If you're interested, here is my go-to knit hat pattern, complete with supplies lists and a few video tutorials on techniques. Here we go!
Learn More (Knitting How-To Videos)
How to Keep On, Keeping On
When it comes to healthy habits, figuring out how to stay motivated is the ball game. I think we all know that we should (in it’s simplest form) eat less and move more. The trick is figuring out how to make good decisions for future you (who wants to age well) while also contending with current you, who very much wants to eat batter fried cheese curds and binge watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. (Just as a for instance.)
Aside from working on making long-term dietary changes and working on my mindset in general, I find that having another layer of accountability helps. Since I HATE HATE HATE spending money stupid, apps that not only gamify the process but include a financial incentive help me stay motivated as I strive to help future Brenda live a long, active, and healthy life. Her are my top three apps, plus one bonus app, that help me do just that.
Stepbet helps people with motivation and accountability as they strive to be more active as measured by an increase in steps taken. It requires use of a fitness tracker to track steps and participate in challenges. Stepbet runs 6-week walking challenges that usually cost $40 for an individual to enter. Upon completing the challenge successfully, participants receive their $40 back, and usually a little more, with the amount depending on how many people finished and get to split the pot. (I have earned as much as $53 total.) Step goals are based on increasing your current steps per day. 4 days per week have a regular step goal with 2 days having even higher stretch goals.
I used Stepbets as a starting point when preparing for my first 5K. I have also used Stepbets anytime my activity level has gotten too low to kickstart my increased exercise.
Runbet is very similar to Stepbet (and is also a part of WayBetter), but has a focus on helping with accountability as people build the running habit. Runbet hosts 2-8 week challenges (most are 6 weeks) like Starter 5k, Making Running a Habit, Getting Back Into Running, and Run to Lose Weight. Challenges specify how fast participants need to run (18 minutes per mile for the beginner challenges), frequency of running required (3-6 times per week), and required time or mileage to be achieved. Participants can use the free Runkeeper app to track their running outside, or submit a picture of the treadmill readout and a “sweaty selfie” to confirm mileage run indoors.
I participated in two Runbet when preparing to run my first 5K. Having a set schedule, and the extra motivation of not losing my $40, helped me to keep in the running habit. Also, since the pace was 18 minutes per mile, I could walk at a good pace and still make the time.
HealthyWage take accountability to a whole new level. Where as Runbet and Stepbet focus on activity, HealthyWage focuses on results—specifically a change in the scale. The goals are much more flexible, as is the amount of money to “bet” on the desired outcome, amount of weight to lose, and timeframe needed. Based on inputs, you see how much you could make.
From there, you do an official weigh in—which includes submitting a video of you weighing yourself with specific parameters to verify that it is you on the scale, and that you’re not falsifying information.
In addition to the main challenge, there are additional contests you can also take part in. Those include challenges to lose 6% of your body weight and challenges that increase your overall activity level as measured through step count. I signed up for a step challenge—specifically the Winter Walk-A-Thon Step Challenge. My current step average was calculated from recent FitBit data. From there, HealthyWage sets a goal for me to reach which is 25% above my current step count. For this 60-day challenge, I pay $30 per month, and I need to achieve a total number of steps over the course of the challenge that is equal to 60 days-worth of steps at the identified step count.
For example, if my established step goal is 10,000 per day, over the course of 60 days, I would need to take 600,000 steps, which averages out to 10,000 per day. There is no daily goal, however (which I like a lot). If I move a lot on one day, my displayed average daily steps needed will decrease to cover that difference. If I have a relatively stationary day, my displayed average daily steps needed will increase. One way or another, though, I need to meet that established step goal in the timeframe, so I win the bet.
I just recently signed up for HealthyWage. I’ve built, and lost, and built good routines for fitness in the past. Now, it was time for me to make sure those good fitness habits stuck, and that I also fine tuned my diet. Using HealthyWage to hold me accountable for weight loss AND increasing my activity will help give me another layer of accountability to meet my goals.
Runbet, Stepbet, and HealthyWage impact fitness related habits and results to help with accountability. The motivation is both not losing your initial investment and the possibility of earning a financial reward.
Stickk is a helpful as a stick, rather than a carrot, to help you stay accountable for a goal, fitness or otherwise. Instead of giving you the opportunity to win, with Stickk, it motivates you to meet your goal so you don’t lose. Stickk has to pick an Anti-charity where you’ll have to donate if you do not reach your goal. You can even identify people who will verify that you achieved your goal. In my case, I used this as another form of motivation for completing the Northshore Inline Marathon. It was also a case where my teenage daughter (also not a fan of my anti-cause) threatened to “kick my ass” if I didn’t meet my goal. That’s what I call accountability.
What Do You Think?
How do you stay motivated to meet your health and fitness goals? Share your thoughts in the comments.
From "To Do" to "To Done"
Like many adults, I have what feels like a never-ending to-do list. No matter how much progress I make, I often dismiss what I have accomplished because I'm too busy focusing on all of the things I haven't done.
A couple of years ago, I had a boss who encouraged me to make a success list on a weekly basis. This was a great way for me to remind myself that I am making progress--even if it doesn't always feel like it's the case. In addition to my weekly success list, I decided to take personal inventory and do a quick list for the past year.
This Year's Success List
1. Added daily yoga to my wellness routine.
2. Applied for 21 jobs and had 12 interviews.
3. Bought running shoes I absolutely love and ran my first 5k.
4. Celebrated my 10-year anniversary with my husband.
5. Connected with over 100 new colleagues on LinkedIn.
6. Cut my daily commute time by 1 hour per day.
7. Decided to quit doing roller derby for a while to focus on being a roller derby mom.
8. Didn’t totally freak out when my daughter was on a two-week trip to Asia with a school affiliated group.
9. Enrolled my daughter a drivers ed class and started my role as a driving coach.
10. Found an awesome new chiropractor.
11. Got a new FitBit and finished 3 StepBet challenges.
12. Got our cat, Zippy, through ear surgery. (Now she has one ear hole, but two cosmetic ears).
13. Learned how to slow down on hills in inline skates. (Next year I hope to have a little more style in my slowing down.)
14. Logged over 80 gym visits.
15. Outlined a book on job searching and job transition.
16. Published 18 blog articles.
17. Ran over 70 miles and inline skated over 250 miles on outdoor trails.
18. Saw “Die Hard”, “They Live”, and “When Harry Met Sally” at the Parkway Theatre.
19. Skated my first inline 10K event and didn’t die, then skated my first inline marathon and finished in under 3 hours.
20. Started a great new job as the Director of Training at a software company.
21. Survived my second position elimination in 2 years and found a great new job in less than 2 months.
22. Tried spinning and enjoyed it.
23. Vacationed in New Orleans.
24. Watched all the episodes of Will and Grace and Friday Night Lights.
25. Wrote my very first knitting pattern.
What About You?
What is on your success list for this past year? Include your thoughts in the comments.
How To Do This
When I think of things I've wanted to try in life, one of my biggest foundational questions is "how do I even do this?". In this article, I'll give you my answer on the gear aspect of what all the things are you might need to inline skate for a longer distance.
Skating Further = More to Carry
In addition to the general challenges of learning how to inline skate outdoors on trails, as distance becomes longer, there are additional factors to manage. For one, figuring out how to carry a few personal items, some just-in-case supplies, food, and water becomes necessary. There are multiple solutions available to solve these problems from hydration backpacks to fanny packs to vest to hand-held water bottles. There is also the question of what all to where (clothing and gear) and how to go about procuring each of the needed things. As a starting point for your own learning process, here's what clothing and gear I went with to prepare me to skate longer distances.
What I Wear and Why
Clothing choice is tricky since it means balancing many factors. For me, it's addressing sun protection, managing body temperature, keeping safety in mind, and having a way to carry the things one needs when exercising outside for a few hours at a pop. Gear needs to help keep you safe in case of an emergency as well as balance performance and manageability. After a few false starts, here's where I landed.
At first, I wore a Women's Armachillo Cooling Sleeveless T-shirt from one of my favorite stores Duluth Training Company. When was skating under and hour at a shot, and I didn't need to carry a lot with me, this was a great solution to carry my keys and ID. While I liked something sleeveless, I also had to wear sunscreen on my arms. As I researched what other inline skaters do, I realized that short sleeve cycling jerseys were the go to. I needed a way to carry water with me in the least awkward way I could. I looked into hydration backpacks, and other water carrying solutions like fanny packs or hand bottle holders.
I chose a bicycling jersey because, like a lot of longer distance inline skaters, they give you the ability to carry a few thing with you without tying up your hands. In general, I'm not a fan of bags, because off odd weight distribution, awkwardness when accessing items on the go, and increasing body temperature by having one more thing to carry and sweat up. Having pockets in the back of my shirt where things are readily accessible, but not particularly bulky to carry, has been a good solution for me.
I now own 3 long sleeved Terry Cycling Tops since I typically skate 3 or so times per week. I like these particular cycling jerseys because they have three deeper pockets on the lower back instead of 2 larger ones. I also purchased one Fix It Stick Back Bottle which is specially designed to stay put in a jersey, and put it in the middle of the back. I also typically carry a smaller water bottle with me, and in my far left back pocket, I carry a few Picky Bars for on-the-go nutrition, a few single serve size packets of Osmo Nutrition - Active Hydration for Women to add to water handed out at water stations, and a skate tool just in case. I also prefer the long sleeve version because it has sun protection UPF 50+ built in. It's also moisture wicking, and since it's designed "by women and for women", it fits way better than other jerseys I tried. They feel light and are comfortable in addition to being functional. As an extra added bonus, I also like that each of mine have fun designs that include blue (which is my helmet color.)
Down Low: PopFit Stella Leggings w/Pockets
Leggings with pockets are the best thing ever. I tried a number of different brands of leggings, and I like these PopFit leggings the best. I like them because they have fabric rather than mesh pockets, and the pockets are substantial. The deep pockets give me a place to put my key fob and ID (right pocket) and my phone (left pocket, screen in) where both are accessible, but won't fall out. They have sturdy seams, keep their shape, come up high enough at the waist, and the material is sturdy. As needed, I can also carry a small water bottle, or crumpled up cup, in my right pocket, or even a snack as needed.
When inline skating, I've fallen a few different ways. While my knees and wrists are safety geared up, leggings are my barrier between the rest of me and the asphalt. These are also heavy-duty leggings that can take some abuse and last. I have had a few bigger falls this year (stick in my skates, wiped out going down a hill, hit by a boy on a bike) and these leggings helped protect my legs from serious road rash and are still wearable and looking good. As an extra added bonus, I love the body positive message of this company, and the wide range of sizes available.
Until very, very recently, I was skating in K2 Alexis Pro Women's Inline Skates. These were a good place for me to start. They had strong construction, good ventillation, and softer wheels to give me a little more control and a little less speed while I was learning to inline skate. I've also beaten them up a bit, and now that I have put in some mileage skating, I decided that I was ready for an upgrade. I'm in no way ready for elite level skates, but something with a little more speed made sense.
When picking out new skates, I stuck with K2s because I knew they fit my feet well, and they are made for those of use who do not have delicate calves. I picked out K2 VO2 90 Pro Women's Inline Skates because they had 90mm wheels instead of 80mm wheels (bigger wheels = faster) 83A wheel durometer vs 80A durometer (harder = faster, but not so fast that I will do myself great bodily harm), an aluminum frame vs plastic frame (increase durability), and they were more breathable. I'm at the skill level where the grippier wheels were slowing me down and making skating on uneven surfaces more difficult. On a very short skate I did to try out K2 VO2's, I went about 30 seconds per mile faster than I did in my K2 Alexis skates. I also took them out on a recent 16 mile skate and they felt great.
What Do You Think?
What is your go-to inline skating gear? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Life Is What Happens To You While You're Busy Making Other Plans
Last Sunday, I skated 10.4 miles, my longest skate to date. I was where I needed to be in my inline marathon training plan. I was less freaked out about hills, my endurance was improving, I had an ever-improving stride, and I was mostly ready (and productively anxious), about my upcoming inline half- marathon.
On Tuesday, I went to my favorite local lake with a 3ish mile bike trail with the plan of putting in 6 miles. About a half mile into my skate, I slowed down a bit as I went across a driveway, then started to pick up speed again. Suddenly, I felt something in the middle of my back, and I was knocked to the ground trying to figure out what just happened. A moment later, and I was standing up in the grass with a few more dings on my safety pads, looking at a boy on a bike. My best guess is that he was going faster than he should have been and not paying a whole lot of attention to anyone or anything else on the path. The main “anyone” on the path was me—an adult women in an obnoxious cycling jersey and a blue helmet. I stood there, taking personal inventory of where it hurt (which was barely anywhere because of the fun that is an adrenaline dump), and looking at him, and his seemingly disinterested mother, in disbelief.
There is a Fine Line Between Awful and Funny
What followed was an interchange that went something like this:
Me: You hit me with your bike and knocked me down.
Boy’s Mom: What happened?
Me: He hit me with his bike and knocked me down.
Boy: My brakes didn’t work.
Me: You hit me with your bike and knocked me down!
Boy’s Mom to Boy: Oh no! Let’s look at your brakes.
Me, to Boy’s Mom: HE HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN!
[Silence as I waited for the mother or the boy, or really anyone, to ask if I was okay or show any sort of acknowledgement or remorse for the part where the boy HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN.]
Me, to Boy’s Mom: In case you’re wondering, I’m okay.
Boy: My brakes didn’t work.
Me: YOU HIT ME WITH YOUR BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN!
In the end, I got nothing from the mom, and the boy continued to try to explain to me about how his brakes didn’t work. I skated ahead to get away from them, and when they caught up with me as I was waiting to cross the street, the boy stopped--funny how his brakes worked then--and his mom didn’t make eye contact with me and apparently was busy trying to locate her other child (who I think she was also trying to locate when the boy initially HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN).
I decided to skate only 3 miles that night since I was feeling a little off after the boy HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN. I was happy to skate/walk away from the issue, but the interaction bothered me for all of the reasons.
The Day After
I woke up the following day and realized that, although I am durable and tough, getting hit made a real impact on me. (Pun intended.) My back was a little sore, and later in the day, I had a headache and was extremely tired. I went home and slept a bit. The day after that, I noticed neck and back pain, and realized that this is what whiplash feels like. I scheduled a chiropractor appointment for Friday morning, and skipped skating Thursday night.
On Friday, I went to the chiropractor, and told her my situation. She told me it was my call whether or not I wanted to skate in a week, and we could see how it went and make a call later in the week. I have a couple of specific stretches to do, ice to use on my back and neck twice a day, and a directive not to skate or anything equally strenuous until at least Tuesday.
20, and probably even 10 years ago, I may have pushed it and done the race knowing that I could tough my way through it. While I have no doubt in my ability to play hurt and work through pain to achieve a goal, it’s also important to know when that makes sense, and when that is just dumb. I had planned for a week of training to achieve a few more things (a longer skate on rolling hills, an even longer skate on a flat surface to surpass the half marathon distance before the event) that I’m not going to be able to do. There is the pre-race taper, but I’m a little too pre-race to call this a long taper. There is also the pain that you play through (like soreness and aching rather than “I messed up my neck and back because someone HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN.”)
All of the Goals
While one of my goals is to skate an inline half marathon, that was really a sub goal on the way to skating an inline marathon. Knowing myself and my body, I’m going to sit out the half marathon (which kills me a little) and heal up so I can come back strong and do the full marathon in September. Sometimes one goal has to go away to reach another, more important goal. I’ll also skate the half marathon distance, just not with the pomp and circumstance of finishing an event as planned.
Skating is the most recent manifestation of one of my longer term life goals: continued wellness and mobility. One of my other core life goals is to be able to retain mobility and fitness throughout my lifetime. Currently, I’m not willing to put “complete inline half marathon in 2019” over “ability to walk when I’m 80 and live relatively pain-free.” This is one of those cases where adulting sucks. I know enough that I need to give up an interim goal to hit two, larger (and more important) long term goals. I'm still not happy about it.
Recovering and Refocusing
For the next week, my main physical activities will be sleep, yoga, stretching, and walking. It's killing me a little bit already, but better to take a week to really recover than pushing it too soon and hurting myself worse. After that, I'll reassess. Then I may do shorter skates on flat, controlled surfaces (like a local inline skating track that is well-maintained), try out my easy hills trail (which is a mile long), and see how things are looking. I'm also going to take full advantage of the chiropractic arts and have a massage between now and then. I may also walk and put in some elliptical time to keep my fitness level up while I heal.
What Do You Think?
How do you heal from an injury? How to you manage your headspace? Include your thoughts in the comments.
From Plan to Reality
In previous blog articles, I outlined my 3-phase inline marathon training plan. Having a high-level plan is not enough, though. In order to be successful, I must put that plan into action. This means getting from weekly mileage and a list of cross training activities on a page into specific appointments on the calendar. This also means factoring in the weather, work activities, parenting, and spending time with family and friends. I also find that if I don’t think ahead, it’s way too easy to not make training a priority.
The Overarching Detailed Plan
I have a detailed outline of my specific training plan. It plots our week by week how many miles I should be skating, and additional training activities and frequencies. Within a given week, my goal is to skate outside 3 times, have 1 cross training day, incorporate working on hills, maintain flexibility, and do some strength training. I also need to have at least 1 rest/recover day in addition to daily stretching. As I get closer to the inline half marathon, here is what an upcoming training week looks like:
Blame It on the Rain
Growing up on a farm, I was used to having a contentious relationship with the weather. Farmers are always trying to work it out so that they can cut hay, give it a bit to dry, bale it, and then haul it out of the fields and into the barn—ideally without it getting rained on along the way.
As a city dweller, I have not had to care as much about the weather for years. Now, though, since I need to train outside (and skating in the rain is not a thing), I need to pay more attention to the weather. When might it rain this week? If it does rain, how much? Can I sneak in a skate early morning or later evening skate before or after the rain? With that information in my head, and my training plan in front of me, it’s time to do some research and scheduling.
Working Around the Weather
Not only do I need to find 3 days where I can skate outside, but I also would like to have 3 days with at least 1 day off in between. I also need to stay flexible enough that as the weather forecast updates, I can revise my scheduled days as needed. Right now, it looks like Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning have the greatest chance of rain. On the day of my 3-mile skate, I also want to be sure to do some practicing on hills (my stopping downhill skills need some work) and on the longer skate day, I’ll focus more on distance on a relatively flat surface. As weather dictates, I can also possibly work on stopping on hills and going up hills, on a different day.
Also, this past weekend, I did a longer skate on Saturday, and a skating lesson on Sunday, so I need to take Monday off from skating to let my body recover. That means that later in the week, I may need to skate 2 days in a row depending on the weather. I will tentatively push out my longer skate until Sunday so I at least have a day off from skating before that longer, potentially more taxing training day. With all those things in mind, I check out the week's forecast:
Current Working Plan
After looking at the weather, I considered my work schedule, social plans with friends, fitness classes I wanted to go to, and the family calendar. After factoring those items in, here's the schedule I landed on:
Activities for Specific Days
My recovery day can be whatever it needs to be. Sometimes, recovery involves guarding the couch and watching Netflix followed by an Epsom salt bath and a little extra sleep. It could also include a massage or a leisurely hike with a friend. For my next recovery day, I’m planning on foam rolling and a little yoga.
When it comes to flexibility training, I do basic stretching every day. In addition, I like to go to at least one yoga class per week. This helps me to make sure I’m not doing the same exercises all the time and pushing myself to use different muscle groups. As needed, I can also do flexibility training on a day when I’m also doing skating or cross-training.
For Strength training, I have multiple options. I can take a strength class, do circuit training at the gym, or I can do a kettlebell routine at home. This is the most flexible component of my workout since I have the option of doing this at home as schedules permit. As needed, I can also do strength training on a day when I’m also doing skating or cross-training.
Cross training can take multiple formats. My favorites include running outside and running or walking uphill on a treadmill at the gym. As I work on getting better at hills, using the Stairmaster at the gym, or walking around Minnehaha Falls park and doing multiple flights of stairs, helps increase my cardiovascular capability as well as my hill climbing muscles.
Scheduling Each Activity
Once I have my general plan set, I figure out exactly what I’m going to do and make an executable plan. Writing down details helps me to complete each planned activity. It also gives me the specific information to enable me to not have to think through details in the moment and risk not following through. Here are my specific activities for the week:
What Do You Think?
What concrete plans do you make to make sure you'll meet your fitness goals? Include your thoughts in the comments.
My 3 Phase Inline Marathon Training Plan
In a recent blog post, I talked about my previous half-baked inline half marathon plan. I learned the hard way that I need a solid training plan to reach my goals. This time around, here is my three-phase training plan to achieve my inline skating marathon related goals:
Phase III: Game On!
Welcome to Phase III of my inline marathon training plan. This is where, to put it plainly, shit gets real. Now I'm skating and getting ready for a crazy long skate and realizing how far I'm going to go between now and mid-September.
Goals: Skate longer distances outside on uneven terrain.
My Overarching Training Plan for Phase III
I’ve done a fair share of research for books or online resources, and there’s not a thorough roadmap for how to train for an inline marathon available. There aren’t many current go-to websites or a book to help guide the way. I dug a bit more and found useful ideas for how to go about this from a variety of disparate sources. From parts, I’ve cobbled together a plan from the huge body of information available on running your first marathon, websites with dribs and drabs on inline marathons, and resources on physical training in general.
From that I put together a personal training plan for myself that incorporates the following:
Skating Longer Distance
The core part of my plan includes skating outside on a regular basis. My starting point is skating 3 miles, partly because I know I can complete that distance (instead of starting at a mile or so of skating). In addition, my very favorite neighborhood lake with a biking trail is about 3 miles long. I have a whole plan plotted out for skating 3 times per week, which includes two shorter skates, and one longer skate per week. It also includes adding mileage weekly and scaling back a bit every three weeks to gradually build up mileage. I’m also incorporating the taper that running marathoners use which involves reducing mileage just before the event.
Improve Skating Technique
I am pretty tough in general, and I know I can power through many obstacles. However, I’m also smart enough to know that white knuckling my way through an event like this should by no means be plan A. I know I need to keep increasing my overall endurance (building on what I accomplished through the running in the last phase of this process.) I also know that my technique needs some serious leveling up. I need to transition from basically walking on inline skates, to having something that is more recognizable as an efficient stride. I need to get more distance from each stride and be more efficient so I can complete an event that is, to date, about 4 times longer than any skate I have ever done. This includes taking inline skating lessons, doing drills, doing sport specific conditioning, and a whole lot of practicing.
Incorporating Cross Training
I also know I can’t just skate to get ready for this event. First off, sometimes the weather won’t cooperate with my plans to skate outside. This is where running (indoors or outdoors) will be one form of cross training, as will biking (including a spinning class that I have committed to going to with a co-worker of mine—who I think may be trying to kill me aka “give me additional cross training options.”) I’m even planning on doing a roller derby class, which will keep me on skates, but focus more on stopping and starting than logging mileage. I’m also lifting weights, including kettlebell, to round out my training plan. Above and beyond cross training in other cardio activities, I'll be doing activities to help with recover. This includes stretching, foam roller, and yoga on a near daily basis.
What Do You Think
How have you prepared for an inline marathon or other longer event? How did you prepare? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The Importance of Recovery
I'm in the swing of inline marathon training. This includes three outdoor skates per week (currently 3-6 miles each with increasing mileage over time), one day of cross-training per week, and strength training once a week. To make all of this possible, recovery is critically important. In addition to sleep, Epsom salt baths, and monthly massages, there are three tools that help with the active part of recovery.
The Obligatory Disclaimer
Before I share my thoughts on tools for active recovery, which could be construed as medical advice, please note that I am not a doctor, lawyer, or certified health care anything. What I am is lifelong learner and a first-time inline marathon participant who's figuring out what works for me and sharing what I learn. Be sure to double check my math with your own doctor, personal trainer, or whoever it might make sense to ask about these sorts of things. Go forth and do your own research!
The Value of Taking a Class
I am a fan of learning as much as I can through research, then taking a class to help me get the bigger picture. I highly recommend a class taught by Angie Fern entitled Muscle Tension Release With Foam Rollers and Tennis Balls Workshop, or a foam roller class for short. This 3-hour class (which I've now taken twice) helped set me right and get me going in the right direction. I highly recommend it. I've included the website to keep an eye on regarding upcoming classes. Angie is definitely the go-to for how to really leverage these tools. This article only scratches the surface.
For Legs: Strap
There are a few areas in dire need of stretching that require a little extra help. While there are a few yoga stretches (pigeon and butterfly pose come to mind) that target the hips and thigh areas, using a strap helps stretch these areas more effectively. Since I'm skating, which uses a lot of quads, calves, and hips, these stretches are mission critical.
I have my fancy strap that I typically use. I also have a plainer travel strap that has the buckle. I love the strap in that it travels well, and also gives me a quick, effective way to stretch important muscle groups.
Check out this YouTube video to see the stretches I do on a near-daily basis. I typically do each stretch for 2 minutes per leg.
For Feet and Back: Two Tennis Balls in a Sock
Two tennis balls in a sock is not to be confused with the following items:
For my feet, I put one foot on the end of the sock, then roll my other foot over the tennis ball to work out knots. It seem to be the right amount of pressure to work out tightness. This also helps with planter fasciitis, that horrible tightness in the bottoms of the feet. I typically do this a minute or so per day, and on an as needed basis, to relieve that tension. As needed, I also will put my foot in between the tennis balls to ease out knots in the sides of my foots.
For my hips and back, I lie on my back, and position one tennis ball on each side of my spine down near my tailbone. Over time, I move it a bit at a time and work it up towards my neck. This is a great way to massage those key points that aren't easy to hit using other methods.
Check out this video on how to make your very own two tennis balls and a sock and a couple of ideas on how to use your creation.
For Nearly Everything: Foam Roller
Foam rollers are starting to gain popularity--and I see why. They offer a great way to do targeted massage on your muscles without having to schedule (and pay for) a massage each time.
During the class I mentioned taking with Angie Fern, I learned strategies for using a foam roller head to toe to address muscle tension and improve everything from planter fasciitis pain to improving breathing capacity to preventing headaches.
I especially love using the foam roller to address multiple areas of my legs. Rolling out my calves and quads are two key areas that help my recovery greatly.
I also have a few key bits of advice to share. First off, roll out each leg independently instead of rolling out both at the same time. This helps give each leg the attention it needs.
When it comes to equipment, I suggest a plain foam roller (instead of those that are textured). Sometimes, the textured rollers put too much pressure on a given area. Second, having a shorter foam roller, 12-18 inches, gives more options for specific exercises and is also easier to store.
Check out this video for a few basic foam roller moves you might want to check out.
What Do You Think?
How do you rest and recover while training for an event? Or just in general? Include your thoughts in the comments.
My 3 Phase Inline Marathon Training Plan
In an earlier blog post, I talked about my previous half-baked inline half marathon plan. I learned the hard way that I need a solid training plan to reach my goals. This time around, here is my three-phase training plan to achieve my inline skating marathon related goals:
Phase II: Increasing Endurance Through Cardio
Once I increased my overall level of activity, it was time to work on my endurance. I went in with the following high-level goals:
The Running (Wo)man
I started out thinking I would totally do three different things in this phase of training. It really ended up being all about the running. For 12 weeks, 3-4 times per week, 30-60 minutes a shot, I focused on running. I used the foam roller, yoga, and walking to recover, and a wee bit of inline skating as cross training, but otherwise, I ran intervals, and then longer distances.
Running a 5K
In order to get myself to focus on running, I committed to running a 5K run at the end of April. I knew I would have to work up to being able to run that long and that far.
To give my training structure, I used RunBet. Like StepBet (which I used in Phase I of my plan), RunBet is and app that organizes 6-week challenges to help individuals improve their running. The starter RunBets focus on getting participants to run 3-4 times per week at a pace of 18 minutes per mile or faster. I used two separate challenges to create a regular running habit and increase my distance. Each RunBet challenge costs $40.00 to enter. As long as you complete the RunBet challenge by meeting your goals for each week, you're guaranteed to earn back your $40.00 and usually a bit more. Holding my $40 hostage pending me completing tasks is enough to motivate me to get the job done.
Building The Running Habit
My first RunBet was a 5K challenge. This involved running 3-4 times per week and increasing mileage systematically to get up to the full 5K (3.2ish) mile distance. I walked a good chunk of this, then, as time went on, alternated running and walking. Since it was still cold and/or rainy during much of this time, I was doing nearly all of my running on a treadmill at the gym. The biggest takeaway from this was running/walking consistently.
My second RunBet was a Weight Loss Challenge. My goal, though, wasn’t weight loss. It was to continue the momentum from my first RunBet so that I would continue to run the 3-4 times per week to do more actual running. (I’m at the point in life where I’m not focusing on weight loss, but overall health and wellness.) This challenge was a little different because it focused on running time rather than mileage. I still needed to hit an 18 minutes or less per mile pace, and each day included 30 minutes of running, but no distance requirement.
RunBet and Couch to 5K
While I had the going-to-the-gym habit down, I needed to get more running into my running. However, my goal was to run—not just walk—3.2 miles without stopping. This meant I needed to have some kind of a system for running. I used the legit Couch to 5K app. (Please note—there are several versions of couch to 5K, and some of them assume you have a way higher fitness level than what I would consider “couch.”)
While the RunBet app got me to the gym and on the treadmill, Couch to 5K helped me use the time when I was there well. The app basically systematically times out intervals of running and walking. This helped me build up my endurance in a systematic way.
Running Mindset: Stop Trying to Go Fast
As I was getting closer to the end of my second RunBet, I started reading the book 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower. This was excellent timing. As I was working on running longer intervals, I found that it was really hard for me to run for very long. I learned that I was making a common mistake that many recreational runners make--I was trying to run too fast and trying to increase my ability to go a longer distance at the same time.
This book gave me permission to slow down and stop trying to run fast right away. Instead, I now know that it is better (because science) to run slow for about 80% of the time I train, and faster for only 20% of my workouts. By finding a running pace that was sustainable for longer, I was able to run for extended periods of time without burning out. It also helped correct my general mindset about exercise. I think I always need to push myself to work harder and stretch myself each and every time I work out. This book reinforced the value of being deliberate and planful rather than always pushing. Had I not read this book, I do not think I would have been able to run the whole 5K.
After my second RunBet was complete, I had one week until my 5K. I was a little concerned because I had not run the full 3.2 miles. In short, I did pretty much all of my running inside, and, well, running on a treadmill is REALLY BORING for going more than about a half hour at a shot. I ran outside to make sure that I was able to run 5K. I went at a reasonable pace and was able to run the entire distance. I also spent most of my time the week before the event taking it slow. I ran one day, walked 3.2 miles another day, did some yoga, and rested. This recovery helped me to do well the day of the event.
I Ran 5K!
The day of the event, my husband and I ran together. He is a big advocate of long slow distance when it comes to running, so I went at his pace. Running with him helped me slow down and find a pace that was sustainable for the whole distance. He and I even had a good conversation during the event, and I enjoyed the crowd, the other runners, and seeing people achieve a their goals whether it was beating a personal record, running a race, or walking with family members. At the end, I got my very first finisher medal. It was a nice milestone to end this part of the training.
What Do You Think?
How have you prepared for a 5K or other athletic event? Share your thoughts in the comments.
My 3 Phase Inline Marathon Training Plan
I am officially skating an inline marathon! I'm signed up for the Northshore Inline Marathon in Duluth, MN on September 14, 2019. Click here for actual proof of enrollment!
In a previous blog post, I talked about my previous half-baked inline half marathon plan of days gone by. I learned the hard way that I need a solid training plan to reach my goals. In order to get me from being an adult with a relatively okay level of fitness to an inline marathon completer was going to take some doing. Here is my three phase training plan to do just that:
Phase I: Building a Base Level of Fitness
Phase I is all about me getting from being generally active to being more legitimately physically fit. This meant upping my game from my then-haphazard workout regime. Specifically, I needed to do the following:
Building the Exercise Habit
As long as I go to the gym 8 times per month, my employer pays for the cost of my membership. Consequently, I always ALWAYS go to the gym 8 times per month. At that time, I would typically take a yoga class or do a little walking on the treadmill. Even thought I did go to the gym, I needed to make it more deliberate and productive.
To help with that, I joined a 60 day challenge at my gym. This helped me by having me do an initial fitness assessment, build a more consistent fitness habit, and do a final assessment to note progress. It got me to the gym to take classes and try out a few new activities and improve my diet. I also starting doing a couple of home workouts to give me options for when the gym wasn't as convenient.
Making exercise a more consistent habit also included identifying and mitigating factors that would prevent me from being active. This included keeping workout clothes in my car, touring the gym near work so I would feel more comfortable working out there, and incorporating activity into social time with friends. Being more active became the norm rather than a sometimes event.
I have had a FitBit for years, and at that point, I was more concerned with tracking my sleep than paying much attention to steps. Unfortunately, my step count was way down from where I wanted it to be. If I was going to be able to skate 26.2 miles, I needed to be able to walk, then run, long distances. Enter StepBet to help me with goal setting and motivation.
StepBet is and app that organizes 6-week challenges to help individuals increase their overall step count. Based on the current average number of steps you take, StepBet sets two goals for you. One is the goal you need to hit 4 days per week, and a stretch goal you need to hit 2 days per week. The cost to enter a StepBet challenge is $40.00. As long as you complete the StepBet challenge by meeting your goals for each week, you're guaranteed to earn back your $40.00. In most cases, not everyone successfully completes the challenge, meaning that those people who did finish earn back a little extra. In my case, I won just over $50. StepBet established an achievable goal that still pushed me to do more than before, and prepare me to work on cardio.
Increasing Flexibility and Strength
I also knew I needed to increase my strength and flexibility along with my ability to walk further and longer. In addition to doing weekly weight lifting at the gym, I also incorporate more yoga and stretching. Doing more yoga included me creating a 20 minute routine focusing on hips and legs that I could do on a daily basis before bed. I also attended weekly yoga classes at the gym focusing on Yin yoga. In addition, knowing that stretching and recovery would be important, I took a foam roller class to learn to supplement my monthly massages to help minimize injury risks. The stress reduction benefits and the improvement to my sleep were reason enough to keep going.
Getting Used to Inline Skates
For me, spending a lot of time on roller skates is easy. On inline skates, though, just standing up takes more effort. They also put way more stress on the middle of the food, whereas roller skates distribute weight more evenly. I knew I needed to increase leg strength in my feet, hips, and ankles to be successful.
To accomplish this, I went skating at a roller skating rink about every other week. I started skating 10 minutes at a time for 30 minutes per trip. I worked up to being able to skate at least 30 minutes at a time. While there and not skating, I would stand on my inline skates to get my body used to how it felt. I also had three longer skates. During these sessions at US Bank Stadium, I skated for 60-90 minutes at a time and got in about 4 miles of skating per time.
In addition to skating, I also did exercises to build up my ankles. These included ankle circles, heal raises, and standing on one foot. All of these activities helped build up my ability to inline skate for a more extended period of time.
What Do You Think?
What have you done to build up your base level of fitness? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Brenda is a dynamic training & development leader & innovative learning experience designer.