Tuesday, May 28, 2013

FFC Chicago Marathon Training Program

I posted earlier this month that I'm running the Chicago Marathon with Team Bright Pink and I couldn't be more excited! Read more about the Bright Pink organization and why I'm running with them to raise money in my post here. You can also help me reach my fundraising goal by donating! Just click here or on the banner at the top of the page.

One of the great things about running with Team Bright Pink is that we get to participate in the FFC Chicago Marathon Training Program. This is free for all Team Bright Pink members and we still have post-close spots so contact me if you're interested!! You can also join the training program on your own for $299 for FFC members or $575 for non-members, and you get full access to the FFC gyms.

I did my first and only marathon in 2010 (also Chicago) and while I finished just shy of 5 hours, it was painful and I really need to train properly this time. The group runs on Saturdays will really get me motivated to get the mileage in and the speed workouts are also going to be great for me trying to reach my goal of 4:00 for the marathon. The training program starts June 10 and includes:

Short Weekday Runs
 - Mondays at 6pm at FFC Union Station
 - Wednesdays at 6pm at FFC East Lakeview

Weekly Speed Track Workouts
 - Thursdays at 6pm at the Lake Shore Park Track

Weekend Long Runs
 - Saturdays at 7am (6am as weather gets warmer) at FFC Gold Coast

I definitely can't make the weekday runs at FFC East Lakeview because I work in the suburbs but I'm going to try to make the Monday runs and especially the Thursday track workouts. I'm going to have to get to work early those days to make it back into the city in time which means I won't be able to do crossfit in the morning. Working 9 hours a day with an hour commute each day doesn't really allow me to do two workouts a day, which would be nice for marathon training. So, sadly, I'm going to have to ramp down crossfit and just pay per class instead of do a membership. I also haven't decided if I'm going to continue spinning classes this summer. I do value cross-training but I really have to put the mileage in!

One last thing, I went to the Chase Corporate Challenge race last Thursday to cheer on my boyfriend Ryan (on the right) and his co-worker as they represented Sears in the 3.5-mile run. Ryan did awesome as usual with a time of 21:37 (6:10/mile pace!) and he came in place 201 over all. Unfortunately, I had to miss the Chicago Blogger Network 500th member celebration party to cheer on Ryan but hopefully there will be plenty more events this summer!

How much cross-training do you do while training for a long race?

Have you done a marathon training program before?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Vega One Bars

You know that I'm a big fan of Vega products so I was really excited to try the new Vega One Bars. They are basically the Vega One nutritional shake put into a bar form to make nutrition easy on the go. I tried all three flavors and was impressed with the taste and the results. The double chocolate flavor is my favorite because it tastes like a chocolate candy bar. I received the samples right before I left on a work trip so I took them with me and I was so happy to have a meal replacement bar when the meals provided at the conference were inadequate for my healthy diet. I pretty much ate a bar for breakfast everyday and even one for lunch. I felt satisfied both physically and mentally knowing that I was getting the right nutrition.

Since I first received the sample pack in April, I've bought two more boxes on Amazon and the bars have become a part of my daily life. They are excellent for travel but also great when I don't have time to make my morning shake or just need to eat something on the go. The bars are also a good option if you don't like making nutrition shakes for breakfast or post-workout. And I'm not kidding about the taste! These are the best nutrition/protein/energy bars I have ever had!

If you're not familiar with Vega products, here is the low-down. All Vega products are plant-based (vegan) and free of common allergens like wheat/gluten, corn, soy, and dairy. Featuring 15 grams of complete protein, 6 grams of fiber, and 1.5 grams of Omega-3, Vega One bars help cover your key nutrient bases with a unique, balanced combination of essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, a full serving of greens, and probiotics. The bar really is the ultimate meal and should be used as a meal replacement since each bar is 250 calories. The bars are pricey at $3.99 each, but cheaper on Amazon at about $42 for a box of 12. The price is worth it because the bar is true meal replacement and investing in your health is a good idea and will pay off later.

This post is not sponsored by Vega but they did send me three sample bars in return for writing a review on my blog. All  opinions are my own.

Do you use nutrition/protein/energy bars as meal replacements?

Have you tried the Vega One bar yet?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon Recap

I know I'm late in writing this post but I went on vacation right after the race and so I'm catching up on blog posts this week! The Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon was nearly 2 weeks ago on May 4, 2013, in Indianapolis. My boyfriend and I drove down from Chicago to stay with his parents in the Indy suburbs. We had to wake up pretty early on Saturday to get downtown to the race start. Our local friends were nice enough to pick up our race packets so we didn't have to skip work to drive down early for the expo. I was surprised at how easy it was to park downtown, close to the race start, and for only $5 (this would never happen in Chicago). I was nervous about finding parking and getting in my corral on time. (Turns out they don't close the corrals a half hour before the race like the website said.) If you haven't been to Indianapolis before, you have to know that it is one of the best cities in the country for hosting big events. The Super Bowl last year went off without a hitch and downtown can really handle a large influx of people.

I started in Corral D near the front but Ryan signed up late and was in a later corral so we split up before the race. Ryan caught up to me right after the mile 2 marker. He's fast and finished the race in 1:32:04! I felt fine the first half of the race but then my legs started to hurt. I really didn't train enough this winter/spring because the weather in Chicago sucked and I was not motivated to run outside in the bitter cold. I also traveled for work the 2 weeks before the race, which did not help my training and clean eating.

Course map, the big oval in the top left is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

My pace picked up a little around mile 7 when the course took us around the actual Indy 500 track. This was my favorite part of the race and I imagined race cars speeding by and crowds cheering us on as we ran. In case you're wondering, it takes much longer to run around the track than the drive around it in a racecar. The racetrack is 2 miles around, so the racecars do 250 laps to make it 500 miles (we only did 1 lap).

This was the only picture of me taken at the race! Ryan had a million others! I guess the photographers didn't like my hot pink pants...

The last part of the race was a struggle for me and I had to stop and stretch and walk a few times (this really brought my pace down). I completely ran at least the last mile and the final stretch was my second favorite part of the race. It was down a tree-lined street and crowded with onlookers. There were also screens with video recaps of the Indy 500 races in past years. I finished at 2:08:33, slower than I had set my goal at, but that's OK. After I finished I met Ryan at our pre-determined meet spot. (We once lost each other for hours after a race and he had both of our phones, so now we always choose a post-race meet spot in advance). Ryan had already been waiting for me for a half hour so we didn't stay for the post-race party and went back to his parents house instead to eat brunch. His parents don't have much food in the vegan department so I ate eggs and toast and even had a piece of bacon. Hey, I'm allowed to eat whatever I want after a half marathon!

Race Fuel
Speaking of food, before the race I ate a pudding made of dates, bananas, and other good things (recipe is in Vega creator Brendan Brazier's book Thrive. I also had some Vega Pre-Workout Energizer mixed with Rejuvelac. During the race I had a Vega Sport Endurance Gel. I ate half the gel around mile 5 and the other half around mile 10. Eating the entire gel at once usually makes my stomach hurt. It's best to eat gradually as you sip water, but that's difficult to do during a race.

What I Wore
Everything I wore was Nike! Of course most of my running clothes are Nike because my sister works at a Nike Factory Store (I'm going to be sad when she quits her job). However, I also wore my Nike FlyKnits  and running bracelets (below) from NTC Lincoln Park. The orange bracelet is for NTC membership and the green/blue for running the Nike+ Virtual 10K.

My running good luck charms! (from NTC Lincoln Park)

The 500 Festival Mini-Marathon was a great race and I'll probably do it again next year! It's the biggest half-marathon in the country and probably the best organized (in my opinion). The security was more present at this race than others I've seen, likely due to the bombings at the Boston Marathon. There were many working canines sniffing around and helicopters in the area. There were also tons of runners wearing "run for Boston" and other Boston-themed shirts. It was very inspirational! This was my first time doing this race but I really enjoyed it so I'll probably do it again in years to come.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Health Nut

A few recent occurrences in my life have caused me to think deeply about body image and why our society is so obsessed with being thin and looking perfect. It seems so contradictory considering that our society also revolves around eating unhealthy foods and having a sedentary lifestyle. It is impossible to have a perfect body and also have the typical American lifestyle of eating fast food and sitting most of the day. And it's not just about being thin. How can most Americans not see that our lifestyle is what is causing increasing rates in preventable diseases like heart disease and cancer?

"Health nut." In my group of friends, I'm the one that's "crazy" for eating healthy. Literally, I've been called crazy, nuts, insane, weird  and even un-American simply for eating more plants than animal foods. I'm not even 100% vegan! I eat cake and even bacon sometimes. I enjoy sushi at least once a week. However, my effort to eat healthier is considered weird and crazy by other people. Shouldn't us "health nuts" be the sane ones? What is so crazy about me wanting to eat natural foods so that I can feel and look better and decrease my risk for disease? In her detox program, raw foodist Karyn Calabrese explained that we healthy ones are actually normal and everyone else is insane for constantly putting toxic foods and drinks into their bodies. However, society thinks that healthy people are "nuts" because we're not the norm. The good thing is, that the healthy lifestyle movement is gaining momentum and eating healthy is becoming more and more normal.

"You're lucky you're skinny." I can't even tell you how many times I've heard this phrase throughout my life. Yes, genes do play a role in the way your body looks, but they have a much smaller role in being overweight and obese than society thinks. The reason you are overweight because your family is overweight is due much more to lifestyle rather than genetics. If your parents raised you to eat unhealthy, it is very likely that you will continue eating unhealthy in adult life. My household was absent of junk food and my parents encouraged me to be very active in childhood. I was skinny in high school because I ran cross country and track and played basketball and was constantly active. I stayed skinny in college because my parents taught me to eat whole foods (instead of processed ones) in normal (instead of huge) portions. I am fit now because I do crossfit, train for races, and eat healthy food (most of the time). I'm not "lucky" I'm skinny, I'm lucky that my parents did not raise me in a typical American household with candy and milk. I do like the way I look but I would be lying if I said that I didn't stress out about it. There are times when I analyze every ounce of fat on my body or when I completely hate myself for indulging in a piece of cake at a party. I compare myself to other women and I also judge other women. I see magazine images and say "why can't I look like that?" All women, even the models in the magazines, feel this way from time to time. Our society idolizes perfect women, but perfect women don't exist.

"You guys are the reason." So is it because of men that women struggle with body image? Yes and no. We struggle with our body image not only because men idolize perfect women, but also because we let them. Magazines like Cosmo and Glamour that are written mostly by women include many photoshoped pictures of "perfect" women. Headlines constantly say "lose 5 lbs" and the covers are of women whose job it is to look good. If my career depended on looking good, then I would also look like a model. But my career is engineering and having abs doesn't really matter because no one can see my stomach at work anyway. Getting men to not idolize perfect women starts with us changing our own viewpoints. We also have to voice ourselves. I was on vacation with my boyfriend and guy friends last week and they were negatively commenting on less-than-perfect women on the beach. I said, matter-of-factly, "you guys are the reason women have body image issues." I don't know if they listened to me but the point is that men idolize perfect women because we let them.

"Wake-up call." People often talk about their "wake-up call" when they realize that they're unhealthy and  thus go on a diet or change their lifestyle to lose weight. The wake-up call happens for different people at different stages. It takes some people to be 100 or 200 lbs overweight or even to get cancer or heart disease before they are ready to realize that they need to get healthier. Because I had been healthy my entire life, my wake-up call came when I gained 10 lbs. and was feeling like crap because I started eating like my (very American) boyfriend. I read some books and did online research and decided to change my lifestyle and eat a more plant-based diet. Over 3 years later, I'm still with my boyfriend and he's even started eating salad before dinner (small steps). But you don't have to have a wake up call to change your lifestyle. The fact that a third of Americans are obese and disease rampant in one of the most advanced countries in the world should be a wake-up call for us all. You don't have to be overweight or obese to have a reason to eat healthier.

"Why are you on a diet?" I also often hear this from friends and acquaintances: "Why are you eating so healthy? You're already so skinny." This logic is extremely flawed. I am fit because I eat healthy. People even get offended when I tell them about my healthy eating. For example, if an overweight person passes on a cupcake and says "I'm on a diet," you don't think twice about it. But if someone healthy-looking passes on the cupcake because they're trying to eat healthy, it makes you feel bad about the cupcake that you're eating and then you pressure the healthy-looking person to eat the cupcake. (By the way, I never pass on a cupcake.) I constantly feel pressure from other people to eat the unhealthy food so that they won't feel bad about their own choices. People can get extremely uncomfortable when I'm eating a salad and they're having pizza for lunch. My co-workers have even admitted to not inviting me to lunch because I won't like anything at the restaurant (i.e. they don't want to watch me eat salad while they have a burger).  The overweight person that is trying to eat healthier and lose weight is inspirational (e.g. Biggest Loser) and I commend them but the real healthy idols in our society should be the people that have managed to stay healthy the entire time and reject the typical American lifestyle. I have a hard time convincing people to eat healthy because I've always been at a healthy weight and don't have an inspirational weight loss story. And people also think that I'm naturally thin due to genetics or because I'm some sort of super woman. Well, the truth is, that many people in my family are overweight and I work really hard to stay healthy. Being healthy in America is not easy and I struggle with it every day because I'm constantly going against the norm.

My point with this post is that healthy and fit people get that way through hard work (not genetics or luck) and that everyone struggles with body image because of our perception of perfect women. Being healthy is not easy and there are many days that I want to give up and just eat an entire pizza and not workout for a month. And this happens, I eat a bunch of unhealthy food and don't go to the gym for a week. But then I remember that I stay healthy because I want to live a long life without disease and not because I need to look a certain way. I remember that the women with "perfect" bodies are that way because it is their job. I remind myself that there is more to me than my looks. I realize that I'm not the crazy one for being healthy and that my peers will realize this when they're bed-ridden at age 60 and I'm still running marathons and climbing mountains (see below). 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review: RxBar Paleo Protein Bars

I tend to stay away from protein bars because they usually contain some form of milk-derived protein (e.g. whey), which I believe is unhealthy. Therefore, I was excited to try the new RxBar protein energy bars because they contain natural ingredients and egg white powder as the protein, rather than diary or soy. There's been a lot of hype about these bars at my crossfit box in Chicago so naturally I wanted to try them out. Since I workout early in the morning, I ate the protein bars after working out this week. Both the coconut cacao and blueberry flavors taste good but I think I prefer the cacao because I love chocolate! The bars are chewy and go down easily. They are not pasty and don't make your mouth super dry like other protein bars. Plus, my boyfriend tried a piece and liked it so it is man-approved.

The first thing that really stood out to me about the bars is that the ingredients and (lack of) allergens are clearly listed on the back of the package. There is no guessing and "No BS" as the package says. Have you ever tried to find the ingredient list on a PowerBar? You have to squint to read it. Also, the main ingredient in  both flavors is dates, which are great for providing energy before and after a workout. The almonds are also a nice added plant-based source of protein. The main protein content, however, comes from egg white protein powder. While I have objections to the Paleo diet, I do think it is important to consume some animal-based protein. Egg white powder is probably the best source of animal-based protein when compared to other protein powders, like whey and soy, which are protein isolates. Isolated proteins, unlike whole foods, tend to be much more acid-forming in the body and thus promote inflammation and reduce immune function.

These bars are great pre-workout, because dates are an excellent source of energy, or post-workout, because of the high protein content. I'm definitely going to continue to use them for both!

You can purchase RxBars online or get your local gym or grocery store to buy them wholesale. I know right now that River North CrossFit in Chicago has them for sale! Also, be sure to check out RxBar on Twitter and Facebook.

UPDATE (6/14/2013): I didn't notice this before but the RxBar wrapping is resealable! I only wanted to eat half a bar before working out today and then put the other half back in the package and discovered the zip-loc. I don't know how I didn't notice this before but it's a great perk to an already amazing bar!

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by RxBar but I did receive a free sample of bars to review on my blog. All opinions and text are my own.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Staying active on vacation

I sometimes see people posting on Facebook and Twitter about their workouts on vacation. Well, vacation to me means also taking a vacation from working out, in the traditional sense. However I do like to be active on vacation. "Being active" means an easy bike ride, a walk/run to explore the city, wading in the ocean, hiking through the woods, etc. I look at vacation as the way I would live my life if I didn't have to sit and work in my office all day. If I was active all day, like on vacation or the weekends, I wouldn't have to work out rigorously in the gym to counteract the effects of being sedentary all day. Therefore, don't feel bad if you don't hit the gym on your vacation. In fact, I would suggest avoiding it. Spend your energy on exploring the area outdoors instead. It's better for your body and soul!

Pics of our vacation last week to Florida! (aka #dunkcity)

How did you stay active on your last vacation?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chicago Marathon with Team Bright Pink!

I'm so excited to announce that I've joined Team Bright Pink to run the 2013 Chicago Marathon!

As you know, I am passionate about health and fitness. I am also passionate about disease and cancer prevention through a healthy lifestyle, which is why I joined Team Bright Pink this year to run the Chicago Marathon. Bright Pink is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that empowers and educates young women to be proactive with their breast and ovarian health. The organization focuses on leading a healthy lifestyle to reduce risk of cancer, which makes it unique among other related nonprofits. I strongly believe that prevention, rather than finding a cure, is the key to "beating cancer." Everyone in this country has been affected by this disease in one way or another. It's time for us to educate society about lifestyle choices that affect your risk of cancer. I think Bright Pink is the start of a new generation of organizations that empower us to beat cancer!

I usually run 10K, 15K, and half-marathon races but this will be my second marathon (2010 Chicago Marathon was my first). Inspired by my runner father, I started running in middle school and continued Track and Cross Country as sports in high school in Florida. I took a hiatus from long-distance running in college at Purdue but picked up again in grad school. I'm still getting used to running in the cold winters but I love the Chicago running community and running along the lake reminds me of the beach back home in Florida. I'm running this marathon not only  to support Bright Pink, but also to inspire others to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. I'll be posting about my training journey with Team Bright Pink so be sure to follow the blog!

Please support me as I train with Team Bright Pink to run the 2013 Chicago Marathon. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of young women. The process is fast, easy, and secure. I truly appreciate any support you can provide. It will benefit a great cause!

If you can't make a donation at this point, help me reach my $1200 fundraising goal by sharing this post or my fundraising page on Facebook and Twitter. Or, even better, send an e-mail to friends you think might be interested in contributing and include a link to my page.

Thank you so much for your generosity!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Try out the new Nike Frees!

I joined the ladies at NTC Lincoln Park this past weekend and got to try out the new Nike Frees on a 6-mile run. They definitely felt light and I felt great running in them. I like that they have less heel cushion than other shoes, which makes you strike on your forefoot instead of heel when you run (this is the natural running form). Plus, they come in fun colors!

The great thing about NTC Lincoln Park is that you can try out the shoes for free on a run outside! Just visit the store/studio at 833 W. Armitage Ave. in Chicago. They'll only have them out for another 2-3 weeks so hurry! By the way, there is no uncomfortable pressure from the employees to purchase the shoes after you try them out.

I try to go to the Nike+ Run Club every Saturday when I'm in town. I've also tried the NTC (Nike Training Club App) classes and Kate on Sundays at 11 am will kick your butt! All the classes are free so you have no excuse not to workout. Check out NTC Lincoln Park on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for classes here.

Have you tried any new running shoes this Spring?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Travel, travel, travel

Sorry guys, I only wrote 8 posts in April! Turns out I had to go on three work trips this month which has put a damper on my blogging and my training for the Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon this weekend. I'll be able to run the 13.1 of course, but my New Years goal for a PR is probably not going to happen (unless the weather is perfect and my legs feel amazing). Anyway, here are some pictures from my travels!

This is the "Lavra" in Kiev Ukraine, a historic pilgrimage site for Orthodox Christians. You can see the city on the other side of the river.

Travel Tip! Starbucks at the airport (at least at O'Hare) will give you free hot water if you ask for it. Just bring your own organic green tea bag. Extra points if you bring your own mug!

While on business in Washington, DC, I visited Crossfit South Arlington for a morning WOD. They have a huge gym in a very open space and great programming. They post workouts months in advance so you can plan your WODs and progress. I think this makes something like a back squat program much easier to track and it would be great for planning my running or Crossfit endurance schedule. The gym is really close all of the hotels by Reagan Airport and Crystal City so check them out if you're in town on business or live in Arlington! Cost for a drop in class is $20, or $50 for the week. Less expensive monthly memberships are also available.

Did you travel anywhere in April?