Category Archives: Exercise

WOW Run 5K

You know you’re a little crazy when you describe “waking up to run a race” as one of the best feelings…

I actually forgot how invigorating morning races are. It wasn’t until today that I realized I haven’t run a morning race since the Lincoln Half-Marathon last May. Since then, I’ve done the evening Rock the Crossroads and Wyandotte County Trail Races as well as the United Way Trail Race, which kicked off at noon.

But, today, it was good to know that I had a whole 5K under my belt before 9 a.m thanks to the WOW Run 5K.

I was up at 7 for a breakfast of toast with peanut butter and a banana plus a few gulps sips of coffee. Dan was still sleeping, so I relied on the self-timer to prove I was actually planning on running.

Always so awkward.

My favorite part about the race was that the start was just on the other side of my neighborhood. I didn’t leave until 7:40 for an 8 o’clock start and I still made it there with time to spare. I even got to talk to Natalie for a while before the race!

Even though everything was set up to be a good race, I have to admit that I probably didn’t have the best mentality. I hoped for a PR, but I knew it was hilly and told myself I could use that as a cop-out. Lame, I know.

When the race kicked off, I got out to a good start. It also helped that I was pretty familiar with the course — it just wound through my neighborhood, so I knew what to expect around each corner. However, that also meant I knew when the big hills were and I psyched myself out a little bit. There weren’t any mile markers, either, so I wasn’t able to calculate my pace. All I know is that it fluctuated quite a bit.

When I was nearing the finish, I was able to kick it into high gear, but it still wasn’t enough to walk away with a PR.

Nonetheless, I was still pretty happy.

Best of all, it’s not even noon and I get to spend the rest of the day with this little girl.

Happy weekend!

Questions: How do you turn excuses around and get motivated? What’s your favorite time to race?


It isn’t all or nothing

Monday was one of those go-go-go days. I was seriously been busy from the moment I woke up: I took laundry down to the basement before I even paused to brush my teeth. (I did that right afterward. Don’t judge.)

On the checklist: laundry, grocery shopping, some advance cooking, homework and walking Tracker — all before 2 p.m., when I had to go to work for the rest of the night.

Even though it was busy and even though I had a weekend full of good workouts, I still decided it was worth it to squeeze in a little extra physical activity. So, during my 20-minute period allotted for downtime, I turned on Property Virgins and did a little living room boot camp. A few sets of crunches, a few sets of lunges and two brutal minutes of the plank. When it was time for me to head into work, I decided to take long walking route. All in all, it wasn’t any kind of a marathon, but it was enough for me to feel a slight burn.

In the past, these kinds of workouts would have seemed pointless to me. I looked at working out as an “all-or-nothing” endeavor.

If I was going to ride my bike, I was going to ride my bike for at least one hour.

If I was going to go on a run, I was going to run at least three miles.

If I was going to lift weights, I was going to lift weights for at least three sets per exercise.

Now, I see that workouts really don’t have to be that black or white. It’s perfectly fine for me to have a long session one day and a quick workout the next. The ultimately goal is just about staying active.

I think this mentality is especially detrimental to people who are beginning to get into workout routines. It seems as if there is always new research saying that there is now an even higher bar for how much adults should workout. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services is now suggesting that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week.

What that fast-and-furious blurb fails to explain is that those periods can be broken up into multiple sessions. Do a little here and a little there… It’s more about the total than the individual time periods.

Of course, depending on the ultimate goal, 20 occasional minutes isn’t going to result in incredible weight loss or strength. The short sessions really need to be combined with longer, more vigorous sessions — just not every single day.

Besides, even if none of those are factors, doing a few crunches sure beats vacuuming the carpet.

Questions: Are you a fan of marathon sweat sessions or short and sweet exercises?

Sunny Sunday

Before going to sleep last night, Dan and I discussed what our ideal Sunday would look like. He finally had a day free of work and school — we were determined to take advantage. What we came up with was pretty simple: sleep in, sip coffee outside and go on a good bike ride.

We started the next morning off on the right foot by sleeping in until 10:30. Seriously glorious.

Then, Dan put on a pot of coffee while I made us breakfast. Eggs in a blanket for him and easy orchard apples for me. (<< throwback post!)

Brunch al fresco!

Then it was time for the real show: We drove out to Ottawa, 40 minutes south of Lawrence, and hopped on the Prairie Spirit Bike Trail.

The weather was absolutely perfect for a ride. The sun was out and there was a gentle breeze that was a little stubborn on the way south, but helped us on the way back.

The only way it could have been better was if the leaves actually changed shades this year. Because it’s been a dry fall, the leaves have transitioned straight from being green to being on the ground… But, now I’m just getting picky.

We rode eight miles out to the small town of Princeton, took a quick water break and headed back. Personally, I’d rather have the wind at our backs on the way back like it was: It took us 43 minutes to cover the first eight miles, but only 38 minutes on the way back.

Now we are back home, settling down for a lovely night of homework. I suppose the fun had to end at some point…

First, a new topic!

Calories don’t know how to tell time

Last month, I assisted the campus health center’s registered dietician in talking to classes of freshmen. The basic goal was to clear up some misconceptions about health, such as the freshmen 15, while providing information about the resources on campus.

At the end of each session, we opened the floor up to questions. During multiple meetings, students had questions about one topic: Is it bad to eat late at night?

Each time the question was asked, the R.D. asked the rest of the students whether they thought it is unhealthy to eat later at night. The vast majority of answered by saying yes.

The R.D. was then quick to explain that, no, it can be perfectly fine to snack later at night. In fact, she said that if students are up studying for hours after dinner, they probably need a snack to keep from getting shaky. The trick is to just make sure those snacking calories fit into the daily total.

For example, if someone should consume 2,000 calories a day, but have allotted for a 200 calorie snack by only eating 1,800 calories previously in the day, then it will do absolutely no damage if those extra 200 calories are consumed after hours.

Questions: What do you think? Do you know of any other nutrition myths?

Additional sources:

Worth talking about Wednesday, 10/19

It’s my fault. I take all the blame. Send your complaints to me… I just wasn’t able to do a new edition of Worth Talking About Wednesday last week.

I’ll make up for it now!

New Running Shoes

Thanks to the ol’ blog, I was able to figure out that the last time I got a new pair of running shoes was November 16, 2010 — or two half-marathons and hundreds of miles ago.


My shoes were definitely showing some wear-and-tear. Fortunately, the whole process for finding a new pair was relatively painless. My former variety was in stock at JCPenney for only $49. Not to sound like a commercial or anything, but it’s a great deal, especially considering how good the shoes are.

Birthday Dinners

Last Tuesday was Dan’s birthday. This Tuesday was his mom’s birthday. That means there’s been a lot of good fun and great time with family.

We celebrated this week by surprising Dan’s mom with dinner at the Mad Greek. Not to say that Dan and I aren’t special, but it was an extra special surprise for Dan’s mom to have his sister come back from college for the evening.

Can’t wait until the next family birthday for more reason than one…

Halloween Costume Brainstorming

Not like Halloween is the best holiday of the year, but I do like getting into the spirit by dressing up. I’m feeling a little bit of pressure this year, but our costume last year will be hard to top. Remember the Chiquita banana girl + a banana?


I found some inspiration for this year from a series on “What I Wore.” Love this rendition of Rosie the Riveter.

Here’s a reminder of WWII poster — just in case you can’t remember your history classes.

The Hamburgler was pretty fun, too.

Right now, I’m leaning toward Velma from Scooby Doo.

Dan could pull of Shaggy, right?

Halloween-Inspired Treats

I’m not into candies shaped like slimy eyeballs or a witch’s finger, but I am a sucker for seasonal treats. Plus, how cute are these mini-pies?

Or these candy corn parfaits?

I have to express my Halloween enthusiasm somehow, since we don’t get trick or treaters!

What do YOU think is worth talking about this week?

HIIT it!

I have absolutely no regrets about the half-marathons that I was able to do last year. The sense of accomplishment I felt after crossing those finish lines was incomparable and I eventually hope to do more half- or full-marathons.

However, right now, I am kind of “over” half-marathons. Instead, I am having so much fun pushing my speed with shorter distances and taking on new challenges with trail races. As a result, I have seriously shed minutes from my mile pace — mostly thanks to HIIT.

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and is aimed to improve overall workout performance through shorter workout lengths. Typical HIIT sessions are 9-20 minutes long, but can burn as many calories as a workout multiples times that length. This is all accomplished by alternating fast or intense bursts with more moderate levels of exertion.

What are the benefits?

2006 study for the Journal of Physiology showed that 2.5 hours of HIIT training “produced similar biochemical muscle changes” as 10.5 hours of endurance work. In other words, spend 10 minutes doing a HIIT workout is comparable to 40 minutes of a steady-state workout.

In addition, HIIT workouts have larger post-workout calories burns: The resting metabolic rate for the 24-hours following a HIIT workout is improved, meaning that a person burns more calories just sitting around after a HIIT workout than an endurance workout.

What is an example workout?

HIIT workouts can be done on a track or the road, but I find it easiest to monitor my speed on a treadmill. Here’s my favorite workout…

3-Mile HIIT

(Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats)


  • I walked to and from the gym, so I didn’t add in a warm-up or cool-down. Add in three extra minutes of warm-up and three extra for cool-down, if necessary.
  • Adjust the speeds as need be. The idea is just to add in the “sprint” segments.
  • HIIT workouts aren’t just about running either! Elliptical machines or bikes are great for it, too.

Questions: Have you ever tried a HIIT workout? What do you do when you need to spice up your workout routine?

The iPod debate

Today, the sun was shining, the air was cool and my new Road ID was in the mailbox.

Of course, I ripped the bag open and tried my new bracelet on.

The cool box it came in was just icing on the cake — for a dork like me, at least.

Tracker had an idea something was going on, too. I am convinced she has a sixth sense for when I’m thinking about going on a run.

I just couldn’t let her down. We had to go on a run.

There was just one problem. It wasn’t until my shoes were laced and Tracker’s leash was on that I had a terrible realization: My iPod battery was dead.

That left me with a dilemma.

Should I run without music? Or should I break Tracker’s little heart?

I went on the run. And, guess what? It was not awesome. In fact, it was really pretty pathetic. Even with the great weather and the extra incentive of wearing my Road ID (Although I hope it never has to be used for identification purposes, I still think it’s pretty cool. I’m a dork.), I just wasn’t feeling it.

That got me thinking, though. Some people are adamant about running without music, while others need to bring an iPod along. So, what are the arguments on both sides?

Running with music


According to a 2009 study, people who listen to upbeat music while working out ultimately perform better. This is largely attributed to the fact that music helps take attention away from the struggle of exercise while simultaneously pumping up the heart and muscles.

Personally, I find this to be true as I definitely get a little more pep in my step when a good song comes on my iPod. Music is also very valuable to me during long training runs, when my mind can be an enemy.

The songs keep me distracted from mental barriers such as, “I still have six miles? I don’t think I can do this…” When those thoughts pop up, I just flip through my iPod to one of my favorite songs and push on.


According to the same 2009 study, people who listen to music while exercising do not find the work out to be any easier. In fact, “their sense of how hard they were working rose 2.4 percent.” Music also appears to only improve performance during moderate workouts — there is no positive effect on more intense runs.

Additionally, many competitive runners argue that music is a detrimental distraction. Take one of my best friends for example. She runs cross-country and track at the college level, which, in my book, makes her a pro. For training, she frequently logs double-digit training runs, but she refuses to run with an iPod. That’s because, to her, it’s all about the goal.

Among the competitive running (as in, “going for the gold”) community, she’s not alone in her iPod boycott. In fact, it seems that the more competitive the runner, the less likely they are to wear headphones. In a recent, popular 4.2 mile race, only three of the first 50 finishers listened to music during the run. In contrast, the majority of the later finishers did turn on tunes.

In my case, I’ll continue to listen to music — if it helps motivate me to get out the door and be active, that’s good enough.

I’ll leave the gold medal to someone else.

Questions: Do you run with music? Why or why not?


Worth Talking About Wednesday, 9/21

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday was extra, extra busy for me. I even wrote out a schedule detailing when I was going to and from classes, when I was eating my meals, when I was working and when I was working out (between 5:15-5:45).

Now, all that I want to do is sit down on the couch with Dan and Tracker and watch DVR’ed episodes of “How I Met Your Mother.”

But, that wouldn’t be fair for you guys, would it? Plus, I’ve spent a week racking up awesome things worth talking about.

Ta Ta Tamer

I’ve been on the hunt for a sports bra that is adequate for my — ahem — body type for a while now. Based on multiple sources, it seems like the best of the best is Lululemon’s Ta Ta Tamer. The only problem is that the bra costs $58.

I know. A bra that costs $58? How is that possible? Those were Dan’s words exactly…

In addition to the rave reviews, there is also a very comprehensive sizing guide and a product warranty.

Still, I must admit that those things weren’t enough to win me over. But, when a $50 Lululemon gift card came my way (thanks, Bliss Connect!), I bit the bullet and paid the extra $8 + $4 in shipping.

Road ID

Last week, I read a post by Ashley of “Healthy Ashley” about a horrible bicycling accident she was in. She laid unconscious on the ground for 10 minutes before someone found her. Even then, she didn’t have an ID, so there was no real way to identify her.

Fortunately, Ashley had her phone and someone was able to call her husband. She has since undergone an emergency surgery and is on her way to recovery, albeit with months of strenuous rehabilitation.

Although it is a scary story, it has helped me realize the importance of carrying identification when I work out. That’s why I went online and finally ordered the Road ID, I’ve looked at multiple times in the past.

No excuses!

Updated: Road ID offered me a $1 coupon to pass along. Just enter “ThanksEmily8826427” when completing a purchase!

Drying Rack

I have a little love-hate relationship with doing the laundry. I actually really enjoy folding clothes (weird, right?), but the frugal side of me hates feeding the washer with quarters.

Brilliantly, Dan’s mom bought us a drying rack. Now I save a good $1.50 a week! Wheeee!

This Quote…

Questions: What do you think is worth talking about this week?