Countdowns: Conference and Comebacks

A week from today, I’ll be sitting in a conference room in a Baltimore hotel, taking notes from the masters of blogging… or socializing with some of the dozens of blog friends I’ll finally get to meet in person… or trying my first Cross Fit workout… all with no toddler to rush home for nap, no house to clean up after, and no dinner planning to think about.

I. can’t. wait.

This is my first year attending Fitbloggin’ and the schedule of presentations, fitness events, and mingling time looks fantastic.  I am thrilled to be sponsored by Drink Chia to attend! Without their support, I doubt I would have justified the flight across the country.

If you’ve never tried Drink Chia and happen to be coming to Fitbloggin, find me at the conference for samples!  It is one of my favorite pre or post workout drinks, loaded with nutrients for endurance, recovery or regular daily life.  They have mastered the balance of a delicious, fruity flavor with very minimal sweetener.  Even my daughter loves it!

You can find my original review here and can find them online or in Florida, and a few places in the northeast.    I’m excited to help spread the word and see them grow – we need Drink Chia in Texas!

My second countdown is the one for my next race… four weeks from Sunday, I’m running a local 10-mile race.  It’s the first time I’ve raced this distance in years, so I know I’ll beat my old pr, but I’m not sure if I have enough time to be where I’d like to be.

This was the first week (since taking it easy in August) that I added both an interval and a tempo run in, and my shin is holding up just fine.  I think I can finally let out that breath I’ve been holding and trust that my body is ready to train again.

I did my intervals on Monday, using the 30-20-10 intervals from Runner’s World.  Ten second sprints are a blast- I never let myself fly like otherwise!  After spinning Tuesday, I headed out for a tempo run on Wednesday with my newest motivator, this gorgeous Oiselle (birthday treat) tank!

My goal was 6 miles, with 5 at tempo/race pace (around 7:30).  Not only is this shirt adorable and comfy, it is fast.  Most of my miles were right where I wanted them, but the last one came in at 6:56. It might become my new lucky race shirt.  🙂

After teaching spin again last night, I’m resting today in preparation for 12 tomorrow.  I’ve been easing back into my long runs, and hit 10.5 last week so I’m ready to add a little bit more.  Still plugging away at Tina’s boot camp, too!

So that’s where I’m at. Counting down to Fitbloggin, counting down to the ten miler, and loving my happy-shin legs.

Finally, I promised a winner today for the SPIbelt!!

 #104 – Heidi Nicole!

Congrats, Heidi! Email me your address so we can get it sent out to you.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Home again! Vacation recap in photos

I’m exhausted, but we’re home.  Flying solo with a 2 year old yesterday went fine, other than her thwarting my toddler-will-crash-on-the-plane plan.  So three hours after bedtime, she was finally tucked into her bed… I’m hoping I don’t pay for it today.

We had such a great time away- one week with my parents in PA; a long weekend with my husband’s parents, three brothers and L’s cousins; back to my parents to drop L off for our 3 day getaway through the Finger Lakes; and a few more days in PA while daddy left for a conference in Denver.

Here’s a quick recap:


As I mentioned on Friday, I feel refreshed with all the new scenery from country roads in Pennsylvania and New York.  My shins are pretty happy, and I’m ready to start training again.




We met up with so many friends and family members, which was equally exhausting and refreshing.  The highlight was getting away by ourselves for three days to hike and relax in upstate New York at a bed and breakfast, while my parents kept L for us.

We got to connect again as individuals rather than as parents, which I think we needed more than we thought.  (Our 8-year anniversary is tomorrow!!)


L hardly let us do anything for her with “ma-ma” and pa-pa” around, so I did my best to sleep in a little longer than usual and enjoyed the break from wrestling her into clothes, diapers, pursuing potty training, and thinking about what to feed her.

Country living is perfect for kids! L loved running out to pick tomatoes and squash from their huge garden, and we counted the cows on our walk to the playground.

She also got to ride in the same wagon I had as a kid, and played with many of my old toys that my mom had saved.  Here’s hoping I remember how to chase her around and entertain her this week.

Definitely in farm country!

Two quick announcements: I started a “Tips and Training” tab to track posts that fall in that category.  And registration for the 5 and 10 mile Virtual run is still open- check out the great sponsors and prizes!

What did I miss? I tried to stay somewhat active in blogland but please let me know if I missed important announcements, posts, races, or yummy recipes!


Five ways to refresh your running

We’re nearing the end of our two week travels catching up with family and friends on the east coast, including a kid-free, unplugged early anniversary trip through the Finger Lakes region the last few days.

I’m feeling refreshed from the extra time for relationships, rest and care-free running.

One of the best aspects of running while traveling is the opportunity to explore and appreciate new routes.  After living in a city or small town for the last 7 years, I am in awe of the beauty of the countryside when we visit both sets of L’s grandparents.   It reignites my love for running.

Here’s a few of the scenes from my runs in PA and NY:


I incorporated some of my favorite ways to refresh my love for running in this trip:

  1. Fresh Scenery: Change up your usual route and take in your surroundings
  2. New running buddies: Thanks to willing grandparents, I got to run (kid-free) with my husband several times for the first time in years!
  3. Temperature changes: After fighting heat and humidity all summer in Texas, I was thrilled with the cooler mornings
  4. Go gadget-free: I accidentally forgot my Garmin and enjoyed not worrying about paces, even during my tempo runs and bursts of speed work
  5. Take a break from your training plan: I embraced the opportunity to run when I could, and ran for the enjoyment of the experience

Stop by Jill’s for more Fitness Friday posts!

Do you enjoy running on vacation? How do you refresh your love for running?

Do you make the most of your recovery runs?

I’m excited to share this great post with you from one of my favorite running bloggers, Miss Zippy.  Her blog has a wealth of running info, and often sparks some great discussions. I mentioned recovery runs in my injury prevention tips, and Amanda expands on how to do them well.

Hi everyone—I’m Amanda from the MissZippy blog and I’m really excited to be posting over here on Laura’s blog. She asked if I could “loan” an old post I did on recovery runs to her and I’m happy to share it with you all. I hope it can help you along the way with your running!

When I first started running, I’d always end my week with my long run, then take the next day off. This worked fine, but a few years back I started experimenting with a shorter, very easy run the day after my long runs. This has been routine ever since because I find I get much more out of it than pure rest.

Making a run into a good recovery run, however, takes some trial and error. Here are my suggestions for getting the most out of this run:

▪   Do it the day after a hard workout (either a long run or speed work)

▪   Pick an easy route, nothing too hilly, if possible

▪   Make it short–no more than about six or seven miles

▪   Do it alone so that you don’t get lured into running faster than you should

▪   Unless–you run with someone who is a slower runner than you (this can be a great opportunity to run with someone with whom you might not otherwise train)

▪   Leave the Garmin at home. Tune into your body instead

▪   Take this time to focus on form and landing quietly

Recovery runs are sometimes my favorite runs. Who doesn’t love an easy carefree run? But after, my legs always feel “cleared out” and ready to move on to harder training again. If you don’t’ have recovery runs in your routine, give one a try and see if it doesn’t make a difference in your overall running.

Do you incorporate recovery runs into your routine? 


If you liked this post, you can find me regularly on my blog, MissZippy1, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Hope to chat with you there!

8 tips for injury prevention

After running casually for nearly ten years, I was never injured until I trained for my first marathon a few years ago.  Since then, I’ve been able to maintain a higher weekly mileage, but not without its ups and downs.

I’m smarter and wiser now, but that doesn’t mean I always act on that knowledge.  My grumpy shin is a great example- something  I could have avoided, but I chose to ignore my body’s signs and push through a little discomfort rather than listening to my body.  Thankfully this one was only a two week set back.  I’ve been back out on the roads this week and and am feeling good.

Sometimes I find I need the constant reminders regarding injury prevention.  These are the guidelines that work best for me:

1)      The 10% Rule  – The single greatest cause of running injuries is over-training.  If you want to build mileage, it must be done slowly.  The general rule of thumb is no more than a 10% increase in overall weekly mileage.  It’s also important to build in cut-back weeks for rest and rebuilding. 

2)      Add speed work gradually: Our bodies interpret stress both through increased mileage and increased pace, so mileage should stay about the same when you first add speed work.  It’s best to start with one hard speed session every week or every other week.  As your muscles adapt to the increased work, you can add one speed session and one tempo session per week.  Always follow hard days of running with easy days of running or cross training.

Kids can sprint day after day with no problem- most adults aren’t so lucky!

3)      Get Stronger: I used to think that running was enough strength training for my legs and avoided squats and lunges.  This worked fine for years, but when I ventured into the marathon distance, my knees began to give me trouble, largely as a result of weak supporting muscles: quads, hips, and core.  After paying more attention to overall strength, the knee pain disappeared and has never returned.

—> Side note: pay attention to any moves that aggravate the injured area. Squats are not helpful until knee pain disappears. With my shin, it took me a week to realize that push ups and planks in my bare feet were putting pressure on my shin and making it worse.  As it was recovering, I modified those exercises by placing my lower legs up on a chair or bosu ball.

4)      Cross training is another great way to work new muscles and prevent over-use and burnout.  You can continue to build your cardiovascular endurance while giving your body a break from the pounding of running.  Cycling and swimming are my favorite cross training exercises, but the elliptical, rowing machine, power yoga or hiking is great too.  Many people can run 5-6 days a week with no problem, but I’ve found my body is happiest with 3-4 days of running and 2-3 days of spinning and weights.

Wiffle ball for cross training?

5)      Rest! Plan at least one rest day every week and take it! Recovery is key to coming back stronger and ready to jump into the next week’s training.  I like to use either Fridays as a rest day when I run long on Saturday, and follow it with a recovery run Sunday. (More on recovery runs in a special guest post next week!)

6)      Love your muscles: After a run or later in the day, take a few minutes to encourage recovery by stretching, and rolling your muscles.  The stick or foam roller are great tools for massaging tired muscles and increasing blood flow for less soreness and better recovery.  Pay special attention to any body parts that are achy or sore, and use ice, compression and elevation as a preventive measure before an injury sets in.

7)      Track your training: Use a journal or an online training tool like daily mile so you can see how your mileage changes over time.  You can also use this to track how long you’ve had your shoes so you can replace them every 300 miles or so before the lack of support causes an injury.

8)      No comparing! This is a hard one sometimes, but just because another friend (or blogger!) handles 60 miles or 2 solid speed sessions a week does not mean your body will be happy doing the same.  Know your body.  Pay attention to the signs of over-training and take an extra easy day or day off before your body forces you to.

Despite knowing all the rules, I tend to break them more often than I should.  It’s a battle to make myself roll out my muscles, and I push the 10% rule occasionally.

What tips would you add? Which rules are you most likely to break?

Hop over to Jill’s for more Fitness Friday posts!

Flashback: Running in the 70’s

We made it safely to PA, and I’m already enjoying the chance to run, snack, nap, and blog whenever I want, thanks to all the grandparent time! We’re looking forward to catching up with lots of friends and family all week, and enjoying a laid back schedule. For today, here’s a little running flashback.

I’ve been reading a book I had picked up at a used book sale years ago, called “The Complete Woman Runner.”  The book is packed with really helpful tips, but is also a bit dated.  After checking the publishing date (1978), it made a little more sense.

Here are some fun tidbits…

From pg 69, under section on caring for children while running:

“There are other ways of having children cared for…but these are a little unusual.  I have a friend who used to run …while pushing her son in a stroller.  (She) claims that she only had one stroller mishap when the baby fell out but most of the time her son really enjoyed moving rapidly.”

Pg 77-78, 80 on shoes:

“Invest in a good pair of running shoes ($20-$40).”

“Bend the shoe to make sure it’s not too stiff.  You can fix a shoe that’s too stiff by cutting across the forefoot with a razor or hacksaw…”

“Despite diligent maintenance, your soles may wear out before the rest of the shoe.  Numerous shops specialize in running-shoe repair.  They will replace soles, mend uppers, replace insoles, and put in new laces, generally for under $15.”

“Do-it-yourselfers can put their own new soles on.  Nike sells waffle soling material by the sheet… Remove the old sole by holding the shoe above an electric stove.  Pull off the old sole…or dissolve the glue with lighter fluid… Glue the new sole in place with Goo.”

Pg 82, on what to wear:

“I like the woven nylon running shorts with slits on the sides.  They are inexpensive (about four dollars)… some shorts are made specifically for women, but these tend to be more expensive.”


Pg 88-90, on racing:

“Most races charge an entry fee, generally $2 to $3.  Races with higher entry fees may give T-shirts or patches to all participants.”

“Water and fruit juice are fine, or try one of the athletic replacement drinks such as ERG or Body Punch.”

“As you finish, listen for your time. It may take several weeks to get the results.”

“If you are given a numbered stick, turn it in with your name.  When the results are compiled, your finishing order will be correlated with your time.”


Pg 120, on runner safety:

“Several runners have suggested window decals, so that other runners who are in some sort of distress can identify a friendly house to run to for assistance. This idea has merit if it can be standardized…”

I was born a couple of years after this was published, so I can’t say I remember any of this from personal experience.  Running has changed quite a bit in the last few decades, especially the cost of races!

Does anyone know what ERG or Body Punch is? Have you ever paid $3 for a race entry?


Treadmill Interval Workouts

I’ve received several emails recently wanting tips for increasing speed. Whether you’re looking for more speed, endurance, or overall increased fitness, intervals are the most effective and efficient type of training, especially high intensity interval training.

When I started running, I thought of intervals as the the traditional 400’s, 800’s and mile repeats.  Those are effective of course, and can be fun at the track, but have you ever tried long repeats on a treadmill? It’s killer! You’re going nowhere, the distance is crawling by, and you can see that you’ve only been sprinting for 15 seconds when it feels like 45.

Can shorter bursts of intensity have the same effect in your training? Surprisingly, research continues to say yes! Remember when I mentioned the 30-20-10 interval training research? With only ten seconds of sprinting at a time, the study found that the participants had a 4% improvement in performance in seven weeks, with only 3 30-minute sessions at a time.

Interval training will improve your strength, speed, endurance, and will also raise your metabolic rate, so that you continue burning calories for hours afterward.

There is nothing magical about the 30-20-10 method. There are countless ways to incorporate short “speed play” into your treadmill workout.  If you’re not a runner, many of these could also be done on the elliptical or even a bike.

With the help of a few friends, I rounded up a number of interval workouts that can be done on the treadmill:

If you don’t know your race paces, use the McMillan calculator to determine what your effort should be in each speed phase. For example, my first phase would be a 7:40 pace, followed by 7:10, 6:35, and 6:00 minute mile/pace.

If you want to make it more challenging, use your 5k or sprint pace (faster than 5k) through all four phases of speed work.

I love the look of this Tabata Treadmill workout:

Tina has an awesome treadmill workout post with six different interval options, including this one she calls the “Speedy McSpeedster” Quickie workout:

Intervals can include strength as well, like these two:

For more inspiration and treadmill boredom-busting, check out some of these interval workouts:

And then hop over to Jill’s for more Friday Fitness posts!

If you’re new to interval training, begin with one speed session a week and allow your body to adapt to the increased training demands to avoid risking injury.

Do you use interval training? Runners, have you ventured beyond traditional repeats and tempo runs?

Triathlon training (in three weeks)

Taper week is here! Toward the end of June, I signed up for my first triathlon, excited to cross it off my fitness bucket list.  The one that best fit my schedule was only three weeks out, leaving minimal time to train.

Here’s what my triathlon training looked like the last few weeks:

Week of June 18-24th

  • Monday: Spin class
  • Tuesday: 8 mile run (2 warm up, 3.1 in 21:43, 2 cool down), quick arm circuit + registered for the triathlon!
  • Wednesday: 2200 m swim, abs
  • Thursday: (am) 7 mile run (2.5 at 7:30 pace); (pm) spin class
  • Friday: OFF
  • Saturday: 15 mile run, 8:50 ave pace
  • Sunday: First brick- 14 mile cycling outdoors + 3.4 mile run

This was my strongest running week with 33.4 miles, which is appropriately timed a few weeks out.  And I got in my first brick workout… running after biking is surprisingly difficult!

Week of June 25- July 1st

  • Monday: 1000m swim, short weight circuit
  • Tuesday: 6.2 mile run (first noticed shin tenderness)
  • Wednesday: (am) 15 mile spin; (pm) 800m open water swim practice ——->
  • Thursday: Spin class + 3 arc trainer
  • Friday: OFF
  • Saturday: Brick- 1200m swim+ 2.5 run with hill repeats+ 2.5 arc trainer
  • Sunday: 80 minute spin class

This was the week I noticed some shin discomfort, and switched over to the arc trainer for a few mock “running” miles.

Week of July 2-8th

  • Monday: 5 arc trainer miles; 1000m swim
  • Tuesday: (am) weight circuit; (pm) 15 outdoor cycling on Holly’s amazing bike!
  • Wednesday: 6.5 test run— shin still tender 🙁
  • Thursday: spin class + arms and abs
  • Friday: OFF
  • Saturday: Spin class + 1000m swim
  • Sunday: weights circuit

I skipped my runs on Thursday and Saturday this week to give my shin extra time to recover.

I made my own training plan simply by adding in a few swims and some outdoor bike time each week. I didn’t spend a lot of time on any one discipline, but it feels sufficient for this distance. The sprint triathlon will consist of a 550m swim, 16 mile bike, and 3.2 mile run.

My plan for tapering this week is 1-2 easy swims, 2 easy bike rides, and some mock jogging on the arc trainer.  I’ll take Saturday (and possible Friday) off completely.

I have most of the race day details worked out, but am still working on a few things:

  • How do I keep my hair out of my face through a swim, bike and run? (braids? a hat?)
  • Planning out what to wear… (tri shorts and bathing suit vs. borrowed tri top)
  • Collecting and organizing everything I need (towel, swim goggles and cap, bike helmet, sunglasses, shoes and socks, race belt or clips, water bottle, watch? fuel?)
  • Practicing the flow of transitions

I’m definitely getting excited… and  I’m always looking for tips, if anyone has any final words of advice!

June recap and Winners!

June Recap: June has come and gone, which means it’s time for another monthly goal recap to check in on my 2012 goals.

Running Related

  • June stats: 15 runs- 118.5 miles; 6 miles on the arc trainer; 9 spin classes- 134 miles, plus one outdoor 14 mile ride; swimming- 3400m; weights 2-3x/week
  • Record breaking: No new prs- too hot to race here right now!
  • New Cross Training Challenge: Finally went to the HIIT class (High Intensity Interval Training)- I loved it, but after all the jumping, my shin was a little unhappy

  • Running Buddy: I went from zero to 4, plus I started linking up with a local running group that meets two blocks from our house.  I have my long run buddy May, my interval-loving-triathlete buddy Liz, my BQ-aiming buddy MC, and another local mom
  • Meet bloggers:  I went for a run with a local blogger, and had coffee with Holly this month to soak up her triathlon advice!

Personal and Family Balance

  • Computer balance: Sticking to my plan so far of early am, naptime and/or pm computer time rather than getting off and on  But I could definitely work on getting to bed earlier…
  • Reading: Devoured Runner’s World’s Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training; I think that was it for this month.
  • Date Nights:  Had a baseball date night, where I was part of a pre-game ceremony with all the age group winners from the Astros 10k

I also started a Fitness Bucket list, which motivated me to sign up for my first sprint triathlon on July 15… two weeks to go.

I cut my running back this week to fit in extra time in the pool and on the bike.  On Saturday, I met my triathlete friend and running buddy Liz at the pool for the Master’s swim, and we followed it up with a short run with hill repeats.  It rained all weekend, so I missed my planned outdoor ride on Sunday and did an 80 minute spin class instead.

Time to wrap up the giveaway!

Winners!   This is my favorite part of hosting giveaways… I love using to see what numbers will pop up.  So the two lucky winners are….

#222     Ali


#159     Kristin

Congrats, ladies! I was also thrilled to see that both women are training for their first full marathon!

Thanks to everyone who entered to win the RW Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training!  It’s an excellent resource.  If you didn’t win a copy and are considering purchasing it, I would definitely recommend it.  Feel free to get in touch with me if you have questions about it that I didn’t cover in the review.

Do you track your goals monthly?  What was one of your June highlights?

The secret to running in the heat

As of Sunday, we have been in Texas for one year.  My body has acclimated a bit to the heat- but running in these temperatures is always a challenge.  Temps have been over 100 for several days in a row this week, and even the early morning “low” is uncomfortably warm and humid.

Since signing up for the sprint triathlon on a whim, I’ve realized what perfect timing it is.  Both the outdoor bike rides and swims have felt much more comfortable than running.  I got in my first open water swim this week…

Although I won’t be breaking any records, I do feel much more confident that I can survive the swim portion. Two weeks and two days til race day!

So the secret to running in the heat? Train for a triathlon!  If that’s out of the question, the next best thing is research that makes you feel better about yourself and a few handy calculators.

1) Did you know that training in the heat can actually improve your fitness level? One study of cyclists found that acclimating to the heat improved aerobic exercise performance.

2) Pace calculators.  Obviously, the heat can slow you down, and I learned this the hard way in my recent 10k when my legs could not maintain my pace in the second half.  Here’s one of the calculators that can help estimate how your time changes with the heat (or elevation), and I was encouraged that mine matched exactly the goal pace I was aiming for in that race.

3) Hydration calculators:  Replacing both water and electrolytes is crucial when exercising in the heat.  I learned this one the hard way, too.  After my 15 miler last weekend, I had a headache the rest of the day from dehydration.  Despite running with my fuel belt and finishing all four bottles, it wasn’t enough for a 2+ hour run.  I came across the Portman Calculator to help determine how much you should drink before/after/during a run in the heat.

Any other calculators you like?

Have you ever done an open water swim?

I’m linking up with Jill for Fitness Friday- stop over there to check out more posts!