Sunday, March 27, 2016

I'm NOT addicted to running. It's just a hobby...

How do you know if someone is a runner? I mean, if you don’t already know, you might just be living on that new planet.
Here’s how you can tell if you’re not sure:
  • Runners will chatter incessantly about which route is the hilliest or which road has the meanest dogs or which streets to avoid if you don’t want to have to pause your GPS watch
  • Instead of lunch, they’ll do RUNCH and maybe have a smoothie and a bar afterwards (see below)
  • Their social media is full of the following types of posts: selfies of them on the road, on the trail and on the ‘mill; inspirational quotes and pictures; descriptions of their runs; mileage; pace…
  • They might disappear for hours on end, early in the day on Saturdays and Sundays and come back home sweaty, tired, grumpy—and happy.
  • The closets of runners might actually have more running clothes than work or casual clothes. These clothes may or may not be organized by color, sleeve-length, season and technical-ness, The others may just be in a big pile in the middle of the floor. If you are married to a runner, find another closet.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I ran with my son and it was awesome

There’s nothing I like better than running by myself. It is my me time, my thinking time, my time away from dealing with that thing called “adult-ing”—making critical life decisions, planning lessons, writing blog posts, listening to podcasts or just listening to myself breathe. 
In fact, I’m the first one to tell mothers to RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! Get away from the family, make sure you have some time to yourself and don’t feel guilty about it. Take a bath—alone. Use the bathroom—alone! 
I grew up in a family where women did and still do everything, many times to the detriment of their own health. For that reason, I am a fierce advocate of moms getting used to being alone with themselves and not having any qualms about it. If mommy is healthy and happy, chances are the family is too. That’s how I like to live my life.

Read the the rest on my Women's Running Magazine BLOG

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Fashionista That Wasn't

I'm no fashion maven.

In fact, over the course of my lifetime, people have showered me with COMMENTS about how poorly I dress, how I should do my hair differently, how I need to accessorize more, how I could maybe stand to wear more skirts, how I should swap out my comfy pumps for more flashy heels, and how I need an entirely different wardrobe for TV...shall I go on? No disrespect to the well-intentioned, but I think I'm good, though. 

The truth is, I've never cared much about how I look--as long as I'm clean, don't smell, my hair isn't matted, and most importantly, as long as I'm comfortable. It is said that how you present (clothes-wise) is important as it gives an impression of who you are. But I'd like to think that the degree to which I have comfort with myself is way more important than which shoes I wear. I'm finding as I get older, I care way less that most think I should and, well, I don't really let that stop me from meeting new people, seeking out new opportunities, and well, just being. I've got to use the limited space in my brain for other things. In fact, I know immediately if a workplace is not for me depending upon it's rules (both stated and unstated) for dress code.

I once worked as a paralegal, legal assistant, and translator for a couple of law firms in NYC, and I found that I just COULD NOT wear suits. They were constricting, expensive, and I thought, ugly. (This was back in the late 90s--there were still shoulder pads in a lot of things, and I like my shoulders to look like what they are, slanted and soft, without the added football-player look) Suits didn't represent who I was and I did not last in the legal profession (although I very briefly flirted with the idea of taking the LSATs, working in international law at a boutique firm, and then retiring early.) I also taught at a school in the city whose student uniform was so strict, it seemed to wrench any and all creativity from its individual students. That was not who I was or what I was about, so I didn't last there either.

Enter the whole running thing, and not only have my fashion interests been piqued, but I am actually open to considering color choices and matching footwear, but only as they pertain to athletic apparel. This may be because I could live in and be very comfortable in running clothes for the rest of my life.  I admit that I do push the envelope on our employee dress code at my current school, but I digress....

The truth is, these days there is a WHOLE NEW WORLD of athletic apparel for people my size and I wanna try all the things: long tights, shorts, capris, socks, tops, shoes, jackets (ok--actually, we still have a ways to go re: functional and fitting athletic jackets...), and accessories that help people do their workout without worrying about the previously dysfunctional fabrics and cuts that were reserved for queen/plus/women's...choose your euphemism 

I am fully embracing athletic apparel fashion, and I'm NOT talking about the whole ath-leisure thing that's being promoted on Facebooks by designers like Tory Burch. Because I am a complicated human, my non-care of how I look does not transfer into the running arena. I mean, I don't care what others wear, but I like to look the part, makes me feel like a BAMR.

Before we get into the spring/summer season and all of the amazing capris and shorts it entails, I thought I would pay homage to my favorite pieces this year. They're my faves because in addition to looking good (whatever that means) they feel good and WORK for the most part. For all of the serious jumping around, running, weight-lifting, and stretching that I do, I need real compression bottoms with waistbands that don't roll down and that hold a jiggly tummy in (because jiggling hurts), bras that support the ladies, tops that don't look like square tents (trust me, I LOVE tents--you know, the ones made for camping in the backcountry) and are well-cut/non-hiding/flattering, socks that don't cause toe chafing, shoes that comfortably fit big feet and Flintstone-like toes (some folks in my family used to call me Pebbles), and accessories that actually work around my waist or on my head or around my shoulders.

Here are some of my favorite functional and fashionable fitting athletic apparel made for us: ( I realize that my size 18/20 self does not represent everyone who is plus sized. Baby steps, y'all.) I will be updating my favorites as I test out more Skirt Sports and Merrell stuff in the coming weeks and months:

I love the above skirt/pants combo by Skirt Sports and I wear it a lot. For this girl that once said " I will never wear a running skirt," I stand corrected. These aren't even compression but they feel so good and fit so well and I never find myself having to pull them up. I also like the crazy print on the skirt. The half zip jacket is also by Skirt Sports and it's perfect for layering in the winter. It's not too thick but it is very warm when paired with a compression thermal top. The fingerless gloves are by my favorite knitting-runner, Rebecca at Bexter Designs. The handheld bottle is by Nathan. It's specially designed for keeping your hydration unfrozen. I don't remember which bra I was wearing this day.

Here I am in this skirt again at the right, this time with a different top on. I don't absolutely love the top for jumping and high intensity activities, but it's cute. It does tend to rollup when I am jumping, so if that's a concern, go with another one. (It's great for weightlifting, though.)

The next photo has me in tights from Breeze Activewear, a new company based in Florida. They sent me a pair of beautiful and bold tights a few months ago and I tested them out while running, yogaing, and walking my friend's dog. If you like your tights to be tight, these may run big so you should probably order a size down. The Breeze tights are perfect for a brisk walk, a short jog, and yoga. I didn't try them out while weightlifting, but I imagine they are functional for that too. I would not recommend them for endurance activities like long-distance running or walking. The seams are such that they will rub your skin raw (unless you coat yourself with Body Glide and Vaseline) on a long run or walk. Otherwise, they are great--and cute. Also, on top is that jacket from Torrid. Flattering and functional (unless it's actually cold out...) The shoes are Hoka Stinson 3. 

The Redemption Capri from Skirt Sports is probably my favorite pair of tights apart from the Under Armour Heat Gear Capri and The North Face GTD Capri--they are available in a variety of different  prints, like these in Safari print (the shoes are Hoka Mafate trail shoes)

and these in Free Love print--the shoes here are Merrell's new All Out Crush trail shoes, which felt great for the entirety of the Naked Bavarian Trail Marathon I DFL'd last weekend.

A note on the socks: they are Swiftwick and they are amazing. I have had nary a blister, ever, wearing them. That's pretty spectacular given how big and unwieldy (but STRONG AF) my feet are.

I know this post is full of Skirts Sports, but I really love that there is a company making REAL athletic wear for women like me who like their clothes to fit and be flattering. I shall be scoping out some other companies that do the job too.

So stay tuned friends!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Speed for the Slow Among Us

I'm slow, and I'm okay with this. I've always been a back-of-the pack kind of runner.

A note on slow running: Whether I'm running a 12 minute mile or a 14 minute mile, I'm still running. There is still a fraction of a second when both feet are are airborne, so this makes it running--not jogging, or that awful sounding contraction of walking and jogging (which is a word that should never, ever be used in my opinion) WOGGING. UGH!!! What an ugly word! Also, if you run, you are a runner. Give yourself some credit. Rant over.

Anyway, as I said, I'm OK with being slow BUT since I have the opportunity to run in the NYC Marathon this year, I'm actually going to work on getting faster. I don't mean the sub-four hour kind of faster, but the sub six hour kind of faster. In my job as a coach (and I'm a certified USATF Level 1 coach--BOOYAH!) it's easy for me to train young cross country runners to get faster. But now, I'll need to coach myself, using my training and experience to get ME to run faster. This is going to be interesting to say the least.

My 26.2 PR is 6:14 at the Steamtown Marathon in 2012, and that was only because the first eight miles were downhill. Otherwise, my road marathons tend to be in the 6:23-6:40 range and I'd like to get better.

My goal this year is 5:30. Lofty? Yes. Impossible? NO.

Well now this means I'm actually going to train... like actually do speed work.

I hate speed work with a passion, because why can't I just keep running SLOWWWWW?? Well, I could if I wanted to. But, I've always had the idea that if I could run NYC then I would PR in my hometown. Achieving a 5:30 has always been the goal for running through my five boroughs.

So I thought I would share what I've been doing to get faster--and it's working. I also wanted to share with this particular audience because if you've looked up any speed workouts online you'll find that the vast majority of them are unrealistic and seem impossible for the runner that is accustomed to doing a 15 minute mile or even a 12 minute mile. Like for example--I can't even start out at 9 minute mile pace to warm up because I can't even do a 10 minute mile. Catch my drift here?

I've been working on my speed once a week, and I'll probably up it to twice a week as I get into real marathon training in the early summer. I haven't chosen a training plan yet, but I want to make sure I'm ready for some more serious work when the early summer arrives.

Here's what a typical off-season week looks like for me this year. I happen to be doing a trail marathon (The Naked Bavarian, and NO, I will not be running naked...too many physical liabilities) this week so my long run will be 26.2, nice and "easy" and probably a little snowy:

M: Rest and recovery day/PiYo/Weightlifting

T: 2-4 miles easy (12-14 min pace, depending on the time of day and the KIND of day)

W: Weightlifting in the morning/2-4 miles in the evening

Th: 1-2 miles on the mill in the morning/anywhere from 3-6 miles of SPEED WORK (depending on where I am in training)

F: Weightlifting in the morning

Sa: 4-6 miles easy

Su: 8-20 miles long run-um, at whatever pace...

(For all of you Strava stalkers, I have not uploaded my treadmill runs (which have been many) yet. So, just saying...)

Speed work is all relative.  To me, it means faster, less comfortable running that I cannot sustain for a long period of time. I like to do my work on the treadmill so that I know exactly what pace I'm at.

When I say I do speed work, here are some examples of what I do after a one-mile warm up at an easy pace (for me that is a 12:30-13:30 mile). I always do a mile. That way, I know that I'm really warmed up. Some people might be able to start after a half mile of running. Find what works for you.

Fartleks:  at 5.0-6.5 (Fartlek is a Swedish word that means speed-play--so in essence you are playing with speed. You speed up when you're ready, and when you have exhausted yourself, you slow down. You can do this for a mile or for a few miles with walking/slow running breaks as long as you need them.

Repeats: this is the type of speed work in which you run fast for a period and let your heart rate come down almost completely.  This trains your fast twitch muscles to work--like to actually engage. I like to do repeats of .10-.25 miles at increasing speeds from 5.5-7.0 mph. At the upper end of that spectrum, I will do only two of those, because REALLY? In all seriousness, I'm working towards being able to do a whole quarter mile repeat at 7.0. I can dream, right?

Intervals: are much like repeats, but you don't let your heart rate recover completely. You go back out, still fired up and exhausted from the last interval. This trains your body (more specifically, your fast twitch muscles) to maintain relative speed. So this might look like exactly what's written above, with a 30 second rest in between each interval.

Tempo Runs: There's nothing I hate more than running fast for a long time when I don't need to, but tempo runs are really helpful for being able to do just that: running at a faster speed than you're used to for a long time. Again, you're training your fast twitch muscles to fire when you call upon them. For me a tempo run lasts for about 3.1 miles (at this point, maybe more in the near future). I use my 5K PR (which is 35:39, and 11:28/mi pace) and add 30 seconds to the pace and then do a 5k on the treadmill at a 12 min/mi pace. I actually know that I can probably do a faster pace than that, but that's my story now and I'm sticking with it! (I do have a goal of doing a 33 minute 5k before the end of the year, so I'll update you on that too)

In addition to interval work, I have also started a program of strength-training/cross-training three times a week, and WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

I'll talk about hill repeats (speed work in disguise) and track-work when I get actually get to them in my training. And maybe I'll even do some videos...

If you do speed work, HOW DO YOU DO IT? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cross Training is Amazing and the Tough Mudder is TERRIFYING

Working on reverse rows here...trying to develop grip strength, and the ability to pick myself up. This isht is hard.
Gear: The North Face Capris, Swiftwick* Socks, Pearl Izumi M2, Panache Sports Bra
Over the last two months, I’ve been training and preparing for a bunch of events, one of which is the Atlanta Tough Mudder sponsored by Merrell* in May. That conversation went something like this:

Merrell: Hey Mirna, are you interested in Tough Mudders?
Mirna: I mean, I've never done one but, yeah, sure. Why not? I'll try it.
Merrell: Ok, which one?
Mirna: Um, I don't know, Atlanta? That's close to me.
Ok--Great, you're on.


So now there's no backtracking.  To tell you the truth, the idea of a Tough Mudder really scares me the shivers. Why? I’ll tell you why:

First of all (in my best Brooklyn accent), have you seen any of those videos with CoachMud?  Or the other guy with the mustache who puts himself through absolutely grueling training so that he can complete his Tough Mudder? It’s just downright frightening!
Second, I've never been successful at upper body things. Never. Rock Climbing? Nope. Hanging and swinging? Nope. Planking for more than a few seconds at a time? HELL NAW. 

Started with doing The Firm Express by Gaiam and some Hammer and Chisel by Beachbody with lighter weights. Gear: Torrid Fashion Bra-Tank, Skirt Sports*
Redemption Capris
I decided that I would put myself through some extra strength-training, not so that I can be like Coach Mudd or Mr. Mustache, but so I can begin to gain some badly needed strength in all areas of my body, and most importantly SO I DON'T LOOK LIKE A COMPLETE FOOL during the TM community workout on March 19 in Atlanta (location and time TBA) and the actual Tough Mudder itself. And let me tell ya, the little bit I’ve been doing has ALREADY greatly enhanced my running.

After doing some research on various strength-training sites and using what I already know from my own coaching training and experience, I put together a program of weightlifting and body weight exercises that is definitely making a difference in my ability to lift heavy things, including myself.

Hanging practice. Gear: Skirt Sports 261
Switzer Capri, VSX Sports Bra, Pearl Izumi
Road M2
I actually started out with a couple of sets that I found on using dumbbells only. It’s a workout for beginners looking to gain some strength that is done on alternate days. Each one is a mix of upper and lower-body exercises along with some core work. You leave the gym (or your living room) not feeling completely exhausted—maybe even invigorated. But trust me, you WILL feel it the next day… Don’t worry though, you won’t be working the same muscles on the following days.  And to tell you the truth, that slight soreness is delicious.

In the Tough Mudder, there are lots of obstacles (read: ALL OF THEM) that require upper body strength, balance, and more upper body strength, all of which are my weakest links. So I’m going hard! Since high school, I’ve never been able to do even one pull-up, and as I understand, mostly everything in the TM will be me hoisting heavy-ass self up with my arms. So yeah, I’m working on that too!

I also incorporated another strength training routine (that I’m switching out with the aforementioned on a two week rotation) that has me doing chest/shoulders/triceps one day, back/biceps/core the second day, and quads/hamstrings/calves the last day.

Overhead press. Gear: Torrid Fashion jacket,
Skirt Sports GTD Tights, Pearl Izumi shoes
Mind blown.

Stairs—Easier. Like, I-feel-like-I’m-on-a-properly-inflated-moonbounce kind of easier.

I can hang from a bar for more than five seconds. This is life-changing people. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.

I can hoist heavy weights above my head and hold them there without swaying to and fro.

Mountain climbers feel like marshmallows for the 10 seconds I do them. This has never happened, folks. NEVER. IN. MY. LIFE.

I can pick up a heavy weight in my hands using mostly my BUTTOCKS. Incredible.
Did I tell you that I can hang from a bar? I did? Oh, but you don’t realize how epically important this is for me. Since high school, I’ve never been able to do an unassisted pullup—and I still can’t but that’s beside the point. I am going to get there—soon, I hope. My plan is to progress from hanging to being able to hoist myself up, and hang from ropes and swing for a few seconds. This Tough Mudder training is REAL. Like FOREALTHO.
Deadlift practice. Gear: Top Quarter Zip by Merrell, Switzer Capri by Skirt Sports, Gloves by Saranac.
Running feels way easier.  Like, sometimes I can’t even tell that I just ran 4 miles. Usually, I can tell.
I can do a plank for more than 30 seconds. If you know me, you know I hate planks and I don’t like working on them and avoid them whenever possible and planks suck.
Planking--ugh. Gear: Top is Charmer Long Sleeve by Skirt Sports, Capris by Under Armour, Socks by Swiftwick and Shoes by Merrell.
This whole obstacle race thing is way out of my comfort zone, but I'm going to try and probably fail miserably, and that's ok because then I'll know what to work on for the next one. Yep, already planning for the next!

*I am a Merrell Ambassador, Skirt Sports Ambassador, and Swiftwick Athlete.

What scary goals or events do you have this year? Share!!!