Category Archives: Pump It

Heat Run

One of my shortcomings has got to be running in the heat.  My performance is poor and sometimes I can’t even finish the run, but then again the heat makes me a stronger runner.

As temperatures climb to the 90-100 degrees and humidity reaches 50-70%, I feel like I’m lifting sandbags on my shoulders.  I know it’s hot when I hear cicadas singing loud a long my path.  My mouth is dry and all I can think about is “water”.  As I see a blaze of heat down the trail, I brush the sweat over my head and I can feel a glob of salt in my hands.  The sun is beating me down like I’m in a boxing match.  I made plenty of mistakes tackling this.  Although I continue to find ways to improve, here are a few things I learned training in the dog days of summer:

Hydrate.  I drink a liter of water an hour before running.  You’ll be amazed how much water you lose in the heat.  Some runners can lose 1-4 quarts of water every hour.  I also wear a Camelbak so I can hydrate on my run.  It’s hard to find water fountains where I run, so a Camelbak was a great purchase.

Schedule your run.  My number 1 mistake is running at the wrong time.  Avoid running at times between 10 am-6 pm.  I hardly see any runners on the trail during those times.  My running experience described above was during noon or 5 pm.  Big mistake!  Try to run early in the morning or night if you can.  I also schedule my runs by reviewing the weather forecast for the week.  If the temperatures are lower on certain days that’s the day that I’ll run.  In fact, I take advantage of days when it rains.  Running in the rain feels so good from the heat.  Also, I get a major adrenaline rush when it storms.

Plan your route.  Try to find a route with more shade.  It makes a huge difference.  Some days I wish I had that red umbrella from the Traveler’s insurance commercial follow me around.

Don’t over exert yourself.  I generally slow down 2-3 minutes when I’m running in the heat.  My heart rate is off the charts when I’m in the heat, so I take my time and save my energy to finish the run.  Most of the time I have to stop and walk, but I start running again when I see an overcast.  It bothers me at times when I can’t finish what I hope to do, but I remind myself that this will only make me stronger.  Come fall, I will probably be able to push more miles out in cooler weather.

Gear.  Wear light, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing.  Avoid black.  Always wear a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes.  Never forget sun block.  I always forget this and I come home looking like a lobster.  I don’t typically wear a hat because it can trap heat and cause your body temperature to rise.  I wear a thick headband, but there are running caps you can buy in any sports store.  Take your cell phone in case of an emergency.  I have my iphone with me so I can listen to motivating jams or audio books.  You can even learn another language while you’re running.  I’m going to start that next time.  It keeps my mind off the heat.

What to eat.  This section deserves it’s on blog post, because I have a lot of say about this.  Stay tuned!

I can tell you most of the time I find it difficult to finish in the heat, but there is always tomorrow.

The Vegan Athlete

Tuesday was a very exciting day because I met my idol, Brendan Brazier.  For those who don’t know him, he is a Ironman triathlete, a two-time Canadian 50k ultra-marathon champion, and **drum roll** practices 100% plant-based diet.  I signed up immediately once I found out he was hosting a seminar at the Whole Foods in Arlington.  As you can see in the picture, I was super stoked and of course I sat in the front with my googly eyes.

When I started a plant-based diet I discovered Brendan’s book, Thrive.  Although I felt better and had more energy, I struggled with my long runs.  I’m very adamant about this lifestyle, but I wanted to perform better and that’s when I found Brendan Brazier.  How can a professional triathlete be vegan and win championships?  He reveals his philosophy and secrets in Thrive.  Essentially, the seminar was a short summary of his book plus a lot of great tips not in the book.

Not to worry I took notes from the seminar, but I highly recommend his book to anyone – athlete or non-athlete, omnivore or herbivore, anyone who is interested in improving their sleep, energy, and overall lifestyle.

Stress – We all have different types of stress that effects the body.  Some are emotional, physical, and environmental.  These stress factors increases cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a hormone produced from your adrenal glands.  A small release of cortisol can be beneficial to increase your immunity and energy.  Your body is smart – it will trigger these hormones the moment it feels it needs to go in survival mode.  Too much of cortisol can decrease bone density and muscle.  It can eventually lower your immune system and cause blood sugar imbalances.  It can also led to abdominal fat and high blood pressure.  Wonder why there are people who workout everyday and don’t see results?  I use to over exercise with no breaks in the week.  I didn’t let my body heal or recover, so my body was freaking out and it created more cortisol hormones to protect myself.  Like Brendan’s experience, I started to feel weak and actually gained weight, so I did something really stupid – I lowered my calorie intake.  I damaged my body enough and now I’m depriving my body from nutrients.  I gained the weight even faster. The key is RECOVER.  My body was crying for this.  It’s so important to rest.  This will balance your stress levels, so you can perform better.

Balance – Remember in chemistry class when you had to test the pH (potential of hydrogen) with strips of paper – 1 being very acidic and 14 being very alkaline.  Our body is neutral with a pH around 7, so it’s important to maintain this balance.  I’m not saying to pull out a chemistry set to test everything you eat.  There are a few foods you should try to stay away from or take in moderation.  If the body is in a acidic state it prone to aliments.  Here’s a great diagram that summarizes acidic and alkaline foods.

Energy – Brendan talks about two types of energy – short term energy from stimulants and long term nourishment for your body.  Stimulants like coffee and sugars can give you a quick boost, but there’s a price to pay for this.  Your body works harder to digest stimulants, so it’s using a lot of energy and causing stress to your body.  Ever feel that afternoon crash?  This is what caused it.  Your body is working so hard it will result to fatigue, so you want more to get over that hump.  I like Brendan’s analogy – “think of it as a credit card”.  You can buy it now, but then .. you pay for it later.  This made me think about what I should put in my body.  Ever since I went on a plant-based diet I never get the afternoon crash.  If I feel hungry around 3 or 4, I eat a fruit and it gives me the energy I need because it is nourishing my body.

Brendan is my inspiration.  There was book signing after the seminar and I was able to speak to him for a couple minutes.  The cool thing about Brendan is that he doesn’t push you to buy his products.  He wants to help you.  Brendan is the creator of Vega products.  I will talk about Vega in another post because I actually use these before meeting Brendan.  I’m hoping to run a full marathon this year and need to know how I can improve my performance on a plant-based diet.  He gave me solid advice on what to eat and how to train.  Not once did he mention his products to me.   He is indeed a very classy and fit athlete.

I ended the night by picking up dinner from the Whole Foods salad bar, which by the way, is awesome.  I love the brown paper boxes you pack your salad in.  Here’s what I had:  chard, lettuce, wheat berries, corn, radish, balsamic tofu and mushrooms, red cabbage, chick peas, tomato, kidney beans.  I didn’t add any dressing because it’s already full of flavors.  There’s no need to hinder the freshness.  It was a delicious meal to end my evening.

Reference: Thrive by Brendan Brazier

Beach Bum Run

When I first ran on a beach I did all the wrong things. I ran in flip flops and attempted to sprint. Let’s just say I had a mouthful of sand after I fell flat on my face. Running on the beach is a little daunting after that incident. I was recently in Ana Maria Florida this past weekend and I couldn’t resist a run. It was glorious outside. To top it off, the storm from the night before made the morning cool. The waves were fierce and the wind was strong. The beach called for me when I peered out the balcony window. I picked up my Nikes, suited up, and made my way to the beach.

Running on the beach is actually very beneficial for your posture. It forces you get the full motion of a run and strengthens your lower body. My upper body was straight and I landed on my mid-foot, which is the proper mechanics of foot striking. Believe me this is not easy. You will burn more running on the sand vs. on a hard surface, so this is where you can build power. I have the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure this week and thought it will be a good start to kick off my training. On a side note, my running team and I would love your support to help us reach our donation goal for the fight against breast cancer. Please visit our team page.  I was a little nervous at first, recalling my first beach run, but the scenery was too beautiful to pass up. I only made it two miles, but I felt fulfilled because my goal was to take it slow and make it a beach bum run.

Here are a couple tips to keep in mind for a beach run:

Hydrate – Consume enough water just like any other run. It’s tough, so make sure you are well hydrated to prevent cramps and heat exhaustion.

Sun block – You are running in direct sunlight, so use sun block. It’s easy to forget because you’re usually putting sunscreen when you lay-out on the beach. The same concept should go for running. Protect your skin, so you don’t come home looking like a lobster.

Take your time – There’s no need to rush. Running on the beach is not the same as running on a track. This is about strength and power training, so take your time to prevent injury.

Run with shoes – Some people like to run barefoot, but I recommend running with shoes especially if it’s your first time. If you do run barefoot get to know the surface and run closer to the water. Look out for glass pieces or broken shells. Although the beach was beautiful in Florida I noticed that there were tons of broken shells. Knowing how clumsy I am I will most likely get cut, so I decided to put on my running shoes.

Look at where you are going – The flatter the surface the easier the run, which is closer to the ocean. Watch out for waves or else you will be running in wet sneakers. If you’re in for a challenge run on dry sand. I did a combination, but mainly ran on dry sand. I noticed I used the strength of my legs to maneuver out of the sand. Be careful with this deep workout because the surface is uneven.

Enjoy the scenery and dip in – Soak in the beauty around you. Running on the beach is very peaceful and spiritual. Enjoy the view, the feel of the cool wind, and the sound of the waves crashing against the sand. After the run, rub your feet against the sand and dip in the ocean. It feels absolutely amazing.

Bend it like Bikram

About a year ago I got into a car accident.  I thought everything was alright after taking a few prescriptions and using a neck brace, so I continued my daily work out/run.  At the time, I pushed my body to its limit and it became worse.  My back is never the same.

I had to take it easy with my workouts so started to incorporate more yoga in my routine.  Just around that time, I saw a Groupon for Bikram yoga.  It’s a sign.  Bikram yoga is a form of hot yoga.  It’s a series of 26 postures completed in a heated room of 105-110 degree Fahrenheit for about 90 minutes.  Sounds like I would pass out, but I decided to take a plunge because I love challenges.  In the beginning I thought what on earth did I get myself into.  This must be the most difficult workout I ever had.  This is no ordinary yoga class with a few relaxation poses and smoothing music.  This is intense. Hardcore.  After it was all over I drove home with my windows down and felt incredible.  I initially thought it was torture and was unsure if I would even come back, but I felt amazing afterwards.  It was as if all the stress that clung on to me for so long fell right off my shoulders.  Let it go.  Physically my back felt better and as I continued to go to class the pain started to disappear.

I didn’t get much direction when I started, so want to share a few tips on how to prepare and what to expect when taking your first Bikram class:

Hydrate:  Hydrate a couple hours before yoga.  Depending on the instructor they will not allow you to drink water until specified.  Also, it’s good Bikram etiquette not to drink while in a pose.  Everybody is concentrating on their pose, so be sure to be a good neighbor.  If you are allowed to drink water, I recommend not drinking water if you are about to do any backward bends.  I did this once and started to choke.  Totally embarrassing myself. If you must take water make sure you give enough time for the water to go down.

Don’t be shy:  You will sweat in places you never imagine you would.  Everyone will look like a hot mess.  Wear clothing like you are going to the pool.  Heck I see men wearing speedos or booty shorts.  I wore capris and a t-shirt the first time and I was dying.  At the end of the day my clothes were dripping in sweat and I look like I came out of the shower.  Since I’m shy, I typically don’t wear sport bras or short shorts when I workout, but I do in Bikram.  People have to look at themselves when performing their poses, so don’t worry about who is looking at you because they won’t.  What they will probably notice is smell, so be sure to wear deodorant.

Essential Items:  You will need to bring a yoga mat.  That’s a given.  Bring a towel large enough to cover your mat, like a beach towel.  A good friend got my husband and I matching beach towels, so when I’m not at the beach the towel is with me in Bikram which I got a lot of compliments on.  You’re going to be dripping sweat, so the towel will prevent slippery spots.  If you forget one ask your studio.  Take with you a large water bottle.   You can bring a small towel to wipe your face, but I find that sweat cools me down.  Another item is coconut water which will rehydrate you quickly and put nutrients into your system after all that sweating. Coconut water is what the cool kids drink in Bikram.

Instructors:  Bikram instructors will call out poses, but they will not perform the poses for you.  They are there as your guide.  Your instructor may go around the room to correct poses.  Don’t take anything personally.  They are there to help you improve.  You know if they are a good instructor if they make sure you do it correctly so you don’t injure yourself.  Tell your instructors it’s your first time and they will take good care of you for your first experience.  Overtime you will know your instructors well.  I know who keeps it challenging and who turns the temperature high or low.  Use it to your advantage.  On days when I want to bust my butt I go to a intense instructor.

The Right Spot:  For your first time, get a spot in the back so you can watch other yogis perform the poses.  Remember to find a spot so you can see yourself in the mirror, but don’t cover the yogi behind you.  I got scolded a couple times for blocking the person behind me.

Don’t Leave the Room: Instructors will encourage you stay in the room at all times.  The reason for this is that you are in a heated room and when you leave your body temperature drops, so this can shock your body.  I stay in the room for an extra 15 minutes after the class ends so my body can gradually adjust.  Depending on your instructor, they might open the door at times for a short breeze.

Don’t Rush:  It is so important not to rush into or out of a pose. A big part of yoga is meditation and concentration.  You exercise your brain by concentrating.  When you commit to a pose you are 80% there so meditate to make that decision.  You will have an amazing feeling when you take your time. You won’t get that feeling when you rush and you can even injure yourself.   Take your time, clear your mind,  and stay in the moment.

Dessert: All I can say is the lavender scented towels is dessert. You’ll know what I mean.

Bikram does wonders for me.  It’s a special treat for my body and mind, like a massage.  You’ll hear me talking more about Bikram in other posts because this is a very important part of my workouts.  It healed me on several occasions and prevented so many injuries from my other intense workouts.  I’m not an instructor, so please consult with your studio.  I’m just offering a few suggestions since I had people ask me about it.  If you want more information go to the Bikram site.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

I’m 5’1 and petite.  Considering my height I have to be creative with my diet and exercise, but it builds character.  Being petite has plenty advantages:  We look younger.  We have more endurance.  Our curves are emphasized.  We are just as sexy as someone who is 5’7.

I recently came across The Petite Advantage Diet by Jim Karas.  Karas mentions, “They make clothes for petites so why not a specialized diet plan.” Good point. While it’s not noticeable gaining a pound or two for my tall friends, it definitely shows for me in my midsection and thighs.  There’s not a lot of room to go around.  Everything grows horizontally for me, so I work with what I’m blessed with.  I didn’t follow Karas book 100%, but took a couple pointers.

Based on my experience I have a few tips in addition to the book.  It applies to everyone, but as a petite I try to make this my daily routine:

  • Avoid eating out of the bag – Nibbling counts.  I remember reaching my hand to grab a couple chips and before you know it the bag was empty.  Ahh!!  Portioning is important for everyone, but especially for petites.  We don’t need as many calories as a tall person.  A small handful here or there counts at the end of the day.  A couple ideas on how to portion:  buy snack bags to fill a portion on what you want to eat and only eat what’s in it.  Another tip is to take your portion, put it on a plate, and eat at a table.  This reminds you what you are eating and how much you are eating.
  • Drink water – Water is essential.  It cleanses your system and boosts your metabolism.  If you are dehydrated it creates water retention.  Your body is holding on to water because it thinks it’s in survival mode.  Ironically to get rid of water weight you need to drink more water.  Drinking water also curbs your appetite. I drink a big glass of water before I eat.  I find that I’m dehydrated and not hungry most of the time.  I actually count the amount of water I have a day to make sure I have at least 8 glasses.
  • Yoga – Ok so yoga is not going to give you height, but it helps with your posture so you can look taller.  It also builds endurance and strength so you can prevent injury and perform better with other workouts.  I find that my legs get leaner with all the stretching and toning from yoga.
  • Eat half and save for later – My grandma use to tell me as a child that if I don’t finish my plate my husband will be ugly.  Obviously she was trying to get me to finish my meal because I just wanted to play.  Wasting in the household was unacceptable, but not if you eat half and save for later.  If you are full don’t force yourself to finish.  It’s better to spread your meals out than eating all at once.  I like to think I’m on an island – save half of my food so I can enjoy again later.  This way it helps build your metabolism and you won’t eat as much throughout the day.
  • Cardio – Karas talks about how cardio can be a factor to weight gain for petites.  I don’t agree with that.  I think we all should try different exercises to see if it works for you.  Cardio was the number one reason for my weight loss.  It’s good for your cardiovascular system (hence the word cardio) and endurance.  I can see what Karas means on how cardio can increase your appetite.  This is where balance comes in.  It’s important to incorporate cardio in your routine, but don’t overexert yourself like 2 hours of intense cardio on a daily basis because yes it can make you eat more and sometimes more than what you burned.  Cardio can be in any form of aerobic workout like zumba, kickboxing, dancing, or a competitive sport.  Sounds like fun.  To me the best workout is when you don’t feel it’s a workout.  My advice is to experiment and have fun, but don’t overdo it.

To my fellow petites – remember to listen to your body and do what’s right for you.  We can play in the big leagues.

Sunset Run

This is where I can find peace after a hectic day.  I was going for 4 miles but ended up running 6 simply because I wanted to enjoy the sunset a little longer.  What a beautiful sight!