Happy One Year Blogging Anniversary!

I started this blog last July as a diary for myself and anyone else who might want to join me in my journey. Initially, my goal was to be a better runner. I was tired of slogging through pitiful 2 and 3 mile runs. Constantly getting out there and pushing myself through the same distances and not seeing any progress.

At the beginning of all of this, my ultimate goal was to run a half marathon and less than a year later, I did it. I couldn’t have been more proud of myself. I worked hard for it, and frankly, the last year has changed my life in so many unexpected ways. It look a lot of focus and a lot of discipline. As a wife and mother of one, I think the hardest part was finding the time and getting over the guilt of doing something that was just for me and ate away at time that I could have been spending with my family. Looking back, I can say that it was worth the battle. In the long run, I will be healthier for my family because of it. I will be a example for my daughter of someone who leads an active lifestyle that hopefully she will want to emulate. And I’ve even encouraged my somewhat sedentary husband to be more active. He sees me out there battling for it and it makes him feel like a slouch for all of the couch time he is logging.

One year later, I feel like a real runner. I feel balanced and accomplished and confident. And though it’s still a fight sometimes to find the time, I know now that it’s worth the sacrifice.

I’ll admit – I still don’t know if I love running, but I definitely don’t hate it. I don’t dread it like I used to and I’m rarely tempted to skip a run. I used to be a person who used a day off from work or a holiday or a birthday (or frankly anything) as an excuse to take a day off from exercise. I’m no longer that person.

For my year anniversary of blogging, I asked myself – now what? Do I find a new goal and spruce up my blog for the next adventure? What does that next adventure look like?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I have absolutely no desire to run a marathon at this point. I have several half marathons on the horizon later this year that I’m looking forward to, but I’m not going to push myself for PRs. I simply want to finish each one of those races strong. And frankly, the rest of my life is pretty dull so I don’t want to bore you with those details either. So, where does that leave me? It’s leaves me with this…

This, my friends, will be my last blog post.

I know that there are many more goals that I could reach for, but at this point, I’m happy where I am. And when I don’t really have a goal in mind, I feel like I’m just reaching for topics to blog about. When it gets to that point, blogging becomes a chore, and frankly, I have enough chores to do already.

I want to thank all of my regular readers for coming along with me on this journey! I have encountered some really great people via this blog and I look forward to continuing to follow all of you on your adventures. Maybe one day I’ll embark on another adventure to share with you, and if that’s the case, this runner girl will be back. In the meantime, I wish you all well. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your support. If you want to reach out to me, you can find me at runrunnergirlrun(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll still be checking that e-mail address regularly.

Best of luck to you!

Wrapping up my extended 24 day challenge

Sorry, I’ve been MIA again. Mostly because nothing interesting has been going on. The usual running, lifting, working, home life, etc.

As a follow-up to my 24 day challenge post, I promised an update on my extension of the challenge through the end of the month. I’ve still managed to do pretty well though I consistently fall off of the wagon at least 2-3 days a week. But being on those other 4-5 days has resulted in solid progress. I’ve definitely burned some body fat and I’m seeing the definition of muscle coming through in my legs. I’m not sure if the scale has budged. I haven’t weighed myself in a while. I doubt it though. Regardless, I’m over the moon with the progress that I’ve seen and I plan to continue on this journey and see how many muscles I can make pop. That’s ultimately what I want – less jiggle and more muscle definition. I don’t really care what the scale says. I long ago learned that the scale can be deceiving.

Now that I’ve done approximately 42 days of this self-imposed challenge, I’m going to stop calling it a challenge and start thinking of it as a lifestyle change. I’m going to stick with this diet and workout plan as long as I can. I anticipate by the end of the summer I will have made some significant progress.

Fingers crossed!

PS I’m going on vacation next week and will be pulling another disappearing act. See you when I get back. Happy 4th of July to you in the meantime!

Sore Feet: Problem Solved?

I think I’ve been complaining about my sore feet probably as long as I’ve been writing this blog. At first, I attributed it to the additional running. When you go from barely run 10 miles a week to running 20, you’re going to feeling some growing pains, no? But 10 months later when I ran my first half marathon, I was still experiencing it. Not just that, it had gotten a lot worse. :( It had gotten so persistent, in fact, that I could tell you during my long runs when exactly it was going to start bothering me. If you’re curious, it was mile 8.

Over the past year, I tried changing my shoes and changing my socks, but nothing seemed to really work. And after my half marathon in April, I decided that enough was enough. I was going to get to bottom of this once and for all.

I won’t go into the full story again, but you might remember from this post that my first real break in the case was the discovery that somewhere along the lines my arch has fallen. This meant that I was no longer running in the right type of shoe. Like I said, I’ve tried multiple shoes over the last several months and I was really tired of throwing money at my local running store hoping that the next new pair of socks or shoes might be the answer. So I decided it was time to visit my doctor.

I figured she would probably pass me on to a podiatrist, but she surprised me and instead recommended that I try the Dr. Scholl’s Footmapping machine first. They are relatively easy to find and use. I visited my trusty local CVS, followed the instructions on the machine and was fitted for an insole within minutes.

Dr Scholls Custom Fit CenterBecause I’m so lucky, the insole that I was recommended was sold out at the store so I had to order it online and wait two weeks for it to arrive. *eye rolling* In the meantime, I bought an inexpensive insert at CVS to tide me over.

ProArch_large_tcm67-48663From my very first long run in my cheap insole, I felt immediate relief. I’ve run 10 miles several times now and my feet have not bothered me in the least. In fact, I feel so much better post-run that it’s not only improved the feel of my feet but also my post-run legs. My legs used to feel so tight after a long run. I would go home, shower, immediately put on my compression socks and wear them for the rest of the day. But since I started using the insoles, I haven’t felt the need to break out my compression socks once. I had no idea how much my foot pain was affecting the rest of my body as well.

As for the insoles, it’s been a few weeks now. I’ve run in both the PRO and in the Custom Fit Orthodics. They both seemed to solve the problem for me, but there is a VAST price difference between the two. The PRO set me back $10 and the Custom Fit was $50. Hey, I’m not made out of money here. Clearly, I’m going with the PRO when it’s time to re-order. For once I wasn’t being a sarcastic a$$hole when I said that those insoles being sold out was a lucky break for me. I would have never known there was a more cost effective option out there had that custom orthodic been sitting there waiting for me to pick it up.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am to know that my flat feet aren’t going to force me out of longer distances. Hopefully my next half marathon will be less about crossing the finish line so I can sit down somewhere to massage my sore tootsies and more about the glory of running! Fingers (and toes) crossed that this problem has finally been solved once and for all.

Weekend Long Run

This weekend’s 10 miler was a lot better. I got lucky with the weather and it was absolutely gorgeous out there. It was one of the better long runs that I’ve had in a while.

One of the other reasons for the improvement was also that I tried out a few gear change-ups this time around. I don’t know about you, but when my gear is wrong, then it just distracts me and detracts from the overall run experience. When you’re already having a bad run, it just makes it even worse. This is my first summer running these sorts of distances and as my last several runs have shown me, I need to make a few gear adjustments. Here is what I tried out this weekend:

1. First off, I tried out a new pair of shorts – like I said, this is my first summer running these distances in this kind of heat and the last few weekends have been pretty miserably. In the last few miles of my last few runs, my shorts, in particular, have driven me bonkers. I get so sweaty that by the end, it’s like I jumped into a pool and my shorts are soaking wet. Frankly, I’m just gross. I decided that there were 2 solutions to my problem: shorter shorts (i.e. a more technical running short). I’m not that secure so my other option is a biker short. Not the most flattering on me, but like I said, I’m not breaking out the daisy dukes sooooo…

I tried these the Presto Short from Athleta.

cn5978247Mind you, it was nowhere near as hot as it’s been, but I had a good first test run in them. I liked the fit overall and they have handy little pockets on the sides (which you don’t see a lot in a short like this). My only complaint is that the fabric is a bit heavier than I’d prefer for summer. I’m sure there is probably something lighter weight out there, but for now, it’ll do the trick.

Side note: You may recall way back when that I bought a running skirt. It was a while before it was warm enough for me to test it out, but when I did, I was not a happy camper. I bought the version with the shorts underneath and they rode up/chafed something fierce (even though the ladies at the Running Skirts booth swore up and down that they absolutely do not ride up. Uh huh…) Anyway, if you go for a running skirt, get the kind with just the underwear underneath or go for a version with a longer biker short or a full capri. My “running” skirt has officially been delegated to a bikram/tennis/other athletic pursuits skirt.

2. I ran my first long run ever without listening to anything. I usually run with audiobooks, but as it’s gotten hotter and I’ve gotten sweatier, my headphones have become a major nuisance. The sweatier I get, the more they slip out of my ears and all of that adjusting just drives me bananas. Not super happy with my yurbuds right now. So I decided to take the risk and go without for a run. I was surprised by how little I missed them. I didn’t really think about much, but I can truly say that I was never bored. This might become a new trend for me on my long runs. I’ll continue to wear them on my shorter runs though. I spend so much time working out, that it’s a good time to catch up on my reading.

Hope you dads out there had a great Father’s Day!

ProCompression Sock of the Month – June 2013

Looking for a way to show a little American pride while you are on the run. This month’s ProCompression sock of the month should do the trick.

Coupon code JL4 is valid for purchase of Red, White & Blue Marathon Socks only. Inventory is limited and offer expires June 30, 2013. No backorders.

Tips for Creating Your Own 24 Day Challenge

Here are some tips in case you were thinking about trying your own challenge similar to Advocare’s 24 Day Challenge. Of course, make sure you consult your doctor before you start any major plan (I think I’m required to say that). And don’t do anything stupid. Clearly, you won’t want to follow the same meal plan as I did if you are a 6 foot, 200 pound man. As I’m just shy of being a little person (I am 5 feet on a good day), I obviously need to eat far less than you will (or most people for that matter).

Before you start your challenge:

Pick a length of the challenge
It doesn’t have to be 24 days. It can be a week or 10 days or 24 or 30. But pick something practical that you know you will stick of.

Develop a workout plan
You don’t have to follow it to the letter, but it’ll be helpful to schedule it out for yourself in advance and then you can be flexible from week to week depending on changes in your schedule. Make sure to include both cardio AND strength training to maximize your results. My workout plan was as follows:

  • Sunday – cross training and weight lifting
  • Monday – run
  • Tuesday – run and weights
  • Wednesday – run
  • Thursday – weights
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – long run

You can find my current running plan here and my current weight lifting plan here.

 Develop a meal plan
This will take some of the thinking out of the process and help keep you on track. Outline what you are going to eat for every meal and snack. If you’re interested in a sample meal plan, check out my post on my 24 day challenge. Some other tips on the meal plan:

  • Keep it simple – the less work it is, the more likely you will be to stick with it. This includes the actual preparation of the food as well. You’ll see from my meal plan that there wasn’t more cooking involved than scrambling some eggs and baking some chicken or fish. Try not to pick complicated recipes that you’ll get lazy about and skip when you’re too tired to prepare them. Or…
  • Prepare your food in advance – if you can prep your food on the weekend, do it. For instance, I make my protein shakes on the weekend, put them in small mason jars and freeze them. Or like I said, keep the meals simple enough to where they don’t require a lot of prep. I love steam in the bag veggies as a side. I also have steam in the bag edamame as a regular snack.

More on the meal plan

  • Try to keep your diet high in protein with a lot of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies
  • Stay away from processed foods as best you can
  • Limit your complex carbohydrate consumption in general and if you are going to eat complex carbs, eat only whole grains. *A good rule of thumb is that you only eat complex carbs AFTER you workout. No working out. No carbs.* It’s good incentive to workout as much as possible. ;-)
  • Eating fat is okay, but stick to healthy fats (fish oil, olive oils, nuts) and only in moderation.
  • Try for smaller meals throughout the day as opposed to 3 big meals if you can make it work for your schedule
  • Drink lots of water – try to get in those 8 glasses a day
  • Cut out the booze – try as best you can to go cold turkey, but don’t beat yourself up if you have a glass of wine. If you are going to drink, stick to only a glass or two of wine or hard liquor with some low/no calorie flavored beverage mixed in.

Personally, I think it’s important to track your food intake. Even if you just do it for a week, keep track of what you are eating and your calorie intake for a full seven days. Most people are taking in way more than they actually need and you’ll never know unless you start writing it down.

There are tons of apps out there you can use to track your food intake. I have an app called MyNetDiary (there is a free app version if you want to give it a go). You can enter all of your data (weight, height, age, activity level, etc.) and then it gives you a calorie count for a day. You can enter everything you eat via the website or app and it will tell you how many calories you have left for the day based on how much you’ve already eaten. It has a pretty extensive database of foods and allows you to enter your own recipes or food via a barcode scanner. You can also enter any exercise you did that day and the app adjusts your calorie allowance accordingly. It also tells you if you took in too much saturated fat or didn’t have enough fiber based on your meals. Pretty nifty.

OR you can do it old school and use a good ol’ pen and pencil as well.

Moral of the story: BE PREPARED!!! And don’t freak out if you cheat. I fell off the wagon at least once a week (wine for dinner does not equal a great choice. Yup, that happened…maybe more than once.) Just pick yourself up and get back on the horse with your next meal. Just try not to make cheating a habit. After all, it’s only 24 days, right? You can do just about anything for only 24 days.

Questions?

My 24 Day Challenge – Final Thoughts

It occurred to me that I never really gave any specifics about how I was going to approach my 24 day challenge. Considering that, I’m going to start this post with a recap of my strategy which will hopefully provide some insight into my general crazy thought process.

During the last 24 days, my focus has been two fold:

1. Diet - specifically, concentrating on a more protein heavy diet, fruit and veggie based carbs and a very minimal amount of complex carbs.

Here is an example of the daily diet:

  • Breakfast – Chocolate peanut butter protein shake (it’s delicious, you can find the recipe at the bottom of this post)
  • Mid-morning snack – greek yogurt, a piece of fruit, hard boiled egg
  • Lunch – Homemade apple cinnamon yogurt (quarter cup of quick oats, 4 dash of cinnamon, a swirl of honey and one small apple diced)
  • Afternoon snack – red pepper slices (or some sort of veggie), hummus and a mini pita
  • Dinner – garden scramble (one egg, red pepper, onion, green pepper, garlic), a slice of whole wheat toast, and a side of fruit (usually sliced strawberries) OR meat based protein (fish, chicken or lean cut of beef – seasoned with a little olive oil and a generous amount of seasoned salt) grilled or broiled with a generous side portion of veggies
  • Dessert – a handful of dark chocolate Hershey’s kisses

If I lifted weights on a particular day, I added a banana or a quick protein shake (almond milk, a scoop of protein powder and ice) as a post-workout snack.

I also had a spark now and then if I felt like I need an extra boost before my workout.

If I was still hungry at the end of the day or between meals, I would have some of my homemade trail mix.

2. Exercise – running as I normally have but focusing more on strength training

  • For the running, I continued to follow Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 10K Training Plan. I cut one run out of the schedule each week (usually the Thursday run) so each week, I run 4 days a week for a total of 20-22 miles each week.
  • For the strength training, I followed the weight training plan that I told you about. Three days a week of weights. I took it easy the first week and then as I got more comfortable with the routine, I started increasing the weights until I felt more challenged.

Where my 24 day challenge went wrong
I should have had a stronger plan before I started. The above diet didn’t really stabilize until about halfway through the challenge. Before that, I was doing bits and pieces of this, but I would fall off the wagon and then have a few bad days during the week that threw off my progress. Once I started following this diet consistently, the challenge became a much smoother and easier process to manage.

Carb loading also tripped me up. Since I was running 10 miles on the weekends, I still felt the need to carb load and this would really through me for a mental loop. My brain kept trying to fall back on old habits and it was a struggle to keep myself on track (didn’t always happen). What I did learn about carb loading – I don’t think I necessarily need to do it. Marathon runners (and maybe half marathoners) need to do it. Right now, my weekend long run is a 10 mile run and I don’t think I really need to carb load for that.

Lastly, I should have cancelled all of my lunch appointments during the challenge. I struggle with making good decisions when I eat out and I should have removed that temptation.

Where my challenge went RIGHT!
My focus in this challenge was to lose body fat and that I did. Within the first week (even despite some cheating), I saw a noticeable difference in my physique. I lost body fat for sure in my legs and my back side. I would have lost more if I had gotten my act together even sooner and really focused on the diet. The diet is truly where it all came together for me. Also, the weights – the weight lifting was a huge part of my success and I discovered that I really liked it. I’m looking forward to keeping that up.

Now that it’s all said and done, would I consider doing the Advocare 24 Day Challenge again?
As you may recall, that was the whole point of this challenge. Deciding whether or not, it was worth it to spend the money and do the full Advocare 24 Day Challenge or whether I could achieve the same success on my own. And my ultimate answer is…No, I wouldn’t do the Advocare Challenge again. I feel like I experienced enough success on my own without it. I probably saw an equivalent amount of results in what I achieved with the Advocare challenge last summer

As I mentioned in my original post, I still do use many Advocare products that I discovered last summer and I will continue to supplement with the Advocare products that I currently use. But I’ll opt out of the full Advocare 24 Day Challenge and keep the rest of my money in my bank account.

What’s next?
I’m going to continue the challenge until the end of the month. I feel like I’ve found a good balance in my diet and workout schedule and now that I’m on track, it’s been fairly easy to follow. The ultimate question is – can I stick with it? I’m feeling pretty positive that I can. I’m never really hungry because I’m constantly eating. Mostly, I’m fighting the compulsion to fall back into bad habits. Things like eating while I’m stressed, making good choices when I eat out or eating just because food is there even though I’m not hungry at all. That will probably always be a challenge for me.

So onward I go for another 15 days. I’ll re-evaluate after the end of the month and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, look for a separate post on tips to creating your own 24 day challenge.