Thursday, December 30, 2010

Walk Outside? Go to Gym?

Though it was sunny and beautiful outside today, I ended up going to the gym rather than walk outside. Since the membership is good for only 30 days, I feel I have to use use it whenever I have the time.

And, because membership is only for a month, I decided to work too many machines today. I know you should work only one set of major muscles at a time and alternate days. Today I worked ALL of them!

I'm a little achy and I'm pretty tired. Tomorrow will be walking only as I get ready for New Year's Eve and the New Year's Day race I'm entered in. I wonder how fast I'll be able to go?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Breaking Speed Records -- Treadmill Sprints

After warming up for 10 min on a treadmill today, I did 1-min long sprints at a 12-min per mile pace followed by 3 mins at a 15-min per mile pace! And I did this about six times. As far as I know, this is the fastest I have ever walked!

Throughout the workout, I tried to maintain proper racewalking form, working very hard to be smooth and avoid bouncing and pounding. When I got distracted, I did tend to lose the "smooth" feeling and thud too much.

My original plan was to do as many sprints as possible, then walk at a reasonable pace for an entire hour. After 30-min, I really thought I would go mad if I kept at it. Still, I decided to do my best to stick it out for 45 min. Even watching TV, listening to a book on my iPod and changing the pace did not help much. Those last few minutes were pretty tough mentally.

After a few minutes of rest, I decided to see what my absolute fastest pace is. I maintained an 11-min mile for about 15 secs and then got down below 11! I was pumping my arms and legs so fast, I'm not sure what the actual pace was, but it was faster than 11! Woo hoo!

So, being that I was on a treadmill where the "ground" was moving and all I had to do was pick up my feet, I'm not sure how that will translate to walking outside. Still, I think having the opportunity to do this type of intense sprint workout in the winter should help my race pace.

I can't wait to find out!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Becoming a Gym Rat?

My sister gave me a one-month membership to her gym for Christmas. Though I belonged to a gym many years ago, I cancelled that membership because I didn't use it -- well, that and the fact it was a crappy gym. I know she really likes this place, so I was excited to give it a try.

Today I met her there so she could show me around and we could work out. Wow, was this place nice!

First it was clean and did not have a weird odor like the previous gym I went to. Second it is huge! There was plenty of everything so there was very little waiting for machines.

We did several machines for shoulders and abs and then went on the treadmills for a while. TONS of treadmills! I started out racewalking at 15-min miles, then got progressively faster. I got down to racewalking a 12-min mile, but for just 5 min. Still, I was excited. That is the fastest I have ever walked! Woo hoo!

Because we are planning to run a warrior race in June, I am going to have to run 3 miles. So I tried running, too. I was able to run for about 5 min., two times. Boy, is running easier on a treadmill than it is outside. Sunday when I ran half a block, I felt as heavy as an elephant and when I hit the ground, I thudded. On the treadmill, I felt much lighter and wasn't thudding at all.

So, the gym is pretty cool and has some great amentities. The equipment is great, in good condition and there are plenty of machines. Racewalking and running on the treadmill was so much easier than outside.

My knees are a little sore from running yesterday and I can tell my shoulders and and abs will be sore tomorrow. Still, other than the knees, it's a good sore. And if I play it right, maybe I'll be able to actually work on speed this winter instead of just hoping to not to lose any ground I've gained throughout the year.

So, in the meantime, ice and ibuprofen are my friends as I work on strengthening my knees.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gift Ideas for Walkers -- Part II

No bad photography with this half of the list as it continues:

6) Books about Walking, Health and Fitness or Healthy Eating -- There are lots of books about walking, but if the person you are buying for is trying marathon walking or racewalking, you need to check out the books written by Dave McGovern. He is smart and a very good writer. For books on nutrition, try any of Nancy Clark's books. I just purchased her book on sports nutrition for my son (who does not read my blog) and her book on nutrition for marathoners for me. The Dr. Oz books titled "You" are also good. Though not about walking, I loved the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

7) Heart Rate Monitor -- Heart rate monitors are great! They give you a much better idea of the amount of effort you are putting forth. I have PR'd twice this year by basing my race pace on my heart rate. I have a low-end Timex that is very easy to use, but does not store information. It is enough for me. Friends of mine have really high-end models that store results for a month and can download workouts to their computer or special web sites. Those are also great, but are much more expensive.

8) Water Bottle -- I'm not talking about one of those cheap plastic water bottles that cause dangerous chemicals to enter your drinking water. I have a great Nathan brand stainless steel water bottle that I love! It doesn't work in the water bottle carrier I use for distance workouts, but I use it for hiking, when driving around the city, baseball games, or just about any situation other than carrying it in my water bottle carrier.

9) Race Registration -- If you know your walker would love to do a race, pay the registration fee. It's a great way to inspire your walker and give him or her a reason to train all year. FYI -- for anyone planning to buy me a gift, I'd love to enter a race in Hawaii.:-) Can you include airfare, too?

10) SPI Belt -- SPI Belt was the original, but there are other brands of small bags that go around the waist for carrying essentials during a race. What I love is that the belt is elastic, so it can get tight enough that it won't bounce. The bag stretches to carry everything from a cell phone or camera, your keys and a gel or Clif Shot Bloks. The SPI Belt brand also has clips to attach your race number, so you don't have to put safety pin holes in your favorite shirt or jacket. I use mine for training walks in the summer when I don't have pockets and for races.

11) Wind-proof Jacket -- I can walk all year round if I can just stop the wind. I have a great jacket by asics that is both wind-proof and water resistant! With the right amount of layers, it is great for most of the winter. In the spring and fall it helps protect me from the rain and wind. Mine has plenty of vents I can open when needed to prevent overheating. I might be unusual, but I prefer a light jacket I can add layers under to a heavy jacket.

12) New Shoes -- No, you probably cannot go out and buy new shoes for your favorite walker. But, you can purchase a gift card to their favorite running and walking store. And if your favorite walker is not buying his or her shoes from a good running/walking store, now is the time to get them started. It is very important to have a professional fit shoes to your feet based on the type of walking you do. A good pair of walking shoes can range from $80 to over $100.

So, without dropping too many brand names, and without enough photos, I hope these two blog postings will help you to shop (even at the last minute) for your favorite walker!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Gift Ideas for Walkers -- Part I

When WALK! Magazine was still around, every winter I would come up with a gift-giving guide. Back then, I would get ideas from readers and I would get samples to try ... it was really fun trying and selecting items. I don't have the same input I used to have from other sources, so this year's Gift Ideas for Walkers includes either items I've received or would like to receive. Here goes:

1) Wicking sport socks. There are tons of options for wicking socks: double layer, padded, seamless, wool, thick and cushioned, thin and tight, even "toe socks". My favorites are double-layered socks (Wright Socks) because they help prevent blisters, but are not so thick they make my shoes too tight. I also like wool socks, by Smart Wool, when it is cold out. (I can't wear wool socks when it is hot.) The good thing is, even if your walker already wears wicking socks, buying the same brand he or she currently wears is still a good idea. People often forget their socks wear out!

My fleece flap mittens buttoned open.
2) Mittens with a flap. These are perfect for fast walkers who don't want to stuff mittens in their pockets after they warm up. Wear them as regular mittens when you start out, then when your hands are too hot, flip them open. The pair I have is fleece and have a button at the tip of the fingers to keep them open. They were purchased at Target a couple of years back. (I also have a great wool pair from Argentina.) You can find a variety of styles at J Crew, Land's End, K-Mart, and some heavy pairs at LL Bean.
3) Neck gaiter. Scarves are a pain in the neck. (I couldn't resist.) They are bulky, get tangled, come untied, the ends get in the way... Because I hate having a cold neck, I LOVE my gaiter! It's fleece and made by Polartec. I bought it a couple years ago, but I forget where. There are lots of style and fabric options for neck gaiters and they can be purchased at outdoor sports stores, running stores and even LL Bean and other websites. Once you have used one, you won't want to do any winter walking without it.

Headlamp attached to brim of hat.
4) Headlamp. In the winter I often do not get the chance to walk outside until after it is dark. I feel a whole lot safer walking at night wearing a headlamp. Lighting up my path is not nearly as important as being seen. When wearing a lamp, I know any cars can see me as qucikly as I can see them. I have a couple different types: one clips to the brim of a baseball-style hat and is a lot brighter than the others; another has an elastic band to go around my head and hold the light to my forehead; the third hooks over an ear. My favorite is the one with the elastic band since I can use it whether I'm wearing a hat or not.

Crash Wear reflective vest.
5) Reflective vest. This goes with the headlamp and helps cars to see you when it is dark. I have two. One is just a generic orange reflective vest. The other, made by Crashwear, is really cute! The body of mine is bright yellow and the reflective patches are in the shape of flowers. They also come in orange, pink or black. If you don't like flowers, they have a more manly version with a circle design. It has Velco-close pockets on the inside (to protect my MP3 player) and outside. Because they were originally designed for scooter riders, they offer some wind and rain protection. The newest designs include a faux fur lining! I don't feel silly wearing it. It doesn't do any good to have protective gear if it isn't worn.

That is all for now. Part II will be posted in a couple of days.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Stomp the Grapes Shirt

I almost forgot to post a photo of the Stomp the Grapes shirt, hat and socks! The shirt is a great purple and the design is pretty. (Hard to tell from the photo I took.) Both the hat and the socks are wicking. It's a shame the shirt doesn't fit.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Walking Before the Snow

This time of year the decision to walk (or not) is more affected by the weather than other times of the year. Snow, ice, freezing temps and strong winds can keep even the most hardy of us inside. That is why we end up glued to the Weather Channel and talk about our walking plans up to the very last minute.

Deb is usually right when it comes to weather. (Well, she is often right about other things, too, but when it comes to weather I take her opinion as gospel.) She assured us that yesterday's snow would not arrive until after we were done walking, and that most likely it would hit south of Columbus.

It was about 27 degrees when we started at 8 a.m. at Sharon Woods park. Lucky for us, there was no wind. We had about 14 members of our club walking -- it was great!

I ended up with the fast group. (I know. Funny, huh?) I told them upfront that if they wanted to go faster it was fine with me. Lucky for me they did not. (I was with Elaine, Nancy, Catherine and our new member Vince.)

The good part about being with the fast group is they pushed me! Our first mile was 13:45. That is often my race pace. Then the two women in front slowed a little and we did 1 mile at about 14 and the last miles were faster.

We did nearly 4 miles in 55 minutes! I'm pretty happy! (The 4-mile mark we use is not really accurate, but I don't have GPS. If it had been 4 miles, that would have been a 13:45 pace for each mile. I know that didn't happen.)

The really good news is, the snow did not even start until we left the restaurant after breakfast. We ended up with just a light dusting though it seemed to fall for several hours. Deb was right again! It waited until after we walked and most of the precipitation was south of us.

For 27 degrees I wore two long-sleeved shirts, thermal pants, windproof jacket, ear muffs and gloves. Because there was no wind, I ended up being overdressed. Last week wearing this few layers at the same temp, I froze! Either I'm getting used to it or the lack of wind made all of the difference.