Friday, June 29, 2012

Mid-Year Progress

Back at the beginning of the year, I made a hasty list of goals for the year, and now that we're approximately half-way through (already!)... it's time for my progress update.
  • Retirement - save for: Now that things are more secure in the employment realm, this has officially begun!  (On the bright side, I had an account at a previous job that has been stagnant since I left it, so now I just have one that will get my bi-weekly contributions.)
  • PR: Not yet, but I did run my best marathon since 2009 this year (twice!) and did my first long relay... However, I'm actually setting PRs in other athletic realms that I will elaborate upon later in the year (not to build suspense but to ensure I don't put it out there and then fail publicly).
  • Publish (or attempt to publish) something (academic) -- In progress, though "attempt" is in the verbiage, so thank goodness.  This recently got revived, and I have to say that the memory of ever writing a dissertation has faded, and I like my new non-school life so much that this process has been one that every ounce of my being is resisting.  I don't really have the desire, more like the obligation.
  • Reach "equilibrium": I need to re-evaluate... I wound up back at my starting point, and although doing Insanity has probably changed my body composition a little, it's doing little to my weight.
  • Read more, including on spirituality: Definitely been doing plenty of this, along with contemplating lots of other decisions for the future.  I am ambivalent about my efforts here (mostly because I've grown lazy and in this "I just want to enjoy life" mode), but in the end, it's always better to be educated than not.
  • Get a physical - It has been a few years: DONE in March 2012... won't need to go for another few years, barring illness
  • Make progress on my guitar-playing: This fell by the wayside... I have been lacking motivation and am okay with this.

Since I was so lax in setting these goals, I don't think I'm disappointed by any means with my (lack of?) progress.  Overall, my spurious training runs included, I think I've kept myself in decent shape and have been keeping some sort of balance between family, work, and friends.  It isn't perfect, but I am not going to knock myself for the things I can't control.

Life has definitely become more... full... this year -- replace "life" with "my schedule."  I rarely have open weekends and even have pretty frequent evening commitments on the weekdays after work.  Speaking of work, I'm actually on the East Coast right now... traveling by myself is definitely a new activity for me, considering I haven't done much traveling in life as it is.  I didn't expect to have to fly around for work -- however, while I'm still unmarried and kid-less, it is actually kind of interesting to meet new people and see new things.  I was so sheltered as a kid and feel as though I am finally out of that proverbial shell that I've had growing up.  I can also say that I've generally shaken off the general sense of unhappiness/dissatisfaction that I have had over the years.

And I think that progress is plenty.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spotted: Vega Bars

I was finally able to find Vega Sports bars lying around!  I always see the powders everywhere, but even though I saw other bloggers eating these Vega bars, I had yet to see one in any store.


Vibrancy Bar:

Quite frankly, I didn't like the Sport bar at all... I took it to a Dodger game and ended up giving up on it after maybe a quarter of it (the bar, not the game).  This resulted in some unplanned popcorn consumption -- the caramel, sugar-y kind, mind you. ;)

The issue I had was the taste of spirulina, which I don't like.  I've always believed I have a sensitive palate, but I can't imagine anyone finding that taste pleasurable at any level.  To me, it tastes worse than whey protein.  The Vibrancy bar was definitely edible, being somewhat tamer on the taste.  

Both bars are a little high on the caloric side, so for now, I'd rather eat CLIF Buidler's bars, which taste much better (probably due to higher sugar... oh well), have higher protein, and are cheaper.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Insanity - Week 7: How Long Should One Exercise?

Well, at the point that this post comes up, I can declare that I only have two weeks left of this program.  I still am amazed how I've been able to not quit!

Week 7 Reflections:

I had to do a little modifying this week, because in spite of my best intentions, I must move my rest day to Monday or Tuesday.  Given that next Monday's workout is supposed to be a nasty Fit Test (25 min) + Max Interval Circuit (59 min) combo, I elected to do a little shuffling to make it work without killing me.  Well, prolonging my precious rest day will probably kill me, but oh well.

Monday - Max Cardio Conditioning
Tuesday - Max Interval Circuit
Wednesday - Max Interval Pylo

Thursday - Core Cardio & Balance (originally Saturday)
Friday - Max Cardio Conditioning & Cardio Abs, then Max Recovery (originally Thursday)... whew!
Saturday - Fit Test #4 (originally Monday)
Sunday - Max Interval Circuit (originally Monday)
Monday - Max Interval Plyo (originally Tuesday, but I have important work stuff that day)

I think I wrote in an earlier post that I'd talk more about the specifics of certain workouts, the first being Cardio Abs.  Cardio Abs is a little 16-minute ditty that is normally done after Pure Cardio (38 min) or Max Cardio Conditioning (47 min).  So by this point, you're already pretty sweaty and tired, yet as part of your warm-up, you gotta do stuff like variations of my nemesis exercise, Power Jumps:

The guy is doing it right... the girl I think is mid-way through hers, but who cares because I don't like her!
You can imagine how difficult of a time it is to get that kind of air without a hard surface or shoes, so I can't get up as high as him.  These jumps may not seem like a very ab-y move, but they are.

Anyway, most of the ab workout is done in this position -- the C-Sit position.  After doing Bar Method and Core Fusion, which have pretty challenging ab segments, I really though this would be easier, but holy heck, the first few times were rough, probably due to fatigue from the main workout more than a weak core.  

So it seems like no matter what, about an hour of this stuff a day is what Month/Phase 2 prescribes.  Truthfully, working out for an hour is actually on the long side for me, mostly because that's all I've got before work -- of course, I've had my share of spending longer (a few years ago, 1.5 hours was norm).  

These workouts are like the opposite of the "high intensity interval training" (HIIT) that seems like all the rage these days on blogs -- HIIT is more like -- go go GO go go GO go go, while Insanity is more like GO GO GO GO go GO GO GO GO go... well, you get the point.

So, working out for an hour is especially long in this case.  Not for the faint of heart (literally)... when I first started the Max workouts, I sometimes felt as though it was throbbing out of my chest, though that subsided.  At some point, I should really figure out how long I should spend in each heart rate zone

Given that Insanity has put most of my previous workouts to shame, I'm guessing I will need to spend more time working out in the future... or maybe I can just consider this an "unusually active" time period???  To think that I used to spend 2+ hours on the weekends and sometimes more than an hour on the weekdays doing training runs+lifting weights (have not touched a weight in a while!), and now I'm complaining about an hour?! -- the blasphemy! 

Finally, since a Fit Test was included this week, I guess I gotta post the results.  So I blew the first exercise, but I'm surprised I made some improvements again in most of the others... the next Fit Test I will have to do after a flight, so I'm not expecting it to be great.

Fit Test 1
Fit Test 2
Fit Test 3
Fit Test 4
Fit Test 5
Switch Kicks (2 sides=1 rep)


Power Jacks


Power Knees


Power Jumps


Globe Jumps


Suicide Jumps


Push-Up Jacks


Low Plank Oblique (2 sides=1 rep)


Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Tale of Two Proteins (and Cake)

I pretty much stick to Sunwarrior Protein Powder for my liquid protein needs, but I like to stay informed about other choices without breaking the bank.

Whole Foods is pretty nifty in that they offer sample-sized bags of protein powders for sale -- you know, so you can try it before you get a big can of something that tastes darn awful.  Of course I don't buy every little packet I see.  At $2-$3+ a pop, it can add up easily.  So I tried to pick ones that didn't rely on soy or spirulina as their main ingredient, because I can't stand the taste of those things in excess.

So it came down to Jay Robb's egg white protein and Vega One.

Nutritional comparison: definitely more protein bang for my buck in the Jay Robb.  Of course, vegans wouldn't be able to select this option.

Taste-wise, Jay Robb's was actually really good for a protein drink (I had it at room temp, but I'm sure it'd be great cold).  I may explore using this brand in the future, since it is a bit cheaper than my current protein.  The Vega was drinkable, but reminded me too much of their Sport protein, which reeks of spirulina.


Since this post has been in Draft for a while, I guess I was somehow supposed to segue into talking about this mini cheesecake that my parents got for my birthday.  This was in April.  Apparently, I'm behind but must have really appreciated the gesture since middle children just take whatever they can get.

There was a chopped fruit version of this, also.  I took part in both.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: MyFitnessPal

Oh, MyFitnessPal... how I love thee.

I started using this site back in November when I set a weight-loss goal.  I can't remember if I started an account on this FREE site before this point, but this was my first real go at it.

I lasted a week.  In fact, I might have lasted until Friday afternoon.

Things got tricky when I went home, as I didn't always have (or want) access to a computer to keep logging everything in there.  Then, months and some goal regression later, I finally got a connected mobile device.  While this is probably exaggerating, I was probably the last person in my generation to get a cell phone... and almost the same thing has happened for web-enabled phones.

Anyway, I started tracking regularly, and then it became second nature.

from (works on Android, Blackerry, iPhone/iPad)

Nowadays, I think my body just doesn't want to lose weight, yet I've still been tracking because I do want to make sure I don't undereat and screw up my metabolism forever or really blow it and wonder if I got enough protein for the day.

As you can see from the screenshots above, this app sets a daily calorie goal based on factors of current weight, age, activity level, and goals (different levels of loss, maintenance, or gain).  Then, you can search for foods you eat and categorize them into the appropriate meal bucket, and it keeps track of everything for you -- not just calories but nutrients, as well.  You can even scan the labels of food packages to make tracking easier (not on Blackberry, I believe)... though perhaps you don't want to be eating out of packages all the time!

While I find that some stuff just isn't in there (although a lot of ethnic food has been added to the database!) or varies in accuracy, it's often better than nothing.  Plus, you can enter your own recipes and get a count by serving.

Most of all, I've grown to like the sense of community on there, even though I only check the Insanity boards for some motivation.  (If you use this and want to add me, my username is nobel4lit.)  Each time you log exercise, it creates a status update on which people can comment.  Getting that extra motivation from comments is helpful, and since everyone is doing the same thing, there's no need to worry about being weird like you would posting that stuff on other social media sites.

I'm sure there are a lot of similar tools, but this is the one is my favorite due to its clean and simple format.  I finally feel like I'm part of the 21st century now for sure!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Insanity - Week 6: I was Lazy Before

Guess who decided to join my insane antics?

At the end of the second week of the program, "The Ukrainian" and I were on a weekend trip with his family.  Determined to not skip a workout, I brought the necessary disc and prayed that the laptop we brought would not give out because the charger had been left behind.

Two people doing Insanity in a small room (that doesn't sound right, but keep reading) was a strange sight.  Since I knew the moves, I went off to a corner and let "The Ukrainian" take the front-of-the-laptop space.  Thirty-eight minutes later, we were drenched, and I believe a seed was planted (this continues to sound wrong, agh!).

Over the next few weeks, "The Ukrainian" voluntarily popped in that same disc (Pure Cardio) a couple of times.  Then, as I was finishing the first month, he said he was going to do the program.  Wow... I was never able to get him to do any of the other videos I've done, so there must be something special going on here.

I took some detailed "before" photos for him and helped take his measurements, which is much more than I did before I started myself.  Not sure if he will let me post them at some point, ha ha.  P.S. If you're wondering why you haven't seen any progress photos from me, it's because I have been lazy about them and didn't pick the right outfit.  Since I'm already deep in it, I decided to just keep wearing that wrong outfit and may post them at the end.

Reflections of Week 6:

Monday - Max Interval Circuit (you're supposed to do Fit Test before this, but I did mine on the weekend prior, and thank goodness because I was exhausted just with this)
Tuesday - Max Interval Plyo (okay, so I've been dyslexic on the word Plyo and nobody told me?!)
Wednesday - Max Cardio Conditioning
Thursday - Max Recovery
Friday - Max Interval Circuit
Saturday - Max Interval Plyo
Sunday - Rest

The workouts got longer this week (about an hour versus 40 minutes before).  During my first "Max" workout, "The Ukrainian" walked in just before I hit the half-way point.  I asked him (through labored breathing) if he was excited to be starting -- seeing me dying the way that I already was, and then I said that I wanted to pass out and that it was nice knowing him.  Seriously, I wanted to groan each time a new set of exercises was introduced, because I felt like I didn't have anything left in me to continue!  At some points, you could hear me gasping.  Did I do this during Week 1??

The last four minutes of Max Interval Circuit.  Found this pic on Facebook and totally find it both hilarious and accurate.

These workouts especially are a sharp contrast to my workouts of yore.  Even in my "tougher" workouts before I started this program, I would spend a small portion of time scaling back relative to when I really pushed myself.  The experience of doing these Max workouts has been akin to running a 10k (or similar distance I can fit in an hour) at a pace that is very uncomfortable for me.  It makes me question whether I was really as "hardcore" as I previously thought I was... or also whether one really needs to be working out at this level at all.

I know this month is going to be a mental battle.  Last week, I dreaded doing the same Recovery workout five times, and as soon as I started my first "Max" disc, that feeling of dread came back during the workout.  Since weight loss was never really a big motivator for me trying this program (plus, I acknowledged that there are easier ways), I worried that I would want to quit.  However, I made a commitment to myself and made it public, so I feel like I must push onward now.

This concludes my Day 42 and "The Ukrainian"'s Day 7 -- of 63.

P.S. Happy Father's Day to all the papas out there!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Homemade Chik'n Seitan

This was my first time making seitan.  Seitan is intimidating.  I always thought it sounded like something my parents call people when they are upset and assumed it was really difficult/lengthy to make, but no, it's actually pretty easy.

Seitan isn't for everyone.  Some people can't stand the texture at all, or the fact that -- heck -- it's not meat, duh.  And it's DEFINITELY not for gluten-intolerant/free people, because it is practically a ball of gluten.

But if you are inclined to try this, it makes 11 "strips" and contains 5 g protein per strip, so why not?

As a note, I don't eat a lot of this fake meat stuff, but once in a while, it's actually pretty good in itself without thinking about what I'm substituting.

Homemade Chik'n Seitan
inspired by the recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill package and conglomerate of online resources
makes about 11 "strips"; ~5 min prep, ~60 min cooking

- for the seitan base
1/2 cup of vital wheat gluten flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup water
- for the "flavoring"
1.5 cups of water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons of Braggs liquid aminos (or low-sodium soy sauce)
1 heaping teaspoon onion powder or dried chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon of powdered rubbed sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1) Mix vital wheat gluten with water in a mixing bowl and stir.  It should form a ball almost immediately.  If you sniff this ball, you might be put off by the flour-y smell, so don't.  Lay the ball out on a surface and knead for a minute or two.  The more you knead, the "chewier" it will be.  Then, you can cut it into whatever shape you want -- I did strips.

2) Get all the other ingredients in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil.

3) Add the seitan and reduce to a simmer.  When I did this, the kitchen smelled like chicken pot pie, which is a good sign, right?

Stir every 10 minutes or so and keep it going until the water is all gone... this might take an hour.  If it's been a long time and there's still water, you can simply strain it out.

4) Remove seitan when cooled.  You probably want to squeeze the water out of the pieces by using the back of your spoon against the pot, or whatever other method you want to devise.

I haven't quite figured out what I want to do with these, besides eating them alone or with salads.  I'm pretty sure I can cook with these to give them some more color or something.

As for the taste, I'd say it's reminiscent of chicken.  The texture is a little rubbery, but I figure with seitan, that is to be expected.  Perhaps I can experiment with the length of kneading a bit more.  This was so easy to put together that I definitely think I should have tried this sooner.

Now on to the "beef" variety...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Insanity - Week 5: Tough Month Ahead

Yep, another post on Insanity.  Thankfully, there are only (!) nine weeks in the program.

If you've missed them, here are my previous posts:

Month/Phase 1
Week 1 - Secret Insanity
Week 2 - Can't Stick to Any Diet
Week 3 - How Hard is It?
Week 4 - Running versus Insanity

Week 5 Reflections:

I spent the week recovering. Recovering from the marathon, and, coincidentally, it was the Recovery Week of the Insanity program.

Doing these workouts post-marathon was no joke, even if it was "recovery."  I was still dripping sweat by the end... how does that happen?!  I actually found that (carefully) following the Recovery Week helped with the stiffness, but I had to fight both my body and creeping doubts about my ability to safely continue.  Let's just say there were squat hops, high vertical jumps, and other post-marathon no-nos embedded in there, but as I mentioned, if you're doing it right, most of your energy should come from the core, anyway, and landing should be controlled by it, too.

The "Recovery Week" consists of repeating one workout six times (I modified it):

Monday - Core Cardio & Balance (the day after 26.2 = funny)
Tuesday - Core Cardio & Balance
Wednesday - Core Cardio & Balance
Thursday - Core Cardio & Balance
Friday - Core Cardio & Balance
Saturday - Fit Test #3 and Relay for Life (in lieu of Core Cardio & Balance) -- I'll post about the Relay experience sometime soon...
Sunday - 5-mi walk (to end the event above) and rest

All I can say is... no matter what is ahead... doing the same workout in a row like this is booooring!

I'm beginning "Phase 2" this week. This is supposedly when real changes are supposed to occur. What these "real changes" are is beyond me. Frankly, although I'm decently satisfied with my results so far, I don't think I have it in me to change any more, somewhat due to my lack of eating discipline. I'm back to where I was at the beginning of the year weight-wise and am a bit more toned in my abs, legs, and upper body. I don't think it's enough for others to notice, but I do, and it is a sign of my work so far. I think the most rapid changes occurred in my legs.

Regardless of physical changes or lack thereof, I both look forward to, and fear, Month 2. I will need to wake up earlier to do the workouts, and in return, I will have to push for that much longer when it was already hard to push to the end of the Month 1 stuff. (***Edited to add: Just tried a Month 2 workout.  It's a new level of drain... wow.  More on this next week.***)

Here are the results of my Fit Test #3 alongside the rest.  Some exercises stayed the same, others went up a little, but man... I'm totally reaching my limits of what I can do in 1 minute here!

Fit Test 1
Fit Test 2
Fit Test 3
Fit Test 4
Fit Test 5
Switch Kicks (2 sides=1 rep)


Power Jacks


Power Knees


Power Jumps


Globe Jumps


Suicide Jumps


Push-Up Jacks


Low Plank Oblique (2 sides=1 rep)


Rebecca Michaels Performance Clothing (Giveaway)

UPDATE: 6/21/12 -- This giveaway is closed, and the winner is #43, Jacqueline!!  I will contact you, but if you miss it, please e-mail me!

I'd like to credit in advance "The Ukrainian" who helped me stage some photos for this post. =)

Perhaps because I don't dress well when working out, I was offered the opportunity to try some fun pieces from the Rebecca Michaels summer collection.

Since I complained about my issues with headbands staying on my head, I also got to try their Violet Love headbands.  "The Ukrainian" didn't hesitate in throwing one on, and I think he said he looks like Rambo in it.

Anyway, I'll start with my experience with the headbands.  They are very soft and actually look SUPER cute on!  They also cover a large portion of the top of your head, so those little fly-aways don't come drooping down.  Or is that just me?  My hair is normally cut in layers, so I do experience this quite a bit.

Unfortunately, they weren't able to hold on that well through my Insanity workout, at least not without adjusting it a few times.  I think that my hair is just very slippery (not oily, just VERY straight and thick), so I would rather wear these out or when I'm walking.  Again, they are cute!

As for the clothes, they are also REALLY soft and really comfortable, almost like a second skin.  I never wear workout clothing like this, so it was interesting to experience wearing items that are a little more fitted and... colorful.

Top and pants.  The pants come up to a comfortable point on my waist.  The straps on the top are adjustable, which is great because I had to bring them all the way up.  There is a shelf-bra inside the tank -- I'm typically not a fan of these since they don't usually feel like they are doing the job (and there's really not much job to do, really -- hah!), but I thought these were adequate... just not for running.

Whopping 3-pounders!!

The shorts were my favorite -- light and flattering, also coming up at a good point on my waist.  Even with all my sweat, they dried quickly.

Yes, I've already acknowledged my gnarly widow's peak...
Mid-length shorts: I was surprised because I thought these were the same length as the ones above.  I liked these also because they didn't ride up or anything.

The team at Rebecca Michaels was generous enough to offer a sampler to a lucky reader!  This giveaway will be open to residents of the U.S. and will end on June 20 at noon!

To enter, please leave one comment for each of the following:

1) Go to and tell me which item you'd most like to try and why (e.g., "I love green patterns" or "I want to feel girly")

2) Follow Rebecca Michaels on Facebook OR Twitter (max 1 entry for this) and leave a comment letting me know you did!

3) Retweet this giveaway and include the handle @nobel4lit so I can find it.

4) Mention and link this giveaway on your blog.

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent samples of this product line to review but was otherwise not compensated to provide a positive opinion.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Runners in Heels

Since I started running long distances, the frequency that I wear heels, along with the height of said heels, has definitely taken a plunge.

As a person who works in an office building with a pretty solid dress code, this is kind of an impasse.  I need to look professional, but I also need to be able to walk.  It doesn't help that even without heels, I have foot issues.

I had a chance to try some high-heel inserts from Dr. Scholl's.  I've seen these products around but wasn't sure if they worked.

These inserts peel back from a clear sheet of paper and adhere to the bottom of your shoes.  So I put mine in a pair of heels that I regularly wear to work.

In my hand, it feels cushion-y... gel-like, and pretty durable overall.  It is clearly marked with placement cues ("heel," "left," etc.) and sticks securely.

In my shoe, however, I found that it supports my foot in the wrong places and actually crams part of my feet in such a way that my walking is worse off with these than without.  It could just be specific to these shoes or my whacko feet, but I actually think these would be more comfortable placed in a flat shoe.

While these didn't work well for me, I think they would help people with more "typical feet."  The fact that these are clear make them easy to place in cute, strappy shoes.  Maybe I can lift these off and place them in the shoes I'm going to be wearing to my wedding -- very simple ones because of my darned issues with heels.

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of this product to try as part of my participation in the BzzAgent program.  I was not compensated to provide any particular opinion.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Listen to Your Heart (Rate Monitor)

Garmin with peripherals
My Garmin 405 didn't come with a heart rate monitor strap, so besides the fact that I barely scratch the surface when it comes to the watch's abilities, I've also never tapped into heart-rate monitoring.

However, when "The Ukrainian" bought his Garmin 305, it was not only a bargain (Best Buy sale!), but it also came with the HRM attachment.

Fortunately the ANT+Sport technology it uses means it's also compatible with my relatively newer Garmin, but the battery had long run out, so we kind of just ignored it.... until now.

Not knowing how intense my Insanity workouts really were, I tracked them as "vigorous calisthenics" on MyFitnessPal (I should really get to doing a review on this app/site).  However, by using a heart rate monitor, I discovered that this was robbing me some of the true burn for each workout.  No wonder I've been hungry a lot... but then again, I was hungry a lot before Insanity and before tracking my intake and activity. =P

Before getting this set up, I had only used a heart rate monitor on two other occasions -- most recently when I tried personal training and also when I did a VO2MAX test.  Otherwise, I'm kind of freaked out to know what my heart rate is... because then if I feel that my heart is about to leap out of my chest, I can see quantifiable proof of that.  Plus, it's already enough for me to track miles (you can see I stopped counting from the counter at the bottom of this blog) and pace, so adding another set of numbers = overburdening an activity that's supposed to clear your mind.

On my first spin with the HRM, I did one of the Insanity workouts for 38 minutes and had an average heart rate of 157.  Because I am still a stranger to this HRM on a Garmin, I had to plug in this information online because ol' Garmin was saying a big fat "0" for Calories Burned (perhaps I still need to figure this out).  Thankfully, there are quite a few websites that calculate burn based on factors like gender, weight, etc., but I am using THIS one.  Even more fortunately, I have my (few years old) VO2-Max number to plug in, but if not, there is a generic number you can plug in.

A workout that I previously thought burned 285 calories is now burning 387.  What... the... eff.  Not a lot, but it can add up over longer workout periods and over days and weeks.  It's not my intention to underfuel myself, but it looks like this is what has been happening.  At least I can adjust now... and if this means a little more food, I'm doing it willingly!

I'm still not sure how accurate this all is, but it's better information than what I had before, which was practically none.  I still think burning 387 calories in 38 minutes is a little high -- higher than running -- but perhaps I should wear it out to my runs to verify this.  I've seen the whole "135 lb woman burns 100 calories per mile" business, and I usually just estimate down from that.  In the end, I know I don't need to be exact, but I don't want to be horribly off, either.

The downside is that the darned chest strap isn't really comfortable, and I'm finding that I have to adjust it once in a while.  I can't imagine running with it for a long time.  Not to mention all the hygiene issues -- I've been washing the fabric part of the strap and drying it and wiping down the plastic part each time.  Also, the battery is always "ON," so I can imagine how long it might be until I need to buy another one.

Does anyone else use HRMs regularly?  Any tips?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Insanity - Week 4: Running versus Insanity

First of all, these four weeks have just flown by!

Regarding the subtitle of this post, I should say that running IS insanity, but this particular post is focused on how Insanity has fit into the routine of a person who runs regularly.

Okay, so I don't run regularly. Not anymore, or at least, I have not been as of late. As I mentioned in my marathon recap from Sunday, since the end of last year, specifically after embarrassingly logging so much training and blowing a marathon, I think my priorities had shifted. I may have not wanted this to happen, but they did. I was finding that I was performing similarly with less mileage, so I simply did videos and ran a few times a week.

When I decided to start Insanity after the OC Half-Marathon, it was a result of timing -- maybe not good timing, but still. I had a month until my race, I had just met up with my P90X2 graduate friend (double meaning!), and I had also come off of a few weekends of parties and indulgences that left me, um, nearly unable to fit in my pants.

I'm sure it didn't happen that quickly. I ate super clean (for me) prior to my engagement shoot back in March, but I didn't want to do anything more like crazy workouts or calorie-counting because I was running a lot of races at the time. Coming off of those races, my running slacked off, my anxiety at work (and thoughts of my wedding) picked up, and with that came poor choices. I was exercising, sometimes twice a day, but not at the normal intensity. My energy fell... I came home from work and laid on the couch until I fell asleep, sometimes without eating dinner because I just wanted to lay.

I go through cycles when it comes to my health.  Sometimes, I'm pretty good and actually find eating salads and being active easy.  This usually is followed by a period of times when I'd eat more sweets than usual, feel yucky, and then something (like a documentary, a race, friend, or even a sporting event) will trigger a health kick once more. 

So even though I knew the marathon was coming up, I knew nothing was going to inspire me out of this rut that I was hitting. Insanity was an answer -- it loomed like a challenge, a do-able challenge -- or a freakish experiment. Sure, I'd have to work it around training for a marathon, but I was determined to make it work even though I thought running was now "boring."

Thinking back, I didn't run nearly enough in training, and I just got lucky in my race.  Since the exercises are very much "high intensity," I was able to think back as I was running the 26.2 and thinking, "Well, at least I am not panting like crazy" or "At least I don't have to do push-up jacks or any jumping at the end of this."  I truly believe that the Insanity workouts have made my legs stronger, which is why I performed decently at the race.  Additionally, I was able to use my upper body, quads, and core more when my calves were tired.  Heck, I think my calves may have gotten a little stronger, too, since they didn't cramp until the very end.  Also, the mental factor of "pushing" (as Shaun T says) did help a little, too.

Reflections of Week 4 (end of Phase I):

This was my last week doing these workouts before the next phase.  I will miss some of them (Pylometric Cardio Circuit) and not others (Cardio Power & Resistance).

In order of toughness, I'd rank the five discs in this order of difficulty: 1) Plyometric Cardio Circuit, 2) Pure Cardio/Cardio Abs, 3) Cardio Power & Resistance, 4) Cardio Recovery

Monday - Pure Cardio & Cardio Abs (the only ab workout that gives me a true burn)
Tuesday - Cardio Power & Resistance and light cross training in the PM
Wednesday - Plyometric Cardio Circuit
Thursday - 3.8 mile run
Friday - Pure Cardio & Cardio Abs (I will probably review the Cardio Abs disc later since it's unique and will still be a part of the next phase)
Saturday - rest (in lieu of Plyometric Cardio Circuit)
Sunday - Marathon

Bottom line, while I don't have a definitive answer of whether running and Insanity are compatible, I will definitely experiment with it more in the future.  I should note that on my runs so far since I started, I have felt lighter on my feet.  Surely, doing track-like drills support sprinting and such, so sometimes on my runs I'd go 6:40/pace during a stretch and feel awesome.  So perhaps after I complete the program, I will work on my speed for a while to keep me entertained AND running.

The fact that my marathon came exactly four weeks into the program is perfect time, as this week is a "Recovery Week" of sorts before I start the intimidating Month 2.  More to come on that later.