Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review - The Physique 57 Solution: The Groundbreaking 2-Week Plan for a Lean, Beautiful Body

"The Ukrainian" managed to convince me to go running this morning.  Yes, I actually need to be convinced these days to run, and I think I am only partially motivated by future races.  It is less of a problem on the weekends because I don't have to run in the dark, but as you know, it's tough to keep in some kind of running form being a "weekend warrior."  However, the workouts I do on other days DO help me maintain some of my running fitness, without having to put my shoes on!

It's no secret that I've been relying on DVDs to keep me exercising consistently, and Physique 57 is one of my favorites.  I have been doing Volume 1 since last year and been drafting a review for Volume 2, but in the meantime, I "splurged" on this e-book, The Physique 57 Solution: The Groundbreaking 2-Week Plan for a Lean, Beautiful Body.  I generally don't buy a lot of Kindle books because I can "lend" them from the library, but I made an exception for this one because I really have found the workouts to be effective and wanted to learn more about how it works.  (Note: I believe the hard copy of the book may come with an additional disc, so maybe it's best to get that version instead of an e-book.  However, I am more likely to carry around my Kindle and therefore chose convenience.)

The book goes over the history of the Physique 57 method and then extensively over how it works.  In a nutshell, the program aims to build lean muscle mass to increase your resting metabolic rate.  Now, I have known that building muscle is good for metabolism, yet I would lift and lift and not see much change, except maybe a couple of muscles that just seemed to pop out against, um, softer parts of my body.  Doing Physique 57 for a while has actually resulted in muscle definition that is more shaped like my natural body, only better(? it's hard to describe).  All without a gym membership or a bunch of heavy weights.  It just takes small movements that train your neurons to hold your muscles a certain way and target specific muscles.

Each of the exercises in the Physique 57 (P57) method is described and illustrated in detail -- arms (though the book explains why not much time is spent on these), thighs, seat, core, and back) -- and then two workout routines that are about an hour each are given.  There is even a suggested playlist.  The book's workouts are a nice mix-up from doing the DVDs all the time and is great for when you aren't around a DVD player (however, some moves require the playground ball and such).  Personally, I don't know how well I would do with the book's workouts without having done the DVDs first.  I think I needed to learn the moves with the proper cueing.  I'm sure I probably need to go to a class at some point to really get it down, but that's another story.

The last part of the book contains an eating plan -- it's pretty strict and reminds me of The Virgin Diet.  The recipes look promising though, and based on my previous experience following that kind of eating plan, this will probably yield results quickly since they recommend more P57 workouts than I typically get in their two-week plan.  If I ever need a super-charge (you know, big event coming up or something), I'd feel comfortable attempting the plan as closely as I can and expect results.

I'll probably go through this spheal again when I post my Volume 2 review, but I was always skeptical that effective exercise could be done without spending too much time and jarring your muscles to a slow death running or on a cardio machine.  To cover my bases, I do still run and do other things, but I feel like barre-type exercises are a great supplement to my fitness routine.  Otherwise, I wouldn't keep going at it.  This book will be a portable version for me to do while away from home (the moves that don't involve equipment).

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book and am providing my honest opinion. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker Run 10k

EVENT: Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 10K
DATE: Sunday, February 23, 2014
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 08:35 am
FINISH TIME: 1:10:29

When I first ran this event in 2012, it was the Year of the Dragon, and somehow it was decided that we'd keep collecting these firecracker run zodiac animal medals until we got all 12.

With this one done, we only have 9 more...

I decided to wear this pair of Thirty 48 running socks for this, as my feet have been hurting a bit lately during my runs -- bunion and blister pain have been coming up more often, more likely because I haven't been running as often as before.  Also, I guess a lot of my socks are kind of running thin, so these felt so good on!  The socks were thick, but not to the point that they crowded my shoe.  I felt a good amount of support, too.  My feet were comfy and dry throughout the sweaty run and afterward walking around Chinatown and taking the train home.

Ru Running Series socks:
·         Right & Left foot specific for a better fit and blister prevention
·         CatalystAF ™: Design which allows increased airflow
·         COOLMAX ® fabric to move moisture away from the feet, keeping them dry

Admittedly, I wasn't really up to running this year, but a commitment is a commitment.  We woke up at 5:30 am and took the train to the start line to pick up our packets.  They moved the late registration/pick up/t-shirt area this year to behind the finish line rather than on the side, so it did get a touch crazy for a while.  Along with our bibs, we got the drawstring bag that you see above and a tech t-shirt with the same logo.  Really liked the advanced materials, but the shirts ran a bit small on the women's side.  They let me get a larger shirt, though even that will require me to stay in decent shape to keep wearing, ha ha.

We met up with some friends and casually waited until the 10k started.  The sun was out, and I pretty much sweat through the race even though I didn't push myself.  I was wearing long sleeves and pants since it had been colder in the morning, as well as the drawstring bag, which I kept taking off/adjusting.  I jogged/walked the first mile, and as the uphills began, I walked up most and jogged on the declines.  I must say, some of the roads were so broken up that I worried about rolling my ankle, so I felt somewhat justified in my jogging/walking.


Mile 1 - 12:13
Mile 2 - 14:28
Mile 3 - 12:48
One of the views from the top of one of the climbs.  Yep, ran with my phone...
Mile 4 - 9:52
Mile 5 - 9:58
Mile 6 - 9:19
.26 - 7:15

I did start running faster on the declines, and I was getting tired of being in the sun.  Although I didn't care that I was going to take over an hour, I did aim to come in under 1:15, so that pressure kept me going a bit.

I was rewarded with this medal:

Here are my other two!

Besides the medals (and shirts!), this race is just a fun one overall.  Lots of energy, firecrackers, views of LA/Dodger Stadium, and a manageable running distance.  Also, they EMAILED ME MY TIME after I crossed the line.  Major bonus points!

FTC Disclaimer: I was provided a sample of the Thirty 48 socks and was not otherwise compensated to provide a positive opinion.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Year of Public Transit

As a preface, I fully admit that I'm pretty spoiled.  After my last year of college was spent with a few 2-hour (per way!) bus rides to and from UCLA per week, I started driving regularly at the age of 22 when I started graduate school.  I had my share of bad stories from riding buses back then, but I figured these were part of my rite-of-passage before I got to drive myself.

I've been to New York a few times and now Japan, and it's interesting to see how busy and efficient their transit systems are.  In Japan, they are packed, but super clean and don't smell.  In New York, they are also packed, sometimes smelly, but roomy and frequent/on time/comprehensive -- same in San Francisco.

In contrast, the public transit in Los Angeles is just as bad as you may have heard, and this is after many recent funding measures to improve things.  I've taken urban planning classes, so I definitely know about sprawl and all the things that makes LA, well, LA, but I can definitely see why more people don't ride in this neck of the woods.

In fact, I selfishly hope more people don't ride, because as it is, it gets very cramped.  There is not enough frequency or structural roomy-ness (too narrow and most people can't fit in a single seat comfortably) on either trains or buses, and to think they are expanding the lines with little room (literally) to increase either flaw.  Yikes.  In other places, public transit is commonplace, but in LA, it is still stigmatized as "poor man's transportation," so surprise, you're stuck feeling stigmatized.  Have I mentioned that homeless frequently take up precious multiple seats, smell sordid, and thus that's how both trains and buses frequently smell?  Oh, and marijuana.  I think I've breathed in so much "secondhand weed" that I've started to lose sense of the smell.  Finally, delays are common.  People jump on tracks, conductors somehow must change shifts mid-route, things break down (frequently!), and like the rest of us, the trains here don't know how to operate in the rain.  The result: more crowding and antics.

So I've hit the one-year mark of relying on LA public transit as my primary form of transportation.  My commute time is twice as long as it should be due to this, and it's kind of physically draining because I have to walk/stair quite a bit to get to where I need to go.  If you miss a ride by 5 minutes, your ETA back home is pushed back by 15 minutes.  Stressful.

My friends actually told me they were surprised that I have lasted this long, because according to them, I REALLY like order, and riding is very disorderly.  I've been spit on, coughed on, yelled at (for offering a seat!), and pushed.  And in a year, I've only been offered a seat one, maybe one-and-a-half times.  Sometimes, it's comical to see a bunch of women having to stand, and all the young men are sitting down.  Not that I don't believe in so-called equality, but work shoes render my feet numb and (TMI) cramps sometimes get the best of me.  But it isn't just me -- pregnant and elderly people often do not get offered seats.  People in LA are just as unfriendly as other places that are known to be unfriendly, at least judging by riding public transit here.  Oh, unless you count people who try to make passes at me, ugh.

Why I ever got remotely excited enough about riding a train to take a photo is beyond me.  I just want to kick my naive self in the butt.

from October 2012

However, riding transit is HIGHLY subsidized/incentivized by work, and driving + parking is very expensive.  I'm realizing there are ways to get around some of these costs (find a distant cheap lot, etc.), so I keep telling myself that I will save my sanity a little bit and starting driving so I can have some moments to myself after work and not want to yell at everyone when I get home.  I miss singing in my car, SITTING, not worrying about catching weird illnesses (I'm not kidding, and I try not to touch anything, ever), and being able to curse at someone when they do something inconsiderate.

In sum, I totally understand why more people don't utilize the transit here. Here's to a very long year, and let's see how much longer I will last.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gym Stereotypes

I haven't been to the gym in a long time (since July 2013), so this "Gym Stereotypes" video gave me the worst nostalgic feeling.

I'm not sure if there's a "female" version of this video, but if I were to make one, I'd feature the:

- treadmill sprinter (also in the video above)
- Lululemon devotee
- locker room sprawler: puts out her crud everywhere in the changing area and mirrored areas
- chatty (also in the video above)
- obvious overexercisers: super thin/sunken, marring away at the cardio machines before you get on one, and still when you get off one, never lifts any significant amount of weight (I know this is sad and somewhat insensitive, but I used to see a lot of these in college and may have even dipped into this category for short periods)
- show-y stretcher: stretches (or foam rolls) in an area not intended for that purpose, for a long time, so people can see how hard she's worked
- mirror magnet (also in the video above)
- cell phone addict: uses cell phone while exercising beyond changing a song or something, worse are the full-on taking a call instances and maybe the selfie-taker
- antisocial: doesn't talk to anyone, tries to work out in the corner or least popular machine areas, hoping to just be ignored -- okay, so I made that up... and I was one of these..."The Ukrainian" somehow managed to claw his way through that

While I miss the gym sometimes, I generally like working out at home exclusively.  I'm lucky to have decent weather when I want to run outside, a bunch of workout DVDs, and we bought a somewhat inexpensive mat to help with some of the impact-in-my-living-room issues.  Also, gardening and walking between public transit stops makes for good cross-training.  So far, I'm still mostly fit... and I've saved $300 (plus commuting time to get to a gym) thus far.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Quest Nutrition Bars

Please excuse my tired writing today.  I'm drinking coffee and working on it.  It all started when I could not stop watching the Olympic games last night.  As much as I swore that I don't care for the Winter as much as the Summer games, I essentially watch most sports nowadays, and I couldn't look away.  Plus, I keep laughing at all the #SochiProblems. Even "The Ukrainian" is watching, although understandably due to the sports themselves rather than anything else (though he's apparently been to Sochi).

Anyway, It has been a really long time since I've done a "bar" review.  The main reason for this is because, well, I don't really eat many of these anymore.  The other night, I was home alone and was going to eat a Clif Builder's Bar I had lying around, but it was actually expired.  I didn't bother to check until I realized it tasted a bit off.  Yep, one year past expiration.

However, I couldn't help but pick up a couple of these Quest bars, because the darn thing keeps appearing in the adspace of websites I visit.  I guess those ads work, after all.  I picked up the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (one of my favorite ice cream flavors) and Chocolate Peanut Butter (a common flavor/gauge).

My review:

Overall, I didn't really like them.  The texture is chewy, kind of like Powerbars, without nearly as much of that "artificial" taste, but it was still there.  I know that whey is one of the ingredients, and I think no matter how many times I keep trying to like whey, I can't. 

The chocolate peanut butter flavor was a little bit better, because peanut masks everything.  However, I don't really eat peanut butter or peanuts much anymore, so I wasn't exactly thrilled with this one, either.

Otherwise, at 190 calories and 21 grams of protein, I guess this is a nutritional bargain compared to Clif Builder's.   I would probably eat these again in a pinch due to that fact and would recommend it as a healthier alternative to Powerbars and less sugary version of Clif Builder's.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased these bars on my own and am providing my honest opinion of them.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Surf City USA Half-Marathon 2014

EVENT: Surf City USA Half-Marathon
DATE: Sunday, February 2, 2014
LOCATION: Huntington Beach, CA
RACE BEGAN: 7:45 am (wave start)
FINISH TIME: 01:55:36

Earlier in my running career, I was a lot more "hardcore" and "crazy" than now.  Since antics like doing a few half-marathons every other weekend, a 5K the day before a marathon, or a 10K mud run before a marathon, or running a 5K and 10K the same morning, I've been on the lay-low, especially given that I no longer put in nearly the same mileage as before.  

So for this race, I tried to ignore the fact that Carlsbad Marathon had just been two weeks ago.  During the gap, I think I went out to run 4.5 miles one day (slowly) and did relatively tame workout videos.  Oh, and I really did try to eat well -- for example, this half-eaten dinner:

"The Ukrainian" was worse -- he ran the full marathon at Surf City, and -- spoiler -- finished in 3:29 (3:34 two weeks ago).

Anyway, the weekend started out with lunch at my parents' house, then a drive down to Huntington Beach, where I saw K working the volunteer coordinator booth as always. I had made some matcha muffins the day before with the intention to bring it to her, but they seemed to be kind of dry and bland, so I added some vanilla frosting on top (not pictured).  Yes, I did bring them over, because I did not want to SAY that I did something without some kind of tangible result.  Sorry for not using a more tried-and-true recipe!

Since I had the dumb foresight of signing up to volunteer on race day and not the day before, we made our way through the crowded expo and headed home.  Dinner was Vietnamese vermicelli, which is what "The Ukrainian" wanted.

We woke up at 4 and finally arrived to the site and parked at 5:30 (!).  Traffic was definitely more crazy this year than I remember from previous ones.  Anyway, since I had committed to helping with volunteer coordination, I hurried myself in and dove right into it.  It took me a bit to get my bearings, as I was remembering how to do my job, and I think the caffeine from the Vega drink I was having was getting to me.  "The Ukrainian" bid me goodbye, as his marathon was starting much before my race.

Finally, about 10 minutes before the start, I made my way to the corrals, wishing I had gone to the restroom.  After waiting in the somewhat disorganized corrals (due to people sneaking in), we started in waves -- I think my start was 10 minutes after the gun.

I felt my bladder full during the first few miles, but as I predicted, the need disappeared.  I started off with short, quick strides, as I knew I was not FULLY recovered from two weeks ago, and the last time I ran a half-marathon was in 2012 (how did that happen?!).

Anyway, given that this was the fifth(?) time I've done this race, I knew that my main obstacle was going to be my lack of overall running fitness.  Admittedly, I was pushing harder than usual because I definitely wanted to come in under two hours.

Here are my paces.  I think I did pretty well, all considering.  My main goal was to keep around 8:40 for my paces, since my half-marathon PR (also at this race!) was run at 8:41-ish pace.  Since I mostly run at around a 10 min/mi these days, keeping that kind of pace was a feat.  I was just pretending I was someone else.  Plus, this was my first half in a long time, and since I haven't registered for any more yet, could be the last for a while.

Mile 1 - 8:41
Mile 2 - 8:33
Mile 3 - 8:34
Mile 4 - 8:54
Mile 5 - 8:41
Mile 6 - 8:34
Mile 7 - 8:44
Mile 8 - 8:43
Mile 9 - 8:57 -- turnaround point, into direct headwind
Mile 10 - 8:58
Mile 11 - 9:14 -- felt "the twitch" in my calf, also my shoe laces became untied here, and I had to address
Mile 12 - 9:04
Mile 13 - 8:47 -- I was pushing so darn hard at this point, though the finish felt so far
.14 - 7:55

I was about a minute and 20 seconds off of my PR in the end.  In writing this entry, I actually thought my PR was 1:53, not 1:54, but alas.  Actually, when going back to check, this year's result is about 20 seconds faster than my performance the last time I did this race two years ago.  So overall, I'm kind of proud of myself for laying out all my efforts out there and not being afraid of my twitching calf and the fact that I'm out of shape and still somewhat in recovery mode.  Of course, there were moments that I thought I would PR, so there is a twinge of disappointment, but the big picture tells me otherwise.

When I finished (alongside a really gassy man, for the record), I made my way back to the expo tent to spend another hour and a half at the volunteer booth, just handing out shirts at this point.  "The Ukrainian" finished shortly later and waited for me to leave.  For the first time ever, I had to drive us home after the race. I don't drive anymore after running ever since I pulled my muscle on the road once and was lucky that I didn't get into an accident.  I'm so dangerous.  Although I had some questionable moments because my calves were tight and my stomach and bladder wanted to pay me back for not listening to them, I drove the 50-ish miles home just fine.

Example of shirts from left to right: volunteer, longboard legacy, and finisher's (yep, pink!):

Cool longboard medal, as usual!

I have a 10K at the end of the month, and then another big race in April.  I should really try to run more half-marathons, I think I have some room to grow in these without the physical limitations of running a full marathon.  Now it's just a matter of finding one that has the right conditions...