Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Reads: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Born to RunIn a word?  Wow!   I was kind of mixed on reading this one, and the initial chapters left me feeling like it was jumping around with no real point, but I persevered and I am so glad I did.  The story came together in the end into an incredible story with so much heart.  I now understand why this book is revered in the running community and how it inspired so many runners!

The story begins as one man's quest to figure out how he can stop being crippled by injuries due to running. His research leads him to the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico and then to a man named "Caballo Blanco".  McDougall explores the history of ultramarathons and profiles the runners who are crazy enough to attempt it.  He runs in the Copper Canyons with Caballo Blanco, where the man confides his dream of holding the greatest ultramarathon ever - pitting the speedsters from the outside world against the friends he has made within the canyons. The rest of the book focuses on bringing this race to life.

Each new character that becomes woven into the story brings lessons and stories along with them and, while the book sometimes reads in a disjointed all comes back together to make a remarkable tapestry of a story.   When the big race finally came together, I felt like I was emotionally invested in these characters.  That they had become my crazy runner friends.

I'll never run an ultramarathon and I'll never run barefoot (though, minimalist shoes are not out of the question now), but I feel like I understand those who do in a much better way now.   If you are a runner - I highly recommend this one.   Born to Run left me with tears in my eyes and craving more heart-filled running books like it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Rip:60 Unboxing

Monday was a happy day in my Rip:60 arrived 2 days earlier than the tracking was predicting!  Unfortunately, I was at work, but hubby was off so it could be picked up (normally we'd need to wait until Friday because our post office doesn't have evening hours).

To save pieces vanishing by little hands, I waited until the girlies were in bed before I unboxed.

Bad photo...but this is of a little neoprene protector (to thread the trainer through when using the door anchor so your door won't get scratched).  The thing that is blacked out is a little drawstring nylon bag to store it in when you travel.

The handles and the trainer.  The handles are MUCH larger than I expected them to be and are quite different than the handles on the TRX.  The coating is a durable-looking nylon and the grips are plastic.  I don't think they will be as comfortable as the foamy TRX handles, but they will be much easier to disinfect.

Research Note: the handles attach by carabiner.   For this reason, I suspect there will be additional handles come available in the future and wouldn't be surprised if handles like the TRX turn up as accessories.

Nutrition guide and other assorted paperwork.

The DVD case
Everything, all together.

The wall chart it comes with is just paper so I won't be hanging it up until I have it laminated.

Handy tip:  We have done this with all of the wall charts we have ever gotten with assorted kits we've bought.   Our beachbody charts look just as good today as they did the day we got the programs...and we can write on them using non-permanent marker (not the same as dry-erase) and reuse them to track progress.  Word of advice, though, unless you absolutely have no other choice don't take them to an office place (like Staples) to have it done.   Laminating is far cheaper at a map store because they have the equipment on hand for large scale laminating.  Most office stores do not and it will end up costing you double or triple the price.

Another bad photo - there is a little workout guide but it seems kind of useless for my purposes.  I likely won't be doing the 8 week program on its own.   Unless I decide it's a good way to pass the winter...
The nutrition guide lays out meal plans for the 8 weeks, complete with recipes.   Many of them are vegetarian.  A quick glance tells me that if I followe dit to a T, I'd have no problem losing weight.  I will probably follow it loosely because some of the meals look pretty good and appear to be simple to prepare.

The DVD case is hard plastic with sleeves inside to hold the 12 DVDs the program comes with.   The sleeves themselves aren't a very great quality (some of the DVDs slip out the bottom of the pocket).  I have read that some peoples DVDs have been quite stuck int he case and that the case has had to be ruined to get them out...mine were fine.  I took some extra care when removing them to be sure.

Closeup of the "pin" mechanism.  Added plus - the pin is actually attached to the pulley by a short cord s, when you pull it out, the pin won't end up getting lost.

The carabiner that the handles attach to:

After work, I headed to Fitness Depot to buy a mounting bracket for it.   They have one that it remarkably similar to the one TRX sells (the X-mount) but for less than half the price.  At $15, I figured it was a steal to mount this thing easily and properly.

Hubby took it upon himself to install it in the ceiling beams in the middle of our home gym.   For a man who was teasing me mercilessly about buying this...he was sure eager to give it a try :)

I never really considered our basement ceiling to be very low, but we ended up taking up a great deal of slack when installing it by looping it through the mount several times. 

I am really impressed by the quality of this thing. The metal pieces aren't lightweight - they have some heft to them. The stitching is good and it feels like a quality piece of equipment.   I can see us using it when we travel, too, since it can be taken down fairly easily. 

Where the kit is lacking is in the instructions.  There are not great written instructions for installing or using it.  I wasn't really at a disadvantage with this because I had heavily researched suspension trainers and had been exposed to them before.  A complete newbie, though, might have issues. 

I did a few test exercises on it and it holds my weight easily and feels like I am using a TRX.  I'm excited to try out the first video!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Power of a Coach

Prior to February 2010, I was not a runner.  Not even close.   My friend, Anna, was a runner. She used to try to get me to run with her - battering me with things like "You'll like it if you try it" and "You'd be really good at it".  I'd laugh at her and scoff her suggestion.

In January 2010, my mindset changed.   Anna told me she'd been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.  She had been diagnosed while she was training for Rn'R Las Vegas.  It would have been her 5th marathon, but she had to pull out because of the pain.

Funny enough, the first thought through my brain was "I need to find a run for lymphoma and do it for her".  Somehow my brain was thinking there'd be a 5K that I could do.  And then I found Team in Training (TNT).  The shortest distance I could do was a half marathon.  It seemed daunting for a non-runner but when I saw Nike Women's was one of the fall events (an event Anna had run in the past), I knew it was the right fit.

I initially taught myself to run.  The Couch to 5K program was my best friend.  In late April, I officially signed up for TNT, as soon as the registration opened for the Fall.   And in early May, I was introduced to my coach.  Coach Sheena.

Sheena knew Anna fairly well through both of their time within the Calgary running community.   She understood that this journey was incredibly personal to me - that I had an intense need to honour my friend as she went through her treatments.  A cancer survivor herself, Sheena knew the power that a program like TNT has.  Her enthusiasm and her passion drove our entire team to succeed.  She pulled us together and kept us going when we least wanted to.

When I hurt, she would help me through it.  Her experience and knowledge could help me overcome what I thought were injuries but were actually alignment issues.   When I felt down - she was there to pump me up.   Her laughter was infectious and the post-run coffees with her and the team were often twice as long as the run itself had been.

It is because of her that I became a better runner.  It is because of her that I run in the rain during training (and apparently almost every race day).  It is because of her that my knees don't hurt anymore and that I know how to stretch my calf to prevent foot pain.   She's also a big part of the reason that I am A LOT more diligent with applying my sunscreen (she survived melanoma).

When I ran in San Francisco, I passed her at a point where I was running alone and losing motivation.  Standing on the sidewalk, waving a ginormous Canada flag, she yelled out to me "Oh Cori - I'm so happy I got to see you!  You go girl!"   At that moment, all I wanted to do was run over to her for a hug, but her enthusiasm and encouragement were enough to lighten my steps and propel me forward to finish my first half marathon!  

Somewhere along the line, Sheena also became more than my coach.  She became my friend and it is a friendship I truly cherish.  When her beloved bulldog passed away earlier this year - real tears streamed down my cheeks for her.  And not a meetup goes by where she doesn't ask me how cancer dog is doing (Abner has a form of cancer that is like canine lymphoma - he's doing much better and will likely see old age if his upcoming checkup goes well).

Sheena likes to call herself the "Crazy Running Lady".  It's in her email signature and she's happy to live it.  This year, however, she's going a little Goofy.  As in the Goofy Challenge.  She has signed up as a TNT alumnus to run a half marathon on the Saturday and a full marathon on the Sunday this January in Orlando!  Craziness!

But her passion for both the cause and for the running will mean she does wonderfully at it.  It is the reason that I immediately looked up her donation page and pledged her my support before she even had to ask for it.

So, if you have a few bucks that are burning a hole in your pocket and you'd like to see them go to an amazing cause, please help Sheena reach her fundraising goal of $5000.  She is an amazing lady and it is because of people like her that one day Blood Cancers will be something we talk about in the past tense.

Do you have a running coach?  I'd love it if you'd share your experiences and stories in the comments!

Techy Tuesday: Werx eReader Cover

Since I got my Kobo Touch, I've been using it in my M-Edge Sony Cover.  It fit...kinda...but not great.   The Sony is a larger device so the Kobo fit loosely. My thinking was that it would work until M-Edge released a cover for the Kobo Touch.  I wrote to them to see when it would be in the online store and was told they have no plans to make one!   Eeek!  So the search was on.   I don't like the covers they sell at Chapters.   They are kind of blah looking and, while I'm sure they work perfectly fine, they aren't for me.  The M-Edge cover was going to have to keep going for me.

In the past week, however, it has been getting ejected into my bag.  My heart would take a leap into my throat every time I found it out of it's cover.   I knew this Kobo cover thing was becoming a bit of an urgent matter.

Turning to my best friend, Google, I started searching for aftermarket covers.   The Best Buy site kept coming up in these searches and the brand they were selling was called "Werx".  Search after search, looking for reviews on this brand brought up nothing. But I liked the cute designs that they had and I figured it was worth popping into the store to see in person.

The packaging on the cover says they fit a variety of readers and the cover is certainly long enough to accommodate a Kindle or a previous version of Kobo, though I am not sure how well the elastics inside the cover would stretch to secure these.   It is more of a universal cover design than a Kobo Touch-specific one.

They come in a couple of cute prints as well as a plain leather cover.  I decided to go with cute and bought the green and white polka dot one.   It is fabric with leather trim and suede lining.  On the interior, there is a pocket to hold whatever you need it to.  Unlike the M-Edge cover - it is just one large pocket, instead of smaller card-specific ones.  

So far, I like the cover.  It protects my reader and the elastic straps hold the corners tightly.  One of the straps does cover the power switch on the top, but it can still be easily used without moving the strap.  My main concern with it is that I'm not sure how the fabric will look after a month or two of bouncing around in my bag.  I actually invested in some Scotch Gard spray to treat it and prevent stains.  A couple of coats later, I think it should go a long way to keeping that white nice and white.

In a pinch, though, this cover is a winner.  If M-Edge releases Kobo Touch covers - I'll buy one in a heartbeat...but for now, this one works great for me.

 Edited (Wed, July 27): Ok - so I stumbled upon a different cover today that really really liked so have decided to return this one after all.   The one I found was half the price and has so many great features for the Kobo.  I can't wait to share that one with you all once it arrives.   I liked this Werx one...but it wasn't ever quite right.  The new one that is on it's way is almost perfect.  You'll see :)  (If you follow me on Twitter - I already posted the link)

Monday, July 25, 2011

MOMday: Comfort Objects

When I was a baby, I had my blankie.  That little, satin edged thing was the world to me.  I took it everywhere and had my favourite corner on it that was better for sniffing at night that any other corner.   As the years wore on, that blankie became a raggedy thing, but it was still my whole world.

Fast forward a few decades and enter: my twins.   I did a great deal of research on comfort objects and, on the day they turned 2 months old, I bought them each a lovey (think stuffed animal head, blanket body).  This was around the time we had separated them into their own cribs.  I wanted them to have something familiar to look at that was theirs alone.  I didn't know if it would become like my blankie was to me all those years ago, but gradually, I saw them take to their loveys more and more.

Doodle would pull hers over her eyes and suck her thumb as she went to sleep.  Buggie would have long, deep conversations with hers.   The loveys became woven into the fabric of our family.   They also became an irremovable fixture of bedtime.  Heaven forbid we should go somewhere and forget the loveys.   They WILL NOT sleep without them.  
Ahh - back in the day when loveys were sleeping toys...

We did have one hard and fast rule, though: the loveys stay in your cribs.   This was designed to a) keep them clean (ish) b) keep them contained so we could always find them and c) make them a special toy - not something to be dragged everywhere.  When they each took to a teeny stuffed animal, we allowed those to be their take anywhere toy...but the loveys lived in their cribs.

It was a rule that worked.   The girlies knew that that little buddy needed to stay in their beds.

And then I went back to work.   We tried to explain to the dayhome lady that the loveys were just for nap time.  Somehow, we are seeing a lot more lovey action happening at the dayhome and they have somehow come to be unseparated from them at anytime.  They now have loveys at our house and loveys at the dayhome.   I need to wrestle them from their hands at mealtimes to keep peanut butter, or ketchup, or mac & cheese off of them.  Instead of washing them once a month or so..I now have to wash them at least once a week.   I also have to wash the ones from the dayhome every weeks too (and you wouldn't believe the state those things are in by the time I get them at the end of the week)
Loveys gripped tightly by both...

I have had to test my weak sewing skills to reattach the head on Buggie's bunny. Those same sewing skills had to be tested to build secondary loveys to leave at the dayhome after forgetting the real loveys there the first day.  I am going to need to wrestle both of them away in the near future to do some preventative maintenance.   Every time they scream bloody murder for their loveys, my hubby cringes and says "It's time to take them away.  They are TOO attached to them."

But I disagree. While I think it would be nice to try to get them back to being a crib only toy, I also see that their lives changed a great deal when I went back to work and if a little mangy lovey will calm them and give them some peace, I have no problem with it.  I also think that a comfort object is important and I remember the attachment to mine quite clearly - even though it's been over 30 years since I said bye-bye to my blankie.

I remember my mother being frustrated at the state of my blankie and asking me if I was too big to carry it around all the time anymore.   I refused this notion and clung tighter.  Then, my mom gave me a very diplomatic suggestion.  Would I be ok if she just cut around my favourite corner and I could have that instead of the whole blanket (which really HAD seen better days).  I thought that sounded fair because I really only loved that corner.   She got out the scissors and cut the satiny corner off the blanket and handed it to me.   It still smelled the same and I happily went on my way.  Soon, I came to realize that the corner wasn't the same without the blanket, but I also saw that I was maybe outgrowing the need for my blanket.

So, when my hubby takes the loveys away with the proclamation that they aren't getting them back, and then caves in a few minutes later and hands it back to the screaming two year old - I remind him that I think they should have their loveys until the day that THEY decide they don't need them anymore - just like me and my blankie.  Sure, the occasional outburst may hurt our ears but, in the end, they will make the decision for themselves and we can move on. They are only this age for a very short time and it's really not worth the fight if it is something that makes them happy and isn't hurting the rest of us (except for our ears...they really can scream, these two...)

How have you dealt with comfort objects for your kids?  Did they take to something special?  When did you know it was time for them to give them up?  When did THEY decide?  Share your experiences in the comments.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In the Quiet of Morning

As I was heading back on my solo 7K yesterday, I came to this view and it took my breath away. How lucky am I to have an inner city place like this to run in?

Love it!

(and, yes, those are the Rocky Mountains just under the cloud line there)

The Amazing Recharge

It's incredible the difference a week can make.  Last week, I was lamenting how I'd been running alone.  Yesterday I had a fantastic run with one of my runner girls, C.  My adjusted training plan had me going 22K so I headed out for 7 K solo and then met up with C at Glenmore Landing.   Our intention was to complete the 15K loop of the reservoir and then finish up with coffee.  We were only a few kilometres in when suddenly our plans were thwarted.  The path was closed at the entrance to the Weaselhead.  I'm guessing the path finally fell away down there, since it had partially collapsed a couple of weeks ago (it took me until this morning to realize that that was probably the reason).  Luckily, there is a path down toward Fish Creek from there so we decided we'd go 6K down the path then turn around and head back.

Gabbing and gabbing as we went, I felt so much of the negativity, that had been clinging to me lately, start to fall away.   Our walk breaks went a little longer and we \took them whenever we needed to.  We watched the kids on their bikes and the dogs in the dog park.  We ran until we hit Anderson and then decided to loop around toward T'sui Tina instead of crossing over.  Unfortunately the path ended soon after.  So we stopped for a little stretch and a breather and then turned to head back (it was close to our 6K turnaround plan anyway). 

The sky was darkening and we felt that sharp cool of impending rain hit us as we headed back.   Luckily it wasn't a downpour, but the sprinkles served to cool us off as we entered the homestretch.

A leisurely 2 hour coffee later, we headed our separate ways.   The total run time for what amounted to just over a half marathon for me: 2:40 ish.   How recharged I felt as I turned to the highway to head home: priceless.   It was such a great run and I am so happy that I could connect with one of my runner girls again.   It was exactly the thing I needed to give me some perspective...and to make me look forward to running again.

Thanks C - you're the best!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fitness Friday Blog Hop

I am once again participating in Jill's Fitness Friday Blog Hop (the link is in the sidebar for more info).  I totally forgot last Friday when I was scrambling to get us ready to leave town!

So, to any new visitors - a big WELCOME!  

This week has been a tough one for me on the fitness fact I haven't bothered to exercise at all since my 10K last Sunday.   This weeks posts have kind of centred around me cleaning up my motivation and getting my butt in gear once more.  I think it's working because I am getting quite excited for my long run tomorrow.  It will be my longest run EVER!  Eeeek!  But, I'm ready for it.   Bring it on, Marathon training.  Bring. It. On.

Have a great weekend!

Friday Reads: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Comprometida: Una historia de amor / Committed: A Love Story (Spanish Edition)Picking up about 2 years after Eat, Pray, Love left off, suddenly Elizabeth and Felipe are faced with a conundrum.  Homeland Security has stopped Felipe from re-entering the US - a place where he has been happily living within the confines of temporary visas for two years.  They have informed him that he will not be allowed to continue this.  If he wants to live with Elizabeth, then he is going to need to find a way around it and, the officer absurdly announces, the easiest way would be to just marry her.

GASP!   Not the big M!!!  Neither Elizabeth or Felipe had even considered it to be something that would ever be in their future.  Coming from two disastrous marriages, they we firmly against the possibility...but they wanted to be together and Elizabeth wanted to have a home base that was near her family.  That meant the US.  They were going to need to wade through the bureaucratic red tape and get Felipe a more permanent solution...and it was going to have to be marriage.

But they had time to adjust to the idea as they awaited the process to secure Felipe's fiance visa.  So, Elizabeth started to research marriage as they hopped around from country to country while they waited. 

At first glance, the book seems as though it was written to follow Eat, Pray, Love and cash in on it's wild success, but she is quick to point out that the book was written while the first book was awaiting publication.  At that point, she had no idea how successful it would turn out.

Unfortunately, the general tone to the book reads more like a research book on marriages around the world.  She claims to be looking at western marriage, but it felt more like she was focused on the marriage customs and traditions in Asia and the villages they stayed in on their journey.

Part travel book, part marriage guide, part personal journey, part research project...Committed is a decent read. I enjoyed it, though it wasn't what I was expecting. I am glad I didn't spend actual money on it - the library was my best friend on this one.  Read it, returned it...I don't see my life or marriage as particularly enhanced for having read it.  I didn't have any great takeaways from it (though I did find some of the customs she wrote about to be really interesting).

Do I recommend Committed?  Well, if you liked the story of Elizabeth and Felipe in the first gives you an idea of where it went after.  Some of it is pretty tedious, but the book is not without it's merits.  I found it very interesting when she would talk about wedding customs from different tribes.  I also liked following her and Felipe a bit more because I'm kind of stalker-ish like that (kidding).  Ultimately, though, the book read like her knowing she had to get married but needing to convince herself that it was okay.   I think choosing to read it is a personal decision and I am not going to put forth a recommendation on those grounds.  If it helps - I'm glad it was a library book I could return.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Starting to Come Together

My workout life "kick in the pants" is starting to come together.  I've noticed a theme this week in the blogs I follow that show that almost everyone seems to be struggling in one or more of the same areas as I am.  It really shows the type of community that exists amongst bloggers, though, since we can help each other and learn from what works and doesn't work.  Hopefully my posting this stuff as it comes to my head is helpful to someone out there in the blogosphere :)

  • I wrote to a maid company for a quote...they haven't written back.  I think twin toddlers and two dogs scared them off.  Next step - write to more companies until I find a brave one with decent rates
  • In that same vein, I found a 20 minutes a day cleaning list which breaks it down over 30 days of little bits to do each day.  Hubby says he's willing to give it a go with me and last night we spent 20 mins surface cleaning the kitchen and living room.  Those rooms look amazing now.  Tonight is bathroom night. If you don't hear from me for a few days - assume the tub scum ate me
  • My Rip:60 is on it's the tracking number and am obsessively checking to see if it's left Montreal yet.  Might need a 12 step program to break the addiction to my Canada Post app.
  • As though she knew I needed it right now, Denise Beatty from Fitness Fix contacted me yesterday to send me my written analysis of my running form and to let me know my DVD was ready for pick up.  This is from that seminar I took in mid-June.  Her comments and suggestions really made me feel better about my running (unfortunately not enough to get me out of bed this morning...but I'm working on that too).  I may share those in a bit.
  • I revamped my marathon training schedule and restructured it so my day off is Friday and I can easily run in the mornings and cross train in the evenings so I am not getting up at 4am every day.
  • I moved an alarm clock downstairs as my bedtime reminder.  I haven't plugged it in yet, but I will do that tonight.  Last night, I was in bed by 9 and sleeping by 9:30. 
  • I'm being more diligent about sticking to my food allowance.  The weight gain might have been hormonal because 2lbs vanished almost instantly.
  • Life happened and my running partner for Saturday didn't pan out...but one of my other runner girls wrote me last night and she's going to join me for 15K of the 22.   Yay!  Can't wait to get caught up since it's been a while since I last saw her!

Things I still need to do:
  • Figure out new running routes in Langdon
  • Figure out how I want to mount the suspension trainer so I am ready to go when it arrives
So - I managed to check most of the things off the list to bring my sanity into check again.  At least I am working toward it one little step at a time.  Hopefully today, I will be able to work out some new routes to run. 

It is looking like I have decided to make this week be a rest and recover week as I haven't worked out even once.   A little break isn't going to kill me, but Saturday I am back at it again.

Oh and next week is going to be a test on my diet...we have house guests arriving Saturday and then staying until August.  Just found out about one of them last night so I guess my day off tomorrow is a cleaning day.  Wish that maid service was doing it instead :P

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Revised Marathon Plan

Ok - as a part of hitting my personal reset button, I've reworked my training plan tohopfully work better for me.  I found a gentler 22 week beginners plan and it was completely workable with the distances I am currently at for the last 11 weeks to my marathon.  I've put less pressure on myself for weekdays (though I am now REALLY needing to get onto Map My Run to find longer routes or to count on doing doubles of shorter routes on weekdays) and have given myself a workable weekend plan for getting in a third "weekday" run on Sunday.   Perhaps the best part is that the distances that fall on the weekends for my half marathons are no longer diatances where I need to make up extra miles after the race - I'll just take the races easy since they are longer than the new distances for that week.

I think I can stick to this without any issue (Google calendar is updated as well):

CT is going to be bike/suspension/both

(Long Run)
Race day!

Workout Wednesday: Introduction to Suspension Trainers

I've gotten a few questions about suspension trainers emailed to me in the last month or so and I thought maybe it might be time to explain what they are and a bit about why I liked using one in that Bootcamp I took in June. Keep in mind I am no expert here...but I am happy to share what I do know.

A suspension trainer is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Using this nylon strap apparatus, you perform a range of exercises using your body weight as resistance. It REALLY works the core. Really really works it. You need to stabilize your body in these movements so those muscles are constantly at work. You adjust the difficulty of the exercises by where you place your feet. The greater the angle of your body, the more challenging the workout.

The straps have handles at the end of them that you either hold in your hands or slip your feet onto. The exercises range from traditional pushups and pullups to unique exercises that you wouldn't be able to perform without the trainer. I found that it made it easier for me to do pushups and pullups, since I struggle with doing these in a traditional way...and I also found that after a month of using a trainer once a week, I can actually do a regular pushup with much more ease that I could prior to the class.

Some photos of the exercises:

Some advantages to the trainers are:
  • Take up VERY little space. Most come with a small bag so you can pack it up for travel.
  • Works both the large muscles AND the smaller stabilizer muscles
  • Grows with you - as you become stronger, changing your foot placement increases the difficulty
  • Multiple mounting options allow you to install it in the way that works best for you
  • Use it anywhere - a little Googling shows you examples of people suspending them from trees and playground equipment outside...or you can attach it to the ceiling or wall with a mounting bracket...or using a door anchor you can turn any door into an anchor point
  • There are a variety of video workouts available to guide you if you need them

As for the different products on the market - you already know that I bought the Rip:60 this week (so anxious for it to arrive). There are several different products on the market and, quite frankly, most of them seem pretty comparable when you start delving into reviews. I am going to mention the top 3 commercially marketed products here: TRX, Jungle Gym, and Rip:60 and provide some videos of each.

(their official channel appears to be down, but here's a decent video that shows it off)
Is the most expensive at around $190.  This is the one I used in my bootcamp class. There are videos available to workout with, but they are pricey! You can order it online - I've only seen it in one store locally (Fitter First), but that's not to say it isn't available in more. I know of several personal trainers who are distributors as well so you can always ask at a local gym if they can order them.

Jungle Gym XT
Made by LifelineUSA, this one is fairly widely available. I've seen it in several stores locally for around $100. Most reviewers have the TRX winning in comparisons, but it still appears to be a decent product and is cheaper than the other options.

This one is actually an infomercial product that is being marketed toward the same kind of crowd as P90X and Insanity. It is getting great reviews, though, and you can't beat the extras you get with infomercial stuff...12 videos makes this one a steal at $120. I've only seen it online, though. Also - it is made by Icon Fitness - the same people who make the Weider and NordicTrack products (I bought mine through NordicTrack)

Now, you don't necessarily need to buy one of these to get yourself a suspension trainer of your own. If you (or your spouse) happen to be handy/crafty, there are many tutorials on the web on how to make your own trainer for a fraction of the cost. If I was so inclined, I might attempt it myself...but I just don't have the time or inclination at the moment.

Hopefully this has given you a taste of what suspension trainers are. I am super enthusiastic about this kind of training and can't wait to continue when mine arrives. If you have a gym near you that offers TRX training - maybe see if you can take a class. Some gyms offer a free try-out class as a way to recruit new members so it might not even end up costing you a thing to give it a try.

Happy exercising!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Kick in the Pants

I should warn you...this one is going to get long.

As you have probably noticed from the general tone of my workout/running/eating posts lately - I haven't been doing so well. In July, I've gained back the weight I lost in June (BOO!) and my motivation has been nil. I am extremely exhausted and no matter what I do, I can't seem to catch up. I'm not even going to share what the state of my housekeeping has been because I don't want the department of health and safety to pop by and condemn the house.

Maybe it's the heat that's affecting me. Maybe it's trying to do too much. Maybe my brain needs a reset button so I can start fresh. Maybe I need to hire a maid. Maybe I need to hire a personal trainer. Who knows. But I need to do something.

So, last night, I took a look at June. A month that, while hard, proved to bring some results for me in my diet and exercise. Having gained back the weight is bugging me because I know there is no one to blame but myself. I have been eating anything I can get my hands on...and then some. I know that I have been slacking because I haven't even been tracking it lately. My Fitness Pal shows some days where I've been honest and accounted for all of the chips and chocolate and then there are days where I just haven't bothered to track half of my meals let alone the other crap.

Starting today I am going to try to rein that in. I updated my higher weight into My Fitness Pal and I am going to try really hard to stick to my calorie allowance...because I need to. Sure, I type this as I chug back a latte...but I need that right now too.

Next running. Today is a running day. Did I haul my ass out of bed at 4am to run? Nope. 4am came a bit too soon after I closed my eyes and I just couldn't do it. Did i need to do it? I don't know. With the way I am feeling lately - I am wondering if maybe I need to scale back a bit. I have this mental block where the training plan says 3 mid-week runs and my brain stubbornly says "NO! Two!" I am not enjoying my runs lately for a number of reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is that they have been a largely solo endeavour for the past month. I miss my runner girls (and am so happy to be hooking up with JS this weekend for 15 of the 22.5K I have to do). I really enjoy and look forward to those Saturday runs where we just talk and laugh and plow through the miles. Sometimes I think they give me a bigger boost to keeping me motivated throughout the week than anything else. And an iPod just isn't the same.

I'm also going through route boredom right now. Because of the blackbird issue, I basically have one 5K route in Langdon that I can run. I run it one way on Tuesdays and the opposite way on Thursdays. I think I need to spend some time (if I can find any) and just look at Langdon on Map My Run and see if I can't come up with 4-5 different 5-6K routes that I can alternate.

Looking back at June, I also recognize that I had my weekly TRX class. I really liked working on the suspension trainer - even though toward the end the class was more like a regular boot camp with minimal TRX in it (it was actually better suited to my plyometrics goals in that respect). Much of what I liked about the class was the camaraderie with the other ladies. I'm starting to realize that maybe I'm not necessarily such a solo fitness gal after all. I enjoy getting out and being with other like-minded gals ALOT more than I ever thought I would. I think I need to get back at it next month again.

I also recognize that I need the strength training. I saw incredible gains in my fitness in June...mainly because I had that class. Yesterday, I made the decision that I enjoyed the TRX enough to invest in one so I started looking for one. The TRX system is really expensive and I knew there were similar products out there so started to investigate a bit further. I had seen the Rip:60 system in the latest Fitness magazine and I wanted to know how it compared to a TRX because they looked remarkably similar. Review after review that compared the two said that the Rip:60 was actually better designed for a comparable product. I also liked that you get a complete system when you buy the Rip:60. It comes with 12 DVDs (including one with exercises specific to runners) and a nutrition guide. You can use the DVDs individually or you can follow the 8 week plan they lay out. It also costs much less than the TRX, coming in (incl. shipping) at around $145 CDN instead of the $189 before tax of the TRX. The more I read, the better it, last night I took the plunge and ordered it! I am thinking I will do the 8 week program and see if it doesn't help motivate me.


My disgusting house is getting me down more than I want to admit (well, I've kind of admitted it now) - so the action item here is to seriously consider getting a monthly maid service...someone to come into my home once a month and give it a good scouring. Then I can just maintain it. I'm hoping hubby is on the same page with that.

My diet is sucking so bad right now, but I am still focused on the prize (aka my goal weight). I know I need to buckle down to get there so I will aim to track my foods and weight honestly and return to the basic premise that I had when I started this journey...stick to the allowance and move more.

I am so tired lately that I think I need to be more diligent at going to be early. Maybe I'll set an alarm clock in the living room to go off when it's time for me to head to bed. It's worth a shot because it's not like I am doing anything productive when I am sitting on the sofa watching my life drain away.


Route boredom can be cured by varying routes so my take away here is to take the time to find new routes and run them

Recognizing how much I need that weekly group run, I am going to try harder to make sure I am not running alone on Saturdays. Summer is really hard to get us all together - too many commitments and vacations tend to keep us apart...but I do have a large network of running friends now (so much so that I even have a Running Buddies group on my BBM. I'm sure with some planning, I can ensure that I get through this marathon training without logging lost 30K runs completely solo.

I am not 100% certain that my running doldrums aren't a sign of overtraining. So an adjustment to the marathon training schedule is in order. I'm sure I can run long on the weekends and do a couple of weekday runs and still be prepared for Okanagan in October. Train smarter, not harder. Make it fit with life.


I think I am going to return to my weekly class in August. Not just for the TRX, but to keep me accountable to my strength training and get me out and around women in my town. Most of us are mothers. Some are even runners. The cost of the class is reasonable and I think i can budget it into my monthly allowance so I can keep going.

At most, the Rip:60 will probably take 3 weeks to get here. That will give me enough time to figure out how to incorporate it into my weekly schedule. I don't know that I will follow the 8 week plan, per se, but I am sure I can come up with a rotation that will work well for me. Plus - a new piece of fitness equipment might be just what I need to get me excited about working out again.

And addressing my exhaustion here as well, I think maybe holding myself to Monday thru Saturday workouts is killing me. There are only so many ways I can leap out of bed at 4am. I think I need to maybe look at adjusting the workout plan to Sunday thru Thursday and give myself Friday as my day off. This will mean only 4 days a week will be getting me up at 4am. It's worth a try.

Hopefully this little to do list will give me just the kick in the pants I need to get moving again. Thanks for sticking with me (if you lasted this far into the post). I just know that I needed to work through it now because I was almost to the "Fuck it" point where I was going to let it all go. I haven't worked this hard for this long and come this far to throw it all away now! Here's hoping this little refresh will give me some momentum to work with.

Monday, July 18, 2011

MOMday: If you liked Harry Potter, then....

On Saturday, the hubby and I took advantage of the free Gramma babysitting to go on a date to see the final Harry Potter movie.  Really liked the flick, but it made me feel like maybe I need to re-read books 6 and 7 again.  I've only read them each once so I don't remember them as well as I do the first few and the movie caught me off guard in a few places.

As I was thinking about re-reading the books again, I remembered back to when I first read them back in the early 2000's.  I attended the midnight releases for books 5-7 (dragging hubby along for the ride - I think he secretly enjoyed those strange bookstore parties as much as I did).  When I finished book seven, I was left with a huge feeling of "What now?"...and I knew I definitely wasn't alone there.

So, as a part of a list that has been growing for the last 5 is my "If you liked Harry Potter, try this one" list.   In keeping with the point of MOMday, I have included books that would be suitable for littler Harry Potter fans as well as a few for us big kids too :)  Many of my choices may seem a little odd as "after HP" reads, but I am going with the thought that as kids grow, their reading tastes evolve and am offering up options.

The NeverEnding Story (Michael Ende) - If you watched and loved the movies, this book might actually catch you by surprise a bit since the movies were only based on very small parts of the book.   This is a beautiful book filled with so much imagination.  Probably best for kids 10 and up

His Dark Materials trilogy (Philip Pullman) - The Golden Compass was releases as a movie a few years back and really wasn't up to the snuff I thought it should be (hence why no more movies were made, I guess).  The books are really quite fantastic, though.  Filled with adventure and thrills.  The series was recommended to me 9 years ago by a 13 year old.  I'd say they are good for ages 9 and up (if the kid is ok with good guys/bad guys) There is some deaths involved so you might want to read them as well to prepare yourself for questions they might have.  Many of the religious references that you might have heard about this series are bound to go over the head of any kid who reads it.  The books work for many different levels of readers.

Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen trilogy (Garth Nix) - For the teen in your life, these can't be beat.  Honestly, I couldn't put them down when I read them and they are definitely classed as YA fiction.   I'd say ages 12 and up, though they would probably be of higher appeal to the 13-16 year old crowd since younger kids might not understand some of the relationships that play out with the characters.  Magic and necromancy.   It is a well crafted story that is sure to be a big hit.  This one is really great for adults too...even hubby was drawn into the story (he HAD to read them after he saw me get so lost in them)

The Wizard of Oz series (Frank L. Baum) - Betcha didn't know that The Wizard of Oz is actually a series of around 12 books?  These would be suitable to read aloud to a younger child who may grow into Harry Potter or to give to a child of about 7 or 8 to read on their own.  Best part?  If you have an e-reader, you can get the ebooks for free through the Gutenberg Project as they are out of copyright.

The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien) - I'm sure you probably read it in school (was my school the only one who DIDN'T have it on the required reading for English?)  I think Harry Potter is a great stepping stone to Tolkien.  Most kids won't be ready for Lord of the Rings, but the Hobbit is really a children's book.  It was how he intended it when he wrote it.   This is one I would say would be great to read together at bedtime from about 7 years old.  It is a story that every kid should experience.  When I first read it at 23, I didn't know what I had been missing.   It was the first fantasy book I read and I can quite honestly say it changed my life and opened a whole new world of fiction to me.  One that I had been searching for and didn't know what I was missing. 

Artemis Fowl series (Eion Colfer) - a boy criminal genius with designs on running the world and the faerie underworld who aims to stop him.  Enough said?   This delightful series would be an excellent choice from about age 7 and up.

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series (Michael Scott) - I only recently read these ones and loved them thoroughly.   Young Harry Potter fans will remember the mention of Flamel in the first HP book.   Scott is a mythology expert and he weaves legendary characters from history into this series on the presumption of "what if they didn't die and, instead, became immortal...where would they be now?"  Kids as young as 9 or 10 will be able to appreciate the books at a story level.  Adults will be able to appreciate how much Scott put into the books from a mythology standpoint.  Each book has a section at the end that explains the background behind a mythology mentioned in the book.

Wicked Lovely series (Melissa Marr) - First saw this mentioned in PC Cast's House of Night series and when I found out it was a real book, I tracked it down. This one is for the teen in your house.  Faeries and magic.  Love and war.   Unfulfilled destinies.  Secret worlds.  It's all there.   Probably best for girls 12 or 13 years and up.   Boys might be able to get into it as well, since there are storylines in the series that play out in a way that a teen boy might appreciate too. 

A Modern Faerie Trilogy (Holly Black) - Another fantastic trilogy about faeries.  Can be fairly dark but it is an absorbing read that draws you into the faerie world and leaves you gasping for more.  Excellent choice for a teen.

Twilight series (Stephenie Meyer) - what list would be complete without mentioning Twilight.   Every teen girls is bound to fall in love with a world of dark, dangerous boyfriends.   If they read HP as a kid...this is what they will obsess over as a teen.  It also opens up the whole host of copycat teen vampire romance books for her as well.  After reading this story, sometimes you just don't care that the other books suck.

Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins) - a dystopian story about a civilization who must be reminded about past transgressions by participating in a cruel reality show each year where the winner is the sole survivor.   It is twisted and sinister and spot, but is a story that makes you appreciate the world we live in.   Your teenager will love them.   Heck - you probably will as well (and with the movie coming out next year - it might be a good call for a holiday gift this year)

Uglies series (Scott Westerfeld) - Imagine a world where, on your 16th birthday, you are surgically altered to make you "Beautiful" and then are sent to live in a place where the beautiful live and party.  Now imagine if you question why the government would do this and you wish to stay "ugly".   These books are an incredibly captivating story about an underground movement to change the world.  Every teenage girl should read these.

and for us big kids you moved through the YA stuff as fast as our kids are some adult fantasy books that will keep you going into the future. If your teen is an advanced reader, they might be up for giving some of these a try too...I've linked to the first book wherever I talk about a series.

Hopefully that gives you some options for your kids (and for yourselves) as a way to keep the magic going in your lives.   Happy reading!