Technology

720 Burpees in 8 Days and Smoothies to Spare!

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While my urge to run has ebbs and flows, my love of fitness and nutrition lives on and I’d like to start sharing my latest obsessions with you.  2013 has brought me two things so far: burpees and….

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I FINALLY BOUGHT A VITAMIX!!!  More on that in a minute.  First…

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Oh, burpees, you’re the exercise everyone loves to hate!  Eight days ago we started a new challenge at work.  Well, two challenges to be exact.  You could pick either a 90 or 100 day burpee challenge.  The 90 day challenge is 90 burpees a day for 90 days.  The 100 day challenge is one burpee on day one, two on day two, three on day three and so on and so forth until you’ve reached 100 on day 100.  Naturally, I chose the 90 day challenge and have been in sweet pain ever since.

One might ask, “What is a burpee?”  Well, if you’re lucky I’ll post a video sometime soon but today is not that day.  There are literally dozens of burpee variations.  Two of the most basic are:

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Squat, jump out to plank, jump back to squat, jump up.

And…

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Squat, jump out to plank, do a pushup, jump back to squat and jump up.

The latter is called a “Competition Burpee” and that’s the one I’m doing.  So, I’m basically doing 90 squat thrusts, 90 pushups and 90 jumps a day…on top of my normal workouts.  Yes,  it’s a bit much, but I have to say that after only 8 days I’m noticing much more definition in my arms and legs so, hey, I’m going to keep it up.  Speaking of “normal workouts”, ZuzkaLight is the latest woman kicking my ass.  If you haven’t seen her YouTube channel before check it out!  I try to do one of her workouts 3-4x/wk.  I’m on #40 as of today.

Ok, enough about burpees, let’s talk about my new beloved Vitamix.  I’ve wanted a high-powered blender for a very long time and after doing my taxes this past weekend (oh the luxurious life I lead) I decided to use some refund money and invest in my health.  After watching far too many videos and reading reviews comparing the Blendtec to the Vitamix to the Kitchenaid to the Ninja to the etc. etc. etc., I decided to go with the Vitamix which honestly was my first choice to begin with.  So far I’m not disappointed.

To honor my new toy and give me something to think about aside from burpees I thought it’d be fun to share some of my creations with you.  Here are some of the first smoothies I’ve made.  I should note I also made brazil nut butter (brazil nuts, raw honey, sea salt, flaxseed oil) before learning how high in saturated fat brazil nuts are (damn shame since it tastes just like cookie dough) and a caper-parsley sauce but since I didn’t photograph either I’m not putting them in here.  I should also note that while I have some strong beliefs about nutrition, I am not a nutritionist, nor do I purport to be.

Smoothie #1

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Ingredients:

  • Frozen strawberries
  • Frozen peaches
  • Whole banana
  • Flaxseed
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Coconut Milk
  • Protein Powder*

This was fruity and amazing and I can’t say enough good things about it.

Green Smoothie

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Ingredients:

  • Pomegranate-Cranberry Juice
  • Spinach
  • Frozen strawberries
  • Frozen mangos
  • Chia seeds
  • Spirulina

Again, another winner.  VERY fruity. VERY green (thank you spirulina). VERY nutritious.  It was my after-workout smoothie and not only did I get to enjoy it, but my boyfriend kept gulping it down saying, “This can’t be healthy!”.

*Why is there an asterisk next to protein powder?  Well, I’m in the “testing” phase of powders right now and I’d love to open up some discussion on that.

Protein Powders

Generally I’m a big fan of whole foods and I try to use whole foods over processed foods as much as possible in my diet.  I ALSO have a strong desire to have ton of protein in my diet so I do want to use a protein powder in my morning smoothie.  I have some ground rules for protein powder:

  1. It must not contain soy, whey or animal proteins. There’s a lot of controversy over soy but aside from the concern that it could increase my chances of breast cancer if I ingest it regularly, I can say from my personal experience that it’s very slow for my system to digest and, frankly, it makes me gassy; so no thanks, soy! 
  2. It must not contain a bunch of chemicals, stabilizers and preservatives because it just doesn’t have to.
  3. It must be at the very least 17-20g/serving of protein and no more than 100 calories per serving.
  4. No GMOs. Period.
  5. It must be sugar free.
  6. It shouldn’t taste like crap.

I have four contenders so far (pictured above): Fat Flush Body Protein, Peaceful Planet Supreme Meal, Warrior Food, and plain Rice Protein, and can review two so far.

Fat Flush: A friend of mine who is a nutritionist highly recommended this and gave me a scoop to try.  Normally I’d stay away from things that say “Fat Flush” because it sounds too infomercially and I’m looking to be healthy, not emaciated.  That said, the ingredient list is pretty good: Pea protein concentrate, Rice protein concentrate, French vanilla extract, guar gum, inulin, and stevia.  So, not a ton of crap.  I will say stevia isn’t my favorite but I couldn’t taste it much in this, and I’m really picky about the stevia aftertaste so I was impressed that I only noticed it a tad.  It was a little grittier than I’d like, even in the vitamin (which turns flaxseeds and chia seeds into dust).  I give it an “I’ll think about it”.  Which probably equates to a B+

The Supreme Meal: I found this at my local coop.  You might be surprised I bought it considering how many ingredients it has: Protein blend (non-GMO pea protein isolate, organic Hawaiian spirulina, rice protein concentrate), freeze-dried sprouts blend (quinoa, millet, amaranth, broccoli), organic flax meal, lecithin, natural vegan flavors, horsetail herb, proprietary FOS fiber blend (fructooligosaccaharides, sprouted mung bean extract), bioflavanoids concentrate, vitamin D2, vitamin B12.  Ok, so a lot of ingredients but a lot of GOOD ingredients.  So far this one is my favorite.  It has poor reviews if you just mix it into liquid with a spoon (it clumps).  I had no problem in my Vitamix.  It was smooth and tasty.  The spirulina makes it dark green, which doesn’t bother me one bit but bothers some people.  I also love that there’s nothing in there pretending to be sweet.  It was just yummy.  Unfortunately, it’s 140 cal/serving but I may overlook that due to how much I liked it and how many nutrients it has. A-

I picked up the Warrior Food from Vermont Fiddle Heads, who I tend to trust as Linda is our local raw foods extraordinaire.  I haven’t tried it yet and I’ll be fully honest that the bottle is filled with so much homeopathic new-age propaganda that I almost didn’t buy it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty crunchy chick, but this was over the top.  That said, I trust Linda and it’s the only protein powder that she sells and I was impressed by the ingredients: Sprouted, Raw, Non-GMO, Organic Brown Rice Protein, Organic Hemp Protein, Organic Actual Vanilla Bean, Wildcrafted Nopal Cactus, Organic Whole Leaf Stevia.  I love that it’s 100% organic and doesn’t have much in it.  I’m wary of the stevia but I’ll let you all know what I think.

What protein powder do you love and why?

Running, Swimming and Loving This Vermont Summer!

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Friday brought gorgeous sun and relatively mild temps to the Mad River Valley.  I chose to run after work and while the humidity was slightly higher than I would have liked, it was a night-and-day difference from my Amazon-esque experience on Monday.

My biggest roadblock in this run was shear exhaustion from working a double-shift the day/night before for a server upgrade.  I was running (literally) on about four hours of sleep and for a Friday it was a pretty darn busy workday.  Despite the grogginess, my run was pretty awesome.  The path was busier than usual but I was joined by a few other people running with their dogs and Toby made plenty of new buddies on our journey.

The river was almost back to normal and I took a better comparison shot (both with the iPhone).  Keep in mind that the river can get 2-4′ lower than where it is, but when you consider that the two pics were only taken four days apart it’s pretty amazing (click for bigger image).  I’d also like to give a quick shout-out to RunKeeper‘s Pro App, which has the ability to take pictures right from within the app, which are then automatically added to the activity map and transferred to the RunKeeper website.  I love this feature!

Aside from the run, I had two awesome experiences with my Vibram Fivefinger KSOs this weekend.  I headed to Jeffersonville both Saturday and Sunday to swim in one of the gorgeous swimming holes along the Lamoille River.  Saturday I decided to adventure through Cambridge after my acupuncture appointment; mostly to avoid going back through Stowe Village which was swamped with tourists for the holiday, but also so I could pick up some Brown and Jenkin’s coffee and Boyden Valley Rhubarb Wine.  I had two goals in mind: find a cute random place to eat and a nice place where Toby and I could swim.  I believe I found both:

Sunrise Cafe served me Vermont sausage/cheddar/apple crepes with latkes and fresh fruit as Toby and I sat outside gazing at the mountains.

Lamoille River Swimming Hole in Jeffersonville, VT

As you can see from the picture above, Toby and I chose an area of the swimming hole that was mostly all rock.  To the right of us was a more populated swimming hole/portage area with a real parking lot.  Given the heat and the holiday weekend it was full of a mix of tourists and locals dragging in their kayaks and canoes.  I felt pretty smart finding a pull-off just upstream of the main area; while I was still fairly close to the action, the portage was blocked from sight by a bend in the river and everyone was headed with the current in the opposite direction.  It left me feeling like I was on a private stretch of this gorgeous river.

The reason my little swimming area was practically abandoned is that to get to the river one has to maneuver some semi-steep and uneven rocks.  I wouldn’t call it challenging, but it was important to be sure-footed (as a friend of mine found out the next day when she totally bit it climbing down).  My Vibrams were perfect for the occasion.  I felt like I had a nice firm grip on the rocks and it made walking around the riverbed easy and smooth.

A quick note on the picture above: that rock that Toby is standing on is perfect for diving.  It jets at least 12′ into the water; as Toby discovered when he fell in the first time.  It also happened to be a great sitting rock as it’s recliner-shaped.  I hung out there for quite a while with my legs dangling into the water.  While it wasn’t quite as awesome as our Sunday excursion, lying in tubes on the river for two hours, it was still pretty darn awesome.

I hope you all had a good Independence Day or Canada Day (or just a good weekend for those not celebrating).  I’m enjoying one more holiday day off and then will be getting back on a trail either tomorrow or Wednesday.  We’re getting unseasonably warm temperatures in Vermont for the next few days (90-95ºF) so it’s really going to take some motivation to get out there but I can do it!  That means you can too. 😛

Running Through Clouds Slows Me Down

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Wow, the weather really effects my runs!  Wednesday was extremely humid.  I thought I was being smart by waiting for the major showers to head out but most of the week has been humid with rolling showers and thunderstorms.  It could have been worse, I could have been running on Thursday during the intermittent torrential downpours, though that honestly may have felt better than the thick condensed air that I sludged through on Wednesday.

I’ve mentioned that I have some allergies and have been experiencing occasional breathing issues in the past few weeks.  I hadn’t had any trouble breathing with my new routine but by the last two fields on Wednesday I was really struggling to catch my breath.  It’s so frustrating when my body has more strength than my lungs and sinuses.

Needless to say, my speed did not improve on Wednesday; in fact it decreased but not dramatically.  While I came in at a slower overall pace than the run previous to it, I wasn’t slower than the run previous to that.  I do feel stronger.  While my foot is still giving me some trouble, it’s getting better every day and my body is adjusting well to the new pace.  Once I get more comfortable I’m going to try to push myself a little more and either go farther or job through the slow parts of the workout instead of speed walking.  I’ll decide for sure when I’m ready.

In other exciting news, both the RunKeeper Free version and Pro version have been updated for iOS4 and are available on iTunes.  I upgraded to the Pro version and used it on Wednesday.  The tracking is supposedly better and it did track me as going farther  and the trail it mapped looks much closer to the path I take.  You can see what I mean in the pics below: I didn’t really play with the new app features, but you can read about all of them (and about the new awesome changes to their website) on their blog.  Overall, I’m still very impressed with their software and website integration and I think the pro app was worth the $9.99.

I skipped Friday’s run due to other exercise that day and preparation for an all-day chair massage event tomorrow.  If you’re local, check out my Facebook Fan Page for more info.  Next run is Monday!

Short n’ Sweet

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Oh poor ignored blog!  I apologize for my lack of regular entries.  Due to some family complications my writing schedule has been a little off.  Luckily, my running has been right on schedule!

I can’t believe how much I’ve improved in just four workouts.  The past three runs have been 1.58 miles (I’m sticking to the same path) and I’m continuing to run quickly through the fields and slow down to a light jog or fast walk around the wooded areas.  I’ve found this is both giving my foot a chance to heal and I haven’t had any breathing issues, despite sweating up a storm!  My speed has already increased so much that I’ve cut more than four minutes off the workout!  Woo-hoo!  Eventually I’d like to reintroduce distance along with the speed, but right now I’m enjoying speeding up and having a steady recovery from my foot injury.

I promised you guys a picture of the acupuncture needle I’ve been wearing in my foot and here it is!  

Under that little band-aid is a needle routed through a tiny magnet.  It’s placed on the Liver Meridian, point #3 (LV3) which, aside from aiding my foot, is also a stress-reducer.

I do have a funny story to share.  Yesterday, when I got to work my Vibram’s were still wet from some reservoir swimming I’d done the day before.  Since it was a bright, sunny day I put them on the roof of my car.  Well, around lunch time I headed into town for some grub and then to a client’s home for a consult.  Naturally, I completely forgot the Vibram’s were on my roof.  At the end of the day, I headed out to my car to grab my shoes and hit the trail.  You should have seen the look on my face when I found one sad Vibram clinging to my roof rack, while it’s buddy was no where to be found.  I was furious with myself (though, also amused by my stupidity).  I decided to start driving down the road and fully expected that if I was lucky enough to find my shoe it would certainly have been run over by then.  Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised to not only find the shoe, but I found it intact less than a mile away and near a turn around so it was even easy for me to park and pick it up.  I believe that was the last time I dry my shoes on the roof of my car!

Lastly, I wrote up a synapsis of how technology has aided my running in this week’s Tech Tails newsletter.  Here it is if you’re curious.  Also, if you enjoy my babbling you’re welcome to subscribe to Tech Tails and get a dose of Mac bantering in your inbox every week.

RubiTrack vs. Runkeeper

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This entry brings good news, bad news, and more tech-talk.  First off, a big “Thanks!” goes out to Lillian for suggesting the RunKeeper app as an alternative to Rubitrack.  RunKeeper is another GPS-enabled iPhone app that, like RubiTrack, maps my runs, lets me know my pace and estimates how many calories I’ve burned.  With the Pro version, which I have not tried yet, it also includes coaching encouragement during exercises and built-in iPod support.

I mentioned last week that while Rubitrack was accurate and easy to use, it was also pretty expensive.  I had only downloaded the free app, but if I wanted to sync the activities to my computer I needed to shell out $14.99 for the Pro iPhone App and then a whopping $39.99 for the desktop app.  Considering I’m not at the point where I’m completely gung-ho about running I really wasn’t ready to make a $55 commitment.  RunKeeper is only $9.99 for the Pro app, but even the free app is able to wirelessly sync with their easy-to-use website.

I also have to give RunKeeper props on their GUI, both in the app and on their website.  It’s easy to use and consistent with the Apple-app feel.  It’s prettier than Rubitrack, includes more workout types and seems to be much closer to the feel of the Nike+ app but is both easier to use and has more character; I felt both Rubitrack and Nike+ were a bit stale/sterile feeling.  The activities also auto-sync with the website and I can easily view the map of my runs and elevation, with each mile clearly marked and compare my activities.  I also really love their elevation vs. speed chart.  I found the accuracy to be identical to Rubitrack.  All-in-all, I’m sold!

So that’s the good news; I found a new app that I love.  The bad news is, I really struggled in my runs this week.  Out of the blue, I’m having breathing issues.  I’ve mentioned some breathing issues in humidity here, but this was worse.  Just a few minutes after beginning to run I found myself struggling for air.  I tried to power through, and in many cases did, but I had to walk occasionally to catch my breath.  Friday’s run was even worse as I was getting intermittent sharp pains in my back that seemed to be from my right lung.  I still ran, but only made it through 2.18 miles.  FRUSTRATING!!

It was such a bummer because Thursday night I had awesome dreams about running very fast through a forest.  It felt great!  I’ve also watched my speed naturally improving and it feels so good to run faster without feeling like I’m pushing myself.  According to RunKeeper, my fastest pace was close to an 8-minute mile and my average pace was around a 10-minute mile.  But, if my breath can’t catch up with me there’s obviously an issue.  I tried to be good and slow down, sometimes quite a bit, but even then I was getting those stupid pains in my lung.

To make things more frustrating, I saw the acupuncturist yesterday and she gave me bad news.  I explained that the fascial issues on the bottom of my right foot had greatly diminished, but I was still having fascia problems in the top of my foot (though it was better than it had been) and was now noticing pain in both joints of my big toe.  I also had stiffness on the medial arch of my left foot.  She poked around for a bit, tightening her jaw at times and nodding her head.  I could tell she wanted to tell me not to run, but instead she told me she thought I should, “Run less” at least until the foot heals.  She’s also not a fan of barefoot running, but again she won’t outright tell me that.  Instead, she told me I will make my own decisions (true) and I should do what my body tells me to.  She did also say that the first acupuncture treatment often brings up illnesses within the body from the past.  I used to struggle with exercise-induced asthma, so she thinks that could be why I’m having new breathing issues even though I’m actually running less than I did during the nine weeks of Couch-2-5k.

I had a Thai massage later that day and the massage therapist also noted that maybe running isn’t for me.  Argh!  I’m finally enjoying running, for the first time in my life.  I’m enjoying being outside with my dog, connecting to the Earth with my feet, and exploring the gorgeous trails near me.  I really don’t want to stop!  I also don’t want to hurt myself.  I’m even more dismayed because heart issues run in my family and I constantly struggle to find a cardio routine that works for me.  I love yoga and weight-lifting, but cardio and I struggle to get along.

For now, I still intend to try to run three days a week.  I’m not going to shoot for three miles, I’m just going to shoot for being active for 30 minutes even if that means walking for a bit.  I might also try fast running (since I find that fun) mixed with walking and see how that goes.  Honestly, when I run faster I feel like I run lighter, but I suppose my feet will tell me for sure.  I’m very open to advice/feedback here.  I’d also love to hear other ideas for outdoor dog-involved cardio that would be lower-impact than running.  Ideas?

Nike+ Gets a Big Fat Minus

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Over the passed week I proved unequivocally that the Nike+ program is way under-tracking my runs.  Before I get into my little analysis, I do want to be clear that this could be due to a bad sensor (keep in mind I bought it open-box for $2) or it could be poor sensor placement.  I have friends who swear by Nike+ and love it, but after my experience I’ve found something I like better and that seems more consistent for me so I’m giving up on Nike.

I mentioned in my last entry that I was frustrated after my run on Friday when the Nike+ program told me I had only run 1.74 miles, but when I mapped my run in Google Earth I had actually ran close to four miles.  Things got even stranger when I ran on Monday along the Stowe Quiet Path.  I knew I had run less there than I had run on the Mad River Path, but the Nike+ program thought I actually ran farther; it measured my distance as 2.02 miles, though Google Earth, correctly, mapped me at 3 miles almost on the dot.  Here’s my path from that day, if you’re curious (keep in mind I turn around and run back so the path itself is only about 1.5 miles):

During that run, I had set the Nike+ sensor to calibrate, but I made the mistake of telling it to calibrate a three-mile run.  Since the sensor thought I only ran 2.02 miles it didn’t even give me the option to calibrate, and I was not about to run another mile just to appease it.  Instead, I found a better solution thanks to an old friend; Hank, I owe you one!

Hank responded to my last entry and told me about a program he uses called RubiTrack.  It works with GPS-enabled devices (like my iPhone) and it can actually map the runs and seems to be pretty darn accurate.  I also like that it can sync the information wirelessly with ones computer; a feature that I seriously don’t understand why the Nike software is missing.  All-in-all, RubiTrack makes the Nike+ solution seem antiquated.  That said, the price of the program is rather inhibitive: $14.99 for the iPhone App, $39.99 for the Desktop version.  So far I’ve been playing with the free iPhone version until I decide if it’s for me.

Today, I headed out with both the Nike sensor and the RubiTrack.  I decided to try to calibrate the Nike+ again, first with a mile of walking and then with a mile of running.  I also turned on Rubitrack to test it against the Nike+.  After walking 1.01 miles, according to RubiTrack (and Google Earth), the Nike+ program told me I had only walked 0.20 miles.  That’s it, I officially gave up on the Nike software.  I ran the mile back and RubiTrack tracked me correctly the entire time.

To appease the masses (heh), here is the basic placement of the Nike+ in my Vibram’s:

If you can’t tell from the picture, since that’s a curved area of my foot, the sensor does not sit perfectly parallel to the ground, though it’s pretty darn close.  I couldn’t find a way to center it better, unless I actually put it under my heel.  While that might sound crazy, while I’m running my heels generally do not touch the ground, so I definitely thought of that as an option.  However, when I walk my heels most certainly do touch ground, not to mention it’d be a PITA to take out before swimming post-run.

All-in-all, I think using RubiTrack is going to be the best option.  I won’t need to worry about a sensor in my shoe and I can actually end up with a real map of my run which is pretty exciting.

On a personal-health note, I had a phenomenal visit with the acupuncturist.  I’ll extrapolate in a future entry but I did want to note that while my foot is still in pain and I’m working towards recovery, it’s getting better every day and I do feel I can still run safely.

I am frustrated with my breathing right now, though.  The past two weeks have been quite humid in Vermont and my lungs aren’t handling it well.  I’m finding that I’m struggling to get enough air at times and that makes me want to stop running (in the moment, not for good).  It’s hard to push myself sometimes and without a program like C25K it’s definitely more of a struggle to get out and go.  I’m kind of sad to be saying that only two runs post C25K.  I hope that finding a new program that’s fun and setting some new goals will help keep me engaged and running!