#Fitmom, According to Amy

I use the hashtag #fitmom in a lot of my Instagram posts. Rather than amplify the insurmountable pressure women experience to *do it all,* I want to build women up.

My interpretation of being “fit” is that I want to do activities that I enjoy and that help me be the best version of myself — for my own happiness and for the happiness of my family. If I need a good amount of physical activity each week (or every day) to feel good about myself, that isn’t about comparing myself to other people. That’s about being active, experiencing those exercise-induced endorphins, and being a stronger person because of it.

Personal moment here… I have been treated for a bit of depression in my past. Luckily I was able to catch the signs amy 2and get myself into therapy within a few months and stay proactive about it (ha, as much as you can when you’re talking about depression). I have several close family members who struggle with depression every day, so I had a good idea of what could happen if I let things slip any further out of my control. Anyway, I bring this up to illustrate how exercise plays into my treatment. It was incredibly helpful for me to be able to speak to a mental health professional about my concerns and to come to a plan for keeping my mood balanced. For me, this plan includes goal setting, exercise, and a lot of compassion for myself when I mess up. Running is my anti-depressant right now.

amy 1Pole dancing surprisingly does wonders for my self esteem. When I’m feeling self-conscious about my thighs, my stomach, or any other area, an hour of pole will bring my mood back up. It’s hard not to lift yourself out of a funk when you are literally lifting yourself up! I gain such an appreciation for how my body works when I practice coordinated spins, climbs, and inversions on the pole.

In a similar vein, when I go for a run first thing in the morning, it’s hard to let anything else throughout the day bring me down. I’ve already done something for myself that is productive, good for me, and fun! It helps me find the energy to get through everything else being a stay-at-home mom brings. (I have some opinions about that term, but I’ll get to that later.) Plus, just like with poleamy 3 dancing, it’s hard to feel down about myself when I am able to physically conquer the goals I set out for myself.

 

A #fitmom doesn’t have to be an athlete. She can be a mom who picks up her kid when they cry, a mom who is strong enough to be the emotional backbone of her family, a mom who juggles her own self-care with the needs of her kids. I am a #fitmom, and I invite other moms to identify their strengths and fitness too.

 

 

 

Beet All About It

Recently on one of my long elliptical sessions, I listened to the Running for Real podcast, in this particular interview Tina Muir spoke with Dr. Andrew Jones. I was very intrigued by this episode. With the title: “What we can learn from the greatest runners of all time,” I knew it was worth listening to. Dr. Jones is a physiologist who has worked with one of the best distance runners of all time, Paula Radcliff. Most recently he played a huge part in Nike’s Sub 2 hour marathon project. Aside from all the impressive runners Dr. Jones has worked with, he also been unlocking the secrets to beetroot.

Beetroots, you stare puzzled at the screen?

YES, Beetroot!

While coaching and competing in the sport for many years, I have seen all sorts of strange habits and rituals runners do in order to push themselves over the edge just a tiny bit farther. I have in fact seen athletes chug or take shots of beetroot juice literally 45 minutes before toeing the line of a race. I personally could not imagine having the taste of beets in my mouth and settling in my stomach minutes before an all out 5k effort. But what can I say, we all do strange things to help our performances. Some people stick with Gu, others want Beets!

I have heard and read a tiny bit about the science behind beets, but the podcast episode with Dr. Jones really sparked my interest.

So what does Beetroot do for us?

Well, beetroot contains high amounts of inorganic nitrate, which once ingested turns into Nitric oxide. Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator, which means our arteries dilate or become larger. When our arteries dilate, there is an increase in blood flow which means oxygen can travel much faster to our muscles. Theoretically, if our muscles are able to get oxygen quicker this would mean that it would take longer for our bodies to hit the dreaded “wall.” In other words, we should be able to last longer during endurance events.

I’m not going to lie, I like the sound of that!

Well then, How much do I take?
After doing to light reading, about 4 days of beet juice is what in needed to hit the optimal level of Nitrates. Three days prior to the event/ hard workout as well as the morning of the event.

What am I doing:
Based upon the little bits of research, I decided to give this a try. I purchased a small container of Beetroot powder which I am adding to my smoothies about 3 days out from my hardest sessions and races. I will also take a glass of water with the powder the morning of the workout/event. But not 45 minutes before the run, more like 3 hours before. Honestly, it may be more of a placebo effect, as I have no real way of knowing whether or not I truly am able to last longer on my runs. But, it will be fun to experiment with this beetroot fad.pexels-photo-674689.jpeg

 

Disclaimer: The content above is not intended to be medical, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek medical attention and advice before starting any new nutritional regimen.
Sources:
Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review
https://irun4ultra.org/beet-juice-super-drink-endurance-athletes/

Running Your Strengths

For the past 17 years I have been told:

  1.       Your hips are too weak, you need to do X,Y,Z.
  2.       Your calves are not strong enough, you need to do X,Y,Z.
  3.       Your upper body is super weak, you need to do X,Y,Z.

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Honestly the list could go on forever. These statements came from some of the best coaches, sports medicine doctors, physical therapists, and many more professionals within the running industry. All these statements are in fact true and I did and still need to do all the workouts, exercises, pre and post rehab routines which were given to me. However, it can be a little depressing being told all the areas you need to work on in order to run faster, stay injury free, and so forth. It gets to a point where you are constantly managing all of your weaknesses. It is definitely important and vital to work on all your weaknesses. By strengthening the areas of weakness, you become so much stronger physically and mentally. When you finally conquer your weaknesses, you are that much closer to your goals. My advice is to not let your weaknesses overshadow your strengths. Your strengths are the reasons you truly made it this far!

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With this in mind I have been telling myself to–work on your weaknesses but DO NOT forget your strengths. I have noticed with this mindset I feel more confident and excited to put in the work. Don’t get me wrong, I always love putting in the work, it’s just easier now.

So how have I fused this mindset with my own running endeavors? I went back through my old training journals and reminisced in my past. I needed to rediscover my strength and included it in my training. What is it that made me “good/love” running? After a little bit of research… I remembered. The workouts which showed my strengths were aerobic threshold runs. Simpler term: marathon- half marathon paced runs. Knowing my strength, I have focused on making sure I run one of these workouts every 7-10 days. Having something to look forward to every week makes it so much easier to do the hard stuff and the little things which I need to power my weaknesses.  

Go make a list of your strengths and do not forget to include them into your week!

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5 Months of 5k Evolution

Hey everyone, Assistant Coach Amy here. Today I’m writing about how my 5 kilometer races have improved over the past 5 months, with the help of Coach Anissa’s guidance.

Leading up to Run Scream Run, a Halloween themed 5k at Wiard’s Orchard in Ypsilanti, I followed an 8-week training plan that I found online. The beginner program was pretty good for me, and as this was my first 5k, I was just happy to have something to follow. I nervously showed up to the race super early, watching other runners warm up and admiring the plethora of Halloween costumes. When it was finally time to start, I was a cold bundle of nerves. I took off way faster than I should have and just set a goal to survive! I almost walked at one point, but managed to stay focused on running. In the end, I squeaked in under 25 minutes with a time of 24:59.9. I was thrilled with this time and started looking forward to the next race.amy run TT

I talked to Anissa about my program and what kind of progress she thought I could make in a month — I wanted to prepare for a Turkey Trot in November. She excitedly told me that if I incorporated some speedwork into my week and increase my running to 4 days per week (up from 2-3), I might be able to get down to 22:xx. I was skeptical but went with her suggestions.

5 weeks later, I dragged my husband and baby to another race. This time it was like 12 degrees outside and we were all freezing. Luckily, there was a heated brick building at the park so we were able to stay warm before the race. My strategy this time was to go as fast as I could for the first mile and then try to maintain that for as long as possible. And not die. It was HARD. I got off to a fast start, stayed with the 22-minute pacer (there were pacers!) for the first half of the race, and then ran into some difficulties. The route was hard for observers to access, so it ended up being pretty and peaceful on the back half of the course. This was nice, but I was really relying on the pep of people with cowbells and smiling faces. With freezing hands, I waved to the photographer and smiled (and my face was so cold that I wasn’t actually sure if it looked like I smiled), and got a pretty good picture. I finished this race with a time of 23:42. I shaved off more than a minute in only a month of training!143009-062-002h

I planned on running another race in December, but ended up with travel plans and family visits that interfered. So, my next holiday themed race happened in March 2018, at the Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5k. Again, my preparation for this race included a lot of guidance and support from Anissa! Starting in January, we upped my training to 5 days per week, including speedwork, weights, and injury prevention exercises.

I have really got to plan ahead with the costumes — there were tons of people dressed up at this race! I knew it was going to be a tough course with a long hill and several shorter hills. Even so, I was hoping for a new PB. Luckily, I like to work hard on a hill, so I was able to pass a lot of people who might have been more psyched out by the hills. I pushed myself so hard throughout the race that I didn’t have anything left in the tank for a kick at the end. The end was the end for me. I finished in 22:52, which ended up being 1st in my age group (what!!).amy run sham

I’m amazed and excited with my progress over these past 5 months!

Training for those moments when your feet never touch the ground.

In running we read and listen to so many scientific studies, magazine article, and podcasts which are trying to discover the secret to faster running. When it comes to studying running economy, ground contact time plays an important role in one’s ability to set personal bests and even world bests. Ground contact time is a relatively scientific term in the running realm which is defined as the amount of time your foot is in contact with the ground while running. Typically, as your pace increases your ground contact time decrease. When you take a moment to really think about how long your foot is in contact with the ground per stride, it only makes sense, the shorter the contact time= the faster you run.

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Is the secret to running fast that simple?
Possibly. I am no scientist but it makes sense. What I do know based on my own personal experiences, when you have those moments in training runs, workouts, races, and even life, where you literally feel as if you are flying, your ground contact time is probably pretty quick. However, I am certain it goes much deeper than science. I believe those moments of soaring come from something so much greater. Your next question may be:

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So how do we fly?
We persevere. No matter what life hands us. It is our jobs to put in the work so we can have those moments where our feet never touch the ground.
As Peter Pan once said, “Think happy thoughts and you will fly.”
Let the Training Begin!relay-race-competition-stadium-sport.jpg