Challenges are meant to be challenging.

This past Saturday, I received a Facebook message from a fellow runner, Donny, asking if I would be interested in joining his team to take part in the Canadian Death Race, which happens in Grande Cache, Alberta, in the first week of August.  I agreed almost instantly.

Although nobody has ever died in the Canadian Death Race, I suppose the potential is always there. The course is 125 km, covers 3 mountain summits, and has 17,000 feet of elevation change.  Racers can race solo or in teams of 5.  The leg that I would be running is leg 4 – and nearly half of the elevation change comes from this leg alone.  It might be the hardest leg of the whole race.  Leg 4 is 32 km long, and the cut-off time is 4:15 am, which means that there is the possibility that I’ll be running a portion of it in the dark. I’ll need running poles, a headlight, camel back, food, extra warm clothing, sunscreen, etc.

The biggest challenge that I’ll be facing with this race is getting in sufficient training in the next month and a half. If you’re from Cambridge, you’ll understand that there are not very many hills in the area, and the hills that do exist don’t compare to Canadian mountains! So, I will be blogging daily about my preparation for the race – partially to keep myself on track, and partially so that I have a record of my training so I can see what works and doesn’t work, and make changes as I go along.

I’m quite happy that I did a marathon only a month ago, and enjoyed the first 32 km of it (I wasn’t keen on the last 10!!!), so it’s a nice long distance that I’ve done a few times before.

I plan on using sprinting, short, fast runs, some trail runs, & kettlebells to get ready for this race. I plan on eating Paleo in a LeanGains style for 5 days/week, and fully enjoying myself on the weekends (while still following LeanGains). I will be consuming SaltStick on my long runs, and will use it during the actual race.  I’m going to make a huge effort to get to bed by 10:30 5 nights per week, and incorporate a good amount of recovery into my training plan.

I have two 10K races coming up in the next 2 weeks, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ll use these more as recovery runs than anything, as I’ll be running with some friends who aren’t as crazy as I am.

This is Day -46.  My workout for today (as I’m pressed for time due to a Wednesday morning transatlantic flight tomorrow) will be the Domo Arigato, Mr. Tabata LAG challenge, the LAG W.O.D., & a 20 minute Kettlebell blaster with Amber later this evening, and this baby:

Squat Ladder:

10, then 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1  x   12kg goblet squats, pistol box squats (l&r), 12kg sumo squats with leg raise. This equals a total of 55 repetitions per exercise.

Today’s Tabata Challenge:


Today’s W.O.D.:

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#RUNCBG Like A Girl

Calling all Cambridge runners! It’s spring, and therefore (in our opinion), it’s the official running season! We think running is rad, and it’s our favorite mode of transportation at L.A.G. for the following reasons, among a million others:

  1. Doesn’t require any petrol
  2. No need to lock anything up
  3. Faster than just walking
  4. Neon clothing is acceptable, and encouraged
  5. It’s done according to your own schedule
  6. Practically free
  7. Shortcuts galore
  8. Makes you feel happy

One other reason we love running is to enjoy the scenery. There are so many tiny details waiting to be noticed, and running provides the opportunity to do so.  How well do you actually know Cambridge? How many streets have you walked past, instead of down? Ever run along the river until you can’t run any further? Climbed a tree along the way?

Our Spring run like a girl challenge begins today. We’re setting the end date at May 31st, which gives us 2 months to complete it. The challenge? To run Cambridge like a girl in support of a local Cambridge charity, Rowan.  We will literally aim to run down every single street/passageway/walking path in Cambridge. If we hit our target early, we’ll expand to neighbouring villages.

In addition to our Thursday evening running sessions, we’ll be offering a couple of extra free runs/week (t.b.a. on our Facebook page & this blog). You are encouraged to hit the streets in your own time to rack up the miles.

We will be making (in the coming days) a giant map of Cambridge on our computers and then we’ll track every individual’s running. You can choose whatever color you’d like to represent your own runs, and our run like a girl club will be the official L.A.G. pink (as in our logo). In the end, we envision a fantastic graphic of multicolored lines that criss-cross, weave, overlap & underlap.

To track your runs, we recommend using an App such as Endomondo, or manually entering your route in Gmap Pedometer. Just email us your route to info@likeagirlfitness.com so that we can log the data, and add a pretty line to our map of Cambridge.

We need a photo for EVERY run that goes on the map! It has to have a part of you in it (shoes/full body/face only) but can be of the scenery, a funny sign, an animal, landmark, etc. These should be emailed with your route info & also uploaded to fb with Like A Girl Fitness tagged in the photo and #RUNCBG as the caption :o)

You don’t have to raise money, but we know that Rowan truly appreciates any donations, so they are our charity of choice.  The fundraising page can be found here.  This is a group charity page, so please send your friends and family this link!  Possible ideas for fundraising include: asking friends to pledge an amount that will be paid when we completely run Cambridge &  asking friends to donate 50p for every mile that you run.  The possibilities are endless.

On May 31st, we’ll have a social get-together to celebrate our success.  Our pages will be updated with further information as this event progresses (how to obtain #RUNCBG tee-shirts, etc).

Let us know if you’d like to be a part of #RUNCBG. It’s gonna be off the hook, as Whitney would say 😉

The perfect snack for a warm & summery afternoon

Blueberry & Cinnamon Chia Pudding:

1 small handful of blueberries

2-3  tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp raw almond butter

1 dollop full fat greek yogurt (optional)

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 splash of vanilla extract

1  dash of cinnamon

Mix everything up & wait a couple of minutes for the chia seeds to absorb the liquid. Devour. Have seconds.

Four minutes to freedom

Or maybe 14…

I haven’t done tabatas since Saturday because of experiencing a whole new level of DOMS, so this morning I’m playing catch-up!  3 tabatas back to back, with 1 minute of rest in between to give me a 14 minute workout and set me up for the day.

Tabata 1: Single Arm Swings R & L

Tabata 2: Surfer Girls R & L

Tabata 3: Jump Lunges & Jump Squats

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Maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed.

Maybe they need to run free, until they find someone, just as wild, to run with (SATC).

My 2012 in a nutshell:

Almost anyone: ‘Blah blah blah… challenge…  blah blah blah!’
Me: ‘Challenge accepted!’

I love a good challenge, and I could even make the argument that I need challenges to keep me motivated to do my workouts, run a little bit longer, eat cleanly, etc.  My downfall is that I usually end up agreeing to challenges that look good on paper, but don’t bring me the complete & utter fulfillment that I’m expecting. And that is when I actually complete the challenge!

At the end of December, I committed myself to an outrageous challenge: to run every day for 6 months. That didn’t go so well.

A week into January, while on vacation, I thought I might just take a quick nap before going for my run. That nap turned into a 13 hour slumber. I decided that I would give myself one ‘absolutely too exhausted to run’ card every month. A couple of weeks later, I had a hard time mustering up the energy to get off of the computer, but needed to go across the street to Tesco to pick up a couple of things, so I created and immediately awarded myself a ‘run to Tesco and back’ card that could be used once per month. Only days later, I missed my run completely and invented a ‘time zone’ card, which  allowed me to count a run twice, provided it was completed in a 7 hour time frame where Alberta & Cambridge were on different days of the week. Grasping at straws, much?

February came and I ran. Then it got cold, snowed, and I didn’t run. Within the first week I ended up using my ‘absolutely too exhausted to run’ card & my ‘time zone’ card, and missing a run on top of that (I didn’t even get off my butt just to run to Tesco). It would have been ridiculous to keep inventing cards that validated every excuse in the book. And, I wasn’t enjoying running.

A few nights ago, I allowed myself to contrive one final card: a ‘get out of this challenge for free’ card. No questions asked, just t’s & c’s that require me to want to run whenever I go running.  Weight lifted, and I’m back to loving running.

My passion for running has been resuscitated, and I spent part of Wednesday evening online choosing my next few races.  I’ve registered for the Copenhagen Marathon, with Claire (& Thomas??)  which is on the 20th of May. I’m eagerly anticipating the registration for this year’s Zest Girls Big Adventure Race, and am getting psyched for the Spartan Race in July. There are a couple of 1/2  marathons taking place over the next few months that I might register for as well.  I’m planning on running an Oregon wine country half marathon with a good friend from Canada, and trying to convince the same friend to run the Honolulu Marathon in December.  I’d love to try a duathlon this summer as well. And fit in as many adventure races as possible.

I suppose the moral of the story is that each of us is the designer of our own life.  I am engineering my own adventures, and am not going to risk making myself miserable or anxious by enforcing rules of a challenge that I’m not 100% enamoured with.  I love a good challenge, and they don’t all crash and burn like the ‘run every day’ challenge, but I’m okay with letting myself off the hook once in awhile. I want to enjoy my life, and live it fully completely. On my own terms!

BTW, today’s tabatas are:

Alternating Dead Position Kettlebell Snatches

&

Roundhouse Kick Squats 

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Estonian Evil Jumps & Macedonian Mountain Climbers

It’s become increasingly apparent at the Cambridge KettleBelles’ studio that all of  the ‘best,’ and therefore (my) favorite exercises are prefixed with a nationality: Bulgarian split squats, Russian twists, Hindu push-ups, etc. Last night at the studio, during PRESS!!!, the girls made an observation that evil jumps are so evil, they should be preceded by an Eastern European nationality adjective, soooo we decided to call them Estonian Evil Jumps.  When paired with Estonian Evil Jumps, I think that mountain climbers are worthy of a nationality, too.  Today’s tabatas are:

Estonian Evil Jumps

&

Macedonian Mountain Climbers

Have fun!

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A humerus post, indeed!

I spent my Tuesday morning in the most extraordinary way: wearing a white lab coat emblazoned with ‘For Dissecting Room Use Only’ on the back in one of the KCL Hodgkin Building’s dissecting laboratories with a group of similarly curious individuals from a background that ranged from osteopathy to chiropractic to massage.  We were brought together, in what can only be described as a dream come true for me, by The London Massage Company’s ‘Day in a Dissection Lab’ workshop.  I have wanted to work on a cadaver since high school (& yes, I realise this is a little bit weird).

Hodgkin Building, KCL

I was a tad nervous when I entered the lab, and even while looking & keeping right (as instructed) , I couldn’t help but catch glimpses of the preserved specimens adorning the room. Actual human skeletons dangled from their stands and added – dare I say – a homely presence to the stainless steel sterility of the room. The smell didn’t put me off like it did some of the others – it just smelled like 5th floor Cell Biology at the U of A – kind of comforting?? Smells like home! Our teacher for the day, Jane, instructed us to put on some lab coats & then passed our workbooks for the day out… and before we knew, it was business time!

To ease us into the more macabre events of the morning, we started with bones – namely, 2 boxes of wingbones (scapulae) & a box of humeri. In small groups, we compared ‘our’ bones. This was an interesting exercise because it became remarkably obvious that no two bones are alike, and that vast differences (in size, thickness, groove depth, fossa indentation, etc) exist between samples. Often we assume that because one experiences pain, they must have sustained an injury, but this helped impress in our minds that individuals can be pre-disposed to certain injuries because of the morphology of their skeletal system. I’m a very hands-on learner, so being able to hold an actual scapula, and then palpate my partner’s scapula formed a solid connection in my mind, and I can now easily visualise what the scapula might look like in a person who has a short or tight pectoralis minor 🙂 Good to know.

Okay, so bones were a walk in the park! It was time for some heavier material. In my 27.9 years of life experience, this was my first time seeing dead human tissue.  I went in without any expectations, and I came out realising that underneath the skin, we are very similar to our animal kingdom friends.   I couldn’t help but compare (in my mind) the human tissue to cooked animal meat, and luckily it wasn’t just me. Cautiously, my course mates started volunteering bits and pieces of the conversations they were having in their minds: ‘kind of looks like salami,’ one woman said describing a cross-section of an arm with skin intact. We all decided then and there that – at least for lunchtime- we were vegetarian.

About 10 different arms were laid out around the room for us to examine. These were all dissected differently so we could get a really good handle on muscle size, order, and origins and insertions.  Some arms had the fascia intact, which was quite fascinating to see – – it’s much more substantial than I imagined it would be! Teres minor & major were surprisingly meaty, for lack of a better term, and the coracoid process is a hot spot for muscle attachment; suddenly it was very easy to imagine how muscular imbalances can cause so many issues.

Dissection Table

The legs were probably my favorite –  I didn’t even know I was a ‘leg girl’!  They were very heavy, but that didn’t stop me from lifting them, turning them, flexing and extending them, and really getting up close and personal with them. At one point, I was totally engrossed with the knee joint, and noticed the woman next to me flinching and moving her head back everytime I made the leg extend. ‘Relax! I’m not going to kick you,’ I reassured her.  Actually, I wasn’t so sure that I wouldn’t; legs are VERY heavy, and it was a lot of work for my two little biceps to simulate the work of the hamstrings.   It was supremely  fascinating to follow the muscles of the leg from their origins to insertions and easy to appreciate the complexity of our construction.

I personally have really tight leg muscles – gastroc & soleus (calf muscles), adductors, illiotibial band (ITB), hamstrings, quads – you name it, I get tightness or pain there. From my kinetic chain assessment course at the end of January, I can also tell you that this is likely due to my pronation/external rotation/ tight MTP joints/all of the above.  Take my ITB – on days when my right IT band is really tight, forward lunges cause a screaming localised pain halfway between my knee and hip, on the outside of my thigh.  In my not-to-scale mind, the IT band must be MASSIVE in order to cause so much pain. Actually, it’s very hard to determine where the ITB begins and ends because it is literally a slight thickening of the fascia. When the laboratory demonstrators are preparing the specimen, they guess at where the ITB begins and ends and make educated cuts.

Next we looked at some torsos & tried to pinpoint the elusive QL – Quadratus Lumborum, which is a major source of lower back pain. I probably should have paid more attention to this part, but after two hours of analysing arms and legs, my mind was starting to wander.   For the final half hour, we went off-leash and were allowed to open any of the dissection tables that we wanted to. Most of the cadavers were in their 80s and had died of cancers, or other ‘common’ ailments. There was a striking difference in the state of the cadavers that were ‘professionally’ dissected vs those that were being dissected by the medical students, so I called it quits after peaking in a few tables. Then, I washed my hands 3 times.

After lunch (vegetarian, & very bland), we had the option of visiting the Gordon Museum of Pathology, which is the UK’s largest medical museum.  The collection is spread over three floors, with 4 interconnected rooms on each level. I would try to explain it, but this video does an excellent job of introducing the museum. Those who knew me while I was doing my undergraduate genetics degree at the U of A will not be surprised to find that my favorite section of the museum was that containing congenital birth defect specimen. I finally saw first-hand examples of foetal teratomas and cyclopic babies. I don’t mean to be gory in my interests, but as a geneticist, it is my nature to study the mutations in order to learn more about wildtype.

To all of my fitness professional or massage therapist friends: I couldn’t recommend this course enough. I’m definitely looking forward to taking more course from the London Massage Company.  To everyone: please don’t be offended if I seem to be dissecting you with my eyes over the next few days 😉 I’m sure it will pass!

Icing on the cake: yesterday, I discovered the TV series called ‘Anatomy for Beginners.’   In it,  Dr Gunther von Hagens (Body Worlds) and pathologist Professor John Lee present a real-time dissection of an unpreserved human cadaver. I’ve already watched the first episode on movement, and am looking forward to watching the rest of the series.  It is very educational, and not as creepy as you might expect.

P.S. I’ve still been doing my tabatas, I just haven’t been posting them :/ I will do better!

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What do you get when you mix a Sumo with a Donkey?

Here’s what you don’t get: much of a punchline!

Today’s tabatas:

20/10 x 8  (20s of work/10s of rest x 8 rounds total)

 

Sumo Squats

&

Donkey Kicks

I’m off to bed after these tabatas! Tomorrow morning I’ve got a hot date in the dissection lab (no disrespect intended).  This is something I’ve been looking forward to for 9 years!

P.S. Something I’m also excited about: Animal Inside Out at the NHM!

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Snowbatas! Pancakes! Opportunities!

Last night, it snowed.  It snowed last week, too –   for about 60s – and the snow flakes were so translucent that you could barely discern them as flakes.  This time, though, it REALLY snowed!  Even Canadians would be in awe. The difference is that (most of) Canada would be prepared to deal with this amount of fluff, and for 7 months of the year, a lot of Canadians are in the snow-removal industry, so rely on it to feed their families and fuel their skidoos.

When I say that Canadians would be in awe, I mean that they would be in awe for a good 10 minutes before bundling up and starting to shovel. You don’t want to let the snow sit for too long, as the deeper it gets (or the more times you back out of your driveway), the harder it is to shovel.  This amount of snow might mean that you drive thru Tim Hortons, instead of parking and walking in, and that you get an XL  double double instead of just an L (providing you frequent a Timmy’s that has calibrated dispensers to ensure that your dbl dbl tastes the same no matter what size you order).

Because of all the aput, Cambridge KettleBelles decided to cancel SuperWomen Sundays!!! This is totally Donna-approved for a few reasons: 1. I did not want to bike through this snow, 2. The studio doesn’t have central heating and our little space heater wouldn’t have done much today, and 3. I get to make pancakes now. And maybe start playing the guitar.

My snowbatas for this morning are:

1.  goblet squats

&

2. double lunges

In case you missed the first post (introducing my tabata challenge), you can check it out here. Thank you to Rhone Conditioning for introducing me to the cute term, snowbatas 🙂

If you want an extra workout to do on top of the tabatas, check out the W.O.D. I made for the KettleBelles called ‘No Frills Snow Thrills’ !

Time for me to do my tabatas so that I can make some pancakes! Pictures to hopefully follow :o)
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My February

I’ve just finished my February vision board. January was a bit ambitious, and there were a couple of goals that I didn’t achieve (1 full pull-up, guitar songs, writing every day), so these are incorporated into this month’s plan of action. I’ve kept it simple & relatively open to interpretation.

I think February is totally manageable, though :o) I already know which songs I want to learn on the guitar (New Girl theme song & Molly Smiles). I’m well on my way to a single strict pull-up, and I’m planning a 6 day juice detox from the 12th to the 18th.

I’m also creating a new exercise programme  – #ahap – that incorporates my running, pull-ups, kettlebells, Ladies Who Lift, bootcamp, and rest.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll post my workouts daily.

NOW I can go to bed 🙂 x