' Adventures with FitNyx: February 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015

Event Recap: Hustle up the Hancock 2015

This weekend, downtown Chicago hosted one of the largest stair climbing competitions in the country: the 17th annual Hustle Up the Hancock, which offers a 94-story full climb or a 52-story half climb to the top of Chicago's John Hancock Center.  Over 4,000 people participated in the event yesterday, raising over $1 million towards lung disease research via the Respiratory Health Association.  Among those participants, there were dozens of heartwarming and heartbreaking stories of loved ones surviving or suffering from lung disease, but for me, the story of the day was my father.

I've written a little bit before about my dad, who has been an inspiration and heavy motivation for me in my fitness journey.  We've run some awesome races together, and he's spent the last few years honing his stair climbing technique through annual attempts to Tackle the Tower, Cleveland's big stair climb.  This year, he finally pulled the trigger on the Hancock signups, and managed to reserve his spot right away!  After months (really years) of training in random corporate stairwells after-hours, he made the trip out here to take on one of Chicago's tallest buildings.

The John Hancock Center is a massive 100-story building that stretches up over 1,100 feet along Chicago's Magnificent Mile.  We've seen giant buildings before, but what really struck us as we surveyed the site the night before was that the Hancock's base is so humble and innocuous!  It's hardly the vast construction you'd think would be needed to support such a giant building.  I seriously think the (nerd alert) sandcrawler in Star Wars had a bigger base when they built the scale model in Tunisia for up-close scenes.

It was freezing cold in Chicago all weekend, so I was worried we'd be waiting outside this monster while the runners were in the stairwell - but was pleasantly surprised to find that there was ample space in the lower lobby for family and friends to wait.  It was still a madhouse, though, with hundreds of people packed in there at any given time.  Climber waves assembled every 15 minutes, with another climber starting roughly every eight seconds.  Dad was hoping to reach the top of the full climb (94 floors) somewhere in the 20-25 minute range, based on his previous stair climbs and practice runs in smaller buildings.  His start time hit and off he went, while I waited with my mom down in the lobby.

And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Even if he took a half hour to get up the stairs, we expected him back down in less than an hour - but no!  We forgot about the mob scene at the TOP of the building, when all the climbers finished and needed to recover before heading back down.  By the time my dad reached the top, there was a huge line of earlier participants waiting to come back down in one of only two elevators that was running to bring people back to the ground.  Eventually, we found him after watching many elevator loads that did NOT include my dad, since he had been ushered to the service elevator in an attempt to speed things up at the top floor.

After such a long wait, Dad had all the time he needed to recover, so we headed straight for the Hilton across the street where the Hustle Expo was being held (and, conveniently, where we'd stayed the night before, thanks to a great Hustler discount).  The Expo wasn't much to write home about, just a handful of local vendors and a light buffet for the runners, so we headed straight for the most important thing: the results table.  According to the semi-official results, Dad CRUSHED his expected time, making it to the top of the Hancock in only 16 minutes and 47 seconds!  We were absolutely floored!  I know my dad is The Man but my goodness, I never knew he was Beast Mode!

As a side note, I'd like to point out how awesome the event shirt is.  It says "good things come to those who hustle", which is an idea that was foundational to some of my early soccer coaches and helped lay the foundation for my own athletic career.  I'm kicking myself for not thinking ahead and volunteering for this event, which would have landed me the same shirt in a beautiful turquoise shade - maybe next year!  I also really like the medal, and can't wait to make Dad another medal hanger for this excellent piece of bling!

Dad seemed to enjoy the event (as much as he ever *seems* to enjoy anything that involves crazy traffic and way too many people) and definitely did an amazing job of Hustling up the Hancock, but I'm sure he, like myself, will want to push next year to be better and faster!  Despite my knee issues, I'm incredibly tempted to give this event a try next year myself!  It would be a great accomplishment to add to my racing resume, even if I can't do it in a competitive time!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Product Review: Dr Cool Recovery Wraps (GIVEAWAY!)

All my life, I have been an athlete.  Soccer, lacrosse, running, dancing...  And all that time, I have been putting lots of wear and tear on my body.  I suffer from chronic pain thanks to hundreds of tiny little injuries racked up over a lifetime of pushing myself physically.  I'm always on the lookout for new solutions to an old problem.

A couple weeks ago I heard about a company called Dr Cool, makers of a new twist on the old ACE bandage.  The Dr Cool recovery wraps have a special inner layer that absorbs and holds water, which you then freeze before applying the wrap to your affected area.  The outer layer is soft Velcro, so your wrap stays in place, applying both compression and ice simultaneously, while still being flexible and comfortable enough for you to go about your life while you treat your injuries.

It seemed like an excellent idea, so I grabbed a medium-sized wrap (intended for areas like the knee, elbow, or shoulder) and gave it a try!  So far I have worn my wrap three times, each time on my body's worst joint: my knees.  To provide thorough basis for comparison, I have always wrapped ONLY my right knee, though both right and left experience the same pain.

At first, I wasn't entirely sure I believed this wrap could freeze and still be flexible enough to actually wrap.  Boy was I wrong!  I kept it in the freezer for a little under a half hour, and had a good consistency of freeze going on while still being able to twist the wrap every which way.  I think the trick is to keep the wrap rolled when you're freezing it, but I haven't tested freezing it folded or all stretched out yet.

Despite years of sore knees, I'd never actually applied an ACE bandage myself, so it took some trial and error to figure out how best to apply the right amount of compression while retaining flexibility.  After a few attempts, though, I had myself all wrapped up!  It was verrrrrrrrry cold!  But it stayed in place, moved fluidly when I needed to move around, and didn't cut into my leg no matter how I bent.

After my first use, I already noticed a big difference.  My knee, which hasn't been pain-free in probably at least a decade, didn't feel a thing - and the first test was after last Sunday's race, which was extra rough on my body thanks to a woeful lack of training.  I was even able to tackle stairs without any pain!  It was a revelation.  I've used the wrap after classes a few times now too, with similar results.  I'll have to get a second wrap now so both knees can experience the same relief!  Having ice and compression wrapped (literally) into one easy package will make caring for my aches so much easier, and will help me nurse myself to better health - and better performance!

And, thanks to the generous people at Dr Cool, YOU can take better care of yourself, too!  I have not one but TWO wraps to give away to my wonderful readers!  As always, enter using the Rafflecopter below.  The winners will get to select their size and color preferences; you can check out this handy chart to help you decide:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to also check out my Current Promotions page for additional discounts and updates on my latest giveaways!  Check back soon - there are many more awesome products to be won!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Reflections on an anniversary.

One year ago, I went through one of the worst days of my life.  I'm not here to linger on the details of that day; instead, I'm taking today to look back at the past year and take stock of all the positive things that have come out of a situation that lit a surprising fire under me.  This is a very personal post, and forgive me if I rehash things I've already addressed on this blog, but I found today to be an especially poignant day to remind myself of how AWESOME the past year has been and how far I have come despite adversity.

I started running.  The very first time I ever threw on sneakers and went out side to just run was 365 days ago.  True, that first time was an attempt to vent hurt and frustration, but it got me moving.  In the weeks to follow, I would go run, even just around the block, at least once a week - I wasn't even that consistent when I had to mail in workout calendars to prove I was keeping up with my summer workout packet from my college soccer coach!  Eventually I was inspired to take my running to a race situation, and feel in love with endurance sports.  I also now have an ever-growing friend base from the running community that is making my life a thing full of joy and excitement!

I got a new job in physical therapy.  Though that job didn't last as long as I would have liked, it helped set the tone for my future.  I learned so much about the body, about exercise, about rehabilitation, but most importantly about how working in the fitness/wellness industry affected me.  Before that job, I had been struggling to figure out what direction my career should take.  Office management had its perks, but it didn't feel like I belonged there.  Physical therapy showed me how interesting and exciting the wellness industry is, and proved to me that I had true passion for working with clients in an exercise setting.  For the first time in ages, I finally had direction and purpose.

I earned my Zumba license.  I'd thought about it previously, but last April I finally pulled the trigger, thanks to some very generous help from my amazing brother.  The most convenient class was in Wisconsin, so I headed up there and took my day-long training, uncertain of where or when I'd ever get an opportunity to teach, worrying I wouldn't make a very good instructor because I'm not a great dancer, but determined to do the best I could.  Two weeks after receiving my license, I was auditioning for my first job - and I got it!  I learned a lot in my first gym, and have since rotated through several different locations.  Now I'm settling into a great schedule at a gym down the block where I've even found the opportunity to teach Zumba Step, a fusion of traditional step aerobics and Zumba dance!

I started focusing on myself.  This is a big one - I've always struggled with putting myself first, and have often let myself get bogged down in all the reasons why I can't prioritize my dreams.  This past year has found me making decisions based on what is best for me, not what seems to be the "acceptable" choice.  I recently took a big pay cut to switch jobs, cutting my commute down from 1.5 hours each way to less than 15 minutes round trip, giving me more time for my classes and blogging, and greatly reducing the amount of stress on my shoulders.  I've had to make a few sacrifices, but the value of my time is finally something I can acknowledge and honor.  It's been a great couple of months, and I feel like I am not only building a better future, but I also feel like I have found a level of freedom that I haven't experienced in my life previously.

One year ago, my life sucked.  Today, my life rocks!  I took the negativity and used it as fuel to push harder, to drive myself to become the person I've always wanted to be.  There's still a long road ahead before I've accomplished everything I have planned and find myself complete, but if these last twelve months have shown, it's going to be a very exciting ride!

How have you managed to overcome adversity?  What made you a better, stronger you?  I'd love to hear your stories!  And, if you're struggling with adversity, please know you can reach out to me at any time - it always helps to have a support team when you're faced with challenges!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Race Recap: Northshore Cupid's Love Dash 5k

It's cold.  It's snowy.  It's icy.

But it's time to run.

My eyes might be closed.  Deal with it.

That's why I signed up for the Cupid's Love Dash from Carpe Diem Races: to get off my cold butt and get moving!  In the past they've offered both 10k and 5k distances, but this year was only a 5k, which was just right for kicking off the season!  I was really hoping having some races on my calendar would inspire me to train a little more, but short of a couple puppy runs, I let the weather scare me off the streets.  I had some treadmills available, but when it comes down to it, I simply didn't light my own fire, so I wasn't quite ready for race day.

It didn't help that the day dawned dreary, with a cold mist and temperatures hovering just above freezing.  Even if I had run a few more times, I can't imagine that my race day would have been anything about which to brag, considering the conditions.  Thankfully, I'd been able to make packet pick-up the day before, and could wait in my car until the last minute.  When I headed over to the starting area, I was pleasantly surprised to see a pretty big crowd despite the winter adversity!

I'd never run a race in that area, nor a race from this company, so I wasn't sure what to expect - though my packet pick-up experience had set a great tone.  The staff was all smiles and very helpful in answering some questions I'd had about the race.  I had the same impression at the pre-race festivities: smiles, excitement, and a love of racing.  The staff attitudes were infectious, and everyone waiting to run seemed to be having a great time in spite of the temperature and precipitation.

We started exactly on time, and poured down the main street for the first leg of the course.  Road conditions were icy, but the road was wide enough that safe patches were easy to find; I don't think I saw anyone fall.  I skidded for one brief heart-stopping moment but quickly regained my footing!  As expected, I wasn't moving very fast, but it gave me the time to enjoy the sights as we looped through the attractive architecture of the downtown shopping centers before turning into the neighborhood streets, lined with big beautiful houses.  The entire course was on city streets, and not all of them were marked for the race; we had several instances of cars crossing the race course right in front of runners, or driving down one side of the street without much notice to the runners.  Fortunately there were many police officers at all of the major intersections doing a great job keeping the heavy traffic out of our way.

My hardest stretch was the beginning of mile two.  Maybe it was the lack of training, or the chancy breakfast I ate way too close to race time. or the unfamiliar conditions and course, but I was struggling to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I had some pain in my hips, probably caused by running in a different pair of shoes than I was used to (thanks to little puppy teeth tearing my old ones apart two days before the race), and my calves were aching from the rolling hills, and I had to walk for a few minutes to regain my composure and push through the pain.  After a little reset, I was back in action for the rest of the race, but the damage had already been done.  I finished with a time of 31:47, which is far from my best - but also far from my worst.  Though I know I could have done better, I was actually pretty pleased with a solid result in the face of many challenges.

Post-race, I was overjoyed to receive a pink medal and TONS of candy!  We're talking full-sized Twix and Snickers here.  Unfortunately, I hadn't brought a bag with me (and didn't see a bag check even if I had) and was limited to stuffing my pockets, or as I did with my bagel and banana, stuffing my face directly.  Thanks to the local radio station being on-site, we had good tunes and plenty of food, plus some sponsors handing out some sweet swag (I'll never pass up a free water bottle), making for a pleasant little festival area.  I made sure to give my compliments to one of the organizers I'd met at packet pick-up the day before, and received some warm and heartfelt words in return!  I headed home with a giant smile on my face, pockets overflowing with goodies, and a medal around my neck - what a great way to kick off my 2015 running season!

Organization: Very well done!  Packet pick-up was a snap: easy to find, quick and simple to finish, and very easy to connect with organizers for questions.  Race day was even easier: show up, park (for free) close to the start zone, run on time, and finish where you started with lots of goodies!  Volunteers were smiling and cheerful despite the weather, the police were friendly and helpful, the sponsors were approachable and interesting, and the post-race food was well thought-out and easily accessible.  My only critiques would have been to put out more signs about the race on the roads that couldn't receive police attention.  It's difficult and impractical to block off every street, but it's also dangerous to have unaware drivers plowing through a race course.

The Course: Running on city streets always poses challenges for runners and organizers alike.  I found the route very scenic and interesting, but also had to watch my footing on the icy pavement, which took away from the scenery sometimes.  As mentioned previously, the local police force did a solid job managing big intersections, and the few cars that got through were thankfully very careful.  What I appreciated most about the course was the minimal number of turns!  Though there were some rolling hills and a few gradual bends, there were only three, maybe four, actual *turns* in the entire course, so the majority of the run was blissful straightaways!  I really enjoyed the course and would love to run it again in the spring (with everything blooming) or in the fall (as all the leaves turn).

Anyone else noticing a theme?

The Swag: For a $30 entry fee (and even cheaper for CARA members) I was very impressed with my goodies from this race!  Every participant received a performance shirt in a little reusable bag, your choice of long or short sleeves, and a participation medal.  Plus, the post-race party provided ample food, TONS of candy, and several sponsors giving away high-quality products like water bottles or coffee mugs.  As many races often do, Cupid's Love also had a booth in which you could purchase previous years' shirts, or hoodies/sweatshirts/bags/etc for this year's race - but unlike other races, Carpe Diem prices their merchandise incredibly reasonably.  I was very impressed with how accessible the merchandise was, especially for the high quality clothing they offered.

The Bottom Line: I had a really great time here!  Now that I know Carpe Diem runs so many events each year, I'll be looking to get involved more often!  For a small-town race, Cupid's Love really delivered a great experience and I look forward to more!

Where'd you run this weekend, and how was your experience?  Have you ever run a Carpe Diem race?  Anyone want to join me for their next one, the Mother's Day Embrace The Race to support breast and ovarian cancer research?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

You've taken the leap - now join in as we're #BringingYogaBack!

We're a week into the #TakeTheLeap yoga challenge, and so far it's going GREAT!  But now, we're stepping it up a notch with the #BringingYogaBack mini-challenge!

What's great about this new challenge - besides getting to do MORE  YOGA?  How about the chance to win $1000 in awesome prAna gear?  Not good enough yet?  How about winning $1000 for yourself, AND $1000 TO GIVE TO A FRIEND?!?!  It doesn't get much better than that!

Participating is super easy!  Follow @prana on Instagram, then post photos of yourself doing the daily poses!  You don't have to participate every day to win, but you DO have to tag #taketheleap, #bringingyogaback, @prAna, and @fitapproach so we can find you!  Tag your friends, challenge your family, get involved!

#BringingYogaBack will run from February 8th through February 20th - so get started!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Product Review: Gigabody Online Training Program (plus GIVEAWAY!)

Remember last September when I told y'all about ClassPass?  And then I took a whole bunch of awesome cross training classes for a while when I still worked downtown?

I really miss being able to bounce around to different classes, trying something a little different every day and always getting a great workout.  There aren't nearly as many fun fitness studios out in the 'burbs, and though my Zumba class schedule is bulking up, I still want to change my routine and keep my body pushing through new challenges.

Enter Gigabody, an online training program that mimics a collection of workout DVDs, accessible anywhere you can connect to the interwebs.  Basically, it's ClassPass for your own home!  UNlike ClassPass, though, Gigabody is only $8.99/month.  I just HAD to give it a shot!

Disclaimer: I was given a free two-month subscription to Gigabody in exchange for my review.  I was not compensated in any other way for this post, and all opinions expressed herein are my own.

Anyone who has ever attempted to live a fitness lifestyle has experienced, at one point or another, difficulty sticking with a dedicated program.  Whether it's a tough schedule, unpredictable weather, family limitations, job conflicts, or even just that general "difficulty establishing a new routine" kind of problem - we've all been there.  And we all know, one of the hardest things about adopting a fitness lifestyle or program is finding exercise that keeps you interested, motivated, and smiling!

Therein lies the beauty of Gigabody: with so many different types of workouts available at your fingertips, that old "I don't like just running" excuse goes right out the window!  You can do something new every day, or you can save up a library of your favorites and establish your own class schedule.  And because you can do it from any internet access point, you can workout wherever you feel comfortable.  Imagine taking a Bollywood Groove class in your own basement - all the benefits of a great group exercise class without the awkward self-consciousness of trying a new dance style in a room full of people you don't know!

For those more risque classes or intimidating moves, Gigabody is a step ahead: you can watch a full 40 minute dance routine, or you can watch shorter videos that break down the moves until you get comfortable enough to tackle the whole monster.  You also always have the option to pause and rewind to get a better understanding of the sequence, rather than having to struggle to keep up with an instructor who has to keep moving forward to finish the class on time.

Additional features available for some of the videos makes it EVEN EASIER to focus on your favorite parts - or get some extra practice on the tricky parts!  For example, the video in the image below has markers along the timeline so you can skip forward to particular songs/sections.  I've also highlighted one of the markers: as you can see, hovering over the timeline markers will pop up a description of that segment, including song title and workout focal point.

You can also see that every video is rated by other users, and that you can add your own rating and/or review if you really loved your workout!  The "favorite" button lets you build up your library once you've found something that really moves you.  Beneath any video is a full description of the style, goals, and background information associated with that program, so you can read up on the workout and preview it if you're not entirely sure you want to dive right on in!

I think the best part of Gigabody, though, would have to be the ways you can discover new workouts.  You can always search by style, but you can also specify a little bit more about what you'd like your workout to be, helping you find something that will fit your schedule, your energy level, your style, YOUR LIFE!  The search tool lets you select categories to narrow your options, but you can also choose from a series of pre-constructed Collections that offer you a variety of styles to suit a particular need, such as no-equipment, or even "sexy dance moves"!

So far I've used Gigabody to help me increase my repertoire for Zumba classes through a variety of dance styles - including an awesome Bollywood class that was recently added - and to discover new yoga sequences that are helping me expand my horizons during this month's #TakeTheLeap yoga challenge.  As I'm starting to broaden my class schedule to possibly include teaching boot camps, I'm also starting to use Gigabody to generate ideas for the incredibly wide variety of strength training moves that can be successful in a group fitness class.  I'm also looking forward to working in some exciting new cross training, like kickboxing, to help me stay in the best shape possible in 2015!

Overall, I am finding Gigabody to be an incredible personal fitness resource!  The ease of finding a workout that suits you is easily the best feature, but being able to see other people's reviews on a video, along with the workout information, is a very valuable tool as well.  I could easily see myself continuing my subscription to more fully explore what is currently available, and I'm excited to see what new videos are added!

But as usual, my word only means so much - you have to try it to really believe it.  That's why I'm GIVING AWAY an entire month of Gigabody for FREE!  Enter using the Rafflecopter below!  Contest ends Tuesday, February 17th, at midnight!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ALSO - don't forget you can get 15% off your total purchase at prAna this month with discount code psps15FNYX!  Be sure to follow me on Instagram for the #TakeTheLeap yoga challenge too!

Monday, February 2, 2015

#TakeTheLeap starts TODAY with a little MadLibs fun!


The #TakeTheLeap yoga challenge begins TODAY!  For the next 30 days, I'll be leading this challenge with daily poses posted to Instagram and occasional blog updates related to yoga, mindfulness, and to our wonderful #TakeTheLeap sponsor, prAna!  To kick things off today, I'm sharing a little MadLibs action - and I'd love to see you share your thoughts too!  How will YOU step up to the challenge??

  • When I think about yoga, the first thought that comes to mind is obscene flexibility. Yoga intimidates me and makes me feel a little inadequate.
  • That’s why I am SO determined to participate in prAna’s Take The Leap 30 days of Yoga Challenge with Sweat Pink. I plan to Warrior pose my way to a more courageous and confident 2015!
  • For me, the biggest challenge when it comes to yoga is accepting my body's limits and finding myself within those limits. Taking the Leap with prAna and Sweat Pink is a great way for me to face my self-consciousness and my limitations and find new ways to soar.
  • My favorite place to yoga is in the woods because it is so full of nature's music and peace.
  • Here’s a photo of me in my very best baddha konasana (Cobbler's Pose) to kick things off!
  • I'm tagging Farrah (FairyBurger) and Holly (Life at the Quarry) - I want these fabulous bloggers to share their very best yoga pose photos, this fun madlib and of course, I challenge them to join me on this fun 30 day yoga journey. Come on y’all, Take the Leap with me!
  • Join prAna’s & Sweat Pink’s Take the Leap 30 Days of Yoga Challenge and be eligible to win $500 worth of prAna gear! They just launched their new spring collection so you best get on it!
  • If I win I would gift the $500 to Farrah @ FairyBurger because she has definitely earned a little splurge with all the craziness she gets up to in her busy yet inspiring schedule!
  • Join the Take the Leap with prAna and Sweat Pink Facebook group / event which we’ll use for updates, sharing, and inspiration; and the event page for even more details! And of course, join the challenge on Instagram, Twitter, and your blog using the hashtags: #TakeTheLeap #prana #sweatpink. Be sure to tag @prana @FitApproach too!

BONUS!  Thanks to our very generous sponsor prAna you can get 15% off your total purchase this month with discount code psps15FNYX!  Check out their amazing new line - and stay tuned for a review of some of their newest products!