' Adventures with FitNyx: April 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Join The Puppy Run Virtual Race!

Last year I dipped my toe into the virtual run pond, and the water felt a little lukewarm.  I haven't really done another virtual race since that experience, but I've seen so many great causes and cool bling in the virtual run world that I've been considering joining another race.  And then, Gametiime gave me the perfect opportunity: The Puppy Run!

Gametiime is an online race repository, a system by which you can search for local races, store races on your wishlist, and earn virtual medals for your participation in events.  You can also connect with other users (including your friends and running groups) to see what events they are doing, and you can leave notes about your race experiences for others to review when considering a race.  I've taken to posting links to my race recaps to the events I've run, and I've found a few events with recaps posted that helped convince me to register.  It's a very clean interface for racers!

This year, they've started operating their own virtual runs, starting with the Pi Day race back in March.  Thanks to the success of that event, Gametiime is launching their second virtual race, this time to benefit Valhalla Rescue, an organization committed to improving the quality of life for animals in need.  And of course, because this great cause focuses on rehabilitation of dogs, the aptly-named Puppy Run encourages you to share the race experience with your furkids!

Since Kaalia was just cleared to run longer distances up to 5k (once she heals from her "lady surgery"), I'm on board for the Puppy Run to be her first race-length run!  Eventually I'd like to take her further, and perhaps next year I'll be looking at the 10k or even half marathon distances available, we'll take it easy this year as she builds her endurance.  This will give us a chance to get used to that race, and a race-mentality pace, without having to throw her into the crowd of people right away.

If you don't have a furkid, or even if you do and just love running as a family, you can sign up your human kids to join too!  The Puppy Run has swag for every runner, whether they are adults, children, or canines!  For adults, every runner receives a soft t-shirt and a medal for their distance of choice.  Children running the event receive a cool drawstring bag with a collapsible frisbee, and puppies who join in the fun receive an adorable bandana and a pop-up water bowl (which is great for taking along on training runs).  Plus, you can post your time, photos, and anecdotes from your run to be eligible for additional prizes!

So, how 'bout it?  Thinking of giving The Puppy Run a shot?  Sign up with 10% off by using my discount code amanda10 and give virtual racing a chance - you'll also be giving a puppy in need THEIR chance to go the distance!

Do you have a favorite rescue/shelter where you found your furkid?  Have you ever gone for a run with your puppy or dog?  If you've tried virtual racing before, what were your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Injury: A Frightening Reality Check

Since I was laid off from my job about two and a half weeks ago, I have been pressing my job hunt towards a fitness-centric career, and am pleased to report that I have been finding a surprising amount of success!  Today I have my sixth audition for more classes to teach, and my second interview for another part time fitness attendant position (to give me some solid, non-class-based income).  My ideal schedule is coming together nicely, and though there will still be plenty of hard work involved, I'm very excited to dive into the fitness industry much deeper in the coming months.

But on Sunday, I had a rude awakening.  A possibility I have always known to be a factor (even without the constant reminders from my family) reared its ugly head, and I was worried my fitness future was over before it even began: I suffered an injury that threatened to take me out for months.

As a female soccer player operating at a high level during the early days of the ACL crisis, when my knee hurts in a new and excruciating way, I am instantly worried I've torn something important.  So when I couldn't move my knee nor put weight on it after my soccer game on Sunday, it's no surprise I was freaking out a little bit.  Or a lot-bit.  With the path I'm taking, an injury doesn't just mean no more games -  it means no more income, and with something like a ligament tear, that's no income for months at a time.  Needless to say, no income a big problem.

Fortunately, after spending Monday morning bouncing around to a few different specialists (can't wait for that bill), it was determined that my injury was NOT a tear.  It wasn't even a strain.  It's a bruise on my calf that is so big it's limiting range of motion and causing awful pain in the knee by obstructing proper muscle movement and blood flow.  My RICE approach to the pain probably made it hurt more - the best way to deal with this kind of injury is to keep the leg moving, which will help the contusion loosen and drain properly.  I am particularly happy with how quickly I am likely to recover from this.  At most I'd miss a week, but it's only Wednesday and I'm feeling pretty pain-free.  I'll probably attempt to teach a class tonight with a slightly lower impact level, and go from there.

The biggest thing to come out of this injury is the awkward, in-my-face reminder that a career in fitness is so contingent on your body's health and wellness.  While the orthopedic specialist says my knee is in amazing shape considering all the wear and tear it's seen, that's no guarantee that I won't end up with a debilitating injury at the drop of a hat.  And if I really do succeed in building a career around fitness, that unpredictable injury always looms in the back of my mind, threatening to shove me back in a cubicle again.  It's a risk I have to take to follow a dream, so for now it's worth it, but I will have to plot my future carefully and be ready for the day when my body needs to slow down...

Any other fitness instructors out there who worry about an injury ending their career?  How do you handle recovery if you've experienced a major injury?  Do you think the risk is worth the reward?  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Product Review: Phenoh 7.4 Sports Drink

Back in "the day" I wasn't a huge fan of hydration.  I knew I was supposed to drink water during soccer games and the like, but honestly, I hated drinking during activities.  Or before.  Or after.  It wasn't until much more recently that I learned the value of the proper hydration.  Now, water is my go-to beverage of choice both pre- and post-run, and I always keep a water bottle close to me in all of my classes.

The more I study nutrition, though, the more I realize that water just might not be enough.  Most sports drinks, like Gatorade or Powerade, are almost disgustingly sweet (yes, even for a dessert lover like me) and are especially difficult to stomach during and after a hard workout.  Recently I learned that my difficulty in consuming those very sugary sports drinks may be caused by the extreme level of acidity that is prevalent not only in modern sports drinks, but in the entirety of the modern American diet.  That's when I learned about pHenOH 7.4: an alkaline-based sports drink created to more accurately reflect the internal environment of the human body.

Disclaimer: I was provided a box of pHenOH of charge in exchange for my review, and am being compensated for my review, but I am not affiliated with pHenOH.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

After researching some of the advantages of going alkaline - such as maintaining a better internal balance and reducing the damage that can be done by highly acidic liquids - I decided to give it a try in my myriad fitness contexts.  My first opportunity came from my exciting return to team sports, so I grabbed a bottle of pHenOH and headed to the field.  My early impressions of the beverage were very positive: a mild and unobtrusive flavor, vaguely sweet but mostly earthy, easy to drink like water.  But once I started playing and worked up a good sweat and a dry thirst, that plant-y flavor from the main aloe vera ingredient was suddenly overwhelming.

I'd had a similar experience a while ago, when I first tried MESTRENGTH as a hydration solution, so I'm not incredibly surprised that my dehydration affected the flavor.  Your body chemistry can make a sweet taste tart pretty easily when you're thirsty; the tart that had been almost undetectable before starting my game quickly became the loudest note in the bottle.  I have to admit, I did not finish that bottle during the game, or immediately after.  Instead I drank plain water until I was less dehydrated, then used the pHenOH as a recovery beverage.

My taste experience with pHenOH was fairly consistent in other fitness trials: post-run, during boot camp, and during my step classes.  My husband also grabbed a bottle for his Brazilian jiujitsu class, and reported the same switch as he became more dehydrated.  It was always tasty pre-workout, and I would typically drink about half the bottle en route to a class or prior to a run, but once I got moving, I switched to plain water, then switched back to finish the bottle about 20 minutes after my exercise.  By that time, the water had adjusted my hydration level, allowing me to rely on the pHenOH for continued recovery.  I have not experienced next-day or two-day soreness in the past couple weeks, and as the pHenOH was the only sports drink or supplement I have consumed during that time period, I can only assume that my choice to use it as a recovery beverage has been seeing results!

As I realized the earthy taste was better (for me) as a supplement to recovery, I opted to try adding pHenOH as an additive in my favorite smoothie recipe!  Typically made with mango juice, I substituted the more earthy flavors of the pHenOH to cut down on the sweetness and the acidity of my cherry pineapple smoothie - to great success!  I have trouble drinking exclusively "green" smoothies because of the overly plant-like taste, but mixed with fruit, that kick of aloe became a subtle but interesting twist on an old favorite.  I would definitely recommend adding some pHenOH to your smoothies, this was probably my most delicious experience with the sports drink!

I also grabbed a bottle during yoga, thinking the lower intensity workout wouldn't dehydrate me as quickly or severely and I would be able to enjoy pHenOH during my activity instead of waiting.  Though I focused on a physically demanding flow, and certainly challenged myself, I never got to the point at which the pHenOH lost its subtlety, and I was able to slowly consume the entire bottle throughout my 45 minute workout.  I found this particular experience to be what I would consider closest to the overall pHenOH mission: reconnecting with your inner self, mentally, physically, and now, chemically.  The earthiness of the aloe was soothing and called to mind the essence of nature, which was incredibly fitting for my yoga practice.  My routine became all-encompassingly wholesome, and it was a very pleasant break from the everyday.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed pHenOH.  Made with only seven ingredients, pHenOH is a simple, subtle, sports drink that can be incorporated into my diet in several ways.  Though I found its use as a recovery beverage to be most palatable, I believe people with different body chemistry will likely enjoy the flavor throughout their workout.  I have also noticed that my lingering illness (particularly my sore throat and chest) has finally cleared up despite the constantly changing weather outside, and when I think about my overall lack of soreness in the past couple weeks, I wonder if there really IS something to this "internal pH balance" thing that pHenOH claims to assist.  I'll be paying much closer attention to where my fuel lies on the pH scale from now on; perhaps that will help me stay sound both inside and out!

Have you ever considered the pH of your diet?  How have you experimented with your foods to help find your internal balance?  Would you try pHenOH?

Monday, April 20, 2015

NOT a Race Recap, and I'm Okay With It

Last Sunday I was registered for The Good Life Race in Oak Park.  I was pretty excited for the race, as it's for a great cause and it has been honored by the Chicago Area Runner's Association (CARA) as the "Race of the Year" - leading me to believe it would be a great experience.  I even registered months in advance to secure the date on my calendar.  After missing the Shamrock Shuffle due to illness, I was more than ready for another race.

But when Sunday came 'round, I didn't run.

Turns out, I had my dates a little mixed up, and April 12th was actually the first day of my soccer league.  Due to various job and time commitments, I haven't been able to play with my old team in almost a year, and I definitely did not want to miss the first game of the season!  Coincidentally, the league happens to be in Oak Park, and our usual field is right across the street from the Good Life Race's starting line.  With an 8am game and a 9:10am race start, I thought maybe I could make both work.

To the race's credit, they were
VERY organized and efficient!

Then I showed up at 7:30am to pick up my packet - and found they had no record of my registration, leading to a 20 minute jumble to get me REregistered.  During the confusion, I learned that my soccer game would be on the alternate field, 10 minutes away.  Once we had my registration sorted, I grabbed my bib and a shirt (a medium that ended up being absolutely teensy) and literally ran out the door.  I pulled up to the field with just enough time to throw on my gear and step on the field for the starting whistle.

Come halftime, my team had no subs and was down 0-1 to a big rival.  It was decision making time.  After the debacle with my registration, and the excitement of the first half, I decided to finish the game.  We ended up losing 0-3, but I think staying was absolutely the right thing.  Y'see, I missed my team and the way playing with such a talented group of adults made me feel.  No lonely 5k run was going to help bolster me up so much after the layoff a few days prior.  And at the end of the day, winning didn't matter.  I was out doing something I love, with great people, on a beautiful day.  The race would have been good, but the soccer was everything I needed.

Phenoh review coming soon!

If you're interested in hearing more about The Good Life Race, you can check out race recaps from This Hobbit Runs or Melly's Musings.  Have you ever had a day when you just had to do what made you smile?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and the Sweaty (Oh, and a Giveaway)

I've been a little absent from the blogosphere lately because of a series of craziness, but I'm settling down and moving forward now.  Today's post is a quick breakdown of some of the things I've faced in the past two weeks, both good AND bad - though we're starting with the bad, to get that out of the way quick!


  • I lost my job.  That crazy good job that was making it possible for me to follow my passions.  It was a layoff, just an unfortunate economic turn, but it was "last in, first out" for me.  The biggest frustration comes from knowing I was one of the top performers in the company, and that had the decision been anything other than economical I would have kept my job with no question.
  • The lack of job means a new job hunt, and the worry that the next job will be a step backwards, in any of many ways.  Mostly, I'm worried the fitness career I've been working so hard to build may have to be sacrificed for a steady paycheck, and I'm especially worried I'll have to make that sacrifice due to another horrible commute.
  • I still haven't fully recovered from being sick a few weeks ago.  Despite the company's poor overall performance, the two weeks after my illness were CRAZY busy, and I was often covering for several people who were out on vacation, so I was pushing pushing pushing all day at work, then teaching my classes in the evenings - and not easing back in as I should have been.  Even now, weeks later, I still have a rough cough that sometimes makes it hard to breathe...

  • I thought the job loss was totally Bad when I was told last Friday morning - but there are actually some potentially huge positives.  I've been afraid to quit my job (read: steady income) to make the risky leap into more full-time fitness, but with no job to quit, now might be exactly the time to start making that dream a reality.  I have the power to choose my direction in my job search, and if I keep an open mind and a positive attitude, the outcome of the job hunt may be fabulous!
  • The free daytime hours make me available for picking up more fitness classes!  I also have some more time for designing classes and learning new Zumba choreography, which will enhance my current classes.  In two weeks, I'll be adding at least two more classes each week, and hopefully even more will follow, thanks to the amazing communities I belong to that are always so supportive.
  • Hubby has been killing it (not literally) in his Brazilian Jiujitsu classes!  He's been going for about two months, and he just received his second white belt stripe.  And, he's up to five classes a week!  That's phenomenal for a guy who used to spend all his free time at his computer playing video games.  He's losing a little more weight, and he both looks and feels great.  I'm SO PROUD of him!


The skinny on the sweaty is that I'm back in running action - gearing up for my second half marathon: one of the Sunburst races in South Bend on June 6th!  I'm so excited to run around the beautiful Notre Dame campus, which coincidentally is my brother's alma mater!  Sunburst offers a race distance for every runner: 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon.  And guess what - YOU could be one of those runners!  I've got a race entry (distance of your choice) to give away, so hit up the Rafflecopter below to enter for YOUR chance to WIN!  Giveaway ends 4/24 at 11:59pm.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Has anyone else taken that risky leap into a new career without much of a net?  What helped you find the confidence to try - and what helped you find success once you were out on that limb?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Product Review: STILLMOTION Yoga Mat by Sequence (GIVEAWAY!)

In February, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to lead a yoga challenge.  It was a major learning experience that challenged me in a lot of different ways (including testing my ability to commit to a daily exercise), and I came out of it with a new perspective on yoga's place in my life.  Not only am I incorporating yoga into daily practice whenever possible, but I'm actually looking into becoming a yoga instructor!  That journey will be longer and even more revealing when the time comes, but that's a story for later.  Meanwhile, it's time to tell you all about the STILLMOTION yoga mat I got to play with during the challenge last month!

Disclaimer: I was provided a STILLMOTION mat free of charge by Sequence in exchange for my review, but I did not receive any other compensation nor am I affiliated with Sequence.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

The STILLMOTION mat is an interesting and uniquely designed bit of "technology" for the modern yogi.  Unlike other mats that have a layer (of varying thickness) of rubber or cloth to provide a place of practice, the STILLMOTION mat is composed of two layers: a soft, spongy outer layer for cushion and comfort, and a rubberized inner layer that provides additional cushion but also pokes through the top of the mat to provide additional gripping surfaces to increase stability.  Between the very plush outer layer and the thick but soft inner layer, this mat is incredibly comfortable!

Additionally, the rows of rubber grippies poking out have a secondary purpose: arranged in straight lines, this grid actually helps practitioners visualize better alignment in poses.  By providing a "ruler" of sorts, it is much easier to see where your hands and feet are in relation to each other when performing poses such as downward dog.  Proper alignment can help improve form - which not only multiplies the benefits of yoga, but also reduces the risk of injury from incorrect distribution of weight.

My experience with the STILLMOTION mat has been a little more diverse than intended.  Of course, I use it for yoga, and it's my go-to mat now.  I LOVE the cushion, especially for seated poses - I've broken my tailbone a couple times, and there's not much you can do to "reset" it, so seated exercises have been a unique challenge for many years.  This mat helps eliminate the pain from rolling over the injury; the cushion also helps my poor knees that have chronically struggled with less plush mats.

I also found the mat to stay put nicely.  My initial reaction was that since the rubber was on the TOP but not on the bottom of the mat, I'd have better stability in poses but the mat itself would slide all over the floor.  This was delightfully not so, even on slick gym floors.  The mat didn't slide, nor did it stretch out with tension.  As for the hand and foot grip - I'm not entirely sure it's much better than my old mat for stability until you get sweaty.  The rubber seems to be activated by moisture, at least in my experience with the mat.  Once my palms had a bit of a sheen worked up, I was much better able to feel the grip of the exposed rubber spots.  I definitely found the alignment grid useful, though my flexibility still has a long way to go before I'm actually "properly aligned"!

Beyond yoga, however, I found this mat to have even more benefits.  I teach boot camp classes, and we always end with ab exercises, which usually benefit from some cushioning between my students and the very hard, often dirty, gym floor - so I started bringing the STILLMOTION mat for demoing exercises.  I found the cushioning to be more than adequate for a wide variety of exercises, while also absorbing the sweat of a tough workout to minimize slipping.  Using a basic yoga mat cleaner, I've been able to keep away any noticeable odor (so far), but I have noticed I scuff the mat a lot more during boot camps than I do practicing yoga.  At home, we've had to pull up most of our carpeting while we house-break our puppy, so the STILLMOTION mat has been pulling extra duty for stretching and at-home exercises as well.

Overall, I find the thickness of the mat and the no-slip bottom to be the biggest pros of this yoga mat: having the cushion and the stability makes it even more versatile.  If I had to pick a con, it would have to be bulkiness!  Because of the rubberized core, the mat doesn't roll up as nicely as other mats; instead it has to be rolled more loosely to prevent creasing, so it doesn't fit into many standard yoga mat bags, and straps tend to be too tight (leaving imprints along the surface).  Fortunately, Sequence provides a mesh bag with every mat, which is more than ample to fit the rolled mat - but it still takes up a LOT of space!

Here's the best part: as always, I love being able to put products I enjoyed into the hands of my readers, and Sequence has agreed to give away a STILLMOTION yoga mat to a lucky reader!  You can enter using the Rafflecopter below.  Winner must be able to provide a valid shipping address and phone number.  Giveaway ends 4/10/2015 at 11:59PM.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How has yoga helped change your life?  Do you practice daily?  What kinds of challenges have you faced during your practice?