Spring Racing Season

While my summer and fall racing schedule is pretty barren (for good reason), I also left my spring wide open to accommodate the Dark Side Challenge in April. After running the Rebel Challenge in Anaheim in January, I learned how much training and recovery time I need around a 19.3 mile race weekend and didn’t want to overload myself too much with NYC on the horizon.

But now that the spring is nearly here – and I’m feeling stronger than ever before – I’ve added a few races to my calendar that I’m excited to talk about now.

The NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K – April 9

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Having run this one last year, I was looking forward to it but didn’t know when the timing would shake out. Last year it was in late May, but a schedule change this year means it falls in early April – conveniently on a day when I need to run 12 miles! So I’ll head in to run 6.2 on the race course then add another 6 miles with my medal to complete my long run. I’m looking forward to returning to racing in Central Park as I haven’t been since the Marathon Kickoff in October – bring on that hill training!

The Dark Side Challenge 10K and Half Marathon – April 22 & 23

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I’ll be posting more about the prep I’ve been doing for this weekend soon, but a Spring Racing Calendar list would be incomplete without it.

The Newport 10K – May 6

This one I’m super excited about: I’ve heard of this race before but it’s almost always around the same time as the Asbury Park and NJ Half Marathons, so I was never able to make it. But thanks to my newly cleared calendar, this year when race organizers reached out to see if I’d be interested in becoming an Official Blog Partner, I jumped at the opportunity. So now I’m stoked to be taking on the “fastest course in the Tri-State area” on Saturday, May 6th, along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway!

Now, I don’t know how quickly I’ll recover from racing 19.3 miles 2 weeks earlier (in January it took me a good two weeks), but I may even gun for a new 10K PR here. Based on what they say about the course being fast and flat, it sounds like I’ve got a good shot at it, so fingers crossed!

Front Runners New York LGBT Pride Run 5M

After running this one last year not too long after the attack in Orlando, I vowed to add it to my “never miss” list. It was one of the most supportive, meaningful experiences I’ve had at a race, and I’ll never turn down the opportunity to show my Pride.

So far that about wraps it up for my upcoming races – how about you, what does your Spring Calendar look like? Have you ever run any of these races before? Sound off in the comments!

Running Like a Well-Oiled Machine

Forgive the pun-ny title, but I just couldn’t bring myself to come up with anything more creative to give you an update on how things have been going this past month.

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With the Dark Side Challenge about a month away, I’ve been keeping up with my training relatively well – only got sidelined with minor life-related issues twice so far, which isn’t too bad considering I never really stopped training after the Rebel Challenge in January. My weekly runs are hovering around the 11:00/mile pace and under, and even my long runs are strongly around 11:30ish.

Aside from running all the miles, I’ve also branched out this training cycle, and have tried things I never did before. Namely, taking a Barre class with my sis-in-law Meredith.

I’d heard of Barre before, and know that lots of celebrities swear by it – it was the kind of thing I read about and go “Hmm. That’s nice,” and move on. But when Mere suggested we try out a class at a shop not too far from where we both work, we went for it. And let me tell you – I now know why all those celebrities are in such good shape. Holy hell.

For those of you who haven’t tried this specific form of torture, it goes like this: you enter a small room lined with mirrors and a ballet barre with about 20 other women. A small, energetic woman then comes in, blasts music and starts barking orders that all the other women seem to already know, and you struggle – for the next 50 minutes – to keep up with these teeny tiny movements they’re doing with a tiny medicine ball, resistance bands, and a red yoga mat. You stand, you sit, you hover, you balance, you squat, you lunge, but here’s the kicker: all of these movements are done in TINY, TEENY INCREMENTS. At one point the instructor told us to “trace the outline of a quarter with your toes”.

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It doesn’t sound difficult, but I – and my fluttering, screaming thighs – assure you that it is extremely difficult. I specifically remember glancing over at Mere in the mirror at around the 15 minute mark, and we both looked like this guy at each other:

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It was intense.

BUT – having said that – we WILL be doing this again. It was an insanely good workout, and we both felt it help open up our hips and strengthen parts of our legs we never knew existed before. I’m all for trying new things, and this was no different!

Speaking of trying new things, I recently picked up a bunch of ice cream and snacks courtesy of the folks at Eat Enlightened – have you ever tried this stuff??

Their shtick is ice cream that’s low in sugar and higher in protein – think Halo Top – but it’s SO creamy and unbelievably delicious. I’ve already devoured the Peanut Butter Cup pint and gotten halfway through the Red Velvet, no shame in that game. They also sent me some of their Bean Crisps, which are a real game changer. I struggle with savory cravings and hate that my only options are chips or other semi-junk-y food that only take care of my taste buds but not my actual hunger. The crisps have 7g of protein per 100 calorie pack (!) and the flavors are awesome. In addition to the sea salt pack I already put away last night, they have sweet and savory flavors like wasabi, sweet cinnamon, sriracha, garlic & onion, and cocoa-dusted. Full disclosure, they sent me this stuff for free to review, but I’m not making it up when I say:  So much yum. 

How about you: How was your February? Have you tried Barre? Or Eat Enlightened snacks? Tell me all about it in the comments!

My First Aerial Yoga Class

Alternative title: how I learned to quit worrying and let go.

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My friends Kevin and Jessica had taken aerial yoga before, and after hearing about their experiences, we planned a date at the Om Factory in the Fashion District of Manhattan:

We entered the class to find a room full of slings hanging from the ceiling and a few females who introduced themselves as sisters and co-instructors, Grace and Laura. They – along with basically ALL of the other students – are younger than me and my friends by… let’s say a lot… and could fit right into an episode of Girls without even trying.  This is not meant to be disparaging in any way. It’s just that their mannerisms and speech patterns and personalities were very millennial. And their class playlist consisted of Robyn, Temper Trap, and M83, which I really dug and am pretty sure I’ve actually heard in an episode of Girls.

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After Laura adjusted my sling to my height, we discussed how our party of one Kevin and two Jess’s would require the instructors to create nicknames for us to tell us apart (I proudly accepted Grace’s choice of “Jess Leia” after seeing my Star Wars race shirt on the way in), and we got started by sitting on our mats while Grace… led storytime? I don’t know how else to describe it.

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And again, this is in NO way meant to demean or insult, it’s just a fact that we sat there on our mats for 5-7 minutes while Grace told us about how she had just returned from Mardis Gras where her friend got so caught up in getting ALL THE BEADS that they didn’t have fun. She then talked about how her mother called in a panic after hearing about an accident at Mardis Gras that happened a mile or so from them, and that was a bummer. This was a fun story about Mardis Gras but also a… metaphor for yoga and life? Don’t get so caught up in getting all the beads and just enjoy the process? OK. I can do the deep breathing and stay centered, but I also paid 25 American dollars for a 60 minute class and feel like we kind of wasted 10 of them on storytime.

However, that is the ONLY negative thing I to say. Once we got to the yoga part of yoga class, these ladies were phenomenal. Encouraging, strong, incredibly funny and welcoming, Grace instructed verbally while Laura took a sling at the front of the class and demonstrated. Their sisterly dynamic added to it, also.

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We started off doing basic yoga poses to warm  up, using the fabric to do pull ups and squats and lunges, which I felt immediately. Having the fabric there to help me open up my hips and stretch the rest of my body felt incredible. Then we did downward dog while folded over the fabric, and floated by tucking our knees up and turning into eggs, engaging our cores to stay stable. My first time off the ground in yoga and I loved it!

Next we made the first really frightening move: standing ON the fabric. I was terrified, but had no time to panic: before my brain knew what was happening, everyone around me hoisted themselves up so I did too, and suddenly I was standing in the fabric, three feet above the ground, my head in the ceiling! It took lots of core and arm strength to stay balanced, but I focused and nailed it. I guess Grace’s story about just living in the moment really did have some value 😉

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The final part of our class was spent going upside down and sideways in a variety of ways. This was my favorite part, especially because, as Grace and Laura said, “We face the wall on these poses so we can be vain and see ourselves in the mirror when we go upside down.” They just get me, these girls.

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This was another case where I was scared at first, but after just letting go (in the metaphysical sense, of course, because physically holding the fabric was the only thing keeping me from cracking my skull open), I was upside down and able to fold and bend into some incredible positions I never thought possible. The only negative to all this: my over enthusiastic posing had me swaying more than my inner ear would have liked, and my motion sickness acted up pretty much instantly. I can’t win.

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After spending the last 15 minutes of class working on these poses, we then unfurled the fabric of our slings to create delicious cocoons where we lay in savasana and floated for a good few minutes. I would go back to class just to do this for an hour.

Finally when class was over properly, we were allowed 10 minutes of “play” time to practice whatever poses we wanted, take pictures, and clean up our spaces. We had fun taking pictures together and laughing about the poses I didn’t attempt because my body was so shredded (I’m looking at you, aerial split). This was also fun to see other people in the class totally whip out these incredible routines – I’m guessing they were all circus performers or ballerinas or both, because they were so talented that I found myself just watching a few times.

All in all it was an incredible experience; I enjoyed it a LOT more than I expected, and I can’t wait to go back. It was a super intense workout, too – 3 days later my abs and upper body are still sore, and I can see this being a great complement to my running and a way to cut loose and have fun while getting a workout in.

Have you ever tried aerial yoga? Is it something you’d like to try? Let’s hear it in the comments!

 

Product Review & Giveaway: The Stinger

Back in January, I started seeing ads for this thing called The Stinger on Facebook, and it intrigued me: it’s a ball that you freeze and massage yourself with to alleviate post-run soreness, plantar fasciitis pain, shin splints and other issues. Fast forward to a few weeks later when the folks at Recoup Fitness reached out to me to see if I wanted to try this toy out – having experienced like 3 of those 4 things, I was down.

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A few days later, my Stinger arrived Saturday morning just as I was about to head out for a long-ish trail run, so I was stoked to give this thing a shot after a true test. Here in NJ that weekend we were experiencing a weird heatwave, breaking nearly 70 degrees on both Saturday and Sunday, so I was ready to get out there and run A LOT.

After lacing up and hitting the newly thawed trails for over an hour and 6+ miles on Saturday in new kicks, I was sore. My feet especially were angry with me at all of the twisting and balancing I had to do to keep from slipping out on muddy trails. I even discovered a few aches and pains I’d never felt before, and worried I’d need to take it easy the next day. So I broke out my Stinger and rolled for a half hour or so while we watched a movie later that night.

Fun Fact: Cats love the Stinger. Or at least my cat does. 

I’ll admit I didn’t think it was doing much at the time – sure, it felt fantastic, but it wasn’t much different from my frozen water bottle, was it? Either way, I rocked and rolled and even used it on my sore quads too, digging into the tightness I’d developed taking on new terrain that morning, and went to bed.

The next morning, I was shocked to find that my feet did not hurt at all. Those aches and pains that worried me yesterday were completely gone. Perhaps the Stinger actually did more than I thought! Because I was feeling so good, I decided to hit the trails again, this time with my husband, and in a more technical trail.

And once again, I rolled with the Stinger that night, this time all over my legs and feet which were now shot from 2 solid days of activity. Again, I woke up Monday morning feeling NOT like I’d just put 10+ miles of trails on my legs in two days.

As it turns out, the Stinger really does do what it says it’s going to – and not just for running, either! Last week I went down to Atlantic City with an old friend for a straight-up girls’ night of dancing and debauchery (in high heels) and I made sure to pop my Stinger in the hotel fridge.

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After 5 hours of dancing in high heeled booties, I was so relieved to wake up the next day and use the Stinger on pretty much every part of me. Even the new knots in my back I’d developed in the hotel bed enjoyed the ice cold massage.

The best part is, it’s always ready to roll: I just keep the ball in the freezer at all times and pop it into its handle whenever I need a quick roll out. It travels well (it’s very small) and gets the job done pretty much instantly. In short, if you’re looking for an easy, portable way to relieve your aches and pains – running-related or not! – the Stinger is a great option.

Want to try it out for yourself? I’m giving one away! Enter here and spread the word – contest runs now through Friday, when I’ll announce the winner at noon EST. Giveaway is open to US residents only, sorry!

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But if you HAVE to have one right now, the folks at Recoup are giving you 10% off AND free shipping when you order your own Stinger – just use code jessrunshappy!

Good luck!