Will Cross-Training Help Improve My 5K Time?

Cross-trainingI started running about three years ago when my kids participated in their first season of cross country. Up until then, we were strictly a track and field family. My daughter and I did our first 5K road race about two years ago and I never really got much faster. Even this last winter and spring when I tripled and some weeks quadrupled my mileage running with her in her off-season, my times stayed about the same. Then I had a thought:

What if I try cross-training to improve my time?

Simply running isn’t working so now that school is back in session and my daughter is running with the high school and my son is entrenched in his sprinter/lifting workouts, I am trying something new. I was a swimmer as a kid and the year that my daughter was swimming on a year-round swim team and running cross country was one of her best seasons yet. So that is what I’m going to try. Here is my plan:

Cross-Training Videos – I’ve talked about my Jillian Michael’s video before. I really like this video. I am doing Level 2 on Mondays and Level 3 on Thursdays.

Swimming – Twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, I’m going to hit the pool. Today was actually my first day back and I managed to swim 2000 yards pretty much non-stop. I did take a couple of quick water breaks but I actually swam pretty steadily. Boy, though, my arms are tired today! Hopefully, I’ll get over that in a few more swims. It’s awful feeling so out of shape for a sport that I spent over 12 years of my life doing.

Running – I am going to do two runs each week for the next couple of months then closer to our next 5K in December, I will probably add a third. I’m going to try a mix of easy runs and speed work. We’ll see how that goes.

I will report back how this is working out and I guess we will see in December if I can finally have a PR!

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Run Smart in Summer Heat

Weather ImageI know it is August and summer is winding down but it is just still so darn hot here in the south. This summer we’ve had ‘feels like’ temperatures around 113 degrees! Even today, at 7:30 am, the ‘feels like’ temperature was 96 degrees. Some days we were supposed to run but my daughter took one look at that temperature and said “NO WAY!”

Over the past few months, we’ve learned a few ways to make our hot, summer runs a little easier.

  1. Run in the early morning or evening.
  2. Take water or a sports drink with you and carry it while you run.
  3. Don’t overdress. Seriously, even capri pants are too hot sometimes.
  4. Slow your overall pace.
  5. Walk if you need to. Unless you are training for an important race, there is no reason you can’t take walk breaks. I do. Lots of ’em!

What tips do you have for those awful hot, summer runs?

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Summer Dinner Planning to make Busy Days Easier

Dinner Plans_imageIf you are anything like me, planning dinners and grocery shopping are not your favorite activities. Every time I go to the store I ask for input on the list from my kids but they never have anything to contribute, which makes it even harder when I have to guess what the kids might want on any given day.

This year, I decided to try to make the grocery shopping easier and dinner planning more streamlined by designating certain days of the week as having different themes. The themes, like fish night or chicken night, can have different recipes each week for variety, but my hope is that having a theme for the night will give me a more “standard shopping list” each week and take a lot of the thinking and planning out of my week.

Summer Dinner Themes:
Sunday – Breakfast for dinner such as Waffles, Pancakes, Eggs, Bacon, and Sausage. If you want to get fancy, try crepes, Ebelskivers or Eggs Benedict.
Monday – Alternating weeks of hamburgers and paninis.
Tuesday – Taco Tuesdays which can be anything Mexican like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, taco pie or quesadillas.
Wednesday – Fish night so anything fish or seafood goes.
Thursday – Chicken night. Same as fish night. Use all of your favorite recipes. My kids have track practices on Thursday nights so I’ll mostly choose crock pot recipes or dishes that I can prep before practice and finish quickly when we get home.
Friday – Pizza night…because everyone just loves pizza.
Saturday – Noodle night including spaghetti (of any shape), baked ziti, stuffed shells, manicotti, or ravioli.

I think following this plan will make shopping and planning easier. I can also get better ideas of what my kids want if I ask them to name a chicken dinner they want than just to ask what they want out of hundreds of options.

List Tip: I found the coolest app that let you make electronic shopping lists that work better for me than paper. The app is called “List Ease” and it was free in the App Store. You can type in or scan items that you often buy and then move them around from your pantry list to an active shipping list. I don’t have any relationship with this app, but I do use it and really like having it on my phone because I can just move items around from list to list as I plan and shop.

Three cheers for easier meal planning and grocery shopping this summer!


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Write and Run Update: May 23, 2016 Week

Write Run Challenge Week Image 2This is my second week of my Write and Run Challenge. This is more of a typical week for me as far as the number of days running. I usually run four to six days per week. So, here is what I have accomplished so far:

Monday, May 23rd – Run: 2.42 (3894 meters).
Write: 672 words

Tuesday, May 24th – Run: 6.0 miles (9656 meters)
Write: 1220 words

Wednesday, May 25th – Run: 0.0 (Cross Training with Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I did Level 2 today.)
Write: 199 words

Thursday, May 26th – Run 5.0 miles (8046 meters.)
Write: 205 words

Friday, May 27th – Run 0.0 miles (Day off!)
Write: 886 words (oops, that was NOT good!)

Saturday, May 28th – Run 6.0 (9656 meters)
Write: 880 words (I tried…but I fell asleep)

Sunday, May 29th – Run 5.5 (8851 meters…I’ll admit this is an estimate. My daughter made me switch watches with her because hers was about out of battery. Seems to be a theme…)
Write: 3485 words

Grand Total for Week: 40103 meters (almost 25 miles) run, 7547 words written. Maybe one word per one meter is too ambitious. I’ll keep trying.


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May 2016 Youth Track Meet…My Kids did Great!

Track Meet KidsAs you may know, my kids run for the local track club. My son runs for his high school but participates for the youth track club when his high school season is over. This year, his high school team was second at the state meet and the girls were state champs! Last year, the boys won and the girls were second. Hopefully, next year they can both pull out a win.

We absolutely love both the high school team and our youth team. You can’t ask for a better set of coaches, many are even volunteers, and awesome kids. I suspect that most of you who read this have the same feelings about your teams. There is just something special about runners.

Now here is where I turn into the total gushing Mom and brag about how they did this weekend.
Noah – 16 years old
110 Hurdles = 18.10 (PR of 0.23 seconds) YAY! – anyone know how to make him 3-step the whole way? When he does, that time is dropping like a rock!
400 Dash = 52.99 (PR of 2.32 seconds) YAY!
Long Jump = 5.92 meters (PR of 0.86 meters) YAY!
400 Hurdles – 1:01.91 (no PR. His best is 59.59. But, this was his last event of an 11 hour day so not too back for the circumstances)

Piper – 11 years old
1500 meter Run = 5:41.40 (PR of 8.11 seconds) YAY!
3000 meter Run = 12:39.01 (PR of 2.55 seconds) YAY!
Discus Throw = 9.92 meters (no PR but her form is looking better so I think I PR is coming soon).

I also found that my kids really like to have the Gatorade Recover Protein Shakes at meets. They may only drink one or less during the whole day but they feel a little better after a hard event if they get a little protein in them. My kids can’t stand to eat sandwiches at meets so I need drinkable protein like smoothies, which I also make and freeze the night before. You can freeze them and then when you get to the meet, take them out and let them thaw. If you know of other drinkable protein or protein chews (like gummies), please let me know.

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Write and Run Update: May 16, 2016 Week

Write Run Challenge Week Image 1This is my first week of my Write and Run Challenge. My kids have a track meet this coming Saturday so my runs this week will actually be lighter than a normal week since I run with my daughter. On meet weekends, the program eliminates the long run and I won’t run on the day of the meet. So, here is what I have accomplished so far:

Monday, May 16th – Run: 0.0 (I do cross training of spin bike and strength on Mondays).
Write: 1042 words

Tuesday, May 17th – Run: 3.2 miles (5150 meters)
Write: 2148 words

Wednesday, May 18th – Run: 0.0 (Cross Training with Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I did Level 2 today.)
Write: 1175 words

Thursday, May 19th – Run 3.0 miles (4828 meters…I’ll admit this is an estimate. My daughter made me switch watches with her because hers was about out of battery.)
Write: 1451 words

Friday, May 20th – Run 2.0 miles (3218 meters)
Write: 0 words (oops, that was NOT good!)

Saturday, May 21st – Run 0.0 (at my kid’s track meet for 11 hours – they smoked it this meet!)
Write: 0 words (I tried…but I fell asleep)

Sunday, May 22nd – Run 0.0
Write: 860 words

Grand Total for Week: 13196 meters run, 6676 words written. Ok, that is not what I was hoping for. Next week, I will do better!



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Today Begins the Write and Run Challenge

write run challengeI have a lot of friends that write for a living. Whether you write novels, blog posts, articles, technical report or even email. You use your writing skills on a daily basis. In fact, some of us write as much or more than we run. Over the next three weeks, I need to crank out about 50,000 words in order to finish drafts on my next three books, which are in various stages of progress. To push myself to meet the challenge, today I am starting a Write and Run Challenge.

The challenge is simple. For ever meter I run each week, I will write one word. For example, if I run 5000 meters (5K), I will write 5000 words. Trust me though, it is a lot easier to run 5000 meters then it is to write 5000 words so this is why it is such a challenge.

To meet my 50,000 word goal, I need to run 50,000 meters or 31 miles. That doesn’t sound too difficult. Last week I ran about 20 miles. For the running part, I feel confident. The writing is another story…or three. I will keep a tally of my daily runs and writing and report them on the blog. If you are a runner and writer, take the challenge with me and let me know how you do.


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Top 5 Things to Know about Your Kid’s First Track and Field Meet

Top 5 First MeetMy kid’s track club had their first meet this weekend. They had a great first meet and got a look at some of their competition for the season. Luckily, this is season number eight for us so we are well prepared for the day with tents, chairs, food, drinks and equipment. But when you are first getting started, it can be intimidating to see everything that is going on and to figure out the schedule of events.

I asked my kids to tell me the most important things for new athletes and parents to know for their first meet and this is what they said.

  1. The day is going to be long. Most track meets take seven to 10 hours depending on how many athletes are entered and what events they are running. There are two types of schedules that a meet may follow. Many meets run on a rolling schedule where the start time for the first running event and an order list of the following events which proceed one after another. Meets often assign a start time and age group for the first group at each field event with a list of subsequent age groups that follow one after another. Other meets are set to a specific time schedule with a time assigned to each running or field event.
  2. It is going to get hot. Spring and summer track meets can start off at a comfortable temperature but soon get blazing hot, especially here in the south. Do your best to keep cool between events by using cooling next cloths and wraps or misting fans. The cooler you stay, the easier it will be to run when it is time for your next race.
  3. You are going to get hungry but not want to eat at the same time. Running hard can make you hungry but the temperatures may make you feel like you don’t want to eat. I used to take sandwiches for lunch but the kids would never eat them. I switched to smoothies, which they like much better. I make the smoothies the night before and freeze them in Tervis tumblers. Once we get to the meet the next day, I sit them out to thaw and by lunch time they are ready for the kids to drink.
  4. You may have a running and field event at the same time, but don’t panic. Regardless of how long a meet takes, my kids almost always have a running and field event at the same time at least once during the season. The typical protocol is to check in at your field event and tell them that you have to go run. Most meets will let you leave, run and then come back to complete your field event. If the meet officials are not willing to do this, talk to your coach about the best procedure.
  5. It is going to be FUN! Track meets are fun. You will have great races and some not so great over the course of your career but you should always be having a great time.

If this is your kid’s first track meet, it will seem like chaos at times, but don’t panic. Most meets are laid back and they want the kids to participate in all of their events and have a great time.

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Aqua Jogging…It’s a Real Thing and Can Help Your Running

Aqua Jogging 2Aqua jogging…have you heard of it? It is a real thing, it is harder than it looks, you do feel like an idiot when you start but it can really help your running. Aqua jogging is running in water without letting your feet touch the ground.

Running in water is a great substitute for actual running on roads or trails when you have an injury or want to workout with no impact. The basics are pretty simple. You need a deep pool and a float vest. A cute little pool ring might work, too.

Getting Started
Starting an aqua jogging program is generally easy if you have a pool accessible. You need a deep pool, a float vest, and if you want to ramp up your workouts, water weights. Make sure that the pool is deep enough, at least, at one end, that you cannot touch the bottom. If you are going to a public pool, try going when the pool is not crowded so that you have a clear lane for running.

Good Running Form
The hardest part is learning how to use proper running form in the water. When I first started, I found myself leaning forward in the water as I ran. Try to keep your body is the same alignment and form as if you were running on the road or a track. Move your legs, feet and arms in the same manner as you would as if you were running outdoors. It will seem difficult at first, but give it a few laps and you will begin to feel more comfortable and will be able to gain speed.

Types of Workouts
When I started aqua jogging, I simply went up and down the pool for a specific distance trying to perfect my form. I grew up a swimmer so I often equate swimming distances with running times. In general, if you are a decent runner and swimmer, I find that a 400-meter run is roughly equivalent to a 150 to 200-meter swim. Of course, water running will be somewhat slower than a full swim.

You can design your pool running workouts to mimic your road or track workouts. You can do an easy or distance run by aqua jogging for a specific time period. Or, you could run sprints, tempo or threshold workouts by using the equivalent distances or the pace clock at the pool to keep track of your intervals.

Regardless of how you choose to aqua jog, it is a great way to add to your running workouts without additional impact to your joints or to rehab after an injury.


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Do I Have to Race to be a Runner?

Do I Have to RaceThere is a lot of focus these days on road races, trail runs, and runs with obstacle courses. But, do you really need to race in order to be a runner? I don’t think so.

There are a lot of reasons to go for a run that have nothing to do with racing or beating your best time. Here are just a few of the reasons why you might want to go for a run without worrying if it will help you PR at your next race.

  1. Explore new areas
  2. Control your weight
  3. Regular exercise boosts your health
  4. Endorphins boost your mood
  5. Running clothes are cool
  6. Running with friends or family can be fun
  7. Cheer for your kids at cross country meets
  8. Feel like you accomplished something
  9. Clear your mind and boost creativity
  10. Listen to podcasts or music 
    It’s true that running races can be a lot of fun but as you can see from this list, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to go on a run without wearing a bib number.
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