Top 5 Friday: Spinning

I usually start my top 5 Friday post before Friday. It’s surprisingly difficult to come up with Top 5 lists. (On a related note: this top 5 Friday thing might be short lived) I’ve gone out on a limb here in deciding to list the top 5 things I learned while trying out spinning, because I just went to spinning this morning. Before you begin reading, you should know this isn’t really a top five list, it should probably be titled “Amy rambles on about 5 things she thought of before, during, or after her first spinning class”.  I hope it’s still entertaining!


Thanks Friends!

1. Facebook friends are great for motivation and know everything! I was nervous about trying spinning, and posted about it on Facebook. I immediately got a bunch of responses encouraging me and giving me tips. Thanks, friends! Even though I normally wouldn’t have bothered to ask about it at the gym when online sign-up for the class didn’t work, I felt like I had to because I owed it to all the nice people to at least try. 

2. My body weirdly can’t regulate it’s temperature when I exercise. I don’t sweat a lot compared to normal runners people. When I was a kid my sister used to tell me that if I wasn’t dripping with sweat, it meant I wasn’t trying hard enough. I’m not really sure what kind of activity we were doing that she was being so intense about (we mainly played kickball or knockout), but this little snippet of conversation has stuck in my head for years. (Thanks, Beth, you sweaty BEAST). Anyways, I noticed over the years, that although she might not be right that I wasn’t trying, my sister had a point about my lack of sweat. I just don’t sweat a whole lot. But it’s not just that I don’t get sweaty, I don’t feel hot very quickly, and once I get warmed up, if I stop exercising I will become cold astonishingly quickly. Okay, I guess this isn’t something I learned at spinning, but spinning reminded me because the room was warm. (Seriously, who designed a spinning room w/ 25ish bikes to have a single diffuser , and only about 4 feet from the return grille…amateurs!) I still didn’t start sweating until about 10 minutes in, while everyone else was dripping sweat before I even took off my long-sleeved shirt…I felt like a slacker. And then when I left, I was frozen the entire rest of the time I was at the gym even though I was still exercising. I’m such a weirdo. 


This is not at all what real spinning class looked like.

3. Spinning is LOUD One thing I was excited about for the class was the music. I had heard that the music could make it fun and really get you moving. Well, the music was kind of lame. It made sense with the class, and flowed well, but it really was just blah. I don’t know how to explain it, but it just wasn’t fun music. And, it made it really hard to hear the instructor. I basically had no idea what was going on anyways, and then I could only hear every fifth word. For example, at one point this is the sentence I heard “blah blah ATTACK blah blah!” (Um, okay? I’ll go fast then?) And I wasn’t far away from her, and she had a microphone. I blame the music. Oh, also, there’s this fun thing where you spin to the beat of the music. HA!  Yeah, I’m coordinated enough for that, sure..what if we go back to attacking things instead?

Also, didn't look like this. Look at all those smiles...nope

Also, didn’t look like this. Look at all those smiles…nope

4. If you think you’re going to do an easy run after spinning class,  you might be insane. If you actually do it, you probably are. I went to the class with the idea that afterwards I would do an easy 3 mile run. I skipped my run last night in order to stay home and watch Friends and play board games, so I wanted to squeeze it in today if I could. About 10 minutes into the class, I started to doubt this plan, then at 30 minutes I was definitely NOT going to run. But when  class ended 20 minutes later, we cooled down and stretched for a while before leaving, and my legs lost their jelly-like quiver fairly quickly. So, I decided to hop on the treadmill and put on my new favorite virtual run and see if I could get in some easy miles. After about 1/2 a mile, I stopped feeling like I made a huge mistake, and running felt just like normal.  I couldn’t run at any sort of an incline without really feeling it, but I think this easy 3 miles made my legs feel looser and more normal after the shock of something different. I have a new respect for triathletes who can transition from biking to running without just falling over.

Running felt like this.

Running felt like this.

5. My poor poor butt.  That seat is no joke. 

Obviously, these aren’t the only 5 things I learned while spinning, nor are they actually all about spinning. I hope you weren’t looking for a comprehensive guide to spinning for runners! There probably is one somewhere out there (like here, and here, and a million more places). Spinning is hardly new anymore, and I’m pretty late to the game just giving this a shot right now, so a lot of you probably already know all about it.  I might come up with some actual tips a little later on, after I’ve gone a few times. One of my friends (shout out to Fay!) suggested I not judge it until I’ve gone at least 3 or 4 times, and I think she gives pretty good advice, so that’s what I’m going to do. Besides, it’ll probably take me at least that long, if not longer, to figure out how to set up the bike properly.


Half Training

In case I haven’t mentioned it enough lately: I’m running a half marathon in the spring! I started training at the end of January, and this is week 5 already! I’m using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate training plan. Sort of. I’ve made a bunch of modifications. I had a really hard time setting up my training plan this time around, and in the end I totally scrapped the one that I’ve thought for months I was going to try.

The one I was going to try was Jeff Galloway’s Half Marathon plan for a time goal. Jeff uses the Run-Walk method in all his plans, and claims that taking walk breaks allows you to finish faster and stronger than without. I have never completely followed one of his plans before, but I’ve used regular walk breaks in races, and I definitely think that they work. I normally walk in longer runs at water stops or while having a gu, but Galloway walk breaks are actual timed walk breaks at specific intervals based on pace.  In one half marathon, I did a 2:1 ratio (run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute). I was coming off an injury so I wanted to be cautious. I ended up finishing the race significantly faster than I thought I would.  Then while training for my marathon last year, I did a one minute walk break after each song on my iPod (ends up at about a 3.5:1 ratio).  I used this on long runs, a half marathon, and in the marathon. I definitely think that walk breaks are useful, and I’m sold on the Galloway method. I opted out for another reason entirely.

I’ve learned that what works for me is to build up to race distance VERY slowly, and to get as close to race distance as possible. In the Galloway plan, long runs alternate with speedwork, so you’ll have a long run weekend then a speed work weekend.  This is fine, except that it ends up that you are increasing by 2 miles every time you increase your long run.  And, honestly, I just don’t think that would work for me. I looked at drawing out the plan so that I was increasing by less each time, but another feature of the Galloway method is that you increase beyond race distance (in this plan, 17 miles), so this plan was already on the lengthy side.  So after a lot of thought, I decided not to go with this one.

Instead, I set up my long run schedule:

  • 1/25: 7 miles
  • 2/01: 8 miles
  • 2/08: 8 miles
  • 2/15: 9 miles
  • 2/22: 9 miles
  • 3/01: 10 miles
  • 3/08: 10 miles
  • 3/15: 11 miles
  • 3/22: 11 miles
  • 3/29: 12 miles
  • 4/05: 12 miles
  • 4/12: 13 miles
  • 4/19: 5 miles
  • 4/27: RACE!

Then I looked up Hal Higdon’s plan and added in the rest of the weekly workouts. I shuffled it up quite a bit to fit my schedule (I prefer long runs on Saturday and rest days on Fridays).  I moved the pace runs to Sundays so they would follow the long runs. I had done this during Marathon training and really liked the idea of running at pace on tired legs.  So this is what my weeks look like:

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Speed – alternating weeks between 400m intervals and tempo runs
  • Wednesday: 3 miles – easy
  • Thursday:  3 to 5 miles – medium intensity (hills if I can)
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Long Run
  • Sunday: 3 to 5 mile – race pace (rest every 3rd week)

So far, I’ve been getting in 4 runs per week, not the 5 listed above. I’d obviously love to do exactly what the schedule says, but I’m not too upset about missing one per week. I’ve been doing the long runs and also I haven’t missed a speed work out yet. Those are the 2 most important days on the schedule to me, so I make sure to keep them in the mix.  I think things are going well so far. I’ve been feeling good in the speed workouts and strong in the long runs. The real test will be when I move off the treadmill and back outside and see how the transition goes. I think it’s possible that I’ll be able to run my long run outside this week, so I might get to find that out really soon.

A few questions for you all: Do you make your own training plan or follow a pre-made one? Do you stick to it EXACTLY or give yourself some wiggle room? Or maybe you just wing it entirely?

Top 5 Friday: Running Quotes

For this week’s Top 5, I’m posting my favorite running quotes. At least, my current favorites! Also, I fancied them up a bit in Paint. Yup, you read that right, my super graphic design skills are limited to Microsoft Paint. So, here we go, get ready to be inspired!

Top 5 Quotes about Running (according to Amy):

The Will to

1. I like this one because it’s true.

It was being

2. I didn’t always believe this, but now I’m on board.

Fake Runners

3. We need to stop putting ourselves down. You run, you’re a runner.

Never give up

4. Keep going!

You Just Run

5. Similar to #3; I like this sentiment

I hope you like the quotes! And, also my fancy paint skills. Have a good weekend!

Do you have a favorite quote, running or otherwise?

A Virtual Run

Last night, I settled into the treadmill for an easy 3 mile run. I have been having a hard time running on Wednesdays, and consider it a success just to get myself onto the treadmill, no matter what comes next. Last night, what came next was a little happy surprise.

The treadmills at my gym have all kinds of different workout programs, and last night I decided to turn on “Virtual Active” mode. Lately, I’ve been doing the rolling hills program, but yesterday was supposed to be easy, so I decided to cool it on the hills. The “Virtual Active” mode lets you choose a location and it plays a little video of a beautiful running route in that area as if you were actually running there. I know it’s not the same as actually running outside, but hey…my view last night would have been dark slush and iciness, so I’m cool with a simulated run somewhere beautiful.


Beautiful View

I’ve used this mode before to run through the Swiss Alps and Northern Italy, but last night I decided to stay close to home and run the Northeastern US.  I assumed this would be Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and it mostly was, but I was BEYOND THRILLED to learn that this also included NIAGARA FALLS!!!!  Yes, I almost peed myself I was so excited to watch this little piece of “home” as I chugged along on the treadmill, not really going anywhere. The footage consisted of running along the edge of the falls on the Canadian side on a beautiful, sunny day.  I could not stop smiling the whole time I did that portion of the run.  If I knew how, I would have done that section on repeat for the whole 45 minutes. 

It just made me so happy to be running along remembering all the wonderful trips to the falls over the years. I was grinning like an idiot for the whole 7 minutes of Falls footage.


Ready for the Maid of the Mist


View from the boat.

And I’m sure it didn’t hurt that the last time I was there was to run the Niagara Falls International Marathon in October (I should recap that race someday).


Marathon Finish

2014-01-04 08.33.23

We’re Falls visiting pros!

Another perk of this virtual mode on the treadmill is that it pops up little facts about the places you’re running. Did you know that there are actually TWO cities called Niagara Falls – one in the US and one in Canada? Hahahaha  Thanks treadmill, but yes, I knew that one! 🙂

I finished 4 miles with an average pace just under 10 min/mile. Probably a little too fast for me on an easy run, but I got a rush of adrenaline during the NF part, and sped up.  I’m not sure on the exact time because once I hit 4 miles I was reaching up to slow down the machine and I accidentally hit the “emergency stop” bar.  When you hit that bar, that’s it, game over! No chance to resume, and no workout recap.  Oh, well.
Celebrating childhood dreaming
Taking in these waterfalls
Before the world got so deceiving
Before you thought you knew it all
The beauty of this scene was hidden
By every year gone by

-The Trews

What about you readers? What virtual running/cycling/whatever route would perk you up?

Tuesday Tempo

Tuesday night is speed work in my current training plan and I alternate between intervals and tempo runs. So far, all of these runs have felt too easy. I feel like I should be pooped after speed work, and I haven’t been. Until today.

The plan for today’s run was to do a 10 min warm-up, then 20 minutes increasing speed to 10k pace, and a 5 minute cooldown.  This is a total of 35 minutes, but you already knew that didn’t you? Because you, like most people over 8 years old, know that 10+20+5=35. It’s simple addition. Unfortunately, at around 17 minutes, I forgot how to do simple addition. I thought my cooldown would start at 25 minutes. Wrong! So wrong! At 23 minutes, when I realized my mistake I was already running an 8 min/mile pace (31 seconds faster than my schedule calls for).

At this point, I had a few options: slow down and start increasing my speed from a more reasonable pace, hold my current pace for the rest of the run, or keep increasing like I was supposed to but end up at a much faster pace than originally planned.  I chose option 3! Which at 23 minutes was a questionable choice, and it didn’t get any easier as I sped up over the next 7 minutes.  I did make it though; I pushed all the way to a 7:30 min/mile pace which I held for 2 min before a wonderfully glorious cooldown.

It was exhausting! I’m glad I was able to push so hard, but I know the aim of the workout wasn’t to run as hard as I could, so next tempo run I’ll try to be better at adding 🙂

Thoughts of this dessert helped get me through the last few painful minutes:

2014-02-18 21.06.37

It was delicious! And even better because I got to eat it while watching the Olympics. Now, off to bed!

Winter Weather + A Long Run

Today, I’m writing about two unrelated topics, the weather and this week’s long run. I don’t know how to tie these things together, so it’s a two part post! (If I put an exclamation point, it makes it sound exciting and not just lame, right?)

Part 1: About the Weather

What normal people see when they see the weather forecast:


I’m in the 4-8″ band.

What runners see when they see the weather forecast:


Mark Remy cracks me up!

I’m getting sick and tired of being sick and tired of the weather. I know it’s hard to believe, but I guess there is a limit to my whining (bet you didn’t know that, mom!) and I’ve officially reached it in regards to winter weather. I just don’t care anymore. Slush is falling from the sky and I can’t run outside or drive to the gym? Whatever. It’s freezing, and going outside would give me frostbite? Oh, well.  It’s going to start blizzarding so I have to get up early and do my long run before that starts.  Sure, why not?  

I just don’t care anymore if the weather screws up my running schedule, or if I have to run on the treadmill instead of on the street. And this not caring, it’s kind of a nice feeling.

Part 2: About A Long Run

I had a fantastic 9 mile long run this morning. I was surprised it went so well, I did not think I’d have a good run for several reasons:

  • My brain was on vacation: Jeff and I went to the gym to run on the treadmill. First, I forgot my sneakers, then I forgot my gel. Jeff was not happy with me – he likes to leave early. At least we hadn’t even gotten to the car either time I realized I forgot something.
  • I did not sleep well: I woke up at 3:30AM and could not fall back asleep until 5AM because my stomach was hurting. I think I ate too much of this:


And possibly too much of this:


I should probably have eaten less of these valentine’s treats, but they were delicious and I don’t really regret it that much.

  • I did not have fresh legs: Because of laziness and the weather, I didn’t run on either Wednesday or Thursday. So, on Friday night (you know, less that 12 hours before my long run) I went for an easy 3 mile run. And I did take it easy…but then I decided that I should run 2.14 kilometers in honor of Valentine’s day! So, I ran a fast (much faster than easy run pace) 2.14 kilometers – while listening to “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” on repeat – after my easy 3 mile run. Oops! I think my pink shirt, socks, and sneakers affected my brain 🙂
2014-02-14 19.47.58

Kilometers pass by much quicker than miles and I missed the 2.14 mark!

Regardless of all those reasons I shouldn’t have had a good run, I did!  I’ve been doing my long runs on the treadmill in order to avoid the snow and ice covered sidewalks (I do not run in the street). I’m slightly concerned that the treadmill is easier than running outside, so I’ve been doing a “rolling hills” program on the treadmill. Today I did level 4, which has 3 small hills that get up to 2.5% incline, and one large hill that gets up to 4.5% incline.  I’ve been doing really great on the small hills, but still have a tough time when the incline gets above 3%.  I did this program twice (because gym treadmills don’t think you can run longer than an hour). In the first 4.5 miles I averaged 9:41 min/mile, and in the second 4.5 miles I averaged 9:44 min/mile.  This is awesome for me for such a long, “hilly” run.  And, I felt great after – just the right amount of tired.  It was both a hard and easy run depending on the incline, so I felt like I worked hard, but I also came out feeling confident and happy with my pace. Yay!

Now, off to eat lunch and wait for the blizzard to start.  Hopefully, it’ll be cleared up by tomorrow morning and Jeff and I can skip running and do some snowshoeing instead. It was super fun last weekend, and worth postponing my run!

2014-02-08 09.48.36 IMG_20140208_101946_978

February Resolution Check-in

Hey, it’s February! Already. Time to check in on my resolutions (detailed list here).

  1.  Complete a 1/2 Marathon in Under 2 Hours – I signed up and started training.
  2.  Keep up with my Running Blog – I’ve been doing SO good at this! And I love it!
  3.  Run a Marathon – This would happen in the fall, so nothing new here.
  4. Keep a Running Journal – Started the running journal a couple weeks ago. Jury’s still out on whether I’ll be able to keep it up. Also, not sure I like it.
  5. Join a Running Club – Not yet.
  6. Volunteer – Also, not yet.
  7. Run 2014! (kilometers, that is) – Working on it, but I’m behind. I’ve run more miles so far than at the same time last year (80 vs. 66), so that’s a good start.
  8. Beat Jeff’s 5k PR – Nope, haven’t tried yet. But I’m doing speed work for the half, which I think can count as progress on this goal, too.

In my opinion, so far so good. We ARE only 1/12 through the year.  See ya next month!

Top 5 Friday: Spring Races

It’s time for Top 5 Friday! Remember when I came up with that 3 weeks ago? You didn’t think I meant to do it EVERY Friday, did you? oops!

As you know, I JUST signed up for a spring half marathon, so it seemed like an opportune time to bring you…

The Top 5 Reasons Signing up for a Spring Race is an Awesome Idea:

1.  To get out there! After that first magical snowfall and all the holly jolly holiday runs are over, winter running starts to be kind of a drag. It’s icy, cold, dark, cold…and this year, it’s been especially COLD. So when you really want to curl up with a book under the electric blanket, that race entry will get you out there. And let’s face it, the hot chocolate tastes at least 20% better after a run. (Yeah, 20% isn’t a lot better, but hot cocoa is already pretty fantastic.

2013-12-25 13.23.42

Remember when, “Oh It’s snowing! yay! And it’s Christmas, and I’m running!!!”

Well, now: "Ugh..what is this disgusting mess...oh, and it's -85 out? super."  Photo from www.theguardian,com

Well, now: “Ugh..what is this disgusting mess…
oh, and it’s -85 out? super.”
Photo from http://www.theguardian,com

2.  Hold yourself accountable – Remember back in January, when you made a bagillion New Year’s resolutions, specifically about running?  Racing probably factored in there somehow.  At this point of the year, you haven’t quite forgotten about all the resolutions, so signing up for a spring race sounds like a terrific idea. And hey, it’ll keep you on track.

3.  To get out there! – This sounds a lot like the first reason, doesn’t it? Well, it’s different, I promise. Not unlike winter, the magic of running in the spring fades pretty quickly for me. And again, having a race on the calendar will get me out the door when it’s 40 degrees and pouring rain for the 8th day in a row.


Running in the spring is great, because this is what spring looks like, right?


 4.  Because winter race options are limited – Sure, you’ve got your new year’s day 5k, and of course the frosty knuckle or freezer five, or whatever else unpleasant sounding race, but really there aren’t many longer distance runs in the winter.  At least not in New England. I tried to find a January 1/2 marathon near me and came up empty. There was nothing within a reasonable distance of my home. It’s probably for the best though, I would not have been a happy camper racing on one of these polar vortex days.

5. Because fall is like a million years away – Fall races are my favorite, but if I wait to run all my races in the fall, then I end up with a pretty skimpy race calendar! Not to mention all the long runs on 90 degree days to prepare for fall races. To me, spring is kind of like fall’s cousin.  Not too hot, not too cold.  And it reminds you that “hey, being outside isn’t terrible!”

Disclaimer – I don’t actually HATE the weather as much as this post makes it seem. It’s not running in the cold or rain or heat that are the problem, it’s that I can’t ever remember that doing so isn’t that bad.  Having a race on the calendar helps me overcome that issue.

So, what spring race are you going to do?

A Hilly Half?

Before the end of January, I signed up for a spring 1/2 marathon!  This is the one where I’m going to run under 2 hours…at least, that’s the plan.  : )

The race is the Twin Lights Half Marathon. It runs through Gloucester and Rockport, MA. I’ve run 10ks in both places before, and they have been two of the nicest race courses I’ve ever done. I mean check out this picture from the race website –


The twin lights!


Unfortunately, they were also two of the hilliest races I’ve ever done, and this one isn’t any different.  I’m a little nervous that the hills will hurt my chances of getting my time goal, but to be completely honest I’d rather do a scenic, hilly race and miss my time goal than do a boring, flat race and get it. Before I signed up for this race, I actually found out about another half in the area that is on the same day that claims that it is “not scenic, but flat!”, and I STILL chose this one.

So, there it is. I chose to run the hilly race for my time goal. I prefer to think of it as choosing the scenic race…I mean, it starts and ends at a beach, the seashore will be visible for most of the race!  And, that sort of thing can speed me up, too. I don’t really think it was a bad decision.

Plus, I’m going into it knowing the profile, and will just tackle as many hills in training as I can.


Who knows what an 80ft elevation change really feels like anyways?

I think I only have about 5 readers, but here’s some questions for you special few: Would you chose a tough course for the view when you have a time goal? Is the scenery an important factor for you when choosing a race?