Proof You’re Never Too Old to Learn Something New

“You can teach an old dog new tricks”

A special mid-week blog, as Chris and I are off on vacation to Big Sky, Montana. That’s right; while normal people seek out warm weather and beaches, I’m giddy at the idea of a vacation that includes upper 30s, sun, and snow – lots of snow!

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Montana, here we come!

If anyone needs me, I’ll be on my snowboard for the next several days so Sunday’s usual blog will be delayed til we’re back. But, I wanted to take the opportunity to share a quick story before we embark on our mountain getaway.

I started skiing when I was five, then took my first ride on a snowboard before I hit teenage years. Because I learned so young – and because I like to think I’m just naturally athletic – I picked up both quickly and have enjoyed winter sports nearly my whole life.

Knowing I’m a junkie mountain girl at heart, Chris eagerly agreed to a group spring vacation skiing in Montana. While I knew snowboarding wasn’t his thing, I assumed he had enough of a handle on skiing to be able to hang with the group.

Chris had never skied before. Like, ever. I found this out after airline tickets had been purchased. He wasn’t worried, assuming his natural athletic ability and years of hockey were all he needed to pick up skiing quickly. I was skeptical. I mean, it’s one thing to jump right in and learn something as a kid; it’s quite another as an adult. Right?

So we did what any normal husband and wife would do. We rented him some gear and headed to the local ski hill where I assumed I’d be patient, he’d be impatient, I’d speak in encouraging words, he’d speak in the language of swear words, but by the end of the day, he’d be starting to get the hang of it.

Within the first hour, Chris looked like he had been skiing forever. I had to hand it to him, the hockey background really was the game-changer in him learning so quickly – well, that, and saying, “fuck” more times in one hour than I think he ever has before.

Now, at the age of 31, he’s as good a skier as many. Lucky me!

What’s something you’d love to do but feel “too old” to start? Or have you taken the plunge and tried something new in your adult years? Comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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5 Reasons a Marathon Training Partner is Gold

“People, let me tell you ‘bout my best friend”

I interrupt this week’s regularly-scheduled blog to bring you something impromptu.

Every so often, I see something that inspires a post. Today, it happened twice, which led me to shelve this week’s planned entry and whip up this one.

Before I went to the gym, my friend, Heather, shared a Facebook update about her long run and tagged her training partner in the post. While I was at the gym, I saw my friend, Tom, and his training partner running the track. In both cases, they were dealing with less-than-ideal weather putting a damper on normal running plans. For many runners, bad weather on long run day makes the miles particularly challenging.

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My all-time favorite running partner.

I instantly thought about how nice it was for them to have their running buddy to help them thru it. When I first began running, I always had a training partner. I teamed up with Jen for our first half marathon, then the following year, Aaron and Jason were my half marathon partners in crime. My former boyfriend, Zach, was crucial in my training for my first full marathon and, a few years later, I enjoyed helping my friend, Jill, on some of her 10k training runs.

As I continued to run and became a 100% Type A runner (aka, incredibly scheduled, anal, and particular about every run), I stopped running with other people. In fact, since I began running with Burton, I can count the number of times I’ve run with another person on one hand.

But even as I’ve gone away from running with humans, I still recognize the value in having a marathon training partner – or half marathon, 10k, 5k, whatever your distance. Especially for newer runners, here are 5 reasons why a training partner can be the best thing in the world.

In It Together
A training partner is built-in accountability, whether it’s getting up at zero-dark thirty on Saturday morning for a long run or squeezing in at least one leg day during the week.

It’s one thing to do it for yourself; it’s an entirely different feeling knowing that someone else is in it with you, often relying on you to keep them in check, too.

Judgment-Free Zone
You smell awful. You’re missing two toenails. You have weekly bouts of hangry moments. Most people wouldn’t be very accepting.

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All the food. ALL THE FOOD.

Your training buddy understands. They don’t judge and, likely, they’re in the exact same gross, smelly boat.

Pick-Me-Up
As a newlywed, I’ve been particularly aware of all-things marriage advice. I remember reading one quote that basically says a strong marriage isn’t two people strong all the time; it’s one person being strong when the other is weak, and vice versa.

While a running partner isn’t quite the same as a life partner, I like how this saying applies to training. I recall plenty of runs where I was struggling or wanted to throw in the towel early. But, Jen was there to pick me up and keep me going. Conversely, there were times I remember pushing Jill to finish that last half mile or encouraging Zach up a tough hill that time he was super-dehydrated. When one partner is weak, the other can be strong and get them through.

Keep it Fresh
Anyone who has been in training, from a 5k to a marathon, knows how easy it is to fall into a training rut. You’re doing the same old workouts during the week, long run Saturday, ho hum, it’s kind of dull.

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Heidi has been my running and let’s-try-a-new-workout buddy.

A training partner can help you see outside your little training bubble and introduce you to new things. Different interval runs, new leg exercises, even a yoga class can come thanks to an outside source, and help break up the training monotony.

They Just Get You
Training for a distance race is just as much (if not more) of a mental test than physical. And just as easily as logging all the miles can take a toll on your body, it can take a toll on your mind and attitude, too.

A training partner knows exactly what you’re going through. You’re tired and crabby? They know. You want to eat everything in sight? So do they. It’s hard to bend down? Dropping something and having to pick it up is also their biggest fear. They just get you. And you get to take comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one who’s feeling all those crazy ranges of emotion.

I realized something funny while I was reading back through all this – most of these apply to Burton just as much as they would to a human. He’s always ready to hit the pavement, he’s equally as enthusiastic about food, and, he just gets me. Maybe I do have a legit training partner after all!

Do you have a running or workout buddy? Why do you continue to team up with that person? Or, if you’re more of a lone wolf like me, why do you feel it’s better to train solo? Comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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The Lucky 7 – My Favorite Spring Blogs

“Spring – rejuvenation, rebirth, everything’s blooming. All that crap.”

I don’t particularly like spring. Winter is my favorite season and I kind of hate to see it come to an end. But mostly, I don’t like spring because the sloppy weather means Burton has to go instantly into the tub after every run.

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That’s a good day.

The upside is, first day of spring means it’s March, and there’s a lot of good stuff that comes with that. Daylight Saving Time ends, 311 day, and it’s the best time to go snowboarding. Spring aside, there are plenty of great things about March.

In the spirit of embracing the new season, I’m sharing 7 of my favorite blogs from spring seasons of the past. Why 7? March is also the month of St. Patrick’s day, which means everything green and lucky. So here they are, the Lucky 7 of springtime blogs.

1. Embracing the Taper (March 2016)
Last year, my pre-Boston Marathon taper was the best part of my training.

2. The Dreaded Taper (April 2014)
You’ll understand the irony of the above blog when you read this one, with my true feelings about tapering.

3. So You Ran a Marathon – Now What? (May 2014)
The hardest part about running a marathon isn’t that damn dreaded taper, the intimidating 20-mile run, or the horror of bending down, well, always. It’s what to do after the marathon is over.

4. Countdown to Race Day (May 2016)
What to do the final days leading up to a race.

5. Cold-Weather Running and Layering Tips (March 2015)
Because there’s still a chance of winter this spring.

6. MLB Opening Day and Running (April 2016)
Two things I love: baseball and running. Here’s what they have in common.

7. 5 Unexpected Things Runners Get Really Good At (March 2016)
Some are good in normal life, others are not acceptable. But they’re all on point for runners.

Are you excited to see spring arrive or sadder to see winter go? Either way, what’s coming this spring that you’re looking forward to? Comment or tweet me, @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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Behind the Scenes Running 26.2 – Part 2: How to Train

“Tough runs don’t last but tough runners do”

It’s time for Part 2 in my mini-series designed for all you out there training for a marathon – especially your first marathon.

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When you’ve trained hard for a marathon, it’s that much more enjoyable.

In this mini-series, I’m taking you through all 26.6 miles of a marathon – plus the before and after. Part 1 told you what to expect, now I’m going to offer tips on how to train for it, then finally, how to embrace, enjoy, or just get through it on race day.

Now, the second in the three-part series: How to train for running a marathon.

The Start Line

What to expect
People. Everywhere. From fellow athletes and pace leaders to race officials and spectators, the area will be full of people.

How to train for it
On days that are tough, visualize this moment. Remind yourself of the pride and excitement you’ll feel stepping up to the start line with your fellow athletes.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!


Mile Markers 1-4

What to expect
The crowd will be thick and adrenaline high. You’ll be excited and may feel tempted to push your pace to get around people or, simply because you feel great.

How to train for it
Do plenty of easy practice runs to hone in on your comfort pace. This pace is what you strive to stick to throughout the miles – not so easy that it throws off your stride, yet not too fast you risk emptying your tank too early.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 5-8

What to expect
You should feel good and strong, likely having settled into a comfort pace. The crowd, while thinner now, will still be fairly close together.

And if you’re running a race that has a four-person relay, you’ll hit the first relay exchange point in this mileage block. Expect a ton of spectators (feed off their energy), possibly some minor congestion (runners will be switching in and out), and a sudden burst of faster runners around you (the newbs that just hit the course).

How to train for it
Practice your early hydration strategy during long runs. These miles are when you’re going to need your first pit stop or two for water or sports drink. Get used to, both the concept of running slowly while drinking (expect spills and liquid up your nose) and the feeling of having a little liquid in your belly while running.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 9-13

What to expect
It’s unlikely fatigue will have set in yet. Those of you who have run a half marathon will likely notice how much better you feel now, compared to how you feel at this point in a half marathon. You should feel mentally good that you trained hard and are poised to hit the second half of your race, and physically up to the task.

How to train for it
Try to incorporate a few 9, 10, and 11-mile runs into your training plan, outside of your long runs. I can’t tell you how big a confidence booster it is when you can hammer out 10 miles on a Monday night – especially considering that was a “long” run for you only a few weeks ago.

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My barbell earrings – because I really really like lifting.

Another thing you should incorporate into your training is weight lifting. Specifically, upper-body focused lifting. Think about your ideal form when you run. Shoulders back and strong, core tight, arms pumping – your upper body plays a big role in sustaining long distances. Conversely, a weak upper body might be shoulders hunched, core sagging, and arms loosely stabilized – not ideal for continuing another 13 miles.

Those of you shaking your heads and saying, “I don’t have time or energy for that, I’m training for a marathon!” believe me, I feel you. The more you run, the harder and more frustrating lifting can be. But I’m only talking 20-30 minutes one or two times a week. That’s enough to give you the benefits and doable to incorporate into your busy schedule.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 14-16

What to expect
Mentally, this is a good place as you’ll know you’re more than halfway there. That said, slight fatigue may start to set in your legs, glutes, even upper body, especially if the weather is significantly different than what you’ve trained in. Upside, you’ve likely seen some really great running signs by this point – and there are more to come!

How to train for it
Practice eating an energy gel, blocks, or something of that nature on your long runs as this will likely be the point you’ll want your first boost. Be sure you have water along, as all energy products go down and sit in your stomach much better with water. Plus, it’s just a good reason to make sure you’re replenishing fluid and staying hydrated.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 17-19

What to expect
I’m gonna give you the bad news first – these three miles are often the most mentally-tough ones of the race. You’re far enough in now that you’ll be feeling some fatigue, yet you feel so far from the finish line.
The good news, though, is if you haven’t yet had any issues with stomach trouble, you’re likely not going to as long as you stay properly hydrated. High-fives for successfully avoiding the port-a-potties!

How to train for it
Schedule at least one long run that exceeds 19 miles. If you’re run a marathon or two, you may even consider two that hit the 20-mile mark.

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Strong legs means a smile on your face at the finish line.

And, I’m going to hit you with one more lifting task – this time, for your legs. Olympic hockey coach, Herb Brooks famously said, “The legs feed the wolf,” when imposing intense conditioning exercises on his players (I’m not sure of the factual nature of these words; the quote may have been written into the movie for entertainment value but I still love it). Basically, stronger legs are going to be your friend as you head into your final miles, and running alone won’t get your legs to their full potential.

Be the best-conditioned you can be by incorporating one dedicated leg workout into your week – again, I’m talking just 20-30 minutes, focused on quality moves like squats, single-leg deadlifts, and glute work.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 20-26

What to expect
You’ll feel tired. You may find yourself wondering why you signed up to do this. You may be tempted to walk or stop altogether.

How to train for it
Towards the end of training and during your biggest long runs, start pushing your pace in the final four miles. Practicing a strategy of digging deep and pushing those last miles vs. slogging through and mentally cursing them will pay off.

What to do on race day
Coming soon – this section will be big so get ready!

 
The Finish Line

What to expect
Emotions and extremes. You may cry, you may laugh; you may feel a burst of energy or like you’re going to pass out. Either way, you can’t help but feel pride. I don’t care if it’s your first marathon or tenth. It’s an incredible accomplishment that comes with an incredible feeling.

How to train for it
After long runs, practice your immediate recovery strategy so you can implement it on race day. Whether it’s a pared-down version of stretches, putting your legs up against a wall, eating – it will all help you navigate the post-race area and ensure your recovery gets off to a good start. Also, always go for a short walk a couple hours after a long run; it will help your legs recover.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

Now you have an idea of what to expect throughout the 26.2 miles of a marathon and how to train for each moment. Are you still in? If so, comment below or tweet me with what race you’re training for and when it is.

Next month, watch for the final piece of this series, Part 3, that will provide advice for how execute your marathon from the start line, through the miles, and to the finish.

As always, if you have specific training questions, feel free to leave a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter with your questions or other comments.

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How to Rebound After a Bad Workout

“Honey, pull your shit together”

Last week was a rough one at work. From feeling intense pressure to being overwhelmed to having a constant stomachache to flat-out wanting to just sit at my desk and cry, you could say I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster – actually, a rollercoaster goes up as much as it goes down so that’s not really a proper analogy…

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Or at least, it will get better.

Anyway, this isn’t my woe-is-me whining session. I got through it last week and will this week too. In addition to coping strategies of mindful moments, reflection, and just getting over it and moving on, I employed one of my proven strategies for dealing with a tough day, which is – shocking – a workout. Most often, it’s a run. Sometimes, the power lies in lifting weights. Either way, a great workout is an excellent coping strategy for a bad day. My workouts this week, most notably, my Tuesday run with Burton, saved me from completely losing my shit this week.

But, what if it’s a bad workout that has your day unraveling? How do you deal when it’s your strategy to deal that has you stressed?

We’ve all been there. Maybe you drug your ass to the gym, completely against your own will, and, as predicated, your workout sucked. Or worse, maybe you were jacked for a sweat sesh, only to leave feeling disappointed, probably even worse than if you had been lukewarm about working out.

Just as you can bounce back after a bad day, you can recover from a less-than-stellar workout. Here are five strategies for dealing with and rebounding from a bad workout.

Food Recall
One of the biggest culprits to a bad workout is bad fueling. Whether it’s overall fatigue, an early bonk, or lack of focus, can you trace it back to not eating right or enough?

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This would not qualify as proper pre- or post-workout fueling.

While what you eat in the time closest to your workout, consider the day before. And, if you had a really hard workout within the past day or two, think about what you ate after – and if it was sufficient enough to promote proper recovery. Find these gaps and address them.

Be Realistic
Face it, every workout can’t be your best. If you hit a squat PR or kicked ass in speed intervals the day before, maybe today wasn’t meant to be another of rockstar status.

Be honest and ask: Did you honestly have a crappy workout or did it just not meet your, perhaps inflated, expectations?

Focus on the Good
There’s always something good in a bad situation. Rather than focus only on all the reasons your workout sucked, find the silver lining.

Some days, just the fact of making it to the gym and lasting 15 minutes on the treadmill is a victory in itself. Take note and give yourself a mental high five.

Move On
Don’t let one bad day cause another. As hard as it can be, putting a bad workout behind you is necessary.

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When you really, really need rest.

We all know fitness isn’t 100% physical, there’s a mental component to it too. Dwelling on a bad workout puts your mind in a negative place and, chances are, your next one could suffer as a result.

Take a Rest Day
A bad workout is often a sign that your body needs a rest day – badly. So give it one.

Take a full day off from working out. Also, make sure you get to bed early and try to snag those eight hours of sleep. Quality rest and sleep does wonders for your body and mind.

How do you rebound after a bad day? How about a bad workout, what are your tips for putting it behind you and starting fresh the next day? Comment below or tweet me, @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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What Do These Health & Fitness Terms Mean?

“WTF are you talking about?”

This week continues my new series of answering health and fitness questions on the blog. And, I admit, this blog idea came more from a personal experience and question of my own versus a direct one I had been asked at one time or another.

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Our dedicated shaker cabinet for all-things supplements, like BCAAs.

One day, I heard my husband talking about taking his BCAAs. Naturally, I first assumed this was some sort of grown-up, finance-industry version of the SATs.

I was wrong. BCAA stands for branch chain amino acids. It’s a supplement he, like many who lift weights, takes to promote muscle growth.

Then I started thinking about all the health and fitness terms I (and we all) throw around every day. And how said terms can be really confusing to those new or not really in the health and fitness world. So here begins the next health and fitness Q&A.

Q: What does (insert obscure fitness term) mean?

A: In addition to BCAAs, here are 9 commonly-thrown-around, yet not-commonly-understood terms in the health and fitness world.

1. DOMS
An acronym like BCAAs, but you’ll rarely hear anyone actually use the term, “DOMS.” What you may hear about is people referring to what it means: delayed onset muscle soreness.

As I often do, allow me to explain with a story:
Lindsay works with Jake.
Lindsay and Jake both like to lift weights.
Lindsay and Jake are both over 30.
Lindsay does a heavy leg lift and brags to Jake the next morning at a staff meeting that she doesn’t even feel sore.
Lindsay discovers the harsh reality of life the following day when she can’t go down stairs, bend down, or sit without grimacing in pain.
Jake laughs at Lindsay because he too finds himself in this situation often.

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Hard a.m. workouts then an afternoon on the hill means serious DOMS is coming.

Especially as we get older, post-lift muscle soreness often comes at us later and hits us harder. This phenomenon of peak soreness coming 36 or even 48 hours after a lift: delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS.

2. Fartlek
A serious running term, this one still makes me giggle.

Fartlek is a training style of running that’s similar to intervals. It’s defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slow running.

3. Gains
In the health and fitness world, you’d think people talking about gains would be a bad thing. People work out to lose weight, not gain, right?

When you hear people talking about gains in a good way, they’re referring to growing muscle mass.

4. HIIT
I promise, this is the last acronym. This one, pronounced, “Hit” just like it looks, stands for high intensity interval training.

It’s a shorter workout (hence it’s growing popularity) that alternates short bursts of super-high intensity work with short periods of recovery work.

5. Macros
This is one you’ll only hear when you’ve gotten really immersed in health and fitness, and especially in weights. Or, you’ve achieved full meathead status, you’ll find you’re the one who can’t shut up about counting them.

Macros refer to macronutrients: carbs, protein, and fat. It’s the balance of these macronutrients that make up total caloric goals.

6. Negative Splits
You may be crossing your legs in pain, imagining what negative splits means. Ease up, it has nothing to do with flexibility or lack thereof.

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Far from my best 5k time but I was pumped about my negative splits.

Races or training runs are often viewed in halves – the first X miles, then the second half, the same number of miles. As one might imagine, it’s common to run fast in the first half, then lose some steam and be a bit slower in the second. Negative splits is the opposite, when the second half of a run is faster than the first.

7. Quinoa
Pronounced, “keen-wah” this food has been buzzed about for years after being introduced as the newest, hottest superfood. It’s rich in fiber, protein, and iron, and has all kinds of health benefits.

Not only is it good for you, it’s good. We often eat it mixed with rice and veggies. One of the golden rules in the health industry is, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Quinoa is the exception to rule – although now you know how to pronounce it!

8. Rest
I know, I know. Everyone knows what rest is. The confusion comes when a non-gym person hears a workout enthusiast griping about a rest day. Why, you might ask, would anyone be complaining about resting?

Rest is tough. Especially when training hard, it’s tempting to keep that fire lit and work out day after day after day. But equally important to any fitness regime – and especially when training hard – is a full rest day to recharge. Rest also comes into play in terms of actual sleep, as hard workouts demand more sleep.

9. Spinning
Back in the day, the only spins I heard about were attached to the word, “bed” and after a night of drinking too much wine.

In the health and fitness world, this is just another term for cycling, typically used when referring to cycling class.

There you have it. Now when your fit friends are talking about doing a HIIT workout or hoping for negative splits in their next half marathon, you can chime in about how you’re stoked about your gains. Actually, don’t say that. That’s really one you say to yourself, never out loud.

Don’t forget to submit your health and fitness questions to be answered on the blog. Leave a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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Cycling – On Carbs & On a Bike

“Everyone longs to hear those three special words – I have food”

Tis the season for love, hearts, flowers, and all that crap. I’ve never been a Valentines Day lover or hater – but let’s just say, any holiday that encourages the giving and eating of chocolates is good in my book.

Tis the season for something else, even more exciting. Something big happened last week. It was a busy but normal day; I worked a little later than usual and was packing up to leave just after 5:30. I felt an instant drop in my mood, knowing it would be dark outside, as it often is by 5:00 in the winter. But, to my pleasant surprise, it was still light out! The tide has turned, folks, and we’re on the upswing to more daylight.

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Up bright – err, dark – and early to hit Cyclebar.

Conversely, it’s still dark AF in the morning. That’s not changing any time soon. I notice this every day when I leave for work but really thought deeper about it when I was up super early to check out a class at the new cycling studio in town, Cyclebar. Whoever came up with the phrase, “Bright and early,” must have a different idea of what early means.

Back to cycling class – this is just crazy right? Me trying a new workout, what? I know, I know I’ve blogged about numerous new workouts in the past two months – and that doesn’t even count Snowga (that’s an outdoor yoga class in the snow) that I tried two Saturdays ago with my fit friend, Heather.

Anyway, the truly crazy part about my excitement over trying out Cyclebar is that I strongly dislike biking (yes, me the triathlete) and really despise cycling class (I took one spin class in my life and swore I’d never put myself through that again).

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Cyclebar Fargo

But, like the Spinsanity class I tried during my running sabbatical, word on the street was that Cyclebar’s spin classes were different – challenging, even. As someone always up for a good fitness challenge and the fact I’d have my work BFF, Jessi, by my side, I was eager to give it a shot. The result: I was pleasantly surprised at how much more I enjoyed this class than a typical spin class.

To give you the Cliff Notes version, Cyclebar mixed up intervals with climbing with light weight lifting to keep things moving along and interesting. Class participant stats were projected on the big screen a few times during the class so, for those of us with competitive sides, that also kept intensity up.

On another cycling note, for the past five weeks, I’ve been experimenting with another, very different kind of cycling – carb cycling. While far from well-versed in the strategy, the concept basically entails switching between high, mid and low-carb days, both as a weight management strategy and one to properly fuel and recover from workouts.

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A current low-carb version of pizza I’m loving.

I’ll dedicate a full blog to this, as I feel it warrants one. Just to give a quick preview and, again, taking a Cliff Notes approach, this experience has taught me a couple things. One, I’ve just entered marathon training season, so there isn’t going to be much opportunity for cycling of carbs – that, or my carb cycling will look very different than the average person.

Two, and in the spirit of the season of love, I love carbs. LOVE them.

Have you tried carb cycling? Or if you’re interested in learning more, what questions do you have? Post a comment or tweet me, @runlikeagirl311 and I’ll do my best to address now or in an upcoming blog.

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