Orangetheory Fitness – My First Time & A Review

Orangetheory fitness logo

After talking to several friends and co-workers about Orangetheory Fitness, I finally took the plunge and booked my first session this last Saturday. Even though it’s just treadmills, rowing and weights, everyone raved about how upbeat the classes were and how they couldn’t wait to go back. So, what is Orangetheory?

Orangetheory Description

Taken from Orangetheory’s website:

Orangetheory’s hour-long gym sessions are held in an upbeat group setting which is divided into intervals of cardiovascular and strength training that uses treadmills, indoor rowers, weight training blocks, and floor exercises.

During your session, heart-rate monitors are worn where the data is displayed live on a video monitor for your trainer to see your progress, and to help keep you accountable during your workout. When your heart-rate stays within a specific range, your metabolism is stimulated, your energy increases, and you experience the Orange Effect—additional energy and calorie burn for up to a day and a half after your initial workout!

Our experienced personal gym trainers will give you the right motivation to get you on your way toward your fitness goals. Whether you have a performance based goal such as increasing power, speed, or strength, or simply have a desire to lose weight and tone up in a fun way, Orangetheory Fitness is the perfect place to get you there.

My OrangetheoryExperience

There is an option to request your first class online, but I called into my chosen location to reserve a time. They asked that I come in 30 minutes before my first class to fill out paperwork and get a tour of the facility. They also recommended that I bring a water bottle and sweat towel.

When I arrived, there was a class going on and I could see how positive the trainer was. The reception area was separate from the workout room, separated by a full glass window. The receptionist was very friendly and asked about my fitness goals and how I had heart about Orangetheory. Upon completing the paperwork, she set me up with a heart rate monitor. It was the traditional chest strap model that would be used to monitor my results during class. There were lockers and locker rooms available for use, but I did not check the locker room out. The lockers had keys provided and were large enough to put a small handbag in or extra clothes during the winter, but not large enough for a full backpack. There were also hooks on the wall, if you just wanted to hang up your keys during class.

The receptionist then explained the monitor that was on display in the workout room. It displayed everyone in the class, along with your heart rate and other workout stats. When walking in you moved from gray to blue, then green, to orange, and finally red. Orange is where you were aiming to be. For every minute in orange and red, you would get a splat point. The goal was to get at least 12 splat points during class. This would encourage your body to continue burning calories for the next 36 hours. She also explained the 3 treadmill paces used – base, push, and all out.

When the first class ended, the receptionist introduced me to the trainer Timothy. As it was my first time, he ensured throughout the class that I knew what was going on and how to set up my rower and other equipment. I started the class on Rower 1. Others entering the class could choose to start on either the rowers, treadmills or weight room. Even in the weight room, there were numbered stations, so when you moved throughout class, you stuck with your number, so I moved to weight station 1, then treadmill 1.

The Workout

Every workout is different, but here’s a rundown of some of mine. The first section of the rowing workout consisted of rowing 200m, then performing 2 different squat exercises with a weighted ball, then back to rowing adding 200m. You continued this pattern until time was up. The second section consisted of rowing 200m, then jump squats. Starting with 8 squats the first time, adding 4 each time with 200m of rowing in between.

I next moved to the weight room (really, just a side section of the room next to the rowers, which were behind the treadmills). The weight section of the workout was broken into 2 blocks. The first block included goblet squats, single arm dumbbell snatch, and upright rows. You continued doing these exercises until time was up. The second block was all about abs, using an ab roller.

And the last section for me was the treadmill. Attendees have complete control of their treadmills, with guidance from the trainer. Starting with a few minute of warm up, we next moved into Base Pace for 3 minutes. For a jogger, the recommended Base Pace was 4.5-5.5mph. We then completed 1 minute of Push Pace, which should be about 1 mph faster than your Base. We alternated intervals of Base and Push, with a couple of All Outs included, which should be at least 1mp faster than Push.

Conclusion

OrangeTheory could be my new favorite work out! I signed up for their 4 sessions a month membership. While memberships and pricing may vary by location, the 4 sessions a month started at $59/month. There were also options for 8 sessions a month and unlimited. You do have to purchase your own heart rate monitor to wear to class. One bonus of the heart rate monitor and membership, if it gives you access to a private app where you can wear your monitor for workouts outside of the studio and work towards your orange rate as well. I haven’t tried this out yet, but look forward to it. You can also schedule all your workouts in the studio on the app or online.

I loved the enthusiasm of the trainer and he really pushed you to do your best. While in the weight room, he encouraged me to increase my weight and corrected my form. Given that it was my first class, and I’ve learned from previous workouts to not go all out in the first session, I felt like I could have given more, but still got a great workout. Ended up with 6 splat points. So here’s to earning 12 next time!

Sign up today – your first class is free! Orangetheory’s website

Me @ Orangetheory

Continue Reading

Habitica – Help Build Habits by Gamifying Your Life

I was recently searching for an app that I could enter daily to-dos that would automatically rollover each day to help build some daily habits. I received all sorts of recommendations, but one really stuck out – Habitica. The recommender said it was perfect for someone that likes social games and the idea of gamification. What that means is you earn points and build onto a character for every completed to-do! You also lose health when you don’t complete your to-dos. I downloaded Habitica from the Google Play store, but it is also available in the App Store. When logging in for the first time, it will ask if you are using the app for health and wellness or education or business and provide you sample habits and tasks. You can also fully customize the app with items that you want to accomplish.

Habitica in Google Play Store

Habitica is broken up into 4 sections:

  1. Habits
  2. Dailies
  3. To-Dos
  4. Rewards

Habits sreenshot

Habits

You can set up both Good Habits (things you should do multiple times per day like eat vegetables) and Bad Habits (nail biting). Completing a Good Habit earns you gold and experience, while completing a Bad Habit subtracts health.

Dailies

Dailies

Dailies are tasks that you have to do every day, like brushing your teeth or checking your email. You can adjust the days that a Daily is due by clicking the pencil item to edit it. If you skip a Daily that is due, your avatar will take damage overnight. I’ve been trying to implement a daily workout routine, so added my individual workouts as Dailies. I also have Dailies for different social media tasks that I want to complete each day, like post on Instagram, my business page, and Twitter. You can earn experience points and coins when completing your Dailies to upgrade your character.

To-Dos

I haven’t used the To-Dos section yet, but this is a place to add one-time items. You can add due dates to your To-Dos and you earn experience points and coins for completing your To-Dos.

RewardsRewards

This section allows you to spend your coins on new weapons and accessories for your character.

Social

There is also a social aspect to the game with Parties, Guilds, Challenges and the Tavern. These features allow you to chat with other users and join challenges with the your friends or strangers based on similar goals.

Conclusion

I highly recommend Habitica! It has a great layout and is easy to use. I like that it breaks out habits that can be completing throughout the day (like drinking water) versus daily habits (10 squats, for example). I’m also motivated to complete my Dailies so I don’t lose Health points. Whenever you lose all your health points, you drop down a level and lose your experience points as well.

Continue Reading

Running – Top 3 Tips To Get Started

Running - Top 3 Tips to Get Started

Running is one of my favorite ways to stay active. You can do it inside or out. Alone or with friends. And you can even do it year-round. But it can be a little intimidating if you’ve never tried before.

Here are my top 3 tips to get started in the sport of running.

  1. Get fitted for running shoes. I’ve heard it said that running is one of the cheapest sports to get started in because you can do it with what you have. But I highly recommend you go to a specialized running store and get fitted with proper running shoes. This will likely cost you at least $100, but will save you in injury time and pain down the road. And once you know what shoe and size fits you best, you can find cheaper options online. In St Louis, I love Big River Running! They are highly trained in finding the right shoe for you based on how many miles you run a week, what surfaces you run on, and what injuries you’ve experienced in the past. Look local and they will likely have group runs and other educational opportunities.
  2. Start slow. It can be tempting to jump right in and push yourself as hard as you can the first day. Resist this urge. This is the quickest way to injure yourself and/or cause shin splints. Depending on your existing fitness level, your starting point can vary, but I would recommend 30 minutes of walk/run for your first workout. The Couch to 5k program is an excellent training program for individuals just starting to run. It leads you through run/walk workouts that slowly extend the run periods to where you are completely running by the end of the program. You should never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%.
  3. Join a running group. I started running with two friends from work. We decided to train for an upcoming 5k to stay active during busy season at our public accounting firm. You can’t beat the accountability of running with friends. They are going to make sure that you show up when you schedule runs and follow up if  you miss a run. I’ve since joined Big River Running’s Training Team, which is a group that trains for half and full marathons, focused on races in April and October. We meet weekly on Sundays for 12 weeks leading up to each race. I’ve become great friends with many of the people in these groups and meet regularly during “off-season” and at various races around town. You can look for local groups on Facebook (check out “Moms Run This Town” or just search <city> running groups) and at your local running store.

What additional tips do you have for someone starting their running journey?

Continue Reading

Daily Mile Challenge

daily mile challenge image

The Daily Mile Challenge. While walking or running for just 1 mile a day won’t be enough to get in shape, it will set you up in the habit of daily exercise. These small changes repeated over time can become permanent habits. And it will take you less than 20 minutes.

During the month of April 2018, join us on Facebook for daily motivation to complete your daily mile challenge. Your daily mile can be running, walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, rowing, anything that you can track 1 mile of travel. Many phones have built in health trackers (like Samsung Health), but you can also download multiple fitness tracking apps, like MapMyWalk, MapMyRun, and Nike+.

daily mile challenge

Tips to Help With The Daily Mile Challenge

  1. Sleep in your workout clothes. I’ve heard this over and over, but never tried it. But I can see the logic. If you are already in your workout clothes, you have no excuse not to workout when you wake up. You are ready to go!
  2. Set an Alarm. Whether first thing in the morning or after you’ve gotten the kids to school, set a time everyday to complete your mile. That consistency of the same time everyday, is just one more step to creating a new habit.
  3. Have a Route Mapped Out. Use Google maps to figure out a route around your block that is 1 mile. Or see how far around your favorite park is.
  4. Hold Yourself Accountable. Find a workout buddy or virtual buddy who will hold you accountable. For every day missed, pay $10 to a friend or charity that you don’t agree with their mission. This should keep you motivated to stay committed to your daily mile.
  5. Create a Reward. On the flip side, you can set up a reward system for completing your mile. Buy a new workout top or get a massage. Treat yourself to a coffee date for every week completed.
Continue Reading

Squats – Benefits & Varieties

Wide Leg Squat

During this last month, I have been participating in a squat challenge – 1,000 squats during the month! With a 31 day month, that was an average of 32 squats per day, which seemed pretty doable. With 8 days left in the month, I still have 400 squats to complete. So, instead of actually working on my squats, I’m going to recap the benefits of performing squats and some different varieties you can add to your exercise regime.

Proper Squat Form

But first, let’s talk about what a squat is and how to perform a proper squat. The movement begins from a standing position. The movement is initiated by moving the hips back and bending the knees and hips to lower the torso, then returning to the upright position. Make sure to keep your chest up and don’t let your knees extend beyond your toes.

Benefits

Adapted from Joseph Mercola’s Fitness Panel, here are the top 8 benefits of performing squats:

  1. Builds Muscle in Your Entire Body

Squats obviously help to build your leg muscles (including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves), but they also create an anabolic environment, which promotes body-wide muscle building.

In fact, when done properly, squats are so intense that they trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone in your body, which are vital for muscle growth and will also help to improve muscle mass when you train other areas of your body aside from your legs.

So squats can actually help you improve both your upper and lower body strength.

2. Functional Exercise Makes Real-life Activities Easier

Functional exercises are those that help your body to perform real-life activities, as opposed to simply being able to operate pieces of gym equipment. Squats are one of the best functional exercises out there, as humans have been squatting since the hunter-gatherer days. When you perform squats, you build muscle and help your muscles work more efficiently, as well as promote mobility and balance. All of these benefits translate into your body moving more efficiently in the real world too.

3. Burn More Fat

One of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is actually to gain more muscle! For every pound of additional muscle you gain, your body will burn an additional 50-70 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you will automatically burn 500-700 more calories per day than you did before.

4. Maintain Mobility and Balance

Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as you get older, and squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength. They also work out your core, stabilizing muscles, which will help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls – which is incidentally the #1 way to prevent bone fractures versus consuming mega-dose calcium supplements.

5. Prevent Injuries

Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. They also help prevent injury by improving your flexibility (squats improve the range of motion in your ankles and hips) and balance, as noted above.

6. Boost Your Sports Performance – Jump Higher and Run Faster

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a mom who chases after a toddler, you’ll be interested to know that studies have linked squatting strength with athletic ability. Specifically, squatting helped athletes run faster and jump higher, which is why this exercise is part of virtually every professional athlete’s training program.

7. Tone Your Backside, Abs and Entire Body

Few exercises work as many muscles as the squat, so it’s an excellent multi-purpose activity useful for toning and tightening your behind, abs, and, of course, your legs. Furthermore, squats build your muscles, and these muscles participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, helping to protect you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

8. Help With Waste Removal

Squats improve the pumping of body fluids, aiding in removal of waste and delivery of nutrition to all tissues, including organs and glands. They’re also useful for improved movement of feces through your colon and more regular bowel movements.

Squat Varieties

Bodyweight Squat

First up, the traditional bodyweight squat. Keep your legs about hip width apart, push your hips back while bending your knees. Bend your knees to about a 90 degree angle and return to an upright position.

The dumbbell squat is just like the bodyweight squat with additional weight. Hold a dumbbell tight to your chest and don’t let it pull your chest forward as you squat down.

Kettle bell squat

Similar to the dumbbell squat, is the kettle bell (or goblet) squat. And I’ll say it again, keep your chest high as you squat. Keep from arching your back.

Squat with weight bar

Another option is to squat with a weight bar.

Squat with weight

Another variation is holding a weight (could be a dumbbell too) straight in front of you. This will really challenge your balance, so keep your core tight to avoid leaning into the weight or letting it droop.

Wide Leg Squat

The next variation is the wide leg squat that will focus on your inner thighs. These can be done with or without added weights.

Conclusion

What is your favorite squat variety or workout? Please share in the comments!

Continue Reading

Winter Workout Tips for Cold Weather

Snow

It is officially winter now in St Louis, where temperatures are dropping below zero on a regular basis. This cold weather, along with the holidays, has definitely put a damper on my exercise. Here are three of my favorite tips for staying active during winter:

Dress for the Weather

I’ve always heard to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer. So if it is 40 degrees outside, what would you be comfortable wearing in 60 degrees? For some people that may mean a light weight glove, others something heavier. It takes a little trial and error, but tracking the weather and what you wear can be helpful in the future.

For me, weather in the 40s calls for a lightweight glove, ear warmer, tights, and at least a long-sleeve tee, if not fleece. As we get colder, I have heavy weight gloves and fleece lined tights. And I just purchased a neck warmer that can be stretched up over the mouth and nose.

Find Indoor Options

  1. Indoor fitness classes – If you belong to the Y or a gym, many of their classes are included with membership. I have my favorite classes (tabata!!), but I’ve been experimenting with other options offered at my workplace gym (zumba, strength, yoga).
  2. Online workouts – Search Youtube for workout videos, and you’ll find thousands of options. There are also dedicated websites to yoga and other forms of exercise. I’ve tried DoYogaWithMe.com who offers hundreds of streaming videos free of charge. You can filter by difficulty, length of video, style and teacher. There are even yoga videos specifically for runners!
  3. Cardio machines – As much as I hate the treadmill, when the temperature drops low enough or there is ice on the ground, circumstances dictate staying indoors. I’ve recently started listening to audiobooks on my phone, so hopefully this will help pass the time away this year. Previously, I’d try listening to music or watching tv while working out on the treadmill. And of course the treadmill is not your only cardio machine to try, there is also the elliptical, bikes, and rowers.

Slow Down

It takes time for your body to adjust to new workout conditions. Slow your pace or take more frequent walk or rest breaks. And don’t forget to drink water. Your body still sweats when the weather is cold.

What additional tips do you have for staying committed to exercise during the cold winter months?

Winter Workout Tips

 

Continue Reading

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend

I finished!

It has taken me a while to get this post completed, but I felt I had so much to say!, The first weekend of December, I participated in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend with my good friend Sherry. This was by far one of the most inspirational weekends that I have ever had. Between touring St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, hearing from the families of current and  former patients, and the actual race itself, I have never been more in awe of the work done at St. Jude and what more I can do.

Thursday – Travel

Sherry and I drove to West Memphis, Arkansas from St Louis after work on Thursday. It’s just about a 4 hour drive for us straight down I-55. We stayed at the Knights Inn in West Memphis, a cute Marine-owned facility. A hot breakfast was provided along with all sorts of personal care items in the room, including a pair of slippers. The whole place was decorated in American flag decor. While not the most modern, it was very clean and the staff very personable.

Friday AM – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

We started the day with a tour of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We met other participants in the marathon weekend at the convention center for a bus ride over to the hospital complex. We had to go through security and I noticed that all cars had to go through security just to enter the complex.

We were dropped off in front of the Main Entrance to the hospital, with the statue of St. Jude greeting us. Directly across from the main entrance was the Danny Thomas ALSAC Pavilion. We had a brief introduction in the pavilion and met our tour guide. We learned that ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities) was also formed by Danny Thomas and is the fundraising and awareness organization for the hospital. Its sole mission is to raise the funds and awareness necessary to operate and maintain St. Jude. Danny Thomas was an entertainer, who when struggling in the industry, prayed to St. Jude for guidance, saying he would build a shrine to him. His shrine became what we know as St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

While at the hospital, we were able to see registration, the cafeteria, the research wing, the Teen Art Gallery, and various clinical areas. For privacy concerns, we were not allowed to take any pictures with or of patients, but we were allowed to take pictures of their beautiful art, made during art therapy.

After our hospital tour, we grabbed some lunch in downtown Memphis at a cute coffee shop / bar called Tamp & Tap. With soups, salads, sandwiches and all day breakfast, you can complete your meal with coffee or a local draft.

Friday PM – Juice Plus+Global Headquarters

Next, we headed to the Juice Plus+ Global Headquarters for another tour. Their offices are located in Collierville, just outside of Memphis. We were joined by other representatives of the Juice Plus+ company who were also participating in the marathon weekend. We were given a tour of the various offices within the building, including getting to see where our founder Jay Martin sits.

Outside of the Juice Plus+ building, there is a beautiful park-like setting with a pond and walking path for employees. Overlooking the grounds is a statue of two figures in conversation. It represents the relationships that we all have and how it takes relationships to build our business. It’s all about heart.

Sculpture at Juice Plus+ Global Headquarters

Friday PM – Race Expo

After our tour of Juice Plus+, it was finally time for us to hit the Race Expo. You began the expo by picking up your race bib. As a St. Jude Hero, I was able to go to a special VIP line, where in addition to my bib, I also received a St. Jude running hat and a wristband that would get me special perks throughout the expo and on race day. To become a St. Jude Hero, you have to commit to fundraise and raise at least $500. Raising more than $1,000 gives you even greater perks, such as a race jacket and hotel stay during the weekend. You also receive a special training t-shirt and race singlet while training, and incentives for meeting certain fundraising goals throughout the process. This was my second year as a St. Jude Hero and I’m already ready to sign up for next year.

After getting your bib, you head through the Race Store. There are St. Jude logo’d shirts, hats, gloves, mugs, you name it. So many great items! And as a Hero, you also get some credit to shop in the store. Next stop was race shirts. You get a great long-sleeve wicking shirt for registering for the race and it’s specific to the race that you entered (marathon, half marathon, etc.). Another Hero perk is getting your name on the Pace Cars and I was able to find my name this year!

St. Jude Marathon Pace Car

As the title sponsor of the race, Juice Plus+ had a big display with volunteers sharing about whole food nutrition. And as a Hero, our wristbands got us a St. Jude branded shaker bottle and Juice Plus+ Complete individual packets. It was then on to the rest of the Expo vendors. There were hundreds of different vendors, some promoting other races, some selling running paraphernalia (shoes, clothes, gels, jewelry), and others promoting different food items (chocolate milk anyone?).

Friday PM – Juice Plus+ Reception

When registering for the race, I signed up on Team Juice Plus+, since I am a Juice Plus+ distributor. They invited us to a reception at an event hall just down the street from the convention center. With an open bar and heavy appetizers, it was quite the reception. Our founder, Jay Martin even showed up and addressed all the runners. They also recognized those runners who had raised over $2,000 with a special gift.

Friday PM – Pasta Party

Another perk of being a St. Jude Hero is a free ticket to the Pasta Party. Think of it as dining with thousands of your closest friends. Buffet tables were set up a green salad and a few types of pasta with marinara, meat sauce, and pesto. They even had a gluten free option. We sat down at a table in the back with a few open seats. Little did we know that there was a whole program scheduled for the party. Richard C. Shadyac Jr. , CEO of ALSAC, spoke to the audience, along with the father of patient. They also recognized the top fundraising individuals and teams. It was inspiring to hear the stories of current and former patients who are leading the fundraising efforts for the weekend. Up next – Rest for the Big Day!

St. Jude Pasta Party

Saturday AM – Race Time

The Big Day! The half marathon started at 8am, and they recommended that we be in our race corrals at 7:30am. After learning from last year, we walked one block parallel to the race start line and corrals to avoid the congestion. As a slow runner, my recommended corral was Corral 14. While walking to the corral, we were able to watch the first runners from the 10k race that started earlier. Sherry was participating in the 5k, which started after the marathon and half marathon.

And we were off! The race started at the corner of 2nd and Monroe in downtown Memphis. We started out heading north, but quickly turned around and entered Beale Street around Mile 1. We continued in a southern fashion until Mile 3, when we hit the waterfront. We stayed directly on Riverside Drive for 1 mile, but continuing north until Mile 5. From here, we turned east and made our way onto the campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. With the weather being warmer than usual, we were greeted by so many patients and families and you were reminded why you were there. We continued heading east until Mile 9 before turning around and back to AutoZone Park for the finish.

Entering AutoZone Park, the streets are line with spectators cheering you on. The actual finish line was just inside the park, entering from right field. The grassed out field was full of runners stretching and taking pictures and just taking in the moment. Once you were ready to move on, you proceeded off of the field and walked along the left field corridor to the outfield deck, where pizza, beer, donuts, chocolate milk, sports drink, and soup were waiting for us. We were also given access to the Juice Plus+ box in the stadium, where they had even more food for us.

I finished!

Takeaways

I left this weekend so inspired! Between the hospital tour and Pasta Party, I was ready to donate everything that I had to St. Jude. I have already committed to myself to sign up as a St. Jude Hero at the Gold Level next year, raising at least $1,500!

Want to participate? Registration for St. Jude Heroes begins in May and open registration in June.

Want to donate? Donations for the 2017 Marathon Weekend will be accepted through the end of the year – http://heroes.stjude.org/rachelflavin

Continue Reading

The Great GO! St Louis Halloween Race – 2017 – Race Review

The Great GO! St Louis Halloween Race shirtThis past weekend I ran the half marathon in The Great GO! St Louis Halloween Race. This was my 4th half marathon of 2017 and 16th of all time. The Great GO! St Louis Halloween Race consisted of 4 different events – the half marathon, 10K, 5K and 1-mile fun run. Costumes are encouraged, with awards given to the top adult and child costumes and groups. This is a small race, with a cap of 5,000 participants, but only 795 runners completed the half marathon. A couple of factors likely let to this number. First, there are 3 major half marathons within the St Louis area within the month of October – Mo’ Cowbell, Rock ‘n Roll, then GO! Halloween. I was also supposed to run Mo’ Cowbell the first weekend of the month, but got sick the day before. The second contributing factor to the low turnout was the threat of rain. Meteorologists predicted that we would have storms all morning, including lightening, but we ended up with a downpour just before starting, then a light mist for a couple of miles before clear skies.

Packet Pick-Up

Packet Pick-Up occurred at the GO! St Louis offices in Clayton. I arrived in the last hour of pick-up on Saturday, having just driven back to St Louis from Juice Plus+ Live in Indianapolis. There were no lines and I was able to pick up my bib, shirt, and swag quickly. I had signed up for the Bridges & Broomsticks Challenge last October, which required me to run both the GO! St Louis half marathon in April and the GO! Halloween. At packet pick-up, I was able to pick-up my extra hooded sweatshirt for the challenge.

I do love the GO! St Louis challenges! You get an extra shirt and medal, and usually save a little on registration fees. Last year, I completed the Triple 5K Challenge. Having just had a baby in February 2016, I thought starting back with 5ks would be a good idea. The three 5ks were the GO! St Louis in April, All American in June, and GO! Halloween in October. Other Challenges include the GO! Short GO! Long which includes the 5k and either half or full marathon in April on back to back days and the 17K Challenge. The 17K Challenge includes a 7K at the GO! St Louis event in April and the GO! Halloween 10K.

Race Morning

To start the morning off, my alarm did not go off!! Every runner’s worst nightmare! The half marathon started at 7:30, but with the 5k starting at 7, I wanted to be downtown by 6:30. Well…I woke up at 6:00! I had partially laid out my clothes, but not my water belt or anything else that I would need. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off, my husband was warning me not to wake the kids. I was able to get out the door and downtown by 6:45. Luckily for the rain and low attendance, I was able to find parking in my normal spot and meet my friends at the Big River Running tent. A group of us had spent the season training together with Big River and started out the race together. The 10K runners split off about mile 4.5 and then there were just 4 of us together for the half marathon.

Mile 5 was tough for me. I haven’t been training as much as I should, and while I know that I can run a half marathon, my legs like to get very heavy. I fell back from my friends, but continued with my 30:30 intervals. At Mile 8, I had a resurgence and passed two of my friends, but it was short lived and my legs felt heavy again by Mile 10. Under good training conditions, I typically start extending my runs at the 10 Mile mark, but held out until closer to Mile 11. I also start finding people that I can pick off, especially if they look like they could be in the same age group as me. And although I’ll never win my age group, it’s just a sense of pride when I can pick those runners off in the last couple of miles. My last 2 miles ended up being over a minute faster than any of my other miles. So finished strong!

My friends that had completed the 10K were all near the finish line and tempting me with doughnuts. Going through the finish line, they handed me my medal for this event, along with water, chocolate, a pretzel bun, banana, and fruit cup. I had to go to another tent to collect my Challenge medal. I eventually reconnected with all of my friends where we enjoyed the doughnut holes and took photos of each other with our medals.

Post race - GO! St Louis half marathon

Conclusion

GO! St Louis events are always very well run, with good signage on the course and plenty of volunteers. They also provide a nice variety of finish food, with a little something for everyone.

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Equinox Half Marathon – 2017 St Louis – Race Review

Equinox Half Marathon t-shirt

Billed as the only nighttime half marathon in St Louis, the Equinox Half Marathon was a must run for me. The race took place on September 16, just one day after former police office Jason Stockley was acquitted of murder. That decision has sparked several days of protesting, with destruction of property and violence occurring after dark. While the decision was announced in downtown St Louis, the protesting occurred all over the city. However, the race organizers had worked with the Maryland Heights police and fire departments to ensure adequate race coverage. As I live in south St Louis city, my husband was very hesitant of me running.  Not so much worried about the race itself, but about me getting home. The judge in the decision lives in our neighborhood and protests were expected there the night of the race. Fortunately, protesters stayed away from both the race area and my neighborhood.

Check-In

The race originated from Westport Plaza, a unique multi-use area including hotels, restaurants, bars, theatres, and corporate offices. Check-in was to occur at a new entertainment spot called Westport Social. Not being familiar with Westport Social’s location within the plaza, I parked in the large open parking lot in front of the plaza. I saw others were parking there too and there was a truck selling various athletic apparel. Following the line of people took me to the back of the plaza. Check-in was set up outside of Westport Social within their outside seating area. The line was minimal and check-in consisted of several tables. The first stop was to obtain my bib. The half marathon and 5k had the same bib, no differentiation in wording or coloring.

The next stop was swag! Swag consisted of a hat, socks, pint glass and a bag full of coupons, including a free margarita at Fuzzy Taco and a free beer at Trainwreck Saloon with your pint glass and bib.

Equinox Half Marathon Race Swag

Course

The course consisted of two 6 mile loops in the Maryland Heights area. Beginning right in front of the plaza, we proceeded to run through the plaza and run along the back side, including the new World Wide Technology facility. We wrapped our way around Westport Plaza before heading east, running by O’Fallon Brewery’s new location. It had been many years since I was last at Westport Plaza and there were so many new buildings and companies and restaurants that had moved out there. Around Mile 1, we entered Edward Jones Blvd. From I-270, you can see 2 large Edward Jones buildings, but I didn’t realize how large their campus was off Dorsett. They have numerous single story buildings spotting the whole area.

Overall, the course was very well marked, with plenty of volunteers, police and firemen along the course to keep traffic away and tell you where to go. The only place that I got confused was heading back into Westport Plaza after my first loop. I could see people running towards me and I was far enough behind the person in front of me that I couldn’t see where they had turned. There was a volunteer at the intersection with a sign with arrows pointing which way to go, but they made no sense to me so I just yelled out to him as I approached.

It always amazes me how I never notice how hilly a road is while I’m driving. I would have never thought this section of St Louis would have been hilly, but I was wrong. There were long stretches of up-hill climbs. Which I love hills, so this was my opportunity to leave and pass people along the back end of the route. I tend to run negative splits during races, which just means that I tend to speed up as the race progresses. I follow the Galloway run-walk method, using 30 second run / walk intervals, but usually when I hit about the 10 mile mark during a half marathon, I start stretching out my run portions. But, no matter how long I run, I only walk for 30 seconds, which has been shown to be the most efficient recovery time.

Finish

Upon finishing, I was handed a medal. And it actually glowed in the dark! Very cool! Many of my friends from Big River Training Team were volunteering at the finish line handing out water and bananas. I stayed around with them until some of the last runners came in. It turned out to be a beautiful night after the sun went down and was able to cool off a little.

Equinox Half Marathon finish

Continue Reading

Charity Miles – Earn money for charity while you work out

Charity Miles is an organization that gives people the opportunity to direct corporate contributions to charities of their choice… simply by walking, running and biking! It adds extra motivation to know that as you are moving you are doing good!

Charity Miles tracks your distance, and large companies make contributions to the charity you selected.

Here’s how to join in on the fun:

  1. Download the Charity Miles app onto your smartphone. Available on both Apple & Android at charitymiles.org.
  2. Create a free account.
  3. Choose which charity you would like to support. You may change selections each time you log in.
  4. Select “Teams” and join the “Fueling Healthy Families” team!
  5. Start walking, running or biking!

One cool feature of the app I love is the availability to add a picture and share to social media what charity you are supporting. You also get to see what corporate partner is donating on your behalf.

Charity Miles Social Share

Some of the current charities:

Partnership for a Healthier America
– End childhood obesity

Stand Up To Cancer
– Fund cancer research

ASPCA
– Protect Animals

Alzheimer’s Association
– Support Alzheimer’s research

USO
– Support our service members

Team Red, White & Blue
– Enrich the lives of American veterans

Feeding America
– Fight hunger in America

ALS Association
– Fighting to treat and cure ALS

Save the Children
– Invest in children worldwide

Operation Smile
– Provide life-changing surgeries to children

Habitat for Humanity
– Provide housing to people worldwide

Girl Up
– Empower girls worldwide

(RED)
– Create the first AIDS-free generation

Sight For Kids
– Free eye exams and glasses for children

National Multiple Sclerosis Society
– Move towards a world free of MS

Wounded Warrior Project
– Honor and empower wounded warriors

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
– Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
– Cure and treat childhood cancer

American Diabetes Association
– Fight Diabetes

Charity: Water
– Provide clean and safe drinking water

National Park Foundation
– Protect our National parks

Shot@Life
– Provide vaccines to children worldwide

The Michael J. Fox Foundation
– Cure Parkinson’s Disease

Autism Speaks
– Support Autism research

Every Mother Counts
– Make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother

World Wildlife Fund
– Protect nature and wildlife

Girls On The Run
– Empowering girls through running

DoSomething.org
– Empower young people

The Nature Conservatory
– Protect nature and preserve life

The World Food Programme
– Fight hunger worldwide

Pencils of Promise
– Build schools worldwide

Special Olympics
– Empower athletes with intellectual disabilities

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America
– Cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Team For Kids
– Get kids active

She’s the First
– Educate girls in low-income countries

Soles4Souls
– Provide shoes to fight poverty worldwide

Nothing But Nets
– Provide anti-malaria bednets

Back On My Feet
– Empower people experiencing homelessness

Achilles International
– Empower athletes with disabilities

The Ironman Foundation
– Get kids active

Vision Spring
– Provide eyeglasses to people worldwide

Foundation of the NSNA
– Support our future nurses

 

Which charity would you choose?

Continue Reading