Author Archives: flyjenduf

Why Doing An Obstacle Course Race Might Jumpstart Your Fitness

If you are on social media, you have probably scrolled past an ad or post from someone telling you to sign up for the next closest Tough Mudder, Spartan Race or Warrior Dash.  The ads might show people covered in mud attempting to run over fire, crawl through barb wire or carry heavy objects.  While those photos can either appeal to you or not, there is something to be said about the consistency and variety of training that does into preparing for an obstacle course race.

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If you have heard my story, humor me by allowing me to introduce it to those who have not.  I finished my first obstacle course race in 2012.  It was a Warrior Dash.  While I loved it, I didn’t put much thought into it again until after the birth of my second daughter.  I was in a rut.  Two kids in seventeen months had left my body feeling broken, tired, soft.  Something I had never experienced.  After much complaining to my husband about plateauing and not seeing any changes, he suggested that I sign up to do a competitive Spartan Race that he planned to participate in.  The thought of trying something new and very much out of my comfort zone left me feeling anxious.

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Upon researching various obstacles I might encounter and what type of terrain that I would be running on, I changed my entire outlook on training.  Long gone were the days of way too much cardio and low weight/high rep lifting.  I began to be intentional about my workouts.  You see, the ideal obstacle course racer can run efficiently, climb (when terrain gets very steep), hang for long periods of time, while also being able to carry heavy objects up and down significant inclines and declines.  It’s really a fine line of balancing not being too strong, yet not being too skinny.  You can’t sacrifice one thing or it will slow you down somewhere else.

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You can’t just practice upper body and strength, you also must practice running, mobility, and time OFF your feet.  What does a typical obstacle race training program that I would build look like?

  • One long run a week.  Depending on the distance you are training for, you are working for time on feet (not necessarily mileage).  I want you to build endurance for the duration of time that you think your race might last.
  • One interval running workout per week.  Let’s get some mileage in by pushing our paces to threshold then recovering.  Let’s practice hill training, running speed on grass and perform running form drills.
  • Two Strength Days per week.  Strength days are solid.  Not much running at all.  This is not the workout you can expect to build mileage.  I want you working grip strength, picking up heavier things than you are used to and building that tight core that makes everything easier.
  • One Easy Run/Ride per week.  The purpose of that easy run/ride is to build muscle endurance without wearing you out.  That’s it.  Enjoy it.
  • One Strength/Run workout per week.  Let’s drop our weight a little bit and focus on running in between strength exercises.  How do you keep your heart rate controlled moving from a run/row to a strength exercise and not lose bad form?
  • One rest day.  That’s right.  Take a day OFF!

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The constant variation of not knowing what is coming next keeps your mind and body challenged.  Engaged. Right where it needs to be to continue to see results.  Not to mention, allowing yourself to set a goal will also give you a benchmark in which you can celebrate success.  Success is what drives us to be better versions of ourselves.  Through this simple programming, I have watched people change their perception in themselves and exercise by challenging themselves in ways they never thought possible.

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I find so many people have so many options they need direction of which way to go to get the most benefit out of everything they could be doing.  There is absolutely no reason for people to be plateauing and bored in our current fitness environment.  I am currently working with people specifically building out calendars of what to do on what day of the week to make the most out of their training, social life and work balance.  If you are stuck in a rut, you may just need to do something way out of your comfort zone!

 

 

Age Is Just A Number and Programming Works

Here I am.  Approaching eight months postpartum from baby number three.  I’m turning thirty four this year.  I talked to one of my best friends from college on the phone last week and we reminisced on how much our lives have changed since graduating.  Did people ever expect us to grow up?  Anyways, she is expecting her first child in July.  As I walked off the stage upon receiving my graduate degree in accounting, if you would have asked me what my life would be like ten years later, I would not say this.

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Lo and behold, I am no longer an accountant (unless I am reconciling my own bank account or working on my business expenses).  In college, my max run distance was about eighty feet down a flat runway.  When my coach asked us to run easy for ten minutes, I pondered if I could go slow enough that I would only have to run two laps in that period (I called it “the bounce”).

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I always thought I would have a stay at home husband.  Seriously.  I left college with a great job and every intention of climbing my way to the top of the business world.  When my first daughter was born that changed.  I stuck around corporate America until my second daughter was born, but something about me changed when I became a mom.  I found a new empathy for every human being.  I guess I figured out through my pre and postpartum fitness journey that I was capable of a lot more than I gave myself credit for (and so are others).

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Here goes nothing.  I hear all the time from people in my peer group that I am so fit.  I must workout all the time.  They will never be an athlete like me.  They could never do Flywheel, a Spartan Race, a Flybarre class.  You name it.  It’s not that you can’t do it.  It’s that you don’t give yourself credit.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  So, here I am to show you some of my stats (because ultimately this is the easiest way to prove that you can get better if you commit).

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I went back to my Athlinks account and found my pre-marriage race results!  Who knew you could even do that.  Why didn’t I think of it before.  I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2007.  I did a handful of races from 2008-2012 (most of them actually longer distances).  The Charlotte RaceFest half marathon was my “pre-wedding” race.

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I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter in 2013 and my second daughter in 2014, so I didn’t do much racing.  As you can see, I participated in two Thanksgiving Day races (one while I was pregnant) in a matter of two years.

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My time commitment shifted in 2015 when my second daughter was born.  I was now 31 years old, and I realized the importance of strength training.  I went all in.  Instead of just doing workouts when I could, I decided to actually program my training towards specific goals.  I wanted to be faster.  I wanted to be stronger.  Instead of jumping in workouts because they seemed “fun”, I decided to be deliberate about what days I would run.  What days I would lift.  What days I wold ride.  I saw a SIGNIFICANT drop in my mile times at road races.  Somehow, I went from running mid 8:30 miles to less than 7:30 miles.  Okay!

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We always knew we wanted to have three kids, so I knew at some point all of this would scale back and I would have to go through the whole postpartum fitness journey again.  That I did, and here I sit.  Almost ten years from my first post collegiate road race.

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Last weekend, my husband and I had the privilege of starting the Cooper River Bridge Run together (he ran much faster than me).  I say privilege because I am thankful every day that I have the ability to go for a run.  Much less see improvement as I age.  I crossed the finish line four seconds faster than my previous Bridge Run time in 2016.  Would you believe I was disappointed?  I have been spoiled with seeing results.  Quick results at that.  When I took a trip down memory lane, I almost laughed at myself.

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Through the process of seeing what I am capable of in an entirely different way, I have made myself believe that all of that hard work actually worked.  Programming works.  Whether it is Crossfit, running, riding, bootcamp.  Having a trainer/mentor who knows what they are doing makes a difference. As I close on this post, I want to remind you that setting benchmarks can be such a positive tool.   Not doing something because you feel to old, you wouldn’t  fit in or it’s too hard is so relative.   The day I decided to try new things is the day I started to see a change in my performance as well as my self image.

My Top Workout Tips for Busy Parents

Hello February.  Hello 2018.  Hello blog.  I haven’t been able to keep up with posting as much as I would like to because quite honestly I have been busy.  Busy is good.  I live for having things to do.  Feeling engaged.  Being involved.  However, since the start of another year, I have noticed how hard it is to balance doing everything I want to do with my physical activity (outside of working).  I was recently asked by Spartan Race to list a few tips for the busy parent to stay active and maintain a workout routine.  I think some of these tips could apply to anyone.  Here we go!

  • Plan ahead.  If that means weekly, or even monthly, set your expectations early.  My husband and I both need regularly scheduled workouts to stay sane.  It is nearly impossible for us to work out at the same time.  We have coordinated a schedule in which one of us works out early on specific days of the week, the other during the day or evening. If it is my designated day, he encourages me to maintain my schedule.  As do I. 

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  • Hold yourself accountable. Let’s face it.  Some people are way more self motivated than others.  Do what you need to do to ensure you make time for exercise.  There are a few ways you can do this:
    • Join a group that expects (and gets excited) for you to be there.  Camaraderie and community make such a difference.  If you feel seen, rather acknowledged, you feel proud.  I run with a group of girls one morning a week that typically involves a track type workout or running hills.  Our paces are variable, but having them push me (and hold me accountable) has made such a difference in my running.
    • Sign up for a class that if you cancel last minute you will be charged.  Nothing is worse than paying for something you don’t use. 
    • Sign up for a race that you need specific training for to feel good about crossing the finish line.  You know what I’m talking about here.  An obstacle course race or a longer road race.  Something that you can’t just decide to do on the day of.

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  • Find time for “fun” workouts (with or without the kids). Easy days should be banked into everyone’s routine.  On these days, do something fun!  Take your kids to the playground and practice monkey bars with them.  Set up a mini obstacle course in your driveway and run through it with them.  Try something new that doesn’t leave you feeling completely spent.IMG_6448
  • Splurge sometimes.  If you are like me, you work hard professionally and as a parent.  Every once in awhile you need to reward yourself.  Set a date on the calendar to go on a “fitness date night”.  Get a babysitter and check out a climbing gym, running trail or boutique fitness studio with your significant other.  Don’t they say couples that sweat together stay together?

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  • Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.  In a world where everything seems perfect (or not so perfect) remember to use your workout time as an opportunity to lift yourself up.  If you wake up one day and you just aren’t feeling it, then take a day off (and be okay with it).  Exercise should leave you feeling like a better person.  Feeling like a better person will allow you to interact better with those around you throughout the rest of the day.
  • Remember, you are your child’s biggest role model.  If you don’t want to make time for fitness to benefit you, think about the impact it will have on your child.  I love having my kids see their mom set a goal, train for it, and reach it.  Being active is a lifestyle that your child will adopt if you set the tone early.  Maybe you even sign up to do a race with your child so you have the opportunity to not only connect but support each other’s training.

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What I Have Learned About Postpartum Fitness After the Birth of My Third Child

It’s me again!  It has been way too long since my last post.  I had coffee with two good friends this week who inspired me to pull out the old laptop and get things together.  That said, I also felt obliged to post given that I am now three months out from the birth of my third child AND I have officially competed in two races since having her.

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If you followed my blog through pregnancy number three, you know that I kept up with my fitness for the full forty weeks.  While the events leading up to my delivery didn’t necessarily go as planned (they never do), my delivery was short and sweet.  For that, I am thankful.

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And for that, I want to share some of my thoughts on postpartum fitness after the birth of my third daughter.  You don’t have to agree, but you should consider (and remember these are just my thoughts).

  • Trying to hit a number on a scale as a goal to getting back to your pre-pregnancy self is annoying.  I will be straight up with you.  I am still not back at my pre-pregnancy weight, and I don’t care.  I actually find the posts about losing weight really annoying.  See thought number two.
  • Pre-pregnancy functionality should be your first goal.  If you lose a bunch of weight, but your core is torn to shreds and your back hurts doing daily activities, does it even matter?
  • Take the pressure off yourself.  Social media has made it impossible for us to not compare ourselves against other people in how quick we can get back to our old selves.  In the grand scheme of things an extra month of two means NOTHING!  Just like when you feel like your pregnancy is taking forever, once it’s over, it seems like it flew by.
  • You will learn more each pregnancy.  Gosh, I wish I could go back and talk to myself as a teenager, college student, first time mom.  Hindsight is 20/20.  No one will ever be able to explain that feeling to you until you have been there yourself.

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If I’m going to throw all of these thoughts at you, I feel I need to give you some explanations as to how I reached them.  Let’s start with my journey following the birth of my third daughter.  As confident as I might seem, I suffer from what I want to call “mom anxiety”.  Ever since I had children, I fear the worst for myself.  I don’t want anything to happen to me because I am afraid of what I would miss out on if I weren’t around.  Let me be clear, this anxiety doesn’t consume me, but I tend to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to taking care of my personal health.

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That said, after my third pregnancy, I vowed to ease back into activity and really focus on  rebuilding my pelvic floor and core before going full blown anaerobic.  After four to five weeks of not doing much, I got on the phone with my doctor and explained my concerns to which she responded that as a result of my non complicated labor and deliveries, I was free to do whatever I wanted.  Even though the advice was coming from my doctor, I took it with a grain of salt.  Mom anxiety.

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Each day I did a little more and on days that I didn’t feel right, I didn’t do anything.  I really had no goals for the rest of the year, as the most important thing to me was being an active part of my growing family’s lives.  Anything else was just an added bonus.  Surprisingly (yet not surprisingly), my body responded well to my transition back into training. I began to reset benchmarks to refresh my training for my postpartum fitness levels (i.e. I ran a mile time trial, I put myself on the torqboard at Flywheel, and I reassessed max pull-ups and other body weight exercises).  Let me be clear, my fitness is not comparable to anyone but myself.  Prior to getting pregnant, I had competed at Spartan Race World Championships and I was able to maintain many of my obstacle course racing workouts throughout.

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We had a lot on our plate and maintaining a regular exercise program, while also finding time to myself (I mean all by myself) was a serious need to keep me sane.  We traveled to Virginia when my youngest was just a few weeks old.  We also took our kids on their first flight of 2017 for a family vacation to Naples, FL.

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These are the things we live for.  We love spending time together.  We love family.  We love being busy.  For some reason in all this hoopla, I decided to sign up for a Spartan Race and continue a family tradition of running the local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.  With my most laid back approach to a race, baby weight still to lose and a few hours a sleep at night, I managed to compete at as a high level as I did pre-pregnancy.

  • 8th place overall in the Carolinas Spartan Race Sprint (my first top ten finish EVER in a Spartan Race)
  • 8k Turkey Trot – 36:22 (7:19/mile) – 2016 time 7:09/mile, 2015 time 7:21/mile

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It was through all of this madness, that I truly realized that the human body is an absolutely incredible machine that should never be subjected to a number on a machine.  It should never be compared to another.  Everyone’s circumstance is different and if you are functional, proud and just plain happy you get it.  Everyone’s postpartum journey is their own.  I think I have finally found a way to own mine, and I can only feel such gratitude that I have the ability to share my thoughts with others.  Please feel free to reach out with comments or questions.