Monday, January 28, 2013

So who is "Coach Steph"?

I've been thinking for the past couple of weeks about what my philosophy is with regards to training, fitness, and health. Every fitness professional needs a philosophy and everyone is different. I am constantly throwing ideas around in my head about how I would describe myself as a trainer and I started making a list. I think it's a pretty good start.

I don't focus solely on weight loss. I focus on body composition change - fat loss and muscle gain.

I don't use the word "diet." I discuss "nutrition."

We will talk calories, but I don't "calorie count". I focus on portion control, food quality, and food variety.

Fueling is key. Starving is stupid.

There will be weight training. Lots of it. More cardio does not mean better results.

Finding something that can be maintained is the ultimate goal.

I will hold you accountable.

I will push you into uncomfortable territory.

I do not believe in fads or too many restrictions.

I will make you believe that fitness is necessary for quality of life. You will make it a part of your life permanently.

Regarding nutrition, I see way too many people focused solely on calorie counting, with little focus on food quality. Their main focus with exercise, therefore, is to burn calories. I just don't completely
subscribe to this...although it can be a good start to understanding portion control and getting a big bang for your buck with exercise. But fitness is so much more than calorie counting and cardio. You'll never get the results you have the potential to achieve if you use this narrow focus. While it's important to understand calories in general, it's much more important to eat proper portions, eat quality food, eat a variety from all food groups, and eat throughout the day. With a consistent practice like this, your caloric intake will regulate itself properly.

Cardio is not the only way to proper weight loss. In order to obtain healthy body composition you have to include weight training. Lean muscle mass will boost your metabolism like nothing else. Your fat burning potential is increased since muscle is where fat is metabolized.

But that's not all. Muscle improves heart function...your heart simply doesn't have to work as hard. You will also protect joints and connective tissue and reduce arthritic symptoms in the process. Your bone density is increased with weight training. This ability to protect your joints and bones will lead to fewer injuries. Strength train with functional movements (using more than one muscle group at a time in a strength training move) and you're improving core and balance as well. With a stronger core, your ability to perform daily activities and exercise without injury improves even further.

Nothing can be achieved without a solid plan, consistency, motivation to succeed, and holding yourself accountable. I have always said that if you don't schedule fitness into your day, you're going to make every excuse in the book to not get it done. So schedule it like any other appointment....and then stick to it. If you need someone there to hold you accountable, join a fitness group. Make them depend on you and you will show up and you will work hard and succeed.

Exercise isn't always fun. If it didn't hurt at least a little, it isn't doing you any good. But there is a way to find the comfortable in the uncomfortable, and you have to be willing to understand that and put it into practice. You have to be willing to take yourself to a difficult place and push through it. What's on the other side is amazing and very much worth it.

Fad "diets" or fad "workouts"? Not my thing at all. I'm very simple and basic when you strip my philosophy down. I don't cut out any macronutrients and don't believe in diets that tout that. While I think some of these fad workouts are good to get people off their butts, a lot of them have too much fluff to do any kind of good in the long term. You want to be successful? Get your heart rate up, work your muscles to fatigue, don't be afraid to suffer, know your limits, do not do anything beyond your ability, get that core strong, and you will lose the excess body fat and gain that lean muscle in the process.

My philosophy is coming together. I'm enjoying the process of discovering it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2012 in Review and Plans for 2013

I think it's safe to say that 2012 was a CRAZY running year for me. It exceeded all my hopes and dreams. I feel like I'm so much stronger of a runner and it's an incredible feeling for this 39 year old.

Wait...39? When did THAT happen?!?

My main goal for 2012 was to conquer the marathon. I had the thought of a 4:15 marathon, but my training wasn't quite at that level, so a 4:25 seemed like a better goal. I ran a 4:26 in Houston in January, but the best part of all was that I ran a strong negative split during the race. I felt good practically the entire time and I never gave up on myself or let doubts creep in. I won the mental battle and that was so much more significant to me than any arbitrary time goal.

After that race and another great marathon in Austin just five weeks later, I decided that a sub-4:00 marathon was in the cards within the next year. Basically the rest of the year was spent slowly working on my speed and strength. I added in trail running and mountain biking to change things up, and found myself registering for more races than I had ever run in a year. And then somewhere along the way, I found myself becoming a "triathlete-in-training."

I had so much fun!

By the time the year was over, I had set new PR's in every common race distance - 5K in 23:09, 10K in 53:12 (although this race actually served as a training run and I didn't go all out), half marathon in 1:57:32 (I set a new one on 1/13 this year in 1:51:36), and marathon in 4:26:27. Plus, I ran a 1 mile race to see if I could break 7 minutes, and I ran it in 6:38. All in all in 2012, I ran a 1 mile race, 3 5K's, 2 10K's, 2 half marathons, 3 marathons, 1 Trail 30K (which ended up being 20.5 miles), and 1 Trail 10K.

I won my age group twice, got second once, and was top 9% in the San Francisco Half Marathon.

This all coming from a girl who was picked last in sports while in school, who never once was considered athletic.

So yeah, I might be bragging a little.

But dammit, what a freaking awesome year!!!

So what did I do differently that worked?

1. I added a lot more strength training. Towards the end of the year, I hired a personal trainer and he completely changed the way I thought about training by putting me through high intensity circuits that got my heart rate sky high while making me stronger than I thought I could get. And he forced me to do a lot more lower body strength work. I pretty much hated it, but I loved what it did for me. Explosive power, sustainable endurance, a ridiculously strong core.
2. Interval training. From 2 minutes up to 14 minutes, very little rest, threshold pace. Every single week.
3. Hills, hills, hills. I needed serious hill training for San Francisco. I even did it at the height of summer, in 100 degree temps. Every single week.
4. After San Francisco, I began speedwork at the track. Ridiculous speedwork, sometimes for over 2 hours. Every single week.
5. Crosstraining on the bike and at the pool.
6. Trail running for a change of pace and scenery. So much easier on the body, and relaxed...and FUN.
7. Listening to my body when it needed rest. If I knew I was overdoing it, I rested. And I came back stronger the next day.
8. Not being afraid to listen to my coach when he said I could run faster. I stuck next to him, it hurt, and I did it...just like he said I could.
9. Believing my body was stronger than my doubts.
10. Knowing I could go one more mile, one more minute, whatever it took.

You have no idea just how excited I am about what 2013 will bring. I am signed up for several races already and have some pretty lofty goals in mind.

I'm running Austin Marathon next month and am hoping for a PR, but will not race all out like I planned at BCS last month. It's a hilly course, so I have no thoughts of running a 3:59, but I'd like to post a good time regardless. First and foremost, I want to enjoy it with friends.

In March I am running with my team Blood Sweat and BEERS in the Texas Independence Relay for the 4th year in a row. Hands down the best race of the year.

In April I'm planning to run a 10K in sub-50 minutes (well....maybe sub 51...we'll see how awful the course is). And then there will be my first trail race of the year, a 30K that is part of the Rogue Trail Series.

May is the Dam Mile race in Georgetown. The female winner ran a 6:13 this year. I was third at 6:38. I don't see why I can't try to get closer to that 6 minute mark! So we'll see what happens.

June will be a crazy month. My first triathlon. I'm terrified. But I'll also run another 30K trail race, so that will be awesome.

At the end of the year I'm planning on breaking 1:50 in a half marathon at BCS. I'm already registered!

Lastly, one year from now I'm going for that sub-4 hour marathon Houston. That 1:51 I ran at 3M last week qualified me for guaranteed entry into the race, no need for a lottery submission. I missed this race this year and I'm very excited about going back.

Did I already mention how excited I am???

Friday, January 18, 2013

So what's up with Coach Steph?

I haven't blogged much about my new job quite yet, as I've been getting acclimated to the huge life change. But now that I'm several weeks in I've got a lot to say!

Not only do I individually train people (both at the rec center and through my independent business), but I am also teaching fitness classes at the rec center. And in a nutshell, I LOVE IT.

I get nervous every time I have to call a new client (who, by the way, totally suck at calling!), and every time I am standing in front of a room full of hopeful people about to get their butts kicked, my heart races just a bit. But once I start, I feel great. Time flies by, I get excited seeing people go beyond what they think they are capable of, and I especially get excited when I see concrete results from what I'm doing with them.

I think I chose the right path.

Teaching group exercise classes is not necessarily something I thought I would enjoy as much as individually training someone, but I'm finding a lot of fulfillment there as well. I'm only teaching 3 classes per week but several people have asked about the rec center adding more of my classes. Many have pulled me aside to say they love them. I think I scared quite a few after that first core class (oops!). And I'm seeing a lot of familiar faces every day. It's really just a lot of fun to turn on the music and get them all moving and pushing themselves to be stronger.

As I continue to travel this path I am fine tuning my fitness philosophy. I think it's important for every trainer to have their own personal fitness philosophy that they can discuss with their clients. As I tweak mine more and more, I'll be sure to write a great blog post about it. I'm collecting as much knowledge as I can and finding what I am comfortable with.

Lastly, I'm continuing my education via National Academy of Sports Medicine. I signed up for a specialty certification, the Weight Loss Specialty. It incorporates nutrition, fitness, and psychology to not only help people lose weight and fat, and gain muscle, but how to maintain that weight loss. I'm so excited to crack open the book for the first time and absorb that knowledge so I can pass it on to clients!

Life is good!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Best Race Ever!

My December Marathon glory didn't exactly pan out liked I planned because of that atrocious weather, but I still had one upcoming race I knew I could conquer. I had never run it before, but everyone told me the 3M Half Marathon in Austin is one of the best races in our city. It's a net downhill, and pretty good course, and the goody bag is awesome (it's 3M after all!). I had been registered for it for awhile and was looking forward to seeing what I could do for 13.1 miles.

My original plan, if I was in sub-4 hour marathon shape for the BCS Marathon in December, was to hold on tight to that fitness level and run a 1:50:xx at 3M five weeks later. When BCS beat me up more than I thought it would I added 2 minutes to that half marathon goal. It would still be about a 5 minute PR if I could run that kind of time (PR from July in San Francisco was 1:57:32). A lofty goal, but lately I've been making all sorts of lofty goals.

I didn't really run as many good runs as I had hoped in those five weeks. A couple interval workouts, some speedwork, a 5K PR race (okay, so THIS was a good one!), and a decent 13 mile training run (fastest 13 mile training I had ever done, 4th best time at that distance, at 1:58). Running a 1:52 was possible, but it was going to hurt. I ran a 30K training run 8 days before this race, but I was smart and ran it easy, just under 10 minute pace and I took a few water stop breaks. No way was I going to let that run mess with my race.

My coach, Tony, decided to run the race with me, and would go ahead of me if he felt good and knew I could hold pace to the finish. My plan was to run the first mile in about 9:30, maybe hover around 9 minutes for Mile 2, and then drop to 8:30-8:45 for a few miles, to finally dropping to 8-8:20 for the second half. If I could do that it would be faster than I've ever run those kinds of miles by a long shot. Yes, a LOFTY goal. Heck, my best 10 mile time was 1:27:30, way over what I'd need to post at 10 miles during this race.

The weather, thankfully, was going to be perfect. In the upper 30's to around 40 degrees, with a windchill bringing it to below freezing, but with the wind at our backs for the majority of the point-to-point race. Waiting for it to start would be the worst part, but once we started running it would be perfect. The humidity was even relatively low. It took me forever to really decide what I would wear. Normally, it would be long sleeves for the whole thing because of the windchill, but with it being a tailwind I had a feeling I'd warm up more than expected. I opted to wear my Team Luke's tank top and some arm sleeves, with a light jacket I could just tie around my waist if I got too warm. Capris instead of pants because they are more comfortable but would still keep my quads warm.

I'd like to say this was an eventful and dramatic race, but it really wasn't! I actually think it was my most perfectly executed race so far. And also one of the hardest, merely because keeping up the pace I was running was no walk in the park.

Mile 1 was a bit slower than we had hoped, at 9:47. We had lined up to start the race with the 2:05 pace group, knowing that they wouldn't be going out too fast and we'd pass them up after about a mile to get into a faster groove. But the sheer number of people (and WALKERS) in that first mile it just slowed us down. I didn't want to weave too much, so had to tuck myself behind some runners going at more of a 10 minute pace. After than first mile, however, we were able to get into a better run pace and clicked off an 8:47 second mile. I tried not to let this fast pace scare me, however, because I honestly thought it was more of a 9:20. I felt really really good and just let my body do what it wanted.

By mile 3, we were running south, so the north winds were now at our backs. I was warming up just like I thought I would and shed my jacket. I was very comfortable at this point and happy I made the race clothes choices I did. Tony and I were locked in at about an 8:30-8:35 pace and feeling great. I remember telling him at 4 miles that I felt just fine. I used him to pace off of and never had to look at my watch. I trusted that he knew what I was capable of and wouldn't overdo it. Plus, with the downhill course, the miles were sure to fly by a bit faster than normal.

As we approached the 10k split mat, I glanced at my watch and saw were were in the 54 minute range and at 8:48 overall pace. It was perfect for where we needed to be. I planned to drop to to 8:15 range and hold for as long as I could. I needed about an 8:35 overall pace for my goal time, so we were doing great at this point. I also saw my friend DeDe on this stretch, and it gave me a big mental boost. She's a strong runner, so to know I was holding pace with someone like her was HUGE to me. As a matter of fact, mile 7 was one of my strongest splits, at 8:12, and it never felt that fast. The downhill was working to my advantage and I was getting comfortable at that faster pace.

Tony asked me a couple times how I was feeling, and I told him I could maintain to the end and get a big PR. I remember saying at one point I thought we were in 1:51 range. He contemplated going ahead of me to get a sub-1:49 (which would be a PR for him), but by the time he took this thought seriously, he missed the window. I also may have reminded him I did him a huge favor the day before (lost keys, driving 40 minutes out of my way...) and he owed me. I'm sweet like that. Gotta use guilt when necessary, right? In all honesty, I knew with only a few miles left I was fine, although definitely getting fatigued, but having him right in front of me makes it easier to keep pace. I was a bit worried about the few rolling hills coming up in the last 2 miles, but tried to block that out.

At just past the 10 mile sign I glanced at my watch and saw it said 1:26...just over 8:30 pace. I had never before run 10 miles that fast. A quick mental calculation told me I needed under a 26 minute final 5k to get a 1:51...UNDER my goal time. Under 27 minutes to get my 1:52 goal. Under 25 to make my original 1:50 goal. I could do this...I really really could do this. I put in my head I wanted to see 1:51 and just kept running at an even, steady, fast pace. I could do anything for 3 more miles, right?

Those hills in the last 1.5 miles sucked. Holy crap, those sucked. As I'm running them I'm mentally thanking my trainer for forcing me to do lower body strengthening for the past few months. Without strong muscles these hills would have erased some of the gains I made on the downhill portion. Downhill races sound great but they can seriously beat up your quads. In San Francisco, Mile 11 is a huge downhill and I blazed down it, only to find my legs completely depleted for the final 2-mile uphill. I was so glad I approached this race differently and could stay strong on those uphill portions. I remember asking Tony at one point how many hills were left, and he very smartly told me about one, but then said "and that's all you need to worry about." In other words, he wasn't about to freak me out.

I told Tony to go ahead of me in this last mile. He was itching to just sprint, so off he went, but I was keeping him in my sights. I was running under 8-minute pace now and it felt good knowing in only a few minutes I'd finally be done. We were on the very last awful hill on Red River at this point and as I'm running it I'm thinking about how glad I was he didn't tell me about it when I asked.

As I'm coming down MLK Blvd for the final half mile, I heard my friend Dorothy call my name and that was just the boost I needed to know just how good this race was going. Dorothy is an exceptional athlete. I told her to get next to me and just run. Funny enough, as soon as I saw the 13 Mile marker, my legs pretty much stopped working. I had to force them to keep moving for that last tenth of a mile. I could tell I was slowing. As I turned onto Congress, people started passing me. I hate getting passed in the final finish chute. But I could not run anymore. Everything I had was left out on the course in the first 12+ miles.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I saw the 1:51:xx on my watch, hugged Tony, turned around and saw Dorothy finish. It really couldn't have been more perfect!

Just a few minutes later we met up with Greg and the kiddos and got the heck out of there and that cold windy weather. They had gotten there just in time to park and wait for us to finish. The kids were still in their pajamas!

Looking back on my race, there's not anything I would have done differently. My splits were better than I expected. I ran 8:48 pace for the first 6.2 miles, and 8:13 pace for the final 6.9, better than I've ever even run a 10K race! I added on less than a 10th of a mile to the distance, so we ran the tangents very well. Mile 13 was 7:52 pace, which is the only sub-8 pace mile I have ever run in a half marathon (the final "sprint" was definitely slower, at 8:28 pace). Tony only beat me by 19 seconds in that last mile he went ahead. My splits were: 9:47, 8:47, 8:47, 8:34, 8:30, 8:35, 8:12, 8:18, 8:16, 8:04, 8:15, 8:08, 7:52, 1:31 (8:28 pace) for 13.18 total miles at 8:28 average pace.

Official results:

1:51:36, 8:31 average pace (and 6 minutes off my previous PR!)
78 out of 535 in my division (top 14%)
421 out of 2909 females (top 14%)
1242 out of 5009 overall (top 24%)
I beat 61% of the men

I feel pretty damn great!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

5K Personal Best...complete with BEER

I have these crazy ass friends who think it's cute to run half marathons a week after a marathon, and they tried (and failed) to get me to sign up for the Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon on December 16. On December 9 I ran the BCS Marathon, and no way in the world would I run a half marathon just a week later, knowing I'd be running 7 or 8 miles with my training group on December 15.

I told them I'd go to the race and cheer them on, but then decided since there was a 5K option I'd go ahead and sign up for that. It wasn't going to be a pretty 5K but it would give me something to do while I waited for them to finish the half. And I'd get the goodies...and the beer...I just couldn't resist.

Greg decided to register for the 5K as well and since my parents would be in town, we didn't have to worry about childcare and could enjoy a day to ourselves. A little road trip, exercise, beer, and bling with no kiddos...sounds good to us!

I ran on Saturday the 15th without incident. It was my first run since the marathon and I felt pretty good, although a bit fatigued still. My goal was to just feel good the next day for the 5K, maybe run a bit under 30 minutes, but definitely not race it. My PR was 24:00 and I had no intention of shooting for that time.

I discovered while getting my running things together that I didn't have my Garmin charger. I must have left it at the hotel room in College Station. Not a big deal...I wasn't racing the 5K so I didn't really care what my pace or time was for the race. I'd just race without it. I did a 10K race once without my Garmin and I loved having that freedom.

The temps were going to be a big warm and humid. As we were driving the 2 hours to Shiner, all it did was pour rain on us, complete with thunder and lightning. The weather models were showing the storm would ease up by race time at 8:30am, but it didn't look pretty at all. I wondered if they'd have to cancel the race, but knew they'd wait until right up until race time to make that decision, or they'd delay it knowing the rain would ease up. By the time we got to the race, it was still raining, but definitely was a lot lighter. We got our packets and chilled out in the car until race time got closer. I couldn't reach my half marathon friends, Adam and Lesley, who were already there. Tricia was a little delayed, but on her way.

Just arrived at the brewery in the drizzle

As soon as the rain stopped, at about 8am, we headed to the start area and finally found everyone. It didn't look like it would start raining again, which was great, but wow it was HUMID. Not quite as warm as marathon race day, but every bit as humid. Adam is from Arizona, and although he's an exceptional runner (1:29 half marathon PR) I was a little worried about how his body would handle the high humidity. Lesley had run the Dallas Marathon the week before and would be using this as a good training run. Tricia decided not to run after all because she was not feeling well, but she was there with her family ready to cheer everyone on.

As we're waiting for the race to start I realized Greg and I didn't even warm up. Usually for a 5K I'll do about a half mile to a mile warm up jog just to get my legs loose. Oops...didn't do that.

The gun went off and I just started running. I knew I was going at a decent pace, but I felt fine. It was only 3 miles and all of a sudden I got a wild hair to just RUN. I could run well for 3 miles surely. No Garmin to tell me just how fast it was, so I used how my body felt to gauge the right pace.

I was perfectly comfortable running whatever pace I was running, so I just got into a rhythm and maintained it. As a man was running by using a running app on his iPhone I heard the app speak the distance, time, and pace...we were right at 8 minute pace. Sounded good to me.

As we neared the turnaround (this was an out and back course), I saw Greg in about 10th place and yelled to him. He looked really really great, probably running about 6:30-6:45 pace. I counted a few women, but it wasn't very many. I knew I had started towards the front of the pack but I still expected to see more women in front of me.

I felt absolutely great at the turnaround and knew I could maintain the pace I was running for another 1.5 miles. I figured maybe I'd be running a 25 minute 5K, which would thrill me for it being only a week after a marathon. I passed a couple women and a whole lot of men, which just made me run faster. And I saw adorable Lesley in her Santa socks...LOVE!

At the 2.5 mile marker, I definitely started feeling the effects of the humidity. Plus, the sun came out and was glaring badly on the wet asphalt. A few more minutes of this and it would be all over, but I still didn't feel all that bad considering. I had more in me, but didn't want to push it.

As I came over the bridge in the last 10th of a mile I heard the announcer calling off the time...we were under 23 minutes. SAY WHAT?? I was running a 23 minute 5K??

I crossed the finish line in 23:16, which was a chip time of 23:09. A PR for me. A week after a marathon.


The official results placed me in 1st place in my age group (out of 41), 6th overall woman (out of 268), and 34th overall (out of 463 total runners). I've never won my age group in a 5K before.

1st place!

Another 1st place! Hahns rule! 

Greg also PR'd, with a 20:03 and won his age group as well. Basically it was a good day for the Hahns.

We hung out and waited for Adam and Lesley to finish their races. Adam felt like he had a bad race, but he still came in at 1:30 and 14th overall. Lesley had some difficulty but didn't push herself to exhaustion (smart) and had a very solid race. Plus she was way too adorable and really, that's all that counts.

Trisha, me, and Lelsey

Four Shiner beers per runner, some food, and some age group award bling and we were all having a very good time indeed. My doubts over signing up for this race quickly disappeared. I felt pretty damn awesome.

Maybe I should run more 5K's.