The Big Sur Marathon Relay: my race recap

Disclaimer: This is a LONG post about my experience training and running the Big Sur Marathon Relay.  Enjoy!

Remember running relay races in grade school? Remember that feeling of relying upon your teammate to bring you the baton quickly?  What an incredible metaphor for childbirth. There are so many people involved in the birth of a baby, and every person along the way is part of the end goal: a safe delivery for mother and baby.  Too often the focus lies solely on the newborn, but in reality the health and condition of the mother is just as critical, and often overlooked. Maternal mortality is unacceptably high: the mortality rate is roughly 800-830 deaths daily, worldwide. Of these deaths, 98% are preventable through the availability of supplies, transportation, and education (skilled birth attendants, midwives, etc). Every Mother Counts (EMC) is a campaign, founded by maternal health advocate, Christy Turlington Burns, to reduce this burden of disease worldwide by providing these three needs to empower local communities. Join us this Mother’s Day for the Orange Rose campaign! Please learn more about EMC here.

with EMC founder, Christy Turlington Burns
With EMC founder, Christy Turlington Burns

I appreciate all the work she does to raise awareness and create programs to benefit others: we run so others don’t have to. Running is symbolic such that in many developing nations, a woman sometimes has to walk a minimum of 5k up to a marathon’s distance to deliver her baby. I run to raise funds for these programs, but more importantly to raise awareness of this statistic. We may think the United States precludes us from this rate, but rather, the US is one of a dozen countries with increasing mortality rates. Increasing. Just let that marinate while I tell you about my run.

As a Running Ambassador, I run all my races of varying distances for EMC, and this year, when the opportunity arose to join a team at Big Sur, I did not hesitate for a moment. Why would I say no to run on the glorious Highway 1?

Ragged Point, Big Sur
Looking out at the Pacific from Ragged Point, Big Sur

I committed to raising $1,000 (ultimately raised $2,300) and got to work. I trained on hills, unpaved trails, treadmills, inclines on treadmills, rowers, and stairs. I did a lot of isolation work, lifted less weight than normal so I could increase my range of motion. I foam rolled several times a week and was more strict about rest / recovery days. The biggest gain I noticed was returning from a 9 day road trip in California, and I had not lost an ounce of my game, and that’s when I had a newfound respect for rest days!

Love unpaved trails
I love the serenity and beauty of unpaved trails
My good friend Jenny and I after the Orangetheory 90 minute charity class. We burned 21000 calories and $.01/calorie was donated!
My close friend Jenny and I after the Orangetheory 90 minute charity class. We burned 21000 calories and $.01/calorie was donated!

Are you still reading? You’re awesome!

Running for a cause is an experience I recommend to anyone. It adds a beautiful dimension to your end goal, and it teaches you patience and empathy. Raising funds is not without effort, however, you campaign for a cause and you must believe in it wholeheartedly. And I do, because I’ve had two difficult labors, not near-death, but complicated enough. My conviction made raising funds relatively easy: I am blessed with such INCREDIBLE support all around me, and I don’t take that for granted for a second. Every single man and woman who contributed to my Crowdrise page gave me a reason to push myself and stay focused.  I was also able to coordinate with two local studios, Orangetheory Fitness (where I was a trainer), and the Barre Code Oak Park, to hold charity classes to help raise funds on a larger scale. The events were extremely successful, but again most important is to raise awareness. That is the public health professional in me.

Two weeks before the race. I felt a completely random and uncomfortable pain in my left heel. I’ve been a competitive runner since junior high, and I’ve never experienced a pain in my heel before. (I blamed it on turning 40!). As a personal trainer, I tried not to self-diagnose, but I had a suspicion it could be the dreaded plantar fasciitis. I rolled and iced my heel and took ibuprofen as needed. Pain, pain, go away. It eventually subsided: I ruled out plantar fasciitis.

Race week. Not much more I could do in terms of fitness to contribute to my race day performance, but my coach reminded me that there are many things that could take me out of it.  One was this nagging heel pain. What on earth was it? I had kept my appointment with a trigger point specialist to confirm the source of the pain. In that first visit the therapist officially ruled out plantar fasciitis (thank GOD), but instead told me my left achilles is wrecked from wearing heels and from something called a ‘semi-pelvis’. Essentially, my right psoas* muscle is so tight (again) that it shortened the length of my right leg, causing my left leg to overwork. Whoa! Imagine hearing this information 6 days before a big race! I walked out with some tools for myofascial massage at the appropriate trigger points. I felt pretty good, however. The psoas muscle, by the way, is a rope-like muscle located deep in the core, and runs obliquely from spine to the femur. The psoas is joined at the hip, literally, by the iliacus, which travels from hip to thigh. Together, the psoas and iliacus make up the iliopsoas–the body’s most powerful hip flexor. Each time I lift my knee, I contract my psoas, and when I step, I extend it. Every step of my run it is being used, so this is a pretty big deal for it to be wound up. 

Are you still here? Probably the second worst thing you could do during race week is read articles entitled “What to know before racing Big Sur”.  Of course I read them, and of course I started second-guessing EVERYTHING. Did I run enough? I should have pushed harder that last run! I should have ran that hill two more times.  All the right questions, but at the wrong time. My friends reminded me I am no stranger to distance and this was something I could “do in my sleep”.  Ok sure, that helped. A smidge.

Fast forward to the big event: the relay! Sunday morning, I woke up at 4:50am, slugged my iced coffee, grabbed my almond butter/banana sandwich and got to my bus stop at 5:30am, the bus departed at 6, and we arrived at Exchange 3 by 6:30am. It was a hurry up and wait…and wait….and wait….My teammates and I had roughly calculated our positions and we estimated based on their paces I would see my runner around 9:15-9:30. It was definitely agonizing for me, given that I had been up since 4:50! I started looking for my runner (who I had just met once the day before) at 9:15, she finally came in at 9:50. I grabbed the baton, handed her my gear bag and took off. It usually takes me 1-2 miles to warm up and loosen up, but there was no time to waste here, and the hills start right away. It was slightly annoying to hold a baton (at Ragnar we have slap bracelets), and my handheld water bottle and a belt for my phone. My pace was as undulating as the hills, ranging from 8 min miles to 10 minute miles. I definitely walked a few times and took in the scenery.

Vistas of my course ahead
Vistas of my course ahead – in the upper right corner

I started my leg, the final 9.2 miles of the marathon, around mile 17. The course was remote for a couple miles and people really started coming out to spectate around mile 21. I’d never seen fresh fruit on a course, so it was awesome to eat orange slices and strawberries (a natural NSAID, I learned). I wish I could tell you how amazing the air smelled: the salty ocean, the pine trees, the flowers. It was incredibly invigorating. Equally challenging to the elevation (my total gain – 622 ft) was the road itself. It was a game for me to maneuver the canted roadway on pace, up and downhill. Maybe that’s why my legs gave out around mile 26…

It was a mind game to tell my calves to hold off their predictable calf spasm until after the race. I looked around me. Some were walking, some were slowly running, some were sprinting. We all cross the same finish line, no matter what our journey. Like the others, I made it – it was not my usual sprint finish, however,

Thank you for supporting me! My team of 21 runners raised over $31,000 at Big Sur.
Thank you for supporting me! My team of 21 runners raised over $31,000 at Big Sur.

but I crossed the line and am ready to go back.

Thank you for reading!

xoA

 

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Get Results Quicker

Before I start working with a new client, I take time to inquire about my client’s goals, time commitment, and capabilities.  Saying to me, “I want to lose weight but it doesn’t matter when” is as noncommittal as saying, “Someday I’d like to fly a kite”.  Together we develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goals which I use to create a routine that I (as any personal trainer) dream will be adhered to, impeccably.

I want to highlight that in order to avoid a body plateau, every fitness routine should be varied and incorporate a mix of endurance, strength and power exercises to achieve best results. Endurance training is aerobic training for the long haul. We are talking about the ability to walk for extended periods of time, run middle or long distance, cycle or swim for more than thirty minutes at a time. Having the stamina to keep up with life starts right here. Keep in mind endurance training for sport or performance is different and more rigorous, but practically speaking, endurance training needs to be a part of everyone’s fitness routine to develop a healthy heart in the long term.

Functional movements such as squatting, lifting, lunging and rotating are some simple daily activities that can bring a lot of pain to thousands of people every day. How many times have I heard someone say to me, ‘Oh I can’t squat because I have bad knees’!  However, when these muscle groups are strengthened, you can enable yourself to live a greater quality of life. Consider the grandmother who is strong enough to lift her grandbaby. The ‘one less trip to the car’ to get groceries. We’ve all done that, you load up your arms with grocery bags because no matter what you will NOT be returning for a second trip. So rather than relying upon grocery shopping trips to build muscle, let’s start adding strength training (also referred to as resistance or load training) into your routine. Strength training can be done 2-3 times per week. I recommend splitting your routine with large muscles one day, (chest, full leg, back, shoulders) and small muscles the other day (biceps, triceps, core). Depending on your fitness level, you can modify repetitions and weights, but a general starting point is 2-3 sets and 8-12 reps. Perfect your bodyweight form before you add load. Consult with a personal trainer to ensure your form is correct to prevent injury.

I also incorporate power (anaerobic training), which is the product of strength and speed. Power gives us the ability to bicep curl quickly and with resistance. Muscles love power because they are metabolic – they are working all the time. Muscles like to be stretched. Power is also vertical jumping or lifting very heavy weights quickly. It’s the mojo that enables you to cross a street four lane intersection before the light changes. Power prevents you from falling, or tripping, when you catch yourself quickly.  Power is also a great adrenaline rush.

All of the best exercise in the world is of no value unless it is coupled with clean nutrition. Get 95-110 grams of protein per day, drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day, and eat as fresh and from the source as possible.  By varying your workout routine with elements of cardio, strength, power and rest, you will be on your way to avoiding plateau and developing your body into the best shape for YOU.

 

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Running for Pelvic Health

In my experience thus far as a personal trainer, I’ve met a variety of women at different stages of fitness. I enjoy the assessment process, asking relevant questions about health, fitness and eating habits, using that information to design a program to help my client become “Stronger Fitter Faster”, my tagline. However, after a recent conversation with Women’s Health Foundation (WHF) founder, Missy Lavender, I have come to realize there is a huge piece of my assessment that I have been missing especially in my female clients: pelvic health.

Yes, pelvic health. Continue reading Running for Pelvic Health

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Stronger Fitter Faster

Need a quick workout you can do at home? All you need is a set of dumbbells between 8-12 lbs.

Here’s a snapshot of a workout from my Stronger Fitter Faster class I teach on Tuesday nights at Lively Running.

Perform a warmup of your choice for about 6-10 minutes.

Perform each exercise for 1 minute, run through each circuit 3 times.

Try not to take breaks between exercises, but allow yourself 30-60 seconds after each circuit.

Be sure to cool down and stretch.

Let me know how you like it!


 

1. Curtsy Lunge (see pic)

Curtsy lunge

 

 

 

 

 

2. Pushups (modified or military style, whatever you can maintain in good form for 1 minute. Can also do sets of 10, with a short rest)

3. Tricep dip on bench or step (see pic)

Bench/Chair tricep dip

4. Plank with leg raise (see pic)

Plank with leg raise

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Dumbbell arnold press (see pic)

Arnold press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Squat to overhead shoulder press (see pic)

Squat to overhead press

 

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Simulated hill workout

Vacation is over, school starts for my boys, time to get back into a more structured routine. Back to school is also a great time to press ‘reset’ in your fitness routine, or if you are looking to change things up, here is one of my favorite ‘back on track’ workouts. It’s brutal, so be sure you are in a good fitness shape to take it on.

Here’s how it works. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds (Rest 30 seconds), then each one for 45 seconds (Rest 45 seconds), then 60 seconds (Rest 60 seconds). Come down the hill, so that means 45 seconds each, then 30 seconds each. Want to go back up the hill? From 45 seconds, go back up to 60 seconds each, then come back down.

  • Jump rope
  • Squat jump
  • Band row
  • Mountain climbers
  • Split jumps
  • Pushups

Always listen to your body. If you do it, let me know how you liked it!

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Getting Back on Track in 5

We all fall off the fitness wagon. Don’t despair, just get back on.

Perhaps you just finished the blessed month of Ramadan, congratulations! Hopefully you had a great month of fasting and were able to reap all the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting for 30 days. Fasting can certainly be difficult on the body, and whether or not you kept active during the day, here is how you can get yourself back on track.

1. Start your day with apple cider vinegar – use organic, raw and unpasteurized! (Bragg’s)

bragg-apple-cider-vinegar1

  • Boosts your metabolism
  • Neutralizes the pH of your body
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved stamina & energy
  • Decreased restless leg syndrome symptoms with increased potassium
  • How to drink it: mix 1 tbsp with 6-8 oz of water or apple juice.

 

2. Ease back into exercise and strength training.

  • If you are getting back into running and are easily able to run, then great! Otherwise, consider a run walk strategy given that your endurance may have been compromised.
  • Move first thing in the morning. Whether its a quick yoga sequence, 10-15 minutes of jumping jacks, crunches and pushups, or a jog, get moving for 20-30 minutes every day.

3. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Add fruit slices or mint leaves to jazz it up if needed.

4. Craving carbs? Choose complex carbs. Add protein.

  • Hummus with veggies
  • Apple slices with a nut butter
  • Fruit smoothie with protein powder

5. Eat lean, clean and green! The days of eating late and ‘whatever you want’ are over, so get back into eating a well-balanced meal! I ate bits of superfood greens throughout Ramadan. Each single calorie tab is loaded with 64% protein!

Enter the code "RunAyesha" for 25% off
Enter the code “RunAyesha” for 25% off

If you are interested in purchasing a sample of Energy Bits, head over here.

 

 

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#FitRamadan move(s) of the day

We are now into the 2nd third of Ramadan, where we dip into our fat reserves. It’s hard. We are tired, we are grumpy, but we must not forget the beauty that Ramadan brings. The month of fasting is not meant to change our schedule, but rather change our hearts, and make us better human beings. These ten days are the days of forgiveness. For those who are continuing some semblance of an exercise routine during Ramadan, bravo! It’s not easy, is it? Here is a workout I did today, before I did light cardio (2 mile walk). Safe to say, I’m a little light headed at the moment 😀

Remember! If you are lifting weights, go lighter and add a set or increase repetitions.

This is a great set of exercises that incorporate pushing and pulling motions for the upper body. These moves require balance, which will challenge your core.

Aim for 3 sets of each

Upper Body Challenge - Intensify your training by engaging your coreBalancing bicep curl – 12 reps, each arm – raise one leg and flex your knee and perform the bicep curl. Complete the reps and switch sides

Tricep Extension  – 12 reps – with a dumbbell or resistance band (see video). Or you can perform skull crushers on a bench

Bent Over Row with weight plate – 12 reps – or you can use dumbbellsUpper Body Challenge - Intensify your training by engaging your core

Leaning One-Arm Side lateral raise – 12 reps, each arm – lateral raises work the front and middle deltoids

Forearms to Hands BOSU Plank – 10 reps, each arm (see pic) – if you don’t have a BOSU handy, you can easily perform this move from forearm plank to hand plank

Smith Machine Pull-up for 60 seconds, or 10 reps (see pic) – if you don’t have a Smith Machine at home (who does?) then take a resistance band shoulder height, and shoulder width apart and extend out, hold for 20 seconds, feeling the resistance.

(Photo credits from FitnessRx.com)

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#fitRamadan move of the day

#fitRamadan move of the day: http://youtu.be/2JW-mRL8cB0

Overhead tricep extension

Step on one end of the band, and ensure there is enough tension in the band to extend your hand up straight.

Bend your elbow so it is pointing up, you can use your other hand to support it up if need be.

Begin extending your arm up and lower for one repetition.

There should be enough tension in the band that it is challenging, but not too much that you cannot complete 8 reps easily.

Be sure to breath out on your extension (raising your arm up).

Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

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Running for Mothers

Hello everyone!! I have been waiting for this moment for months and months.  I am extremely excited to announce that I will be part of the pilot Running Ambassador program for Every Mother Counts (EMC)!

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.02.12 AMFor those of you who know me, you’ll know this is a perfect marriage of two of my loves: running and public health. So what does this mean for us?

  • Me: Identify a local running event, a 5k or 10k, or even a half marathon, and ensure I can create a team of runners
  • You: Register for the race, join the team, tell your friends about it, thereby raising awareness, and hopefully, raise funds
  • Me: Lead group runs, provide training plans if needed
  • You: Be awesome and support Every Mother Counts!
  • Us: Create a running revolution and make a united impact as a team!

Continue reading Running for Mothers

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Move Every Day

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Let’s do this! A great way to keep yourself moving in Ramadan is to break up your routine in little chunks. A tabata is a GREAT way to do that. In its truest form, a tabata is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout* that you can knock out with an impact in as little as 4 minutes. What is HIIT? A HIIT session, such as a tabata, will start with a warm up, and move into 6 to 10 cycles of work and rest periods.  Advanced athletes will maintain a moderate level of intensity during the rest / recovery periods, while beginners can slow down or literally stop. The only thing you need to keep in mind is the 2:1 work:rest ratio, and you can create a tabata for anything. For example:

Jump rope tabata

Work: 20 seconds
Rest: 10 seconds

Repeat 7 more times for a total of 8 cycles (beginners can do 4-6, advanced can do 8-10). 

I’ve created bootcamps with tabata circuits, giving bootcampers the biggest bang for their buck. You can work multiple muscle groups with varying degrees of intensity. For example, after the jump rope tabata, you can move to an assortment of bodyweight exercises such as an air squat, a burpee, a mountain climber, crunches, even sprints! You can create a great circuit without any equipment!

Here is a photo from an outdoor fitness park in San Francisco. Hopefully it will conjure up some ideas to get you started on your first Ramadan tabata! Go easy and slow if a tabata is new to you, keep in mind your fitness level and what you will be capable of while fasting.

Do something small every day
Do something small every day

 

* Be sure to check with your physician before beginning any strenuous exercise program*

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