Total Body Ninja at CrossTown Fitness

I attended a free Total Body Ninja class as part of a media event. All opinions are my own.

I’ve taken several classes at CrossTown Fitness over the years: an excursion run class, a regular run class, a couple of their standard Total Body classes. While the content and structure of the each class differed from others I had taken, one thing remained the same: I always left feeling like I had gotten in a good workout. During the Total Body Run class I took a couple months ago, Kiersten, our instructor, noted how with the addition of Total Body Run, CrossTown had really rounded out its offerings, making it a place where you could work on your cardio, your strength, or both at one of its staple classes. I thought that was a good point, and it didn’t cross my mind that there could be an aspect of fitness or training to which CrossTown’s offerings didn’t cater.

Then, I few weeks later, CrossTown contacted me regarding its newest class: Total Body Ninja. I stood corrected!

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I was intrigued by this class from the moment I heard about it. I’ve caught a handful of American Ninja Warrior episodes over the years and always thought the obstacle courses featured on the show looked cool, but not like anything I’d ever have the opportunity to try in any capacity. Turns out, if you attend CrossTown’s newest class, that’s no longer true.

Total Body Ninja classes take place at Junior Ninja Warriors Chicago, an obstacle course-focused gym in Irving Park that primarily caters to kids and teenagers. A couple nights per week, however, the gym partners up with CrossTown, and us grownups get to play instead.

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Based on my experience, though, “play” might not be the right word for what you do during Total Body Ninja. “Work” seems more appropriate. My class, led by Amy with assistance from Jarred and Junior Ninja Warriors’ manager of course operations Ethan (who has competed on three seasons of American Ninja Warrior), started with a dynamic warmup that led into an 18-minute AMRAP circuit that combined traditional strength training with the obstacles at the gym. We started on a rocking balance beam and slackline, then moved onto the warp wall, where you tried the lowest level (on the far left) first, then the second level, then the third (if you were braver and stronger than I am, that is.)

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After the warp wall it was on to box jumps, followed by walking on gigantic “logs” from point A to point B, and then point B to point C. After the log roll came monkey bars that first ascended, then descended, followed by med ball slams, and then we moved on to bouldering across a low rock wall. I don’t remember the name of the next obstacle, but it involved hanging from a bar and using momentum you build up from swinging your legs to propel yourself to the next bar, and the bar after that. The circuit concluded with farmer carries with kettlebells. We needed to do the strength based exercises (the med ball slams and box jumps) 10 times, and the obstacles one to three times. In 18 minutes, I got through one full round and two additional circuit stops. The workout was no joke!

After our AMRAP ended, we had 30 minutes or so to play around on the other equipment in the gym. To my great surprise, the obstacle I enjoyed the most (and found to be the easiest, somehow?!) was what I believe is called the Jumping Spider on American Ninja Warrior. To do the obstacle, you run and jump on the springboard in the picture below to propel yourself onto the plexiglass walls, where you brace yourself with your arms and legs and scoot forward without falling to the ground.

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If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, this (through :55) should help:

To be honest, I really only wanted to do the Jumping Spider because the springboard reminded me of the springboards gymnasts use to get on the vault, balance beam, etc., and since I wanted to be a gymnast as a kid, the opportunity to use any equipment similar to theirs appealed to me. But then I ended up really enjoying the obstacle, which was a nice surprise!

I was really intimidated by the warp wall, but to my great surprise, I loved that obstacle as well! I was terrified of falling down, but I made it to the top every time I tried. I don’t think I could’ve made it past the green wall, because I was usually reaching to get to the top of that one, but I felt really accomplished making it up to the top three times!

The arm based obstacles, however, were an entirely different story. Since I am apparently entirely lacking in either grip strength or the ability to tolerate pain in my hands, I was NOT good at anything that involved hanging. I couldn’t make it anywhere on the monkey bars, for example, though for me, that just made it all the more impressive to see others get across.

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I had such a great time at Total Body Ninja, and while I think it would be a great option for anyone looking to work on functional strength training, I think it would be an ESPECIALLY great class to take if you have an obstacle course race coming up. Granted, there’s no mud in the gym, but where else are you going to find monkey bars, a warp wall, cargo nets, and ropes all in one place?

Right now, the 60-minute class takes place on Sundays at 6:45 p.m., Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., Wednesdays at 7:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., Thursdays at 7:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., and Saturdays at 7:15 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. You can (and should) check CrossTown’s schedule, though, to stay up to date on the latest schedule (and sign up for a class!). I really enjoyed it, and think it was a fantastic way to do something fun and different for a workout!

Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K Race Recap

As I am now just over two months out from my fifth anniversary of living in Chicago, this year will mark my fifth iteration of most of my annual events, including the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K.

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Though I didn’t particularly consider this going into the race, I think Shamrock gives me the ideal opportunity to test my running fitness for the spring season. Shamrock has never been my goal race for the spring, but regardless tends to be my first race of the spring, and since the weather is fairly similar year to year, and the course hasn’t changed at all since 2014, it gives me a really great chance to see how my winter training has paid off thus far and compare my current fitness level to where I was around this time in previous years.

We really couldn’t have hoped for better weather for the race this year, with temperatures in the 50s, overcast skies, and barely any wind. It did spit on us for a couple minutes during the race, but the rain was so light and lasted for such a short period of time that I wasn’t even entirely sure it rained at all until I checked with others who ran the race afterwards, who confirmed feeling drops as well.

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I got the race around 7:50 and, after a much needed portapotty trip, headed into my corral to wait around for the start. I have to say, my least favorite part about large races continues to be the necessity to get to your corral so long before a race actually takes off. I understand why we have to be in our corrals early, because having 20,000 people try to get into their corrals with two minutes until the starting gun would be a nightmare, but all that standing around time waiting for the race to begin always drives me crazy.

Anyway, I started about 10 minutes after the elites took off. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect out of the race this year. A PR seemed unlikely, given my training and grave lack of speed work. I did a four mile pace run on Wednesday at my ideal half marathon pace (emphasis on “ideal,”) where I averaged a 9:02 mile and basically felt like I would fall over dead when I finished. I hoped the pack mentality of running a large race would pull me along on Sunday, since historically I’ve run Shamrock at well under a 9:00 pace.

I hit the first mile in 8:34, which seemed reasonable to me, and tried to hold onto that pace for the next 3.97 miles. I came through mile two a little quicker but was right back to where I hoped to be by mile three. Soon after I crossed mile three, the wheels threatened to fall off. I’ve never bonked anything shorter than 10 miles, but I felt dangerously close to bonking on the stretch down Franklin and, even more so, after coming up the hill and turning onto Roosevelt. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, my legs didn’t seem to want to move, and I had a feeling I was going to log my first ever 9:xx mile during Shamrock.

Well, somehow I managed to avoid that, and came through mile four at just about the same pace I had run all along. Up to that point, I had only looked at my mile splits on my watch (I manually lapped my watch at the mile markers, since I know my watch gets all confused running downtown). I had a bad feeling I would log a personal worse at Shamrock and was almost positive I’d run a 43:xx this year, until I glanced at my overall time near the end of the course’s path down Michigan Ave. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see that my watch read 38:xx, and, given that I only had a small stretch of Michigan left, figured I could certainly finish in less than five minutes, and could possibly break 42:00 as well.

I ended up running at 42:01, which I think is the smallest margin by which I’ve ever missed a time goal I established for myself. While this was 30 seconds off my PR, it was also almost an entire minute faster than my personal worst (established, to be fair, on the day when it was SO WINDY) and ranks as #3 out of my Shamrock times. Not too shabby!

Overall, I’m fairly happy with how everything went at Shamrock, and I stand by my claim that this race is the ideal way to measure my current fitness level. I ran my fastest two Shamrocks in 41:3x, and at both of those races, I had 1) been training hard for six weeks or so and 2) was doing consistent speed work during my training. While I think this means my sub-2:00 goal for my half marathon in a few weeks is all but dead (I set my half marathon PR of 2:02:50 the week after running one of those 41:3x Shamrocks), I think I may be in better shape than I suspected, which is nice to know. Of course, the weather could change dramatically between now and three weeks from now, and that could have a major impact on my speed as well, but I’m hopeful that even though sub-2:00 may be out of my reach, I could possibly run a sub-2:10 half marathon. I’ve only done that twice before, so even if I can’t break 2:00, I’d be quite happy to run a sub-2:10 half as well.

I really enjoy Shamrock, and I hope the race continues on. I was floored to look up my results on Monday morning and see that the race only had 19,995 finishers this year :/ While they did add an untimed walk this year (untimed meaning no results, meaning I don’t know how many people participated in that), that’s such a dramatic decrease in finishers from past years. When I ran in 2013, there were 33,257 finishers – 40% more people. I assume the race must still be profitable, because I sincerely doubt it would still exist if it weren’t, but YIKES. I mean, I don’t care at all if there are fewer people running the race. It makes it less crowded and less of a headache. I just hope the Bank of America agrees with me!

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Total Body Run at CrossTown Fitness

I attended a free Total Body Run media preview class at CrossTown Fitness. All opinions are my own, as always.

I love CrossTown Fitness, as you may have noticed by now. While I haven’t visited every studio in Chicago, I have worked out a decent number of them, and CrossTown has consistently been at the top of my list. I’ve never had a disappointing workout or subpar trainer there, and I truly think it’s great place to work out.

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Historically, CrossTown’s workouts, at least in my experience, have been particularly geared towards the HIIT or strength training enthusiast. You could usually count on one or two of the several circuits during a Total Body class putting you on the treadmill or a rowing machine, but cardio, never mind running specifically, certainly wasn’t the focus of the class. Total Body Excursion Runs gave you the opportunity to get outside and concentrate on running, but it did, obviously, require being outside, which isn’t always ideal in Chicago. To fill that gap, CrossTown recently added a Total Body Run class, a quick, 30-minute workout entirely based on the treadmill.

Now I, admittedly, am not the treadmill’s biggest fan, and will generally choose an outdoor run over an indoor run any day for one reason in particular: I find treadmill running to be crushingly boring. No amount of music, TV, podcasts, nor books on tape have ever been able to make me enjoy my time on the ‘mill. Because of that, I was really curious to see how I’d feel about CrossTown’s Total Body Run class.

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Kiersten, a new-t0-me trainer, led our class at CrossTown’s NorthSide location at Addison and Halsted. (Tori, whose classes I’ve taken a few times at various locations, also leads the class at the West Loop.). After a few minutes of gentle warmups on the floor, doing things like squats, high knees, butt kicks, and burpees (only five, so nothing unbearable), we hopped on the treadmills. Kiersten had set all of them at 5.0 to get us started, but made it very clear from the get-go that we would call the shots in terms of our own pace for the class. She instructed us based on effort percentage rather than specific speed, so we could all work as hard (or take it as easy) as we wanted. Our base pace, where we started, was supposed to be an easy, manageable pace we could hold for a long time, about 60% effort. I normally wouldn’t consider 5.0 to be 60% effort for me, but since I had done my long run the day before and had come down with an undiagnosed-at-the-time illness (since diagnosed as “maybe strep?” I have all of the classic symptoms except for a fever, and my in-office throat culture at the doctor on Monday came back negative, but my doctor was fairly certain I have strep, since I got a Centor score of three out of four.), I thought it would be in my best interest to take it super easy, so I stuck with a 5.0 as my base pace.

Our first two intervals of class had us climbing hills on the treadmill, working our way up to a 6.0 incline while keeping the pace easy. After that, we did a few sprint intervals, working our way up to a pace we should only be able to hold for 45 seconds. We played around a little with inclines on the sprint intervals, but not at all like we did with hills. We cooled down for a couple minutes on the treadmill and finally moved to the floor for some stretching to finish out the workout.

I really enjoyed Total Body Run. Since the class only lasts 30 minutes and we never spent more than one minute at the same incline/pace (unless we were recovering), I didn’t get bored at all. The class changes every time, so just because I did hills and sprints doesn’t mean that’s what you’d always get at each class. Regardless, I think this class is a great way to mix up your running workouts and take advantage of the treadmill’s offerings to get some more variety in your running than you may get if left to your own devices, either on the treadmill or outside. You can find the current class times online.

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Have you ever taken a group treadmill class? I certainly haven’t, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out I didn’t mind it nearly as much as I thought I would!

Winter Running in Style

I have a love/hate relationship with winter running. I’d choose cold temperatures and overcast skies for running any day, and winter provides plenty of those conditions. On the other hand, our limited daylight makes outdoor running tough. I don’t like running in the dark, and around here, most of our winter daylight happens between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. That doesn’t work particularly well with a 9-to-5 schedule!

Running in the winter around here requires flexibility. Earlier this season, Nike helped me adapt my wardrobe to the colder months with a winter weather package.

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If you plan to run outside during the winter, you definitely want to wear clothes that are warm and visible to keep you comfortable when the mercury is low and to help others see you in low light conditions. Nike’s winter running gear helps in both departments.

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The package came with all sorts of goodies, including the entire outfit you see (poorly photographed with an iPhone – file this under “Reasons Why I Need a Better Camera”) above. I’m wearing the HyperShield Flash Jacket, Power Speed Flash Tights, and LunarEpic Flyknit Shield Shoes. All of these were designed with winter running in mind.

I’ve worn the jacket several times, and it’s quickly become my favorite piece of running gear. I took the above picture on a day when the actual temperature was 20 degrees, but the Real Feel was 12. I wore an old, long sleeve race shirt underneath, and even though I only ran three miles that day (which isn’t a whole lot of time to warm up), I was perfectly comfortable in the jacket. Shockingly comfortable, really. I wasn’t cold when I started my run, and I didn’t get overheated as it went on. I’ve had the same experience every other time I’ve run in the jacket as well. I have never been so impressed with the design of any other running gear I own, and would recommend this jacket without hesitation to anyone running in Chicago or similar climates.

My jacket specifically is a bit on the pricey side due to its super power: incredible reflectivity.

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This picture, taken with flash, shows me picking up my age group award at the Jingle Bell 5K last month. In it, you an see the tiny piece of reflection my Asics running shoes have on the heel, the two stripes of reflection my Mizuno tights have on the calves, and then on top, the rainbow of reflection all over my Nike jacket. That’s the exact same jacket I’m wearing in the action shot further up, and those reflective elements are all over the sleeves and shoulders, even though you can’t see them like you see silver reflective elements on regular running clothes. It is truly incredible, and I would feel a lot more comfortable running in the dark knowing that my shoulders, head, and arms are lit up like a rainbow rather than hoping that the couple of small stripes on my shoes and clothes are enough to help cyclists on the Lakefront Trail or drivers on the road see me after dark. (The price point, admittedly, is pretty high on that jacket, so if you’re looking for a great winter jacket that won’t break your budget, Nike also sells a regular HyperShield Jacket without the reflective elements for much less. I think that’d be great if you plan to run outside during daylight.)

The Power Speed Flash Tights, while not quite as reflective as the jacket, do also feature a good amount of reflectivity where the silver lines appear on both the front and the back of the tights. It beats the reflectivity of the tights you see in the picture above by a long shot.

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I liked the fit and feel of these tights a lot. I have a few pairs of running tights: one for 30-40 degree weather, one for 10-30 degree weather, and one for anything below that. I would out these tights in the 30-40 degree category, at least for my personal comfort level. When I wore these on the three miler I mentioned earlier, when it was 20 but felt like 12, I was a bit chilly in the shade and wind, but comfortable in the sun. Everyone’s different, of course, but I felt like these tights would suit my needs best when the temperature (or, in this case, Real Feel) wasn’t flirting with single digits. Fortunately, those days are few and far between in Chicago, for the most part, so I have a feeling I’ll get a lot of use out of these tights under more normal winter circumstances.

The shoes are from Nike’s LunarEpic line, a fairly cushioned shoe with a unique traction pattern on the sole. These particular shoes are meant to provide added grip in wintery conditions and also feature a water-repellent outer to help keep your feet dry if you need to trudge through snow or slush.

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Though you can’t tell from this picture, these shoes are high rise, like the Nike LunarEpics I talked about last summer:

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Ah, sunshine! How I miss you.

I wasn’t entirely sold on the design when I tried out those shoes during the summer, mostly because it deviated so dramatically from how you expect a running shoe to look. For winter running, though, I think it’s genius. The gap between my tights and socks drives me CRAZY, and since so few of my running socks go above my shoe line, I constantly have cold ankles while out running during the winter. High rise shoes solve that problem. The LunarEpic shoes, in my experience, have an awfully snug fit, so I’d definitely recommend trying them on before you make a purchase.

Even though the holidays are over, if the past is any indication, winter weather won’t be going anywhere for at least three months. If you’ve got some Christmas money to go through and need to update your winter running wardrobe, Nike definitely has you covered.

*While I received Nike’s winter running package complimentarily, all words and opinions on the products I received and tested are 100% my own.

What’s your favorite or essential winter running gear? Aside from my Nike jacket, I’m also obsessed with running glittens. The flexibility is perfect for when you don’t know what to expect out of the weather, plus having your fingers free to use individually makes it much easier to start and stop a watch than trying to do that with mittens.

2016 Running Recap

This is one of my favorite posts to write every year. I love looking back on my year in running and reflecting on my accomplishments (and, ahem, lessons learned 😉 ) throughout the year. As always, thanks to Kim for the template.

Races participated in: 11
Races “raced” (of x amount above): Definitely one, though maybe three based on how much effort I put in. The Jingle Bell 5K was the only race I went into this year with the intention of doing well, however.
DNFs: 0
DNSs: 0ish. I don’t count Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas as a DNS because I officially dropped out of the race and got all of my money back before the event began, so if you searched my name on the results, you couldn’t find anything. It was the only race I’ve ever registered for and then not run in some capacity (though I did register for the Chicago Half Marathon and then only ran the 5K this year as well, but again, I had officially switched races on that event as well).

Distances
5K: 4
8K: 
1
10K: 1
10 Mile: 1
Half Marathon: 
2
Marathon: 
2
New-to-me distances: None! This is the first year that I haven’t had any automatic PRs from running a new distance 😦 It was also the first year I’ve run more than one marathon, though.

States run In: 5, yet again. It would’ve been six if I had done Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas, which would’ve been the most states I’ve run in in one year. Regardless, this year I ran in Illinois, Washington, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Michigan.

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Road: 11
Trail: 0
Months run In: 12. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to say that for the first time since I started doing these recaps, but fortunately I was cleared to run after my foot/ankle injury in mid-November, so I managed to get a couple (total) miles in that month as well.

Hottest race: Soldier Field. It was hot and humid and miserable and I’m so glad I’m not signed up to run that race again next year.

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Coldest race: I’m guessing the Jingle Bell 5K. It would’ve been the Good Life Race, but I believe it was in the 30s that day, while it was only in the 20s for Jingle Bell.
Windiest race: The Good Life Race was probably the most noticeably windy for a substantial portion of the race, but I don’t think anything will ever compare to the wind I flew running over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge during the Tacoma Narrows Half. That’s the only time my shirt has ever blown up during any run, ever.
Wettest race: No rain on race day this year, fortunately. Nothing will ever compare to the eight miles of downpour I ran through on the back half of my 18 miler in August, however.

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Races I ran for free: 1
Race entries I paid for other people: 0

Participation medals received: 9
AG medals received: 1! Second place in my AG at Jingle Bell! (It’s the medal on the right)

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PRs:
8K: 
41:32 (0:06 PR)
10K: 
56:22 (1:06 PR). I worked all spring with the goal of PRing my 10K. It was really my only major running goal for 2016. Despite all of this, I completely forgot that I PRed this race until I started going through my results from this year. Oopsies! Maybe I blocked the memory since that race was so hard.

Races run alone: 9
Races run with others: 2
Acted as pacer: 0

Favorite medal: Tacoma Narrows Half. I loved the colors (even though they’re not great in this picture) and the that it showed the bridge on it.

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Bib: I honestly don’t have any idea…

Miles run in 2016: Well, I had every intention of posting an accurate number this year by meticulously tracking every single mile I ran on a treadmill this year. I recorded all of those in a note on my iPhone that I never synced with my computer because I didn’t think that was at all necessary. Then my phone committed suicide in August, and I lost everything, including all the miles I had run on a treadmill up until late August, of which there were MANY. After I lost eight months worth of data, I stopped caring about my treadmill miles, so all I have are the miles I covered outside. That, for those curious, is 564.4. With how much I ran on the treadmill this year, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if my real total was closer to 75-100 miles more than that.

So there’s my year in running in 2016. It wasn’t my fastest year by any means, but I’m still pretty happy with how things turned out. Running 26.2 miles on my 26th birthday was probably the highlight, despite it not being my best marathon experience by any means. I’m looking forward to running several half marathons next year and hopefully staying out of the boot for a long time 🙂

 

What’s Next

Raise your hand if you’re still sleep deprived from the World Series. *raises both hands* I’m beyond thrilled that the Cubs are hanging in there, and I will happily take two more nights of less than seven hours of sleep if it means winning the World Series, but man. Remember last Wednesday when the game started at 6:08 instead of 7:08, and the world didn’t end even though the game started an hour early? I vote we make that the standard start time for all playoff games from here on out. Primetime, schmimetime. I would have a lot more energy for these games if they didn’t last until nearly 11:00!

Anyway, Cubs enthusiasm aside, I have updates on my foot, and thus my plan moving forward out of marathon season. I went to the doctor and got another x-ray on Friday, which, in what came as the most expected news I have ever received, showed no evidence of a stress fracture. This did not surprise me, since I’m still one zillion percent convinced I never had a stress fracture or anything like it in the first place, given the fact that all of my pain occured in the exact location of my peroneal tendon and was completely consistent with what one could expect with tendonitis and/or subluxation, not a stress fracture. My doctor now thinks I had a stress reaction, because apparently all my talk about pain in my ankle is completely irrelevant to this entire conversation. I’m transitioning out of my boot, wearing regular shoes for an hour or two before wearing the boot for an hour, with the goal of eventually building up time out of my boot to the point where I don’t need to wear it at all. I…have not followed these instructions to a T, but when I’m going to be walking a lot, I wear the boot. When I’m going to be walking a little, I don’t wear the boot. I spend most of my non-walking time sitting down, so I figure whether I’m wearing the boot or not doesn’t make much of a difference when I’m not putting any weight on it in the first place.

I’ve been prohibited from engaging in impact exercise until my next appointment on Nov. 18. This has a couple of disappointing implications. Dance counts as impact exercise, so I’m going to have to drop out of this session of hip hop, which will be the first session I’ve missed in four years. I also won’t be able to participate in Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas in any capacity, including the 10K. Both of these things frustrate me, because I really, truly, in the deepest depths of my soul, do not think this was a bone injury in the first place. Being sidelined for six weeks as if it were a bone injury is pretty upsetting. I could, of course, go to another doctor and get a second opinion, and I suppose the main reason I’m hesitant to do that (not wanting to take more time away from work to go to more doctor’s appointments) is stupid. At the same time, if we’re still going to operate under the assumption that this was an overuse injury–which it could be, given the whole two marathons in three weeks things, despite the fact that it came on suddenly–I assume more rest isn’t going to hurt the recovery process.

I walked out of my appointment on Friday with a script for PT, which I expected just as much as the news that I didn’t have a stress fracture. That will start next week and last until about Thanksgiving-ish. I’m hoping with all that is in me that my PT will listen when I tell her that I have ankle pain, not foot pain, and treat me accordingly. If things still haven’t improved with my ankle after PT, I’ll suck it up and go to my sports doctor rather than my sports podiatrist for a second opinion. I believe in the power of PT (combined with rest), so I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that PT and not running until the week of Thanksgiving at the earliest will take care of things.

In the mean time, I’m trying to maintain as much fitness as I can. For the next three weeks, I plan to do three days of primarily cardio and three days of primarily strength, shooting for 30-45 minutes of my “primary” workout for the day and 5-10 minutes of my “non-primary” workout. That was also my plan for the past two weeks, and I failed miserably at doing that, so I’m not really holding my breath that it will happen perfectly between now and Nov. 18., especially now that I have to throw the monkey wrench of PT into my already busy schedule. I’m allowed to bike, swim, or row for cardio, though so far I haven’t done anything but bike. The lap swim hours at my gym are a joke, so even though I’ve wanted to swim, I haven’t been able to make that happen so far. Biking is all right, and I certainly feel like I’m able to get a good workout on the bike if I set it to the right program, but the seats on the bikes at my gym are far from comfortable, and I’ve been awfully sore as a result. Instead of spending 45 minutes on the bike, I’m thinking about splitting a 45-minute cardio workout between the bike and the rowing machine to hopefully minimize post-workout butt soreness. The gym’s swim hours aren’t quite as terrible on the weekends, so that’s an option on Saturdays or Sundays as well.

From a strength standpoint, I was exclusively doing upper body and core work for two weeks, but I think my ankle could handle some basic lower body work as well at this point. Normally I use the NTC app for all my strength training needs, but a TON of their workouts include exercises I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing quite yet (burpees, squat jumps, etc.). I’ve found Fitness Blender to be a helpful resource in finding strength routines, which don’t yield much in the way of calorie burn, at least according to my Fitbit, but it’s better than nothing. Using that same mindset, occasionally I’ve found myself with only 10 free minutes in a day to work out, and on those occasions, I’ve picked up my five pound weights at home and done a low weight, high rep upper body routine that involves arm curls, hammer curls, overhead presses, reverse flies, and tricep kickbacks. I’ll do 10 reps of an exercise before moving onto the next, take a very short break, and start the circuit all over again, attempting to get in as many sets as possible (with good form, of course) in the 10 minutes I have. While this also burns basically no calories, it does help me get in SOME movement, which makes me feel less like a lazy oaf. Logically, I know you don’t need to burn 300+ calories in a workout for it to “count” as an actual workout, but I’ve always found it difficult to transition out of that mindset after marathon season, where most workouts last 40 minutes at the ABSOLUTE minimum, and often fall more in the one to two-hour range.

Looking really far forward, I have a 5K in late December that I still plan to run. Depending on how things shake out with my ankle, I’d love to have a higher mileage year in 2017 than I had in 2016 to see if that can help me reach my marathoning goals. I hope to run one or two half marathons next spring and maybe a 10 miler as well. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some shorter races found their way onto my calendar, too. I completed CARA’s Marathon Incentive Program in 2016 and filled out my application on Sunday, so in a few weeks I’ll know whether or not I received a guaranteed entry into the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. I’ll hopefully find out before the lottery closes, so if I don’t receive a guaranteed entry, I’ll put myself in the lottery, and if I find out after the lottery closes that for some reason I didn’t get in through the Marathon Incentive Program, I’ll get a charity entry instead. I really want to run Chicago next year so I can get my fifth finish in and be set with guaranteed entries through, minimally, 2023. Marine Corps and New York are still on my bucket list, but I don’t feel quite ready to tackle two marathons in a short time frame again, so I don’t plan to enter either of those race’s lotteries for 2017.

So that’s where I am at the moment. My biggest fear in all of this is that a misdiagnosis with my foot/ankle will lead to an extremely long recovery process that will derail my 2017 running plans, but I’m trying to trust that things will get better with time and physical therapy, just like all of my past injuries did. In the mean time, I’m happy that I’m at least putting my gym membership to good use after neglecting it during marathon season, and hopeful that all of my cross training will help round out my fitness overall and keep me in good enough shape that I can get back on the road soon.

What does your fall/winter fitness routine look like?

MilestonePod Review

*I received a complimentary MilestonePod to test and review, but was not compensated for this post in any other way. All opinions, thoughts, and general nonsensical ramblings are my own, as always.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had received an updated MilestonePod to try out, and that I’d have a full review after using it for a couple of weeks. Well, friends, that time has come!

The MilestonePod is a small device that takes up about one square inch of real estate on your shoe. Don’t let its size fool you, however: this little guy tracks more running data than you can shake a stick at, including:

  • Workout time
  • Distance
  • Calories burned
  • Step count
  • Pace
  • Location of foot strike
  • Cadence
  • Ground contact time
  • Rate of impact
  • Stride length
  • Leg swing

Honestly, if you can think of anything else you’d want to know about your workout, I encourage you to share it with me, because aside from heart rate–which obviously I wouldn’t expect a shoe-based device to track, particularly given the rise in wrist-based heart rate monitoring–I can’t think of a single statistic related to my run that the MilestonePod doesn’t track.

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Using the MilestonePod is a pretty straightforward process. The device comes in two pieces: a bottom piece that slips under your laces, and a top piece that you snap into the bottom piece. And that’s it. The pod has a built-in battery that doesn’t require recharging, and it automatically tracks your runs without you needing to press any buttons (once you have a cadence of 100+ steps/minute for six straight minutes, it recognizes that you’re running. It goes back and captures those first six minutes, and will continue tracking until your cadence falls below 100 steps/minute for six straight minutes).

To track your MilestonePod data, you need to download the free MilestonePod app to your phone. Tapping your MilestonePod twice (or until the little green light turns on) wakes it up, at which point you can sync it via Bluetooth to your phone (this was something I didn’t know when I started testing the pod, and couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t sync!). The app displays all the data from your run with an explanation of the significance of less common tracking points (such as rate of impact, leg swing, etc.).

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You don’t have to calibrate the pod before taking it out for its first run, and while its tracking is quite accurate, it may be slightly off. If it is, you can calibrate it after syncing (assuming you know how far you ran, that is) to help increase its accuracy.

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Beyond that, the MilestonePod tracks your shoe’s mileage, which is probably its most useful function for me. I love all the data, but I am terrible about tracking mileage on my shoes (my usual method is to realize one day that I’ve had my shoes for a long time, then go onto Polar Flow [or Garmin Connect, before my current watch] and run a report from the day I thought I started wearing my current pair of shoes to the present and, usually, realize that I was about 15 miles away from needing a new pair of shoes). Having this available on my phone without me needing to do even the tiniest bit of math has been enormously helpful for me.

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As I’m sure I’ve said on here multiple times in the past, I’m a huge stats nerd when it comes to sports, including my own sports, so something like this is right up my alley. Obviously, my Polar M400 (GPS watch) and FitBit Charge HR (activity tracker) to a fair amount of tracking for me on my runs, so the basic data I get from the MilestonePod isn’t exactly breaking news to me. However, while both of those devices can count my steps, and one (the M400) can count my cadence, nothing even comes close to the deep dive analysis MilestonePod gives me. Nothing tells me what kind of strike I use. Nothing tells me how hard I hit the ground, or how long I stay on the ground. Nothing tells me the status of my leg swing. That’s information I previously would’ve needed a video gait analysis to learn. Now, I get it on my phone. While the MilestonePod certainly doesn’t replace a VGA done by a trained professional, it gives you an idea of how you’re doing in between VGAs and helps you see where you can stand to improve your form. I think this is wildly useful information, and considering that the pod only costs $24.95, is an insanely good deal.

I also think the MilestonePod would be a very useful tool to someone who wants to meticulously track his or her running data, but has trouble with feeling obligated to hit certain paces all the time and is a slave to his or her watch as a result. Honestly, I see my watch as more of a reporting tool than a coach I need to please – it tells me how fast I ran the last mile, and that’s about where my relationship and emotions to the number I see begin and end. I so rarely derive a sense of worth from what those numbers show me that running without a watch has never appealed to me: tracking my data is more important to me than the infinitesimal chance that I might be upset by what I see. However, I know that that is definitely not that case for some people. If you happen to fall into my data-obsessed camp, but also live in the live-and-die-by-my-pace camp (unlike me), I think MilestonePod could be a great tool for you. You still get all your information, but not until after the run, at which point you can’t do anything about it, anyway.

If you’re interested, you can purchase a MilestonePod online at www.milestonepod.com. I find it to be a really cool tool and would certainly recommend it to any runner interested in gaining more insights into their workouts.