Archive for the ‘running’ Category

  • How to Obtain a Personal Worst

    Date: 2011.04.11 | Category: races, running | Response: View Comments

    Hello!  I can hardly believe how long it’s been since I’ve updated.  I have been keeping myself busy by:

    1. Lurking on other people’s blogs
    2. Watching HGTV
    3. Staring at my cuticles and split ends

    As you can see, hardly enough time to blog!  Well, I am still very, very busy doing those above things, but I have too much advice to share to just let myself sit idly — I mean, busily. 

    You see, I am now the proud owner of a new personal worst in the half marathon.  So many people have been asking me how to get their very own personal worst that I figured the best thing would be to write a blog post about it.  That way I don’t have to repeat myself too many times.

    Now, I don’t think you can pick and choose circumstances leading up to a personal worst.  It really is a culmination of factors that leads to a breakthrough of this kind.  However, if I don’t write out the factors in a numbered list,

    1. People will stop reading and go read other blogs with numbered lists. 
    2. In fact, it’s a miracle if anyone has read anything before this numbered list. 

    Without further ado, here is how you too can achieve a personal worst.

    1. Pray to the weather gods for weather about 20 degrees warmer than what you’ve trained in, with extra humidity.
    2. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to train in warmer, outdoor weather in an attempt to acclimate to increased temperatures.  Stay inside and train in your comfortable basement on your treadmill.
    3. Blow off training runs in the month leading up to the race.  You can do this.  It’s your seventh half marathon after all.  13.1 miles is NBD.
    4. Screw around with your diet during your training period.  Go on Paleo diet.  Go off it.  Go on it a week before the race.  Go back off it the day before your race, in an attempt to carbo-load.  Your GI system will be fine.  If you wake up at 4 in the morning on race day and your stomach loudly revolts to this idea, don’t worry about it.

    If you are lucky, these steps will lead to the following results:

    1. A very hot, humid day to have an endurance event
    2. Being graced with the presence of several thousand other people pushing fluids and needing to use ALL port-o-potties on the race due to their extra hydration and/or sympathy pains
    3. Needing to stop at almost every rest stop on the race yourself and wait in a long line for your spot in heaven
    4. Being unable to keep a good pace due to your stomach issues, and due to the periods of waiting in line, and the glorious heat
    5. If you are really lucky, you will get something called “cheek on cheek action
    6. The crowning achievement of a personal worst 13 minutes slower than your last personal worst.

    Thank me now or thank me later.

    So, that concludes my race recap of the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon 2011.  I am not sure I will ever run this event again, and instead, am considering only participating in endurance events in Canada.  I am also not sure I will ever speak again without laying the sarcasm very heavily. 

    The good news here is that I have another opportunity for a personal worst at the Lincoln Half Marathon in a few weeks.  A very optimistic person reminded me that my St. Louis half experience could serve as a good training run for that half.  I really don’t know if I have it in me to do another personal worst but I will try my best.  ;) 

    But seriously - I think I know what I need to do.  Nothing in the above lists.
  • How to Run Faster

    Date: 2011.02.03 | Category: running | Response: View Comments

    I recently mentioned that I am planning to run two half marathons this spring – the St. Louis Half Marathon in April and the Lincoln Half Marathon in May. 

    Since you read this blog, you might have an interest in running.  If you are interested in running, 100% of you would like to run faster.  That’s what my crystal ball says.

    I have a treadmill set up that really works well for me.  It’s nice to be able to stumble downstairs and hop on – especially when my town is covered in ice.


    As you can see, I have a treadmill directly set up in front of a tv.  I don’t mess around. 

    I also have a large fan next to me to keep me comfortable.


    Here’s the view.  It’s a Nordic Track treadmill. ( I don’t remember what kind but if you want to know just ask and I’ll find out.)  Notice the double cup holders.  Those are important.

    On the arm of the treadmill, I have a pace conversion chart so that I don’t have to do any math.


    Ok, now to explain the magic of dual cupholders.  Sometimes I do more complicated speed workouts. 

    Exhibit A is from last year’s marathon training: “10-20 w/u, 6 x 400 (200 RI), 4 x 400 (200 RI), 10 c/d.”

    OMG.   What does that even mean?  10-20 minutes warm up running, 6 repeats (a repeat is a fast run, for me it’s under 8 min miles) of 400 meters a piece, 200 meter recovery interval (a jog) in between each, 4 repeats of 400 meters each, 200 meter recovery jogs in between each, and 10 minutes of cooling down running. 

    It’s hard to keep track!  So for each repeat, I move pennies from one cup holder to the next.  Then, my mind is free to wander! (Or to watch Jerseylicious on TV, as the case may be…)


    So… okay.  That’s how I run at home.  How does that help you?

    Answer: It doesn’t.  Not very much.  Except it might help you a little bit?

    Anyway, the secret to running fast!


    The secret to running faster… is….

    To run faster.

    Yep.  That’s it.  I know, it sounds overly simplistic. 

    Any advice you’re going to get is going to boil down to that.  You might hear advice to do tempo runs, fartleks (aka speed play), interval training, and so on.  Basically, you need to get uncomfortable, to push yourself, over and over.  Soon, your level of comfort is going to change.  Your body will adapt, so that you will be ready for more speed.  Your comfort level will change, increasing as you become stronger.

    One of my goals is to someday qualify for the Boston marathon.  My average runs are half a minute slower (about 9 minute miles) than the pace I would need to run for an entire marathon (8:23).  Obviously I need to get a lot faster.  Speed workouts, like intervals, definitely help me get used to running faster.  Tempo runs help me run faster, and maintain that speed for a much longer period.  I need both to learn to run faster. 

    Another way to help raise my comfort level with more speed is to lose some weight.  This is simple physicsIt takes less work to move an object with a lower mass.  But, I think there is a happy medium – lose too much weight, and you risk losing muscle mass.  I’m looking to lose 15-20 pounds… depending on how much I weigh on a given day Winking smile

    I also need to stay injury free.  You can’t get faster when you’re injured, so stretching and listening to your body is important.

    Happy running!  If you would like me to explain anything else, hit me up in the comments or email me at michelle.stgermain at gmail dot com.

  • How to open a coconut, throw it out, and burn it

    Date: 2011.02.01 | Category: fitness, recipe, running | Response: View Comments

    Today I stayed at home due to the weather conditions.  If you’re in the Midwest, you probably know what I’m talking about: sleet, ice, snow, blizzard warnings, state emergencies being declared, National Guard being called, power outages being feared.  It’s safe to say we’ve worked ourselves into a panic.  It has been sleeting all day in St. Louis and there is a sheet of ice covering everything.

    With a little time on my hands, I decided to open a coconut.


    There are a million different ways to open one.  I decided to go the simple route and take the back end of a knife (the non-blade end) and whack it in an imaginary line around the middle, turning the coconut.


    I got lucky and one of my hits made the shell come off.


    There was some coconut water in the center, but I think that stuff is vile so I didn’t bother to save it.  Then, using a sharp paring knife, I cut the meat into sections and took them out little by little.  Soon, I had a real mess on my hands.


    The brown bits on the coconut meat above still needed to be removed and cleaned so I went about that.  It was during this time when I realized there was something off about the coconut.  I finished the process anyway.


    Then I googled, “How do you know if a coconut is bad?” and the answer was “Taste it.”

    So I did.  And it was not good.

    At this point I wanted lunch.  With coconut in it.  I had my belly set on something like this (Thai Coconut Butternut Squash Soup).

    Thank heavens for coconut in the can.


    Also, God Bless Trader Joes for being the only place where I can find canned butternut squash.  I love the taste of roasted vegetables as much as anyone, but when I’m just going to throw it all in a soup, canned is so much more convenient.

    I started making the soup by adding diced onion, ginger and garlic to a dutch oven with oil in it.


    Then I added red curry paste – I had this on hand thanks to the Real Simple cookthrough I did last fall.  I bought a lot of spices in that period and it makes me happy when I can use the more uncommon ones again!


    This soup was done in no time at all.  For garnish, I toasted some shredded coconut (yes I also have some already in a bag.  I’m crazy).  I completely burned it to a crisp the first time. 

    Mark doesn’t know I’m cooking until the smoke alarms go off.


    The soup was good.  I added a lot more curry paste than the recipe called for, but it was still subtle.


    Next time, I think I would reduce the broth – perhaps nix it entirely – and increase the milk.  I like my soup a little bit creamier.


    And a salad on the side.

    This morning I did my first training run for my 2011 race season.  I have signed up for the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon in April, and the Lincoln Half Marathon in May.  I also have my sights set on a triathlon in June.  I just need to get more confident about my swimming.

    Anyway – that was a tangent – my run was great.  I did four 400 meter repeats at 7:05 pace, followed with some easier running for a total of 5.5 miles.  I’m following the FIRST plan once again because I’ve had so much success with it in the past, and because I have triathlons on the brain.

    Tomorrow I’m going to explain how to run faster. Smile

  • You Don’t Have To

    Date: 2010.11.04 | Category: fitness, real simple cookthrough, running | Response: View Comments

    It is so close to Friday that I can feel it.  Can you?

    Workout: A lot of times I complain to my friends or husband that I don’t “feel” like working out before a workout.  Usually I’m looking for an a little bit of enabling and permission to skip it.  Today I complained to my friend Robin that I didn’t “feel” like running today and she said, “You don’t have to.”  She was right.  I didn’t have to.  But I could, and I had no good excuse not to.  Ironically, she gave me permission not to work out, and that was motivation enough to do it.  I did it not because I felt like it, but because I could and because it’s good for me.  And you know what? I’m glad I did.  I did 5.4 miles on the treadmill.

    Food:  Tonight’s menu was Seared Steak and Cauliflower Puree, with a side of “fries.”  I am a little afraid of cooking meat, especially steak.  I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing.  I’m glad the Real Simple recipes have featured a lot of steak because it’s helping me feel more comfortable cooking it.IMG_9676

    Tonight’s recipe I worked with a New York strip steak and I added regular and sweet potato fries.  If not for the fries, this meal would have taken me 15 minutes to make.  The hint is to steam frozen cauliflower in the microwave.  When I have the option of steaming in the stove v. steaming in the microwave – microwave always wins.



    The steak turned out really well.  Even Mark said it was good.


    Ada was not happy with her kibble tonight. 


    It’s rough being a dog!

  • The other benefit of working out

    Date: 2010.09.03 | Category: fitness, miscellaneous, running | Response: View Comments

    I have to say that I’ve not had a very healthy week so far.  I haven’t ran, I haven’t been eating well, and it has an immediate effect on my outlook on the world and myself.  I could really use a dose of my own advice today!

    I am not feeling confident about the half marathon.  It’s still a month away so that is a lot of time, but last weekend’s long run really shook my confidence.  I didn’t feel like it should have been as hard as it felt, and the fact that I felt so sore afterwards means I’m not physically prepared – or as prepared as I would like to be.  I am getting the pre-race doubts.  I get them all the time.  I’m going to try to not think about whether I’m prepared for it until it’s much closer to the date and I’ll go from there.

    Since I have been thinking about it this week, I thought I would talk about “The other benefit of working out.”

    We all know that working out has a lot of physical benefits: improving cardiovascular fitness, reducing blood pressure, decreasing triglycerides and increasing HDL cholesterol, preventing osteoporosis, managing weight, building lean muscle – and much more.

    My favorite benefit of all is the way working out – especially running – increases body confidence and satisfaction. 

    After a run, I’m less likely to notice or dissect a body flaw.  There is a post workout glow period where everything is sunshine and rainbows. 

    A friend recently told me that while she had been working out, she tried on a bathing suit and felt pretty satisfied with what she saw.  Then she got sick, and had not ran in two weeks, tried on the bathing suit and realized she was going to need to work out more. 

    There was nothing so significant that happened in two weeks body-composition wise that would have been visible to the naked eye.  I didn’t see her in the bikini, but I’m pretty sure of this.

    Working out is what made the difference – but not in the way she thought – she hadn’t lost definition or gained weight.  The rose-colored glasses that come with working out were just not on anymore.

    My mom claims she feels no benefit from working out – she doesn’t get the “high”; she hates it (she claims).  But she’s been doing it a lot more in the last couple of years, and the way she dresses has changed.  Now she wears clothes that fit – that don’t hide her body.  Whatever she says about working out, it’s obvious that working out has increased her body confidence.

    During periods of my life where I feel like my body will be exposed in some way – like when I was trying on wedding dresses or on my wedding day, I was sure to work out.  Not because I thought I could lose weight in a week – but because I knew my attitude towards myself would be better.

    Attitude really is everything.

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My name is Michelle and I like to write about running, food, and fitness in general. Check out my About Michelle section for more!




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