01-29-2015

How To Squat Deeper

I’ve written about proper squat and deadlift form, but today we’ll talk about how to work your way into a deeper squat. (I’ve also written about how it’s not necessary to squat all the way down – in fact, it can lead to injury if you’re not ready for that).

However, it’s important to work on mobility if you want to perfect your squat form and get a bit deeper each time. When I first started lifting, I’d have a bench under me and I couldn’t even squat to the bench! Usually, not being able to get low enough has to do with lack of flexibility – probably in your ankles or hips. PS – if you want to work on ankle flexibility and dorsiflexion, try this exercise. My PT had me do this for my shin splints during half marathon training and it really helped. For me, a tight Achilles and lack of dorsiflexion is/was causing tight calves which leads to shin pain.

Anyway, let’s get into a few things you can do to work on your squats. Let’s start with the warm-up:

How To Squat Deeper

Warm up your hips and glutes.

This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen people show up to the gym and just start squatting. Yikes. Take 10 minutes to warm up before you hit the squat rack. First do some cardio to get your heart rate up, then start doing dynamic stretches for your hips, like lunges (where your knee is on the floor and you move forward to stretch the hip, but then come back up, then go back into it, etc. so it’s dynamic, not just you holding a stretch). Do side lunges as well to hit it from a different angle. Do a few static standing lunges to warm up your quads and glutes –  nice and slow.

Roll out your calves.

In order to get your calves ready, do the drill above, and foam roll your calves. If you have a partner, take a wooden stick/pole (some gyms have them some don’t, if not just use the foam roller) and ask them to roll it over your lower calf, closer to your Achilles. They’ll be able to apply pressure in different areas you may not be able to if you foam roll yourself. You want to get the blood flowing in these areas and get them loose, especially if dorsiflexion is what is causing you issues with squatting.

Okay let’s move to the actual squatting:

Set a bench or box behind you.

You won’t be doing box squats (which is a specific technique different than regular squats), but you’ll just be squatting down and trying to tap the bench with your butt. If you can’t get down that low, then you know you’ve got some work to do. This also gives you a starting point. Once you ARE able to tap the bench, you know that you’ve been improving and are getting better at squatting.

Put plates under your heels.

I had clients who would start with 25 lb. plates (thicker) and work their way down to just a 5 lb plate (very thin). Putting plates under your heels helps with the dorsiflexion issue, since now your heels are elevated and will give you a bit more range of motion. As I was reading a forum about this, I saw some opinions about this being impractical because “you’re supposed to be squatting with heels planted and driving through the heels.” Yes, that is true, but if you don’t have the range of motion how will you do this? As with anything else, this tip is a way to help you to progress to that level, similar to how using an assisted pull-up machine helps you progress to a pull-up.

Anyway, got side tracked, use a certain plate for 2 weeks, then try to use one that’s thinner, and work your way down. Obviously, you need to be working on mobility during this time as well. Simply using plates won’t improve your dorisflexion. Make sure you’re actively foam rolling your calves and Achilles and doing drills like the one I linked to above. Here are more drills from trainer Tony Gentilcore (scroll down a bit). My PT had recommended doing that drill whenever possible throughout the day, but a minimum of 2-3 times a day.

Do front squats.

Front squats require you to have the barbell on the front/meaty part of your shoulders. If you don’t have access to a barbell, you can do goblet squats instead. You’ll find that with front squats you will probably be able to get a bit deeper than with back squats. This is because of the angle of your hips and back during the squatting. 

squat-torso-positionPhoto Source

Throw these into your routine and focus on your depth. As always, make sure you’re keeping your core tight and “chest up, shoulders back.”

Start light.

Don’t be embarrassed if you’re only squatting the barbell to start. I started there too. It’s better to use light weights as you fix your mobility than try to do 100 lbs. and have awful form that will lead to injury. Use light weight and really focus on the exercise. Feel yourself bracing your core and going through the motions. Go nice and slow to determine how low you can get and get a tiny bit lower each week. Throughout the weeks, you’ll not only gain flexibility but you’ll also be able to start increasing your weight load bit by bit.

Are you able to do squats no problem or did you have to work your way up to them? They’re a great exercise when done properly!

How do you warm up before a lifting session?

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01-28-2015

Health & Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

Well, talk about an overhyped storm! For the past few days the media had been talking about this HISTORIC blizzard of 2015…we were going to get 25-30 inches! I think we ended up getting a total of 6ish haha. I don’t think it’s the meteorologists fault. Many are complaining about them and how they overhyped it, but I think it’s the media. The media was all over this storm and telling people to prepare, get their gas cans ready if needed, etc. etc. You’d think it was the apocalypse bu how they reported it. But whatever…I was just happy to get 2 snow days out of it ;)

Okay so let’s get into this week’s links! Some of the businesses I work with through my business are health & wellness related, so it’s fun perusing blogs and websites each day to curate content. Found a lot of great stuff over the past few days!

Featured: Vanilla Overnight Oats (24 Carrot Life)

vanilla-overnight-oats
I’ve actually never made overnight oats but keep meaning to. I am all about easy, on-the-go breakfasts. My usual is 2 hard boiled eggs that I eat in my car because I give myself just enough time in the morning to get ready and get out. Sleep > sit down breakfast :) Will definitely be trying this one soon!

I’ve been trying a lot of new recipes lately, experimenting with meatless ones. So if you have any favorite meatless recipes, please leave a link in the comments – I’d love to try it!

Do you already have races planned for 2015? Which ones? I haven’t made a race calendar yet.

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01-26-2015

6 Tips For Runners With Flat Feet

I have super flat feet. Like pancake flat. It’s caused some biomechanial issues throughout the years but I keep running because I love it. Mainly, I have shin issues once I start running more. Some days I can’t run, others I do but feel pain with each step.

My PT had told me that continuing to run won’t be harmful, since I’ve been continuing to run since high school cross country. I just need to make sure I take active steps to stay injury free.

Today I want to share some tips for those of you who might have flat feet like me. Some people can have flat feet and no biomechanical issues at all, like my mom. I don’t know why that is! Shes’ never had pain issues due to running. I wish…

The arches of your feet are like “springs” for your legs. They absorb the impact with every step, and also allow you to walk/run and use less energy (due to that “spring” energy action). With flat feet, you get more impact, which is why issues like shin splints can arise.

So here are a few things you can implement into your every day routine:

Tips For Runners With Flat Feet

Orthotics

This is a no-brainer, right? If you have flat feet, you should probably get orthotics. The best would be to visit a podiatrist and get custom orthotics. When I was a kid, my parents got me these orthotics that would have somehow molded my arches back up. They hurt to much to wear so I never wore them…now I kind of regret that!

I don’t have customs, but I love Super Feet. They have different colors, which denote the amount of support. I think blue is the highest. You buy new ones about every 3-4 sneakers you wear out. The weird thing I’ve noticed lately is that I only need one of these in my left shoe. I don’t need an orthotic in my right shoe.

Ankle Strengthening

Ankle strength is important for any runner, but if you have flat feet, this is definitely something to focus on. You’re more prone to shin splints, and strengthening your ankles can help you avoid that. Here’s a great list of exercises to try out. I usually like to add in balance movements at the end of my workout. I stand on one leg, balance for 30 seconds, then switch. I also do this on a pad or bosu ball for added challenge.

Make it more challenging but balancing on the bosu ball, then take a medicine ball and do cirlces with it, both clockwise and counter clockwise. So you’re lifting the ball up over your head, then moving it to your left, then down by your hips, then out to your right and up over head again. Sounds easy, but it’s not!

Band Exercises

As I mentioned above, the main thing flat footed people want to avoid is shin splints. Band exercises can not only help strengthen your ankles, but also your anterior tibialis. The stronger that is, the less you’ll be relying on your calf muscles. Shin splints can occur because your calf muscles are overused/stronger than your anterior tibialis, which leads to a muscle imbalance. Google it to find a better worded explanation that what I just wrote :) Here’s an example (all you need is an elastic band):

Arch Exercises

I’m just going to find a video for this because I’ll do a horrible job of explaining it. Doing these exercises can help train you to use your arches a bit more rather than letting them fall.

Taping

I used to do this for cross country. I tried it last year with kinesio tape and did like the extra support it gave me. Though I do feel it’s hit or miss because if it ends up being too tight you’ll be uncomfortable for the whole run. But if it’s the right amount of pressure, you’ll feel like a totally different runner…one with nice arches! :-P

Below is the video I had used. It’s for plantar fascittis prevention and healing, which is also another runner’s injury that can occur due to flat feet.

Avoid Flip Flops

Doctors used to tell me this a lot in high school, but alas, as a teen I didn’t listen. People should avoid flip flops for multiple reasons, but people with flat feet should especially avoid flip flops. There is ZERO arch support, which is the worst thing for you. It can lead to other issues too like inflammation and plantar fascittis. If you have issues like shin splints and lower back pain (caused by your flat feet and biomechanics), wearing flip flops will only make it worse.

If you want open shoes, opt for sandals instead. In the summer, I usually wear casual sneakers. I absolutely love the Reebok Skyscapes that I got at FitBlogNYC this year! I usually find that with casual sneakers, they don’t have much arch support, but these are great. I can use them for when I know I’ll be on my feet for a while and I’ll be pain free. These Converse slip-ons are on my buy list too…I love the look and feel like they would go great with a casual/beachy summer outfit.

So who of you are part of the flat footed tribe?? It’s been a pain throughout the years but I’ve learned to deal with it. It sucks that I can’t walk for long periods of time (aka shopping) without my lower back hurting, and that’s why I’m usually in sneakers. I always see girls shopping in cute boots and flats…I wish! I would last probably 15 minutes before my feet and back were in pain. Sigh…

Do you have flat feet? What tips would you add?

What’s the most annoying running injury you’ve had?

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01-21-2015

Do-Anywhere Leg Workout For Runners

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been doing more circuit based workouts recently, which include single leg movements and plyometric movements. As I was working out, I thought, these exercises are perfect for runners. 

As runners, we spend most of our time on one leg…so it makes sense to do single leg training. I love step-ups, lunges, single leg hip raises, etc. and include those in my own training plans I make for my cross country team.

Before I get into the workout, here is one of my favorite exercises: reverse lunge into single leg deadlift. It’s working on your hip stabilizing muscles, core, hamstrings, glutes and quads…what more can you ask for?? It’s okay if you’re wobbly (like I am in this video). Start with no weights then add in dumbbells.

 

A video posted by pattyrivas13 (@pattyrivas13) on


Cues:

  • Keep your chest up and shoulders back throughout the movement.
  • When you go into the deadlift, hinge at your hips and bring your back leg up as high as you can as you squeeze your glutes.
  • When you’re not using weights, reach out in front of you a bit with your hands. Place a low box in front of you and touch that with your fingers, then come back up and into reverse lunge. When you start using dumbbells, lower dumbbells straight down (not out in front) so you’re not placing pressure on your lower back.

It’s a bit challenging, especially for someone with lack of balance like me, but it really is a great exercise for runners to work on!

And here is my do-anywhere leg workout for runners:

Leg Workout For Runners
So you do the first group of exercises for 5 minutes straight, take a break, then repeat. Then move onto the next set. Or you could do the first group, break, second group, break, and go back to the first group.

With reverse lunge with knee raise I mean step back into a lunge, and when you step back forward left your knee up so it’s at a 90 degree angle, balance for a second, then go back into reverse lunge. Let’s work on our balance people! :)

What are your favorite leg exercises you can do anywhere? Or balance exercises…because I need those!

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01-20-2015

Trying Something New

I haven’t been happy with where I’m at with my body…I know I have weight to lose, but it’s hard!! Why is it so easy to gain 10 lbs. and so hard to lose it? I’ve written about this before, and nothing has really changed since then. Part of the issue has been my long distance training.

Jess, of Blonde Ponytail, recently discussed this on her blog. She decided to mainly focus on strength training workouts as opposed to running because of the effect it had on fat loss. I know that if I want to lose fat and get lean, focusing more on strength is key. But at the same time, I love running and every time I’ve decided to focus on lifting, I end up missing running and training for a race. I like pushing myself and seeing if I can get better in the half and full marathon.

This is the catch 22. Run, or lift and lose fat. Some people are able to do both and stay lean, but I know I can’t, and have figured that out throughout the past few years.

So right now I am just switching my routine all around. I always did heavier lifting – a set number of reps and sets. But I’ve been trying circuit training for time since last week and man is it killer! I was sore for days after a leg circuit. I am hoping this 1) helps me lose body fat and 2) the plyo movements will help me get faster with running. I’m currently not really running that much, just a few times a week. I don’t know if I’m doing a spring half yet so I haven’t been as diligent.

I just want to lose around 15 lbs by the summer time. I have a wedding to go to in February, so any small change before that would be nice, and I’ll be going on vacation in July. I know that to many I’m not “overweight” but for me, I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been. My bodyfat % in relation to my height and weight is high. I need to change that. 

Which leads me to my next change…

I’m going to try eating meatless meals a few times a week. I’m not going full blown vegetarian or anything (don’t think I could ever do that), but I know I could benefit from focusing on increasing my vegetable intake. Some nights when I’m too lazy to cook, dinner is mainly meat, sauce and pasta or rice. Another thing I need to change as well! So I found a bunch of recipes I want to try, which I’ll share with you below as well. 

I don’t think going meatless is the means to weightloss, but I know that it will encourage me to eat healthier and it does impact our environment as well. Plus, it won’t hurt to cut out hormone-laden chicken and meat from my diet (because I don’t buy grass fed or organic chicken, but do plan on going Trader Joe’s more often to do so).

Okay, here are some recipes I want to try!

I really need some recipes to try out…preferably one a meat eater would love too since Dan is kind of a picky eater :) So please leave a comment below with a recipe if you have one you’d like to share!

When you’ve felt unhappy with yourself, what kind of changes did you make?

How did you motivate yourself to keep going despite it taking time to get back to where you want to be? 

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01-15-2015

Things Only Runners Will Understand

I’ve written about #runnerprobs before, and wanted to follow up with some more running humor. Some of the tweets and memes I found seriously crack me up! All while I’m thinking, ” so true.” Here are a few things that hopefully put a smile on your face this morning… :)

tweet1

Yup. Been there…still am there. 4 years after my first marathon and two of my toenails are still messed up!

tweet5

This one actually made my laugh. As runners we’re always so hard on ourselves after a bad race…I know even when someone says no you did awesome! I’m like, ehhhhhh….

tweet2

Story of my life every day.

IMG_2987

hehehe

winter-running
And this is why I have yet to sign up for a spring marathon! I haven’t done much running outside yet :)

tweet3
Whether it’s running or lifting, I think everyone can relate. Currently, my legs are STILL sore from Monday’s workout!

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The worst!

tweet4
I don’t think I will ever enjoy running outside in the cold.

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No really, props to all you winter runners! Though in late November when it was 35 out I was still wearing shorts for runs. Learned this the hard way after my 2011 NYC Marathon where it was 65 degrees out and I wore long UnderArmour leggings because I thought that was cold -____-

Which one of these can you relate to? 

Fill in the blank: You know you’re a runner when _______________. 

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01-14-2015

Health & Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

Have you ever tried a new workout and a few days later you’re STILL sore?? I started a new plan Monday and still can’t walk right! It’s more focused on time than sets and reps (aka you’re out of breath the whole time), so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted!

I haven’t done a link roundup in a few weeks…I got all discombobulated with the holidays so let’s get back into it.

Featured: Apple Cinnamon Blender Waffles (The Lean Green Bean)

Apple-Cinnamon-Blender-Waffles
How amazing do those look? I have been wanting a waffle maker for a while…I seriously need to get one. This recipe is so simple and quick…perfect for those lazy weekend mornings.

  • 2 Steps To Make Healthy Eating A Reality (Love Live Surf) – Two great tips here. I need to do better with meal prep. Mainly lunches. Do any of you prepare all your meals ahead of time?
  • Hip Hugger Lower Body Burner (Running Escapades) – Definitely need to add this to my routine once I start running more. But anyone can benefit…strong hips = strong core!
  • Italian Chickpea Casserole (Strength & Sunshine) – This looks delicious and like the perfect meatless dish if you’re looking for one. I will be trying this for sure, especially now that Dan’s resolution is to eat healthier/more veggies :)
  • Make Your Gym Habits Stick (Dare You To…) – Did you make a New Year’s Resolution? These tips will help! I always prepare my gym clothes and bag the night before. Even though I’m not a morning exerciser, it’s right by the door so I don’t forget anything in that morning rush, and have it all ready to go for my workout later in the day.
  • Grocery Shopping On A Budget For One (Lake Shore Runner) – I’ve found that now that I’m mainly buying groceries for myself, it’s a totally different experience in terms of weekly budgeting, buying things that won’t go bad, etc. Question: If you live alone or with a roommate, how do you buy salad in the bags and have it not go bad??? Happens to me every week.

How do you prevent your groceries and veggies from going bad? Do you have a weekly grocery budget?

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01-12-2015

How To Motivate Yourself To Workout

I’ve seen many posts about gym resolutioners and people who are starting to work on being healthier and fitter…awesome! I’ve also seen a lot of posts in the past about finding a workout buddy in order to hold yourself accountable and get workouts done. But what if you don’t have one? You may want to take spin or run regularly, yet none of your friends are interested. That’s where these tips on how to motivate yourself to workout come in.

As awesome as it is for me to regularly work out with my mom, there are many days where our schedules don’t coincide, so I need to either run or lift alone. And some days I am severely lacking in motivation to go to the gym or run alone. Here are a few things that have helped me:

5 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Workout

Just go for 20 minutes. On days where I REALLY don’t want to workout, I tell myself I’ll do it for 20 minutes. Whether it’s a 20 minute video, 20 minutes at the gym, or a 20 minute run. Recently I did a 25 minute video, and once it was over I was feeling good so I drove to the gym to continue my workout. I bet you, 9 times out of 10, once those 20 minutes are up, you’ll want to keep working out. 

Text a friend. When my mom and I can’t workout or run together, we always Snapchat each other. Yes, Snapchat :-P I’ll send her a photo of my treadmill readout when I’m done and she’ll do the same. There have been plenty of times where I’ve gone or she’s gone and the other person says “Yeah I’ll probably skip today,” but then ends up going to the gym once we see the other person is there. Enlist a friend to be the one who encourages you and provides you with support when you need it. Just the act of sending “proof” to someone can motivate you to get yourself to the gym.

Instagram. So this actually happened last night…before bed I’m using the “explore” feature on Instagram to find new people to follow and ended up finding a few. I started scrolling through their pictures, and learning about their story, their results, their daily nutrition, etc. I was feeling super motivated to get my workout in today (was even going to wake up at 6:30 to do it but we all know I’m not a morning person), and even had all these dreams about going to the gym. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing other people’s results and hard work on Instagram are a huge motivator. Whether it’s their results from following a specific workout plan, or their journey to a BQ…I love seeing pictures and using that to fuel my own fire. Some hashtags I regularly go through are #fitfluential #runnersofinstagram #sweatpink and #runchat.

Try a new class. When I’m feeling really blah and lazy, I check out the group exercise schedule at my gym and pick a new one to try. That’s actually how I found BodyPump (and ended up loving it). You don’t have to do any of the (mental) work, like putting together a plan, picking out weights, etc. Just go to the class and follow instructions. And you might just find your new favorite class!

Take before pictures. Nothing motivates me more than wanting to have “after” pictures. Take before pictures and when you start forgetting about your goals, go through the pictures. I’m not saying to be self-deprecating here and hate on your body…but we all have things we may want to work on. For example, for me, I want stronger and more defined arms and abs. Seeing before pictures is a reminder of it. You can’t get what you want without putting in the work. If you’re a runner, then do a time trial test. Run a mile or a 5K and use that as your benchmark. You’ll want to improve in X amount of weeks and break that time.

Right now, my goals are simply to start lifting again and get back some strength. I always end up losing it once I start training for a half marathon or marathon…this will be the year I stop doing that! I found a workout plan I want to follow…and once I get into the regimen and do it for a few weeks, I’ll share what it is, my thoughts and any possible results. 

How do you self-motivate? Is it easy for you to workout alone or do you have a workout/running buddy?

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01-07-2015

Running Tips: What I Learned From My XC Team

My cross-country season ended in October, and somehow I haven’t written a post about it yet…well here it is!

As some of you may know, this year was my first season coaching the XC team at the community college I work at. I loved it and am so excited for next season to start. I had a group of hard working students who really showed me what it means to be passionate about running. I learned a few things from them that I wanted to share with you. Perhaps it will inspire you as well!

Running Tips
Commit. 100%. No brainer right? Well, I know that I haven’t committed 100% to my running. I know I have more to give, especially if I want better results. My students showed up to practice every day and worked hard. They pushed their limits and committed to the team. Even though we didn’t have a full team, and couldn’t compete as a team, they were all there each day and pushed each other. Despite having school work, exams, jobs, being tired, etc. they showed up and put in the work. I can certainly take that lesson and apply it to my own life.

Even if you’re a beginner, don’t doubt yourself. I have a couple of runners who had never ran competitively before. One who had never really ran period! And you know what, they were just as committed as those who ran throughout high school. They hung in with the other runners and worked just as hard. Don’t doubt yourself as a runner just because “you just started.” We’re all runners no matter what level. We can all relate to the pain, the daily grind, the muscle fatigue. These students weren’t afraid to ask the others questions about how to get stronger and faster (harder, better, faster, stronger? lol). If you’re just starting out, learn from other runners – don’t be afraid to ask questions! We’re a friendly bunch who love to talk about running…amiright? :)

Strength train. You know what my team loved (and wanted) to do that other teams didn’t? Lift. Other coaches were shocked when I told them my team would ASK me to go to the weight room after practice to lift. You should be doing this too! I know that lifting can fall to the wayside when you’re training for an event…it’s happened to me plenty of times (and I’m paying for it today because I’m SO SORE from Monday’s workout still). You’re passionate about running and getting faster; be just as passionate about strength training to get you even faster.

Don’t be afraid of the rain. Like me :) My runners had no issue running in the rain…some even liked it! As Coach Marc would always say…it’s just water. I just hate my shoes getting wet! But when you have to get the miles in, you gotta do what you gotta do. They ran rain or shine, and we only postponed practice once due to weather because it was lightning out. I’m going to take my own advice and do more running outside this month/winter…yes it’s cold but I need to buck up (and layer up) and just do it!

Know when to stop. One of my runners had a knee and hip issue that would crop up every once in a while. I remember specifically one day we were doing a track workout. He loved “Track Tuesdays” and would always push himself. But after the first rep, his hip got really tight and he could barely walk. I knew that he wanted to continue, but he said, “Coach I’m going to sit out a few reps and stretch.” How many times have you wanted to keep going despite your body saying no? There is a fine line between a little muscle fatigue and injury. If something is bothering you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Stop the run or workout, stretch, foam roll, and if it doesn’t go away call it a day. Would you rather miss a few miles or a whole season?

My team was awesome…such a great group of students to kick off my inaugural season. I can only hope to continue it next season!

Do you run outside no matter what? How do you motivate yourself to do that?

Did you run XC in middle school/high school/college?

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01-05-2015

20 Minute Treadmill Workout

Today has not started the way I had intended it to. I was supposed to take a 9:15 am HIIT class at the gym, but then got no sleep last night so decided to let myself sleep in instead. Hence, the late blog post!

Have you ever had those nights where you toss and turn and wake up every hour? They’re the worst. I think it’s because I went to bed earlier last night to start getting my body used to normal schedule again before I start work next Monday. Better now than on Sunday I suppose!

Anyway, I wanted to share a treadmill workout I’ve been doing lately. It can be 20-30 minutes, it really depends on you. It’s a mix of a tempo type run and high intensity intervals.

20 Minute Treadmill Workout
I hate running on the treadmill. I can’t do steady state runs, so I try to create interval workouts in order to pass the time faster. If you want to make this workout longer, you can do a longer warm up run or cool down run (I usually do a cool down jog of about a 1/2 mile), or you can add to the intervals. For example, instead of stopping at 7.2, you could keep going until 8.0. I repeat the yellow portion five times, but you could do more or less depending on how you feel.

If these speeds aren’t right for you, adjust them to whatever level you’re at. Each week, I’ve been adding a little speed, similar to how each week you may add more weight to your lifting routine. I started at 9.0 for the sprints and am now at 9.5!

If you have a treadmill interval workout, please share it with me! Tweet me or leave a comment. I need one that will get me to about 5-6 miles…so I’m open to ideas :)

Do you run on the treadmill in the winter? How do you not get bored??

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