03-21-2014

Get Swole Program Review

Well, 16 weeks has come and gone…crazy! When my brother and I first started the Get Swole program we didn’t think we’d get past 4 weeks, simply because we had never followed such a long plan before. Well, besides marathon training.

Get Swole program

Here’s my most recent update about the plan. I have gained a lot of strength throughout these 16 weeks. Sure, I’m a personal trainer and could have made my own plan, but I wanted to try something new.

I was a little skeptical because a lot of the exercises are the same throughout the 16 weeks, BUT, each phase (which is 4 weeks), you change how many sets and reps you do. This keeps you from hitting a plateau, and also helps you to continue gaining strength.

For example, in Phase 1 of leg day, we started with 5 sets of 12 reps of exercises. In Phase 2, we moved to a pyramid phase, so leg day was exercises for 20, 15, 12, 10 and 8 reps (such as squats). Phase 3 was higher reps (3 sets of 15), and Phase 4 was 6 days of lifting (as opposed to 4), and lower reps (8 reps).

So even though we did a lot of the same exercises throughout, like bench press, barbell squats, leg press, and others, we were constantly challenging our muscles because we were switching the reps, which means we were switching up the load we were using.  If you’re doing less reps, you want to challenge yourself by making the weight heavier than if you’re doing 15 reps of an exercise.

I have looked through other bodybuilding.com plans but haven’t found one I like as much, mainly because it seems to focus on smaller muscle groups rather than incorporating the big lifts (squat, bench, pull-ups).

I really like this plan, and my brother and I plan on re-starting it and changing a few things. Currently, we are going to do 4 weeks of Crossfit workouts at the gym, in order to change things but, but afterwards we will go back to Get Swole.

Here are some of my numbers/how I have improved. I know this might be nothing to some people but it’s a big improvement for me! :)

  • Bench Press - Started: 45 lbs, Current: 65 lbs
  • Barbell Back Squat – Started: 30 lbs, Current: 100 lbs (!!) <– most I have ever squatted!
  • Leg Press – Started: 80 lbs, Current: 160 lbs
  • Leg Curl – Started: 30 lbs, Current: 60 lbs
  • Military Barbell Press – Started: 20 lbs, Current: 40 lbs
  • Incline Dumbbell Press – Started: 12.5 lbs, Current: 25 lbs

These are the exercises that are currently coming to mind but there a lot of others on the plan. Sadly, I didn’t make my goal of doing an unassisted pull-up (well,maybe…hmm I will try at the gym tonight), but I’m almost there! I can pull myself up half-way ;)

I’ll warn you now – leg days are killer. But so worth it. I was always dripping in sweat, but I love challenging myself with barbell squats. My goal was to hit 100 lbs by the end of the program, and I did it! Here are some baby quads :-P

And I think I got a little bit of bicep progress! I’ll admit, if I skipped any workout it was bicep/tricep day, but doing pull-ups and presses still helped make those areas stronger.

If you’re looking to gain some muscle and strength, I highly recommend checking this program out! I will say, I did not follow it to a tee. There were some exercises I left out, or changed, just based on what my brother and I could do at our gym, or what I thought was more appropriate for us. But feel free to contact me if you have any questions about that.

Don’t be afraid to lift heavy ladies! You will feel 100% more confident knowing how much stronger you got…and you will definitely not look like a man.

I’ll keep you posted on how these 4 weeks of Crossfit workouts go. So far, I love them! It’s totally different than anything I have done.

Do you like to lift heavy?

What is your favorite muscle group to work out? I think mine is leg day :)

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03-06-2014

Step Interval Class Review

So I decided to try a new class yesterday at my gym (YMCA). I’ve been trying classes with my dad, but he couldn’t make it so I was kind of nervous to try it on my own. I honestly didn’t even know what step interval was, but figured it was a lot of step-ups and lunges on a box…I was kinda right…

The instructor helped me set up with my box, light and heavy weights, and a band for stretching.

Class started with a warm-up which I was fine with, but soon the choreography started…

It wasn’t that bad. It did consist of stepping up and down and lunges, but also hopping over/across the box, step-up with knee tucks, step-up with leg curl, and other moves. The one move I got confused with was “around-the-world lunges.” It involved crossing your feet over then onto the other side of the box? I can’t even explain it. I just watched the others and couldn’t help but laugh to myself because I felt so lost and uncoordinated.

When you think of step aerobics, you might think of something from the 70s or 80s, but this was definitely a great workout. I was sweating a ton and my heart rate was up. Perhaps it was because I was working EXTRA hard to get the moves right and not trip over myself ;)

In between the stepping, we took some breaks where we picked up the weights to do squats with bicep curls, plie squats with shoulder raises, balancing moves with tricep exercises and more. It was a great total body workout. The only thing I will do next time is make my step 1 step higher. I think I could have handled that, but didn’t want to try on my first class.

At the end of the class we did some abs and stretching.

I think I will be back for this class! If you’re interested and live in the NJ area, this class is held at the Somerset Hills YMCA.

After the class, I wanted to get in a tiny bit of running, so I did some hill sprints. I did:

10.0 incline, 9.0 speed -> 30 seconds

1 min. walk

9.0 incline, 8.0 speed -> 30 seconds

1 min. walk

8.0 incline, 7.0 speed -> 30 seconds

1 min. walk

5.0 incline, 7.3 speed (5K pace for me) -> 1 min.

2 min. walk

9.0 incline, 9.0 speed -> 30 seconds

Cooldown walk.

Overall, a great workout day! Heading back to the gym later for chest and back day.

I’m going to try to film a workout this weekend – which would you prefer? “Stair Workout (all you need is your stairs)” or “Total Body HIIT”?

Let me know if in the comments!

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02-04-2014

ENERGYbits Review

I have been meaning to write this post for a few weeks, but wanted to try Energy Bits both before a workout, and just in general when I’m in need of energy.

But first, for those of you who haven’t heard of Energy Bits, you may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about. Here’s some information that their brand manager, Jonathan, gave to me:

ENERGYbits is a new Boston based sports nutrition company. ENERGYbits have the highest concentration of protein in the world and deliver a steady stream of energy, all naturally and all without sugar, caffeine, chemicals or stomach distress. Even better, ENERGYbits are the only protein in the world that also contain natural antioxidants and Omega 3 which reduce muscle inflammation, iron which prevents fatigue, chlorophyll which builds the immune system and electrolytes which replenish mineral imbalances, all for just one calorie per tab. No other protein offers all this.

ENERGYbits are all natural too, because they are a food, not a supplement. They have just one ingredient – 100% organically grown spirulina algae. Algae has been used by Olympic athletes for over 50 years, but is still virtually unknown in the USA and Canada.

I was excited to try them out before workouts. The first time I used them before a leg workout. I was feeling tired after work, and it was the perfect time to try them. I must say, I felt consistent energy throughout the workout, and totally forgot I was tired!

The second time I used them was before the Stadium Series, when I had to be up early. I forget why I was so tired, but I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, and knew it would be a long day. While I did need a cup of coffee later (mainly because it was so cold!), I felt nice and awake for the long drive.

What I love about this product is that it’s a natural way to gain energy, as opposed to taking pre-workout supplements or drinking a lot of coffee. I’m skeptical about a lot of pre-workout drinks but I’ll save that for another post.

Here is the nutritional breakdown of ENERGYbits compared to other stuff:

energybits nutrition

One main question I had was how do you take this for long distance runs. Specifically, do you take them in conjunction with gels, or instead of gels, or before a run or during a run? Here’s the answer I got from Jonathan:

 I eat bits prior to a run (and during) instead of gels, but when going longer than 90 minutes I’ll add in another source of calories usually from a whole food based bar – I like Raw Revolution and Organic Food Bar in addition to Pocket Fuel, which is a nut-butter pouch, again with all real ingredients.

The energy gained is different than gels, in that it doesn’t give you a surge, but there’s also no crash – more of a steady boost!
I’ll have to make sure to remember this when I start training for a half marathon again!
Here are a few other things I noticed about ENERGYbits:
  • There is a greeny/fishy smell but that is expected considering it’s algae. Just don’t stick your nose in the container if it bothers you ;)
  • I have only swallowed them but you can chew them too, though the container says that it will taste pretty “green.”
  • They are really small, so I am able to swallow 2-3 at a time, which is convenient since one serving is about 30 tabs!

energybits

  • I had the serving size (30) once, and took about 15 the second time, but still noticed an increase in energy.
  • Cost is $115.00 for 1,000 tabs, but considering it is an all-natural product, I believe it’s way worth it rather than spending on pre-workout supplements and drinks.

ENERGYbits are only available at ENERGYbits.com, and Jonathan (their Brand Manager) has shared with me that he’d be happy to connect anyone with a current ambassador to share a discount on a bag of bits – you can email him at jlevitt@energybits.com.

I plan on using these once I do longer runs, so I will keep you updated on how they work for long distance fueling!

Disclaimer: I was provided a sample of ENERGYbits, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have you tried ENERGYbits? What type of fuel do you use before workouts or for long runs?

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11-12-2013

Hansons Marathon Method Review

As many of you may know, I used the Hansons Marathon Method as my training plan leading up to the ING New York City Marathon. I was really apprehensive about using this training plan, but really wanted to have a good race this year, as opposed to 2011.

I honestly don’t even remember where I found out about this training plan, but once I read reviews about it online, I immediately bought the book through Kindle.
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After reading it, I was seriously so nervous about training. It would be way more than I have ever ran…but I knew that would help me get faster and fitter as well. The book comes with a “Beginner” plan and an “Advanced” plan…though even with the beginner plan, you should probably have a good base before starting it.

Cumulative Fatigue

One of the main principles of Hansons Marathon Method is cumulative fatigue. Cumulative fatigue is, “the accumulation of fatigue over days, weeks, and even months of consistent training.” It doesn’t allow for full recovery between hard runs, though that doesn’t mean you wont’ have recovery days…more on that later.

The Hansons have 5 components that will result in this cumulative fatigue:

  1. Mileage
  2. Intensity
  3. Balance
  4. Consistency
  5. Recovery

Mileage

The difference with this plan and many others is that the bulk of your weekly mileage will not be on the weekends. They say many plans have you running only 3-4x per week, and then running your long run on the weekends. That means 50% of your weekly mileage is done within the span of 2 days. That can lead to overtraining and injury. You will be running 6 days a week. They state that this could freak some runners out in the beginning…I didn’t think I could do it, or run around 50 miles per week like they asked me too…but as they say, have confidence, and you will slowly build up to it. The great thing is that in the first few weeks, you get 2 rest days per week.

Intensity

This plan includes tempo runs, track workouts, and your usual long run. But most of your days will be easy run. While many runners think easy runs are junk miles with no real benefit, according to the Hansons, they are the runs that will really help you in the marathon. Why? Because you are running on tired legs. Do you know how many days after a tempo or track workout I really did NOT want to go out for an easy 5-6 miles? But I did because I knew running on tired legs would help me succeed in the marathon. Also, they stress that in those tempo and track workouts, proper pacing is KEY. If you go out faster than you are told, your body will take even longer to recover from a hard workout.

Balance

As I mentioned above, this training plan emphasize balance in all runs. Your long run shouldn’t be the bulk of your weekly mileage. Instead, all of your SOS (Something of Substance) workouts should be equally as important. Which is why during the week you could be running anywhere from 8-12 miles in your SOS workouts. That also helped me not be so nervous before long runs, because I was already running a decent amount during the week! The good thing about it too is if you must miss a run, all of the workouts are balanced and equal, so missing 1 long run will not totally ruin your entire plan. BUT, you really should try not to miss runs because it will throw your training off and put you behind. I think I only missed about 2-3 runs before I got injured (and had to miss a whole week).

Recovery

“When it comes to cumulative fatigue, you walk a thin line between training enough and overtraining.” Incomplete recovery allows you to perform well, even when you’re not feeling 100%. SOS runs are followed by easy runs. You will not go into a long run with fresh legs…because what’s the point? At mile 20 of the marathon, you won’t have fresh legs. The Hansons want you to get used to that feeling. The good thing about their recovery is that you can run 1-2 minutes slower per mile than your goal pace. It should truly be an easy pace. Enjoy these runs as leisurely runs where you don’t have to worry about time.

Other Key Points

If you look up Hansons Marathon Method, you will find the first thing you read about it is that you will not run 20 miles in training before the marathon. What?!?! Yup.

Not gonna lie…it’s awesome. I loved it. I did not feel like running 20 miles in training before the race. It takes up so much time, and they argue that it also requires a lot of recovery time too.

They are not saying, however, that everyone should not run 20 miles in training. Their rule of thumb is that your long run shouldn’t be 50% of your weekly mileage and that a long run shouldn’t take longer than about 3 hours to complete. After 3 hours, you’re hurting yourself more than benefiting yourself. Your body will need a lot more recovery time, which may lead to missing a run because you’re not feeling recovered.

I actually ran 18 miles in training, as opposed to 16, because I would finish right around 3 hours. If you need longer mileage for mental confidence, then go for the 18. Generally speaking, this plan has you running one 15 miler, and 3 16 milers before the race. And a bunch of double digit weekday runs.

What I Liked:

  • Very structured…took the guess work out of my training plan. Everything you do is explained by science and facts, which makes you feel more confident.
  • Tempo runs (though I also didn’t like them at times haha). They really help build your confidence since you are running at goal pace.
  • Not having to run 20 miles. Maybe once my average pace is faster, I will run longer…I hope one day I can run 20 miles in around 3 hours but that is a long time away!

What I didn’t like:

  • Honestly, there isn’t much I didn’t like. Running 6 days a week is tough. But you’re training for a marathon, it’s going to be tough.
  • Some days, getting in those easy, recovery runs is harder than the SOS workouts. 1) Running 5-6 miles after a hard workout is hard. Your legs feel like logs. 2) Running 8 miles before a long run the next day can be intimidating, but you know it will definitely help you in the marathon.
  • That’s really it!

Overall, I would highly suggest this plan to someone looking for one before their next marathon. It makes sense, has good information, and outlines everything you need to know, along with paces for each workout. They also include nutrition tips, taper tips, strength workouts, and more.

I ran NYCM and got a 33 min. PR! I really attribute this to the plan. Honestly, I never hit “the wall.” My energy never waned. Yes, my hips got tight around mile 24…but I ran 24 miles with ZERO problems, and was able to finish a marathon with only 1 walk break to stretch. It felt amazing to be passing people at the end, instead of being passed.

As I was finishing the race, this Hansons phrase stuck out to me, “We are training you for the last 16 miles of the race, not the first 16.” The cumulative fatigue aspect of this plan is what really helped me.

Would I use it again? Definitely! I already am trying to figure out a way to modify the plan in order to use it for half marathon training. If I run a marathon again next year, I will stick to the beginner plan again, since I couldn’t complete all the runs towards the end. If I can stay healthy, I wonder if I can get another huge PR!

You can order the book on Amazon, or order it to be sent right to your Kindle (or Kindle app on an iPad).

Have you used Hansons Marathon Method?

Would you consider it?

If you use it, please let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’m open to any questions you may have!

Here’s a basic outline of their Advanced plan, taken from their website.

**Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission if you order through Amazon…hey, it’ll help me save up for my next marathon entry ;)

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09-24-2013

110% Overdrive Compression Sock & Ice Kit Review

This post is a long time coming. Like, from May. Oops!

The 110% Overdrive Compression Sock and Ice Kit is……………amazing.

I was so excited to try these out, and actually found out about them from elite runner, Lauren Fleshman, who first blogged about it around Feb.-March. I knew I had to try them out because of the ice kit.

Basically, the kit is a pair of compression socks, with another “sock” that goes over for when you want to ice your legs. Perfect for my shin issues! It also comes with a thermal bag for you to travel with your ice packs.

The compression socks are anatomically accurate (left for left foot, right for right foot), which I like. Not sure if it matters but I like that little fact. The ice kit that goes over is open in the toe and heel so you can slip in the ice packs (which come with the kit). Here’s the description of the kit from their website:

The Overdrive Kit includes:

110% Compression Sox (White): Engineered for recovery and performance, the gradient compression enhances circulation while the unique design protects your legs and feet from the wear and tear of long tough workouts.  The roomier toe box, arch support and non-binding top band make them exceptionally comfortable and ideal for travel too. (Kit includes one pair of compression socks)

110% Compression Ice Sleeve (Black): Engineered to make rehab simple, Overdrive’s Ice Sleeve allows for  targeted placement of 110% Reusable Ice Inserts to prevent swelling and reduce inflammation. The soft compression sleeve fits perfectly over the compression sock with openings at the arch of the foot, the ankle and just below the knee. (Kit includes one pair of compression sleeves)

And a picture from their site, where you can see the sock, the ice sleeve, and the ice packs.

I tried these out the night before the Brooklyn Half Marathon, because I wanted my shins and calves to feel fresh the next day.

And they sure did! After a tough run, I throw these on for recovery, and when I need ice, I no longer have to tie awkward ice packs on my legs with a random shirt because I don’t have a theraband.

After the Brooklyn Half, these were perfect for instant recovery on the 1 1/2 hour drive home.

Seriously amazing. These are just as comfortable on my long runs and tempo runs as well.

How has no one thought of this before 110%?!? Now you can RICE all at once (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate).

If you like compression gear, then make a lot more than just socks. You can get just compression socks without ice, or if you like ice, you can get compression shorts, knee sleeves, quad sleeves, full compression tights…all with ice! It seriously doesn’t get any better than that.

If you’re shopping around for compression gear, I highly recommend you check out 110%. And if you are wary about the benefits of compression gear, I bet you these socks will change your mind ;)

Have you tried compression socks? Do you have a favorite brand? Tell me in the comments!

*Disclaimer: 110% compensated me for this post. All opinions are my own.

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