Hemp, hemp, hooray!
Disclosure: in accordance with the FTC guidelines for influencers, as well as my own promise to be honest and up front with readers, I disclose that White Cedar Naturals provided me with a bottle of White Cedar Naturals' full spectrum hemp oil in exchange for my honest review. White Cedar Naturals had absolutely no control or input on the contents of this review; 100% of the opinions and research are my own.
The market for hemp-derived CBD in the United States was an estimated $591 million in 2018, and the Financial Post predicts it will be worth $22 billion by 2022. As with other innovative markets–organic products, supplements–the majority of companies benefit handsomely from consumer misunderstanding. There is A TON of misinformation out there about CBD. If you have shied away from trying CBD products because (1) “they are drugs!” or (2) it’s just too crazy confusing with all the conflicting advertising, labels, and shifty bloggers, this review is for you.
Warning! At the outset, it is very important for anyone subject to testing for drugs or banned substances–whether that's because you are a competitive athlete or hold a job with the U.S. federal government–that many brands of CBD, as well as other hemp-derived products, are not subject to third-party testing for THC content. Look for products that are NSF International Certified for Sport or bear the Informed-Sport certification, and use your influence as a consumer to demand more companies participate. Further, as with ANY herb, tea, OTC drug, or grapefruit juice, CBD can interfere with some medications. It is very important that you keep your medical care providers apprised of y our CBD usage (take them the package(s) for the product(s) you use). As a side note, known side-effects of CBD consumption include diarrhea, changes in appetite, and fatigue.
What is CBD and isn’t it just for stoners?
CBD is the abbreviation for the phytocannabinoid named cannabidiol. It is a naturally occurring compound that is part of the cannabis family of plants. Cannabis has three classifications: cannabis indica, cannabis sativa, and cannabis ruderalis. (You can see sketches and read more HERE.) Humans have been selectively breeding cannabis plants for centuries, just like humans used selective breeding to create big ears of corn from plants that originally had just a few kernels per stem. The variety of cannabis bred to maximize the content of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (a different phytocannabinoid), is known as marijuana. THC is a psychoactive substance, and consuming it results in a “high.” Marijuana plants also have some naturally occurring CBD in them.
Hemp—often referred to as industrial hemp—is a variety of cannabis sativa. Hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into fibers, and historically hemp has been used in paper, textiles, rope, and clothing. Hemp has much lower concentrations of THC than marijuana—you don’t get “high” from smoking hemp because the THC concentration is 0.3% or less (marijuana has a THC concentration of 15% to 40% depending on the strain)—and much higher concentrations of cannabidiol, or CBD. Hemp is a very versatile plant. In addition to spinning the fibers, you can eat the hemp seeds. (I’m a huge fan of Manitoba Harvest in case anyone asks. Hemp seeds are an excellent source of nutritional fiber, protein, and healthy fat and they are delicious on salads and yogurt parfaits. Bonus: no known allergans. Tilray just acquired Manitoba Harvest for $419 million, proving the hemp market is a cash cow.) Hemp seeds are also used for animal feed and bird seed. Parts of the plant can be used for biofuel. Hemp oil from the seeds is used in oil-based paints, as a moisturizer for creams, and for cooking.
CBD is NON-psychoactive. It is also NOT addictive. The Wikipedia entry has all the nerdy good stuff on it, from the chemical structure to the currently known pharmacology. Running Shoes Guru has already outlined the preliminary benefits and linked to the research.
Can CBD really do so many things? Is it a scam?
You've probably read at least one article claiming that CBD is The Answer for anxiety, depression, insomnia, muscle pain, acne, and more. (If not, seriously, go look at the Running Shoes Guru article already.) If you're like me, the claim that one compound can help with such a wide variety of conditions makes your inner skeptic start asking questions, like “How can that be?” The answer, as of 2019, is that the mechanism by which CBD operates in the body is not (yet) well understood.
CBD is one of hundreds of plant compounds called phytocannabinoids (“phyto” for plant-based). The human body also produces cannabinoid compounds. These are called endocannabinoids (“endo” is short for “endogenous” which means “having an internal cause or origin”). The human body has a regulatory system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS for short), which I did not learn about in my high school or college biology classes for the simple reason that it hadn’t been discovered yet! The ECS is made up of receptors found in the nervous system throughout the body, endocannabinoids produced by the body, and enzymes that break down cannabinoids. This system helps to maintain balance within the body in many ways. Among other things, the endocannabinoid system has an effect on motor learning and memory, appetite, the stress response, and pain sensation. There is some evidence that CBD has an effect on certain types of cancer cells (when pure CBD is applied directly to the cells) and epilepsy.
CBD can hook up with some of the types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Depending on what it interacts with and how, CBD can have a variety of effects in the body. This article has a chart (scroll down to Figure 2) that explains what CBD does and how it does it. Some scientists hypothesize that endocannabinoid deficiency is the root cause of multiple diseases, including fibromyalgia. Despite the blooming market for CBD products, we still don't fully understand how the human endocannabinoid system works.
It is Legal? Yes, but also Maybe No.
When Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which included a provision making industrial hemp legal, the entire CBD industry let out a cheer: hemp-derived CBD is legal! Unfortunately, that's not exactly true. It might seem odd if you work outside the world of highly-regulated industries (wait, hemp is legal but a component of hemp is not?). If you are sincerely interested in the nitty-gritty, I highly recommend you follow the status reports issued by the American Herbal Products Association. Without getting too far into the weeds, here are the highlights following the 2018 Farm Bill:
- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) does not have authority over hemp, cultivation of hemp, or hemp products (which includes plants, plant parts, and plant derivatives). This is because the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the “controlled substances” list (and that's what the DEA controls).
- Each state has the opportunity to assert primary regulatory authority over hemp. (Remember how the federal government only gets the powers enumerated in the Constitution, and the rest are reserved to the States? This is a little bit like that.) To take primary control, each state has to submit a “hemp plan” to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If a state does not submit a “hemp plan,” that state's hemp is regulated by USDA.
- Hemp is no longer a controlled substance under federal law, which means hemp ingredients MAY be used in food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and personal care products sold across state lines…but not necessarily right now. (See below.) You still can't sell marijuana across state lines, and that includes CBD derived from marijuana. (I'm just the messenger–don't tell me that makes no sense.)
- Hemp ingredients are subject to the same regulations as other herbal ingredients. Those regulations include rules about production facilities, labels, “serious adverse effect” reports, and more.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken the position that CBD cannot be added to foods sold over state lines, and that CBD can't be a dietary supplement. Sound wrong, since hemp is legal now? It's because the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) has a rule that any article being investigated or approved as a drug is forbidden from being marketed as a supplement or added to any food, and there are several CBD-based drugs under investigation with the FDA by a company called GW Pharmaceuticals plc. (In Jun 2018 the FDA approved the first CBD medication, Epidiolex, for the treatment of seizures associated with rare/severe forms of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.)
- Ironic, right? The fact that there is evidence CBD has health benefits means it can't be used in OTC health products yet? Slow your roll. The FDA is trying to find a way to both permit CBD in food and supplements, while preserving the financial incentives for companies to study potential pharmaceutical use. The most likely solution is to put a limit on the concentration or dosage of CBD in non-pharmaceuticals.
- The FDA does have the power to use its rule-making authority to allow CBD use in food and supplements, it has to actually act to make that happen. Right now, don't hold your breath…though some legislators have noted that the FDA really ought to do something, given that CBD products are readily available despite the lack of rules.
- AHPA noted “Immediately following the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA Commissioner issued a statement noting that the legislation preserves FDA's current authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, and indicated that such ingredients–including hemp and hemp derivatives, such as CBD–will be treated as the agency treats any other FDA-regulated products.”
FDA Commissioner Gottlieb resigned a few months after the 2018 Farm Bill passed. As a result, a great deal remains up in the air. There is a significant possibility the new commissioner may have completely different priorities, and ignore Commissions Gottlieb's stated intent to reform DSHEA (the act regulating supplements) and act on the hemp provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Further, the nebulous state of the law on CBD products means there is no uniform labeling language used on all products. The hazy state of the law has led some companies to label their products as “hemp extract” instead of “CBD.” This has the benefit, potentially, of not being regulated as a “CBD” product (definitely a benefit in states where CBD is state-regulated and illegal) but the downside of not clearly stating the component parts (e.g. how much CBD, how much other phytocannabinoids, how much plant terpenes?), as well as making it difficult to compare products across brands.
If you're interested in hemp, you might want to keep an eye on the various hemp industry groups' websites, or join their mailing lists. In addition to the AHPA, there is also the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, which is championing the U.S. Hemp Authority Certification; the Hemp Industries Association; and for basic education, keep on eye on the annual Hemp History Week.
By the way, if you're not in the United States? The law is probably more clear. CBD is legal in the UK, Europe, Canada, and Japan
Limits on Self-Experimentation.
Before I launch into my review of White Cedar Naturals and my experience with the product, I think it is important to acknowledge that self-experimentation has limits. The placebo effect–basically the idea that your brain can convince your body that a fake treatment is real–exists and is recognized by all serious medical authorities, including Harvard Medical School. This is why “double blind” studies–whee neither the participant nor the researcher know which study participants receive the investigational medicine and which receive a placebo–are the gold standard for peer-reviewed research. In taking a product for a test-drive, there is no way to conduct such a study, and no way to separate my potential expectations from my experiences.
In general, prior to trying any hemp-derived product I was cautious. I read as much as I could find in both general advertising from CBD companies, as well as the published peer-reviewed research on PubMed. Because many compounds remain active in the body long after they are taken–that's part of how many anti-depressants work, which is why they have an “on ramp” and “off ramp” dosage for starting and stopping–I conducted my first experiments on the weekend, and made sure I did not have to operate heavy machinery or drive. (Just about every medication I have taken says not to drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how it affects you, so that just seemed like a smart thing to do.)
Introducing White Cedar Naturals
When I was first approached by White Cedar Naturals they had a website, but the only way to purchase products was via their Amazon store. I read every word on the website, as well as the studies linked in support of product claims. While I wasn't particularly impressed with the initial website–remember, I'm both a skeptic and the daughter of an English teacher–I provided detailed, extensive feedback to the representative who reached out to me. That feedback ranged from “you're missing a comma here” to “the summary of that study is misleading, because it implies that it applies to taking hemp extract orally but the study was conducted by putting CBD directly onto tumor cells.” I was extremely impressed when 100% of my feedback was incorporated into the updated (much prettier!) website. The updated website has much clearer, more accurate language (in my opinion).
I liked that the hemp plants used by White Cedar Naturals are sourced from specific farms in Kentucky, from a specific breed of plant (“Cherry”). While I have no facts regarding how this affects quality or efficacy, to me it shows that the company cares about the source ingredients (as opposed to buying whatever is cheapest on the market). Like the majority of companies, White Cedar Naturals does not disclose who does its third-party testing but it does state that all products are tested. (Third-party testing is testing done outside of the company by an independent lab.)
I also liked the idea that the White Cedar Naturals oils are made from both cold-pressed raw hemp extract (from the entire plant) and cold-pressed hemp seed oil. While I have found absolutely no scientific support for this, in my mind I compare it to apples: drinking apple juice does not give a body the same nutrition as eating the whole apple, or eating applesauce; juice has none of the fiber, and may be missing other unstudied plant components.
Finally, I really like that the White Cedar Naturals website has a solid FAQ aimed at the non-expert consumer. You can check that out here.
My Personal Experimentation and Opinion
This is MY experience. I am not a doctor or a medical professional. I cannot predict how your body will react, nor do I attempt to do so.
Prior to trying White Cedar Naturals full spectrum hemp extract (the 300mg product) I had tried only one other CBD oil. Frankly, it tasted like the smell of old gym socks and I gulped that product down while trying to avoid it touching my tongue. The package of the White Cedar Naturals oil described it as “cinnamint” flavor, and directed me to hold the oil under my tongue before swallowing. (Sublingual–under the tongue–absorption is recommended for a variety of products, including the vitamin B12 supplement I take. The idea is that some component of the product dissolves or is warmed or otherwise made available to absorption into the bloodstream via the tissues under your tongue. If you look under your tongue, you can see the network of blood vessels there.) Much to my surprise, the cinnamint flavor is quite pleasant. A little mint, a little cinnamon. Not too pungent. Not too tingly. Most important: no old gym socks flavor.
The first Friday night I tried White Cedar Naturals, I tried two droppers-full. I wasn't feeling particularly agitated or sleepless, but was hoping the hemp extract would allow me to fall asleep (and more important: STAY asleep!) and have a solid sleep that night. I did. I can't be sure that was due solely to the hemp extract (you can't conduct a double-blind study on yourself), but honestly for that kind of sleep I don't care if it was a placebo!
I also conducted the next several trials on weekend nights. (Just in case. Always better to be cautious.) In my experience, one dropper post-workout helped my muscles relax a wee bit more post-workout during the warm shower. In my experience, two droppers is about right for an average night for sleeping soundly. I did try three droppers on a few nights when I was feeling agitated, overstimulated, or too “wide awake” to sleep, and that seemed to work fine. Each time when I awoke the next morning I felt well-rested, had no memory of disrupted sleep, and did not feel groggy or have any of the slowness that I associate with sleep-aid medications. I felt absolutely zero effects that I would describe as a “high.” Instead I felt just a little more relaxed, and slept quite well.
If you are looking for a solid hemp extract product from a company that cares about the quality of its products, White Cedar Naturals is worth your attention and is a solid candidate for your first hemp-derived product. White Cedar Naturals has a 90-day 100% satisfaction guarantee, and (based solely on my own experience) is very responsive to questions. (To me, that's a virtue. If you can't be bothered to give me satisfactory answers to my genuine questions, you don't deserve my money or my patronage.) I'm excited to try their chocolates!
For more sane resources on CBD and hemp:
I also highly recommend searching PubMed (which comprises more than 29 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books) for published, peer-reviewed studies on CBD and hemp extract, especially if you are trying to evaluate the evidence to support a product’s claim that “CBD can help with condition X.”
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It's January, a new year, and time for All of the 2019 Things, which includes participating in #RIOTS. #RIOTS is an acronym for “Running Is Our Therapy Sisters” (or “Running is Our Therapy Squad”) and I, along with five strong, amazing bloggers, are throwing #RIOTS every week. You're totally invited to play. While there isn't an A in #RIOTS (I leave you to decide what kind of “A” we might want to exclude, ha ha!), the true meaning of #RIOTS is Accountability. #RIOTS was born when Anna Louise of Gracious Warrior Princess reached out to us and proposed some ACCOUNTABILITY for all of the great goals and works we have planned for the 2019 calendar year. We've all got goals, and together we have a #SquadGoal which is to band together as a support network so that we each reach our 2019 goals.
Here's how it works: every Sunday (or whenever afterwards we manage to get the blog posts ready), we share both victories and setbacks. We are counting on each other to keep on track this year and the results are going to be epic!
If you want to play, head over to Jenn's blog, Runs with Pugs. Grab our graphic, drop your link in the linkup, comment on the host blogs and as many others as you can, and play along!
Next, Meet the Accountability Squad:
Brandi at Funner Runner
Anna Louise at Gracious Warrior Princess
Briana at Mat.Miles.Medals
Meghan at Meghan on the Move
Jenn at Runs With Pugs
Elizabeth (that would be me!) at Train With Bain
One Week Into 2019…
This week I'm recapping my running and fitness goals. I have plenty of other goals–dutifully outlined in my 2019 planner–but let's start with these! I'll start by saying I am having total FOMO as all of my friends head off to Florida for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This is my first year NOT running Dopey, and it sort of breaks my heart to lose that “perfect” status. I'm trying not to dwell on it by setting other goals and planning for other cool events.
Blue Ridge Marathon. I'm returning to the FootLevelers Blue Ridge Mountain as an Ambassador! This is the only race I have taken a HARD “get on the bus” DNF. To be fair, the course was black-flagged (due to lightning), but in all honesty the race was kicking my butt. I'm going to write more about that later. In the meanwhile, plan to join me in Roanoke, Virginia on April 13, 2019. (Psst! There's a discount code on my deals page. Use AMBASSADORBAIN20 for 20% off!) How it's going: It's day 8 of the year as I write this. I have run three of those days (2.1, 6.2, 3.1–not necessarily the distances I had planned!) and not the five days called for in the training plan. On the one hand, I could beat myself up. On the other hand, that's three more days than I would have run without a training plan.
Chicago Marathon. This year I joined Team Imerman Angels to run my first World Marathon Major: Chicago! I made a pledge to raise at least $100,000 in my lifetime to fight cancer and to help those who are fighting it, in honor of Mom. In 2012 I ran the Detroit Free Press-Talmer Bank International Half for the American Cancer Society and raised almost $25,000. I've raised $10,000 for The Susan G. Komen Foundation by participating in the San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. I raised $2,500 for Noah's Light Foundation to fund a cure for pediatric brain cancer at the Walt Disney World Princess Glass Slipper Challenge. This year, I'm helping Imerman Angels connect those fighting cancer to an “angel” who knows what they are going through. How it's going: I set up my fundraising page (though I accidentally deleted the big, long post I wrote so I need to re-do that) and successfully guilted both of my brothers into donating to my fundraiser! Now it's your turn: Give Money Here. I have raised $170 of my $2,000 goal, which is about 10%. (i will donate $205, the cost of a bib for the race, this fall.) If I can hit 10% every month, I'll reach my goal.
Run The Year 2019. Every year (well, this is the fifth year), Run the Edge has a “Run the Year” challenge. You can choose to run 2019 miles (or kilometers) yourself, or with a team. You also don't HAVE to hit 2019. There are no prizes for reaching the end–the medals for this year have a spinner where you can insert a special coin when you reach various mileages, and they came out already so they can motivate us!–and no penalties. The entire point is to join a limitless running club where people are helpful and positive. (And “positive” includes things like, “Dude, do NOT trust ‘pixie dust' to get you through a race you are not trained to run.”) How it's going: So far, I have just under 12 miles. I am tracking on a poster on my fridge, and the RTY challenge poster is on my wall. I'm also the “Lead FITster” for Portland, so I'm moderating the Facebook group and keeping it positive. It's not too late to join us, and if you use my affiliate link you get $3 off (how much you spend depends on which swag you choose). My actual goal is 1200+ miles, because the Oregon Road Runners Club has a 1200 mile challenge and if you finish, you get a sweet 1200 miles club jacket. (Every year after that, you get a patch to add to it if you finish another 1200.)
Do More Yoga. This is exactly the type of “not-SMART,” vague goal everyone tells you NOT to set. So don't follow my lead here. Essentially, I want to do yoga more often. That definitely means taking more classes, and I joined the brand-new PDX Power Yoga studio that just opened near me. It's a Baptiste-affiliated studio, so the sequencing and the adjustments are solid, and I love the vibe, plus I love supporting a local studio. It doesn't hurt that I got in on the opening special, either. Yet it also means taking a moment here and there during the day to engage in some of the yoga stretches that my body needs to stay in alignment and balanced. How it's going: I've slept through every 6 a.m. class, which means I need to go to bed earlier! On the bright side, I went to see a new chiropractor (Meghan Bodnar at Luna Wellness–I highly recommend!) and have been incorporating the stretches and yoga poses she prescribed after putting my angry SI joint back into a happy place. I renewed my Yoga Download membership as well as my Yoga International membership, so I have NO excuses–I can stream on demand anywhere I have wifi. Also, I moved a yoga mat into my office!
Blogilates #100AbsChallenge. Cassey Ho, the amazing Blogilates, posts free workouts on her YouTube channel. If you subscribe to her newsletter, every month she posts a new calendar with suggested workouts in rotation. Starting January 1, she has an abs challenge to do 100 reps of an abs move each day. Each day is a new move, and there are no rules about doing them all at once. (In fact, she encouraged people to break them up into sets if necessary.) How it's going: Basically, it's not. I haven't done a single day's video. I can't say “I'm too busy,” because we all know what that REALLY means. (“I did not make it a priority.”) I think I mentally opted-in because I have a bunch of friends who were doing it. I may pop in from time to time, but I think I am going to let this one go–my heart is not in it.
Grokker 30-day Be a Better You Challenge. Grokker is an online streaming platform with a ton of fitness content on it. I intend to poke around and write a review one of these days. In the meanwhile, Grokker offered a free month through January 31, after which you can either cancel or pay for a membership ($14.99/month if you pay month-to-month, or 30% cheaper at $9.99/month if you pre-pay for a year). To kick off 2019 they offered four challenge options, and I picked one. How it's going: I'll tell you next week. No really, after seeing how last week was going, I decided to start THIS week. Yes, it's Tuesday. Whatever. I can start today.
OrangeTheory Fitness Transformation Challenge. This hasn't started yet–my studio starts January 21–but I'm signing up. The challenge is essentially a weight-loss challenge (which I hate), where the winner is chosen by total % of body weight lost. Sure, I have a few pounds to kick, but six weeks isn't realistic for long-term success here. Anyway, the real challenge is committing to 3 classes per week during the challenge period. Last year I missed ONE class during the last week due to a work issue. Otherwise, I kept with it, even going out of my way to take classes on a family trip to Florida and a work trip to Rhode Island. Time to return to this and UP MY GAME.
Miscellaneous News and Updates
- I joined the ORRC and signed up for the 10k series, so I have plenty more runs on calendar! The first was called the Y2K 10K (there was a half marathon option as well) and I loved it.
- After the “Run and Retox” with the W'yeast Pack on New Year's Day, I introduced myself to some runners and made new friends. They invited me to join their weekly runs, so now I have some extra motivation to get out there.
- It's just over two months until I leave for the Vikara 3-Day Fitness and Yoga Party! I'm excited to spend three days in Arizona with poolside yoga, healthy food, and studio/boutique fitness all over the city. The event takes placeFebruary 28-March 3, 2019 and you can use code Elizabeth10 to save 10% on your registrationl Learn more and register at https://www.vikaraevents.com/
Until next week…
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On the Seventh Day of Christmas, I encourage you to choose a fitness challenge for January. (Yes, the Seventh Day of Christmas. go look it up if you don't believe me!)
January is one of the biggest months for fitness and workout challenges! Lots of gyms, studios, and boutique fitness locations host a January challenge to encourage people to start to build healthy habits to back their New Year's resolutions. For example, Gold's Gym has a 12-week challenge for gym members only. Some OrangeTheory Fitness locations will start their transformation challenges in January. And it's not just the big chains and franchises: a quick google search led me to wish I lived in Charleston, South Carolina so I could do the Ignite 2019 challenge at This Time Fitness.
Online Fitness Challenges Work Just As Well
Personally, I find that a fitness challenge is a great way to help me stay on track, and you don't have to belong to a gym or studio to participate. One of the groups I managed on Facebook has had lots of success with a monthly-themed challenge. If you prefer to work out at home, want to save money, or you just live too far from any facility offering a challenge, there are LOADS of options. The same goes for not starting in January. Maybe you're moving house, changing jobs, having a baby, or otherwise just not down with January. Many sites with streaming content, such as Yoga International, have all sorts of options that you can start any time you want!
In general, an online or virtual workout challenge will include (1) a workout plan or template, (2) a qualified professional (e.g. for a running challenge, a coach with Revo2lution Running, RRCA, or USATF certification), (3) a Facebook group or other forum for chatting with other participants, and (4) prizes (maybe). Not every challenge includes all of these items, and some may include more–videos, printables, etc. Depending on the challenge's rules, you might be required to check in each day, submit photos, or provide measurements–but don't let that stop you. MANY challenges don't have any requirements, and you can play along with any challenge by doing the workout even if you don't submit materials to win prizes.
I'm collecting up all the challenges I can find to share with you–pick one and jump right in! (There's still plenty of time to choose and get ready!)
Run the Year 2019
Challenge: Run 2019 Miles (or your choice of miles) alone, or as part of a team
Led by: Run The Edge (Adam Goucher, Tim Catalano, and friends)
Start/Duration: January 1 to December 31, 2019
Cost/Discount: $25, $37, $57 (depends on swag pack selected) $3 discount if you use my affiliate link: http://runtheedgestore.refr.cc/elizabethbain
Content: Basic package includes access to the tracker (online/mobile), RTY 2019 Mileage Guide and plan, private Facebook groups, access to RTY FIT (a community for planning meet-ups) and local/regional Facebook groups. I expect there will be some fun monthly challenges as well!
Swag: Upgrade to Deluxe to add a Challenge Medal, Legacy Coin for 2019, a mileage tracking poster and stickers. Upgrade to Get It All to add a hi-tech challenge shirt.
Disclosure: I have done this challenge every year it has existed, and I collect the Legacy Coins. I am the Lead FITster for Portland, Oregon and the moderator of the related Facebook group. If enough people use my affiliate link, I get credit to use in the Run The Edge store.
Challenge: Perform 100 reps of a specific Pilates abs exercise every day
Led by: Cassey Ho, aka Blogilates
Start/Duration: January 1 to January 31
Content: Printable calendar of exercises, daily video of each exercise performed by Cassey. (If you haven't checked out the Blogilates YouTube channel, you should! There are free workouts in the app, too. Plus if you subscribe to the newsletter, every month there is a new workout calendar–free–with a theme or focus.) There is a designated hashtag for social media posting/community
Swag: None (but it's FREE)
Disclosure: I'm a huge fan of Cassey. Nicest most real-deal Pilates instructor I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
30-Day Be a Better You Challenge
Challenge: choose from four challenge options (mindfulness, healthy eating, fitness, yoga)
Led by: Various instructors on grokker
Start/Duration: January 2 to January 31, 2019
Cost/Discount: Free if you are new to grokker, with a 37-day trial period (but after January 31, access to grokker is $14.99/month OR you can choose to pre-pay a year at $9.99/month OR you can cancel)
Content: 30 videos selected by the grokker team (but you also have access to all of the other videos on grokker during your trial)
Swag: Four winners who accrue more than 100 points will receive an an Apple TV; winners selected via raffle/random drawing from all eligible participants
Disclosure: I signed up for the yoga challenge–why not? I've never tried grokker. (Look for a review sometime later…)
The Barre3 January Challenge
Challenge: Follow the barre3 and Headspace Mindfulness Plan
Led by: instructors from barre3 (including founder Sadie!) and Headspace
Start/Duration: January 7 to February 3, 2019
Cost/Discount: $29 online OR $99 in studio
Content: Online option: unlimited access to 500+ Barre3 classes online (auto-renews on February 4, 2019 unless you cancel) OR Studio option: unlimited Barre3 classes in studio and free unlimited access to Barre3 online. Both options include one free month of the Headspace app, the Mindfulness Plan, and daily email with the daily plan.
Swag: None. You can purchase optional equipment (light hand weights, yoga mat, resistance band, core sliders, core ball) when you register.
Disclosure: I've enrolled in this challenge twice…and never actually finished it. Oops. Of all of the barre-based workouts, Barre3 is in my top two for quality of instruction and programming, and for being rooted in the science of movement. Unlike so many other barre-based workouts, this one won't send you straight to the chiropractor!
Whole Life Challenge
Challenge: Commit to seven habits, every day, for six weeks.
Led by: Andy Petranek, Michael Stanwyck, and the WLC team
Start/Duration: January 19 to March 1, 2019 (additional challenges start in April, July, and September)
Cost/Discount: $39 for new players, $29 for returning players; $89 Annual Membership (four challenges)
Content: “The Whole Life Challenge is a six-week online, community-building, habit-changing game that challenges you to create a happier, healthier life by making small changes to your daily habits. Playing along with your friends, and family, you’ll score points every day, focusing on seven key areas of health and well-being: nutrition, exercise, mobilization, sleep, hydration, lifestyle practices, and reflection.”
Swag: Swag includes use of the app to track points, the Whole Self Assessment, and the online community. There are no prizes. The website includes free e-books you can read before you start.
Disclosure: I have zero personal experience with this one. A friend of mine who does shift work has, and he mentioned being disappointed that the app tracked the day as ending at a certain time, causing him to “lose” some days.
30-Day Get Strong in 2019 Challenge
Website: https://www.livestrong.com/article/1012163-30day-slim-down-challenge/ (blog post/preview) https://www.livestrong.com/get-strong-challenge/ (signup)
Challenge: 30 days of exercises and nutrition (new healthy recipes to try out)
Led by: Workouts by Jordan Shalhoub, other content by the Livestrong.com team
Start/Duration: January 2
Content: Daily email with a workout, recipes, motivational memes, playlist, and tips and advice. In addition to daily-themed workouts, and a healthy tip for each day, each week also has a health goal. Challengers have access to a Facebook group just for challengers.
Disclosure: I have no experience with this challenge.
Fit Chicks 28-Day Challenge
Challenge: Daily workouts and nutrition plans for women to build habits
Led by: Laura Jackson, founder of Fit Chicks
Start/Duration: January 1 to January 31
Cost/Discount: $297 (though the website showed me a $97 offer)
Content: 28 workouts under 30 minutes, 50 exercise tutorials, 8 streaming workouts, meal plans (vegan and vegetarian options available) with grocery lists, 45 simple recipes, healthy lifestyle videos, daily email motivation, Facebook group, private members site, email support.
Swag: None (that I know of); additional purchases offered at a discount
Disclosure: I have no experience with this challenge; I thought a challenge for women only might appeal to some of my friends. The challenge page has some video workout previews.
The Self Challenge
Challenge: workouts and fit tips, including suggested meal plans
Led by: contributors to Shape
Start/Duration: January 2, 2019
Content: a workout plan, meal plans, nutrition tips, and more via email. Facebook group to talk all things challenge.
Swag: None, but there are prizes. Sweepstakes prizes include a vacation at the Grand Fiesta American a Coral Beach.
Disclosure: True confession, I have a soft spot for this challenge, which I first participated in way back in the 1990s. This year’s program includes 20 new bodyweight workouts, daily emails with motivation and advice, a Facebook group.
Gixo #FitForward Challenge
Website: Use Alyse's affiliate link to get your free first week
Challenge: I'm fuzzy on the details right now, but I bet it's a month of workouts and sharing on social!
Led by: Gixo trainers
Start/Duration: January 1
Cost/Discount: first week is free, then $19.99/month (or $14.99/month if you pre-pay a year)
Content: live audio and video classes via the Gixo app. These are NOT pre-recorded videos you can play over and over, but a live class, with an instructor teaching in real time, and other classmates sweating right there with you.
Swag: Unknown at this time–I'll update as I learn more!
Disclosure: While I am not (yet?) a Gixo subscriber, I am a Sweat Pink ambassador, and Sweat Pink has an ongoing relationship with Gixo.
Lululemon 40/80 Challenge
Challenge: Run 40k or 80k in the first two weeks of the year
Led by: YOU!
Start/Duration: January 2 to January 15, 2019
Cost/Discount: Free (Strava's premium membership, Summit, is optional; pricing varies–an “all three pack” is $5/month when you pre-pay a year)
Content: Go run! Use Strava to record your runs, or use a device (such as Vi) that connects with Strava.
Swag: Unknown–it's a surprise every year. Last year there was a discount code good for online or in-store purchases. Also, you get a badge in the Strava app.
Disclosure: I've run this one, and am signed up for 2019. If you are training for a race, like to run with friends, or already track your miles, go for it!
New Year Yoga Reboot Challenge
Challenge: 3o minutes of yoga for 30 days
Led by: rotating instructors on the YogaDownload platform
Start/Duration: January 2 to January 131, 2019
Cost/Discount: $12 for one month of unlimited access to Yoga Download ($30 for three months, $90 for a year; all are cancel at any time)
Content: A curated selection of “reset” and “reboot” yoga videos. Log in each day, do that day's video, and then leave a comment about how it went. NOTE: if you like the idea of a daily yoga challenge but the idea of “reboot” doesn't do it for you, Yoga Download also has a variety of other challenges (e.g. 5-Day Evening Yoga, 2-Week Yoga for Busy People, etc.).
Swag: Unknown–there is a grand prize package, but I haven't scoped it out.
Disclosure: I've had a Yoga Download membership for years, so I'm in!
In your neighborhood. Since January is absolutely the most popular challenge month, there are literally dozens of other options. Check the website for your local gym, yoga space, cycling studio, or boutique fitness class for special class packs and challenges.
Online. Also check out Instagram! One of my Sweat Pink sisters, Katie Arnold, aka @iamkatiearnold, is hosting a yoga challenge in 2019. You can read all of the details on her blog: http://www.talkless-saymore.com/weekly-workout-wednesday-13/
Did I miss your favorite? Drop a comment and share it!
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On the THIRD Day of Christmas–yes, the Third Day…go ahead and google that, I can wait…I offer you a post about OATS. (Better than three French Hens, and easier to prepare, too.)
Earlier this year, I used my first Inside Tracker test. (I'm reminded of this as I am about to take the next one on Friday.) Inside Tracker tests your blood for certain biomarkers–including the ones your doctor is interested in, such as triglycerides and cholesterol. Each is assigned to green (optimized), yellow (needs work), and red (take action immediately). Based on the results of the blood testing, as well as your goal input, Inside Tracker recommends specific actions you can take to improve those biomarkers (for example, to lower your cholesterol). These actions include food and supplement recommendations to move your biomarkers into the green zone.
One of the foods Inside Tracker recommended for me? Old fashioned rolled oats. Inside Tracker described the purpose like this: “Oats are high in soluble fiber, which can reduce cholesterol levels and raise HDL. A serving is 1/2 cup raw or 1 cup cooked. Enjoy one serving each day.” Being the nerd I am, I immediately started in on the research.
Dietary Fiber: Soluble v. Insoluble v. Resistant Starch
First, let's talk fiber. As I recall, fiber only had two types when I took my freshman nutrition class, but now there are three? Actually, that depends on which source you consult. (If you're truly interested, the Wikipedia entry on Dietary Fiber breaks it all down for you.) Dietary fiber comes from plants: fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. In general, dietary fiber is a carbohydrate component of food that cannot be completely broken down by your digestive system.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and makes a gel-like substance. According to the Mayo Clinic, soluble fiber is helpful in controlling blood sugar and can help reduce cholesterol. Sources of soluble fiber: oats, barley, flaxseed, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruit, carrots, psyllium. As the FDA points out, soluble fiber is broken down by bacteria in the intestines, and does provide some calories to the body as a result.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This is the fiber that makes up the bulk of feces. It helps move material through your digestive system. Sources of insoluble fiber: whole wheat, wheat bran, beans, cauliflower, green beans. This type of fiber passes through the body undigested, and is not a source of calories.
Resistant starch is a type of insoluble fiber. It can be fermented in the gut. Resistant Starch develops during the heating and then cooling of some foods such as potato, pasta, and rice; it also exists in raw bananas. There are also some grains that were developed specifically for their high resistant starch levels including high amylose corn and high amylose wheat. Foods high in resistant starch often have a low glycemic index, which means they have a relatively lower impact on blood glucose levels.
Sources of fiber. For a list of foods that are good sources of fiber, check out this list by Today's Dietician.
In addition to positive affects on blood sugar and cholesterol, dietary fiber also regulates bowel movements, and helps create a sense of satiety so you feel fuller when eating less than you would (if you only had low-fiber foods). Fiber also slows the passage of food through the digestive system, which helps you feel full longer after you eat. Researchers are looking at the effects of a high-fiber diet on risk for colon cancer, and how fiber affects the microbiota in the gut, which has implications for obesity prevention. (PubMed has at least a dozen articles on this research.)
All About Oats
As a vegetarian, of course I appreciate fiber–most of what I eat should fall into the high-fiber category, right? Well, not exactly. Processing affects the amount of fiber in foods–and grain processing often removes the fiber! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Oat basics. According to Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “Oats, formally named Avena sativa, is a type of cereal grain from the Poaceae grass family of plants. The grain refers specifically to the edible seeds of oat grass[.]” Their page on oats states oats are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, phosphorus, thiamine (also called vitamin B1), magnesium, and zinc. For more, check out Harvard's page on oats.
More about oats.Oats require a cold climate to grow. Oats do not exist as a Genetically Modified Organism or GMO, so if you are buying oats that have a non-GMO label, you're paying extra for that label which could be applied to every oat in the universe. Oats themselves have no gluten, and are therefore gluten-free. However, if you have Celiac Disease you should proceed with caution and only purchased oats that are certified gluten-free. This is because (1) oats can be contaminated if they are grown on a field that previously had a gluten-containing crop on them, and (2) oats processed in a facility that also processes gluten-containing products may be cross-contaminated. (Thanks to the Prairie Oat Growers Association for this data.) Finally, there is some evidence that some people with Celiac Disease may have adverse reactions to oats. This may be because oats contain a protein called avenin, which is similar to gluten.
- Whole Oat Groats are the entire grain kernel. They take a long time to cook, and are usually only found in health food stores. If you harvest oats and then take off the hull, that's a whole oat groat.
- Steel Cut Oats are whole oat groats that have been cut into pieces (using steel, right?). Irish Oatmeal is steel cut oats.
- Stone Ground Oats are whole oat groats that have been ground up using stones (traditionally) instead of cut with blades. This results in smaller pieces and a creamier texture when cooked. Scottish Oatmeal is stone ground oats.
- Rolled Oats are whole oat groats that have been steamed and then smashed flat. This turns them into flakes. When you see oats in oatmeal cookies, those are usually rolled oats. Rolled oats are also called old fashioned oats.
- Quick Oats and Instant Oats are rolled oats that have been steamed longer and/or ironed into thinner flakes. This makes them cook faster, but changes the texture. Quick oats/instant oats ARE whole oats, and therefore a whole grain.
- Oat Flour is whole oat groats that have been ground into a flour.
Some non-whole grain forms of oats include oat germ and oat bran. Prior to doing this research, I didn't realize that rolled oats and quick oats have the same exact content as stone ground oats! Did you?
Research on the benefits of oats
Harvard’s page on Oats (linked above) identifies all sorts of neat health benefits:
- Beta-glucan (the primary type of soluble fiber inoats) slows digestion, increases feelings of fullness, and suppresses appetite
- Beta-glucan can bind to cholesterol and help move it out of the body
- Phenolic compounds and phytoestrogens are antioxidants that reduce chronic inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes
The Harvard page also identifies specific studies about oats and heart disease, diabetes, weight control, and digestive health. The Whole Grains Council—which has more of an interest in promoting the health benefits of oats than Harvard’s School of Public Health—has a page with descriptions and links to studies that reach the following conclusions about oats and health:
- Oats may reduce asthma in children
- Oats may boost nutrition in gluten-free diets
- Oats increase appetite-control hormones
- Oat beta glucans improve immune system defenses
- Oats help cut the use of laxatives
- Oats may help reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Oats may improve insulin sensitivity
- Oats lower bad cholesterol
- Oats help control blood pressure
Adventures in Oats!
Since eating more oatmeal cookies would make me happy but not necessarily advance my health goals, and I don't have time to cook steel cut oats every morning, I looked into other ways to eat more oats. My initial foray into making “overnight oats” via an online recipe turned out to be…disgusting, in a word.
Since my own overnight oats were terrible, I decided to try some pre-packaged ones. Unlike other types of overnight oats, Oats Overnight is intended to be drinkable. The main ingredient is whole rolled oats. Preparation involves putting a packet into a Blender Bottle minus the plastic blender ball, and adding milk or a liquid of your choice. Pop it in the fridge overnight and poof! Breakfast! Pros: Added protein. Easy to prepare. There are now a variety of flavors including three vegan options that use pea protein. The oats are certified gluten-free. The “classic” flavors are made with whey protein and the mocha flavor has caffeine. Shaker bottle can be reused an infinite number of times (unless you leave it somewhere hot with milk still in it, in which case the plastic might take on a permanent odor). Cons: If you like to chew your breakfast, this is not your best option. Individual serving packets are not recyclable.
Another type of overnight oats, the Maker Oats starter kit comes with a glass jar, but you could easily use any jar (so long as you don't add too much liquid). Similar to Oats Overnight, you put a packet in the jar, add your milk or plant-based milk, shake, and stick it in the fridge. Poof! Breakfast! The main ingredient is thick cut rolled oats. The consistency is much thicker and more substantial than Oats Overnight. The starter set includes a jar and packets, otherwise you buy a box with packets. Pros: Thick, spoonable oats. If you like them hot, you could easily heat them in their jar (just watch out as glass gets hot). You may find that a single “serving” is enough for two breakfasts. Maker Oats also contain chia seeds. Cons: So far there are only three flavors, so you might get bored. No added protein, so if you use plant-based milk or nut milk this is not a high-protein breakfast. If you have Celiac Disease, these may not be your best choice as they are not certified gluten-free. Like the others, individual serving packets are not recyclable. To date, these are my favorite!
Bob's Red Mill.
I live in Oregon–how could I not love employee-owned Bob's? Bob's Red Mill makes a variety of products containing oats. There are single-serve oatmeal cups (pineapple coconut, fruit and seed, cranberry orange, classic, and gluten-free varieties: blueberry hazelnut, brown sugar & maple, apple cinnamon oatmeal) and bagged multi-serve oatmeal (regular rolled oats, thick rolled oats, steel cur oats, Scottish oatmeal, old fashioned rolled oats, quick rolled oats, and several gluten-free varieties). Pros: multiple options, including both flavored oatmeal and plan oats. Sign up for the mailing list and get coupons by mail. If you're not into oatmeal, you can try the museli, which also contains oats. Most of the oatmeals also contain flax and chia seeds. Cons: the flavored varieties tend to be higher in sugar than either Maker Oats or Oats Overnight. The single-serve cup packaging is not reusable.
The Soulfull Project.
The Soulfull Project is a certified B-Corporation. The Soulfull Project’s cereals are all multi-grain; as far as I can tell, they all have rye, oats, quinoa, flax, and chia (but I didn’t examine every label so this might not be 100% true). Their big selling point is that for every serving they sell, they donate a serving to a food bank or other community-based group fighting hunger by providing meals, and you can see where their donations go on the website. The Soulfull Project products come in single-serve cups, 5-packs of single servings in plastic bags, and in multi-serving pouches. Pros: All of the products are vegan. Some products are certified gluten-free. If you don't add too much liquid, the resulting cereal is thick and sticks to your spoon. Single-serve plastic cups might be recyclable (depending on where you live). Cons: The flavored products tend to be higher in sugar than Maker Oats and Overnight Oats (up to 12 grams of sugar).
There is ONE prize pack up for grabs to one winner with a United States mailing address. (Sorry international friends, but postage is dear and I don't know what the rules are for shipping food to various other countries.) This prize is not sponsored by any company or brand, though I received some (but not all) of the contents at trade shows. Contents:
- Oats Overnight Blender Bottle and 4 individual packets (chocolate peanut butter banana, strawberries & cream, green apple cinnamon, peach upside down cake) (retail value: $22.00)
- Maker Oats, apple & coconut (one serving package) (retail: $2.00)
- The Soulfull Project 4 Grain Blend, full size (retail: $6.50)
- Bob's Red Mill Oatmeal cup (cranberry orange one serving package)
- Bob's Red Mill Fruit & Seed Muesli, 2 servings (one serving packages)
- Grandy Oats original Coconola coonut granola, grain free (sample size)
- Better Oats Steel Cut Oats, maple & brown sugar (one serving)
- Nature's Path Love Crunch dark chocolate and red berries (sample packet)
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Disclosure: Merrithew Health & Fitness sponsored Sweat Pink’s BlogFest at IDEA World Convention for several years, and I am thankful for their sponsorship and for the programming they provided. The prizes for this giveaway were provided to me by Merrithew Health & Fitness as part of Sweat Pink’s BlogFest with no strings, no compensation, and no requirements (e.g I was not asked to write a blog post, host a giveaway, or do anything else). The entire contents of this post, including all words and opinions, are my own honest opinions.
Hey, it's time to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas! “Wait,” you may be asking, “wasn't Christmas yesterday?” Indeed, it was! The Twelve Days of Christmas are actually the twelve days in between Christmas (the First Day of Christmas) and the day Christians celebrate as the day the magi (the three wise men/three kings) arrived, also called Epiphany. Traditionally, the last of the twelve days was the day you took down the Christmas decorations (I swear, I am not making this up). You know Shakespeare's play, Twelfth Night? That's about the twelfth night of Christmas. But enough of the history lesson…On the SECOND day of Christmas, I offer you this review and giveaway!
The Pilates Fitness Circle. If you’ve ever looked at a Pilates Fitness Circle and thought, “that’s a weird gadget that I can’t imagine doing much for me,” I’m with you—I used to think the same thing. (Pilates Fitness Circle Resistance Ring is a trademark of Merrithew Health and Fitness. You may also have seen a similar gadget called by another name: Pilates ring, magic circle, exercise circle, exercise ring.) Even in my Pilates classes, the Fitness Circle was largely used to help with body placement and awareness. It never occurred to me that the Fitness Circle had a role to play in athletic conditioning.
Workout. I took the DVD “Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle” for a test drive, using the Fitness Circle lite. (The Merrithew Fitness Circle also comes in two other models, flex and Pro. Flex provides less resistance and has a unique handle design that differs from the lite and the Pro. Pro is similar in design to lite, but is made of steel instead of plastic; as a result, the price for the Pro is $65.00 while the price for the lite is $34.99. It’s also a bit heavier than the lite.) This workout is part of Merrithew’s CORE line, focused on athletic conditioning and performance training, so it is not strictly Pilates. According to Moira Merrithew, who introduces the workout, the 27 exercises in the workout are focused on strength, alignment, and efficient biomechanics. I now have an entirely new outlook on the Fitness Circle (and I’m glad I have one of my own!).
The workout is led by John Garey, a Master Instructor Trainer for Merrithew Health and Fitness. Two additional Merrithew Instructor Trainers (meaning they train teachers to teach the classes) demonstrate all of the exercises. John’s instruction is clear and detailed, carefully explaining body positioning and movement step-by-step. If you have never done any Pilates or mat-work style exercise before, you’re in good hands with John—just follow his instructions. Of course it is a video, so if you miss an instruction, you can take a look at the movement on the screen and follow along. That said, if these exercises are new to you, there are some exercises you may have a difficult time performing at the same tempo/speed as the DVD. I found this true of the hinge-back with rotation exercise.
The warm-up uses the Fitness Circle to assist with some stretches that may already be familiar to you. Throughout the workout, the Fitness Circle acts as a replacement for a yoga strap in some stretches, which limits both the range of motion (in a good way—making the stretch more stable) and the amount of tension on the wrists and forearms.
I was skeptical of the “Level of Difficulty” rating, which is four out of five. That is, until about five minutes into the workout, when there is a series of kneeling hinge-backs that incorporate the Fitness Circle. (A “hinge-back” from the kneeling position involves keeping everything from your knees to the top of your head in a line, and taking that line straight back to a 45 degree angle.) Holy quads and abs! Several of the exercises involve using the Fitness Circle either between your ankles (pressing in on the Fitness Circle) or with both feet inside the Fitness Circle (pressing out). I found these more difficult than they looked, as one of my legs is clearly bossier than the other! I enjoyed the variations on classic Pilates exercises, including a modified version of The Hundred and a version of Shoulder Bridge where you press one arm behind you on the Fitness Circle.
What really kicked my butt, however, were the single leg bridge variations. The gist of the exercise is to press up into a bridge pose, then lift one leg while pressing the Fitness Circle into that leg. My other hamstring was ON FIRE. So much so that I couldn’t do even half of the set on either leg. WHOA.
While I am currently not at my optimal level of fitness, I found this DVD very accessible with an appropriate level of challenge. Given my experience teaching yoga to very muscular men, I strongly suspect that serious athletes (like CrossFit junkies) would find at least parts of this program very useful in conditioning smaller muscles that don’t get much love during a typical workout, such as the multifidus, and for the range of motion and movement principles.
Brand new to Pilates type movements? The DVD includes a tutorial on the Five Basic Principles (Breathing, Pelvic Placement, Rib Cage Placement, Scapular Movement & Stabilization, and Head & Cervical [spine] Placement).
Merrithew also offers additional DVDs that use the Fitness Circle as the only prop, including Fitness Circle Flow, the Fitness Circle Challenge, Power Paced Fitness Circle, and Precision & Control: Pilates with the Fitness Circle. If you prefer a workout that incorporates a reformer or more props, you can find more titles on the Merrithew website. Finally, there are a variety of other brands/companies/individuals that produce video content that incorporates the Fitness Circle and you can find many other options online.
This prize pack includes:
- Merrithew Fitness Circle Lite in black (MSRP $34.99)
- Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle DVD (MSRP $16.95)
- Merrithew Soft Dumbbells 1.65 pound each (MSRP $23.99)
- Miscellaneous treats and surprises
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Disclosure: I received advance access to the e-book version of Following Fit in exchange for my feedback and honest review. The author also graciously offered a copy of the printed book, which is the prize in this giveaway. All of the words and opinions in this post are my own.
When I started to read Following Fit, I knew from the first pages of the introduction that I was going to rip through this book like college kids rip through a bag of Doritos. Like Kristen Perillo, I was a “bread thief” (and even had extra rolls and a tiny amount of butter instead of dessert in the no-fat, high-carb 90s). I also dropped athletic pursuits early. We had the same early experiences with self-imposed perfectionism and anything less than 100% meaning failure. If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you’ll recognize parts of your own life in Kristen’s story, too.
Like blogs? You'll love the book. This book evolved from Kristen’s former blog, so it is written in bite-sized pieces. Each short chapter tells part of the story, and could stand alone as an essay. I could see an English class using this book as a study in essays, one chapter each week; I could see reading one chapter each night as a light and easy read before bed. Her commentary on how popular media treat the female body in a number of contexts is particularly on point.
It's not just about the fitness. Even if you’re not an avid reader of health and fitness books, there’s something in here for you. This book touches on the very personal meanings of concepts like commitment, worthiness, motivation, health, and failure. I particularly enjoyed that several of the sections focused on fitness myths (e.g. “women should never lift weights over five pounds”), and how even a basic non-professional knowledge of weight lifting allowed Kristen to connect with her male high school students. Ultimately this is less a book about fitness, and more a book about identity and self-knowledge.
It's not a “how to” book. Unlike many books in the health/fitness/healthy-diet space, this is not a how-to. Kristen does not pretend she has all the answers, or dole out advice claiming it is “one size fits all.” Instead, Kristen tells HER story—not in the social media highlights-reel-only style, instead including the parts of her life that film editors would leave on the cutting room floor. The scenes of lost motivation, feelings of disconnection between mind and body, and looking back on past choices and habits and wishing they were different are all a part of life, and all included in the book. One of the chapters I found most challenging to read was about Kristen’s decision to transition away from vegetarianism (being a vegetarian myself, and being constantly told this is “just a phase” punches my buttons to this day). It’s clear that this was the very best choice for her, and as I read through her process I found myself internally finding more empathy for my friends who are ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians. (I have always maintained that it’s not my job to decide what eating pattern is best for your body; the “I was vegetarian for x years” comments feed into my annoyance with the whole “just a phase” thing.)
Kristen is not one of those “fake experts.” I also really appreciated how—unlike most fitness bloggers—Kristen consistently reminds the reader she’s not a medical professional, sticks to facts when writing about medical issues, and always consults a medical professional when it is appropriate for her. If other bloggers learned nothing else from her book but this, she’d be doing a massive service to the fitness community. If her readers learned nothing beyond “hey, this is the pattern that reliable, legitimate bloggers follow,” again, that’s a massive service to the fitness community.
It's not all sunshine and unicorns. Throughout the book, Kristen keeps it real. As a blogger myself, I’m sure she had plenty of material to work with and had to pick and choose which posts would become book chapters and which would be omitted. Yet instead of showing only the shiny happy moments, Kristen also shares her struggles with gaining weight due to binge eating, frustrations with a post-surgery shoulder that isn’t as strong as she would like, and nerves before her first session working as a personal trainer.
Just Read It. Following Fit is a delightful departure from the books that dominate the health and fitness market. I highly recommend this book, and wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself re-reading sections, or making notes in the margins and at the end of each chapter. Wherever YOU are in your relationship with yourself, this book will remind you that you are not alone. More important, you are fine just where you are.
Where to get it. Following Fit is on my Amazon list of books for runners (affiliate link). Once you've read it, why not leave a review on GoodReads? If you want to learn more about Kristen, check out her website. Or follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Win Yours Here!
Rules: This giveaway is NOT sponsored by anyone or anything. You must have a mailing address in the United States or Canada to enter. (Sorry, international readers–postage overseas is killer.) Entries will be verified, so please follow the instructions. Winner will be notified by email and have a reasonable amount of time to respond and claim the prize. Winner must be patient! The printed book has not yet been released! You'll get it when I get it, grasshopper.
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Disclosure: I am a member of the Rock ‘n' Blog Team. Science in Sport provided members of the team with a sampler box of gels, but I had already placed an order–and accidentally ordered two boxes!–so I have two boxes to give away. Neither this post nor the giveaway are sponsored. All opinions are my own.
The biggest sale of the 2019 Rock ‘n’ Roll season is on NOW!
It ends at midnight, PST, December 13. Not only are these the best prices you will see all year, TourPass now comes in three options (3 pack, 10 pack, and unlimited), has tiered pricing (the sooner you buy, the less you will pay), and has a payment plan option. Plus there are new perks for TourPass holders. In addition, the first six of the designs for the new Heavy Medals have been announced. If you’re planning to run any Rock ‘n’ Roll races in 2019, NOW is the time to sign up.
As you know (and have likely heard unless you don’t know any other runners), 2018 was a rough year for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. Following acquisition by IronMan (which in turn is owned by a Chinese holding company), the San Diego area Rock ‘n’ Roll office was essentially eliminated, some staff roles were combined, and some personnel relocated to the Ironman offices in Tampa. Since Ironman has been putting on quality triathlons—much more complicated as there is a cycling and swim component in addition to a road race—I was initially optimistic about 2018. Ironman promised to bring Rock ‘n’ Roll back to its roots and focus on “the on-course experience,” touting improvements to courses, entertainment, and more. Unfortunately the organization’s hype inflated everyone’s expectations, and frequently failed to deliver the goods. (A laundry list of the problems would take multiple blog posts.) As a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team, most of the year I had no idea what was going on, or only received information when it was too late to do anything with it, a symptom of the larger problem of poor internal communication and rampant disorganization. Worse, Ironman irritated the most dedicated group of natural series ambassadors, those who run enough marathons and half marathons to qualify for the Hall of Fame (15 races) by eliminating the unlimited TourPass option, cancelling the marathon finisher jackets, and pumping out generic event shirts.
Mid-way through the season, Ironman made some attempts at course-correction, including improved, location-specific finisher medals and event shirts cute enough to actually wear again. After what I assume were some internal personnel shuffles and new hires, Ironman started to reach out to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s legacy runners, and get to work addressing other areas of runner feedback.
While Dallas, Raleigh, Carlsbad, and Los Angeles are no longer Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour Stops (and I still personally mourn the cancellation of Portland and Vancouver), it’s likely the series will continue to expand into the international market. Predictably, the series added a number of races in China in 2018, but also added races in Mexico and South America. I don’t have any inside scoop on this but I’m betting there will be new races added in 2019. If you’re interested in hopping a flight to China, the TourPass Unlimited may be your best option.
Yesterday’s announcement of the new TourPass options is a great indicator that the Ironman team is “getting it.” The return of the TourPass unlimited means more runners will Remix the weekends, running a 5k or 10k in addition to the full or half marathon. The difference between a 10-pack and the Unlimited is $300, so a runner planning to hit 10 Tour Stops is essentially getting each of the 5k/10k races at $30 each, a significant savings over individual event pricing.
Next year, I'm running San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle. (I just announced I'm training for the Chicago Marathon, in addition ton conquering the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon, so I'm kinda booked for 2019. Look for me holding a TourPass Unlimited in 2020!)
Important Tips for Planning your 2019 Tour!
The BEST price on all TourPasses is ONLY available on December 13, 2018. If you wait until December 14, you will pay an additional $50 for the 10-pack and the Unlimited. Wait until January and the price will rise again–and this year, the TourPass has a deadline to purchase. Get in early, or miss out.
The BEST price on all of the races is available on December 13, 2018. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series uses a tiered pricing model, where the price goes up the closer it gets to the race. Typically the very best price is offered at the expo for the race (e.g. I signed up for San Francisco 2019 at the expo earlier this year), and then registration is closed for a short time, after which the prices go up. Many of these races have already gone to higher-tiered pricing, and if you wait until after the sale you will have to pay the higher price.
Missed the sale? Register NOW to save yourself from the next price increases.
Got questions about the races? Fire away! I've run Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Arizona, Philadelphia, Chicago, Virginia Beach, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and more. If I don't know the answer, I can help you find it.
Registration for the Heavy Medals Program—bonus bling you earn for running more than one Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon or half marathon during the year—is FREE but is NOT AUTOMATIC. You MUST register separately for the Heavy Medals Program, even if you buy a TourPass.
Train with what’s on the course! Race day is not the time to find out your tummy doesn’t like the gels or electrolytes on course. To that end, why not enter to win a sampler box of Science in Sport, the official gel of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series?
Prizes: I have two sampler boxes to give away, and each winner will also score some stocking-stuffer treats.
Rules: Open only to U.S. mailing addresses. (This is because postage is expensive, and because some countries have picky rules about what kind of food and nutritional supplements you are allowed to send in by mail.) Entries will be verified, so please follow the directions. Winners will be notified by email and be required to respond and provide a mailing address to receive their prizes. Failure to respond in the specified time will forfeit the prize.
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Disclosure: As a Sweat Pink member, I received an ActivMotion Bar for review purposes via Fit Approach. ActivMotion is also offering you a 25% discount (read on for details). Per my editorial policy, all of the opinions in this review are my own honest thoughts.
If you've been to a Flywheel class, you've used one of the half-sized Body Bar to do the arm exercises in class. If you belong to a gym, you may have seen or used a full-length Body Bar in group ex class or with a trainer. The ActivMotion Bar start with the idea of a bar as a workout tool and ups the game: instead of a solid weighted bar with a rubber exterior, the ActivMotion Bar is a weighted bar composed of a hollow tube and metal balls inside. The exterior is metal, though there are rubber end caps so you don't scratch the floor. When the ActivMotion Bar is level, the balls come to rest in the center. Change the angle even a wee bit and the balls start to slide, shifting the weight of the bar and challenging your balance and coordination!
I've played with ActivMotion Bars at the last few IDEA World conferences. Since I have the natural balance abilities of a drunken toddler, I was too shy to enter. My friend Sarah entered one of their IDEA World challenge sessions, during which participants go through a variety of movements and then hold a static position while holding the ActivMotion Bar horizontal with one hand. It's MUCH harder than it looks! I was thrilled to get my hands on one to use at home–where I can work on my horrible balance with only myself laughing!–and trust me, you want one too.
First, the basics. According to creator Derek Mikulski, “The ActivMotion Bar was developed to provide an external stimulus that forces us to focus more on mind-muscle connection and to engage the core as we stabilize an unstable load, helping improve every aspect of fitness.” Derek, inspired to help others after losing 80 pounds changed his life, invented ActivMotion Bar as a tool to help his personal training clients. Being a Michigan native, I've also got a soft spot for any innovation that comes out of Detroit–but I'd be an ActivMotion Bar fan no matter where it came from! (Want a peek at the new HQ in Sterling Heights? Check out the September video newsletter.)
ActivMotion Bar comes in a variety of weights, from 3 pounds to 18 pounds. As the bar gets heavier, it gets thicker in circumference, not longer. There is also a new bar called the ActivMotion Glimpse Bar, which has a clear window in the center so you can see the rolling balls, and use visual input to help you maintain the horizontal position. (Whether this makes things harder or easier is up for debate!) I opted to try the 15 pound bar, and so far it is PLENTY heavy enough for me. My bar arrived in a sturdy cardboard tube, with the end caps reinforced with tape (otherwise the weight of the bar would easily bust through).
Don't be fooled by the relatively low weight. If you're used to doing your upright row or biceps curl with 20 pounds in each hand, that 18 pound bar is still going to kick your butt in new and interesting ways. The unstable weight forces your body to recruit more core muscles for balance, and as the weight shifts during difference exercises you can feel your body engaging slightly different parts of each muscle. For example, the first exercise I tried was a standing upright row. I can do this with a decent amount of weight on a standard barbell, or with a dumbbell in each hand. What I can't tell using those tools is just how much I favor my right side–the balls started rolling left as soon as I began moving! This immediately required me to engage core muscles to maintain my upright position, as well as give more with my left arm. It sounds incredible to say the ActivMotion Bar engages 173% more muscles than the same activity done with a stable weight, but I believe it (and there is a 2015 University of Michigan study to back that claim).
When you buy an ActivMotion Bar, you get four free workouts (provided as digital downloads, not DVDs–immediate access, no plastic coasters). These include exercises you probably already know, like a biceps curl, but also exercises you might not think to do with the ActivMotion bar. One move I really like to do with the ActivMotin Bar is a variation on yoga's “boat pose.” When I was teaching classes at Harbor Bay Club I used to up the ante by having everyone hold a light dumbbell and use it to “row the canoe” by twisting to one side and making a dipping motion with the weight, followed by the same movement on the other side. This is significantly more challenging with the ActivMotion Bar! Holding the bar in the center–there are white stripes on the bar for your hand position (approximately shoulder-distance apart)–you take boat pose and then row kayak-style. Each dip of your “oar” causes all the balls to roll to one side, shifting the balance of the bar. Twist while you do this, and you can feel your abs responding to that shift.
You can also purchase IGNITE, which is a 60-day program featuring 15 workouts led by 6 trainers. Each workout is 20-30 minutes, making it easy to fit into your busy schedule. You can download or stream the workouts (again, no plastic coasters). The program comes with a schedule you can follow (so you don't have to decide which workout to do when), or you can mix it up. There's also a dietary guide with nutrition information. IGNITE has a 30-day 100% money back guarantee. IGNITE can be purchased with an ActivMotion Bar, or without one (in case like me, you already own one). It's just $60 to own all the videos ($25 to rent them), which is $1/day if you follow the entire program.
Opting-in to the newsletter guarantees you will receive a wealth of additi0nal information. For example, this week's newsletter included a link to this video, featuring three variations on a hockey-inspired lateral move. You can find additional videos on the ActivMotion Bar YouTube channel.
Head to the ActivMotion website and use code fitapproach25 to save 25% on your purchase, now through January 7. (Hint: there's a good pre-Christmas sale on right now–and the discount code stacks!–so don't wait.)
Want to read what my fellow Sweat Pink Ambassadors thought? I swear, I'm not the only one who loves this fitness tool. Check out these other reviews!
- FBJ Fit
- Kooky Runner
- Faith, Coffee, Miles
- Coach Debbie Runs (includes video for runners)
- Healthy, Fit & Barefoot (includes video exercises)
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I AM HUMAN.
My body needs exercise.
My body will always need exercise.
This will never change.
It’s not negotiable—it’s science.
The world is filled with workouts and meal plans, most of them making promises that in X amount of time you can achieve Y result (and all you have to do is stop being so lazy and commit already). A quick walk through the exercise and fitness section of any bookstore demonstrates just how popular this formula is: 40 Days to Personal Revolution, 8 Minutes in the Morning… The last thing the world needs is another book laying out a rigid plan and making promises that “all you have to do” is follow the plan. So Lyn Lindbergh did NOT write that book.
Couch to Active is a book for anyone who wants to transition from couch-ing to exercising. Though the subtitle is “The Missing Link That Takes You From Sedentary to Active,” I personally hate the term “sedentary” as the starting point. Truthfully, many people who don’t exercise are not sedentary; instead, they are caring for young children or aging parents, working full time at demanding jobs, and otherwise constantly in motion mentally, if not physically. Lyn’s got your back, perfectly normal, average person with a full, busy life, and this book is for you.
The typical fitness book is written with a mixture of tough love (“suck it up, buttercup”) and praise (“you finished today’s workout—see you tomorrow!”) that can leave you feeling bad and discouraged when you can’t follow the plan to a T. Couch to Active is written with compassion and understanding. A big focus of the book is finding self-compassion while creating YOUR exercise plan for life. I can’t really say “it starts with baby steps” because you, the reader, get to decide how big the steps are, but it does start with self-inquiry and the entire program is about tailoring the plan to your actual life (not the hypothetical one where you sleep 8+ hours every night and have a personal Pilates trainer).
The typical fitness book has a plan laid out and orders you to follow it. While this may work for people with an abundance of motivation, energy, and free time, it doesn’t work for the rest of us. Instead of starting with a one-size-fits-most plan, Couch to Active begins with the premise that “We need to actually enjoy the exercise we do.” From there, Lyn skillfully guides you through some basic premises—injury-free is always the goal, social media can be a help or a harm—and then walks you through a step-by-step system to create your active life. Over the span of eight weeks, Couch to Active asks you to think critically and creatively about your life, your needs, and the barriers and obstacles to the active life you want to lead. While the process is broken down into bite-sized pieces distributed over two months, Lyn points out that you can tackle the work at your own speed—take two weeks, take a year—as long as you tackle it in order. If you’re like me and you hate being told what to do, go ahead and read the whole thing before you start—I concluded the process is laid out in a logical fashion that nudges each participant to succeed.
Couch to Active doubles as a workbook and Lyn encourages readers to write in the book. Each chapter is set up as a week with a theme, a worksheet to plan your exercise, and thinking/writing assignments. There is plenty of space to write in the book, including response pages within each chapter. Exercise worksheets, and extra pages for notes, though you may prefer a separate journal for some of the more introspective portions. Each week, the exercise plan is up to you, and Couch to Active is not snobby about what constitutes “exercise,” recognizing that each reader will start in their own place. Instead of formulaic workout grids with 10 reps of each exercise, Lyn has created templates that reflect different circumstances that might parallel a real person. Instead of beginner, intermediate, and advanced, the samples have names like “I Hate Exercise, But My Doctor Is Making Me Do This” and “I’m a Chronic Mess of Health Issues.” Similarly, instead of generic checklists, Couch to Active has the reader create checklists tailored to their exact life circumstances.
Couch to Active is peppered with stories from real people, using their real names, though Lyn has also created two composite characters. These are people you can relate to–with jobs and kids and responsibilities–not celebrities with personal trainers on the payroll and unlimited me-time.
Unlike the typical fitness book, the only promise Couch to Active makes is that if you do the work to design your own active life, tailored to your situation and needs, and then follow your plan, you will end up living an active life. That’s the goal: an Active life.
Need some guidance on how to get to YOUR active life? Win a copy of Couch to Active! I have two to give away. Can't wait to win one? Buy one here (affiliate link) via Amazon. Want a better price? Go to Lyn's website, https://www.couchtoactive.com/shop and get the book directly from the author! You can also join the brand new “Couch to Active” club, for just $11/month. More details at Lyn's website, HERE.
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MARK your calendar NOW! October 3-6, 2019!
Have you run an inaugural race? Many runners I know have a fear of inaugural races, and that fear is not an unfounded one: I’ve heard horror stories about pretty much every aspect of a race that was accidentally neglected the first year. I’ve been lucky so far, with the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco, Revel Mt. Charleston, Livermore Half Marathon, and several others under my belt, all of which ran smoothly. The Race? It didn’t just run smoothly, it exceeded all of my expectations as a race—and as an added bonus, I got to pace the 3:30 half marathon!
I Ran The Race!
If you missed my pre-race post about The Race, I jumped on board the Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign early. (It wasn’t exactly blind faith, as my friend Jessica knew the race director and key staff and confidently told me they were rock stars who would completely nail it.) Once she offered to let me crash at her pad, I sealed the deal and signed up for VIP. Unfortunately I missed the VIP weekend kick-off party—I do have a “day job” that actually wants me to show up—but from what I saw Thursday night was a lot of fun!
I flew into Atlanta on Friday and landed with enough time to check out the expo, figure out what time it was, eat dinner, and crash. As we walked into the expo, the area where a long line would have waited (if there had been a long line) featured the mile markers: individually painted works of art!
Packet pickup was fast and easy. There was no line, and it would have taken two minutes to pick up my packet and shirt but Jessica seems to know everyone in the Atlanta running community, so packet pickup was just the first in a series of welcomes and meeting new friends. We also had a good laugh about how Atlanta-area runners had the “Who’s On First?” experience the prior week. (“Are you running this weekend?” “Yes! I’m running The Race!” “Which race?” “The Race!” “Yes, I know you’re racing, but which race?”) VIP included a wristband for the race-day festivities as well as a sweet inaugural backer patch that I sewed onto my jacket. Yes, I know, I “need” another running jacket like I “need” a PhD in astrophysics, but my spidey senses told me I wanted to snag one while the full range of sizes was still available and besides they were so cute. Several weeks later, I’m glad I did—not only did The Race rock, the jacket is perfect for fall weather in Portland. (No surprise, since Leslie Jordan, the jacket manufacturer, is based in Portland.)
The expo was better than most of the race expos I have been to this year. I wasn’t there for the whole thing since I flew in Friday afternoon and I’m still certain it was one of the top expos I’ve been to in the past five years (during which I have run dozens of races). The stage had a series of panels featuring runners and running, with DJ sets in between. The lighting and music permeated the expo and gave it a dance party feel. As promised, the expo featured primarily local, Black-owned businesses–24 of them, to be exact. There were soaps and gorgeously scented bath products by Livy & Sophie, and fabric and fashions by Cam Swank, for example.
Local vendors at the inaugural expo:
Run Social Atlanta
Westview Corner Grocery
D Café & catering
Angie O’Neal Designs
Charm City Noir
Buy From a Black Woman
Wyatt Family Dental
Urb’n Charm Jewelry
The Village Market
Vital Life Chiropractic
Natural Fit Designs
Livy & Sofie’s Natural Body Elements
South Fulton Running Partner
There was also a selection of limited edition, inaugural race merch. While I love my boco hats and am a sucker for socks, I successfully managed to purchase only The Race jacket. Gotta leave something for next year, right?
Did I mention I signed up to pace?
A few weeks before The Race, the organizers put out a call for pacers. Since I’m something of a slowpoke, I was really excited to see a 3:30 pacer slot (the course had a 4 hour limit). Of course I volunteered, figuring that I could do a 3:30 without any difficulty. Without consulting the actual race course itself. My co-pacer and I spent the remaining weeks wondering whether the Atlanta hills were as bad as our friends who previewed the course said they were, and whether she would be okay pacing just a week after the Chicago marathon. We talked about using intervals, which we both agreed would be key to managing a slower pace while still eating hills for breakfast. I stopped by the pacer booth at the expo to make sure I understood the race day details and got some insight into the course and its many hills from the locals. I left with a red legacy pacer singlet, and renewed worries that I might just be in over my head, but remained committed to kick as much ass as I could.
Carb-fest and Pre-Race
We grabbed dinner at a local pizza and pasta place called Little Azio, where I carbed it up with some pasta, and then topped it off with ice cream from Morelli's Gourmet Ice Cream (salted caramel and dark chocolate chili). I’m no stranger to good quality ice cream—Portland is home to Salt & Straw—but oh boy was that tasty. We turned in early and I crashed like a rock, exhausted from travel and nervously anticipating The Race.
Jessica and I got up early in order to make it to the parking lot and get settled. (I’m glad we did, as a sufficiently large number of people did not, and the last-minute traffic was heavy.) As VIPs, we had access to the warmer inside, as well as the coveted flush toilets. Since we were parked in the lot nearby, we didn’t make use of the gear check, but there was plenty of gear check room: Tate the Great MMoving provided a truck for general gear check, while the VIP area had its own area. Then we headed down to the astroturf area in front of the stage for a warm-up with ___. It was a great way to get moving, and the women from ___ did not blink an eye when the power went out temporarily, cutting their mics—the only “problem” I saw all weekend. Without missing a beat they hopped down onto the grass and finished the workout with us with as much enthusiasm as they’d had when backed by a DJ.
Who Ran The Race?
As a so-white-I-put-on-sunblock-before-the-sun-came-up runner, I was thrilled to be in the minority at The Race. The vision of The Race was awesome and I really, really wanted it to happen exactly like that, not so much for me, or even for the organizers and Atlanta, but for the running community as a whole. (The 1,411 participants were 86% African American, according to The Race's instagram.) I believe it is important for the running community to not just include anyone who wants to run—regardless of skin tone, regardless of the choice to wear a hijab or a yarmulke—but to create a space where runners are actively welcome, not just the tokens or the Kenyans or the future Black Olympians. (As a side note, I also personally believe it is very important for those who are perceived to be in the American “majority”—which I’ll broad-brushstroke as white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, probably Christian—to have real experience of what it is like to be the minority. There’s just no substitute for experience.)
After hopping by the pacer tent to pick up the 3:30 stick and snap some photos, it was time for the runners to head into the corrals. I was starting to get worried as I hadn’t seen Felicia yet. Runners were divided into three waves: red, green, and black, the colors of the flag of African unity. VIP runners had the option to start in any corral. A full-on drum line marched us into the corrals and they were spectacular! (I took pictures, but the sun wasn't up yet and the pictures are blurry.) They continued to perform, lining the lead corral on both sides, until it was time for the final pre-race moments.
As the 3:30 pacer, I headed to the back, crossing my fingers and hoping Felicia, who was caught in the later traffic from the host hotel, would make it on time. Immediately I had a bunch of people start asking questions about pacing strategy, and I am quite glad I’d thought this one through. In order to cross in 3:30, we needed to average 16:00/mile. I knew I could do that easily on flattish land running intervals of 2:1 (walk:run) but also knew there were significant hills in two locations, one early in the course, and a few after mile 10, followed by a whopper at mile 12. My plan was to take as many of the early miles as possible at 15:00 in order to bank time for the killer hill at mile 12. ___ arrived just before the start, and suddenly we were off and running with participants from 34 states.
My First Pace Gig…HILLS FOR BREAKFAST!
I’ve been the completely unprepared runner in the back completely relying on the pacer to pull my butt over the finish line. (Thank you, Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles 2013 pace team, with extra mad props to the 3:00 pacer.) As a result, I took my pacing responsibilities VERY seriously. While I wanted to keep as many runners as possible for as long as possible, I also absolutely had to cross the finish line at or before our assigned time—even if no one was with me—because that is what I promised to do. There weren’t a lot of selfies for me at this race, as I alternated between looking around (I’d never been to Atlanta, and it is unlikely I’d stroll through these parts of town as a tourist), looking at my watch, and calling out words of encouragement in between RUN! WALK! and count-downs to switch from one to the other.
Early in the game, Team 3:30 resorted to my first rule of running (“Bain does not run UP hills”) and it’s corollary (“Running downhill with control is an excellent way to find ‘extra’ time”). This kept us almost perfectly on pace at 15:00/mile until almost mile 10. Not knowing exactly how bad the “bad hill” at mile 12 was kept me nervous, but I still had to take care of the people who were relying on us, so I continued to joke around and shout encouragement to the group that had clustered around us. By mile 5 I’m pretty sure I had annoyed the snot out of one group of runners (seriously, I’ve never been that perky that early in the morning!) and was pleasantly surprised that a few had passed us. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is still my best running strategy, followed closely by “if you feel like you’re going to die, find someone who needs your help and focus on getting them to the finish.” By mile 8 I imagine we were the mid-point of the group that had started with us, but we were still nailing 15:00/mile. The aid stations had plenty of staff, serving up water and RED Gatorade. (I have no idea why every race uses yellow, it’s nasty.) I had a bottle of Tailwind in my Orange Mud vest, but gladly accepted some Gatorade at a few points when I knew I needed it.
The hills towards the end were hilly, but not *that* bad…until mile 12. While it wasn’t one of the hills at the Tiburon Half—hills so steep that I literally stopped and laughed when I arrived at the first one!—it was a steep, serious hill. I’m not going to lie, I trudged that one. Felicia and I had made a pact that I’d keep the pace, no matter what, and when we hit that hill her legs—remember she had JUST run the Chicago Marathon not a full week before—started giving her some serious sass. As I trudged I kept my eye on my watch, listening to my own legs squawk and doing bad runner-brain math, convinced I’d blown it until I hit the top of the hill and the last .1 when I realized if I could pull just a little bit more out of my legs I could probably make that 3:30. By that point I was solo, our entire group having already finished or fallen further behind. I sucked it up and attempted a sprint—which looked much more like a jog!—across the finish line.
3:30:5x. BOOM. (Though I didn’t hit “stop” on my watch fast enough, and spent the post-race period thinking I missed it by 0:01:00.)
A Fantastic Finish!
I accepted my medal and then ran back across the finish line to run-in ___, barely a minute or two behind me. The momentary pause in the action gave me the opportunity to meet the race director for The Race, who I’d previously only “met” via the Facebook group for The Race ambassadors.
The sun was shining, the weather was gorgeous, and there was a full-on party! The DJ held court from the stage, with runners sunning themselves and stretching on the faux-grass. Several of the vendors from the expo were in attendance, and there were food trucks and the usual post-race snackage occurring.
The VIP area was delightful and worth every penny. In addition to access to interior seating (and the flushing toilets), VIP had its own food truck! I can’t remember what all of the choices were, but even as a vegetarian I thought the food smelled spectacular. (I enjoyed two vegan tacos so good I licked all the bits that fell off out of the cardboard food boat. If you need a caterer in Atlanta, you seriously should look into ___.) There were also big washtubs of beverages, both beer (I don’t remember what kind—sorry, I don’t drink beer) and La Croix (which I jokingly said was selected to make us white suburbanites feel comfortable). In addition to tables with plenty of seating, the VIP area also had a massage station (first-come, first-served) and plenty of socializing. Even though I’m not from Atlanta, and even though my only Atlanta-friend there was Jessica, I felt really welcome and included. Everyone I met was friendly and kind, which was just icing on the cake after loving The Race itself.
While I was exhausted and slept a fairly unreasonable amount both Saturday and Sunday, part of the goal of The Race was to make a positive impact on the historically black areas of Atlanta and the black running community. Money from every registration went to charitable donations, for more than $9,200 donated! The Race supported more than a dozen charities, including:
✓Carrie Steele-Pitts Home
✓ L.I.F.T Organization
✓ Westside Future Fund
✓ A Better Way Ministries
✓ Sylvan Hills Neighborhood
✓ Adair Park Neighborhood
✓ Girls on The Run Atlanta
✓ Metro Atlanta Cycling Club
✓ HBCU Scholarship Fund
✓ Kilometer Kids
✓ Grady High School
✓ Boy Scouts of Atlanta
✓ Stone Mountain High School
Sunday, there were 16 different community impact projects, with runners and others donating more than 600 hours of volunteer service. (The Race itself had 275 volunteers in addition to the runners.)
What About Next Year?
Did I mention there were FREE race photos? And that they were available online the evening of The Race? Yup, it was THAT good.
It’s pretty rare that I don’t have at least a few suggestions to make about any race, and The Race is no different. The only suggestions I have, however, are pretty minor. One, I would love to see shuttles from the host hotel to the start/finish since so many out-of-towners stayed there. This would alleviate the pressure on traffic and parking, in addition to being easier for those unfamiliar with the area. Two, the race course could have used some porta-potties. I never needed one, so I was never looking for one, though I did see a few runners dashing out of gas stations (where I assume they made use of the facilities). Third, the mile markers could use a slightly more sophisticated set-up. (They were taped to sticks that stood up in traffic cones.) That’s it. Those are my only “complaints.” I loved everything else, from the course (even the hills), to the graphic design on the shirts and gear, to the atmosphere, to the free race photos (yup, free!).
The Race weekend continued on Sunday with community service projects and a post-race block party. Despite the compression socks, my legs just would not get me out of bed that morning so our day had a slow start and I missed the service projects. The remainder of my time in Atlanta was spent celebrating Pride with brunch and a killer view of the parade, before jaunting off to the airport. I understand the block party was a blast, though my legs were glad to be sitting most of Sunday.
In short, The Race rocked. If the inaugural was this good, I can’t wait to see what the Second Annual looks like!
Registration Opens on Black Friday! Stay tuned to www.theraceuc.com for more information, or follow The Race on instagram.
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