Heat Acclimation

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

I've noticed a two-fold phenomenon since I've moved to the desert. First, most of my runs have been slower. Second, when I've been able to run in cooler temperatures (like in San Diego) my pace for the same effort level is significantly faster.

This is me running near the ocean in San Diego. I was rather easily doing a 7:15 mile/pace for 10k due to the cooler temperatures and benefits of heat training.

This makes sense in a lot of ways. Running in hot weather impacts performance. The hotter it is, the slower you go. If you tuned in for the US Olympic Marathon trials in February you probably saw the athletes comment about how the heat made it a slow race. The temperatures for that day in LA reached into the mid 70's. If you live in the Arizona desert, like me, mid 70's sounds anything but hot. But these athletes are not just being divas, the science shows that temperature above 60° start to impact running performance. This is why, for example, the Berlin marathon has hosted the last 6 men's marathon records. Berlin is a flat course, but it is also a cool course. The average temperature for the Berlin marathon is between 53-64°, right in the 60° sweet spot.

So why can I run faster in San Diego than Yuma? It's the heat. The heat slows me down, and the cool weather lets me run my best. But there is one more thing going on. I've been running outside in the heat for almost three months. I've logged about 380 miles since moving to the desert. I've run outside even when it's been in the 90's in the full sun. My body has become used to the heat and has gained an advantage from it.

Heat acclimation is a real thing, science proves it! A study in 2010 exposed 10 cyclists to heat when they trained for 10 days. The scientists then measured how the cyclists performed in cool conditions. They had a control group as well. The group that went through heat acclimation performed 7% better in cool conditions after just 10 heat acclimation exposures. That's a HUGE gain! Think about it; if you run an 8:00 min mile and then get a benefit of 7% in your performance you can run a 7:26 mile for the same effort! That's shaving 34 seconds off your mile time just by doing 10 sessions in the heat!

Why does training in the heat work? Heat acclimation improves the body’s ability to control body temperature, improves sweating and increases blood flow through the skin, and expands blood volume allowing the heart to pump more blood to muscles, organs and the skin as needed. In other words you become a super running machine. And unlike training at high altitude you get the benefit of heat training in as little as 10 sessions.

This is what you will look like after doing heat training; a super running machine.

Another study also concluded that the heat may produce changes in the exercising muscle, including enzymatic changes that could improve the amount of work done by the muscle.

But there are dangers. Overheating and heat stroke are very real and dangerous concerns. Dehydration can also sideline you and ruin your day. Some signs of overheating to watch out for include:
  • If you are no longer sweating
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling sick to your stomach
  • Headache
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling a chill with goosebumps on your skin 
If you feel any of these symptoms, it's time to stop and cool off.  It's not worth damaging your body to train in the heat.
I, unfortunately, have no choice but to 'heat train'. It's just the norm living in the hot desert. If you decide to give it a go here are three tips that will help.

First, hydrate a ton before you go and as you go. Drinking water cools you off and keeps you going.

Second, slow your pace down. The slowing of your pace allows more blood to flow near your skin where it is cooled off by sweat. The point is not to go fast. You will get the benefit of heat training even if you are running at a very slow pace. Let go of any pace expectations.

Third, stay alert for signs of overheating. It's not worth damaging yourself to train in the heat.

I've personally seen the benefit from running in the heat, but it comes at a cost; lots of sweat and suffering!

My daughter does

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I channeled my inner Barefoot Ted this week and did my home workout without shoes.  I love the idea of building the muscles in our feet and making them stronger, but also afraid of running on a burning surface with rocks and glass and who knows what else.  I chose to work on it this week in the safety of my home, where the only danger I face is a stray Lego.

I did my usual TRX workout but added this cardio from Pinterest:

9 Quick Total-Body Workouts, No Equipment Needed:

This week I also rang in the big 34.  My sweet mother-in-law spoiled me rotten and sent me a box of new running gear.  It was a good reminder that new running stuff is always a great motivator to run more!  I was excited to try it out!  Even at the gym, I get SO hot.  I'm not sure they understand the concept of the air conditioner and fans.  My current beast is not fatigue, it's heat.  I'm not much of a sweater, but am learning how to love sweat pouring down my face that's on fire.

I took this towel one day and was able to tame the beast a little.

I'm sure I was a site, but not any more than the man walking backwards.

My mom called on my birthday and told me that she was reminded of my birth after hearing a family share a similar birth story and it made her so thankful for the life I've led.  I was born 6 weeks early, which now days may not be a very big deal, but in the early 80's it was.  I was in the NICU for a month and had some touch and go moments.  They told my parents that I would likely have life long health problems as a result of my early birth and being on assisted oxygen for so long.  But I haven't.  And over the years, my mom has heard lots of families that have gone through just what she did and have lost their child.  Even after 34 years, it's still amazing to see God's mercy to me and I can still see it today.  I am so thankful for the health that He's given me and so thankful that I can run.

Ben and the kids also did a good job of spoiling me too.  Eli got me yellow flowers and Colin got me peanut butter M&M's because they know those are my favorite.
(P.S. whatever you do, do not try the new coffee nut M&M's!  They are gross!!!)

Ben has a secret talent of being able to find the perfect clothes for me (and that includes running shoes) and brought home several great things from California.  He also got me a set of weights so I can workout even more at home!  Is it weird that we're excited about a set of weights?  No...it's sad...because we used to have a set and I got rid of them and then we had to buy them again, which is a crazy phenomenon that happens in our life.
My sweet daughter found this necklace and scooped the puppy's poop to earn enough money to buy it for me.

Ben said later, "You may not always think of yourself as a runner, but your daughter does."
Sweetest gift ever.

I have 2 fitness goals for my 34th year of life.
#1: To stand up straight.  I have always had poor posture and I would really like to conquer that.  I started looking at stretches and strength training to do to help and have tried a couple of measures to make myself think of it throughout the day...hopefully a combination of these things will help.
#2: Run my 3rd half marathon, hopefully in San Diego.

Bragging; Three Pictures

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Warning! Short bragging post ahead! I was in San Diego for work this past week. Fortunately I had some down time and managed to get in some good runs. I was sick at the end of last week and had to take four days off running so my runs in San Diego were my first ones after being sick.

The sun didn't want to come out at first, but it was still refreshing. I get enough sun in Yuma!

I did a long run along a beach path in Del Mar. It was beautiful. It was refreshing. It was perfect. Yes, I am bragging. But when you live in the desert, sometimes you have to brag when you can run in a place as pretty as this. The only downside is I got sun burned, but not in the usual way. I normally run with a tank-top on so I have a tank-top tan line. I only got burned where my tank-top normally is. So now I look like I am wearing a red tank-top! Oh well, it was worth it.

Telegraph Pass

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Believe it or not there are mountains surrounding the Yuma valley. On one mountain is a peak called Telegraph pass (I know a pass is not normally a peak, but that's what they call it). It's part of the Gila Ridge and it is a popular hiking spot for locals and visitors alike.

It's only 0.8 miles to go from the gate at the base to the top but it is incredibly steep. I thought it would be fun to make this climb part of my long run day. So I drove out towards the range and parked near the access road. I calculated that if I ran from my car to the top and back it would be about 10 miles (it actually was 11!). And most of that would be on the rocky path leading up to the base of the mountain.

It was warm when I took off. Most of my run was in the low 80's with full sun. I brought my hip water bottles which gave me about 18 oz of water. I wish I had also brought my handheld water (learning). I also brought no food.

The path was way more rocky and rough that I anticipated. I had to be careful not to roll an ankle as I tried to run. Running may be a stretch. It was more of a trot. I kept my feet moving quickly, keeping my steps per minute high. This is a good strategy over rough terrain. It prevents you from overextending and possibly falling or getting injured.

I finally got to the gate and saw that the path to the top has very nice pavement. However, it looked too steep for me to run. But I went ahead and tried to run for a bit.

The rusty gate the marks the start of the ascent.

My plan to run to the top went out the window pretty quickly. Even though the 0.8 miles from the gate to the top was paved it was way too steep for me to run. I'm just not in hill shape, let alone a hill with an 20% grade. So I walked. The view from the top was impressive to say the least!

The path is paved, just steep.

Almost to the top!

You can see the green irrigated fields below.

You can see the path winding up to the top.
What's great about this trail is you don't have to run it. You can park near the gate and make it about a 4-5 mile round trip hike. Though steep, it is accessible for people of all abilities. I hope to make it back and actually run up it at some point. I did run on the way down and my legs were sores for days because of the beating they received.

My mile splits were nothing impressive but I was just out enjoying the scenery. It's a good reminder to not pace get in the way of actually enjoying what you are doing. The only bummer is I will have to wait until the weather gets cooler to try again. I don't think I can carry enough water with me to do this in the summer.

Running with a potentially broken finger

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I finally got back the gym after a full week of a weird bug in our house.  I'm not a fan of the treadmill, but it's going to be my best friend for awhile...it's only May and it's already in the 100's here! I'm trying to view this season as our "winter" (aka don't go outside), but it's really making me long for real winter.  Anyway, I'm picky about my treadmill experience.  There are only 2 at the gym that don't have TVs and while I love watching me some Chip and Joanna Gaines, I don't want to kiss them.  I seriously don't understand how people can watch TV so close and be running and not barf.  So my strategy is to snag a treadmill behind one with HGTV on and I'm set.  Naturally someone always breaks my perfect plan and gets on my TV viewing machine and I get to watch a head bobble in between my show.  Today, the gentleman who stole the machine decided to walk backwards and it was super awkward.  I need to find a short friend to conspire with me on these treadmills. 

Anyone else ever run with a potentially broken finger?

I've been trying to read this book for months.  Literally.  I get a paragraph read and get interrupted and I'll be lucky if I finish this book by Christmas.  But what I have read has come at the perfect time.  Here are a few points that have really hit home for me:

*"because of rampant obesity, one in three children born in the United States is at risk of diabetes--meaning, we could be the first generation of Americans to outlive our own children.

*"If you have a choice between one step or two, take three."

*"Think Easy, Light, Smooth."  Don't fight the run, enjoy the scenery. 

*"Instead of cringing from fatigue, you embrace it.  You refuse to let it go.  You get to know it so well, you're not afraid of it anymore."  
Lisa Smith-Batchen said, "I love the Beast.  I actually look forward to the Beast showing up, because every time he does, I handle him better.  I get him more under control."  
"You can't hate the Beast and expect to beat it; the only way to truly conquer something, is to love it."

*Simply the joy of life will make you a great runner.
*Don't have a quote, but it talked of a man who began to run barefoot to really feel how he runs instead of letting highly cushioned shoes do all the work or tweak how he runs.  He just thought about how his body felt and he ran the best he's ever run.

This week was the first time I truly enjoyed running in a very long time.  The book made me realize that in the past, I only focused on the goal of completing a run and completing it "well", or to a certain standard.  So this week, I changed my thoughts and I only thought about how I felt and tried to take more steps per minute and didn't worry for a second how fast or how far I've gone or if I stopped for water.  I kept getting a little stitch in my right hamstring.  It's happened several times before on the treadmill, but this time, I took the time to really think about it and figure out why it was happening and how to make it stop.  I really wanted to ask the guy walking backwards to look at my form and tell me what I was doing wrong, but that would just add to the awkward.  I learned that if I leaned forward (I would really be kissing Chip Gaines if my machine had a TV) then I didn't get a stitch.  It was exciting to really solve the problem instead of just ignore it and complain about it.  

Here's hoping the running streak continues!

A Stinky week


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Colin has had diarrhea since Monday.  Never, in my almost 9 years of being a mom, have a dealt with diarrhea.  Okay, it wasn't too terrible, but bad enough that we were not leaving the house.

I am terrible at working out at home, but I am trying hard to commit to working out from 8-9am no matter what, even if that means making something up at home.  Ben graciously bought me a TRX system when I first began homeschooling, so that I would always have a workout option at home.  I confess that I have not used it as much as I should, so I hung it on our schoolroom door and busted out my handy-dandy notebook.  Yes, I'm that oldschool that I write everything in a notebook, including my workouts.

The kids were gloriously occupied with some bonus electronic time that morning and it was the puppy that quickly became my obstacle.  She thought it was great fun to lick my face as I was in plank and run away with my mat as I switched positions and would walk underneath me as I did push ups.  I finally had enough and shooed her outside, but in my haste to getting back to my workout, I slammed my finger in the sliding glass door.  Yep, that's how cool I am.  If I was one to use curse words, many would have been flying in that minute.  I grabbed a coffee mug, filled it with ice and plunged my finger in it.  I have no idea why, that's just the solution that came to my pain filled head.

I spent the rest of my workout time doing leg lifts with my hand in the cup.  I tried to keep positive and remind myself that even a little is better than nothing.

I finished up with some lunges across the backyard and Maya tried to say she was sorry for causing my crushed my finger.  Although, I can't say it's her fault...I think it's really my slow reflexes fault. 

This was my home workout:

TRX upper body (10 reps each):
  • Chess Press
  • Tricep extensions
  • Chest fly
  • Tricep push ups
  • Lateral pulls
  • Bicep curls

HIIT (30 seconds each)
  • Burpees
  • Jumping jacks
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Frogger (plank to squat)
  • Run stairs

TRX lower body (10 reps each):
  • Squats
  • Single leg squat
  • Calf raises 
  • Front lunges
  • Hip raises

HIIT (30 seconds each)
  • High knees
  • Lateral hops
  • Jump squats
  • Walking lunges

Finished with planks, pushups, pullups and leg lifts


I almost quit

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It's the truth.
I knew moving would be tough in regards to working out, but I wasn't prepared for how hard it has been.

Obstacles I've faced include:
  • Business of unpacking and setting up a new home.
  • Trips to explore a new state and visit friends.
  • Ben's ever changing work schedule.
  • A YMCA that only offers childwatch for ages 6 and up after 5pm.
  • A puppy to potty train and that means not leaving her for too long.
  • Trying hard to give our kids a consistent homeschool schedule...and started back up school in general.

Alison doing school with Maya right under her feet...her favorite spot

  • And the biggest one is the fact that the desert is trying to kill me.

When the stars do align and I actually get out on the road (or even the treadmill) I'm pretty sure I'm going to die every second of the run.  A week before we arrived in Arizona, I ran my fastest 5k and was averaging in the 7 minute pace range for my training runs.  The second I landed in Arizona, my pace slowed a whole minute and I can't make it more than a mile without stopping to regroup.  And heaven forbid I forget water, because then it's just plain over.

I have researched every possible possibility to get a run in.  I signed up for 'Stroller Warriors', convinced that there would be other homeschool families and my kids could ride their bikes along with me.  Much to my dismay, there are only babies included in the group and they run the canals which make the pathway too narrow for multiple bike riders and strollers and runners.  Leave it to my kids to fall into a canal...
Running the canals solo
I thought this was the perfect push to get me active with my kids and include them in my workouts.  One attempt proved that theory false.  Eli is slow as molasses...really hope that he finds his speed and confidence to ride a bike soon.  I even attempted to put my much too big boys in our bike trailer turned "stroller", which equaled us splitting the front wheel in half, 1/2 a mile down the road.  That was fun.

Our ONE attempt to run as a family
I got up at 5 am every morning for a week to run before Ben left for work, but it left me dead tired the rest of the day and my runs were very short and slow.  Then Ben's schedule changed again, and he had to leave for work by 5:45 and that plan was shot. 

I even went as far as to look into what it would cost to rent out a space and make my own "Homeschool Mom's Gym".  Then I priced out making my own gym in our garage, but it's no where near safe to workout in an Arizona gym.  There is a gym in my dreams, where all the homeschool moms of kids who are older than 3, can come to get a good workout, maybe take a class together or meet with a trainer, and the kids can play and be active together.  There would be room with a tutor so they could do school if needed and a gym where they could learn a new sport.  If only I was a millionaire who knew an abundance of these so called moms, I would create it.

One time, I was so desperate that I ran laps in our backyard!  The kids were really starting to get worried about me that day.

I started to feel alone, defeated and tired of working crazy hard to get a small workout in, one in which I was pretty sure was going to kill me.  The desert, my friends, is no joke.  One day I thought, "They say if you run, you are a runner.  So, if I'm not running, I guess I'm not a runner.  I guess I should just quit trying so hard to be something I can't be."  I let that sit for a few days.  What if I don't run?  Maybe I should quit?  And you know what?  I was crazy sad.

If I was that sad about losing it, then it must be something important to me and worth fighting for.  What I need to quit is believing the lie that it's easy for everyone else and that there is no one else out there who struggles to fit in a workout.  I have to believe and have hope that there is someone out there who is in similar shoes and can relate to the crazy obstacles I face every day.

I've started the last several weeks like it was New Year's Day; ready to start my new plan and make it work!  My plan?  Here is my morning plan for working out and homeschooling:

6:00 wake up, GET DRESSED (key to success) drink coffee, read the Bible
7:00 cook breakfast for kiddos
7:15 Breakfast
7:30 clean up dishes, kiddos get dressed, make beds, brush teeth
7:50 Out the door to go the Y
8:00-9:00 Workout at the Y.  Alison can workout in a small section in the fitness center, then works on independent school work by my treadmill.  No one has yelled at us yet.

Selfies in the gym are always awkward

9:15 Home for snack time while I shower
9:30 School time until lunch

My "perfect" schedule worked a handful of times.  I struggle feeling guilty taking my kids to the Y in the morning; I feel like I'm inconveniencing the workers and boring my kids by putting them in a baby room.  I should probably just let it go, but that's just how I'm wired.

By this week, I realized that this is just becoming comical.  After I took the above picture, I picked up the boys from the childwatch and Colin informed me that he didn't feel good.  Super.  Sure enough, he threw up later that day.  Awesome.  Now I'm the mom who takes sick kids to the Y...I hate those moms.  Why couldn't he just have a cold?  But of course he's sick.  Naturally, it was due time for one of the kids to get sick. 

In light of all this, I figured why not blog through all the obstacles.  I'm tired of complaining, but there has to be another mom out there who has the most obscene obstacles to overcome to carve out some sanity-saving-workout-time and maybe will be encouraged by my sweaty life.

Day 1 coming up and it won't disappoint.