What the Fartlek? How to Run Faster

Fast runner

(Photo Source)

With a few months of running under your belt, you may be looking for a way to improve your speed, which is a combination of strength and endurance. To do this, Runner’s World recommends the following three workouts that have been proven to help runners increase endurance and strength, not to mention overall speed. They can be done throughout your normal running week and can be tailored to fit any running level.

LONG RUNS: You may have heard experienced runners talk about their “long runs” for the week. This is the day that runners run their most mileage. Long runs are different for each runner based on how seasoned they are. If you typically run 3-4 miles a day, your long run may be 6-8 miles. For others who only run a couple miles a day, a long run may be considered 4 miles. No matter now many miles you log in your long run, these once-a-week long runs can help you build major endurance. Please note – when adding more mileage to your weekly runs, keep in mind the 10% rule of running – a runner should add no more than 10% mileage to his/her weekly workouts. So if you normally run 10 miles total in a week, you would run 11 miles the next, etc.

HILLS: Many runners hate hills because they slow us down. Others are scared of hills because they can be very challenging to tackle. But, if you practice on hills you can learn to approach them the right way, which may help you overcome your anxiety. Aside from preparing you to run future hills, running hills can help improve your overall strength and endurance. Believe me, after running a few hills, running on a non-graded surface will make it seem like you’re flying! So, how do you approach a hill? For any hill, you want to avoid being completely upright and rigid in your approach. Instead, you’ll want to lean forward slightly, about 5 inches or so. As for pace, for small to medium hills, increase your speed slightly as you run up and over the hill. Use the downhill run for your recovery. For large hills, cut back on your pace a little – you’ll need to reserve your energy just to reach the top! Try adding a few small hills into your workouts each week. No hills near you? Run the stairs at a local park or school football field.

FARTLEK: Fartlek is a strange-sounding word that’s hard to say without laughing. But the word simply means “speed play” in Swedish. The premise behind a Fartlek workout is to build strength and endurance by alternating a slower, more comfortable pace with a faster, more challenging speed for a set amount of time. It may sound complicated, but all you really need to do is alternate running at your normal pace with a 1-2 minute faster run, and then repeat. The faster run should not be an all-our sprint, but rather 10-25 percent faster than your typical pace. After your fast interval, use your comfortable pace as a recovery period until you’re ready to start your next fast run. Your fast run can range from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, or whatever you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to time yourself either. I do Fartlek runs once a week using trees/mailboxes as my interval markers.

Even if you’re not looking to take your performance beyond your current level, long runs, hills, and Fartleks can add variety to your weekly routines and help keep your runs fun and fresh!

Happy Running!

Chicago Gourmet – Take Two!

Just a few more photos from Chicago Gourmet 2010 – Enjoy the photo tour!

Chicago Gourmet: Wine, Dine, and Lines

For the third consecutive year, the Illinois Restaurant Association hosted the highly anticipated Chicago Gourmet. And for the third year, the attendees, including yours truly, seemed to leave with mixed emotions about the event.

On Saturday, I received my first taste of the event in the form of an hour-long check-in line. Unfortunately, this was not the only line I would encounter throughout the weekend. Luckily, as a corresponding writer for Foodbuzz, I was able to bypass the first queue and get right down to business – drinking wine and eating fancy food. However, within no time at all, I realized that I would be doing quite a bit more drinking than eating. Of the more than 150 food and wine vendors present, wine, beer, and liquor tents easily out-numbered food tents 2 to 1, or at least that is what it seemed like.

Due to this imbalance in food v. alcohol, most of the food tents had lines, albeit many were fast-moving. Reminiscent of the first two years, the lines for the more popular restaurants, ie. Frontera and Gibson’s, snaked around so far that it was hard to tell where they ended. When I did finally work my way up to the front of the line (and I did wait – no line jumping for me!), I was a little surprised at how heavily focused the dishes were on meat and seafood. This, of course, is a man’s dream, but for someone who does not eat meat or who is a vegan, finding food beyond dessert was challenging at best.

Sunday proved an even greater challenge when those lucky enough to score a Groupon discount arrived for their fair share. I am sorry to report that their fair share included even longer lines and even less food, with some vendors even running out of food.

In spite of the lines and limited vegetarian options, there were a number of highlights that deserve a mention. The plentiful seating included a mix of tables with umbrellas and plush chairs and lounge stools – very relaxing and trés chic. The seating combined with the sporadic live jazz interspersed with piped-in music from all decades created an ambience of an upscale outdoor wedding, perfect for a crisp fall day. Furthermore, the long lines for popular restaurants often left much shorter lines at others, especially in the dessert tents.  These were definitely the hidden gems of the event and where I was able to try some fantastic treats, including pumpkin bread pudding, tiramisu, pumpkin and sugar cookie gelato, and sticky toffee pudding.

For wine and alcohol enthusiasts, Chicago Gourmet was a virtual dream come true. The wine and other spirits flowed freely and merchants weren’t hesitant about filling and refilling glasses. And, just like the chefs who were present, the wine merchants were passionate about their wineries and their products which made for enjoyable conversation.

The wine tastings and cooking demonstrations, often led by Chicago’s top chefs, were more than informative and enjoyable. The demonstrations held on the main Bon Appetit stage made you feel as if you were actually watching a professional cooking show, while the smaller stages made for more intimate demos. No matter what demonstration you witnessed, the chefs and other presenters, including such top names at Iron Chef Cat Cora and Chicago’s own Rick Bayless, were more than willing to interact with the audience, take questions, and allow for photos.

Even with two years under its proverbial belt – not to mention Bon Appetit magazine as the title sponsor, Chicago Gourmet still had a few sticky spots – even beyond the decadently sticky toffee pudding I tried. That’s not to say it was all for naught. Most of the people I encountered seemed to be in good spirits – although maybe due to the alcohol – even those who had traveled quite a distance to get there.

Overall, Chicago Gourmet may not have lived up to its expectation, especially for foodie purists, but it still has great potential. Let’s hope that fourth time’s a charm.

Chicago Gourmet Teaser…

The weekend was full of wine, gourmet food, and chats with famous chefs – including this Iron Chef…

I’d love to give you a complete review of Chicago Gourmet, however, I’m still “digesting” my fabulous weekend – both mentally and physically. Check back for full details of my interviews with Iron Chef Cat Cora, Bon Appetit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild, as well as a review of Chicago Gourmet.

Runner’s Rut: Strategies To Keep Running Fresh and Fun

Female runner

(Photo source)

Runner’s rut – we all go through it at some point. The dreaded rut means different things to different runners. For many, runner’s rut signifies that they’ve reached a training or performance plateau. After months of running, they just can’t seem to get over the hump and improve. But for me, runner’s rut means that running loses its luster and seems more like a chore than a treat.

Gasp! Yes, that’s right. Although I love running, I have to admit that running can get monotonous. Think about it, who wouldn’t get bored doing the same workout every day? And I don’t just mean running on the treadmill – that’s a whole other boredom story that I’ll save for another time.

If you’ve ever experienced runner’s rut, rest assured that there are some easy ways to snap out of it. To break through this monotony and keep running fun and fresh, you just need to change it up a bit. Try the following strategies – one is bound to stick and help you find your runner’s high again.

Run with a Friend – Even if you’re typically a lone wolf runner like me, running with partner or in a group can motivate us to push a little harder or even help us see running from a different perspective. At the very least, having someone to talk to helps the time go by faster!

Try a Different Route – Sometimes, all you need is a change in scenery to breath life back into your running routine. If you always run on the road, try a trail. If you always run in the city, try running along the lakeshore, etc.

Change Your Routine – We all get comfortable with our running routine. Heck, I ran the same 5 miles every day for months! Even if you can’t add more miles to your workout, try interval runs or speed training to add some pizzazz to your workout.

Get Some New Tunes – If you know exactly what song you will end up on when you hit mile 3, it’s time to change your tunes!

Set a Goal – It’s easy to get motivated when you have something to look forward to, like a goal of breaking your 5-mile record or running a local 10K. Better yet, run for a cause and channel your extra motivation to help others!

Sport a New Outfit – OK, I just had to throw that in there. It may be pathetic, but I am motivated by cute running clothes. If I have on a new running shirt or shorts, somehow I feel stronger and sexier. What can I say, I am a runner, but I’m also a girl!

Take a Break – Give running a rest for a week and try something new. Go for a walk, try swimming, or organize a hike. Then, after a week, go back to running, hopefully feeling fully recharged!

How do you break through a running or workout rut?

Happy running everyone!

Travel Writing To Feature Walnuts, Grapes, and Gourmet Food

Grape Harvest

(Photo source)

As some of you know, I have many exciting trips planned, via writing assignments, from now until the end of the year. And now, I finally get to reveal a few of them!

Chicago Gourmet: This weekend, I will be attending Chicago Gourmet as an official Foodbuzz Correspondent. I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Foodbuzz community and to share my coverage of the event with Foodbuzz readers. One thing I am just dying to do is interview Cat Cora, aka the first female Iron Chef and Bon Appetit Executive Chef. Keep your fingers crossed that she can fit me into her schedule!

Walnut Harvest: Just a few weeks after Chicago Gourmet, I’ll be headed to California to cover the walnut harvest. I am a huge walnut fan, which makes it so much easier to say yes to trips like this. I am really looking forward to learning more about how walnuts are harvested, how to cook with them (beyond the typical cereal, oatmeal, granola, etc.), and about their health benefits. For someone who doesn’t eat fish – or seafood – at ALL, it’s extremely important to know that walnuts have as much or even more omega 3 fatty acids than fish. Thank goodness for that!

Grape Harvest (aka Crush): Exactly one week after the Walnut Harvest, I will be heading back to San Francisco, stopping off in Napa to cover the wine scene and the grape harvest. I’m also planning to review a very popular restaurant in Yountville – can you guess what it is?

Foodie Scene: After Napa, I travel up the coast to get a taste of the foodie/tourist scene in Vancouver. Vancouver is fresh off the Olympics and has so much to offer travelers. I can’t wait to explore the city and the sites in the fresh mountain air!

I’ll be planning full stories related to these trips for both RWC and Bistro Chic. You will definitely not want to miss them or the pictures – plus, you never know when I’ll throw in a giveaway!

And speaking of giveaways…

I just realized that I forgot to post who the winner of the Mighty Leaf Tea and Sympathy Giveaway is! The recipient of the giveaway, via random number generator, is…

Lisa Smith
Posted September 20, 2010 at 5:45 am | Permalink | Edit
I Love my green tea! I drink it most during the winter months the P.M.

Lisa – be sure to send me your address and I will send you the very relaxing tea package ASAP! Thank you all so much for entering the giveaway.

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of my cross-country adventures!

The Golden Hour of Running

Morning Runner

(Photo source)

“I run in the morning, before my brain tells me not to.” – anonymous

I am a morning person and, therefore, running comes easier to me in the morning. I want to clarify that I’m not one of those extra happy people in the morning, who just can’t wait to say hello to the world. I’ve actually been a cranky morning person my whole life – just ask my parents. And, like most people, I do find it hard to get out of bed on some mornings. But if there’s one thing that makes me happy, or at least not grumpy, in the morning, it’s knowing that my morning run is just minutes away. I’m not saying that running in the morning is right for everyone, but it works for me – for a number of reasons:

Fewer Distractions – I get up very early, sometimes before sunrise, just so I can make it out and back before my children and husband wake up. This is my “golden hour”. I find that I’m less distracted with family and house things in the morning, which means I’m more likely to stick to my running schedule. Getting my run out of the way first thing in the AM also means I’m less likely to talk myself out of running or make an excuse not to run.

Less Noise – If I can get out the door by 6:15 AM, this usually means I’m rewarded with a near barren road – with few cars and even fewer people. I also tend to avoid the noisy construction or lawn maintenance workers early in the morning, which means more peace and quiet – just what I want on my run!

Feel energized – Running in the morning makes me feel empowered for the rest of the day. It really produces a natural energy, a natural motivation, and even a natural mood booster. When I run in the morning, I feel like I can accomplish anything.

No matter what time of day you run, the key to make it convenient so that you’re more likely to stick with your workouts.

When is your “golden hour” for running or working out?

Happy running!

My New DSLR!

My wedding anniversary is just 8 days away. Some husbands get their wives jewelry for an anniversary, others buy clothes or go out to a fancy dinner. What did my husband buy? Take a look…

Yes, he bought me a brand spankin’ new DSLR – A Canon Rebel T2i to be exact. My husband is awesome! I won’t even begin to tell you how much this camera costs – with two lenses and a camera bag, but let’s just say it was NOT cheap.

If you recall, last year around this time, my husband lost our Canon point and shoot while camping. Within a few days, he surprised me with a brand new Canon, an even better one, but still a point and shoot. I really like my point and shoot – it’s super convenient and very easy to use. However, in the last few months, I feel like my photography needs are changing. With all of the travel I have planned in the next few months – San Francisco, Napa, Vancouver, Baltimore, etc. – it really seems like the right time to upgrade to a DSLR.

Now, the next issue is…I need to learn how to use it! Stay tuned for that adventure!

Warm Up With My Mighty Leaf Tea Giveaway!

The official start of Fall is just a few days away. You all know how I love the fall – especially for fall running. But the cooler weather is also a great time to start drinking my favorite teas again. I drink tea quite a bit in the Fall and Winter months, mostly because it keeps me warm on those cold days but also for the fantastic health benefits. However, I tend to slack off a little from April-August when the temps start to rise. I know that many people drink hot tea all year long (like this guy), but when it is warm outside, a cold Starbucks coffee just hits the spot.

A few months ago, on a rare occasion when I was drinking tea in the summer, I bought my first box of Mighty Leaf Tea. I had tried the tea at a restaurant a few days prior and just had to have a box for myself. The organic breakfast from Mighty Leaf has a classic taste – similar to an English Breakfast, completely full-bodied and delicious – particularly with a little cream.

Mighty Leaf Tea Giveaway

Fast-forward to the present where I am very excited to report that Mighty Leaf Tea has kindly sent me a few of their products to giveaway. Here’s what one lucky reader will get….

  • A stainless steel Tea Top Brew Travel Mug – (still in the box!) It’s awesome for drinking your tea in the car on the way to school or work!
  • 12 pouches of Mighty Leaf tea – 3 each of Green Tea Tropical, Orange Dulce, Organic African Nectar, and Organic Detox Infusion
  • A copy of Green Tea Living – This is a freebie from me! It’s an awesome book about the health benefits of tea and all the awesome things you can do with it!

To enter, you can either:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite flavor of Mighty Leaf Tea is or which flavor you’d most like to try. OR
  2. Tweet/retweet this post over Twitter

You have until Tuesday, September 21, 2010, at 9 PM Central to enter the giveaway. I can’t wait to hear all your comments! You are seriously going to love these giveaway items!!

More Travel = DSLR!!!

Jen Bean2

I have big, BIG news! I am seriously bursting at the seems wanting to tell all of you, but I can’t share it just yet. I’ll give you a hint, it involves gourmet food and travel! I’m hoping to reveal the new details next week, so stay tuned!

On another note, because I will be traveling quite a bit in the next 6 weeks, I’m breaking down and buying a DSLR. I’ve been using a Canon S90 point and shoot for about a year and it has served its purpose well. It was good enough to get me by on a day to day basis and took pretty decent photos for a point and shoot. However, because of several very important events coming up this year and next, Scott and I felt it was time to upgrade.

So, what am I looking for in a DSLR? I want one that is small, takes great pictures of food/sites without too many fancy lenses, and one that is of high quality/brand. Now it’s time for a little blogger help! For all of my Healthy Living Summit, Fitbloggin, and Bookieboo/Mamavation friends out there…

What DSLR do you use and why do you recommend/not recommend it?

Check back on Sunday for a fun giveaway announcement!