Category Archives: Fitness

Annual podcast round-up

8039277170_4233330218_zIt’s been a year since first posting about all the podcasts I so enjoy listening to. As my life changes (interests, moods, peeves) over time, so does the selection of shows in which I regularly partake. I find it interesting that all the podcasts I now listen to could be placed into just three categories: personal finance, lifestyle, and health/fitness. Looking back at last year, I’ve dropped all my podcasts about running, movies, and pop culture. With so many great shows popping up every week, a girl has to prioritize!

Before we even get to the shows, an important aspect of enjoying podcasts is how you listen.  I made a recent change to my app of choice.  I noticed that Stitcher was getting buggy, occasionally didn’t offer shows I wanted to add, and it was getting difficult to manage my ever-increasing number of shows. Though frightening at first, it turned out to be a good call once I discovered Overcast. The app is free, it has all the shows I want, and it’s easy for me to find and maneuver to the latest unplayed episodes. I also love the easily-accessible 30 second fast forward button (that I couldn’t use from my iPhone Control Center via Stitcher). And now, on to the shows!

Personal Finance:
  • Brian Preston’s “Money Guy” – Brian is a likable host of this twice monthly show. Not super exciting, but good topics explained clearly in his adorable drawl.
  • The Dough Roller Money Podcast – I prefer Rob’s interview episodes. It can get a bit dry when he’s on his own, but good financial food for thought.
  • Financial Independence Podcast – You blog readers might’ve heard of the “Mad Fientist”. He only puts out a show every few months, but they’re worth the wait.
  • Jill on Money – I like hearing specific advice to caller questions, as well as the guests Jill has on each show.
  • Listen Money Matters – I gave this one up for many months, but recently picked it back up. Topics are occasionally dumbed-down too much, but I have learned from several episodes. Their “Five Questions” advice is unimpressive.
  • M.O.N.E.Y – I really like J. Money and Paula together. Their differing backgrounds offer a good combination of experience and advice. Paula makes me want to go out and buy apartment buildings!
  • So Money with Farnoosh Torabi – I’ve been listening to Farnoosh since day one of the podcast. She’s a skilled interviewer and lands some fascinating guests. I don’t know how she does it five days a week!
  • Stacking Benjamins – This is an old work horse of mine. Joe and O.G. rarely disappoint with good guests, roundtables, and goofy comedy.
Lifestyle:
  • The Art of Charm – This one’s not just for the fellas! Jordan is quick and honest in his interviews. I love how he can hack through any B.S.
  • Death, Sex, and Money – Is often unexpected and brutally honest.
  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin – Sisters Gretchen and Elizabeth are great together. They offer some fun life practices (amongst too many commercials).
  • The Lively Show – This one is newer to me and has interesting lifestyle topics so far.
  • The Minimalists Podcast – I dig Josh and Ryan’s message. Smart and well-written. Now go out and get rid of all your stuff!
Health/Fitness:
  • Balanced Bites – Diane and Liz are fun in their talk of real food nutrition.
  • Bulletproof Radio – This old staple of mine continues to explode in popularity, although I’m not too interested in some recent topics (such as neurogenesis and alternative medicine).
  • The Fat-Burning Man Show – Worth a listen just for Abel’s deep voice! But of course, he also has good conversations on health, food, and fitness.
  • Harder to Kill Radio – Steph is smart and has a cool body-positive message.
  • Latest in Paleo – Angelo brings a smart perspective to a very well-researched weekly show on what’s happening in the food/health world.
  • The Paleo Women Podcast – Stefani and Noelle answer listener questions in a fun and authentic way.
  • The Primal Blueprint Podcast – Mark Sisson is a legend in the “paleosphere”. I prefer the interview episodes and often skip the shorter article narrations.
  • Robb Wolf: The Paleo Solution Podcast – Robb is genuine, funny, and has some great guests.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show – I don’t think I need to say much about this one. It’s so popular for a reason. Tim gets amazing guests and is skilled at digging in deep for the good stuff.

Wow! That’s a whole lot of podcasts (22 to be exact). But each one brings me entertainment, knowledge, and has replaced most of my television watching. I’m always looking for new recommendations, so feel free to send them my way in the comments.

Happy listening.

(Image: LizWest)

Race Report: Conquer Our Run 5k

4013024763_17a3f86121_zWaking up in 5am predawn darkness isn’t my favorite way to start a Saturday. But I managed it this weekend to support the Conquer Our Run 5k, a tiny race that fundraises for Lupus LA. Additionally, a running friend of mine had organized a newbie run/walk group for parents in her neighborhood, with this being the goal race. Piling onto the race love is the super low $21 registration price. With all that going for it, this is an event worth waking up early.

By So Cal standards, it was a pretty frigid morning! My car dashboard reported 47 degrees just before the 7am start at Dockweiler Beach. I bundled up in running tights, long sleeve top, vest, hat, and gloves. Admittedly, I got a wee bit warm mid-race. Since my training was minimal, I figured that bundling up would be OK if I needed to go at a slower pace or take walk breaks.

Of the 40+ running events I’ve done, this was one of the smallest. There were about 75 runners at the start line in anticipation of the 5k, 10k, or 15k courses along the beach-front road. After a five minute warm-up led by a local fitness instructor, the race director said a few words about her challenges living with lupus, counted down from three, and we all started running.

The course was lovely being right on the beach, but also kind of boring since it followed a completely flat, straight service road. Four teenage volunteers manned the halfway point, where runners turned around sharply to head back the way they came. I ran as fast as I could maintain for the whole distance and managed to fight off the powerful urge to walk. I left my Garmin at home and paced by effort, which ended up being about 9 minutes per mile. Finishing felt good, even though I didn’t manage to catch the 10-year-old boy I was chasing the whole 3.1 miles. That kid was faster than he looked!

When I received the results email a few hours after finishing, I was shocked and delighted to see my name in the top five female 5k finishers!

Best aspects of the event:
  • Cheap registration
  • Plenty of free parking close to the start
  • Supporting local, community racing and charity
  • Finishers dog tag
  • Goodie bag with some snack samples and coupons
  • Fun reason to get to the beach in winter
IMG_3705
What could have been better:

Runners who usually participate in bigger races may miss some of the extras they get with higher registration fees, such as:

  • Finishers medal
  • Tech shirt
  • Chip timing
  • Spectators, fanfare, beer garden, post-race festival, etc.

Even if you’ve never run a step in your life, I highly recommend trying out a 5k in your city. Walking, jogging, skipping, and moonwalking are all acceptable ways to reach the finish line – just getting out there is what really counts!

(Image: XWL)

Race Report: Catalina Eco Half Marathon

IMG_3553Two weeks ago was my big fall race, the Catalina Island Eco Half Marathon. I’d been wanting to do this race for a couple of years now, but was nervous about the super hilly terrain. With my work commute eating up more free time than I’d like (as well as an old foot injury), my training was down to just two runs each week. I did cram a good amount of hills into my low mileage, which seemed to make an impact on my better than expected race performance.

Race day includes 10k, half marathon, and full marathon courses, starting in the tiny town of Avalon. It’s a pretty great set up! Every hotel is within a 5 minute walk of the start line and there were only about 700 total runners. Compared to the half marathons I’ve done in the past with 10,000+ runners, it was like a ghost town that morning.
After a breakfast of oatmeal with chia seeds, walnuts, coconut, and banana, followed by a few warm-up exercises, I was ready to go at the 8:30am gun. The weather report predicted a high of 80 degrees, which is way hotter than ideal for a race of this difficulty. Thoroughly slathered with sunscreen and a brimmed running hat, I set out for the half with 227 other trail runners.
Miles 1-2
We got a half-mile warm-up winding through the tiny paved roads of Avalon before the infamous climb began. Heading south, I carefully paced myself up the road towards Wrigley Mansion that sits high above the bay.
 Catalina_half_elevation
Miles 3-5
Off the road and onto trail! The grueling uphill continued and didn’t relent for those three miles. Not easy, but less steep than I imaged from the course profile (above). I was able to run slowly up most of it and started picking off other runners one by one.

My adventure in LA bicycle commuting

15838526718_eddd18dea0_zTwo weeks ago, I got a wild hair up my ass to ride my bike to work. I’m no stranger to all the wonderful things a bike commute can do for the rider and the environment. However, my previous workplace was a mere five miles from home on a flat road with a big, fat bike lane the whole way. Piece of cake.

My new job is a whole different story. Since April, I’ve joined the throngs of people who sit in their cars for hours each day in bumper-to-bumper traffic from my humble San Fernando Valley home to my job on the west side of LA . I feel that it’s a complete waste of my time and is slowly sucking the life out of me. Not a fan. Super lame.

For months, I’d been contemplating trying out the journey on my road bike. I’ve been a cyclist for over 10 years now, having covered thousands of miles throughout southern and central California on two skinny tires. I can handle myself in traffic and felt ready for this challenge, despite the fact that my regular cycling has taken the back burner to trail running over the past year.

On a Wednesday morning, the urge took over. I pumped up my tires, tested my lights, and loaded up a backpack with clothes and lunch for the day.

Morning ride:

I hit the road at 8:30am. My work day starts at 10am and I wanted to give myself plenty of time for the ride and changing clothes once I got there. There was a lot of traffic to dodge, but I enjoyed this leg of the journey:

  • The first climb is a killer, but I gotta get over the hill sooner or later.
  • Fly by the Hollywood Bowl.
  • Right turn at Hollywood High School.
  • Fountain claims to let bikes use full lane, but drivers think otherwise.
  • West Hollywood bike lane! Sweet.
  • Exchanged stop light pleasantries with guy in truck.
  • Beverly Hills Hotel construction zone.
  • Weed dispensaries by the 405.
  • Welcome to Santa Monica, but you won’t be seeing the beach today.
  • Work.
  • Stats: 14 miles; 65 min
Evening ride:
My workday ends at 7pm, so by the time I changed back into my still sweaty cycling clothes, mounted my lights, and arranged the weight of my backpack just right, it was already 7:20. We had a bit of Fall weather that day, so it was chilly and somewhat windy going home. I took a slightly different route:
  • Dang, this all looks different in the dark.
  • Wait. There are TWO Santa Monica Blvds??
  • Hooray again for West Hollywood bike lanes!
  • Troubadour.
  • Hollywood streets are wicked bumpy. Getting tired.
  • Wait. There are TWO Cahuenga Blvds??
  • Why am I going 5 mph on this street that looks flat?
  • Spirit broken. Pulled over to gripe.
  • Back up the final hill! Stopped at the top to order a burger.
  • Flew down the hill, quick stop to pick up that burger.
  • Home safe and sound just before 9pm. Burger and hot shower on the menu.
  • Stats: 16 miles; 88 min

Overall, this was a good experience. But is it worth it? I’m already spending about 2 hours each day car commuting. Bike commuting bumped that up to about 2.5 hours (not including extra time to change clothes and freshen up at work). Am I willing to sacrifice even more of my time for this? Arg.

Positives:
  • Save money on gas & car maintenance.
  • One less car on the road.
  • Exercise!
  • Way more interesting/exciting than driving.
  • AM route took the same amount of time door-to-door as driving.
Negatives:
  • Danger! LA drivers can be impatient and aggressive, particularly towards cyclists.
  • PM route is in the dark and more uphill.
  • PM route took longer than driving home and was difficult at the end of my work day (at my standing desk).
  • A bit sweaty and less “put together” at work.
  • Can’t make evening plans after work.

The jury is out on whether I’ll do this on a regular basis (or ever again). The good news is that new opportunities for working closer to home continue to spring up!

(Image: ChrisBird)

A few fun activities before rejoining the workforce

IMG_3269As this was the last week of my unemployment (I start my new job on Tuesday), I figured I’d try to squeeze in some last minute fun activities.

I trekked up to Simi Valley, home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, on Monday. I got to walk through the 40th president’s awesome 80’s Air Force One and President Johnson’s Marine One helicopter. They also had an exact replica of Reagan’s White House Oval Office (yes, there were several jars of jelly beans), a section of the Berlin Wall, and a vintage car exhibit. Not a bad way to spend a gorgeous, sunny day. It was a bit crowded due to spring break, but I managed to get some quiet time on a bench for a picnic lunch of Easter leftovers.

Also this week, I went up to the Griffith Observatory with my sister, nephew, and niece. Another beautiful day of exploring. The kids particularly liked the Tesla Coil demonstration and the scales that told us how much we would weigh on each planet. In the afternoon, we battled some east-bound LA traffic to Pasadena for a visit to the “literary landmark” known as Vroman’s Bookstore.

And finally, today was a last-minute addition to end my week with a good workout! Earlier in the week, a friend who was running the Hollywood Half Marathon emailed me looking for some company to the event.  I’ve run many half marathons before, but am not up to the task right now, so I opted for the 10K. The 6am start was a bit rough, but it ended up being a great race for me! I finished in exactly one hour (9:45 average pace for 6.24 miles), which makes me very happy!

Why yes, I am addicted to podcasts

43165466_d0964e3234_oI’ve been using Stitcher on my iPhone since June 24, 2011 to listen to a variety of podcasts. I just can’t seem to get enough of them. I recently looked up my stats in the app:

  • My listening hours – 2,817
  • Number of episodes – 6,579

Holy crap! I’m not sure how to feel about these numbers. Obviously, I don’t just sit around in my pajamas while I listen; I’m most frequently driving, running, getting ready for work in the morning, or cooking dinner at night. Even so, that’s a heck of a lot of my time – over 16 weeks! That must make me some kind of weird expert on random stuff, right!? Likely not. But I do learn quite a bit while being entertained, which is the whole point for me. Many shows have come and gone from my playlist over the last 3 1/2 years. I’d like to share with you some of my current favorites that I think more folks should know about. Have a listen and enjoy!

Personal Finance:

Healthy Lifestyle:

Running/Fitness:

  • Marathon Talk – Hosts Martin and Tom are super likeable! Been listening faithfully for years.
  • Trail Runner Nation – Hosts Don and Scott crack me up with their “casual” interviewing style.
  • Ultra Runner Podcast – I love to hear from runners covering a crazy amount of mileage.
  • Endurance Planet – I like their “Ask the Coach” sessions on training and fueling.

Pop Culture:

Here’s a recent list of US News’ Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts to Follow. I’m going to check a few of them out!

(Image: Allen)

Tour de Palm Springs bike ride

IMG_3143In the great tradition of romantic Valentines Days of yore, mine was spent pedaling across a 90 degree desert in lovely Southern California at the 17th Annual Tour de Palm Springs Bike Ride!

With some of my new found free time, I’ve ramped up my cycling over the past few months and thought that this event would be a fun, small escape from my job hunt. I’ve previously done this ride twice before, opting for the 100-mile route. The days of putting my body through such torture are behind me, even though many would say that 50 miles still is torture! But I love these organized rides for several reasons:

  • They give me a distance goal to aim for in my cycling training
  • They’re a great excuse to get out of town for a day or weekend with like-minded friends
  • They bring the wacky cycling community together
  • They promote exercise, being outdoors, and spending time with friends/family within the community
  • They raise money for charities through registration fees

I was happy to find a new cyclist friend, Mike, through a Meetup group last month. After only riding together once, we arranged to carpool out to Palm Springs early on Saturday morning. I was glad for the company, since I decided that springing for a hotel room wasn’t the best idea right now. With the registration fees being about $70 and adding gas and lunch, that is plenty of mulah for me to part with.

The drive was less than two hours and we got to the start line in plenty of time. There were a few thousand cyclists doing the 50-mile course and I was surprised to find that I was able to pass many of them! After nearly four hours of cycling time (almost five hours if you include breaks), Mike and I crossed the finish line with members of the local community cheering us on! He and I ended up riding a total of 56 miles that day, which was his 2nd longest ride ever and my longest ride in about a year. It was a hot day and we were dirty, aching, and hungry when it was done.

Within 30 minutes of finishing, we met up at a Mexican restaurant with my friend who did the 100-miler. I totally indulged in a Negra Modelo and greasy plate of carnitas nachos! Heaven. After a tiny bit of stretching/walking, we hopped back in my car and made the journey home with little LA traffic issues. Showering that night was the best thing EVER!

If you dabble in cycling at all, I highly recommend participating in an organized “fun ride” in your neighborhood. You might find yourself hooked! Happy riding.

Time for a Turkey Trot

turkey trotMany people look forward to this week in late November in anticipation of the grand meal we call Thanksgiving. I am one of those people (I love food), but another fun perk of the week is the good old neighborhood 5K Turkey Trot run/walk!

Without any specific training, I ran such a trot on Sunday that started just two blocks from my front door. Even better than that – it was FREE! So many 5K races these days are between $25 and $45 to register. This one cost me just a $5 donation to the local elementary school in the form of seven raffle tickets (which did not garner me any valuable prizes). Darn.

I’ve been a runner for the past ten years now. I have five marathons under my belt and more than a dozen half marathons. I’ve never been particularly fast, but I have a great time doing it and it keeps me pretty happy overall. Earlier this year, I did two significant hikes. I traveled to Tanzania for a 6-day climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa (say it with me: Budget Buster). One month later, I hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in one day (about 24 miles). Both were brutal for different reasons and I decided that I wanted a significant break from running and hiking. So for the past several months, I’ve been taking a weekly Piloxing class and doing Supreme 90 workout videos at home. I attribute that and  my mostly paleo diet to a 7 pound weight loss and feeling stronger each week.

So to my surprise, I was able to crank out this 5K in 28:32, which is just over a 9-minute per mile pace. Woot! Feeling good about that, as my training pace is usually between 10-11 minutes per mile. In the first mile, I was worried that I started too fast in trying to keep up with those around me. It’s been a long time since I’ve raced at this distance, but I’ve found that pacing is much more critical the longer you’re running. So I figured I’d just go for it and see what happens. The only one who knows or cares about my performance in this event is me.

About half way through the run, I started chatting with a nice guy, Randy, and we ended up finishing together. I love finding someone to run with (if they’re game, of course); it really helps push me to keep going and not stop for a walk break. I struggled the last half mile but made it to the end with little left in the tank. Very happy with myself…I need to do these 5Ks more often!

I recommend finding one in your hood to run, jog, walk, push a stroller, or whatever! Just get out there and get moving! Happy Thanksgiving.