04/3/13

The Yasso 800s

 

Have you ever heard of the Yasso 800s? I’ve become obsessed with them over the last few months. It’s a heart-thumping, leg-ripping running workout that can help you predict your marathon finishing time.

The quick-and-dirty version of the Yasso 800s: run 10 sets of 800 metres and jog 400 metres between each set. A simple workout — at least on paper. Here’s the cool part: you can predict your marathon time based on the time it takes for you to run all ten of the 800-metre sets. Want to finish a marathon in three hours, 30 minutes? Shoot for three-minute-and-30-second 800s. Want a three-hour marathon? Aim to get each of your 800s accomplished in 3 minutes flat.

Bart Yasso, the race services manager at Runner’s World, developed his 800s series for his own marathon training. He told his boss, Amby Burfoot,  about it one day. Burfoot then tested it out with various marathon runners (who ran everything from 2:09 to over 4 hours) and “darn if the Yasso 800s didn’t hold up all the way down the line.”

In the 12 years since Runner’s World published the first piece on the Yasso 800s, it’s become an incredibly popular workout among marathon runners. I learned about it this winter when I read Yasso’s wonderful book My Life on The Run. I recommend the book even if you’re not training for any races. Yasso tells his story about why he loves to run — and that love has nothing to do with speed and marathon times. For anyone who is training, he includes great training programs for a variety of distances.

As for me and the Yasso 800s, I’m not going to lie: the first sets are easy; but the last one — oh, the terrible last one — hurts so much that even the backs of my eyeballs throb.

In any case, it’s a tough workout and a great treadmill workout, which might just come in handy on a day like today. (It’s snowing here in Calgary!)

~Chris

Photo via here

PS – I forgot to mention: I’m not training for a marathon. This is for fun.

 

 

04/1/13

New Running Gear

To celebrate spring’s arrival – and the outdoor running season! – I picked up a few new running pieces. I put them to the test this weekend while visiting my family in Edmonton. Saturday morning, I headed to my university-era stomping grounds to tackle the long run I used to love. My knee is still in recovery from the half marathon I ran ages ago (it’s getting better but progress is SLOW…perhaps I should follow the experts’ advice and do my rehab ‘homework’ every day) so I cut the run short and added a few sets of stairs by the high-level bridge.

The new gear felt great. Exhibit A: a Nike running hat, which I snagged at The Tech Shop on 4th St. S.W., and these Oakleys, which have little grips to keep them in place. Love them both.

Nike hat and Oakleys

Exhibit B: my new Mizuno Wave Riders. Mizuno is my long-time go-to running shoe. The Wave Riders are comfortable, light and provide the perfect amount of support. My only complaint with them is the Mizuno colour schemes, which aren’t my favourite. I wish there were a few more options, but I am happy to sacrifice colour for function.

New running gear

After my run, I treated myself to a delicious latte at Transcend Coffee in the Garneau Theatre building on 109th St. This place would be my regular coffee stop if I lived in Edmonton — so tasty! Perfect way to end a sunny Saturday morning.

The whole weekend — including visits with family and friends, some ping pong and lots of chocolate — was lovely. I hope that your Easter weekend was also filled with happiness and Mini Eggs galore.

~Michelle

 

01/30/13

My Favourite Winter Workout Gear

I came home from California in the wee hours of Sunday morning. It was a beautiful perfect blue-sky Calgary day, my favourite kind of day for a winter run. Even though I was operating on no sleep, I set out for a jaunt and rattled off seven glorious miles that afternoon.

Great weather makes me run faster. The other thing that always works? New workout gear. In my hippie-weirdo way, I make a point of working out extra hard so I can infuse my new belongings with a really good workout spirit that can carry me through future workouts. Weird, yes; Effective, unquestionably. It’s a good trick for the end of January when New Year’s resolutions are wearing thin.

In case you’ve money burning holes in your wallet, here are my favourite things for right now:

Nike Pro Hyperwarm Printed Tights. I love patterned tights lately. They’re fun. And, believe me, nothing inspires you to get moving like seeing your ass in patterned spandex.

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I’ve been ogling Lululemon’s Run: Bundle Up Jacket *Reflect jacket since Christmas. I keep talking myself out of it as I’m not going to need it in California next year. But every time I run outside, I regret not owing it.

Lululemon Bundle Up Jacket

In three out of the four seasons, I hate socks extend above the tops of my trainers. Winter’s the exception. I like my ankles covered for outside runs. I stick to my favourites, by Sugoi, in this tall version shown here.

Sugoi 1/4 Sock

 

I hate carrying anything in my shirt or jacket pocket when I run. It’s not comfortable to have anything banging against your chest or your back while running. I like the these Banjee Wrist Wallets. They’re big enough for an ipod and keys.

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I’m eager to try the new Mizuno Wave EVO Cursoris, one of the company’s new minimalist shoes. Lighter shoes have been easier on my Achilles as I increase my training after last summer’s injury.

Mizuno Wave EVO Cursoris

And, because it’s 10,000 degrees below zero tonight, I’m all about hitting up hot yoga tomorrow. This tie-dye bra from Free People nails it.

Free People Tie Dye Bra

 

That’s all, folks. Stay warm. Remember, all these things work well if you just feel like staying in and drinking hot chocolate, too. I won’t judge.

~Chris

11/21/12

Reebok Crossfit Ramsay

Last Wednesday, Michelle and I went on a workout adventure to the new Reebok Crossfit Ramsay as guests of Reebok.

You should know a few things about my state of mind when we arrived.

1. The idea of a Crossfit class freaked me out. The classes last one hour and combine elements of Olympic weight lifting, high-intensity calisthenics and gymnastics. Pull-ups feature prominently in the classes. I can’t do pull-ups. Michelle can.

1.b. I can do this and this and Michelle can’t. But no one cares about those kind of things in Crossfit.

2. I’ve heard to expect plenty of shouting and machismo in Crossfit classes. I don’t do well under either scenario.

3. My foot, although so much better, is still a little wimpy. I feared the box jumps and almost had my physio write me a note so I could get out of them. Then I decided that was childish. Instead, I planned to fake a stomachache if called upon to jump on boxes a la this agile lady.

Let’s break down the evening.

5:00: We arrive at the gym, set in a big industrial space near the Crossroads Farmers Market. From the outside, we hear men shouting as though they are trying rip each other apart with their hands. I tell Michelle that I’m afraid.

5:01: I also tell her that I’m planning to wear bright pink new shoes. This seems important as we walk into the den. Perhaps they can use this info to identify my body after class.

5:05: We get a tour of the place. The gym is separated into three sections: a little space to the side where the shouting men are just lifting weights. There is much eye-rolling from everyone else with regards to this section. I find relief in this. Next, there’s a large section in the middle with a big Crossfit board, medicine balls, funny little ab mats and a real dog. And at the back, the big room where the Crossfit class was just about to start. Michelle and I promptly name it “Big Scary Room.”

5:20: We meet our instructor and get the lowdown on Crossfit for beginners. We will not — amen! — be going into the Big Scary Room where, at that time, women and men were throwing themselves into pullups and box jumps with admirable fervor.

Crossfit has a very good program for introducing newbies to their system. You start with introductory Workouts of the Day (those are “WODS” in Crossfit parlance) and must go through 12 WODS with an instructor before you move into Big Scary Room.

5:30: We’re a group of six students of varying degrees of fitness. We warm up with a series of dynamic stretches and fun little handstand things. I’m happy here.

5:40: We’re introduced to our skills for the day — sit-ups and medicine ball cleans. I nail the sit-ups. The medicine ball cleans involve a deceptive amount of coordination. Our instructor goes through the skills carefully with each of us.

6:00: We’re introduced our WOD, a pyramid set of sit-ups and medicine ball cleans, starting at 10 and working down to 1. Our instructor is just about to set the timer to kick us off when I ask, “So can we do these together — like a team?”

Michelle dies inside that she is affiliated with me.

I’m informed that this is a race and the timer starts. Now I’m behind. On my left, Michelle is medicine-ball cleaning like a mad woman. There are multiple challenges here: maintain your form (which I keep losing, especially when the instructor is taking my picture; it’s hard to look attractive and squat quickly with a giant medicine ball); keep your counting straight; and get through everything as quickly as possible.

Michelle wins. Damn her. I come second. Yay me.

6:15: We get to do some stretching. I win. Perhaps no one else knew we were still competing.

6:30: We leave and go to the bar.

Final thoughts: I really liked Crossfit. It would be a fun and tough workout to do regularly with a friend. I can’t guarantee but I believe that by the time you’re ready for Big Scary Room, Big Scary Room won’t be so scary. There are people of mixed fitness levels here, including some remarkable athletes. The price packages vary. Check out the full list here. The BASICS: Crossfit Fundamentals Course costs $95.00 for a month.

Our workout gear was compliments of Reebok.

 

Here is the Big Scary Room:

 

~Chris

09/10/12

My Stay at Rancho La Puerta

Two weeks ago, I spent five days at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico. It was my first experience at a fitness resort but, thanks to the incredible time I had there with Lana Rogers, Caroline Gault and Noah Lehava, it will not be my last. If you’ve never been to a wellness resort — this one has been around since 1940, by the way, and is just an hour’s drive from San Diego — think of it as summer camp for adults. All day, every day, you have your choice of incredible fitness classes, meditation sessions and lectures by visiting experts, not to mention spa services of every kind. I was in heaven. We started every day with a hike at 6:15 a.m., had breakfast and then hit our first classes at 9 a.m. In my short stay there (most people stay a full week), I tried the following classes: body bar, cardio muscle blast, abs and cycle, mobilize and release (massage with tennis balls), Qi dance (we laughed through the whole thing), yoga sculpt (yoga with weights — amazing), sculpt and strengthen and more. I was in heaven. I was also bagged at the end of every day, hitting my bed by 8:30.

I’ll be writing about Rancho for Wine Access magazine — with a focus on the healthy fare and local wine we tried — so will keep you posted on when the issue comes out!

Till then, have a look at Rancho’s incredible surroundings. The grounds cover 3,000 beautiful acres that have everything from meadows with swinging chairs to many gyms, pools and health centres. Did I mention it was heaven?

One more thing: the coolest activity I tried there was an incredibly moving and peaceful experience, called Watsu. It’s essentially water shiatsu performed one-on-one in a warm pool. With flotation devices strapped around my legs, the, um, Watsu Guy (my own technical term) held my upper back and head out of the water, all the while stretching and massaging me. I drifted in and out of the sunlight — and what felt like in and out of waking — and it was bliss.

On our flight home the next day, I felt like a new (and very well-rested) person. I can only imagine what a full week there would do for you. Actually, I don’t want to imagine it for long — I’m going to head back to Rancho La Puerta as soon as I can. Who’s going with me?

~Michelle