Tag Archives: marathon training

Workout Wednesday: Go with your gut

Happy Workout Wednesday! Can you believe it’s March? I can’t. Seriously I can’t because it looks like this outside right now:

Regardless of unseasonable weather, we’re back for another installment of Workout Wednesday.

workout wednesday, simply social blog, workout tips, exercises

Today I’m telling you to go with your gut when it comes to a workout.

And no I’m not suggesting that you lead with your belly. Nor that you have a belly to lead with for that matter. Speaking more figurative gut than literally gut if that makes any sense.

Let me explain.

My training plan said to run 3-4 miles last night.

My legs said stay home we’re tired.

My brain said it’s too cold and snowy to run outside. You should go to the gym.

My gut said run outside.

And so I did.

It’s kind of weird what happens when you follow your gut. Everything else finds a way of falling into place. Well not literally falling. But if your gut tells you to run in the snow you might want to prepare yourself for a spill or two as well.


My gut said run outside. And once I did, my legs felt strong and pushed me faster because of the cold. My brain reconsidered that gym suggestion as thoughts and concerns from the day cleared away with each mile. And my gut laughed when halfway through my eyes got a sneak peek at a future Chicago PD episode being shot in the neighborhood.

chicago PD filming in chicago, little italy, chicago PD television show, workout wednesday, running tops

Go with your gut. Even if your body doesn’t feel up to it. You’ll be glad you did.

Have a great workout!

Workout Wednesday: Running Indoors

I hope you’ll indulge me as I try something new this year on the blog, a new theme I am calling Workout Wednesday. And before we get into it, I know what you’re thinking:

What a unique name! No other blogger has ever been creative enough to come up with a theme that balances equal parts alliteration and accuracy. You must have majored in advertising, Sarah.

And you would be right. My experience in marketing might encourage me to call these posts Sweatin’ with Sarah or Muscles by Murph, but for the sake of time let’s just stick with the cliché.

workout wednesday, simply social blog, workout tips, exercises

I typically spend more time working out than I do baking or photo-taking so I thought I would try to share a few of my workouts/observations and overall opinions as they relate to exercise with you on an occasional basis. Whether you workout regularly or not, my hope is that these posts resonate with you in some way and give you some inspiration to change things up. Let’s start with once a month and work up our endurance, shall we?

Disclaimer: I am simply a girl who has spent a lot of time playing sports, running around Chicago and in the gym. Like anything on this blog, these posts are just my opinions and should not be taken in any other form. Exercise is an exercise in trial and error, right crazy weight plate guy? 

Years spent playing year-round sports left me with a void when I entered college.

Like many students, I frequented the gym in an effort to maintain my fitness and offset the late-night pokey sticks. In between classes, I took a job at the local Rec center, a place that not only satisfied my love for sports, but one that brought me several great friendships that I still maintain today.

Until recently, I was a total cardio queen. To spend 45-60 minutes of my workout on the treadmill or elliptical was pretty typical. When I moved to Chicago, I got bit by the running bug and never looked back. In doing so, I stopped lifting weights entirely. It wasn’t until I over-trained for the marathon last year and got injured that I was forced to cut back, literally.

It took a lot of rest and rehab to snap me out of it, but I’ve learned it’s better to be a cardio princess than a queen. You know, less responsibility.

Less cardio time meant more time for weights, something I used to love but never made time for. And with hindsight being 20/20, I now realize that my lack of lifting greatly contributed to my running injury in the first place.

Now don’t get your calorie-burning pants in a ruffle, ladies. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do cardio. I am merely suggesting that you cut down your time and in doing so up your intensity. Would you believe me if I told you you could burn more calories with 25 minutes of proper intensity followed by weights than double the time just doing cardio? Math was never my favorite but I did take AP Calc my senior year when everyone opted for other electives so trust me on this one. It works.

Having a certified athletic trainer as a boyfriend has its perks–one of which is a customized plan to get your body healthy again after injury. The catch? You have to put in the work. And in my case, with a “trainer” who is perhaps better suited as a drill sergeant, or green beret, or enforcer. Lucky for you I’m all about sharing, so in future posts I hope to offer some tips and shortcuts I’ve learned from my drill sergeant along the way. For now, let’s stick to the things I’ve learned on my own. 


Today I’ll run you through what I believe to be the essentials for a quick treadmill workout. It seems only appropriate seeing as how most of our worlds are still frozen right now, forcing us inside for our workouts. So lace up those running shoes and let’s hit the rolling canvas thingamajig better known as the treadmill.

indoor running essentials, treadmill workout, simply social blog, tips for running on a treadmill, workout gear

  • Decide you are going to run before you get to the gym. Setting a schedule immediately increases your chances of actually following through with the workout. Unless I am training for something that requires more, I run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I’ve found my body does better when I don’t run two days in a row. For the other days, I alternate between yoga, the spin bike or an elliptical workout and weights.
  • Set your distance goal past where you think you can go. Again, unless I’m training for a race, I typically shoot for a minimum of 3 miles. No matter what, mile one always feels awful. I’ve found that if you tell yourself you are going to do 3, mile 1 doesn’t seem as intimidating and mile 2 goes by much quicker. Mix up your distances. In tonight’s case, I did 3 miles for the 3 Heath bar cookies I ate before I left for the gym. Oops! 
  • Bring the right gear. For me this includes everything in the picture above:
    • A large towel- Call me crazy but I like to bring my own towel to the gym. One big enough to cover the machine if I don’t want to see my distance and to cover the mat for stretching. Plus, you really need a big one to wipe all the sweat you’re going to produce in that swamp air.
    • Water Bottle-be conscious of the spout so you can drink from it without slowing your pace or choking.
    • A good magazine– I switch between Runner’s World and Cooking Light. Even if you can’t focus to read the articles, it helps to have a magazine to look at in case your treadmill lacks a television or adequate people-watching.
    • Proper headphones– I love my YurBuds. So much so that I’m on my fourth pair because I have a profound ability to lose the left ear cover over and over. I would like to thank the YurBuds team for releasing a set specifically designed to fit our tiny woman ears. Go get yourself a pair.
    • Music via iPod/iPhone or smartphone. I prefer using my iPhone lately. Specifically so I can listen to FitRadio while I workout. It’s free, it’s DJs and it will change your workout.
    • Not pictured: chewing gum. I’m sure this goes against safety recommendations but I can’t run without a piece of gum. If you need me to be specific, this kind:

  • Up the incline. I think this is fairly well-known, but putting your incline up to 1 percent is equivalent to running outside in terms of elevation. Do it right when you get on the treadmill and you won’t notice a difference. Otherwise you’ll be in for a treat when you try to match your distance in the real world. 
  • Cover up your treadmill. Use a magazine or your large towel to block the screen. Not focusing on your speed or distance will leave time for all those other things you need to focus on, like not falling off and breathing.
  • Add intervals for your last mile. Intervals are a great way to fight boredom during the last mile of your run as well as a killer calorie burner. I typically do mine more by distance than time but either will work. Try to increase your speed by at least a minute/mile for 30 seconds to one minute, then slow it down for the same amount of time. So if you are running at a 9:15, increase your speed to 8:15 or faster during your interval sprint. 
  • Foam roll. Most gyms have a foam roll. It may take some searching but using a foam roll is a great way to avoid injury and release your muscles after a run. Be prepared for a few stares though. Not everyone is aware that some foam rolling positions can look similar to rehearsal for the call on me video.

If you’re anything like me you get comfortable in your routines, your workout is no exception. Just trust me and give these tips a try. They will leave you more time to spend with the babies, puppies, cats, Chicago Fire and significant others in your life, though not necessarily in that order.

Have a great workout!

How do you save time at the gym? 

What’s your favorite type of cardio?

Do you stretch after working out? 

Perks of a taper week

Happy marathon week to all you runners out there! For those of you not running a marathon it’s likely you are either getting married or watching others get married this weekend. After all, the second weekend of October is typically celebrated one of these two ways. A small percentage of you have nothing more than visiting a pumpkin patch on your agenda. That’s OK too. Making decisions at pumpkin patches can be challenging.

For my fellow runners, the week leading up to the marathon is a taper week. Most of you are probably going crazy trying to figure out what to do with all your free time that doesn’t involve running. By now your friends and family just want this stupid race over with so you can go back to being your old self again. No? Oh that just must be mine. As someone who has been not running at all “tapering” for two weeks now, let me offer some advice. Cook something. Bake, why don’t ya? Because nothing says taper like 3 loaves of pumpkin bread, homemade pesto and a gigantic batch of chili does it now?

pumpkin bread, pesto, chili

This weekend the air was crisp, the leaves were changing and the sun was shining. Perfect running weather, right? I know. But also perfect baking weather. See how I justified that? It’s all about changing your outlook.

Shall we begin?

My Thursday night went a little something like this

canned pumpkin baking ingredients instagram

So it was inevitable that I was going to make something with pumpkin the very next day. As if that wasn’t incentive enough, a friend saw the photo on Instagram and requested a dessert. Supply and demand matched up and out popped a massive batch of pumpkin bread. I really have a way of making appetizing things sound completely unappetizing, don’t I?

pumpkin bread streusel topping

I make banana bread all year long but come October I like to change it up. It’s a little trick I call adding pumpkin in everything and anything. Try it sometime. It’s fun.

I can’t remember if I made this recipe in years past or not but I chose it based on quantity and a chocolate chip kicker. I’ve tried pumpkin chocolate chip cookies a few times and while they taste good, I find the consistency to be a little chewy for my taste. Like a cuffin. Not the urban dictionary definition, the half cookie, half muffin one.

Anywho I know my friends liked them so I wanted to share the chocolate chip batch with them. This makes enough for 3 loaves. I did one chocolate chip, 1 regular and two minis.

Side note: mini loaves are awesome because let’s just say a last minute party comes up Saturday night and you want to bring something. Boom. Small loaf is just enough for a host/hostess gift but not too much in case they are anti-pumpkin, paleo or presumptuous.

pumpkin bread streusel topping

Pumpkin Bread (adapted from Two peas and their pod)

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I did 1/2 C whole wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (added 1/2 C to one loaf)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare loaf pans. I used two 9×5 and 2 mini loaf pans.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl.

In your stand mixer, mix sugar, pumpkin, oil, water and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs.

Add dry ingredients to wet being careful not to overmix. You can easily do this by hand I just like the size of the bowl with my stand mixer. Fold chocolate chips into one portion of batter and fill loaf pan.

In a small bowl, mix 3 TBL brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a little flour. Top each loaf pan with streusel topping before baking.

Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on the heat of your oven. A knife should come out clean when bread is done. Note: small loaf pans will cook much faster.

pumpkin bread streusel topping

Let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes then flip bread out of loaf pans. Let cool again. Right foot two stomps. Left foot two stomps. Cha Cha real smooth. 

Take bread over by window to get better lighting for photograph. Try to get a good shot without your dog photobombing the bread.

swissy puppy photobombs pumpkin bread

warning: puppy in photo is not as close as he appears

Slice and serve for breakfast, brunch or dessert. Or if you’re tapering this week, all three. Just call it an early carb-load.

pumpkin bread streusel topping
Best of luck to all my fellow marathoners and marrieds this weekend!

Running Shoe Polygamy

I must admit, my blogging life is taking a hit as of late, both in content and in frequency. Trust me, I feel awful about it. Please accept my sincerest apology for my lack of blog effort over these past several weeks. I wish I could offer you a baked good in solace, but then I’d actually have to bake. And baking takes time. And in the words of Jessie Spano:

Time. Ah the good ol’ days. Back when I could whip up something tasty, stage it in good lighting and snap a few solid photos to share with you on this little thing called the internet. Wasn’t that fun?

I promise I’ll get back there someday. In actuality probably somewhere around mid-October, when my life no longer revolves around toeboxes, negative splits and DOMS.

Speaking of toeboxes, I’ve been battling with trying to build a new relationship with my running shoes. Never in my life did I think I would be that girl who 1) actually made use of her VIP membership at a local running store and 2) exchanged 3 pairs of running shoes within a month in an effort to find one that doesn’t ruin my feet. I know I’ve probably lost half of my readers by now just by talking about running shoes, but for those of you still with me, can I get an ‘I hear ya!’ ?

I had a brand of shoes that I loved. We ran lots of races together. A great 4-year relationship, really.

swiss mountain dog saucony ride running shoe

Finn loved those shoes too

That was until we surpassed 13 consecutive miles together. At which point, our relationship turned abusive when said pair of shoes gave me a black toenail. And seeing as how I don’t stand for abusive relationships I decided to test the water with a new brand of shoes. You know, just to see what was out there. 

brooks ghost running shoe

So I went out with the ever-so-popular Brooks Ghost. A lot of people said they loved Brooks, so they must be good, right? I gave them a shot and logged a good 100+ miles in them before I decided it was time for us to part ways. We pushed through a lot together, blisters, phantom foot pain and my longest run ever this past weekend of 18 miles.

18 mile run chicago marathon summer training CARA

It just wasn’t meant to be. No hard feelings.

So I’m returning my loyalty to Saucony again. This time in a bigger size. And in two different styles. I’m typically a monogamist but for the sake of my training I am trying my hand at shoe polygamy. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to how it goes as I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for the end to this love story.

In other news, I did manage to do a few things besides run this weekend. One of which was stumble upon the Renegade Craft Fair in my old neighborhood. I say stumble both because of the state of my legs and that I completely forgot that the fest was going on until we ran into it while attempting to visit a local BBQ spot, Smoke Daddy.

renegade craft fair 2013 wicker park smoke daddy bbq

I’m always amazed at the creativity exhibited by these artists. From pie boxes to stuffed banjos, it is so fun to see small business at work. We didn’t have a lot of time as we were just waiting for a table, but I did manage to snag several business cards of vendors I plan on checking out this year. Experiences like this remind me of going to the art fair with my mom when I was little. Except now we can drink beer. And drinking beer while looking at crafts is far more fun. Point for getting older!

I may not get another post in this week as we are heading out to San Diego for a wedding/mini-vacation. I am really looking forward to some R&R time with family and friends and a few dates with my new shoes.

Have a great week!