Wednesday, November 30, 2016

YogaDev Yoga Wheel: Review & Giveaway

As a typical runner, I tend to focus my fitness on things that will improve my running, namely, running. πŸ˜ƒ

But as my physical therapist, orthopedic doc, and family doctor all lecture tell me, I have to incorporate some low-impact activity into my weekly routine. Specifically, yoga has been known to help runners significantly as it helps restore flexibility and strength into muscles that assist in running.

Over the years, I have dabbled in some at-home yoga practice. It's not been something I have done regularly, but it's something that I am making a priority moving forward; mainly because I keep getting injured.

So, it was a pleasant surprise when YogDev reached out to me a few weeks ago and offered to send me a yoga wheel to review on my blog- and sponsor a giveaway so I can give one to my readers! Contest information is at the end of this review.

So, what is a yoga wheel? It is a tool used in yoga, similar to a yoga block, that can assist in different poses, stretches, and strengthening exercises. I had never used one before so it was a little intimating when I pulled it out of the box.

It came with a little cheat sheet of poses that you can do with your yoga wheel. The first night I got my new wheel, in my infinite wisdom, I decide that I'm going to try and do a super-advanced pose and try to balance on top of this hard plastic wheel.

You can guess what happened- I totally bit it. Let me caution you with this- if you're not a professional yogi, don't try "garland" (pictured above) as your first pose with a yoga wheel. πŸ˜‰

After learning what not to do with a yoga wheel, I checked out YogDev's pose guide online for some instructional videos on how to properly use the wheel as a beginner. I also found this YouTube gem that gave me some cool strengthening moves to check out.

I pulled together a few of the poses, stretches, and exercises to make a routine for myself focusing on my hips and hamstrings. One of the things I loved about using the wheel is that I can modify some of my favorite moves (like a single-leg bridge) using the wheel to balance instead of using a large stability ball. With as much as we travel, this yoga wheel is way more portable than a stability ball and I felt like I got a better workout using the wheel because I had to use more of my muscles to balance.

The smile disappears when the move gets intense! 

I also was able to do a modified single-leg squat coupled with a hamstring stretch (see above) and use the wheel in a controlled rolling motion. It was a pretty effective move and I love how using the wheel allowed me to add some extra stretch and balance to a single-leg squat.

The other benefit I found to using the wheel was being able to access some really restorative stretches and poses. Using this in a modified bridge pose, it was amazing how good it felt to get some release across the top of my back/in between my shoulder blades- that's where I carry all my stress. And the calf stretch pictured below is just what I needed after the longer runs of this marathon training cycle.

If I look uncomfortable, it's because I am. Need. More. Yoga.

Overall, I really enjoyed incorporating the YogDev Yoga Wheel into my fitness routine. I hope to keep using it and maybe one day I'll nail the "garland"- and I'll be sure to upload a picture for proof! This product is definitely well-made, comes in multiple fun colors, and has a great website with lots of information on how to use this appropriately in your yoga practice. All in all, I think it's pretty cool.

Want one of your own? Check out the rafflecopter below for your chance to win! Tweet every day between now and 12/7/16 for more chances. Winners will be notified via email on the morning of 12/7/16 and will have 48 hours to respond to claim the wheel.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: YogDev provided me with a free yoga wheel to review on this blog. I did not receive compensation in exchange for this review. As always, all opinions are on my own.

Have you ever used a yoga wheel or similar fitness product? What's your favorite piece of fitness equipment?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Accountability Monday: 11/28/16

Happy Monday!

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and full of good memories!

Matthew and I traveled to my family's home and got to spend some quality time with them over the weekend. We also ran three consecutive days for Matthew's Dopey Challenge training and I cannot tell you the last time I did that- as I get older and seem to be more injury-prone, I typically have to leave a lot of time in my week for recovery so I usually don't run on back-to-back days. That's one of the reasons I love the Galloway training plan as much as I do; tons of recovery after long runs.

That also brings up something else that I've been thinking about: run streaks. I follow lots of folks on social media and have tons of friends that participate in "run streaks," i.e., run every day for a certain amount of days. Currently, Runner's World is sponsoring one right now that encourages runners to get in at least a mile every day between now and New Year's Day.

While I love the idea of a run streak, it just isn't for me. My body cannot handle the stress of running every day for longer than a few days. I am in awe of people who have been running every day for years- my friend Brandi over at Funner Runner is on day 972 of her run streak! That is so amazing to me! If you're a frequent reader of this blog, then you know that the mere thought of running every day for longer than a week gives me an injury. πŸ˜‰ So while you won't find me using the #RWRunStreak on social media, I'll be cheering for you from my couch!

Wednesday- 2.5 miles, 12:01 pace
Thursday- Turkey Trot 5k, 11:50 pace
Friday- 16 miles with Matthew, 13:22 pace; 5 solo miles, 12:33 pace
Saturday- Yoga for Recovery: Runners
Sunday- PT knee/hip workout

I need more yoga in my life. Seriously, it helped tremendously with my recovery from Friday's long run; I've had very little soreness and muscle stiffness. However, I have to be honest- those 21 miles sucked. I don't think that I found a rhythm until mile 19. There wasn't one thing I can put my finger on as the cause, it was just one of those runs that wasn't particularly enjoyable. But- that's the thing about marathon training- some runs are awesome and life-affirming and some are horrid and stupid. Only one more long one stands between us and Disney; five weeks until WDW Marathon Weekend!!!

Food Find:
Y'all know what happened this week- Thanksgiving + left overs + family time at a local winery = lots of food and drink for me!

-1.8 this week
145.2 as of 11/22/16

Officially losing weight this training cycle has been surprisingly awesome! Though I'm not sure what this week will bring as currently, I'm at negative 38 Smart Points for the week. πŸ˜†

Non-Scale Victory:
I have been very happy with how I've been fueling during long runs lately- I feel like I'm getting just the right amount of fuel to keep going without taking in too many calories like I have when training for other races in the past. My brain will always tell me I need more food (old habits die hard) but luckily I'm learning to rely more on my body and hunger signals to tell me when to refuel.

Sport Beans work like magic for me.

That's it for this week!

Here's one more photo for you, just because it's Monday and pugs make everything better: Koda says, "Have a great week, friends!" ❤

That face ❤❤❤

Do you run streak? If so, what do you love about it? 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful List: 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is traditionally a time when families and friends gather around a table to eat, be together, and express gratitude for all the blessings they've experienced throughout the year. For me, this year is no different; every Thanksgiving, I like to write a post about what I'm thankful for (here's 2014 and 2015). So, here's the list of all the things I'm grateful for this year- even though there's no way I can capture it all in one post- these are some of the blessings I've known in the past year.

I am thankful for...

Cold beer after a long day or a long run.

Friends we've known forever and friends we've just met.

Traveling to lands familiar and strange.

Wooded trails that go on for miles and miles. 

Thirteen happy years with our family dog Brittany, who crossed the rainbow bridge in October.

Family that supports and loves us unconditionally.

This sweet fur baby Koda that fills our days with joy.

And this moment, when Matthew made me the luckiest and happiest woman on earth.

And of course, you, dear reader. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for being my friend. This blog has brought so many wonderful people into my life- thank you for being you. ❤

Wishing you and yours the happiest Thanksgiving ever!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Accountability Monday: 11/21/16

Good morning and..... HAPPY THANKSGIVING WEEK!

I hope you have wonderful plans for later this week that involve family, friends, and good food!

Matthew and I are planning all that plus a 23 mile run- aren't we lucky?! You can check out more about our training plan in yesterday's post.

Monday- PT and hip workout
Tuesday- 30 minute walk
Wednesday- PT workout
Thursday- 1.5 mile run, 11:33 pace
Saturday- PT and hip workout
Sunday- 6 miles, 12:19 pace

The boot is off! Yay! On the advice of my orthopedic doctor, I took the boot off this week in the evenings and slowly made my way back to running. So far, so good. I have some soreness in my feet but nothing too unusual. I'm starting to think that I'm just getting old and these aches and pains in my feet aren't serious- just annoying. I have a follow-up appointment with the doctor tomorrow so we'll see what she has to say.

20 mph winds during our run yesterday.

Food Find:
For the football games this weekend, I made skinnytaste's crock pot buffalo chicken lettuce wraps with skinnytaste creamy blue cheese dressing. Y'all need to make this one- it is so good! If you like buffalo wings, this is a tasty, low-fat substitute. The lettuce wrap and carrots provided a solid crunch and the dressing was heavenly! And for just 4 Smart Points per wrap, these are a guilt-free way to enjoy one of my favorite flavors.

I have no idea! Had to miss my meeting last week due to a work meeting so I'm operating without the scale for the moment. πŸ˜‰

Non-Scale Victory:
Matthew was out of town for a few days this week and usually this is a tricky time for me- I tend to binge eat when he's not home. Don't ask me why, it just tends to happen. But- this time, I didn't binge once! I'm proud of sticking to my plan and not using food to cope with my emotions. *high fives self*

Have a great week, friends and an even better Thanksgiving! Check back on Thursday for my annual "what I'm thankful for" post!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

2017 WDW Marathon Training Plan

In just 50 short days (fingers crossed!), I will toe the line for my third 26.2 mile race, the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon! Though I've been detailing my progress each week on my Accountability Monday posts, I wanted to dedicate a whole post to my marathon training plan. Please note, I am not a doctor and anything written here is simply my opinion and what works for me. If you're considering training for a marathon, please consult with your physician before starting any new fitness program.

For my very first half marathon- and for every half and full marathon since- I have used Jeff Galloway's training plans. This training cycle is no different. On runDisney's website, you can find training plans for each of their races, based on fitness level and time goal. For the 2017 marathon, I chose the "Experienced Runner" plan with the goal to "Finish in the Upright Position." There is also a "Time Improvement" option but my goal for this marathon is simply to finish and have enough energy to enjoy the Disney cruise we are taking the day after the race! πŸ˜„

What I love about Galloway's training plans:
  • You only run three days a week. 
  • The two mid-week runs are by time; not distance, just 30 minutes of easy effort.
  • Weekend long runs are spaced out with two weeks of lighter mileage in between so your body has adequate time to rest and recover. 
  • Plan includes helpful hints about pacing, walk/run ratios, and race-day strategies.

What I don't love about Galloway's training plans:
  • Nada.

What I don't use in Galloway's training plans:
  • Magic Mile. This is a time trial designed to help you figure out what your pace will be on race day. I have never felt the need to use this tool to predict my finish times. 

A sample of the week-by-week mileage as part of the runDisney/Galloway training plan.

As you may know, this training cycle has been a little wonky for me due to some injuries- tendinitis behind my left knee and unexplained pain in my left foot. Luckily, this training plan is pretty flexible and it builds slowly. There are a total of 28 weeks in the plan- more than six months of training! Because of the slow build up, missing out on a few training runs isn't as big of a deal as it might be with shorter training plans or plans that don't allow for a lot of rest between long runs.

I have probably missed 20-30% of the scheduled training runs but still feel very solid about my training. On the advice of my Physical Therapist, I scaled back the first eight weeks of the plan by cutting off a mile or two of each long run until the tendinitis cleared up and I'd worked back up to that level. I still did the twice-weekly 30 minute conditioning runs though I walked some of them during the times my tendinitis was flaring up. 

In the last six weeks of training, I have not missed a long run and I'm hopeful I'll be able to get in the last two, 20+ mile long runs before the marathon. Though the 13 miler felt like absolute crap, the 15, 17, and 20 all felt pretty great. 

Garmin screenshot proof of said long runs 😊

After the 13 miler, I stepped up my strength training/PT rehab routine. I added more hip and core strengthening exercises and do those two to three times a week on the days I don't run. My post-run hip pain has significantly decreased since I've added in more strength training. 

Some folks add other cardio in during marathon training. I typically do not. I prefer to add things like strength training, yoga, and extra stretching to my weekly running. Since I am injury-prone and already have weak, wonky feet, I try to be good to them and only do low-impact activities when I'm not running. I could probably add swimming to this training plan but it's not something I really enjoy so I find it hard to motivate myself to actually get to a pool to train. 

Looking forward to earning a Mickey medal.

Besides just the weekly mileage, there are two other key parts of my marathon training plan: fueling and sleeping! My nutrition plan for the marathon is pretty consistent with my non-marathon training diet; eat healthy, balanced meals the majority of the time. The only real difference is the last two weeks before the race. In those 14 days, I will drink an obscene amount of water; limit alcoholic drinks, and avoid fried and overly salty foods. I like to head into a race week without feeling bloated.

So far this cycle, I have actually lost weight. During Dopey Challenge training in 2013, I gained about five pounds, mainly because I used my long runs as an excuse to eat absolute junk on the weekends. Now, I try to refuel with lean protein, high fiber foods within a half hour of my long run. I also feel like I have a better idea of how much I need to eat during the long run and no longer over-fuel.

Quality sleep is also important for me during training. Both before and after long runs, I try to get as much sleep as possible, usually about eight hours pre-run. Even outside of training, sleep is really the key to healthy living for me- I make better choices when I'm well rested. The older I get, the more sleep I need! Anyone else?!

All of the above. 

The last part of my marathon training plan this round is self-care. As it becomes evident that I can no longer train without some kind of setback (usually in the form of an injury), taking care of myself mentally and physically is paramount. If I need to take a short break from running because I'm not mentally into it or something is hurting, I do it. If I need to take a bubble bath and relax with a good book instead of sneaking in an extra workout, so be it. In all my years of training, I think I've gotten much better at making sure that marathon training doesn't become priority over my mental or physical health. It is a significant part of my life, yes, but not so much that it takes over and adds another source of stress in my life. Marathon training should be fun. It should be challenging. But for me, it shouldn't be stressful. Listening to my body/mind is a huge part of marathon training.

So there you have it- my current marathon training plan that will hopefully lead me to another 26.2 mile victory in January! Please feel free to leave any questions that you have in the comments below.

How do you train for long distances?

Do you have any questions about training for a marathon?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Accountability Monday: 11/14/16

Good morning dear friends. I hope you had a fabulous weekend and are ready for whatever this week throws at you!

If you follow me on instagram, then you know I am back in the boot. I am very grateful for my PT fitting me in last Tuesday so I didn't have to wait all week to figure out what to do with this damn foot.

Lucky for me, I have an absolutely WONDERFUL PT who understands my paranoia and heightened awareness of my body and all its issues. We've decided to treat this aggressively- one week in the boot all day (except when sleeping), then one week only wearing the boot to work- I can take it off in the evenings. I can even try some walking and/or running later this week if my foot feels ok. I have a follow-up appointment on the 22nd to determine the need for an MRI. The x-ray looked fine.

I am trying very hard not to freak out about it. Worst case scenario, it's a stress fracture and I won't be able to run the marathon in seven weeks. Best case scenario, it's just tendinitis or something else wonky that will only set me back a little. Either way, I've dealt with both situations before and while it is out of my control, I can at least control how much it affects me and my well-being.

Obviously, I have not been doing any running since the 20 miler last weekend. I did manage two strength workouts this week and have been focusing on self-care in other ways resulting in two bubble baths, a few glasses of wine, and treating myself to a haircut and color this weekend. Oh yeah, we also decorated the house for Christmas while drinking hot chocolate so that helped put me in a great mood :-)

It is definitely the most wonderful time of the year. 

In weight-related news, I lost .6 this week despite having kind of a rough week, Smart Points-wise. I think I ended the week with -35. It happens.

Not much to report this Monday; hopefully I'll be back to running this week and will have a more positive post next week!

Sending you virtual hugs and well-wishes for a great week ahead!

Question of the week: What are your thoughts on the great debate- do you decorate for Christmas/Winter before or after Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Accountability Monday: 11/7/16

Good morning and happy Monday!

Let's dive right into last week:

Tuesday- 2.39 miles, 12:39 pace
Thursday- 3.01 miles, 10:29 pace
Saturday- 20 miles, 13:27 pace
Sunday- PT workout + strength training

Total- 25.4 miles!

Y'all- we ran TWENTY DAMN MILES this weekend! And kept up the pace we've averaged for the last few long runs; right around 13:30. And to be honest, the miles FLEW by on Saturday and we felt great- for the most part. For almost all of the run, my left foot was bothering me, kinda like my shoes were tied too tight and the front part of where my ankle meets my foot was hurting. So I readjusted my laces several times but it was still a little wonky. Sunday and today, I've had a couple of sharp pains on the top of my left foot (about an inch back from my toes) that are reminiscent of the stress fracture I had in 2014. I am hoping that I'm overreacting but have an appointment with the ortho for tomorrow morning just in case.

7 of the 20 were on this GORGEOUS trail.

Food Find:
KIND Bars + Power Crunch Bars = long run fuel magic. These bars are 7 Smart Points a piece and are great for my stomach on the long run. I ate a Power Crunch Bar at mile 8 and then ate half a KIND Bar at mile 17 this weekend. No stomach issues and they gave me the energy to finish strong.

Well-fed runners are happy runners.

Scale Victory:
Only gained 1.6 pounds in Ireland. I'm calling that a win :-)

Non-Scale Victory:
Since it rained on our wedding day, Matthew and I went back to our photographer for a "wedding attire" outdoor photo shoot last month. We absolutely LOVED the outcome! Why is this a non-scale victory? Because it's taken a long time for me to look at a picture of myself and not pick it apart with all the negative things I don't like about my body. It was refreshing to look at the proofs and just feel happy that our photographer captured our love beautifully instead of worrying about how "fat" I looked.

This is one of my favorites. 

Have a wonderful week, friends! And don't forget to do your civic duty tomorrow if you live in the USA: VOTE! :-) 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Stride Box Review

A few weeks ago, the awesome folks at StrideBox reached out to me and offered to send me a free box filled with runner goodies- obviously, I said yes! I've seen other IG runner friends post about their StrideBox subscriptions in the past so I was eager to see what all the hype was about.

From their website: "StrideBox is a fun and exciting way to discover running products and accessories. Each month, as a member, you will receive a curated box of gear, accessories, and nutrition products to fuel your training sessions, workouts, and races."  

My StrideBox had a Rundana headband, Sport Beans,
a motivational sticker, and some other neat running products.

I was pleasantly surprised with how much stuff was included in the box! Along with the products, they also sent a recipe card for homemade energy bars and a "Stride Guide" listing all the goodies in the box.

Adorable AND helpful.

So far, I've tried the Sport Beans (awesome!) and the evoke muesli (yummy!). I am intrigued and also scared by the New Grounds Coffee Bar- not sure how I feel about eating my caffeine :-)  I love how the "Stride Guide" lets you know whether you should eat/drink the product before, during, or after your run taking all the guesswork out of it.

A photo posted by Sarah (@sparklyrunner) on

In addition to the food and drink products, there was a Rundana (like a buff headband) with inspirational sayings on it, a motivational, healthy-living sticker, and an anti-chafing product. I'm excited to try everything out as marathon training progresses. And I think I've got the perfect spot for my sticker: on the front of my new training/life journal- but more on that in another post.

Rundana- functional AND fashionable.

All good points. 

So, what's the cost of StrideBox? For $15 a month, you can get a box filled with new products every thirty days- all focused on running,training, and recovery. I love this concept because it gives runners the opportunity to try things without having to buy a full-size product and let's face it, running stuff isn't cheap! This is a cool way to "try before you buy" and discover new companies and brands. 

You can also gift a one, three, or six month subscription to your favorite runner. I'll happily fill in as your favorite runner this Christmas if you need one ;-)

Overall, StrideBox is a super fun and affordable way to try new products and get cool running surprises in your mailbox each month. It will definitely be on my list to Santa this year!

Have you ever tried StrideBox or a similar running subscription service?

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free product in exchange for sharing my honest experience on my blog and social media. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the developing company or any of its affiliates.