Posts Tagged by challenge

December Challenge: HOTR Abs

This summer, before marathon training took over all my workouts, I was {trying to} strength train regularly. It got to the point where I was consistently lifting at least 2 times every week. I know this may not seem like much at all to people who train with weights as their main form of working out, but it was a huge improvement for this runner. And after just a few months, I realized that doing some sort of core strengthening workout 2 – 3 times a week was enough to make a difference – a difference visible enough to keep me motivated.

HTC leg1

….for a little while, at least. Sometime before Hood to Coast, I sort of lost my thunder. When it’s so much simpler (and preferable!) to just go out for a run, it’s easy to start skipping the weights more and more frequently. As marathon training continued, it only got worse. By the time I ran MCM, strength training had become a distant memory yet again.

I’ve never been great about sticking to my routine during the entire marathon training cycle. The increased mileage and need for my legs to be fresh for workouts make it easy to give it up a few months in. But since I’m now technically in the off season, I no longer have any excuse not to strength train several times per week (the fact that I don’t really love doing it doesn’t count).

Since my mileage has now gone way (way) down, I’ve been dragging my butt to the gym several times per week to focus on cross training and strengthening my core. I know that continuing to focus on building up other muscles (and not just my quads that appear to do all the work when I’m runing) will make me a better runner in the end. But since I’ve already admitted that the vanity reasons are more motivating than the running improvement reasons, I can also say that I figured December –  a month typically filled with too many cookies and cocktails – is the perfect time to focus on toning up instead of filling out.

Plus – after a year of training, I was in major need of a new non-running related challenge to keep me motivated.

So with that in mind, I have instituted the December “HOTR Abs*” Challenge. So far I am the only participant and the prizes are nonexistent, but I figure if I formally challenge myself, I’m more likely to stick with it. Right??

*yes, that play on words was intended. And no, I don’t  really think that highly of myself.

HOTR Abs Challenge

To stay motivated to lift regularly this month, and get into the habit now so that I can sustain it during marathon training, I am challenging myself to 2 – 3 days of strength training/core workouts per week. What follows is my routine.

[But before I proceedplease remember that I am not a personal trainer. Just a runner whose naturally curvy body needs regular strength training to keep it {somewhat} reigned in.]

The workout below is the one that I have found works best for me. I’ve tried other routines, but have always come back to this because:

  1. I can get it done quickly (30 minutes or less is all the time I want to devote to strength training)
  2. The quick movements get my heart rate up while I’m lifting, so I feel like I’m getting more of a workout
  3. Results are fast. And I mean fast. I’ve only been back into lifting for a few weeks and can already notice a difference. I haven’t yet found another routine that seems to do the job so well.

1.) The Core

Yes, I’ve been touting the benefits of this workout since I started the blog. I have a love/hate relationship with it, but I can’t deny that it works. So at least two days per week before running or doing any sort of cardio, I’m going to do “The Corewith a couple of modifications (yeah I know those pictures of me in my parents’ basement aren’t the best. But hopefully you get the idea).

  1. I no longer do the stiff-legged deadlifts. I have issues with my lower back and found that this exercise was only exasperating them.
  2. I use lighter weights for the initial “pre-core” warm up exercises and focus on keeping my arms straight for each one. This works out my back and shoulders much better.
  3. I do one armed dumbbell swings on each side after the HOTR-Dad dubbed “Here Comes the Bride” move (which is really just a dumbell swing with two hands). Apparently you can also do these with kettle bells, but since I’m not trained on them I stick to the old school hand weights.


2.) Super-Powered Ab Moves

The Core is good because it focuses on movements that work multiple muscles at once (legs, arms, shoulders, core) but I also like to do a couple of exercises that focus just on my abdominal muscles. So at least two days per week, after The Core, I’m going to add on these two additional moves:

a.) Standing side bend (with dumbbells). Similar to the exercise described here, but I do it with one weight and just focus on one side at a time.



 b.) Dumbbell Pullovers. This one never fails to leave my abs screaming. I do them lying sideways on the bench, as demonstrated here. To make it a little easier, you can also lie lengthwise on the bench, letting your head hang off.


Disclaimer: My abs do not look like this


Some people have asked why I lift before I run. Although lifting first makes running more difficult, I find it’s really the only way to make sure I do it. If I go through The Core first, I look at it as my primary workout instead of something that I’m just trying to squeeze in after a run. That way if I’m tired and need to cut back on something, it’s the cardio that gets cut, not the weights.

3.) Pilates or Yoga

One day a week, my goal is to get in some sort of cross training that focuses on building strength through increasing flexibilitiy and lengthening my muscles. I’m pretty tight normally, so when I throw weight training into the mix it gets even worse. I know once per week isn’t a lot of time spent doing these activities, but it’s better than nothing. Plus, I’m hoping that if I make it a habit now, I’ll actually stick with it during marathon training this winter. But we’ll see…

My sucess with this super official challenge is only going to be determined by how well I stick with it. I haven’t taken any sort of pre-measurements to track my progress. I suppose that would’ve been interesting to know, but for now, we’re just going to go with how my clothes fit. And as long as my decreased running and increased cookie intake doesn’t lead to holiday weight gain, I think we can dub the HOTR Abs challenge as a success.


3 Minutes to Inspire; 4 Years to Change the World

This week, I’m feeling particularly inspired. I’m currently in beautiful North Carolina for a course on Obesity Prevention in Public Health. All week long, I get to eat amazing food (maybe too amazing for an obesity prevention conference ;)), meet interesting people, and learn about how the environment impacts our health and, more importantly, what we can do to change this. Listening to experts and participating in discussions about policy and media strategies that can change  environments to support healthy choices is the kind of stuff I live for! So even though the days are long, the time goes by fast as I try to soak in as much information as my brain can handle.

I’ve only been here for 2 days, but I’ve already been given so much to think and write about. For the moment, I’m just taking it all in and getting inspired to bring these lessons back home with me.

But, believe it or not, that’s not the only reason I’m feeling inspired lately. Today, I actually want to share something completely different. Something beyond the scope of what I normally write about on this blog. But something that moved me so much, I knew I had to pass it along.

A few days ago, a colleague shared with me a video that got me thinking about health in more general terms. It’s easy (for most) to think about our own health and what we can do to improve it. And we can probably talk about improving the health of our family, of our communities, or even our nation. But what about the health of the world? Not only the health of all mankind, but the health of the very earth itself.

Of course in this case, I am speaking of health in the very broadest sense of the word. While it’s clear that we live in a time of many great changes and opportunities, we are also facing some serious, serious problems. Climate change, pollution, hunger, disease, persecution, injustice. The list goes on and on. Looking at all these challenges  and the destructive path that we’re on can be overwhelming. Changing the behavior of one person is hard enough, but changing the behaviors of the entire world?! It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and scream, “I give up!”

But — there’s a new campaign that wants to jolt us out of our helplessness and inaction, and motivate each and every one of us to join together to make this change possible. It’s not run by any one organization, but instead wants to be a collective movement — a goal for every organization, every person.

The movement is called FOUR YEARS. GO. And it’s goals are lofty.

From the website:


A campaign to change the course of history. Really.

It’s time to make a choice. We can let present trends continue and risk almost certain breakdown and collapse.

Or… We can act and set humanity on a new course toward a just, thriving and sustainable world.

The choice is clear. We already possess the tools to shape our future. What’s missing is our collective will to act.

Four years is enough time to build that will, to change our direction, even to transform ourselves. And Go because we must start now.

There is still time to act, but no time to waste.

The purpose of the FOUR YEARS. GO. campaign is to empower individuals and organizations to create goals that will help move us (meaning all of humanity) to a positive tipping point by 2014. A tipping point that will literally send us on a new path for a brighter future.
But don’t rely on my words to find out what it’s all about! I strongly encourage you to take just 3 minutes out of your day to watch this video. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, get inspired about what we can all do to fix it.

Have you heard of FOUR YEARS. GO.? I’m interested to hear your thoughts about this movement. And, of course, if you were inspired or moved in any way by the video, I strongly encourage you to pass it on. We only have 4 years, after all…

Local Spotlight: Shape Up RI

We live in a society that values long workdays, a thousand and one commitments, and being as busy as humanly possible. When life gets stressful because every waking minute is packed with obligations, eating healthy and getting enough exercise are among the first things to go out the window.


It’s not a stretch to say that after a long day of work, you may not think you have the time — or energy – to exercise. But would that change if you had team members who were not only counting on you to get out there, but were encouraging you along, every step of the way?

Let’s face it, sometimes we need a little motivation to get moving – an extra incentive that encourages us to get out that door and start walking (or running). Being a member of a team can provide that. It can encourage you to try things you wouldn’t normally do, and to work harder, knowing there are people you don’t want to let down. Unfortunately, many adults don’t belong to any sort of team outside of the one they do work with. So what’s a person to do? Well…you could join up with a bunch of crazy friends to spend your entire weekend running, or you could do something simpler – and join a friendly competition.

This is the premise behind Shape Up RI, a local nonprofit started 5 years ago by Brown Medical Student Rajiv Kumar. The founder believes that we can use the power of team work and peer support to start pursuing healthier lives.


The concept behind the campaign is simple – you team up with 5 – 11 friends, family, or coworkers (most teams I know are through worksites) for a statewide competition. For the 12-week spring challenge, you can choose to compete in one (or all) of the following categories: steps walked (measured by the digital pedometers provided by the program), hours exercised, and/or weight loss. You then report your values in an online tracker every week, and Shape Up tracks the team standings. While a huge part of the program is the encouragement and competition it generates that can motivate you to be active, they do offer prizes to participants along the way, and honor the winners at the end.


I’ve participated in the spring challenge with a group of coworkers in the past, choosing to compete in the steps walked and hours exercised divisions. Besides the camaraderie it creates among team members, it was also fun to track where I stacked up with other participants throughout the course of the challenge.

Now… I realize that I’m not exactly the program’s target audience. But I think it’s important to show support to those organizations whose mission you believe it. And with less than half of all Rhode Islanders (and only 3 in 10 adults across the United States) getting the recommended levels of physical activity, I think more organizations should follow this example to encourage Americans to be more active – in whatever way they can. Last year alone, Shape Up RI helped over 13,000 people lose 45,106 (point 7!) pounds, exercise 375,780 hours, and walk over 6.1 million steps! (And we’re a small state – so 13,000 is a lot! :))

Summer Shape Up RI

SummerLogoBecause I truly believe in the mission of this organization, I was excited to find out that it is now in it’s second year of hosting a summer challenge: The Summer Shape Up RI (not to be confused with the little shape up summer challenge I’m having through the blog – speaking of which, have you tried The Core yet??)

There are 3 divisions in the Summer Shape Up RI challenge: weight loss, fruit and vegetable tracking, and pedometer steps. Just like their spring challenge, you can choose which categories you would like to compete in and Shape Up will give you the tools you need to succeed. Over the course of the 8-week challenge, you are provided with a pedometer, online fruit and vegetable, weight loss, and step trackers, health information and other educational resources, and access to many free community events happening all over the state – like group walks, yoga, rock climbing, and nutrition seminars. Finally, you can also choose to participate in 2-week bonus challenges that help you focus on calories and nutrition, stretching, sleep tracking, and/or stress reduction.

The competition is only open to people who live and work in Rhode Island (sorry to all of you out-of-staters!). It kicked off last Monday the 21st and will run through mid-August.

I realize that many of you reading this are unable to participate in the challenge. But my point in writing about this organization is to highlight an example of a community-based effort that aims to help individuals become more active and lead healthier lives. Five years ago, a medical student had an idea to help change the habits of Rhode Islanders, and to do something to reverse the obesity epidemic that is sweeping our entire nation. In that short time, he has already helped 40,000 people across the state, and the numbers grow larger every year. I think what he has done should serve as an inspiration – individuals can make a change. And if we all work together, we can make huge strides toward a healthier world.

What do you think of these types of community-based exercise and weight loss programs? Is there anything like this where you live?

(Pictures courtesy of

Shape Up Summer Challenge: Officially Unofficial Rules

It’s June and you know what that means: The Shape Up Summer Challenge has officially begun!!

Now the point of this little challenge is just to give you (and myself) a little extra motivation to include some strength training into your weekly routine, specifically by trying The Core. Obviously this does not require that you love the workout or want to do it for the rest of your life. Instead, the challenge is meant to be fun and to encourage you to try something new!


Because it’s all for fun, the rules for this thing are going to be simple. Basically, the SUSC will run for 2 months, which will hopefully give you plenty of time to try the workout whenever it fits best into your training schedule. There are two ways to participate:

Basic Challenge

  1. Try the workout 2 times over the course of 1 week.
  2. Let me know you did so by leaving a comment on The Core page. Include any thoughts and feedback you might have. Whether you hated it, loved it, thought it was just okay – I want to know! Also tell me your favorite (or least favorite move).
  3. For an extra point, send me a picture of you doing your favorite move. I can feature the pictures on the new challenge page (soon to be created) of the blog.
  4. Everyone who does so will be entered into a drawing to win a $25 gift certificate to either Road Runner Sports (my favorite online web store) or your coffee shop of choice: Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. It’s up to you!

(Yes, I know…it’s not much, but this challenge is being funded by Yours Truly. Plus, you get the added prize of learning a new, amazing workout and getting a super-toned core. Honestly, what more could you want? 😉 )

Bonus Challenge

  • Those of you who do the workout regularly* for at least 1 month will be eligible to win a super special prize (TBD – but it’ll be something great, I promise). Two bonus entries for this if you participate for the entire 2-month challenge.
  • To enter this drawing, email me at Lauren {at] healthontherun [dot] net (or via the Contact Form on this site), letting me know how long you’ve been doing the workout regularly, and of course sharing any feedback you have. I will enter all your names into a spreadsheet and randomly choose a winner.
  • Individuals who choose to participate in this part of the challenge are also eligible for the Basic Prize (just leave a comment after 1 week to be entered).

*Regularly = 2 – 3 times, most weeks for one month (meaning, if you get busy and can only do it once during a certain week, don’t sweat it!)

You have until July 31, 2010 at midnight (EST) to participate. The drawings will be held on August 1st.

Like I said, this is meant to be FUN! Especially since there’s absolutely no way to validate whether or not you did the workout (though I really hope you do give it a shot). So hit the gym (or your basement) and get sweating!

And of course, if you like the workout or are excited about the challenge, I’d love it if you told your friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, etc (and if you hate it….please pass it along to your enemies ;)).

National Running Day

running_day_main_logoIn other news, today is National Running Day! According to the organizers, the aim for this day is to “promote running as a healthy, easy, and accessible form of exercise.”

I believe that [most] anybody can be a runner. Obviously there are certain physical impairments, injuries etc that can make it unsafe or unwise for some individuals to run. But for the rest of you — it really doesn’t take much to get started. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the motivation to put one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t matter how fast you run or how far you go. The point is to just get out there and get moving. Enjoy nature, explore your city or, if you’re too nervous to run outside, try the treadmill. Not only is running a great form of exercise, but it can also be a stress reliever – a time to think and an opportunity to really process anything that’s on your mind.

For anyone who is new to running, try not to let it overwhelm you. That first step is the hardest. But start off easy and slow. Aim for a mile, and mix up your running with walking. Don’t worry about your time or whether people are watching you. Just enjoy pushing your body and seeing what you can do!

Here are some great resources to get you started:

And of course, please feel free to ask me any questions you might have. I certainly can’t claim to know all the answers, but I have been running for over a decade now, both as a competitive and as a recreational runner. I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity to work as an Assistant Coach for my college XC team, so I’ve seen running from all sides. Hopefully there might be something in my experience that can help some of you.

Happy Running!

“What distinguishes those of us at the starting line from those of us on the couch is that we learn through running to take what the day gives us, what our body will allow us, and what our will can tolerate.”
~John Bingham, running writer and speaker

Are you planning on running today (or have you already)?

When Cardio Meets Strength Training

Free_Weights Strength training is an important part of any balanced exercise routine. Building and toning muscle helps you better control your weight (your metabolism increases as you build more muscle), build stronger bones, increase your overall endurance, reduce your risk of injury, be more efficient in your workouts, and even sleep better – not to mention the physical effects it can have on your body and the boosted self-confidence that goes along with it.

But even though I know strength training is good for me, I will still pick cardio over weights 99.9% of the time. This is mostly due to the simple fact that I’d much rather go for a run outside than travel to the gym.

My hatred for lifting began back in high school, when my cross country and track coaches would make us spend time in the smelly, football-player infested weight room, claiming that doing leg exercises would make us stronger runners. Being a 16-year-old who clearly knew just about everything, I proclaimed this a load of crap – my legs were already tired from running…why should I lift with them too??

Then I entered college, and realized maybe I wasn’t quite as smart as I had previously thought, and that just maybe my coaches were actually onto something when they claimed that regular lifting would make me a stronger, faster, more efficient runner. But although I gained a new appreciation for how strong it made me feel (and look!), I never really loved it. I found myself spending hours in the gym, trying to balance cardio with doing endless inane repetitions on a million different machines. It’s no surprise that I soon came to resent lifting just as much as I had before.

But then, The Core Was Born

Fortunately, my Mother swooped in to save me from a lifetime of lifting boredom. Shortly before winter break during my second year of grad school, she called me up to excitedly tell me about this new eBook on abs she was reading, and how it made her change the way she looked at strength training. No more static, isolated movements done on silly gym machines. Instead, she was taking up free weights, in a routine that combined cardio and weight training. And the best news yet: it only took 20 – 30 minutes!

The only catch? It was the hardest lifting routine she’d ever done (and that’s saying something – my Mother is my fitness inspiration!)

This quick, high intensity workout was actually put together by my Mom, and utilizes squats to not only get your heart pumping, but also to work out multiple muscle groups at one time. Because, although I’m no expert, I do know that our muscles don’t move in isolation. And that when you only do one-joint exercises at a time, you aren’t burning all that many calories, and could even put yourself at risk for injury – or muscle instability.

DSC_0438This is what I look like when I try to pretend that my grimace is actually a smile

On the other hand, this workout gets your heart rate up right from the start, and keeps it there through a series of dynamic movements that work every part of your core – your abs, back, butt, and hips. These  muscles are important for stability and posture – and a strong core can do wonders for your running.

Shape Up Summer Challenge

I try to incorporate this core workout into my exercise regimen as often as possible. But as I mentioned earlier, from time to time I still have a problem with letting lifting fall by the wayside. So, it’s time to re-commit myself to regular weight lifting.

I have hereby declared it to be “Shape Up Summer.The Challenge: to do The Core at least 2x per week for the next two months.

Want to join me? If so, visit the new Core Workout page I’ve created that lists the 7 different exercises, along with some wonderful pictures of yours truly modeling the moves. If you’re a cardio-addict like myself, you will not be disappointed with this workout. I promise that it’ll make you sweat. In fact, when I’m pressed for time, I sometimes do this as my only workout for the day.

I also promise that it’ll make you sore. To be honest, if you haven’t done this type of lifting before, it’s going to make you so sore for a couple days that you’re probably going to curse my name whenever you’re walking down stairs. Last week was my first time doing it in many months, and I will honestly admit that I hurt everywhere the following day – my stomach, my legs, my back. (Though this may have been partially due to the fact that I think I was a bit too overly ambitious with the weights.) I took the next day off completely (besides waddling around) and then forced myself to do it again two days later. That second workout was much more painful than the first. But — the good news is that the following day, my legs had been stretched out and I started feeling better. I’m now in my second week and while it still hurts, it’s starting to be more satisfying than excruciating.

I’m not telling you this to scare you. I’m telling you this to (hopefully) convince you that this is simultaneously the best and worst weightlifting workout you’ll ever do. It’s quick, extremely efficient and will make you stronger by building lean muscle (and give you rock-hard abs just in time for swimsuit season!).

So…have I convinced you to try it yet?? Seriously, if you’re looking to mix up your current lifting routine, or need some motivation to pick up the weights and want to join my Shape Up Summer Challenge, let me know! If people are actually interested, I can come up with some sort of fabulous prize for those of you who stick with it for the full two months.

Ready to see the moves? If so, click here.

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