Hot Air Ballooning

April 15, 2013
Balloon Ride

After what many people would consider to be the worst week of work ever, Marcus and I took a much-needed trip to Orlando for the weekend to celebrate our anniversary. The timing worked well in our schedules, even though it was about a month after our actual wedding anniversary. We had a very fun activity planned bright and early Saturday morning, so it was early to bed for us!

An early alarm woke us for our fun day that started like this…

Balloon Sunrise

and continued like this….

Balloon Ride

We went on a hot air balloon ride!

Balloon Ride


Balloon Ride

Balloon Ride

We received a gift at Christmas for a balloon ride with Orlando Balloon Rides, and I can not recommend them enough! They were friendly, professional, and have a 100% safe flight record –> pretty impressive. We expected to be with a few other people in a mid-size balloon, but boy were we wrong. There were 23 people in our balloon! It was actually the largest balloon in the world, holding over 250,000 cubic feet of air in the balloon. Each pilot is required to have a commercial jet liner license, which I was quite impressed with. These guys knew what they were doing. Not only were they smart, but they were funny too! The jokes they told the entire time we were with them had everyone chuckling. We had the tour leader, Damien, and we loved him!

Balloon Ride The baskets were divided into different sections, so everyone’s weight was distributed equally to make the sure the balloon would float correctly (and safely).

Balloon Basket

Balloon Basket

It was a pretty cloudy day, with very little wind, so we floated pretty slowly. We were in the air for about an hour – I was surprised how quickly the time passed! Balloon Ride

Balloon Ride


The rest of our weekend was filled with food, pool time, and some serious relaxation. We had planned to head to Disney for the day, but opted for a nice quite resort pool instead. We ended up Pricelining our trip, and were lucky enough to get the Marriott World Center Hotel, which is undergoing a huge renovation! The pool was just finished, and it was amazing!

Marriott Pool

Insider Tip: If you go to the pool early instead of heading to the theme parks, you will be one of just a few people there. Everyone else heads to the parks early, so make your way to the pool!

Marriott Pool

Marriott Pool

I am taking my taper quite seriously this time around – relaxation and extra sleep is a must!!

How was your weekend? Have you ever been on a hot air balloon ride?


Orange Theory Fitness South Tampa

April 12, 2013

I had the chance to try a new fitness class yesterday, and I have to say – it was awesome! It was a great mix of cardio and strength training that kept my body guessing the whole time! Their marketing campaign has gone viral around Tampa with a simple piece of exercise equipment….

Orange Bike


Yep, I checked out Orangetheory Fitness for the first time! I scheduled the class for a Wednesday night, not really sure what to expect. I knew I was in for a tough workout (I was prepared for it), but I really wasn’t exactly sure what the workout was all about. I walked into the very welcoming and brightly lit lobby, with knowledgable staff and excited participants, and the class before mine was still going on, so I was able to sneak a peek. The “orange box” is where everyone works out, and can been seen through the floor to ceiling windows that divide it from the lobby. I could see treadmills, rowing machines, free weights, bosu balls, benches, and TRX-type straps. I was in for a good sweat!

orange theory

I was given a heart rate monitor to keep track of my progress in the class. Each session is limited to 30 people (at the South Tampa location) to make sure the coach can pay enough attention to everyone during the 60 minute class. Everyone’s heart rate is shown on multiple flat screens in the gym so it is very easy to keep track of. Rather than having me explain how the heart rate training works, I’ll leave that up to the Orange Theory experts, which is explained right from their website: “The physiological theory behind the Orangetheory workout is known as “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” or EPOC. By providing you with a heart rate monitor and POD, we can monitor your 5 zone interval training sessions that we call the Orange 60. During the 60 minute workout, you will perform multiple intervals designed to produce 12-20 minutes of training at 84% or higher of your maximum heart rate, which translates to Zones 4/5. This program design produces EPOC, which is the workout “after-burn” effect, meaning that our interval training design produces a 200-400 calorie increase to your metabolism 24-36 hours after your workout.”

Before the class started, Coach Jeff took me and all the other first-timers into the workout room to give us a run down on all of the equipment. It was a very learning centric environment, which I really appreciated. Too many gyms these days just throw everyone into the same workout without enough explanation, which results in a greater chance of injury and lack of personalization. Orangetheory for the win!

The orange box was dimly lit with an orange hue, and the music was blaring. It was hard not to feel pumped up just by walking into the room! Once we all went into the class (after we lined up and all entered the room at the same time, getting a high-5 from the coach as we entered), we could pick where we wanted to start – cardio or strength first. I prefer to do cardio before weights, so that my muscles are fresh for the run, so I hopped on a treadmill. We had a bunch of different intervals, all based on what you were capable of – walking, jogging, and running. The coach shouted out different inclines and speeds that he expected us to be on for base training, as well as the different pickups. We had multiple sprints, some of them even all out. I was booking it on that treadmill – 10.5 mph for the sprints! My legs were going as fast as I could possibly push it. Don’t worry though – the sprints were short – only around 45 seconds or so. As for the walkers’ sprints, they would just increase their incline and not their speed. There was really an option for everyone.

Heart rate screens


Once the treadmill portion of the workout was finished, the groups switched and I headed over to the weight section. There was a white board with 4 different strength workouts, consisting of 4 exercises (with the amount of reps) that we had to complete as many times through during the given duration. The first was 5 minutes long, the next was 6 minutes, and the following two were each 4 minutes in length. The different exercises consisted of everything from tricep extensions with the TRX-type straps, to bench presses, to pushups, to 150m rows on the rowing machines, and some killer abs. The coach went over each and every exercise before the particular set, so that everyone knew how to perform the exercise safely. For most of the sets, I ended up getting through them 2-3 times. It was not easy! Once the strength portion of the workout was over, I could definitely feel it. I am used to lifting weights, but this was a whole other beast. Needless to say, I could feel the burn.

TRX orange theory



When the class was over, everyone gathered around the heart rate monitor screen to see their results for the day and to see if they got their heart rate into the 12-20 minutes of 84% or higher (zone 4 & 5). I learned something very interesting during this time. Never once did get out of zone 2 for the workout, aka, the green. Myself and one other person had this issue. What did it mean? Well, first off, I am only 2 weeks away from a marathon, so I am currently in peak shape. Secondly, I just have a very low resting heart rate. I was pushing myself very very hard while running sprints on the treadmill, and I would literally have fallen off if I turned the speed up anymore. I moved as fast as my legs would take me – no joke. This also made me realize that I need to focus on strengthening my legs a bit more. If my heart rate isn’t high, then I can push myself harder. I just need to have my legs handle that much of a push. Very interesting….

The biggest thing I walked away with was that this isn’t a cookie cutter gym. The people that work out here are all ages, shapes and sizes. There were 20 somethings that are in the best shape of their lives, to people looking to lose 100+ pounds (and are crazy close to reaching their goal!). It wasn’t intimidating to walk in either. All of the more seasoned participants were very nice, welcoming me to the class and seeing how my experience was. I have a pretty good feeling that I’ll be back!

Have you ever tried Orangetheory Fitness, or another heart rate based training? What did you think?

Disclosure: I wasn’t compensated for this review or post. I want to share with you my experiences of the training and of the gym. 

My Favorite Hip Strengthening Exercises

April 10, 2013

Just about every runner has “that body part” that tends to start aching at the most inopportune times – bad knees, shin splints, plantar fasciitis – this list goes on and on. For me, its my right hip. I never have an issue with the left hip, but my right one tends to flare up every so often. I had major problems with it when I was training for Chicago, and luckily, it mostly went away after the race. To prevent a bunch of achy pains this 26.2 go around, I have been doing a lot of hip strengthening exercises after my runs. Here are a few of my favorite hip exercises to keep you running strong (and pain free!)


Standing Hip Abductor

The use of bands for hip strengthening is really unlike any other exercise that you can do. I used bands in physical therapy for my hips and ankle, along with just to strengthen my body to stay injury free. Here how to do the hip abductor, right from the Runner’s World website.

1. Anchor a resistance band to a stable object.
2. Loop the other end around your right foot so the band crosses in front of you.
3. Standing with your left leg slightly behind you, keep your right leg straight and lift it out to the side. Lift it to a count of two, then release it back down to a count of two.
4. Repeat on the other leg.

The Incorporation of Yoga

Yoga has been the cure all for my hip – not even kidding. When I miss a week or so of practice, I start to feel it and know that I need to make it into the studio. Sometimes, I can’t make it to the class times, so I found an awesome video that focuses solely on hip opening exercise. I highly recommend doing this video a few times a week.

High Knee Run

How many times did you have to do this growing up, training for sports like basketball, soccer, or any fast moving sport? Well, looks like the coaches knew what they were talking about, because high knee running provides a lot of benefit for the hip flexors, as they contract and release at a fast pace.

Donkey Kicks and Donkey Whips

This is a great exercise for both the hips and the glutes, and I highly recommend them. Although you make look a little silly while doing them, these donkey kicks and whips are fantastic for your hips! (start at 1:28)

There are so many other exercises and stretches you can do for your hips. The key is to find what is right for you and your body. Once you find it, keep it up to keep injury at bay for many races to come!

What body part do you have a problem with when mileage gets high or ailments increase? Do you do exercises for strengthening and stretching?

That Kind of Long Run

April 8, 2013
20 miles

I finished up the last true long run of my Kentucky Derby Marathon Training Plan on Saturday.

Sometimes long runs feel great. You cover mile after mile, and just get lost in the run. The day is perfect, your legs feel fresh, and that long run is just a piece of cake.

This was NOT my experience on Saturday.

I woke to a 5:30am alarm, and couldn’t find my Body Glide anywhere. I ended up with Vaseline, which is better than nothing. Messy, but better. Then, as luck would have it, I managed to get out the door 15 minutes later than planned without eating. That was the  big mistake. I got to mile 8 and my body was seriously reprimanding me for walking out the door with my bagel and peanut butter. I was literally running on empty, and my body knew it.

I stopped by my house at this point, where I met up with my husband. He actually rides the second half of every long run with me (I know, I am super lucky. He is without a doubt, my biggest supporter), and was nice enough to grab Gatorade for the rest of the run. I took in some Gu Chomps, which gave me a small surge of energy, but the major damage had already been done. I really struggled through the last 10 miles or so. I kept a pretty consistent pace, but I could tell that my body was working significantly harder than it should have been.

All I know, is that I finished the run. All 20 miles of it.

20 miles

The biggest lesson I walked away from this run with is that no two runs are the same – some are hard, others easy. It is incredibly important to remind yourself that just because you have a terrible 20 miler, it doesn’t mean that you are going to have a bad race. Its just one run, out of so many others that I have already completed in my training – other runs that have went pretty well.

20 miles

So, once again, the taper countdown begins. 18 days until race day. 13 runs. 2 long runs. 1 plane flight.

Can’t wait until race day!

How many times have you had a terrible long run, but other runs have went well. How did you get through it?

Rainy Day Running Tips

April 5, 2013
Rainy Day Running Tips

I woke up yesterday morning to the sound of pitter patters on the window. Just like it had been doing the night before when Marcus and I walked Winnie, it was raining. I had 6 miles on my schedule to finish up my week of running before tomorrow’s big 22 miler. I needed to get in the workout at some point yesterday, so my mind started to go through whether I should or shouldn’t head out in the rain. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before heading out for the puddles, and a few tips as well if you do choose to run in the rain.

Rainy Day Running Tips

1. Is there thunder and lightning?

Yes –> Go back to bed. Lightning is not something to play with! Instead of just listening for thunder, be sure to check a weather app or radar on your computer or phone. You can set the overlay to a lightning detector to see if there is anything in your area, or coming your way. Remember, according to Walpole Emergency Management “Lightning can strike as much as 10 miles away from the rain area in a thunderstorm; that’s about the distance that you are able to hear the thunder from the storm. In some instances when a storm is ten miles away, it may even be difficult to tell that a storm is nearby. However, IF YOU CAN HEAR THE THUNDER FROM A STORM, CHANCES ARE THAT YOU ARE WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE OF THAT STORM. Also, remember that each thunderstorm has a first stroke of lightning, which is just as deadly as any other stroke. If the sky looks threatening, take shelter before hearing thunder.”

No –> Move to step 2

2. How hard is it raining?

Really Hard –> Don’t bother heading out. If it is raining extremely hard, it is dangerous not only for you, but as well for the drivers on the road. The may be focusing hard on keeping their vehicle safely on the road, rather than looking out for pedestrians, which they probably would expect to be inside when it is pouring. If you head out on a run when it is sprinkling, and a down pour happens mid workout, just be careful and never expect the driver to see you.

Just Drizzling –> Move to step 3

3. What season of the year are you in?

Winter –> Brrr, get back inside. Running now will just lead to sickness!

Spring –> Still probably too cold in most part of the country, but play it by ear

Summer –> Get out and run! Just watch out for those thunderstorms. Summer is the most common time of year for them

Fall –> If you live in Florida (or a warm weather state) like me, then fall is pretty much summer, so running in the rain is a piece of cake. Other places across the U.S., this isn’t so common. Use your judgement on whether the temperatures are indicative to not getting sick.


4. Do you have time to run later?

Yes – Cool, then plan on that!

No – Already have plans at night that you can’t back out of? Get to your wet run!

5. Do you have access to a treadmill?

Yes – The treadmill is always an option if you are an anti-rainy day runner. Getting to the gym when you didn’t plan to go can be tough if you didn’t plan for the commute time early in the morning. You can always adjust your workout to fit in the allotted time. Remember, a shorter run is better than no run!

No – Welp, that rain is looking more and more inviting 😉

If you do decide that running in the rain is the right option for you, here are a few quick tips!

Wear a hat – This is a big one for me. It helps so much to not be pelted in the face every second. The hat keeps your vision at a much higher level!

Put on extra Body Glide – Everywhere, seriously. Your body chafes in different spots when you are wet compared to when your clothes sit on you nice and dry. This one is non negotiable

Wear a tighter fitting outfit – When you get drenched on the rain, your clothes start to sag. If you are wearing spandex, then the clothes will pretty much stay put. That comfy baggy tee that you love to run in – leave it at home this time and opt for the lycra tank.

Wear a rain jacket  – Only if you decide to run in cold rain. If it is hot outside and you decide to wear a jacket, then you are going to get pretty toasty under there!

Rainy Day

Hop in the shower quickly after you finish – This is the quickest and easiest way to warm up after you have been running in the rain!

Leave the gadgets at home – You wouldn’t want that awesome iPad shuffle or fancy phone get ruined, would you? Just leave it at home – gadgets are not meant for rainy day running.

Have fun with it! – One of my favorite activities as a kid was playing in a sun shower. It would downpour for a few minutes, but be sunny as can be the whole time. We always took advantage of these days to play in the rain! For me, running in the rain makes me feel like a kid again.

Most importantly, if you don’t want to run in the rain, then don’t! Skip the day of running if you have to. Far too many people think that skipping a single day  is going to hurt your training. It’s really not that big of a deal. Life (and mother nature) gets in the way sometimes. Learn to be flexible, and just make your run that much better the following day.

Do you take off if it is raining outside or do you bear the elements? Any other tips you live by when running in the rain?