Thursday, May 26, 2016

10 Things that Make Florida Running AMAZING

The temps are already soaring here in Central Florida making it one of my least favorite times of year to run outside.  Of course rather than complain about how much I hate it, I thought I would recount some of the super awesome things about being a Florida runner...

People come from all over to visit Central Florida’s theme parks and beaches, making this area one of the world’s top tourist destination.  If you’re visiting during the mid-March through early October, your first and most likely continuous thoughts are probably about the heat.  We’re known as the Sunshine State for a reason.  With temperatures averaging over 90 degrees in the summer months (and summer for us is pretty much those months listed above) and reaching triple digits with the heat index, not to mention the insane humidity, outdoor activities that do not involve the ocean or a lake almost can be a little rough!

But despite the heat, believe it or not, Central Florida really is one of the best places for runners to live or visit.   

Here my top 10 reasons that make running around here so great:

We’re certainly not known for our hills here in Central Florida.  In fact, if you wish to do any sort of hill training, you will have to find you a good overpass to run up and down several times.  Quite possibly one of the best trade offs for the extreme heat and humidity is our extremely flat terrain.  Runners visiting the area may find themselves hotter than ever, but they may also find themselves with a PR on our nice, flat roads and trails.

Must Run ALL the Races
One of the challenges to living here is the urge to sign up for a race every weekend, and trust me, there are races EVERY weekend.  In fact, it can even be difficult choosing just ONE race per weekend since there are typically several!  From 5k’s to full marathons and even ultras, Central Florida offers a variety of fun races year round.  But wait, isn’t it too hot to run in the summer?  Not according to Final Mile Race Management who puts on a two incredibly awesome mid-summer events each year with a Half Marathon in June and a 5/10k event in July!  Of course the absolute best time to race each year is from February to April, and that is when you will find some of the best races in the area.

Great Community
The running community in Central Florida is like no other.  Here you will find some of the most enthusiastic, supportive and friendly runners in the world.  Whether you’re receiving friendly smiles and waves from fellow runners out on the trail or joining one of the many group runs around town, you’re sure to enjoy the positive and encouraging energy that makes our running community so great!  Most all of our local running stores including Fleet Feet Orlando, Front Running Sports of Lake Mary and or course Track Shack put on weekly group runs with product samples and of course tons of fun.  A personal favorite of mine is the monthly Fleet Feet pub run.  Running + Beer = Good Times!
Why Not Tri?
With lakes galore, beautiful biking trails and of course an already embedded passion for running, it’s difficult to say NO to a at least giving a sprint triathlon a shot down here.  With distances short enough to be non-intimidating up to full Ironman races, options are unlimited when it comes to triathlons.  A late summer early Fall tri is the best.  The water is no longer at boiling temperatures, the slight crisp to the morning air and the sun warms everything up just enough by the end of your run.

Easy Access
Orlando has two international airports that can take you just about anywhere you would want to go and of course getting here just as simple.  Major interstates make driving down here pretty seamless if you’re not too far for a scenic drive.  Whether you’re traveling to Orlando for a visit or you leaving Orlando for a race, you won’t have a problem traveling to and fro.
The Happiest Place on Earth
We do have lives outside of running, don’t we?  When we’re not hitting the trail, or of course at our jobs funding our running habit, we like to unwind and spend some quality time with our family and friends.  Central Florida may be most known for Disneyworld and beaches, but that’s not all there is to do around here!  Other than the other well-known theme parks (Sea World, Bush Gardens, Universal, etc.), Central Florida is also home to several other family attractions.  A personal favorite of mine are the several state parks offering beautiful hiking trails and natural springs.  The warm year round temperature of the springs make them perfect for swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding.

Will Run for Food (and Beer)
Being a large, diverse tourist town, it should go without saying we have some of the best restraunts in the country!  You can sample just about any cuisine from any country or culture you can imagine.  Your options for post run fuel are virtually endless.  And if you’re like me and like to carb load with some hops, we also have some amazing local breweries.  Orlando Brewing Company is a favorite of mine not just because of its high quality, delicious beer options, but also because it is Florida’s only USDA organic brewery! 

Ohhh, the “Winter” Months
For a few shorts months out of the year, Florida is quite possibly the most amazing place on this planet to run in!  With temperatures averaging in the upper 50’s to low 60’s and of course our incredible sunshine and brightest blue skies, it’s almost a surreal outer body experience running around here!  With the flat terrain and pristine weather, you are sure to have one of your best races ever if you’re running down here then!  Because the summers can be so brutally hot, this time of year is even more cherished and runners take advantage of the weather using it as the perfect time to train for longer distance events.

Who Doesn’t Love a Good Beach Run?
Whether you are staying at one of the hundred beach resorts or a short drive at one of the theme park resorts, getting in a run on the beach is an absolute must.  Crystal clear waters, beautiful skies, warm ocean breezes and nice hard packed sand make beach running an experience you wouldn’t want to miss.  If you’re in the area in early May or November, Beach Running Champions puts on an event that includes distances from 5k to half marathon, and even a barefoot division along the shore.  It’s a fun, beach themed event with a nautical finisher’s medal

Trails, Trails and More Trails
Wherever you are in Central Florida, you’re near a trail.  There are several beautiful trails all throughout Central Florida and many of them even connect, so running and biking can go on for as long as you wish!  And it seems like new trails are sprouting up all over the area, giving runners even more options to get their miles in.  If you’re more into rugged terrain, one of the manystate parks offer great off road trails with all the dirt, sand, roots and trees you could ask for.  I myself, gave trail running a shot a few years back with a Masters of All Terrain series race and was instantly hooked.  Though we may not have mountains or even great hills, our countless beautiful trial running options (paved or off road) in Central Florida more than make up for it!

Monday, May 16, 2016

6 Tips for a Fit-cation

By no means are we globetrotters (that is my #lifegoal), but the Wood family does like to squeeze in a several "staycations" each year.  It certainly helps that we live in one of the world's most popular vacation destinations, so shooting over to the beach or down to Disney for a long weekend isn't too much of a hassle.  And of course, as huge football fans, my husband and I try to sneak away each season for a game or two.  So with that being said, I have learned a couple of tricks to staying relatively healthy while traveling and thought I'd take this opportunity to share what I have learned through the years.

1. Plan Ahead
When booking our vacations, we always try to make sure our resort has a fitness center, that way we can continue to get our lift on.  We also like to map out our runs so we can plan our workouts for the trip accordingly.  When staying with friends and family, I have gotten guest passes to local gyms as well as asked about great places to run (which of course is a fun way to explore).  If the kids are with us, my husband and I take turns getting our workouts in.  If we have childcare with us, AKA Grandma or Abuela, or if it's just the two of us on the trip, then we are fortunate enough to get to workout together.  This is great because we can keep each other accountable and if we're lucky enough, get to spend some quality time working out together.

So next time you're heading out for a vacation, be sure to check to see if your hotel has a place you can workout at, if not, see if there is a local gym that offers guest or daily passes.  Check out local run groups and ask around to see if there are some courses already mapped out in the area (many resorts and hotels will actually prov this information).  If you are traveling with friends and/or family, determine your workout schedule before hand and help hold each other to it!
Sneaking in a quick pre-beach pump at the resort gym!
2. Meal Prep
You will most likely not get to, nor want to, make and take all your meals while traveling, but thinking ahead about what your meals will look like while away will help keep you on track.  On our last trip, and many of the ones we take with the kids, we stay in a condo with a full size kitchen.  We stock the fridge and pantry with foods we typically eat throughout the week and weekend.  This way we have plenty of healthy food on hand and are able to stay on top of our nutrition.  Before eating out, we check the menus online to see if they offer foods that are within our dietary needs.

So if feasible, stock up on foods you're used to eating and try to stick with your typical meal plan. Be sure to have plenty of healthy snacks available for the car or plane and daily outings so you won't be tempted to waste calories and money on those overpriced and over-processed convenient store goodies.  Also, do your research on local restaurants to ensure you can make healthy choices while eating out.

Thanks to the fully equipped kitchen, I was able to enjoy my usual morning smoothie!
3. Stay Committed
Vacation is a great time to relax, recharge your batteries, spend some much needed time with your family and even let your hair down a bit.  But always keeping your goals and why they are so important to you in the back of your mind so that you can continue to make healthy choices while vacationing.  I have traveled during marathon training before and have even done a long run around a resort.  I have also done some rescheduling before leaving for trips to avoid doing long runs around resorts.  Either way, I got it done.  This most recent trip, I was fortunate enough to not have any training runs scheduled, so I was able to workout more for enjoyment than obligation.  However, I still feel like fitness and healthy living are a part of who I am, so I stay committed and made the time for it regardless.

So wherever you are in your training, recovery or maintenance, staying committed to your healthy lifestyle while on vacation is important for your body, mind and goals.  Getting in a good pump or run is a great way to start any day off, even on vacation!

Nothing better than some sunrise beach miles
4. Try Something New
Several years ago, I traveled to a friend's wedding and decided I would check out a gym near the hotel to get my workout in.  I was about to get rocking on my own workout when I noticed a group class was about to start.  I figured why not jump in and check it out, if anything it would take the guess work out of my workout on that busy morning.  It turned out to be this super awesome boot camp class that totally kicked my butt!  Since then, I always look for new and exciting fitness activities to do while I travel from trying a dance or yoga class to participating in a local 5k.

I'm a firm believing in stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new things, and what better time to do it than while you're in a new and exciting place!?!  Check to see if the resort offers any type of fitness classes or if there are things going on nearby.  You never know, you may find a fun new way to challenge yourself!

5. Keep Moving
It's definitely nice to get to relax, and by all means take advantage of it while you can.  But a sure fire way to stay on top of your fitness while on vacation is to simply stay active.  Of course for me, with two young boys, I have no choice but to keep moving since I am constantly keeping up with them.  But other ways we like to stay active on vacation is by walking the city or going on hikes, renting bikes or paddle boards, kayaking, rock climbing, etc.  Again, do your research, find what fun activities your resort or destination have to offer that will get you off your butt and out exploring, all while burning some calories and making some great memories in the process!

6. Live A Little
Last but not least, you are on vacation after all, so enjoy yourself.  I typically like to follow the 80/20 principle where 80% of what I do is healthy then the other 20% is indulgence.  This past trip, though I made most of my meals, eat mostly clean and worked out every day, I still enjoyed cocktails, ice cream and pizza!  Definitely not things I would normally indulge in, but it was all delicious and totally worth it!  When you work hard and stay focused for so most of the time, it definitely fun to let your hair down every now and then.  I will say that after indulging, my body reminded me why I typically do not eat and drink like that and come Monday morning, I was more than ready to get right back on track.  But it was certainly nice to let go for a few days and live a little!

Monday, May 9, 2016

My Journey In, Out, Then Back to the Triathlon

The first official race I ever participated in was a local 5k, the next race was just a few months later and was a sprint triathlon.  Yeah, I have a tendency to just go for stuff but I was like 23 so I had the time and energy, lol.  Any way, I was instantly hooked on tri's and did several more after that, long before I ever got into distance running.  For most of my 20's triathlons were my jam and I had hopes to one day finish an ironman!  I knew I would have my work cut out for me, but I am always up for a challenge.

In 2010, I decided I wanted to run a full marathon, without ever even running a half, yeah like I said I just go for things.  So I signed up, trained for and ran the Marine Corps Marathon.  It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life to date and all I could think was, "man I can do anything I set my mind to, so what's ironman maybe!?!"

Well, nature had other plans for me, and less than two months after my first marathon, I found out I was going to be a mom!  My heart was so full but I knew my triathlon dreams would have to wait a little while now, especially when I found out I would become a mom again shortly after having my first son!  Yey for two under two!

During my pregnancies, I was pretty apprehensive to ride my road bike so I swam a little but mostly ran.  Shortly after having my sons (in 14 month's time), I was eager to get back into racing.  Since all I had pretty much been doing for the past two years was running (well that and changing diapers), I figured it would be best focus on distance running and I signed up for my first ever half.

I ran my first half when my youngest was 4 months old.  It was ugly but I did it and was anxious to do another.  So I did and got a huge PR from my first, then PR'ed again and again.  I then ran my first full marathon in 3.5 years in early 2014, and shaved over 30 minutes after my first one.  I was super excited about my progress and kept wanting to push myself.

Though my running obsession grew and I was the strongest I had ever been, I still felt there was something missing.  My poor bike continued to sit in the garage collecting dust and though I would swim some laps here and there, I just never made time for anything but running.  And though that saddened me, I just did not have the courage to pull the trigger and sign up for a triathlon.  It had been so long and I feared it would be too much of an undertaking for me.

That was until this past fall when an injury sidelined me from running and I was forced to take my cardio to the pool.  I swam almost every day and when not in pain, I would bike. When I was able to run again, I continued to keep up with my swimming and biking.  Before I knew it, I was training like a triathlete again!

So it was decided, I would do my first triathlon in like forever!  I picked one out, signed up and so began my journey back to triathlons...

Stay tuned for my next post, as I will describe my training and racing experience in the Spring Fling Triathlon Festival!