This week I have been focusing on cardio for two reasons; the first and most important reason because I seem to have injured  my shoulder a tad more than I thought I had the other week, and needed to take a teeny break from upper body weight work outs (that is, until this Saturday).  I have trained very hard and have added weight at a faster rate than perhaps I should have, thus feel a bit of a strain, so playing it safe and doing lighter weights this week.  The second reason is that I am realizing I need to step up my cardio work outs – both in intensity and length, at this stage in my fitness journey.  I can no longer drop 2 lbs just by eliminating a snack at night and taking an extra walk around the block with the dogs.  As I’ve mentioned before in my blog, when you have very little body fat left to lose, it gets tougher and tougher to tighten up and drop down, so your methods must get more and more extreme.  I’m a girl with a big appetite – I like my food and I want to eat lots of it. That means I must work hard for those extra morsels! Something I will probably start incorporating is doing cardio twice a day – one session in the morning with my other work out, and one later in the afternoon/evening.  It’s never wise to do cardio right before or after weights (at least not for me) – if I do it beforehand, I am too exhausted when lifting, and am not able to perform my best/heaviest weights, and if I do it after, I would have to eat some protein before running so as to “feed the muscle” and basically avoiding the cardio from eating away at all my work I just did, and I don’t like running on a ‘full’ stomach.

Now I’m saying “running” as if this is the only cardio I am doing or could do. This is not the case, but as I’m in training for my first half marathon which will take place next month, I’ve decided to focus on this type of cardio until then.  I have never considered myself a runner, in fact I used to hate it in high school, and always ended up last when we would go out for class runs. I was into gymnastics and volleyball (any team sports, really), and none of those sports require outrageous stamina in my opinion unless you are of course in the top /professional league. I am not sure when I started liking running, but now I get moody and irritated if I can’t go for my daily run! I have been experimenting with speed and distance lately, in order to better my time and condition for the race. I’m not a fast runner but must say I was proud of my personal best yesterday – 8:57 min miles, for a 6 mile run! hahaha… My longest run is 12 miles, and this weekend I will go for the half marathon distance, fingers crossed!  I have to be careful not to injure my knees again, as I have had several surgeries (ACL and meniscus repairs from back in my volleyball playing days) and one of my knees still need some work but has been holding up so far.  This is where strength training is so important, I have been mindful to incorporate lower body exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding my knees, as well as my hamstrings.  I never wanted that “runner’s body” – all flabby, skinny legs, so I’m trying not to do too much running, but just enough, and rather incorporate interval training, plyometrics and other high intensity cardio that will help better my condition.

As for “equipment”, I run with my Polar heart rate monitor that also has a foot pod attached to my sneaker, which measures distance and pace. I also have the Nike+ tablet in my Nike shoe that I hook up to my iPod and it speaks to you throughout your run, telling you how you are doing, which I find very motivating!  Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods have both told me I’m doing wonderful, trying not to get a big head here.. hahaha.

The more I run, and the more I exercise – I see how important your mind set is. Especially when running longer distances – I know my body can do it, but it’s amazing what your mind can tell you. I’m tired, I’m hungry, thirsty, exhausted, my knees hurt, my lower back is aching – I want to go home, etc. I’ve encountered all these thoughts, but I feel so vindicated when I actually end up running the distance I set out to run! I come home completely wiped out (in a good way) but  readier than ever to tackle any and all problems the universe has for me! I recommend trying to run – even if it’s just around the block, you will improve and there is a strong chance you will get hooked if you can convince your mind.  I feel that running is definitely the best way to relieve stress, burn calories and shape your body (hello everyone who wants a nice midriff for the summer!)… but if running still isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other cardio options which I will cover in other posts coming soon.  Here I am outside my house in one of my favorite running gear outfits from Under Armour:

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