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5 Things I Learned from Doing the New York City Triathlon

Written on August 6, 2014 at 11:13 am , by

Last year, my colleague Samantha and I participated in the New York City Triathlon relay-style. (You can read about our experience here.) But getting just a little taste of the inspiring event wasn’t enough for me. After that day, I made a promise to myself to do all three legs the following year and immediately marked my calendar to solidify the goal. This past Sunday, I competed in this iconic New York race—swimming in the Hudson river, biking along the Henry Hudson Parkway and running through Central Park—and got so much more out of it than just a super cool medal. Here are my top takeaways from race day:

1. Make Friends.
I have always trained for and competed in triathlons by myself, and quite frankly, it gets lonely. In the past, I’ve been too reserved and nervous to get chummy with other people, but this time I was feeling unusually calm and ended up meeting a bunch of awesome triathletes. Chatting with them kept me feeling relaxed and made my race experience much more enjoyable. So don’t be shy—even though it’s an individual sport, you’re really all in it together.

2. Stay Calm. 
As mentioned above, I was surprisingly chill on race morning. I can only attribute this to a ton of pre-race visualization and feeling properly prepared. I put in all the hard work in the weeks leading up to the big day and if you train right, there’s really nothing to worry about except having fun! The worst thing you can do is spike your heart rate before you jump in the water, so even if there are a few worries in the back of your mind, push them out and repeat positive thoughts to stay relaxed. It actually works and makes a huge difference.

3. The Bike Matters. 
Personally, my strongest leg is on the bike, but even if it’s not yours, it’s still important to care about what wheels you’re on. This year, I rode my Specialized Alias (prices vary, specialized.com). It’s like the Jekyll and Hyde of bikes: two personalities—a road bike for training and a tri bike for racing—all wrapped into one slick, aerodynamic package. The geometry is designed specifically to allow you to swap between road position and triathlon position with ease. This explains it in more detail, but it was the perfect bike for my training. I just popped off the clip-on aerobars for the long group rides I incorporated into my schedule and then snapped them back on for when I was practicing race pace on solo jaunts. On the Alias, I was able to shave five minutes off my previous year’s time despite slick road conditions. True story: I actually saw a girl riding a rent-a-bike from Central Park complete with pannier on the course (!). Needless to say, her struggle was real and I smoked her. So seriously, it’s worth it to invest in a solid set of wheels.

4. Pace Yourself.
I tend to be a zero to 60, all or nothing, give it 100 percent type of person, especially when it comes to working out. And hey, that’s not always a bad thing. But in triathlon, you’ve got to get through three events before you can taste the sweetness of that finish line. The smartest thing I did was start every leg slow and steady. If I had extra gas in the tank, then I kicked it into high gear near the end. With this strategy, I had the smoothest race and strongest finish yet.

5. Remember to Smile! 
I get laser focused during races and unfortunately suffer from “resting b*tchface, so this one is important for me. If you want some cool in-action race photos, you better cheese when you spot a camera lens. Plus, anytime I fake smiled I mean, real smiled at the crowd, they went nuts and their enthusiasm gave me the shot of energy I needed, which in turn made it really fun and led to lots of genuine grins. Yay!

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Fun, Fit Getaway: The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club

Written on August 5, 2014 at 11:12 am , by

Looking for your next active vacation? Check out The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, which opened in December 2013. FITNESS recently visited the gorgeous oceanfront retreat for a long weekend. Here are the highlights from our fit trip:

In-Room Workout Gear Delivery*

Go on, pack all those extra bikini and sandal options—you can leave your workout gear at home. We’re not telling you to ditch your regular exercise routine—instead, reserve a pair of New Balance running shoes, socks, shorts and a shirt (all in your size) to be delivered to your room to use during your stay. Not going to lie, we thought wearing borrowed shoes would be weird. But our pair of Barringer 890s, a neutral cushioning shoe, arrived nearly brand new, yet broken-in enough that we didn’t get blisters when we laced up for several 3-mile runs. Plus, the new socks eliminated the ick factor. (WestinWORKOUT Gear Lending Program with New Balance, $5.)

A Personal Running Coach

We were lucky to run with Chris Heuisler, the RunWESTIN Concierge (best job ever?). Unfortunately, he’s not based at the resort. But you can go for a warm-up run with him and get his pre-race advice if you book the Westin VIP Marathon Package to stay at the hotel when you run any Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. Other perks include: speedy bib pickup, race day grab-and-go breakfast for two and in-room ice delivery post-race. (Deets and booking at runwestin.com. Follow Chris @RunWestin)

Ready-to-Go Running Routes*

Westin provides a pocket-sized map with 3- and 5-mile loops (created by employee runners) from the hotel, making it easy to get out and go without worrying about getting lost. The course took us through the surrounding tony resort community—where we did some serious real estate window shopping—and it was easy to veer off for a run on the beach.

Ocean Paddleboarding and Lagoon Swimming

SUP, people! The Paddle Surf Eco Tour, which begins on the beach right next to the Westin, is the perfect fit-vacation excursion. You hop on a stand-up paddleboard and cruise in the ocean along the coast of the resort, stop at a private white sand beach for fresh coconut water (super fresh: your guide cracks open a coconut with a machete), then hike through a rainforest to take a dip in an amazing lagoon.

Spa Time

Speaking of fresh coconut: They use made-daily coconut oil in the Punta Cana Signature full-body massage at the nearby Six Senses Spa. Book it for a relaxing end to a sporty day.

Healthy, Delicious Eats*

It’s refreshing to have plenty of healthy options when traveling and Westin includes SuperFoodsRx options—nutrient-packed, low-calorie dishes designed by doctors and nutritionists—on their menus at restaurants Anani and the beachside Brassa Grill & Bar. Try the crab cakes, cilantro lime shrimp salad and the Puntacana salad, made with arugula and other organic veggies grown at the resort’s ecological foundation. We also loved the berry yogurt parfait for a quick in-room pre-workout breakfast. Check out other great nearby restaurants, all waterfront: The Grill (our favorite for lunch), La Yola and Playa Blanca.

Other Activities

Not that into paddleboarding? There are plenty of other ways to play: kite boarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, horseback riding, tennis, golf and Segway tours. Of course, there’s ample opportunity for beach/pool lounging and umbrella drinks.

(*Available at all Westin hotels.)

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The Foam Roller You’ll Want to Use Tonight

Written on July 29, 2014 at 1:05 pm , by

Ah, lactic acid. There’s nothing quite like being so sore that just walking to yoga class is its own challenge (let alone actually working through the class). But if there happen to be foam rollers lying around the studio—or any gym, for that matter—that’s a big score for your bod. You can use ‘em to roll out your tight spots post-workout (learn more about how to roll each muscle group here), and these days you can toss ‘em in your suitcase so you’re set for even the busiest of travel days. They’re not the most comfortable tool to use, but we’re firm believers of the “hurt so good” motto when it comes to this device.

To help us fit gals up our performance and prevent injury, a company called Hyperice created a new roller that will take muscle recovery to the next level. The Vyper vibrates at three different speeds while in use to help you dig deeper where you need it, and comes with rechargeable batteries—basically, it’s a spa session for your muscles. And because some really incredible pro athletes are driving the Kickstarter campaign to get this thing in stores—Blake Griffin, Adrian Peterson, Lindsey Vonn and Troy Polamalu—we know it’s going to be good.

All you have to do is contribute $199 to the Kickstarter to get your hands on one of these bad boys in early November. Otherwise, wait until later that month when they roll out online and in Dick’s Sporting Goods stores, among other to-be-determined retailers. If you don’t want one for yourself (but come on, we know you do), we highly recommend scoping one out as a holiday gift for your favorite runner friends.

Image courtesy of Hyperice

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We Tried It: Trek’s Silque Bike

Written on July 28, 2014 at 10:39 am , by

I recently got the chance to hit the road with Trek Bikes and Trek Travel to tour miles of Vermont countryside on two wheels. (Check out some of their luxury cycling vacations here.) I’ve been road biking for a few years now but never really had the opportunity to completely immerse myself in the sport—until now. For our adventure, we hopped on the Trek Silque (prices vary, trekbikes.com), one of the women’s-specific road bikes nicknamed the “Smooth Operator” for its unique ability to smooth out even the roughest of roads. After riding nearly 90 miles (including one killer climb to Smuggler’s Notch in Stowe) on the bike, I got a good sense of everything this whip has to offer. Some of the highlights include:

  • The “IsoSpeed decoupler,” which isolates the movement of the seat tube from the rest of the frame, so the seat tube is free to absorb more forces from the road. Basically, your bike soaks up road shock so your body doesn’t have to. (Take it from me, you can immediately tell the difference compared to other bikes out there.)
  • A women’s–specific design (WSD) geometry that’s made for your body and is tuned at every size, regardless of frame size, to fit a female rider to the best possible level. This will put you in a position of power for a faster, more stable ride.
  • An electronic gear-shifting system, which offers elite shifting performance so you don’t have to be a pro to adjust to the terrain. (It’s very user-friendly, perfect for beginners.)
  • The trendy colors and designs—As soon as I saw this bike, I was swooning over the white, lime and aloe green color combo and chevron accents. I mean, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I want to ride a pink bike. And wear pink everything (just saying). But if you’re into pink, that’s cool too. They’ve got tons of options. In fact, you can even customize your own bike design here. Trek’s graphic designer hits up Fashion Week in Berlin every year to be one of the first on the scene of the hottest color and design trends. So no matter what you pick, you’re always going to get something that’s stylish and cool.

All in all, the Silque was an incredible ride and it really struck me how important it is to saddle up and try out some bikes before you buy one. If you want to test-ride one yourself, click here to find a demo coming to a location near you or check in with your local Trek retailer to see if you can take one for a spin.

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How to Dress Like a CrossFit Pro

Written on July 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm , by

Written by Macklin Stern, editorial intern

With so many athletes gearing up for the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games this weekend, we’re already feeling super motivated to run to our nearest box (code for gym, for all you newbies) and sign up for a few classes. Better yet, we’ll just hop on the MindBody Connect app and register there. But signing up and actually working out is only half the battle. You have to look the part, too. And not to fit in – so that you can continue to burpee and box jump like it’s no one’s business.

Samantha Briggs, a CrossFit athlete who just so happens to be the fittest woman on earth, gave us some sweet tips on what to wear—and what not to wear—when you’re on your way to deadlift, snatch, and clean and jerk. And considering she trains seven days a week—four of those are two-a-days—we think she might know her way around the rings.

Compression gear is a must. “Loose-fitting clothes may get trapped in the bars,” Briggs warns. Makes sense – no one wants an unexpected wardrobe malfunction because there shirt got in the way of the equipment.

Just say no to pockets. “If you do muscle-ups, you don’t want pockets because your thumb can get trapped in them.” Even doing exercises on the rings can become a risk. “I’ve tried to do them with big pockets on my shorts and nearly got my thumb cut off,” she says. Noted.

Tall socks are in style. You see all the diehards wearing them, and they do it for a reason. The extra padding protects your shins from the bar when lots of lifting is involved, and a pair of gloves or gymnastic grips will protect your hands (strict gymnastics is one of the hottest trends in the CrossFit world right now, so expect to learn some bendy moves if you haven’t yet). “If you choose to spend a lot of time on the bar, you can get ripped hands,” notes Briggs.  ”You don’t want to rip your hands because you won’t be able to train after,” she says. And nobody wants that.

Get the right shoes. Running sneakers don’t belong here. Briggs suggests the Reebok Nano 4.0 or Inov-8s, which are built for the pounding and sharp movements you do in each WOD (workout of the day).

Be sure to tune in to ESPN tonight and ESPN2 on Saturday and Sunday to watch the CrossFit pros burn and firm (more info on times and streaming here). Then hit up a box near you to try the trend. Just be prepared to sweat. A lot.

Photo courtesy of CrossFit Games

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A New Fitness Band That’ll Shock You…Literally

Written on July 24, 2014 at 9:53 am , by

With more and more specialized gyms popping up around the country, and weight-loss guides sprawling across the shelves in just about every bookstore, trimming down is no longer a secret, and giving up is no longer a solution. Yet even with an abundance of tools and information, more than 25 percent of Americans still don’t exercise willingly, according to the CDC’s State Indicator Report on Physical Activity. Two words: Mind. Boggling.

While we won’t try to understand the laziness phenomenon that refuses to leave our country, we can guess that it’s why a new do-it-all fitness band is about to be released. And it’s so on top of making sure you achieve your goals, it’ll shock you—literally.

Set to release in 2015, Pavlok rewards you when you accomplish a goal and punishes you when you don’t (enter: shock factor). As of now, you can use the Pavlok app to choose from three goals: wake up earlier with the EarlyRiser alarm clock that shocks you when you hit snooze; increase productivity with Pavlok Focus, which will buzz, beep and eventually shock if you have too many tabs open on your computer (studies show too much multitasking doesn’t do you any good in the long run); or increase your gym time with Pavlok Fit, which tracks your sleep and activity levels.

“We’re not just trying to track data,” says Pavlok co-founder and CEO Maneesh Sethi. “What we’re trying to do is take data that other people are tracking and use that information in order to help close the loop and change the behavior.”

Sethi says he and the team will eventually create a wider selection of goals for users to choose from. They’re also working to create a money pot where users can win money when they go to the gym, for example, and lose money when they don’t, much like a few other apps we love. But to take it a step further, if you fail to hit the gym, you might get a nice little post on your Facebook wall that tells all your friends you didn’t go. Ouch.

The Pavlok app will initially be available on iOS, and the team hopes to have it working on Android devices by the end of the year. You can order a prototype now for $50, or wait for the final bands to be released, which will range between $149 and $229.

Image courtesy of Pavlok

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Hello, Mr. Vice President: Meb Keflezighi is Ready for More Running—With You!

Written on July 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm , by

Written by Macklin Stern, editorial intern

When you’re an athlete, there’s nothing more golden than getting tips directly from the pros before the big day. As an aspiring runner, I’ve always admired Meb Keflezighi, not just for his incredible win at the 2014 Boston Marathon a few months ago (he was the first American to win it since 1983), but for the power, drive and passion he brings with him to every competition. And as a silver medalist of the 2004 Olympic Games (and countless other marathon wins), we’ve got the feeling he probably has some valuable training advice.

So we were pretty stoked when Competitor Group Inc.—a company that sponsors some really awesome sporting events like Run Rock ‘N’ Roll—announced Meb as the new vice president of running (side note: Can I have that title? It’s gotta be an awesome resume booster). Meb will use his passion and advice to help us mere mortal runners by developing training plans for us to follow to a T, popping up on social media with extra tips, and, of course, participating in a bunch of events—he’s already rocked (and rolled) at RNR San Diego, and you’ll find him lacing up for the Strip at Night, too. Basically, you can train like Meb and run with him, too. Umm, amazing!

So whether you’re nervous about competing in your first-ever marathon (like assistant web editor Samantha) or just eager to go out there and eat up the miles, Keflezighi has your back. Stay tuned for details on which races he’ll be at, and don’t forget to check out CGI’s website for updates.

Image courtesy of Competitor Group Inc.

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Cyclists, Rejoice! A Low-Cost Bike for A High-Quality Ride

Written on July 23, 2014 at 9:50 am , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

Too many times I’ve been in a rush to get to work with cyclists zooming by as I power walk at a fraction of the pace. Other times you’ll catch me jogging alongside cyclists in Prospect Park, wishing I, too, could ride around the entire city in just a matter of hours.

But I’ve always held off on buying a bike for one major reason: They’re either affordable and don’t last, or extremely pricey and for more serious riders. There’s no middle ground for a casual rider like myself. So when I heard about a new company, Priority Bicycles, and the fact that they’ve created a lightweight, low-cost, “maintenance-free” bike, I practically jumped in the saddle right then and there.

Now, if you’re anything like me, the first thought that popped in your head was, “Can there really be a maintenance-free bike?” After all, most any bike is bound to show some wear and tear eventually. But after talking with David Weiner, the founder of Priority Bicycles, I’m convinced this ride is as good as it sounds.

“Our most exclusive feature is our belt drive,” explains Weiner. “Most bikes have chains that rust, require lubrication and are susceptible to weather. Belt drives are more durable. We also use the rear hub to contain the gears and brakes, which isolates features that traditionally require maintenance on other bikes.”

On top of all that, the bike has puncture-resistant tires and the seat is held together with bolts, not quick release levers, in order to deter theft. And when purchasing the bike, Priority Bicycles sends a tire pump, assembly tools and a water bottle cage right along with it (usually those all come at an extra cost). Oh, and the bike looks good, giving you three different color options and a sleek, classic design.

When it comes to the low price—ahem, $399—Weiner explains that most everyone in the bicycle industry has “two markups,” meaning the bike company buys it from a factory, then bumps up the price to sell it to the retailer. That retailer turns around and does the same thing, marking it up a second time to the price you see in stores.

Thankfully, Priority Bicycles skips all that. “Our model is to sell consumer-direct only. We buy from the factory using our unique design and send it directly to the consumer. That effectively means you’re getting an $800 bike for $400,” says Weiner. Cha-ching!

Weiner came up with the idea a few years ago, after constantly doling out advice to friends about what bike to buy for their experience level. When he couldn’t find a company that offered high-quality equipment at an affordable price, he hopped onto Kickstarter and created a campaign.  Weiner had a modest goal of raising $30k, but clearly everyone wants a bike like this—the company is over $250k, and there are still 27 days left.  Once the campaign closes on August 14, the bikes will be sold directly from Priority’s website for the standard $399. But if you jump on to Kickstarter, you’ll score a special price of $374 and free shipping.

So hop to it because if you order now, the bike will be made and delivered before the holidays. Christmas gift, anyone?

Photo courtesy of Priority Bicycles

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American Ninja Warrior Contestant Kacy Catanzaro Has Guts—And Is Going for Glory

Written on July 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

By now, it’s likely you’ve caught wind of 24-year-old Kacy Catanzaro, the first-ever female to qualify for the finals of NBC and Esquire Network’s sports competition show, American Ninja Warrior. After completing a nine-part obstacle course during the Dallas qualifying round (and making it look like a walk in the park), the former gymnast proves she packs a real punch as an athlete and competitor. And after speaking with her, we’re convinced that this girl really is a ninja—all 5 feet and 100 pounds of her.

Congrats on your awesome run for “ANW!” How did it feel?

It is definitely a lot of pressure stepping out there. There are a lot of lights, cameras, and you know the whole world is going to see it on TV eventually. Before I run, you can see that I’m kind of bouncing around and a little bit anxious. It’s funny: Once they count down and they say, “3,2,1, go,” it’s like a wave of relief washes over me. Then I just kind of take it one thing at a time. After I finish one obstacle, I just calmly take a few deep breaths and get ready to attack the next one.

How has your gymnastics career prepared you for ANW?

I started gymnastics when I was 5 years old and then I got a scholarship to a Division I school—Townsen University in Maryland—and I competed all four years there. So from the time I was 5 until the time I was 22, it was my whole life. Gymnastics really mentally prepared me for the course: being able to take that kind of pressure and not let it affect me in a bad way, but actually use it as fire to get excited and to get out there. And if things don’t go my way, it doesn’t mean it’s over. I just have to overcome them by making adjustments in order to make it happen.

How do you stay in such amazing shape?

I try and strength-train anywhere from four to six times a week, based on where life is taking me or what is coming up. Brent Steffensen—my boyfriend, coach and an ANW veteran—and I train together and do strength-training and bodyweight-circuit training on a regular basis. We do lots of bodyweight exercises in a row—pushups, pull-ups, lunges, squats, lots of abs—to really build strength and endurance. For the obstacle courses, we want to be as light and lean as possible, and doing exercises with your bodyweight is the most efficient way to get there.

What’s your diet like?

I just try to eat as clean as possible—greens, veggies, fruits, nuts and things like that. For my protein, I like fish a lot because it is lighter and cleaner. Definitely stay away from anything that is processed and avoid eating too much sugar. So if I can’t read an ingredient listed in an ingredient label, I try to stay away from it. It’s so important to be aware of what you are putting into your body and what good or harm it will do.

What motivates you to stay fit?

I’ve always had a competitive nature—I love getting out there and competing—but one thing people don’t realize about fitness is that people don’t just work out out to look good. Obviously it’s very nice to look good and to have that body you dream of, but the most important thing about fitness and living healthy is being able to get the maximum out of your life. If you are as fit as you can be, you can do more and you aren’t held back by your weight. I think that staying fit, not being held back and being able to go out and try to accomplish whatever it is that I want is the best part of it.

In case you missed it, check out Kacy’s crazy performance below, and be sure to watch the St. Louis finals tonight at 9 on NBC.

 

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Marathon Musings: 5 Mistakes First-Timers Make

Written on July 21, 2014 at 9:18 am , by

After three years of regularly running and 10 half-marathons under my belt (along with tons of fit-spo from the FITNESS staff), I’m going after the illustrious 26.2-mile race that every runner dreams about: the New York City Marathon. The best part, for me? Running for Team Stop the Clot, a charity running team branched off the National Blood Clot Alliance. With so many important charities to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one, but as someone who’s been personally affected by blood clots (along with nearly a quarter million other women), it was the best fit. Want to know more about my story? Check it out here.

Now that training has kicked off for me and many others lacing up for a fall race, I’ve teamed up with Clif Bar athlete and coach Stephanie Howe to take me through the ups and downs of doubling my usual distance. And before I get into what I can do right, it was very important to find out what I could do wrong—and make sure not to, ya know, do it. Take warning, friends, as these are the five mistakes tons of first-time marathoners make.

Not fueling while running. While you can get away with it on shorter runs, there’s no skimping when mileage increases. “Hitting the wall” only happens when energy stores start to run out. Your bod needs a quick hit of sugar when racing, so “take in fuel, in the forms of gels or blocks, on any run longer than 90 minutes,” recommends Howe. And be sure to try tons of different varieties to find your perfect fit, as what works for your running bestie may not for you. I love Clif Bar’s Black Cherry Shot Bloks, but avoid all gels like the plague. Everybody’s different.

Taking in fuel too late. Now that you know the 90-minute rule, you want to nail the timing. If 90 minutes pass before you dig in, you’re already too late and won’t avoid the zonk. Instead, eat one gel (about 100 calories) every 20-30 minutes. A quick trick Howe gave me, since I regularly zone out and forget about time? “Set your watch alarm to beep every 20-30 minutes, so you get that regular reminder without having to think about it.” Done and done.

Waiting to eat post-run. Are you sensing a theme here? Clearly, nutrition is a major key to success in marathon training. To nix that “oh-my-god I can’t move my legs” feeling the day after your run (or even the day after that, courtesy of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS), make sure you eat within 30 minutes of wrapping up the pavement-pounding. “Any fuel consumed in that window will be used immediately to start the recovery process because it goes directly to your muscles, rather than the entire body,” says Howe. If you, like me, hate thinking about food immediately following a run, don’t fret: a buffet of food isn’t necessary. “A Clif or Luna bar, 8 ounces of a Clif Shot recovery drink or chocolate milk are all good options,” suggests Howe.

Running easy runs too fast. This one is key, and a mistake I’ve definitely committed more than once. ‘Cause when you’re feeling good and everything is clicking, it’s tempting to push at a slightly faster pace. Don’t do it, Howe warns. Think of it as a pacing spectrum, with “very slow” on one end, and “very fast” on the other. If you spend a ton of time in the middle, you’ll short-change your progress. “Spending time at each end will improve your fitness, teach you how to adjust to different levels of difficulty, and prevent overtraining,” explains Howe. So when coach says “easy,” she really means it.

Skimping on rest. No rest for the weary, right? Wrong, so wrong. “The goal of training is to place stress on the body that will improve your overall fitness,” explains Howe. “These adaptations happen when the body is resting, so if you skip it, you’re opening yourself up to overtraining, injury and illness.” Obviously I don’t want any of those, so coach has me resting at least one day per week. And when she says rest, that is not code for “go take a  yoga class or walk all over the city with friends.” Instead, it means binge-watch Orange is the New Black or go get a massage, which Howe also highly recommends (the massage, not necessarily OITNB). Girl, you don’t have to tell me twice.

Photo courtesy of Clif Bar 

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