How to Become a Runner Overnight 

It all started in a weight room. As I grunted and strained under the guidance of my favorite training partner, she pitched a curveball my way (as if convincing me to deadlift wasn’t insane enough).

We should go for a run around Wash Park,” Heather suggested.

My response? “Ha, okay. Good luck with that one.

Because here’s the thing: I’ve never been into anything remotely involving cardio endurance. I lived for years under the strict rule that I don’t run unless I’m being chased. Why run when you can walk instead?

Reluctantly, I laced up my too-small sneakers and met my four-woman training crew near the pond at Washington Park. I felt almost sick with dread – I already hated running, and there was no way I’d be able to complete this 2.5 mile circuit around the park.

Then something unexpected happened. My feet began to hit the pavement in a rhythmic pitter-patter, my lungs filled sharply with cold Colorado air, and my entire body woke up from a hibernation I didn’t realize I had been in. I hardly made it a mile before I need to pause for fear of my body bursting from exertion – but within seconds, I wanted to run more.

So I did. And then I ran again the next day. And the next.Running at City Park in Denver, CO.

It seems that I’ve become a runner. In a few weeks I went from being allergic to running to acquiring four pairs of running shoes, signing up for the BolderBoulder as a sponsored participant, and even doing a photo campaign for a major nationwide running brand.

So how does one become a runner overnight?

You just run.

In four short days, I’ll be running my first race. The BolderBoulder is the Front Range’s most beloved 10K – a true community event where speed doesn’t seem to be quite as important as having a memorable adventure while cruising through the streets, down slip-n-slides, and past live music. For once in my life I didn’t let my pursuits become encumbered by logistics or gear or personal limitations – I just put on shoes, and ran when it felt good. Some days, it didn’t feel so good, so I didn’t run. Becoming as runner has been one of the most organic recreational experiences I’ve ever had.

I’m no expert, but if you too have the itch to feel your feet slapping trails, here’s some rookie advice:

  1. Drink a lot of water. The #1 piece of advice for anyone doing anything outside. Hydrate.
  2. Invest in proper running shoes. I ran in too-small sneakers, hiking boots, and even hybrid water/trail shoes before realizing how important proper footwear is. Now that I run in Adidas and Skechers shoes, my body feels better, my feet feel better, and frankly, I don’t look like such a noob.
  3. Start with a friend who will pace you properly. Turns out, I have an issue with running way too fast. Luckily, Heather is an excellent pacer and taught me how to run slow. Because running slow = running further.
  4. Be mindful of your body. Running hurts, and your body will respond accordingly. I picked up runner’s knee within the first week, and had to tone it down while my joints got used to all the pavement pounding.
  5. Choose dirt over pavement. If you can, run on trails. I’ve found that it makes such a difference to run on soft surfaces instead of concrete. Not to mention the major upgrade in scenery when you go from a jog around the block to a jaunt through the trees.

Runners, what advice would you give to someone keen on the idea of dabbling with running?

Hangboards + Climbing

First rule: never walk by a hangboard (or pull-up bar, or rings, or any sturdy door frame) without doing a pull-up. No but really, unless you’re resting, just do it. Mastering the pull-up is essential to leveling up your climbing game.

But seriously, don’t forget about climbing in all your #couchtocrush training. A lot of fitness plans tend to slack out on the climbing part of it all – but I can guarantee you that the single best way to become a better climber is to climb. Incorporating hangboarding and climbing ‘games’ is key to a successful fitness routine:

Couch To Crush Guide to Climbing Training – Hangboard Training and Climbing

HANGBOARDS

My hangboard circuits have been fairly standard thus far while I build my finger strength back up. As is outlined in Deadpoint Mag’s Fit For Fall in 4 Weeks plan, I choose six different hangboard positions per session. Each set of hangs goes like this:

For your first rep, gently hang from the chosen grips for 10 seconds (start with the harder and move towards easier holds). Drop, and rest for five seconds before pulling on again. Repeat six times per position. Once you’ve completed the set, rest for two minutes.

Here are some tips for hangboards:

  • Your arms and shoulders should be engaged, but not totally locked off. They’re called ‘hangs’ for a reason, folks.
  • Work with a partner. It’s great to have someone to help keep time and make hangboarding a bit less tedious. A stopwatch is really helpful, especially if you can prop it up somewhere you can keep an eye on it while hanging.
  • Don’t overdo it. I usually do hangboard training once a week. In winter when I’m not climbing as much, twice a week is totally fine if you’re up to it. You want to strength your fingers, but you don’t want to overwork them – that’s how injuries happen, and “I busted my tendon on a hangboard” makes for a really crappy reason to get sidelined.
  • Give yourself a decent rest after every hangboard session. You can train hard all you want, but you won’t give your body time to properly recover (and get stronger) without resting. Work hard, rest hard.

Check out this post from Evening Sends for a truly excellent guide to hangboarding that includes everything from tips on proper form to adding weight for additional intensity. Steph Davis also offers some great advice on hangboard training (along with an alternative hangs circuit), and this video from Chris Webb Parsons shows you how to level up your hangboard game with one-armed assisted hangs:

If you’re really committed to your hangboard training, read this post on TrainingBeta.com written by the authors of The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. Mark and Mike Anderson provide a deep look into choosing the right hangboard, exercises, and grip positions.

CLIMBING GAMES + WORKOUTS

Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate intentional climbing sessions into your training:

  1. Bottoms Up: I use this to warm up a lot, and sometimes spend my whole day playing along until I max out – start a V0, and climb every line of that grade until you progress to the next level. In addition to really warming your muscles up, it provides a great bout of endurance training.
  2. Hop on the Systems Board: Just like campus boards, when I get on a systems board I always get a slice of humble pie right to the face. This thing will really whip you into shape – and you can make it a game with your partner. Grab a long stick brush, and while your partner is on the wall, point out each next hold for them to reach. Keep your core engaged, and really focus on your body movement.
  3. 4x4s: The perfect ‘game’ for the climber who wants a solid pump in a short period of time. Pick four boulder problems that sit within the range that’s pushing your limits (but not quite at them). I climb at an upper limit of about V5-6, so my ideal 4×4 would include a mix of V3-4s. Do each circuit as quickly as possible – and don’t be afraid about falling, because you absolutely should be if you’re pushing hard enough! 4x4s work your power endurance, and should leave you feeling pleasantly wiped out.
    1. Note: These can be a little difficult to do in a packed gym! I head to Movement Denver at 7 AM most mornings to avoid the crowds.
  4. Add-On: A great activity for when you’re not in try-hard-project-sending mode, add-on is a group game where each player takes a turn adding a move to the sequence. The game continues with players disqualified if they cannot complete the sequence, or forget any of the moves.

Climbing training at Movement Denver.Whatever you have to do to get yourself on the wall, don’t forget that the most important part of training for climbing is the part where you actually climb. You’re lifting weights, eating right, and working hard for one reason: to become a better climber.

Additional Resources:

Be sure to share your training photos on Instagram +Twitter with the #couchtocrush hashtag for a chance to win sweet climbing swag!

Ricebuckets + Foamrolling

Part of training is falling in love with the way you feel when your body is active. You should also really enjoy the activities you engage it during your workouts (and recovery). We all play favorites, and for me, the best part of my daily routine is spending some quality time with my rice bucket and foam roller. Bonus points if you add accu-pressure rings to your daily routine too!

The #CouchtoCrush climbing training guide to foamrolling and rice bucket workouts.

RICEBUCKETS

It’s admittedly a bit messy, but I’ll swear by it. Foam rolling helps you strengthen all those extensor muscles in your forearms, and creates balance in your body strength. Arms and hands are pretty damn important to climbers, you know. DeadPoint Magazine offers great descriptions of all the ricebucket movements and outline of a great workout to accompany this classic video by Steve Edwards:

I find that rice bucket sessions can be incredibly relaxing and almost meditative. I’ll just dig my hands into the rice whenever I’m sitting around binging on Netflix, chatting wtih my housemates, or watching climbing videos. I start going through the motions, direct my gaze elsewhere, and bam! before I know it 20 minutes have passed and I’m pleasantly pumped. My favorite moves include:

  • The Swirl: Submerge your fists deep in the bucket, and roll your wrists while churning the rice and engaging your shoulders.
  • Side-to-Sides: Again with fists buried in the rice, move your wrists from left to right for one minute, then forward and backwards for one minute.
  • Make A Fist: Grab a big fistful of rice, and squeeze it as hard as you can.
  • Fists-Up Dig: With your fists facing palms-up, dig deep into the edge of the bucket closest to you, and really engage your arms/biceps as you pull upwards towards the opposite side of the bucket before digging back in again.

For additional viewing, check out this rice bucket forearm workout video (specifically for baseball players, but still good). If you really want to get weird, there’s a video called “Dirty Rice” for power lifters.

Fair warning: If you have a dog, your dog might end up eating a lot of rice when you aren’t looking – which means pooping a lot of rice. Or, if you have mice living in your house, they’ll totally poop in your rice bucket. I may or may not know all of this from unpleasant personal experience. Consider keeping a lid over your bucket when not in use.

FOAM ROLLING

Just ask Vikki from The RV Project, who will readily profess her undying love for foam rollers; this seemingly weird tool works wonders for your body. The first time you foam roll while sore, you might actually shed a few tears – and then you’ll wake up the next day feeling brand new. Foam rolling invigorates blood flow and helps your body bring nutrients to your muscles.

For a basic guide to the various areas you can target using a roam roller, this post from The Clymb is a great place to start. You can obviously work your back, but the foam roller is also a great tool for your hamstrings, lats, quadriceps, and more. Climb On Sister offers a more in-depth look at foam rolling, which is accompanied by this excellent video:

Before you go out and buy a foam roller, learn about the different options you have and what you should look for. This informative post by Sarah Groman that delves into considerations like areas of the body to target, intensity, and product quality. Her preference is the Thera-Roll, which features ridges for “deeper tissue pressure.” Personally, I’m a fan of smooth foam rollers for every day use, but I haven’t spent enough time testing my options. Check to see if your local rock gym has foam rollers for use, and test theirs out before purchasing your own.

Incorporating rice buckets and foam rolling into your Couch-to-Crush training plan is a great way to provide your body with a stimulating way to recover and refresh yourself. Once you get started with training and figure out a good daily groove for yourself, it gets easier and easier to keep up with fitness elements like these in your routine. Get after it!

Don’t forget to share your training + climbing photos on Instagram + Twitter with the #couchtocrush hashtag – you could win gear like ClimbOn! skin salve, handcrafted Kendal Jackson Bags chalkbags, and more!

Getting Started

Training is what you make it, and sometimes it’s intimidating to figure out where to get started. Yeah, of course we all want to be lifting our bodyweight from the first time we lift that barbell – but that’s just not going to happen. Beginnings tend to be humble. That’s totally okay. Facts only: On my first day in the weight room, I struggled through bicep curls with 7.5 lb dumbbells. One of the worst things you can do to yourself is to go too hard from the start. You’ve been living the couch potato life, you can’t expect your body to crush just yet. Take it easy, and find pride in the fact that you’re here doing it and pushing yourself closer to crush-mode.

#couchtocrush guide to getting started with climbing training

You have to get started somewhere, here’s how to do it right:

  • Always warm up. I like to start my sessions with 20-60 minutes of cardio or (easy) bouldering. A good warm up session will activate your body and help you prevent injury.
  • Remember to breathe. This is a big issue for me with climbing in general – I always concentrate so hard on what I’m doing that I forget to breathe. Focus on your breath and form while working out. Hop on a treadmill or elliptical, climb a few laps on auto-belay, take a jog around the block – whatever works for you.
  • Drink water – drink all the water! Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Your body is going to be working hard, so make sure you keep it well hydrated. You’ll perform better and feel better. Aim for a gallon a day (the health benefits are plentiful for those of us who are properly hydrated).
  • Mix things up. From triggering different parts of your body to just keeping things exciting, I’m a big advocate for switching things up during your training sessions. Create a schedule that combines lifting, climbing, core training, hangboards, cardio, yoga, and recovery exercises. Combine two on days when you’re feeling strong, and don’t be afraid to swap a lift day for some yoga if your body really isn’t feelin’ it.
  • Train with a partner. I’ve done many training/workout/climbing plans, and this is the first one I’ve ever actually committed to in the long run – largely because I have a great training partner. Our lady-time gym sessions have up to four of us at a time, and we text each other throughout the week about our upcoming sessions. Training partners provide excellent accountability and motivation.

When my training day includes some time in the weight room at the gym (which I do about 3 times a week), the workout goes as follows: First, drink water (and top off your water bottle). Begin with 10-20 minutes of cardio until you break a sweat. Drink more water and stretch out a bit. Then do three sets of three different exercises, 10-12 reps per exercise. Cool down with 10-15 minutes of light core exercises and active yoga.

Here’s a quick 9-exercise workout to get you started with weights:Arms and shoulders workout guide for the #couchtocrush climbing training.

Start sharing your training photos on Instagram + Twitter with the #couchtocrush hashtag – you could win gear like ClimbOn! skin salve, handcrafted Kendal Jackson Bags chalkbags, and more!

Note: I shouldn’t even have to be saying this – but I’m not a personal trainer, nor a nutritionist. I’m a climber who wants to climb better, and I’m sharing what works for me. Proceed at your own risk. Except for the drink more water thing, you shouldn’t have to question my authority on that one. 

Homemade Oatmeal Coconut Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

No matter how “healthy” I try to eat, I always end up caving to overwhelming sweet tooth cravings. I never used to find myself with random bouts of an insatiable need to jam sugary treats into my pie-hole, but lately my confectionary cravings have become a problem – because I tend to satisfy those cravings with things like the expired whipped frosting I found in the back of the pantry last week (not cool, folks, not cool).

The solution? Trade questionable, processed sweets for something homemade. I won’t even try to pretend that a pile of cookies is healthy for me – but baking with wholesome, organic ingredients makes me less guitly when I wake up and eat a bunch for breakfast. My favorite little trick: I swapped the usual butter for coconut oil, yum! The result? A delicious, gooey homemade oatmeal coconut dark chocolate chip cookie recipe – that’s anyone can bake!

Coconut Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (with coconut oil!)The ingredients laid out for my homemade oatmeal coconut dark chocolate chip cookies recipe.• ingredients

+ 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
+ 1 cup coconut oil (softened)
+ ½ cup sugar in the raw
+ 2 eggs
+ 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
+ 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
+ 1 ¾ cup flour
+ 1 tsp baking soda
+ 1 pinch sea salt
+ 3 cups rolled oats
+ 1 cup dark chocolate chips
+ 1 cup shredded coconut

Note: You can adjust the amount of coconut and dark chocolate chips to your taste – but I found this to be the perfect combination!

• instructions

+ preheat your oven to 375º.

+ make the cookie batter.

You’ll make a sugary base by mixing together the sugar and coconut oil. Once you have a nice mixture, add the eggs one by one, and then stir in the milk and vanilla. In a separate bowl, blend the flour, baking soda, and salt – then add that to the cookie batter. Last, stir in the oats, coconut, and chocolate chips.

+ bake the cookies.

Plop small mounds of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. I like to moisten my hands with a little water before forming the cookie balls to keep the sugary dough from sticking to my fingers. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes at 375º.

+ enjoy!

Recipe yields about 4 dozen cookies.

I won’t lie and say that this can be excused as a totally healthy snack – but it sure beats devouring an entire box of Girl Scout cookies. For me, becoming a healthier person is all about taking it one step at a time, and slowly making better choices when it comes to what I put into my body. So an oatmeal coconut cookie instead of half a pint of ice cream is just one small victory in the battle towards wellness!

What’s YOUR ultimate sweet tooth weakness?

5 Ways to Stay Connected to Nature (Even When You’re Not in Nature)

5 Ways to Stay Connected to Nature (Even When You're Not in Nature)Living in a van on the road for the past eight months has been the ultimate way to immerse myself in nature every moment of the day – but this lifestyle just isn’t a permanent reality. I got my first taste of “being stuck indoors” while Niko spent a month working in Boulder – and quickly learned that I needed to get creative when it came to getting outside. Since we can’t spend every day out in the wild, why not make the most of the fresh air we can easily access on a daily basis?

Here are five easy ways to stay connected to nature any day:

1. Go for a walk.

Seriously. It’s that easy.  So many readers complain about how hard it is to get outdoors when you live in suburbia – but after a week of house-sitting in Westminster, CO, I am here to debunk that myth. All you have to do is find a plot of greenery within walking (or a short drive) distance, and you’ve got yourself potential for mini adventures. In Colorado, I found myself exploring Lake Standley each morning while walking the dog I was sitting. Every excursion introduced me to new flowers, little creatures, and more fresh air than my lungs could handle – and it was all within a stone’s throw of the house.

And it’s not just because I was in Colorado, the land of epic adventures. In my hometown of Miami, there are a number of destinations waiting to be explored. There’s the neighborhood park full of canals and climb-able trees, the mangrove hammock and marina where crabs litter the bike paths, and even a historic bayfront estate – all within a five minute drive of my house.

2. Take your work outside.

When folks sit in a four-walled room staring at nothing but concrete and computer screens all day, it’s no wonder they get stir crazy. Just because you have a dozen deadlines to complete by next week doesn’t mean you’re confined to the clutches of a cubicle – pick up your work, and bring it outdoors. Move your home office to the back porch for an afternoon, or add sunshine to the agenda with an extended working lunch break at an outdoor café.

If all else fails, and you absolutely must stay indoors – open up a window, and take a break every hour to gaze outside and refresh your senses.

Ditch your dining room, and take your meals outside!3. Ditch your dining room.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, mealtime provides a perfect opportunity to inject a little outdoor time into your schedule. If the weather is welcoming, there’s no reason to eat cooped up indoors – relocate your plate to the patio, or set up a blanket on the lawn for a picnic-style feast. I’ve found that food tends to taste better when it’s enjoyed with a nice view. Bonus points if you’ve got a garden nearby: fresh basil is a readily available condiment!

While I eat most of my meals outdoors these days, I actually miss mornings spent sitting outside on the little porch of my old house in Tallahassee – it was such a pleasant way to start the day, chowing down on hot oatmeal while the crisp air woke up my body. Make it a goal to eat at least one meal a week outside, and soon you’ll find that it becomes an everyday habit.

4. Trade TV for stargazing.

After a long day of work, it’s absolutely excusable to want to do nothing more than sit around and let your mind unwind – but that doesn’t mean you should head straight to the television. Instead of ending your day staring at yet another screen flashing with mindless media, turn off the boob-tube and go outside to enjoy the evening.

Stargazing is obviously ideal with a clear night sky, but there’s more to be had than just an eyeful of twinkling lights. Relax to the sounds of crickets in the grass and wind blowing through trees while the crisp nighttime air breezes over you. Bonus points if you have a hammock! For Niko and I, sprawling out on a patio was a great way to have some “together” time – it’s pretty romantic to sit out under the stars, instead of zonking out next to each other on a couch watching reruns.

Our little hammock camp at my house in Miami.

5. Pitch a tent (or hammock) in your backyard.

We all get a little cabin fever when we’ve spent too much time residing indoors – but few people seem to embrace the quickest cure: go camping in your own backyard. Especially great if you need to break in some new gear before heading out into the backcountry, setting up camp in your yard is a fantastic way to “get away” without having to really get away.

Pitch your tent (or hammock), haul out some sleeping bags, get a little fire pit blazing, and bask in all the fun of camping – any day of the week. For the full experience, try to avoid going indoors for any reason. Cook your meal over a fire, roast some marshmallows, fill up water jugs, and if your backyard permits, do your business in a bush too!

While it’s all too easy to feel like your outdoorsy style is being cramped by your day-to-day life, it’s just as simple to inject a dose of adventure into your week. Try out each of these five methods of getting “outdoors” without straying too far from home, and figure out what works best for your lifestyle. Maybe it’s spending one night a week in your backyard campground, or maybe you’ll find that eating dinner outside quickly becomes a nightly ritual. Anything to keep your adventurous spirit alive in between big trips!

How do YOU stave off cabin fever when during long periods of time between outdoor adventures? Share your best tips in the comments! And for more outdoor inspiration, check out the Nature Project Tumblr powered by Nature Valley.

 * Compensation for this content was provided by Nature Valley. Opinions expressed here are strictly my own.  

My Not-So-Secret Secrets to a Healthy and Energized Adventurous Lifestyle

Not-so-secret Secrets to a Healthy and Energized Adventurous LifestyleA year on the road has taught me valuable lessons about the web of relationships connecting food, energy, my body, and the outdoors. When you spend as much time adventuring outdoors as I do, you really start to pay attention to your body’s needs – from hydration and staying energized to refueling after playing outside.

We don’t live by any diets or nutrition fads; our lifestyle revolves around making the healthy choices because it makes us feel good, and enjoying treats in moderation when we want. We believe in supporting local farmers, cooking most of our own meals, and focusing on energizing food that will help us in our pursuit towards living active lives.

One of my favorite experiences during my yearlong road trip has been visiting farmers markets from the desert in Joshua Tree to the breezy streets of Squamish in Canada. Whenever Niko and I have access to a farmers market, we stock up on locally grown produce like sweet corn, green beans, massive heads of cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and everything in between. Filling our fridge and fruit bowl with fresh, whole food makes it easy to make healthy decisions for meals and snacking.

It’s all about what you offer yourself: If my shelves are full of Cheez-Its and pudding cups, I’m totally going to fill my belly with that – but if my options are apples, granola bars, and carrot sticks, I can’t go wrong when choosing snacks!

While Niko and I try to put as many whole foods in our diet as possible, our on-the-go lifestyle simply makes it impossible to do everything yourself. When we add “processed” products into our groceries list, we prefer to know we’re eating food that lives up to our standards of healthy eating.

One of the easiest ways to feel good about my grocery choices is to simply make sure to read the label. There are a few key things to look for and avoid when trying to weed out unhealthy packaged food:

  • Read the ingredients list. If you can’t pronounce it, or recognize what it is, consider that a major red flag.
  • Lots of mystery chemical food colorings? No thanks. Some of the worst offenders include red #40, yellow #5, and blue #2.
  • Evaluate the two S’s: Sodium and Sugar.
    • You know I’m all about moderation, and refuse to live my life by restricting my diet to number counts, but even I can’t deny that foods wit excessive amounts of sodium and/or sugar shouldn’t be everyday staples.
  • If you’re on a budget like I am, and considering going for the “cheaper brand,” compare ingredients lists with pricier options. Sometimes, the junk they put in the less expensive brand just isn’t worth a 60¢ savings.

So what do we seek in packaged foods? We’re all about products that have a short ingredients list – which indicates it’s all food and no filler. Because ingredients are ordered by prominence, try to choose packaged food where ingredients like syrup and sugar are lower on the list than the good stuff.  Example: Nature Valley’s Roasted Nut Crunch granola bars.

Nature Valley Roasted Nut Crunch granola bars.Here’s the ingredients list: “Almonds, Roasted Peanuts, Sunflower Seeds, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Cashew Flour, Sesame Seed.” [Read more…]