From Polaroid to PR: Week Five

For the next five weeks, I’m working with NTC Chicago to achieve my New Year’s resolution of running a sub-1:50:00 half marathon with the help of Nike Master Trainer Kate Hiipakka and our crew. The date is set for May 18th, and I’m using Fab Fit Chicago to keep me accountable during my training. Check out my first post here. Let’s run!

Friday: 4.36 miles at 8:43/mile pace


After last week’s unenjoyable short run, I tried to make sure I was fully awake before leaving my house. I putzed around, unloaded the dishwasher, had two NutriLux vitamins and half of an Evolution Fresh juice, and THEN took off. My time tells me that these things made a difference; however, I still felt kind of sluggish and like I was clomping along. Then again, I was wearing a new pair of shoes (Nike Dual Fusion Run 2) that I think I need to lace up tighter, so, who knows? But I do think I would benefit by taking the time to drink a cup of coffee before I leave. I know it’s weird and a lot of people can’t stomach that before running, but I’ve been craving the coffee pre-morning-workout so I’m going to listen to my body before my next morning run!

Saturday: 5.86 miles at 8:36 per mile; 1.69 miles at 8:40 per mile; 3.13 miles at 8:27 per mile

Yeah, I know how weird that looks. My original plan for Saturday was a solid eight miles, but when that got derailed a little bit, I decided to compensate by literally running everywhere I went the rest of the day. I ran to meet a friend for lunch, and then I ran downtown to The Bean to help a friend propose (so sweet, by the way; however, running through tourists on Michigan Avenue is maddening). Part of the reason I decided not to settle for the 5.86 miles was because I knew that the next day, I was going to have an involuntary rest day thanks to…

Sunday: A spontaneous day trip to St. Louis to watch Kentucky basketball!

Yup. The Kentucky Wildcats won their first round game Friday night against the Kansas State Wildcats, pitting them against the undefeated Wichita State Shockers. I couldn’t miss that game, and within an hour of the final buzzer sounding on Friday night, I had booked an Amtrak down to St. Louis for Sunday. My train left at 7am and I got back to my Chicago apartment at 9pm, leaving no room for even the simplest of workouts. But hey, the Cats won- no regrets here!

Monday: NTC Yoga

I have long maintained that I am just “not a yoga person.” I’ve always figured that I would get bored, or that since I’m not super bendy, I wouldn’t get a lot out of it. Also, that yoga teachers all speak in very soothing voices and say “flow” a lot while encouraging you to go at your own pace and hey, if that means laying on the mat for most of the class, so be it. And honestly, that’s just not what I want out of a workout.

Trust Nike to prove me wrong. Our NTC Yoga class, which I was encouraged to sign up for thanks to Kate’s PR Crew, was led by Megan Chappell, who’s about a hundred times perkier and more intense than I assumed a yoga teacher would be. Her personal website calls her a “spiritual badass,” which is awesome and on point, and if yoga gets me a body like Megan’s, sign me up every week for eternity. Megan was cracking me up throughout the class, which helped since (as a yoga novice) I was a little leery of what I’d be doing.

From what I gather, NTC Yoga differs from typical yoga because the “flows” between moves are much faster and it includes those plyometric moves that NTC loves so much. After a long travel day on Sunday, I asked Megan to give us some moves for the back- sleeping on a train/plane is no joke on your spine- and she definitely complied. As a newbie, I was constantly craning my neck to see how the two seemingly-yogi-experts in front of me were doing a certain move, and the flows were definitely fast, but I think I kept up okay. I’ll admit to being a little taken aback the first time Megan used a whooping “wooWOO!” to get the class’s attention, or the first time she yelled “vinyaSA!” and the class immediately dropped, military style, to flow from upward dog to downward dog to forward fold, and the first time Megan crowed “traaaVEL!” and then (from downward dog) hopped and balanced on her hands for a minute before bringing both feet in between her hands with complete ease, and ESPECIALLY when Megan turned to the class and deadpan said, “Talk dirty to me” during a core set and a Jason DeRulo song- but I loved it.

So, I signed up for next week’s class already. Not only because it was something different than what I’m used to, and probably a good balance to running, and not because I left feeling warm and loose, and not just because I have developed yet another Nike girl crush on Megan. I have to admit that I’ve kind of bought into the clear your mind, be in the moment stuff. In my day to day life, I’m running from gym to work to dinner to random UK games and events, and I don’t have a lot of one-hour blocks specifically devoted to chilling out in a healthy way. I could use that on a Monday night, you know? We all could.

Also, I want to be more bendy. So sue me.

Tuesday: 5.95 miles at 8:30/mile

Guys! It works! Getting up early, drinking some coffee, and having a KIND bar before my run Tuesday morning did just the trick (if you remember, I’ve been having issues feeling sluggish during my morning runs). I woke up around 6:30 and was out the door about 20 minutes later, only to be momentarily stopped in my tracks by the sight of snow. Seriously? I’ve been very patient with Chicago’s winter, but this is getting silly. Anyway, I thought for half a second about going right back upstairs and getting under my covers, but the thing is, that’s a lot harder to do once you’ve had coffee and know that you won’t be able to fall back asleep. So I sucked it up and trotted out the door. I definitely felt more awake during my run, and although I never felt like I really got into a groove until the last mile or so (I was constantly looking down to avoid ice and make sure I wasn’t about to wipe out, and the sidewalks were only cleared during my last mile), the run felt pretty good overall. I sprinted my last half mile to my current power song (“The Devil Is A Lie” by Rick Ross and Jay Z- I was literally scared that Rick Ross would hunt me down if I stopped running to his song, HAWH), and was definitely out of the breath during my slow trudge up my apartment stairs. Not a bad run, all snowy and icy circumstances considered.

Wednesday: 3.32 miles at 8:17/mile, NTC

Once I was at work, I got a whim that, since the weather was bearable, I was going to jog to NTC that night- so, I ran with it (HA). I was a little overheated and my keys kept jangling uncomfortably in my pocket, but overall, I think that’s something I’d like to continue doing on Wednesday nights! It was a great way to warm up for Kate’s workout and get a little extra cardio in after being at a desk all day. Also, it’s actually an easier way to get to the workout than taking the El and then transferring to a bus. Lucky me, when I got there I realized that we were being filmed for a girl’s class at Columbia. Nothing quite puts the pressure on keeping your balance during one-legged deadlift squats like having a camera in front of your face. Kate’s workout on Wednesday was very push-up and squat-heavy, and we did strength and cardio exercises in 30-second blasts. I think the cameras made everyone step their game up a little bit, and we were all happy and proud once the workout was over.

Another post-workout perk? Going to eat with our PR Crew at Smoke Daddy in Wicker Park! Nike treated live blues, a great veggie burger, and excellent sweet potato fries, and it was so much fun to hang out with our crew for a couple of hours WITHOUT sweating. I also finally met Lenka of Healthy Fit Goddess, and it was great to be able to talk to her in real life; hopefully we’ll be grabbing lunch together soon in our Bucktown work area! I’m getting said that our crews will be over soon, but hopefully Nike has something up their sleeve to keep us engaged and continue their community involvement (hint, hint, Nike…).

Thursday: NTC Barre

WOOF. All day Thursday, I was hobbling around the office. Not just because I was wearing absurdly heavy rain boots (thanks, weather!), but because the combination of running and Kate’s killer squats of doom had rendered my hamstrings and under-butt (is that a phrase? It is now) incredibly sore. When I got to the NTC studio, I stretched out as best as I could, but I was still pretty stiff for the first half of the workout. Trista started us off with a killer plank and pushups set that got me seriously thinking about trying to 100 Pushups Training Program– anyone else heard of it/tried it?- because my pushups are so pathetic. One twist to today’s class was that instead of having one section dedicated solely to arms, we did arms in conjunction with abs and thighs. I think it helped my muscles from getting fatigued too quickly, plus it was nice to knock out two body parts with one set! I was pretty pleased that I finished the butt set without stopping at all, especially since the film crew from Wednesday night was back and loving the close-ups. And once we were done, I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed a cool-down and “happy baby” pose. In fact, I may or may not be planning on going right back to “happy baby” as soon as I schedule this post…

So now that my five weeks of training with Nike for a PR are over, what’s next? Well, I’m running the Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday, and then celebrating afterwards with all of the NTC Resolution Crews- which I’ll be sure to recap here next week! After that, I’ll start focusing more on running while continuing to go to NTC a couple of times a week. I’m toying with the idea of following the Hanson Brothers Half-Marathon training plan– if you’ve heard of it or used it for marathon training, let me know in the comments! I’m curious as to what everyone thinks- it’s a pretty unique training method with lots of critics and advocates.

My first half marathon of the season is on May 18th, and I’ll continue to keep y’all posted on my progress as the date creeps forward. Until then, I’ll see you on the lakefront path!

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.

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