Meet the Athletes: Jen Larkin

Happy Friday everyone!  It’s a big weekend in my world – a fancy fundraising dinner tonight, OU/Texas fight tomorrow, Sunday is the Bank of America Chicago Marathon (and one week from my next race: San Francisco Nike Women’s Half Marathon).

With that, here is a little bit about one of my athletes running in Chicago this weekend!

Meet Jen Larkin


Before one of Jen’s races

I first met Jen when I was living in Memphis through Inside Out Gym.  She took my spinning classes for a while and then joined me with personal training, boot camps and running groups.  I am the most proud of her dedication and relationship with running.

When I moved to Austin, Jen stayed with me and continued to train for various races (St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon, Detroit Free Press Half Marathon and shorter Memphis races) via email training with me.  She always had this distant dream of running a full someday.

I am so so excited and proud to say that her someday is THIS SUNDAY!  After helping her through several seasons of half marathons, increasing her consistency and average pace via email training, we had a heart to heart discussion and decided that if she was going to make this dream a goal and then a reality, she needed a local running group to train with.  So we cut off my services and I stayed in touch, eagerly following her training and long runs – shifting from coach mentality to cheerleader.

Good luck Jen!

Good luck Jen!

I chatted with her for a good bit on the phone last night and can’t wait to track her miles on Sunday morning.

Jen – you have worked so hard for so many years to make this dream a goal, and now a reality.  The path to here all started with the Memphis Women Run Walk program and progressed to Road Race Challenges, Half Marathons and now the big sister of them all.  You are so ready – mentally and physically – and I have no doubt that you will rock this run.  Be sure to enjoy it all, check in with your mind and your body each mile and start out slowly 🙂  Most of all have fun and remember CLEAR EYES, FULL HEART, CAN’T LOSE!




Mornin’ y’all!

Know why Texans say y’all?  Because they hate OU!

It’s been an active morning here in Tulsa.  I took to the streets from my downtown office this morning and ran back to my neighborhood to hit the hills.  Since I ran three reps last week, I increased to five this week.  San Francisco race is just ten days away!

Now on to the true point of this post, which is to help explain what HIIT means.  If you’re in the fitness social media world this hashtag #hiit has been popping up more and more recently.  After reading this post, you’ll be fully educated on what it stands for, means, the benefits and will have a workout example of your own to try!  (Proceed with caution).


HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.  This method of training is starting to push the steady state cardio approach out of the spotlight.  Sorry girls, no more mindless hours strolling away on the elliptical…..

Basically HIIT is just what it sounds like.  Repeated bouts of high intensity work with periods of rest or less intense work in between.  The idea is to get your heart rate up high (and simultaneously sky rocketing your calorie burn), give it a quick rest to catch your breath and then spike it back up again.  This up and down ends up keeping your average heart rate higher than you would doing steady state low intensity for a longer period of time.  You’ll get more calorie burn, more muscle building and more weight loss in less time!  Who doesn’t love efficiency?!

Benefits of HIIT

Besides being a more efficient way to conquer most fitness goals (unless you’re trying to run a marathon.  In that circumstance there certainly is a time and place for steady state 2-3 hour runs), HIIT has a long list of other benefits.

  • Increased aerobic health
  • Increased cardiovascular health
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved insulin sensitivity (a marker for diabetes and metabolic syndrome)
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Reduced body fat
  • Improved or maintained muscle mass

Have a look at that list and tell me you don’t want all of those things going on in your body!

Design Your Own HIIT

These workouts are simple and fun (maybe just for me 😉 ) to design on your own.

  1. Choose 3-5 exercises.  Depending on your goals for the day, they can combine to be a full body routine or you can choose to focus on one specific area like abdominals.
  2. Choose your work:rest intervals.  I recommend beginners starting out with a 30:30 work:rest ratio.  Intermediate can try 45:15 and superfit can go 1 minute on all the way through.

The thing to keep in mind here is that rest doesn’t mean you’re weak.  Use the rest time to recover, catch your breath and restore your mind to go all out in the next work interval.  Take those breaks!

3.  Decide how many rounds you’ll do.  Beginners I’d recommend one round.  Intermediate 2-3 and advanced as many as 5.  It will also depend how much time you have to spend doing the workout.  HIIT workouts of 5 minutes can still be effective in terms of controlling blood hormone levels or getting a quick calorie burn in, so don’t discount the short workout!

A HIIT Workout for you to try!

If you’re not feeling creative today, or aren’t sure where to start – here’s one I’ve written AND filmed to eliminate those excuses for you.  Get after it!

  1. Box jumps (No box?  Great, just pretend you’re jumping rope)
  2. Pushups with rotation (alternate rotating sides)
  3. Side lunge to squat jump (alternate lunging sides)
  4. DB punches (No DBs?  Great, just punch the air.  Seriously, still effective)
  5. Walking lunges (No room to walk?  Ok, alternate forward lunges)
  6. Weighted crunches (I think you know what I’ll say here….)

Interval:  Beginners shoot for 30w:30r.  Intermediate 45w:15r.  Advanced 60w:0r

Rounds: Beginners 1.  Intermediate 3.  Advanced up to 5.  (Rest one minute between rounds).


Check out my Facebook Page Coach Sprenkel for a video clip of each move!!

Recipe: Sweet and Salty Brussels

Happy Monday everyone!  I spent the weekend testing out my DIY-skills and I can’t wait to share the finished product (in a few weeks….)!

Jig sawing

Jig sawing

I also spent some time in the kitchen working on recipes between client appointments and carpentry time.  In honor of both the Austin City Limits Festival and Red River Rivalry week, I’ve chosen to share an Austin-inspired recipe with you today.

Red River Rivalry

Red River Rivalry

There’s a restaurant in Austin called the Salty Sow.  It’s close to where I lived my second year of graduate school off Manor Road.  This meal was one of my top 5 in Austin, and is what taught me to love brussels (the only way to get rid of the red squiggly line was to pluralize that…) sprouts.  I’ve been playing around with it and this version is pretty darn close!

Brussels Salad

Brussels Salad

I love the crisp feel of the brussels just barely coated with the cool and creamy parmesan dressing.  The salty meat mixes so delightfully with the sweet raisins but neither are so prevalent that they overpower the other.  Feel free to adjust to your own tastes and add protein in egg whites or more meat as needed!

Sweet and Salty (Sow) Brussels Salad

  • 2 cups chopped brussels sprouts
  • 3 slices pancetta (or 2 slices bacon, I used pancetta because it was leftover from a previous salad), fried
  •  2 tbsp raisins (substituted for dried cranberries since the crans have added sugar)
  • Up to 1 tbsp Annie’s parmesan dressing

This salad is super easy to assemble once you get past all the chopping.  Place the slices of pancetta in a frying pan over medium heat and cook until desired crispiness.  Keep an eye on them, flipping occasionally (I usually flip 3 times).  Remove meat from the pan and pat dry.  Throw a handful of chopped brussels into the pan to cook in the leftover grease.  Chop the pancetta and then add it to the chopped brussels (both cooked and uncooked) in a large bowl.  Add raisins and dressing and toss.  Feel free to garnish with more cracked black pepper or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese!



Here’s to Austin (and me surviving being a Longhorn in Sooner country this week!)!


Quality Run 2: Hills

The Runnin’ Fools are starting a new phase of our training cycle.  We’ve just finished several weeks of circuit style workouts to help build total body strength in combination with running.  Now, with race day less than two months away, it’s time to introduce the next Quality Run: Hills.

And what better way to do that than on hump day 😉

I’ve run hills for as long as I can remember in my running career.  In middle school we would zig zag down a wooden ramp and run back up a steeply banked trail hill and proudly shout out what rep we were on.  And then we’d repeat.  And repeat.  And repeat.

In Memphis I would run laps on the Auction Street Bridge.  The slow slope of this bridge was longer but I’d go up and down, and then cross to the other side and repeat the process.  Some days I’d do it for time, others for reps but a secret and dark part of me really enjoyed it.

Austin was a hilly enough town that a regular street run would cover the hill workout.  One of my favorites though was Red River which was just rolling with slopes.

Now that I’m in Tulsa, I’m still trying to figure out how to get some incline practice in (especially with San Francisco just weeks away!).  There’s a significant incline coming back east from the river, and an elusive hill that the bikers call “Crybaby Hill”.  I stumbled upon the one we used today on a run last week in Owen Park.  We did an easy one mile warmup through the park and then three repeats on the hill.  It was about .15 miles up the hill and then we took a longer loop back down.  There was no rest between repeats except the slower pace down.  Finish with a cool down and we hit 2.85 miles!

Quality Run 2: Hills

Quality Run 2: Hills


What:  A run that includes a significant amount of incline, whether built into the route or from repeats up and down the same hill.

When:  Once a week in the middle of the training process, after some body weight strength training (circuits).


  • Combines strength training with function.  Hills are great at coordinating the strength of tendons, ligaments, muscles and capsules of all major joints involved in running.
  • Power development.  Because your muscles have to work against more gravity to propel your body weight upward, they are able to develop more power than they would on flat surfaces.
  • Improved running economy.  Hill running has been shown in Sweden to improve runners’ economy by at least 3% after twice weekly hill sessions for 12 weeks.
  • Higher concentrations of aerobic enzymes.  The presence of these enzymes in the quadriceps can contribute to increased speed while running.
  • Maintained fitness.  It’s been shown that athletes who include hill training in their routine do not lose their fitness as quickly as those who do not run hills when time is taken off working out.
  • Increased calorie burn.  Adding hills to the routine dramatically increases the caloric expenditure of your workout as compared to the same distance and speed run on flat surfaces.

How: I’m sure I’ve convinced you to add hills to your routine, but there is one big thing to keep in mind.  ADD THEM SLOWLY.  Increasing intensity too fast is the number one cause of injury in runners!  Take your time with it, even if you feel like you’re fit enough to tackle ten repeats (which I’m sure we could have done this morning) start with 3-4. Then each time you run, you can add one to two additional repeats.  Be sure to take a rest day or an easy day between quality workouts!

Check out this article from Runner’s World (that I adapted some of the benefits listed earlier from) for much more detail!

Good luck, and see you on the hills (your glutes will thank you).