Archive for March, 2013

A Marathon and Goals for April

Yesterday, I had one of the best double-digit runs, ever.  The weather started a little humid and mid-50s, but cleared up and the sun came out. I ran with the dog, Tara, as well as three other friends and two more dogs. We started on our usually long run route, but instead of doing an out-and-back as we usually do, we mixed it up and turned off at 5 miles to create a loop through town. It’s amazing how a few miles of new scenery can invigorate a long run. On my shorter runs I routinely switch directions and mix things up with new side streets, but on the longer runs I’ve been doing the same route for quite awhile so it made a huge difference to change the route so much.

I think I’ll try to come up with another couple of courses for double-digit runs over the next few months to keep things interesting. It is going to be even more important as I ramp up the mileage for…wait for it…marathon training!  I finally committed and registered for the Richmond Marathon on November 16 in Richmond, Virginia. I am so excited at the prospect of finally tackling 26.2 miles!  My friend, Caitlin, and my hubby are going to run it too, so I’ll have plenty of support in my training here in Kansas and my family in Virginia is already on board with being our support crew while we’re on the East coast.

With such a big race on the horizon, I would like to get back into the habit of setting regular goals throughout the year.  I only set one goal for running for the year and that was to run 1000 miles, which I am a little behind on reaching with my current monthly totals (197.95/1000).  Tomorrow is April 1st, so today seems apropos to start setting some  monthly goals.

Goals for April

1. Run 100 miles in the month. I’ve run just under 200 miles for the year so far, so 100 this month will put me back on track for an even effort in the rest of the year for reaching my 1000 miles goal.

2. Do at least 1 day of weight lifting per week. I would like to start one of the New Rules of Lifting programs again. I’m leaning toward New Rules of Lifting for Women because I’m already familiar with all the moves, don’t need any new equipment, and they’re fairly short routines for the first few months while I’m still in school. My plan is to start by going to the gym this Tuesday during my long lunch break.

3. Prepare 1 new recipe per week. I really enjoyed finding new foods to try and meal-planning during my paleo experiment, and would like to continue adding some fresh new ideas to the repertoire.

4. Do at least 30 minutes of yoga per week. My flexibility is abysmal and running keeps me too tight, so I need to invest more time into stretching and flexibility. I think incorporating yoga into my routine will be a great way to accomplish this.

5. Research the possibility of an early summer triathlon. I’d like to find something to fill the gap between my half marathon training and the beginning of my marathon training. If I find a race that is within an easy morning drive, register and organize my training plan.

Do you have any tips for a first time marathoner? Do you set goals for yourself throughout the year?

Yesterday’s Training:

10.01 mile run

Today’s Training:

Rest day

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Updates

I spent some time this week updating my training schedule and adding links to my “Races” page to the race report for each race. I also updated my training spreadsheet and added a page to the blog.

Today’s Training:

4.36 mile run

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Social Running

There was a time when nearly all of my runs were solo runs, and I “hated” running with other people. Really, I just wasn’t comfortable enough to run with anyone else. I thought I was too slow and too out of shape to be a good running partner, so I never even tried. After being a runner for nearly 7 years, I still do the majority of my runs solo or with the dog, but in the last two years, I have learned how motivating and fun it is to run with a friend and even with a group.

These are my top 4 reasons to run with friends.

1. Accountability

Picture this, it’s a cold, gray, and rainy Sunday morning. You have a 10+ mile run planned and you have no desire to drag yourself out of bed. You only do because you’ve scheduled to run with your training partner at 8am. The entire time you’re getting ready to go, you’re hoping that she calls you to cancel, but she doesn’t. When you get to the trailhead, it’s raining just enough that you know you’ll be soaked by the time you finish the run. Your training partner shows up and you get moving. You both joke about hoping the other called to cancel that morning. The run goes faster than you expected even though the sun stays hidden and you really are soaked by the time you get back to the car, you finished your run and it ended up being a pretty good day.

(via Pinterest) And it always looks better when you don’t have to face it alone!

2. Great Conversation

Lots of miles, lots of hours, lots of conversations. All those crazy thoughts you have on a solo run now have a sounding board, grat advice, and feedback. You get the added bonus of looking less like a crazy person because you no longer have to talk to yourself to keep entertained. Nothing is off-limits in a long run conversation and what’s discussed on the run, stays on the run. ‘Nuff said. 🙂

3. Motivation and Mental Toughness

On those days when you need an extra push, you get it. A running partner or training group can bolster your mental toughness. They can support that all important mental will to keep you going or get you through a rough patch.

“You have to want it, you have to plan for it, you have to fit it into a busy day, you have to be mentally tough, you have to use others to help you. The hard part isn’t getting your body in shape. The hard part is getting your mind in shape.”
-Amby Burfoot

4. Getting You Over the Hump

Whether it’s a little friendly competition or running with a group that goes a little faster or a little farther, social running can help you take your running to the next level when you’re finding it tough to do it on your own.

(via Pinterest)

This week, all of my runs, except today, will be with friends. I know I will always enjoy my solo runs, but it is a great treat to mix it up!

What do you like about running with others?

Today’s Training:

9 x 200m hill repeats @ 5K pace (solo)

Splits:

  1. 1:01.3 (9:03 min/mile)
  2. 56.9 (8:43 min/mile)
  3. 55.4 (8:19 min/mile)
  4. 54.4 (8:17 min/mile)
  5. 54.2 (8:20 min/mile)
  6. 56.3 (8:45 min/mile)
  7. 52.9 (7:49 min/mile)
  8. 53.9 (7:56 min/mile)
  9. 54.8 (8:28 min/mile)

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An Experiment in Eating

It has been 30 days since I started my experiment following a primal-style eating plan. In the last 30 days, I have attempted to cease all consumption of added sugar, grains, beans, and white potatoes. Though I did make exceptions on a couple of days after the first two weeks were completed, I pretty strictly eliminated these things from my diet. I have also reduced my consumption of dairy to one serving a day, and only had red wine and dark chocolate as infrequent indulgences. In my research in the various paleo/primal-style diets, I found that there was a wide range of adherence to the various principles, so I felt it was reasonable for me to include dairy in my diet knowing that I could tolerate it and the majority was going to be yogurt.

Through the experiment, I typically ate three main meals and two smaller snacks each day. My breakfasts primarily consisted of eggs and fresh vegetables, such as an omelet with spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes. I ate a morning snack of yogurt and fresh berries. My lunches were big salads with plenty of veggies as well as protein in the form of lean chicken or boiled eggs or some leftover meat from the night before. I usually had an afternoon snack post-workout with some fruit and a small handful of nuts. Dinner was a lean protein and lots of vegetables, occasionally some sweet potato.

Here are my observations from my experiment.

The Good:

  • Increased my vegetable intake tremendously – at least double and maybe triple my previous daily intake.
  • No longer feel hungry all the time!
  • Smaller portion sizes are more satisfying.
  • No cravings for sugary snacks or desserts.
  • Renewed interest in cooking and finding new recipes and flavors.

The Bad:

  • Requires more planning ahead and time for cooking – less convenience.
  • Expensive to purchase all fresh and high quality foods.
  • No bread, pasta, or peanut butter!

The Neutral:

  • Rapid weight loss (8lbs) in the first week and balanced to 5 lbs, total loss.
  • Increased degree of thirst in the first week of the experiment.
  • No changes in energy levels or inflammation.

In all, I’m really glad I did this experiment and while I do not plan to adhere to the strict rules of paleo or primal, I will likely include aspects in my future nutrition. I don’t plan to go back to drinking diet sodas and I don’t see any need to eat foods with added sugars. I like that it pushed me to eat more vegetables and fresh fruits and that it motivated me to try some new recipes. And I love that I no longer feel famished 20 minutes after every meal. In spite of the benefits, I will be adding servings of whole grains (homemade sourdough is on the agenda for next week!) and such back into my diet, but I plan to keep my focus on vegetables and lean proteins as the main bulk of my diet. If I notice a reversal of any of the positive aspects, or any significant drawbacks, I’ll re-evaluate, but life is too short and if I want to have a warm piece of homemade whole grain bread with my dinner, I will not deprive myself of the pleasure. 🙂

Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? Ever tried paleo or primal?

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When It All Falls Apart

Since posting yesterday about my training plan, I’ve been thinking about the drawbacks of planning.

Something I’ve struggled to learn is to be flexible enough to deal with unexpected and necessary changes to “the plan.” Even though I know in my brain that going out for a 20 minute run is better than doing nothing, it’s hard for me to break out of that mental block that I have failed my plan to run 5 miles or do intervals or hill repeats. Inevitably, in the past, I have ended up doing nothing and juggling other days to try and fit the missed workout.

Flexibility has clearly never been my strong suit, but sometimes life just happens and there’s no reason I should view it as my failing when I don’t make every workout exactly as planned. Plans don’t need to be set in stone, but rather, should be a guide that can be adjusted to meet my needs.

What is most important is that I keep moving forward, not dwell on minor diversions, and make do with the time available.

(via Pinterest) Plans rarely perfectly align, might as well just run!

 

 

Today’s Training:

35 minutes yoga before class this morning

5.5 mile run in beautiful KS weather with a good friend

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Have I Ever Mentioned that I’m a Planner?

In my updated training plan, Mondays are for strength training and stretching, so I did a super-short strength routine and a 30 minute yoga routine at home before school this morning. To continue my experimentation with breathing patterns, I chose a DVD yoga routine that focused on breath work. It wasn’t my favorite routine. While the stretches were decent, they weren’t as extensive as I would have liked and the pace was much slower than I prefer. Also, it was primarily sitting and reclining poses, with no standing poses that I can recall, so there wasn’t much variety. I did think it was good to revisit my breathing and work on deep belly breathing without the added complexity of timing it with running, but I don’t think I’ll use this routine again.

For my newly added strength training component, I would really like to get back into weight-lifting. I used to lift fairly regularly, but got out of the habit and let running take over, including only the tiniest body weight strength training. Now that I’ve decided to only run 5 days a week, I think I can fit in at least one day of weights if I can go before school in the morning or during a lunch break in the afternoons. I hope to figure out a good way to work weights into my schedule to start next week. I think this will be a really important part of injury prevention moving forward.

In other news, I am about 99% sure I am going to register for a marathon in the fall, just not sure which one yet. I think it will likely be in October, which means I’ll have to start seriously training in June! That will be about 6 weeks after my half marathon this spring, so I’m also thinking that will be just enough time to squeeze in training for a sprint triathlon. The Topeka Tinman Triathlon is June 15 and has both Sprint and Olympic distance options that might work perfectly into that 6 weeks.

If you’re new to reading, you’re probably learning (especially after this post!) that I am extremely Type A about planning my training. Spontaneous workouts have never worked for me. I used to go to the gym without a plan and I would just wander around doing various exercises with no rhyme or reason. I was constantly discouraged because I never felt like I had any tangible results. I wasn’t improving in my lifting, in my running ability, or in my general fitness; but when I switched to creating a detailed plan for each day and tracking my progress, I was able to achieve my goals in training and see what I needed to work on when the goals were a little more elusive.

Now, I have a spreadsheet to track all of my workouts, which are already planned for the next 7 months (!) and entered in my Google Calendar. After each run or workout, I enter the details into the spreadsheet, which tracks my mileage for the week, month, and year. It even automatically calculates how many miles I’ve put on each pair of running shoes! I get immense satisfaction from inputting all my data, and it makes me really motivated to follow the schedule. I know I’m obsessive, please don’t judge! 🙂

Sometimes, I wish I were a person who could be more spontaneous – who could go out and just run as far and as fast as they can each time and improve, but I know I am not. I’m neither motivated enough to keep myself working without the accountability of my schedule, nor am I mentally tough enough to push myself enough to make progress. So for now, I’ll cling to my detailed training plans and love every second of preparing them and recording my progress.

Are you a planner or are you more spontaneous in your workout regimen?

Today’s Training:

  • Strength (once through)
    • 15 push-ups
    • 30 crunches
    • 60 second wall sit
    • 15 triceps dips
    • 60 second plank
    • 30 lunges (each leg)
    • 20 squats
  • 30 minutes of yoga (breath work)

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Inhale, Exhale

In the April issue of Runner’s World, there was an article about breathing technique. My run breathing has always left a little to be desired. As long as I have been running, I’ve not found a breathing rhythm that I feel really works for me, so this article really piqued my interest. The author, Budd Coates, proposes a breathing rhythm that has a 3-2 beat, where you inhale for three footfalls, then exhale for two. By doing this, you alternate which foot you land on with each exhale instead of the typical runner’s 2-2 beat and always exhaling on the same foot. He cites studies that show that injury is more likely on the side that runners normally exhale. The article goes on to discuss how to change your breathing pattern to a 3-2 beat.

I decided that today was as good a day as any to evaluate my breathing during my 5 mile run and try the 3-2 rhythm.

First, I tried to figure out what my current breathing pattern is. I think my years of swimming conditioned my lungs to breathe in a certain way for swimming, and somehow that has carried over into running. In swimming, I breathe on every third stroke, and in running for the most part I breathe on every third footfall (3-3 beat). Frequently, I got out of sync, so I wasn’t consistently exhaling or inhaling on any particular foot. Whether that is what I do naturally or it was a side effect of consciously counting my breaths and footstrikes, I don’t know.

Once I had a decent idea of my natural breathing, I tried to get into the 3-2 rhythm. “Tried” was the operative word there. It was really tough to alter my exhales to be so much shorter. Every once in awhile, I managed to get into the rhythm pretty well and it actually felt pretty good, but it required a ton of concentration just to keep it up for 10 cycles or so. When my mind wandered, I found myself falling back into my normal breathing pattern.

Also, it was exceptionally windy today, with 30 mph gusts that made me feel like I was going backwards and took my breath away. This did not make breath training any easier! I plan to try again on a non less windy day (let’s be honest, it’s never not windy in Kansas!). I think this is something that will take a lot of time to make it feel natural, but it’s the best argument I’ve ever heard for any particular breathing style. Since my natural breathing rhythm never really felt all that efficient, maybe this one will work better.

Have you heard of breath training or tried to alter your breathing to be more efficient?

Today’s Training:

5.01 miles run

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10 Miles in the Snow

Usually when I switch workouts around, I don’t have a good reason. It’s nearly always because I’m “too busy” to do the scheduled run that day, so I swap for a shorter or easier option, delaying the long run or speed work to do another day. Today, my reason was “the weather”, but instead of delaying my long run, I moved it up! On the schedule for today was just a 5 mile pace run, and tomorrow was supposed to be my long run of 10 miles, but we were under a winter storm warning for Saturday 7am till Sunday 7am, with the snow scheduled to start around 4pm today and accumulating 5-7 inches overnight. Running in 5-7 inches of snow for 10 miles tomorrow did not sound appealing – it is “spring” after all! I decided I would try to beat the snow with my 10 miler by running today.

I have always done my double-digit runs on a nearby trail, but I opted to stay close to home today. Before leaving the house, I mapped out a course through some of the local neighborhoods, with the first five miles through areas I have never run before and the end of the run on familiar paths. I started running at around 3:00pm and the snow flurries had just started. Wowza! That first five miles was tough. If you ever thought Kansas was pancake flat, this run would have changed your mind. The elevation changes aren’t huge, but the hills are steep and frequent in that neighborhood. Add in a stiff Kansas wind and blowing snow, and I was working pretty hard!

I was glad I decided to use today as a nutrition practice run, I think the extra calories definitely helped. I had a package of pink lemonade honey stingers (thanks, Leah!) that I have been saving for a long run. They’re not paleo-friendly, but I’m not beating myself up about it. I ate one chew at each mile, which had the added bonus of giving me something to look forward to at each mile. I usually use dates & almond butter or Cliff Shot Blocks for race day nutrition, but I really enjoyed these honey stingers and think I’ll add them to the rotation. They tasted great and I liked the texture – similar to shot blocks, but a little smaller and easier to chew.

After the first 5 miles, I was still moving uphill, but was able to pick up the pace a little being in more familiar territory. The snow changed to sleet for a short portion of mile 7, so I ended up getting pretty soaked. Luckily, it was warm enough and late enough in the run that I didn’t get too cold. As it turns out, I mapped out more terrain than I needed to hit 10 miles, so I cut out a portion at the end of the run and just headed home.

Home stretch of our 10 miler and the snow is just starting to stick to Tara's fur.

Home stretch of our 10 miler and the snow was just starting to stick to Tara’s fur.

I’m so glad I decided to do my long run today instead of gambling on the snow for tomorrow. Even though it was a tough run, I feel great and have very little soreness. Even though they downgraded the winter storm warning to an advisory and are only predicting 3-5 inches to accumulate, I’d much rather do my 5 mile run tomorrow in a little bit of snow than 10 miles in any snow. I’m not that hardcore.

 

 

 

Today’s Training:

10.11 miles (10:53 min/mile pace, 172 average heart rate)

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Hiking

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. – Henry David Thoreau

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Fridays are rest days, but I wanted to take advantage of the relatively reasonable weather (mid-40s and cloudy but no precipitation) and take the dog for a hike. I met up with a friend and her boyfriend for the first two miles, then did another almost-3 miles with the dog. The quiet calm of a solo hike with Tara was just what I needed today. She got to just be a dog and I got to enjoy just being in the moment.

Usually when I run, my mind goes a mile a minute. I don’t run with music, so my mind always stays busy to keep me from getting bored. I make up stories, think about things going on in my life, and contemplate various random topics.

Hikes, though, are different. For some reason, on a hike, I can completely quiet my mind and be in the moment.

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I don’t stress about school or meeting a certain mileage. I don’t make up stories about my untimely demise (for some reason, being attacked by a herd of deer is a recurrent theme in my running thoughts). I don’t even worry about what time it is. I couldn’t even tell you what I thought about in those two hours today.

I do know that despite the clouds, the lighting was brilliant. There were tiny pockets of snow tucked into the rocks and moss from last night’s flurries. And the birds were singing in the trees.

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When do you find it easiest to be “in the moment”? Do you like to hike?

Today’s Training:

Active recovery day –  4.88 miles hiking

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What Works for Me

A recent blog post (sorry no link, can’t remember where it was!) started me thinking about the latest trends in fitness culture. From minimalist shoes and barefoot running to Paleo/Primal nutrition to Crossfit and more, it has become almost a rite of passage for fitness fanatics to try and in some cases cling to these fads. I freely admit reading Born to Run and promptly transitioning to a minimalist shoe. I even tried on some Vibram FiveFingers, and still think about going back to buy them. I’ve mentioned that I’ve recently made a foray into the world of Paleo/Primal eating, and the main reason I haven’t tried Crossfit yet is the expense.

Sometimes I find it hard to remember that just because these things are trendy doesn’t mean they’re what works for me.

Thus far, I’ve been pretty lucky. Knock wood, I am not injury prone. My IT band used to act up occasionally, but a little extra attention with the foam roller and I am good to go. Minimalist shoes were no big deal to transition to wearing. I already preferred lighter weight shoes. I’m a very neutral runner with minimal pronation and I naturally mid-foot strike pretty consistently. Minimalist shoes were practically made for me! Are they for everyone? Heck no! But they do work for me.

Let’s talk paleo/primal.

It started as something Curtis mentioned, then I grabbed onto and ran away with it. The transition was easy for me – I had to trade my morning oatmeal for eggs and veggies and my dinners of rice- or pasta-based dishes for more meat and veggies- but as long as I had time to plan and shop it was no big deal. I didn’t experience the first few days of headaches or strange symptoms that I’ve heard are common, and the only unexpected side effect I had was increased thirst over the first few days. My dear hubby, on the other hand, felt like crap the first few days. He bounced back over the next week, but after struggling with the very restrictive plan while out of town and eating at other peoples’ homes, he has opted out of this style of eating. It didn’t work for him.

Does it work for me? Yes and no. I feel no different eating in the primal style than I did before, with the notable exception that I no longer feel hungry all the time. I can actually eat a meal and feel satisfied for more than 20 minutes afterward! I love that about it. But…I still love pasta, bread, rice and all the other “no-nos” that are not consistent with primal. Because of this, primal isn’t going to work for me. I’ll complete my 30 day challenge in just 6 more days. After that, I plan to stick with some primal tenets for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, but if I want to have some grains with dinner or eat dessert, I will with no guilt about it. They don’t give me overwhelming inflammation, nor do they sap my energy.

Will a strictly primal or paleo nutrition plan work for you? Try it and see. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, keep the parts you like and get rid of the rest.

There are no hard and fast rules to fitness and nutrition! What works for me won’t always work for you. I may fall for each passing trend in running faster, eating better, or being healthier, and that’s ok, as long as I remember to listen to my own body and pay attention to what works for me without trapping myself into what works for everybody else.

Have you tried any fitness trends? What works or doesn’t work for you?

 

 

Today’s Training:

4.66 mile run

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