This winter my running mileage tapered off and as I got back into building my base I landed on and stuck with four mile routes and routines for a couple weeks. Three just wasn’t enough and for some reason I didn’t have the time or the motivation to get much beyond four. I know that doing the same thing over and over can sometimes minimize results and effectiveness but I used my four mile runs as a way to experiment and achieve more out of each run. By using four miles as my distance I had a good measurement of what I could achieve in those four miles; I either improved or I didn’t. I wasn’t trying to add miles, I was trying to make those four miles as good as they could possibly be. Continue reading
Wednesdays, hump days, are hill work-outs. I wonder if that’s why Bart Yasso put hills on Wednesdays, to help us get over the proverbial hump. Or, at least that’s the work-out on the fall marathon training schedule he put together that myself and probably hundreds of other runners are following. I will definitely be coming back to the marathon training topic but for now I want to focus on hills.
Just like with intervals, I believe I have a love/hate relationship with these work-outs and I’m sure I’m not alone. On today’s hills (which happens to be a Thursday…sometimes you have to tweak the schedule to fit this thing called life!) I spent some time debating whether I would choose intervals or hills as my preferred torture work-out. Halfway through the work-out I thought I was leaning toward intervals, but by the time I finished and was thinking “it wasn’t that bad” I guess I could pick hills. Of course, I have that same thought at the end of intervals too; I guess it’s all mental! What about you; do you prefer hills or intervals?
Getting Over the Hump
Bart’s schedule doesn’t start out lightly. In the 16-week plan the first eight are hills and they start at 6 miles. We spend four weeks at 6 miles, then move up to 7, then 8, then back down to 7, and week eight has 8 miles of hill repeats.
My running routes are not in the flattest part of the world but steady hills are also somewhat tricky to come by. In order to do the six mile route I mapped a loop just over two miles in my neighborhood that starts out flat for about a half mile for a warm-up and then goes straight into four uphill climbs, has another half mile flat, and then two more hill climbs before starting all over. To do the six miles I obviously repeat this loop three times.
I find that I really need the entire first loop to get my body and legs warmed up. I can feel the tightness in my quads and hamstrings on the first set of hills but by the first real recovery they usually loosen up. I try to keep a steady pace on the flats that isn’t too fast because I know I always push harder and run faster up the hills. I also try not to fly down the downhills, and somehow on my route there are really only two and a half downhills. A Runner’s World article shared that when running downhill it’s best to use your arms for balance and rather than pump them or let them flap around, keeping them steady by your sides will conserve energy for when you really do need to pump them to get up the hill.
Whether going up or down hill I try to focus on keeping my form consistent. I try not to lean too far forward or too far back and keep my footfalls relatively just under my body. I also try to keep my breathing consistent. I don’t want to be panting the entire way uphill otherwise I spend more time trying to catch my breath on recovery rather than just let my body relax a little before the next hill. All this is easier said than done but if you’re thinking about these things then you’re less likely to focus on how steep or long the hill is that you’re about to climb.
The first time I ran the hills I noticed that my hip flexors were a little sore in addition to the tightness I felt in my hamstrings. I remembered reading many times during my research on ITBS that these muscles take a beating on hills and should be strengthened and stretched well so that they can support the extra work required to run hills. To strengthen my hips I’ve added hip raises to my work-outs and do 100 hip raises twice a week. It’s not a ton but it’s better than nothing. Because I am also triathlon training I think the cycling and swimming help strengthen these muscles as well as give them a break from how they’re used in running.
I have also added the foam roller back into every stretching routine. After any work-out I spend time doing abs and core strengthening as well as stretching and I make sure to roll each leg in the quad and hamstring area 5-10 or 15 times depending on how I feel. I only needed to experience ITBS once to know that it’s worth taking preventive measures to prevent.
As daunting as I find the hill work-outs on the training schedule, the fact that I had to walk up the hill in the half marathon I did this summer still bothers me. I don’t want to have to do that again and if it takes running hills on every hump day (or Thursday or whatever day happens to fit my life schedule best that week) then I’m willing to do it.
This long Memorial weekend was a reminder to me of a phrase I have let slip from my vocabulary–all in moderation. I went into the three day weekend with a long list of things that I wanted to do: garden, bike, go boating, hike, kayak, play beach volleyball, lay by the pool, cook-out, read, play with the dog, relax. Somehow I managed to get them all in, but only one of those activities is on my triathlon training schedule and hardly any of them involved healthful eating or drinking.
There is something about a long weekend, sunny, summery days, and an abundance of social gatherings that toss all training discipline and focus out the window. It’s so easy to enjoy snacking all day long when you’re on a boat or a beach and when the sun is setting but everyone is still laughing and talking, having one more drink seems to be part of the fun. By the end of the long weekend, you end up consuming more than you would on any normal day and your body is sunburned and exhausted from playing non-stop. At least that’s how I feel. Continue reading
The past couple weeks I have gotten into spinning and strength training in lieu of my regular morning runs while my IT band gets back to normal. I am definitely enjoying the change in routine and appreciate the challenges of these new work-outs. I’m testing out the Runner’s World training log this month and one of the fields you can complete allows you to rate your effort as well as the quality of your work-out on a scale of 1 to 10 and I’m finding that with these new work-outs I have to put in a lot of effort but am not getting the quality I’d want because everything is so new.
Running for me still remains the ultimate work-out not just because of the calories it sheds or the lean frame it allows me to build, but also because of the mental balance I can achieve when running. Despite the enjoyment of these new work-outs, I miss running terribly for it’s mental stimulation, quiet focus, and creative freedom. On any given run my thoughts would move between concentrating on my form to planning my “to do” list to thinking through poems to simply taking in my surroundings. Every day I could start with a run was inevitably a better day for it because the run would give me time to wake-up my body and my mind and prepare for the day ahead. Continue reading
Lately it feels like life has been moving full speed ahead; this is definitely true for me and many of my friends and people I come in contact with on a regular basis. We cram as much as possible into each day, we start early, end late, we say “yes” to everything, and end up rushing from one thing to the next.
I recently had an epiphany that this same fast pace has made it’s way into exercise as well. There are two pilates classes with different instructors that I take pretty regularly at my gym. The two instructors have very different styles: one is more traditional following the “basic 10” movements with steady transitions from one movement to the next and the other instructor combines traditional pilates movements with additional strength exercises using a bar, weight, and lightweight, small medicine ball. With both of these instructors I feel like I get in a great work-out and I’m always impressed with how much they fit into one hour.
At pilates this week, I set my mat down with the others in the class and stretched while waiting for the instructor. A couple minutes before start time, a woman walked in, put her mat at the front of the room, and I quickly realized we had a substitute. She was the woman who teaches the third pilates class at my gym which happens to be at times I can never attend. This instructor (and I don’t mean to stereotype here) had the personality of a step aerobics instructor; she was high energy, loud, and conversational. At first I missed the calm, quiet of the other instructors, but it didn’t take long for me to truly appreciate following someone new. Continue reading