sometimes I cycle…

In coming back from an injury, I’ve decided to cross-train much more often. And, by more often, I mean once or twice per week. [Look, it’s hard to find time to cross-train, AND add miles to my running]

So lately, I’ve been cycling on this great virtual cycling machine in our gym. It basically mimics a course (with about 30 to choose from, 1.0 mile to 10 miles, and flat to 40% grades).

The first time I hopped on, I was a mess. Clearly. First, I didn’t know how to get the machine turned on. A neighbor (who I’ve met at the pool, but space on her name, and she lives in my building) showed me how to turn it on. Good start.

I thought doing 4-5 miles should be “easy” and I should be able to get them done in like 20-30 minutes. I used to ride my dad’s old stationary bike at about 17 mph, so this really wasn’t too far-fetched.

I picked the first of the moderate level (distance dictates level), and it was about 4 miles long. City Express or something.

OH MY GOD.

It was the hardest ride of my life. I’m not sure what city it was depicting, but my best guess is San Francisco, or maybe Denver or something? It started out with a 12% grade, and it just kept getting steeper and steeper. It got to about 38% continuous grade when I started thinking man this some bulls***! I jumped off 2.xx miles, and 20 minutes into the ride. Yep, I was going, on average, about 6-8 mph. I had been huffing and puffing the whole way, and felt like a real amateur.

But, surely, they weren’t all that hard.

So, a few days later, I tried one of the easier courses, 3.3 mile Beachside Bluffs, and it was fun. Maximum grades about 15%, and it felt easy, and I was done in 15 minutes, and I even ran for a couple minutes after.

Last night, again, cycled 2.93 miles (higher grade changes, maxxing at about 25%, but not for too long). Then, I did 15 minutes of strength training, all-over. And called it a night.

The thought has occurred to me I will have to run more than 3 miles at a time on weeknights if I want to eventually build to about 30 miles per week (plus two strength training/ cross-training sessions).

Hard work ahead.

The other thought that has occurred to me is I am doing all the parts of a tri… swim (though not since last summer, because I’m lazy and come up with a slew of reasons not to get to the pool, including it closing May-August this year), cycle (indoors), and definitely running. Hmmmm….

Unrelated, I signed up for my fifth half marathon- Crawlin Crab in October. And I’m pretty stoked about it. Still hoping for a PR, even if it’s not sub-2:00 yet. I’ll decide a goal once I actually start training at the 20-30 miles per week plus cross-training.

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Four actual tips for a faster PR

I often say I’ll talk about a training method or strategy, but then don’t. I suck at that. I will strive to improve.

If you want to get faster, there are some “easy” ways to get faster:

1. Run more often

This may mean more miles, or it may mean mile-specific goals. For instance, if you are currently running 15 miles per week, spread over a 3 miler, 4 miler, and 8 miler, and training for a 5K, it makes more sense to run 5 times, at around 2-5 miles at a time (so switch it out to make it a 2 miler, two 3milers, a 4miler, and a 5miler). If your current mileage is 15 miles per week, and you are training for a 10K, up the mileage (slowly; the research shows increases of 25%, with a decrease of 25% every 3-4 weeks is best. Though a lot of people swear by the 10% rule, this hasn’t been proven and is thought, in the exercise physiology world, to be a random number).

Running more often forces your body to recover quicker. This allows your muscles to become stronger, and if your legs are less tired the day after a run, you are able to push yourself more, and become even stronger. Stronger = faster (though slower doesn’t mean weaker, always).

2. Run faster

(Duh!) Practicing running faster makes you better at running faster. You are teaching your muscles quicker leg turn-over, and training your body to breathe more efficiently while you are pushing your pace. If you can breathe efficiently, you will get more out of your muscles. I love these workouts. They are my favorites, because it breaks up the mundane activity. There are so many ways to practice running faster- from sprinting for a minute every 5 minutes, or with every turn, or at the beginning of a new song. Or, my personal favorite, when I am in a bad mood, I turn up the sped every time I have a negative thought. It is guaranteed to kick your butt, and teach you to love yourself and accept where you are physically right now.

Sprints are really teaching your legs/body how to coordinate running at a faster speed. If you are training for a 5K, a good workout might be doing 8x400s at your goal 5K pace. At first, this may feel excruciatingly slow. That’s part of the point- you are teaching your muscles that turn-over pace. Holding it for 1/8 of the distance you plan to race should be easy. If by the 4th sprint, you feel little to no pain/burn, pick up the pace. You might be faster than you realize. You are basically teaching your body how to pace.

For instance, if you run about a 7:00-mile, but want to break 20:00 for your 5K (but your current 5K PR is 21:30), your goal 400m speed is about 1:35. Running sprints at your goal pace is teaching your body how to maintain (or pace) a <6:30/mi pace. If you can train yourself to keep a 6:30 pace for two miles, you will be surprised what you are capable come race day… If you feel like you are close to your true fastest potential, practice much shorter sprints (so 50m sprints SEVERAL times), but a true all-out sprint.
[Here is a pace calculator from 400m for your 5K goal– http://www.hillrunner.com/calculators/pacecalc.php ]

3. Strength train

Don’t just train your legs. They may be overtired/ overworked, and you don’t want to get injured while trying to gain speed. Your body works together, and one weak area may contribute to pain and issues in other areas. Core workouts will always help ūüôā [unless you have a random abdominal injury like I did this year]. Shoulders and back are also overlooked, and can help you keep a “trim” straight line without effort and assist in easier breathing. As far as your lower body goes, strengthening your hips and glutes will assist you. These muscles tend to be linked with injuries of the opposing location– if your hips tend to hurt, they could be weak, but more likely your gluteal muscles are weaker, so your body overcompensates by putting more of the workload on your hips. This overworks on your hips, causing pain. When we are running, our body uses our strongest/ most-developed muscles, to make it easier. At first, this sounds great; but in the long run (no pun intended), it puts more strain on those stronger muscle groups, and wears them down faster.

4. Cross-train

This is probably most important. As you are strengthening (and getting faster), your muscles are going to become fatigued and tight. Tight muscles and tired muscles can lead to injury. There are a lot of ways to cross-train: cycling, swimming, yoga, even walking counts, any activity that uses your muscles in a different way than running. This helps to break up any tension in your “active” running muscles, and strengthens the other muscle groups, which may be neglected while running. Swimming can strengthen your shoulders, back, and core, which are all often neglected, and works out tension. Yoga can stretch your muscles out, and strengthen your core. Get the idea?

Closing thoughts

There are so many great opportunities out there. Like everything in life, moderation is key. You get faster by running more often, enjoying yourself (think of when you ran as a kid), and doing other things more often. Also, on a personal note, I think drinking beer and being happy in life makes you faster. It makes you lighter and less bothered by life.

NOTE: I, myself, am not fast, but have gotten faster this way.

another success

Yesterday was a great Monday! Work was great, though a little on the early side (I had worked 8.5 hours by 3:30pm). As a reward, I wanted to run. But I also wanted to swim. So you know, why not both?

I ran a quick 1-miler around the block. I hit 0.92miles and was at 8:30, so I gunned it the last bit to get a sub-9:00 pace. It was hot, and harder than typical for a run that short. And I used to be able to maintain that for much longer, but I had been active the past few days, so I was happy with that…

And onto my swim…

Then Dan and I packed our bags and headed to the pool for a “few laps”… My goal is just to get comfortable and find my rhythm again. I am getting faster though. I did 10x25m, with 10-second “rest” between reps. Then rested for 2 mins. Then, started a 5x50m, but scrapped that idea at 3x50m; and rested for 2 minutes again (after my run, I was winded, which precludes my abdominal cramping). Then, I hopped back into the pool, planning to do another 10x25m, but deciding I’d see how things went.

And, I got it back. I remembered how to “pull” through the water. I ignored weaker people telling me to bend my arms (haha), and kept straight arms overhead, but bended my arms and pulled myself through the water. This sped me up quickly. I remembered to keep kicking casually while rotating to breathe. Things seemed like they were starting to click. And I kept passing Dan, with minimal extra effort [Just to note, Dan swam straight for 35:00, probably doing about 1.2 miles? So, it’s like a sprinter saying to a marathoner “I can go faster than you!” … It’s stupid, but it felt good]

I finished 750m in 22 minutes, including the 4:00 of rest. It felt great! I actually experienced a little endorphin high. I’m not sure if it was the run + swim + lack of pain that made me feel so good, or knowing I was going to Trophy, or being with Dan, or what, but I basked in the glory of a good Monday afternoon/night.

After our swim, we showered, and headed over to Trophy for a pizza and beer. I have to say- Trophy has the best pizza around! Their veggie pizzas kind of look like a salad on top of a pizza, and are delicious (and guilt-free).¬† I wanted to try their feature pizza– “fire sauce”, mozzarella, kale, lamb, and roasted bell peppers. Sounded awesome, but Dan wasn’t up for it, and Best Dressed is my fave, so we went with that. It’s a meat lovers paradise– pepperoni, bacon, lamb sausage (makes the pizza), spinach, red onions, with tomato sauce and mozzarella. I plan to grab it for the guys after they move us (since I’m all gimpy and can’t do heavy lifting without major pain).

Oh, you know…

A typical Monday night

Okay, maybe not yet. But hoping it will be my typical Monday.

[And anyone wondering, I tried their American Saison; the “Next Best in Show”… which was a good solid beer]

sometimes I swim…

Since my injury, I decided I need to do more cross-training. Though I said it passively, I actually mean it. Whenever you are injured, you take a long look at what you have been doing and, more specifically, what you’ve been doing wrong.

Dan goes to the pool every week or two (more often lately). And I’m a little jealous. I am a bit of natural swimmer. I learned how to swim before I learned to talk. No exaggeration! My parents had a swim instructor come to our house since we had a pool, and by the time I was 2, I could successfully tread water and knew the basics.

Growing up, I was a gymnast, but in the summer “off” season, I did swim team as well. I laugh at calling it the “off” season, because I’d spend 8am-12pm on gymnastics (sometimes more, if the coaches would put up with me, until 1pm). Then went home, ate lunch, and went to swim practice from 3pm-6pm, followed by extra swimming/diving/playing on the swingset/etc.

Though I was a decent swimmer, I lacked the serious effort to get faster. I just improved my technique to the point that I could successfully swim a straight line, which in elementary school/ middle school, meant you could place relatively easily. I always had issues with breathing, so the back stroke was my baby.

So, now that you have the picture of my fish roots [That’s just silly; fish don’t have roots! :)], onto my desire to get back into swimming.

Ladies, I think we can all admit- swimmers are hot. They have nice, sculpted shoulders/back/arms… Who doesn‘t want that?

This weekend, I was committed. I went to Omega Sports, and about 20 suits later, found one I really liked. I am not kidding- I tried on about 20 suits. Last time I was in a suit, I was a 26-28. The sizing charts suggested I’d be a 28-32, depending on the brand. Speedos were cut horrible for me (high cut in the neck, but too “skinny”, leaving more side boob action then I’d like…), and Nike’s lacked structure. I found a favorite with the TYR Durafast style. Size 34? Shit! I’ve forgotten already. [Whatever. It worked]

As soon as I got home, I tried it on and stared in the mirror, moving and flexing to make sure everything stayed in place as it should… I tried to imagine how it would move in the water, and it was official- I had to test it out!

Dan texted, saying he was headed to the pool; and I basically begged him to allow me to piggy-back. I was embarrassed to think it had been ~10 years since swimming laps. He also has an extra pair of goggles and some swim caps.
(Yes, I used a swim cap; chlorine is really bad for your hair, especially if it’s dry, long, or fine)

Basically, this is what I looked like (choking on water not shown)

Basically, this is what I looked like (choking on water not shown)

As we were parking, I got so nervous. I really was thinking OMG, what if I forget how to swim? Or I am going to push off the wall, and just when I pop up, inhale water instead of exhaling! Basically, I knew I’d look stupid.

Dan picked our lane (it was a little busy, so we shared a lane). Dan jumped straight in, put on his goggles, and dropped under the water to get wet. Meanwhile, I sat down, and then slid into the water; tried to put on my goggles while treading water (next to impossible… how did I do that as a kid?!), and decided I was annoyed that we were right in front of the lifeguards… They’d probably kick me out for being too slow.

Finally, I kicked off for my first “lap” (25m lanes). In my head, I thought I’d count laps, and then see if I got any faster next time. My goal was 30 minutes. Dan eased through the water, letting his big arms and strong shoulders do all the work. I, on the other hand, rely on good form, and fast flutter kicking to slice me through the water.

My nerves only got worse as I realized HOW THE HELL DO I BREATHE?! I gasped for breathe, forgetting if I prefer left side over right, or if I was able to alternate (breathing every third stroke). Do I breathe in when I’m in the water, or (mouth full of water) nope, that’s not right. Definitely makes more sense to breathe IN when your mouth is in the air, and out through your nose UNDERwater… Okay, now with that figured out, have I been doing this on the right side or left? Okay, left…

And wall. Yep, that was all my thoughts on the first 25 meters. It’s lucky I didn’t drown. I treaded water at the wall, waiting for Dan to come back, and thought I’d keep up 1/2 of what he swims. And I was off again… Trying to get into a rhythm of breathing.

With each 25 meters, it felt easier. But I still had to stop in every 25 or 50 meters. When I was swimming, I was keeping a good strong pace. And I felt better when I looked through the water as Dan was crossing, and noticed he doesn’t really use his legs (Or as he puts it, Yeah, I look like Joe from the Family Guy. Joe is the neighbor in a wheelchair, who is totally jacked but is paralyzed from the waist down, in case you didn’t know that. It’s funny, because that is exactly how it looks. Above the water, just fine). Anyway, don’t let that sound like he can’t swim. He went close to a mile (my guess 1500m) in about 30 minutes– that’s pretty decently fast. And I couldn’t even remember when to breathe; so he wins easily.

So I went 30 minutes, and my best estimate is about 750m.

After about 15-20 minutes, my left arm started to get a little sore. Yep, hadn’t even gone that far; or that fast, or for that long, and my arms were getting sore. That’s how weak my upper body is.

The pool in my neighborhood has a hot tub, so Dan and I are going there this weekend (hot tub after a good swim is the best!). I may try to go a different day this week as well.

I am just excited, because I’ve been steadily increasing my mileage again; running as much as 2-3 miles straight at a decent pace (as fast as 8:22/mile, as slow as 10:00), and feel stronger everyday. Still, swimming is calming, and I love trying new sports! Trying out swimming again is like returning to my childhood with a youthful spirit.

I ran 200s last night, outside. Every time I lace up my shoes to go outside, I get scared. I definitely am suffering from some post-traumatic-injury-stress. It keeps me from going too hard/ too far. I am hoping by the end of August, I’ll be able to run 6 miles on my “long” days, plus swimming, and yoga. This girl is cross-training! It’s much needed, and helps keep things new and interesting ūüôā

Happy Tuesday thoughts!!!

Things all runners learn… eventually

The following are things I’ve noticed about distance running. Although some of these may be true at 15 miles per week, I’ve especially noticed it as I¬†increased to 30+ miles per week.

1. I¬†work about 30 minutes less per day. Due to bathroom breaks. (Bonus if you take “stretch” breaks).

2. I wear darker nail polish on my toes. I get black toenails so this keeps it from being so obvious. Though, it does suck when I actually lose a toenail.

3. Beer is totally carb-loading.

4. We have our own language. I¬†almost wrote “MPW” in lieu of “miles per week”.

5. You have to run your own run.

6. I spend more $$ on groceries than I used to (hint, hint: they are not nicer; I just eat a LOT more)

7. I¬†enjoy speedwork, tempo runs, etc. But then I’ve always been more fast than long (good thing I’m a girl right!)

8. You will go through shoes like a baby goes through diapers… My running buddies used to make fun of me for having three pairs of shoes. I’m about to buy my fourth. They have one pair that they have to switch out every month or two. And I¬†get to coordinate! ūüôā

9. You will always be searching for the “perfect” gear. Just give up, and save the money for #6 &¬†#9. Though #10 is true too.

10. Getting a new outfit or gear is always fun. I¬†have a motto that if I¬†look fast, I¬†run faster too. It works for me… Oh, and having more shoes means more ways to coordinate your outfits.

11. I¬†think that running is making me LESS¬†attractive. One friend of mine gets chafing in her inner thighs and has to walk bow-legged the day of a long run. Another friend breaks out in hives when she runs in the summer heat. Personally- I¬†lose toenails (they turn black first), get splotchy skin (tinea versicolor) on my stomach, chafing on my armpits and bra line, have completely lost my ass, oh, and my hips audibly pop. Runners define a new definition of “beautiful”

12. You will never meet a more dedicated group of friends than runners. I’ve only known these girls a few short months. They have literally ran next to me while I¬†cried over a hard decision; we just keep running while talking it out- as if it’s over a cup of coffee. And if someone will wake up at 430am to meet you somewhere by 6am, they’ll do pretty much anything else for you. Same goes for my relay running friends; if they will forego sleep just to cheer you on…

13. You will pee (and sometimes poop, though I¬†won’t name any names) pretty much anywhere. And make fun of those who won’t…

14. Your stomach gets more and more ironclad (not your abs, read: your digestive system).

15. You will eventually forget about modesty. I¬†am the girl who runs in booty shorts and a sports bra in the summer. Everyone always says “I’d feel so self conscious”… Then they too eventually strip off their shirt.

16. You will try almost anything a fellow runner suggests. Compression socks to sleep in?¬†Yes, please! Oh keep them on under work clothes?¬†Done. Wear the compression socks under boots when going out on a date? Ummm… Already planned on that one! At first glance, that water/ fuel belt looks a lot like a fanny pack. Oh you recommend it?¬†Okay, I’ll try it. Wait, run UPhill and walk DOWNhill. No, no, okay, I¬†got it, I¬†was just making sure I¬†heard you right. Right, it will make me faster. No, no, of course…

17. Yoga is necessary (or some stretch/ crosstraining). For those of you who shake your head- you will soon be injured and if you are, in fact, that stubborn, you may never fully recover. It took an injury for me to realize this. Leading to #18…

18. Your body speaks to you, so listen to it. I¬†never believed in cross-training, and after my second 16-miler last fall, I¬†actually ran my pelvis out of line. Which apparently would have been prevented by adding in some cross-training, pilates, yoga. Really anything. I¬†had just thought Oh my hips hurt. Whatever I’ll fight through the pain… but I¬†later had to re-train myself how to run properly and efficiently.

19. There will be days you don’t want to run when you get out of bed. We all have them; we just try not to dwell on them, so we don’t talk about them. But if you fight it, and go for the run, you won’t regret it (even if it is a minute slower pace than intended and 3 miles shorter).

20. All of it makes you who you are. When you are lapping the town you live in at 6am on a Saturday morning, or running UPhill when everyone else is driving to work on that busy road (hopefully you’re on the sidewalk), or griping about how your body hurts, it’s a part of you. When you run just 3 miles per week, it’s something you do. When you put in the long distances- the I¬†can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m so glad I¬†am– it’s a part of you. It’s what sets you apart from those who run into a runner.

(I’m not knocking those who run 10 miles/week, because they’re great too. But when you start making sacrifices to fit running in, I¬†think it’s different than someone who runs 2-3 times/week)