Pick a lane? No thanks.

We’ve all seen that driver on the interstate, weaving all over the place, always trying to get in a faster, better lane.  This has pretty much been my approach to exercise from day one of my journey.  I’ve changed my training plan several times to the point where I rarely actually finish a training program.  There’s always something bigger, brighter, shinier around the corner.  After numerous attempts to complete as seen on TV type workout plans and failing, I one day told myself it didn’t matter what I did as long as I did something for exercise every day.  And the freedom in that variety is what got me going and hooked on fitness.  I did the elliptical, I did YouTube videos, I walked my dog, I jumped rope, I swam with my kids, rode my bike, did yoga, took classes etc.

In almost everything else I crave routine.  My mornings are coffee and talk radio in my car.  Every week day.  I buy the same running shoes when my old ones wear out.  I have a 16 year supply of perfume (same one I’ve been wearing since I turned 15).  Exercise for me has been the healthy dose of variety my life needs.10535615_10204454717304821_5735394766138690464_o

Through my trial and error process of fitness I’ve found that I truly enjoy running, paddle boarding, cycling and weight lifting.  I love the strength and physique I get from lifting.  There is no better feeling than the pride and glow of finishing a long distance run or race.  And paddle boarding and cycling are just fun for fun’s sake.  SUP and cycling for me don’t even feel like exercise. I would do them if there were zero physical benefits.  (Lucky for me there are though!)

Yay!  Exercise!  Healthy and wellness!  Where’s the problem?  I’m starting to get more serious about my lifting and my running (26.2 on 10/4/15).  After last week’s sickness and subsequent gym hiatus, I’ve been so happy to be back in the gym and making progress.  I’m getting stronger on my lifts, and I’m really enjoying it.  I’m also starting to look at marathon training programs since Spring will be here before we know it and I know I’ll need approximately 18 weeks of solid training.  Unfortunately some of my 1621786_10204793492373986_702821337161782815_nrunning acquaintances have questioned my low mileage and have made mention that I will need to stop lifting once I start actual marathon training, else I risk losing endurance. There is the concern that the additional bulk of muscles could cause running slowness.  On the other side, my lifting acquaintances have said that excess endurance running will ruin the coveted strength and muscle gains.

I don’t want to be spinning my wheels, putting in a lot of extra work just to have everything cancel itself out.  So are these my choices?  Option A.) Give up the heavy lifting, focus on a textbook marathon plan with some occasional body weight movements, or Option B.) Give up on the marathon and commit to a serious lifting routine with occasional high intensity interval sessions for cardio.  I have never been a rebellious individual.  I pride myself on doing most things by the book.  But when faced with these two scenarios I say “nope”.   Through the magic of wpid-wp-1424402190800.jpegGoogle I am finding there are is a super secret Option C.) – Hybrid training.  This page actually explains it very well.  I can have the best of both worlds without risking exhaustion or stalled progress!  Hybrid training combines specific training runs with heavy lifting.  What I love about this is that there is a way to do it and still have rest days and make improvements. I can have my cake and eat it too (and boy do I love cake!).

What does this hybrid training look like for me and my goals and fitness level specifically?  I’m not exactly sure yet.  More to come on that later.  But again, that’s the magic of the internet.  I know I’m not the first person to want the best of both worlds.  I’m embracing my lane changing habits to find what will work for me.  It may be a little risky, but that’s part of the fun. 🙂

 

Twin Cities Marathon: Registration Affirmation

I’m in!  Today marathon registration opened at 10:00 am.  By 10:30 I was registered with confirmation email and everything.  It’s not until October but it feels very real now.  This is going to happen.  I’m going to run 26.2 miles.  And I’m looking forward to it!

A few years ago my sister trained for and ran a marathon.  I remember at the time thinking that training for and running a marathon just seemed like the scariest, most awful form of self torture I’d ever heard of.  Who runs hours and hours a week for months to train and get prepare for a 3+ hour (if you’re fast) race?  It’s not a run for survival.  Nobody forces someone to run a marathon.  So who does that?

Back when my sister was training if you asked me to jog for even 5 minutes I would have laughed in your face.  Now a 5 minute jog is my warm up.  Now I crave hitting the pavement.  Now I am an athlete (granted, still a slow athlete) but I am going to run this marathon in October.  What changed?  All it takes is that spark.  I’m inspired by my sister (yes you, Pan!), I’m in inspired by my BRF (you know who you are!), I’m inspired by my badass canyon-running idol (you know who you are too!).

So rewind to 10:20 am today.  Entering in all this great information, credit card in my teeth, typing away: name, age, address, phone, shirt size, emergency contact,

Pace & finish time… blank stare, blinking cursor.  Not only do I need to commit to running a marathon today.  I have to commit to actually finishing it.  Stuff just got real.  I thought.  I thought and thought and thought.  I honestly thought the page might time out.  Then I typmarathoned 11 minute miles with a projected finish time of 4 hours 45 minutes.  I know that they won’t come out and drag me off the course if I don’t meet my time but somehow this felt like a pledge.  A pledge to get it done in less than 5 hours.  A pledge to give it my all.  This is my first (and maybe only) marathon and I’m going into it with a goal to finish.  Finishing in 4 hours 45 minutes is my target.  4 hours 30 minutes is my stretch goal.  Right now 11 minute miles are my easy I-could-run-forever pace.  I think it’s doable.  I hope it’s doable.  However, a wise woman once told me “hope is not a plan” (you know who you are too).  So the plan is this:  Show up and run.  Show up and run my heart out.

ABD in One Year

September 2012 I started my Ph.D., this was my Facebook status update “AH! Writing my first paper in 8 years. What did I get myself into??”.  It’s been a long three years and there’s still a long road ahead but one year from now, if all goes as planned, I will be starting my dissertation research.  February 1st, 2016.

So what exactly needs to happen between now and February 1st 2016?  A lot.  The most daunting of which is this: Comprehensive exams (comps) during marathon training.  If I keep all my ducks in a row though, I should be starting to taper my training for the marathon when I start my comps.  I had a momentary panic attack today when I realized how close I am to the end of this whole big Ph.D. thing.  Yes, I still have 4 classes left…and then some big tests…and then the really big paper but other than that I’m almost done!  Seriously though, I’m now legitimately more than half way there and that feels good.  One year from now, I’ll be All But Dissertation (ABD) and done with college coursework.  That’s a darn fine feeling if you ask me.

Racing: How much is too much?

Only a month into winter and registrations for the spring race season are opening left and right.  I ran over 20 races in 2014 and it was one of the best years of my life.  I love racing!  The past two years I’ve taken the summers off of my grad studies to train, race and recover to my heart’s content. The thing is I’m also trying to finish a doctoral degree and the way the stars align, I can’t take this summer off of school.  Bummer right?  I told myself I was going to seriously cut back on racing this year and only do 2 half marathons in preparation for the full marathon in October.  That’s it.  And then the crazy sets in…Okay, maybe one 5k with my son because he’s really interested in it.  And this 17 mile trail race looks really cool.  And It might be fun to travel for a race or two and see another city.  I haven’t done any races at all since October.  I’m really itching to get out there.  Maybe next month, is there a race next month?  Just one?

So far here is what I’m registered for.

  1. Hot Dash – 10 mile
  2. Get in Gear – 10K
  3. Zumbro – 17 mile trail
  4. Rock & Roll – Half marathon

I feel like a little kid who was told “just 2 cookies” only to be found 15 minutes later in the cookie jar up to my elbows, face covered in chocolate.  And no, you’ll notice the actual marathon isn’t on that list.  The registration doesn’t open for that until next week.  And it’s a lottery (don’t worry I have a backup 26.2 if I don’t get in).  The 2nd half marathon for training isn’t on that list either.  Oops.  Or the 5k I want to race with my 6 year old. Oops again.  So, it looks like… I’m an addict.  Not sure what to do about it.  I see a race online and immediately start checking the calendar (can’t overlap with hockey!) and digging in my purse for my credit card.  I don’t care about the stuff, the swag, the medal.  I don’t care about the entertainment or the beer.  It all honestly doesn’t even matter.  If it’s a race within a 2 hour drive of my house, I want in.  I don’t know if there’s a cure for this but I am going to have to figure something out.  Or learn how to write a dissertation while jogging and chugging power aid.

Mind Games for the Long Run

Some Back Story
I haven’t been running for very long.  I started in May of 2013 when a friend of mine encouraged me to run a 5k with her.  The very thought of running any distance at all sounded like torture let alone slightly over 3 miles.  Thing is, I love a challenge.  I remember it vividly.  I immediately got on the treadmill at the hotel I was staying for a work trip and walked/slogged through 3 miles.  It took me almost 50 minutes but I knew I would be able to at least finish a 5K.  I registered for it.  I ran it.  Let me say that again… I ran it.  The whole thing.  At the time I had never run continuously for that long.  I crossed the finish line and was hooked.  Here is a little known fact: I don’t really like running that much.  I’ll do it and I have those runs that are just incredible and give me the euphoric runner’s high.  Most of the time though, my training runs are just okay.  I don’t love running.  I love racing.  I live for race day.  I know race day is going to be awful if I don’t get my training runs though so I make sure they happen.

The Long Run: Mind over Matter
Even better than a race day is a long race day.  I’d call the 10 miler my jam.  It’s the perfect distance for me right now.  It’s challenging, it’s long enough to feel like a major accomplishment without the pain and next day soreness of the half marathon.  I’m easing into those feelings about my half marathon but those extra 3 miles make a world of difference.

IMG_0284Total honesty – anything over 5 miles still feels like a long run to me.  I dread it, I get psyched up for it and eventually push through it but I rarely look forward to the long training run.  I’ve learned through trial and error that running is as much about the mind as it is about the muscles.  When I get that feeling of I’m too tired, I can’t do this anymore, I don’t want to do this anymore, I give myself a quick check up.  Legs: Are your legs sore/hurting/injured?  Heart: Are you gasping for breath/heart rate too high? If the answer yes I will slow down or take a walk break.  But usually the answer is no for both at which point I know it has to be in my head.  I need to bring out my mental tool box and fix what’s broken.

For me at least the very worst thing I can do is think about how much is left.  How big of a bummer is it when you’re tired and bored and just don’t want to continue and all you can think of is I have 4 miles left, that’s 40 minutes if I’m lucky, which is almost an hour, I’d really rather be napping for almost an hour, so how much is left now? 3.8 miles, ugh this is going to last forever!  I found myself in that exact predicament 3 miles into my 6 mile easy pace run last night.  I really had to dig deep to keep focused.  Here are some tricks that I use that have worked for me.

  1. Try to think of anything else other than the run itself.  I think about things I want to get done for the week, things that have happened at work, what I might snack on when I’m done running etc.  Usually that will keep me occupied for a little while but if not I proceed to #2.
  2. Look at things going on around me.  Try counting trees or look for interesting people to watch.  Try to remember everything as if there’s going to be a test when I’m done.  If I’m on the treadmill try different music or watching a movie.  When this isn’t enough it’s time for #3.
  3. I visualize that I’m playing a game and I’m collecting “points” (fractions of miles).  For some reason getting something feels better to focus on instead of thinking how much is left.  Focusing on what I already “have” and trying to increase some virtual high score that doesn’t exist helps me avoid thinking about how much distance or time still remains. If you’ve played the Temple Run app, that is a great visual.  In the game you get more points for running longer.
  4. This one’s a little weird so bear with me.  I call it “God’s Thumb”.  If I need to speed up a little (which I probably need to do if I’m considering stopping) I picture a giant thumb applying gentle pressure to my lower back.  This simultaneously fixes my form and speeds me up just a little.  It also prevents me from speeding up by sprinting which will only lead to an energy crash later.  If I try this and still feel like I have nothing left, am super bored and not enjoying the run I move to #4.
  5. This is when I start pulling out the big guns.  This is my last big mind game and I only use it when I really need it.  I visualize my running friends are right next to me.  I imagine my trainers and coaches are yelling at me to push forward.  And these trainers and coaches are sometimes people I have never met!  Dolvett from Biggest Loser and Chalene from BeachBody are just a few.  If they motivate me, they join me on my little mental cheer team.  I also picture my family waiting for me at the end of the big 26.2 when it happens.

These have worked for me although I know I’ll need to add to my mental repertoire as my training runs get longer  Share in comments if you have some of your own!