I’m A Cheater

Do you ever have those days, after several consecutive days of hard workouts or long nights or stressful school midterm weeks that make you want to scream, when you just need a rest day? Only it’s not on your schedule and you know you’ll feel better if you run?

Truer than true.

Truer than true.

Ugh. I have.

For me, this especially happens during the Summer months. I don’t know if it’s that Summer in NYC is like living on the surface of the sun or if it’s that most of my Summers are spent training for Fall races. Whatever the case, I need more rest in the Summer.

You know it's hot if I'm down to my sweaty sports bra. These abs don't see the light of day whilst running very often.

You know it’s hot if I’m down to my sweaty sports bra. These abs don’t see the light of day whilst running very often.

But it’s training season! What’s a runner to do?

Cheat.

My absolute favorite way to sneak an extra rest “day” into my schedule is to fudge around my workout times. When I look at my week and see:

Monday: 8mi + Refine, Tuesday: Track workout, Wed: Refine, Thurs: 10mi <w/6mi Tempo>, Fri: OFF, Sat: 16mi, Sun: 5 mi…

I gotta tell ya, I panic just a little. But then I get to work on creating rest days where there are technically none.

For you, Obi-wan.

For you, Obi-wan.

I know Monday and Tuesday are going to be a lot. Track workouts beat the crap out of me (and they should!), so before jumping into Refine again Wednesday morning, I rearrange my workout times to get more rest in between. So my workouts really look like this:

Monday AM: 8mi + Refine, Tuesday AM: Track workout, Wed PM: Refine, Thurs AM: 10mi <w/6mi Tempo>, Fri: OFF, Sat AM: 16mi, Sun AM/PM: 5 mi.

That way, I end up with a full 36 hours of rest after my track workout before I hit up the strength training again on Wednesday and 48 hours before I have to pound the pavement hard in a tempo run on Thursday.

And then I drink.

And then I drink.

See? An extra day and a half of rest. That’s why, when people look at my schedule and see that I only have one “rest” day listed, I tell them I actually have two.

I’m a cheater that way.

Now go out and run!

Tuesday Time Trials

Are you guys all caught up on the USATF scandal from this weekend? If not, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

During the 3000-meter race, Gabriele Grunewald (sponsored by Brooks Running) clipped the heels of Jordan Hasay (sponsored by NIKE, coached by Alberto Salazar) on the bell lap. Grunewald went on to smoke the other ladies and win, qualifying her to represent Team USA at the World Indoor Championships in Poland. The clipping didn’t go unnoticed by the officials and was reviewed and thrown out, twice. Salazar continued to protest and Grunewald was subsequently disqualified, giving Hasay a spot on the team.

The ladies of Track & Field showing solidarity for Grunewald. (I don't know who to credit for this photo, but if someone knows, please email me.)

The ladies of Track & Field showing solidarity for Grunewald.
(I don’t know who to credit for this photo, but if someone knows, please email me.)

Twitter and the running world exploded, the case was reviewed again, and the DQ was thrown out, reinstating Grunewald as the champ. Grunewald and Hasay both released statements but I hear another controversy is brewing on the men’s side, again involving Salazar.

What’s this got to do with today’s post? Nothing except when I think of time trials, I think of track meets. Also, watching Mary Cain at these races was a delight.

She's also coached by Salazar and sponsored by NIKE. (Image courtesy of USATF.org)

She’s also coached by Salazar and sponsored by NIKE. (Image courtesy of USATF.org)

You know how when you’re in the middle of training season and you’re working hard and getting your runs in but you’re kinda sick of training and just want to go out there and see if all this work is paying off?

Do it.

Do a time trial. Set up a course (preferably flat), warm up like you would for race day, practice with your race day gear, and do it. I generally set the distance to be shorter than race distance by half or a little less.

Indeed.

Indeed.

What exactly does this do for you?

  1. It’s a good way to check in to see if your training is sufficient.
  2. It’s a solid exercise in race day prep and strategy.
  3. It’s a great confidence-boosting workout that lets you see what you can really do.
  4. It breaks up the monotony of doing the same ol’, same ol’ workouts.
  5. It’s a great workout.

If a time trial doesn’t go so well, and external circumstances weren’t the reason, it’s not too late in your training cycle to switch things up and still meet your race day goals.

Don’t be afraid of the speed and don’t be afraid to try a new racing strategy. Better you do it in a time trial workout that on race day morning.

Now go out and run!

Good Enough

Thank you so much to Lacy over at Running Limit-less for the feature today! Click over to read about how I run without limits…and a colon ;)

I consider myself a fairly rational individual. I say “fairly” because I am also crazy, just ask my husband. But by and large, I’m even-keeled and lean toward the middle of the road on most things.

Except pie. I believe in eating all the pie. And cake.

Except pie. I believe in eating all the pie. Apple and cherry pie. And cake. But only vanilla/vanilla cake.

But when it comes to running and training, I am as Type A as they come. Too often I hear from runners who are injured or disappointed in their performance that they “did everything right”, only to find out that they were woefully misinformed by someone and were, in fact, doing most things wrong or merely halfway.

The simple fact of the matter is that our bodies are not symmetrical. And we are not the .0001% of the population with ridiculous athletic genes. And you can’t drink 8-10 glasses of booze and eat a half doze cookies on your “cheat day” and be race ready.

Good enough is not enough.

You gotta dig deeper for those results to shine through.

You gotta dig deeper for those results to shine through.

What do I mean by not good enough? Well, here are a few examples and how to tackle the problem of training better than “good enough”:

  • You’re not seeing improvements in your pace after training for 3 months

Problem: Your training schedule and/or effort are sub-par

Fix: Gut check. Are you really putting the work in during your runs? Are you really hitting that max effort? We are all guilty of dogging it in a track workout every now and then. A great way to ensure you leave it all out there during your workouts is to get with a buddy or a group and do it together. Accountability helps!

My accountability buddy is MUCH faster than me. So happy to have her by my side for many, many vomit-inducing track workouts!

My accountability buddy is MUCH faster than me. So happy to have her by my side for many, many vomit-inducing track workouts!

  • You keep getting overuse injuries

Problem: Your training schedule is too intense, doesn’t include the right (or any at all) strengthening exercises, or you’re not getting enough rest between workouts and/or training cycles.

Fix: The simplest fix for this may just be to take a break, see a Physical Therapist, and start over. Or fire your coach. Or both. Here’s the thing: the body, as a moving entity, is not rocket science. When you get hurt there’s a reason, asymmetry and weakness being two of the biggest culprits.

And if your coach is having you push through or ignore injury instead of addressing it, fire them. Or maybe you’re not listening to your coach…or your body?

Hmmmm...

Hmmmm…

  • You keep getting the same injury

Problem: The injury has never really healed from last time or your strength training routine isn’t specific enough

Fix: It’s sooooo easy to ramp things up to 11 once you are pain-free post-injury. The problem is, once you’ve sustained an injury, you will always be more susceptible to re-injury. Doing your home exercises, adhering to your strength training program, and taking adequate rest are life-long steps to avoiding the IR list.

And sometimes it's sitting this race out in favor of coming back stronger for the next one.

And sometimes it’s sitting this race out in favor of coming back stronger for the next one.

  • You work out at 10/10 effort, but just can’t seem to get your times down

Problem: Your workout schedule is too heavy, your rest days are inadequate, and/or your diet stinks

Fix: Rest more. Rest often. Eat real food. Prioritize the really important runs and workouts and take a break from the extraneous ones. Recovery time is just as important as strength and endurance. Without rest, your body will never be able to work at its maximum potential.

All are equally important.

All are equally important.

Start by being honest with yourself. Then enlist the help of experts–actual experts, for training and rehab, if need be. Be patient, work hard, and be honest with yourself and your team about what you are doing and not doing. 

I promise this will make a world of difference.

Now go out and run!

Halfway There

When I ran cross country as a freshman in high school, I was completely clueless about racing. In junior high, I’d just go out and run and I was always on of the Top 10 girls at the meet. Always.

That's about the sum of it.

That’s about the sum of it.

So why would I need strategy?

Oh. Because high school cross country was serious business. Not only was it all about “CONFERENCE, REGIONALS, SECTIONALS, STATE!” but scholarships that might lead to pro bids or even the Olympics, were on the line for some athletes.

Clearly, I was more concerned with my bangs (and other sports) than with my racing strategy.

Clearly, I was more concerned with my bangs (and other sports) than with my racing strategy.

Not for me. Never for me. But I did happen to run on the same team as some pretty fast girls who still kick butt.

Anyway, my coach that year taught me how to really run a race. He always stood at the halfway mark (1.5 miles–my, how times have changed!) and shout at us to SURGE! PUSH! KICK IT IN! for about 100 meters.

Why? What the heck, Coach Mustache, I’m only halfway there! Ahhhh, there was a method to his madness.

IMG_0511

 

Halfway there is not THERE. You are not near the finish. You are not even close. Halfway there is mental.

No matter the distance, halfway into a race is when the real race starts. It’s the point in the race that you either start to make a move or it all falls apart. You either choose to refocus or get bogged down in having so. much. farther. to go.

You either surge or you bonk.

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Things to do halfway into a race:

  • Start focusing more on your form.
  • Surge for a little bit and then find your pace again.
  • Make a mental note of what the rest of your miles should look like and commit to getting there.
  • Zone out the noise and hone in on your race.
  • Work harder.

The second half of anything is always harder.

The second half of a marathon beats the crap out of you. The second half of grad school is irritating and tedious. Halfway through training means you haven’t even hit your longest runs of the cycle. The second half of pregnancy is heavier and even more (really?) exhausting…something to look forward to. The second half of a 5K makes you want to vomit.

Closing in on the Vomit Threshold in my last 5K. Woof.

Closing in on the Vomit Threshold in my last 5K. Woof.

But here’s the thing, once you push past that halfway point, every step you take gets you closer to the finish line. Cliché though it might be, it’s the truth. So don’t give up. Work harder. Surge. Push.

Suck it up. You’re halfway there.

Now go out and run.

What tricks do you use to stay focused and on target at the halfway point of a race–or life? Impart your wisdom on me! I’m halfway through EVERYTHING right now!

Focus

Wow. I mean…WOW, it’s been a WHILE. Hi guys. I missed you all.

In the past month (er…almost two?), I’d go out for a run or be in the grocery store or at my workouts class and writing posts in my head. Then I’d get home, get busy, get distracted, and not write anything down. Lazy? I prefer to say I’ve been focused.

So true. (Image courtesy of michaelczinkota.com)

So true.
(Image courtesy of michaelczinkota.com)

Toward the end of last semester, I had to really put my blinders on and focus on the most important things in my life. Thus, I had my limits.

Finals (ugh), health, family, work, and celebrating the holidays and winter break were my highest priorities for the past month. As much as I love writing, it sits solidly on the back burner of my life when things go bananas. It’s not my job. It’s relevant to what I do and certainly a part of what I want to continue doing. But still, not my job.

I want a box like this on my desk.

I want a box like this on my desk.

And neither is running. So, when life happens, sometimes running takes a back seat. At various points in my life, I have had to sit it out from running for stretches of weeks and months.

Getting sick and having two major abdominal surgeries taught me to appreciate everything my body can do.

It's tough to run when attached to IVs and such.

It’s tough to run when attached to IVs and such.

I no longer care so much if I PR in every race. If I “only” get a 4 mile run in, it’s still worth going out and doing. If I have to drop down from a full to a half because my body is working double duty, so be it.

There are millions of reasons why someone may need to (or should be ok with) cutting back or taking a break from running. The important thing is to be able to recognize that:

  1. Running is not your job.
  2. Running is not who you are.
  3. Running is not the only way to get sweaty.

It’s ok to put it down and pick it up as your life changes. Taking a break does not mean you’ve failed or are weak or that you aren’t a runner anymore.

It's ok to take a moment for yourself.

It’s ok to take a moment for yourself.

Don’t feel guilty about taking a step back from something like running. It can be a great thing to do for yourself, especially if you plan on coming back to it at some point.

I’m down to 15-20 miles/week from 65 miles/week back in September. Do I miss it? Yeah. Is it gonna kill me to taper back in order to focus on other things? Definitely not. Gotta get through this semester with my sanity intact and stay healthy.

So, you may hear from me less. I may be running less. But I’ll be back.

Just like Arni. (Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures)

Just like Arni.
(Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures)

Now go out and run.

What have you been up to this winter? Anyone running a race coming up in the spring? I feel for you all who ran through the Polar Vortex. It was brutal out there! Stay warm, friends!