Training Cycles & The Streak Recap

Happy 2012, everyone! I’m going to pretend that today is Monday and do yet another BTAT post on a Wednesday. My days are all screwed up. I just landed in NYC after flying the red eye to Boston and connecting to JFK. Needless to say, I am a little wonky. So, it’s Monday. Can we all agree on that just for a few minutes? Thanks.

How was your New Years? Did you live it up out on the town or did you do a midnight run/New Year’s day run? Me, I spent my New Year’s Eve with my sweet baby niece and Blondie.

Happy New Year!

So much fun. We were in bed by 10pm MST. Party animals. At least we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next morning for the last day of The Streak!

Angel baby is pumped for the last day of The Streak! One day, we'll be Streaking together.

I loved The Streak. It was fun and motivating and just what I needed post-marathon. Some of my favorite Streaker moments:

  • Running across town in my flip-flops to get my Streak in and get to CPR class and then go to a birthday party. Phew!
  • Mid-afternoon runs on the East River.

I love a speedy run along the East River!

  • Running to and from all of my subway stops because I didn’t have time to do a proper mile.
  • Cool runs home through Midtown at 7pm, dodging pedestrians.
  • Pre-dawn Central Park 7-miler that made me feel speedy again.

Sunrise over the Great Lawn

  • Streaking over Christmas in Colorado at my parents’ house and hearing them say, “OK, go Streak, Abby!” Hilarious.

Streaker in action on vacation

All in all, Streaking was fun. It was cool to hear about other people jumping on the Streak and how they managed to get their miles in. Did you Streak? What was your experience?

As much fun as I had, I’m glad that The Streak is over. It’s time to cycle down, cut back on mileage and cross train. This is what the pros do, too. I mean, I’m no pro, but this is still what they do. And if you’re racing/running marathons (especially if it’s more than one a year), you should be doing this, too!

Following a marathon, rest is key for recovery. But you don’t want to jump back into high mileage right away. You want to cycle through your training seasons in order to benefit as much from your strength training as you do from your distance training.

Yeah, lifting the serious weight! 15 pounds, baby! (What? You thought the 85s were mine? Ummm, no...)

Here’s what I suggest:

  • Two marathons a year, three max.
  • Two weeks low mileage immediately following marathon.
  • Two weeks building back up to 8-10 mile long runs, slowly adding some tempo runs during the week.

From then on out, it’s all about short, speedy runs and cross-training. Keep the mileage relatively low and taper down to three runs a week with one to two other cardio days that are “off” your legs (cycling, swimming, etc.). This is the time to drop some weight via weight training!!! Want to lose 5-10 pounds before your next marathon? Here’s your chance!

Why?

Well, with the low mileage, you can cut back on your calories without worrying about having enough fuel to get through a 3-hour run. Also, you can throw your focus into strength training and do some serious anaerobic workouts that will blast the calories AND make you a stronger runner for your next race.

Regardless of what sort of athlete you think of yourself as, you cannot live on running alone. Get into something new NOW before the spring marathons are upon us. Enter some shorter distance races and work on being a speed demon for a few months. It’s an especially good time since many of us will find ourselves on the treadmill during cold/wintry days and speed workouts are perfect for the treadmill.

Be a pro. Cycle like the best of them. Get speedier. Get stronger.

Now go out and run!

 

 

Beat The Runner’s Plateau

In every running career, there will be many plateaus. Sometimes they sneak up on us and we don’t realize they’re happening until we see stagnant race times. Sometimes it’s our running buddies who ask “are you alright?” when we’re lagging behind on every. single. run. Sometimes we find ourselves dreading the everyday run because it just doesn’t feel good anymore. Runner’s plateau sucks.

It happens. Now let’s talk about how to fix it.

First things first. You have to be honest with yourself and ask a few hard questions:

-Am I varying the speed and distance of my workouts? This is the most common reason I find for newbie/semi-seasoned runners. If you want results, you gotta mix it up.

-Am I cross-training enough (or at all)? Another mistake people make is to think simply running will make you faster. Not true. Aerobic + Anaerobic workouts make you faster.

-Am I putting forth 100% effort in my workouts? Only you can answer this question.

-Is my schedule the same every day/week? Yikes. Isn’t that boring? I’m plateauing just thinking about it.

-Am I getting enough rest? Sleep is where our muscles heal and grow. If you’re not sleeping, neither of these very necessary things are happening.

-Do I have a goal? Running for the sake of running is intolerably boring. Even if it’s a 3K/5K Turkey Trot, set a goal. Work for it. It takes the monotony out of the running.

These are the important questions to ask because they will provide you with the answers to get out of your running rut, over the plateau and into a new gear in your running. And we all have multiple gears, like cars, that we can train into and find as we get in better shape. It’s kind of a cool thing when you find yourself pushing and easing into a newer, faster pace.

But that doesn’t just happen. Here are some suggestions to get out of your running rut:

-Substitute one run for another form of cardio. Try swimming or indoor cycling. You never know, you might find you looooove triathlons. Get off your legs and into something new.

-Grab a faster running friend once a week for a short, hard run. Scary, I know. But it helps.

-Join a gym and try some strength training classes. A change of scenery and pace might make you appreciate the solitude and quiet many of us experience on a run.

-Mix it up. Don’t do the same workout for two weeks. Nothing the same, every workout is new and different. No run route is the same. No distance is the same. No class is the same. Try it.

-Kick it up a notch. Indoor cycling (aka “spinning”) is a great way to challenge your cardiovascular system while not beating the hell out of your legs. Push as hard as you can during one class a week and see if you notice a difference in your runs after a month.

-Take a break from running. I know, I know. Runners hate this suggestion. But, seriously, taking a one week/one month break from running to find new ways to move might be just what you need to get back into it with a fresh perspective.

-Set a goal. Sign up for a race. No better way to push yourself than to set a bar to reach and work as hard as you can.

Plateaus are bound to happen to everybody, even (and maybe, especially) the pros. How you handle them is up to you. You can wallow in it and complain about it or you can switch it up, work a little harder, try something new and discover something else about yourself: you have another gear. Who knew?

Now go out and run!

What do you do to get beyond the plateau???

Excuses, Excuses

People will throw out every excuse in the book to get out of a workout.

I don’t have time. I’m not really an athlete. I hate to sweat (clearly these people are not my friends until they ♥ sweat). I have bad knees. I’m tired. I don’t have time. I’m out of shape (seriously, I’ve heard this). I don’t like sports. I’m not looking to lose weight. It’s too expensive. I’m not good at <insert physical activity>. I hate going to the gym. I don’t want to bulk up. I don’t have time.

I am fortunate to have struggled with my weight at a young age. You read that right. Fortunate. Sure, I was always athletic looking, but once high school hit, I had to watch what I ate and work out twice as much as every other girl to maintain a healthy weight. I say that I was fortunate in this way because I learned younger than most girls that I had an average-to-slow metabolism and I couldn’t just run around and eat whatever I wanted. No sir. I had to run. This stayed with me and in my adulthood, I find that working out is not a chore for me the way it is for so many men and women my age who are struggling with their weight for the first time. I love exercising. I learned to love it through sports and getting involved at my college gym. I’m lucky.

So many people I meet are not so lucky. They were thin and fit their entire teenage and college years and, suddenly, when they are sitting behind a desk or having kids or simply experiencing the dip in metabolism that comes with being thirty-something, they’re panicking because they’re overweight. These are often the people who are making the excuses, but who need the most help.

Here’s the thing: I went running this morning and my workout (Yasso 800s) took me about an hour. I have a Physics exam tomorrow. I have Physics Lab tomorrow. I have class at 12:30. I have a blog to write. I have three lululemon athletica events in span of 10 days to run. I have clients to email. I have doctor’s appointments to make (begrudgingly). I have dinner to make. I have three clients to see tonight. I have, I have, I have…

…I have to run.

MAKE the time. It will not always happen organically. You have to devote time to planning and executing your plan to work out. That’s the simple fact of the matter. It’s not easy, but it is simple. And you may not always want to and you may not always feel like you had a great workout, but doing it puts a check in that box of “I took care of myself today.” No one else can do it for you. Do it now.

And now for the time when I will tear down every single one of your excuses one by one:

I don’t have time. I’m calling BS on this one. You have time for Modern Family. Watch it on the treadmill.

I’m not really an athlete. So what?

I hate to sweat. Get over it. It’s good for you.

I have bad knees. Swim, bike, elliptical, cross train, yoga…do I need to go on?

I’m tired. So am I.

I don’t have time. Make the time.

I’m out of shape. How do you presume to rectify this?

I don’t like sports. So don’t compete. It’s a hobby if you don’t compete.

I’m not looking to lose weight. Are you looking to have a long life? Good! Then you need to exercise.

It’s too expensive. So is a hospital stay. I run on my streets. I do yoga in my apartment. I lift at my school’s gym. I use resistance bands at home and 8 lb. weights. Not expensive as you think.

I’m not good at <insert physical activity>. And you won’t get any better unless you work at it.

I hate going to the gym. So don’t. Do an outdoors Boot Camp class. Do yoga at a studio. Ride in an indoor cycling studio and not a gym. I don’t care where you do it, but do something!

I don’t want to bulk up. Me neither.

I don’t have time. You’re a liar.

There you are. My favorite excuses debunked one by one. The key to getting yourself together is wanting to get yourself together. Until you want it for yourself, no one can force you to do it. Maybe you want it because you want to look better, maybe you’ve had a health scare, maybe you’re tired of being tired. Whatever it is, you have to want it.

I want it for you, so if I can help please don’t hesitate to ask. But you have to want it first and most.

Do you want it?

Then go out and run!

Exercises To Do This Week: Strong Shoulders

The shoulders are the unloved workhorse of our upper body. We want them to look awesome, rounded, strong and straight and yet, we abuse them daily by heaping huge bags on top of them and constantly rounding them forward into a terrible slumped over position that yanks on our rotator cuff muscles. Not nice. These are also the muscles that we call upon in the longer, harder miles to initiate more movement. “Pump your arms” I shout to my runners. Well, we gotta pump them in the weight room so we can pump them when we run.

Here are three exercises that work all three heads of the shoulder (anterior, medial and posterior) and helps to shape them for all of our vanity and arm-pumping needs.

#1. Upright Row

Standing with feet hip-width and knees slightly bent, grasp the bar in an overhanded position just inside of the width of your shoulders. Draw the bar up toward (but not reaching) your chin while pulling up on your elbows so that the wrists stay straight. Give a little tug to the rear at the top of the motion and release back down til your arms are straight. Start with a 20-30 bar, 15-20 reps.

                                     

#2 Overhead Press

Grabbing the bar beyond the width of your shoulders, make sure your elbows are underneath your wrists (not your wrists and the bar in front of your elbows), press the bar up and over the top of your head. Repeat 15-20 times over 3 sets.

     

#3 Bent Over Row

Support yourself with one leg in front and one leg behind so that you can table-top yourself as far forward as possible while maintaing a flat back. Grip the bar overhand and a little wider than your shoulders. Draw the bar toward your belly button, allowing your elbows to fly to the side but keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears. Repeat 3 sets, 12-15 reps.

         

With all of these exercises, if it is your goal to make your shoulders bigger, you should gradually do a heavier weight and fewer repetitions. Conversely, if your goal is to shape the look of your existing shoulders, a lighter weight (but not lighter than 15 pounds) and fewer repetitions (no more than 20, 3 sets) is appropriate for your goals.

Regardless, by doing all three of these exercises, you isolate each individual head of your shoulder as the primary muscle of the movement, thereby giving your body a well-rounded workout. If you do the same shoulder exercise over and over, you will likely 1. fatigue that primary muscle and make yourself more susceptible to injury or 2. build up just that one area of your shoulder, giving yourself kind of a funky shape to your most noticed upper body area. We don’t want that, now do we? No, sir.

Rock these out at the gym this weekend! Doesn’t Sass look amazing doing these exercises? Thanks for modeling, lady.

Now go out and run!

Science Backs Me Up

A few links for your Friday reading enjoyment. Some old, some new. All worth taking a look:

-Weight training improves performance.

-Running does not destroy your knees. So there.

-Running in races helps to make you a faster runner.

-Even Paula Radcliffe has bad days and wants to quit. Phew! I thought it was just me.

-If you are not inspired by Team Hoyt, you are dead in your soul.

*Bonus for you New Yorkers out there*

Join me and Aleah Stander of Flywheel Sports for an awesome BRICK workout (bike and run), compliments of lululemon athletica. Click here for details. Work out with me. Come on, you can do it!

Happy Friday, everyone.

Now go out and run!