Make the Investment In Yourself

Christmas/Hanukah shopping is in full-swing, if not at critical mass, and people are dropping serious dough on the ones they love before the holidays officially start on Wednesday. In our family, we do a Secret Santa among the “kids” in my family because I am one of 5 and when you add in the significant others/spouses, it just gets ridiculous. So, besides coming up with a fabulous gift for JB, coordinating for our parents, getting the one Secret Santa gift and trying to stop myself from shopping even more for my fat little angle baby niece, Christmas shopping is pretty easy for me.

Shopping for others is easy for me.

Thoughtful presents for parents/loved ones? I got you covered! By the way, how is it possible the Post Office is so broke with all the presents and cards I'm mailing?

Investing in myself is not always so easy-breezy.

JB wants a tree for five days? Sure, we'll get a tree!

I have such a hard time spending on myself. Why is that?

Why can we find and spend on everyone else but ourselves? Some of it is <insert religion> guilt (Catholics/Jews, you feel me on this one), but the same could be said for any other type of religion/parenting/upbringing that encourage you to think only of others and never yourself. It’s not all a bad thing, mind you, and I don’t mean to rag on Catholicism or Judaism but it’s just something I personally struggle to find the balance between.

As a runner, I pride myself in being able to just lace up my shoes and run out the door, no fancy equipment required.

Got shoes? Can run!

But then I get an awesome new gadget for my birthday and my running is that much more enjoyable and I can tailor my workouts even more to the goals I have. Why did I wait so long to get my Garmin when I am absolutely at that place in my running career where pace/tempo/time matters to me?

My Garmin was a total life-saver in Philly!

I’m getting a lot better at investing in myself (ahem, NYU), thanks to JB and some very encouraging friends. Because, when you break things down, what are the cost equivalents for your health vs. other stuff?

  • $30 = Flywheel class or 3 drinks at a bar (~1 night out for most of us)
  • $90 = new pair of Brooks Defyance shoes or 1 dinner out (you know: drinks, dinner, dessert, tip…it adds up)
  • $20 = copay to see me favorite chiropractor or 1 movie with a snack
  • $76 = 1 month gym membership for winter treadmill running or going out for lunch once (or twice) a week for a month
  • $85 = lululemon run: inspire crops that last FOREVER and never chafe or 1 haircut I could honestly skip because my hair is always a mess pulled back in the winter
  • $12 = 1 yoga class at Laughing Lotus or 1 cheap-o manicure (tip not included)
  • $100= marathon race entry or Starbucks coffee 5 days a week (thank goodness I don’t drink coffee!)

This is what goes through my head when I’m budgeting every month for my fitness. As I get older and as my disease starts to make itself known in my everyday life, I am now more aware than ever how important it is for me to take good care of myself and make the investment in my physical health FIRST.

Cross training is a must. Flywheel class > boozy night on the town

Drinking, eating out, going to the movies and gorging on unhealthy snacks, these things don’t usually make me feel better. There’s a time and a place for them, but when they become the priority, I know I’ve lost my grip on what’s important in my life. My health, my happiness, my well-being have to come first. For me, that means I make lunch so I can afford Flywheel, yoga and a gym membership during the winter. My toenails are pretty bare throughout the winter so I can get those new pair of running shoes that I need. I invest in the right running clothes that will last because that just makes good sense.

And your time. Your time is so valuable and scarce. How do you spend it? What gets top priority?

Like I said, there’s a balance. But if you find yourself making time for your favorite sitcom or to catch up on your TiVo and not for your daily workout, don’t you think it’s something to re-evaluate? I do.

What do you give up so you can be the best, healthiest you? What aren’t you willing to give up? Tell me about it in the comments!

Now go out and run!

 

 

5 Ways to Become a Faster Runner

If you haven’t seen them out there, you really should make a point to watch the elites run by at your next local marathon. They will blow your mind with their incredible speed and amazing form. We had the pleasure of watching the men’s Olympic Trials in Central Park years ago and saw the great Ryan Hall cruise up Cat Hill like it was nothing. I’ve seen Meb Keflezighi run any number of times and, while he kicks serious butt and would pass me on my fastest day as though I was standing still, his stride isn’t nearly as impressive (he’s not also as tall) as Ryan’s Hall’s is. It is a thing of beauty.

Ryan Hall, Olympic Trials Marathon, Central Park (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

But these guys didn’t get fast by going out and doing the same run every single day at the same pace. Their workouts are carefully crafted so as to constantly improve upon some seemingly minute detail regarding their VO2 Max, stride, arms, foot strike, target heart rate, lactic threshold, and many other bodily functions that we human runners do not typically have to worry ourselves about. One thing we can take away from their training strategy is this: If you want to run fast, you have to train fast.

Now, I’m not talking 5-minute miles, but I am going to be encouraging you to get out of your comfort zone and push harder than you think is possible. And then push a little further. As I’m hearing and saying all the time these days, if you’re not failing every now and again, you’re not trying. Here are five ways you can get faster, if you work harder than you’ve ever worked before:

1. Negative splits

Take any of your regular weekly runs and map it out on http://www.mapmyrun.com so you can find the mile markers, grab your watch and head outside. Start out at a warm-up pace and go 15-30 seconds faster each mile. I recommend doing 4-5 miles this way. Make sure you start out slow enough to build on each mile. You should be finishing your last mile running as fast as you can.

Love my Garmin 110!

2. Yasso 800s

Bart Yasso is the genius behind these half-mile repeats. You run each 800 meters (half-mile) at the exact same pace every time. You also run it according to what would be your goal marathon time. For example, if you are training for a 3:30 marathon, you run your 800s in 3 minutes, 30 seconds every single time. Or, at least, that is the goal. Jog in between sets to recover and let your heart rate come down. Try 4 in a row (with a 1 mile warm-up) for your first time and add one more on each week.

Training for 3:40! (My trusty old Timex works just fine, too!)

3. Hills

Oh, I love me some Cat Hill repeats. Find a hill you hate love that is .15-.25 miles long. Start with a light warm-up of at least a mile, then hit your hills. Run as fast as you can up the hill and jog back down to recover. Rinse. Repeat. I suggest doing 4-6 repeats and building from there.

4. Tempo Run

Go out for a typical weekly run, whatever that may be for you. The key here is to keep your pace above a conversational pace. That means, you should not be able to hold a conversation with someone at this pace. You don’t necessarily need a watch for this one (if you’re an honest runner) because your perceived rate of exertion (PRE) is a good enough scale to use. That is, you ask yourself: On a scale of 1-10, how hard am I working? For a Tempo Run, the answer should be a 7-8, but not above an 8 because that’s getting into sprinting speed and it’s not a sprint, it’s a consistently difficult pace.

My track.

A view from my track.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Ladders

This workout is best done on a track, but you can use Map My Run, too. Do a warm-up mile and hit this workout hard; everything is all-out. 100 meter dash, recover completely. 200 meter dash, recover completely. 400 meter dash, recover completely. 800 meter run, recover completely. 1 mile run, recover completely. That is one ladder. Do 2-4 sets. Each pace will be slightly different, but keep track of them and try to match or beat the same distance in the next set.

Give these a shot and see if they don’t help you to become a faster (or, at least, a more comfortable) runner. Remember, no one got faster or better by doing the same thing over and over and over again. Switch it up and work hard. If you’re having a tough day, forget the watch and go with your PRE–if you know you’re working hard (be honest), then ignore the clock and continue to work hard. Every day is different and you might feel like you’re running like the wind one day and that you have an elephant on your back another. Just do your best and work hard.

Now go out and run!