3 Ways to Survive Winter Running

I like running in cool weather. In Colorado, where I lived for 7 years, the air is cool and the sun is warm and I’m a happy girl.

Disgusting place to run, huh?

Disgusting place to run, huh?

In New York, how do I put this? There’s a lot less sun and a lot more frickin freezing cool air.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

On days like yesterday when the temperature is 22, feels like 12 with 22 mph wind gusts, it’s hard to go out and run. Especially if you’re kinda “eh” about running at the moment. So what are sure-fire ways to get your buns out there on the frozen pavement?

  1. Go with a friend. Birdie and I chatted through 5 miles yesterday and it made a WORLD of difference. She is one of 2 reasons I will run through this winter. The other is pure vanity, I’ll admit it.
  2. Run to food. Most breakfast places in the ‘burbs don’t care if you’re in run clothes and I know my favorite diner doesn’t judge. If pancakes don’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.
  3. Sign up for a weekend fun run. No pressure, just a few dollars paid might be what you need to get to that weekend morning run or midweek training run.
I draw the line if I need more layers than this.

I draw the line if I need more layers than this.

How do you stay motivated in the cold? Let’s be real, vanity is the primary motivator in my world. There, I’ve said it twice so you don’t have to feel shy about it. Friends, food, and races are a bonus.

Now go out and run!

Getting Out the Door

Have you ever started your training season and had to talk yourself off the ledge into actually starting? Like, a pep talk to get your butt out the door?

Or maybe you started back at school this week and almost had a panic attack about the pending weeks and days and hours ahead of sitting on your butt, freezing in the classroom, knowing only too well that you have a ridiculous amount of work to do OUT of said frozen tundra of a classroom.

…just me?

Break out the winter coats, folks. The A/C is set at 20 below.

Break out the winter coats, folks. The A/C is set at 20 below.

“We are all cowards at the start line.” ~Alberto Salazar

I love this quote because no matter how many start lines I toe, it rings true. I have to talk myself into starting just about every race I do. Usually because I cannot fathom running as far or as fast as I’ve set my goal.

Fear of failure, I guess. But really, it’s finishing in a respectable time and fashion.

I don’t want to crawl across the finish line or puke as I get my medal.

Totally puked after my first marathon. You can see my tummy is full of Gatorade. Thank you, Indian Summer, for the 83 degree November day.

Totally puked after my first marathon. You can see my tummy is full of Gatorade. Thank you, Indian Summer, for the 83 degree November day.

And I don’t want to hate every step I take.

But I will hate some of those miles. And I will hate being in class some of the days. I mean, hours and hours of lecture wears on you no matter how interesting the material. And miles and miles of running can make you crazy no matter how beautiful the day.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mountains are pretty but HOLY SMOKES was I glad to be done with those runs.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mountains are pretty but HOLY SMOKES was I glad to be done with those runs.

So, how do I get myself out the door for a long run when I’m panicked about the distance? How do I gear up for (what will sum up to) 5.5 years of post-graduate school in my thirties? (I’M SO OLD!!!!)

Guys, it’s all about your team.

I text, email, tweet, and send smoke signals to any and all my runner friends that I need a running buddy. Even if it’s only for a few of the miles in my monster long runs with someone I’ve never met except online, a buddy gets me out the door and running.

I have to meet them. And I look forward to chatting for as long as they’ll tolerate my company.

Sometimes it's a few dozen friends, sometimes it's just one. I'm not picky.

Sometimes it’s a few dozen friends, sometimes it’s just one. I’m not picky.

If I don’t have anyone to run with, I text Birdie and complain. And then she tells me to go because the sooner I start, the sooner I can finish and eat all the salt.

And if I can’t get a hold of anyone, I trick myself.

“Just go out for 5 and, if you feel good, keep going.”

“Well, you’re at 10. May as well kick a 5K in.”

“15 is only 5 away from 20.”

Seriously, I have this negotiation with myself at the start of almost every long run. It’s normal (I think) to not feel like you want to run 22 miles every Saturday. And it’s normal (dear God, I hope) not to love every single minute of grad school.

Sometimes you fall asleep on your notes. It's normal.

Sometimes you fall asleep on your notes. It’s normal.

It’s not all roses. It’s not all awesome. But if you have a goal, you gotta get through the sucky days, the sucky runs, to reap the benefits of having finished. Of having reached the finish line and having that medal placed around your sweaty neck.

You gotta earn it.

Now go out and run.

Tell me: Have you had a recent crappy/intimidating run that you had to talk yourself into doing? Do you negotiate? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who bribes herself with food. That’s normal, right?

Ask Me Anything

1. How should I prepare for an obstacle race (Dirty Girl/Tough Mudder/Spartan Race)?

These races are less about running and more about brute strength. Many races, the Dirty Girl and Tri-State Tough Mudder, have the obstacles listed so you know what you’re getting into.

This isn't my idea of a fun Saturday activity but to each his/her own.

This isn’t my idea of a fun Saturday activity but to each his/her own.

As far as training goes, I suggest a hefty dose of strength training, focusing on 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps of heavy weight and major muscle groups. Think: lat pull-downs, push-ups, pull-ups (assisted works too!), lunges, squats, and step-ups with weight, if possible. Incline walking and running or the Step Mill (revolving stairs) for the muddy hills.

Short bursts of max effort repeatedly best mimic these types of races. A quick tip from my friends who have done these races: knee pads, elbow pads, fitted pants, and grippy gloves.

2. How about some ideas for incorporating simple strength training into my routine? Think I maybe maxed out on improvement from just running.

The most common mistake runners make: they only run. For the why of strength training, click here. For when and how much to strength train, click here. And for your basic Leg Day Workout, click here.

3. How about some IT band stretches?

Let’s be very clear: the Illiotibial band is a fascia, not a muscle. The fascia inserts into a muscle called the Tensor fascia latae (TFL)–>tenses the fascia. The IT band has negligible blood supply and doesn’t really stretch. The TFL, on the other hand, will stretch and, in turn, relieve tension on the IT band. Here are a few TFL stretches:

photo (6)

Bear in mind that most IT band problems develop because of weak hips and glutes. Deal with that with these exercises. When foam rolling, roll the muscle, not the fascia.

4. Chafe

Ouch. It hurts. Two things: fitted clothing and Body Glide. I may not look amazing in my compression shorts, but I don’t get chafe anymore. So there.

Compression shorts = no chafe = no sudden excruciating pain in the shower later. #winning

Compression shorts = no chafe = no sudden excruciating pain in the shower later. #winning

5. What do you eat before a run?

Most days it’s PB&J. Sometimes only PB if I’m out of J. Sometimes Eggo waffles if I’m going out for a long run. Hey, you asked.

6. What did you learn about PT and Myasthenia (Gravis)? There’s a lot of controversy…I need to do something, but so out of breath and needing a nap just from climbing my stairs.

Myasthenia Gravis and other auto-immune diseases wreak havoc on your body and leave you utterly exhausted, especially during flare-ups. Everyone is different and no hard and fast rules apply here. However, what we did learn is that even a little bit of exercise can help keep you fit, healthy, and mentally sane.

Some ideas:

  • Walking–nothing strenuous, like walking a dog or with your kids
  • Pool walking–in 3ft+ deep water
  • VERY light weight training (3-5lbs for all exercises)
  • 10-15 minute bursts of exercise throughout the day instead of 30+ minutes at a stretch
  • Taking longer rest breaks between sets
  • Hatha yoga or restorative yoga
  • Light stretching

7. How did you choose your career path?

I’ve been an athlete my whole life and a runner for 23 years. In college I took kickboxing classes and one day, the instructor handed me the mic and told me to teach. So I got my AFFA certification and taught throughout college. When I moved to NYC, I joined a gym and was approached to become a trainer. So I took my NASM certification and started training over 10 years ago. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn so I applied to my post-bac pre-med program at NYU in 2009 and then to the NYU DPT program in 2011.

Your body is my business!

Your body is my business…in the most professional way, of course.

The human body and how it moves just makes sense to me. Even before I took Physics and Anatomy and Physiology and Kinesiology, I innately knew the how and why of body mechanics better than most people. I can’t say the same about chord inversions.

8. How do I increase mileage (not the 10% rule or speed work)?

The 10% “rule” came out of nowhere and became the standard. Whatever. I generally add a mile or two to my long runs for 3 weeks and then I take it down for a week. This take-down long run should feel really good and really easy. If it does, bounce back up to your previous long run and continue the pattern of slow progression. If it doesn’t, go back and try a shorter distance.

You can also do doubles once or twice a week to add a few more total miles.

9. PT school: the good, the bad, the ugly.

  • Good: Lots of interesting (to me) classes and material for me to geek out over and have long conversations about body mechanics with my friend Birdie. Oh, my friend Birdie is also a good! The rotations are cool and I love applying what I’m learning in real life and the job is something I can do absolutely anywhere in a growing field.
  • Bad: VERY time consuming and some of the material is downright pointless. But you’ll find that with every graduate program. Long hours in a chair wreak havoc on my body and I’m so very, very done with being in school.
  • Ugly: Me during finals week. My student loans.
Pizza, falling asleep on my notes, buried under my notes, SLAC. Finals week in a nutshell.

Pizza, falling asleep on my notes, buried under my notes, SLAC. Finals week in a nutshell. Oh, and sanity runs on the East River.

10. Any speed work recommendations for newbies?

I got you guys. Click here and remember, it’s not about being fast but about being consistent at your fast.

11. How do you know if you are actually overtired and need a rest day or you’re just lazy, ie. mental barrier?

I think feeling consistently fatigued should be a big, red STOP sign for you. More than 50% of your runs should feel good–or, at least, you shouldn’t feel dead after them. Rejuvenated, you know? If not, you’re doing too much. If you’re mentally fatigued, get with someone who runs your pace and run with them for a little while so you can take a break from thinking about every single step you take.

12. Best strength training exercises for runners.

Always do your Minimum Leg Day exercises. Push-ups, Pull-ups, and Sit-ups are classic and great. Yoga is fantastic. Pilates is even better. What do I do? Refine Method, New York Yoga, Pilates Pro Works, Flywheel for cross-training, and I hit the gym on my own when I can’t get to class.

That's right. I FLY. #nevercoast

That’s right. I FLY. #nevercoast

11. What to eat for energy without gaining weight.

I’m not a Registered Dietician or a Nutritionist but I do work with one to meet my nutritional needs who specializes with patients with IBD. May I refer you to Lauren or Kim for that question? These two ladies are far more qualified than I to advise you on that.

I will recommend you get a full physical and blood panel that you’ve fasted for to have accurate vitamin, mineral, blood sugar, and cholesterol readings so your RD can better cater to your needs.

12. How do you mentally push through on a tough run?

There’s no secret weapon here for me. In general, I set out to do a certain number of miles and I do it. If I feel terrible, I get in a cab or on the train and I go home. Having a goal and a schedule is key for me because I know exactly what I have to do every day to meet me goal. Even if I’m not “training”, I still set a weekly schedule for myself.

13. How do I get myself running again after pregnancy? Totally realize no kids yet for you but figure you have friends. Or maybe after your surgery… how did you do it? I can’t seem to get back at it after taking 9 mos off. So out of shape. Where to start when my cardio sucks now?

Oh boy. Surgery and pregnancy are pretty similar in that you go through a major trauma, you are wiped clean of so much strength and endurance, and your body feels entirely foreign to you.

First of all, Square One is a scary, lonely, emotional place but acknowledging you are there and you are going to start is key. Get ok with the concept that it will be hard and you will be sore. But you’ll get stronger.

A week of lying in bed really takes it out of you!

A week of lying in bed really takes it out of you!

 

Pick an event and work toward it–maybe with another mommy friend? I set a goal to run a 10-miler 3 months after surgery and I geared all my training toward that race. Twitter and Facebook can also be sources of encouragement while you’re training–they’re also a place to meet new workout buddies!

Don’t forget to celebrate your milestones along the way (1 mile without stopping? Woohoo!) and whatever you do, don’t give up. You’ll get stronger. It will get easier.

13. Why do I feel like I have to pee when I run even if I just went? Ha ha ha too much info but I want to know.

Common problem, don’t worry about TMI here. For women (this question was asked by a woman), it can be a two-fold issue. One, weak pelvic floor muscles. Need to start doing kegals and adductor ball squeezes. Two, the bouncing–this applies to both sexes. There’s really no way around that unless you do pool running. If you’re really concerned, talk to your doctor or wear a small pad when you go out for a run.

14. How you stay motivated to get out and run in bad weather?

Frozen Abby running in 20 degree temperatures. Brrrrrrr.

Frozen Abby running in 20 degree temperatures. Brrrrrrr.

If it’s cold, being properly bundled up and making a run date with a friend helps. If it’s hot, different clothing rules apply and sometimes I run naked. In the rain I wear a hat, when it’s sunny I wear shades with my hat, and I generally have my tunes on me if I get really frustrated.

Again, having a planned run and goal to work for helps, running with a buddy is always a plus, and being properly fueled and hydrated is a must.

Basically, you wanna be a Boy Scout about it: Be prepared.

Tunes? Check. Shades? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Nuun? Check. Off to my run date!

Tunes? Check. Shades? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Nuun? Check. Off to my run date!

15. How to keep a steady pace.

Set a reasonable goal pace in your mind. Get a GPS watch. Warm up for a mile at a pace slower than the pace you’d like to run. Ease into the pace. Maintain the pace. Simple, but not easy.

Phew! Thank you all for your questions. If I didn’t get to answer yours (or you’d like more information), feel free to email me: runstrongereveryday<at>gmail<dot>com

Now go out and run.

What Are You Waiting For?

I won’t be so bold as to say, “I’m back!” because I am most definitely not back. Not by any stretch. But I am inching my way, day by day, towards some semblance of being “back”, whatever that will come to mean for me.

I’m not running. I don’t know when I will be and I’m trying (totally failing, btw) not to think about it. I miss being able to release stress with physical activity. Because this surgery wasn’t as invasive and the recovery is shorter, I feel ready to go out and run…

…if only it weren’t for that silly hole in my belly that just won’t close fast enough.

*sigh*

I was in the hospital for 4 days and it was about 2 days longer than I really needed to be there. Luckily, my awesome sister-in-law sent tons of pictures and videos of my sweet baby niece.

Being back on 14N gave me some time to think. I read everyone’s tweets about their long runs, marathons, and fabulous spin/bootcamp classes and wished with all my might that I could be with them.

Hospitals aren’t as glamorous as they look. For example, I had to get my own blowout the night before because they don’t have a salon on site. Hello? This is New York City.

Mostly, though, I wished I could just go home. And then I wished I could run.

When I hear young people say things like, “I’m not a runner” or “I could never run that far” in response to my favorite activity, I want to strangle them.

Yeah, yeah, to each his own and all that but really? You could never? Have you tried?! I want to shake them and tell them to try everything. Every. Single. Thing. Because they have the luxury of being both young and healthy and not taking advantage of that is a crime.

“Youth is wasted on the young.”-George Bernard Shaw

And health is wasted on the healthy.

Let me be your wakeup call. I seem healthy, right? Even after surgery and four days in the hospital.

This was in celebration of peeing, a prerequisite to going home. It’s the little things.

No one in the world would guess that I’m sick, that I can’t do every little thing I want to, that I am missing an entire organ. But I am, and I can’t, and oh boy am I ever.

Don’t waste time being scared that you might fail or not be the best at something. Try. Fight. Fall. RUN. If you don’t crack 4 hours in this year’s marathon, so what? You still RAN A MARATHON. You ran the same number of miles as Meb and Kara, not matter how long it took you.

And you can try again.

Get out there and see the sunrise from a running trail, not a hospital bed.

It’s a nice view and all but I prefer sunrise in my sneakers on the East River running path.

And take me with you. Hear me in your head. You can do this.

Now go out and run.

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Hindsight

Hi! Thanks for all the comments on my shiny new blog layout. It’s still getting some tweaks, but overall, I like it. You’ll also notice some changes to the “Pages” at the top of the blog. New page: “Life With UC“. This is all about living and sweating (read: exercising) with UC. Warning: it’s mostly bathroom talk. Also, “Run With Me” is now “Sweat With Me” since I’m on a hiatus from coaching Run Club at the moment. If you want to find out where I’m working out these days, check here often!

Phew.

Today’s BTAT post has to be short, sweet and to the point. Why? Because I have a Physics exam on Thursday that I will not miraculously get an A (or a B, for that matter) on if I don’t study right this second. Hindsight taught me that.

(See what I did there?)

Here goes.

BTAT is all about why it’s better to be here than not being here at all, no matter what kinda crap life is slinging your way.  Hindsight is a frustrating aspect of life for some people. Some people use Hindsight to kick themselves over and over for making mistakes. Others use Hindsight as a crutch to remain forever “the victim”. Even more use it as a weapon against others, lest they forget their wrongdoings.

Those are seriously un-BTAT uses for the gift of Hindsight.

Hindsight is 20/20. So am I, when I have my specs on. For example, with my cute glasses on, I can see the ridiculously sad twine "ribbon" on my Christmas present. In Hindsight, JB might have chosen something prettier and more festive. He has learned his lesson.

What if you used Hindsight for good? To better yourself, to make smarter choices, to set yourself up for success. I think we all try valiantly to learn from our mistakes, but how many of us, when faced with a similar situation, use Hindsight to actually make a different decision?

  • Had a terrible marathon experience and then got a coach to figure out why and how to avoid it next time.
  • Had a series of bad relationships and chose to go out with someone totally against your “type”.
  • Are always unhappy in your job so you chose a different career.
  • Ran 16 miles with shorts that chafed you so you threw them away when you got home.
  • Gained 20 pounds eating unhealthy food so you cleaned up your diet.
  • Complained all your life how you hate winters so you moved to Miami when you were old enough.
  • Whined to anyone who would listen how you hate your life so you did everything the opposite of what you used to do.

Hindsight. It’s a gift we are given as human beings to remember the past. It takes willpower to change our lives based on what we see in Hindsight, but we are all blessed with the opportunity and ability to do something different next time.

In the past {college}, I'd eat my stress feelings. Icing + pretzels = totally acceptable stress dinner. Ummm, no. That = Fat Abby. Turkey sandwich + Flywheel = newly acceptable way to work out my stress.

Hindsight, when used to our advantage is one of the powerful gifts we possess. But it must be used for good. If you’re going to beat yourself up over something you did 15 years ago, then forget it. Hindsight sucks then. Get over it, move on and don’t do it again. Such an awesome opportunity to start a new day.

So much Better Than the Alternative, don’t you agree?

Now go out and run!