From Zero to Fartlek

Welcome to the holiday season when everyone wants to lose 10 pounds, eat their faces off, join a gym, live at the open bar, and party like it’s 1999.

In the running world, this means a whole lotta Newbies. For me it means a whole lotta questions.

No worries, Newbies. I got you.

Some people will tell you to run as far as you can every day and you’ll build up to whatever distance you want to run. Eh. Not so much.

You’ll likely feel like this if you just go out and run as far as you can until you can’t anymore. That’s no fun.

When you start a running program, you’re better off working at speed and strength first and distance second.

What’s that you say? Isn’t it all about getting to that golden 26.2?

26.2 or bust?

You gotta get stronger before you can go longer. Guess what makes you stronger? Fartleks. No, it’s not a dirty word. Yes, it does make everyone giggle when someone says it.

But, seriously, it gets the job done.

Speed play.

…and you should too!

Running fast for short periods of time at your maximum speed will make you stronger. It will make your body work more efficiently to get oxygen to your muscles. It will help make those longer runs easier.

It doesn’t have to be all structured or anything. You don’t need a fancy Garmin to track your distance and pace, any distance at your max pace will do.

So. True.

In the winter, I do a lot of these types of workouts on the treadmill because I’m the girl that slips and falls all the freaking time. Add ice to the mix and I’m a gonner for sure.

So, yeah, get a long run in once a week and an easy one, too. But make the majority of your first two months of running shorter bursts. Increase the distance and time of the bursts, add a few more in every other week, and do some on hills. These drills will make you a stronger runner faster than just plodding through mile after mile day after day.

Oh my god, does that sound boring. Running is fun, I swear!

Happy runner, even in the beastly heat of a NYC Summer. It’s weird how I long for those days.

And if you haven’t experience that “runner’s high” yet, don’t worry. I’ve been “back” to running for about three weeks now and I haven’t had one run that was easy and felt good, either. It takes time.

Now go out and run/fartlek!

Friday Fitness News: Ch-Ch-Changes

Change is good.

Change is necessary.

Change is life.

Well, here’s to you life. May all the changes we make today lead to many more tomorrows! Speaking of changes…

…I will be gone for a little bit. Lots of changes happening that are extremely necessary, one might even say they are vital, and I’m going to step away from the blog for a few weeks. In my stead, you will read interviews and blogs from some of my favorite people. The Obi-wans, my dear runner friends, a physical therapist or two. They’re all fabulous and I hope that you enjoy reading about their journeys as much as I do.

In others news…

Watch this immediately. I openly sobbed when I saw this. It’s not about the weight loss. It’s not about the yoga. It’s about determination and perserverence:

And now for something inspiring to take you into the weekend (and me into Monday!):

Thank you for giving me the space to deal with what I need to deal with. I am counting on all of you to be there when I come back in a few weeks. Run Stronger Every Day, friends! I’ll catch you on the flip side.

Now go out and run.

 

Drop Sets

People hem and haw about treadmill running, but it’s a big part of my training because, well, sometimes I need to be indoors. I won’t gross you out bore you with the details. Anywho, I’m always trying to come up with different ways to pass the time on the Spinning Devil and while on vacation in Colorado on my parents’ treadmill, I came up with this one:

Lots of thinking (and running!) went on in this gym over Christmas

Drop Sets

How to do them:

  1. Warm up for a mile
  2. Find your 10K pace
  3. Every .10 mile on the treadmill, increase your speed by .10 until you’ve run a mile
  4. Recover at moderate pace for 1/2 mile
  5. Repeat two-four times
  6. Cool down 1/2 mile

I like this workout. First of all, the workout makes the time FLY on the treadmill, which is no easy feat.

Time flies = Abby flies!

The other part I love is that I can push just a little bit more each time and it’s always do-able. I don’t even feel the .10 increase in speed but the accumulation of going from running a 7-minute mile to a 6 minute mile over the course of a single mile really adds up and makes me feel super-speedy (even if I’m not…). Runner ego boost!

It’s also a great way to test your speed limits and go for it in a safe environment.

Not quit whining about how running on a treadmill is soooooo boring and try these Drop Sets.

Now go out and run!

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!

 

 

When To Get a Run Coach

Ahhhhh, marathon season. In the age of social media, blogs and internet articles, advice is in abundance. What should you eat? How many days should you run per week? What should your mileage be? How do you deal with a pesky IT band problem? What are the best shoes for you? The “answers” are everywhere and everyone swears they’ve got the silver bullet to get you across that finish line.

But sometimes you need a coach.

Ryan Hall has famously dropped his coach after a bummer finish in Chicago. Kara Goucher split from Alberto Salazar this fall and I haven’t found out whether or not she has a new coach/team yet. There are plenty of other examples of famous, extremely successful professional athletes who don’t have coaches. Gina Colata from the New York Times wrote about the conundrum between getting a coach and going it alone this week (she’s keeping hers, by the way).

So, how do you know when you should bother trying to find a coach?

1. You’re changing your distance. There is a HUGE difference between running a half marathon and a marathon. They are completely different beasts and should be treated as such. A coach can help guide you through the trials and travails of adding on mileage without beating your body up.

2. You want to get faster. Sometimes it’s a simple difference in workouts that will make you faster. Sometimes it’s having someone tell you what your goal pace for a weekly speed run should be. Sometimes it’s being held accountable for your workouts and effort. Coaches can help with all of this and have lots of tricks to help you PR.

3. You keep getting injured. Good coaches are excellent at being bossy. They tell you when to back off the speed or mileage and when to see a physical therapist/acupuncturist/massage therapist/orthopedist about a nagging injury. They’re also the ones who can help with strength-training routines to combat common injuries (or, at least they should be).

4. You need motivation. Coaches are excellent motivators. I remember Coach Mustache my freshman year of high school. He never said an unkind word to me or berated any of us the way you might imagine a coach would and we all ran our BUTTS off for him. He just knew how to motivate us (Conference! Regionals! Sectionals! State!).

5. You’re new. Get. A. Coach. Pleeeeeeeease. There are some tricks and tips they can offer you that will make running so much more enjoyable, thus increasing the odds that you will keep on doing it. Remember, “most people don’t run long enough on their first wind to realize they have a second.” Don’t be that guy. It can be discouraging. Get an expert’s advice.

There are certainly bad coaches out there and, as noted in the NYT article above, there isn’t any national overseeing body that certifies running coaches. However, making sure your coach has some sort of education where anatomy and physiology are concerned is key. Also, your coach should be a runner. That might go without saying, but I’m going to go ahead and say it since a certain trainer seems to be spouting advice all over TV about how to run a marathon and he/she HAS NEVER RUN ONE. I mean, seriously.

If they haven’t been through the hell at mile 23, I’m tuning out. Just being honest.

Anyway, there are great coaches out there and it’s even better to join a team where you can commiserate with others about how much hill workouts suck and that marathon course is super-fast and what’s your goal time at this weekend’s race? Teams are great and they usually have multiple coaches with different training styles, so find one you like. Find one you gel with. Find one you trust. And then GO FOR IT!

Now go out and run!