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!

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Q & A: What’s the Point?

So, when I first started running (many, many moons ago), I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I basically just tried to keep up with the boys on my team and hope that I finished in the top 10. This was back when running wasn’t cool and a runner like me could regularly finish in the top 10 at a race.

Oh yes. I was cool. Me and my braces.

Oh yes. I was cool. Me and my braces.

As I progressed in my competitive (snort) running career into high school, I caught wind of how we had different workouts throughout the week. We termed them “easy, medium, or hard” and feared guessed which one our coach would throw at us as we changed for practice after school.

But then I started noticing a pattern to the weekly workouts.

You know, the usual.

You know, the usual.

These days, there is a very specific method to my madness, not unlike the daily torture we were prescribed in high school by my mustached coach.

The physiologic benefits of each run cannot be ignored.

  • Repeats: clearing the lactic acid out of your system
  • Tempo: increasing lactate threshold and practice cadence
  • Long: improve cardiovascular and mitochondrial function
  • Fartlek: improve running economy (how fuel/oxygen is used)
  • Intervals: improve VO2 max

There are cross-over benefits in these workouts but they all do one very huge thing:

CONDITION YOUR BODY TO PERFORM MORE EFFICIENTLY WHILE YOU RUN.

Mary Cain is a MACHINE. (Image courtesy of therunningforum.com)

Mary Cain is a MACHINE.
(Image courtesy of therunningforum.com)

Period. End of story.

If you want to run the same times (or slower) and feel the same (or worse), go right ahead and do the same workouts. Be my guest. Doing the same type of run over and over will not change your body, how it functions, or affect your times.

But if you want to feel awesome when you run and get a little faster along the way, it’s time to get down to business with a real schedule. With some real science.

Ron Burgundy knows what’s up.

Not every workout needs to be balls out (in fact, some are purposely BALLS IN workouts) but there is a purpose to every run. Even if that purpose is to boost your mental game.

Now go out and run!

Q & A: Cycling Your Training

Two super-common, and super-important!, questions I’ve that were sent in about cycling through training seasons. If you’re hitting up a Spring full or half, these are your jam!

Q. How many weeks do I have to taper for? I’m running a half next month.

A. Tapering down from your highest mileage runs and weeks is essential for your legs to be fresh and ready on race morning. I generally recommend two weeks for a half marathon and three weeks for a full.

Swoon. (Courtesy of heyrunnergirl.tumblr.com)

Swoon.
(Courtesy of heyrunnergirl.tumblr.com)

But why? Long runs are exhausting for your body. Even if you’re not sore from them, your body is tired from them and needs time to recover. That’s why you can have that “dead legs” feeling on your runs 24-48 hours after a long run. Weeks and weeks of adding mileage and hammering out speed workouts takes a toll on your muscles.

Do your last “long” run and then slowly ramp down the mileage over the next two (for a half) or three (for a full) weeks and give the heavier weight training a rest while you’re at it. You should show up at the start line itching to run.

Q. How long do I have to wait after one marathon before I can run another one?

A. I’ve written about this topic before but I want to address it a little differently. If you get through your marathon comfortably and recovery normally, you can run another marathon in 6-8 weeks, if you must. 1 week to recover, the 2nd to shake it out, the 3rd to check your ability to get a high-mileage week, the 4th to kick in some speed, and the 5th and 6th to taper back down.

If you struggled through your race or your training cycle was hindered by injuries or terrible runs or fatigue or sickness, you seriously need a rest. You need a PT. You need some time off your legs. You need to build up strength before you build up stamina and try again. I’m talking 6 months off from high mileage training.

(Image courtesy of Zazzle.com)

(Image courtesy of Zazzle.com)

You do yourself a serious disservice by forcing yourself through workout after workout and race after race when your body is breaking down. Stop. Assess your training  Get assessed by a professional. Start over.

Cycling through your training and having both and On- and and Off-season are absolutely essential to maintaining a healthy body and and getting into tip-top racing form. The pros cycle BIG TIME.

I recommend no more than 3 marathons a year for a 100% healthy runner and 1 if it’s your first time.

Got a question? Email me: runstrongereveryday@gmail.com

Now go out and run!

 

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Repeat

Happy Tuesday! BTATs are set aside to remind us why it’s better to be here than the alternative (not being here). I definitely lose sight of this sometimes, especially in recent weeks, so today I’m reminding myself that even annoying things can be beneficial.

I don’t like to Repeat myself. To expend the energy to say something twice because someone wasn’t listening to me the first time drives me bananas. I’m working on it.

Evidently, I make this face when I'm annoyed, so says JB. This particular photo was taken at a race where there were only 7 POJs. Not ok. Totally annoyed.

Evidently, I make this face when I’m annoyed, so says JB. This particular photo was taken at a race where there were only 7 POJs. Not ok. Totally annoyed.

And there’s nothing more frustrating than having professors Repeat themselves day after day, slide after slide. I go crazy when I read the same magazine articles in the same magazine year after year, just with different pictures.

I mean, how many different ways can one person really “Get fit fast!”?

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. (Images courtesy of Runner’s World)

But Repeats can be good for you. They can be beneficial. They can work in your favor when you least expect it.

Soldiers and doctors train to do the same things over and over again so that when it comes down to a split-second decision where someone’s life is at stake, there is no thought required. They react the way they were trained to react. Repeatedly trained.

As runners, we are also trained on Repeats. Mile Repeats. Hill Repeats. 800 Repeats. These Repeats make us stronger, faster, and fitter. They are hard and sometimes boring to do, but the benefit of these workouts is undeniable.

Brooklyn Bridge Repeats = Mile Repeats. BOOM!

Brooklyn Bridge Repeats = Mile Repeats. BOOM! (Image courtesy of MK Photography)

In school, some of my classes are on Repeat every semester so that when you come see me in the clinic (wink, wink), you can rest assured that I know every muscle, ligament, tendon, bone, and movement of your body. The benefit of this type of training is undeniable.

Ugh. Fine. I’ll go and do mile Repeats on the track after class. But I won’t like it. Good thing Birdie will be there to make sure I show.

As much as I hate it, doing things on Repeat is one of the best ways to train your body and your mind. And if putting workouts and classes on Repeat get me my PR and make me an awesome PT, it’s worth it.

Goal = Dr. Abby. Takes lots of Repeats.

Goal = Dr. Abby. Takes lots of Repeats.

What kind of Repeats do you do? Have you trained or studied for something that made you just bananas but ended up being the best way in the end? What’s your Tuesday workout? What makes today Better Than the Alternative for you? I’m heading out to the East River track. See you out there!

Now go out and run.

You’re An Animal

I generally don’t plan my races more than a few weeks in advance. What’s that you say? I’m not the Type A runner with a calendar full of events by January 2nd every year? I am not.

Sure, I plan the Big Ones: marathons, half marathons (most of the time), and 200-mile relays.

logo        You can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take the Jersey out of the girl.

 

But those races require more planning than others. Hotel, train vs. car, pre-race dinner reservation. You’d be surprised how far in advance you need to make a dinner reservation for dinner the night before. It gets cutthroat.

I digress.

But there are some of you out there who have signed up for, like, 4 half marathons in 9 weeks.

I don't know what you people are smoking, but y'all have some serious race addictions.

I don’t know what you people are smoking, but y’all have some serious race addictions.

What’s a casual-competitive runner to do when there are only 2-5 weeks between races? Here are a few scenarios and how to go from race to race seamlessly.

  • First race: Half marathon, Second race: Marathon

Build your running schedule around the marathon and let your half marathon be a time trial of sorts. You’ll be happy to have the shorter distance a few weeks before the Big One.

  • First race: Marathon, Second race: Half marathon

You’ll obviously train for the marathon and let the half marathon just kind of fall where it may, pace-wise. All that long run training will carry you through to the half. Use the first week for full recovery, then add in speed work once or twice a week along with some mid-range long runs (8-10).

  • First race: Half-marathon, Second race: Half marathon

Train for the first, take a few days to rest after and recover (if you ran it hard), then ramp it back up during the in-between weeks and taper for a week before the next race.

  • First race: Marathon, Second race: Marathon

You crazy kid. Train for the first, recover properly, ease back into running, and focus on maintaining mileage, as opposed to too much speed, in between the two races. Be sure to get plenty of rest and eat your protein and veggies!

freak-flag-fly

Anybody have a multiple-race month? Anybody done back-to-back marathons? I haven’t. I like my body in one piece, thank you very much. I know there are some of you crazy kids out there. Fly your freak flag and tell me all about it!!!

Now go out and run. Go get ’em, you animals.