Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The answer to my dilemma became very clear tonight. After two non-running days in a row, I was really excited to get back out there. Since Wednesday is a short run (just 2 miles), if I were to follow my hybrid plan I would be running my 4th and final day of C25K Week 3. All day long, though, it was in the back of my mind that I should do either the same intervals I did last Friday, or move it up to :40/1:00 (from :30/1:00). While walking home from the train after work, I was trying to decide which method to use, and I realized that when I thought about doing C25K Week 3, I felt a sense of dread instead of the excitement I felt when thinking about the shorter intervals. And that was it. I had to choose the way of running that I find enjoyable, because that's the only way I'll be able to keep doing it. I'm not taking the "easy way out." C25K is a challenge that I'd like to conquer at some point in my running journey, but it doesn't have to be right now.
Phew. Making that decision took a huge weight off my shoulders, and I was able to get outside and run my 2 miles using :40/1:00 intervals. I learned a couple of things on this run. First, I am not yet acclimated to running in the heat. it had to be in the upper 70s when I went out this evening, which is 20-25 degrees warmer than on my last run. I didn't take any water with me because I don't have any easy way to carry it, and I figured "It's just 2 miles." BIG mistake. Even going into the run well hydrated, I was thirsty within the first 15 minutes. I need to find a water bottle that's easy to carry while running, or even invest in a water belt.
Second, I am not necessarily any faster using :40/1:00 intervals as opposed to :30/1:00. I guess I could have been slowed down by the heat, but I noticed that adding those 10 extra seconds of running made the first quarter or so of the walking segment a lot slower. In the end it turned out to be about the same pace I ran last Friday using :30/1:00. Since I want to focus on finishing strong, I think that on Friday's 5K run I'm going to experiment with using :30/1:00 for the first 2 miles and :40/1:00 for mile 3. If that works out, it'll probably be the pace I use for my race on April 11.
Thanks for all the advice that you offered on my last blog. Everyone seemed to be saying basically the same thing - "Do whatever works for you" - and I think I've finally found out what that is. I'll keep you posted on my progress!
Edited to add: I almost forgot something. i had planned my run to go from my house to the gym so I could stop in and do some strength training and then walk home. Well, it was so much cooler after the sun went down that I decided to run home. Another .57 miles - using :30/1:00 intervals! And I enjoyed every second of it!
Friday, March 26, 2010
In my first blog of 2010, I mentioned that one of my goals for the year is to get through the Couch to 5K running program. For those who don't know, C25K is a 9-week program that starts outs with run/walk intervals and gradually increases the running times until you can run a full 30 minutes without walking. I started the program in January, then got derailed by stress, depression, and lack of motivation. I started again a couple of weeks ago and am currently, for the 2nd time, in week 3 of the program.
This week I received a shipment of books from Amazon.com that included 3 books by famed running coach Jeff Galloway: Galloway's Book on Running, Running: Getting Started, and Half-Marathon: You Can Do It (I am registered for a half marathon in January 2011, but that deserves a blog of its own sometime in the future). Galloway is especially famous for his run-walk-run method, where even experienced runners are encouraged to take walk breaks throughout a run in order to stay fresh until the end. Galloway's program for complete novices starts them out running as little as 10-15 seconds at a time followed by 1-2 minutes walking, increasing the running time and reducing the walking time every couple of weeks as the runner feels ready.
With all of this new information floating around inside my brain, I've struggled this week with what is the best method for me. To be honest, some of this questioning started when I wasn't able to get through the first day of C25K Week 3. Even though I had done Week 3 once before, this time around I'm running outside and am reminded each running day how much harder it is than being on a treadmill. Last Sunday I did a 5K training run and was hoping to do C25KW3's intervals (:90/:90, then 3:00/3:00, then repeat) for most if not all of the distance. Sadly, I didn't even make it through the second 3-minute running interval. I had a very fast (for me) first mile of 13:32, but I could only manage sporadic running on miles 2 and 3 and each was almost 15 minutes. I was happy with the overall time (44:38, my first ever sub-45 5K) but not happy at all with the splits, and I was exhausted. It was not a pleasant run at all.
I don't want to give up on Couch to 5K because it's too hard. I've ready so many good things about it here on SparkPeople and elsewhere, and I've seen how it can transform a non-athlete into a runner in just a little over 2 months. I love to read the stories of people who have "graduated" the program and then gone on to run their first 5K. As I stated in my goals for 2010, I want this year to be able to run a full 5K without walking. C25K is definitely the program that will make that happen.
However, right now being able to run 30 minutes without walking is not at the top of my priority list. Because of my race schedule for the coming year, I am much more concerned about being able to go longer and longer distances, and considering how new I am to this and how much weight I still have to lose, I feel that the healthiest and most effective way for me to do that is to take walk breaks. I'm currently training for an 8K taking place on May 8, and I originally planned to use the C25K program intervals with the increasingly longer distances required by the 8K training. I learned last Sunday that that's not as easy as I convinced myself it would be.
Tonight I had another 5K training run scheduled, and I decided that instead of doing the final day of C25KW3 (day 2 was on Wednesday, on the treadmill, and was much more successful), I would use Galloway's run-walk-run method. I wanted intervals that I could sustain for the entire 5K, so I chose a :30/1:00 run/walk ratio. I knew that it would start out easy, but I wasn't convinced that I would be able to keep it up for the full distance. I was really unsure if I would be able to maintain a steady pace rather than starting off fast and getting slower with each mile.
Well, it was a great run. Jeff Galloway says that you should always end a run feeling like you could have run further, and that's exactly how it was for me tonight. On every single 30-second running interval (including the ones at the very end), I felt that I could have gone longer. I was tired at the end of the 5K but I felt like I could have run more if I'd needed to for that day. And my time? 43:32 - a full minute faster than last Sunday's training run, and almost 3 minutes faster than my last official race time. I was so happy! (Unfortunately, I don't know my splits. I stupidly used the Garmin instead of the Gymboss for interval timing and therefore don't have my usual mile-long laps. Average pace was 14:04.)
I know it sounds as if I have completely made up my mind to switch from C25K to the Galloway method, but I'm still reluctant to give up my goal, or even postpone it. I'm considering doing a hybrid program where on my shorter runs (2-3 miles twice a week) I will use the C25K intervals and then on my longer runs use the run-walk-run method and slightly increase the running interval each time. With this method, I'd take 2 weeks for each week of C25K so that I could get in 4 sessions rather than the usual 3. All of my upcoming races (a couple of 5Ks and a 6K in April, then the 8K in May) will be run with the Galloway method. On May 10 I start training for a 10K that will take place on July 18...but I think that if I continue with C25K on the shorter mid-week runs, I may be able to run a 5K without walking sometime in between my next two big races.
I'm looking for advice from the more experienced runners out there, or even others like me who are just starting out. Does this sound like a sensible plan? Would it be better to pick one method and stick with it, or is it OK to use different strategies for different types of runs? I'm so new to all of this and most days I still feel like I'm crazy for thinking that I can run. I'm obese! A year ago I wouldn't even walk a block to buy a pack of cigarettes - I took the car! So please, do not hesitate to give me your honest opinions.
Thank you, my SparkFriends. Every day I am grateful to be able to learn from the wonderful people on this site.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Confession: I am a TV junkie. I do enjoy all kinds of more intellectually stimulating activities - reading, writing, crossword puzzles, board games, etc. - but in the last 4-5 years I've found myself spending a lot less time on those pursuits and a lot more time sitting in front of the TV. The worst part is that I tend to watch tons of really bad television, meaning a whole lot of reality TV. I guess I've always justified it by saying that my job can often be mentally exhausting, and I need the down time. It may have started off as innocently as that, but the sad truth is that TV has become a way for me tune out and avoid anything that takes some actual effort.
About 10 days ago, I was writing in my journal, trying to figure out how I was going to get back on track after such a bad winter. It hit me then how much television was interfering with my life:
1. It keeps me from going to the gym. I don't know how many times I've come home from work with the intention of hitting the gym right after dinner, only to get hooked on some show while I'm eating in front of the TV and never make it off the couch. It doesn't matter that I have a DVR and could watch the rest of the show when I get home, or that the elliptical machines at the gym all have their own TVs. It's as if my eyes become glued to the set (and my butt to the couch).
2. It keeps me from interacting with the rest of the world. As I hinted above, I eat nearly all of my meals in front of the television, and by extension my daughters do as well. I might even go so far as to say that the majority of the time we spend together is in front of that thing, since they're teenagers and so frequently out of the house. If we're always watching and listening to the television, that means we can't be talking to each other as much as we should. Also, the TV keeps me stuck in my house instead of spending time with other friends and family. Why should I pick up the phone to see what a real human is doing when I can catch up with some of my favorite fictional characters? Heck, TV even keeps me from interacting with my friends here on SparkPeople.
3. It encourages mindless eating. Because I eat in front of the TV, I've come to associate watching television with eating. TV is the source of probably 90% of my eating-while-not-hungry episodes. It's what has made it so incredibly hard for me to stay on track during the weekends. I watch show after show after show, which makes me want to eat and eat and eat.
4. It means I end up working less, and right now that means less money. In addition to my full-time job, I've taken on some freelance clients, and the money is great if I stick to my schedule and work the hours that I have planned. Lately, though, I've often opted to watch TV instead of work.
I could probably go on and on about the negative effects of television on my life, but I'll stop right there and tell you the solution I've come up with: I'm abstaining from television for all of spring, from March 20 through June 20. I'm determined to make spring a thousand times better than the past winter, and that means giving up one of my worst bad habits.
Here are the rules I've set for myself:
1. NO watching television at home or anywhere else. If I am somewhere with a TV (such as a bar), I have to position myself so I can't see it.
2. NO recording shows on my DVR to be watched at the end of the 3-month hiatus.
3. NO watching television or things about television on the internet.
4. NO reading about TV anywhere. (I could spend hours on the Television Without Pity website reading the recaps and user forums).
5. There is just one exception to #s 1, 2, and 3 above: Lost. I've spent too many years invested in that show to miss its final season, or to hear about how it ends from someone else without seeing it myself.
6. I CAN watch, at most, one movie per weekend night from Netflix, my own collection, or at the movie theater. (This does NOT include TV episodes on DVD.)
Yesterday was my first day without television, and even though I was tempted to turn it on just out of habit, it really wasn't so bad. The silence was a little bit eerie. I ended up playing music while I was making dinner, which was a lot of fun and something I hadn't done in a long time. I don't really know when I stopped playing music in the house, but for a while now I have only been listening to it in my car or on my iPod while walking / working out. I'm guessing that I will discover a lot of old and new ways to occupy my time while I'm not able to watch TV.
Just to be clear, I am not anti-television, and I don't intend to give it up completely forever. I'm doing this in order to get my priorities straight. Not only do I need to focus on non-TV activities, I also need to figure out which shows are worth watching and which do me no good at all. When I start watching TV again, I only want to watch things that I actually enjoy instead of spending hours upon hours watching stuff that I don't even like just to kill time.
So that is my spring resolution, I guess. I hope that over the next few months I can blog about all the things I am able to accomplish without the television!
Monday, March 15, 2010
Though race season in Chicago does not officially start until this weekend's Shamrock Shuffle (an 8K race that I won't be doing), it began for me yesterday with the St. Paddy's Day 5K. I went to bed Saturday night with every intention of NOT doing the race. I wasn't prepared for it at all. It's been a long, hard, inconsistent winter for me in lots of ways, but especially when it comes to weight loss and fitness. A couple of weeks ago I was ready to get things back on track, and then I slipped on a patch of ice on the way to the train, falling down hard on my left knee. I haven't seen a doctor about it (no lectures, please), but I'm almost positive I've got sprain or tear of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), which is one of the ligaments that holds the kneecap in place. It doesn't hurt anymore except for when I kneel on it, but the knee is definitely unstable. I've got to keep it bandaged and be careful when I walk because if I step or bend it strangely, I can feel the kneecap shift out of place and the back of my knee tighten up so that I can barely straighten my leg. Between that injury and the rain that I thought was going to last through Sunday morning, I figured it was best to skip the race. I picked up my packet on Saturday so that I could at least have the t-shirt I paid for.
When I woke up on Sunday, the first thing I did was look out my bedroom window. Unexpectedly, the sun was shining. I swore at it. I was counting on the weather to give me another excuse not to race. I looked at the race t-shirt sitting on my dresser. I decided to get dressed in my racing clothes and see how my knee felt while I was making and eating breakfast. It popped out of place when I was putting on my sock, but otherwise it was seemed OK. I asked myself my usual questions when I am trying to avoid exercise: "Will you regret it if you don't do it?" The answer to that one is almost always "yes." "Will you regret it if you do it?" That one is usually a clear-cut "no," but in this case there was the chance that I would regret doing it, if I messed up my knee. Finally I decided to take the risk and do the race. I told myself there that I didn't have to push myself to get a great time, that I should just worry about finishing without hurting myself.
All of that indecisiveness almost caused me to miss the race. I got there in what should have been plenty of time, but parking was a major issue. It's Chicago, I should have expected it. I wasted more time driving around looking for a close spot and stifling the inner voice telling me it was another sign I should go home. I ended up parking pretty far away and got a nice warm-up walk getting to the start line. The gun went off when I was at gear check, so I practically threw my jacket at the clerk and rushed to get in the back of the pack as they were crossing the start line. Now there was no choice but to race the darn race!
I really wanted to do a little bit of running and had my C25K Week 2 podcast queued up on my iPod. After the first 90-second running interval, I was ridiculously out of breath, and the 2 minute recovery walk didn't really help. I had to go back to walking halfway through the second running interval and so gave up on running anymore. I had been prepared for running to be difficult since I had not been going to the gym consistently for at least a month, but there were some other factors involved. First, running outside is a whole heck of a lot harder than running on a treadmill. I already knew that, but I had forgotten just how different it is. Second, when I am race walking my heart rate gets so high (180+) that to run and expect my heart to work even harder is next to impossible. I have to figure out how to keep my heart rate down while walking. That means going a little bit slower but also learning how to relax. I don't think it's physical exertion that makes my heart rate so high, because that doesn't happen when I walk at the same pace any other time; it's really the anxiety of the race that does it.
Miles 1 and 2 went by pretty quickly, and my watch showed a time under 30 minutes, which is pretty fast for me. During Mile 3 my lack of training took its toll. I was exhausted and even felt sick to my stomach for a few minutes. It didn't help that I was walking into a strong wind. I had to push myself hard to finish, but I did it. I even managed to run the last tiny bit so that I could get a picture of myself running across the finish line (and hopefully not looking like I'm about to drop dead). I forgot to check my watch right away and so I wasn't sure of my time until race results were posted. In the end, I managed to beat my last time by 9 seconds. I have a new PR of 46:29.
I don't regret doing the race. I didn't hurt myself, but it was definitely a wake-up call. I don't want to give up this hobby, but I'm not going to enjoy it for much longer if every race is as hard as yesterday's. It's supposed to get easier, but this one was much worse than my last one back in November. I have to get back to the gym and find a schedule that I can stick to no matter what else is going on in my life. Now that the weather is getting better, I have to start walking and running outside. More important than anything, though, is that I have to get my eating under control. Eating like crap is making me feel like crap, which makes it all the harder to get up off the couch and exercise.
My next race is scheduled for March 27, but I'm walking that one with my sister and won't be concerned with my time. Therefore, my next competitive race is on April 11. That one I know will be better, if for no other reason than I'll be with a Spark Friend (hi, Dani!).
Monday, March 01, 2010
I never do these survey things, but I'm stuck in my hotel in New Orleans on a very rainy day, and I can't seem to organize my thoughts enough to put together a real blog entry. It's been so long since I posted anything here that I'm out of practice. This is the best I can do for now, but I will try to write something more meaningful soon.
When's the last time you ran? I ran across the street today. Does that count?
Do your jeans have rips, tears, and holes in them? No, but I hold onto a pair from when I was a teenager that has them.
What are you dreading right now? Going back to work after a 4-day vacation in NOLA.
Do you get the full 8 hours of sleep a night?No, I usually get 6-7 hours.
If anyone came to your house on your "lazy days" what would y'all do? Probably watch a bunch of TV.
Who last grabbed your butt? I honestly don’t remember.
Have you ever been on your school's track team? Hahahahahahahahaha.
Do you own a pair of Converse? Yes, a pair of black Converse high-tops. I never wear them, though, because they’re uncomfortable. No arch support at all.
Do you eat raw cookie dough? No, I always get grossed out thinking about the raw eggs in the dough.
Have you ever kicked a vending machine? Not that I recall.
How do you eat Oreos? Dunked in milk until they’re soggy.
Could you live without a computer? No, and not only because I make my living with it.
Do you wear your shoes in the house? Not usually.
Who or what sleeps with you? A dog or two.
At what age did you find out that Santa wasn't real? Pretty early, around age 5 or 6. I have 3 older sisters and I’m sure one of them told me.
How many phones, house phones and cell phones are in your house? We have 2 house phones and 2 cell phones.
What do you do when you're sad? Mope, withdraw and, sadly, eat.
Last time you saw your best friend? September, when she moved to San Francisco.
What jewelry are you wearing? None.
Is anyone on your bad side now? Someone different gets on my bad side nearly every day (especially at work), but I don’t hold a grudge.
What's the first thing you do when you get online? Check my email.
Where do you work? Downtown Chicago, in one of the historic buildings.
What are you doing tomorrow? Doing some more sight-seeing in New Orleans and then flying home to Chicago.
When was the last time you left your house? I left on Saturday morning and haven’t been back since.
Do you return your cart? Almost always.
Do you have a dishwasher? Yes, and I will never go without again.
What noise do you hear? People talking in the hotel lobby (I don’t so much like having a ground floor room).
Would you survive in prison? I’d like to think I could survive anything.
Do you know anyone with the same name as you? Growing up, I always knew at least 2 or 3 other girls named Heather. It was one of the top 5 most popular girls’ names for my birth year. Funny coincidence: The hotel where I’m staying in New Orleans has a ghost that the staff has named 'Heather.'
What's the last thing you purchased? A couple of NOLA souvenirs for myself and family.
What brand are your pants right now? Old Navy yoga pants.
What irritates you most on the internet? Bad grammar and misuse of punctuation. I don’t judge anyone for it, but I can’t help but notice because I used to work as an editor. (I even edited a mistake in one of these survey questions.)
What song best describes your life right now? For a while now, it's been "Drive" by Incubus.
Do you own expensive perfume/cologne? No.
Are you taking college classes right now? No.
Do you like sushi? Yes!
Do you get your hair cut every month? No, I’m lucky if I remember to get it cut once a year. It gets nearly down to my butt and then I go and have a bunch chopped off.
Do you go online everyday? Yes, even if my internet is out I can get online on my phone.
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