Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Today's run was a milestone. A milestone that I hope to learn from, but would also soon like to forget. It was the worst run I have had so far. I wasn't constantly out of breath - no, I felt I was breathing fine. Again, it was that sluggish feeling in my legs like I was running through mud, or my shoes were made of lead.
What really made it the worst, though, was that it was only a 2 mile run - my shortest of the week...
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Sunday, August 22, 2010
It's been said that a mother can tell the difference between her baby's different cries - hunger, pain, tired, boredom, over-stimulation - and likewise that an owner can tell the difference between their pet's different cries - hunger, pain, tired, boredom, over-stimulation.
Similarly, I have found that I can now tell the difference between the different cries my leg's make- hunger, pain, tired, boredom, over-stimulation - while I'm running. Well, not really vocal cries - my legs don't have a mouth, which if they did would be really freaky and i would probably stay inside and wear pants - but the different feelings and sensations that often most first-time runners lump together as "pain." When I first began running in high school, I would too often associate any feeling in my legs as "pain," but not that I've become a "seasoned" runner, I can differentiate between actual "pain" and other feelings such as "soreness", "tightness", "fatigue" and "go home and have a beer."
To give you a better description, here are what my legs told me during my 3 mile run on Thursday.
100 meters: "This is way too early to be running. Turn around and go back to bed!"
1/8 mile: "We're still sore and tight from yesterday. And are you really sure you want to be running this early? I mean, it's still dark and the sun hasn't even starting coming up, yet. Look in front of you - the street is dark and there aren't even any streetlights!"
1/4 mile: "Okay, so we're really going to do this. Fine."
1/2 mile: "Hey, we don't really feel so bad. And we can almost make out our turn-around point from here."
1 mile: "Oooo, another runner is coming the other way. Quick, run a little faster! Look like you can actually run, not just jog."
1.1 miles: "Okay, maybe that was a bad idea. Slow down. Who cares what that other runner thinks."
1.15 miles: "Never mind. This is embarrassing. Run faster again."
1.2 miles: "Phew! He's gone. Slow down again, please!"
1.3 miles: "Nice! We're almost to the halfway point. Maybe we can explore a bit and who cares if we accidentally run further than the schedule says to."
1.5 miles: "Halfway point. This isn't a bad run, today. Oooo, we like this headwind cooling us down on our way back home. And look at that beautiful sunrise!"
2 miles: "This headwind sucks. Still a mile left? We're glad tomorrow is a rest day. Can't wait to sleep in!"
2.25 miles: "Tell us again why we run so early in the morning? We're getting tired."
2.5 miles: "If you run faster we can all get home a little sooner."
2.55 miles: "Sorry, bad idea. Ow, ow, ow!"
2.75 miles: "Almost home. Can we slow down some more, please? We worked hard and we deserve at least a little bit a break."
2.85 miles: "Final stretch home! Let's pick up the pace!"
2.86 miles: "Final stretch home! LET'S PICK UP THE PACE!"
2.87 miles: "FINAL STRETCH HOME! LET'S PICK UP THE PACE!"
2.88 miles: "Hey, are you listening, up there?"
2.9 miles: "Ow! Didn't really mean it! Ow! I swear! Let's stop, now! Ow! Pretty please?"
2.95 miles: "We hate you."
2.98 miles: " " (silent treatment)
3 miles: "Finished! Yay! Wait a second..."
3.1 miles: "Hey! We thought we were only running 3 miles! Where do you get off, pulling this silly extra mileage stunt?!"
Cool down: "Harrumph! Now we're all tired, sore and tight and refuse to admit this felt good. We're not talking to you again until after you shower. You're sweaty and you smell funny."
Stretching: "Okay, okay! We didn't mean it! We still love you!"
During breakfast: "Okay, we'll admit it - that felt pretty good. Let's do it again! Well, maybe after a couple days rest... and not as far... and after right knee stops throbbing. After all, we're not as crazy as you are."
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Thursday, August 19, 2010
Last week my Tuesday run had some added spice of excitement, a hint of danger, and a splash of adrenaline. Now, I live in a small subdivision just four miles south of the far northern edge of the...
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Saturday, August 07, 2010
I am NOT a morning person. The first thing I think every morning is "How can I sleep in longer", followed by, "I can't wait to get back home tonight so I can go back to sleep." So, when summer hit in Las Vegas and I had already spent the money and signed up to run the Las Vegas Rock 'N Roll half marathon in December, I suddenly had to find the time to get in my training.
Here are some tips for working out in the morning that may be a little unorthodox, but they have worked for me, so far. I call them: "Morning Workout Tips for NON-Morning People" (MWTfNMP is the short, not-very-memorable acronym)
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Do you ever hit a mental wall during your races or workouts? Is your running hitting a plateau? Do you end your workouts feeling uninspired? Are you looking for a mental edge in your next race? Here are four brain training tricks that I have found to work for me that you can use to give yourself that mental edge in your next race, or even your next workout.
#1) Warm Up and/or Cool Down... and Stretch!
Your schedule calls for a three mile run, today. What do you do? Do you open the front door, or walk into the gym, and rattle off your three miles and then call it a day? If you do, you are missing out on a couple easy opportunities to improve your endurance and overall fitness!
First, you should already be stretching before your runs to reduce the risk of injury. However, you should also not stretch cold muscles (I know I am also guilty of this, but do as I say, not as I do). Before your workout, run a quarter- or half-mile. Then do your stretches and then run your three miles.
Okay, you've just run your three miles. Do you leave the gym, or go grab some water and plop yourself on the nearest recliner? Not, yet! Before you settle into that La-z-boy, do a quarter- or half-mile cool down run, or even a 10-15 minute walk. You should also consider stretching before and/or after your cool down run to help keep your muscles loose as they cool down. Light exercise after your vigorous exercise will help ease your muscles in the transition back to a relaxation.
Your workout called for three miles, but you just ran 3.5 to 4. You just extended your workout! Ever think during a race, "Ugh, I still have x number of miles to go!" or "I wish I had more energy"? Next time you're racing that 5k and you hit the 1 mile mark and your legs are starting to get a little tired and you can't see the finish line and you're thinking "Ugh, I still have 2 miles to go," you can think back to your workouts and say to yourself "This is a piece of cake! I already know I can run 4 miles!" Next time you're racing or even just working out and you need to use that extra energy to keep up your pace and get that PR you will be very happy you decided to run 4 miles during your workout instead of just 3.
And if you remember to stretch your warm muscles before and after your workout, you'll also increase your flexibility and decrease your chances of injury. No one really likes the feeling of tight muscles after a run, anyway, and increased flexibility and a reduced risk of injuries are their own reward.
#2) Finish Faster
Okay, so you're finishing your three mile workout and the end is in sight. Your brain thinks, "Finally, there's the finish. I can relax, now," and as you approach your driveway, or the finish line on the track, you ease up and stop.
Now, wait just a second. Is that how you would finish a race? Amazingly, for a lot of people, that is exactly how a race ends. But, is that how the elite finish their races? No way. The difference between first and fourth place can often be decided by a sprint finish. I know, I know, you probably tell yourself, "Yeah, I slow up at the end of my practice runs, but I would never do that during a race." Or maybe you are one of those runners that ease up the finish line of a road race. After all, it's not really a competition if you're finishing in 25th or 83rd or 112th place, right?
If you ease up to the finish line in your practice runs, you're losing out in a few different ways. First, the phrase "you play the way your practice" is just as true for running as it is for baseball or football or any other sport. Sprinting the last 100-400 feet of every workout gets your body and mind prepared to do the same thing in your next race. That sprint finish at the end of your workout to beat that ugly, beat-up Yugo belching exhaust in your face is setting you up for success in your races. How does your brain and your body know how it will feel to sprint at the end of a race when you don't do it in practice? They won't, if you're skipping that extra bit of practice. You also don't use the same muscles to sprint as you did to run the rest of your 5k or 10k.
Easing up also means you're really practicing running 2.99 miles, not 3.0 miles. .01 miles may not seem like much in your workout, but when you're sprinting for the finish to beat that out-of-shape-runner-you-would-be-embarrass
ed-to-finish-behind you will thank your lucky stars you've practiced for this very moment.
#3) Run Further
This goes along with #2, but pushes it in the direction of #1. If you ease up and stop at your driveway - or even if you sprint to it - you're still teaching yourself to run exactly that distance. And when you run exactly that distance, that is exactly what you will run in your races.
Next time you're at the track, on running back to the house, when you're sprinting towards the finish line, don't just sprint TO the finish line, spring THROUGH the finish line.
One of the problems with running TO the finish line is that as your approach it, your brain begins to tell your body that it's almost there and your body starts to ease up. This is similar to the effect a visible bathroom has on you when you really have to pee. So long as you don't know where the nearest bathroom is, you are in pain, but your bladder muscles are holding strong - not forever, but they know they have to hold on for a while longer. However, as soon as you see the bathroom your brain tells your bladder that relief is around the corner and they being to prepare to release and suddenly, if someone or something gets between you and that toilet, you just don't know if you can hold it any longer. Yet, if you hadn't seen that bathroom, you probably could have held it for at least a few minutes longer.
So, when you are finishing your workout, don't just run TO the finish line, run THROUGH it for at least 50 to 100 extra feet. This will get you mentally prepared to do the same thing in your race. Your brain will stop seeing the finish line as the relief point and you will get that extra power to sprint THROUGH the finish and pick up those extra seconds and a possible PR or beat one more runner.
#4) Plus Drills
Plus drills are extra practice you tack on to the end of your workouts. In a plus drill, you practice running the last quarter-mile of your race as fast as you can to see how many other runners you can beat.
Here's how it works. The slowest runner in your group (based on race times) goes first, trying to run the last quarter-mile of the race (or one lap around the track, or wherever you happen to be) followed 10-15 seconds later by the second slowest runner. This runner is followed 10-15 second later by the next runner, and then the next, on up to the faster runner. The idea is to pass more runners than pass you. If you pass 2 and get passed by 1, that is a "plus" hence the name "plus drill."
Obviously, this works best with a large team, but you can also modify the idea to practice it with a couple other friends, or by yourself on the track or on the street. On the track, challenge yourself to see how many runners you can pass - oblivious as they may be. Maybe one of them will take notice and give you a run for your money. On the street, see how many cars you can pass - or if it's a particularly fast street, how few cars you can let pass you. Maybe see if you can keep pace with a certain speedster doing 20 in a 15mph zone. Modify it to suit your situation. It'll not only help you finish faster, it's also an extra quarter-mile you can tack on to your run and it's also great speed training you can add to almost any workout.
These are four simple training steps that will not only help you improve your physical fitness, they will also help improve your mental fitness. If you practice to mentally give that extra effort and re-train your mind to run THROUGH the finish and run THROUGH the pain, your body will follow. Half of racing is having the strength to push yourself when you need to. If you can push yourself in a workout, you will have the training to be able to push yourself when it really counts. And learning to dig down deep will help you not just in running, but in every other aspect of your life.
So, go ahead, push yourself. I dare you.
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