Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Clothes = Faster Running

Well, we've now completed 3 weeks of our 5K training program and I’m happy to report that no one has quit!  Though Leo tried to…

There’s no crying in baseball!
Yep, on our second long run – a 3.5 miler - he announced that his ankles hurt, his legs were tired, and he didn’t think he wanted to run at Disney after all.  Leo does karate, but hasn’t ever been involved with other sports like soccer or football in which you typically find coaches who pull out the tough-guy rhetoric necessary to get kids moving past their innate desire to wimp-out when the going gets rough.  And I found myself in a predicament: was I, as his only full-time parent, to be sympathetic and understanding that maybe he’d tried something new and found it not to his liking?  Or did I pull out my angry eyes, give him a stern lecture about commitment and follow-through?  The choice was easy – “Young man, you said you wanted to run at Disney and we are damn-well GOING TO RUN AT DISNEY!  I’ve already paid for our registration and hotel, we’ve made a commitment and we’re sticking to it.  Now stop acting like it’s the end of the world and RUN!”

Frankly, I was prepared for him to hate me afterward, but something magical happened that day – Leo sucked it up, ran as much as he could, walked the rest, and never uttered another complaint.  When we finished, I gave him a high-five, a rib-cracking hug, and my sincere thanks for doing his best and finishing what we’d started.  In turn, he gave me a big smile, told me he was proud of us both for going so far and agreed that running at Disney might be fun after all!  One wall down, many more, I’m sure, to go.

Dress for the runner you hope to be.
As a treat to ourselves for completing that long run, we handed over my wallet to Target and bought ourselves all new running wardrobes.  You know what they say about the career world, right?  Dress for the position you want, not the one you're in?  Well, I think the same might be said about running, or any other sport.  Leo had exactly nothing resembling running gear, unless you count his well-worn Nikes and some karate pants.  My workout wardrobe was replete with old, faded, stretched-out yoga pants and T-shirts that had become unfit for public viewing a decade ago; fine for walking the treadmill in my bedroom or doing yoga at home, but wholly inappropriate for running around the neighborhood, unless I want to look like the local bag-lady.  Which I don’t.  Lucky day – Target had a sale on all things Duo-Dry!  New wicking T;s, wicking pants, wicking shorts, pullovers and hoodies.  Even a wicking skort, perfect for a Disney running princess!  On a roll, we also invested in good new running shoes and belts to hold keys and phones, since I was regularly distressing the neighborhood canines with my incessantly-jingling keys.
And I can say with a fair amount of certainty that our new duds did wonders to motivate us, if not actually improve our pace.  Comfort is key, was the lesson I learned.

41 hurts.
In closing, I turned 41 this week.  I’m glad to be past 40, which just plain sucked, but I’m not real thrilled with what my 41-year-old body is doing.  My knees hurt; my shoulders are tight; my left foot keeps cramping up.  But, remembering the pep talk I delivered to Leo, I’ve chosen to keep with it and FINISH what we’ve started.  I’m sure the lifetime supply I bought today of Biofreeze will help. ;)

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Paradigm Shift

There’s an old adage in the ballet about missing training time and what happens to your body:

Miss a day; it takes a week to get to where you were.
Miss a week; it takes a month.
Miss a month; it takes a year.
Miss a year; consider your career ended.

Having once lost several weeks to an Achilles injury, I can attest to the truth of that saying – I felt as though I’d never been a trained dancer at all when I started back up.  And it took months of hard, hard work to get back to where I’d once been.

I mention this because we’ve just completed Week One of our 5K training plan and the concept of training for distance runs is completely foreign to me.  We’re following the Mayo Clinic’s 5K for beginners program, which is very much in line with Jeff Galloway’s renowned running programs.  The concept is this: slow and steady finishes the race.  The program is based on building endurance by combining running and walking in two short sessions and one longer session each week.  No running at full-tilt every day.  No pushing yourself to the point of complete exhaustion.  No training at the same level of intensity every day.   It’s a total paradigm shift for me and I won’t lie – my mind is struggling with it.  When I feel good, I want to GO and go hard!  So far, the hardest thing about taking up running has been learning to slow down.

We started the week, me and my son, Leo, with a 30-minute session doing intervals of 15 seconds running and 45 seconds walking.  More than once I wanted badly to open up and break into a sprint, but I stuck to the program and felt not so much as a twinge of muscle fatigue the next day.  After a day of just walking for me and karate class for Leo, we did another 30 minutes of intervals… again, a nice, easy pace and no problems the next day.  “Hmmm,” I thought, “maybe there’s something to this crazy approach after all!”  Another day of plain old walking and we had a day off.  A Rest Day.  No cross-training, no walking, nada.  Folks, that was rough.  I felt fantastic and wanted to get out there and run!  But once again, I stuck with the program and settled myself onto the couch for a movie instead.

The next day was our first long run: 3 miles at the same 15 seconds running/ 45 seconds walking interval.  That’s the longest I’ve ever run or walked in one shot and I really expected to feel it.  Adding to the intensity, we chose to take our session to a nearby beach, where it was very windy and about 50 degrees – COLD for us Floridians!

Guess what?

It was easy!  As in, not winded, could easily still hold a conversation at the end, could’ve gone another 3 miles easy.  Poor Leo had a much harder time; he had a karate clinic earlier in the day and he was just mush after a mile and a half, which brought our combined time way, way down.  But you know what? 


And I’m very, very proud of us both for that accomplishment.

Leo earned himself a recovery day with no running after that, while I hit the treadmill for a short walk followed by yoga.  Yes, I was a little sore, but not overly so.  And I took a little time to think about what we were doing… True, my mind’s still having a hard time adjusting to the training program, but my body is clearly responding exactly as is intended.  I’m a believer!

On we push to Week Two…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

See V run. Run, V, run!

Were we inspired by cheering the runners at this year’s Walt Disney World Marathon? Am I in need of a new “project” now that my schooling is complete? Or did a runner friend secretly slip Runner’s Kool-Aid in our drinks at lunch at the WDW Marathon? Whatever it was, my nine-year-old seems to have talked me into running the upcoming Walt Disney World Royal Family 5K with him, and a few friends have pretty much talked me into joining them for the Princess Half Marathon in February 2013.

Save me! 

I’m not one of those natural-born runners, though I clearly remember taking my brand-new Nikes, striped tube socks and terrycloth running shorts out for a few fashionable neighborhood jogs in third grade, (which should give you some idea of my present age – read: not a youngster.)  While my mother donned a track suit and ran miles about town, I spent my youth in the ballet studio, which, while aerobic for sure, is nothing at all like distance running. 

Neither am I much of a distance walker.  Given a choice between walking and driving somewhere, I’ll almost always choose the car.  I do own and use a treadmill, but rarely for more than 30 minutes and always with the distractions of television or music.  Save for the occasional sprint for Fast Passes, I would never call myself a “runner.”

Well, that’s about to change.  First, there’s Disney… the prospect of running a race through my Happy Place is pretty enticing.  Also, never underestimate the inspirational power of watching a whole lot of people digging deep – way deep – to finish a race they’d never thought they could run; cheering on the last runners of the WDW Marathon was unbelievably moving.  And never, ever underestimate the motivational power provided by one small child with, as yet, minimal athletic talent looking deep into your eyes and saying, “Mommy?  We can DO this.  We’ll do it together.”  How on earth do you resist that?  You don’t. 

And so we begin what I expect may be a roller coaster year of race training.  For the record, I have NO desire to race anywhere other than Walt Disney World, excepting a small, local fun 5K in April that benefits our favorite park.  No NYC or Boston marathons for V.  But that Royal Family 5K is coming up quick – in six weeks, in fact – and it’s time to get focused. 

Will we make it through the training program without injury or mental breakdown?  Can we move fast enough to keep up with the required 16-minute-mile pace?  How many times can we stop for photos with characters along the course without falling behind?  What’s the over/under on the number of times my tiara will fall off over the 3.1 miles of the Royal Family race? 

All of those burning questions and more will be answered over the next six weeks before turning to the biggest question of all: can a previously untrained, novice runner really finish the Princess Half Marathon?  Stick around and find out!