Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! To Resolve or not to Resolve?

I’m both a perfectionist and a realist, with the former being a natural tendency and the latter a learned response to deal with the former.  See, life is a lot easier for the perfectionist when approached with an attitude of “be prepared for the worst and enjoy the delightful surprise if things turn out better than expected.”

As such, I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions.  Why make a list of promises that can so easily become derailed, ending in extreme disappointment?  I get why others engage in the annual resolutions, but it’s not my thing.


I find myself considering a few running-specific goals as 2013 rolls to an end.  

Yesterday, I went for a little run and found myself playing a game called Try-To-Ignore-The-iSmoothRun-Voice-Every-Time-She-Says-“Walk”-For-As-Long-As-Possible.  The more walk breaks I ran through, the easier it became and a couple miles in, it hit me: maybe I can someday run an entire 5K without walking.  And if I can do that, maybe I can do 10K.  A half-marathon, maybe?  Maybe.  I smell a 2014 goal.

I’ve also found myself lately kicking my own behind when I blatantly ignore a lifetime of experience and try something new to me because the “experts” say I should.  It almost never works out for me, hence my new blog series on “Breaking the Running Rules.”  So there’s a goal right there – to rely on what I know works for me and tune out the naysayers.

And then there’s Leo, my 11-year-old son.  The kid who got me started with this running stuff in the first place.  The kid who’s been left in my dust as I discovered how much I really enjoy distance training, even as he’s discovered he really doesn’t  enjoy it.  Or does he?  I’m not real sure anymore; these ‘tween years are a challenge.  But I aim to find out just what he enjoys and see if I can’t help him also find the peace and strength physical activity brings to my life.

So there you go – three solid goals for 2014.  All achievable?  I don’t know.  And that’s pretty scary to a perfectionist.  But I’m willing to give it a try.

Wishing you all a Magical 2014!

How about you?  Do you have any running resolutions for 2014?  Let’s hear ‘em!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Breaking the Running Rules #1: “if you want to run more, you have to run more”

If you’re a runner and haven’t heard that idiom yet, I’m guessing you’ve been running under a rock.  Another variation has it that, “if you want to run faster, you have to run faster.”  I’m completely on board with the second variation, but I’m finding that the first is questionable.

The standard beginner’s distance race training plan has a runner add on miles over a number of weeks in preparation for a race, and usually advocates an easy, comfortable pace.  Some plans add miles each week, while others up the ante every other week, but generally speaking, they have you run steadily increasing miles in order to… well, run more miles.

I’ve been following plans like that for the better part of two years now… and I’m ready to shake things up.  Because this runner’s body doesn’t seem to respond well to that approach.

After battling yet another painful and irritating round of overuse issues, this article caught my eye: Can reducing your mileage and relying on short and fast intervals put you on a path to better running?

Back when running was just part of my overall fitness routine, and not something for which I was specifically training, I would generally walk quickly for around 10 minutes, alternate short sprints and shorter, slow recoveries for 5-10 minutes, then walk comfortably for 10-15 minutes to cool down.  Apparently I’d been doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for near-on 15 years, long before it had a commonly-recognized acronym.

Know what happened to my knees/back/hips/ankles/shoulder over that 15 years?  Nothing.  Not a single injury.  In the two years I’ve been piling on miles at a slower, but steadier, pace?  IT Band Syndrome.  Runner’s Knee.  Bursitis.  Piriformis Syndrome.  Hip flexor strain.  Frozen shoulder.  Hmmm…

Given that I only have four weeks left to train for my next race – the WDW Half-Marathon, Jan. 11 – now seems like a good time to start breaking some rules and try a new approach.  Instead of running long and slow on weekdays, I’m aiming for more HIIT-like workouts.  And instead of adding on small amounts of distance over a longer period of time, I’m ramping up quickly: five miles two weeks ago, seven last week, and I’m aiming for nine this weekend, with a cut-back to four next weekend before going back up to eleven the weekend after that.  That will leave me with two weeks/one weekend before the race; I’ll go by feel for that – but I doubt I’ll increase my mileage any further and will probably stick with short and fast.

I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this approach.  If it works, well… I’ll start looking at my next round of training with an eye for breaking the rules again.