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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Eight Mile

Am I the only one to think of Eminem when eight miles is on deck for  your weekly long run? The theme from that movie is actually the only Eminem song I have on my running mix, and had I taken my iPod with me for my run I probably would have listened to it and possibly pondered the irony of it all.

Yesterday’s run was glorious- I LOVE really great long runs.  The weather was in the high 30’s at the beginning of my run and in the low 40’s by the last of the eighth mile, which for me is perfect running weather.  The sky was crisp, clear and full of sunshine. Pure bliss.

I’m realizing, now that I’m becoming a little more experienced at training for races and therefore experiencing different distances as my long runs progress, that my body doesn’t particularly enjoy seven milers.  I don’t hate them or anything, but the run does always feel a little less pleasant than the eight mile run.  Last week’s long run was good too, but this week was just that much better.  Upon reflection, I remember when I was training for the Hot Chocolate race I felt the same way.  I wonder, as I continue training for future races, if this is going to be a pattern for me.

Based on other runner’s experiences I have come across, it appears that everyone has favorite distances where their bodies excel and lesser favorites that their bodies just don’t click with.  Maybe seven miles is one of my lesser favorites- I haven’t run more than nine, so we’ll have to see as I progress. Anyone else have favorite/ not favorite distances?

With another half marathon training week in the books, I’m feeling really good.  However, my running log shows a significant mile bump this week over last week.  Now part of that is because I did my seven mile long run last Sunday, and then the eight miler the following Saturday, so there wasn’t a full week in between.  Both long runs are registering in this week, the way my log is set up.  That being said, I’ve also been upping my pace on most of my shorter runs.  Too many additional miles plus faster speeds often leads to injury, especially for a newish runner like myself.

So, I’m going to dial it back a bit this week- at the very least, keep my pace slow, and in the three-four mile range- maybe five miles on Wednesday, depending on how I feel.  Thus, my planned work-out schedule for the week (plus my Plank-A-Day, of course):

Monday: Morning three miles

Tuesday: Morning Power Hour Yoga, afternoon strength training

Wednesday: Morning four miles (possibly five)

Thursday: Stretching on my own  or take my big dog for a walk in the morning; afternoon strength training

The big guy, Eamon- who can resist that face?

Friday: Morning Power Hour Yoga; easy three miles Mall run in the afternoon

Saturday: Nine mile long run (yikes!)

Sunday: rest

One last note- happy birthday to my littlest sistah! Hope it was a nice one!

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Talking the Plank

As with this blog, I’m also a Twitter newbie and still trying to figure out how it works.  But each day, I’m recognizing its value more and more- although I can see how you could waste your life away on it, checking out all the interesting (and sometimes weird) posts.

Yesterday, I stumbled across #plankaday, which caught my attention because I’ve totally become a plank devotee in the last year.  Like pretty much everyone I know, I always hated crunches and ab work.  They are just so tedious and take forever to do if you actually want to see some improvement.  But I’ve also always had lower back issues, even when I was kid.  I know it’s related to a weak core.  I really wanted to figure out a way to stop it before it just deteriorated.

Luckily, the Washington Post had an article about how the plank was the new ‘in’ abs activity.  I was familiar with plank from yoga, but had no idea that it was also a great core exercise.  I quickly realized that I was very lazy with my plank during yoga- my abs never broke a sweat.

When I saw how enthusiastically all these experts endorsed it, AND that it only takes a few minutes to be effective, I knew I had to try it.  I’ve stuck with it, and it’s an integral part of weekly routine now.  I have noticed a HUGE difference in my ability to run better, stronger and more comfortably.  My lower back pain has significantly lessened.  And while I don’t have a super toned stomach, it’s much flatter than it was- and let’s face it, I really only do planks twice a week.

Until now! So the whole idea behind #plankaday is just as it sounds- do one plank, every day.  That’s it! It only takes a minute (or less if you’re just starting).  I know I’m going to try it out- today I did I bunch of planks at yoga, so that was easy, but I am going to try to incorporate it somehow every day, on top of my twice weekly routine that currently consists of three sets, one regular plank and side planks on each side.  I can only get stronger, right?

I guess not everyone loves planks, as this funny blogger states while also providing great examples of plank exercises.  I’m not going to lie- it’s a deceptively hard exercise.  You’ll sweat, shake and turn red in the face if you’re doing it correctly.  I think I love it because it is efficient- minimal time and equipment is required, and you do get results.  So, I highly recommend it if you’re looking to strengthen your core but don’t want to slog through hundreds of mind-numbing crunches.

In running related news- had a great yoga/pilates class this morning, followed by a mediocre afternoon run on the Mall.  My body actually felt really good.  It was the weather- what started off as a freakishly mild rainy day devolved into supremely windy with a nasty windchill factor.  Let’s just say, my T-shirt and shorts wasn’t appropriate.

False alarm, gear- back to the drawer until actual spring

But it was meant to just be a few easy miles to prepare for tomorrow’s 8 miler, so it was perfectly adequate for that purpose.

First Outdoor Speedwork

Running is meant to be done outside, isn’t it? I know there are circumstances where a treadmill is necessary- but it’s always better outside.

Today’s run just served as another example of that truism.  Until now, I had only done speedwork on the treadmill.  As I elaborated in one of my first posts, I don’t have a running watch, and being relatively new at running I’m unsure how I should pace myself for speedwork on the road.  The treadmill was a good way of doing regular, set intervals and ensuring that I didn’t slow down halfway through (cheat, basically).

This morning I had vaguely set a goal of trying some sort of speedwork.  I decided to do my favorite running route- straight down Commonwealth Ave to where it meet Mount Vernon and back, a nice, easy, flat 4.77 miles.  I’m not sure why I love running it in the mornings, but I do.  Because it’s flat, it’s well suited for trying sprints or whatever.

I know I should have had a better, more specific plan than just ‘speedwork’ but sometimes, at 5:30 in the morning, just putting one leg in front of the other is all I can muster.

Initially, I thought this was going to be one of those mornings.  My legs were just stiff and heavy feeling.  After going slow for about 10 minutes, I tried sprinting every other block, but that just didn’t feel right either.  I didn’t want to hurt myself since my body had just gotten out of bed, so I just kept taking it slow.

Then, around 1.5 miles, something came over me.  I’m not sure what, but I just started picking up the pace.  I ran at a really good clip for the next mile, to the end of Commonwealth- without a watch I’m not exactly sure of my pacing, but I could feel my heart rate elevate and breathing accelerate so I know it was faster than normal for sure.  It felt great pushing myself like that!

I forced myself to slow for a bit at the turn around- again, wanted to make sure I didn’t get injured.  But I followed this pattern two more times, and by the end of the run I definitely felt more fatigued than my usual runs.  I came back feeling completely elated, as only a tough but good workout can do. And it just felt so much better breathing in fresh air than stale gym air.

And as  reward, my husband brought me a chocolate peanut butter cupcake from Best Buns, the best cupcake bakers in the DC area! And here’s a picture of it, taken with my new camera that arrived on Monday.  (Told you chocolate peanut butter cupcakes would make an appearance.)

Don't you wish you had one?

Workout Interrupted

Looks like I spoke too soon about getting back to normal this week.

We moved into our new office digs today, and the gym is very nice- pretty large, bright and a huge TV with a DVD player to use.  Not bad for a free gym.

Unfortunately, I can’t get into it yet.  I tried today and the card wasn’t working.  We won’t be able to get in until we sign a waiver form, and then it’ll likely still be 24 hours at least until our cards are activated.  So it looks like I won’t be able to get back to my current strength training routine tomorrow, and maybe not Wednesday either.

When it does open, a colleague of mine got this on a DVD set, and wants me to try it with her on the snazzy TV:

 

 

I’m not sure about this! I’m dedicated to working out and pushing my boundaries, but I’ve never subscribed to the idea of pushing yourself to the point of death, which this almost looks like.  I know these things are all the rage, and I was saying just yesterday that I need to spice up my routine occasionally, so I’ll try it at least once.  Maybe I’ll be a convert! Doubtful, but if it will encourage my colleague to start exercising regularly (as discussed in one of my favorite fitness blogs today), then I can suffer through a few of these.

Otherwise, my week got off to a nice start with 6 am Power Hour Yoga.  It’s a Pilates/yoga fusion class with two instructors that alternate mornings, with one focusing more on the Pilates and the other more on the yoga.  It’s a great way to mix up your mornings.  Today the schedule indicated that it would be the Pilates instructor, but instead it was the yoga one.  That worked out to my benefit because I needed the deep stretching of yoga more after yesterday’s seven miles.  So my legs are feeling pretty good, no soreness.  I need to remember to go to yoga more regularly the day after my long runs, it reaps enormous benefits.

5:30 AM four miler on tap for tomorrow- better get to bed soon to be fully rested and raring to go.

Back to Normal

I’m someone who thrives on routine.  My body feels best when there is a normal schedule in place, although  I can roll with disruptions pretty well.  This holds true for my exercise routine- while I try to mix things up somewhat regularly to keep my regime interesting and me motivated, when I find that something works I’ll generally fall back on it time and again.

Last week and this weekend was a test of this aspect of my personality- there was hardly anything routine about it! First, there was the MLK holiday.  This didn’t really mess with my work-out routine – I still went for a nice morning run, and the plus was additional time to stretch.

Then, Thursday morning was my firm’s last day in our office location; starting tomorrow we’ll be three blocks down the street.  We were closed from Thursday at noon and all day Friday for the move.  That meant we couldn’t use the office gym.  I like to go to the gym for strength training usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so the second session of the week ended up a casualty.  If I had work Monday, I probably would have bumped up the schedule to Monday and Wednesday.  I was considering doing something at my apartment Thursday afternoon, but I went to lunch with a former colleague at Georgia Browns, which was delicious but is heavy Southern food.  I ended up crashing on my couch instead, which I suspected would happen.  I can never make myself do weight training at the apartment!

I also like to take an easy afternoon run on Fridays around the Mall to loosen myself up for long run Saturdays.  I still got this in, overcoming a severe case of the lazies late Friday to get in a great 3 miler around Rosemont, totally making up for Wednesday’s lackluster run.

On top of that, I also had to change my long run from yesterday to today due to a busy Saturday.  I sat on a panel in the morning at my old law school to discuss my experience preparing and sitting for the VA bar for this year’s applicants.  Then my husband and I met some friends at the always yummy Rustico for brunch, and my best friend came over for a homemade dinner and ice cream.  I was half heartedly hoping to get in a slow 2.5 miles to keep myself loose for today, but between the weather and the hectic morning, I again opted for a longish nap before getting dinner ready.

Today’s 7 mile long run was a good one- it was cold for sure and lingering ice from yesterday’s precipitation forced me to stay alert, but I felt good ultimately.  So, aside from the lost toning session on Thursday, my half marathon training appears to be going very well.  One last hitch- the reason I like doing long runs on Saturday as opposed to Sunday is that I think it’s important to have a rest day after the long run, but I like starting off my work week with a morning run.  It just sets a good tone for the week, you know? But, life doesn’t work according to schedule, and I think a rest day trumps sticking to routine.

So, here’s my tentative work-out plan for the week:

Monday: Power hour yoga; strength training at new office gym (depending on how the first day goes)

Tuesday: Easy four mile morning run

Wednesday: Easy/maybe tempo 4.7 mile morning run; strength training

Thursday: Power hour yoga

Friday: Power hour yoga; easy afternoon 3.5/4 mile run around the Mall

Saturday: 8 mile long run

Sunday: Rest, maybe yoga

The plan is also to walk the dogs more regularly this week after work.  Let’s see how it goes.  Hope everyone had a great weekend.

The Meh Run

Sometimes, your run just isn’t great.  It’s not terrible, but you just don’t feel total elation either, or just that satisfaction that running brings.

I had one of those runs this morning.  I was planning to do a slow, easy 3.6 miles down by Braddock Station, down Mount Vernon to Monroe and over to Russell.  I did exactly that, but there were plenty of times when I felt like I just wanted to stop. Upon reflection, there are five reasons why this was:

First off, I woke up feeling tired.  I’m not sure why- I slept well if a bit fitfully last night.  But the tired feeling lasted all day, so I guess I didn’t sleep as well as I had thought.  So I was sleepy while running- it certainly woke me a bit but I couldn’t shake the slight zombie feeling.

Second, I went to bed last night expecting cold temperatures and a brisk breeze.  It turned out to be much warmer than anticipated (at least in the morning; not so by the afternoon), so I overdressed and was a little uncomfortable the entire run.

Third, there was a very strong breeze during certain stretches, especially running down Mount Vernon.  That made an already slow pace feel more difficult than it normally would.

Fourth, I was STARVING the whole time! Normally I’m not hungry first thing in the morning, or if I am, it fades once I start working out.  But a rumbling tummy upon waking has become the norm for me these last couple of weeks, so I need to start reminding myself to at least eat half a banana if I’m hungry, even if I’m just going a couple of miles.

Lastly, my hips, glutes and shoulders were a little sore from strength training yesterday.  Had I been more on my game, I don’t think I would have noticed it all that much.

That’s the way it goes sometimes.  Everyone has blah runs and disastrous runs in addition to all the great runs that make us love the sport.  The idea is not to let these get you down too much.  Even though I spent most of the run wishing I could get home, I did have a couple moments of the euphoria that make it worth it.  Usually a great song would come on my iPod and I would temporarily become pumped before the blahs set back in.  Also, I’m always convinced that even if I remain tired the rest of the day, I would be  worse off if I hadn’t exercised in the morning.

That, and the fact that I still logged 3.6 miles before most people’s alarms sounded.  That provides satisfaction in itself.

Spring Break!

My husband and I tentatively made plans to take a long-awaited 10 day trip to the Southwest in April- something I have wanted to do ever since my first job at the National Park Foundation.  I was lucky that my parents, both in education, had summers off and took us to many National Parks, so I have had a love of the Parks instilled in me at a young age.  But I had no idea there were places like Zion and Arches until my work at NPF.  Upon seeing those landscapes in the promotional brochures we distributed, those became my dream destinations.

 

Arches National Park

 

I just haven’t been able to swing a trip there.  Life always gets in the way- for a long time I didn’t have anyone to join me, then there was law school.  My husband and I were thinking of going after I took the bar, but decided that August is not the best time to visit the desert.  In retrospect, this was totally the right decision- miserable temperatures in the Southwest aside, I was so burnt out that I don’t think I would have enjoyed it anyway.

But now, assuming we can secure a place for our dogs with some very generous friends, we’re going! I can barely contain my excitement!  In a 10 day span during the first two weeks in April, we will visit Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon.  We’ll mostly be hiking, but do have a full day rafting trip planned in Moab.  Which means I spent a good chunk of the weekend shopping for a new, more substantial swimsuit.

Here’s my running related conundrum: I had wanted to sign-up for the George Washington Parkway Classic 10 Miler, but was waiting to see if we’d be traveling that weekend.  Now I know we’ll be here, but I likely won’t be running at all during the trip.  It’ll be an active vacation for sure, but I doubt I’ll be able to squeeze in any training runs.  There’s only one weekend in between our return and the race.  I will also (presumably) have run the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA half on March 17, my first half marathon.  I’m not sure if I would be setting myself up for injury or some sort of mishap given all this. 

So, should I take a chance and just do it? Or wait for next year? Any thoughts?