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Weird Wednesdays

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I’ve had an unexpected development with my extreme enthusiasm for tough strength training- I keep sitting out my Wednesday morning runs.  I’ve woken up each Wednesday to find that a pretty key area of my body is sore.  Last week, it was my quads from the stationary lunges and an intense spin class the following day.  This week, I have a sore hip flexor, I think from squats because this happened the last time I integrated squats into my routine.  That time, I didn’t pull back on my schedule though and tried to blow through it.  It wasn’t disastrous, but I think it remained sore longer than if I had just let it rest.

So for the last two weeks, I’ve skipped my runs on Wednesday.  In fact, I’ve ended up taking an out-right rest day, save for possibly a dog walk.

In the past, I haven’t liked taking a rest day smack in the middle of the week, when I need the energy surge that my morning exercise provides the most.  And while I was training for my half, I would totally feel guilty if this happened- as if that one run would make or break my training (I knew it wouldn’t, I was just in that mindset).

I was initially annoyed both Wednesdays, but I’m realizing how much I actually appreciate it.  For one thing, the sore areas certainly benefited- they were generally gone or minimized by Thursday so I could dive back into the swing of things without prolonging the discomfort.

More importantly, I’m really enjoying running again, both mentally and physically.  Granted, I haven’t been logging tons of mileage- my planned four miler this morning would have been the longest in a while, but I cut it to 2.5 miles after being up much of the night with a sick pup.

A shortened run is worth it to take care of this little man.

But the quality of my runs are greatly improved.  For about a month before my half marathon and the couple of runs immediately following it, I just was not on my game.  Luckily the race itself was a great run, but for all others I was constantly having some sort of leg ailment, mostly in my glutes, and I was just feeling tired and not thrilled to be on the road.

Ever since I’ve returned from vacation and started returning to my familiar morning paths, I’ve noticed a vast improvement.  My legs were a tad sore initially from using those muscles again, but they quickly fell back into habit.  I haven’t experienced the tightness and soreness, or the accompanying lethargy.  Each run just feels good.  Even this morning, I felt a little sleep deprived and knew I was going almost embarrassingly slow as a result.  But my body felt good- so I felt good, and just went with it.  It’s good to be back in that place.

Sure, I think part of it is that the sun is now up around 6 a.m. and my runs are primarily sunlit- always a helpful motivator.  But I really think my improved running experience stems more from allowing my muscles rest when needed, coupled with working them in other ways through spinning, strengthening and yoga.

Yes, I want to add on more mileage.  But without a major race on the horizon until September at the earliest, I’m going to do it oh-so-slowly in an attempt to maintain the running quality of my excursions now.  I may want to improve my pace, but at this point I’m actually really content with where I am if it means that  I continue to use the big grin emoticon on Daily Mile the vast majority of time.

I want most of my runs to feel this happy!

Right now, quality is far more important to me than any other running indicator.  And if more rest and lower mileage are the means of achieving that, then I’ll take it.

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A Day of Firsts

Here is my first race recap, about my first 10K.  This morning, I ran the George Washington Birthday Classic 10K just down the road from my apartment in Alexandria.  This was partially why I chose the race- can’t beat the location for me.

I had initially signed up for the race thinking it would be part of a step down week.  Now it’s the end of a two-week running reduction after my left knee started acting up a few days after my last long run and after a fast 5 miler.  I was considering skipping the race to do a long run after taking last weekend off, but my husband convinced me to do it.  And I’m glad I did- and not just because I got a pretty nice long-sleeved for a relatively cheap race!

When I got up to take the dogs out this morning, it was pretty cold but I could tell it would warm up quickly.  So, here’s the ensemble I settled on pre-race:

I'd like to think Jack is thinking how proud he is of me, but he's probably just glad it's not him. He's not a big runner.

To illustrate how close it was for me, I left my apartment at 7:45 for an 8:00 am start, and still had a couple minutes to warm up a bit, although I probably could have used a little more.  The race was put on by Pacers, my running store (and sometimes addiction) that puts on many races in our area.  They do know what they’re doing, it was really well organized.

The race started behind the U.S Patent Office in the Carlyle are of Alexandria, adjacent to Old Town.  It was just a straight route down Eisenhower Avenue and back.  Pretty flat too, aside from a small incline at the beginning and end of the run for the ramp. It wasn’t the most scenic route- I-495 flanked us on one side, and the Metro and other industrial type buildings on the other- but I actually enjoyed running through an area I’ve drive down many times and noticing things I miss in the car.

Overall, I really enjoyed myself! Not only was it well organized, but it wasn’t as crowded as other races I’ve done, so I felt like there was plenty of room for me to move.  It was a beautiful morning and in the ’40’s- ideal running weather for this girl.  It also just felt great participating- I think I needed this as a little jolt for my running routine, where I generally run by myself.  And I got to try Muscle Milk at the end, which was tasty.

This was the first race I ran completely sans headphones.  Didn’t even bother to bring the iPod.  In previous races, I always had it as a safety net, but realized that I never actually listened to it much during the race since you need to be paying attention to your surroundings.  Plus you just get so focused on the race itself, I just haven’t needed music.  Since my daily running is now generally iPod-less, I also wanted to try in a race.  And this will be the way to go for now on- I just prefer it.  I felt like I experienced the race more.  But I don’t hold it against the runners who have their iPod’s.  If you need music, by all means use it.  One downfall I noticed- hearing other people breathe really heavily.  I don’t know why but it would freak me out and convince me to run slower, even if I wasn’t panting particularly hard.  Also, there was someone who kept coughing after the water station on mile 2/4.  That was a little annoying.

My finish was a little disappointing 1:00:00-ish, which translated to a 9:47 pace.  This means I beat my lesser goal of under 10:00 miles, but I had been secretly hoping to get down around a 9:30 pace.  But I need to keep this in perspective.  It was my first 10K, and it felt really good to run.  My legs were a little tight through out, so that may have been an issue.

But even if not- I didn’t really start running again until the end of last September.  I had never been a fast runner, fast doesn’t come naturally to me.  And as my husband pointed out, I have short legs that work against speed- my fast is really slow for leggy people.  Given that, starting off racing in this range is a decent starting place.  Plus, at this point in my racing career (meaning early), I just need to aim for finishing.

And even with this less than stellar finish, I can feel my body is stronger than it was this fall.  I first noticed after spinning this past Tuesday morning, my first class since October.  My legs were tired, but they didn’t feel like they wanted to fall off as with my initial classes this fall. 

After today’s race, once I stretched stretching and foam rolled, I felt really good.  This is an improvement over the 5K, Turkey Trot 5 miler and the Hot Chocolate races from the fall, and after my of my long runs for the Hot Chocolate race.  I would feel really drained and just lay around for most of the afternoon after these.  Not to mention I’d feel sore.  Today I was able to run a bunch of errands and take the boys to the dog park, no problem.  So that means my body is improving, and running is becoming easier. 

Sometimes it’s important not to focus on pace or mileage, but instead on the strength, stamina and overall improved well-being to our health.

Have a great long weekend, everyone.

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!

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.

True Rest Day

Today was an unusual, true rest day through and through.  Sundays are my days off from running 95% of the time, but I almost always either take the dogs for a walk, go to yoga, or both.  But today I did neither because I was cooking and baking up a storm!

I did take an hour break to meet up with a friend at the dog park, which was good because Eamon was running around like an even greater maniac than usual.  Other than that, I was in the kitchen and on my feet all day.  I was trying to get some nice meals and deserts in order for when my husband comes home Wednesday.  It’s been a very stressful work trip for him and he’ll probably want some healthy(ish) home-cooked food after all the diner food he’s been eating. Or at least, I want him to have better food!

So, no exercise to report.  But since it’s Sunday, it’s time to tentatively plan my work out for the upcoming week:

  • Monday: 3 mile, easy morning run
  • Tuesday: Either morning Power Hour Yoga or spin class (probably yoga, even though I should spin); afternoon strength training
  • Wednesday: Morning run, possibly afternoon intervals depending on how easy morning run is
  • Thursday: Afternoon strength training
  • Friday: Morning Power Hour Yoga; afternoon 3-mile run
  • Saturday: 6 mile long run

And there it is- let’s hope all goes according to plan.  Have a great start to the week everyone.

First ‘Long’ Run in Half Marathon Training

Today I ran 5 miles as my first long run as I prepare for the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA  Half Marathon in March.  I know it’s not really a long run in comparison to many people, but I dialed back my running after the Hot Chocolate 15K, so I didn’t think diving right back into high mileage would be in my best interest.  Start off slow and steady to hopefully ensure that I can make through training without injury.

What a great run! First of all, the weather was beautiful- the Washington Post said that temperatures topped out at 68 degrees! That’s actually a little warm for my taste, I prefer running in the cold.  But I’m certainly not complaining.

I also think that my 3.4 mile run along the Mall yesterday helped.  I’ve been doing a lot more yoga with a Pilates slant, and focusing on glute and hip strength this week.  As a result, my hips felt really tight and sore all week from all this extra activity.  Yesterday, I definitely felt it, I was tight the entire run.  But I think that helped loosen me up for today.  I’ve discovered that instead of having a rest day before my long runs, it’s better to do an easy couple of miles.  Otherwise I feel a bit stiff and just don’t have a quality run.

After my run, stretching, hip exercises and a bowl of cereal, I took ‘my boys’ for a 2.8 mile walk.  I’m a ‘single parent’ through Wednesday as my husband is traveling with work, so I’m trying to wear them out to make them easier to handle.  They’re actually not hyper dogs at all, but I think they’re acting out a little without their dad.  One is passed out next to me on the couch, and the other on their bed, so I think it worked! Plus, I got to cover some serious miles!

My big guy, Eamon, who is sleeping soundly next to me at the moment after his exercise.

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and enjoys this spring-like weather.