Running, Walking and Sitting Up

Sorry about going dark for so long!  I’ve been keeping pretty busy.  Since I last posted I have attended the Tuesday running class, run on my own on Friday and missed this Sunday’s class due to insomnia.  Insomnia is a bitch, isn’t it?  I did manage to get myself out to run the same distance that our training schedule had listed (4 miles) after napping away most of the day, and I got the handout for the day emailed to me, so I think it will be alright.

I’ve been trying the 30s/30s split consistently, both on my own and with the class and I like it. I feel like I can run and walk a little bit faster than I was with the other splits I tried.  I got the fancy Gymboss timer, which makes it a lot easier.  The only problem with it is that the buttons are all exposed so I can’t put it in my bag without it getting switched on.  I could take the batteries out, but I’d need to reprogram it every time, which would be annoying.  So if you’re looking for an interval timer, keep that in mind.

I’m also doing my cross training 3 times per week, including the 100 push ups plan.  I’m only on week 2 of that and doing kneeling push ups.  It’s a bit sad to realize how weak I’ve gotten, but I’m fixing it.  At some point, after I get through a few weeks of the kneeling push ups, I’ll start back from the beginning with the regular ones.  Additionally, I’ll be adding a new exercise to my routine periodically.  Currently I do the push ups, crunches, planks, weighted running arms (sort of like this, but with hand weights), and I’ve just added the beginner version of the superman.  As with everything that I do, I’m adding reps slowly so that I don’t get too sore.  It might make for slower progress, but it just works better for me, mentally.

I continue to feel better physically and mentally and feel happier about how I look as I go along.  There is a lot of self reinforcement going on here.  I run and it makes my body feel good, so that’s reinforcing.  I feel better over all, so that’s reinforcing.  I’m happier with what I see in the mirror, so that’s reinforcing.  It all just sort of creates a big positive feedback loop.  When I take a moment to wonder why it never really worked for me before, the only answer I can come up with is that I was always trying to do the things that other people told me I should be doing, instead of just finding the things that work for me.  So I suppose if anyone comes across this blog looking for my advice on how to get up off the couch and get started on some sort of exercise plan, I would say, find what feels right for you and go at your pace.  If you’re like me and you get discouraged by being sore, then set your goals accordingly.  If you are someone who feels that sense of accomplishment from working out to a pleasant level of soreness for you, then do that.  I think it’s about finding the right fit for your brain and your mental makeup.

My friends, the folks at Run Wild Missoula, the other users at Fitocracy and the people in my Galloway class are all extremely supportive and I’m very grateful to have them.  I’m also working on getting myself ready for the mental challenges that I know will occur when we really start building up our mileage. But I’m excited about it, too.  My biggest goal is still to have as much fun as I can while I take this journey.  The marathon is in 159 days and I still feel like I can do this.

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A Great First Day

I was up considerably earlier this morning than I usually am on a Sunday (6:30am) and that will probably be the case every Sunday until the marathon.

I made myself eat this morning, even though I’m not really an early morning eater.  A comfortable breakfast for me is sometime around 8:30am when I’ve gotten up at 5:30.  But I wanted class to go as well as possible, so I knew I had to eat.

We started our day with a bit of orientation.  The Executive Director of Run Wild Missoula joined us to help with getting everyone signed in and to speak a little bit about the benefits of being members of the club.  After that we heard from our Co-Directors for the Galloway program.  Both are experienced marathoners and both are volunteers.  It’s easy for me to see how people get so involved with the organization and find themselves in leadership roles. It’s just that sort of a group.

We were once again cautioned against “the terrible toos” which include going too far, going too fast and doing it too soon.  I think there were others, but my memory isn’t that good.  We also discussed safety gear, such as traction for our shoes and lights/reflective gear for our evening runs on Tuesday.  Then our route master explained where we’d be going and surprised me by indicating that our warm-up walk is included in our total distance.  After that, we gathered up into groups and off we went.

I walked down to the river trail with the Back of the Pack crew that you may remember being mentioned in my Introductory post back on 1/5.  Once we got started running, however, I could tell they were a bit too slow for me. I guess I’ve gotten a bit faster since 11/30 when I last ran with the BoPers.  Fortunately, I wasn’t alone in my situation and I fell in with a young lady who just got out of the army and is moving to town to go to the University.  She also happens to be moving into my neighborhood so I may have stumbled right across a running buddy on day one of class.  More than anything, though it was nice to have somebody who matched my pace on the first day.  It’s hard to say if we’ll stay at the same pace over time, I know, but for now it’s nice to know that somebody else run/walk/runs like I do.

After class I got a copy of our training schedule and was very pleased to see that the run on the Sunday of MisCon happens to be a short, 6 mile run.  I told you I was a nerd.  Our training schedule is a slightly shortened version of the one on this page.       Rather than 30 weeks (you’ll see Marathon at week 30, even though the schedule is 32 weeks long), ours is 25 weeks so a few of the increases are a bit more drastic.

After class I caught a ride home with a friend who is also taking the class, but once I got inside I realized I still felt pretty antsy.  I guess a 3 mile run wasn’t enough for me.  So I opted to run to the grocery store near my house (1.4 miles), do my shopping and walk home.  That did the trick.

Nearly all of us stuck to a 30s/30s split for this short little run, as it is currently the split favored by Galloway himself as well as the leaders of our class.  As we go along, we’ll be broken out into pace groups and our splits may change at that point. If you scroll down on this page you can see the recommendations for run/walk ratios based on pace.

That page also explains the “Magic Mile” pretty well and has a built in formula at the bottom that will help compute your projected race pace.  I see 3 magic mile’s listed in our training schedule, the first of which is on 2/26.

If you look at that training schedule again, you’ll see that we do a full 26 miler before the marathon.  Ours is scheduled for June 10th.  I know it won’t be all that intimidating by the time I get there, but right now, it seems pretty far beyond my ability.  I guess that’s the real reason for taking the class and following a plan, when it comes to it.

Only 167 days left to go!

What I learned this week

It’s been quite the week.

If you live in Missoula, or really anywhere in the northwest, you know we’ve had quite a bit of snow over the last several days.    It’s been really beautiful to look at, but not so much fun to shovel.  As someone who doesn’t own a car this is one of those times when I feel fortunate not to be tied to the idea of driving.

Regarding my training this week: I ran on Monday as planned, and my knee and ankle felt fine during and after my run.  I also ran a mile further than my previous longest run.  I ran again on Thursday and even though I felt like I was going slowly and carefully, in deference to the conditions, I went just as fast as I did the week before when I felt like I was putting forth greater effort.

Wednesday was the big learning day of the week, however, as that was the evening of Jeff Galloway’s free presentation at the Doubletree.  It was really interesting and I’m very glad I went, in spite of the crazy weather and road conditions.

As a speaker, Jeff seems like an incredibly friendly guy who really loves running and wants to share that with as many people as possible.  He seemed very focused on newbie runners in particular, which I appreciated since I am one.  His presentation touched primarily on injury prevention and motivation, with a little bit on nutrition and a smattering of other topics.  I’m honestly not sure what to make of his take on injury prevention.  Part of it makes absolute sense to me but part of it seems completely counter intuitive.

First, he recommends preventing overuse injuries by not running faster or longer than you can, especially not faster.  This makes a lot of sense to me, as someone who has been working at improving slowly over time rather than trying to push myself really hard.  He didn’t exactly say that we should “listen to our bodies” but I think that he would have been comfortable with that idea.  That aspect of his recommendations fits right in with what I’ve been doing since I started on this path back in June.  I work at improving slowly over time but I don’t push myself too hard or overdo it.  In that respect, I think the Galloway method is a perfect fit for me.

On the other hand, Jeff’s take on stretching baffles me and will require some research.  He asserts that stretching causes injuries.  He says the science backs him up on this, so clearly some research is required.   I’ll admit that I’ve heard a few things about yoga related injuries lately but I keep wondering if these things are happening to people who push themselves too hard.  When I do my stretches, many of which I’ve learned from yoga dvds, I don’t strain or push.  I relax into the stretch and let the muscles release their tension slowly as I breathe.  I’m curious to know if this is drastically different from what others are doing.  Are people really striving and straining too hard and hurting themselves?  Or does stretching actually cause injury?  Until I’ve had time to do more research on the topic, I will probably be very conservative and careful about my stretching, but it’s hard not to do it when it helps reduce my soreness and just plain feels good.

As to motivation, I gather that he writes fairly extensively in his books about motivation and  mantras.  He suggested using mantras to take control of the mind when it is stressed and doesn’t want to go out and run.  At this point, I’m not finding that to be a problem with respect to running, myself.  Rather, I am finding that I get irritated and even upset or angry when I feel as though I can’t/shouldn’t run.  On the other hand, I do struggle a bit with motivation to do my core training on non-running days, so perhaps I can use his techniques then.

With respect to nutrition, there were a couple of important things.  First, whatever you find works for you during training, stick to that on race day.  Race day isn’t the time to experiment.  Honestly, I think that is sort of obvious, but maybe it’s not obvious until you think about it.  Secondly, he says that during a long race like a marathon, the body needs water and sugar and can’t really digest anything else. Even electrolyte drinks, he says, can upset the stomach and cause the runner to puke.  This will also require some research on my part before I’ll totally buy it.  But make no mistake, the man has been running for longer than I’ve been alive, and competed in the Olympics two years before I was born, so my guess is that he’s figured a few things out along the way.  I’m just a skeptic by nature, so I need to take some time to see what evidence there is to support his claims.

An audience member did ask about cross training and I found Jeff’s answer to be entertaining as well as informative.  He said that first and foremost, exercise is good for you, and therefore we should all do whatever strength or cross training we want to do.  However, distance running isn’t a strength sport.  He said that there are only two exercises that really make any difference in distance running (besides running). He recommends crunches and weighted “running arms”.  These strengthen the abs and the back and help the runner maintain his or her proper form.

When asked about running form, Jeff seemed to me to indicate that in most cases, the body will figure it out and that it’s best not to over-think it.  I am not sure my body has figured it out yet, but on my Monday run, I did notice some interesting changes in my form, so perhaps I’m headed in the right direction.

By the end of Jeff’s talk, I was once again fortified in my belief that I can actually do this marathon thing.  I need to be diligent about my training and I need to continue my policy of being very honest with myself, but I can do it.  I really almost feel like the Galloway method was made for me and is a perfect match for my current mental state.  I’ve got 169 days until I find out for sure.

Listening to my body

I’m postponing today’s “long run” because my ankle is giving me a little trouble.  On Saturday the 7th, I was out in my yard in some slip-on shoes that have quite high heels.  I stepped in a hole and turned my ankle.  Afterwards, though, it didn’t hurt.  My knee felt odd, but my ankle felt fine. So I went on my Sunday run, my Tuesday run and my Thursday run as planned.  My ankle continued to feel fine until that Thursday run, after which it hurt a fair amount for about 30 or 45 minutes.  Then it went back to fine again.

I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to give it an extra day anyway, but then last night, when I was more awake than asleep, I could feel some tightness and discomfort.  So I’ll still do something today, whether it’s yoga or core strength or upper body, but I’m putting off my run and icing my ankle.

I don’t know how other runners feel, but I have a strong desire not to get injured, and am going to pay close attention to these sorts of things.

So today’s post is more of a progress report than anything.  As I mentioned, I did my Thursday run as planned.  I tried again for the 120s/60s run/walk split, but I wasn’t up for it and went back to 60s/60s after about 1.5 miles.  It may have just been one of those days that I hear other runners talk about, or it could have been the unfamiliar path I took, or the fact that I was carrying a pack.  I don’t think I like running with a pack.  Or maybe I just don’t like running with my pack. It’s pretty big.

On my off days I’ve been doing yoga or planks and crunches, and I’ve just added in kneeling push-ups.  As with everything, though, I’m starting small and stretching a lot, to prevent soreness as much as I can.

I did, finally remember to weigh myself on Thursday and I’m very pleased with my progress.  I considered taking a photo similar to a Jared from Subway pic, but it’s hard to take that sort of photo of yourself, and my progress isn’t nearly that dramatic.  I did, however, take a picture of two pairs of pants, which I will share.  The light colored pants were unflatteringly tight on me at the beginning of June.  Now I can take them on & off without undoing the buttons or zip.  The jeans are in my current wardrobe rotation.  The difference isn’t huge, but I’m pleased as punch.

In a few days, Jeff Galloway will be in town and he’s giving a free presentation that I’ll be attending.  I’m really looking forward to that.  And as of today it’s only 174 days to the marathon.  I still think I can do it, but class will be starting soon, so we’ll see if I stay so confident.

Tinkering, Progress and Zombies

Sorry if this post is a little scattered. I’m feeling like a bit of a Zombie myself.

On my lunch hour today I was pleased to be able to get outside and spend 30 minutes running around campus.  You may recall that my training plan calls for two short runs during the week in addition to my long Sunday run. Today was a great day for it.  The sun was shining and it was actually quite warm for January in Montana, so I had a really pleasant time and it helped my mood a lot.

I opted to try the 2 minute run/1 minute walk split again, and was able to keep at it through the whole 2.6 miles.  This is progress from last time I tried it (2 days ago), when I gave up and went back to 60s/60s after about 1.5 miles.  It really felt a lot easier to do this time, though.  I’m sure there’s a good explanation for that.  It’s probably part mental and part physical progress, but I’m surprised by these things sometimes.

I haven’t started the 100 push ups plan yet, but it’s still on my list of things to do.   I will have to do the kneeling push ups to start, though, so I think I might get myself to 50 keeling push ups and then start back over with the regular ones.

Have I told you that I don’t own a scale?  I haven’t had one in years.  I find that weighing myself once per month or so helps me to make sure I’m headed in the right direction, but having a scale at home leads to bad mental places.  On the other hand, some folks on Fitocracy have suggested using our measurements as a more accurate way to track our progress.  I haven’t had a chance to read through it all, thoroughly but this link to the reddit weightloss faq’s section on how to take your measurements seems very useful and leads to even more useful seeming information.

Speaking of Fitocracy, yesterday I told the folks in my Fitocracy Getting Fit for the Zombie Apocalypse group about ZombAlert pendants.  It seemed like a natural pairing to me.  I also told my friend who is one of the folks who makes those pendants about Fitocracy and the Getting Fit for the Zombie Apocalypse group.  Today, my lovely friend sent me a coupon code to share with my Fitocracy group and I’m also sharing it with you, for a $5 off those awesome pendants.  I think they’re pretty darned cool.  Personally I think I want the “Keep as Pet” version.

I plan to run again on Thursday, after work.  We’ll see how the 2 minute run/1 minute walk split treats me again.  I hope to work my way up to 2 minutes 30 seconds run/1 minute walk, eventually.  I think I might be able to make it to the food tent in time, that way.  I also want to see how I feel about running later in the day, since I usually run in the early afternoon.  I’m still experimenting and testing, to see what works best for me.

Only 179 days to go!

Tools

I imagine that there are myriad tools on the internet for runners and exercisers to use, and I’m just barely even aware of what’s available.  But what I’m using right now is working for me, so it’s worth sharing.

First, I’m using a simple google docs spreadsheet to track the miles on my shoes.  I’m told that this is important, because it helps keep us from running in bad, broken down shoes that have lost their cushion.  As of today, my shoes (and the rest of me!) have gone 30.45 miles.  I keep hearing estimates in the neighborhood of 400 miles for good running shoes, so I have a ways to go yet.

I’m also using a website called Fitocracy as a motivational and tracking tool.  There are a many things I love about this site.  First, it plays to the nerdy and geeky folks.  There are points (like experience points in a game) and levels.  I’m level 7!  There are also quests that can be completed and achievements that can be earned.  Additionally, after posting a workout, other users can acknowledge your workout by giving you “props”. I find this to be really helpful.  It’s really nice to have someone, even a stranger who lives far away, acknowledge my workout, usually within a very short time period after I post it.

There are also a huge number of groups that people can belong to.  Some are very silly, some are groups of like minded individuals, some are discussion groups for folks with a specific goal and others are serious groups that create challenges for the members to compete in.   A few of the groups I belong to are: Fit Geeks, Geek Girls Go, The Evil League of Evil, Weight Loss, Future Me, The 1200 Mile Club – Running, and Where is the pink monkey, he stole my watermelon.

Weight Loss and Future Me tend to have the most discussion of the groups I belong to, and the most newbies in them.  When I log in, I make sure to give props to anybody I happen to see on my main page or in any of the groups I go look at, who has worked out, completed a quest, earned an achievement or joined a funny or useful group.  I especially try to give props to any lower level members, because they’re the ones who need the most encouragement.  I’m pretty sure that a lot of people on Fitocracy do the same thing.

I also blog about what I’ve been doing.  That is going to happen here now, but I did use my personal blog from June through a few days ago.  I decided I wanted to have a more public blog for this, though, so here I am.  I find that blogging about my training is really useful.  If I’m feeling as though I’m not progressing fast enough, or if my motivation is suffering, just going back and reading older blog posts can make a world of difference.  It also helps keep me honest.

In the future, I think I’ll probably use Jeff Galloway’s website some as I really get my feet under me in my training plan.  I’ve also found some useful information and suggestions at the Runner’s World website, particularly for newbie runners.  And an online friend linked to a training website that I haven’t entirely decided whether to use yet, but I like the idea of it a lot.  It’s the 100 Pushups website.  Pushups are on my list of things I should probably be doing, and the plan at that site looks like something that could work for me.

And now for an actual update!  I did my long run yesterday, rather than waiting for today and I’m glad I did.  I went 4.7 miles, which is .7 miles farther than my previous long run.  I tried out a 120 second run to 60 second walk split for the first 1.5 miles (approximately) and found that to be a bit too much for me, so I switched back to my 60s/60s split for the rest of my run.  I may have also gone a little faster, but it’s sort of hard for me to tell.

Only 181 days to go!