Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Surviving the Treadmill and Avoiding Injuries

My running week was fairly boring. There's not much to say when all your miles were on the treadmill, you didn't run any workouts, and don't have any planned races in the near future. I did get in another 47 miles though, which is good.

I've received a number of comments and read a number of runners' blogs that have a lot of trouble with the treadmill. I'm not in love with running on it, but I don't mind it either. Obviously being outside with the wind on your face is the preferred running method, but I guess I'll take what I can get. So far, my longest run has been 11 miles, which I've done a few times. Most of the time I'm running 8 or 9 miles. My general methodology is to start slow and slowly increase the speed throughout the run. I'll start somewhere between 9:00 - 9:30 pace and slowly increase the speed until I'm running my last mile somewhere between 7:30 - 8:00 pace. The average pace is usually between 8:30 - 9:00 minutes. This is generally how I run typical training runs outside too. I start slower (although probably not as slow as 9:30 pace) and get faster throughout the run. My racing strategy is completely opposite, however, I go out fast and usually slowly drop off. I enjoy leaving nothing in the tank. ;)

There are a few advantages to treadmill running. Given that I often have injury issues, I've been doing a lot thinking about injury prevention. I've also been thinking about how I managed to run so many miles in high school and college without suffering from constant injuries. It suddenly dawned on me that nearly all of my running during those years was done on trails. Even all our races were on trails. Trails are softer. There are roots and rocks to avoid, which means you have to have a smaller stride to avoid ankle sprains and such. It wast my senior year in college that I started to run mostly on the roads. I had an odd class load that forced me to run mostly by myself, and by the end of that year I was totally hobbled. Running on the roads must have been the main contributor to my injuries. Apparently running 55-60 miles a week on the roads didn't agree with me.

The treadmill is similar to a trail in that it's soft and it seems to force me to have a smaller stride. Trails would still be preferable, but that means having to drive somewhere to run. When time is limited that can be hard. Not that I think exclusive treadmill running is the key to injury prevention. For one, if you run too much too fast overuse injuries will still occur. And obviously running on a treadmill simply isn't like running outside, which is where all races occur (not to mention being more enjoyable in general). I'm simply suggesting that if you have issues with injuries, running on trails may help. If trails aren't available for you to run on, you might want to consider supplementing your outdoor running with a couple days of treadmill running. Just a thought...

So how does one survive a treadmill run? You can listen to music, which I might do if Kaylee is in bed. We also have a TV and DVD player near the treadmill. I'll pop in a movie and watch it muted with the subtitles on. Yeah, sounds odd, but the treadmill motor can be a bit loud. Also, if Kaylee is running around she likes her music on, and she likes to talk to me while I run. I also think varying the speed helps. As nice as it sounds to run a constant pace, I'm just not sure that people were realistically meant to run that way. We inevitably vary our speed throughout a run. I imagine trying to run a constant speed on the treadmill for 11 miles is even more monotonous than changing it up a bit.

Actually, I find running on the treadmill easier than doing the row machine. Sometimes I do 10K's on the row machine and it takes an enormous amount of concentration and discipline for me to finish. I can't watch a movie while I row. I have to focus the whole time. It's exhausting, which is probably why I haven't done the row machine in a while. A shame really, because rowing is an incredible workout that I really believe helps with running performance.

Training Journal Summary (1/18-1/24)
Total Miles Run: 47
Total Time Running: 6:56
Average Pace: 8:51
Total Time on Stationary Bike: 1:03
Push ups: 7 sets of 15

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Can you do pull ups or chin ups?

Last week I was all about push ups, how great they are, and how I don't do any other upper body strengthening exercises. Then I saw Michelle's comment asking if I can do an unassisted pull up, and I realized I had failed to mention the true genesis of my upper body routine.

My college coach also had us lifting weights. I could bench 3 sets of 10 of more than a 100 pounds, but I still couldn't do a set of 10 push ups correctly. And to make matters worse, I was gaining weight. I am one of those people who will gain weight when lifting heavy. Once I realized this, I stopped lifting and focused on the push ups. After a while, I realized that exercises like push ups don't make me gain weight and they make your arms look great. There are a few other exercises (besides push ups) that fall into that category. For instance, pull ups and dips are incredible upper body exercises. Similar to push ups they work the whole core. Dips aren't too bad to do. In the past, I've worked my way up to 3 sets of 7-9. Pull ups, however, are wicked hard! The only way I've ever been able to do an unassisted pull up (technically a chin up) is by buying a pull up bar and hanging on it every day. I'd hang and pull and pull and pull some more. Eventually I was able to do 3 unassisted chin ups. There's no way I could one now, but I still have the bar...I'm tempted to pull it out and start hanging on it again.

Push ups, pull ups, and dips combined make for a kick butt upper body workout. The only reason I don't do dips and pull ups is primarily a lack of time (or perhaps laziness). Usually if I have a little extra workout time, I run. I do still have that pull up bar though...

Moving on to another interesting topic, have any of you heard of Athlinks? I don't remember how I stumbled upon it last week, but it's crazy. I looked up my name and it found all kinds of race results! Even a few of my college races. I'm not really sure what it's used for. Other than stalking fellow runners perhaps? It was cool to see some of my official results though. I've only been keeping track of my race times for the last two years, so anything before that I'm never really sure of. Do any of you use Athlinks? If so, what do you use it for?

I guess I haven't mentioned my training yet. Last week wasn't bad. I managed to run 47 miles thanks to my new treadmill. Say what you want about the treadmill, but I love it. Yes, it's a bit monotonous, but I can do it with my toddler playing nearby. Kaylee is so good when I run. She never goes near it while it's on, and is generally happy playing with her toys and listening to her music while I run. So yeah, it's awesome.

Training Journal 1/11 - 1/17
Total Miles Run: 47
Total Time Running: 6:46
Average Pace: 8:38
Total Stationary Bike Time: 1:35
Push ups: 4 sets of 15 (pitiful I know)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Secret Upper Body Exercise

Lindsay, from Chasing The Kenyans, asked what I do to get my arms and shoulders tone. It's funny...I get this question a lot, but the truth is I don't do anything crazy. My secret is...wait for it...push ups! Yeah, I know, not much of a secret, and when I tell people they don't usually believe me. Seems so simple, but those push ups (when done correctly) are hard!

It all started freshman year in college. My coach instructed us to do 3 sets of 10 push ups 5 days a week. He also showed us the correct form. When I tried it for myself in my dorm room, I realized I couldn't even do two consecutive push ups correctly! I was beside myself with irritation. I mean, honestly, how hard could it be. As it turns out, for me, getting to 3 sets of 10 was difficult. I worked at those push ups every day. By the end of the season, I could finally do my sets. Then I started making a set longer, until I could 20 as a set. Then I started adding sets. By my junior year, I was doing 6 sets of 20 push ups 5 days a week. Sounds like a lot, but it only takes about a minute to do a set of 20. Push ups are great because you don't need anything special to do them. You can do them anytime, anywhere. And unlike certain weightlifting exercises, push ups work your whole core.

Truth is, push ups, are the only strengthening exercise I do for my upper body. I don't lift weights. Not that I'm against lifting per se, I'd just rather be running or doing some other form of cardio with my precious workout time. I do love the row machine, which I discovered after college. When I'm training for a specific race, I try to do one or two row workouts a week. The row machine is cool because it works most of the same muscles as push ups (plus some others), and it's also a great cardio workout.

Here's where I have to admit that I've been slacking off a bit when it comes to the old push up routine. I don't do 6 sets of 20 like I did in college. I do try to do 3 sets of 20 most days, but the last month or so I've fallen off the bandwagon. Sigh. Now that I've written a whole post about them, I feel compelled to get my butt in gear and start up the routine again. I'll let you know how it goes. What do you guys do to tone your upper body? Do you have any stellar secrets to upper body toning?

In other news, I've still been tired. I'm off the inhalers again, which is great, but I still have a runny nose. I guess I'm not completely over whatever I had. It's okay though. I managed to squeeze in 40 miles last week, albeit slow miles, but still...

Training Journal 1/4 - 1/10
Total Running Miles: 40
Total Running Time: 6 hrs
Average Pace: 9:00
Total Stationary Bike Time: 2 hrs

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Lost Decade of Running

A few running blogs I peruse have done reviews of their last decade of running. This, of course, made me think about my last decade of running. I began the decade with some intensity and competitiveness with my college running from 2000 - 2001, where I ran my 18:24 5K PR. After running in college, I was a bit hobbled, just ran for the love of it, and didn't race for the next six years (with the exception of the Disney Half-Marathon and Mt. Washington Road Race). At some point in 2008, I decided I wanted to run races again. I ran my first marathon in October 2008. I was a little more serious in 2009 and raced a few 5K's, a 10K, two 10 milers, a half-marathon, and another marathon. Other than my dismal marathon time, I'm pleased with my races from 2009. I want to run faster though.

In short, 2009 was a decent running year, but I lost a whole six years of potential racing during the past decade! I was running 25-40 miles a week during those six years, but not racing at all. And you know what really made me want to race again? Well there are two reasons actually... one, after Kaylee's birth I just wanted to reclaim something that was for me. And two, the first allergist I saw regarding my severe asthma symptoms told me I might never be able to run a marathon with my asthma. I hate it when people tell me I can't do something. Really, really despise it actually. Just ask my hubby or parents. I was more than irritated. So, of course, I switched doctors and started training for a marathon. That spurned my last year and a half of racing. Funny how an irritating man could have woken up my running beast. I can't believe the beast managed to stay quiet for so long. I'm still mad at that silly man who told me I couldn't do it (what was he thinking anyway), but maybe a little bit grateful too. After all, it was his discouragement that lit a flame under my butt.

I haven't quite figured out what I'll be doing in 2010. I'm sure I'll run a few races. I just haven't settled on anything at this point. I am resolved, however, to never let my running beast hibernate again. Running fast is too much fun...

On a side note, training last week was blah. I was sick most of the week. All that bravado last week about not needing my asthma medication...well I caught something nasty and starting wheezing up a storm. Needless to say I had to start taking the inhalers again. I had to force myself to exercise. It's hard to find the motivation to exercise when you can't breathe. It was worth the effort though. Exercise does seem to alleviate some of breathing issues (as long as I take it easy.) Today I'm feeling a little better and hoping that I'll be back off the medication in a few days. Oh also, there are some pictures below for your enjoyment.

Training Journal 12/28 - 1/3
Total Miles Run: 29.5
Total Time Running: 4:22
Average Running Pace: 8:52
Total Time Biking: 3:31

A Cross-Country meet in High School! Admittedly, this was taken more than a decade ago, but still, it's sort of a cool picture to have. When my coach saw this picture he told me I wasn't running hard enough (because I was smiling), and he had better never see a picture like that again. Yikes!

A wet miserable college meet. Spikes were invented for days like that.

My half marathon this past May. My form is awful, but I look serious.