Wednesday, January 30, 2013

a great training session!

WOW!  Tuesday's morning workout was GREAT!!!  I don't know if it was simply the fact that I was outside or if there was more to it, but I really enjoyed getting up early and running some drills through a drizzly fog.

When I run outdoors in the morning it's usually dark, at least this time of the year, and so I strap on a headlamp.  Depending on what time I get outside, the headlamp isn't so much for me to be able to see where I'm going as it is for other people/cars to see me.  Tuesday I was out around 6:45, and so there was a fair amount of traffic along the road I was running, which meant quite a bit of light due to their headlights.

The weather was pretty rotten, but it was WARM!  Around 40F, my thermometer said!!  This meant that even the sidewalks that hadn't been properly shoveled to remove the snow from the day before were fairly clear and not too slippery.

I definitely found this Tuesday's workout easier and more enjoyable to perform than the similar one last week.  Tuesdays in this training regimen are for "if you've properly recovered from the weekend run, work on footwork & going fast!"  When I first read about this workout I thought it would be awful -- doing running-based drills was always the worst part of sports practices!  But after some thought I realized that the drills could actually be FUN!  They're kind of a game, in fact.

The basics of the workout are:
1.  Warm up with easy jogging.

2.  Pick up the pace a little bit -- run for 30 seconds counting left-footstrikes, then walk for a minute; the next 30 seconds, try to hit the ground 1-2 times more than you did the first 30 seconds (a.k.a. run slightly faster).  Repeat a few times.

3.  Work on transitions:  go several steps slowly, then several steps faster, then over the course of several more steps work up to race-pace -- and then stop trying and let momentum carry your legs back to slow jogging.  I'm not sure that I really see the point of this yet, but it's okay.  If nothing else, it doesn't take long.

4.  Run a mile at race pace.  I've settled on shooting for 10:30 miles for the May 5 half-marathon.  I have a feeling I could go faster than this if I really pushed it, but it's already a 25-second-per-mile faster speed than I did my first half at, and that's a pretty good jump.  Tuesday's race-pace mile was actually rather faster than the goal pace (...refer to the report on the weekend speed work...).  While it's splendid that I can run-walk-run a mile in less time than I want to, the goal is really to do this all SAFELY and gently!  So I still need to work on knowing how race-pace feels so that I don't go too fast.

5.  Jog some more until the total time is 45 minutes.  I set out a bit late Tuesday morning, so it was more a total of around 40 minutes.  Close enough.

While wandering in to work thinking about the morning run, I realized that it wasn't that much different from a sports practice.  The difference was that I was the coach!  I was the one keeping track of the time for the repeats and internally yelling to myself "GO!" and "keep moving!"  I got a better appreciation for why doing such drills in other sports was useful.  Just like for the half-marathon I'm training for, the drills work to make muscles stronger and more responsive...and give a mental challenge to keep going to reach the end!

Monday, January 28, 2013

still pushing!

With my performance goal with this training series being to reduce the risk of injury, I'm doing a pretty good job of pressing that to the limit.  I've noted so far that I tend to push myself too hard:  first it was with running too fast in general during my first year of serious running; then it was running my speed-work drills too fast when I tried them out a week back.  NOW even my strength training, being implemented because it is supposed to help me prevent injury by giving me better overall stability, seems to be tempting me to push too much.

In other words:  I hurt!

A couple weeks ago in the middle of the night I woke up, drowsily turned to the side, and then was overwhelmed by a sharp, stabbing pain emanating from around my sternum.  It filled the upper part of my left-side chest area and left a dull ache extending into my left arm.  It was fairly frightening!

My husband was out of town, and I had half a mind to call him, but I realized there was not a whole lot he could do in Kansas if I were having (as I feared) a heart-attack in Pennsylvania.  So, I did what any wise person would do...I looked on the internet.

To my surprise, I learned that even the most foreboding websites were pretty confident that my pain was not due to a heart attack or breast cancer.  It was suggested that these pains were more likely caused by a strain in my muscles, specifically those in the torso and/or back.  It just so happened that I had started doing abdominal exercises a few days ago AND was experiencing a lot of tension in my back thanks to a lot of stress that I tend to store in those parts.  The internet suggested that a leading cause of the pain I was having was due to too strenuous exercise.

Bah!  I was caught again in that habit of too much!

The pain was gone for the next week or so, but it started coming back again when I laughed hard one evening at home.  After more hemming and hawing over it, I settled again on the fact that I had pushed my core muscles a bit too much and potentially pulled a muscle in my chest.  Fortunately, I have learned well what the cure for these types of ailments is:  REST.

So, as hard as it was, I abandoned my planned strength exercises over the next 4 days.  I'm not sure that's been enough to really heal the issue, but when I did my ab exercises this morning I made a conscious effort to do them carefully and gently, and I followed them with some serious stretching.

We'll see how it goes!  I may be making yet another adjustment to my training plan!!

Tomorrow it may actually be warm enough for me to get motivated to go outside for a morning run before work, which will be nice because I'll be doing some speed drills -- much more enjoyable on the ground compared with on a treadmill!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

week-end track report

This first week of "official" half-marathon training went fairly well despite my refusal to wake up for running in the morning.  My days always seem to go better when I run in the morning instead of trying to squeeze in the workout after work and before bed (especially because I don't find it pleasurable to run soon after eating supper).  But I still managed to do 2 45-minute runs during the weekdays, along with 2 core/strength workouts AND rest on Friday before launching in to my first speed workout Saturday.

I was blessed with a gorgeous, warm (50 F!!!) day Saturdzy, which meant the snow had melted off the Penn State track.  I ran a few repeats of 800 meters at a fast pace, with the eventual goal being to train my muscles, lungs and mind to go fast for more and more repeats as the weeks go by.  I was somewhat disappointed with my performance because I didn't actually make it the full 800 meters on 3 of my 4 tries, but after assessing my lap times afterwards I think it's because I was trying to run these TOO fast!

I'm chalking this up as a learning experience about how to use the track and understand itsmarkings, as well as a lesson that I need to get a better sense of how fast I am going when I start out.  I remeber needing to learn how to not begin running my long distances too quickly (I know very well that I will wear out after the first 2 miles if I don't think the first half mile is painstakingly tortoise-like)...I guess I now need to learn how it should feel for shorter distances, too!

Monday, January 14, 2013

the 16-week countdown begins!

In sixteen weeks (May 5, 2013), I'll be running the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon!!  Sixteen weeks is a good time to start training for this type of race, from what I've been taught.  Since I'm using a new-to-me training technique and hope to run a little faster than my previous half-marathon time, I am happy to have the extended time to really work on endurance and pace.

The training program I'm using is based on the concepts set forth by Jeff Galloway.  He suggests a deliberate, interval combination of running & walking to get through a longer-mileage race.  I'm choosing this method because I want to be able to run half-marathons for Living Water International frequently, and the run-walk-run method decreases the strain put on the body and decreases the risk of injury (especially overuse injury) -- this means that I can run MORE and more often!

I've been easing in to this very different method of training over the past 6 weeks.  It's been hard for me, because it involves having much slower times per mile than I am used to.  But I must say -- I always feel like I can keep run-walk-running for hours and hours and hours when I reach the end of my goal for the day.  That's important!!  In the last week or so I've found that my times are getting faster, which I hope means my aerobic endurance is increasing a bit.

Another new thing I'm including in my training are concentrated stretching days (once a week) and strength training.  When I first started running I did some strength training along with my running, but I don't particularly enjoy that kind of I stopped.  It has become more clear to me now that strength training is important for preventing injury as well as building an entire body that is strong to run, instead of just strong running legs.  I'm looking forward to seeing how strengthening my back, arms, and core will help to stabilize and empower my body as I run!

On today's agenda:  stretch and do abdominal strength training.