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Walking as valuable exercise

December 30, 2013 Leave a comment

There are a lot of articles that speak to the value of walking as exercise. I never disbelieved them, but I never would have spoken to a friend about walking as an important part of my exercise routine. I think my experience this summer has changed my mind.

Prior to July 2012, I walked or biked round trip 3 miles every work day. I recorded this in my exercise journals, but didn’t think much about it from a race training perspective except that I was happy that I was doing “more” than might be required. From July 2012 to June 2013, my walking miles per week declined but did not disappear entirely. June 2013 to now? I am embarrassed to say almost no walking.

In early August, I was fed up with how out of shape I still felt. I decided to ramp up for a week to combat the out-of-shape feeling. Over the course of 6 days I did two lifting sessions, played Ultimate, ran for multiple hours, and biked a few hours. On both day 7 and day 8 I had Ultimate games. On day 7, I felt tired but happy that I  had been putting in the effort. I was hopeful that I would overcome my out-of-shape hump and emerge triumphant and back-in-shape. I took extra time to warm up and stretch, but in the final 10 mins of the game I pulled my hamstring area. Oy! I was out of the Ultimate business for the last (and most important) games of the season.

I now see that I was over-training. In the middle of that week, I kind-of knew I was over-training, but I let my frustration at taking only small incremental steps in my fitness get in the way of reality.

Looking back at my year, I think the drop in walking miles was intimately connected with being so out of shape. And when I wanted to get fit fast, I should’ve added a lot of walking back in to get the fitness benefit without all the impacts.

So if you find yourself in my position, frustrated at lack of fitness and having only incremental steps of positive change, please take my advice and use walking to supplement the harder workouts. Fitness is not gained only in the high impact sessions; it can be maintained by walking an easy 3 miles a day (and yes, 3 miles of walking is easy in exercise terms, but it’s much harder in terms of having time).

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Re-cap of the Philadelphia Half Martahon and Other Musings

December 8, 2013 Leave a comment

I finished the Philadelphia Half Marathon in 2:35. I was amazed at how easy it was to finish the race despite my terrible training record this fall. Obviously a big part about running a race easily is the pace; I was setting an easy pace on purpose. But still, the ability to go 13.1 miles was really satisfying.

One thing about races is that they automatically make you focus on your running, and a lack of focus was my big problem this fall. It was reassuring to read in the New York Times this October that when you study hard, exercise feels harder. October was the most stressful time for me this fall, full of intense work on presentations and intense studying for my qualifying exam. No wonder I felt terrible every time I went out for a run!

Another thing about races is that there are so many people who show up with essentially no running history. So compared to them, you realize that your training could’ve been much much worse.

It’s just nice to have another race under the belt. And I love the mentality of running races in general. It’s meditative.

From this point forward I hope to be able to prioritize running and exercise. I want to go back to the gym; my muscles miss lifting! This year, multiple circumstances altered my typical race schedule (i.e. the Caesar Rodney Half, the Broad Street Run, and the Niagara Ultra). I am definitely planning to up the number of races I do in the spring/early summer. I may not make the Niagara Ultra or the Broad Street, but I am super excited to be able to run the Caesar Rodney Half again. The hills in that race are amazing!

Is it still a streak?

November 2, 2013 Leave a comment

I made the upsetting decision this week that there is no way I can complete the full Philadelphia Marathon on November 17th. This was going to be the fifth year in a row that I ran the marathon. Running at least a 10-year streak in the Philadelphia Marathon was one of my few life goals that had an actual definitive form (most of my life goals are more vague, like “being happy” and “enjoying my job”). Does it still count towards my goal if I finish the half marathon? I am not sure. I do know that even finishing the half marathon will be hard for me at this point because I have not had the time to run very much.

I guess I have to change my goal to running the Philly Marathon 10 times, without the streak perspective.

Categories: goals, marathon, running

Focus on hip stretches

October 26, 2013 3 comments

A few years ago, I went to a physical therapist briefly. She said that knee pain can often be caused by the hip. Your whole leg is connected, so pain anywhere might actually be caused by weakness in a different joint or muscle.  Physical therapy moves are designed to be done every day to combat the imbalances that are causing pains.

I have not been the best at keeping on top of stretches and lifting, but recently I have been focusing on yoga moves to stretch the hip area, and especially the hip flexors. I do 15 minutes of yoga right after I get up. Three poses that I make sure to do are warrior I, pigeon pose and bridge pose. Sometimes I add a traditional hip flexor stretch (like a lunge with your back knee on the ground).

The particular knee that I am worried about has not shown improvement yet after about a month of almost daily yoga, but the rest of me feels better! I have more flexibility in my hips, and some minor shoulder pain has improved. People like to say that you only need to do a few minutes of exercise a day to get a benefit, and they are right. There’s a reason that line has been repeated often.

Driving causes me pain

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

I think sitting and driving can cause as many pains as exercise itself. This past year I have had shoulder, chest, back and hip pain that I can only associate with driving a significant amount and sitting more than I used to. How is this pain different than that associated with exercise? Well it seemed to be relieved by exercise!

My non-exercise induced pains led me to ponder how people’s perception of pain may influence their decisions to exercise. I think that people’s perception of pain from exercise being too much to bear could deter them from exercise. I know I have days when I think running will be really hard because of muscle soreness. Yet I also have the experience to know that soreness can be relieved by exercise. Even with my experience, finding motivation to run despite the soreness can be hard.

I have been an exerciser pretty much all of my memorable life; I do not find muscle soreness foreign or distressing. I would like to encourage other people to try exercising despite muscle soreness (but do not run or exercise over acute pain!) and see if you don’t feel a ton better than you expected. I want to assure you that the pain is almost never as bad as you think!

And with that, I think I need to go for a run myself. I am still in the weeds in terms of running enough miles for my November marathon.

Long time no running, no posting, only minor injuries

September 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Well, I knew this year was not my best for training and running, but the fact really hit home when I see I haven’t even finalized any posts I intended on writing. I’ve been pretty much NOT focusing on exercise this whole year, and that makes me sad. I skipped races I normally run, and didn’t replace them with other races. My point in writing this is to acknowledge that it is hard to go and do something everyday. I talk to friends who say the same thing; I just need to “_________”. Sometimes it might be “run every day” or “go to the gym once a week” or even “walk everyday for 30 mins”. These statements are things we know we can accomplish, in fact we may have been able to accomplish them last month or last year! But something in the present time is making those goals really hard to achieve. I want to say that it is amazing and a huge accomplishment when you can run everyday or go to the gym once a week for many months. These tasks can be hard to do! Don’t be deceived by the simplicity of the statement.

So here’s to the fall, my Philadelphia Marathon training season! After months of not running (though I did mange to play Ultimate) I ran a super slow 15 km race with lots of crazy steep hills on August 24th. I finished it despite having run few training miles and having pulled my hamstring area two weeks before in my last Ultimate game of the summer. I can only improve from this point forward, I just need to follow my training plan!

Philadelphia Marathon 2012

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Philadelphia Marathon number 4 yesterday. It was great! Fastest time yet in Philadelphia (although the PR is still the Toronto Marathon). The weather was perfect, I got a negative split, and the people running and cheering were awesome, as always.

Thank you Team Philly for being my training team! Without Team Philly there is no way I would have gotten up for a run at 8am or 7:30am on Saturdays. I would not have run nearly as many miles. I would not have met such awesome people!

I ran the first half in 2:10, and the second half in just under 2:08. My 10k pace was 1:01 and the 30k pace 3:03. Nice and consistent. The last 4 miles definitely got tough, but I kept running at about 10 min/mile (no walking this time!).

Today so far I feel great. Haven’t attempted stairs yet, though. But I think this is the best post-long-race feeling yet. I wonder how I will do in the Turkey Trot this Thursday?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!