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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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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.

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!

DNF and me

I DNF’d* the Niagara Ultra on June 23rd =(

The day started off cool, but quickly got hotter than I realized (because there was little humidity). I was worried about over-hydrating which caused me to drink too little.

One sign of my deteriorated state was feeling severe emotions. I don’t know how else to describe it; during my run and subsequent walk my thoughts about stopping made me want to cry. In a regular emotional state I would probably be upset but the physical feeling of being about to cry wouldn’t happen. It was starting to feel how I felt on my last loop of the 20 in 24 in 2011–I crashed during that loop and had a fever when I stopped running.

The decision to stop was the right one.

I ran 30k (18.6 miles) in 4 hours and 10 minutes. The last 4k I was mostly walking. While sitting at the aid station waiting in the shade for a ride back to the start a few people came through. One lady asked if I was taking a break; I said yes; I didn’t want to even put the thought of stopping in her head. But as they went through moving slowly, I questioned my decision. Then I estimated that I would be out there for three more hours and reconfirmed my desire to stop.

I guess it’s a mixed blessing to have a DNF occur to me. I feel like I learned a lot. I’ve read about other people’s experiences with a DNF and believed them, but couldn’t quite relate their experience to myself. Part of me thought I would always just keep walking. But a wise ultrarunner described his DNF experience saying that it was a race he wasn’t racing so he stopped. I understand that better now. When I contemplated continuing on for at least three more hours, my immediate reaction was NO EFFING WAY! Why would I want to keep going for three hours when I already feel like I lost the race?

Plus I thought that I would do more damage to my body than finishing would be worth. Not training enough was definitely a big problem, so while I was running I kept thinking  of training runs to do in the next few days. My logic was: I need to start training better immediately. If I continue running, I will be too sore to train for a week. Being too beat up to train is counter to my desire to start training more. If I stop, I will be able to train this week.

The distance I ran (18.6 miles) is certainly not a distance to sneeze at. It sucks to have DNF’d but I have learned multiple things from this experience. Hopefully the main takeaway is how much I love arriving at a race knowing I trained properly.

(I did manage to going running a few times in the week after the race)

*DNF means Did Not Finish

Pacing at the Philadelphia Marathon 2011

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday. I love running. I was sore on Monday and am still sore today, but I like the soreness too!

Because of my twisted ankle and poor build up to the race, I was aiming to finish in 5 hours. Two things made me feel confident that I could finish faster than my slowest marathon (5:15): the weather was better (around 55 degrees vs a humid 85 degrees) and I felt in better shape. My goal was to start really slowly (about 12 min/mile), to avoid dodging around people, and enjoy. All things were accomplished!

I started off at an easy 11:21 min/mile pace. A stop at what felt like the slowest porta-potty line took 10 minutes. I finished the half marathon at 2:38 with an average 12:03 min/mile pace. I sped up a little with some restraint. I was very aware of taking walking breaks and not going too fast. I got tired between mile 17 and 18, but regained my energy. My feet started hurting at mile 23, but after a mile the pain lessened. I was able to pick up the pace in the last mile and finishing chute. I finished in 4:58:16! Overall average of 11:23 min/mile. About a 2:20 second half which was a 10:41 min/mile pace. Negative split baby! And no crashing!

I was very conscious throughout the race of pitfalls I experienced in previous races. I crashed in the 2009 and in 2010 Philadelphia Marathons. In 2009, I dodged around people on the Columbus Boulevard section (around mile 3) and I sped up too much between mile 13 and 17. In 2010, I dodged around people along Chestnut Street (mile 6). This year I was extra-sure to not dodge around anyone. It’s so easy to let other people’s pace dictate yours and speed up. It’s easy to speed up a little to get into the next open spot in the crowd. Those actions take more energy than they are worth.

In 2010 I think I had energy intake problems. I started losing energy before mile 17. I had stomach issues at mile 18. I wasn’t able to regain energy during the last miles. Some thoughts that have prevented proper energy intake include “It’s early, I don’t need a gel yet” and “There’s only three miles left, a gel won’t kick in before that time”. This year I made sure to have gels often enough. I also had a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast instead of my previously favored toast and eggs. More carbs in my stomach from which to draw energy!

My take home message about this race was the importance of pacing. It’s dangerous every time you slip into an energy-consuming stride unless you are in the last few miles.

And here were some of the awesome things that happened along the way:

  • My boyfriend ran with me between mile 6 and 13
  • My parents cheered for me at mile 7 and 17
  • I finished before one girl who kept leap frogging me in the second half of the race.
  • I ran with a woman dressed as Rocky at mile 6. She got ahead of me because of the epic porta-potty break, but I caught up and passed her around mile 21.
  • My favorite sign was “Keep going, don’t Occupy Arch Street!”
  • In South Philly there were guys with a sign “You yell Philly, we drink beer!” Of course I had to yell “Philly!” to which one responded “You’re killin’ me!”
  • Around mile 10 or 11 a group who has been there the last two years were people dancing in costumes giving out high fives. One was dressed as a Hungry Hungry Hippo!
  • There were lots of tutus and a few capes.
  • I saw two completely barefoot runners, and tons of people with Vibram Five Fingers.
  • I had some beer both times I passed the Beer Stop in Manayunk

I can’t wait for next year!

Running Form

October 25, 2011 1 comment

Running with an ankle brace makes me think about running form. With each step I try to use both legs evenly. I worry about being unbalanced. Using an ankle brace causes you to step differently on that foot; if you are not conscious of your body you can overuse the other foot or leg. I don’t like having to focus so much on each step. My form doesn’t feel natural.

I don’t remember thinking much about my running form in cross country back in high school. There was one day shortly after my first cross country camp began (two weeks of daily training before school starts) when my form clicked. The run that had been hard yesterday became easier; I went faster on less effort. My coach noticed and commented. After that, I could easily find my stride at practice. I don’t remember any other problems with my stride in my cross country career.

I want to find my form again.

A fight with concrete and allergies

October 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Two weeks ago, I started off the week with high expectations. My attack plan for running a marathon on November 20th was to run at least a small distance every day. I was brought up short on Tuesday. While running on the wonderful wide sidewalks of the Parkway I stepped wrong on an edge where one square was slightly higher than the other. ROLL went my ankle and I crashed to the ground. After curling in a ball until the momentary pain went away, I took stock. Rolled left ankle; swelling expected. Scraped right knee; bleeding–needed cleaning. Slightly scraped right hand; not a concern. Fortunately I was running with my boyfriend and he supported me while I hobbled back to the gym. Used hydrogen peroxide on the knee, iced the ankle when I got back to my desk. I’ve rolled this ankle before, so it’s not a completely new injury. But definitely not the best way to start the attack plan!

A week later when the swelling was mostly gone and the knee scabbed over, I expected to start again on the attack plan. Unfortunately the temperature dropped quickly for about 4 days and I was besieged by allergies. A sharp change in the weather always sets off my allergies. I was too sick to run until this past Sunday. My attack plan was yet again foiled by life.

I finally went running last night, and survived 40 minutes without coughing too much and without pain in my ankle. I wore an ankle brace to be safe. I have officially began the attack plan. Only two-ish weeks lost, I think I can still run enough to survive a marathon in November…