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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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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

Running Form in the News

December 19, 2011 1 comment

There have been two news items that caught my eye about a month ago.

From: NY Times “For Beginning Runners, Advice Can Be a Hurdle” [excerpt]

By GINA KOLATA

I wrote a column last month discussing whether runners should train with a coach — and not a single reader wrote in to ask how to find a coach. But many asked about something else.  I mentioned that my colleague Henry Fountain had started running with the help of a podcast. Readers wanted to know what podcast it was. “I really need it,” one wrote. (For the record, that podcast, on podrunner.com, is called “First Day to 5K.”)

That response is an indication, exercise researchers say, of two things: how hard it is for someone who is not used to running to suddenly take up the sport; and how unnecessarily complicated advice about running has become as “experts” battle over shoes and running form and training programs.

Take, for example, the notion that there is a perfect running form, like striking the ground with the midfoot or forefoot. There is no convincing evidence for this convoluted advice, disinterested researchers say. In fact, studies have found that individuals automatically run in a way that is most efficient for their own bodies. Those who change the way they run naturally are less efficient and more prone to injury.

“There is good evidence that your body is exquisitely lazy and will find the easiest way for you to run,” said Carl Foster, professor of exercise and sports medicine at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Even elite runners have a variety of styles. Some strike the ground with the heel, others with the midfoot. Some look elegant, while others look awkward and clumsy.

[more at article link]

I agree with the point of the article (just start running), with one caveat. Mix in some strengthening exercises (especially ab work) to your  “Just start running” plan. I agree with the spirit of “your body knows how to run”, but I think your body can over work some muscle groups to compensate for a weaker group.

Ryan Hall Ad

Watch this video and you see what I think is really good form. Ryan lands on the balls of his feet, has a quick turnover, and lifts his feet high off the ground. My argument for doing core strengthening and lifting is try to run like Ryan. You will probably find numerous muscles get tired more quickly than when you run like yourself. You might want to strengthen some of those muscles as a way of improving your form.

With everything related to running advice, remember that you are an experiment of one. Listen to your body. Pick out strands of advice that apply to your current situation and tune out the rest. Just start running! but with care.

Categories: running, training Tags:

Running Form (part 2)

November 1, 2011 1 comment

I’ve been thinking more about running form.

We did a lot of things in cross country that improved running form. We did plyos, hill workouts, and track workouts. Plyos focus directly on different aspects of your running form. Hill and track workouts may not directly influence running form, but they make you a stronger runner which should make your form itself stronger.

One of my favorite plyos was the turnover. Run with short steps and every third (or so) step on one side make a quick, strong turnover. Focus on the quickness of the turnover and the circle of your legs. Repeat on the opposite side. Bounding was fun and focused on hang time. High knees and butt kicks focus on the movement of the lift and kick portion of your stride. Grapevines have to be good for hip movement.

We also talked about how to move your arms to help speed up and set the pace for your stride.

I was mistaken to think that running form was effortless in high school.  My form was good (or stayed good) because I was training in ways that made finding my stride easy.

I guess that means I should do more track workouts, hill workouts and plyos! I question if I can add track or hill workouts, but plyos are doable. I will take a proactive step to help my running form and incorporate plyos into my runs.

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…

The shape of running in the morning

February 26, 2011 1 comment

One of the goals motivated by my 2011 plan to run 100 miles is to run in the morning. This section of the exercising spectrum has been really hard to wrap my mind around. Running early in the morning feels different. I wake up, feel awake, try to imagine myself running but the image doesn’t work. Though I have established routes that I can follow without being fully awake, I wonder “Where I will run in the morning? How will I go about doing it?” And then I go back to sleep and dream that I made it out the door. I ran two miles a few weeks ago, but it made me late for work and my goal was to run five.

If I am going to run in the morning, I need to change the process in my mind. I need to come up with a two mile circle that loops back to my house. What this loop is designed to do is to prevent me from having an excuse to not run if I start running later than expected. I will do the loop as many times as I have time for. Two miles is better than none. I need to hold myself accountable for getting up and out the door.

I don’t think the ability to run in the morning is out of my reach. Last winter I had a hard time running in the dark after work. This year I have no trouble getting out the door when I plan an evening run. It’s been a shift in my thinking. I am officially in training mode, I expect myself to run and I do. If I can just build the expectation in the morning that I want to be running and starting my day instead of feeling happy to be in a semi-conscious state wrapped in blankets.

If I can’t do that, maybe I should start running during my lunch at work. But I think I can run in the morning, and an AM session will never conflict with the rest of the days plans, it just conflicts with my desire to extend my good dreams.

Categories: running, training