Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Power of an Extra Rest Day

When you run long enough, injuries aren't just a possibility. They are a given. But depending on how you approach them, you can reduce the amount of time you need to take off.

Case in point: Earlier this week, I did a 6x1 mile workout on the roads with a 3-mile warmup and 1-mile cooldown. The warmup felt great and I felt strong during each of the mile repeats. But when I started my cooldown, I knew something wasn't quite right. The back of my right knee felt super tight - like the muscle was about to cramp. As I ran that final mile, I thought about what might have caused the pain and decided it was doing too many hairpin turns during my mile repeats. I ran a half mile out and a half mile back for each repeat and turned the same way each time. So dumb! 

I thought I was in the clear because the pain went away when I stopped running. Even so, I spent extra time using the foam roller and stretching and iced the area when I got home. 

A runner's best friend

Fast forward to the next morning: I had a dull ache in the back of my knee again and found it difficult to straighten my leg. While most people would wonder how they might get to work, my first thought was how am I going to run 7 miles over lunch and do my evening classes at the Y? Fellow Type A runners know that missing a workout is just not an option! Even as I hobbled down my apartment steps, I told myself I'd run slow. I'd jog. I'd run/walk. But I'd still get those miles in PLUS the classes. 

This is why having a coach is so fantastic. I mentioned my problem to Coach Matt and he told me to take the day off and wait 48 hours to do my next run. He assured me that I've been consistent and have enough fitness banked to afford a rest day or two. 

I've read many articles about not running through injuries, but it's still hard to apply it to my own training. How do you know when it's just normal workout soreness or an actual problem? I don't ever want to lose out on the potential benefits of a workout, but hearing Coach Matt say that I needed to take a break made it simple. No running. No gym. 

Time to kick back in my favorite LF Sweats!

Because taking a rest day or two now is what will ultimately prevent a major breakdown later on. In the grand scheme of things, one or two extra days off in June won't cost me my goal time in October. But ignoring the issue now and having to take one or two weeks off later this summer could be devastating. 

So that's that. I'm a well-rested runner at this point. My knee is on the mend. And I'm ready to tackle the rest of the miles on my plan for this week. 

My questions for you:
  • How do you decide if you should take a rest day or run through injury/pain?
  • If you take a rest day, what do you do with your extra time?

I thought about baking treats but the last thing I need is to have a bum knee and gain five pounds ;)

- ST

Monday, June 23, 2014

Highlights + This Week's Training Schedule

In Wisconsin, we look forward to summer all year. Now that it's here - this is a bit debatable given the recent chilly temps and lack of sunny days - it's going by so fast! Just like that, June is practically done. 

Anyhow, one of my favorite things about summer are the longer days. Just a few extra hours of daylight make it that much easier to fit in more training and more fun. Last week's highlights:

A track workout. This was my first time running at Shorewood High School and it's pretty nice! I met up with the Milwaukee Running Group and ran my warmup, a few repeats and a cooldown with them. I had to do most of my workout on my own (more repeats, shorter rest) but it was nice to see friendly faces every time I circled the track.

Y-Blitz. For a long time I was a bit intimidated by this class and worried it would mess with my running. Not so much anymore. I love that I have to struggle through it because the harder I work, the stronger I'll get. 

The weekend long run. This may have been my best long run yet this year. Usually it takes me 3-4 miles to start feeling good on a long run, but on Saturday, I ran 8:40ish from the start and it felt great. As directed by Coach Matt, I picked up the pace throughout and surprised myself by averaging goal marathon pace during the last five miles!

This week's training is somewhat similar to last week's except more miles! Here's the plan:

Monday: 6 mile run + Strides; Y-Kettle Bell Intervals; Strength Training
Tuesday: 10 mile workout
Wednesday: 7 mile runch; Y-Fuse; Absolution
Thursday: 9 mile run; Y-Blitz; Y-Kettle Bell Basics
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 17 mile run
Sunday: 7 mile run

Total: 56 miles

My questions for you:
  • What run/workout are you most looking forward to this week?
  • What are your favorite moments from last week/weekend?
  • What do you love most about summer?

Hope you all have a great start to the week :)

- ST

Monday, June 16, 2014

This Year's RNS + An Upcoming Week of Training

Hey friends - I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I had the best few days, the highlight being Rock n Sole on Saturday morning. I didn't race this one - instead, I helped my niece complete her first 5k and also cheered on my brother, Andy, as he ran his first half marathon. While it felt weird to be at a race without any intention of racing, it was so nice to help others reach their goals. I loved seeing how excited and happy both my brother and niece were to cross the finish line.

5k finishers!

Andy racing to the finish line!

After the race!
After the race fun on Saturday, I'm feeling extra motivated to dive into this week's training. Can you believe it's already hit the point where more than one workout is necessary on some days? Here's the plan for this week:

Monday: 7 mile runch + strides; Y-Kettle Bell Intervals; Strength Training
Tuesday: 9 mile workout
Wednesday: 6 mile run; Y-Fuse; Core Work
Thursday: Y-Blitz; Y-Kettle Bell Basics
Friday: 7 mile runch + strides
Saturday: 15 mile run
Sunday: 6 mile run

Total: 50 miles

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever ran with someone to help them complete a race? If so, what was your experience?
  • What was the highlight of your weekend?
  • How does your training look for this upcoming week?

Happy Monday!

- ST

Friday, June 13, 2014

There's Something for Everyone at the YMCA

One of the best parts of being a member at the YMCA is that every fitness level is welcome - and that's reflected in the wide variety of group exercise classes that are offered at the various centers. A few weeks ago, I sat down with Lonnie* and Travis from the Downtown YMCA to chat about current programming and the best classes for every fitness level. Here's what they had to say:

How are classes at the Y different from those that are offered at other gyms?
Lonnie: There's a commitment to education - the education of the instructors (all are certified to teach) and the education of people taking the classes. Everything is progressive so everyone can safely get to the next level of fitness.

Which Y classes are best for people who are new to exercise?
Lonnie: Any of the Les Mills classes, such as Body Pump. Y-Chisel, Y-Cardio Funk, Y-Cycle and Y-Kettle Bell Basics are also good options. For all of the classes, as you get fitter, you can challenge yourself more. For example, in Y-Kettle Bell Basics, you can use a heavier kettle bell or swing harder.

Which Y classes are best for people who are already fit and looking for a challenge?
Travis: Y-Blitz is great as well as the TRX classes. The TRX classes teach people to use their body differently and mimic real-life movement. 

What would you tell someone who is intimidated by group exercise classes?
Lonnie: There are options for all levels of fitness. Everyone is there for their own workout.

Travis: There are people there to help you keep pushing. The classes may be challenging but if you have the right mindset, you will be successful.

Can you tell me about Y-Beach Camp?
Travis: Y-Beach Camp is offered on Saturday and Sunday mornings in four-week sessions, June through September. The group is divided into three groups based on fitness level. Every weekend has a different theme. 

Lonnie: All of the groups run hills, climb stairs and do work in the sand. Some people use Y-Beach Camp as training for some of the adventure races in the area - but we've had people tell us every Y-Beach Camp is like its own adventure race. 

Thanks for chatting with me, Lonnie and Travis! There's still time to sign up for Y-Beach Camp this summer. Both Y members and non-members can learn more at the Downtown YMCA website.

Join the conversation: What do you like/dislike about group exercise classes?

- ST

*Lonnie Watts is the Director of Group Exercise for the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Run Slow to Race Fast

Coach Matt often reminds me that overly tired legs don't have to be part of marathon training if it's done right. I completely agree. As much as I embrace the hurt of a hard workout, I also embrace easy running the rest of the time and consider it as important as hitting my splits during a track workout. It's tempting to run fast all the time, but getting injured/overtrained is a sure way to blow a race before the gun even goes off!

A lot of runners consider easy pace running to be the hardest type. I think that's likely because it feels unnatural for runners who do most of their training at moderate intensity! Many - including me at times! - end up falling into the trap of thinking the faster they run their easy days, the better. I agree that it sometimes feels tedious to run slower. But, to reign things in now means greater reward on race day. Look at it this way: 

slower pace = ability to handle greater training volume = run faster on race day

A steady diet of easy miles is how the elites train. I recently read an article about easy running that included survey results about the training habits of elite runners. The men did almost three quarters of their training at slower than marathon pace, while the ladies did more than two thirds of their training at slower paces. 

One of my favorite elite runners/bloggers, Camille Herron, says it best. Camille is a 2:37 marathoner and starts her easy days at 8:50-9:10 pace, eventually moving down to average 8:30-8:50 pace with no miles faster than 8:00 pace. Reading about Camille's running and pacing has definitely made me think differently about my own running. If Camille averages 8:30-8:50 pace during her easy runs, I can run a bit slower and still meet my goals. After all, it doesn't matter how fast you run during training if you can't run fast on race day!

Hold back during training and let it rip on race day!

To make sure I'm truly running easy, here are a few strategies that work for me:

  • Leave my watch at home. I plan my route in advance to make sure I'm getting the right number of miles and then run by feel. 
  • Wear heavier training shoes. This one is purely psychological. I associate my heavier Brooks Defyance shoes will easy running.  
  • Hum or sing to myself. Okay, I know this is weird. But it's pretty hard to hum or sing when running hard. Just keep an eye out for other people. It's best to do this one when alone on the path. 
  • Run on the grass. I'm usually more careful about footing when running on the grass, which means slower running. Voila - instant easy run! 

Run on the grass when possible! 

My questions for you:
  • What are your thoughts on easy running - Love it or hate it? Do you do enough of it?
  • What are your strategies to keep your pace slow on easy running days?
  • If you're not into easy running, what do you dislike about it?

Slow or fast, I hope everyone has a fantastic week of running :)

- ST

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Refueling: An Important Part of Every Training Plan

Question: When's the last time you skipped out on the last repeat of a track workout? 

While most of us wouldn't dream of cutting a workout short, it's sometimes all too easy to skip out on some of the other important aspects of training. For example, post-workout nutrition.

If you already prioritize eating within the optimal 45-minute post-workout recovery window, keep it up! But if not, listen up. By skipping out on this essential part of training, you're failing to reap the maximum training benefits for a peak performance. Some athletes may balk at the idea of taking in calories after a workout, but trust me, you're doing more harm than good when you deprive your body of these necessary nutrients.

In my world, convenience is so important, which is why I tend to reach for chocolate milk after tough workouts. I just stick a bottle in a cooler and drink it in the car after hitting the roads or track. In addition to providing the optimal 3 to 1 carb/protein ratio, it also helps me rehydrate at the same time. It's by far the easiest thing to tackle on my to-do list ;)

Just unscrew the cap and you're ready to refuel!

For more information about the benefits of chocolate milk, visit the Win With Chocolate Milk website or the Wisconsin Dairy Facebook Pace

Upcoming event: Who's going to spectate at the upcoming Tour of America's Dairyland? If you've never spectated a cycling event, now's your chance. They're super fun to watch and as an added bonus, you can meet the Win With Chocolate Milk team and get chocolate milk samples at the June 27 (Fond du Lac) and June 29 (Tosa) events! 

Tell me: What do you consider an essential part of any workout?

- ST

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

18 Weeks Til Lakefront Marathon

A few days ago, I took a look at my calendar and, just for fun, counted how many weeks are left til Lakefront Marathon. The answer? Only 18 weeks! It's hard to believe there are only that many weeks of training left til the race and also, that in just 18 weeks, it will be the beginning of October.

Last week was a regrouping week for me coming off the 10k race. I don't know about you, but I tend to feel better when I run more miles. Anything less than 30 and I feel like a giant slug. So I'm excited to start the marathon mileage build. This week's plan is just right for kicking off another training cycle!

Monday: 6 mile run + strides; Y-Kettle Bell Intervals; Strength training
Tuesday: 9 mile workout
Wednesday: 6 mile run; Y-Fuse; Yoga
Thursday: 7 mile run; Y-Blitz; Y-Kettle Bell Basics
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 14 mile run, inc. 75 second pickups
Sunday: 6 mile run

Total: 48 miles

On the run, 24/7!

My questions for you:
  • What is your mileage sweet spot? That is, how many miles per week are you most comfortable running?
  • How are you staying active this week?
  • Random Q: What one word sums up your current state of mind?

I'm going with "Optimistic" - The best is yet to come ;)

- ST