Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cross Training

I used to be one of those runners who measures her training progress in terms of miles or time spent in running shoes. Okay, I'm still one of those runners...but in some remote part of my brain, I know better. I know that doing activities besides running can support and improve my training more than running alone could. 

I love hot yoga. Sometimes it's a borderline obsession. It's playful, it makes me sweat like a crazy person and it is as challenging as I want to make it. Moreover, every day is different. Sometimes I have good days. Other days are disastrous and even standing still makes me want to fall over.  But it's just yoga, not a race. The point is to enter the room with an open mind and willingness to explore what your body has in store. How it improves my running? Well, let me just say that when I am consistent with my practice, my breathing, pace and endurance benefit and I don't get random knee pains, shin splints or hip tightness. Pretty good deal. Plus, who doesn't like relaxing in downward dog?!

I've talked a bit about swimming before. Low/non-impact, great way to strengthen the whole body, much like yoga. Yes, having a strong upper body is actually beneficial for runners, but we tend to forget about that. Swimming can be great for endurance, too. Coming from a swimming background, my love affair for the 100m backstroke resurfaces each time I'm in the pool, but I've recently discovered the amazingness (yes, that's a word) of doing longer distance, continuous workouts, like a timed mile...or two...or more. It forces you to stick to an aerobic zone, much like during long runs and it's unquestionably therapeutic. Not to mention, I am rocking some impressive tan lines at the moment. So sexy.
Santa Monica Swim Center, my other happy place.
Random fact: swimming makes me ridiculously hungry, so I always pack a good snack for afterwards to avoid depleting the supply of vegan cookies at Whole Foods.

Boxing is not traditional runner cross training material, and frankly it's backfired on me a little in the past (strangely developed shin splints from all the footwork) BUT it's actually great upper body, core and lower leg training. It's good for developing coordination too so I should probably pick it back up...yah, I am the girl who trips over the one rock on a trail and manages to run into the bushes on the side for no apparent reason. 

Coordination may not be my forte but I am glad it provides entertainment for people I run with.

Spinning is obviously a popular choice for runners. I stick to stationary things, because I am still waiting on a road racing tricycle or training wheels for my road bike. Did I mention I was not coordinated? Anyhow, cycling/spinning works many of the supporting muscles that are secondary (but nonetheless super important) muscles for running and is low-impact, giving your joins something to smile about. 

And because Christmas apparently came early this year...this baby is currently on its way to me, so I can remedy my relationship with my road bike. Yes, it's a bike trainer and I am beyond excited. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

73 miles

This was a BIG week. In terms of running, at least. I clocked 73 miles overall, which puts this week at the top for weekly miles...ever! 

Mon: 13, Tue: off, Wed: 8, Thu: swim, Fri: 5, Sat: 27 (trails), Sun: 20 (road). 

The most important things I've learned from recent madness - other than the fact that I'm not sure how I ended up wanting to run so much - can be summed up in a few points:

1. Speed work is awesome, even refreshing. This might be a "duh" moment for you, but I am constantly reminded how much power and strength track work brings. Since it's relatively new to me, I'm still discovering my track pace and what feels right yet challenging at short distances. 

2. Swimming is fantastic cross training. You get the same opportunity to "zone out" like during a long run, work at a low heart rate and all without impacting joints. Plus, if the pool is nice and cold, it feels so amazing for tired joints and muscles. 

3. When all else fails, keep running. Saturday's trail run took everything I had to give, and a little more. I was already nearing dehydration when I ran completely out of water with 2 miles (mostly uphill) until the next H2O fountain at Westridge/Nike Tower. It was hot (over 100F around there) and each slight breeze felt like pure bliss. I noticed I stopped sweating, despite the heat and working hard - a pretty bad sign of dehydration. I was slowly freaking out as my legs and lungs grew more tired and I was getting dizzy. It was around that point that I found my edge and made a conscious decision to push through it. It was a whole new level of mind games. My mantra? Suck it up, you can do this. Tough love make tough cookies. Realistically, I had no other option but to keep moving forward. Step by step. Additional motivation: I have an irrational fear of mountain lions. 
So, always take more water than you think you will need and find yourself some awesome training partners who know how to party once you're done: with a ice-cold Gatorade and water, of course. (Donny Hall, you rock). 

Obviously. -source-
4. Nutrition and active recovery are what it's all about. I guess this is really nothing new. But after that trail adventure, I had a 20 miler awaiting me the next morning. I did what I do best: I ate. With a purpose. Potatoes, pasta, tempeh, some nut butter, lots of fruit and lots of kale and other veggies. Carbs, protein, a little fat and lots and lots of antioxidants. Nutrient dense foods all the way. I also took a vitamin C supplement (500mg), which I usually take on/after challenging workout days. I went on an easy walk in the afternoon and generally tried not to sit for too long at a time. Active recovery is all about getting blood flowing to the muscles to help them recover and rebuild. I'm not saying I had completely fresh legs for Sunday, but they were good enough to last me a fun (and thankfully flat) 20 miles. 

I think I need a nap now. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


It's been a little over a week since that really long run. 54 miles on roads should take a good beating on any previously sane person's joints, muscles, ligaments and mental capacity.

I fully expected to be needing a wheelchair to get around for at least a month week after that run, but the excitement and "glow" seemed to never subside - all I have been wanting to do is run more. I gather it must have been the special powers I got from my impromptu finish chute dance. Call Me Maybe came on so I had no choice. In retrospect, I have no idea what I was doing.

Thankfully, no arm muscles pulled but it was close.

I forced some sanity on myself last week and stayed off my feet as much as I could. I fought urges to go for a run in the middle of the night. Recovery week looked like this:

Monday: Sit on yo' butt, lady (Rest)
Tuesday: Swim 45 minutes with c. 20 minutes of pull-only drills
Wednesday: 60 minute aerobic run and track workout (speed felt SO good)
Thursday: Hot Power Yoga (90 minutes of sweaty bliss)
Friday: Let's play find the couch and stay on it (Rest)
Saturday: 90 minutes aerobic on mostly trails, rolling hills (but not mountains)
Sunday: Lots of walking, short spin session, squats etc. Low-key day.

Looking back, it all sounds pretty sane. I'm so proud. To celebrate, I went for 3 runs (13 miles total) and a hike yesterday.
Inventory: 1 tempo run (6 miles), 1 mountain climbed (2 hours), 1 sprint because I was running late for my run club talk/meeting (2 miles), 1 easy sunset run (5 miles). It was super fun.

I am a big fan of running more than once a day, splitting up the mileage. It is supposed to reduce the risk of overuse injury, since you're giving your body a chance to (partially) recover. Given you are working on tired muscles during the later rounds, you're still benefiting from the cumulative mileage and are training muscles to become more efficient at clearing away metabolic by-products still lingering from the previous run. 

There has, however, been a minor issue with an unhappy right ankle. I'm not sure what to make of it because it's not a typical injury. Nevertheless, is serves as an awesome excuse to whip out my favorite leisure time reading: Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy. It's really captivating. 
Problem solving
I concluded this is an extensor digitorum longus tendon issue. There is a proper bump on it and it hurts when it should, but the swelling is hardly noticeable and I can certainly run on it (not painless). And I obviously have. This is probably a very stupid idea, by the way. Today will be a day where I am thankful for BioFreeze and fully on board with the R.I.C.E approach. Hey, it could be a lot worse. 

Less than 2 months to go till...Rio Del Lago 100k on October 6th! Oh boy.