How To Get Faster

One of the things that is coming out of my PT sessions is that the old adage about having to choose speed or distance and that it’s really hard to work on both is really true. I tried doing both and screwed up my ankle.

For right now, it is looking like I am going to have to choose speed, since my ankle can’t handle the stress of doing a lot of long runs right now. So my plan is to focus on speed at the shorter distances.

But, how does one get faster, anyway? Obviously, running lots of miles doesn’t make you fast, so what does?

Run Eat Repeat just posted a vlog about this topic, 5 Tips to Run FASTER.

In a nutshell, her advice is to:

1) Do speedwork. Duh. A lot of people try to get faster by just running more miles. This was basically my plan in 2013. It works a little bit just through an increase in fitness, but you will reach a point of diminishing returns pretty quickly. And then you injure yourself…

There are a lot of different kinds of speedwork. Some people do 800s, 400s, tempo runs, sprints, strides. I couldn’t tell you pros and cons of any of them, but the point is you need to do some kind of speedwork in order to actually get faster. (I.e., go faster to get faster).

Since I am going to focus on shorter distances, and I lost a lot of fitness with surgery and injury, I am starting out with 400 repeats. When my endurance improves I’ll probably go to 800s. But for now 400s is good. On Thursday, I did 5×400 repeats for a total workout of about 2.5 miles. It was actually supposed to be 6×400, but I was so tired after 4 that I backed way off on the 5th repeat and gave up entirely on the 6th. Gotta start somewhere though.

The repeats were run at 9:15, 8:45, 8:15, 7:45, and 8:45. Next time I probably won’t make that jump to 7:45 until the last repeat, but I just wanted to see if I could do it. Since the answer is just barely, I will have to save it for the end next time.

2) Speed up your cadence – Again, go faster to get faster. This is actually a form issue that I’ve been working on for a while. The ideal running cadence is supposed to be somewhere around 180 steps per minute. Mine tends to be slower, so I downloaded an app for my phone called Metronome Beats to use when I run. There is a little ball that bounces back and forth and I try to match up my footfalls.

3) Run with someone faster – this is one I probably won’t be doing very often since most of the runners I know who are faster are running the longer distances.

4) Maintain an optimal running weight – better known to most people as losing some weight. I suspect this is an item I need to consider. I am not overweight in a general sense, but what is optimal for running faster is not necessarily the same as your weight that would otherwise be considered normal or ideal. Gravity sucks for runners, even more than for the average person. I know this because I ran on an “antigravity treadmill” this week and noticed that with 25% of my weight removed I was suddenly considerably faster and had a lot less ankle pain than I normally do. So I think it is something I need to look at.

On the other hand, I don’t want to be ridiculous about this. It’s important to maintain perspective, after all. Also, running is not an excuse to be anorexic – So how do you figure out what is a healthy, optimal running weight? I’m not sure, so I’ll have to look into it and write a post just on this topic. I think 10% of my body weight would probably be a doable number, though, and a healthy one that at one point I have weighed and maintained during my adult life.

5) Form – this is one I’ve been working on for a long time. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things going on, so I just pick one thing at a time to focus on. A big one has been pushing off vs. reaching forward, not crossing the midline and staying quiet in the upper body. I’ve been able to improve some areas of my form but it is an area I really need to work on. Again, probably worthy of a separate post just on this topic.

In addition to these areas, there are a couple of other things I can do to get faster.

1) Strength train – I have a home exercise program from my PT sessions that I am doing, which is working on some of the weak areas in my “drive train.” My ankle injury occurred due to weakness in the hips and possibly lack of mobility in the big toe, which the exercises are supposed to address. An added benefit of improving strength and mobility in those areas should be an increase in speed.

2) Cross training – running is the best exercise for runners, but it is very hard to improve quickly when you’re coming back from an injury or a surgery by just running more miles. The body can’t take it. To improve cardio fitness without injuring myself, I need to do some other type of low impact cardio activity. So for now, I’m going to be running 2 – 3 times a week as long as my ankle doesn’t hurt, doing spin class a couple of times a week and using the elliptical and the Adaptive Motion Trainer the rest of the time. Plus strength training / rehab exercises pretty much every day.

That’s how I plan to get faster. Is getting faster something you’re working on? Tell me your plan in the comments!

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Are You Genetically Lazy?

I have often wondered why some people like exercise and others don’t. When I was a kid I wouldn’t say I was a person who really enjoyed exercise, primarily because I wasn’t good at most sports due to lack of practice, and the fact I wasn’t good at it meant I didn’t want to practice, creating sort of a negative feedback loop.

As I got older I started liking it more, I think primarily because my tolerance for not being good at things got higher as I got older. Not knowing how to do something, or just not being good at it, wasn’t a blow to my self esteem. I knew that there were other things that I was good at, making lack of mastery in the sports arena less threatening. For instance, I enjoy running but I know I’m not and likely never will be a fast runner. And that’s okay. I find the exercise itself is rewarding, and I like how I feel after.

I know this is not the case with everybody. Some people really struggle with motivation to exercise. Which seems odd, because it’s something our bodies really need – you’d think that psychological issues aside, we’d all be equally motivated to do it. But science is showing that’s not really the case.

This video from ASAPscience shows that research is proving that there is a genetic mutation that can be responsible for some people’s couch potato tendencies.

I think there is also a habit and nurture aspect to this as well. For me, I am motivated inherently to exercise IF I’ve been doing it enough. When I’m fit, my body starts to crave exercise if I don’t do it enough. But if I let myself get out of the habit and out of shape, I will have no motivation at all – mostly because I know that exercise = pain if I’m not in shape. And it will take a few weeks of pain to get back to being in shape to the point where I enjoy it again.

So it is a habit – and one that you have to experience some pain to develop. There could also be a nurture aspect, in that if no one models for a child that it is possible to get past the pain to a point of enjoyment, and also that this is a desirable and enjoyable thing to do once you get that far, then that child might not have much motivation to seek out that experience. Which in humans, may play into a “generational couch potato” link as well.

It Starts Young

My kids are involved in Little League, which is an interesting microcosm of society. You get all types of kids and parents, united by a love of baseball. It’s a pretty diverse group as far as childrearing practices, as well. I’m glad we’re doing it.

One of the things I find gratifying about it is that when observed among their peers, it turns out that I have unusually nice children. Nice manners, and they don’t have as many annoying personality quirks as the other kids I see out there. They also do not often say things that are unkind, or hurtful.

Not to say they are perfect but they try to be good, because they know it is expected. There is some occasional inappropriate behavior, because they are kids and that is what kids do, but for the most part, they know how to behave in public.

This is not the case with all the kids we see. One of our kids is on a team with some little boys who, for lack of a better term, are real hellions. People say boys will be boys, and I think that is true to some degree, but I also think that kids will be as big of a jerk as we allow them to be. They will take as much rope as you’ll give them.

They also model what we do. You can have all the rules around behavior that you want, but if what you model isn’t what is expected from them, they are going to do what they see you do. Which is why you always hear your most embarrassing phrases coming out of your kids mouth.

One of the things we are seeing with these kids is a general air of disrespect. They can’t handle any kind of correction without throwing a fit, and the parents just allow it. If it were me, I would pull my kid out of practice or a game in a heartbeat if they were doing some of this stuff.

They are also rude to other kids on the team, as well as adults. The thing that really got my goat, though, was when one boy teased another by saying, “you run like a girl!”

I was like, oh yeah? You wanna see someone run like a girl? I’ll show you how to run like a girl. A girl that can run you into the ground.

Like I said, it starts young. When I see kids acting like this, I try to use it as a teaching moment with my own kids. We talk about different kinds of behavior and they are learning what not to do by watching their peers.

It amazes me too, how early sexism starts. There is no fundamental difference in physical ability at this age, so where do boys get the idea that girls are inherently inferior at sports? And when stuff like this comes up, why are parents (especially moms!) letting kids get by with these statements?

It blows my mind, and makes me feel like I am lucky to have nice kids. Also makes me glad I am very clear about behavior expectations. I mean, my kids can be naughty too, but they aren’t mean and they take correction fairly well, perhaps because they are used to receiving it!

Try It Tuesday

These look yummy – might have to add this to the breakfast rotation!

The Huffman Post

Today’s Try It was actually tried today! I typically do my try its on the weekend, because I have more time. But this one was just too tasty-looking to wait for!

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In the words of Napoleon’s grandma, I “made myself a dang quesadilla” for breakfast! It was so easy–and nutritious!

Here’s what you need:

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~Peanut Butter

~A banana (I only used half so it would be too bulky)

~tortillas (I used whole wheat)

~chocolate chips

First, spread the peanut butter on your tortilla. I only spread it on half of mine so I could cut a few calories. Then, slice half of your banana and place the slices on the tortilla. Finally, sprinkle the chocolate chips.

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Fold over the tortilla and place in a pan over medium heat.

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I let the quesadilla cook for about a minute a side; I didn’t want the tortilla to burn (I also snacked…

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Safety tips for runners

You Signed Up For What posted about an incident that happened to her over the weekend, as well as her reactions to it, that caused her to be more concerned about safety. She was grabbed while out running with her son in a baby jogger (who grabs a lady pushing a baby stroller, anyway?).

Here is a quick overview of the tips she recommended:

1) Carry your cell phone
2) Carry pepper spray
3) Stick to well-lit, high traffic routes
4) Wear identification
5) Run without headphones
6) Report an incident or uncomfortable situation right away
7) Spread the word

I thought these tips were really good (go read them!) and thought I’d add a few of my own.

Run with a buddy – whenever possible, it’s best to run with a buddy. Even if you’re not accosted by a sketchy person, there are all kinds of things in addition to assault or harassment that can go wrong on your run – injuries, car altercations, animal attacks – and if you are alone, there will be no one able to help you if something goes wrong.

Of course, most of us break this rule all the time because finding a running partner can be hard, and also for the introverts among us, the alone time is part of the appeal of running.

This is a real safety issue though, and not just because of the possibility of assault. Animal attacks are my own personal nightmare. The most scared I have ever been when running alone was a time when I ran past a field where a woman was exercising her dogs. They tore across the field toward me and didn’t stop until they were about 3 feet away. I felt very fortunate that she was able to call them off. I am not normally afraid of dogs, but that was scary!

And then there is this sort of thing.

Carry adequate hydration and know the water stops on your route – this is especially important as the summer approaches. Most of the time we run on routes we know well, but sometimes we decide to try a new one, and if we get lost, we can go through our water quickly on a hot day. This is especially the case if you live in a suburb where there are not a lot of through roads, or terrain that can make going difficult.

Don’t run alone at night – when I was in grad school and living in downtown Seattle, I used to break this rule all the time. Oddly, I never really felt threatened. I mainly kept to well lit, busy areas, but still, in retrospect this was also probably not the safest way to get my run in. The problem was it was the only time I could do it. I am probably lucky never to have been hit by a car, accosted by weirdos, or worse. This is especially important if you are a creature of habit who runs on a predictable schedule.

Practice situational awareness – pay attention to what is going on around you and be aware of anything unusual or potentially dangerous. This is part of why wearing headphones on your run is a bad idea. You need to see and hear what is going on so that you can judge your own safety, and decide how to stay safe.

What do you do to stay safe on your runs?

Evaluate me! Rank me!

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Lisa Simpson: Look at me! Grade me! Evaluate and rank me! I’m good, good, good and oh so smart!

We’re winning awards over here at the Eat and Run Mom!

At my PT appointment on Wednesday, I got a Gold Star award for my performance in the race last week. I am just the kind of geek that is totally motivated by this sort of thing so even though I tried to play it cool I was actually excited about it.

Of course, I do have to laugh about it a little bit because of the details about this award. I got it for placing 3rd in my age group at the race on Saturday. Which sounds great until I tell you that I did that running a 10 minute mile pace. So, I think it says more about the age group’s competitiveness/lack thereof than it does about my actual performance.

But still – an award!

My husband (who, in addition to an aerospace science degree somehow found time in college to memorize every episode of the Simpsons and still quotes from them to this day) laughs at me about this kind of thing. I am what my grandfather called a “springbutt” – you know, the kind of kid who in school thought they had all the answers (and usually DID, thank you very much) and so their hand was constantly in the air. You know the ones.

Anyway, the title of this post is a Lisa Simpson quote, which was my husband’s response when I told him about this award.

Whatever.

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There are other awards too – equally major! I’ll be blogging about them in a future post, so stay tuned!

Forget Me Not

Taking a break from my regularly scheduled running, eating and mom related blogging to talk about gratitude.

I’m working hard on gratitude this week. Trying to counteract feelings of loss, regret and just plain feeling old I guess. The gratitude part comes when I remind myself that to feel loss, you have to have had something to lose in the first place – so be grateful for that. As for the feeling old, well, at least I have the chance to get old.

And regret? Well, that’s just pointless. You are never going to avoid pain in this life, and if you try you will probably only end up avoiding joy. You will never manage to live your life so perfectly that you never regret paths taken or not taken, words said or not said. We make our choices and sometimes those choices mean that you give up some things – you follow one dream and miss out on another.

You can never avoid having to say goodbye. Whether for a day or forever. This is the way of things. We are all so busy these days, and the world is so full of possibilities, we are all running off in one direction or another. But goodbye doesn’t mean we forget the people who were important to us.

When I was a little girl, my grandfather lived in Alaska. I used to spend summers with him, in a little log cabin that you had to hike to get to. Very idyllic for a city kid like me to get to spend summers that way. I remember the hike as being one that went on for miles, but I also know that memory plays tricks on you – it could have been 100 feet.

Anyway, while hiking to his cabin we would walk past a stream and a wetland, in which grew all kinds of plants and wildflowers. He would teach me the names of them. My favorite was the Forget-me-not.

He told me that it was the state flower of Alaska, and also how it got its name. He said that in olden times, ladies would give this flower to their lovers when they went to war to remind them they were loved, and to come back when the war was over.

I liked the story and have always looked forward to seeing these flowers when they bloom in the spring. They remind me of people I have loved and will never forget, and they remind me of God who loves us and never forgets us either.

Prone to flights of fancy as I am, I am pretty sure it was God that made me notice them blooming on my bike ride today. It’s easy to miss them, they are so small. But I’ve been seeing them a lot lately. This is how He talks to me – a small flower here, the right words in a book or sermon there.

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They make me grateful for love, and joy, and pain, and to have a chance just to be alive on this tiny blue planet spinning out in space. It’s easy to forget sometimes what a miracle that really is.