National Running Day

Today was National Running Day. I went swimming for an hour to celebrate. I would rather have gone for a nice outdoor run but with the ankle issue, I can’t. So, into the pool I go.

I am sort of excited about one running related thing that happened today. My Runners Rehab kit arrived from AquaJogger. This kit includes an AquaJogger belt, some funky little floaty shoes, a tether, and some triangular dumb bells.

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Nope, not gonna look dorky at all in that getup…

The belt is the only critical piece of the kit – you pretty much can’t do pool running in deep water without it. The other items – shoes, dumb bells, tether, are mainly intended to increase resistance. I intend to use the shoes and belt every time I do this because I have a hard time feeling my legs without the shoes. I think I need a little more resistance. Not sure about the dumb bells, and I probably won’t use the tether until I start transitioning my running back onto dry land.

In other running related news, I also had an MRI this morning for my ankle. That meant 35 minutes with my ankle locked into a flexed position and inserted inside a very loud and clanging machine. You cannot move at all while they are taking images, which is tough because each of the images takes 4 or so minutes to be done, and they take 10 of them. And the machine sometimes causes your muscles to twitch from the magnets (or something). I got yelled at a couple of times for involuntary movements, but overall they said they got a good image quality.

It was a very long and uncomfortable 35 minutes. But in a day or so I will finally have definitive information about my ankle, and once I have that, I’ll be able to start formulating some kind of plan for how to get this thing healed up. So, I’m glad it’s finally done.

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My New Plan

I blogged on Saturday about the fact that for now I am going to be working on speed with my running, rather than going for distance. That means, I won’t be running a lot of miles, but when I do run, I am going to make it count. Most of my cardio work is going to be in other forms that keep the wear and tear off my legs, such as spin classes, elliptical or the adaptive motion trainer.

So here is my new and improved running exercise plan.

Monday – 2.5 mile run (400m warm up, 4×800 at 8:30 – 9 m/m pace, 400m cool down), PT exercises, upper body
Tuesday – 60 minute spin class and core, plus PT stretches
Wednesday – 60 minute spin class, PT
Thursday – 2.5 mile run (800m warm up, 6×400 at 7:45 – 8:45 pace, 800m cool down) , PT exercises
Friday – 30 minutes elliptical/AMT, PT exercises, core/upper body or TRX class
Saturday – 30 minute easy run optional if no pain, PT exercises
Sunday – rest or race

Eventually I should be able to run more but for now, I need to heal more than I need to run.

I am in sort of a dangerous place with my recovery in fact, because things are starting to hurt less and then I get overconfident, overdo something, and then I am hurting again. I just found out the hard way that little things I think won’t hurt can be very painful if I twist or strain the ankle, such as taking my kid to the batting cage after a treadmill run in the morning. Did that on Thursday, and I’m still kinda feeling it.

So anyway, I just need to let things heal before I get all crazy with miles.

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!

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?

I Did It! Inspiring Hope 5k Recap

Last year at this time I ran the Inspiring Hope 10k, after having trained since January and ran it in 1:01. I was a little disappointed in myself for not having finished in under an hour. I went into that race feeling strong, and had just run another 10k a few weeks previously so I knew what I could do if I had a good day. The time was 5 minutes faster than my previous race, but I still had some gas in the tank afterwards, so I probably could have pushed a little harder.

A few days after that race, I hurt my hip and was out for a couple of months.

Now this year is a completely different story. Since my surgery in March,
I have not run more than a mile and a half without stopping. I’ve only been allowed to run for three weeks, and I have the ankle injury to contend with. Plus I developed a sore back the day before the race.

I kind of figured I’d be doing a lot of walking.

What actually happened was this.

I woke up at 6:30 and got dressed in my running getup, including the compression stocking things that my Physical Therapist suggested I wear to keep my ankle from getting inflamed. Then I drove to the store to get milk and some cash to register for the race.

After driving home, I walked over to the start / finish area, which was in the lunch room of Kamiak High School near my house. I jogged a short portion of the way just to check out the ankle and how it was feeling. It seemed fine so that was encouraging. The back was still a bit sore but not as bad as yesterday, which was also encouraging. Seemed to be the kind of thing that would shake out after running a bit.

I got to the registration area, signed up and handed over my fee. They asked how fast I thought I would go, and since I didn’t really know they suggested I go with the second wave. I decided that was fine.

I checked my jacket and swag bag, milled around the vendor fair, drank some coffee and ran into my friend W. Talked to her for a bit. Bought a new little belt thing to keep my phone in while I run. I even used it during the race.

Before the race there was some sort of guided warm up thing and announcements. We couldn’t hear the announcements so we were chatting and goofing around and some crabby person said, “you’d be able to hear if you stopped talking.”

Sure, but it’s more fun to do my Charlie Brown teacher imitation!

Pretty soon it was 9am and the first wave went. I had to wait until 9:05 for the second wave to start. As soon as it did I realized I was in the wrong wave. I spent a couple minutes running at a fast but comfortable pace and before long had passed almost everyone in the wave.

I spent the rest of the race chasing down an older gray haired gentleman who was first in our wave, and a young couple running together (a brown haired girl in a ponytail and her male companion in a red Seattle Marathon shirt) who ended up being second and third. I ended up fourth but ponytail girl and her boyfriend were behind me for part of the middle section of the race. They caught me when I took a walk break at the water station at mile 2.

The course itself is pretty easy for the 5k. Two small hills, one at the beginning and one at the end, the rest of the race is pretty flat. Most of the course has you running on wide sidewalks, with a couple of forays into the road. The whole thing is paved – no trails.

The course is basically my regular running route, so as a first foray back into racing, it really couldn’t have been much easier.

I had to leave before results came out, because my kids both had baseball games and also they were very eager to get to our town’s “Touch a Truck” display before the games, but I knew my time was somewhere in the range of 31 minutes, because it was 9:36 when I came across, and my wave took off at 9:05.

I had to wait until Sunday to find out my actual time. Final race results said it was 30:48 total time, which brought me in 29th place out of 128 in the 5k, and third in my age group. For a first race back with almost no training, I thought that was a pretty great place to start.

PT Gave Me A Badonkadonk

After all the deep thoughts in my last post, now for something completely different…

Is it possible that my PT exercises are giving me a badonkadonk? We are doing a bunch of exercises to strengthen my gluteal and hip muscles. I looked in the mirror after I got home from the gym today and I think it looks…bigger, somehow.

It’s definitely sore, and somehow I think I tweaked something because now my lower back is hurting. I’m all seized up like a 90 year old lady. So maybe it just looks like a badonkadonk because I can’t stand up straight.

It’s definitely sticking out.

I could swear it’s bigger…

So, just a word of caution – apparently PT for ankle problems can result in a bigger butt. Anecdotal evidence – my posterior.

But hey – the ankle feels better, at least!

I’m sitting on a hot pad, in hopes that will make it hurt less. Maybe it’s just swollen? I took an ibuprofen, maybe that will bring down the swelling.

All kidding aside, I really don’t care about the size that much. It needs to not hurt, though. I have a race I want to do tomorrow! Fortunately, I didn’t sign up yet, so if I can’t run I’m not out a fee or anything. But I hope I will be able to do it.

I’ll just register in the morning, if I can manage to get out of bed and roll this badonkadonk down to the start line.

Three Ways Running Is Like Drinking

I just realized as I was re-reading yesterday’s post that there are some similarities between running and drinking. So now I am thinking, why did I quit drinking in favor of running when in fact they are practically the same thing?

1) Drinking is Addictive. So Is Running.
When I first started drinking, I didn’t really like it very much. Beer tasted and smelled awful to me, wine was not much better, and I thought cocktails smelled like somebody’s grandpa. But, I stuck with it and eventually it got better. I started to crave it in certain social situations, even. Such as when having to talk to people. Eventually it got to where I was maybe not addicted but I was doing it too much and my body let me know.

It was the same with running. I started out not liking it, then my body got used to it and it didn’t bother me. Eventually, it got to where I found it pleasant and started to crave it.

2) Drinking is a Vasodilator. So Is Running.
I mentioned in yesterday’s post how drinking turns my face all red and puffy. Running does the same thing.

3) Drinking Affects Your Relationships. So Does Running.
People who drink a lot tend to gravitate to other people who drink a lot. That’s where the phrase “drinking buddy” comes from. You like the same things and you want to hang out with someone who can keep up. You need someone to go bar hopping with. And nobody wants to hang around that buzzkill who after listening to you complain about your latest hangover says, “well, maybe you should stop drinking so much.”

It’s the same with running. Only other runners will understand your obsession. Only other runners will actually be interested to hear the recap of your latest race. Only other runners willingly listen you spout off about your awesome fartlek workout or your litany of running-related aches and pains. Non-runners will hear you complain of these things and then say something logical, like, “well, maybe you should quit running.”

So there are my top three reasons why running is like drinking. Can you think of others? Add them in the comments!