The Adventure Zone

My basic running routine is running on the treadmill 2 or 3 days a week at my local YMCA, with one long outdoor run on the weekend. This is basically for child care reasons. The Y has free child care but I have to stay inside the building, therefore, the majority of running has to be done indoors. They have a big indoor jungle gym called the Adventure Zone where my younger son Oleg plays while I work out. Therefore, we call going to workout “going to the Adventure Zone,” which makes it all sound fun and exciting (and less like I am pawning him off on the nice ladies so I can run).

This arrangement works out pretty well, even if it is slightly less thrilling than the title of this post would suggest. Oleg has a good time there, makes friends and gets some energy out. I get a little time alone (albeit around a bunch of other people) and get my run on. I still would prefer being outside most days, but this time of year it takes the sting out of being stuck on the treadmill when I look out the window and see heavy grey clouds, and rain, and wind. Although today was actually pretty nice – windy and cool, but sunny. But for most of the last couple of weeks the weather has been crap, which makes being a hamster on a wheel seem less tedious.

I usually try to do various things to keep my interest level up while I am on the treadmill. Sometimes I try to work on speed a bit, other times I might focus on form, and sometimes I just do a boring run where I hold the same pace the whole time. Zzzzzz…anyway, I usually try to keep my brain engaged somehow.

Today I worked a bit on form, wearing the Merrell barefoot glove shoes that I have, and also ran some tempo pace pick ups. I can’t hold any kind of pace for a very long time in these shoes – my feet get too tired. You are supposed to land more forward on the balls of your feet rather than pounding down on your heels, which is what I typically do. Since I am hoping to work up to the half and then full marathon distance within a year, I am hoping doing some runs in these a couple times a week will help me to get a bit lighter on my feet and improve form so I can stay injury free.

I like the barefoot shoes a lot, I like how they make me feel more engaged with what my body is doing. But I don’t think I would try to run very far in them – it would probably take years to improve my foot strike enough to where that wouldn’t be colossally stupid. But, I figure I can run a few miles a week in them to sort of change things up and maybe get some incremental form improvement out of it. And that would be a good thing.

I also worked a bit on keeping my legs a bit wider apart, so between the two, it was actually quite difficult to do at the pace I was running. I am definitely feeling it now in my feet and ankles, as well as my hips. No pain, just that feeling when your body lets you know you were doing something different.

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Do you run on the treadmill? What do you do to keep it interesting?

Wednesday and Thursday Workouts

Wednesday was a cross training day. I’m slowly building my mileage back up, and this time trying to do it safely so as not to injure myself again, so I only run 3 or 4 days a week. On days when I don’t run I usually do 30 minutes of some kind of low impact cardio, followed by strength training and exercises to strengthen my hips.

So yesterday’s workout was 30 minutes of stairclimber, followed by weights for the upper arms and shoulders, and a workout for core and hips using the Swiss ball and resistance band. And planks. Which I hate because they hurt, which probably means I need to do more of them.

Today was a treadmill workout. What I usually do on Thursday is start out walking, and then speed up gradually until I am basically running at my usual moderate tempo, then add in a couple of intervals to work on speed. When that is over I do some strength training. Today was leg machines, core and hips.

I work on core and hip strength every day because my belief is that weak hips caused my injury last spring. The stabilizing muscles were too tight in the front and inside of the hip (hip flexors and adductors) and too weak in the rear and outside (the hip abductors and external rotators).

You can actually see the problem in pictures of me running from last spring – my knees cross the midline while my hip is sort of poking out to the side – I.e., the left hip is dropping down when the right bears the load, and vice versa. I also overpronate and heel strike, so pretty much I have/had the trifecta of running gait flaws going on. A hot mess. So I’ve been working on strengthening these muscle groups and actually focusing on pushing off more to the rear and outside when I run. Turns out that even though running is a natural exercise that the human body is built to do, there’s still a lot of stuff to work on and think about if you want to actually improve. Or at least, go long distances without hurting yourself.

So anyway, yesterday was stairs and strength training. Today was treadmill and strength training. And tomorrow will be running and elliptical and strength training. Then comes Saturday, a rest day before I do my long(ish) run on Sunday. Good times.

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The First Mile

As I was logging my miles on the treadmill today, I was thinking that I completely understand people who say they hate running. Even though I have personally come to love it, if all I had to judge by was how I feel when I first started out, back when just running a mile was a struggle, I would hate it too. One of the things I am grateful for in my life is my time in the Air Force, many years ago, when I discovered running longer distances could actually be enjoyable (I ran cross country in junior high, but never enjoyed it).

Since leaving the Air Force, running (and cycling to a lesser degree) has always been my go-to sport, due to the fact you can do it anywhere and don’t need special equipment. During the period earlier this year when I started back to running, I at least knew that if I put in the miles, eventually things would get easier and I would hopefully enjoy it as much as I used to. So that helped me stick with it when things sucked. There was the hope that the suckage would give way to enjoyment, and the memory of it having happened in the past. So I stuck with it and sure enough it got better.

But even now, the first mile of any run is always a bear. During that first mile is when my body likes to weigh in and let my brain know how unhappy it is to once again be doing this running thing. It does its best during that first mile to convince me to quit, usually with a little pain here and there. Today it was my shins complaining first, then a twinge in the hip, then a little ache in the foot.

Then miraculously after the first mile, the pain went away and things got easier. As I knew it would.

My typical strategy for dealing with the first mile is just to go as slow as I need to until things loosen up. I find this is particularly true on the treadmill since I do not have the distraction of scenery to keep my mind off any discomfort I may be experiencing. Once I am warmed up, I can pick up the pace and go. But I need to give myself plenty of leeway during the first mile to get both brain and body in gear.

What do you do to overcome that little voice that tells you to give up or quit?

Today’s workout

TREADMILL 5 min. warmup walking, 3 miles running, 5 min. cool down.

TOTAL Distance: 3.54mi, time: 43:08, pace: 12:11min/mi, speed: 4.92mi/hr

Strength Training: Legs, hips, back