Slow Ride Take it Easy

Today’s tip is to slow down your run to increase benefits to your heart and body!

As I obsessed and worried about not being able to run faster, I did a lot of reading about the benefits of running vs walking and of running slow.  According to some research I read, the best workout for people of all ages is running but, there’s a catch to this research which really made me feel better.  One group of researchers followed a group of runners over a long period of time.  They found that the runners who ran in moderation showed more gains than those who ran more often and faster!  This made my heart sing.  When you are out there jogging along wondering why in the world you can’t go faster without taking the joy out of running, research like this gives you new purpose.  It also aligns with the work of Phil Maffetone and Jeff Galloway.  All I have to say is keep it coming!

According to what I read, the runners who ran 3-4 times a week at a slower pace had the most long term health gains.  Currently, I’m doing 4 slow runs a week (3 short, 1 long) with the goal to get back to 5 runs in the coming weeks.  I’ve been debating on the 5th run as my achilles is still a little tentative so reading this almost gave me permission to cross train instead that day doing something that doesn’t require me to be on my feet.  My husband is getting my bike road ready for use this summer and I’ve rejoined my yoga studio.

After experiencing two major injuries, I worry about the toll running might take on my body.  Slowing it down has kept me on the road injury free.  I’ve been dabbling with Galloway running, but like the slow, steady run better than the start and stop of interval running.  Galloway himself though has continue to run long after his 50th birthday and remains injury free, so I believe the slow, gentle philosophy rather than the focus on speed is in line with where I am at right now in my running life.  Right now my focus is on building up my distance to cover 26.2 miles.  If I get tired on the long run, I can switch to interval running and add more miles.

I must admit I do still look at the end of each run to see if my pace was faster than the last run, but don’t get discouraged about it any more.  I’m more excited when I see my training index on my watch and it says – moderate, not “extreme workout” like it used to. I’m also excited by the fat burn index which is much higher following a long slow run than a fast run.  For example, todays 2 mile run fat burn index was 25% compared to a faster 2 mile run fat burn index of 12%.   Not sure about the science aspect of that but I know it means an increase in fat burning at the slower rate!

If you have slowed down the run and felt the benefits please share below.  I’d love to chat with you about the impact it has had on you.

 

 

 

 

 

Weakest Link

A consultant I work with professionally has stated, “As a District, you’re only as good as your weakest school.”  Clearly, his philosophy aligns with mine in that he’s saying we are meant to lift others up, rather than leaving them to struggle.    During my morning run I reflected on this as I thought about my body.  Surely this thinking could also somehow apply to my physical wellness.  Therefore, I began to think about how I am only as strong of a runner as my weakest link.

What are the weakest links in our bodies and how does leaving them to struggle impact our mindset?  I can tell you these weak links can have a huge impact on they physical body and the mindset.  Pain is never welcome in our training plans.  The constant struggle with it invites those negative voices to start yelling inside.  You’re never getting past this, you’ll always get hurt, blah, blah, blah.  Ignoring the problem clearly hasn’t worked for me.  Being proactive and wearing certain shoes has helped somewhat, but not enough to eliminate the struggle.  Warm up and rolling has also helped, but still I’m experiencing some swelling.  This leaves me thinking that it is indeed about strengthening that weak link – lifting it up to join the party.

This connection really helped me focus today as I’ve been experiencing pain and swelling in my ankle near the site of my peroneal tendon.  I’ve been getting super nervous about it too.   Thinking about the weakest link theory, I spent the morning researching ways to strengthen my weakest tendon.  Yes, I’ve been rolling and stretching after runs, but I’ve done little targeted strength training for this tendon.  As I sit her soaking my ankle in Epsom salt post run, I’m excited about the new plans.

I found some cool exercises on Youtube that are perfect for me.  They involve my foam roller, bands and Bosu. These are all tools I have in the house so I was able to get right to work today!  It’s amazing how having a plan has already lifted my spirits.  I’m feeling hopeful that I will get this in control and not reinjure the tendon.  I ran a little faster today and lighter.  Here’s my current plans for my ankles and feet.   If you are suffering with any issues, feel free to join the party.  I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good one.

Warm-Up

I’ve been doing the Silly Toes warm up for over a year now.  It most definitely helps me stay healthy in my feet and ankles.  It’s super quick and fun.  I never skip the warm-up no matter how late I am getting out.  My new addition is to do this every single day, whether I am running or not.  A quick way to start the day off right.  Here’s my running coach demonstrating it beautifully.

 

Strength Training

I plan to incorporate strength exercises daily. They are super quick and can be done before bed, or after a run. I can even do them in my office if need be. For the resistance band section, I put both feet in my resistance band (red).

 

Post Run

I’m adding this to my rolling sessions after each run. I already shared my rolling protocols for my feet/ankles, but definitely will be adding this. I already did it today.

 

Stretching

Three times a week, if not more, I can do these stretches. I already tried them today.

 

In addition to all of this, I currently do try to do yoga toes pose after each run.  I can try to up this to days I don’t run as well.  It is quite an intense pose, but one I’ve come to love.  I guess what doesn’t kill me does indeed make me stronger.

 

What’s your weakest link?  Can you create a plan today to strengthen and lift yourself up?Please share below if you’ve already done so, or plan to start.

Resources Used in My Routines

Necessary Revisions

What’s getting in the way of your fitness growth?  Is it the bullshit stories you tell yourself?  Is your actual training plan causing you to lose motivation?  Lately, for me, it’s been a little of both, with a sprinkle of injury mixed in.

Running is often a solitary activity which challenges you on so many levels.  I’ve personally pounded thousands of miles these past two years alone.  This gives me a lot of time to think and get in touch with myself, but it also can be lonely.  While I don’t truly mind a nice long run with my music, there’s nothing like a nice long run with your running friends.  Time goes by so fast when you’re chatting it up and as an added bonus it takes your mind off the other stuff that comes up when running alone.

The problem I’ve had this past year, aside from injury, is that I was doing heart rate training.  This training really forced me to avoid group runs as I’ve had to slow my pace to a crawl to keep my heart rate in the right zone.  Worse still, it’s taken some of the fun and joy out of running for me.  I thought it was the training itself and slow pace of it that bothered me lately, but realize now it’s the connection to people I’m missing most.  Like everything else in life, human connection sparks excitement and motivation.  I’m missing my running tribe.

I’ve decided to rethink some of my training because I’m feeling like I’m in a running slump.  I’m losing motivation because I’m not feeling like I’m part of anything beyond solitary miles of running.  I miss running on the boardwalk with my running friends and running without constantly checking my HR watch to see if I’m in the right zone.  I’ve made running have way too many rules and somehow lost its joy in the process.  It’s time to take back control over how I train and find some balance in my plan.

First, I need to connect to people during some of my runs and move away from worrying that doing that would violate some HR rules.  On these runs, I plan to leave my HR chest strap home and concentrate on the beautiful scenery and conversation.  I also have some running clubs that I joined last year and  while I participated in online conversation, I never went to one run because I was worried about the plan I was doing and the targets I had to hit.  This year I plan to attend the group runs and not care if I’m at the back of the pack and again the chest strap can just stay home.  I will certainly run at a comfortable effort and not overdo it, but I don’t need that darn watching beeping constantly.  There are so many great people in both of my groups who are on a similar journey to mine.  I can’t wait to go, share the journey and connect on my first run tomorrow morning!

Next, I need to balance my training.  I’m not giving up on heart rate training because I know the research shows it is right for me.  Instead of doing only heart rate based runs, I plan to do a mix of different types of runs.  This should increase my motivation and rekindle excitement about running.  I plan to reread Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 book and work out a training plan that works for me.  The premise of the plan is to balance your training for growth, including tempo, easy and long runs.  I used to love running pick ups after each miles they really made it more interesting and spread the speed work across miles, helping me improve my pace without overtaxing my body.

I’m also really looking forward to doing some local fun runs this year.  I had stopped doing them in favor of doing larger races.  Since NYC marathon is my goal race this year, my focus is solely on that race.  I am not planning to do a lot of other races, just local races that I can enjoy.  There are so many wonderful races right here on Staten Island that I truly enjoyed in the past.  No stress with traffic or parking, just convenient fun workouts.  The first of these races is rapidly approaching and I’m super excited to do it with my team – Little Red Runners.  This will be our third year running this Memorial Day race and this year they’ve improved the after party.  Here’s our beautiful team at last year’s run:

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Finally, I’m coming to accept that I am a slow runner, always have been – even in my twenties.  It’s truly fine because an eight minute mile and a thirteen minute mile are truly the same thing – a mile.  It really doesn’t matter how long it takes, it matters that I’m doing it. I can put to rest this quest to run an eight minute mile because for now it’s just not going to happen.  I can’t make pace my priority anymore as it only serves to make me feel bad about myself.  Anything that removes enjoyment from my run is no longer welcome.  This journey is about being healthy and I’m not winning any race anytime soon.  My goal has always been to finish the race and stay healthy.  I have to go back to reminding myself of that.  I’ve even washed my favorite shirt and will likely wear it to the Memorial Day race in a few weeks.

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What’s holding you back from fitness growth?  Is it the bullshit stories you’re telling yourself?  Please share below and let’s get back on track together.

Book mentioned in article:

80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower

Tracking Fitness

During a conversation with my nutritionist, I came to realize that I needed to track more than just my nutrition.  I was telling her how much I work out and felt I wasn’t making enough gains.  I went over my workout schedule for the week and explained how hard I was working each day.  She looked at me and asked, “What about the rest of the day?  How active are you?”  I remember thinking, why does that matter if I work out each day for at least sixty minutes I should be good to go.  That simple conversation was a turning point for me.  I realized that despite running for an hour I didn’t get to sit and be a couch potato the rest of the day.  Clearly I had the wrong mindset.  I was seeing exercise as something I needed to do, rather than a lifestyle change.

I left the nutritionist’s office that day with a simple plan.  I was going to see just how active I really was by tracking my steps in a day.  She said the goal was 10,000 steps per day.  I ordered a simple step counter, set the target and tracked.  On days I ran, I had no issue hitting the 10,000 step target, however I noticed all my step activity was from the morning run.  On days I didn’t run, I was way under that target.  I quickly started adding more steps to my day by taking short walks several times a day, parking my car farther away from the store door and yes, even circling my bedroom before bed to reach the target.  I just love when the watch signals meeting the goal.  Such a simple addition to my day that increased my activity immensely.

Today’s tip is to get a step tracker and log your daily movement.  You will think 10,000 is easy and it very well may be.  But, like me, you may find you are thinking of exercise as something to check of your to do list.  On a day I didn’t run my step count was as low as 4K.  That was truly eye opening for me.  I guarantee with this simple addition to your fitness routine, you will increase your daily activity.  My husband got a Fitbit for his birthday and I am seeing him go through the same process.  He’s always checking his steps and now consistently hits 14K a day.  My dog is super happy for this fitness tip and should really get his own Fitbit because he gets so many walks now.

Are you tracking your steps?  What’s your daily goal?  Please leave a comment in the section below, I’d love to hear about your goals.

Fitbit Trackers

Fitbit Alta Fitness Tracker, Silver/Black, Small

Not ready to commit to an expensive tracker, try this inexpensive entry level Fitbit:

Fitness Tracker, MoreFit Slim Touch Screen Activity Health Tracker Wearable Pedometer Smart Wristband, Silver/Green

Tuesday Training Tip

One of the best tips I can give anyone who is starting an exercise program, is to be sure you build in adequate rest and recovery time.  In our zest to get started on a new exercise regimen we often over do it.  Unfortunately, this can lead to loss of motivation and interest in the workout after a very short amount of time.  When we exercise, we put stress on our bodies.  Rest days offer our body and muscles the chance to recover and repair.

Sadly, many people overtrain and push themselves too hard.   I was one of those who pushed myself so hard that exercise was actually making me sick.  I was working myself too hard and not taking any rest days.  My schedule was full of routines that I followed with no breaks in between.  Over time I began to notice symptoms of exhaustion and realized the exercise itself was the cause of my issues. Worse still, I suffered two major injuries that sidelined me from performing any exercise.

The term overtraining implies that the training itself is causing the issues, but it’s more about your body’s ability to recover.   Overtraining occurs when you have an imbalance between working out and recovery time.   It occurs when you put too much stress on your body and don’t give it enough time to recover between sessions.  If you overreach, or push yourself harder than your body is currently ready to handle you could begin to exhibit signs of overtraining.  In many cases, we tend to ignore these signs and chalk them up to normal new to fitness aches and pains continuing to push through sessions.  Left unattended though, theses symptoms could begin to snowball and have a serious impact on your state of well being.   There are some common symptoms that you should be aware of and that might be an indication that you are overtraining:

  • Trouble sleeping – This is a big one for me.  I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping and been extremely restless lately.  This is a huge indicator that I need to step it back a bit.
  • Body aches – Again, another indicator that I’m over doing it.  I feel this coming on usually after lunch at work, I feel achy and tired and just plain exhausted.
  • The workout is a struggle – When I go out for an easy run and find myself struggling, this could indicate the need to take a rest day.  The other day I got on the treadmill to do a 30 minute easy run and had to stop after 20  minutes as it was a real struggle to get it done.  Struggling through your normal routine could be a red flag that you might be overtraining.
  • Loss of motivation – You used to be excited for your workouts and now you find yourself dreading them.  It could be an indication that you need to change up your routine, or it could mean you are overtraining.
  • Hormone imbalance – When I was working with a doctor to monitor my hormone levels, there was a noticeable spike in my levels at one point.  I remember her asking me about my running.  Specifically, she asked me if this was a new activity and how much I was doing.   I had adrenal fatigue and this new exercise routines was impacting my hormone levels negatively.  Overtraining can cause hormone imbalance such as increases in cortisol and decreases in testosterone.  I recommend getting in to see your doctor if you suspect you are experiencing overtraining symptoms.
  • Weight gain – If you are working out and experiencing these types of symptoms, you could experience weight gain.  Hormone imbalance could be part of the cause.  In my case I’ve experienced abnormal hunger or cravings for sweets.   I get sleepy after meals, and often crave carbohydrates such as pasta.  More scientific explanations discuss your body taking on extra water weight as it struggles to repair.

I’m coming off a week of vacation during which I worked out pretty hard most days.  I’ve noticed an increase in aches and pains and an inability to sleep this week.   I’m also feeling exhausted.  In reflecting, I believe I overtrained and did not allow enough time for my body to properly recover.  Observing these subtle clues my body is sending  and acting upon them in these early stages is crucial to the prevention of further regression.

How much time you need to recover depends on many things, including your personal health and fitness levels.  For me, when I was in full training, I was able to run at an easy heart rate 5 times a week.  I would take two full rest days and be fine.  Right now, I’m coming off an injury and even though I did some easy work, I was not in a full training schedule.  Despite this, I jumped right back into training without taking into account that my body wasn’t ready yet.  This led me to overreaching and a feeling of exhaustion.  I also had some radiating pain in my lower calf the past two runs.  These symptoms were my body telling me I was overdoing it.  Thankfully, I am aware of these symptoms and know to slow it down.  I plan to redo my schedule to reflect my body’s needs.

This week’s training tip is to be sure you incorporate active recovery and full rest days in your weekly workout schedule.  Also, be aware of the symptoms of overtraining and take immediate action when you feel them, including checking in with your doctor.

Have you ever felt like you were overtraining?  Did you get injured?  Or, were you able to recognize the symptoms and make changes?

Recommended Reading:

https://philmaffetone.com/the-overtraining-syndrome/

Also, this book was good. Don’t let the title sway you, it’s not just for runners.

Unusual Effect of Running: Running for Beginners (Personal Development Book): Healthy Living, How to Lose Weight Fast, Feeling Good, Increase Endurance

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