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In some ways, my hip injury trained me for pregnancy. Prior to having to deal with a serious injury I was far more reckless in what I was willing to put my body through and how hard I was willing to push. Dealing with my FAI impingement and labral tear has shaped me into the runner that I am today. It taught me how to be patient and how to take things slowly. It taught me that I can’t take running for granted. It taught me how to deal with disappointment (not being able to run my first Boston Marathon) and how to keep going regardless. It taught me the importance of being my own advocate when it comes to my healthcare and to keep asking questions.
No matter what the challenge is – I am fully convinced in an “everything happens for a reason” sort of way that dealing with these struggles and setbacks and challenges are necessary to make us stronger athletes. Isn’t it the challenge of it all that draws us to the sport anyways?
What challenges are you dealing with lately? What setbacks have you turned into comebacks?
After rediscovering the gem that is the public library I have been on a major reading binge lately (because really, being able to get books for free is awesome). Looking for a little bit of inspiration, I spent this last week reading Eat and Run by Scott Jurek.
For those who aren’t familiar with Scott Jurek, he is one of the world’s elite ultra marathoners. This book first garnered my attention because there is something about reading about ultra marathons (and ultra marathon runners) that I am perversely attracted to. Rather than being horrified by the descriptions of extreme fatigue, hallucinations, and injuries, I am completely fascinated. While I have never personally ventured beyond the marathon distance, the concept of pushing one’s body to its limits during 50 mile, 100 mile, and 24 hour races is completely unfathomable in such a way that I am completely drawn to it.
I first became familiar with Jurek when I read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run (which is also a great book – if you haven’t read it check out my review here). In Eat and Run, Jurek chronicles his upbringing and his early days cross-country skiing and he charts his path toward becoming one of the world’s greatest ultra runners. He carries certain themes with him throughout the pages (such as his father’s words that “sometimes you just do things” and his own principles with food) that provide a consistent message throughout the memoir. Each chapter contains either a training tip or a vegan recipe (sometimes both) that helps bring his references within the text to life. He describes many of his races and the highs and lows that were associated with each. The book is also very emotionally raw at times – specifically when he describes the challenges he faced after losing his mother (who had MLS), his divorce, and his alienation from his best friend.
Ultimately, this book describes the lessons that running teaches us about life. Some parts are “feel good” and some parts are emotionally difficult. All in all I thought that Jurek did a nice job of showing the reader how running has shaped him.
What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations?
In my experience, most people who think that they hate running hate it because of the way they were “taught.” They were instructed to run laps as a warm-up or because they were late for practice, which resulted in them running as fast as they could so that they could get it over with, join their teammates, and begin their activity of choice. Running was a necessary evil – something that had to be done but not something that was ever valued on its own. Coaches may have made you run, but I’d venture to guess that they never explained why.
Many of us carry this mentality into adulthood. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have had someone profess to me how much they “hate” running. While running certainly isn’t for everyone, I am convinced that a substantial number of these individuals have never been taught to run correctly.
For example, the biggest mistake I see new runners make is trying to run too fast (or too far) too soon. They watch a Rocky montage, cue up Eye of the Tiger on their iPods, and sprint out the door. They lace up their shoes and start running as fast as they can for as long as they can (which usually doesn’t end up being very long). Huffing and puffing they return to their house feeling defeated, declare that they hate running, and never give it another thought. If this sounds familiar – I challenge you to try again.
So You Want to Be a Runner… (Here’s How):
1. Buy a Good Pair of Shoes.
It is essential that all runners have a good pair of running shoes. The 5 year old pair of Nikes sitting in the back of your closet probably aren’t the best choice for starting your fitness journey. Your shoes should fit properly and should be selected based on your gait type. (If you have no idea what I’m referring to – go to your local running store and get fit. Be sure to wear workout clothes, as many stores have treadmills on site and will be able to watch you run and analyze your foot strike prior to helping you select a shoe). Don’t be surprised if your running shoes are much larger than your street shoes. “Sizing up” is often done to avoid extra friction and blistering (my running shoes are a full size bigger than my street shoes). Another thing to keep in mind is that shoes typically have a lifespan of 300-500 miles and should be replaced regularly.
2. Establish a Routine.
Someone starting a running routine should not be trying to run every day. Although consistency is key (you won’t become a better runner by only running the occasional day here and there) it is also important not to try to do too much too soon. Running a few days a week (and taking rest days or cross training days in between) will be key to building a base without risking injury or burnout. The routine that you set should also fit within your lifestyle. If you know that you are not a morning person – suddenly trying to wake up before dawn 3 or 4 days a week is a recipe for disaster. If the early mornings are the only time you have available – ease into it the first few weeks. The most important thing is choosing a schedule that will help set you up for success.
3. Start Slow.
I can almost guarantee that if you “hate” running it’s because you are going too fast. New runners should not be worried about speed. Instead, the goal should be building up your mileage base. Base building mileage should be run at a comfortable talking pace. (Does this seem unfathomable to you? If so, you need to slow down!) Also, don’t be afraid to utilize a walk-run program where you alternate between running and walking segments (this doesn’t make you any less of a runner!) After my surgery, I followed a run-walk program where the running portion was only 30 seconds with 4 minute 30 second walk breaks in-between. Each session (or week, depending) then increased by 30 seconds on the run side and decreased by 30 seconds on the walk side until I was running for the full amount of time. Any program should be tailored to your current fitness and abilities (unfortunately, our adult bodies don’t seem to care if we were varsity athletes in high school). Joining a running group is also a great way to get started and many groups have specific subsets of newer runners (despite how it may seem from the outside, not everyone is always training for a marathon).
4. Set a Goal.
Signing up for a race can be a great way to keep motivated. Take a look at local races and pick one that sparks your interest. Even better – pick a race where you have the opportunity to fundraise for a favorite charity. Websites such asRunning in the USA are easy to use and have extremely comprehensive lists of local races. Just make sure to give yourself enough time to train (which in most cases will be a few months out from the time that you start your running routine).
(Seriously it’s that simple – the hardest thing is getting yourself out the door).
Are you a new runner? If so, what intimidates you the most? Are you a more seasoned runner? If so, what advice would you add to the list?
When runners first meet one another, one of the first questions asked is “what are you training for?” The funny thing is how perfectly willing we are to share our dreams and ambitions with these near perfect strangers when those who see us on a daily-basis (friends, family, colleagues) often do not know these nitty-gritty details of our running lives (or even know of these goals).
Right now when asked this question, I can’t help but laugh. My originally planned fall marathon happens to be the week of my due date (and despite my commitment to continue running through my pregnancy, I am not one who has any intention of training for a marathon while pregnant). So far, the answer has often come through others who are running along with me (“she’s preparing for birth” or “she’s preparing for being a mom”). Which has got me thinking… as runners, aren’t we always training for something more?
Running has trained me for my marriage. Running affords me an outlet for stress relief so that I don’t take *everything* out on my husband. It allows me time to reflect on the things, big and small, that are going on in our lives. It has taught me that not every day is going to be perfect or go as planned – but to keep moving forward because in the end it is always worth it. It has taught me the importance of encouragement (both as the encourager and the recipient). It has taught me the importance of working on my marriage the same way that I work on my training and that one cannot come at the expense of the other.
Running has trained me as an employee. Running has taught me to roll with the punches. It has taught me how to deal with difficult situations and has provided me an outlet when things get stressful at the office. Running helps me to release extra energy so that by the time I get to the office I can focus. It has taught me to break up seemingly daunting tasks into manageable portions. It has taught me to manage my anxiety and to handle my nerves about public speaking much in the same way that I handle my nerves before a race.
Running *is* training me to be a mother. It is keeping my body healthy and strong for the baby. It is teaching me to listen to my body, to its needs, and to the needs of the little life growing inside. Running is teaching me to live day by day and to be appreciative of what I can do, when I can do it. Running has introduced me to plenty of parents with children of all ages and has provided me a forum to exchange stories and to receive advice.
Running *is* training me for life. The lessons I have learned through running transcend the path. Dealing with setbacks, injury, uncertainty, nerves, triumphs has provided me with a foundation for addressing the surprises that life has thrown at me. It has taught me to be more flexible. It has taught me that even when things are going perfectly you may not get the end result you wanted and that even when things are going horribly everything may still end up okay (or better). It has taught me that all I can do is my best.
What has running trained you for? What are the most important lessons that you have learned?
Call me jaded, but I have come to question these race registration deals that seem too good to be true. All week long, a certain local half marathon has been blowing up social media advertising its “special registration” window in which it would be offering race entries for as low as a dollar (and in five dollar increments thereafter). Sounds awesome, right?
Not so much.
I logged into the site at exactly 10:00 a.m. (and was already on the site and ready to go minutes before, constantly refreshing the browser until the registration page opened). I quickly selected the $1.00 half marathon slot and entered all of my information. As I clicked the “next” button and I received a system error. I waited a few precious seconds to see if it would reload. I refreshed the browser window. I cursed at the computer. All to no avail.
By 10:03 I was already on the event Facebook page posting that there was a system error. I was the second comment (again, reaffirming my belief that I was one of the first ones on the site experiencing this issue). Throughout the morning, a flood of similar accounts came in from others who received similar error messages.
Hoping this was just due to an overload on the server I tried opening a new screen and reentered my information while keeping the first window open in case some sort of miracle happened (it didn’t). The second screen gave the “hold” message showing that entries were pending (which confirmed to me that during the first registration attempt I was actually “in” and registering prior to the spots being snagged up as “pending.”). After wasting about 30 minutes of time during the middle of my workday I called it quits (can I bill them for my wasted time?!?).
When things seem too good to be true…
Maybe I’m being a sore loser, but what I am most disappointed about is the way that this situation was handled. I’m not sure where the technological glitch came in (whether it was the race site or the external registration site) but regardless of who was at “fault,” I would at least expect some sort of statement from the race acknowledging that the error occurred and explaining (apologizing?!?) for what happened. I get that this kind of thing happens all of the time and while I am still pissed about not getting my $1.00 entry, a simple acknowledgement of the situation (or apology for the inconvenience) would have gone a long way. However, all the comments on the race’s Facebook page went unanswered and no “official” statement was ever made. Instead, the rest of the morning my Newsfeed was full of “updates” from the race further self-promoting its great registration offers and boasting its successful registration numbers.
Salt in the wound.
At the end of the day I know it’s not a big deal. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me and I know that there was a huge issue during the Chicago Marathon registration a few years ago. But I have to believe that there is a better way that these types of events can be handled (or at least better communication when the seemingly inevitable website crashes happen).
Has anyone else experienced a similar frustration when registering for a race? What is the best deal that you have been able to score when registering for a race?
This last week I made a big decision. I decided to sign up for the Oiselle Volee team.
I only started wearing Oiselle about a year ago when a friend started raving about their gear. Always a sucker for cute running apparel, I quickly started adding their pieces to my running collection. However, other than wearing their clothes I had never really paid much attention to the”team” component of the whole thing.
That all changed earlier this year when I was invited to fill-in on an indoor marathon relay team (you can read more about that event here). While I was nervous going in (especially as an outsider) I was immediately taken aback at how inclusive and welcoming everyone there was. The women that I met seemed genuinely supportive of one another (which was particularly refreshing given how increasingly uncommon this sentiment seems to be). The day was full of fun and positivity (not to mention a few awards) and the event really piqued my interest as to how to become more involved.
So last week when the e-mail went out that the team was accepting new members, I figured what the heck (well, what the heck after debating the registration fee- I have been trying to be more frugal with my money lately but at the end of the day I decided it was worth it). Even though due to my forced time off I have only been running easy distance on my own – the virtual community alone was enough to draw me in. I am fortunate enough to also be a member of the Dick Pond Racing Team (even though embarrassingly, due to so much time off I have not been very involved recently) and I understand the importance of teammates and camaraderie. Having recently run nearly every run alone, things have been getting pretty lonely. With Oiselle, I have already been able to virtually connect with a number of ladies both locally and across the country. Pretty cool. I’m excited to see what this new adventure brings.
I am fully aware the following discussion will likely generate a lot of controversy as it is a hot button issue for a lot of people. However, as the debate continues to permeate the fitness world I thought it important as both a (somewhat serious) endurance runner and a (not so serious) CrossFit athlete to offer my two cents.
I received an interesting article in my e-mail this morning with the subject line “In Defense of Specialization: How CrossFit Gets It Wrong Again.” It was written by Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running, a running coach and athlete who I have generally enjoyed following on social media and learning from. Immediately I had mixed feelings just from reading the headline. While drawing upon my foundation as a runner I believe that there is significant value in specialization – I disagree with the initial characterization that there has to be an “us vs. them” mentality. Why does defending specialization have to come at the expense of attacking another form of fitness? The article itself starts with (admitted) rants and name calling which to me detracts from the (sometimes) valid points that were made therein.
The article first attacks CrossFit’s mantra that it produces the “fittest athletes on earth” and proclaims that this can’t be the case because there are so many definitions of what it means to be fit (and each definition will vary depending on the context). The fittest marathon runner will not be the same athlete as the fittest sprinter. A hockey player cannot be compared with a baseball player. I understand this logic and whole heartedly agree that in evaluating fitness apples need to be compared to apples. Okay, so far (aside from the name-calling) I’m buying in.
Where I really start to disagree with the article is midway through where it states“…[b]ut ultimately, this line of thinking gets bogged down in mediocrity: If you want to be good at many things, then that’s possible. But it comes at the expense of being excellent at one thing.”
Is this true to some degree? Yes. Again, as a runner I am a believer in specialization (for my sport). Can someone who relies primarily on CrossFit run a marathon? Yes (and they may even be good at it). Will that person ever reach their potential as an endurance runner by relying primarily on CrossFit? Probably not. But who cares if that isn’t their goal to be the fastest runner that they can be? What if they want to (and enjoy) developing basic skills in a lot of areas? (As a side note, the athletes who perform at the Games are pretty darn elite and far from “mediocre”).
At the same time with regard to specialization, I know plenty of runners who do nothing but run who will also probably never reach their full potential. Even though they “specialize” in the sport insofar as they only run, they may not be doing speed work or tempo runs (or races for that matter). They don’t do plyometrics or agility exercises. There are plenty of “mediocre” runners who are perfectly happy with that because it is not their goal to be the best or the fastest athlete.
Which brings me to the real question – what’s wrong with being mediocre? Is the average CrossFitter a super athlete? No – because unless you are seriously competing CrossFit is not about being the best. It’s about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and developing a broad skill set. Can certain things be “dangerous” or “stupid” – absolutely. But this is not exclusive to CrossFit. It’s just as true with running (trust me- I have seen people do some pretty dumb things in the name of training) or any sport for that matter. The majority of us aren’t superstars. We run or lift because we want to be fit. We want to be the best version of our self that we can be. If this means trying to get faster or trying to hit a new PR – so be it.
The article concludes by stating “[i]
While in this post it may seem that I am defending a lot of things about CrossFit (namely because it was the subject of this particular attack) I am not oblivious to the fact that like runners who bash CrossFit, there are plenty of CrossFitters who bash runners. I have personally been the subject of comments along the lines of “I wouldn’t *always* be injured if I wasn’t running so much,” “I will never be as strong as I could be because I run (to which I could as easily counter “you will never be as fast as you could be because you lift too much”), or my personal favorite “running sucks.” But just as there are certain things that I will never *get* about CrossFit there are certain things that I cannot expect them to *get* about my running. And at the end of the day – the people have been nothing but welcoming and supportive and I have become a better athlete for it. So how is that a bad thing?
My conclusion: live and let live. In a society where people are becoming more sedentary by the day, we should be rejoicing in the fact that people are out there and working out regardless of the form it takes. Do what works for you. Support others in their own athletic pursuits. Because at the end of the day we are all in this together. We are all athletes.
What do you think? Specialization or All Around Training (or both)! What are your fitness goals and what do you do to achieve them?
In the spirit of core week, today I’m going to focus on some of the different exercises that you can do to strengthen your core. (Not just abs! Strengthening the core is all about strengthening all those muscles that hold you upright!) This week I challenged myself to do planks every day, progressing the length of the hold as the week goes on. However, there are far more core exercises aside from just the plank that you can do to keep your core strong and healthy:
- Swiss Ball Bridge (Lie on your back with your feet and ankles placed on top of a Swiss ball, exhale and lift your hips off the ground, inhale and lower your hips back into place).
- Abdominal Crunches (There are many variations of crunches. The key is to engage and isolate the proper muscle groups.)
- Leg Push-Aways (Lie on your back, with bent knees, alternate bringing your legs up until your thigh is in a vertical position. This is similar to an exaggerated “marching” motion.)
- Back Extension (“Superman”) (Lie on your stomach, lift your head, arms, torso, and legs – (so as to look like Superman flying) and increase your hold length as you become more comfortable).
- Russian Twists (Sit on the floor in a “v” position and lean back so that your torso is at about 45 degrees, move your arms slowly from side to side. Extra credit if you use a medicine ball!).
- Bird Dogs (Kneel on all fours so as to create a “table-top” position and keeping your spine neutral, raise your left leg and right arm and hold. Alternate and raise your right leg and left arm).
The key to creating and maintaining a core routing is discovering which exercises work best for you. For me, there are certain exercises that my lower back and/or hips just can’t tolerate (bicycle kicks, for example, leave my hips constantly popping and cause my back to ache). There are so many different options out there – so if one doesn’t feel good (as in injury-type hurt not strength building type hurt) find another exercise to substitute in.
The great thing about these exercises is that they can be done in a short period of time and you can do them just about anywhere. Additionally, there isn’t a whole lot of equipment required (usually only a Swiss-ball or medicine ball, if you choose) and nearly all exercises can be modified to do without any equipment at all!
However, keeping a strong core isn’t only about what you do at the gym. It’s about the choices that you make on a daily basis. Are you sitting up straight when you are at your desk all day, or are you hunched over? (This is one of my biggest issues and I am trying to make a conscious effort to do a “core check”throughout the day). How do you sit when you’re watching t.v. or driving? Do you stand up straight and engage your muscles when you walk, or do you allow bad posture to creep in? While committing to daily exercises is a great way to strengthen these muscles – core workouts typically only last 5-15 minutes. Don’t undo all your hard work by neglecting your muscles the other 23 and 3/4 hours of the day!
As always – I am not a personal trainer or doctor (there’s a reason I chose to go law school) so be sure to check with a doctor who knows your needs before starting any exercise plan! For more in-depth information (and specific programs) I would recommend checking out Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger, which has an entire section on basic core strength for runners, as well as Unbreakable Runner by T.J. Murphy and Brian Mackenzie (founder of Crossfit Endurance). Both of these books contain great information regarding strength training as well.
What are your bad core-habits? What have you done to try to address them? Any favorite core exercises I missed?
In these initial days following the marathon, I have been fortunate enough to have also had a slower work week (as in, less night meetings). This has provided me will extra time to indulge myself by engaging in other hobbies that have been long neglected, such as reading.
Over the last few days I have started reading the book Integrative Nutrition by Joshua Rosenthal. I came across the book on a whim (it was a coffee table book at the doc’s office that he kindly let me borrow) and it is far from my “typical” reading genre (which, like my TV habits, tends to be more on the guilty pleasure end of the spectrum). I must say that even just a few chapters in, there have been some very useful take-aways.
In short, the premise of the book is that eating well is critical to our health and well-being, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The book acknowledges the virtues of various diet “trends” (Adkins, Paleo, low-fat, South Beach, etc.) but notes that while all plans may “work” in the short term by virtue of the fact that they inevitably result in the individual paying close attention to their diet, diet is ultimately a very individualized thing. Some people may thrive on a plant based diet, while others may need greater amounts of meat. The key is tracking what you eat and how it makes you feel – making adjustments accordingly. There should be no “rules” and your body’s needs may change on a whim. This is not something we should be ashamed of and we should not become so stuck in our ways that we miss the opportunity to adapt.
It’s a simple truth, but it also provided a big “Ah-hah” moment with regard to my running as well (and especially as I am trying to figure out how to recover from this marathon). Admittedly, none of this is new. Nor is it “rocket science.” But it has taken me years, if not decades, as a runner to finally understand these principles…so maybe we are so hung up on finding “rules” to follow that we are blind to these simple truths?
1. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
What does this mean for race training and recovery? First, we have to stop comparing ourselves to others. Most of my friends on social media are also runners, so naturally my newsfeed is bombarded with status updates from friends discussing their latest workouts and training philosophies. While the sharing comes from a place of excitement on their part, it is all to easy to fall into the trap of comparing what you did to what they did (especially if you are training for the same type of race).