Week 9: Half-marathon training update

I’ve never appreciated these beauties more than after my runs!

First off I want to apologize for the tardiness of this post! I was on a mini vacation this weekend and work has been crazy busy since I’ve been back so I didn’t get to post about last week’s training. If you read any of my posts last week you know I tweaked my knee during a race on July 28 so last week was kind of a dud training-wise.

I knew I had hurt my knee the minute I started feeling the pain. While I’m still not completely sure what I hurt, it felt like an IT band syndrome flare up. So, in an effort to avoid hurting myself even more I decided to take a break from training for a few days and focus on strengthening and cross training.

Most of my week consisted of cross-training, yoga and strengthening exercises. However, after resting for a few days I decided to try an easy run with my knee on Tuesday. Bad, BAD idea. I wasn’t two minutes into the run when I felt the sharp pain in the outer side of my right knee. I stopped after only a mile, feeling defeated, upset and  kind of concerned. I abandoned the run and turned to some strengthening exercises instead.

I took another few days off, making sure to ice my knee every day and stretch a lot. I focused on doing yoga for runners from Lululemon and other strengthening exercises. On Friday, I decided to try running again because I thought my knee was feeling a little better. I was on vacation in Maine and decided to take a 3-mile run along the beach, staying on the sidewalk. My knee was still sore but I was able to make it through the run, stopping halfway to stretch. I knew this was a good sign and that my knee was starting to heal.

After my run I did some yoga outside which was really good because I was able to stretch out my IT band. Saturday, after watching the women’s Olympic marathon, I was motivated to get out on the road again. I decided to do a longer, easy run that circled a 5.5-mile loop on the road, a gravel trail and a natural trail. This was really great on my knee because incorporating the trails lessoned the impact on my knee.

I felt really great on this run, especially towards the end when I really got my stride back and felt like I was just coasting. I wrote about it in another post but I think this injury has helped me to appreciate the gift of running. Having to take a few days off killed me but once I got back on the road I was able to cherish every stride. I also am lucky to be able to go running in beautiful places and I was able to enjoy my surroundings and really take it all in. I think sometimes us runners take our gift for granted. But having to be out of running commission for a little bit I was able to really appreciate every step I took. And I’m sooo happy to be back on the road! Happy running!

Monday Motivation: just finish it

We all know that training can be hard and there are times when we may think, I just want to rest! But it’s important to remember why we set goals for ourselves- to challenge our body and our minds. While the Olympics are so inspirational and make me feel like I can get out there and run a marathon in 2:23:07 (which I most DEFINITELY cannot), I also know I will never be at that level. But i can find comfort in knowing I am challenging myself and I can get to my own level of achievement, whatever that may be. I liked this saying in the pin below because while we may not turn out to be Olympians, we are still achieving more than those who never start. Happy running this week!

“Dead last finish is greater than did not finish, which trumps did not start.”

(via Pinterest)

Back on track: 3-mile run after knee injury

Post-run yoga outside after my 3-miles

Last weekend I tweaked my knee during a race and it was extremely painful. I’m still not 100 percent sure what I did but it feels like an IT band irritation. In an effort to not hurt it even more I decided to forgo my 12-mile run last weekend and do some real resting.

It was absolutely killing me not running. I saw other runners out on the road and I just wanted to get up and go. But I knew if I started up I could risk hurting myself even more so I really rested.

Today was my first day back on the road and I decided to do a 3-mile run along the beach (on the road not the sand). I woke up, had some coffee and a few glasses of water. I went outside and it was really humid and already 85 degrees at 8:30 a.m. but I went ahead and did my stretches and headed out.

Starting out my knee felt fine and I was just so happy to be back running. About 1-mile into the run I started to feel the pain in my knee, but it wasn’t so strong that I felt like I needed to stop. So I kept going. Around mile 2 my knee was really starting to bother me so I decided to stop and do a few stretches. After stretching I started my final mile and my knee felt the best it has it days. I don’t know if it was the stretching that helped or my adrenalin kicked or what but I felt great!

Overall, I thought the run went really well! I was so happy to get back on the road even though I was only out for five days but it felt great. After the run I did some outdoor yoga and other stretches to make sure my knee was going to be OK. Moral of the story? When you’re hurt, rest. Don’t overdo it because you could get even more injured. I’m hoping to get out running again tomorrow and try to do a longer run along the coast.

I hope everyone else is having good runs this week. Happy running!

Week 8: Half-marathon update

via Pinterest

This was quite a crazy training week. It involved only three days of running unfortunately, one race and a whole bunch of yoga and strength training.

Monday was technically a rest day so I decided to do my typical rest day routine of recovery yoga and core exercises. It was uneventful but a good workout. Tuesday I planned to run a tempo run after work but I ended up having to stay at work much later than usual and consequentially got stuck in traffic so I decided to nix the run because I was exhausted. Instead, I came home and did some core exercises and rest up for the next day.

Wednesday was my day and to be honest I went hard with my training. I went to the gym after work with my sister and did my first ever pick-up run which was pretty intense. I wrote a post about it earlier in the week that you can check out if you’re interested in trying out a pick-up run, but basically this is what I did:

3-mile run with one interval each of 60s, 120s, 120s, 60s, 45s, 30s and 15s

I really enjoyed the pick-up run because it pushed me to test myself and my speed. I was able to keep up an intensity level of ‘8’ during each interval. After running, I did a whole bunch of strengthening exercises with my sister, including some lifting. As a runner, it’s just as important to build muscle as it is to work on speed and mileage. Muscles will help your body respond to runs and support your joints.

Thursday I woke up early and did a 3-mile run that included some hill workouts. It went really well but after the run, my right knee was bothering me a little. I did some post-run stretches which seemed to ease the pain.

I took a break on Friday with some power strength yoga and core exercises, which was perfect because it was a long week at work so it felt great to relax and sweat it out at the same time. I also had to gear up for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics!

Post Color Run color madness!

Saturday I had to wake up super early to get ready to run the New England Color Run in Amesbury, MA (post to follow). In short, the race was tons of fun! I ran it with a group of friends and we were doused in color. We came away with some great photos and memories. Unfortunately, I also came away with a pretty significant knee strain on my right knee. I’m hoping it’s just a strain and nothing serious but it’s pretty painful right now.

Due to the knee strain I decided to make the smart decision to skip my 12-mile run I was supposed to do today. I still have two months until the Smuttynose Half Marathon and risking injuring myself even more is not worth it right now. I was bummed though because I’ve been looking forward to this run all week. After icing my knee all morning I went to the gym and did some cross training (3 miles on the elliptical in 25 minutes) and then a ton of strengthening exercises for my arms and core.

In this week of training what I’ve come away with is, it’s so important to listen to your body and if you have a strain or pain it’s better to take it easy rather than pushing your limits and your luck. Fingers crossed my knee will be better by tomorrow and I can get back on track! (No pun intended!)

Happy running!

Pick Up Runs: Increase speed over long distances

Throughout my training for the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon in September, I’ve been doing various interval workouts and tempo runs to increase my the speed of my mile times. I’ve written about tempo runs in previous posts and explained some of my interval training but the one speedwork run I didn’t mention was the pick up run.

Admittedly, my training has been calling for me to work in pick-up runs throughout the last seven weeks but instead of doing them I did longer runs or other kinds of speedwork. I didn’t do them because I wasn’t really sure what they were and I was already doing two kinds of speedwork training so I thought, why add another? Turns out, they are the best way to increase speed over longer distances. Last night however I did my first pick-up run on the treadmill and it was pretty hard but it felt great after!

Similar to an interval run, a pick up run helps to increase your body’s tolerance to lactic acid buildup without cooling down completely in between intervals. Through this practice, your body will become better able to run at higher speeds without getting tired. The difference between a pick up run and a regular interval run is the total distance of the run and the amount of time spent at the interval speed.

How do you tackle a pick up run you may ask? Well, to begin, start with an easy warm-up running at a comfortable jog. Once you’re warmed up, pick up your speed to a “controlled sprint.” This is another difference between an interval or tempo run and a pick up run. With a tempo run you want to run the intervals at a “comfortably hard” pace, not a sprint. With a pick up run you want to run at a “controlled sprint” during the intervals. What’s a controlled sprint, you’re now asking? A controlled sprint means you’re running at a very hard pace, an “8” or “9” intensity level, but not dying basically.

After you run the interval for the designated amount of time you want to slow your pace down to a comfortable jog, but do not stop running. With an interval run you can get away with walking in between intervals but with a pick up run you want to keep running. Another great thing about pick up runs is you can take as much time as you need in between intervals. This is important because during each interval you have to stay at the “controlled sprint” pace, so resting in between is crucial.

Here’s are some examples of pick up runs to test out:

  • A 4-mile run with 1 set of 60s, 120s, 120s, 60s, 45s, 30s, 15s sprints. (Translation: A 4-mile run with 1 set of 60 second sprints, then slow to a jog to rest for however long you need, then 1 set of 120 second sprints, then slow to a jog, etc.)
  • 10 sets of 60s sprints with 90s jog in between sets, 2-mile cool down run
  • 1-mile warm-up with 6 sets of 90s sprints and 120s of jogging in between sets, 1-mile cool down

As always, stretch after! If you have any questions or comments, write them in the comment section below!

Week 7: Half-marathon update

This was week was definitely a redeeming week after my rough long run last Saturday. Although I only ran three days this week (I really wish I could have run more) but according to my training that’s all I was supposed to do.

I started off the week on Monday with a tempo run at my local track. It was a risky move since the sun was boiling down on the track raising the temperatures above 90 degrees, but besides sweating my butt off it was a good run. I ran 400-meter intervals for 2.14 miles. my average pace was 9:21 per mile and my fastest pace was 6:57 per mile. Considering the heat I thought this was pretty good!

On Tuesday I woke up early to do some power yoga before getting ready for work. It was just one of the Lululemon YouTube videos but it was definitely good for some strengthening. I couldn’t run after work unfortunately because I had to cover a meeting that went until 10 p.m. But work has to come first.

Wednesday I braved a torrential downpour to meet my cousin, who is also running the half-marathon with me, at the gym. She had to do her tempo run for the week and I decided to do a quick 2-mile run. After my run we moved over to the conditioning area and did some weight-lifting, ab work and of course stretches.

On Thursday, my training program called for more yoga so I did another strengthening class. It was great and I can tell it’s been helping my breathing while I run. I gave myself a 100 percent rest day on Friday because my long run on Saturday was definitely going to be intense.

So here it was, my long run- 12 miles. I have to admit I was really excited because I knew my training thus far has prepared me for this run and I was ready. I had never run 12 miles before and the route was going to be hilly but I couldn’t wait to tackle it. I woke up at 7:30 a.m. to get ready before the run. I had a cup of coffee and a bunch of water and headed out. My cousin and I mapped out the run on Map My Run so we knew the route would work out to 12 miles.

The run was absolutely beautiful! I wish I had a camera to capture the breathtaking views we had along the ocean, through the harbor and by the lighthouse in York, Maine. It was awe-inspiring. These amazing views also helped me to keep going along the run, especially when my legs began to feel heavy around mile 8. I also may have experienced some dehydration especially at mile 7 when I really started to feel thirsty. My cousin never drinks water along runs but I really need it. We still had about a mile to go before we would reach a water fountain so I just pushed myself to that point.

Once we got water and I stretched out my legs a bit, I felt great and ready to go. We only lost a few minutes for our stop but this was good because the hardest part of the run was still ahead of us. During the last 4 miles, we had ascents of 165 feet and descents of 195 feet. This was hard on my quads and my knees but I made it through. However, my cousin got about 5 minutes ahead of me which started to get me down a bit but I reminded myself that this was for me and the only competition should be against myself.

After the hills the last two miles were an absolute breeze! I was definitely in the zone because I ran these last two miles faster than any of the other miles. In fact, when I got home I realized I ran a negative split! I was excited about this because I had never run a negative split and this is going to be really good for my half-marathon.

In the end I ran the 12 miles in 2:00 flat (minus a few minutes for water and stretching). This was very exciting because my goal is 2:30:00 for the full half-marathon so I think I’m in pretty good shape! I still have just over two months to go until the race but now I can focus on increasing mileage and speed. I learned a lot this week though. I need to fix my hydration situation and I need to focus on my own goals and not be intimidated by other faster runners around me. Remember, a training run is not a race! Happy running!

Basics of foam rolling for runners

I finally ordered my first foam roller! This is a big step in my life as a runner because it’s really something every runner should have at their disposal. When used properly a foam roller can be your best friend (even if you may hate it at times). It hurts so good! It can be your own personal masseuse and it able to roll out those muscles you hold so dear during your weekly runs. Before you go rolling though, you should definitely check out this fantastic infographic from one of my favorite fitness websites the Greatist. This graphic shows you different ways to use a foam roller and the different kinds of foam rollers you can buy. You can purchase a foam roller at most specialty running stores. I didn’t have time to stop by my local running store this weekend so I purchase mine on Amazon. Mine was an OPTP Pro Foam Roller and I loved the bright green color, but there were other colors as well. Get rolling!
Foam Rolling Infographic

Get health and fitness tips at Greatist.com.

Lululemon yoga for runners

As I’ve been training for the half-marathon in September, I’ve been using the Lululemon SeaWheeze half-marathon training app on my iPhone. On the non-running days it suggests doing yoga to help stretch and strengthen the muscles in your legs. Unfortunately, my gym doesn’t offer yoga or any group fit classes so on these yoga days I usually just ignored it and went running anyways.

That was until I discovered the Lululemon YouTube channel! What a treasure! They have a bunch of yoga videos geared specifically toward running the half-marathon, as well as other yoga videos. I had used some of the short post-run yoga, or what they like to call “Run into Yoga (RINY)”  in the app but I never explored outside of it.

When I found these videos last night I decided I would wake up early this morning to do a power yoga video because today was supposed to be a “rest” day. It was fantastic!  In the app, Lululemon describes power yoga as “a high-intensity, fast-paced style that emphasizes overall body strength and stamina.” They also say it’s a great way to build “balanced strength” which is especially good for runners. My legs have been super tight this week and I don’t know about you but those pesky hip-flexors are the hardest to stretch out but this power yoga video was great for that.

Posted below is the power flow yoga video I did this morning. I would also highly recommend visiting Lululemon’s YouTube channel, hit subscribe and give yoga a try.

Running through the heat: tips for runners in the summer

People in the Midwest and along the East Coast are finally getting a reprieve from the heat wave that has blanketed the eastern half of the country for the last few days. Record-setting temperatures caused at least 46 deaths across the country and banished many people to air-conditioned homes and away from the outdoors.

For runners and athletes, a bout of heat like this can either easily derail any training plan or cause runners to think the heat won’t have any affect on them, which can be very dangerous. Whether you forced yourself to exercise in an air-conditioned gym over the last week or pushed your limits and foolishly ran during peak daytime hours of the historic heat wave, I have some tips for training in the heat.

First off, it’s important to know what exactly is happening to your body when you run in the heat. According to an article on the Greatist, “Exercising in high heat and humidity intensifies how hard the body needs to work to maintain normal function.” The article explains that during workouts the body’s temperature rises naturally, but on a hot day, this happens much more quickly. In an effort to cool the body down, the body sweats and pumps blood to the surface of the skin.

Despite this, there are many ways to avoid over-extending yourself and staying on track with training. Here are some tips and tricks!

  • Hydrate– When it’s hot out, the number one most important thing everyone should do, not just runners, is hydrate. I can’t emphasize this enough! Hydration is so important during runs on hot days, no matter how long the run is. Plus, if you hydrate before your workout you’ll be able to go longer and harder, so do it! I went on a 10 mile run on Saturday and made sure at the half-way point I could get water.
  • Run early or late (but really just run early)– I prefer running early in the morning, before the sun has had a chance to turn the road into it’s own personal stove top. I feel that the temperature is coolest early in the morning. Also, early morning runs are great because they allow you to get out, get your run done early and then enjoy the rest of the day at the beach or outdoors. Plus, running in the morning teaches your body how to effectively burn fat and jump start your metabolism for the day and there’s nothing wrong with that!
  • Stretch– It’s always important to stretch but especially important when it’s hot out. To avoid injury in the heat, stretch before and after your runs. If you stop for water mid-run, I’d also suggest stretching quickly before heading out again.
  • Provide your body with plenty of electrolytes– When your body sweats you lose a lot of the electrolytes (salts and minerals) in your bloodstream. If your body runs out of electrolytes you may start to feel dizzy and disoriented because your body cannot bind liquids well anymore and your blood thickens. If you’re going to run early it’s important to get some electrolytes into your body before your run. Electrolytes can be found in many sports drinks, fruit juices, mile (I like chocolate milk because there’s some sugar there too) and other fruits and veggies. All of these are also low enough in calories to avoid any cramping.
  • Fuel your body, don’t starve yourself– After a run on a hot day, sometimes my stomach feels weird. Instead of not feeding yourself, replenish your body with nutrients you used during your run. You may have to wait a little after your run to do this but it is so important to re-fuel so you’ll be ready for your next run.
  • If you can, adjust your location– Near my house, our streets are lined with trees, providing some shade from the blazing sun. If you can, map out your running route in an area that provides some shade. Also, be sure to wear sunscreen because no one likes sunburns.
  • Take it easy– As I always say, listen to your body. If you start out on a run and feel fatigued, take a breather. Don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion because if the heat doesn’t derail your training plan, an injury sure will.

Week 4: Half-marathon update

This week was extremely successful in terms of my training. I was able to fit in four runs this week, which was really great and on my days off I did yoga. I have always been interested in using yoga with my run training but never really tried it. However, it is included practically every other day in the LuluLemon SeaWheeze Half-marathon training app that I’ve been using so I figured I’d give it a shot. Turns out yoga really does help! The stretches are designed for runners and get at those hard to reach muscles in your legs. Yoga also helps to stretch out the IT band and hamstrings. Not to mention it’s a great relaxer and helps runners focus on their breathing.

As far as my runs went this week, I was really impressed. I logged 19 miles in total, breaking down to a 4-miler on Tuesday, two 3-milers on Wednesday and Friday, and the grand finale, 9-miler on Saturday.

My Saturday run was the farthest I’ve ever ran and it felt absolutely fantastic. I ran 9 miles in 1:30:00, which I know is pretty slow but I wanted to take it easy. Intellectually, I knew I would be able to do it because the weekend before I ran 7 miles. However, the night before the run I had a nervous pit in my stomach. I had told family and friends that this run would be my first “long” run and it was kind of make or break. Most of them were supportive but others seemed to doubt me. Nine miles is a long way, I clocked it in my car the day before to get a sense of just how far it would be and realized, “Wow, this is not just a run, it’s freaking long!” But when I woke up on Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. my first thought surprised me. The first thing I thought was, “I get to run today.” I was excited! I wanted to prove the doubters wrong and prove myself wrong.

When I finished the 9 miles I felt great. I wasn’t winded, my legs felt good and I realized I just ran 9 freaking miles! I even finished the run with a huge smile on my face because I honestly couldn’t believe I did it. The best part about it was, there’s only 4.1 miles left to 13.1.

This week I’m planning on doing a tempo run on Monday and then I have a race on the 4th of July in Maine. It’s only 4 miles so it should feel pretty easy compared to 9! In other news, I just started to read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall and it’s pretty fascinating. Maybe I’ll write a review for a post once I finish?