If you come out of reading this post remembering only one thing, I hope it is to find something positive and to be happy about with each and every run ( or other workout) that you do. I have been doing a lot of thinking about running, and finally after running since high school. . . almost 16 years (!!!), I am happy with my running. As I mentioned last week, I have been spending a lot of time focusing on the quality and effort of my runs versus the number of miles or minutes I spend running. I first started thinking about this when I attended Bucknell Cross Country camp in high school. Just imagine a co-ed group of teenage runners staying at a university for a week, running twice a day and spending all day learning about running technique, injuries, racing strategies, and nutrition. It was a blast!!! The coaches there spent a good deal of time talking about quality versus quantity and also training appropriately for avoiding injuries and burnout.
To help me track my running progress, I have come up with a points system. I can not stress enough how entirely personal this points system is, and I really think it is going to be helpful for me to keep track of how many points I earn for each run and to look at my averages over time. Below are the guidelines, with Monday’s run broken down within my guidelines. I still take into account the duration of my workout, but I feel as though it is VERY important to factor in a variety of other conditions.
1 point for every mile or x # of minutes- for me 1 point for every 8.5-ish minutes
.5 point for every big uphill or stretch of rolling smaller hills
2 points for excessive heat and humidity, for me hotter than 85
2 points for a strong headwind
1 point for running after working an 8 hour day
2 points for running after a 10+ hour work day
1 point for completing part of the run (1/4 mile or more) on the beach
2 points for getting out there and running when you REALLY don’t want to!
Minutes- 7 points
1 point for running up Beacon Hill and running a small string of rolling hills in South Boston
1 point for running after a 9 work day
1 point for running on the beach for about 10 minutes, woooo muscle worker!
Total: 10 points
Monday’s run actually ended up being relatively easy and felt great. I did walk for a minute after every ten minutes of running (I always do), and in each minute of walking, I loved being able to feel my stride change and my calves stretch. To me walking is just as important as running to my race training. I tend to walk through every water stop in long races to make sure that I get a good drink without spilling (I still usually end up covered in water and Gatorade :))
At camp we also learned to run all of our long runs at “fat coach pace”, a term coined by Coach Art Gulden who was funny and tough and whose house we all went to as our starting point for running in the Pennsylvania woods. He has since passed away, but I still often think of the running lessons I learned at camp. Fat coach pace, for me 30-40 seconds slower per mile, is the way I run all of my long runs, anything 8 miles or more. Slowing down to go long helps me to be able to finish these runs without getting injured and keeps me fresh enough to keep going with my training. This is especially important, I think, when training for a marathon, which is an extended period of time spent putting consistent stress on your body. In the beginning, the pace feels too slow, but trust me, when you are at mile 21 of a training run you will be glad you paced yourself!
Speaking of injuries, I have had two stress fractures, both in my lower right tibia. I avoid shin problems now by doing “toe taps”. Stand in place holding on to something like a chair. Pointing toes straight ahead and heels on the ground, lift your toes and tap 15 times. You should be able to feel this in the front of your shins. Repeat this motion with your toes pointing inward, then outward. With each different motion, you will be able to feel the tapping in the muscles around your shin bone. Doing this daily helps to strengthen the muscles that support your lower legs and could help prevent injury.
The other major MAJOR injury prevention that I do is work rest into my workout schedule. I only run 3 days a week, even when I was training for a marathon. One or two days a week, I do another type of cardio such as a 60-90 minute stationary bike ride or 45 minute elliptical workout. That’s it for me. On average I enjoy 3 rest days a week, something that also allows me to volunteer and enjoy weekend brunches without worrying about exercise.
Phew. . . ok, so there was just a lot of rambling about running! I could and probably will end up writing more about this topic in the future, the workouts that I do, how I recover, the food that I eat, and the mental toughness that is THE most important thing to me in my running.
If you have any running questions, please feel free to ask! I am by no means an expert, but I have been running a long time and have experienced a lot!
And don’t forget to enter my Good Health Natural Products giveaway, which ends Thursday evening! I used the South of France Gardenia shower gel after my run, and it smelled AMAZING! Check out their site for information on their natural snacks and beauty products: