Monday, January 28, 2013

The Case for Morning Workouts

It's weird for me to be writing this post. Growing up I was always up at some ridiculous hour. As I grew older I had morning swim practices that of course were not fun, but honestly I didn't mind them that much. Sleeping in on the weekends for me meant until 9:30. Once I started dating my boyfriend my sleep schedule pretty much went down the drain. I stayed on a somewhat normal schedule for awhile but after too many days of being exhausted from staying up too late and getting up early my habits started fading. I have been doing better about waking up earlier in order to maximize my productivity but I've still been struggling.

Well today marked the first day of my spring semester and my new internship at Corrigan Sports. I had a 60 minute run scheduled for today that I knew I would have to get done in the morning since I was busy until it was dark out. I set my alarm for 6:45 only to wake up to sleet and ice. I have an old car that doesn't do well in winter weather so I didn't really want to risk venturing out. I have since rearranged my schedule so that I'm doing a trainer ride tonight. The only problem is that I am mentally burnt out from such a busy day. I find the first few days of a semester to be both equally exciting and stressful. All I want to do is lay on the couch and read, not do a hard hill simulation workout.

I've noticed over the past few weeks that when I save a workout for later in the day, primarily after 7:00pm, I start to dread it. I forget I have to do it and then it looms over my head for the rest of the day. I love sleeping in but I have learned that I need to suck it up and do my workouts in the morning or else my workout suffers, I'm cranky and generally less productive that day. Three things I definitely don't want to worry about. Sometimes I enjoy working out in the evening but I'm learning that if I have the time to get it done in the morning before my day gets started it's for the best.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What to Wear Running: Winter

In the spirit of the cold and snowy weather we are still having I thought I would share how I dress to stay warm on those bitter days without overheating.

First I should mention that I get pretty warm when I run. Probably more so than most people from what I have observed. If you are typically a colder runner then this might not be so helpful, sorry.

My first piece of advice is to dress as if it were 20-25 degrees warmer. You may be cold when you first start running but once you're warmed up you should feel comfortable.

Assuming no rain or snow this is how I decide what to wear when heading out for a run:

  • 70+ degrees: When it is this warm out I will typically wear a tank and shorts. Sometimes short sleeves depending on the last time I've done laundry.
  • 50-60 degrees: Short sleeves and shorts.
  • 40-50 degrees: Thin long sleeves and shorts, or short sleeves and capris.
  • 30-40 degrees: Medium thickness long sleeves and capris.
  • 20-30 degrees: Medium thickness long sleeves and tights, or thick long sleeves and capris.
  • 10-20 degrees: Thick long sleeves and tights.
  • 0-10 degrees: Medium thickness long sleeves, lightweight jacket, fleece-lined tights

I will usually wear thin gloves when it is under 40 degrees, a thin fleece headband and thin gloves when it is under 30 and a thick headband and thin gloves when it is under 20 degrees. My hands tend to get pretty hot when I run so I normally only wear a pair of thin wool liners and I end up taking them off a lot of the time anyway. I find that it really helps to wear something with pockets in the winter so I can off my gloves or headband if I start to get too warm.

One thing that I tried once but haven't invested in myself yet is a vest. At first I thought it was a pretty silly idea but once I tried it I loved it. I am currently on the hunt to find the perfect vest and a pair of arm warmers that meet my high expectations of not being too thick.

This winter I have been especially loving the Oiselle Lesley Knicker and the Brooks Infiniti Jacket. They are the two pieces I wear the most and would recommend to anyone. I want to try the Oiselle Lesley Tight since I like the capris so much but I'm waiting until they go on sale (hopefully) since I already have a pair of tights.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Brooks Shoe Love

When I first started running I knew nothing about wearing the proper shoes. I read somewhere shortly after that explained why it is important to go to a running store for an assessment before buying sneakers. I already knew I overpronated but I didn't realize it would be such an issue when it came to running. Originally I wanted a pair of Nike's. I thought they were the "cool" shoe and what "real" runners wore. When I went in to my local running store they completely dismissed my idea. They did all of their fancy tests and quickly decided on the Brooks Adrenaline. I tried on a pair of Asics as well but the Adrenaline's provided me with the most support and were more comfortable.

I took those shoes home and went out for a run in them that day. I remember thinking it felt like I was running on clouds. I loved these shoes. Like any good runner I tracked my mileage on my shoes to make sure I didn't put too many miles on them. About 7 months later I decided to get another pair of Adrenaline's in a fancy purple & teal combo. I didn't really need new shoes but I liked how they looked so I went ahead and got them anyway. I wore both pairs pretty regularly, not really choosing one over the other.

Last summer I tried on a pair of the Brooks Pure Cadence and instantly wanted a pair. I was caught up in the popularity of the Pure Project line and wanted a pair of my own. I was hesitant to wear them though because they were more of a minimalist shoe than I was used to and I didn't want to get injured. I eventually made these shoes my track shoes and wear them whenever I go to the track for a workout.

Over the summer I also bought a pair of trail shoes in hopes of actually going to a trail to run. I figured if I had trail shoes then I would drag my butt to the trail. I ended up buying the Brooks Cascadia that I found on sale at a DSW. I tried them on and thought they were comfy so I got them, not knowing anything about how much stability they provide. I wore them a few times over the summer when I dabbled in trail running but they really didn't get too much use until this past fall when I made trail running a regular thing. I still don't know if they are a stability shoe or not but I really like them.

Around Christmas I realized that both of my pairs of Adrenaline's were approaching 400 miles on them. I've read that you can keep running shoes for 300-500 miles and that overpronators are on the shorter end of that spectrum because they need more support. Sure I used the Cascadia for a decent amount of my running in the fall but I hadn't done any significant mileage in anything other than the Adrenaline 11. Brooks has since come out with both an Adrenaline 12 and 13. I was nervous about what upgrades had been made to the shoe, both good and bad.

Today I decided it was time to bite the bullet and look at new running shoes. I wanted to keep my options open and not just buy another pair of Adrenaline's because that was what I already had. If there was a shoe better fit for me I wanted to try it. When I first put on the Adrenaline 13 I didn't like them. They felt very stiff, more so than a new shoe should. I then tried on the Saucony Guide and some New Balance shoe. The Saucony Guide had no support for overpronating despite being advertised as a stability shoe. The New Balance shoe had a decent amount of support but just felt off when I tried running in them.

In the end I bought the Adrenaline. I took them out for a 60 min test run after getting home and couldn't be happier with my decision. I should have known to stick with what I know and love. Now I have 5 total pairs of running shoes in my rotation and they each serve a specific purpose.

  • Adrenaline 11 (both pairs): easy and recovery runs until they are completely worn out
  • Cascadia: all trail running, which is where I do the majority of my runs at school
  • Pure Cadence: track and tempo runs. I am thinking about using these for races too since they are lighter but might stick to shorter races. Not sure yet
  • Adrenaline 13: long runs and runs where my legs are especially tired and need the extra support and cushioning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Surviving Winter Running

I'm not sure about the rest of the country but the Middle Atlantic region sure is cold right now. We are seeing temps that I'm not sure I've ever seen while living in southern Pennsylvania (I'm sure it's been this cold before, I just don't remember it). While the actual temperature is not by any means warm or even comfortable it is the wind chill that is making it feel so darn cold outside.

I had a 30 minute hill repeat run scheduled for today that involves 3 minutes of complete rest after each repeat. After 4 repeats my legs were so cold I could barely feel them. I ran inside and grabbed an extra pair of pants to throw on to finish my run. What ultimately made today's run so unbearable was the combination of being improperly dressed and the wind. There were gusts of wind over 30 mph! Since the next few days are supposed to remain just as cold I thought it would be helpful for everyone to discuss some of my favorite cold weather running tips.

Dress properly
This one seems pretty obvious but it is still important. I get much warmer than most people when I run so I wear a lot off than others. Makes sense. When the temps first dropped back in December I started following the generic rules of what to wear for each temperature. I frequently found myself overheating and as a result becoming dizzy and even nauseous. I started experimenting with what I wore and have since come up with up with my own rules about what to wear. The point is, dress appropriately so that you are comfortable regardless of whether that means wearing lots of layers or no layers.

Treat yourself to a hot shower or mug of hot chocolate/tea after your run
Knowing that I will be all snuggly warm enjoying my favorite winter beverage helps motivate me to get off my butt and get outside. Sure hot chocolate is great even if you haven't gone out for a run but just think about how much better it will taste after braving the cold temps so get your workout in. The same goes for showers.

Pick a route that goes by your car or house within the first few miles/minutes
The thing I hate most about running in the winter is those first few minutes before you get warmed up when you are absolutely freezing and wondering what the hell you are doing outside when it is 23 degrees out. I have a tendency to overdress so that I am not so dang cold in the very beginning. But then once I'm warmed up I'm way too warm and my run is pretty miserable. I've started wearing enough so that I'm warm in the beginning and then taking off a layer and dropping it at my car once I'm at a comfortable temperature. Wearing a jacket or top with pockets also really helps with this.

Minimize expectations when it is both cold and windy
I can handle the cold and I can handle the wind but I'm a wimp when it comes to both of them put together. When it is cold and windy I have a lot of trouble breathing which affects my running a lot (duh!). If I have to go out for a run during this kind of weather I make it short and easy. I tried running at a harder clip in the cold wind last week and felt like I was hyperventilating. It's just not worth it. Either slow down or go inside.

What are your cold weather running tips?
How cold is it where you live?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Training Update

I've been meaning to write here for awhile now but life has been keeping me busy (not a bad thing, right?). Instead of January being a calm and relaxing month off of school with not much to do I have been swamped. Okay, maybe not, but I certainly feel a bit overwhelmed. As much as I like to keep busy I also enjoy having the month of January and the summer to rejuvenate. After a little time away from school I'm ready and anxious to get back into the swing of things. I've been fairly busy this month though. I don't start classes until the 28th so I'm hoping to spend next week doing pretty much nothing.

Since the last time I wrote I have started training for my next big race, the Nike Women's Half Marathon on April 28. My goal is to break two hours and with the way training has been going these first two weeks I'm confident I will meet my goal. I have been running 6 days a week ranging from easy runs to hill sprints. I know it's only been a couple of weeks but I can already feel myself getting stronger. Running is becoming easier and I am looking forward to going for a run instead of dreading it. 

I think most of all I like being back in training. As someone who grew up training 11.5 months of the year with only a week off at the end of each season it feels weird for me to not be training for something. Don't get me wrong, I loved having time off in December to enjoy the holidays and not stress about getting in a run. Now that the holidays are over though I am really enjoying having something to train for. Having a coach is keeping me on track and making me even more excited because I feel like I'm heading in the right direction rather than guessing blindly. 

I know this post is a little all of the place, sorry about that, but my thoughts are kind of all over the place also.  When I got the Believe I Am journal for Christmas I saw that there is a section dedicated to checking in on your goals. Every 4-6 weeks you are supposed to assess how things are going to make sure that you are on the right track. I like this idea and want to do training updates every so often during training so I can look back and see how much progress I have made.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sub-2 Half Plan of Attack

My big goal for the first half of 2013 is to break 2:00 in the half marathon. I have spent a good amount of time over the off-season looking back at past training logs to see where I can make improvements. My running journey hasn't been conventional and lucky for me there are lots of areas I can improve upon in hopes of chasing down my goals.

When I ran my 2:03 half in October I was in the middle of marathon training and had done a 16 mile long run less than a week beforehand. I hadn't done any kind of speed work in almost two months and was only running 3-4 times a week. Despite all of these faults (plus so many more) I still dropped over 5 minutes for a 20 min PR in exactly a year.

My plan going into this next training cycle is to fill in these gaps and keep evolving my training. It will be a long time before I reach my full potential with running but I know the more I do right each training cycle the better I will be as an athlete.

Working with a running coach
This is really so big it deserves another post (soon!) but I'll start here anyway. After chatting back and forth via Twitter I have found someone who is willing to help me chase down my goal of a sub 2:00 half marathon.  I have been wanting to work with a coach for awhile now and I am confident that I have found someone who can meet all of my needs. I am used to working with coaches from my days as a swimmer and I know that I work considerably better with instruction. I'm really excited to see what I can achieve with my new partner on this journey.


During my past training cycles I ran pretty inconsistently. Some weeks I ran 5 times while other weeks I didn't run at all. While training for the New York City turned Harrisburg Marathon I ran 3-4 times a week but my mileage varied a lot. I didn't know how to properly train for a marathon and made a lot of mistakes. I know that finding my sweet spot and staying consistent will be a big part of training. But this doesn't just apply to running. Doing a core workout every few weeks is really not all that helpful. Being consistent will not only help with the physical but also the mental, which may be my weakest link.

Tune-up races

In all my years of being an athlete I have learned that if I put too much pressure on myself for a race then said race will most likely go horribly. Since I can do multiple half marathons in one season without needing too much recovery time I am planning on doing a mid March half to practice for the real thing. I also want to add in 5K or 10K here or there to gauge to fitness and see how close I am to my goal.

Core & strength work
I started doing regular strength work over the summer and almost immediately saw how much it was helping. It was right after I stopped strength training that I developed a strain in my quad that sidelined me from running for a week. While at the ortho for the strain he told me that my core is not strong enough. Developing a strong core is important for both injury prevention and getting stronger as a runner.

Do the little things right

These are the things that I know I should be doing but still neglect. I'm bringing my foam roller out of the corner and putting it to good use. Rolling coupled with stretching, compression socks and adequate sleep will hopefully help me recover quickly and properly to ensure a healthy and strong training cycle.

Clean up my diet
I may have eaten a few too many cookies over the holidays. Oops. As long as the cookie binges only happen during the holidays I should be okay. I've experimented with cutting out dairy and want to eat around 90% dairy free. Also, more veggies and less processed crap. It's time to start eating like an endurance athlete and fueling my body properly with healthy and wholesome foods.

Work on the mental aspect
This is probably the toughest thing for me in all parts of my life. As a swimmer I was constantly overcome with negative and self-destructive thoughts. My mind tends to cave long before my body does. I got a Believe I Am journal for Christmas and will be putting it to the test to help me overcome some of these mental barriers.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Seek Adventure

This past weekend marked my last weekend of the off-season. I celebrated by running, of course. My boyfriend came up late Friday night and we set out to hit some local trails Saturday afternoon. We went to a new park to explore different trails. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and the perfect way to spend the weekend. While I run my boyfriend takes his mountain bike out for a ride that way we both can get in our respective training without losing time together. Even though we are not actually together out on the trails it is comforting to know that he is never far away should I need him. Case in point, I got lost on Saturday and had to call my boyfriend to come find me. I ended up finding my way back to the car but the fact that he was one quick call away was all I needed to stay calm despite being lost.

My boyfriend liked the new trails so much that we decided to go back on Sunday. I wasn't planning on running Sunday but knew how much he wanted to ride so I went along anyway. I decided to make it an active recovery day and just hike instead of run. I took all new trails and was smiling ear to ear the entire time. Something about being out on the trails makes me really think about life, where I'm at and where I want to go. Sure things have happened that weren't according to "plan" but out on those trails I couldn't have been happier.

I am a creature of habit and choose to stay in my comfort zone whenever possible. Trail running forces me to  get out of my comfort zone and brings out my adventurous side. Taking a cue from my favorite running company Oiselle my mantra for the year is "take chances." I want to take advantage of all the opportunities thrown my way and even if I fail I know that taking the risk will always be worth it. Going along with taking chances I want to seek adventure. Spending more and more time on the trails over the past few months has taught me that even in hard times you can still have fun and make the most of what you are given. Don't think of it as a situation gone wrong, think of it as an adventure.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

So Long, Off-Season

Tomorrow marks the first day of spring half marathon training for me, which means today is the closing day of my longer than planned off-season. After all of the drama surrounding my fall marathon I was looking forward to taking some time off and enjoy my Thanksgiving break. But then finals rolled around and knocked me on my ass. I can normally handle the stress of finals but with other nuisances added to the mix I came crashing down. I knew I needed to focus on studying and finish writing papers and just couldn't convince myself to get out for a run. I ran here and there when I felt I had enough time to not completely bomb all of my exams but there were more days that I didn't run than days that I did run.

Once finals were over all I wanted to do was nothing. Literally nothing. I wanted to enjoy not having to study for anything or have to wake up early to go to class. Unfortunately running was included in the things I was writing off. After a few days of just relaxing I finally laced up my shoes to go for a run. It was nothing spectacular, in fact it was actually quite terrible. I quickly found out that it is a fair amount colder at home in Pennsylvania than at school in Maryland. My lungs were burning. Since we had such a warm winter last year I had no idea what to wear for running in the 20's. I made the mistake of wearing too many layers and ended up overheating and consequently becoming both dizzy and nauseous.

Perfect running weather but oh so cold!

I have since adapted to running in the cooler temps and have also figured out (for the most part) how to dress appropriately so that I stay warm enough without feeling like a roasted marshmallow. Knowing that training was right around the corner I've been filling my weeks with runs and cross training that I wouldn't normally do. I normally run 3-4 times a week but a couple weeks ago I ran almost every day but only did 2-3 miles. I normally wouldn't be pleased with running such a short distance but at that time I did whatever I wanted so long as I was getting my butt out the door.

After almost two months of doing whatever I pleased with running I am ready to start training again. I am ready to run with a purpose and to chase down my goals. I spent the weekend exploring new trails near my house and spent the every moment being grateful. Running does not always come easy for me. In fact, a lot of the time it is quite hard. But it challenges every aspect of myself and brings out my adventurous side. I made a lot of progress with running in 2012 but I know that I am capable of achieving so much more.

I am enjoying a relaxing evening watching movies and reading with the pup close by. I've enjoyed my time of rest and relaxation after finals and through the holidays but I'm ready to get back to work. I'm ready to see where my legs will take me this year. I am nervous but I am also so excited to chase down this goal.

Sub 2:00 half marathon here I come!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Goals

Happy New Year! I can't believe 2012 is already over. It was a great year but I know that 2013 will be even better. I have some big goals for 2013 and after eating way too many sweets and taking a nice break from running this holiday season I'm anxious and ready to get back to work. This year I've decided to take my approach to New Year's resolutions a little differently though.

After realizing that 12 months is too long of a time to allow myself to achieve certain goals I decided to break my 2013 goals up. I set some goals for the entire year, some first the first half, and some for the second half. I am primarily focusing on my goals for between January 1 and June 30 and then will reassess for the rest of the year.

Goals for first half of year
  • Sub 2:00 Half Marathon. This is my number one goal running wise going into 2013. I ran a 2:03 half unrested in October during the middle of marathon training which tells me with some sub 2:00 specific training this one should be in the bag. Not only do I want to break 2:00 I want to crush it. I am making some big changes to my training (more info to come) this year and know that I am capable of more than just a 3 minute PR. 
  • Spend the day hiking in Patapsco State Park. This past fall I spent a lot of time running the trails of Patapsco and completely fell in love with the park. It is the perfect place to escape my less than pleasant neighborhood at school and destress. I was hoping to get a chance to go hiking here in December but finals seemed to suck up all of my time. This goal is for pure enjoyment.
  • Do at least one early morning workout a week. I used to naturally wake up early as a child and had morning practices and school to thank for my early wake up calls as a teenager. Lately I have been sleeping in later and later and then find too many things that need to be done and before I know it I have run out of daylight. I think comitting to one morning workout a week is a doable way to start transitioning to workout out almost every morning.
  • Get INDS proposal passed. This has nothing to do with running or working out but it may be the most important goal I have. I am majoring in interdisciplinary studies, which means that I essentially design my own major. There are a few core classes that all INDS majors are required to take but the rest of the classes are chosen by me and my advisors. In order to make sure students are on the right track it is required to write up a proposal and have it approved by a committee. It sounds a lot more simple than it really is unfortunately. It is a long and complicated process and I am hoping to have it all taken care of by mid-March (fingers crossed).
Goals for the whole year
  • PR in the 5K. I mentioned awhile ago that I ran a 24:29 5K back in high school when I was still swimming 15+ hours a week. My 5K PR since starting running is a 25:41 that I ran this past year a week and a half after my first marathon. It was also my first run since the marathon. After trying to ignore my real 5K PR I have come to accept it and now I want to beat it. This is not a primary running goal for me but I would still like to set a real PR this year. I am hoping to run a 5K in the spring but I don't feel any pressure to get this done ASAP.
  • Train with higher mileage & hit a 50 mile week. I have always been afraid to run a lot. I normally run 3-4 times a week with a lot of cross training thrown in. I have long term goals that require that I start building my endurance and get used to running more. I also know that one of the best ways to get better at running is to run more. I am sure I will hit this goal during marathon training in the fall but I want to train with higher mileage in general all year.
  • Run 1,000 miles. This goes along with running higher mileage. I think this is a doable goal and because I am a numbers person it is something that makes me excited to train more. 
  • Sub 3:00 Olympic Triathlon. Along with running I am looking to make big improvements to my triathlon racing. I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon in 3:37 but I also walked almost the entire run because it was abnormally hot that weekend. Coupled with my new & improved running training I think this is a good goal to work towards. I don't know if it is realistic for me or not but I'm sure going to try.
  • 4.00 GPA. I have always come close but have never actually had a perfect GPA. 2013 consists of two semsters which means two chances to make this happen. Even if I fail at least I should still be rewarded with a solid GPA.
  • Read 10 books. I love reading but often get caught up in the madness that is social media and spend way too much time on the computer. Reading is a stress reliever for me and lets my mind wander and dream.