Patience

There’s nothing quite like pulling out your race planning calendar and penciling in the highlights of the abundance of summer races to make one short on patience. I’m dreaming of gnarly trail climbs and fast road races, and all I really want to do is bust through some gut-wrenching workouts and increasingly lengthy long runs in the newly-arrived Spring weather.

Instead, I’m wrestling with my starry-eyed enthusiasm, pinning it down while I spend a week on lower mileage in an effort to get my recently uncooperative right foot to loosen up and stop nagging me every few strides. I went a bit too hard last week with a tough workout and a (horribly dehydrating) single-track long run, and my right foot got cranky enough to warrant an attempt at appeasement through reduced mileage. I’m already noticing results – less morning foot stiffness and only a little ache after my last (short) run, but waiting is hard. *sigh*

Based on others’ tales of woe, runners are almost universally lacking in patience. We want to get PR’s, speed through workout progressions and into full fitness, blast the early miles in a race and then carry on in some heroic breakthrough effort, and push through the pain of injury rather than taking the time to fully heal. But if we want to succeed long term, we have to learn to deal with the early season sluggishness, the many races that fall far short of our goal times, the illusionary slow early pace in a long race, and the pains that interrupt our training.

So even though I can still technically run on my nagging foot, I’m giving it a break. I’ll hop on the bike today, with an eye on races 2, 8, 20 weeks down the road rather than the disappointing number at the end of this week’s training log. In two weeks, the number of miles that I hit this week really won’t mean anything…unless it’s a foolishly high number that has me nursing an even sorer foot. My running enthusiasm is going to have to just sit down and chill for a bit until logic and my a-few-weeks-down-the-road planning decide it’s free to launch back into action.

 

Any other patience-enforcing strategies out there?

Training adjustment – because try as I might, I’m just not a cross-training fiend

After my last couple (somewhat whiney) posts, I decided that maybe I just needed to adjust my training to create a better atmosphere for motivation and success instead of sitting around feeling guilty and unmotivated.

The first thing I addressed was the lack of structure. I’ve been planning my training weeks every Monday and sketching the schedule out day by day, but for some reason planning each week makes me feel like it’s not a ‘real’ plan. I come up with excuses based on ‘just not feeling it’, rather than just adjusting based on more critical factors such as pain or sickness. By changing this approach to a multi-week schedule, where several weeks are written down firmly in advance, I can achieve a stronger sense of commitment to the plan. Fish shared her college summer XC training plan with me a few years ago when we were training together, and I really enjoyed the gradual progression and ability to adjust to even relatively low starting mileage. I’ve based my multi-week planning on this schedule, and hope to gently progress along the mileage and pace progressions as my legs allow.

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Example of the training level groups and progression over the first couple weeks

The second thing I adjusted was my cross-training commitment. I really, really wish I was a true multi-sport athlete, but I just don’t get quite as excited about my other athletic activities as I do about running. I like them, but committing 3-4 days a week to skiing or trainer rides is difficult. I have realized that trying to be competitive about skate skiing has made me much less enthusiastic about it than I was when it was just a fun way to get my heart rate up in the snow. In order to rekindle that joyful, low-stress attitude I’ve decided not to do the last race and to skip the speed work attempts, and will instead just focus on easy skiing and technique work. I’ve committed myself to at least 2 days of cross-training (ski, bike, or circuits for 20 – 30+ minutes) per week, nothing more. I may increase this as my summer riding gets underway, but for now I’m going to stay more relaxed, and hopefully find more joy in these alternate activities as a result.

Here’s my plan for the next few weeks, with potential (training-style) races penciled in:

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We’ll see how it goes!

Friday training/fitness struggles

Soooo I was supposed to do a skate ski workout today and I bailed for no good reason.

Conditions were fine – I got off work on time (though a bit tired from some tricky Matlab work), it was relatively warm, and we got some snow last night to cover the ice. But I just have no desire to clip into my skis and bust my way up and down a hill, pushing through the fatigue and discomfort of a hard workout. I’m annoyed that I wimped out, but so unmotivated that I haven’t even done any make-up working out indoors this evening. Instead, I’m sitting in my comfy chair drinking tea and writing this. I just want an evening where I can be a bum and focus on other things, but now that evening is also filled with a bit of missed-workout guilt.

I haven’t actually hit my 6-hours/week exercise goal for the last 4 weeks and feel lame for being such a (compared to my expectations) bum. I have been trying to get motivated for that last ski race in March, but honestly it’s tough to be motivated when I know that even with a big improvement I’ll still be off the back of the fast high school pack. With so few beginners/non high-school athletes the races aren’t really super beginner friendly, and I don’t really feel like ending up alone all over again now that I know what to expect. I’m considering skipping the race because it sounds so utterly unappealing to push myself through training for another 4 weeks just to spend a few laps suffering over what are bound to be pretty cruddy late-Spring snow conditions.

My bike trainer is also being a bit neglected, mainly because I’ve been heading to work at 7am so haven’t been staying up late riding the trainer lately. Riding when MountainMan is still up feels rude, as I generally can’t chat on the (freakin’ obnoxiously loud) trainer. Actual bike season is about a month away so hopefully that will motivate me to start getting back on the trainer at least a couple times a week.

Over all I’ve just felt really unmotivated for training other than running, and even running is so unstructured that I’m not really sure what I’m aiming for. It may be time to ‘hire’ Coach MM again to write some workout weeks that actually specify cross-training just so I have someone to be accountable to!

I’m probably being a bit overdramatic about one missed workout, but I really don’t like feeling this combination of laziness and irritation. At least it’ll be time to go to sleep soon and I’ll be able to let go of the guilty/whiney/lazy feelings and start over. Here’s to beginning tomorrow with a good run and ski and much less sitting around inside! Maybe one day I’ll actually be a good, motivated cross-trainer 😛

Running – a change in plans

As I write this, it’s been almost a week since I’ve gone for a run. My calf injury kept reemerging, creating cycles of a couple good runs, then a run with calf tightness and discomfort towards the end, a couple days off, and repeat. I suspect that the temporary painless periods were the result of the inflammation going down and new scar tissue growing into the strained muscle, and the subsequent return of pain was due to the new tissue being too weak to handle real runs and becoming re-injured.

I buckled down last Monday and decided to just take a whole week completely off – no running, and no calf strengthening (just stretching and foam rolling). I’m feeling surprisingly ok with this thanks to consistently icy streets and a relatively high-volume cross-training regimen.

Although I’ve been forced off the road bike due to the ice, winter has opened up the possibilities of indoor trainer rides (good for dark evenings), snowshoeing, skate skiing, and classic skiing. The skate skiing is by far my favorite option, since it closely mimics running effort and speed but works totally different muscles. I’m re-focusing my ‘athlete’ mindset, and concentrating on the joys of still being able to get outdoors even if it’s not in my running shoes.

I’ve also decided to address some of the chronic weaknesses that I suspect are contributing to my propensity for injury even at relatively low mileage. The IT band exercises that I’ve been performing regularly have kept that particular issue at bay, so I an hopeful that addressing my other weaknesses will have a similarly strong effect.

In order to identify where else I’m weak or lack mobility, I took a functional movement screening test. I learned about this test back in an undergrad conditioning course. The idea is that you can test several primary movement patterns via a set of 7 scored exercises and then focus on addressing specific identified weaknesses in strength, coordination, and mobility. My results indicated that I have plenty of room to improve:

FMS

Those deep squat results…oof :-/

As indicated by this testing and past experience, my main weaknesses are:

  1. Calf tightness/low ankle mobility (part of why deep squat is so bad)
  2. Hip mobility (ditto, + the active straight leg raise)
  3. Thoracic mobility (the deep squat requires an overhead press – mine is severely limited by my thoracic spine tightness)
  4. Foot weakness (mainly based on experience rather than this test, but I can tell that it contributes to the inline-lunge low score on one side)

Based on these results I plan to perform calf/ankle mobility exercises, more  consistent hamstring and hip flexor stretching and strengthening, thoracic spine extension and rotation exercises, and to continue with the foot exercises (and skiing! Kills my arch/stabilizer muscles) during this heavy cross-training period. Next week I’ll incorporate some short runs (1-2 miles if pain free) and calf strengthening in addition to the mobility exercises).

Hopefully being smart now and addressing these chronic weaknesses will lead to the ability to actually race this Spring! I love my cross-training activities but I really, really, REALLY miss racing.

Running thoughts

Some running thoughts as I drink my hot cocoa and think about getting up the motivation to climb the several sets of stairs required to shower and go to bed:
1) It’s much easier to be happy about cross-training when the ground is coated in ice and snow and good running form and speed are nearly impossible anyhow.

 
2) Nordic skiing may actually whip my feet/ankles/lower legs into shape. 2 miles onSunday and my muscles were screaming. 

  
3) All this snow is great for my core. I did core today and realized those muscles were already fatigued from yesterday’s ski and today’s snowy run. All the stabilization!

  
 
My latest running log entry expresses my thoughts about the last bit of training and my goals for the month very nicely (or, at least, nicely enough that I’d rather not re-type it):

  
I will admit that it is much easier to be positive now that my calf is feeling normal more often than not and I have the addition of the snowy, icy weather to make cross-training seem almost more worthwhile than slipping my way through a slow, shuffling run. 

  
Creating a daily checklist in my training log, which allows some flexibility (e.g. subbing in a bike or ski session for a run), has helped maintain my positive attitude while also allowing me to feel like a dedicated athlete by obsessively check things off a list. Win-win 😛

  

October training summary

All right, this run-nerd just put her Strava data into Excel and has a nice discussion section to share with you all that goes along with this super spiffy table 😉

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Running actually went much better than I thought prior to the arrival of the calf (re?)strain. Even with last week being essentially a half week and this week totaling <2 miles, I hit 90 miles for the month, which is my 2nd highest month this year and about 5 miles more than last month. I’ve been able to start assisted calf raises (performed on a wobble board for slightly limited range of motion and some assistance from the see-saw effect of the wobble board) and can do normal bent-knee calf raises, confirming my suspicion that my soleus is not the issue. I’ve also had the good fortune to have a gorgeously sunny, relatively warm weekend, so I’ve regained sense of athleticism after several cooped up, lazy days*.

I used my unexpected extended riding season to hit a couple Strava segments that I’ve been eyeing, but not going after, on group rides and got a QOM (Queen of the Mountain) on one climb yesterday and another leg-busting climb this afternoon. That 2nd one was hard earned, and required me to drop my time on the 0.6 mile 8% grade by 20 seconds. I actually overdid it a bit, cutting off 50 seconds and nearly losing my legs to lactic acid overdose in the process. Considering that this was done as the first of a set of hill reps the rest of my workout was a little painful. It feels so good to be able to push that hard though! I may not be able to do running workouts, but at least I can take my frustrations out on the bike 😉

Speaking of the bike, my mileage did take a serious nosedive this month in spite of a slight upturn this week. I only rode 90 miles, or my 4th lowest month since I started riding somewhat seriously last January. However, I have an indoor bike trainer arriving soon so that will let me keep at least a few bike miles in my legs during the long winter and will give me an additional cross-training option for when it’s too dark or nasty out to ski or snowshoe.

I ended up only doing 18 hours of running/biking time this month, which is about half what I did last month. That’s definitely not a habit I want to get into for the winter, but it was probably good to have a lower transition month between the end of the summer riding season and the long, dark, motivation-draining winter.

Overall, I’m feeling much more positive about the calf since seeing that my mileage was still decent, and being able to start some rehab. Hopefully the bike trainer will keep me in check this month and will help me avoid overdoing it so that the calf issue will just be a brief setback.

Love this bike :)

*I should mention that I only got myself out on the bike because MM got sick of my injury-induced grumpiness and whining and basically kicked me out cause he knew I needed the endorphins. He’s pretty awesome even when I’m being a whiny little turd ;P

Injury goals

I’ve been trying to stay positive about this unwanted IT band surprise. I was doing pretty well early on, through a combination of forced calm (all the deep breathing!) and denial (I’ll totally be fine after a few days off…). However, this Friday came around and the realization that I was almost two weeks in and couldn’t run more than 1 mile without discomfort in my knee hit hard. I spent most of Friday morning feeling like giving up on composure and crying pitifully into my coffee. Luckily I didn’t, since that would have made work a little awkward 😛

Instead, I hopped onto The Google at lunch and looked through a variety of IT band rehab and return-to-running protocols. I found one return-to-running plan that looked particularly helpful. Instead of starting off with steady runs they began with repeated 200m strides with walking recovery. Since I can do a mile without pain I suspect that some of the pain is fatigue related – it’s difficult both mentally and physically to hold my ideal running form longer than a one mile stretch at this point. By breaking that mile into 200m segments I hope to maintain my running mechanics and work on my form without repeatedly aggravating my IT band. I tried this out yesterday (only 800m worth) and felt great, so we’ll see how 8x200m strides feels next time and then build up as allowed prior to adding in steady continuous runs.

I also dug out my summer ’07 training log. This was my summer before freshman year of college and the low/rebuilding point of my first major injury – IT band issues in the same leg as now. I spent 5 weeks in the pool and then returned to running busting out absolutely crazy times. I went from having an 11:37 2-mile track PR to going through faster than that in 5 and 6k cross-country races. How did o accomplish this? Well, in addition to swimming ALL THE LAPS, I also majorly overhauled my running form and started doing strength training.

I don’t know if I’m quite motivated enough to get in the pool (ugh…), but I do want to come out of this injury stronger. I am soooo sick of being injured, and I know that building strength is one thing I can do to try to halt this cycle. I also want to improve my form. 

The strides will provide an opportunity to work on my form – maybe with some iPhone videography for analysis/embarrassment. As far as strength, I will be focusing on glute/ab/adductor specific exercises and will also be adding in more core/upper body strength by using the killer circuit that I used during my college summer training.

fun times!


This circuit takes 30 minutes for 1 time through and absolutely kills. I did one session yesterday and can barely move my arms. And my abs hurt when I breathe too hard 😳 

weighted crunches are best with power tools…

I’m still annoyed that my leg has betrayed me in prime trail racing season, but at least I have a plan now! It’s so much easier to be optimistic when I can pretend I have some control over the future 😛