An inner athlete's manifesto.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Benefits of Running a Race as a Training Run...

...and not as a race.

Yes, it can be done--you can race, and use the race as a training tool instead of a smack-down (this is especially effective if you feel you are completely unprepared for some added mileage). This was my method for the Queens Half last week, and I'll tell you how I did it.

1. Decide what the race means to you.
I decided this half definitely was NOT going to be a competitive run for me. I knew that because it was going to be so hot (and I literally melt faster than the Wicked Witch of the West in the heat) that I would not clear my usual half-marathon time. I knew it would take all of my will power just to resist quitting. When I saw this suspicious little pond around mile 10, I was ready to call it a day and jump in the grey-colored water. That's how hot it was.

2. OWN that decision, and you will come out feeling more self-confident.
I didn't feel bad running slower than usual due to my smart decision-making skills. Rather, at the end of the day, I felt pretty accomplished considering I ran three miles to the train stop an hour before the race when it was cooler. In total, I did 16.1 miles that day.

3. Plan the rest of your week's miles accordingly.
This was obviously my "long run" of the week. If I was doing a 5k, I would have made that race my "tempo run" for the week. For a 10k, I would have tried some sort of fartlek routine--keep pace with a faster runner, slow down, repeat, etc. You can adjust your training needs to any weekly race in your hood with some flexibility.

4. Don't let the race itself psych you out.
Weekly races are a great way to keep you and your training on your toes, but it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. Don't self-destruct your training plan by going too fast too soon, and, consequently, don't get yourself down if you are being passed. Remember that the race is a training tool, and the only one you need to worry about is you.

5. Turn "Race" into "Route".
Wow. Look at this gorgeous, traffic-free route they marked out for me today. That was nice of them. Ahh, no need to worry about tuckering out early--someone was kind enough to put out fuel stations for every mile I'm running! I love lime Gatorade. Look--that guy has the same shirt on as me. And so does that guy! This person in front of me has a nice pace I can match for a few miles. How motivating.
You get the idea. Inner dialogue is extremely helpful in boosting your self-confidence. Remember to use it for good and not evil.

I finished the Queens Half without a personal record, but every race after this one is going to be extremely easy. That is enough to get me psyched for my 16-20 mile training run on Sunday, and for the Bronx Half in a few weeks. The Queens Half also gave me an excuse to live off of pretzels for the next week. :)

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On the Road, on the Wagon--Gettin' Scrappy

Ahhh. Decisions. Choices. Priorities. Blah, blah, blah.

I've had to make a few lifestyle changes in the past two weeks due in part to me freaking out and others urging me to "buck up".  I have about three months to do this thing, this 26.2 mile run of insanity. I am WAY behind on mileage. Time to get scrappy.

Weeding out bad habits is an important part of exercise and staying fit. At some point, we all have to ask ourselves, how bad do I want it?  

I've decided I want it pretty badly. I am giving up a few things I somewhat enjoy or am used to in order to achieve a bigger goal that I love.

I made a mental list of all my habits/pastimes and decided which ones eat up precious time (i.e. watching Ali choose some douchebag for fame on the Bachelorette) or are sucking my exercise energy right out of me (after-work drinks). I made a decision. I am scrapping those things out of my life. For the Queens Half, I have been on the wagon for almost two weeks. I was going to allow myself one post-race beer, but after that...well...I think I have to stay on the wagon until November. I bartend for a living, and I love beer, but I have to remember the goal--I am going to love finishing that marathon knowing that I kicked some major butt even more than any delicious pale ale. Even more than Kona Fire Rock. Sigh.

I also gave up the Bachelorette--I can read the re-caps on Television Without Pity. I have blogs to write, people to train, and miles to run. I need to pursue things that are going to push me forward.  Let's face it--right now, my running and writing are more important . 

If you are serious about adding fitness as a staple in your life, you MUST look at the big picture. We all have habits that are holding us back. Sure, some things we do or like aren't as threatening to our fitness goals as others. Pick and choose your battles accordingly with the goals you have in mind. I cut back on these two items specifically because a. they are a waste of time, and b. they didn't make sense.

I urge you to create your own Free Time Fulfillment Scale. It's simple; make a list of everything you do with your free time, and rate how happy you feel after you've finished each activity. If there is something on there that doesn't make you feel as great as you thought it should, get rid of it. Cut back. Scrap it. Replace it with something more fulfilling. No one ever said you have to continue watching a crappy tv show, or go out for poorly made margarita after work just because you're used to it. Be honest with yourself.

Good luck, everyone. Happy wagoning.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heat Wave or Heat Slap: You Decide

I'm gonna go with Heat Slap. NYC has been in the high 90s and low 100s for the past five days or so, and I can't take it anymore. Nothing kills my workout like the heat + humidity combo; I'd rather run in 30 degree weather with eight layers on than try to workout in this stickyness.

But I do have the Queens Half-Marathon coming up at the end of July, and I am going to prepare to have to run in heat. Safely.

Since the heat can be deadly if you aren't smart about training in it, here are some tricks I use during sweltering summer months that get me through my workouts:

1. Pre-Workout Hydration: I can't emphasis enough how important this is, and by pre-hydrate, I mean drink up your h2o the night before your workout, especially if you're planning on being out during maximum sun exposure hours (10am-3pm). Obviously, chugging a half-gallon of water right before you workout at noon will only make you puke alongside your favorite running route. Remember, caffeine and alcohol will both dehydrate you.

2. Shoot for Sunrise: Early morning workouts are obviously the best during the summer because it is the coolest daylight time to workout in. Also, if you live in an urban area like I do, asphalt and pavement soak in heat as the day progresses. On a morning run, these surfaces have had a chance to cool overnight. Also, pollution levels are generally lower in the morning. And you have your whole day ahead of you to not worry about your workout because you already did it! Everyone wins!

3. Let's Get Real: Training your body and tricking your mind to get up that early can be a real pain. No one likes to adjust to a new workout time in the summer, especially when you spent the whole night tossing and turning in your sticky apartment because you decided to lower your Con-Ed bill and turn off the AC for the night, leaving you to fend for yourself with your bedroom fans. Start with a goal to get up early once this week, twice the next, and etc. until you feel more used to it. Use your early morning workout to your advantage and make it a long one (60 mins) so you can get your long runs in without risking heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or another sun/heat-related illness.

4. Set the Bar Low: For people like me who struggle with being the early bird, I am often the idiot running around in the park around 11am, wishing I had started four hours earlier. But take note: when I run in the heat, I listen to my body and I don't push  myself.  I always set a time limit, and on hot days, I choose a goal based on time rather than distance, and I keep that time ultra low, say 15-30 minutes. If I really need to put in more mileage, I wait until the sun goes down or take up the unfinished business with my local treadmill well after I've cooled down from the day's first workout.

5. Walking Breaks in the Heat are Definitely OKAY: More than okay--walking breaks actually prevent heart attacks. Remember, your body is working twice as hard to keep you cool--sometimes it needs your help in remembering that. Swallow your pride and take it down a notch if your body is struggling, and I highly suggest wearing a heart rate monitor. You can always pick up the pace again once your body has cooled down enough.

Hope I've helped other runners who have been jaded by July's sun so far. Thanks for joining!