Some new things to work into the training

July 3, 2009

Working anything new into a training routine can be tricky. Working too many in can be outright dangerous for endurance events like marathons. I have a few things starting up over the next week, some a little riskier than others. I feel comfortable working them in because I think I’ve built a good base and been very careful up to now to get the kinks out of my body. Yesterday I had my massage with Lisa and apart from a minor twinge in my right hamstring my upper legs and lower legs are better than they have in over two years.

So what’s changing:

Crazy Times at Work
Yes this needs to be factored in as well. July is going to be an extremely busy time at work. NI holds it’s annual user conference, NI Week, every year in August. My team is holding some meetings with lead users for features and products we’re developing and also has demo’s for the keynote that previews future products and features. Let’s just say it’ll be a crazy few weeks. Based on how things at work are going I may need to adjust all of the things below as well as my mileage goals. I think Steve refers to this overall balance as “global load”.

Steady State and Tempo Runs
Starting next week we move into the next phase of training with more steady state and tempo runs. Till now we’ve been running Easy and building our base. The added strain from increased speed can be pretty significant. I’ll likely ease into the paces and do it by feel. In theory I should be able to plug in my goal into some calculators and see what I “should” be running at these paces but that doesn’t seem wise. Let’s say I feel like I’m looking for a 2:55 marathon, that would make my tempo or half marathon pace a 6:20 min/mile pace. I’ve been running 7:40 average paces and even one run during the week getting close to 6:20 paces is going to be tough, both from turnover and stress on the muscles in the body. I may be there cardio wise but I’m not sure about if physically my legs and body are ready. I’ll see how I feel on the first run on Thursday and pay close attention to any soreness, making sure I control my paces more based on my physical conditioning and not necessarily on “if I can hold the paces”.

We were doing Strides during our runs on Tuesdays but now with Tuesdays being our medium long runs Steve wants us to get strides in two other days. I think I’ll try for Sunday and Wednesday and see how that goes.

New Strength Training Routine
After working for two months focusing on alignment and balance issues with my body I’ll now be working on some strength work. No crazy weights but one of the weekly workouts will push my body quite a bit. I’ve been doing my heavier gym work on Sundays and Wednesdays till now. Wednesdays may become iffy given Thursday is when we’ll have the faster steady state/tempo pace work so the positioning of my gym work may need to change. I’ll also error initially on the lighter side of the weights and lower number of sets and build up to the normal amount over 3 weeks. There’s no point straining something by going crazy the first week.

Nutrition Plan
New nutrition plan that I need to work in over the next two weeks. This shouldn’t really add any risk of injury, it’s more of a time management challenge. Overall I think being better about planning my meals out will be useful given the increased stress at work. This should help me get each week planned out up front and be able to have the right food ready on days with long work hours and time a the gym. I’ll be trying to cook a little more and in general reduce sugar and fat … but I do need to eat more during a couple of meals than I have been … who doesn’t like to have that problem!?!?

This is the one I’m most uncertain about. I have been meaning to work in some of the drills I used to do into my easier and shorter runs on Mondays but haven’t so far. They do help with my range of motion and running form so I’m hoping to get them in once a week, maybe Mondays since Sunday and Wednesday will be strides. There are videos of the different drills on the Rogue Running  youtube page or you can view them below.


Seeing improved hip alignment from strength training

July 1, 2009

One of the simplest exercises I’ve been doing the last few months (based on the program from Mark) is a step up with a knee lift. An issue Mark found was a very slight hip drop. This would generally be more pronounced on one side. I had a number of imbalances that have gotten much better over the last two months of regular exercise and this exercise has helped improve the issue and provide a way to gauge my progress.

Hip Drop

Hip Drop

You can see an example of what the drop looks like in this image on the right. There are a number of exercises as part of the routine that helped fix this but one that was very simple and relatively relaxing was a step up with a knee lift. I used a 1.5 to 2 foot step instead of the smaller one shown here. The part of the workout is 3 sets of 15 to 20 hanging knee raises with an arm sling and 10 set ups with knee lifts on each side.

The step ups are done slowly and controlled, not what you’d do in an aerobics class. If I can do them in front of a mirror to keep an eye on my form. I’ll keep my arms at 90 degrees on my sides, I haven’t been able to work in running arm motion yet. During the exercise one of the important things has been to really focus on how each muscle is engaged in the process, seeing any dips, bending or leaning and adjusting the motion. The weight bearing side should be straight, the knee shouldn’t bow in or out. The hips should be straight and not stick out.  The upper body upright and the shoulders level.

When I started doing these exercises I could tell that when I stood on my right leg my left hip would dip down and my shoulders would do the opposite to compensate. My right hip would dip down when standing on the left foot but not as much. After two months I can keep things pretty much aligned at most speeds … unless I go very slowly. It isn’t this exercise alone that has helped with the alignment but this one has been a good way to see my progress and get some mental checks for my running form that help me remember what good running posture should feel like.

Give it a try, it’s very simple, provides some good mental queues on form and is a relaxing exercise towards the end of a gym workout.

New phase for strength training

June 30, 2009

Next week our new phase of training for running begins with some steady state and tempo runs, this week I also met up with Mark from South Congress Athletic Club for my next phase of strength training. The last two months were geared primarily towards creating some balance in my upper and lower body where one side was weaker or stronger than the other. I think that has had it’s intended result. I’m basing this primarily on the evenness in soreness in both my legs and other signs like my hips staying relatively stable with high knee exercises etc.

Yesterday Mark started laying out my next phase of strength training, well it’s a lot more strength work than the previous session. Hopefully the last two months have been a good base in getting my body ready for the more dynamic and intense strength work to come.

Balance in soreness, a good sign

June 22, 2009

Last week I went for my regular massage with Lisa and I hope it was a sort of turning point for my injury prone training of late. Many people tend to get injured in the same places, I’ve oscillated from my right leg to the left and back and forth and in different parts of my legs. Over the last two months I’ve been very regular with my strength training program from Mark at South Congress Athletic Club and I think it may be paying off finally. During the massage last week Lisa noticed that my hamstrings in both legs were evenly developed and were the same amount of tightness … a first. Also any soreness in my legs, for example the tib area, was present in both legs. This is likely a sign of strain from overuse versus an imbalance. So this week I get to back off on my mileage and keep going from there.

The program for mark is two gym workouts a week and then two home workouts (which I end up doing at the gym anyway). Very light weights for the things that require weights and a decent amount of upper body work to improve my shoulder/torso and hip alignment. I have noticed that my stride is much more even on both legs and in general my running posture doesn’t collapse towards the end of long runs as much as it used to. Given the high mileage and hopefully faster paces I’ll be running I hope this cross training with gym work helps keep me injury free.

The commitment it takes to perform

March 1, 2009

I was at a party yesterday and talking to a runner. Since I’m getting back from an injury my mileage is much lower right now and I’m able to … well actually go out like normal people. With Team Rogue I usually try to get into bed by 10 so I can be up by 4:30 on most weekdays and 5:30 on weekends to get my runs in. I was talking with this other runner and asked him how he’s doing and he said he hasn’t been able to put in the miles or commit what he needs to excel. Training for any marathon takes significant time and it does result in changing daily habits, diet, schedule. Trying to push your body as hard as you can really does take significant commitment, which we all hope will pay off.

All that talk and then the conversation in the car coming home where the phrase “are you running from yourself” came out made me do a little thinking. Here’s a little reflection on what I set out to do this season and a revisit to the question “Why I run versus why I train?“.

The things I’ve tried to do this season include:

  • Eating better and around 2500 to 3000 calories a day. Which means snacking at work all day long and having a drawer full of food.
  • Strength training at the gym so my body is more capable of handling the increased mileage (from 60 to 80 per week) and faster paces.
  • Regularly stretching, using Trigger Point daily and getting regular massages to keep the body loose
  • Trying to peak at 90 miles per week and keeping my average weekly mileage around 80.
  • Dropping my training paces.

Everybody focuses on something or another each season. The above 3 are the things I was trying to differently and have had varying success. Here are the grades I’d give myself today:

  • Eating Better A-
    Ask anybody at work, I either have an apple, pair, oreo’s, animal crackers, fig bars or yogurt with me pretty much all day. The “minus” is for the quality of what I’ve been eating.
  • Strength Training C+
    I’m doing much better than any other training season but haven’t been regular about it, I got complacent and with 90 miles a week it became difficult to have the time to make it to the gym all the time. I did manage to see Mark at South Congress Athletic Club and have a program but still need to follow through with twice a week visits to the gym to perform the exercises.
  • Stretching etc A-
    I’ve been very about using Trigger Point but realized recently that I needed to work more than the calf and lower leg area that I’ve been focusing on. My quads and hamstrings have tightened and this has restricted my stride in some cases and been a factor in some injuries. Minor adjustment needed now.
  • Increasing mileage and pace B
    This one is a tough grade. I looked at my log for CIM and noticed that I got up-to 70 miles over a pretty long period since I wasn’t really running before May. After I peaked I suffered an injury and then my mileage was in the 55 to 60 range till CIM. After CIM I took a week off and then my weekly mileage went something like this: 22, 58, 70, 70, 82, 90, 50 … injury. I look at all of this with two perspective. The first is what the hell was I thinking, I pretty much ran more than I ever have and really just built up too fast. I was also running a lot faster on my runs, in the 7:20 minutes/mile range on easy runs and getting in the 6 minute/mile range on some parts of it. So doing all of this in one go, faster, farther, longer wasn’t a good idea and my body just wasn’t ready for it. But the reason I’m giving myself a B and not a D is that this really has to be the first time I’ve thrown caution to the wind which is something I’ve been working on with training so I’m glad I’ve done that, adjusting down will be much easier!

Looking at the time that remains for Boston training I plan to bring my mileage goals down a little. If I can manage 70 to 75 starting a week from now I will be very happy. I also think I’m going to adjust my paces from the 2:50 marathon target to a 2:53 to try and break 2:55 at Boston. I feel like my lungs and aerobic capacity is ahead of my body’s physical ability to handle the increased load. So it’s a little lower on the mileage and a tad slower on the paces and a renewed focus on strength training at the gym and some cross training. Next season I’ll try and increase my total load/effort a little more gradually to try and avoid injury.

Now of course comes the million dollar question of why put myself through all of this. I wrote an answer to “Why I run versus why I train?” last year as did many others on the team. It really does come to seeing what I can push my body to do and also the sense of internal accomplishment in achieving some goal.

As I think about it those are pretty superficial statements.  Why do I want to see how far I can push my body and what I can accomplish? To be perfectly honest, I don’t know, that’s just how I’m wired. So for now as long as I get satisfaction out of it I’m not going to worry about the deeper reason and physco mumbo jumbo reasoning behind it. What I know is I look forward to waking up, putting shoes on, meeting up with the crew and running easy, hard, or insanely hard and getting side stitches from laughing along the way.

The little things that can lead to injury

December 24, 2008

I’m going to go into one thing that my recent work with Marc at South Congress Athletic Club highlighted. I posted recently how he analyzed a few things about me and one was that I was distributing my weight unevenly between my left and right side/legs. Specifically he noticed that when I was standing neutrally the Tibialis Anterior Tendon was engaged more on my right foot than the left … I put more weight or strain on the right than the left.

Muscles and Tendons in the Foot

Muscles and Tendons in the Foot

The right foot is the one I’ve been having trouble with in the toes with a sprain in the area between the feet. I also had a foot sprain on this foot in the past and have had minor plantar faciitis.

Today Marc worked through some of the exercises that are part of the program he’s put together which I’ll be doing on my own. One of the exercises was a seated calf raise. What’s shown in the video does NOT cover what he wanted me to focus on but just shows you the machine and what you’ll see people at the gym doing.

There were a few things he wanted to make sure I focus on. The first was keeping my body upright. One of the ways I’ve often heard people describe good running form is to feel like there’s a rope going through the center of the top of the head straight down and we’re trying to keep it taught. Marc makes a point of in all the exercises pointing out one or two things to “feel” or “look for” to ensure it’s working the muscules the right way for me. So I had that in control and he said I should feel my calves activate.

The strange thing was I noticed pretty quickly that the calf in my right leg was not activating like the left. That was pretty strange so I spent a little more time with Marc on that. What I noticed was that in the right foot I was pushing more from the outer pad of my foot (outside three toe foot area) than the left foot. As soon as I focused on engaging the inner foot pad my calf in the right foot engaged, it created a more even distribution of force across the foot.

It was insightful to see the imbalance between both my feet and how I use them. All this work has given me more insight into why I tend to see the same injuries over and over and why they tend to differ between my left and right side, now I hope all his trying to balance the body out helps keep me fit and running.

Getting into the gym to support the running

December 23, 2008

Today was day one of my gym work. I saw Mark at South Congress Athletic Club yesterday and he worked through the things I need to do one day a week. This morning after the 9 mile run with the group was day one at the gym.

The total workout didn’t take too long, around 4 minutes. The majority of the exercises were upper body related. I’m not quite sure how to describe it but they were a balance of things to curve the spine and then to straighten it. Also a few for the legs and the arms/shoulders. I’m writing this entry from the phone so I’ll have more on each exercise is future posts.

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