Incorporating a pre-run warm-up routine

Fill in the blank: I am too old for… ?

For me it’s my pre-run warm-up routine. I turned 43 over the weekend. Previously I liked to think of age as just a number. A state of mind, blah, blah, blah. But it’s official. I’m too old for my standard warm-up routine, which looked a little something like this.

Wake up and brush teeth.
Tie shoes.
Run.

You’d think that the last three months of dealing first with a quad strain, then a hamstring strain would have taught me something. But it wasn’t until I stumbled across this Competitor.com article by Jason Fitzgerald on the Mattock Dynamic Warm-up routine that I decided to make a change. Fitzgerald is the head coach at Strength Running, where he blogs about running and staying injury-free. Last week I started to incorporate his Standard Warm-up into my schedule, and I have to say that I’ve become a warm-up convert.

The Standard Warm-up looks something like this:

1. Walking deadlifts (10 reps)
2. Knee hugs (10 reps)
3. Groiners (20 reps)
4. Donkey kicks (10 reps)
5. Mountain climbers (20 reps legs in, 20 reps legs out)
6. Iron cross (10 reps)
7. Lunge matrix (2-10 reps per lunge type)
8. Leg swings (10 reps)
9. Lateral leg swings (10 reps)

Previously the thought of adding a warm-up routine seemed incredibly arduous. Like I’d have to set the alarm an hour earlier and find some sort of special workout space. Instead, I need an extra five minutes, and use my hallway and living room to get this done. And once I’ve finished these nine movements, I actually feel loose and ready to run.

The instructional video is helpful for learning the movements.

Though a week ago I had blown off the thought of a pre-run warm-up as something that other people might need, I now acknowledge the error of my ways. So for y’all who are still walking out the door and starting you run, it might be worth the 5 minute investment. It might be just the thing you’ve been missing.

Sundodger Invitational and how to race cross country

The leaves are changing. The rain is falling. So, you know what that means. It’s time to shake off that summer funk: cross country season begins again!

battlepointfall

I opened my season on Saturday at University of Washington’s Sundodger Invitational. It was a Northwest cross country kind of day at West Seattle’s Lincoln Park with rain and mud and 284 of us sprinting 300m across a field to get to the place where the course narrows to a 5-foot-wide path. No polite road race starts (slower people in the back) here. Instead, due to the team-event nature of the sport, everyone starts together, lined up in starting boxes across a wide starting line. This is where things get dicey, and therefore makes the start one of the key elements to running a good cross country race.

Start of the masters race at USATF Club Cross Country Nationals 2015, photo by Michael Scott

Start of the masters race at USATF Club Cross Country Nationals 2015. Photo by Michael Scott.

Execute this well and you can settle into a pace and, if you’re on, continue to move up on the field. But get caught sleeping when the gun goes off (my usual M.O.) and you get stuck in the pack. When there are 284 people in the race, this means getting tangled up in the sea of legs and racing spikes, running a slower pace than you want to run, and spending valuable energy surging around others to improve your position. Due to an outside box position and a determination to go out hard, I actually managed to get a good start on Saturday.

Then there’s the varying terrain. Sundodger’s 6K course covers a grassy field, gravel paths, and some muddy spots for good measure.

sundodgerxc

Last year’s Sundodger – Mike was on soccer game duty so no pics from this year’s race

Running on grass, gravel and trails uses stabilizing muscles that road running does not. I never thought much about tailoring my training to the different surfaces of cross country. But once I started running more on the trails around my house, I found it easier to handle the uncertain footing that changes in terrain create.

battlepointpath

Last week’s long run included a two-mile tempo run at the park above. This began with a moderately paced 7-mile trail run getting to the park, two miles at 6:30/mi pace at the park, and 3 more miles to get home. Additionally, this is also the time of year when I swap out some track workouts for a rolling loop on local farmland.

Overall, and surprisingly to me, things went well at Sundodger. Training has been rough lately, but somehow things fell into place on Saturday. Though this was only the first meet of the season, I felt competitive amongst the college kids.

sundodger2016results

If you’ve been feeling stale on the roads lately, cross country is a fun alternative. This fall abounds with cross country opportunities. If you want to join a team, these local clubs all run cross country:

Club Northwest
Seattle Running Club
Eastside Runners

Then check out these local races this fall:

Saturday October 8, 2016: 43rd Annual Western Washington University Cross Country Classic
Saturday October 15, 2016: Emerald City Open
Sunday November 6, 2016: PNTF Open/Masters Cross Country Championships
Sunday November 20, 2016: USATF Northwest Region Open & Masters Cross Country Championships

The black lining to the PR rainbow

Black lining PR rainbow

Didn’t think there was any downside to a PR, did you? I know I didn’t. In my mind a PR should be nothing but pink unicorns and fairy dust. And it is, for the most part. But this summer I’ve stumbled upon the realization that it can also be an inadvertent ticket to crazy town. A ride on the PR-seeking crazy train, which, over the summer, has pulled me through the stations of doubt, fear, and mild injury.

I couldn’t figure out what had me in such a funk. A nagging hamstring strain had me questioning how hard I should be training. Which, in turn, probably meant that I wasn’t training as hard as I would under normal circumstances. Two local races resulted in completely lackluster performances. Then a friend posted this great article on the extremes of training for a PR that snapped my reality into focus.

Neither of these extreme states is the smartest, right? Uber-Fitness Mode might give you an amazing body but it can also result in unhealed injuries and (eventually) misery and abandonment if you don’t listen to your body. Meanwhile, Super Sedentary Mode gives you the Couch Body which eventually leaves you cranky with friends and family, and also unhappy when the extreme carb rush is over. (“Oh no. Look at me. What have I done? And why am I covered in powdered sugar?“)

The problem with a great PR is that it’s a rush that feeds itself. There’s no topping the feeling of exhilaration that happens when you see the magical number next to your name. You want more. You know you can do it again, with a few more miles, a little more work. And now, that thing you do because it makes you feel good and enhances your life? It becomes something else. The workouts ratchet. The stress builds. You worry that you’re not doing enough to run well in the next race. The chase for another PR is now an addiction.

My friends, as the amazing Lauren Fleshman put it here: “…there is no pot of gold waiting at the end of the achievement rainbow.

It’s time to step off the crazy train. In the past this has meant a swing of the couch-surfing variety. But I still have a 5k road race and cross country season on the impending calendar. I also have that hamstring thing that, incredibly, has not managed to magically go away on its own. It’s time to learn about the dimmer switch. It’s a mental shift of letting go, of enjoying the process and forgetting the results. Here goes nothing…

The pain train and the recovery run

The pain train is back and it’s taking names. It’s also reintroducing me to the concept of the recovery run.

Friday morning repeated a workout I’ve mentioned before.

1 1/2 miles @ 8:51
1 1/4 miles @ 7:13
1600m @ 5:51
1200m @ 4:23

With 3-4 minutes rest between intervals, this is a workout that challenges not only physically, but mentally as well. The last three intervals got the lactic acid good and pumped and I struggled a bit to get it all done.

Normally after a workout like this I look forward to a full day off. But this week Jim scheduled an easy 5 miler. This looked suspiciously like a “recovery run”, which I’ve always blown off as bullshit code for a run that’s interfering with my rest time. Traditionally I reward myself with a nice day off following a good hard effort. Day after a race? Sit on the couch. Run a crazy hard interval workout? Enjoy a leisurely Saturday morning.

Recovery run

So, it was with some reluctance that I set off for a 5 mile recovery run. I felt a little sore and tired and questioned whether this would do anything aside from exacerbate those qualities. But you know what? As I started running, the soreness and fatigue started to disappear. Keeping the pace easy helped a lot. I maintained a conversation pace the entire way and never felt out of breath. But my legs loosened up and I returned home more energized than I was when I left. This piqued my interest: what’s up with the recovery run?

According to author Matt Fitzgerald on Active.com, the recovery run builds fitness by forcing you to run in a pre-fatigued state.

There is evidence that fitness adaptations occur not so much in proportion to how much time you spend exercising but rather in proportion to how much time you spend exercising beyond the point of initial fatigue in workouts. So-called key workouts (runs that are challenging in their pace or duration) boost fitness by taking your body well beyond the point of initial fatigue.

Recovery workouts, on the other hand, are performed entirely in a fatigued state, and therefore also boost fitness despite being shorter and/or slower than key workouts.

Fitzgerald explains this more in an article on Competitor.com:

In a key workout you experience fatigued running by starting fresh and running hard or far. In a recovery run you start fatigued from your last key workout and therefore experience a healthy dose of fatigued running without having to run hard or far. For this reason, although recovery runs are often referred to as “easy runs,” if they’re planned and executed properly they usually don’t feel very easy.

Elite runners utilize the recovery run throughout their training, as Roy Benson describes in this Runner’s World article. If a 12:48 5k runner trains regularly at 8:00/mile pace, maybe I need to rethink my Saturday mornings. Pancake morning can’t disappear entirely, but maybe it’s worth a little shakeout jog beforehand.

When running sucks and what to do about it

Is there a person in the world who hasn’t said the words “running sucks”? I doubt it.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m big on breaks. I don’t generally run while I’m on vacation, I try to schedule two breaks throughout the year (usually one or two weeks long), and take a full rest day once a week even in the midst of intense training. I took a week off after the Trials, and another easy week to ease back into things. And now it’s time to get back at it. This is the time when running sucks.

When I hear other runners talk about their workouts or mileage, I find it easy to assume that they’re just pumping out the distance without a care in the world. When I’m really in the thick of training, this can be somewhat true. But getting to that point is not without struggle. That’s where I am right now.

The first two weeks returning to running can be miserable. Every run, no matter how short, feels like the end of the world. Legs become jelly at the slightest challenge and the sweat pours. When I ran before 7 a.m. this morning, the temperature might have topped out at a searing 60°F (accompanied by the cooling breezes of Puget Sound). And yet I returned home drenched. My legs threatened to give out at the end of 8 miles, right as the commuter bus to the ferry terminal breezed past. I staggered home thinking about how much running sucks in these build-up weeks.

So what do you do?

Embrace the pain and know that it will pass.

Much like the point in a race when you wonder how you could possibly take one more step (and then do), these are the weeks to dig in and push through to the other side. One day you will go out for a run and realize that you are experiencing the absence of misery.

Spark joy.

ComparisonJoy

Take the scenic route or call a friend. Find a pretty trail, a chatty partner, or switch up your route. Starting back after my break I realized that I had lost my running mojo in the weeks leading up to the Trials. As much as I had tried to enjoy the ride, I was stressed about being a little bit injured, about missing workouts, and about performing well. If I’m brutally honest, the stress was mainly about performance, and performance relative to other people. There is no way this will ever be the path to happy running. I don’t normally race other people. I race the clock, or myself, and had lost sight of that going into a race on such a large stage. For me, this is about the worst way to run. Figure out how to run happy for you and then have fun.

Stick to it!

Don’t give up. The fog will lift and you’ll have one of those glorious runs that remind you why you do this in the first place.

When running sucks

Olympic Trials bound

I’m in and it’s on. I made the cut for the masters exhibition 1500m at the Olympic Trials and am headed to Eugene, baby!

This is the glamorous face of it. A sweaty, hot mess working out in the afternoon to try to adapt to running at race time, which will be at 5:07 p.m. on Sunday 7/3. The full schedule of Track & Field Olympic Trials events can be found here.

Olympic Trials workout

Due to my quad issues and with the number of days to race day rapidly shrinking, I’m trying to fit in as many quality workouts as my body will allow. Several key workouts have fallen by the wayside in recent weeks and I feel considerably less fit than I want to feel. Yesterday was 2 sets of 3 x 300m to work on top-end speed and leg turnover.

How did it shake out? Meh. I struggled to hit times at the upper end of the goal range.

Set #1: 300m @ :53, :54, :55 with 2 minutes between intervals

Jog 400m

Set #2: 300m @ :54, :54, :56 with 2 minutes between intervals

Running in the afternoon simulated race time and forced me to run in the heat of the day, a one-day attempt to acclimate to the hotter temperatures in Eugene. It’s good to wait until the last minute and do it once, right? I always run in the morning and am therefore accustomed to temperatures in the 50s. This is the blessing and curse of living in the temperate Pacific Northwest. You can run comfortably outdoors year-round but good luck traveling anywhere else for a race. You’re frequently screwed.

Above all else I’m trying to remind myself to relax and enjoy the experience. There is an amazing group of women assembled for this race, and competing at storied and historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon among future Olympians is the chance of a lifetime. So many people have helped me get to this point. There is NO WAY that I could do it on my own. You’ll all be there with me as I make my way around that track. Live streaming of the event should be available at usatf.tv here.

Cramming, re-injury and massage

Cramming is never a good idea. Moreover, it’s usually a direct reflection of other poor decision-making from your recent past. I’ve had my share of unnecessarily stressful finals weeks with the only real consequences being exhaustion and a better grade than I probably deserved. Cramming when it comes to running is just downright STUPID. And, as I’ve seen recently, results in injury and re-injury. Can I really be that dumb twice? Oh, yes.

With a little more than 2 weeks to go until the masters exhibition race at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, a day in Eugene is looking more like a reality for me. My seed time is currently 4th on the list, so as long as 8 people don’t run faster times before the qualifying window closes on Saturday, I should be good to go. This was one of my big goals for the year, and yes, the first accomplishment will be to qualify. But I’m greedy. I want to run well while I’m there. With that in mind, events of the last two weeks have been less than ideal.

I returned from the east coast two weeks ago fresh off a 5-day break and ready to start a solid segment of 1500m training. Though we rolled in somewhere in the 1 a.m. hour, I was up at the crack of dawn to push through a 9 mile run, and somehow strained my left quadriceps muscle. Since then, it’s been wreaking some serious havoc with my training. After spending a week trying to muddle through, Bethanee convinced me to get a massage. Confession time: I’ve kind of written off massage as a bit of a new-agey indulgence, something for the spa-going set or for elite athletes to go along with their agents and sponsors. Being neither of those, I’ve never seen massage as something for me.

Until now, that is. Is massage always like this? I think I’ve experienced magic. Matthew Timmons, of Cascade Natural Therapeutics, is a miracle worker. I hobbled in with a deeply cramped up leg and was just about pain-free the next day. Two days later I could run four miles without any sort of hitch in my giddyap. This was great, but I had lost close to two weeks of quality training. So what did I do? An interval workout the next day. With all the time off I was supposed to ease into it.

It went something like this:

2 x 400m @ :83
2 x 400m @ :78
1 x 800m @ 2:44
1 x 800m @ 2:40
2 x 400m @ :79
2 x 400m @ :78/:77

1:30 recovery after each 400, 3:30 recovery after each 800m.

It was great. Until the next day, Tuesday, when it wasn’t. Remember how cramming is a bad idea? I do too… now. You need at least a few solid training runs before attempting any sort of speed work. Two runs totaling 6 miles? Not nearly enough. Today it was another massage, tomorrow, remedial running if I’m lucky. Don’t make the same mistake. Make your comeback slowly. But if you do succumb to the cramming temptation, find a good massage therapist. This shit’s for real.

Why I do CrossFit

Why do I do CrossFit? To compensate for doing dumb things like this first mile of yesterday’s Nordstrom Beat The Bridge 8k.

Beat The Bridge 8k

That’s me and a trio of Olympic Trials caliber women leading the first mile. It took me about three miles to decide that I really shouldn’t have been up there. But after training for the 1500m these past few weeks, that 5:30 first mile felt downright easy. Like something I could do forever. Or, as was the case yesterday, for approximately 3.5 miles. Unfortunately the race lasted another 1.5 miles, during which I slowed significantly and was passed by two women. But, and this is where my CrossFitting comes in, I had the strength to hold onto a podium spot in a race that is traditionally very competitive.

I do CrossFit

Fun fact: Half dude on the left next to winner Jamie Cheever? That’s Seahawk defensive end Cliff Avril, who, along with DE Michael Bennett, gave us our awards.

I’d love to say that I do CrossFit because I’m bold and brave and found it all on my own. The truth is: my husband made me do it. OK, not really, but he did find me my gym (his gym), CrossFit Outcome, and my trainer, Bethanee Randles.

Trainer extraordinaire. Photo by Pete Saluotos.

Trainer extraordinaire. Photo by Pete Saluotos.

When I started working out with her last July, I was worried that bulky muscles and strength would slow you down. Since then, I’ve set PRs in the 5k, 6k, 8k, 10k, and the 1500m. Apparently I was wrong.

Why do I do CrossFit? Three reasons.

Injury prevention. Ironically one of the biggest objections I hear from people (after the whole bulky muscles thing) is the injury factor. Don’t people who do CrossFit get hurt all the time? That’s why you need to find a trainer whom you trust, AND THEN LISTEN TO HER. According to this article on Breaking Muscle,

The stronger you get, the more resilient your body will become to the demands of running. The repetitive impact of running won’t wear you down as much. Plus, when you’ve got a strong body, any preexisting conditions will be less likely to worsen. This is because strength training helps to improve structural weaknesses in your body, whether in the muscles, joints, or connective tissues. Often, this will eliminate the source of many common running injuries.

Strength for speed. I’m no trainer, and don’t really know how this works, but I’m here to tell you that stronger muscles have meant faster times. Competitor.com backs me up on this here. When I started working out with Bethanee last July, I couldn’t string together two real push-ups. Now, at 42, I can even do a strict pull-up. I never thought I’d ever be able to do that.

CrossFit community. This is not just a public relations anecdote. My gym is a really great community of super supportive like-minded athletes and friends. How could I not want to be a part of that?

One of the best parts about this is that it doesn’t take a lot of time. I do CrossFit twice a week, for 30 minutes each session. It may not sound like a lot, but it gets the job done. What can you do in 30 minutes? Here are some sample workouts.

Workout #1

3 rounds of:
10 push ups
10 V ups

3 rounds of:
20 cal Assault bike
20 wall balls
20 kettlebell swings

Workout #2

4 rounds of:
8 dead lift
12 GHD sit-ups
15 plate raises
10 plank walks

Workout #3

4 rounds of:
5 back squat with 3 second pause at the bottom
10 good mornings
5 chin-ups
1:30 plank

Get to the gym. I’m telling you, you won’t regret it.

Race debt

It’s the sister ailment to the workout hangover: race debt.

It’s the week after a big race and you want to build on those gains that you must have made while racing. Maybe you tapered a bit and are ready to make up for that lost mileage. You’re fired up. You’re ready to focus on the next race. This is no time to rest, on your laurels or anything else. This is the time to strike!

And your body says, oh no, my friend, it’s time to pay some bills. Sleep debt, energy debt, and muscle debt are hungry creditors and all add up to one thing: race debt.

Lost sleep: If someone were to ask you, in the days leading up to a race, how you’re feeling, you’d answer with a resounding “great”. Because you ARE great. Cool as a cucumber. No problems. But your sleep says otherwise. Maybe it’s an hour less here, 30 fewer minutes there. But it’s less and that’s what matters. Then there’s the post-race night of sleep. You’re still fired up. No use stressing over sleep now, the race is over. What’s one more night? Congratulations, you’re now three nights behind.

Runs before the run: Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Portapotties

Mike calls this “The Fear Dump”. Whatever you call it, you’re probably losing some nutrients you don’t normally lose. And then there’s the energy you’re burning, the race day meal(s) you might be missing, and suddenly, you’re behind on fuel.

Race debt food debt

This was my post-race meal at XC club nationals, AKA too tired to leave the hotel to find real food.

This is definitely part of the problem.

Taxed systems: Yes, it might seem like your workouts are harder and longer than the race itself. But there’s something about a race that you can’t replicate in a workout. It’s part of the reason you run faster in a race. Your muscles are working harder. Your cardiovascular system is pumping faster. And when you go out for that long run the next day, or the day after that, and everything hasn’t returned to its regular state, you’re now borrowing against something you don’t currently have: a recovered body.

Now what? If you’re anything like me, you spend a week or two wondering (out loud, to anyone who will listen) why you feel like total crap. If you’re lucky, you get back on top of things and go about your merry way. If not, you get hurt. Or sick. And then, you do what you should have done in the first place: TAKE A BREAK.

DSC_0426

It doesn’t have to be a long one. Maybe it’s an extra day or two more than you had intended. Or maybe it’s a week or three, depending on what you’re recovering from. Race debt is no joke; don’t let your mind tell you otherwise.

I was out for a couple of days this week with a wonky calf. On Monday I slept during the time I should have been running. Will that be enough of a break? We’ll see. I’m hoping to run Beat The Bridge on Sunday. Only time will tell. Race happy, recovery healthy, my friends!

The workout hangover

In my advancing age I have stumbled upon a new phenomenon: the workout hangover. It’s like those hazy Sundays from college, except that the path to getting there wasn’t nearly as much fun.

The symptoms are the same though.

Poor sleep and exhaustion: Who takes a nap at a 5th grade lacrosse game? I do. Right on the sideline, directly on the turf.

Foggy head: My judgmental 8-year-old just accused me of saying “worser”. And repeating the same mundane comment about the weather on the walk home from the bus stop. Just be glad I’m still capable of talking to you, kid.

Dehydration: Probably, though I train my body year-round for this (who likes drinking water??) so that’s harder to say.

I realize that the road to overtraining and injury and that of a killer PR are almost one and the same. I’m doing what I can to remain one step ahead of the line between the two, working to dial in the sleep and nutrition.

But sometimes, that just isn’t enough. Sometimes, after a smoothie and a good breakfast, you’re still shoveling handfuls of Trader Joe’s Sour Cream & Onion Puffs at 9:30 a.m. Sometimes, you really need the big guns.

Don’t judge.

Workout hangover beverages

Emergency situation in progress; glass has been broken

Here’s what you do: start with the Frappuccino. If you have ready access to a Starbucks, get yourself a real one, and not one of those bullshit mini ones they tried to roll out last year. Seriously, what was that? Who’s going to be happy with two ounces of coffee milkshake? But if you’re in a pinch, the bottled stuff will do.

Now give it an hour. If things aren’t so bad, this might be enough to set you right. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Soda is your friend. Yes, this is my method.

What’s behind all of this angst? The hope for a PR, of course. And these workouts, starting from Friday:

12 x 400m @ :75-:77 pace with 1:30 rest between intervals

It’s the short amount of rest that is the real killer of this workout. Mike and my friend Sal came out to help and I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.

400m track workout

This guy… busts out 400s like they’re nothing.

Then today. Expecting a long run, only to check my Messenger and discover that this is on the agenda:

3 x 1200m @ 4:05 pace

Damn you, technology. In another time that would have been a phone call that came an hour too late.

You’d better believe it’s been a Starbucks kind of day.