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Archive for the ‘No Excuses’ Category

Two months have passed since my husband lost his job. One month has passed since I started working as a substitute aide in special education classrooms. I’ve gotten a special education in the past four weeks for sure! I’ve worked at five schools and taught in classrooms ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade. I’ve taught a roomful of 30+ kids in general education and worked one-on-one with kids with Down Syndrome, autism, and ADHD. I’ve worked an average of 20 hours per week and maintained a workout schedule of 8-10 hours per week on top of that.

There are 11 weeks to go in the training schedule before Boston! Training is going well although I cannot say I am enjoying it as much now that I am having to squeeze it in around a very fluid work schedule. I might plan an 8-mile tempo run for Friday morning and then get a call at 7:15 a.m. asking me to substitute from 8:30-2:30. So how do I fit it all in? Here are five tips I’ve developed over the last four weeks.

1. Consider two-a-days. I’ve split an 8-mile run into four miles outside with my teenage daughter in the morning before work followed by four miles on the treadmill in the afternoon before dinner. It wasn’t fun but it was oh-so-satisfying to get the full mileage in for the day.

2. Be flexible. I don’t mean work on touching your toes, I mean be willing to move a cross-training day from Tuesday to Friday as need be. Or if it’s forecast to rain on Sunday (take that, California drought!), move that long workout to Saturday instead of Sunday. Trade a bike ride out for an Insanity DVD. Count yard work as your strength training for the day.

Gorgeous, rain-free day for 23 miles on the ElliptiGO on the San Gabriel River Trail.

Gorgeous, rain-free Saturday for 23 miles on the ElliptiGO on the San Gabriel River Trail.

3. Be forgiving. If you can’t get the full mileage in for the day, it’s a little tempting to write the day off entirely. But it’s way better to run 5.6 miles instead of 7 than to run 0 miles. I know it stinks to run 5.6 miles and be disappointed (hello – 5.6 miles is dang far), but it will feel a lot better to put those miles in and cross off the day than to leave that blank space on the training log.

4. Remember why you are training. Yes, I am training for a big goal race (Boston) but I am in this one for fun and for the experience. I actually enjoy the training and the satisfaction of checking off my workouts more than I enjoy a big goal race. So when I’ve had a hard day at work (think: kid running out of classroom, biting himself, crying, or refusing to communicate with me) I remind myself how much better I will feel if I get out on the road and zen out on a run.

5. Shake things up. I’ve been running for nearly five years now! I started in March 2011 when I was training for my first sprint triathlon as I approached age 40. It’s wonderful to look back on all the milestones — the first times I hit each new distance or ran a new race. But honestly? I am burned out on a lot of my local running routes! So after a hard day at work today, I came home at lunchtime and asked my husband to help me map out a new route for my 8-mile tempo run. And we chose a hilly trail/road route, and I chose to be flexible (see #2 above) and switch out 8 road miles at 8:00 pace for 8 trail/road miles with lots of elevation gain at 10:00 pace.

Just one of the hills on my 8-mile trail/road run today.>

Just one of the hills on my 8-mile trail/road run today.

The miles flew by as I was distracted by views of the ocean on one side:

That little bright line is the Pacific Ocean between Long Beach and Catalina Island

That little bright line is the Pacific Ocean between Long Beach and Catalina Island.

and the cacti near me on the other side and the snow on the mountains in the distance:

Not a bad winter day.

Not a bad winter day.

Do you have any advice for fitting workouts in around a work schedule?

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When we last left our intrepid marathon trainee the Fit Fun Mom, she despaired over a lackluster 13-mile long run. Thank goodness the cutback week called for fewer miles and let her recover from a nagging head cold. We now join our fearless runner, who’s high after a successful speed workout and will now stop talking about herself in the third person. 🙂

It’s week eight of M2B marathon training. Nearly halfway done! Thank goodness Monday’s speed workout got knocked out of the park. Quarter-mile repeats are my new best friends!

Decoding the Speed Workout

The workout on my Run Less, Run Faster plan called for:

“10-20 min warmup    2 x (6 x 400 in 1:42)  (90 sec RI)   (2min30 RI bt sets)  10 min cooldown”

That’s a 10-20 minute warmup run, which I usually do at a 10-minute pace (6 miles per hour). I like to do speed workouts on the treadmill because it allows me to target a pace and know I’m hitting it consistently. I should increase the incline to adjust for the fact that I’m running on the treadmill but speed work is so new to me that I’m happy just to hit the pace at a 0% incline.

“2 x (6 x 400 in 1:42)” translates to two sets of six quarter-mile repeats at an average pace of 6:50, or 8.77 miles per hour. To help myself keep track of the repeats, I did one quarter-mile at 8.8 miles per hour, then did the next at 8.7 mph, then back up to 8.8 and so on.

The “90 sec RI” calls for 90 seconds of rest interval in between each quarter-mile repeat. For each ninety seconds of rest I walked at 3.5 miles per hour.

“2min30 RI bt sets” is a 2-minute 30-second rest interval in between the two sets of six quarter-mile repeats. Heavenly rest.

After six more quarter-mile repeats, I ended with a little rest after the last repeat, and a final mile at six miles per hour for the 10-minute cooldown. By the time I finished I had done 6.5 miles in 1:08. Not exactly speedy overall (or even speedy repeats for the most speedy of you readers out there), but a darn good speed workout for me. I think the fastest I’ve ever run is 9 miles per hour and so to do 12 400-meter repeats at 8.7/8.8 mph is huge! So satisfying. By the end, the sweat was literally flying. I’d swing my elbows to will my legs to keep up and the drops of sweat would fly off the ends of my elbows onto the gym windows (Sorry, people. I did wipe down the treadmill afterward but I left the windows alone).

The Benefits of Speed Workouts

Run Less, Run Faster explains the benefits of speed workouts as the following:

    • Improve maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max)
    • Increase running economy
    • Improve speed
    • Bust boredom (okay fine, that’s my own addition).

What’s VO2 max?

VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise. It is measured as “milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight.”

(About.com Sports Medicine). The higher your VO2 max, the more energy you can produce.

What’s “running economy“?

Running economy is how efficiently your body uses oxygen. Some people argue that running economy is a better predictor of performance than VO2 max, and it’s also something that you have more control over than VO2 max, which is significantly controlled by genetics. (Runner’s World: “Efficient, See? Improve Your Running Economy and Go Longer and Stronger at Any Pace.”)

Do you do speed workouts? What’s your favorite? Do you do track repeats or hit the treadmill to gauge your speed?

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I refuse to pretend that marathon training is fun right now. In general I love it and am much happier when I’m checking off the workouts on a training plan. Right now though? I have a cold. It’s an “above the neck” cold, not a chest cold, and I’m thankful for the ability to continue working out. At the same time, I get discouraged when I cannot meet the pace goal for a particular run. My 8-mile tempo run that should have included six straight miles at 8:14 (7.3 mph) became five one-mile repeats with a 400-meter rest interval in between. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of that workout. That eight miles wins a personal award for “longest run on a treadmill to date.” It wasn’t easy for me to do the mile repeats, and I am glad I pushed through and did them and at the same time, didn’t push so hard that I made myself even more sick.

My 13-mile long run that ideally should have been at an 8:50 pace was done at a jog. I don’t even want to calculate the actual pace. All I know is that overall my total time was 15 minutes slower than the 13.1 Mile Virtual Run for Sherry I did five weeks ago. And it was the first run where I felt worse, mentally and physically, than I did before the start of the run. One of the things I love most about running is the sense of accomplishment that I feel afterward, and that just wasn’t there this weekend. I did it, but it wasn’t pretty.

I don’t mean to be a downer. I simply feel some bizarre sort of obligation to be honest about the fact that marathon training is not all sunshine and roses. It’s challenging. It’s a huge commitment. It’s tiring. Yet, those are the very reasons that it’s inspiring. It’s thrilling. It’s rewarding.

Squeezing in the Training around the Rest of Life

Because my pace was off on the 13-mile run, I was literally running late. I ran in the door, toweled off the sweat (no time to shower, sorry folks!), threw on the clean clothes my husband laid out for me, and ran back out to the driveway where Mike had the car running and the younger kids waiting to drive to the junior high to watch my fifth grader compete in the Academic Excellence Day math competition.

Math Word Problem:

If Angela completes her 13-mile run at X:YZ pace,
how long will it take her to run 26.2 miles on May 26?

Bonus question: Will she PR or BQ?

Answer: I wish I knew!

For the mathematics competition, the teachers matched my daughter with four other fifth graders from local schools, and they competed against six other teams of five. After a round of 10 questions plus a bonus word problem, my daughter’s team earned third place! I reveled in getting to watch her learn to assert herself among her teammates and perform under pressure. We asked her what she learned from the experience, and we told her we were proud of her for participating in the competition. But the surprising thing that made me proud? When my 8-year-old said that the thing she learned from the competition was that “crossing your fingers really works!” She’d sat quietly throughout the whole competition, and then crossed her fingers at the end in the hopes that her older sister would win a medal! Love that girl!

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For many years, my New Year’s resolution was to exercise at least four days a week (now it’s six). I kept track on a paper calendar (you remember paper calendars from the BG and BBB days — Before Google and Before BlackBerry?) I’d cross off each day that I exercised for at least 20 minutes, although the goal was 30 or more. If I only exercised three days one week, that was okay, because I could shoot for five the next. There was no throwing up of hands, oh well, I didn’t make it four days this week, I couldn’t keep my New Year’s resolution again this year. I was kind to myself (and as a certified perfectionist, I’m not often kind to myself. Like right now I’m berating myself: why do you use so many parentheticals in your writing? (That is not a good thing)).

Anyway, if you are struggling to keep up with your New Year’s resolutions, or have already thrown in the towel, I want you to be kind to yourself and rededicate yourself to your resolutions. Do you want to know my trick for doing that? It’s super easy and effective.

Talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend.

Would you say to a good friend, “I can’t believe you didn’t exercise today!” or “You’re only down two pounds instead of four. You might as well give up because you’re never going to meet your goal.” Of course not! But for some reason, we are harder on ourselves than we are on our friends. Why?? We deserve to be treated with the same kindness.

For example, if you were training for a race and you missed a week of training for whatever reason, you might beat yourself up mentally over it. You might even be worried you could not meet the race distance and should give up on the race. If a friend missed a week of training, you would not say a single negative thing. You would give her a supportive pep talk. “I know it’s hard when you get off track for a week, but you can do it! Don’t give up now! I am proud of you!” You’d help her figure out how to adjust her workouts to resume her training plan.

Don’t give in to your own stinkin’ thinkin’ (that’s a Crazy Sexy Cancermovie reference) (and there’s another parenthetical, but I choose to forgive myself for that). Treat yourself with kindness. Treat yourself as you would treat others.

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Last Saturday night my husband and I planned our day for Sunday. We’d have a quiet morning as a family at home, Mike would take one of the girls to go play tennis at 11, then we’d all go for a family bike ride after lunch, and finally just Mike and I would go out for a long bike ride at 3:30 when Grandma came over to babysit. It sounded like a great plan, and it was, right up until 1:30 p.m. on Sunday when we found out that Grandma couldn’t come over until after dark, effectively tanking the bike ride plan. We tried to find another babysitter on short notice but even the girl across the street couldn’t make it! On to plan B: bike at the gym? But by the time we learned the long bike ride would not work, the gym was closed. Why does the gym close early on a Sunday?! (“Because of God.” Name that movie! It’s one of my all-time favorites.) Plan C: swim at the outdoor community pool? The lap swim hours at the pool were over. It seemed like our plan to get in a workout, any kind of workout, was doomed.

When 5 p.m. rolled around and Grandma arrived, I was not much in the mood to exercise anymore. I’m a morning workout kind of gal, and I’m also a planner, and gosh darn it someone threw a monkey wrench in plans A, B, and C. Can I just say then, that I’m super proud of the fact that we got in a workout after all? Mike and I suited up in our warmest running clothes (including my new Costco jacket), hats and headlamps (also from Costco — 3 for $9.99 — but I can’t exactly recommend them because the first one we took out of the packaging broke when we tried to put batteries in and you know, actually use it).

All the stylish kids wear their headlamps over their hats and their fuel belts under their jackets for the best bulky look.

All the stylish kids wear their headlamps over their hats and their fuel belts under their jackets for the best bulky look.

I don’t know if you can tell but I was positively shivering when that photo was taken. I was eager to get running so I could generate some body heat! Soon enough we were off into the darkness and it felt great to be out there. I get so bored running the same route over and over again but running that same route in the dark was all new and fun! It didn’t hurt that I had a charming running partner too. We run well together. He secretly gloats over the fact that he’s faster than I am and I secretly gloat over the fact that I can run 17 more miles than the longest run he’s ever done. (Can you tell we’ve been married for 18 years? Together for 24? Yes, we were high school sweethearts! We know each other so well by now.)

We ran four hilly miles and were rewarded with this view out to the Pacific Ocean:

Sunset over Orange County

Best of all we snuck back inside the house after the run, took a quick shower, and got right back out again for dinner, just the two of us. It turned out to be a great date night, including the unplanned night run!

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As I mentioned yesterday, the nagging injuries in my left shin and right groin had put me in a bit of a funk. Show me a runner who deals with injury well and I’ll call her a liar. I aspire to handle injury with grace, but as my husband can attest, that remains a mere aspiration. In fact, half the reason I started this blog was to have someone else (a community of someone elses, in addition to my patient husband) to talk to about running and injuries. Along with running my mouth off (ha ha), I’ve put in place a Happiness Plan. I told myself, “Quick, think about the things that make you happy. Make a list! Put it into action!”

1. Exercise six days a week. Five workouts of running, swimming or cycling, and at least two of weight training. One full day of rest and one day with only strength training. [Note that I have stuck with this plan for the last week, running 20 miles, biking for 50 minutes, and doing several strength training workouts].

2. Get outside for half an hour daily or more. This is a must for me. I am a terrible homebody and my natural tendency is to stay inside, preferably curled up in bed with a good book. At the same time, I recognize that I am happiest when I am out of doors, and if I make the effort to get outside, I’m richly rewarded.

A gorgeous winter (?!) day in Southern California. This was my view on my 50-minute bike ride through the park on Sunday.

A gorgeous winter (?!) day in Southern California. This was my view on my 50-minute bike ride through the park on Sunday.

3. Keep a “to do” list. Each day do the one thing that’s bugging me most (often the very thing I least want to do). Then knock out as many of the others as possible.

4. Keep up with the laundry (that includes putting the clean clothes away!) With five people in the family, including three little girls who love to play dress-up and a few athletes who often go through two sets of clothes and a sweaty towel a day, that adds up to a lot of laundry. If I do two loads a day, I can keep on top of it. A clean house = peaceful mind.

5. Focus on nutrition. Two fruits and seven vegetables per day. Ten 8-ounce glasses of water or other liquids (and that does not include alcohol!) That might sound like a lot of water (and I do know it’s possible to over-hydrate) but I can tell you that it is so dry here in Southern California that I often get headaches if I do not drink enough water. Add on turning on the furnace in winter and it is super dry here even with the rain we’ve been getting lately.

And if you think eating your veggies is a strange part of a Happiness Plan, check out this article from three days ago that confirms that eating more veggies and fruit can make you happier.

The more vegetables you eat, the happier and more satisfied with life you are. In fact, in one survey, eating seven to eight portions of vegetables was more strongly associated with happiness and overall well-being than employment status. On the whole, the paper concluded that well-being peaks at seven daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but the surveys also showed that people who ate just five servings a day (the amount that the USDA recommends) were as happy–or very nearly so–as people who ate higher amounts.

Love it, but I don’t need a study to tell me that I feel better when I eat better. (Note that the study cannot confirm whether happy people eat their veggies or eating veggies makes people happy. I’m not sure it makes a difference to me — I want to be a happy vegetable eater either way!)

On the whole, my Happiness Plan seems pretty basic and straightforward. I would argue though that it takes living with intention to stay on track with the Happiness Plan, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Do you have a Happiness Plan? What are the must-do items on your list? In addition to the five things on my list above, I’d add the one thing I take for granted: spending time with family. The happiest times of day for me are the times I spend snuggling my youngest in the morning before school, or reading to the girls at night.

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Before I talk about aqua jogging, I need to tell a seemingly unrelated story. Back in October 2011 I had just completed my first triathlon, the SheROX San Diego sprint tri. I loved it and immediately signed up for an Olympic distance race the following December. I dove right into training, and stuck to my new training schedule even when we went camping with some friends. What better setting for a long bike ride than Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park

Gorgeous view of Joshua Tree National Park to distract me on my long bike ride. Photo by Vicente Villamon.

As I was driving back to camp after the ride, I passed lots of roads that were named after desert features — Outpost Road, Sunnyhill Road, Juniper Road. That’s when I began to get nervous about the Olympic distance tri. My mind started racing. I thought about how my friends would be able to see the SheROX race numbers on my calf and arms because the permanent marker still hadn’t worn off. Then I thought about how I had looked at the professional pictures of me at the race and I wondered how the photographers had seen my number on my triceps from the swim — I guess they saw it when I peeled off half my wetsuit as I exited the water. Then I remembered how I looked blue when I exited the water from the swim, and then I worried about swimming a whole mile in the Olympic distance race in December. I thought maybe I shouldn’t have signed up to do it! That’s when I passed another road sign. It read: “Olympic Dr.” I’m not kidding. All these desert names, and at that exact moment I pass Olympic Drive?! It’s not so much that I believe in signs sent from God, but I do believe we’re open to seeing certain things at certain times, and I needed to see that certain sign at that certain time.

Anyway, all that to tell you that I saw more signs on my recent aqua jog. I had been getting awfully discouraged with the plantar fasciitis. A week of rest didn’t help. I tentatively tried out a slow run at the track, and I felt no better, no worse, until two days later when my feet became even more sore. I started wondering if I’d have to give up on running the marathon nine weeks from now. That’s when I remembered my half marathon coach Stephanie’s story about how she recovered from a tear in her plantar fascia (ouch with a capital OUCH!) by jogging in the pool. My marathon training plan called for a 15-mile run. Could I do it in the pool? I watched a few videos on YouTube to study the proper form for aqua running. My favorite tutorial was this one:

After my studies, I eagerly told my husband my plan and headed out to the outdoor pool, the one that plays music that could entertain me for a 2-hour aqua jog. At the pool, a fitness class was just starting and many of the women were using flotation belts, the kind I needed for the aqua jog. The bin was empty, but I spotted one last belt hanging next to the pool. I asked around to make sure no one was using it, and sure enough, I had snagged the absolute last flotation belt. Sign #1?

I hopped right in the pool and got going. I couldn’t tell if I was replicating the proper form from the video, and I started to question the sanity of pumping my little legs away, running to nowhere in the pool. That’s when Foster the People sent me my second sign in the form of “Pumped Up Kicks,” one of my favorite tunes from my running playlist (compliments of Coach Stephanie). That song also happens to be a favorite of my spinning class teacher, and I knew I could run to the beat of the song, just as I set the bike cadence to the beat in spin class.

In the second hour of my two-hour “run,” the Bart Crow Band sent me another sign in the form of “Run with the Devil.” Yes, “I may run with the devil….” If only the band had said I run like the devil.

Finally, as I floundered during the last 20 minutes of my “run,” it was like Journey was serenading me, imploring me not to give up on the marathon dream. “Don’t stop believin’ [Angela, you can do it, you can train for a marathon in the swimming pool and on the bike].” Catchy little tune, don’t you think?

Do you believe in signs?

Have you ever trained for a running race by training on a bike or in the pool? How did that pan out for you? Do you aqua jog for injury prevention and/or for recovery from an injury?

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