Monday, May 25, 2015

Embracing Run:Walk Intervals

I discovered Run:Walk intervals by accident. And I am glad that I did, because they have been the most effective component of keeping my neuromas from flaring up and causing numb feet during my runs.

Goal: Non-Stop Running

When I first started running again a little over three years ago, my goal was to increase the distance I could run without needing to take a break to walk. I viewed stopping to walk as a sign of weakness, and I wanted to be strong like I used to be in the races I ran 20 years ago. I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I finally ran a 5k without stopping to walk at all.

But when I ran both the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run and Nike Women's Half, the numbness in my feet was so severe that I had to keep stopping over and over again during the early miles to loosen my laces and stomp my feet. I lost a lot of valuable time and felt incredibly frustrated.

Diagnosis: Neuromas

I ran for a couple more months with the numbness becoming more of a factor during my runs. Finally I went to see a foot specialist and learned I had neuromas in both my feet. I found some relief through SuperFeet inserts, LockLaces, and wider shoes. And then in September I stumbled upon Run:Walk intervals.

Accidentally Discovering Run:Walk

How does one just stumble upon Run:Walk intervals? Well, I had been wanting to go to the regular Thursday night fun run at Reston Potomac River Running for a long time, but I was often working in DC on Thursdays and just couldn't swing it. Then, finally, I had a Thursday telecommute day and made it to the run.

I ran with the Reston Runners BFFs (Best Foot Forward), who happen to do Run:Walk intervals of 4:2 (4 minutes of running, followed by 2 minutes of walking). And I was hooked! I found that taking regular walk breaks seemed to help ease the pressure building in my feet and help keep the neuromas from flaring. I also discovered that I was just as fast with the Run:Walk combo. Win-win.

Using Run:Walk During Races

Since then, I've trained & used 5:1 intervals for several other big races: Army Ten-Miler, Philly Half, the 2015 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. I've continued to improve my speed, and the neuromas are far less of a factor than they used to be. It's not a miracle cure - the intensity of race pace puts more pressure on my feet than training runs and I do find I still have to stop to loosen my laces at some point during the race. But now, it is typically only one stop. An added bonus from the walk intervals is that I have a built-in opportunity to sip water and take fuel on a consistent schedule.

The Experiment

About a month ago I had an unanticipated test of Run:Walk vs. Run. I had runs planned on both Saturday and Sunday with different people. Both runs ended up being the same four mile course. On Saturday we ran intervals. On Sunday, the women I was running with didn't really want to run intervals, so we just ran straight through. I had to stop and loosen my laces several times. I couldn't feel my left foot for last the two miles. My body was giving me clear signals that I was ignoring and I didn't really enjoy the run. And you know what? My average pace for both runs was pretty much the same.

If there had been any doubt in my mind about what works best for me, it was settled that weekend. Run:Walk intervals clearly work the best for my body. And I no longer see walking as a sign of weakness. Incorporating the walk intervals gives me strength and makes me a better runner.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Prepping for World Police & Fire Games

The 2015 World Police and Fire Games is coming to Fairfax this Summer. It's an international sporting event that occurs every two years. It is incredibly exciting to have it coming here, to our backyard. Reston Runners is coordinating several of the events, including the cross-country 5k & 10k, the triathlon, and the half-marathon. This morning we were heading out to Lake Fairfax to test out the cross-country courses.

I was a bit apprehensive for two reasons:
  1. Between work commitments & our family vacation, I hadn't run in nearly 3 weeks!
  2. I haven't run cross-country since junior high PE class, but I was pretty sure it wasn't my favorite type of running.
I ignored my apprehension, knowing a big group of the BFFs would be there and with their support I can get through anything. We met by the Lake Fairfax cricket field at 8 am (and there were actually people playing cricket there!) and reviewed the course verbally before taking off.

The BFFs split into two interval groups. One did the usual 2:4 walk:run and a second group did 3:4 run:walk. I joined the second group, along with the other non-cross-country fans. I figured it was the best way to ease into the run.

BFFs on the 5k course

I'm not going to lie - it was tough. I enjoyed the trails and the company. I did not enjoy running on grassy fields. But I did like getting to try something new and seeing what the WPFG competitors would be experiencing.

Me, Susan, Molly, & Carmen on the trails

a demonstration of the steepness of the hill

One unexpected bonus of this morning was the fact that four members of my Rock The Creek Relay team were there and we got to meet each other and start anticipating the fun of that race.

Jamie, me, Norma, & Lee - The Reston Rockettes!

Then I went home and made good on my strength training promise. Freddy coached me through the lunge matrix and my plank series. All in all, a good morning and it felt great to get back to running.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Strength Training for Runners

One of the things I am committing to as part of my Marine Corps Marathon training is consistent strength training. So I was especially glad that last night's talk at the Women's Training Program focused on strength training. And as an added bonus, Coach Shannon was the person teaching us about planks and lunges.

I originally learned these exercises from Coach Shannon during PR Training Running 101 a year and a half ago. I did them consistently for a few months and then kind of lost my momentum as my life got busier. I commit to consistently doing these exercises during my MCM training. Consistently means 3 times a week on non-consecutive days.

Lunge Matrix

The lunge matrix is a series of lunges - forward, back, forward with a twist, sideways, and a fancy knee lift where you step back at an angle. Eventually you build up to 5 of each lunge style on each leg. It looks like this: 


The plank series includes four planks - front, back, right side, left side. You can start out slowly - 5 seconds in each position and take breaks between them if needed. You gradually build up time and eliminate the breaks between the positions. It looks like this:

My Plan

For now, this is what I'm committing to for strength training. I will build up to these exercises as demonstrated in Coach Jay's videos above. I know that successful habits involve starting small and building towards the bigger habit, so I'm not adding a whole list of things that will be overwhelming & time-consuming and ultimately setting myself up for failure.

As these routines become habits for me, I may add others, like the myrtl routine:

and the back routine:

I'm also going to add some yoga, but that will be in small increments as well. For now, I am doing one sun salutation when I get up in the morning and one restorative pose in the evening, such as legs against the wall, pigeon, or child's pose.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Name Your Fears and Destroy Them

Next month I start training for the Marine Corps Marathon. This will be my first marathon. I am excited to take on this challenge, but it also scares the daylights out of me. Naming your fears takes away their power. So I will list my fears here, at least the ones I am consciously aware of. I suspect the list will grow as training gets underway.

I am afraid that:
  1. I will injure myself.
  2. I don't have enough time to train.
  3. My relationship with my family will suffer as I devote so much time to training.
  4. I will be uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.
  5. I am too slow to finish the MCM before the cutoff time.
  6. I am too slow to find people to do the long training runs with me & I will be running on the trail by myself for hours.
  7. I won't enjoy running a marathon as much as I enjoy running the shorter distances.
  8. I'm not strong enough to succeed.
  9. I will stop believing in myself.
  10. I will fail.
I name these fears and commit to overcoming them!