Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Half Marathon Training Program

When it was time to design a training program for a half marathon in May, I took to the internet.  I probably should have turned around and also looked through the books on my shelf, but I didn't, so I'll have to do that when I look for a lifting and triathlon training programs later this season.

When designing a program, I took several things into consideration:
(1) The plan needs to fit MY daily/weekly/goal schedule
(2) Monday needs to be an easy day because I seem to have a problem getting my stuff together for gym training on that day
(3) The plan needs to fit MY schedule
(4) The weekend long run should (will) be outside around home and should be the long run
(5) I have Pilates class Monday evenings and that's not changing (see #2)
(6) I will start with a solid running (and pilates) program and will add in weights after a few weeks

I downloaded six training plans, specifically looking for "beginner" or "just finish" programs.  Three of the programs made me cringe ("you want me to run HOW many miles in week one?"), so I settled on looking more closely at plans by Hal Higdon, About.com, and MarathonRookie.  The first two programs upon looking more closely didn't pass a sanity check.  Hal's program seemed to miss a taper at the end prior to the big race; About.com's program dropped off quite a bit at the end.  I'm no training program guru, but neither of these sounded right for the last few weeks, and overall I wasn't feeling comfortable with how the weekly runs were planned out.  MarathonRookie's ten week program won out.

I added two weeks into the program to bring it up to twelve with a start date of 02/09/10 for a 05/02/10 race, then asked Kristin what she thought.  A few tweaks later and my training plan was born.

My run days are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.  This takes into account the first five items of my requirements list.  Why list the fact twice that it needs to fit my schedule?  Because it if doesn't I'm setting myself up for failure no matter how hard I try to succeed.  Unfortunately the first week didn't fit Mother Nature's schedule so I lost the first four training runs, but I'm back on schedule.  It's about time I start developing my lifing program and add that in with week three or four.

Friday, February 19, 2010

First Training Run

Wednesday was my first training run for my Frederick Half Marathon training program.  After laying out a gorgeous plan the weather had other ideas so I'm already 1.25 weeks behind in training and I'm stressing a bit.  Not a lot, but I'm out of running fitness (was I ever there?) so the more time on the road the better.

I'm trying out the whole "training after work" thing instead of going in first thing in the morning before work.  I have had a bad habit of making some lame-o excuses for why I can't train after work so I'm trying to toughen myself up.  Running after work means that I need to watch what I eat for lunch and pay close attention to my hydration level during the day.  Even a small level of dehydration can give me a migraine, and that's the third thing I have to watch - if my head is starting to hurt, unless I've been banging it against my desk, it's probably a migraine and I need to treat it immediately.  Running with a migraine, while it doesn't always feel too bad during the run, causes excrutiating pain afterwards to the point that I want to blow my head off with a shotgun (a handgun is not enough in this case).  So no running with a migraine.  Period.

On Wednesday I grabbed leftovers of seafood masala and rice.  I had indigestion for the remainder of the day after eating it so I knew things weren't setting up well for my run.  But I went anyway (feeling a little tougher).  Since I was unsure of the local paved trail snow/ice status I went to the gym and hit up the 'mill.  Around mile 1.5 my lunch paid me a visit.  Thankfully it didn't get much higher than the back of my throat, but I decided that I'd finish out the remaining 2.5 miles walking to prevent another visit (and a big mess in the gym).  Had I been on the trail I probably would have kept running until I finished my run; I have no hang-ups with tossing cookies in front of people and would have gladly done so if it had made my stomach feel better.  And just think of the story I would have to tell!

Down the speed goes, and I decide that if I'm going to walk I'm raising the incline and keeping my heart rate up (a little tougher again).  Around mile 2 the ball of my right foot is starting to feel pain.  After a few steps it fades, but comes back even stronger.  I make it through a few more cycles of pain before I'm limping on the treadmill because I feel like I'm walking on knives and the pain is no longer going away.  STOP.  Go stretch and hit the showers.

My guess is I now have a fourth thing to watch out for on run-after-work days: choice of shoes.  I was wearing a modest heel, but the sole is thin and causes more impact to the balls of my feet (a spot that already seems to be highly sensitive) during the day.  I generally don't wear crazy shoes, but I definitely have ones that create more aches than others so I'll have to consider my shoe choice when picking out my work outfit.

I'm still laughing about how poorly this first run went, so at least I'm still in good spirits.  I just hope that the bad runs don't continue for too long; I need to experience at least some success to keep me motivated.  If I continue having bad luck with afternoon runs I'll have to stick with morning runs and do other training in the afternoons, although I'm hoping to have the option in case I need to be at work in the early morning.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Pilates Breakthrough

Last year I decided that if I wasn't going to do any swim, bike, or run training, I needed to at least be doing pilates or yoga.  I have practiced yoga before and missed the serenity that it provided, but pilates was new to me.  During my recovery from work at the end of December last year, I decided that it was time to find a studio.  I found one that offered both pilates and yoga and signed up for my first pilates class on December 29th.

For anyone that has done pilates before, you'll know what I went through.  Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century and focuses on strengthening the core muscles.  You can either do a mat series or an equipment series - a reformer is part of the equipment required for the equipment series and many have seen this piece of equipment on TV.  I chose to start with the mat class, but made a step up from the traditional mat class in that this class uses small weights, a resistance band, and the "magic circle" for added intensity (not usually all in the same class).  I was sore a day or two after my first few classes, but not the usual sore; more like a deep inner soreness that felt closer to an ache than pain.  It felt good.

Last week was my sixth class.  I go once a week so that also means I have been doing pilates for six weeks (woo hoo!).  I popped in to a semi-private beginner pilates mat class to make sure my form was good, and to a few yoga classes during the six weeks, but pilates has been my prime class.  I walked away from class last week with a huge smile on my face and couldn't wait to tell Jeff about my class.

The instructor was not our usual instructor but she was great.  Usually we choose our magic circle at the beginning of class, if needed, but this time she handed them out for us.  There are two levels of resistance for the magic circles: the circle with the blue pads are less resistant than the black pads.  She handed me a black pad circle and I smiled to myself since this was the first time using the tougher circle.  I was ready for the challenge and had a great class with it.  I'll probably stick to the black pad circle from now on.

The other "big smile" moment was at the end of class when we were doing triceps extensions.  Standing with small weights in your hands and your arms down by your sides, you lift your straight arms up and back focusing on the triceps muscles.  The instructor said "you should feel this in your triceps".  She then looks at my arms and says "I can see it in your triceps".  A goofy grin took over my face (and did again as I wrote this).  Awesome.

I felt invincible during this class.  My core felt strong and I don't think I can call myself a beginner anymore; it's time to stop doing the beginner modifications and start running with the big dogs.  I'm looking forward to it.  More proof was given to me during the three/four rounds of shoveling this weekend.  I didn't fatigue like I have in the past, and focusing on using my core helped to prevent the usual one or two bad throws of snow that tear up my back.  I'm loving my pilates class and my new-found core strength, and maybe in a few months I'll move up to the equipment classes.

Reflecting on 2009

It's never too late to reflect on your past, so here goes:

2009, you were rough on me.  April through October was spent as Test Director for a five week test.  I lost my summer and the early part my of fall, and I'm still a bit bitter about that.  The bitter is fading, though.  I found some time to train and compete, but it certainly didn't go the way that I had hoped (really though, when does anything ever go as planned?).  December was committed to work, putting in time almost every day in December up until the Saturday before Christmas.  I didn't have time to enjoy the holidays as much as I wanted because I was always working, albeit for 8.5 hours a day instead of 14 hours, so I still had a bit of a life.  But nonetheless, 2009 was all about work and boy did it feel like it.

For 2010 I'll be making an effort to leave work at a reasonable hour (when my eight hours are in, I'm finished for the day).  If it can be done tomorrow, it will be.  I need to take advantage of the slow periods so I have the energy to maintain through the fast periods where long hours will certainly be required.  More commitment to training is a must.  I'd like to make improvements to my appearance and increase my fitness, but I can't do that with a beer in my hand as I channel surf.

And now it's time to move on.  A brand new season awaits!