Sunday, February 26, 2012

Training log - Week ending 2/26/12

This week was 63 miles of “real running” and 12 “miles” pool running, plus 2000 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Much of this week was a cutback week, in terms of intensity. I haven’t overreached yet -- in fact, my legs felt the best they had in 2 weeks at Tuesday’s track workout – but a persistent mild sinus infection plus a bad night’s sleep on Monday night (when I let work stress get to me more than it should have) were both clear indications that I needed to back off. So, I moderated the intensity by a) limiting Tuesday’s workout to the minimum # of reps and b) skipping Friday tempo altogether. I also focused again on all the things I’ve been slacking off on – higher carb intake, more salt, enough sleep (got a full 8 hours on Wednesday and Thursday nights, which was awesome). And by Friday I was feeling wonderfully perky.

It was perfect timing for an intensity cutback anyway – I was in Westchester County, NY on Thursday and Friday for work, and had absolutely no idea where I was going to run my tempo workout. So, instead I did an exploratory easy run, and ended up touring the Purchase College campus (which will work for tempo for next year's trip).

Hopefully, it’s an indication of some nascent common sense that I’m learning to back off BEFORE I go over the edge. It’s very hard to do.

*sigh* Wrote the above before Sunday’s long run, where I ended up running way too fast – I felt like I was running standard long run effort, but was unpleasantly surprised when I saw the watch report at the end. Still a work in progress, and 0 for 2 in my workouts this week.  I love running my workouts off of effort and ignoring my watch, but I'm targeting the wrong effort, and need to recalibrate.

Dailies

Monday: In the morning, 2000 yards of swimming breathing drills followed by 40 minutes of poolrunning for “4 miles”, and then some upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises. Foam-rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 9 miles including a track workout of 4x1200 (scheduled was 4-6x1200). Ran 4:37, 4:33, 4:24, 4:24 (last two were too fast). Followed with injury prevention work and 30 minutes of shakeout pool-running. Floor barre and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning 9 miles easy (8:08 pace) followed by yoga. Later, 6 miles easy (8:02 pace). Also foam-rolling/stretching.

Thursday: In the morning, light upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises, followed by 30 minutes very easy pool-running (3 “miles”), and then foam-rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 12 easy miles (8:04 pace), followed by some injury prevention work. Foam-rolling and stretching, plus pilates, at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 10 miles easy to moderate (7:50 pace). Most of the run was easy, but I’ll fess up that I picked it up to 7:30 pace the last two miles when the temperature dropped significantly, the wind picked up to 25+ mph, and it started snowing (I was wearing a tank top, which was perfect for the conditions when I STARTED the run).

Sunday: Long run of 16.5 miles – overall pace was 7:16, with progression of 8:21 pace for first 1.5 miles; 7:39 for the next 5.5, 7:04 for the next 7.5, and 6:23 for last 2 miles (huh?). Was told to ease up, but apparently failed to do so -- had no idea I was running that fast until I checked the watch post run. Crap. Followed with injury prevention work at gym, and then 20 minutes of easy pool-running for “2 miles”. Foam rolling and restorative yoga at night.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Floor barre

As someone with a history of injury, I'm pretty familiar with cross training.  In the depths of an injury, you tend to focus on cross-training that is a substitute for running - i.e. pool-running, elliptical, instead.

Well, it turns out that ballet dancers have something similar.   It's called "floor barre," and it's essentially ballet maneuvers performed while lying on one's back or side, instead of standing -- practice for ballerinas who can't stand on their feet.  It's plies, first position, second position, etc, all while laying on a mat.

You may have noticed it in my weekly training log -- I first tried this class during a rest week about half a year ago, and fell in love.  While formally aimed at ballet dancers, I believe this class works really well for runners for injury prevention. It targets the traditional runner weak spots of glute engagement and ankle strength and flexibility.  And, since it's focused on alignment and muscle engagement, rather than strength, it works well as a recovery/injury prevention workout.  You can take a class without concern about interfering with recovery from a hard workout, or compromising tomorrow's hard run.

The class starts with a series of simple leg raises and abs while on the floor, as a warm-up, followed by a series of ankle circles and pointing and flexing the feet.  All of this while lying on your back.  The foot exercises are excellent prevention for anyone with a history of foot/ankle tendonitis (raises hand foot).

The above video, starting at 1:50, is a good illustration of the foot/ankle exercises that are part of floor barre (no, thankfully the class I take doesn't impose classical music on us -- I'm not sure I could take the class, were that the case).

From there, it moves on to an ever more challenging series of posture exercises (again, all on the floor), as you attempt to balance on your side on a padded mat while doing different things with arms, legs, and head.    The exercises are not overly challenging from a sheer strength perspective, and don't look all that impressive to an outside observer.  But they are difficult in their own way -- it's impossible to maintain your balance on your side unless you maintain ABSOLUTELY perfect posture, including relaxed but active and engaged glutes and abs.  Lose your engagement for a second, and you roll onto either your rear or your stomach (and laugh a bit).  And much of the work is done while moving one leg in isolation.

Here's an example video of some of the side exercises (some of which are more difficult then what we do in the class I take).

See how that works -- focusing on keeping your abs and glutes engaged and firing correctly while one leg  moves independent of the other?  Makes it obvious how useful this class is for runners, especially those with glutes that like to turn off.

The majority of the class focuses on ballet maneuvers on one's back or side, but there is a 10 minute "intermission" (my term) in the middle where we focus on ab strength, in what most people find to be an extremely challenging ab workout -- certainly more difficult than any special "abs" class or "abs section" in Baptiste-style yoga.  The sequence starts very simply - you breathe in and out, while alternately engaging and relaxing your abs.  Then the sequence progresses, first adding arms, then legs, then rotation, then straight legs, then bicycle motions, and so on.  All while being sure to maintain proper breathing technique and good posture.

Generally, only about 2/3rds of the class completes the abs section, with some of those modifying the workouts in order to complete.  It's not an easy abs workout.  But a strong core is essential for good running, and this abs section, which ignores standard crunches (which are useless) in favor of stabilizing your core while your legs do different things, seems tailor made for runners.

Then it's back to the ballet, doing "plies" while lying on the mat -- great for opening the hips and improving hip rotation, which is a personal bugaboo.  Follow up with some planks and stretching, and you're done.  And a bit closer to being a strong, injury-minimizing runner.

The one problem with floor barre is that it can be pretty difficult to find -- you have to search for a dance studio, rather than a gym or yoga/pilates place.  But it's worth it.  I'm pretty lucky in that my gym, Mint, offers the class as a perk to members on Tuesday evenings (6:30-7:25).  However, this class also open to non-members for a fee (I don't know the exact pricing, but I do know it's competitive with local yoga studios).

If you want to find me on Tuesday night, this is generally where I am.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Training log - Week ending 2/19/12

This week was 64.5 miles of “real running” and 10 “miles” pool running, plus 2500 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

Felt much better this week – whatever bug I was fighting has subsided except for a bit of a mild sinus infection (TMI). And guilt – I apparently gave it to my boyfriend, who ended up getting hit much worse than myself, and also to at least one other person.

Was good enough by Saturday to set a 35 second 10K PR (race report) so woo. My running’s heading in the right direction, and I’m feeling good about what’s ahead.

In other news, I finally got into gear and added single legged deadlifts (light weight – 10-15 pounds) to my injury prevention routine. They’re not particularly draining, but they target all of my weak spots (glute engagement/stabilization; foot strength; ankle strength; one legged balance), and they’ve been recommended to me again and again. But, I continually find myself making excuses or running out of time and unable to do them (which is just an excuse – I have no trouble finding time for planks and abs exercises galore). I do know that the injury prevention exercises you keep dodging are generally the ones you need to be doing, so they’re now part of the routine.

Dailies

Monday: In the morning, 50 minutes of poolrunning for “5 miles” plus 1000 yards of swimming breathing drills, followed by upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises. Foam-rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 12 miles including a track workout of 8x800 (scheduled was 6-10x800). Ended up with 8, at 3:02, 2:56, 2:56, 2:56, 2:56, 2:55, 2:55, 2:51. The consistency of these (watchless) splits cracks me up. Was hoping to go for 10, but after the 8th, I was told I was done. OK. Better too few reps than too many. Followed with injury prevention work and 10 minutes of shakeout pool-running. Floor barre and foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: In the morning 10 miles easy (8:22 pace) followed by yoga. Later, 3.5 miles easy (7:52). Also foam-rolling/stretching.

Thursday: In the morning, 8.5 miles easy (8:08 pace) plus drills and strides, followed by upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises. Foam-rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, swimming breathing drills. Foam-rolling and stretching, plus some injury prevention work, at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 3 mile warm-up, and then a 10K race in 40:18, followed by 4 mile cool-down. 20 minutes of recovery pool-running for “2 miles”; later very light upperbody and core strenthwork, plus lotsa foam-rolling, stretching, and injury prevention work.

Sunday: Long run of 16.5 miles – overall pace was 7:40, with moderate progression of a very slow start (9:21 pace) followed by two miles at 8:25 pace, next four at 7:47 pace, next eight at 7:27 pace, and final 1.5 at 6:58 pace. Followed with injury prevention work at gym, and then 20 minutes of easy pool-running for “2 miles”. Foam rolling and restorative yoga at night.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Race report: GW Birthday 10K, February 18, 2012

I ran the “GW Birthday 10K” today, finishing in 40:18 (chip-timing) for a 35 second PR. So yay!

When I signed up for this 10K, I had visions of PRs dancing in my head – my workouts have indicated that I’ve made some significant gains in fitness, and I was eager to show them off.  Indeed, I had visions of a sub-40 minute 10K (while I’m focused on halfs and 10 miles, one of my short to medium term goals is breaking 40) in my head.    I had previously signed up for the Ukrops 10K in Richmond in about 2 months – that race has a reputation for being very fast.

And then I realized that Ukrops was on Saturday March 31, and the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on Sunday, April 1.  I can’t race both.  And I LOVE Cherry Blossom.  So I needed another 10K.  And this one, described by race promotion management company Pacers as “Flat and fast except for one rise at overpass near start and finish” sounded like a good candidate, weather permitting.

And the weather this morning was gorgeous.  And I felt ready for a great race.  So yay.

***

I arrived at the race and picked up my bib.  Easiest race ever – I parked right next to the start/finish, with the building hosting bib pick-up right on the other side.  This building (the US Patent Office) also featured tons of bathrooms – the luxury.  So far, perfect.

And then I went for my warm-up.  And noted that the “one rise at overpass” was a bit impressive.  But oh well.  It was just one hill, albeit an imposing one, and I’m fine with hills.  I’ve got Iwo Jima hill repeats and the occasional easy jog on the roller-coaster-esque Custis trail in my mental fuel belt.  One substantial hill - no problem.  Otherwise fast and FLAT, right?  

So, lined up, chatted with some others, and then we were off.  I had noted that the first mile was downhill to the overpass, and thus likely to suck me out way too fast, so I rode the brakes hard for the first half mile, allowing people to flow around me on both sides.  I figured I’d catch them on the flat part of the course, after they burned themselves out on the overpass.

Well, I was partially right.  By mile marker 1, people were struggling on both sides of me, and I gently pulled away into clear territory and could run.  But the course was not flat.  Rather, we were climbing, and then flat or descending slightly, and then climbing.  Never anything that was that bad, but a modest steady climb.  I just focused on maintaining effort, and laughed inside at my na├»ve trust of the race managers’ representations.  Cherry Blossom is flat and fast.  Philly Distance run is flat and fast.  Haines Point is super flat and super fast. 
This race – not quite.

It's not a slow course by any means.  It's fair and not particularly challenging.  But it's not “flat and fast.”

[n.b. I have been informed that the majority (or at least, the person who counts) believes the course to have been flat and me to be whining.  I disagree (on the course, agree on the whining), but concede I might not be the most unbiased here.  Ergo, I now correct.  The course is flat (or not -- see DC Rainmaker's Race Report for an elevation profile).]

Bad [race management].  Bad, BAD [race management].   You LIED.

With a rueful grin, I held steady effort and stayed patient through the halfway turnaround, and then we were on our way down, and I just rolled.   Up and over the overpass, and then flowing towards home.  I felt the old temptation to start attacking the finish line, but successfully resisted, and instead ran fluidly all the way home.

***

Post-hoc splits were:

6:28 (downhill, but with overpass)
6:40 (uphill)
6:47 (more uphill)
6:26 (u-turn and downhill)
6:24 (downhill)
6:21 (uphill, overpass, pushing),
1:12 (5:43 pace, uphill)

Once again, it’s interesting how running watchless really works.  If I had been looking at my splits, I would have been worried by how fast my first mile was or how disturbingly slow the second and third (especially the third – nearly half marathon pace).  But, instead I ran on, happily oblivious, and ended up with a pretty good race.

I also note that, though I definitely ran this as a race effort, at the same time I felt that I could have backed off the pace just slightly, and gone a lot longer.  Maybe this is just some residual weakness from whatever bug I had last week, but I'm hoping it also indicates that I've got some really good things in store at my goal race distances.

Other notes:

2 puffs of inhaler 45 minutes before the race.  Weather was bright sunshine and 38 degrees – wore tank top and gloves and was comfortable, though sports bra would have worked too.  Left home at 6:20, got to race at 6:55.  Warm-up was 3 miles progression (ending 15 minutes before) plus drills and strides.

Got to meet DC Rainmaker, which was cool. I just wish I'd had the presence of mind to ask for a sticker.

8th woman overall.  The race only did 10 year age groups, alas.

Sub-40 is close, I think.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Does not compute

So, I'm a bit of a competitive person.  I enjoy running, but at the end of the day, what really drives me is seeing how I measure up, against my past self and against others.

I've never really understood the joy in completing something just for the sake of completing it -- I'd rather break 40 for the 10K than finish a Tough Mudder or Ironman.  It's just how I'm wired.  Maybe it's a personal flaw; maybe it's just a "charming personal quirk."

I understand that others are different though, and that's fine too.  Some of us like brandy or scotch, some of use can't stand the taste of it.

But every once in a while, I see something.  Something odd.  Something that I simply canNOT comprehend the appeal of, to the point that it confuses me.

So, here you go.  The Color Run -- "a one of a kind experience that is less about speed and more about enjoying a color crazy day with your friends and family."


I.just.don't.get.it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Training log - Week ending 2/12/12

This week was 52.5 miles of “real running” and 13 “miles” pool running, plus 2000 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

This ended up being an unplanned cutback week, due to some stupid bug.  I showed up for Tuesday’s track workout planning on doing at least five 1200m repeats (workout was 4-6x1200m), and not making the connection between a) my irritable mood and headache, b) my achy upper body, and c) my congestion (which I thought was allergies).    As the workout continued on, I started working a lot harder than I should have.  About 200m into the 4th repeat I got really light headed, and just shut it down at that point since I was clearly off.  Headed straight from track to bed.  

Luckily, the worst of the bug only lasted about 24 hours.  However, some residual fatigue lingered through the week, so I eased up on things.   I cut out the weight-training, cut back the mileage, kept all the yoga to “restorative” or “gentle,” and rearranged my schedule to do whatever I could to get 9 hours+ of sleep each night.  By the weekend, I was feeling mostly recovered, so I went ahead and raced a 5K for the experience, and did OK (report).  Kept Sunday’s run to easy pace, rather than progression, just to make sure I didn’t force a relapse.    

Dailies

Monday:   In the morning, 70 minutes of poolrunning for “7 miles”  followed by upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises.  Foam-rolling at night.

Tuesday:  In the morning, 6 miles including a track workout of 3x1200m (500m jog).  Splits were 4:35, 4:28, 4:26, and then done.   Skipped the cooldown jog, injury prevention work and recovery pool-running in favor of calling in sick to work and going back to bed. 

In the evening, foam rolling and stretching at home plus zinc and massive fluids. 

Wednesday:   In the morning, slept in and then ran easy.  11 miles easy (7:54 pace).  Gentle yoga and foam rolling at night. 

Thursday:   In the morning, 10 miles easy (8:00 pace) plus drills and strides.    Pilates and foam-rolling at night.

Friday:  In the morning, swimming breathing drills.  Foam-rolling and stretching, plus some injury prevention work, at night.

Saturday:   In the morning, 3.5 mile warm-up, and then a 5K race in 19:43, followed by 1.5 mile cool-down.  30 minutes of recovery pool-running for “3 miles”; foam-rolling at night.

Sunday:   A watchless long run at easy pace, so distance and time are approximations (I’m guessing 17.5 at 7:55 pace).  My Garmin’s battery only had 20 minutes left, so I ended up running watchless for the most part, only turning it on at the end to time the final 2 miles to get some sense of pace (7:37 for those).   I meant to do 16 at easy pace, but got diverted from my normal loop by some police activity; when I mapped out my run at home later, I discovered that my altered course ended up taking a bit over a mile longer.  Oops.
 
Followed with injury prevention work at gym, and then 30 minutes of easy pool-running for “3 miles."   Foam rolling and restorative yoga at night.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Race report: Have a Heart for Hoffman Boston Elementary School 5K, February 11, 2012

I ran the “Have a Heart for Hoffman Boston Elementary School 5K” (Whew…that’s a mouthful) today, finishing in 19:43 (by my watch – gun time was slower, since I started back in the pack and there was no chip timing).  Not the time I had hoped to run when I originally signed up, but I’m still happy with it.

To set the stage:  I hate 5Ks.

No really, I do.

But I get why one should run them, even if you hate them and are better at longer races.   5Ks give you a chance to practice racing, which is an important SKILL, and one that you are not practicing during workouts (at least, you shouldn’t be racing your workouts).  And, for those of us who are best at the races that last an hour or so (i.e. me), a 5K makes you race a bit out of your comfort zone, and also makes the pace for your goal races feel easy.  And, you can race a 5K hard, and still recover very quickly. 

Thus, when my coach told me after a week of very good workouts to find a 5K to run the next weekend, I found a 5K to run.  In this case, a fast certified course and close to home.   And I was excited.  My workouts indicated that I was ready for a great race.  So yay.

And then (of course) I got sick this week.  On Tuesday, I had to bail on a workout (and worse yet, quit in the MIDDLE of an interval) when I got dizzy.  Standing on the infield of the track, I belatedly figured out that my headache, congestion, and achy stiff upper body were all related, and went straight from the track to bed.  24 hours later the worst of the darn bug was over (16 of those 24 having been spent in bed), but I still felt a bit run down, achy, and with a nice scratchy throat to boot – feelings that persisted for the week despite sleeping 9+ hours each night.

*whine*

I debated for a bit whether to run the 5K after all.  But, the truth was, I needed to race a 5K even if I was off, for all the forestated reasons (practicing RACING, getting comfortable with running uncomfortably fast).   I checked my resting heart rate, and it was still elevated, but only about 5 bpm – enough that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be risking a relapse by racing.  So, it was on.

***

And thus, I showed up on Saturday morning an hour before race start.  Grabbed my number and did my standard 25 minute progressive warm-up, followed by some strides and drills.  Met up with some teammates to chat, and then we lined up.    

Despite the fact that this was a 200 runner race with no prize money and no chip timing, the women’s field was pretty tough, with at least 5 women with 5K PRs 90+ seconds faster than mine.  I would have normally seeded myself in the front of such a small race, but such was pretty clearly inappropriate here, so I put myself a few rows back, crossing the line a few seconds after the gun.

A teammate who normally runs the same paces as me was also in the race.  We discussed briefly racing strategy, but agreed that it didn’t make sense to run together – she likes to run a very even paced race, while I do much better with a slow first mile and a strong negative split.  So we split off, with her lining up ahead of me.  And as the race started, I focused on my own level of effort while watching her flow off into the distance.  I’d either catch her in the second half, or not.

As it turned out, I didn’t.  She ran a phenomenal race (yay).  And I was glad I was running my own race.  My legs simply never had their normal spark and strength, and I think had I tried to go out with her, I would have crashed and burned.   But since I relaxed on my own effort and gave what _I_ had to give that day, I ended up still making the best of it.

The course was slightly uphill on the way out; slightly downhill on the way back.  Per my norm, I kept my Garmin face set to clock time, and only took the splits for posterity.  They ended up being 6:33, 6:24, 6:07, and 39.  So, if nothing else, pretty clear proof that (as always) I pace myself best when I ignore splits entirely. 

I was a bit frustrated, in that I emotionally wanted to run much faster, and was eager to, but my legs would NOT respond.  I got the best out of them that I could the second half, but they were dead by the time I hit the 3 mile mark, and I fought hard for what little kick I had, tying up in the process.  

The time is a bit meh, and not at all what I had hoped to run when I originally signed up.  It’s actually pretty far from what I think I’m capable of for a 5K right now.  That being said, I still feel pretty good about this one.  I ran a well-executed race, and despite being off, I still ran a time that I would have been pretty darn happy with 6 months ago.  And that indicates how far I’ve come, and gives me confidence in my fitness. 

Additionally, any time you have to bail in the middle of a workout, even if you know intellectually it was the right decision, it emotionally screws your confidence a bit.  Running a solid mentally tough race as my next hard run after that workout was a nice antidote.

So onwards to the next race (a 10K next weekend).  

Other notes:

Two puffs of inhaler 30 minutes before the race; needed another one after the race, when I had a ridiculously hard time catching my breath.

Weather was perfect.  Overcast, ~37 degrees.  I heard others talking about the wind, but I honestly didn’t notice.

I was 9th woman overall and 3rd in age group 30-39 (would have won women 35-39, but they only did 10 year age groups).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ode to the Arc-Trainer

So, a few weeks back I had my silly shin tweak.  I refuse to call it an injury, because in my mind, an injury is something that FORCES you to take time off.    A tweak or a niggle is something where you don't NEED to take time off, but choose to do so, so as to avoid injury.

[yes, this distinction is being overly anal, but I do it for a reason.  My big goal for this season is to avoid injury, and I don't want to put myself in a position where I don't back off because I don't want to admit something's wrong.  If I call it a tweak when it starts, instead of denying it I respond immediately and prevent it from evolving into an injury.  See how that works?  You cut back by choice, before you have to.]

So, as I was saying, I tweaked my shin.   And I cut back on my running and skipped my hard workouts for a month.  And when I came back, I had really lost very little fitness.  Pool-running was part of this, but I also give a great deal of credit to my use of the arc-trainer.

***

So what's an arc-trainer?  Well, it looks like a variant of the elliptical, but with even less dignity.  Here's a picture.  It's a bit intimidating at first, but pretty easy to figure out how to get on (step onto the steps; grab the handles).  Then once you get on, you program in time, incline, and resistance, and go on your way (well, so to speak). 


So, it's like an elliptical, but different.  I really don't know how to explain the difference, except to say that the arc-trainer at a low incline (I set on 3) has a motion that is much more like running than the elliptical.  Same path traveled by the feet, same stride length, and same exact action of glutes versus quads.  Below is a promotional marketing video from Cybex that hopefully sets this forth a bit better. 

Particularly interesting is the point made about the excessive stress on the knee from the elliptical (versus the arc-trainer).  From the video, it looks like the elliptical mimics the stride of an inefficient overstriding runner, while the arc-trainer's stride is much closer to correct running form -- thus the greater risk of hurting something while on the elliptical (this is likely why avid runners also cannot STAND the ellliptical).  In my experience, the only real difference between the arc-trainer and the treadmill is that the former is non-impact, and so your calves and shins aren't doing the same work they would be doing while running -- fantastic if you're battling shin or calf issues.



To my mind, this makes the arc-trainer a better substitute for running than pool-running for both easy runs and tempos (more later on why intervals don't work as well).  Pool-running tends to have a slightly different leg motion than land running, and also works the hip flexors far more than the glutes, leading to some imbalances when you return to land.  Additionally, due to the effects of being in the water, pool-running heart-rates tend to be 15-20 beats lower than land, while the heart-rates one can achieve on the arc-trainer are nearly exact to those you hit while running.  In fact, I simply equated arc-trainer miles to running miles by assessing how long I "ran" at a certain HR.  145-150 BPM for me is about 8:15 pace, so 32-33 minutes at that pace was ~ "4 miles"

As long as you're cleared for weight bearing, you can mimic close to the exact running motion by a) setting the incline to low and b) ignoring any handles that may exist and instead stabilizing your torso and swinging your arms as you would while running.  It feels darn close to running (with the added benefit that you get to watch TV).

***


During my "tweak time", I used the arc-trainer to sub for easy runs, tempos, and the second part of long runs -- I just used perceived effort as my guide for how hard to go (upping the resistance to match), and a tempo on the arc-trainer felt nearly EXACTLY like a tempo on the track (and with nearly the same heart rate, to boot).  For long runs, which my coach generally has us do as progressive effort workouts, I would do the first part of the long run by running easy outside for as far as I felt was safe.  Then I'd drive immediately to the gym, hop on one of these, and after a quick warm-up I'd start pushing the effort to mimic the harder work of the final part of the long run.


By following this plan, I was able to keep up with my coach's scheduled workouts almost exactly.  The one workout I DIDN'T use the arc-trainer for was intervals.  For those, I relied on pool-running, simply because I found that the arc-trainer became unstable at the effort level I associate with hard intervals.  Not enough that I thought it was going to flip over, but the machine would definitely start to move across the floor, creating a bit of a hazard.

***


So yeah, 4 weeks of substituting the arc-trainer for easy running and tempo effort, and pool-running for intervals, and I came back fine.  Happy ending.  But... there are two caveats about using the arc-trainer.

1) They can be hard to get access to.  They're expensive and take up a good amount of floor space, so most of the gyms that have them just have a few.  And, they are extremely popular for the silliest of reasons -- basically the calorie count on the machines is ridiculously inflated (supposedly I burn 1200 calories an hour on one of them) and so people desperately trying to match calories in versus calories out flock to them, because they "burn the most calories for the least effort...."  (I leave it to the reader to assess the logic of that statement).

2) Because the arc-trainer is SO good at preserving every aspect of fitness except lower leg strength, there's a real risk that one gets reinjured by coming back to running too quickly.  Your cardiovascular fitness is there, as is the quad and glute strength.  But, if you've spent more than a week or so on one of these things, you've doubtless lost a lot of strength in your lower legs, and you need to carefully and gradually transition from the arc-trainer back to full time running to avoid a new injury (*ahem* tweak).

[Final disclaimer - I own no stock in Cybex, and have never had ANY communication with them regarding this or any other product.  I just like the machine a lot]

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Training log - Week ending 2/05/12

This week was 60.5 miles of “real running” and 17 “miles” pool running, plus 2000 yards of swimming breathing drills -- training log is here.

I was pretty happy with this week overall. The highlight was on Friday, when I broke 20 minutes in a 5K tempo – since I run my workouts without the time showing on my Garmin, and just focus on effort, I can honestly say that this was a tempo effort, and not an attempt to chase a specific time.

Instead of a tempo and a long run, I did two tempos this week – in addition to the shorter 5K tempo on Friday, I did a longer one of “3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile” (with mile recoveries) on Sunday. We usually do this workout on the track (albeit with shorter recoveries, which makes the workout harder), so I thought that we were shooting for the same effort during the on miles here, and did so.

Of course, I then found out that I apparently ran this too fast, and that we were supposed to be running the on parts at marathon pace. Oops. (there was an alternate version of the workout for marathoners, which was 4, 3, 2, 1 at marathon pace – I thought that while they were doing marathon pace, we were doing tempo pace).

Oh well. Of course, even with apparently running this workout way too hard, I still found it less taxing than either of this week’s track workouts. Shows where my strengths and weaknesses are, I guess.

In other news, I broke down and purchased compression socks in black to replace the darn pink ones. My dignity can slowly start to heal.

Dailies

Monday: In the morning, 60 minutes of poolrunning for “6 miles” followed by 1000 yards of swimming breathing drills, and then upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises. Foam-rolling at night.

Tuesday: In the morning, 12 miles including a track workout of 8x800m (400m jog). Splits were 3:06, 2:58, 2:58, 2:54, 2:54, 2:54, 2:53, 2:49. Followed with injury prevention work and then recovery pool-running for 25 minutes (“2.5 miles”). Floor barre class at night.

Wednesday: In the morning, 9.5 miles easy (8:08 pace), and then yoga. Later, another 4.5 miles that certainly felt easy but somehow came out to 7:37 pace. No idea what happened there – I’m thinking some weird Garmin error where it tracked distance accurately, but screwed up time (my Garmin’s been having all sorts of other corruption issues, so this isn’t a totally crazy idea).

Thursday: In the morning, upper body and core strength work, plus injury prevention exercises, followed by 1000 yards of swimming breathing drills, and then 45 minutes of poolrunning for “4.5 miles.” Foam-rolling at night.

Friday: In the morning, 11.5 miles including a 5K tempo workout in 19:58 (6:26 pace; splits of 6:39, 6:20, 6:17, 0:42). Followed by injury prevention work and then recovery pool-running for 10 minutes (“1 mile”). Pilates and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: In the morning, 9.5 miles easy (8:08 pace). Weights, core strengthwork, injury prevention exercises, and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday: 13 miles on a bike trail, including a tempo workout of “3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile” with 1 mile recovery between each rep. Since we were on a trail without reliable markers, and I like to keep my Garmin to clock time, I just ran the workout by clock time – meaning I split this as: hard (8:24 - 8:44 am), easy (8:44 - 8:52 am), hard (8:52 - 9:05 am), easy (9:05 - 9:12 am), and then hard (9:12 - 9:18 am). When I hit the right clock time, I shifted screens to check Garmin distance, and then ran to a close landmark.

This worked pretty well – split paces ended up being 6:37 for the ~3 miles, 6:39 for the ~2 miles, 6:35 for the final mile (recoveries at 7:47 and 8:14). Given the slight hills of the route, I’d call this even effort. Average pace for the run overall was 7:30.

Followed with injury prevention work at gym, and then 30 minutes of easy pool-running for “3 miles”. Foam rolling and hot yoga on the schedule for tonight.