Friday, May 23, 2014

Why do you run?

When I tell people I run, I get a lot of responses.  Most manage to cover their surprise quite well - after all, I'm over 200 pounds, a woman, and I don't fit the image of a runner.  A lot of the response depends on the who I'm talking to.  If it's a runner, I'll hear something like, "That's awesome."  This may or may not be followed by, "You should come running with us!"

With non-runners, I hear excuses or questions.  I'm not judging the excuses - first, running isn't for everyone; second, I've made all of those excuses myself at one time or another.  As much as I'm aware that I'm not going to convert any of these people, I've learned to shut up when I hear the excuses, or respond in a sympathetic way.  Some examples of excuses or questions I've received, how I now respond and what I'm really thinking (Yes, I'm aware it's judgmental as hell, forgive me and realize that I do not say these things, much like others did not say them to me before.)

I can't run, I have bad knees  - My response, "yeah, running can be hard on the knees."  My real thoughts - "I was a competitive curler for years.  I've had MRIs to evaluate the amount of damage I've done to my knees.  My knees crunch when I walk upstairs.  Heck, sometimes they just crunch when I'm walking.  Or when I straighten them, even while lying down.  I know from knee pain.  Need a knee brace recommendation?  I'm your girl.  Also, for curling, Robax is bloody amazing - I do not recommend this for running and you need to really research the use of NSAIDs and running and make your own decision.  Ditto muscle relaxants.  You know what has never hurt me while running?  My knees.  Oh, sure, I've had other injuries, but my knees are troopers.  Or it's possible I have no memory of life without knee pain and they really hurt and I'm in denial.  Research has actually shown that running slows (potentially stops) arthritis in the knees.  Sure, you can't just jump in and run for 6 miles, but there are plenty of learn to run programs out there that can get you from 0 to whatever distance you want with reduced injuries and much more happiness.  Do it.  You won't regret it."

What made you start running? My response, "I had this friend who ran and she often talked about half marathons and it sounded like a good way to get active."  My real thought, "Dude, look at me.  I'm fat.  I have skinny friends.  They run AND drink beer.  I want to be thin and drink beer.  Therefore: running.  Also, half marathons and medals.  I like medals and i thought half marathons might impress people.  I was wrong, but it's too late and I kind of like running.  And beer.  And medals."

Running is bad for your knees.  My response, blank stare followed by a subject change.  My thoughts, "It's not, you're an idiot and I can't even come up with a polite response to that."

I don't have time to run.  My response, "yeah, it's hard to fit it in sometimes."  My thoughts, "You probably don't, but if you start talking about Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad (or whatever the TV show du jour is) in the next five minutes, I'm pretty sure you have time to run."

You should run with us.  My response, "nah, I'd just slow you down."  My thoughts, "Nah, I'd just slow you down and be ashamed of how slow I am.  Because I'm a runner, therefore I am slow."

Why don't you do races closer to home?  My response, "I do, they just take less planning than destination races."  My thoughts, "Because then someone I know might want to run with me.  And find out how slow I am.  And judge me because I'm both fat AND slow.  Or someone I know might just see me running and be appalled.  So I'll just go do it with strangers.  Also, the local races I want to run seem to conflict with my destination run this year, which sucks. I can't run ALL THE RACES.  In a single year."

I hate running.  I don't know how you can like it.  My response, "yeah, it isn't for everyone. " My thoughts, "I used to hate running too.  Turns out I didn't understand to work myself up to running longer distances/lengths of time so it was harder than it needed to be and felt like everything hurt all the time.  I know better now and it feels great.  Most of the time.  Sort of.  I mean, for the first mile or so it can be hell.  And the last mile.  And the middle miles.  And oh my god hills.  And I'm slow so maybe I'm just more of a jogger than a runner, but whatever.  I run.  And when I'm done my run, I feel freakin' amazing.  And for about an hour, I don't shut up.  You probably should feel a bit sorry for my husband, but in all seriousness, I love running because of how it feels.  And there are days when I'm simply amazed at how far I've run.  And how consistently I do it.  And how even when a run starts out crappy, I run through it - for better or worse.  And when I'm done those runs, I feel even better than when I'm done an easy run because challenges rock.  And succeeding in a challenge where I might have once failed or given up is the best feeling ever.  It's a feeling I wish everyone could experience once."

But it's cold out.  My response, "yes, it is.  That's why there are treadmills."  My thoughts, "Yes, it is.  That's why there are treadmills."

Treadmills suck.  My response, "yes, they do."  My thoughts, "yes, they do, but the ones at my gym have TVs so I can watch ridiculous people buy houses on TV (thank you HGTV).  And they're sometimes just better than running outside on sheer ice.  Or in 2 feet of snow because apparently, even in Canada, people can't bother to break out a shovel and clear the damned sidewalk.  Also an air conditioned gym can be better than running in extreme heat, wind, thunderstorms, tornados, etc.  And they're better than not running at all."

It's too hot to run.  See "But it's cold out" and also "treadmills suck."

I used to run, when I lived in Australia for a year and lived at sea level.  Running here hurts my lungs.  My response, "you lived in Australia?  That's cool." because that's clearly the response they want.  My thoughts, "If I can run when I'm over 200 lbs, you can run.  You do hot yoga AND boot camp and you complain that running makes your lungs hurt.  Right.  I get it.  We'll stop talking about running."

Monday, May 5, 2014

Runner's need fuel

I have a bad habit of running my long runs on weekend mornings without breakfast and with only a bottle of dilute Gatorade with me.  As a new, slow runner this isn't a problem at lower mileage.  On the weekend, I did my first 5 mile run (on a treadmill, thanks spring snow) after eating an orange.  Everything was fine until mile 4-ish.  then I started slowing down and had to walk more and more.  That last 3/4 of a mile was kind of awful.

I thought that it was just because I'm getting used to running longer and further.  My husband, often smarter than I am, suggested that maybe I should try food and/or Gu before and/or during my next long run.

I'm not really a breakfast person at the best of times.  I'll choke down a bowl of oatmeal with some cinnamon and fruit because it's healthy and filling.  But I rarely take the time to do that before a run, and it seems like that may not be the best choice pre-run anyway.

So, off to the Running Room I went on Sunday morning (my local running store is further and not open on Sundays) and I came home with a variety of energy bars and gels to try out.

Now if only we could avoid getting 4+ inches of slush on Saturday mornings.  I'm still a fair weather runner and running that long on a treadmill is painful, even if I do get plenty of time to watch HGTV.

How do you fuel for long runs?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dear Hal Higdon (Thanks)

Last week I hated you.  I mean, you start out the week with strength training.  The next day I run.  And then I do cross training, followed by a day where you throw together running AND strength training.  If I survive your gauntlet of pain, I get a rest day.

Followed by a long run.

The old me (from last week) thought you were a sadistic kind of fellow.  Here's the thing, I'm fat.  I just am.  I started doing this running thing to lose weight.  And then I discovered I like it a bit so, hey, why not do something like train for a half marathon?  Which I did - not so successfully - a couple of years ago.  And in the hours after that first half marathon, I hated running.  I swore I'd never race again.  And whether or not I'd run again was also up in the air.

And then I forgot about that pain. I worked through the injuries I caused myself.  I ran a 5K or two.  And then this year came and my friends said, "hey, there's this half marathon..."

And I said, "SURE!!!!!!!!!! SIGN ME UP!"

With that in the distant future (September was a long way away), I decided to start looking for things closer to home in between and I stumbled across this race that included two of my loves - running and cinnamon buns.  Well, three of my loves actually since it is out in the country and I'm running past cows, not houses.  And I thought, "eight miles?  I can do that!"

So, off I went to the Hal Higdon site and found myself a training plan (15K/10 mile).  And I began slowly - I had more weeks between me and the race than Hal had in the training plan so I modified the plan and stretched things out.  Everything was coming up roses - I even started strength training per the schedule.

When I started strength training, I looked around for an easy, comprehensive plan that wouldn't lock me in the gym for hours.  I settled on this one that focuses on the wrong things for a runner - heavy weight, low reps.  Also, every workout includes squats.  Let me say that again - EVERY. WORKOUT. SQUATS.

It starts out easy with an empty Olympic bar and you build up every week to higher weight.  Well, last week, I finally started hitting failure on my squats.  At 90 lbs + body weight post run - it was a Thursday.

Now, the week didn't start out all that well, even though it was one of the mini tapers in the program.  Every day was a simple 2 mile run, but after Monday's strength, my legs felt like lead through the Tuesday run.  Where I'd hoped to work on speed a bit with the reduced mileage, I ended up working on trying not to lay down on the treadmill and cry instead of running.  I walked a lot that day.

The next day, determined, I hit the elliptical and put in a full 60 minutes and felt slightly better.  Then Thursday came and, well, I made some mistakes.

Going back to the "fat" thing, I'm also trying to fix my diet.  Which means eating out less - especially at lunch.  So I picked up a bunch of frozen diet lunches on sale.  On Thursday, I had oatmeal for breakfast.  Then I had a frozen meal that clocked in at <300 calories.  Five and a half hours later, I was at the gym running and lifting.  I wanted to die, but I finished those squats.

After that, I dreaded this week.  Not only was I still strength training, but my mileage would be going up a bit.  Basically every day in the week would be up a mile, giving me a 3 mile increase overall.  I modified that and went with a 2 mile increase overall, because ow.

Last night - Thursday - was run and strength.  And I dreaded it.  But I learned a bit from last week.  I supplemented my food for the day and ate more calories with some fruit, veggies and cheese.  I got to the gym and I decided to try intervals because I'm a glutton for punishment.

I finished my speed work, hit the weights and finished them successfully as well.  By the time I got home, I felt like a million bucks.

So, Mr. Higdon, thanks.  Your training plans, while sometimes painful and evil, have made me stronger.  And maybe even a little faster.  I can't wait to start the half marathon plan in June.