Category Archives: Training

Is it me, or are things getting more difficult?

(YEAR IN FOCUS ...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

We all know that paying the bills is a bit more difficult nowadays. We also know that it is bit harder to make ends meet and it’s more difficult to know what the future is going to hold in terms of jobs, finance, the environment and politics. I know this isn’t me – this is just things getting more difficult as we head towards the 21st century teens.

But how come, now that I am two weeks into my 16 week marathon training schedule, I am finding it harder to run that I did when I started?

I have been running first thing in the morning before work, which is pretty tough at the best of times when it is dark, cold and wet. But it isn’t that – it’s more that I feel sluggish, tired and like I weigh about 25 stone when I am out. I only did a 4 mile run this morning in the drizzly rain, but every time I lifted up my foot to run, it was like my leg had turned to lead.

Is it because I am out running immediately after I get out of bed and before breakfast? I heard on a podcast once that even if you can’t eat before you head out first thing, having a glass of Coke helps as it gives you a bit of sugar to keep you going (I have tried this but I am not sure whether it has helped).

Is it because I am carrying extra weight after the Christmas period? Every time I pick up a 5kg bag of potatoes, I always think that that is what I am having to carry with me each run, when I really shouldn’t have it on me at all.

Is it because my poor body is in shock – going from running once or twice a week up to five times?

I am not sure what the answer is, but it is making the mornings difficult. No, I am not going to get disheartened because I am only going to improve over the next 14 weeks, but I wish I knew what was going on.

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Good runs and bad runs

Exhausted

I don’t know whether anyone else suffers the same, but whenever I am training, I generally know within a couple of minutes of starting whether I am going to have a good run, or a bad run. A good run is where I feel like I can run forever – I get into my stride, get into ‘the zone’, and everything feels good. I had a 9 mile good run last night and got home feeling fabulous. But sadly, they are not all like that.

A bad run is where everything seems to ache, you can’t seem to get your breath and rather than being in the zone, you feel the whole time like you want to go home. The night before last, I had a bad run. I still ran, but I could tell the instance I picked up my gait that it wasn’t going to be a spectacular one. So what is it that determines whether your training run is going to be good or bad?

Without having done any kind of quantitative research on this, all I can do it suggest some hypotheses. Actually, what I am saying is I am not exactly an expert, so don’t take what I think as gospel. I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of a journal-type exercise over a period of time to see whether my hypotheses pan out, but in the meantime, for me the difference between a good run and a bad run is…

Food: if I have eaten a decent amount of good carbohydrate no more than about three hours before my run, it will generally be a good run. I remember once going for a run around midday after only having a breakfast pastry and a coffee at 8.00 that morning and almost passing out half way. And on the flip side, if I have had a good plate of wholemeal pasta for lunch and then run in the evening, I can run forever.

Rest: I sleep a lot. I love my sleep and unless I get my 8 hours a night, I am generally a pretty miserable person to be around. Power naps don’t do it for me. So, if I am tired, even if I have had a cat nap, more often than not my run will turn out to be a bad one.

Emotional state: we all get stressed about things. I like to run because it generally relieves that stress – I can switch off and think about something (anything) else other than work. However, I have had times where my mind has caught on something that is bothering me while I run and then no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to think about anything else. Unfortunately, that can turn a good run bad.

State of mind: as much as I love it, I don’t always want to go out and run. When I feel like I should or feel guilty because I haven’t run for a couple of days, then I am often setting myself up for a fall. On the days when I just can’t wait to get out there, 99 times out of 100 my run is fantastic.

Weather: this is going to sound really odd, but I love running in the rain. Generally, if it is raining, my run is going to be good. Granted, in London we are sheltered from the extremes of temperature. When it is cold here, it is only about 0 degrees. When it is hot, it is only about 25 or 26. That’s not to say we don’t ever experience extremes of heat or cold, but they aren’t as frequent. The weather here is generally pretty ‘blurgh’ – grey, overcast, not raining, no sunshine, not warm, not freezing – just nothing. On a nothing day, I am far more likely to have a bad run than I am if there is an extreme of temperature.

Route: there are only so many routes around where I live, and I know them all. I know I should do a bit more exploring, because a new route invariably means I have a good run. I do mean to jump in the car and drive somewhere different to run, but it is so convenient to just walk out the door…

I use MapMyRun.com to keep track of my progress and it provides a facility to record things like mood, nutrition and route. It would be worthwhile to see just how important each of these factors are for me personally so I know how to achieve more good runs than bad. Because ultimately that’s where we all want to be.

Salem Elizabeth, I borrowed your photo…thank you! It’s great! 

Trying to find a running routine.

medals

I have never really been one for routine. I don’t know what it is with me – perhaps I get bored too quickly, maybe I have so much on all the time that any routine I try to put in place gets thrown out pretty quickly. Granted there are certain routines I stick with – cleaning my teeth every evening, reading before I go to bed – that kind of thing. But even that can get thrown out now and then (the reading, not the teeth!). So it is no wonder that I find it difficult to stick with a running routine.

The frustrating thing is I love to run. I would absolutely love to get to the level of those people who are involved in the United States Running Streak Association – these people run at least a mile every single day. Some of them have been doing this for more than 30  years! I mean, talk about a routine!! Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a UK version of this club (why  not?) but perhaps this is a way to try and get into a routine?  Some of the running websites also have groups for ‘running 1000 miles in a year’ or ‘running 2000 miles in a year’ which is also a good way to work towards something. I thought that aiming for a certain time in a marathon would do it for me – sadly, it hasn’t. I need to be able to measure progress every day and I find that time goals in some distant race doesn’t allow me to do that.

It’s odd – to direct my reading I have joined a book group which meets monthly and unofficially taken several challenges. They allow me to chip away at the challenge day by day and I have a deadline for my book group books. I have yet to find a running group I am comfortable with (and I do find it difficult to commit to something every week) and my challenges for running aren’t really measurable.  Perhaps they should be? So…in the sprit of the challenge, here are a couple I can consider or vary as I choose …

  •  Iraq to Maryland: this chap has decided not to run the full distance (6200 miles) but to run 1 mile for every 20 miles of the full distance. I wonder what the distance is from London to Adelaide…?
  • Jackson Williams – an amazing runner, is actually going to run from Lands End to John O’Groats (837 miles), doing a whopping 91 miles a day. This is serious running, but setting the distance is a cool idea.
  • In the US, you can do the 50 state marathon challenge which, I assume, means you run a marathon in all 50 states of the country. I guess over here you could do a race in each county, but I don’t think there are that many marathons.
  • Of course, there is the run everyday for a year type challenge, coming back to the US Running Streak mentality.
  • And then there are the run 1000 miles in a year, or 1500 miles or whatever type challenges.

Strangely enough, unlike reading challenges, most running challenges on the internet seem to be ‘run the London Marathon’ or ‘run a half marathon’. Blase and full of myself alert…but that just isn’t a ‘challenge’ for someone who is a regular runner. I am not at all discounting what a major achievement a marathon is. Blimey, I know how much hard work they are. But to try and get some kind of routine going, that just doesn’t do it for me.

Leave it with me. I am going to have a think about it and will report back when I have decided. But if anyone has any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them.

I borrowed your picture, zhurnaly…thank you, it’s great!