Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dreadmill, Hamster Wheel, insert nasty word here

So many runners have this nasty aversion to the treadmill, believing that it was a creation on the Devil to torture runners. A Dailymile friend actually said it was analogous to one of Dante's Circles.  As someone who began their running life on the mill, I actually don't mind it and prefer it for some types of workouts and under certain conditions.

I HATE running in the rain!!!! Even though it might be refreshing and cool, the feeling of wet sock and shoes causing my feet to shrivel is not one I look forward to. This is an awesome reason for me to not despise the treadmill because today there was a short window of opportunity to run between storm fronts and unfortunately I was stuck at the bank! So, I headed to the gym and ran on the treadmill.

I will say that today's run is not the type of workout that I like doing on the TM but I needed some miles and it was the best option for me. A steady state run is just about the worst way to utilize the treadmill but that is what I needed today after yesterday's long run. Fortunately, my legs and lungs felt fine and the music and tv helped the time go by after the first 6 miles. The first 6 miles were pure torture!

So you are probably thinking, thanks for confirming why I hate the treadmill! But there are some compelling reasons to use it. First, it absorbs some of the impact, so it is easier on the joints. This is very helpful if you are trying to recover from a hard workout, or are trying to increase your running volume without injury! My legs felt just fine after 11 miles, which I am not so sure they would have on the roads. I know the trails are softer too, but again the whole running in the rain thing.

The other reason I like the treadmill is that it can make incremental changes in pace that are hard to do outside. I love doing progression runs on the TM to help the body learn how to run faster on tired legs. Typically, I will start around 6mph and increase .1mph every minute until I reach whatever my goal pace is for that day or after warming up, pick a pace then increase the pace every mile.

Tempo runs also lend themselves to the treadmill because you just set the pace and keep running or risk falling off the back. No worrying about the Garmin beeping at you to speed up or slow down. Just run till the time is up.

Give the treadmill another chance, you might actually see how it could benefit your training!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Base Training and the LSR

As a relatively new runner, I have read everything I could get my hands on and tried various training plans but neglected a vital component, base training.  I would read about long, slow runs and wonder what they had to do with running faster.  I didn't care that EVERY expert, runner, pseudo-runner talked about the importance of aerobic base training, I didn't believe it until now.  I was excited that I ran 1:40:51 for my first half marathon with no run longer than 10 miles focusing mostly on tempo runs and speed work on 30 miles per week.

 When I decided to run my second, I knew I needed to increase my volume and my long run.  Yet, I while I increased my average mileage to a peak of 40, I still hadn't embraced the LSR.  I did get my long run up to 12 miles before my 2nd half which was almost a year after my first, and dropped my PR by almost 5 minutes to 1:35:57. The second half of this race was rough and immediately after finishing I knew that I needed to increase my mileage for two reasons: I wanted to run faster at every distance and I wanted to tackle my first marathon. 

Somewhere during my formative running years, I had this idea in my head that I would/could not start marathon training until I could handle a 70 mile week. So I began my first base building cycle the day after my half, planning to spend 4-6 weeks increasing my mileage. Just to give you a baseline, the month prior to my half, I averaged 27 miles per week on 4 runs with 2 or 3 cross training days. Normally the advice is to increase volume by no more than 10% a week to reduce the chance of injury. So what did I do, I ran 72 miles the first week, followed by weeks of 72, 84, 84, 88 and 74 miles. The first 5 weeks did not include a rest day, then week 6 was done on 5 days of running as I was getting ready for a 5K. Most of these miles were a minute or more slower per mile than I was used to. No structured speed work, and an infrequent tempo run was thrown in so I wasn't sure what to expect. 

Well, after some shorter faster runs and "tapering" down to 38 miles, I dropped my 5K PR by over 2 minutes to 19:25 with very little race specific training.  I was completely sold on the power of a larger aerobic base. I am currently on week 3 of my second base cycle.  Week 1 was 86 and week 2 was 90 and it is getting easier to run these distances even with faster paces. I will do 2 more weeks and then start focusing on the Peachtree Road Race 10K before turning my attention to training for the Rock and Roll Savannah Marathon in November. While I might not recommend making as big a jump as I did, I do highly recommend running more long, slow miles!

The Beginning

Growing up I played all kinds of sports, many of which required running. Like most people that play sports, I hated running because I always viewed it as a punishment. This hatred of running lasted throughout adulthood even as I struggled with my weight. I had gotten up to 260 lbs., so I began doing some cardio on the elliptical and bike as well as playing tennis at every opportunity.  I got down to 210 lbs over the course of a couple of years.  While playing tennis, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to do a boot camp with her. I said sure, not quite knowing what I was getting myself into.  Well, each week we had homework and it started out with 30 minutes of running/walking 3 times a week.  This was a challenge but I hopped on the treadmill and gave it a go. This was August of 2010! Little did I know that less than 8 months from then I would run my first half marathon. A running junkie was born.