Personal Beasts

When I started running I thought that it would mean I’d need to be serious. I’d need to be so dedicated to running that I put it before things like sleep, food, free time. I’d need to know all the lingo – like “fartlek” and “negative split”. I’d need to know what compression socks are for and how to run in a snow storm while keeping my make-up in place, benefiting from the rosy-cheek look, while making it look easy and wearing this year’s newest clothes from lulu or running room.

When starting something new, I usually take this approach – Do it up, do it big. All or nothing. That doesn’t work for running.

I learned quickly that running means eating a lot, laughing at yourself, talking about poop, chafing, hugging other sweaty people, showing up at ass-o-clock with no make-up unless you forgot to wash it off from yesterday’s work day. It means meeting people that will never know what you look like with your hair done. In the winter it means wearing layers that don’t match, a dorky head band and a chapped face. In the summer it means not caring about the flabby parts of you that are showing, because the less clothes the better.

You will quickly learn to love your curves (after you get some Body Glide on them) when they’ve carried you kilometer to kilometer, sprint to sprint, up hills and down hills. Who cares what that body looks like if it can do something like help you achieve a personal best – do something that it couldn’t do before? Changes happen, pounds come off, clothes fit better, but the real achievement is how you feel after an awesome run – texting all your friends a screenshot of your splits or a picture of your sweaty, exhausted, red, elated face.

Running does not make you that tall, skinny, beautiful woman with perfect clothes, effortlessly gliding along the trail for her daily workout, hardly breathing heavy, glistening in the sun. What it does make you is somebody who cares about themselves. In a good way. In a self love kind of way. It teaches you to set a realistic goal, work for it and reap the benefits. It teaches you to live life looking forward to the next race, but to also enjoy each of the steps along the way that got you there. Living in the moment, running the kilometer you’re in, embracing the pain, and doing it for the rush of pride that you get when you cross the finish line, check your watch, and see a personal best.

Running makes you your personal best.

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Pace yourself when you race yourself

Phewwwie! I have not written a blog in a while…summertime slack off, I have no excuses other than that! I’ve been running my butt off, upping my mileage and getting ready for my fall races. SO, here’s a recap of what I’ve been up to.


In the last month I’ve been focusing on pace. Since reorienting my goals to running-related ones I’ve been working toward bettering my 10k time in hopes of completing 10k (possibly by next spring?) sub 1hr. This requires running under a 6 minute kilometer average, which will be quite a feat for me. Speed does not come easy. The work is gritty, hot, and difficult, but hella rewarding.

I’ve learned that the best way to get faster is to put in the effort (easier said than done, right?). There’s no half-assing in speed work. If you give it your all, you’re doing it right. If you are cheating yourself while nobody is watching, or allowing that voice in the back of your head to talk you down, you may as well forget your pace goal.

After some reading, and a lot of youtubeing, I’ve kind of wrapped my head around how to get faster and begun to employ this. I started out by keeping my runs shorter (5-6k) and doing lots of speed work. This didn’t work so well, because as soon as I added in my regular long run again, I pushed too hard in some parts because faster felt better, leaving myself tired by the later end, and walking a lot. IMG_1867

It’s all about balance, I realized (again this time), so I went back to my 2 shorter runs (1 I use for exploring new routes and the other for speed work) plus 1 long run per week. I also started running home from work – trying to race home faster than it takes to get the bus. Super fun way to push yourself!

I am by no means an expert, and I am still very much figuring this out as I go. However, I did find the vocab quite confusing when I started out, so I’ve decided to document what I learned here. I’ve outlined the four types of workouts that are supposed to make you faster. Many trainers will develop a schedule that includes some or all of these.

Drills: These include moves like grape-vining (thread the needle), high knees, butt kickers, lateral squats, etc. Best done after a short lightly paced warm up, these create muscle memory and lead to better form, which in turn makes you a better, more efficient runner overall, allowing you to get faster.

Tempo: Tempo runs are generally shorter runs at 80% effort, to increase your LT or “lactate threshold”. In lay terms, increasing your LT means increasing the point at which your body fatigues while going a certain pace. These runs should feel “comfortably hard”. There are a few ways to tell if you’re exerting the right amount of effort:

  1. Use a heart rate equipped device (I use my Garmin Forerunner 220) to make sure you’re in your 80-90% max heart rate range. Don’t let the HR thing scare you. In order to find out your max heart rate, calculate: 220-Age=Max heart rate. So, my max should be 194 since I’m 26 years old. To find out what my tempo range is, simply find 80-90% of 194 (Google will do this if you forgot what you learned in Grade 6 math).Therefore, during a tempo run my heart rate should be between 155.2-174.6
  2. If you don’t have an HR monitor or you hate math, there are other, less calculated ways:
    1. Talk test: try saying 4 words “Melissa is really awesome”. This should be fine. Now, try saying 10 words: “Melissa is really awesome, but not a very fast runner”. This should be hard to say.
    2. Recent Race time: Look back at your most recent 5 or 10k and increase your pace a bit (start with 15-20 seconds/kilometer faster and ramp up)
    3. Perceived exertion: If 10 makes you feel like Usain Bolt and 1 makes you feel like you’re late for your dentist appointment, go about an 8.

Fartlek: Excuse me! Haha, a funny little word that literally means a continuous run with periods of faster running followed by periods of slower running.

Hills: If you followed my journey on Team Myles, you might remember that I used to head to Citadel Hill in the freezing cold every Tuesday like a crazy person. Not for the faint of heart, hill training literally means running as hard as you can up a hill, then repeat. Don’t knock it till you try it, it sucks but you literally feel like a superhero after you do it. IMG_1909 (1)

SO, those are ways you can get faster. If that is one of your goals, I highly encourage you to look up these terms and figure out what might work best for you. I really enjoy the MEC & Canadian Running Instructional Videos, I find them easy to follow. If you’re setting out to increase your pace, give me a shout – as I’m still figuring it out myself.

So I’m off to the races (literally) in the next few weeks with Maritime Race Weekend in two weeks, then Valley Harvest Marathon a few weeks after that. I promise not to drop the ball again on updates!

Be sure to follow @betterlongrun on insta and twitter – I always keep those going!

Till next time ❤

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