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Form, Distance, Speed Rediscovered

I live by the rule “First form, then distance, then speed” which I learned from ChiRunning.  I consistently do this on a micro level, week to week, using it to watch for signs of over training or exhaustion. However, looking back at 6 years of running, the cycle on a larger scale is now complete. I couldn’t ignore my form when I began, and I had to listen to my body to learn how to stay injury free. Then I took on the bigger distance races, where enduring to the finish was enough, while hoping to beat my last time. Choosing to train for speed for the Kilted 5 miler completes the macro-trifecta.

A week ago Sunday I did a 10K Time Trial (6.2 miles) with a 1.5 mile warm up and cool down. It was windy, raining, I had the stroller, and the “new” target pace of 7:53 almost killed me (but I still made myself go faster than that for a couple miles). Yesterday I did a 10 mile run with 6 miles at Half Marathon Pace, 8:15 per mile.   It was a huge confidence booster! There is that bit of genius in the way the plan was set up, whether it was intended or not. To boot, my HMP is now what my 10K pace originally was when I started this training plan. I could have raced another 3 miles to complete a half yesterday…makes me wonder if a pacing strategy like this would work for my next half marathon…. #inspiration!!

Speed training might be the best thing I have done for my running so far. Next on the list of to-try…the Yasso 800s….

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Do’s (and a Couple Don’ts) for WINter Running

I love running outside in the winter. I think it might be my favorite time of the year to run, in fact. Funny, coming from a scrawny gal who is always cold and hated being outdoors growing up. When you run a few miles in the cold, you heat up from head to toe – and the endorphin rush mixed with rosy cheeks is a sweet reward for getting out there.

winterrun

By now, most runners have read all the top 10 “What To Do (or not) While Running in the Winter” articles out there. They all seem to say the same thing, albeit with reason. I’d like to add a few of my own personal tips, learned while busting out snowy 3-5 milers in -25C with winds occasionally gusting to 40mph.

DO:

Start every run with your mouth covered.

If you spend at least 10 minutes warming up outside with your mouth covered you won’t be exposing your fresh lungs to the cold dry air immediately. Use a tech fleece or synthetic face cover and let the humid air from your breath keep your lungs from drying out. I keep it on as long as I can, but it is refreshing every now and then to uncover your face (if the wind is at your back!).

Wear the right layers.

Layering is good but make sure you’re doing it right – NO COTTON! It traps and combines the cold plus damp sweat, and you will freeze your kahunas. Some natural wool on the base is best, followed by a tech fleece (or two for those really cold days), then an outer shell for wind and water resistance. Ventilation in the armpits is key for when you start to warm up too much. I put a skirt on over it all too, to keep my butt warm…that seems to be the only part of me that gets really cold on long runs for some reason…!

Shorten your stride and think “pancake feet”.

Ice can take you by surprise, under the snow or disguised as concrete. Keep your feet under you, take smaller steps. Take a page out of the ChiRunning book and use the image of pancake feet or “clown shoes” to help you to land with a more midfoot, relaxed strike. That way if you do come upon a patch of ice you’ll be more able to control your body’s reaction. It’s also a great way to think in general, especially if you have chronically tight calves.

Wear hydration under your coat.

If you’re heading out for more than 6 miles, take your hydration belt but try wearing it under your top layer – this keeps the liquid closer to body temperature, which, aside from it not turning into a slurpee, makes it much easier on the stomach.

DON’T:

Try to beat your PR.

There’s a reason the elites use this time of the year for base training. Focus on things other than speed. Use a heart rate monitor and challenge yourself make most of your runs under 65% of your max (and lose the turkey weight in the process. Yeah, I know, we all still have it too!). Or heck, enjoy a few runs without your watch! Take in the pretty snowflakes falling from the sky, or the sparkle of the snow in the moonlight. Listen to how quiet it is when you run in the snow, aside from the delicious crunch of it under your feet.

Worry about being cold.

Dress properly for the weather and you won’t have a problem! If you have done this, everything from your head to toe will stay comfortable (and if it isn’t just do a fartlek). I think my biggest fear was my feet would get cold in the snow but that fear was put to rest at the end of my first few winter runs. My feet actually got warmer throughout the run, no special socks needed, and all that worry was for nothing…so go out there and enjoy your hot bod in the cold air!

Have fun with it, and do an extra mile out there for me! I’m using a treadmill for all my runs these days…much easier to respond to a napping child when you’re not 3 miles away. 😛

3 Ways to Use ChiRunning in Labor

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As a friend-Doula I have witnessed three magical births. Not having birthed yet myself, the closest thing I can compare it to is the marathon (I realize this is probably peanuts). In the marathon, the last stretch is especially physically challenging. It is also incredibly mentally demanding – so you prepare for months before with mental and physical techniques, as well as support from your friends and family. The same must hold true for labor – this is your chance to power through the wall (the ring of fire), break the ribbon and cross the finish line of the marathon that is pregnancy with friends and family cheering you on. However, I’m willing to fashion a guess that labor is like arriving at mile 21 without having even tried on running shoes before.

On my recent long run I got to thinking (that happens a lot…) and I started comparing some of the processes I have learned in ChiRunning to what might happen in labor. Hey, gotta use what you have, right? 🙂

  1. Don’t Struggle – relax. If you’re trying too hard, you’re not doing it right. “You” don’t have to do anything except trust your body and let go. If there was ever a time to apply the T’ai Chi principle of cotton and steel it’s when your center is actively becoming like steel as it pushes the baby lower and lower – it’s up to mama to remember her limbs need to be cotton. As the ritual of birth progresses, allow your extremities to move and do what they need to balance the work that is being done in the core. If you allow the ancient knowledge of the body to take over, movements will come to help things progress, and to help you cope.
  2. Allow the energy to take you where you are going. In running, that’s forward. If you imagine a bungee cord tied to your hips pulling you forward you can feel a subtle physical ease of motion. The same must be true in labor for the downward energy needed as the baby descends further and further. Every contraction is widening and descending, and if you allow that energy to take over it will work for you. When running forward, you don’t try to hold back so apply the same idea to the downward pull and hopefully your journey through the sensation isn’t prolonged.
  3. Go along for the ride! In ChiRunning, your balance shifts forward with a slight lean, and with gravity, your body comes along for the ride. This is the efficient way of using your body plus gravity to create velocity. Contractions are like waves, and as intense as they are they must be ridden out and not fought against. If you give in and ride the wave your body can open up and baby can descend faster. On a larger scale, go along for the 9 month ride! You have humbly accepted changes to your body, your life, and your perspective which has subtly mentally prepared yourself to continue that through labor, if you let it.

I would love to know if these ring true!

What lessons has running taught you about labor/pregnancy? Any mommas have advice for first time mommas to mentally prepare?

T-6 Weeks: Form Evolution

More than ever I am learning that form is not static and must be allowed to evolve. Injuries used to draw panic and tears, but now I no longer worry when I feel another ache or pain. I go back to square one and consider my ChiRunning posture from the core radiating out, knowing that every adjustment I make will be improving my overall form. I refuse to have any “bad runs” now…they’re all lessons in form discipline, some more challenging than others.

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Monday

Extremely rewarding spa day – went for a massage! Took care of some serious leg tension. I forgot how much I love getting a massage…once every 6 months is NOT enough!

Tuesday

8km speed session. SO wobbly after the massage yesterday. Took about 2km and one stride to get anywhere near my comfort zone. The weather was WAY nicer than I thought, I probably should not have been wearing a tech fleece top and tights. I’m noticing my recovery time for breathing is quicker after my strides – woohoo! My inner thighs are still beat up and grouchy though…almost didn’t get to my fourth stride. I did it anyway, just a tad slower and with total concentration on form instead of speed.

Wednesday

Wine Wednesday. ‘Nuff said.

Thursday

Cut this tempo run short at 8km. Pace felt great, would have been sustainable…but that knee thing was feeling a bit dangerous! Getting to that starting line is my #1 priority…but what the HECK is going on down there? I will have to get back to beginner’s mind…Saturday’s easy run is going to be all about form, I must figure out what I’m doing to tweak my knee.

Friday

Recuperate with ice and a Sens game!

Saturday

Very conscious 9.5km out and back. My knee has been very iffy, and I was at a loss as to how to fix it…until the end of this run. Yes, I had very tight inner thighs, but my massage therapist worked that out…So stop favouring your inner thighs and USE them again! Lined up my knee with my femur, and my hip joint. Kept my knees down and my heels more up, and found a new&improved form that I would like internalize. Play! It’s all about playing.

Sunday

26km. I owned the walking breaks this time as per my goal last week: 30 seconds for every 10 minutes. I still needed a 3 minute walk to eat an energy bar around 1 hour, and another to adjust my straps on the camelbak, another to put my outer layer away and re-sunscreen, walk the uphills, and stretch out the knee that time I felt it twinge. The bottoms of my feet were still killing me at the end of it…and my time was 10 min slower than last time! The opposite of my goal from last week! I couldn’t get into my usual zen-like mode, so I think I’ll scrap the idea and just walk the uphills and the fuel breaks. Every 5km perhaps, since that’s usually the distance between water stations.

Goal Next Week: Get rid of any nagging aches and pains by solidifying this new and improved form I have found.

Ankles and Calves – My Next Project

Feeling like I’m about to leave another plateau behind. I had another great run last night – not faster, just better. I truly believe there is a perfectly balanced way to run without any pain or injury, but it takes persistence, focus, and English bulldog determination. It’s turning out to be all about correct posture and alignment radiating from the core outward.

When I’m in doubt, I start with the centre! Now that I’m back into my regular run schedule, working towards a 10k, that ankle pain is nagging me again. I’m already seeing relief with focusing on not letting my toe slip outward. I’m starting from the centre – with feeling an inward rotation at the hip and letting that radiate down the leg to my foot. Two runs and no new aches or pains elsewhere so I’m going to keep working with this. I don’t believe that I need to put some kind of support in my shoe just yet.

My calves are building up pressure quickly – not gait-changing, just intense during the run, and worth figuring out. I think I’ve officially swung the anti-heel-strike pendulum too far in the opposite direction. I’m in love with my vibram-soled minimus shoes but these are known to be the culprit for calf injuries mixed with too much, too soon. I read a suggestion to let your heels touch the ground to take pressure off your calves. I applied this theory, along with the image of “Pancake Feet”, and although I still felt my calves working I was definitely not feeling any intense pressure.

Add heel touching pancake feet with my new left leg alignment, and I forgot I even had that nagging ankle pain at all!

Form First, then Distance, then Speed

I have given myself a very strict training schedule and the goal is the half marathon on Sept. 23. I know the mileage working up to race day is going to be a lot, but I am counting on my ChiRunning form and my minimal running shoes to keep me running without [major] injury. I’m re-reading Danny Dreyer’s ChiRunning and this time I’m getting the message of Form-Distance-Speed – in that order. You can’t cheat the order, or you’ll get injured.

I spent July working on achieving my goal of 108km in a month, which I completed. I was focusing on lean and cadence and assumed my posture was fine. I loved the feeling of increasing my speed with each run, along with bumping up the km every week. Well, overuse sneaked its little head in. My left ankle started feeling tight during the runs but I just chalked it up to old shoes, and hung on for a couple weeks. I thought the issue, as well as the recent regression on my right knee, would go away with my new New Balance Minimus shoes. (They’re a runner/modern dancer’s dream shoe, you can really feel the ground!) However, after a week, the little ache in my ankle didn’t go away, not to mention my calves took a hit with the new zero drop soles. I finally admitted I needed to stop pushing the miles and get it checked.

I had my massage therapist work out the worst of it, he said it was a localized trigger point that just needed to be released. I took 3 solid days off running. I was disappointed when I felt it the next time I went out, which sent me home walking after 2k. So I took another day off. Today I started with posture as my main focus and let the other focuses come and go. I was willing to go only as far as I was able to maintain my posture, and speed was not on my mind at all. I stopped to massage my ankle every time I felt even the slightest twinge (4 times). I made it 5k, and probably could have done more! My pace was almost a minute longer per km than usual, which is fine. I’ll still make it in under 2:30 if I run this pace on Sept. 23, which after today I’m sure I’ll still be able to do!

I didn’t lose any of my “fitness” over the past week – my head was ready to go for my usual Sunday long run and my endurance was there. I ran comfortably without walking. Now that I’m “starting all over again” at a higher fitness level, I will build up the miles again without the walk-breaks.

Maybe Rio 2016 isn’t a pipe dream.

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