Friday, March 8, 2013

Props to this guy's NY resolution follow-through

Most weekday mornings I walk up Solano Avenue, either to drop Maeve off at kindergarten or to keep Alex on the same routine as if we were dropping Maeve off at kindergarten. Our walks coincide with one of my favorite sights--the "garbage guy", and usually said garbage guy's more recent companion/assistant/protege. These guys power walk down Solano to San Pablo, then back up, picking up every piece of trash that they see and tossing it in the closest trash can.
Maeve loves seeing these guys. I love seeing them--and it also makes me feel guilty that I'm not going as far, or fast, and am not bettering my environment or community, either. They're setting the bar higher here, for sure.
I finally got around to googling "solano avenue trash pick up guy" today and this is what I learned. Allen Cain has been doing this for four years (!) and it started as his 2009 New Year's resolution to exercise. He lost 40 pounds doing this.
Can you think of a resolution you've kept long enough for it to become permanent habit? Or that has morphed into something even bigger than it started? Turned you into a local celebrity?
Two morals of this story for me. First off exercise with a purpose. You will get more out of it, stick with it, and other people will marvel at just how awesome you are for going above and beyond. Second, Albany really is a sweet place to live.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tracking your run?

Over the years I've tried to keep a running log many times and many ways. Since I'm old school, this has usually been on paper, either in a log specifically built for the purpose, or in a series of notebooks. Each time I buy one I try to make sure it's more appealing than the last--those little moleskins are seductive. But usually not seductive enough--I write down my workouts and notes on nutrition, aches and pains, etc., for a few weeks, then get distracted and stop.

When I'm feeling more technically sophisticated I get a spreadsheet going--first I used excel, and more recently Google Docs aka Drive. This is a little better, but still, I fall off the wagon all the time.
I tried Daily Mile. And Map My Run. Nothing seems to stick.

So? What should I use--or what should I do to make sure I keep using one of the above?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rethinking a goal

So, my first goal of 2013 has fallen by the wayside. David and I had planned on running the Oakland Half Marathon on 3/24. However, it is already clear that that training goal is a bit too ambitious, for both of us. While we both could run the distance, it wouldn't be a good idea for either of us. David is looking to race, and knows he will not be able to build up the necessary training by then to race well, and not injure himself. As for me, I just have not logged enough miles to date, to be truly ready for a 1/2 marathon in a month.

Sometimes it's better to rethink a goal than to follow through. It's part of smart training. While you're working toward a goal race, in particular, constantly assess your progress. Have you done what is necessary, to date, to make that goal happen? If not, can you "catch up" with your training? The answer to that, closer you get to race day, is often no--just like you can't catch up on sleep. More miles in fewer weeks will not get you in shape for a race, but will more likely injure you or demoralize you when you don't meet your target. If that race is the Big One, maybe you'll run it anyway. If it isn't, consider if it's worth the risks.

Maybe you need to change your target time. Maybe you need to think of that race as a training run--and stick to the plan of running it at training, not race, pace. Then, pick a different race to meet that original target.

This isn't a way to let yourself off the hook. The key here is constantly assessing your training. Each week, or each day even, you can review your training and see if it is moving you forward as planned. If not, you should have enough time to change direction before it gets too close to your race, to come up with a new plan. If you are paying attention, hopefully that means you are getting your training in, and will indeed meet your goal. But if circumstances have really just aligned against that training, figure out a realistic plan B.

We are still signing up for Chicago, when registration opens on Tuesday. But we're also taking a step back--just how and when are we planning on getting those miles in? What has made it difficult to date? How can we better support each other in sticking to the plan? Between now and Tuesday we'll come up with some answers. And then, we need to find another half marathon for the spring.

In the meantime, I'm running the Oakland marathon as a relay, so will still get out there for a road race with that great marathon atmosphere.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What's a volunteer?

For the past few years, my partner's younger daughter Maeve has tagged along for one of our running club's annual traditions. The Pamakid Runners have put on a half marathon in San Francisco since 1983--celebrating its 30th! birthday this year as the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon on Super Bowl Sunday.

A ton of work goes into putting on the race, and there are club members who spend hours in the weeks and months leading up to race weekend figuring out the logistics and making it happen. The big group volunteer activity, though, is stuffing hundreds--thousands--of race goody bags on the Saturday before the race. This is an assembly line like you've never seen. Paper cuts abound. Tedious, maybe a bit--but not when you're next to great running friends figuring out quirky ways to pass the time (watch out for flying mini Clif bars.) It's also worth it when you consider that your work is for 10,000 runners who will toe the starting line the following morning.

Last year, Maeve, her dad and I went together to stuff goody bags. Ahead of time we talked about how we were "going to volunteer" for the Pamakids. She asked me, what's a volunteer? I explained that volunteering means helping with a task, without getting paid; that it is offering to help make something better for other people. Over the past year volunteering has come up a few times in conversation, and she always mentions the Pamakids. For Maeve, the club is associated with that act of doing good. Nice lesson for a club meant for "Pa, Ma, and the Kids" to teach a five year old.

Thanks to all of the runners, club members and other volunteers who made this year's race happen! (As for Maeve, she has joined her sister in attending school on Saturdays, meaning we both missed out. Next up, Rites of Spring?)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Returning to your breath (yoga for runners, part 2)

I've been doing yoga for 10 years, give or take. That seems like a long time, but it's still more of a sidebar to the activity that best defines me: running. If I wasn't a runner, yoga might be something I had more time for. But I love it anyway, even while it stays a casual thing.

Because I am a runner first and foremost, I look for the benefits that yoga brings to running. And now, I am trying to bring those benefits to the kids I coach at Albany High School. We started talking about how yoga is beneficial last summer when they were still sussing out their new--thoroughly pregnant--assistant coach. I couldn't really run with them. But, I could somehow still attempt to demonstrate some yoga positions that I use as part of my stretching routine. Throughout the season they'd ask for a yoga day. Post season and post baby, I can finally lead a weekly yoga session with a bit more, um, flexibility.

At the first session I introduced how runners benefit from doing yoga in the following ways:

1) Mindset
Learning how to deliberately quiet your mind, then focus your awareness on your physical state, is a pretty powerful exercise. Yoga teaches you how to zero in on specific parts of your body; how to ascertain what you are capable of and stretch your limits. It teaches you how powerful thought is when you are trying to accomplish a physical task. How cool is it to bring this to running, a sport that people call 70% mental?

2) Breathing
Yoga is all about breathing. So is running, really, but unlike in yoga, we don't spend the first 5 minutes of our workouts, exercising our lungs in different ways, getting our breathing right, before we get to the main event. How then are we supposed to know what our breath should be like when running? Paying attention to your breath in yoga can help you be more aware of using your breath in running, too. When you are struggling during a run, think about and practice controlled breathing. Deeper, longer breaths give your muscles more of the oxygen they need. Plus, yoga helps you develop "belly breathing" rather than "chest breathing", which is more effective for getting the oxygen you need. Runners World shares some good tips on breathing right while running.

3) Flexibility
Runners are notoriously not flexible (as opposed to inflexible, but some of the type A personalities I know may be that too). They can see stretching as a pain and just one more thing keeping them from their post workout brunch or beer. Developing flexibility through yoga, in a dedicated session, can help improve your range of motion and protect against potential injuries. Maybe you'll pay more attention post-run, too.

Coaching yoga, I'm learning a few things myself. Coaching running is completely different from teaching yoga. Running in the most basic sense is more or less intuitive; some even say we were born to run. Most people still can use help with good running form and workout components such as proper warm up or recovery. But much of it simply adjusts how we do what we do every day: put one foot in front of the other. Yoga on the other hand, involves complicated physical contortions, poses with names that are funky in English and hard to learn in Sanskrit. Plus, I am by no means an expert yogi. I can demonstrate poses and even describe some of what it takes to do them properly, but I know my downward dog needs to be more inverted and there are surely plenty of other things I'm missing. I'm being more thoughtful and deliberate about how I teach them yoga--and in the process, evaluating how I coach running, too.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Yoga for runners

I've been working on a post about what runners can get out of yoga--lo and behold, my running friend Kelly beat me to it! The workshop she took in San Francisco sounds awesome, and I'm looking forward to more from her irunlikeagirl blog. Check it out, it's new! Sounds like irunlikeagirl, the running lifestyle/fashion company she's managing director for, also has some new things in store, so I'd bookmark that one.

This Wednesday I coach my second yoga workout for my high school runners. I'll report back how it goes.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Stuck on the treadmill? Make the best of it

I don't like spending time in the gym, and especially avoid treadmills (the only time I enjoyed myself on a treadmill was when I did this, as seen below. Bit of a different story.) Unfortunately, sometimes when we run, it just isn't possible to go outside. Here are a few things to remember when you're stuck on the treadmill.
  1. Pretend the treadmill isn't there. It's easy to hop on, press a few buttons so the machine tells you what to do, and check out. Unfortunately this can result in sloppy running, and potentially injuries down the road. Avoid using the handrails except when starting and stopping, and don't lean on the control panel.
  2. You still need to warm up and cool down! Build that extra time in when you're planning your workout.
  3. Don't overstride. Since the belt is pulling "the ground" away from under you, the impulse can be to run faster/longer to keep from falling off. Pay attention to maintaining your natural running gait, and have your feet land under your body instead of in front or behind. You will also be less likely to overstride if you don't make the pace and incline settings too challenging.
  4. Need entertainment? Try music or at least tv instead of reading. Paying too much attention to something else will interfere with how well you can focus on your workout, and can negatively impact your form (making you more susceptible to injury.)
  5. Change up the incline and pace. It's tempting to set a steep incline for the entire run when you want a challenge, but switching it up more effectively works your muscles. Variety also better simulates reality--5 mile-long hills are hard to find. As for changing pace, treadmill runs are a good time to do intervals, since you know exactly how fast you are running.
  6. Play the "how far have I gone?" game. Not the most exciting of games, but anything helps, right? Determine a period of time (say, 4 minutes) during which you don't allow yourself to look at the distance readout on your screen. Guess how far you will run during that time. It of course helps if you don't have the speed readout set to mph/kph! This is a great distraction if you're bored, and an opportunity to develop your internal sense of pacing--a skill you can take outside.
Add to this list by doing whatever it takes to keep these runs fun for you. Things I've recently tried include using my 2-month-old as workout buddy (he's on the play mat, I'm on the treadmill, we see how long he lasts. We're up to 15 minutes.) I've also dabbled in socks-only running to get some of the barefoot benefits. Which reminds me--if you're at home, you can wear whatever you want for your run and no one will bat an eye. Promise.