I used to do fair bit of running, but since the demands of running my own business (long hours and weekends) and the birth of my daughter (now 6 months old) I haven't been able to train as much as I want, actually to the extent of no training at all for the last 4-5 months. My cardiovascular fitness has taken a bad hit, and my running form I am sure has suffered, but I think this is the perfect time to make a change on both counts.
The opportunity presented itself, as my wife and daughter are heading out to the in-laws for a month. This will be plenty of time to run an experiment, and to see what kind of a difference I am able to bring about by regular running, healthier eating anf stretching.
During my experiment period my training will consist mainly of running (30 minutes or more per session), the odd long walk (hopefully with golf clubs a couple of times), stretching and a bit of Tai-chi in the mornings. I decided to start a few weeks early by doing a set of mat exercises each day, progressively increasing the reps each week. As my work is fairly physical, my baseline fitness is not completely gone, and at the beginning I weighed in at 77Kg.
Please excuse all typos and spelling mistakes for now, this blog is being written either late at night or very early in the morning, with very little or no time for editing. The Edit will occur sometime in the future, but for now I'll try and keep it flowing.
Today after dropping my wife and daughter off at the airport, I thought it was time for a quick dash to just get a taste of things to come. I only got out at about 10 pm and decided to simply go up the road a bit and come back - more to stretch my legs and lungs with a soft landing than to do any real damage (I hope). As I was driving back I thought I'd do tonights run in my new vibram fivefingers shoes, and test the 'map my run' iphone app at the same time. Fantastic!
The run was easy. About a mile and a half up the road. 12 minutes - job done. The run felt surprisingly easy, nice loping canter, not too taxing on the legs or the lungs, but enough to blow out some cobwebs. Initially the sensation through my feet was quite overpowering, not painful or uncomfortable, just there was a lot of it! I suppose that is the USP when it comes to this kind of barefoot running equipment.Looking forward to the next one.
Up side: Tested new kit - liked it a lot.
Down side: Managed to get a little blister under my right big toe (I've always suffered with blisters on my right foot... I think it was inevitable after all).
Friday is a tough one. I have a very early start to the day (out of the house by 5.50 am), and motivating myself to get up even 15 minutes earlier was not easy. I did my Tai chi and floor exercises, and have to say felt better immediately. Also the legs are not too bad at all from last night. Of course it was a short run, but at the same time the first one in a long time, and one pronouncedly on the forefoot so a bit of extra strain on the calves was to be expected. The busy morning turned into a busy afternoon, with a packed schedule and I had agreed to go for a dinner with a friend a while ago, so only got out for a quick sprint at 9.30 pm. I felt extremely tired - may be the strain of the past few months catching up, but I felt absolutely drained. So I resorted to doing the same little run as the night before. This time just felt tired and grumpy.
Today turned out to be a nice sunny day - which bode well for the round of golf planned for the afternoon. After finishing work in the morning, off I shot to the golf club and did play a nice round. Legs a bit sore afterwards, but I think my golf shoes have just about had it. Good long walk around the course in nice weather was exactly what was needed. After the golf it was time to go meet up with some old friends in London for the evening.
I decided to take the fivefingers out again today. I headed out to Richmond park and got there around 10am, good thing, since the traffic got very heavy soon after. Armed with the fivefingers, water, a bit of food and some clothes in a rucksack I headed out to the park. I decided to follow the perimeter fence around the park and see how long it would take me. I felt very comfortable as I set off. I had a few hours before I had to be anywhere, and would be able to take things easy and relax in the park.
The walk around the park is very nice, varying terrain and sights, and lots of other people to gawk at. I did the lap in just over 2 hours, total distance roughly 12 Km. I did throw in a few sections of running (approx.3 Km) ,mainly on grass, as I wanted to let my feet get used to the fivefingers even quicker. Whether I should have just stuck with the walk can be debated, as my running was rewarded with two little blisters in the left foot this time. I have habitually had trouble with blisters in the right foot, but now the left wanted to join in the fun. Oh goodie!
After the walk (with a bit of running) I decided to find a nice place in the sun, and go through my stretches. Only after going through the stretches properly, did I realise how much tightness there actually was in my legs already. The stretching definitely was the right thing to do at this stage - 45 minutes well spent! As I got home I decided to slip into my compression tights for a bit of recovery. I have a pair of 2XU compression tights that I wore last year for skiing and all the cold weather training, but they seemed to do the trick this time as well. I didn't even get too hot. It was rather nice to relax and watch the rugby on telly...
After yesterdays walk and run in the park, I did have a bit of soreness in the feet, almost like tenderness of the skin even if the legs themselves felt ok. After lancing the blisters, they seemed to dry up nicely, and left no lasting soreness. Today I decided to do the first of the proper running sessions. This would be the first test or 30 minutes of running to see how much distance i could cover in this time. I chose to wear my old trusty new balances with a pair of hillys twin skin socks to try and prevent further blisters. I chose to do a mixed tarmac and off road course that I have always enjoyed in the past.
I headed off straight after work at 19.00. I somewhat misjudged the timing, as the darkness fell at about 19.15, so that latter half of my run was in relative darkness. Nevertheless, I felt good and strong after the relative rest yesterday. It is fairly warm at the moment and I was sweating like a loonie making hydration after the run pretty important. Of course getting the water and electrolytes in after the run is one thing, however it is important to get some down your neck even before the run so that your muscles will perform better and you will be less likely to pick up an injury. Let's face it, running for 30 minutes is not enough to really worry about electrolytes yet, but it never hurts to get into good habits early.
All things said and done, the total distance covered was 5.24 Km in 29 minutes and 39 seconds. Granted, it is far from race pace even for me, however it is a bit disheartening as the elite runners cover twice the distance in the same time! Crikey - I reckon if I am able to drop 5 minutes off my 5 Km time that would be great. We'll see how this pans out. I think I will have to mix up my training a bit, and do a few interval sessions, some sprints, and I suppose a few longer runs just for the sake of doing them... stay tuned for the pain.
Today I enrolled the services of Paul, my neighbour, who has a bit more experience of long distance running. He has done a couple of marathons, and generally trained for many years. It was quite refreshing to have someone to have a little chat with whilst running, as normally I run alone with either an ipod or just my own thoughts for company. The downside is that you are somewhat forced to adjust your pace to that of your partner, which may prove tricky if you have dramatically different stride lengths.
Today I decided to bring out my polar heart rate monitor again. This will give a slightly different dimension to the training, and to monitoring what my body is up to, as I can make sure that the intensity of the run is suited for best possible results. Too much intensity and you may bring on an injury through fatigue - too little intensity and you will not benefit at all. I also decided to wear the New Balances again, encouraged by the nice result yesterday. I did toy with the idea of buying new shiny running shoes as the old ones have seen a fair bit of mileage (they are about 18 months old), but I think I'll stick to my old ones. The NB's are more comfortable now than they ever were before, there is no rubbing, no pressure, no chafing - they seem to be just about right. As I have been learning to run on the midfoot, there is minimal wear to the sole of the shoe even, the landing spot is clearly visible, yet the rest of the sole is more or less pristine.
The run was again a mixture of tarmac, gravel path and bits of grass. The route wandered around shepperton, the local golf course, out to the studios and then back home again. Total distance was 6.49 Km, duration 36 min 06 sec, at pace of 5.33min/Km. Intensity of the run was ok, the averageHR was 164BPM, and maxHR 183BPM, which sits nicely within the zone for me (between 60 and 80% of maximal). Both Paul and I were getting used to running together and finding our pace, but after the half way point it seemed to get a bit more relaxed, also this led to the inevitable sprint finish with both of us galloping the last 150m all out - We'll call it a draw. After the run I felt that there was still a bit left in the tank, and that I should try and keep my HR closer to 170 BPM mark for the constant pace runs, of course for the interval sessions the HR would be significantly more as there are the recovery times in between.
This morning I felt pretty tired. Partially because I didn't sleep particularly well, partially because as I was up very early - and partially I suppose because my legs felt a bit drained since yesterday. My feet are still feeling good, the blisters are healing nicely. The morning was spend buzzing around running errands and the afternoon busy at work, yet in the evening I felt recovered and fresh for another run.
I decided to try a different route this evening, around shepperton, the riverside and looping home after that. The surface was mainly tarmac, with very little elevation again. Today the weather was even more warm, and the highviz running jacket and shorts felt too hot. The old New Balances and hillys twin skins did their job again. Total distance covered today was7.65 Km, total duration 41 mins 45 seconds, with average pace of 5.27 Min/Km. My attempt to keep up the intensity was partially successful, with average heart rate clocked in at 166BPM. Technique wise I was trying to focus on lengthening my stride for periods to increase pace, whilst keeping the tempo manageable, yet I had to shorten the stride periodically for recovery. I also tried to pay attention to my breathing, focusing on inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. I noticed that I was gulping a lot of air with resulting 'turbo boosts' over the previous runs, so I tried to keep my breathing under control.This meant engaging the diaphragm and the core, which resulted in me feeling a bit more solid in the midsection as well as less straining over the shoulders.
I think tomorrow I try and do a slightly shorter run, maybe split in two parts trying to focus on higher pace again. Friday looks like a recovery day to allow the legs a bit of time off. Then on the weekend I think I'll pop over to the track in Walton-on-thames for a good interval and speed session, and then finish the week off with a nice long walk in Richmond park again on Sunday. Sounds like a plan.
The run this evening was actually quite good fun. I fancied doing something a bit different than before - challenging yet fun. Hence I laced up the New Balances again and headed off towards shepperton. After a three minute warm-up at about 60% intensity I decided to do some intervals. Grueling 60 second sprints, focussing on long stride, good technique, solid core, good breathing, and most importantly - speed. The sprints were at 85 - 90% intensity, not all out sprint as you would in a 100m race, but something slightly more sustainable. Tell you what - 60 seconds is a long time! The sprint intervals were separated by brisk walking for 60 seconds. which was enough to drop the heart rate and even the breathing. I finished the run with a cool down of about 3 minutes. I cannot give any heart rate data on this run, as my heart rate monitor decided to misbehave. Luckily I was able to at least time my intervals.
The total distance covered was 5.03 Km, total duration was 30min 30 sec., of course the pace was all over the place due to the intervals. After the run I admit I was blowing quite heavily. This I feel managed to get rid of the last of the cobwebs even from the furthest reaches of the lungs. The legs feel actually pretty fresh. Next I am going to do an easy stretch and then head off to bed as tomorrow is an early morning.
Busy day today. Luckily it was a rest day from running and training. Mind you, the legs felt good the whole day, no problems at all. As I was coming up with the idea of doing this experiment, I discussed my plans and ideas with a few knowledgeable people - across the board the response was positive, with a worry of injuries just lurking in shadows. I understood the danger of injuries going from nothing to everything very suddenly, yet I felt I could pull this off without injuries by mixing it up with training intensities, technique, stretching, hydration and nutrition, and generally paying attention to the right things.
I feel that my running form and technique have improved when compared to last year. Having read into the biomechanics of running and having formed an image in my head as to what good running form actually should look and feel like have helped greatly. During my running I am able to check myself all the time. Is the core switched on? How am I landing on my feet, where is the landing spot on each foot? Are my knees tracking in line with my feet? Is my breathing correct? Am I utilising my arms and shoulders in the best way? The list goes on. This really helps with finding the detachment from running, or like some call it 'finding the stride', which in all honesty stands for not paying attention to hurts, niggles, aches, fatigue or other negative things. Staying in the moment and staying positive during the run increases the relaxation and therefore the your enjoyment.
I got up quite excited today. Track day! I was busy in the morning with doing various bits and bobs, and then headed out to the track in Walton-on-Thames (the athletic club). The track is quite nice, the normal rubbbery substance that has nice bit of bounce. As I got started it soon became obvious that today was going to be difficult. As I was going through my warm up laps and limbering up steps I was feeling heavy and sluggish. Certainly not fresh and free like I have come to associate as being normal. I can only guess as to why this may be, but I haven't changed anything over the last few days. The food is the same, the hydration levels are the same, I even had a rest day yesterday! By all rights I should have come screaming off the blocks.
Anyway, I decided to try and do some speed work and keep the session short - just focus on the speed and technique. After warm-up I did 4 laps of intervals, with flat out sprints on the straights and walking along the bends. Had a little rest after 2 laps to have a bit of water. It's still unseasonably warm here, apparently it is the warmest 1st of October on record. This speed session I did with the five fingers and the feet feflt very good. I feel I was able to maintain good pace on the sprints and definitely pushed the heart rate up nicely. Little recovery after that and shed the five fingers to go completely bare foot. I did bring my NB's along just in case I needed them. Going on barefoot was quite nice. The feet reacted well to the change. The sensation with the fivefingers on was exponential in comparison to the NB's, and the only way to describe running without any foot wrappings was astronomical.
It goes to show, that there are three areas of great concentrations of sensory nerve endings in the body - the head, the hands and the feet. Allowing the nerves in the feet to work unhindered was a bit strange as suddenly the brain was flooded with massive amounts of information. The grain of the track, the temperature of the rubber, the soft landing of the foot, the slight twist of the foot as it naturally pronates and shifts from landing to push off, and much more.
In orfer to preserve my feet and to allow them to harden slowly I only did about 3 laps. Of those 2 were at easy, loping stride, but the middle lap I carried a bit more pace. I still felt heavy and sluggish. After a bit of recovery again I slipped the fivefingers back on again to do another 3 laps before heading home.
In the afternoon I decided to make the best of the nice weather and headed out for a round of golf. I decided to wear the NB's for the golf round as my golf shoes are quite abysmal. The scoring was average, but it was nice to be out in the sun enjoying a nice walk. When I got home it was time for a bath! I haven't had a bath in a long time, it is a bit of a luxury and I haven't had the time with the baby demanding lots of attention. This relaxed the leg muscles nicely. In the evening I noticed a little blister in both feet.
Well! Today turned out a bit different from what I've got used to. Nothing major happened, aside from the two small blisters in my feet that turned out black holes the size of texas - and a bit sore as well. Here's what happened. I decided to go for a repeat of last sundays walk in Richmond park, which was a good plan - on paper. In the morning the feet seemed fine, the blisters appeared to be doing fine and on their way out. As I strapped the fivefingers on my feet and set off all was still well. The sun was shining, it was about 29 degrees, slight breeze, birds chirping etc. Nothing could stop me.
A couple of Km into the walk I noticed a slight, should we say 'twinge' in my feet. Alarmingly in the vicinity of the 'small' blisters. I decided to continue as there was really nothing to get particularly worked up about. I mean, how bad could it be. Not willling to let a couple of mildly irritating little bumps on my skin distract me I continued my hike, and did enjoy myself. As I neared the end of the walk, I noticed that I had been subconsiously limping for a while. I was trying take a bit of weight off the ball of my feet, and as a result ended up slightly rolling my feet and landing further back on the foot than what I would like. As I changed to walk with normal, good strike, the feet immediately burst aflame - it was the distinct sensation of pressure and tearing skin. Not nice. And all this from a two small little pouches of saggy skin filled with what felt like a gallon of offensive blister fluid.
I soldiered on to finish (as my car was parked there) with a slight limp, conscious of the tightness creeping into my calves and iliotibial band. I decided not to remove the shoes until I got home as I'd rather face the grim reality there than in public. As I hobbled up the steps I was dreading what I might find. Actually the situation was not quite as bad as I feared, yet not good. By no means good at all. I lanced the blisters, and as it turns out there were blisters on top of blisters! How evil and cunning is that? I didn't realise that blisters were capable of such treachery. Anyway, I completed the 11.60Km walk in 2 hours and 9 minutes. Now I am sitting here writing this wonderful piece of something or the other thinking how this is going to affect my challenge. Am I going to be able to carry on, or am I going to be forced into throwing in the towel? We'll find out.
Read the article on blisters.
Today dawned better than yesterday ended. The blister situation has eased considerably since yesterday, and I was able to wear my fivefingers to work. Looks like I may have escaped with a scare. I had a good chiropractic treatment from my associate Blair, who addressed the issues in my low back and legs, and I felt very much revived after that.
After a hectic afternoon shift I did my famous 2 minute turnaround to go for a run. I was really looking forward to it this evening. The last couple of hours of the shift I was feeling slightly impatient to get going. I laced up the NB's and off I went. The feet gave no problems at all and the legs felt good.
In anticipation of a repeat from the weekend, I had planned to do a short route and focus on the technique again, yet I changed the plan a bit. I went for a new route and thought I would just ride it and see how I felt - I could head back and take a short cut home at any time so I felt comfortable. I focused on staying light on my feet and running easy. This meant a shorter stride and more balanced feeling all together. I didn't want to force myself too much with the pace either, and refused to check my heart rate, distance covered, or even the time at any point during my run. I felt very good - I was able to control my breathing, my core, and my stride. I felt alive. Also I could help but chucle as I was hurtling past cars stuck in a long traffic jam. In a way it's quite ironic.
The run turned out to be 8.81Km, covered in 50 minutes and 35 seconds. Average pace was 5.43 mins/Km. Heart rate was nicely in the zone, with average of 158Bpm, and max 168Bpm.
The ugly truth revealed itself as I got home. As I removed the shoes I found a serious case of blistering in the left foot. As I cooled down it became difficult to move the big toe and it was quite warm. Oh no! A stress fracture, I thought almost giving in to a mild panic. Hold on, let's be rational piped a small voice in my head (the voice rational voice of common sense and chiropractic training) - it's not tender to palpation, there is no actual sharp pain on weight bearing... just a painful blister. PHEW! Ice pack strapped to the foot got rid of the swelling and pain started to ease off. I think I need to go and find a podiatrist or chiropodist to deal with the blister issue asap to carry me over this next couple of weeks. Then it's time to recover. But all in all it was a lovely run - for the first time it felt easy to run, and I felt I could go out and repeat the same course immediately.
Hooray! The blisters have eased and I can go for a run this evening. Never really thought I would say that and actually mean it. I suppose the modern way is to embrace ease, with the pinnacle of relaxation being lazing in the sofa in front of the telly in the evening. Before I may have agreed, to an extent, but nowadays I find running very therapeutic and relaxing. You can focus completely on something else than the daily grind, letting the rhythm of the run and the sensation of the movement take over and allowing the constant chatter of the mind to quieten for a while. I find now that getting out and covering a few Km in the evening after work really lets the endorphins kick in and after the shower and stretch the nice warm glow lasts until bed time. Now this is much more relaxing that getting a muscle spasm after hours rolling around in the sofa trying to get comfortable enough to let your breathing slow down. Also running serves to keep me out of the empty house for a bit, as the family are visiting the inlaws. It's not very nice sitting at home alone in the evening - there's only so much crap TV you can watch afterall.
Encouraged by the lovely feeling yesterday I was rearing to go again tonight. I thought I'd just do a quick 5 Km and allow my feet to calm down a bit. The run was 5Km exactly, with the total duration of 25 minutes and 52 seconds, with average pace of 5 minutes and 10 seconds /KM. Now that is a good improvement. I consciously tried to up the pace a bit today by keeping a shorter stride and increasing the cadence. This seems to have worked judging by the time. I am very happy I was able to maintain the pace for 5 Km. One thing that is slightly puzzling. My heart rate was on average 157 Bpm, and maximal heart rate clocked in at 165 Bpm. Now, by country logic as the pace increases I would expect my HR to increase in proportion, obviously as the intensity increases. As I am only less than 2 weeks into the experiment I am not convinced that my fitness levels have increased that much yet. Not sure - the jury is out on this one.
Keeping the run shorter today seems to have worked as there seems to be no new blisters to report, and the old ones are not overly disgruntled. I am seeing a podiatrist tomorrow, who will hopefully be able to help get the irritating things under control. Now it time to slip into the compression tights and tuck in. Nighty night.
Went to see the podiatrist this morning. The verdict was not too bad. She scraped the blisters with some kind of a moderately treatening instrument, but on the whole the experience was quite nice. She adviced me to try and wear well fitting shoes and good snug socks, and try and keep my feet as dry as possible when running to avoid blisters. Apparently they are caused by rubbing and moisture, combined with repeated impact. Well then, I am a bit stuffed on all counts, as running means constant impact, moisture as the feet tend to sweat and because I have narrow feet it is very difficult to find snug trainers. Hmm. One bit of good news came from the consultation though, which is an antiperspirant spray that should reduce the sweating of the feet in the long run. If anything, I suppose this is further incentive to try remain light on my feet when running to reduce impact - VERY LIGHT
By the orders of the podiatrist I am having a rest day today to give my feet a fighting chance to recover. Due to the enforced rest (which I grudgingly admit is needed), I will continue my advertures tomorrow.
Due to popular demand I will be writing an article on how to get into running. I have received feedback from a few people requesting advice on how to start running in case of serious lack of fitness or few extra kilos on the waist. Stay tuned, it will be posted soon.
This evening the feet feel much better, no tenderness or soreness at all. Fantastic! I finished work in the afternoon a bit earlier and hatched a plan to go and run a few trails today instead of the normal tarmac. I much prefer running on trails; not only is it more interesting, but it gives an excellent workout for the legs. As you run on uneven surfaces your feet, ankles and legs must constantly adapt to different conditions, and provide the brain with heaps more feedback allowing the brain to fine tune the output into the muscles more accurately. This is known as proprioception (the subconscious sensory feedback) and it has a crucial role in reducing likelihood of injuries and improving performance. Back to the story. As I headed home from clinic, I got stuck in traffic, which meant that I only got home at about 18.40. This was going to be tight. Am I going to make it out to the trails and back before it gets dark? Running in the dark is not a bad problem in particular, but on the trails the likelihood on spraining an ankle increases exponentially.
I got changed in about 2 minutes, gulped down some water, grabbed an apple and off I went. This was going to be a race against the setting sun. I forgot to bring my water bottle to work and therefore felt a bit dehydrated as I was driving home. (If I forget to drink enough during the day I always start feeling a bit fuzzy in my head, which is a bit frightening as I used to feel like that all the time and thought it was normal.) I covered 6.72 Km of glorious trails in 36 minutes and 15 seconds, with average heart rate of 155 and maximum heart rate of 164. I kept my stride very short, as you do on trails due to the need of careful foot placement. This worked very nicely as I felt very light on my feet all the way through. I felt I kept decent pace during the bulk of the run, yet I still managed to bring up the pace considerably on the short tarmac section on the way home (about 700 meters) - it felt like I was just about to take off.
As I did my cool down walk my heart rate dropped to about 100Bpm very quickly, and I felt like going out again. I did consider it quite seriously, but decided against it as the feet need to heal a bit more before kicking up the mileage much more.
Today turned out to be another rest day. It was a very long day at work (Left the house at 5.50 am, only got back 19.15) and my brothers turned up rather conveniently, so I gave myself the excuse of going out for dinner with them and then catching up instead of going for a run in evening. I suppose the extra rest is a good idea to allow my feet more time to heal and to allow my legs all in all recovery time.
I was up nice and early again this morning and headed out for a run before work. I was out of the door at 5.45 am and as I was a lot more chilly than what I am accustomed to I decided to wrap up in 2XU compression gear. It was a straight forward tarmac run this morning with the total distance of 5.87 Km in 30 minutes 13 seconds - giving the average pace of 5 minutes 8 seconds per Km. The speed of the run was slightly unexpected, as I was trying my trail running technique on tarmac this morning, keeping my stride short and snappy. I felt pretty good, considering I only wrenched my eyes open about 15 minutes before heading out of the door. I felt alert, focused, relaxed and I was able to find my comfortable stride and cadence very early in the run, which I suppose, helped with the time. The feet also felt good through out, the extra rest and healing time must have helped. I invested in a couple of new pairs of hillys twin skins, as I think the old pairs seem to have lost some of their magic. This time I found some black ones, as they seem to fit a bit more snugly than the white ones. I slobbered a bit of vaseline on the blister area, slid the socks on, laced up my NB's nice tight and ... no problems! The jury is still out on the anti-perspirant spray I got from the podiatrist, but it's still early days with that one. I will keep using that to see if it works.
I couldn't get any heart rate data this morning, as my heart rate monitor refused to monitor anything. I'll have to see what I can do with it, maybe it's the batteries. I kept the pace under control, and refused the urge to lenghten the stride too much and instead focused on the cadence. I felt my breathing was under control during the run, as I was able to do nose breathing through out when ever I wanted. I was not gulping air, so my HR must have been in the normal range. Hopefully I can sweet talk the HR monitor back into action for tomorrow.
The call of the trails was strong today. I really fancied a nice run; however we were on a tight schedule with shooting photos and videos for the website. As it turns out, there is a little running video on its way. This is to illustrate a few key points about running technique, foot strike and different surfaces. Luckily, this meant that at least I got to do a long hike out to the trail and then do a number of takes to get some material. Not exactly the same as a long run, but better than nothing.
I have written the article on how to get started with running. You can find it here. Running for Beginners.
I was gagging to get out for a run this evening. As I missed yesterdays nice sun shine due to being otherwise busy, I felt the need to redeem myself today. I suppose it was a sensible thing to have an extra days rest, to let the body get on with some repair work, but still fancied a long run yesterday as the weather stayed nice. Oh well.
This evening I headed out on tarmac again. The legs felt rested and relaxed and the feet seemed to be holding up nicely. I did a familiar route, but this time checked out a few street branches I haven't been down before. Total distance covered was 8.45Km, total duration 46 minutes 5 seconds, with average pace of 5 minutes and 26 seconds per Km. My heart rate monitor decided to play ball again today - must have been one of those gremlins in there the other day. My average heart rate was 161BPM with max HR 171BPM. Again intensity wise I was bang-on in the zone.
The run was a bit funny, not in regards to the body but more regarding the head. I was having trouble shutting down the chattering of my mind and random thoughts kept racing in my brain. It was slightly confusing. At one point I remember worrying about something or the other, then another minute I was certain I was going to be sick any minute. Not that I felt physically sick - just had weird thoughts. Then I reined the brain in a bit and thought to myself 'what would Chrissie Wellington do?' I came to a conclusion that she would probably tell me to shut up and get on with it - so I did. After that it was plain sailing again. Maybe the fact that I've been up since 4 am this morning had something to do with it ... By the way, Chrissie, if you happen to read this, gongratulations on your Kona victory over the weekend. (Kona = Ironman Hawaii).
Now it's time to have some dinner, tuck myself in and have a good rest. Tomorrow is a brand new day and a brand new run...
It was one busy day today - phew! I only got home at about 22.00, only managed to eat at noon, and was feeling a bit dehydrated. Hmmm. Not the best start for anything productive, let alone running. I decided to bravely head out for a trot. I strapped the fivefingers to my feet and went for a fast pace, technique specific run. Total Distance of 2.4 Km, duration of 10mins 48 sec, with a pace of 4 mins 31 seconds per Km. Now that was a fast sprint. Much higher pace than I've ever been able to carry for any distance (aside from a 100 m sprint races in school). Thanks to the fivefingers, I was focusing on getting my feet softly and lightly onto the tarmac and trying make my stride as smooth and fluid as possible. My breathing was a bit out of control, but I'll forgive myself as the focus was more on the technique this evening. No heart rate data for this evening as I decided not to wear it as I thought it would barely give any useful data on such a short duration run.
Struggle. That's the word to describe todays run. My goodness. Stats of the run are not bad, but it just felt pretty horrible. I did a 6.94 Km run in 35 minutes and 44 seconds with average pace of 5 mins and 9 seconds per Km, with MaxHR of 171 and AvgHR of 161 Bpm. Now, let's analyse why things didn't feel right. First and foremost, I decided to try and not stretch for a week, just to see how it would feel to run without stretching at all. This led to my right calf feeling tight for the most of the run. I worked hard to not limp and succeeded pretty well. Another issue I had was breathing. I had a slight nagging around the upper left ribs since this morning, which resulted in me struggling to breathe easy. Each breath felt laboured and forced - not loose and relaxed. I reckon I started off with too high a pace that proved to be unsustainable for the whole distance. I reckon the high pace run yesterday was still fresh in my memory and I came screaming off the blocks. Well, pacing is an acquired skill, I hope this teaches me something.
I got a new pair of running shoes today! Woo-Hoo! I had a bit of time and popped into Sweatshop in Teddington. I tried a couple of pairs suitable for my running style and foot type, and ended up choosing a pair of Brooks Green Silence shoes. They felt instantly comfortable due to the shape of the toe box, the snug feeling upper, flexible sole, very little drop from heel to toe and very light weight. I tested the new shoes today on the run, but due to the general bad feeling I cannot make a definitive verdict on the shoes yet. I think a couple more test runs are in order to find out - just to be sure...
I am away for a couple of days from tomorrow for a sports chiropractic seminar. As a happy coincidence this one is taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland, with some lovely scenery around the lake Geneva. I will try and update the Blog as best as I can, yet please forgive a potential momentary interruption.
It was a travel day today. A plane journey followed by train, with lovely country scenery, sun shine and warm weather - this is looking pretty good. I headed out for a run as soon as I got checked into the hotel, and decided to make my way down to the lake shore. The run was 1/3 easy, 1/3 normal, 1/3 tough, as it wasy a pretty even spread of descend, flat and ascend. The green silences were feeling good - I learned that by loosening the laces a bit allowed my foot to move more naturally, which eased even the blisters. With the NB's I had to tighten the laces as much as possible, as the relative stiffness of the shoe required it. Due to being in a foreign country and me trying to avoid massive roaming charges, my iphone GPS running app didn't work. Also my heart rate monitor GPS sensor wasn't working (probably due to flat battery or some gremlins), so I have no real idea of how far or even at what pace I may have run.
I kept the pace easy all along, without really pushing too hard at all until the last section. I started down the hill to the lake side, the meandered around the lake for, what I guess, 3 - 4 Km, until it was time to finish off with a few sprints up the hill. With the ascends I pushed hard - my legs and lungs were on fire as I sprinted, however the recovery down the hill was truly amazing. I didn't need to even take a break, even if just a couple of minutes earlier I felt like I was about keel over. As I allowed myself to just 'roll' downhill, I felt my legs ease with every stride, I felt my shoulders drop from my ears, and I felt the near sick sensation of fatigue creep away. There are two trains of thought as to running technique downhill, either keep the stride short and choppy or let your strides lengthen and allow your momentum to carry you on. I tried both ways and it seems that the steeper the descend, the shorter the stride (common sense - otherwise you will go out of control and find yourself hugging the kerb with a healthy dose of road rash on your nose and cheeks).
I am rather pleased with myself after tonight, 45 minutes run with lots of nice scenery, some technical bits, and loads of endorphins to give me a good night sleep.
It was a very busy seminar day today with an early start and late-ish finish and a healthy dose of Swiss hospitality afterwards. There was no time for running today, but in hind-sight I think it was a good idea to have a rest day. What ever good dietary habits I had managed to pull together during the course of this running experiment seem to have been completely obliterated by todays dinner, which basically consisted of cheese. Some liquid cheese, some slightly less liquid cheese, some firm cheese and a potato (and white bread). The amount of dairy consumed today was equivalent of my dairy intake of the last 5 years combined into a single hit! unbelievable. Definitely no way of running after this one.
Long day with the seminar today again. I entertained ideas of a run in the evening, but after the days work I barely had enough strength to crawl up to the hotel and into the shower to have a soak for half an hour. After a quick dinner it was lights out at about 9 o'clock. One of the perks of going to seminars like this is that we get treated ourselves. As I was called upon to perform a squat, a slight 'glitch' was detected in my technique. This after a bit of investigating turned out to be related to a hip problem I had as a child (had two surgeries). I have not had any problems in my normal daily activities or work, and very little in terms of dicomfort with training for various sports over the recent years. I have been able to keep myself going with regular chiropractic treatment, but this was something quite different. The 'glitch' in my technique came about as a result from imbalance in my hip and pelvic function, whish also has manifested as some feeling on 'imbalance' during my running as well as loss of symmetry form side to side (blisters in different places in my feet). After having my hips and legs treated I didn't really feel too much differnt immediately, however I did notice that my legs felt a bit different towards the evening.
Today dawned different from any other in my recent memory! Not only did my legs feel fantastic, but also the frequent mild ache in the back after sleeping in soft hotel beds was absent. Most of the day was spent in the seminar and later travelling back home. As soon as I got home it was time to lace up the green silences and head out.
I thought about having an easy 5 Km run and try and let the brick of cheese dissolve. However; as I got started I simply fancied picking up the pace as I felt pretty good. Then a realisation hit me - I felt completely balanced! No difference with the foot strike, even knee trajectory and hip movement, easy breathing, good control in the midsection ... I just felt easy and symmetrical. As the run progressed I kept on accelerating to a point that the last Km I was pretty much flat out. I finished the 5 Km in 24 mins and 26 seconds with pace of 4 mins 51 seconds per Km. I smashed the previous PB by 1 minute and 26 seconds, and felt like I still had lots in the tank. WOW! The heart rate was on avg160, and MaxHR 176 BPM.
This goes to show that minor problems can have major effects in terms of athletic performance as well as enjoyment of sport. Making sure your body is functioning to its best capability should be a priority for all athletes, from sunday golfers and runners to elite and professional sportsmen.
After a busy work day today I fancied a nice run in the evening. I decided to head out for a different route just for a bit of variety. I didn't really make a solid plan as to where I was going to go, but rather was going to make it up as I went. I felt good as I headed out even if the wind was picking up a fair bit. Legs felt good, breathing was easy and I felt relaxed. Total distance covered was 9.08 Km, duration 47 minutes and 5 seconds, making the pace 5 min 11 seconds per Km. The AvgHR 158 and Max HR 166 BPM. After 8 Km I still felt fairly fresh and managed to pick up the pace for the last Km and a sprint finish to top it off. A good stretch and dinner later I'm feeling pretty good. Time for bed.
After yesterdays run I did my stretches, guzzled a goodly amount of water and put on my compression tights for recovery. I felt a bit stiff in the evening, but come morning all was again well. No soreness, no sign of blisters (have I finally managed to get over them?!?!) and no tension. Ready to tackle a long days work then. I only got home a bit later tonight feeling very hungry and thirsty (as I didn't have time for a snack during the afternoon and I forgot to bring my water bottle). I decided to do a short technical session wearing the fivefingers and headed out into the screaming wind. I felt like an easy pace run was in order to get a bit of recovery after yesterday. The distance covered was 3.04 Km in 15 mins and 45 seconds, with pace of 5 mins 10 seconds per Km. I didn't bother wearing the heart rate monitor as it was only going to a short one - my fitness has reached such a high level that this kind of a quick sprint would hardly even raise my heart rate (in my dreams). In all honesty I just couldn't really be asked to wear it for the short run.
The slightly longer fivefinger run proved to be a bit of a test for the achilles tendons. The feet themselves were fine - as a matter fact I quite liked the sensation of irregularities of the road under my toes. I could feel the slight strain on my achilles tendons towards the end of the run, which is absolutely fine as they need to strengthen anyways to allow me to run longer distances without injuries in the future.
Last night I was left wanting a bit more. Which is a nice feeling - in terms of measuring the enjoyment I get from running these days. Gone are the days of feeling sore and stiff, forcing one leg in front of the other, and being laid up for a couple of days with horrible case of DOMS (Delayd Onset Muscle Soreness). I seem to have been able to find my 'stride' and comfort zone, which means that I feel easy when I run. Which is nice.
This evening I decided to head out for my normal 5Km route. I fancied trying for a new PB! Easy tiger... I set off with brisk pace, short stride and controlled foot strike. Breathing was easy, yet as it is decidedly autumn like tonight (steaming breath) I felt quite warm - probably due to wearing my long running tights and gloves for the first time. I struggled to pick up pace along the run as I set off fairly quick anyways. At about the 3,5 Km mark I noticed a bit of lag in my stride, almost to an extent where I had trouble maintaining my pace. At 4 Km-ish I did have to let off a bit, and as I hit the motorway bridge (this is the most significant incline to be found in and around Shepperton), I had to dig a bit to keep going. Luckily, as it tends to be with motorway bridges, I was able to recover on the downhill. I caught my breath again, picked up my legs and plucked put the last dregs from the tank to sprint to the finish line. Total distance was 4.98Km, total duration 24 mins 11 seconds, with pace of 4 min 51 seconds per Km. Heart rate was the normal and accustomed to MaxHR 171 and AvgHR 161 BPM.
So not exactly the triumphant arrival of new PB, but overall I think a very good lesson. Learn to pace yourself. My army instructors back in the day used to say that it's not the distance that kills, it's the pace. How right they were. I think it's much more sensible to start off a bit easy and then pick up pace as you go rather than come screaming off the blocks and then fade on the home straight. Another lesson learned.
It's been a week and a bit since my last run on this challenge. The day following that run I flew to the in-laws to collect my girls and managed to head out for one run during the 9 days there. I felt pretty good during the run, but since I was on holiday I simply fancied an easy run - with a bit of a hill climb at the end that I simply could not resist. I think I ought to try and sum up the lessons learned and key experiences from along the journey.
1. Technique is everything - good technique will not only help you perform better but it will prevent injuries to a great extent.
2. Footwear and gear - buying the expensive trainers may not be the best idea as they may not suit your running style (let's re-frase that: they most likely will not suit your running style). It is the best idea to pop into a running specialist shop for impartial advice. Also proper running gear (shorts, tops, socks, etc) will have a beneficial effect of your enjoyment of running.
3. Nutrition - eating the right things can be very helpful when it comes to reaching your training goals, be it losing weight, trying to reach the sub 20 minute 5Km, or working on completing your first marathon.
4. Hydration - running (or doing anything for that matter) dehydrated is not fun. Making sure you maintain your hydration levels can help with performance as well as recovery.
5. Attitude - Relax. Learning to relax while running is the most important thing I learned. As you are able to relax you can pay attention to your technique as well as finding your rhythm and pace as well as the comfortable breathing. Don't try and push it too much - let it happen.
I am now back to my normal timetable of work and family, which leaves very little time for running. I may be able to squeeze in one per week... yet having enjoyed the challenge I will try and take every opportunity to get out for a run. What am I left with after a month of running? Well. I lost no weight - as a matter of fact I gained about 1Kg, however all my trousers are loose at the waist and (I may be kidding myself) I look a bit more toned. I gained a new inspiration, which means that anytime I feel low I know all I have to do is to head out for a run and the endophin hit will take care of the rest. I learned a lot about running technique, biomechanics, pacing, training, kit, nutrition and hydration etc. I proved to myself that I could do it - and most importantly I just had a very good time.
If you wish to get in touch regarding problems with your running or to get started, I would be more than happy to conduct a running assessment to establish the current situation and to find out where you need to go next. Take the first step and get phone or email me at the clinic today.