In the last year there have been a lot of trending articles in the fitness world on what the experts now consider to be the best way to stay fit and in shape. It’s hard to keep up with their ever changing minds! One year they advice us all to practice yoga, and the next year slow walking down dirt paths in nature is the new nirvana. But lately I’ve seen the experts in the different sports spheres agree on one practice: running for brief duration at a very intense speed. In other words, running fast.
Most beginner runners tend to train at a running speed that is well within their comfort zone. Part of this has to do with experience. They don’t know how to handle themselves when their body is screaming for more oxygen (breathe!) and they get alarmed when they feel their heart beating faster than it usually does on those slow and easy workouts.
But learning to run at a more intense speed, even for very short distances, is the fastest way not only to improve your running but to get in better shape. You can insert these exercises (one at a time!) into your training plan once a week. Start off each session with 30:00 minutes of an easy warm up run, you know, that lovely comfort zone you love so much. Then to finish your training session add on one of these exercises.
The incline of the hill doesn’t need to be steep and you can start out the running distance at about 50 meters. For your recovery walk slowly back to your starting point at the bottom of the hill.
The sand will give your body extra cushioning and at the same time slow you down. This again can be a distance of 50 meters or if you’re feeling up to it, 100 meters. You can run with your shoes or be adventurous and go barefoot. Be aware that this is harder than it looks!
Did you used to jump rope as a child? Then you probably still know how to do it. Start with twenty double jumps while slowly turning the rope. Remember that the speed of the rope is in your control through your wrists. Between sets you can walk for a minute or run slowly for 200 meters.
Once you’ve done a few weeks of sprints or jump roping you’re ready to try running for longer distances beginning with 500 meters. Try six intervals with two minute recovery periods between each. Time your runs so you can get an idea about how fast you’re running and if there’s improvement from one session to the next.
The almighty 1km “test” is simple to do. Run fast for 1km and time it. I like having my runners do these often just to get used to throwing in a fast pace every once in awhile. In just a few minutes you can see exactly in what kind of shape you’re in once you know what your base 1km speed is.
Remember in February when I mentioned that I’d had the flu three times since Christmas? That I was signed up to run the Boston Marathon and would just forge on with two months of training to go? Well, that plan got chucked out the window when I got a fever again at the end of March, just three weeks before the race.
I can’t say why this was happening; it still baffles me. To make sure that it really was just a crappy immune system my doctor had me do every blood and urine test possible and everything checked out fine. Thank goodness.
So consulting with my dear husband and my nutritionist we all decided that as long as I was healthy the day of the race I would be fine. My nutrition plan remained the same with added supplements to boost my health.
Training was rough. I was slow and weak and a little discouraged, but I put my trust into these two caring people and knew that things would work out.
And they did. We arrived in Boston on Friday night and Saturday morning went for a run and I felt fine. Great even. Sunday we had an event to go to (will talk about it in another post!) where we ran a little and I still felt fine. Monday morning I woke up ready to go… sort of.
There’d been were record high temperatures of85°f on Sunday. It was supposed to drop to 70°f but that is still really warm for a marathon. I bought sunscreen and a white cap with a long visor and hoped for the best. Boston has a 6 hour 15 minute cutoff and I just hoped to make it to the finish line.
But if I was at the start, I knew in my heart that I’d make it because I was feeling better than I had in weeks.
If you are reading this and you ever find yourself in the same predicament my advice will always be to give it a go, as along as you feel in good health on race day. If I was still feeling down or the fever had come back or I knew that I just didn’t have it in me, I would not have started the marathon. I would have opted to be a cheerleader for my friends and leave it at that.
I’ve seen runners start marathons in an unhealthy state and not only have a bad race, but they take so much longer to get well again. I felt good and knew that I had enough experience to pull myself through. My plan was to savour every minute of the race and enjoy myself.
I didn’t realise the Boston course was such roller coaster! It’s straight downhill the first kilometre and then back uphill. Repeat until about mile 20 and then it’s relatively flat. My race tactic was to walk 30 seconds every mile, which corresponded to a water station. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this up for the entire distance but it was a good starting plan. It lasted for about the first half, though I walked the hills. After that I just did what I had to do to get to the finish.
It was hot, hot, hot for the first two hours of my race (wave 4) then it thankfully clouded over and we could concentrate on running. The course is iconic and the crowds were fantastic. I laughed while I passed the screaming Wellesley girls and almost cried when I saw the infamous CITGO sign. It also meant I only had a mile to go!
The hardest part of the marathon was from the finish line to my hotel a half a mile away. Your mind really does help you run for twenty-six miles, but once you’ve done that it pretty much shuts down. I had to sit down and rest three times along the way. But I finally made it.
I stopped a woman on the street and asked her to take my picture, I wanted a proper keepsake with my medal. After handing me back my phone she gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and told me she was proud of me. Yep, I shed a tear and waddled my way back to the hotel.
My final time was 5:27:54, well within the cutoff time. Yay!
We toured Cape Cod for the rest of the week and then flew home. After six days of complete rest, I started running again and I’m feeling hopeful that I’ll be able to train without illness and interruption. Onward to IM Cervia!
“Non c’è due senza tre” is an Italian proverb which means if you do something twice you’re bound to do it a third time. Yesterday I signed up for my third Ironman, IM Cervia in Italy.
There are a few long distance triathlons in Italy, one is even really well organised which is kind of a shocker for this country. But this will be the first Ironman brand (®!) long distance race and I wanted to be a part of it.
It took me awhile to sign up and I didn’t get the push to do it until I saw they were at 80% capacity. If I wanted to be at the starting line in September I needed to get that credit card out!
But before doing so I had to resolve a little dilemma going through my brain: why was I doing this? I still think swimming 3.8km, peddling 180km and topping it off with a marathon is one of the craziest (senseless?) sporting events out there, so why do it for a third time?
After another ten days of hemming and hawing here’s what I came up with.
Ever since they published details about the new IM Cervia I’ve had it on my mind. It’s in September and in my imagination I already had training pals lined up and summer vacation scheduled around bike routes.
I love that exciting and consuming feeling I get about a race. Others may get it when planning on going to a rock concert or a certain restaurant, for me anything with the words “triathlon”, “marathon”, or “endurance” will do it. I never sign up for anything unless I have have this feeling – you need it when the training gets tough.
Don’t get me wrong, my experience at Ironman Barcelona was perfect on it’s own. I learned many a lesson there and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. But I want and need to go back and do it differently. Life has taught me that it won’t necessarily be perfect and anything could be thrown at me in the meantime. I need to get back on the bike and not be scared of it anymore.
The truth is that if I didn’t swim, bike and run I’d be sitting on the couch popping bonbons and watching the new Netflix series. Oh, and knitting. I have a newfound love for knitting.
When I don’t have anything on the agenda I do a lot of the aforementioned activities. When I have a bigger than life sports event I ask myself if I’m getting enough sleep, if my eating is going to fuel the bike run I have planned for the afternoon. I rolled this one over in my head the longest. I kept asking myself, “Aren’t you capable of just taking care of yourself without any sports event on the horizon?” In the end I decided that the answer to that question didn’t really matter. Maybe one day I’ll know the answer but for now sleeping 8+ hours last night was a direct result of my signing up for the Ironman event. Training starts today!
So far 2017 has sucked as far as my health is concerned. I’ve gotten the flu three times and we haven’t even gotten to spring! I am still going to the Boston Marathon in April and I know that if I hadn’t signed up for it I would have given up on running by now.
With the big M on the horizon I just kept believing and getting back out there after each fever had subsided. I’m still training but my focus is more on the fun I’ll have with the group I’m going with, rooming with my bestie Patrizia and seeing old friends (Hi Bart! Hi Kathrine! Hi Jonathan!) in Boston. Oh, and the one week vacation afterwards driving around Cape Cod. That in itself is worth all the training in the world.
When runners sign up for my 1-on-1 coaching they first fill out a questionnaire that tells me all sorts of information. Even the way they fill it out, the number of words or the choice of nouns, verbs and adjectives clues me into their personality. But what I’m mostly interested in discovering is their past, present and future.
What kind of sports did they play when they were young? Have they always been active? What did their running programme look like last week? What’s their goal in the near (or far) future?
All this information tells me where they have been, where they are now and what they hope to achieve.
Lately I’ve gotten a lot of requests from runners that did really well in the past, took a break (planned or unplanned) and then decided to get back into running but can’t find that same groove that they had before. Nine out of ten times the problem lies in the age gap.
Yesterday I received an inquiry for a runner slightly younger than myself. Here’s an example of the past/present/future Q&A.
Past: What’s your marathon PR and when did you achieve it? Answer: 3:42:46 in 2006
Present: Give me your schedule from last week. Answer: Nothing, I’m not running at the moment.
Future: What’s your running goal? Answer: to run a marathon in 3:30:00.
It’s really hard to break it to someone that ten years have passed and they may not be able to achieve the same running times they were capable of in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. But now I have a better answer! I send them over to the Age Equivalent Running Results calculator over at Marathon Guide.
All you have to do is type in the distance and time you ran and how old you were at the time. I put my own marathon times in as an example.
I ran my best marathon time in Paris in 3:51:46 at age 38. Even now I get these nutty ideas of trying to train to get back to those times. Crazytown, I tell ya! It’s just not gonna happen. We mature, hormones change and even our running style and posture “evolve”.
The slowdown is natural but it shouldn’t discourage you. When I see that the equivalent time for a marathon for me today would be somewhere around 4:30:00 I’m a little more inspired to give it a try.
So go on, plug in some numbers and see what the results are. Then get on out there and have some fun by training with a touch of passion again.
Your 8 week plan to go from zero – 5k and discover the life changing power of running. Order now »