Sunday, 17 January 2016

To run or not to run?

The last couple of weeks I've hardly run at all. The desire to run is there but my body hasn't been up for it at all. Oddly, reducing the volume and intensity of all my training has resulted in niggles becoming much worse and increasing fatigue. I don't understand that at all but later on today I'm going to see a guy who specialises in treating runners. I'm apprehensive in case he finds some major injury, but at the same time seeing him will ease my mind because either there's not much wrong, just a few better targeted exercises needed or there is a significant injury in which case I can get it treated.

I wrote a while back about how running has gotten under my skin, how it's no longer something I do as part of a lifestyle or fitness choice but how it's become part of life itself. I love how this relationship with running has developed but it leaves me vulnerable and exposed. Whilst the highs are amazing and even the every day bimbling along is life-enhancing, the lows really rattle me. My brain knows that there will be lows: running won't always go well, there will be times when resting is more important, sometimes niggles will surface. The frustration of not being able to run when I want to and when I do manage to run feeling clumsy and slow is unbearable.

This was always going to be an easy month as far as training goes but I don't think I'd really appreciated how hard it would be taking a rest month when everyone else is 100% committed to new training plans and full of excitement at their running goals for the new year. I've always been vulnerable to the 'you're only worthwhile if you work your hardest all the time' kind of mind-set, that my value as a person is measured by what I achieve, so having a month where I actually need to not achieve and not train hard is really challenging. Despite knowing that rest is an integral part of training and that sometimes the best thing to do is to back right off it's still very hard feeling like I'm being lazy.

Social media really doesn't help sometimes. For someone like me Facebook in particular can be a great way to feel inadequate seeing everyone posting up how many miles they've run already and how fast. That's one reason why I stay away from Strava and am only half-hearted with the #UKRunChat Endomondo challenges. On the other hand I've had some really lovely messages of encouragement from twitter-land friends; I guess in a way running is also family. There are some truly lovely people out there- most of whom I've never met, maybe never will meet but the sharing of experiences and advice, the friendly support is just wonderful and I really do appreciate my virtual running family.

And I have to mention my fella.  He is being awesome. That's especially impressive as he found out this week he has a place to run UTMB and (quite rightly) it's really all he can think about.

Normal service here will resume at some point. I'm looking forward to having some happy running stories and adventures to share with you.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

"I am still learning"

My dad has this quote on a little plaque in his study. I think I get my willingness to learn, to explore, to reflect from him. One of the best things about running is you never stop learning. The most difficult thing about running is you never stop learning.

At the moment I'm in the middle of a lot of thinking, processing and reflecting. New running challenges this year mean I need to take a new approach to training, and what I've learned from last year has also given me a lot of food for thought.

I was feeling pretty upbeat after Portsmouth and was happy to run how and when I felt like it for a couple of weeks. This week my running just hasn't felt right. Nothing has flowed, I haven't enjoyed it. Yesterday in karate training I took a heavy fall whilst sparring and I feel too sore to want to run today. It doesn't really matter- I'm not thinking of serious training again until next month anyway- but it does feel odd not doing a LSR when my twitter and Facebook feeds are full of people already cramming in the miles.

More miles doesn't mean better training, faster miles doesn't mean better training. I know all that but it's still hard not to get drawn in and feel inadequate even though I'd planned this month to be easy. I guess it's because for most people January is full of enthusiasm for new fitness regimes and training plans whilst for me this is more like end of year than a new start. I also think that perhaps it's taken body and mind a while to really process the experience of running my first marathon and only now is the full impact hitting home. I've been too easily upset by things this week and I know now that's a sure sign of deep fatigue so cutting myself some slack at least as far as running is concerned will be no bad thing.

So it's time to concoct a loose sort of training plan for the Ox Ultra. The Ox is on 22nd May so the beginning of February means I'll have 16 weeks of focussed training. I'm going to take a risk and try something completely new: a plan based on a 2 week cycle of training. A fortnightly cycle will work around when I have child-free weekends, and I think it will make it easier to fit in all the different aspects of training: running, weights, stretching and injury prevention. It will also give me a bit of flexibility for when karate training is really tough and I need more recovery time. At the moment I'm only as far as planning fortnightly back-to-back runs but once I have some kind of a structure I'll post it up here and we'll see how it works out.

I'm late into this running lark so if I want longevity in it then the most important thing is to make my training sustainable. That means not overdoing it and paying attention to training as a whole so that running, strength, flexibility, nutrition and RECOVERY all have equal importance.

Watch this space...

Sunday, 3 January 2016

New year thoughts and dilemmas

Things are slowly returning to normal post -marathon and -Christmas. It's a different kind of normal, but I'm looking forward to life being a little more settled again. I'm also excited about the adventures and challenges that this year will bring. Yes, I'm actually embracing the start of another year with a smile!

I've gained a little weight since the marathon but for once I've been kind to myself- taken things easy, got up later than usual, and not thought twice about enjoying foodie treats. Running hasn't stopped though. Far from it! Two days post-Portsmouth I thought I might as well try a recovery run and managed 4 muddy, traily miles and enjoyed almost all of it. The first mile felt hard but by the end all was good. Then I ran with my fella and some other friends on Christmas Eve to celebrate his birthday. About 8 muddy traily miles. Hard going in places, especially up hills, but all good fun.

Since Pompey my running has been off-road (and all 30-ish miles of it more or less muddy) and just for the pleasure of it. I've lost all semblance of speed but it's probably still there, it's just been a while since I did regular intervals and faster tempo runs. And herein lies a dilemma. In order to be productive training needs to be specific, right? So if training for a marathon or ultra the focus needs to be on building the endurance, time on feet, finding a 'go to' pace that I can sustain hour after hour. And if training for a hilly, off-road race then add hills and trails into the mix. But I'd like to still be able to run consecutive sub 7 min miles.

The problem to sleep on tonight is how to organise my training to maximise fitness, be ready for the Ox in May and shed the post-mara padding. Weight training is already back on course, that bit is quite straightforward- lift heavy, lift regularly or else! It's the running that's problematic. Intervals- how long and at what speed? How often to do back-to-back runs? When to try out Oregon Circuits for general running strength and fitness? Hill reps?...The list seems endless and there's still karate training to factor in too. That's taken a back seat for almost a month now, just hoping that at tomorrow's training I won't have forgotten all of it! It's been a while since I performed a kata.

This year finding a balance is going to be challenging. Keeping all my training sustainable is another challenge. Now that life is about far more than proving I can run fast I need to look after myself and never lose sight of the optimism and joy that I have right now.

Happy new year. May it be one of many joyful miles.