Thursday, April 29, 2010

Running questions first

I got mostly running questions, so I'll start with those.  The other ones (NELP, meat eating, and tattoos) will come next. 

DISCLAIMER:  I'm still relatively new to running, so these answers are based on my limited experience, and a little bit of research.

What is a tempo run and how and why should you do these?
I had what I thought was a very clear understanding of what a tempo run is, but when I checked around the internet, I got a lot of confusing/contradicting definitions.  Hal Higdon, whom I totally love and trust because I have used all of his training programs, defines it this way:

This is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 10-K race pace. A Tempo Run of 30 to 45 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build to 15-20 minutes near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout. Hold that peak only for a minute or two. I consider Tempo Runs to be the "Thinking Runner's Workout." A Tempo Run can be as hard or easy as you want to make it, and it has nothing to do with how long (in time) you run or how far. In fact, the times prescribed for Tempo Runs serve mainly as rough guidelines. Feel free to improvise. Improvisation is the heart of doing a Tempo Run correctly.

And my more simple explanation is this:  Let's say you're going to run 3 miles.  You'd run 1 mile at a comfortable/ warm up pace, run the 2nd mile at a faster pace that requires you to push it to hold it, and then run the 3rd mile at the more comfortable/ cool down pace.  This is a way for your body to learn how to run faster. 

Why does a tempo run help you run faster?  When you run at a faster, more difficult pace, your lactic acid builds up in your running muscles.  If you build up too much lactic acid, you can't maintain the pace and you have to stop.  But if you build up the lactic acid (by running faster) for a short period of time, your body becomes more efficient at removing the lactic acid, and the next time you run, your body won't build up as much lactic acid, and that is how you train yourself to run faster. 

And I know I'm still a slow runner, but I have gotten steadily faster by using tempo runs and progression runs (when you just increase your speed gradually over the course of a run) on the treadmill. 

What are your personal "must haves" while running? 
(clothing, gear, hydration stuff, watches etc)
This is a fun one to talk about, because half the fun of any sport is the gear, right?
Clothing:  I really like Nike tempo shorts  Nike Varsity Royal Womens Tempo Short (S=4-6)  because they are the most comfortable of all of the ones I have, and they come in every color.  I'm serious.    In cooler weather, I wear Patagonia running tights.  For tops, I have piles of running shirts of all brands and sleeve length.  I am not picky about the tops, and often get what's at TJ Max or Target, though I will say that I prefer everything Nike for running gear. I don't have any trouble with chafing, but a lot of my friends can't wear shirts that have wide seams on the inside.   I either wear a lightweight running hat or wear my hair back in a hair band.  I prefer a snug-fitting sports bra, but I have several different brands.  If you are large-chested, the place to shop for sports bras that everyone swears by is Title 9.
Watch:  I have a pretty basic Nike running watch called the Triax Nike Triax Fury 100 Style Watch (Black/Red)that I love.  I always like to have a watch, and I'm kind of obsessive about recording my times down to the second to track my progress.  But what I REALLY want is a GPS that will track my distance and pace too.  I used to laugh at these when I saw them on people when I first started running because they are so huge on your wrist, but it's funny how your viewpoint changes.  I plan to ask for one for Christmas next year.  Here it is, honey, right here for you.  Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor
See Sarah's excellent point about running with watches/ GPSs in the comment section.

Hydration:  I run with my CamelbakCamelbak Rogue 70 Oz Hydration Pack, Racing Red/Charcoal on my back filled with diluted Gatorade on any run longer than about 6 or 7 miles.  I'm really used to it, and I find that I miss it when I don't have it. A few of my friends, including my bad ass friend Sarah, prefer hand-held bottlesNathan Quickdraw Plus Handheld 22-Ounce Bottle Carrier with Pocket (Black)for long-distances.

Fuel:  I have tried a lot of different products, and have settled on Luna Moons Luna Sport Moons Energy Chews Blueberry, 1.05-Ounce Packages (Pack of 12)
or GuGu Energy Gel Chocolate Outrage, 24 packs or mini Luna bars.Luna Minis, Variety Pack (Nuts Over Chocolate, S'mores, & Caramel Nut Brownie), .7-Ounce Bars 18 Count ( Pack of 2 ).  The recommended fueling pattern is to take something after about an hour of running and then every 30- 45 minutes after that for as long as you are running.  In the marathon, I was surprised how often I needed to eat something.  I felt totally empty just about every 30 minutes.  Bananas also work very well for me, but they are obviously too hard to carry, so you can only use them if you stash some at a pit stop.  Many people have bad stomach reactions to some of these products, so you should just experiment a bit to see works for you. 

Is it normal to be so freaked out by the realization that after my race this weekend that I will wake up Monday morning and NOT have a race to train for that I have been scouring the internet for races to sign up for?????

This is exactly how I feel, and how my running friends feel too (especially Jen.  Hi Jen!).  This is why right before a race, we start talking about what's next.  We start "scouring the internet" for a race a few months down the line.  I've talked about this a lot before, but once you get used to the discipline of following a training schedule, you quickly become dependent on having a race goal for motivation to keep going.  Having a race on the calender for me is also about planning a social event, because often a race means a trip with my girls, a hotel, and some great meals out in restaurants, so it's a very fun thing to plan and look forward to.  We all said that we weren't going to do a fall marathon, but now that our spring marathon is approaching, we've been (Jen has been) tossing all kinds of ideas around. 

Besides, let's be honest.  Running (and the events that surround it) has become my sole source of a social life. 

How do you find time with the kids to do it? When do you run? Morning/Afternoon/Evening?
I actually wrote a post about our schedule and how we manage to get all the training in (my husband is a competitive swimmer) right here. I would like to think that I could pull off an early morning run before work and then it would be done, but I can't seem to bring myself to run in the dark.  I see people out there in the middle of a Maine winter, in the dark, and I think "you, my friend, are way more hardcore than I am."  Now that the mornings are brighter, I'm going to give it a try one or two mornings a week for the rest of the school year.

The main thing I'd like to empasize about finding time to run is that I just make the time.  It is so important to me, that I just make it happen, even if it is inconvenient.
And just out of pure curiosity- what's the longest you've run on a treadmill?
The longest I have ever run on a treadmill is 10 miles, and it wasn't so bad, because I don't hate the treadmill like most runners do.  And I'll tell you more about that in the next answer.

Do you have any advice on how to keep up with running in the winter?
I can't help you here if you only want to run outside, because I have a very hard time with that too.  I find that the cold air hurts my lungs and my face, and my feet get numb and it just plain sucks.  However, I'm going to give a plug to treadmill running in the winter.  If you can manage a few 3-5 mile runs a week on a treadmill, you can maintain what you gained during the warmer months.  AND, if you can do a lot of speed work/ tempo runs/ progression runs, then you won't get bored.  Well, I don't.  On a treadmill, I really like to push myself by upping the pace.  I like to see what people around me are running, and I try to run faster than they are.  Frankly, when I'm on a treadmill, I can finish a run faster because I get tired of watching the clock tick by, so I just start making it go faster and faster until I am really haulin' over the last mile.  I love that.  This kind of training helped me gain a bit of speed this year (speed!  that's relative!), and it made it so I didn't get bored.  Also, at the gym there are people to watch, and at my gym, there is a bank of tvs, and I also enjoy music on my ipod a lot more at the gym than I do outside, for some reason.

I do try to get outside for a run in the winter whenever it is above 25 degrees or so, and I always appreciate the change of scenery and the fresh air, but 90% of my winter running is on a treadmill.  Hope that helps!

Did you ever get shin splints from running on pavement for so many miles? Especially in the beginning of getting into distance running years ago? 

Yikes, my answer might totally disapoint you, because I only had minor shin splints when I first started running, and once I built up some running muscles, I never had anything but minor aches and pains.  I have been sooooo lucky and have avoided injury so far, when most of my friends have had issues with stress fractures or tendon problems.  

Do you do most of your stretching after a run? 

Umm... should I be stretching after a run?  Again, I don't think I'm typical here at all.  I don't stretch before I run, and after a run, I walk around in a few circles, do some runner's lunges and stand on my step to stretch my calves, and then I call it good.  Some folks have a whole systematic stretching routine, and I guess I would if I felt like I needed it, but I never feel like I need to.  After long runs, what feels best to me is to soak my legs and feet in cold water.

And what are your thoughts on flexibility and preventing injury in distance running?

I know I'm pretty flexible already, so maybe that is the answer to why I've avoided injury.   I honestly am not a great person to help you here, but look here for a great article about injury prevention for runners.  I've used a DVD called Yoga for Runners that feels great and stretches out all the right muscles, so I bet that would help.

So what do you think--for a very beginning beginner, is it ok to just sort of repeat weeks if I feel like it or is this kind of like cheating?

This question is from Kirsten who is in week 3 of a couch-to-5K program.   And I would say yes, that it's okay to repeat a week until you feel ready to increase your running, of course!  If you feel like you are getting a good workout, and if you have plenty of time to progress through the program, then take your time!  I will say here that I really recommend choosing a race at some point and registering for it so that you have a goal on your calendar, but if you are enjoying the program as much as you are, Kirsten, then I think you should feel no pressure and just wait until your current routine feels easier to you and then move up.

Wondering if you have any books/websites to recommend for someone looking to start running more seriously.

I don't know of many books that are directed at runners who run for the sake of running, but I have read some great books about endurance running and marathon training (which is what you'll do next, right?), and here are the ones I recommend. 

 Born to Run :   The subtitle is:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.  Is that not intriguing?  This is a GREAT read.

 Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

The Nonrunner's Marathon Guide for Women.  This out-of-shape woman commits to a marathon and then writes her tale of getting to the finish line.  It made me laugh out loud quite a bit.
 The Nonrunner's Marathon Guide for Women: Get Off Your Butt and On with Your Training

And this guy, John Bingham, is such a good and funny guy who describes himself as a "back of the pack runner," which I am too, so I love him.   He spoke at the Team in Training dinner before my marathon, and he made me laugh so hard I cried.  Here are two of his excellent books.
The Courage to Start:  A Guide to Running for your Life
The Courage To Start: A Guide To Running for Your Life
Marathoning for Mortals
 Marathoning for Mortals

And, my ALL TIME FAVORITE BLOG is a running blog.  Marathon Mama:  She is so freaking smart and funny, and you will love her blog. (and not that this is a big deal to me or anything (!!!!!!), she has now put up a link to my blog on her blog.)

I seem to have developed a mental block on running outdoors. I enjoy it and want to do more, but I simply cannot keep running the whole time. I get way out of breath and have to take walking breaks on shorter distances than my track runs where I go with no breaks. And I'm fairly positive my pace is consistent. Is it really that much harder to negotiate fairly easy terain than it is to run circles on the cushy track?

Hmmm... my guess is that the wind and uneven pavement is not enough to make so much of a difference, and that your difficulties are just mental.  But then again, I'm so tired of writing right now that I think I've lost my own mental stamina.  My very best answer is:  run your route outside for the next while until you can run it without stopping, and then you'll know that you can do it.  How's that?  Kind of lame.  Sorry.

Where are your favorite places to shop and who has the best deals?

Besides Target and TJ Max, we all use Running Warehouse because they have tons of stuff, and free shipping in both directions, so you can buy a bunch of stuff and then return what doesn't fit. 

Is it too much to ask for a reasonably priced running bra that offers some support but isn't torture to get on and off?

This one is very expensive, but you should hear some of the passionate testimonials I've read about this sports bra.  Meet your new best friend.

Good grief.  My eyes are bleeding.  Hope that I helped some of you out, and now I go to bed.


Joanne said...

Thank you so much! Your thoughts and links are much appreciated . . . keep it up!
Run On!

Jennifer said...

Have you checked out the new Garmin Forerunner 110? New this year, it has been reviewed to be great, much simpler to use then the other Garmin's...I've got my eye on that if it would just go on sale..a lot...

Michelle said...

Thank you for all that! That whole post was like one big shopping list for me.
Keep on running!

Sarah said...

Ok, here's my two cents about running with a watch/GPS (not that anyone asked, but I just have to put my thoughts out there).

I run to have a break from my swirling, chaotic, and crazy family life. I run to sort out my thoughts, to have conversations with women that I NEVER would be brave enough to have if I were looking them in the eye. I run to have a challenge, to feel like i accomplished something, to feel connected to the earth I am standing on, the sky above me. I run for sanity, pleasure, and love. I have been a long-distance runner for 12 years, and I think it will be the last thing I ever give up in my life (hopefully I can run until the day I die).
Ok, so that being said...FOR ME, the watch-obsessing and time/distance stuff doesn't work. I think it is so important to be able to write your workouts down (if you so desire), see your improvement, and train properly for a race, but I think focusing on time/distance splits can take a lot of the pure, uninhibited JOY out of running. It's a lot like stepping on a scale. A number can improve your mood and also make you feel like shit.
SO! That's my thought about the Garmin. I have a LOT of very experienced runner friends that love their Garmins, and I also think they are soooo handy and helpful (especially if you have a long run to do and don't want to drive the course to clock it beforehand). But, I choose not to run with one and calculate my splits, since I am out there for joy, and in the end--- it really, really doesn't matter what my time was.
:) Love you EM. said...

So glad you chimed in Sarah, and I really do agree with you on that. What I like to do is run without my watch sometimes as a break, and I do really appreciate the joy and freedom of it. I especially love what you said about how brave we can be in discussions with our friends while running... that is just so true.

I also have found that I'm motivated by my small improvements, and that I feel pretty proud of myself when I make some progress on my pace, so I would say clock-watching balance lies somewhere in the middle.

Sarah... I can't wait to run with you this summer. xo

Sarah said...

PS Can't wait to dig into the books you recommended. And, of course, run with you this summer. XXOO!

wildsojourn said...


Have you read Thrive by Brendan Brazier? I think he has a recipe made with dates that is comparable to "Gu," and that might be fun for you and more in keeping with all your whole-foods projects (which are awesome, awesome, awesome!) There are also tons of grain-free nutrient-dense pancakes and stuff that the kids would probably like...