How I Get Back on My Feet After a Bout of Laziness

I feel very virtuous right now because I’m back in the habit of running again! And by that I mean I ran a whole two days in a row. On the treadmill both times, due to the dismal weather we’ve been having lately. This is my punishment for laziness over the weekend, when it was nice out both days.

The longer the layoff from running, the harder it seems for me to get back in the habit again. What’s one more day when I’ve already skipped five?

Here are a few ways I’ve successfully overcome this completely ridiculous, purely imagined obstacle.

  1. Start small
    Don’t expect to make up a whole week’s volume in one day. I’ve run as few as two miles at times, just to get back in the habit, if that’s all I can fit in. If you’re tired or you’re busy, it’s easy to let another day slip away, but that’ll just make things harder the next day. (If you’re really, truly tired, then take another day.)
  2. Start big
    This is the exact opposite of what I just said. I don’t know if it’s a smart idea, but I have been known to go out and run 12 miles on a Sunday after not running all week. I had the time, and it felt great to at least get to double-digits in mileage for the week.
  3. Don’t sit down
    Monday I came home, fed my cats, and immediately got into my workout clothes and got my butt downstairs to the treadmill. I didn’t sit down and turn on the TV, or check 8 different websites, or even get a little homework done. When I do that, I waste time and have to shorten my workout to get done before dinner. Or  I don’t do it at all.
  4. Incentivize the workout
    Don’t run the same boring route. Pick a new route, or pick your favorite route. Pick the easiest route, or the toughest route, depending on what will make you feel better at the end. I did repeats on the treadmill to mix it up. In better weather, I pick a great trail or a road route that has some great views. Of course, I live in a beautiful city on a great lake, so that’s easy for me to say. Bring music, promise yourself candy at the end of the run, whatever gives you a sufficient kick in the butt.
  5. Ignore the scale
    (Just bypass this if you’re one of those people who thinks running for any other reason besides the love of the sport somehow cheapens and denigrates it. Just bypass this whole blog, in fact.) This advice is kind of dependent on how long the layoff is. At some point, if I haven’t run in awhile and haven’t been eating well either, I do have to face the music. But I don’t see a point to doing a weekly weigh-in when I haven’t run in 5 days. It’s only going to further discourage me if I’ve gained a pound or so. I’ll just wait til the following week, when I’ve already gotten back on my feet. This applies to people in maintenance mode, too. If you don’t normally weigh in, don’t assess the “damage” of your time off. I don’t really know if people do that, as I’m not in a position to be so laissez-faire with my weight.

Those are just a few ideas that have worked for me that I thought I’d pass along. I’m sure I’ll need motivation again someday soon (like when it’s -20 F, the streets are covered in ice, the sidewalks are unplowed, and I’m facing another treadmill slog), so send any other tips my way.

Back At It

I ran yesterday, so that was nice. I stopped the streak of days off at 4.

I ran pickups. On the treadmill. That was less nice, although in some ways it was good. I ran on the treadmill because it was drizzly and cooler, but so humid I could see my own breath, and since I have my first and most difficult final tomorrow, I didn’t want to wear myself out or get so chilled I couldn’t function.

In order to keep from dying of boredom, I had the Montreal-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup playoff game on, but muted, and then I had a “butt rock” (aka 80s hair metal) station playing on Pandora. I did similar intervals to last week, except I did the correct 8×0.25 instead of miscounting and doing 9. I did the first 4 at a 5.5 mph pace and the last 4 and a 5 mph pace, and then I slowly jogged/walked (3.5 mph pace) in between to recover.

Running the pickups on the treadmill was beneficial for a few reasons. First, it kept my speed under control. When I did the pickups last week on the road, my pace was all over the place and it always died off at the end because I went out too fast (or because I hit a hill AND went out too fast.) My paces were more conservative (10:55 and 12:00) and I was more in control. Second, I was able to keep the pace consistent, not just because I was running a more achievable pace, but because the treadmill was making me. I am not very good at keeping a consistent pace, and I need to train my legs to do it.

I did core exercises too, and I need to be more consistent about doing them. I need a strong core and strong arms to keep me going, but for some reason I’m either too lazy to do them when I’m done running, or I’ve got a zillion other things to do once I’m done running and don’t take the time. Now that I’m not running all these crazy long runs, I have no excuse to skip the push-ups and sit-ups. Washboard abs, here I come. Or at least reduced batwings.

Inside Job

I’m not pleased about it, but I completed yesterday’s workout on my treadmill.

It’s kind of wimping out and kind of not, because the treadmill makes me miserable. My plan for yesterday was: meet up with my friends at Chester Bowl, take radiation measurements with a Geiger counter for our nuclear engineering class, then do my planned 4 mile workout from there. The measurements didn’t go as planned (we couldn’t get the Geiger counter to work), I thought I lost my phone (it was just in a weird spot in my backpack), and it was horribly windy out. That was enough to drive me indoors.

While I was running on the treadmill, I tried to justify its benefits to myself. I came up with some good ideas.

1. I was able to run at a steady pace. I am always varying my pace while I’m running on the road or on trails, sometimes intentionally because I’m running up or down a hill or through difficult terrain, sometimes semi-intentionally because I’m tired or because I’m trying to get done quickly, and sometimes unintentionally because I am a robot. Running on the treadmill occasionally will help me with consistency.

2. I could use it as a way to gauge how I’ve improved since I started training for the marathon, and since I started heart rate training. I ran 0.5 miles at 3.8 mph and 3.5 miles at 3.7 mph, without stopping to walk. 2 miles were at level 1 incline, and 2 miles at 0 incline. My average heart rate was 139 bpm. Contrast that with the last time I ran 4 miles on the treadmill (Feb 22), when I ran at about the same speed, but my average heart rate was 147 bpm, at 0 incline. So, that’s not that impressive, but it is still an improvement.

3. It was good mental training. One hour on the treadmill with a hockey game on and a fan blowing on me is more mind-numbing than any outdoor run I’ve had. But I powered through, as I’ll probably have to do on some long runs coming up. Maybe not for the same reason (I doubt I’ll be bored, more like tired or aching), but any exercise in mental toughness is going to help.

I think those are some valid, creative justifications for running on the treadmill. Too bad I only did it because I was lazy and crabby.

Planning Ahead

For week 5 of the marathon training plan I’m following, the prescribed plan is: Monday rest, Tuesday 4 miles, Wednesday 5 miles, Thursday 4 miles, Friday 3 miles, Saturday 5 miles, Sunday 7 miles, total 28 miles. Since I am going out of town tomorrow (Thursday), I have had to shuffle the days around. I do plan on running while I am out of town (I’m just going to visit family and go to the NCHC hockey tournament), but I would rather shift the shorter runs to the days I’m in the Twin Cities and get more sleep and time with friends and family. There’s no way I could do a 7 mile run on Sunday either before or after getting in the car for 2.5 hours. I don’t want to do it before because I want to get home to my cats, and I don’t want to do it after, because who wants to run after a long drive?

I front-loaded my running schedule to accommodate my plans. I decided to move my rest day to… probably Saturday. I took it easy last Sunday with just a hike (note, a short hike is not a rest day. A rest day is a day of rest, not a day off running.), so I feel like I can handle the extra mileage.

Monday I ran 4 miles. I was originally going to take a rest day, as it was raining, but I got home from work and it wasn’t too cold, so I headed out, even though it was 7:00. I finished the run in the dark, which I hate (these sidewalks are treacherous with their various obstacles and I’m afraid I’ll trip), but there was daylight for most of it. I pushed a little more than normal and ran the whole way instead of walking the hills, so my heart rate was up a bit, but I felt good.

Tuesday I ran 7.9 miles. The extra 0.9 was insurance in case I need to shorten one of my later runs. I didn’t push the pace at all, but my heart rate was a little high thanks to an afternoon cup of coffee. I also discovered (or re-discovered) that Rice Lake Road doesn’t have any sidewalks. What is with this city and its lack of sidewalks? Annoying. The speed limit on Rice Lake Road is 40-45 mph, so I felt a little vulnerable. I tried running on the side of the road but it was difficult, as the ground was spongy and covered in matted-down tall grasses. It’s a shame because I liked the route, but I’m not sure I’d run it again. Maybe earlier in the day.

Tuesday night we drove around trying to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. We drove up Highway 61 along the lake and stopped at a few points, but didn’t see anything except stars. I’m not going to complain, the stars were gorgeous and standing on the lakeshore in the middle of the night is so peaceful, but there were some unbelievable photos from around the area of some spectacular displays, and I missed out. As we were driving along I thought about Grandma’s Marathon. I’ll potentially be running along that same road in a few months. And probably wishing I was dead already. Maybe. We also drove out to Park Point and got a bit of a glimpse, but nothing much. The lake was calm and there’s still plenty of ice built up along the shore, so it was oddly quiet on the beach. We didn’t stay long because the park was closed (and it’s a good thing we left because a police car was coming over the bridge as we were leaving the point, probably to kick people out of the park) and I was pretty chilled from the run earlier. Even with gloves my hands had been cold on the run and the chill spread through my whole body.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel today after a long run, but I actually feel amazing today. I thought my back and hips would be sore, but they aren’t. I decided last night I’d run the Lakewalk after work, and I packed workout gear in my backpack and everything, and then I forgot my running shoes. Sigh. I went home at lunch and got them, so the day is salvaged, but it was still a totally unnecessary stop. I wish I was a morning person.

On a completely unrelated note, I read this article, interviews with three people who recently set treadmill records: fastest 50k by a woman, longest distance in 12 hours on the treadmill, and fastest 50k by a man. The guy who ran the 50k missed the record by 47 seconds, so he ran it again 36 hours later and beat it. WHAT IS THE POINT? I would die of boredom.

Week One: In the Books

Well, I made it through Week 1 of 18 for this marathon training program. Not that it was particularly difficult, since the plan called for 19 miles and I’ve been averaging right around there in the month or so leading up to the beginning of the training. Since I missed a run on Thursday due to my stupid furnace, I recaptured those three miles on Friday and Saturday, adding a mile to Friday’s run and two to Saturday’s. I ended up with this:

Monday: 2 miles (treadmill)
Tuesday: 2 miles (treadmill)
Wednesday: 3 miles (treadmill)
Thursday: shivered a lot
Friday: 4 miles (road)
Saturday: 4 miles (trail)
Sunday: 4 miles (treadmill)

I was stuck on the treadmill yesterday, thanks to sub-zero temperatures. I’m not sure it actually made it to positive degrees F, but I didn’t leave the house. Week 2 calls for 18 miles, with a long run of 5 miles, which I think I can get outdoors. I might end up swapping Saturday and Sunday and doing the “long” run on Friday or Saturday, though I’ll make that final decision based on how I’m feeling, the weather report, and the hockey situation. I should be able to get outside three times (Fri, Sat, Sun) based on the predicted temperatures for the week, so that’s good. 4 miles on the treadmill today was not pleasant, although I listened to music and sang along to some wonderful power ballads, one of the reasons I failed to stay under my goal heart rate for, oh, the third run in a row.

I am doing better with time management, after my screed last week on the subject. I skipped the women’s hockey games this past weekend to give myself a mental break from the rink (especially since there will be home playoffs plus men’s home games this coming weekend), I started and finished homework earlier, and I skipped a run without feeling guilt about it. Of course, it helped that I don’t have any lab reports due or major homework due, since I have tests instead, but I still didn’t have any frantic late studying nights. One week isn’t much, but it’s a start toward a more balanced life.

Patience

Ah, I love this song. I wish Axl wasn’t old and fat with a ruined voice. I saw him perform Welcome to the Jungle a few months ago on some show and he was out of breath and horrible.

Out of breath and horrible? Sounds like me.

I took both Monday and Tuesday as rest days this week. It was unplanned, but probably for the best. I hadn’t taken a rest day since the Friday I fell down the stairs, in an effort to turn Mondays into my scheduled rest day for the rest of the semester. I don’t plan on taking 9 days between rest days in the future. Tuesday I had too much homework to take an hour or so to work out. That was unfortunate because I like to work out the day after a rest day.

I like to work out the day after the rest day because I have more energy and I always expect to be about a minute faster than the dragging workout I suffer through right before the rest day. I don’t know why I expect it because it’s never true, but hope springs eternal.

Until recently, when I ran, I expected to get better every time I ran. I expected to “PR” each route every time I ran it. My logic was: I’m so slow and out of shape, every workout should come with fitness gains because my body isn’t used to it. This was obviously based on nothing. It also led to an ineffective way of training. My “easy” days were shorter distances and flatter routes. My “hard” days were longer distances and hillier routes. The effort level was the same: try to be faster than the last time out on the course. This doesn’t mean I was giving 100% effort on every run. I don’t think I’ve ever given 100% effort ever during an athletic activity, except when I was on a swim team. I gave 100% effort at meets, or at least 90%. That was long ago and far away.

Since I’m training based on my heart rate, I’m giving a similar effort (from a cardiovascular perspective) each run, so that hasn’t changed. However, the pace I can maintain at that heart rate varies from day to day, so some days are faster than others, but all days are slower than what I am capable of achieving.

At first, I made peace with this. Now I’m creeping back into that same old mindset again. I expect to be faster at the same heart rate. I expect that I should be starting to see some 15:xx times at the same heart rate. I did, finally, on Thursday (15:44 average pace for 45 minutes on the treadmill), but I was expecting it on Wednesday (which is stupid because I had a 16:02 average pace for an hour, so that’s still an improvement) and was bummed when I couldn’t get it.

I did have a mini-mental breakthrough when I reminded myself that on the treadmill, I can only adjust my pace in discrete intervals. When I bump up the pace one increment, from say 3.7 mph to 3.8 mph, that is an increase in pace of 26 seconds. A bump from 5 mph to 5.1 mph is only 14 seconds, and from 6 mph to 6.1 is only 10 seconds. A 26-second increase in pace is significant. Maybe I’m capable of maintaining 142 bpm at 3.85 mph; I can’t do that on the treadmill. What I can do is run a longer period at 3.9 before bumping it down to 3.8, but every time I hit the decrease pace button, it feels like a defeat.

That was a lot of feelings and frustration for one post, but translating those feelings and frustrations into words makes things more clear and more logical to me, and can help me move beyond them. I should probably bookmark this post for myself and revisit it from time to time when I’m getting impatient with my training plans. Alternatively, I can revisit GNR when I’m getting impatient and get the same message as this post. Woman, take it slow and it’ll work itself out fine.

Two A Days

Hahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahhaahahahahahahah!

Yes, even thinking of doing actual two-a-day runs is hilarious. I didn’t. What I did do is meet up with a friend during my break between classes and take her dog for a walk. I wore my watch but not my heart rate monitor, as that would have been both ridiculous and obsessive. We went for a loop and a half walk around Bagley Nature Area, which was about 2.5 miles. Loki found some squirrels in a tree and almost lost his mind over them.

I ended up getting my pants soaked with snow and my friend drove me back home so I could change before I went back to class. I also ended up getting insanely sweaty because I wore my winter coat, which was a dumb idea. I’m fairly certain I exceeded my heart rate targets going up that stupid hill, but I’m also confident I stayed well below the target most of the rest of the walk.

After I got home for good, I made a poor but tasty choice for a late lunch (I eat at weird times): a bagel and cream cheese (not the poor choice) and the rest of the pulled beef I’d had for dinner a few nights ago. It was glorious and delicious and I felt gross the whole half hour I spent on the treadmill an hour or so later. Yet another slow and demoralizing session on the treadmill. I need to make better food choices, I guess.

While I think two-a-days for someone like me are ridiculous, I did like making use of my break to do something outside. It’s something I can consider in the future: stop by my car, drop off my backpack, and run for an hour between classes. So I’m sweaty in class later, no big deal. It’s an opportunity to get a run in before it gets dark, and avoid the treadmill for another day. I have to find a way to avoid kicking up snow behind me and soaking my pant legs.