Tag Archives: rest

The Minds of a Runner

WHEN IT COMES TO RUNNING, I AM OF TWO MINDS.

One is the motivator who gets me out the door on a cold morning, pushes me to finish the last leg strong, and grinds out those last few miles when reason and sanity are screaming to end the punishment. But it dreams big and is tempted to push too hard, beyond the “extra mile” into overtraining and unrealistic goals.

So I have another mind who sets boundaries on training and has a practical view of what can be accomplished. And when I don’t set a new PR (personal record) at every race, it reminds me to be grateful for the experience and enjoy running for its own sake. But at times it needs a poke or three to get up and do what needs to be done.

When my running mind and rational mind are in harmony, amazing things can happen. But like any relationship in close quarters, there are moments of friction leading to some lively internal debates. In the end, I find a way to do what I need to. But it isn’t always a smooth ride!

Here are a few recent examples where my “rational mind” (RM) and my “running mind” (RNR) had differences of opinion.

1. Running in Lousy Weather

RNR: Remember, we have intervals on the schedule today.

RM: Yeah, but it’s windy and snowing outside. Let’s do them on the treadmill! We’re on the way to the gym anyway.

RNR: If we have to, I guess. . .Hey, what’s that on the side of the road?

RM: I see nothing. NOTH-THING!

RNR. Why, I believe it’s a runner. And he’s running into the wind. What dedication! There’s a real runner for you.

RM: I’m not listening.

RNR: You know, it’s not that cold out. And it’s only one set of eight quarters.

Result:

2. Hill Work Day

RM: Okay, the hill is just ahead. All warmed up and ready to go. How many repeats are we doing?

RNR: I think the assignment was four. But we can do at least six, no problem.

RM: Let’s see how we feel after the first couple.

(After repeat #2)

RM: Okay, let’s get in six. So next repeat we’re halfway done!

RNR. Oops, come to think of it, I believe the assignment called for eight. Yeah, I’m pretty sure about that.

RM: This isn’t fair. We still have a two-mile run home after this.

RNR: Think how good the cooldown pace will feel after the last repeat..

(Result: Eight repeats. Turned out the assignment didn’t specify a number. But the cooldown pace did feel good.)

3. Rest days

(Day before)

RM: Man, that was a brutal workout. But rest day tomorrow! Get to kick back and eat cookies.

RNR: You got that right. I am toast.

(Rest day)

RNR: What are you doing?

RM: Kicking back and eating cookies.

RNR: You understand that whole “rest day” thing isn’t meant to be taken literally. Go out and run a few. Earn those cookies.

RM: But rest is important. It’s a necessary part of training.

Kicking back with my daughter Tori in Richmond.

RNR: Come on, just a quick 5K. You know you want to.

RM: Actually, I don’t.

RNR: Lazy slob. We’re getting weaker by the minute. I feel our strength slipping away.

RM: Shut up and pour more coffee.

RNR: Okay, but if this happens again tomorrow I’m really coming after your ass.

4. Race day, at the starting line

RM: Okay, we’re going to run a good, strong race.

RNR: Righto.

RM: No pressure, no high expectations, just do our best.

RNR: Yup. Here to have fun. Only stress is what we put on ourselves.

RM: Ten seconds to the gun! Relax, shake arms out, breathe easy, focus. . .

RNR: And by the way, if you don’t set a new PR today, you’re a LOSER.

……………………………

So if you see me out there putting in some tough miles, feel free to admire the balance of dedication and self-discipline of my “two minds.” Or, like the neighbor watching me do intervals in the snow, you could just yell, “You’re crazy!”

To my running readers out there: what goes on in your mind(s)? Feel free to share it here!

Feeling Restless – At Last!

Hooray for energy!

This morning I ran seven miles with PR Fitness and went to the farmer’s market to pick out some plants for the back deck. I then spent the afternoon inside, preparing for an exam tomorrow. It was where I belonged, but I spent much time looking through the window at a beautiful day, fretting that I wasn’t out there doing something useful – like more running.

For some of you, the above will only confirm your opinion that there is no hope for me. But to me, this is a good sign.

Fired up at last year's Dances with Dirt - Hell 50K. That's the feeling I love!

Fired up at last year’s Dances with Dirt – Hell 50K. That’s the feeling I love!

The week before the April 25-26 Trail Marathon (recap coming) I also spent a good deal of time resting, hoping that by race weekend I’d be stir crazy and ready to rock. But the fatigue that bothered me all that week didn’t entirely go away, and I started Saturday’s half marathon still feeling a bit run down. But in the second part of that race my energy came back and I finished with a strong time. And Sunday’s 50K was even better, as I finished five minutes faster than last year and defended my age group title.

Now, after another week of light activity, that restless, “gotta run” feeling has returned. Today’s run felt too short and too easy, exactly as it should have. I’m grateful my energy has returned, because at next Saturday’s 50-miler at the Glacier Ridge Trail Ultra I’m gonna need every bit of it.

Coming up – I try out some new gear, including some shoes that are so exclusive, they don’t officially exist yet. But I need my rest for the exam tomorrow, so that’s all for now.

Rx for Recovery: Eat, Sleep, Stretch

THIS NOT RACING IS TIRING ME OUT.

After all my races this year I’m on a recovery break, and I was expecting to feel re-energized, even restless. Instead, I’ve had less energy and been more sore. I asked the head trainer at my gym, Body Specs, about it.

“All year long, running more races than ever, I felt great,” I told him. Now in my recovery time, I feel run down. What’s going on?”

“It’s very common,” he said. “Especially among competitive athletes. They’ve been going hard, working toward their goals, and then they’re done and they don’t know what to do next.” He coaches college athletes and former NFL players, so he sees this a lot.

Body Specs is good at making sure I don't slack off too much.

Body Specs is good at making sure I don’t slack off too much.

“One thing we encourage people to do is to try something new,” he continued. “You know, you train at your sport and never have time to try out other activities you might want to try. Now you have the time.”

As it happened, I was considering trying yoga, both for its body conditioning and for its mental aspect – calming and focusing the mind. The downside I’ve heard is that the extreme stretches can be detrimental to running. We rely upon a certain amount of “spring” in our muscles, and overstretching them – becoming too flexible – can cause a loss of that spring. One fellow runner told me that running strong is “all about how flexible you are not.”

Yoga pose - Drew_Osborne_3 - Wikimedia Commons

Right. Sure. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Well, Running Fit to the rescue! They’re offering a Yoga for Runners class in December and January. And with my Aikido class on break during that time, it fills that spot perfectly. The only drawback is that it’s in Northville, which means fighting rush hour traffic. But Skip’s advice nudged me into signing up. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m making a change to my regular habits as well. I’ve always been a night owl to some degree, but as I get up fairly early for work, it means I get by on about 6.5 hours of sleep much of the time. I’ve started to make myself get at least seven hours. It’s already making a difference in my energy level.

And I’m trying to keep in mind that a rest and recovery period, where I feel less motivated to run and want more idle time, is natural and healthy. Many elite runners take off several weeks entirely and allow themselves to gain a few pounds. Scott Jurek, one of the world’s most successful ultrarunners, does no running at all during his break. I enjoy running too much to stop, but it feels good to just run for fun for a while.

Of course, your definition of "fun" may differ from mine.

Of course, your definition of “fun” may differ from mine.

MORE: Running Times says Give It A Rest: the lost art of recovery between training cycles.

Already bouncing ideas around for 2015. Looking forward to another year of adventures out there!

It’s Hard to Take it Easy

THIS STANDING AROUND BIT IS TOUGH, MAN.

The Ann Arbor Marathon was last Sunday. Sounds like a natural for me to be in it, right? But it was too close to my next race. So instead, I biked downtown to join some of my PR Fitness friends in cheering on the runners.

I only felt a little guilty.

Cheering them on at mile 10, just before the monster hill.

Cheering them on at mile 10, just before the monster hill.

Rest is important. Rest is vital to improvement. Rest is underrated. All runners know this, or at least we’ve heard it plenty of times, and even repeated it amongst ourselves. But how much of this wisdom is actually internalized is up for debate. Consider, for example, a conversation that might happen at a Saturday morning group run:

Fellow runner: “So, Jeff, how far are you going today?”
Me: “Oh, just a quick eight today. Resting up. Race next weekend and all.”
Fellow runner: “Smart choice. Rest is important. Good luck at your race.”

Now, the same conversation as translated by my ego:

Fellow runner: “So, Jeff, how far are you going today?” Please ask me back, so I can tell you about my upcoming double Ironman.
Me: “Oh, just a quick eight today…” Boy, that sounds lame. Bet he thinks I’m a world-class wimp.
Cat smirking - wallsaveFellow runner: “Smart choice. Rest is important…” I shall smirk inwardly at your wimpiness during my 20-mile warmup.

Now this is NOT how runners think. We all train at our own level, for our own goals, and support each other in accomplishing them. But that didn’t stop my competitive nature from whispering why aren’t you out there in my ear Sunday morning.

Yeah, Jeff - wouldn't this be lots more fun than standing there shivering?

Yeah, Jeff, wouldn’t this be lots more fun than standing there shivering?

It didn’t help that it was cold enough (25 degrees) that I’d have been far more comfortable running. And that later in church several people asked me what distance I’d done. (Well, that was my fault for not changing out of my bike gear and 2012 marathon shirt.)

But there was a bright side. As the temperature neared 60 in the afternoon, I got back on the bike for another 14 miles. I’ve been itching for weeks to get back to cycling, and that ride was just the scratch I needed. Looking forward to more!

The lead marathoner (and eventual winner) as he approaches the monster hill for the second time.

The lead marathoner (and eventual winner) as he approaches the monster hill for the second time.

Next up: the Martian Invasion of Races in Dearborn, where I will do the half marathon, and the Trail Marathon Weekend at the end of April. It’s the logical (and smart) choice to get in some rest while I can. I’ll do my best.