A hard workout inspired by a movie

Hey Hollywood, I have an idea

Today’s workout (Elliptical): 40 minutes

I never think that elliptical sessions are as difficult as running, but occasionally I’ll finish a workout that has my legs vibrating like a tuning fork. That was my experience today, although I didn’t plan it that way. We had early morning plans that threw off my run schedule and I almost took today to rest instead of tomorrow. I felt off-cycle most of the day and by mid afternoon I was ready for some type of activity.

The temperature had risen measurably since yesterday and I considered doing a neighborhood run. But the convenience of the treadmill drew me upstairs. Before I reached it, I was distracted by the elliptical. It’s been a while since I’ve used the machine and since I’m tapering for next Saturday, I thought it would be good to work on a few different muscles. I set the resistance to medium and hit start.

It took me a few minutes to start sweating and that inspired me to work a little harder. About halfway through my session, I noticed the display metric that indicated the amount of energy being expended. I decided then that I would not let it drop below a certain number (a la the movie Speed). Happily, maintaining that level distracted me from the effort I had to expend to do it.

I set an even higher target for the last five minutes, hoping to simulate the anaerobic experience that comes at the end of a race. The last two minutes felt endless, but I kept the effort meter above the danger zone. After I finished, I moved to the treadmill to cool down for a few minutes at an easy pace. My legs were definitely worked out and I was glad to have completed a vigorous training session. I’ll go out for five or six miles either tomorrow or Tuesday before stepping down my taper before the weekend,

Taper breaker on an off week

Hard to resist

Today’s workout (elliptical): 35 minutes

This has not been a good week for running, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been active. After taking my usual rest day on Monday, I spent all of Tuesday in the city. I Gmapped my walking routes and it came out to eight miles. I got a run in on Wednesday, but Thursday started too early and ended too late to get my workout done. However, I did cover another eight miles on foot. Normally I’d have taken today to rest so I’d be fresh for Sunday’s 10K. With just one run this week, I felt like I needed to do something today.

That something turned out to be a mid-morning elliptical session that I did at 90% resistance. Every time I use the elliptical, I’m reminded how beneficial this workout can be. Even done at a moderate pace, the resistance taxes under-exercised muscles and the no-impact motion gives your knees a rest. The lack of motor noise (compared with the treadmill) is also appreciated.

What started out feeling like an easy workout got tougher as the minutes passed. Our elliptical is a pretty basic unit so the amount of data on the display is limited. Unlike our old BH Fitness unit, our ProForm doesn’t report distance. Along with displaying elapsed time, the ProForm shows total number of revolutions as well as a metric that indicates level of effort (in watts?). I tried to keep that effort number as high as I could. Despite the high resistance, it didn’t drop much near the end.

So tomorrow I’ll rest. My wife and kids are volunteering at the race so we need to be there by 6:30 AM(!). That will be a lot of waiting for me, since the 10K doesn’t kick off until 9:45 AM. But it’s a great event and I’m happy that my family will be there to support me.

Today’s good run becomes tomorrow’s expectation

The daily burden

Today’s run (street): 3.5 miles

I was a little sore this morning, possibly because my last three runs were done at high effort (though perhaps not at high speed). I haven’t put up any sub-9 runs yet, but I’m moving in that direction. My saving grace today was the need to have an early call to Asia. That allowed me an extra hour to loosen up my leg muscles before my run.

Have you ever thought about how great everything seems after you’ve completed a fast run? You can point to it with pride and feel good about what you’ve accomplished. But as they say in Hollywood, you’re only as good as your last movie. And when training for a race, you’re only as good as the last time you ran. Time for resting on your laurels = 1 day. And that day ended for me this morning at 8:00 AM.

I started to prepare for my run after completing my call. Wednesday’s good experience had now become today’s burden. I knew I couldn’t default to my easy running pace and, while I wasn’t planning to go all-out, I had mentally set my target. I was determined not to come up short. 

A slight soreness in my legs threw me off on the first half mile. I willed myself to run faster, but I’m not sure the effort fully translated. I do know that when I’m actively thinking about performance, my speed will usually move into the acceptable range. My goal today was to do better than that, so I kept up the mental pressure and hoped that would yield a good result.

I was pleased to see that I ran 5 seconds per mile faster than yesterday. It was great to repeat a good performance and I feel I’m heading in the intended direction. I have the rest of the night to enjoy today’s gains. Tomorrow morning, expectations return.

A practical replacement for a postponed race

Ran it in spirit

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.25 miles

Today was the scheduled date of the Marcie Mazzola 5K that was postponed last week. I’m not into racing as much as I’ve been the last few years, so I didn’t look for another race to run in its place. While I love the whole experience of racing, I tend to put too much time and attention into the preparation. Lately, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to run without having to focus on either distance or speed training.

I’m still feeling guilty for not running one of the RXR LI Marathon races. A quick check on the site shows that registration is still open. But the price to run the LI Half is almost $63 (including “convenience” fee). I’ve run it the last two years, and I think I’m ready for a change of half marathon scenery. Frankly, I would rather put the $63 toward a pair of Saucony Virratas, that are high on my wish list.

Virrata – just a credit card away

In deference to the Marcie 5K, as well as a lack of time to run this morning, I picked the treadmill over the street. I figured that if the race was still happening, today would been a fast run. Instead of playing with the treadmill’s controls, and increasing speed as I went along, I gunned it from the start. There are times when this tactic doesn’t work, and I need to back off a bit. Today the fast pace felt sustainable, and I even increased my speed over the last mile.

By the end, I felt like I’d run a 5K. It may not have been the Marcie 5K, but it was no ordinary treadmill workout either. I could have made it even more like that race by ramping up the elevation of the treadmill (to simulate the big hill on Woodhull Road), but that seemed a little much. After all, I didn’t even get a tee shirt for doing all that hard running.

Afternoon runs are hard when you’re a morning runner

I wish all races started at 10:00 AM

Today’s run (street): 5.3 miles

All things being equal, I run much better in the morning than I do later in the day. The numbers don’t lie and I have had enough bad afternoon runs to know it’s true. I don’t know if it relates to biorhythms, psychology, or nutrition (or some combination of the three). In any case, I usually avoid running during the second half of the day. The above chart is an unscientific but fair representation of my performance throughout the day.

I’ve felt a little off my game this week. Not exactly tired, but not as strong as usual. I skipped my run on Thursday to give myself a day to catch up. Yesterday’s run on the treadmill was fine, although I didn’t feel as energized after the run as I usually do.

This morning I woke up at 6:45 AM, a full hour later than usual for a Saturday. I clearly needed the sleep and was happy to lose a little time to gain the rest. Due to that, the morning schedule was compressed and I lost my window to run. Other things took priority and it wasn’t until after lunch that I finally headed outside.

Today’s plan was to go to Bethpage, but I didn’t feel like taking the drive over there. I wasn’t pleased about my late start and I really wanted to get my run done as quickly as possible. At around 2:00 PM, I finally had my act in gear and started off. My targeted distance was five miles. Normally that would be easy, but I was concerned that the later hour would make it tough.

The weather felt cool, even though the reported temperature was 45 degrees. A very light rain was falling and I considered wearing my running raincoat but I feared overheating. I ended up putting on my Zensah calf compression sleeves for warmth and that was a good call. Plus they have an energizing effect that I’d hoped would help.

In terms of performance, it wasn’t the worst five miles I’ve run on a Saturday. My pace was acceptable but nothing to brag about. For some reason it was really hard to tie together five miles of roads today. The run seemed to take far longer than 52 minutes, but I didn’t have any issues with stamina. I occasionally picked up the pace during the run. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to help my overall time.

Running at 2:00 PM wasn’t the disaster I’d feared, but I suspect that I would have done better had I gone out earlier as planned. Tomorrow I hope to get to Bethpage and execute on my goal of doing one non-neighborhood run each weekend. Even if I can’t for some reason, at least today’s later run provided a different expereince. And for runners who train almost daily, a little difference can go a long way.

Easy doesn’t always do it after race day

Today’s run (street): 5.4 miles

Between tapering and running just 3.1 miles on race day, I usually come up well short of my weekly average when I run a 5K. That was the case this week where my total miles barely cracked the teens. Despite the lower volume, I can say confidently that both runs this weekend were high quality efforts.

I usually rest the day after a race, not because it’s a good practice, but because most races are on Sundays and my rest day is Monday. For Saturday races, I usually try to get out for a recovery run because I read once that an easy workout that follows a hard effort effectively forces out lactic acid that can cause leg soreness.

My lower output this week prompted me to target at least 5 miles today. The last couple of times when I followed a race with an LSD run, I found myself struggling after 30 minutes despite going slow and easy. I realized last time that running a little harder actually felt better.

I had that in mind when I went out this morning, taking the first mile at around a 9:00 pace before settling into a mid-9 pace for the duration of the run. I chose the hilliest streets in the neighborhood to get my heart rate going. After a race, almost any effort below race pace feels easy and that was the case today. I could have gone another few miles but I didn’t want to overdo it. Besides, we are celebrating my son’s birthday today and I needed to get home to shower before we all went out.

I look forward to tomorrow’s rest day but I’m eager to start training for two 10K’s in November. I have always run my best 10K times at these races and that’s probably due to the cooler weather and relatively flat courses. Still, I’m planning to maintain my hill training because that seems to make me  a better runner, regardless of the elevation.

Whatever gets you out the door

Today’s run (street) 2.5 miles

Every morning I wake up and look at my alarm clock that’s usually about a minute away from going off. Occasionally I’ll need that alarm, but in either case, it’s only a matter of seconds before I realize that I have to get dressed and go outside for my run. EVERY morning I consider not doing my workout. And EVERY morning I manage to talk myself into getting ready.

One of the things that helps me get out the door is a self agreement that I’ll take it easy, just this time. No pressure, just get out and float through my route. By the time I’m standing in front of my house trying to acquire a signal on my Garmin, I’m usually more open minded about putting some effort into the run. About halfway through the run is when I start playing with speed in an effort keep my time below a certain target.

That’s exactly the way it happened for me this morning. The air was chilly enough to warrant long sleeves and the cold provoked me into speeding up my stride from the start. Even though I could see vapors from my breathing, I noticed that many of my neighbors were still dutifully watering their lawns. I worked hard to avoid running through spray but got hit from the side a couple of times. Brrrr!

There’s a quote that goes, “No one ever says ‘I regretted that workout'” and, when I complete my run, I’m always pleased that I did it. The tricky part is getting out the door in the first place.

Not exactly a recovery run

This year’s Cow Harbor’s race tee

Today’s run (street): 3.7 miles

I looked forward to today’s “recovery workout” as a way of enjoying a run without thinking about performance. After Saturday’s hard running up, down and over the Cow Harbor course, I thought an easy four miles would be, well, easy. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way.

My run started out fine as I settled into slow but steady pace. My heart rate stayed below 70% of max through the first two miles as I enjoyed the quiet of my neighborhood streets. Soon after that I began to tire, and I felt the effort even though my pace was slow. I was puzzled why I seemed to be hitting a wall on such an easy run, especially since my heart rate remained low.

I abandoned my original plan to run 4 and a half to 5 miles and instead changed course towards home. The final mile was difficult and my stamina was shot. I wondered if the work I did during the race had taken more out of me than I’d realized.

As I reached the last few streets heading back to my house, I increased my speed to see how my body would react. I’ve previously experienced fatigue when running slow and I found that increasing my effort sometimes helps. This seemed to be the case today, my energy level improved and by the time I finished I was running a high-8:00 pace.

I’m not going to over-think today’s run. I’ll assume that my experience was directly related to yesterday’s hard running. I’m off from work tomorrow and I’ll decide in the morning whether to run or rest. I’m curious to know how my next run goes, but I recognize that a rest day may be the best way to ensure a better experience.

Like the DJIA, running performance has its gains and losses

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

My performance gains of last week have given way to more moderate results this week. It’s almost like a market correction where I’ve found myself dropping speed, but still holding some gains. I wonder if my ups and downs of running ever synchronize with the Dow. That would be an interesting investment strategy.

Tuesday’s performance was hard to measure because I don’t fully believe the numbers that I see on the treadmill. If I were to go by heart rate, I’d say that it was a credible run. Yesterday I did a street run and used my heart  rate monitor to guide my level of exertion. It became clearer to me how my perceived effort affects my speed. I didn’t break 9:00 on Wednesday, but I came close.

This morning was a different story altogether. Running felt harder than the day before, and my stride did not feel fluid. I just wanted to get through the run so I could relax for 15 minutes before starting the rest of my day. Although it didn’t feel like I was slacking off too much on my pace, my overall time was almost two minutes longer than yesterday, along the same route.

I expect to get out a little later and go a little longer tomorrow because it’s a day off. I’m looking to experiment further with the relationship between heart rate and speed. I also need to get some hill training in so that I can be somewhat ready for big hill at the Cow Harbor 10K in a couple of weeks.

A good effort but the clock doesn’t lie

Today’s run (street): 4.3 miles

I had an early appointment that delayed today’s run until mid-morning. The temperature at 10:00 AM was a reasonable 77°, but the sun was making it feel warmer than that. My plan was to go out fast and maintain the speediest pace I could, for as long as I could. I followed a route that would take me up and down the streets that run north of my house, and then head further south to round out the course.

I decided to check my watch at the half mile point to see what the Garmin was displaying for pace. The watch said 8:52, which seemed about right, and I figured that I could maintain that for 40 or 50 minutes. I didn’t feel too overheated and I thought I was in for a run that was close to, or below, 9:00 per mile.

As it turned out, I began slowing down after passing the first mile. By the time I reached three miles, I saw that my pace was 30 seconds off my targeted range. It bothered me that my performance did not match the level of effort that I was putting into the run. After downloading the Garmin and correcting for distance errors (the GPS accuracy has been abysmal this week), I saw that I’d run the first mile in nine minutes, but my pace had crept up into the mid-nine range until improving near the end.

The combination of heat and effort prompted me to cap my run at 40 minutes, for an overall pace of 9:23. I was disappointed with that result because I felt I’d pushed harder than normal. I wanted to break nine minutes, but I don’t think I did all that badly. I’m planning to go longer (and probably slower) tomorrow. It’s okay really. After the past week’s running, I know what I’m capable of doing.