The Post-Training Guilt

guilt_got-guilt-buttonA bit like the post-race void of emptiness athletes get when training no longer commands their life, there’s also something of a post-training guilt.

It varies from person to person, but this guilt usually appears in one of two ways (or both in my case).

  1. Distance guilt.

During training, 10 miles a day was the norm. You took off days because you should (and were tired enough to need them). Yet even those felt weird because in our training conditioned minds, there were miles to be run. Once training ends and the race is over, we go back to whatever “regular” weekly miles are (usually 30-40 for me).

Then the guilt sets in. What was once 10-milers turns into the more normal 3- and 4-milers. But I feel guilty because 3 miles seems so short (it’s not, but we’re distance runners and we view things oddly). In my mind, I’m usually thinking something like “well obviously I can do 10-milers, so why am I just doing 3.” Herein lies the issues.

Athletes, of any kind, seem to have this built in guilt mechanism when it comes to our sports. We feel guilty having off days, even though we should. We feel guilty having easy days, even if there’s a reason for them (like an upcoming race). We even feel guilty when we compare our workout to our friend’s, like this past weekend I ran a measly 10-mile long run while several running buddies were tackling a 20-miler.

Our minds disregard logic. We need off days. They keep our bodies going optimally. We need easy days. They help our bodies rest and prepare for running awesome races. And we shouldn’t compare workouts, especially knowing that each runner has different goals and are at different places. Those friends? They were doing 10-milers when I was doing my 20s. Because I was in training and they weren’t. Now they’re in training for a marathon that’s 6 weeks away and I’m not. It’s as simple as that.

Talk to a runner about their workout. Notice we often add in words like “just” and “only” before giving our mileage for the day. I did “just 10” on Saturday.

(On a side note: while my distances have been significantly shorter than during training, I seem to have alleviated some internal guilt by going faster. Not intentionally mind you, but maybe in a subconscious attempt to “make up” for only going 5 miles instead of 8, I’ve been running minutes faster than what I did before training. Though this may just be that I’m conditioned too…)

2. Food guilt.

Maybe the worst of all guilts any athlete can have. The dreaded food guilt, which is pretty self-explanatory. We come off of training and racing where we can barely eat enough to cover the exercise we’re doing (or in my case, I can’t. Pattern seems to be that I lose 5-10 pounds during marathon training, no matter how much I attempt to eat).

Once you transition back into a regular running schedule, there’s still this massive craving (for me) to eat everything in sight. But I’m no longer running the ridiculous miles per week that I was, so the balance is thrown off. Admittedly, my food guilt is much less than my distance guilt no matter the situation. I love food too much to be guilty all the time about eating it.

But at some point post-training, you have to decide that eating everything in sight has to stop and you return back to your regular eating schedule too.

This may seem slightly random, but I’ve noticed my distance guilt rearing it’s head in the last couple of days. Even this morning when I went out for a 4-miler, in my mind I was going through my route options because I felt like I needed to run at least 6 or 7. Hopefully, hitting some solid mileage weeks that aren’t reverse taper will help me settle back into the non-training mentality.

Do either of these guilts hit you?

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Tips: Gradually Building Up

There’s the rule of 10% and then there’s the common sense of building up gradually. They both are pretty much in the same realm of thought.

the dayThere are many reasons to pay careful attention to how exactly you ramp up your mileage and workouts. Too quick of a jump in activity and you not only risk injury, but simply general health. It’s important to acclimate your body to the activity you are asking it to do. Building up slowly over time allows the body to adjust and make any necessary changes to habits, such as requiring more sleep.

So instead of jumping straight from 15 to 30 miles a week, spread that increase over a few weeks. Most running related injuries occur due to overuse – stress fractures, runner’s knee, all those sucky things are a result of too much, too fast, or over too long a time. This is why the rule of 10% is something I recommend following, even if you don’t usually follow the main schools of thought.

The idea is that from week to week, you don’t increase your mileage more than 10%. Run 20 miles one week? Just jump it up 2 miles to 22 the next week. Admittedly, on the lower end of mileage for established runners it may not be as big a concern. However, if you’re new to exercise or reaching higher mileage weeks for training it’s important to follow. I don’t just magically jump from 30 miles to 50 when I’m training for a marathon. That happens over 7-8 weeks.

Gradual increase is also a technique you can apply to new gear or forms. If you’re interested in taking up minimalistic running (whether through Vibram Five Fingers or the offerings of other shoe companies) the same idea applies. Run your usual miles each week in your  normal running shoes. But start slowly a couple times a week with the new ones – say a half mile to mile twice a week to slowly increase to 1-2 miles. Taking those small steps up each week over a 4-6 week period, spending additional weeks where necessary, can get you up to something like a regular run distance.

Of course, it’s important to know where you’re weak too. In the case of minimalistic shoes, if you feel additional strain running say 2 miles then spend an extra week at that distance instead of moving to the next distance up. Making choices like that can only help you, not hurt you.

I emphasize the idea of working your way to a higher amount of activity for several reasons. The first being that injuries are not fun and we all want to avoid them. For new athletes (regardless of sport) being a little too enthusiastic can result in pushing too hard, too fast. Yes, we all want to jump in feet first. But doing so not only risks injury, but has the potential to cause a bad experience that could easily turn you from a sport forever. For those of us jumping hardcore into training, the last thing we want to do is become injured and miss an event altogether.

On the opposite side, stressing our bodies too much will cause our workouts to suffer over time. And when you’re not meeting your goals—time, pace, or distance—it can seriously affect your mental outlook on the training, the event, and even the sport. I love running, but I know sometimes that I reach the point where I’m just plain tired of doing it. Not because I no longer love it; I just need a break. If I’m marathon training (which is when that usually happens), it would be exponentially worse if my training wasn’t going well.

That’s what prompted this piece. I’ve build up my weekly miles gradually and the next 6 weeks will be my highest mileage weeks for the plan. Not only will I be running a good amount of miles, but some will be specific workouts that will strain my body even more. That’s why I’m so glad for the 10+ weeks that build me up to this point. My body can handle all of the training because I’ve conditioned it over time to do so. It’s a hard discussion to have with newer runners at times. How do I properly explain it without ruining their enthusiasm?

It’s a tough balance too. We want to find our limits so we can push them and get better. To see how far we can really go. I do every day that I run! Without a doubt and maybe just a little fear (which isn’t a bad thing), we seek to challenge ourselves. I want everyone to do that and this post is not to warn you away from seeking out your limits. Just some advice to do so in a safe way so you don’t hurt yourself along the way.

To get a much better and more in depth explanation, here’s a Runner’s World article that fully explains the Rule of 10%.

What Makes An Athlete: Walking

I definitely stand by this quote from Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman.

If you have a body, you are an athlete.

I know that individuals might not understand all the differences and complexities between different forms of exercise. But that does not mean that someone who walks to be healthy is any less of an athlete than someone who runs marathons or competes in Ironmans. It’s easy sometimes to fall into the mentality that if they are ‘not like me’ and aren’t doing the same level of activity, then maybe they’re not an athlete. The truth is they are just a different type of athlete.

Recently I’ve been reminded that the decision to put on shoes, step out the door, and take part in activities towards a healthier life is what really defines an athlete.

My point is this: the first step out the front door is the hardest and I respect anyone who takes it.

startSeveral members of my family, as well as a few friends, have taken up forms of exercise in an effort to become—and stay—healthy. Anything from cycling short distances to walking a few times a week. I hope to tackle the cycling perspective (from someone who isn’t me—aka not a cross training marathoner) in the future (maybe this will be a new segment like my tips posts). But today I really want to talk about walking and walkers.

My mother, who I’ll refer to as Mama P, got the final word from her doctor over 8 months ago. She needed to do some serious work to improve her health. Mama P was a borderline Type 2 diabetic, overweight, and has issues like arthritis that could be better handled if she took on a healthier lifestyle. So she sat down with her doctor to discuss what actions to take and then later with myself. We went over what she’d learned and how I could help get her started with exercise (I’m not a coach, but I know some stuff).

Due to the arthritis and some joint issues regarding her knees, Mama P had limited options for exercise if she didn’t want to do more harm than good. We discussed not only what she was comfortable with, but also what she was most likely to stick with. As much as she’d love to take up running, that just wasn’t feasible as a starting option. So we decided on walking.

There were two big hurdles Mama P had to overcome. And while some parts of those two were physical, the biggest ones were mental.

Hurdle #1 was the perception that because she spends a good part of her day job moving around and on her feet, that she was already in decent shape to walk for exercise. While I definitely do not doubt that some jobs require us to move around more, it doesn’t meant the transition to exercise will be easy and seamless.

Things you do regularly can create a base, but tackling an activity as exercise is just not the same.

Mama P may be on her feet a good amount, but wandering around the office is completely different from going out for 45-60 minutes to get exercise. Even if it was, in her mind, ‘just walking’ she was still forcing her muscles to go farther at a faster pace and raising her heart rate. That was a mental hurdle she had to overcome; treating it as the exercise it was. Not as the same thing she’d already been doing.

Plus Mama P had to deal with the fallout on the physical side. Because it wasn’t the same as what she thought she’d already been doing, her body had to adjust. It took over a month for her calf muscles to settle into the new level of activity without aches. Mama P became good friends with things like IcyHot and compression socks.

Hurdle #2 was almost entirely about her frame of mind and comes in several parts. The first is that she had to make the decision to change; Mama P had to be the one that said ‘I need to make time to exercise.’ Added to that Mama P had to accept that she was making an entire lifestyle change, not just attempting to lose weight. Change is gradual & we were looking past days and months into potentially several years to reach that point. It was more than taking part in exercise but also included what she ate and her schedule. She had to reset her priorities.

change

Finally, Mama P had to adjust her view of what walking was. She could no longer equate it to moving about the office or home. She had to mentally restructure her perception of walking. In doing so, she would be able to approach it as what it really was: exercise.

In the beginning she made excuses of “well I walked a lot at work” when she didn’t go out for a walk at home. Once she overcame hurdle #1, then she could tackle the fact that she still wasn’t treating walking like I treat running. In her mind, it still wasn’t exercise. But once she was able to alter her definition she was able to become, in her mind, an athlete.

Now changing a perception isn’t easy. In the case of Mama P, I took a sort of extreme approach. I signed her up for a 5K. Luckily, she treats events the same way I do. If we pay for it, only death or severe injury is going to stop us from doing it. And in the case of many events, from 5Ks to marathons, there’s a time limit for the road closures. Due to this, she had a distinct goal to work towards—being able to walk 3.1 miles within a certain time.

Seeing the steps Mama P has taken and the struggles she’s faced, I’m reminded that the hurdles don’t have to be the same as mine to be difficult. While I may face different challenges as a runner, she’s battling her own in an effort to be healthier. That, in my mind, makes her as respectable an athlete as any other I may be tempted to call the same.

So I’ll end with this. Here is a list, straight from Mama P, on what she’s learned. And more importantly, things she thinks you should know if you want to start your own journey and choose walking as the way to do so.

  • Don’t wait to finish this or that before you walk—make time now.
  • Vary your route to keep things interesting.
  • Got a dog? Take him/her with you sometimes.
  • Under the weather? Don’t walk or make it a short walk. Listen to your body.
  • Check the weather so you don’t get rained out or struck by lightening.
  • Don’t go hungry or dehydrated.
  • Just starting? Expect your legs and/or feet to be sore.
  • Watch the ground in front of you and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Carry a cell phone with you—there are pouches made for runners & walkers you can buy.
  • Make sure someone knows what direction you’re heading and how long you expect to be gone.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes.

Tips: Knowing When To Dig Your Heels In

After several discussions with a few others on this topic, I felt it was something worth mentioning. It ties into my last Tips post about finding a supportive community.

It can be hard sometimes to join a group or friends doing exercise of any kind (not just running) who you look at as being faster, better, or stronger. And sometimes, we easily get drawn into their pace. They’re lifting more weight? Well, you want to reach their level or just appear to be more on par, so you do the same.

Or on the opposite side, (especially as a beginner) you fall into letting them convince you to do more. Most often people from exercise or fitness groups encouraging you to do more, go faster, or try harder aren’t attempting to say ‘you aren’t doing good enough.’ Rather, they’re just trying to provide positive motivation. They want you to get better for yourself, and in some cases, giving a little nudge—an external push—is what some people need.

It can be hard to push ourselves at times because we don’t know our limits. We may even be afraid of finding them.

But that being said, it’s very important to let yourself be heard. Because the pushing from others is usually done with good intentions, these people will be accepting if you tell them no. It’s just knowing when to dig in your heels and say ‘I’d rather stick to my own plan.’

There’s nothing bad about voicing your thoughts or concerns. And if that day’s running group is going a bit too fast, just say “Hey! Go ahead, I’m gonna slow the pace down a bit.” Sometimes they don’t realize they’re going so fast and need a reality check (in a good way). Other times, they’ll realize they have someone still growing who isn’t quite at their level yet and will give you a quick okay and keep going.

They’re not intentionally leaving you in the dust, they’re just acknowledging that you, and them, are on different levels at this point in time. Nothing wrong with that.

But the fact is: it’s easy to feel pressured to perform the way others are. Especially in fitness. So don’t be afraid to speak up. Let others know when you’re comfortable with a workout and definitely when you aren’t. Part of learning to push your limits is knowing that they exist and that they will never be exactly the same as someone else’s.

If ever you feel that others are pushing you too far, too fast, then just dig in your heels and say so. Trust me, they’ll understand.

National Running Day

nationalrunning-day

Today, Wednesday June 5, is National Running Day. So get out there!

Even if you’re not a runner, go out and do something! Go for a walk, play with your kids, take a bike ride. Celebrate your ability to go outside and enjoy the day with a little exercise. It doesn’t have to structured or hardcore, but it does have to be fun.

Since I am a runner, I went out and enjoyed a nice 5 miler. But I know not everyone is a runner. But even if you’re not, you can find joy in going outside and doing something.

And if you’re a runner or considering doing a race, check in with your favorite race series. Many of them are offering discounts if you sign up today! Like the Women’s Running Series or the Rock n Roll Race Series.

If you’re a little hesitant, then maybe the sentiment of this image will give you that push out the door. So go on, get going.

for me

Featured

With a new update to their site, IR4C has improved on their homepage featured athletes and added a function to promote and empower athletes who are blogging. This is the site we’re using as a team to raise money for our charity, TLT4C.

If you visit the site right now, I’m one of six athletes being featured on the homepage (2nd from the right). And added to that, in the “Blogs” menu in the top right under the “4 Cause” category is a blog from a few months ago regarding some of my motivation for this.

So go check it out! www.ir4c.com

New Shoes

It’s always a sad day to realize your current running shoes are slowly losing their life. They’ve been with you across many long miles, through easy and hard runs, and all kinds of terrain. Running shoes are your constant companion. They go where you go and share the experiences of a great race or a tough workout.

So it’s just a bit sad to know the shoes you PRed the half marathon or ran your first marathon in won’t be joining you in logging the miles much longer.

But an ending is also a beginning! While it may be time to retire old pairs of running shoes that have done well by me, that also means I can welcome new friends. Shoes that have yet to learn the enjoyment of being a runner. Of following miles of trails and eating away at roads. That there is joy to be had in collecting footsteps before dawn.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – Seneca

I offer a picture of my 2 new pairs of shoes. These ones will get me through the rest of my conditioning and into marathon training. I would hope they make it all the way through 4 months of marathon preparation, but I know it’s a promise I can’t make to them. So welcome the newest additions to my running gear.

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On the left are the Mizuno Wave Creation 14. On the right are the Asics Gel Cumulus 14. Both are neutral running shoes and I look forward to testing them out. Of course, I’ll be posting opinions on them. The Asics have already released a 15, but the Mizunos are the most recent version.

They’ll be replacing my Saucony Kinvara 2 (half PR) and my Asics GT 2170 (1st marathon)—both of which kept me company through physical therapy when I couldn’t run after those 2 races. But they’ve lived a longer life than most running shoes because of it and 400+ miles have done their damage.

Side note: keep an eye out as I’ll be making a tips post in regard to shoes.