Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Countdown to Ventura Marathon T - 4 Days: It's purely mental

Ventura Marathon Countdown= 4 days left!

This is a vision board I made earlier this month once I saw this race was quickly creeping up on me.

 I'm a big believer of putting positive and inspiring messages in front of me everyday. It's really easy for me to get bog down with a lot I have going on. These quotes help with positive re-enforcement on a daily basis. They also help me see outside of myself and focus on what I'm capable of instead of focusing on my limitations.

Tonight's Quote is something really to think about and discussed a lot with endurance athletes.
The race always hurts
expect it to hurt
You don't train so it doesn't hurt
You train so you can tolerate it.

If you've ever ran a marathon you know the dreaded "wall". Sometimes it comes at mile 18, sometimes 20-22 (if you're lucky).  To those that are not as familiar with what I'm talking about, I'll explain. The wall is the moment where everything in your body is screaming at you to walk, stop, and just drop. You're low on nutrition , something is hurting (if not everything) or your mind is just exhausted of telling yourself "you've got this"'s now yelling  "stop!"  I can't think of a marathon where I didn't hit the wall. It just came sooner rather than later in some occurrences. It hurts and it's expected.

Through this process of training for a possible BQ a lot of people have asked if I'm ready or how I think I'll do. The marathon is a beast of a distance, 26.2 miles total. To train for it is a bit of a formula. The best I can explain it is to break it down into a math equation:

Basic Foundation of training (endurance training)
Speed work
Race Pace Training
Mid Week Runs                                                                 = 55-75% of marathon preparation
Cross Training (weight lifting for me)

 Mental awareness / Functionality/Capability/ Persistence/ Logical awareness 
                                                                                                  = 35-55%

 RACE DAY MAGIC / weather/ and adrenaline                  =  5-10% 

Part A + Part B+ Part C = a successful marathon preparedness . I know this doesn't quite equal 100% but each factor is different for every runner and the season they are currently in with this sport.

Part B is the area I struggle with the most, the mental side of the training.
Even when I toe the line on race day I find myself second guessing my capability. "Have I trained enough? Should I have done another 20 miler?" It's always there. A friend of mine gave me a great trick that will help my mind break down my marathon in 3 parts, 2- 10 mile runs and a 10K.  It really helps by the half marathon point (13.1). With this process I'm already 3 miles into the 2nd set of 10 miles, not "just half way through the race."  The worst park for me is the last 10K. Everything starts shutting down. I lose the ability to hold things (gu's, water.. etc) and all I want to do is walk. There have been times where my mind was telling me to quit.   However, I know it's coming and expect it. I've done the training runs before where they've hurt and were awful. All I wanted to do was to turn around and go home. You can't just get mad or defeated. I've learn to look at this as practice for "the wall" proving to myself I can deal with it and push through it. Not only are those training runs physical preparedness but strength training for mind. 

Many professional athletes find a manta or quote to focus on when having issues with their focus while racing. Have something positive to focus on gives you mind a distraction and an aid to enable the body to continue. 

I highly suggest finding a mantra, even something short as 3 works "beauty , power, and strength"...a visualization to inspire you to find and be the best version of yourself. Look at it every day or anytime you're struggling with something, some even use prayer. Find something that works for you, use it, and notice the change it has when dealing with difficult occasions.'s one of my favorite video's of marathon thoughts "second wind baby, here it is!" 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Crossfit and How it Changed My Running Forever

 A little background:
By March of 2015 I had participated in 5-6 half marathons and 4 marathons. However, I couldn't keep up with anyone in my running clubs and I was consistently missing my sub 2 half marathon goal by minutes. I had ran a 2:05, a 2:03, and ran a 2:02 at a recent half marathon. I was beyond frustrated. Everyone kept telling me "you have the fitness to run it, just do it!" But the problem was my body wouldn't let me. Once I got under a 9:15 minute per mile pace, I couldn't breathe. How can I run when I can't breathe?! After starting CrossFit, 3 month later, I placed in my age group running a 1:51 at another local Half Marathon. It was a hotter and harder course but yet, I took off more than 9 minutes off of my overall time. I didn't add more track workouts or sign up for a trainer. CrossFit was the only thing that I had changed in my training. Since then my times keep going down and running faster has become easier and easier. Running Boston and New York were things I used to laugh about. Now I have ran a Boston Qualifying time and placed in 2 Half Marathons placing in my age group and receiving a 3rd Place Overall Female Title.


 The Beginning:

Yelp CrossFit and I almost guarantee there is at least 1 gym in your town. They're popping up everywhere. I believe between where I live, and the next city over, I have 5-6 available to me. Even though they're all individually own, upon inspection they all look the same. They're housed in an industrial area, have tons of equipment, and they're all extremely intimidating. A few years ago I went to try a class. I had such a bad experience, I swore them off and quickly formed a negative opinion. That was that.

A running friend of mine talked about how much they loved their gym.  I declined invites to the class over and over but went to a yoga class the gym also taught.  After about 3 weeks I finally mustered up the courage and went to my first class of CrossFit. My coaches were amazing. They were extremely patient, slow to instruct, and quick to correct form. After a week I signed up for the unlimited package and was a consistent 3-5 time a week participant.

What is a usual gym session like?

Most gyms have a prefabricated workout from either an instructor, website, or an outside CrossFit program. Most start with a gym/instructor specific warmup. It initiates some type of body warming effect (running/rowing/jump rope?) followed by light stretching or muscle mobility work.

Afterwards is the Weight/Strength Session. This usually is some type of lift or exercise that helps with form or strength in the workout.

Then last is the workout of the day (WOD). This is usually some type of endurance workout with multiple, multiple ranges and stages. What I LOVE about my gym is that there is a suggested workout for the heavy lifters, then 2 modified versions.There are modifications for every workout for every level

What makes a good gym?

The first thing that makes a gym one worth going to are the instructor’s knowledge of lift technique and form. Obviously you want those that are certified CrossFit instructors as well as experienced fitness professionals.  Most gyms I go to have their certificates on the wall, websites, and office. Most can also demonstrate (to a certain level) the workout as well as modifications. Mostly they understand what you're supposed to do and how to do it in an effective manner.

#2 they offer and introductory course/preview week/free day. The one thing that really scared me was the gym I went to first pretty much said "Ok, this is what we're is your weight...go" I couldn't bend over for 3 days. The gyms that seem the most inviting offer beginning classes or what my gym calls an "elements class" or even a boot camp. They teach the warmups that are standards, form for multiple lifts, and instruction on other elements performed in the class as well.

#3 The instructors are involved in the workout. This doesn't necessarily mean they do the work out their-selves but they are watching the members during the workout. They call out form cues, give motivation, and help with modifications and explanations to the workout.

Some others that are icing on the cake are:

Availability (multiple classes available for an nonpattern like work schedule)
Alternating workouts (legs On Monday, arms on Tuesday, cardio on Wednesday etc etc)
Good Equipment
Good Music
Extra classes (Yoga, lift technique classes, contest, Holiday get together etc )
Payment Plans
 Etc Etc

ALSO, not all gyms that are good have these and vice versa. To me, finding a good gym is like finding a shoe. You go in knowing what you think you like, you try it on, and if it fits, you stick with it. If not, try another. Most gyms offer their first class for free and are more than happy to assist with anything regarding scheduling, fitness levels, and/or payment methods.

And Now. For the Scare factor...." scary and is only for serious weight lifters"
At least I thought so......

"I pick things up and put them DOWN"

A lot of people I know think CrossFit is scary or is for serious weight lifters only.  One of the things I've loved about my two gyms is there are all sorts of people working out beside me. I've been in a class where the majority of the participants were in the senior citizen category. One lady did the same pull up strength as me every class. She put me to shame and I admire her greatly.  CrossFit is for all types that are wanting a fitness change in their life.
How will CrossFit Impact my running?
3 major ways: Strength, Lung Capacity, and Endurance.
    So let’s say you’re running a half marathon (or marathon). You get about 4-5 miles from the finish and your legs just start giving out. They’re just sore and tired and you can’t make them take another step. What did you do to train? “Well I ran.” Exactly. When you train your muscles over and over in the same direction they’re not going to be challenged. They won’t break down and they won’t regrow. That soreness you feel after a hard workout is the breaking down of your muscle fibers. When you give them ample time to recover our body’s mend them together much stronger. You’ve challenged them in a new way to exceed the expectations you’re going to give them later on down the road in that long run (of course with the partnered running plan as well). You’ll work your back muscles and core that gives you a more upright form that enables you to have proper breathing, as well as stronger arms you pump to pull you up those hills.
            It changed my lung capacity all together. There have been many WOD’s where there was a 400-800 sprint then as soon as you entered the gym you had to go right to the next event whether it was weightlifting or a body strength. During a track workout I would remember those WODs and be thankful that I didn’t have to jump onto a weight, giving me that little push to a faster threshold. Having the strength in the legs, and the endurance to start pushing farther, I was able to start running faster easier. Before CrossFit, without even looking at my watch, I knew when I was running an 8:30 minute per mile pace because my breathing became more labored. After more than a year of CrossFit, an 8:30 pace is now my easy long distance pace. Your lungs are also like a muscle. When trained and worked, they too can become stronger.
    Some workouts are what we call an AMRAP. This means As Many Reps As Possible. It usually also coincides with a time given. Meaning, guess what? If you have a Workout that has AMARAP Pushups for 7 minutes, you’re doing Pushups for 7 minutes.  This may have you walking out of the gym before I even explained what it is. But guess what? What If I told you you can go as slow as you want AND use a band under your waist to help get you off the floor? BAM then anyone can do pushups for 7 minutes. You may only get 10 in but you can say I did it. This how CrossFit really opens up your endurance threshold. You work at a level you can safely achieve for that amount of time. By doing this by the last minute you’re exhausted, you’re tired, but you know you only have 1 more minute. You can do ANYTHING for a minute, especially with a coach clapping and cheering you on. This is CrossFit. It gets you out of your comfort zone and into a zone you rarely push yourself too. As runners we can relate to it as your Anabolic Threshold aka. Red zone. There area where you’re at your max and you are running on gas. Guess what? Just like a muscle, that too, with proper training and body awareness, can become stronger. When you’re running, when you have that last mile to go, you’re done, you’re spent, guess what, it’s just (*insert your minute per mile pace*) it’s just 10 more minutes for that last mile. You can run for 10 more minutes. If you can lift that bar off the ground and on to your shoulders, if you can do 5 pushups, you can run for 10 more minutes.

Ok, I’m interested, but, how do I add CrossFit to my running program to make it affective?
As mostly an endurance runner/triathlete you have to treat CrossFit as Cross training. It’s easy to get addicted into the hype but you must remember what is most important? Staying injury free is. When I’m training for a long distance race I always use the same training format with the running along with my CrossFit. You build, build, and then taper.
So let’s say I have a marathon 2 months out, my running training plan is as follows:
Sunday/Saturday (depending on my schedule) Long Runs
2-3 days a week alternating 5-6 miles (Treadmill or Outside Pace Runs)
1 semi long run (8-10 miles)
For CrossFit I follow a similar format:
1 day a week doing strictly weight lifting (3 , 3x5 70% max weight sets 2 lower body, 1 upper body, to retain muscle) This usually gets dropped the closer I get to higher mileage weeks.
2-3 days a week WOD (Workout of the Day) going for possible max weight prescribed with each weight
Thursday/Friday = Taper day, all-out effort/ less weight
Then 3 weeks out, you ideal taper time, I start tapering with CrossFit. This is either the weekend of your long run or you just finished your last long run. Your legs are going to be sore and you will need time to recover. I usually start dropping a class or go as frequently and start scaling back on weight.
2 weeks before the race I usually only go twice.
The week before a race, Tuesday is usually my last day. If I skipped Monday, I’ll go Tuesday, If I went Monday I’m done. The more rest, the better.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS take a day off if you’re sore, even if it means missing more than 2 days a week.
ALWAYS take the day off after your long run.
I also tell myself to listen to my body, Sore vs Pain are 2 different things. You are GOING to be sore. CrossFit works different muscle every workout. There will be muscles that will be challenged that you’ve never used before, it’s to be almost expected. However, pain is not. If something feels off, go lighter or modify. There is no shame in modifying. I’ve had problems off and on with my knees. If my knee feels off from a run earlier that week I’ll go lighter on a movement that involves that particular area.

Ok, I’m intrigued, how do I start?
Most gyms have a mandatory introductory class and some have an open gym invitation. You can find out through either a Facebook page, yelp, or website. Feel free to email any of the coaches. They will be more than happy to answer your questions. When it comes to that actual workout this you don’t have to worry about. Most coaches are great about assessing your limitations and strengths and will be able to give you one on one advice and attention. They are great about explaining the flow of the workout as well as showing you modifications to make the workout easier or a bit more challenging. The people are also amazingly friendly. I’ve dropped in on quite a few gyms while traveling. I’ve always be met with welcome arms and very kind people. Don’t’ worry, you’ll soon become attached.

Roll the Credits:

So, I say all this prefacing that you may not get the same results, you may not like CrossFit as much. It just may not be your thing. I was once skeptical but after being persuaded I fell in love with it and my running has changed completely. If you're ready for something different, and you need more than just a regular gym membership, I urge you to give something a try. Maybe Zumba, aqua aerobics, yoga, or maybe even CrossFit.

I did. Everyone has been asking "where did you come from?!" I always smile and say CrossFit.