Running with a cold, race week

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My heart grows every day with this little baby. ❤️ How is that even possible?! It blows my mind to think that our Heavenly Father loves us this much, and he brought Heaven to earth when he made me a mom. 👶 I’m staying conservative with my race coming up on Sunday, so I only rode 45 minutes on the bike today. 🚴‍♀️ Maybe some strength work tonight? #bestlittletrainingbuddy #21monthsold #perfection #motherrunner #spinbike #homegym #crosstraining #taperweek #marathontraining #womenrunning #womensrunningcommunity

I think it’s pretty normal that taper week brings out the worst in us in just about every way. I actually really like taper week and the excitement of the race, but inevitably, I feel a niggle or catch something. In this case, I caught the cold that Cadence brought home from daycare. (Breastfeeding and antibodies here.)

Other than easing up on training in order to be fresh for the race, how much should you alter your training if you have a cold? Runner’s Connect has an article here that says to listen to your body, but in general it’s ok to run as long as the symptoms are all congestion related. Focus more on effort than pace, and err on the side of caution.  So I just rode the bike today and let my legs and stuffy head have one more day of a break. 🙂

Do you run when you have a cold?

Cycling and hamstring maintenance

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Ooooh this week is hard, and it’s just Tuesday! Most of the time I’m really happy about my work/daycare/family choice, but yesterday I picked up Cadence from daycare and just sat in my car crying. 😭 This little soft snuggle bug has sure rocked our world! ❤️ I’m sure all of the vacation time and four day work week contributed to my emotions. Daycare will never be the same as momma, and I wish I could give this little girl everything.👑 I’m thankful that we love her teacher and she’s just next door. It’s hard on both sides of the road, isn’t it? 😖 45 min on the bike this morning and then soft snuggles while I meant to be stretching. 😘👶 #motherrunner #workingmom #21monthsold #toddler #perfection #cycling #crosstraining #marathontraining #womenrunning #womensrunningcommunity

I rode the bike today for my recovery run. My calf feels a little tight next to my shin, and yesterday was a big running day.  I have gotten to where I really like the bike, and I’m excited about the prospect of adding volume without the worry of a running related injury.

That being said, cross training can bring it’s own injuries. Did you know that cycling can cause the hamstring to shorten because of the seated position? If sitting at your desk can cause the hamstrings to shorten, it’s no surprise that sitting on a bike can do the same thing. Stretching is important, which I need to also remember while I’m so focused on my calves!

One tip that I find to be so true is that it’s important to cross train year round, not just when an injury occurs. So many times, runners will pick up cross training out of necessity because of injury, but because they are unaccustomed to the cross training exercise, they create a whole new problem.

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The other baby

What’s your favorite way to cross train?

Sunday cross training recovery

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My husband and I had a late wine dinner last night 🍷 and I got to bed well past my bedtime. 😴 I was lucky to get in 45 minutes on the stairclimber before church today with my sweet little training buddy. ❤️⛪I’m not sure how the stairclimber translates to running the hills of San Francisco, but my legs were burning! 😌 Also, if wearing a baby while meal prepping for the week counts as additional training, we checked that off too. ✔️😋 #notreadyforthewkndtoend #bestlittletrainingbuddy #21monthsold #homegym #stairclimber #hilltraining #crosstraining #marathontraining #motherrunner #womensrunningcommunity #womenrunning

My shins are feeling better, but I still feel a little calf tightness here and then, so I want to make sure to make it to my marathon without an injury. After running 20 miles and doing leg strength work yesterday, I decided to call it a cross training day today. My legs are a little sore from yesterday. I’m sure that some of it is from my long run, but mostly, I think doing leg work that I wasn’t accustomed to contributed the most to the soreness.

I’m always a little unsure of how much to push when I feel sore.  One rule of thumb is that if the soreness will change your gait, it’s probably a good idea not to run (I don’t feel that sore but I don’t want to risk hurting my shins). A recovery run or cross training can be a great way to increase blood flow and promote recovery, but too hard of a workout will just create more damage and delay recovery. I got in just the right amount of burn and sweat on the stairclimber today to count it as a solid session without compromising my recovery. Here’s a good article with tips to reduce soreness and keep stay healthy.

What are your favorite tricks to recover from hard effort runs?

Bringing in the New Year: How to build a home gym

Our basement is my favorite room in our whole house.  It all started with a treadmill, wp-1472224822536.jpgwhich also happens to be my favorite piece of “furniture”.  🙂  Then, over time, my husband and I started adding other favorite items. I’ve got to say, it’s pretty convenient to roll out of bed and head to the basement for my workouts in the morning, especially since Cadence was born.  It really doesn’t take too much investment for some basic pieces that will help build a great strength training circuit though. (I still posit that a good ol’ push-up is one of the best strength workouts that you can do, which does not involve any equipment at all!)

Here are some of the items in our gym.  Whether you work out at the foot of your bed or in your own basement, there is something for everyone.  Don’t get overwhelmed by the list.  Any one of these items will give you many options for a variety of workouts.

  1. Basic dumbbells: I use 5, 10, and 15 pounds for just about everything.
  2. Bosu Ball: I bought mine at Target, and I love it for stability training.  There are specific workouts that you can do on a Bosu ball, but you can also stand on it doing basic moves like a dumbbell curl.  Just the act of standing on the Bosu ball will help increase stability.  For an extra challenge, stand on one leg while doing your strength work.
  3. Medicine ball: I bought this 10 pound medicine ball, and it adds variety to strength work by activating more of the core when holding it.  Even just holding it while doing squats or lunges makes the exercise more of a core workout.
  4. Kettle Bells: my husband bought me kettle bells for mother’s day (he’s a romantic :), and I love to sling them around!  A great workout that forces you to stabilize and utilize your core!
  5. Two frisbies: this is one of my favorites for its simplicity and difficulty.  I learned this move in my Oh Baby fitness classes as a newly postpartum mom.  Get in push up position with one foot on each slider or frisby.  Then use your arms to “walk” yourself forward while feet slide along the ground with the sliders.  It’s a really tough workout for the core and arms and it only takes a room and two sliders to slide up and down for a great workout!
  6. A stair step: I inherited my step from my mom, but any type of step will do.  This is great for stair lunges, calf raises, and any other stair exercise.
  7. Yoga ball: other than giving birth (no, I did not bring my ball to the hospital-ha!), this ball is great for ab work, and it serves as a replacement for a bench if you want to do arm work while sitting on it.
  8. Resistant Bands: tie off the band so that it is a loop, step in, and try to do side lunges.  Then you’ll understand the beauty of these little bands.  Also good for clamshells and a variety of other exercises.
  9. Barbell: I don’t really use the barbell very much, but my husband does.  It’s a great piece of equipment, but my coach doesn’t incorporate it. I like to do squats and deadlifts when I’m not following my coach’s plan.
  10. Pull up bar: I was so excited to get a pull-up bar, but I do not use ours anymore because I had hernia surgery in May, and the force is more than I want to risk.  But, if you did not recently have hernia surgery, this little bar will humble you and make you tremble!  🙂
  11. Treadmill: this is pretty obvious, but I love my treadmill. I run at least half of my weekly runs on the treadmill, and I have found that I especially like it for “hillwork” and for some of my standard weekly runs to see how I’m responding when the variables are all kept constant.  You can read more about treadmill selection here.
  12. Spin bike: My husband bought our spin bike, but I’ve gotten more use of it for my cross training than he has.  It was great to complement running through pregnancy, and I love to use it for recovery.  It’s not just for easy riding though.  You can get a mean workout in with the spin bike if you crank up resistance, increase cadence, or incorporate standing while riding.  Read more about the spin bike for cross training here.
  13. Stair stepper: This is another piece of equipment that I love for cross training.  I used it a lot during pregnancy because I could get a great cardio workout without all of the pounding.  It was also the first machine that I used during my postpartum recovery.

A lot of items can be purchased on Craigslist or some other consignment/second-hand store.  We bought my treadmill, bike, stair stepper, and barbell set secondhand.

My training plan involves a lot of strength training, and this actually turns out to fit our lifestyle really well because Cadence enjoys playing in the basement while we strength train. I trained for my first 100 mile race this past summer with Cadence playing beside me while I trained for most of it.  We “baby-proofed” the basement as much as a gym can be baby-proofed, and it has made all of the difference to allow my husband and me to have the freedom to work out and spend time together.  I also attribute not getting any injuries despite a high intensity running schedule to the amount of strength work in my plan.

What is your favorite piece of exercise equipment? (Shoes don’t count! 😉

Walking to Run

Walking was my first favorite workout, before running stole my heart.  There is so much that a good walk can provide–time to clear your head, pray, have a good conversation with a friend, smell the roses, feel the breeze. Or read a book.  That’s how I started my walking journey–on a treadmill reading book after book.  I studied through college and grad school while walking on a treadmill, and I planned out my thesis mile after mile. Some of my favorite memories are hikes and walks around the neighborhood with my mom.  Walking is good for the soul.  It’s also really good for running.

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I use clothes pins to hold my books open while I walk or run on the treadmill.  I finish about a book a week this way.

I transitioned from being a serial walker to being an obsessed runner during my training for my first marathon in 2013.  I had never run on a treadmill until near the end of my training when I realized that only running on the weekends wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  Shortly after that, I was hooked on running, but I have maintained treadmill walking at an incline as a staple of my week.

Walking to increase strength and endurance

We all know that exclusively running has its set-backs, like injury.  So adding walking to the regimen is a great way to increase endurance by providing time on your feet and strengthening your legs where they need it. It serves as a way to cross train without stressing the joints that sustain the greatest stresses during a run. When I’m not walking outside or hiking outside, I set my treadmill to an incline up to 15% and walk, walk, walk.

All of my ultra buddies know that running an ultra marathon involves hiking,especially on technical terrain, so having the ability to transition from running to walking is a very necessary skill to finish strong. My very first ultra marathon was the Sky to Summit 50k, and I had not trained for it (I was actually using that race to train for a marathon the next month), but I attribute my treadmill “hiking” for giving me the strength to climb the technical trails for over 7 hours to finish as second female.

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She is the cutest walking buddy that I ever did see!

Walking through an Injury

I recently had surgery, and the surgeon told me that I could walk as soon as I got home from surgery, encouraging me that walking helps promote blood flow, which also speeds up healing.  For the first two weeks, I was limited to only walk or cycle, and this provided me with a great outlet to work out and promote the healing process.

Walking was also a great way for me to continue running through pregnancy because it gave my joints the break that they needed and it kept me in shape to continue running postpartum.  Most of my weekday pregnancy runs ended up being half running, half walking by the end of the 39 weeks.  I used incline to increase the intensity of the work out.

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I went for a walk hours after my hernia surgery.  It wasn’t anything intense, but it did get the blood flowing.

Walking as Recovery

If you are anything like me, you barely squeeze in your run before hopping in the shower and rushing off to the day. By allowing your body a proper cool down walk, you keep the blood flowing to the tissues that were just stressed while your heart rate returns to normal. I have found that I am less sore from a workout if I complement it with a good walk afterwards.  (There is a lot of research corroborating the value of a warm up and cool down in reducing DOMS.)  I walked a few miles after the Boston Marathon to sight-see the other finishers, and while I was stiff the day following the race, I was feeling much better than I expected!

Another good recovery walking option is to walk backwards.  For as long as I can remember, my massage therapist, Rena, has told me that I need to be walking backwards to keep me off of her table. I’ve started to do this as a cool-down on the treadmill in the evenings more often, and it feels like a good stretch. (I’ve also tried to walk backwards around my neighborhood, but it makes me feel extremely silly, and I’ve had a few people yell out of their windows to check on me.)  Walking backwards reduces the stresses on your joints, relieves lower back pressure, and increases hamstring flexibility.  Walking backwards is also said to enhance cognitive control, which makes it a good recovery activity for individuals recovering from strokes. I only walk for a couple of minutes backwards, but I have read that 10-15 minutes is the sweet spot.

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Walking backwards on the treadmill is a lot safer than walking backwards on a neighborhood street!  🙂

Other Obvious Advantages of Walking

I’ve listed a few reasons why walking is one of my staple activities, but for non-runners, it can be a life-saver.  The low impact of walking makes it a great activity for individuals already in poor health, obese, diabetic, etc.  It helps reduce the rates of chronic illnesses, and the activity releases endorphins, making both mind and body a better place to be.

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My husband and I walk our golden retriever at the end of every day.  It’s not anything rigorous, but it helps us shake off the work day and get the blood flowing.

So as ultra runners, we walk because walking is part of endurance sports.  When it comes to the 18th hour of running my first 100 mile race, I’m going to be grateful for the hours that I slowed my treadmill, increased the incline, and settled into a good book.

Is walking a big part of your training regimen?

Cross training: learning to love the bike

When my husband and I started looking to buy a house in 2012, we had two primary conditions: 1. our commutes had to be reasonable and 2. we had to have a basement for the treadmill. Since moving into our house, we have accumulated quite a little gym downstairs, and I’ve got to admit, it’s my favorite room in our house.  One piece of equipment that we bought for my husband, but I have since come to really enjoy, is our spin bike.  We bought it second-hand from an equipment distributor, and it has all of the functionality that we need.

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Our home gym is complete with pack and play

Originally, I only used the spin bike if I had an injury or if I detected that I was starting to get the niggle of an injury.  After running through pregnancy and acquiring a stress fracture in the process, I have learned to use the bike to also cross train.  Now that I am recovering from minor surgery, I’ll be on the bike a lot over the next few weeks.

The beauty of riding a bike is that it has minimal impact, so it is perfect as a recovery exercise or as cross-training for running. A leisurely ride after an intense effort or during the day(s) after a hard race can help increase circulation in the legs and improve recovery time. Cycling can also supplement a hard running schedule, so instead of running two-a-days, for instance, a runner could run one work-out, and then cycle for the second “run.”

There are different cycling workouts that are effective for replacing or supplementing running.  One of the benefits of cycling is that when executed with a high cadence, it can help teach your feet to run with faster turnover.  This article suggests to keep the rpms, or revolutions per minute, at 90 to simulate running cadence. It also suggests that 10-15 minutes on the bike is about the equivalent of one running mile, but that calculation is very subjective to effort level.

A study conducted in the UK last year actually showed that high intensity cycling training can improve running performance.  The trick in this high intensity work-out is to limit recovery time between hard efforts.  Cyclists in the study who rested only 30 seconds after 6 × 10-second sprints improved running speed by 3% compared to the control group.  Improvements were attributed to participants cycling at an elevated heart rate throughout the training period, as the 30 second rest period did not allow time for the heart rate to return to normal.

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I rode before and after the Boston Marathon to make sure that I didn’t get any injuries after a tough training cycle with little sleep.

I like to wear a heart rate monitor when I cycle, but I’ve noticed that my legs start to burn well before my heart rate reaches what would be a normal rate for a good effort run.  There are a lot of articles and forums about this, and I’ve concluded that cycling utilizes different muscles than running, and the effort level will therefore be different in running than in cycling. This journal article notes: “muscles adapt specifically to a given exercise task over a period of time, resulting in an improvement in submaximal physiological variables such as the ventilatory threshold, in some cases without a change in V O(2max).” As the body learns to recruit the necessary muscle fibers for your sport, your heart rate will adjust.

There are many different cycling speeds and resistances that can be performed with the bike.  My standard is to ride with higher resistance and include bouts of fast turn-over.  For my surgery recovery, I will have to reduce resistance and rely more on high cadence.  One of my favorite ways to mix up my cycling work-out is to stand and ride.  This helps get my heart rate going and engages more of the muscles in my legs.  I listen to MotionTraxx while I ride, but I admit, I still read on the bike, so my intensity level is not so high that I cannot read and ride.

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This may not give me the same views if I were riding outside, but I’ve got to say, that little baby makes any workout more enjoyable!

What do you use to cross-train? I also have a stair climber and I’ll walk on my treadmill at an incline when I need to cross-train.

Has the bike helped you work through injuries? I used the bike to train during the last two weeks leading up to my 50 mile race in 2015 because I was afraid that I had an injury coming on, and it helped keep my foot protected.

Any favorite cycling programs?