Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Avoiding the trap

My search for running goals hasn't really begun yet. I expect to just try to maintain consistent training for a couple of months, slowly building my mileage up. I guess for now, running in and of itself, without expectation, has to be good enough.

The question for now relates to how many runs a week to try and fit in. As I've been sort of idling my way back in, I'm working on only two or three right now, but that's because I'm trying to fit in two weightlifting sessions and a couple of rows. To get any more runs in, I'm obviously going to have to double up a bit - maybe row on weightlifting days. I seem to have hazy recollections of being most comfortable with four runs a week.

Working out and running early in the morning seems to work pretty well for me so far. It's been almost three weeks now that I've awoken to the 5:30 alarm and headed out the door to the gym or to run. The gym is pretty easy in the morning, there are lots of people and the social atmosphere is encouraging. The hard part is getting out to run - the roads are generally pretty empty, perfect for running, but I find I have to work to keep motivated in the dark. My MP3 player/FM radio helps on these runs - CBC first thing in the morning is a piece of normality for me, but it's still hard. Since my runs have been relatively short so far - 6 or 7 km max, they don't take very long, but if I decide to really work a program and have to start running intervals or 10 km or more on these runs, the time will dramatically increase.

Am I going to have to get up still earlier?

I am doing all of this other stuff to avoid the running trap. I fell into it three years ago when I blew my Achilles' tendon on a 30 km training run - running without proper cross-training is a recipe for injury and mental breakdown.

The injury bit is straightforward; the triathletes have it exactly right. (Although I still think they are mental.) After getting hurt a couple of years ago, I was forced to stop running for a couple of months. I found myself completely unprepared for the emotional effects of the immediate cessation of physical activity. Unsurprisingly, I gained weight, but what I wasn't ready for was how screwed up my sleep schedule got. I guess that I had been building up quite a lot of energy capacity from running, and with nothing to expend it on, I began having trouble getting to sleep at night, which lead to grouchy days and the spiral to total bastard was very quick indeed.

The trap.

Avoiding the trap is so easy that I was a complete idiot for falling in it in the first place. Cross-train. Cross-training with intent not only lets me balance muscle and connective tissue development, but it also gives me a physical outlet that might be able to take the place of running when an injury prevents it. It also gives me other chances to build up core muscle strength that can prevent injury to my back, which is always (ahem) at the back of my mind. Wonky back days trumps everything, so keeping it strong is job #1. I can row til I drop even when my knee feels a bit off. I can lift weights anytime, I just have to be careful with the injury.

The key with cross-training for me seems to be to not consider it secondary to the running, to put it on an equal footing. That doesn't necessarily mean to have as many cross-training days as running days, there just aren't enough in the week. It just means keeping it important, log it just as I do my runs, and above all, not to feel ripped off if I get hurt and can't run - make up for it with additional cross-training sessions as recuperation allows.

At some point in time, I promise to start swimming. I have promised this for a while now, but I will, I just don't know when.


Sonia said...

Welcome to the blogosphere! It's Dr.S on RM =)

I think you went through the same thing that happened to me last April when I started having plantar fasciitis. Running was my life and it all went down ward when I had to reduce (at first) my mileage until I had to stop completely (2 months ago).

From your post: "I found myself completely unprepared for the emotional effects of the immediate cessation of physical activity"

I could have written that myself, even though I have replace my runs with biking and swimming for me it is not the same. I still need that 3-5 runs a week to feel good. I know in time it will come back but for now it is really hard.

Anyhow, I think you have a great plan to stay injury free and you're back on the roads! =)

kevvyd said...

Hey Sonia,
Thanks for the comments! It's easy to see how mid-life "athletes" like me get hurt so easily - we dive right in without much thought to the changes and stresses the workload puts on our bodies.

Cross-train, cross-train, cross-train!

I have it from a good fried that plantar fasciitis is a hard recovery. He's back up and at it now, though.

kevvyd said...

Oh, and I meant to say good luck with your recovery!

Jennifer said...

Hi Kev-
I'm a bit late with commenting on this one, but I didn't notice when you started the blog. :) I hope you keep up with yours. Mine is defunct now, but I do keep my journal going on Runningmania.

About cross-training-- I agree with you about cross-training being good to have as an outlet if you suddenly can't run, or to supplement a run program when you need to give yourself a bit of a break. Keeping up with it is key, such that you do have that when you need it. But I'm not convinced on how much it helps to prevent injuries or that the "triathletes have it right" (they get injured, too). Keeping easy runs EASY and not doing too much hard-paced running (a la Daniels) has been key for me to staying injury free. If I try to pick up the paces too much of my long runs, I run into trouble. Therefore, I would hesitate to try a program like FIRST.

The same things won't work for everyone, for sure. I'm interested to see how FIRST works for you.

kevvyd said...


Whatever it is that you do is obviously working - I've seen your training schedule and you put a lot of miles on! I've found that I have a problem sometimes keeping the easy runs easy, and the easy runs don't promote the recovery that they should. Hence, cross-training will work better for me.

At least that's the theory, let's see how it works in practice.

Jennifer said...

I think your point is well taken. Most people that say they have trouble with higher mileage are probably doing their easy runs not quite easy enough. It doesn't feel hard when you're doing it, but it makes a big difference overall.

Good luck-- now to catch up on the new posts. :)