Although my marathon training plan includes a mixed bag of runs – long, easy, speed training, hills – there is one that generates maximum force. Hills!
When you think of a hill workout, I’m sure you think of a workout like this one.
Run up hill, jog down, repeat.
And, I’ve done those….but….
Coach’s prescribed workout for me yesterday consisted of 10 x 1 minute downhillrepeats. Jog up and barrel back down.
Sounds easy – just let gravity do its job right? Not.
My upcoming marathon is pancake flat. So, why do I even bother with hills?
Currently, I am in the strength period of my training plan which includes a variety of hill-based runs. Running hills help build strength, increase VO2Max and of course, tackle hills more easily.
What happens when you run downhill? The muscles in your legs elongate and actually generate more force than when running uphill or on level ground. Running hard downhill also produces more impact on our bodies – joints, bones and muscles. Training on hills helps the body to adapt to the force, repair itself and in turn, become stronger.
Strengthening the muscles used on downhills easily translates into faster paces on anytype of terrain.
As you descend down the hill, it is important to work on quickening your cadence and shortening your stride to have better control over form. Stay off your heels and don’t brake!
Planning on running Boston 2018? Add this workout into your regimen to ready your legs to tackle the 4-mile downhill in the beginning of the race.
Add in the downhill workout early in your training plan.
Choose a hill that’s less than a 10% grade.
If you can get on a softer surface, do it. Otherwise, it’s okay to hit the pavement.
Start with 5 downhill repeats and work your way up to 10.
Use rocks or chalk to help you count your reps!
Result? A great workout, fun stats and killer quads!
It seems like just yesterday I was creating and posting my goals for 2017.
Here we are, already about halfway through the year and honestly, I haven’t looked back at my goals post since I published. So today, I decided to take a glance to see how I am doing.
Mile – I wanted to break 6 minutes and clock a 5:45. Last week, 5:21. CHECK!
5K – Breaking 20 was my goal for this year. Added in speed work as I had planned and ran sub 19 in May. CHECK!
Half Marathon – 2017 goal was to break 1:40. Shamrock Half was very kind to me in March – 1:29. CHECK!
Marathon – I mentioned I wanted to simply beat my 2016 time of 3:46 and possibly BQ. In progress… Training well underway for Erie at Presque Isle Marathon on September 10 and I am definitely chasing that unicorn.
Ultra? The thought was a maybe. However, all signed up for JFK 50 with Sara! In progress…
Train my husband for his first half: CHECK!
Find more opportunities in the fitness/running industry – started working full-time in fitness once again. CHECK! Also in progress, PT certification.
As I stumble upon exciting new experiences offered to me, I now hesitate for only a second before jumping in with both feet. Why not?
Unsure if I purposely found more opportunities or the opportunities found me! Since late last year, I’ve continued to grow in several areas – who knew I would willingly tell my story in front of a group (and like it!)?
Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a new project (I obviously do not have enough on my plate). On one early morning run, a business idea appeared in my mind. (Side note: anyone else find clarity while running? I find my best ideas and thoughts occur on runs).
Next thought – can this idea work? This little spark soon turned into a raging fire to determine how to put this plan into action. Like any unchartered path, there have been obstacles, excitement about the unknown, and a little self-doubt. However, I’ve been lucky to not have to blaze this trail alone.
The time is coming to let you all in on the secret.
With some collaborative sweat equity, a simple idea developed into more than I anticipated. I am so excited to share the plans which have been in the making for months and I hope you all will be excited as well.
Be sure to follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss the big announcement!
Some days blog topics come easy, and some days I feel like I’m searching and searching for something to write about. Most of the time, the answer is right there in front of me based on an experience I am either going through or preparing for.
Later this week, I am going to attempt my first official speaking engagement, or rather share my story publicly which sounds way much less intimidating.
I absolutely DREAD standing in front of a crowd and speaking. The thought of doing this is probably just as bad as a fear of the dentist, or nails on a chalkboard.
Yes, that bad.
The thought of being in front of a gathering of people, all eyes on me, is paralyzing.
I worry about what I say, what people are thinking, wishing I was funnier, wishing I could crawl under a table and hide. Fear of judgement. Fear of failure. Fear of passing out.
I’m surprised I haven’t had the cliche dream about imagining I’m in front of an audience and I am only in my underwear….there’s still time.
Yes, I realize I teach group fitness classes and coach a kids running club, but that’s different. Once I’m moving, I get in the zone and my mind just flows better. Hmm, maybe I’ll do jumping jacks while I tell my story.
Back to this heart-pounding experience I am preparing myself for.
A wise man told me recently to be successful, I need to share myself with others. Go out and tell my story to anyone who would listen.
So, in a few days, I am going to put on my big girl panties and just do it. Tell a group about my weight loss and return to running journey. I don’t plan on writing out what I plan to say; just a basic outline. I want to speak from the heart and hopefully something I will say will inspire someone.
Do you share my fear of public speaking? Are you afraid of change? Do you fear being uncomfortable? Maybe you want to start working out but you fear stepping into the gym for the first time? Perhaps you have an idea for a business but you fear the jump.
I will tell you there is beauty in taking the road unknown. Every time we push ourselves into an area we fear, we have a great opportunity to learn about ourselves. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is important for personal development.
An excerpt: “…when you go out of your way to experience new things, or when you let new things happen to you, your body creates brand new neural pathways that fuel your creative spark and enhance your memory”.
The article goes on to explain how we should embrace the uncomfortable. “Putting yourself in new and unfamiliar situations triggers a unique part of the brain that releases dopamine, nature’s make-you-happy chemical.” How about that!? Our fear may actually make us happy!
I challenge you to take a step outside your comfort zone into the fear zone with me. Make a plan and let’s dip our toes into the unknown ocean together.
Let’s give ourselves a chance to grow.
Remember, you are only confined by the walls you build yourself.
And no… I am not telling you when and where this will speaking engagement will be. Maybe after I get this first one in the bag, another “Story Time with Becky” will come to your town soon 😉
A few months ago, I discussed the mental battle many of us feel when running whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner. A friend read my post and mentioned I should read How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald.
So, during a cold winter weekend, I downloaded a copy and curled up on the couch to gather some knowledge about the mental game. I knew this book would speak to me, but I wasn’t prepared for the negative emotional effect.
I’ll admit the beginning of the book was tough for me to read. To be brutally honest, I was pissed off. Sometimes reading the truth and admitting previous self defeat really sucks.
In college, I felt like that athlete who “pulled up lame”. I was tired. I had lost interest. My passion for running was at a low. I’ll confess I claimed a fake injury once or twice during a race when I couldn’t hang. So many life changes had occurred when I was in college and some days I felt I was just a lost ship at sea. Or maybe I just stopped trying.
For years, my goal was to use my running talent to earn a college scholarship. Looking back, once I achieved this major feat, I don’t recall setting a new goal. No goal to win the 800m at ACCs or qualify for NCAAs. Did I stop dreaming? Was I just happy to settle and have college athletics be my final destination? Unsure.
I’ve strayed – back to the story.
This book is a collection of stories about athletes who share their experiences; their battles and the coping mechanisms they have used to conquer the beast within themselves. I especially enjoyed reading about a runner named Jenny and her disaster of a race at 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Later, you find out her married name – Jenny Simpson – who was just in the most recent Olympics.
Upon finishing this particular chapter, I thought, “thank goodness”. I am not the only one. This fierce battle between mind and matter even happens to the best of the best.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone into the area where running is HARD is difficult for everyone. During a typical 5K, you have at least 3,000 steps to conjure up many thoughts – good or bad. And the bad tends to scream much louder than the good.
Since finishing the book, I have utilized a couple key tips while racing.
Embrace the hurt. Accept the fact that some of your run/race may be tough.
One of our local 5ks ends with a windy, gradual uphill about a half mile long. During the race, I knew it would be in front of me soon. I told myself, accept the challenge; yes – it will hurt. But you WILL run the hill and you will be finished soon. Fitzgerald mentions bracing yourself for a tough race or workout can boost performance by 15% or more.
Preparing yourself for the inevitable helps.
Also, reading and being reminded your brain is going to try to quit before your body is ready to give up. Studies show although you mentally feel you cannot take another step, your muscles are not at maximum effort yet. Mind over matter or matter over mind??
I encourage you to read this book if you’ve ever engaged in this mental war while running. You can admit you do – it’s more common than you think.
Whether you are an elite runner or a recreational jogger, I’m sure your mind has tried to make you quit before your body was ready. Arm yourself with a few coping tools and next time, you’ll be prepared to power through!
Now years later, my passion has been reignited and I’m back to racing. I feel as though I’ve been given a second chance to give it my all.
From here on out, and especially when I toe the line chasing that BQ, I will I ask myself, “How bad do you want it?”.
One day I woke up and decided I didn’t want to feel like that anymore, or ever again. So I changed. Just like that.
Sounds easier said than done, right?
I was tired of feeling tired all of the time. Tired of saying, “I’d like to”s.
I’d like to run again.
I’d like to lose weight.
I’d like to look fit.
It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
My runaissance has not had any boundaries; no finish line. Surrounded by those who inspire me on a daily basis, my spark has turned back into a raging fire. For years, my drive to succeed and be healthy sometimes felt more like a pile of smoldering ashes.
I’m not getting any younger. The days of becoming an elite runner may be behind me. Will this stop me? Probably not.
Some ask why? Why are you so competitive? Why not just run?
I reply, why not?
Why not show my children it’s never too late to try?
Why not see how far I can go?
Why not give it one last hurrah?
Recently, I watched the video below (by the way, this YouTube channel is amazing; you may become addicted to their vids). Check this out:
Wow, mind blown.
As mentioned, this message reminded me I may not even have scratched the surface yet of what I CAN do. I am willing to put in the work, even if it means waking up at 4 a.m. and working long days.
I am willing to risk failure in hopes of succeeding. I am willing to throw out lofty (but attainable) goals.
From the beginning of my return to running, my focus has not been trying to beat others. You may have seen me say I am chasing the old me. She was pretty fast and this may seem unattainable, but you can bet I am trying my hardest to catch her. Most of the time when I finish a race, a voice whispers, “maybe you can go a little faster.” Runner problems.
And I don’t feel this way just about running – this applies in my work life as well. Returning to the fitness industry has revitalized a passion for helping others. Sharing my story – the peaks and the valleys – has allowed me have the opportunity to encourage and guide others on their own journey. I love this. My mind is full of possibilities and dreams of where this can lead.
My soul is on fire.
Every morning when I wake up, I know there is someone else doing the same and possibly wanting the same success as I do; maybe even more. If I am not committed (some mistakenly call this obsessed) with getting better and doing more than everyone else, I may be left behind.
I hear footsteps every day.
Why someday? Why not today? I do not want to be left behind.
I feel forged by fire – stick around and see where my journey goes…
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at our local running store, Runner’s Retreat, about the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Runners. While I greatly enjoy instructing HIIT classes, generally speaking in front of a group of people just about scares me to death!
When I’m nervous, I tend to talk about as fast as I run, so I decided to record my presentation and share my feelings on how HIIT has helped me become a better runner. This way, if you were there and couldn’t figure out what in the world I was trying to say, or you weren’t able to attend – you can hear it all now.
Bear with me, stepping outside my comfort zone here!
In case you missed my key benefits, HIIT training can help:
Improve muscular strength in multiple planes
Increase performance potential and help prevent injuries.
Improve muscular stability to increase your ability to efficiently transfer energy.
Increase lactate threshold – work at a higher intensity longer before reaching fatigue.
Provide an awesome metabolic benefit – continue to burn calories and fat after your workout for an extended period of time.
One more race recap and then we will get back to our regular programming!
Two weeks post Shamrock Half and I was ready to rock again. On my radar this time was the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington, DC.
The entire weekend was quite an adventure! Before we get to starting line, let’s start on the day prior when I headed to the nation’s capital with several members of Team Running Dad.
We traveled down Rt 66 to catch the metro to pick up our packets at the race expo at the National Building Museum. The trip wasn’t too bad – as a bunch of folks from the mountains, we didn’t have too much trouble trying to navigate our way through public transportation. Upon our arrival, we decided to get our packets first then find lunch (although we had a few hangry guys!).
Packet pickup was very easy and we browsed the expo booths. Vendors were most we
see often at other races, but we saw our fearless SVR leader Vernon at the Ragnar tent. After a quick spin through the booths, we headed towards Gallery Place in search of nourishment.
Eventually, we found our way to food but unfortunately, we waited FOREVER for our orders. As we sat at the bar, we pilfered celery meant for Bloody Marys to satisfy our appetites. After what seemed like a very long time, we finally received (almost) all of our food (poor Josh). On the ride home, we acted a little less mature than our age – but some funny memories were definitely made.
We finalized our plans for race day, which included a VERY early a.m. departure (next year, not so early). As is common for me these days, I woke before my alarm and started to get ready. Today, I was racing for the first time in a Team Running Dad race kit. Prior
to the race, the team as a whole decided to wear pink shorts (yes, even the guys) in honor of NICU babies and for Alohi, the recent preemie granddaughter of teammate Mario. To complete the outfit, I also slapped on a RunningDad.com temporary tattoo once again.
Having to travel so far race morning, I did have a little anxiety about traffic and other logistics, but once again, the ride was smooth sailing. We arrived early (way too early), but found our parking spot and broke bread together in the car (thanks for the bread Josh!). After eating our breakfast, we went off on foot in search for the starting line as well as port ‘o pots.
The starting line of CUCB10 is right at the Washington Monument. We waited a little while in the chilly darkness in the bag check tent (until we got kicked out). As we went on our warm-up run around the reflecting pool, the sun was rising behind the Washington Monument. Wow, what a beautiful sight.
Not too long after, we headed to our respective corrals – the guys and I hugged Sara while she went into the red corral and we entered yellow. Once we were in, it suddenly seemed like a family reunion as other runners from back home found us. After hellos, high fives and final pre-race instructions from the starter, we were off!
My goal for the race was 1:05, which would be pushing my pace a little more than I was comfortable, but I set off for a 6:30 pace with teammate Alex and another running friend Duane. First mile wasn’t as crowded as I anticipated and went by rather quick – nearly on the dot at 6:31. The race course included three out-and-back sections where we could see and cheer each other on before heading to the lonely back half of the course. I picked up the pace as we headed towards the first out-and-back where I was hoping to see Mario and Jeremy. Each time, we either sent a thumbs up, an air fist bump or shouted some encouragement – thanks guys!
In the first half, I felt like I was having a tough time settling in at my goal pace. Miles kept ticking by a little faster than I was aiming for, but I was feeling strong. Around mile 6, I heard someone say my name and pass by – fellow Terrapin XC/Track alumni Jay (who is also seeking a BQ in 2017!). I kept him in my sights and kept chugging ahead. When I felt as though I was struggling or tense, I did sneak a peek over to the water and try to take in the sights of DC.
Around mile 9, I could feel fatigue entering my leg muscles, but kept charging on. Unexpectedly, another Maryland XC/Track alumni was around this section and gave me a little boost of much-needed energy. At this point, I could see the Washington Monument and knew the finish was near. I loved the signs counting down the distance to the finish (1 mile, 1200, 800, 400…). At the end, there is a slight incline and I reminded myself to give the same effort and tackle the last challenge. Heading up the hill, I noticed an older woman running right in front of me and I thought, wow, look at her! I was so focused on getting to the line and passed her without much of a glance. I didn’t realize until after the race, it was Joan Benoit Samuelson! Wow, so cool.
Heading towards the finish, I gave whatever I had left and crossed the line in 1:03:50. Goal achieved! Now to find my teammates which didn’t take long since they were still in the chute. And once again, I was ecstatic to hear Jeremy and Mario had PRs as well. We waited near the finish for Alex and Sara who also had great races – way to kick butt
2017 marked the 45th year of CUCB10. To celebrate, anyone beating the winning male and female times from 1973 received a mug stating, “I would have won this race in 1973!”.
After everyone was reunited, we linked up with a few other running friends, went back to the car to freshen up and find food (we eat a lot!). After a scenic route to the restaurant (sorry!!), we enjoyed a great Irish brunch and drinks!
Overall, another solid weekend. What a great crew – everyone is supportive and our collective positive energy makes each of us strive to be better. We are all looking forward to the next time we race together, but for now, we are anxiously awaiting to see what Mario, Jeremy and Alex do in Boston.
Thanks to Josh and John for driving and supporting the team over the weekend. We all appreciated you being there.