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2014 Progress Report on My Own Training & Performance

In the midst of watching my run coaching clients make progress and set personal records, I have forgotten to reflect on my own progress as a runner.

A lot has happened in the last year or so.

  • I injured my knees in late November of 2013 and did not run for 4 weeks in December.
  • I was clipped by a car while riding my bike in February 2014, suffering a concussion.
  • I ran my first Boston Marathon in April, which turned out to be my second slowest marathon time.
  • I focused my summer training on the 800 meters and 1 mile distances.
  • I competed in my first “USA Track and Field” sanctioned track meet.
  • I became a RRCA certified running coach.
  • I ran two mile races on the road and 5 track meets in the summer.
  • In between track and mile events I also completed my very first triathlon, the “Storm the Fort” Half-Iron Distance.
  • I did a total of three triathlons in 2014, two half-iron distance triathlons and one sprint triathlon.

Townsend 15KSetbacks

Due to the time off from the knee injury and concussion, my fitness level suffered.  I lost a lot of progress.  I have been pushing hard all year just to get back to level of fitness that I had a year ago.  I have loved the training.  I enjoy pushing myself.  On the other hand, it has been extremely frustrating to work that hard and not achieve any personal records.  Very discouraging.

Progress

Yesterday was a big victory.  No, I did not win a race.  I was even a full minute behind the winner in my age group.  Still, it was a big victory.  I set a personal record (PR) in the 15K distance (about 9.3 miles).  That feels pretty good.

I still have a ways to go.  I am still a bit behind where I was in February of last year.  That is when my fitness last fully peaked.  I ran a 1:27:42 on a hilly half marathon course.  This is 9 seconds per mile faster than the 15K I ran yesterday.  Hence, I am close, but not quite all the way there.

When will I get there?  Well, I have 2.5 weeks left before I taper (ease up and heal) for the Savannah Marathon, which is on November 8.  I will have 5 key workouts in that 2.5 weeks.  I may not reach a PR at Savannah, but I should be very close at that point.

Conclusion

Whether I peak at Savannah or not, I know the time is very soon when I will be able to earn a few more personal records.

  • My training is balanced, pushing just the right amount.
  • I am eating healthier than ever.
  • And, most importantly, I am enjoying my training.

When I am not enjoying it, I change it up.

Remember This:

Enjoying the run comes first!
It is more important than progress and personal records.

 ______________________________

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

_______________________________________________________

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Assessing Progress: Keeping Race Results In Perspective

 

wise running logo 7_25_12At last night’s track meet, my 800 meter result was two seconds slower than last year.  My first reaction was disappointment and frustration. I am sick and tired of not making significant progress.  Upon reflection, however, my slower performance is a sign of good things.

How could this be?  When you look at race results you must ask yourself some key questions:

Was that the best I could do on that given day, under those specific conditions?

For my 800 meter race last night, my performance was solid during most of the race.  My first lap was a couple of seconds slower than the plan, but the strong wind accounts for that.  Good start.  I lost some mental focus in the first 100 meters of the second lap.  By the time I realized what was happening and managed to refocus, I had run about 130 meters slower than the planned pace.  From there, I was able to regain my intended pace and then accelerate for the last 150 meters.

Does it show progress from recent performances?

Yes.  Even though I finished slower than last year at the same event, I did make progress.  My most recent 800 meter race in June was 2:29.  This was 4 seconds faster.  So, compared to recent performances, this 2:25 is progress.

Moreover, the comparison to last year might not be fair.  There have been three events that occurred in the last year that made me slower: two wrecks and a knee injury.  In light of the fact that I took one full month off from running, it is a pleasant surprise that I am only two seconds slower.  That is a fairly good recovery.

What did I do well during the race?

The thing that went very well in yesterday’s 800 meter race was mental focus.  In many recent events, I have lost my mental focus about half way through the race and never regained it.  I have tailored my training to overcome this by practicing getting fatigued and then running at race pace.  It has pushed my body to prepare to battle through fatigue.  It has prepared my mind to recover focus.

What aspect of your race do I want to improve on before the next race?

I still had 130 meters in this 800 meter race where I did not maintain focus, so I will continue to work on that.  I know that training is working.  I see the improvement.

With all of this in mind, I know that my current training is effective.  I have every reason to expect some personal records to fall over the next few months.

Every race is another opportunity to assess progress and make changes if needed.  I have another 800 meter race in four weeks.  I would like to see a 2:15 this year.  :)

Remember This!

Aim high, but keep in touch with reality.
Give yourself credit for every little bit of progress.
This becomes your courage to push for your best in the next event.

 

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Experimental Training: Staying the Course

Back in January, I reported that I was engaging in “experimental training” focused on building speed.  I summarized by saying:

  • I will run less frequently, but with greater intensity.
  • The speed-work I run on the track is going to be much faster and more intense than I would ever recommend to a client.
  • I will work harder on power through intense speed-work and additional weightlifting.
  • My long runs will still gradually increase as I prepare to run the Boston Marathon.  This remains the same.  There is no substitute.  The experimental side of the long runs for now is that my tempo runs will be embedded within those long runs each week.
  • I will replace my easy running days with cross-training on the bike and in the pool.

Has the experiment paid off yet?

No.  At least not in terms of scoring personal records.

In fact, I have had some relatively slow races lately.  Am I getting slower?  No, I am not.  I am training as fast as ever. ImplementationDip

What I am going through right now is called an implementation dip.  I am challenging my body in new ways.  Hence, my body is changing in subtle but important ways.  In the graph at the right, I am somewhere in the red zone.  My performance had plateaued, so I implemented alternative training and my performance dipped down.  As I continue with the new training, the performance will begin to rise again.  When the change is complete, I can expect my performance to not only match my prior level but to begin exceeding it.  By staying the course on this plan, I should begin setting personal records again before fall rolls around.

On a related note, this is messing with my head a little.  In races this year, I have not felt exactly the same as before.  As a result, I have not been able to make good pacing decisions.  When I get past the implementation dip, the feel of races will be more consistent.  This will help me better adjust my pacing during races and maximize my race performances.

Have I seen any benefits so far?

Yes.  I am healthier, with fewer aches and pains.  At 46 years old, that is a big deal.

I am running fewer miles and doing more cross-training that causes less wear and tear.  I am still doing a lot of cardiovascular work to enhance endurance.  It is just in different formats.  Fewer aches and pains means I am more comfortable doing strength training.  This in turn allows me to get faster.

It also breaks up the daily grind by offering alternative training sites and experiences.  Having fewer runs per week makes my runs feel even more special than before. Even though I have added biking, swimming, and some triathlons, I am still a runner.  That is where my goals are.  That is where my heart soars.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

 

 

Getting Into the Best Shape of My Life

A few months ago I set a few Unreasonable Running Goals that are even faster than I ran back in the day.  Among other unreasonable goals, I want to run 800 meters in 1:58.

My goal is overarching goal is to reach some of the same benchmarks that I reached back in my prime.  I have been working towards this goals for several years.  I am not competing with anyone else.  I am competing with myself.  I am working towards being in the best shape of my life.

At my first athletic peak…

  • I consistently ran 1600 meter races (about a mile) in 4:45.
  • I ran 3200 meters in 10:17.
  • I ran a half marathon in 1:20:48.
  • I could bench press 150% of my weight.

I thought I would be a great marathoner by the time I hit 21 or 22 years old, but I got sidetracked with an injury that wouldn’t go away.  I could not run on a regular basis.

I have worked hard in the last several years.  I have also worked smart.  I learned as much as I could about running and applied everything that made sense.  I have faced a few bouts of injury and illness, but I have made good progress.

Unfortunately, in my 6 month illness due to gluten sensitivity, I had become quite weak.  I thought my long distance muscles were fine since I was still getting faster.  I learned recently that this is not the case.  Even though I can run fast, my legs were weak.  I just had no idea because I had not challenged them.  Without noticing, I had stopped doing things that required strength.

This was revealed to me about a month ago when I was challenged by Muna to cross-train more, to build more strength to support the running muscles.  I had been resisting this idea for quite some time.  I was putting everything I had into running.  I had some soreness in my legs most of the time.  I loved my run training and racing, but it was taking everything I had.  How could I ask my body for more?

I tried a little weightlifting and injured my knees in the first week.  I had only used weights that I thought were quite small.  I had been running and doing push-ups and pull-ups on a regular basis, so I thought I was at least okay with tiny weights.  No.  I should have started the exercises with no weights and gradually added a few pounds at a time.

Even though the injury was caused by weightlifting and not running, I was able to lift weights but not able to run for the month of December.  I used that dilemma to begin cross-training hard.  I lifted weights.  I swam several miles each week.  After a couple of weeks, I was able to work on the elliptical machine.  At that point, I was also able to do more and more leg exercises.  Throughout December, I challenged every part of my body to get a little stronger.  I started moving towards a more balanced fitness.

Yesterday, I reached a milestone.  It was both exciting and humbling:  I bench-pressed my own weight.  For some, this may sound like quite an accomplishment.  For me, it is a huge slice of humble pie. It felt like starting over.  I was the 98 pound weakling from Jr High all over again.   I am nowhere near the best shape of my life in terms of strength, but I am improving.  I will get there.

This season of injury has given me the chance to have the rest of my body catch up with my running mechanisms.

  • I want to be a more balanced athlete.
  • I want to be strong, but not big.
  • I want to run even faster.
  • I want to jump high.
  • I want to remain injury free and enjoy the ride.

Over the last several years I have set many goals.  Some goals I have exceeded.  Some goals I have failed to meet over and over.

Greatness is not determined by how fast you run.  Its training.  Doing what others are unwilling to do.  Failing, failing, and eventually succeeding.

I know that persistence makes champions, so I keep trying.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

How to Make an Effective New Year’s Resolution (Goal)

wise running logo 7_25_122014 is a new year;
don’t make the same old resolutions. 

Change your mind.
Change your life.

The most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and exercise more.  Unfortunately, those two resolutions usually fade off into the land of broken promises by the time February rolls around.  These two resolutions are well-intended but doomed to failure for several reasons.

A resolution must be a goal.  To be an effective goal, it must be specific, measurable, and have a timeline.

Remember This

If you aim for nothing, you will surely achieve your goal!

Bad Resolution 1 – “This year I will lose weight.”

Problems:

    • What will you do to lose weight?
    • How much weight?
    • When?

Improved Resolution 1 - “This year I will lose 3 pounds each month by drinking water instead of my usual soda.”

Bad Resolution 2  – “This year I will get exercise more.”

Problems:

    • What kind of exercise?
    • How much?
    • When?
    • Will you do it all at once or gradually add more time/distance/reps/classes?

Improved Resolution 2  – “This year I will do at least 1 hour sessions of cardio exercise three times each week.  I will start in January with 1 group fitness course and gradually add courses, reaching 3 courses per week by July.”

Remember This

If you can’t say why a change is important to accomplish,
then your efforts are wasted and may even be dangerous!

Bad Resolution 3 –  “This year I will increase my weekly mileage.”

Problems:

  • Why? How will it help?
  • How much mileage is helpful and beneficial for your fitness and goals?
  • Will you make gradually increases or big jumps?
  • When?

Improved Resolution 3 - “This year I will increase my weekly mileage from 20 miles each week to abut 35 in preparation for marathons.  I will track this during my spring and fall marathon training schedules, which will gradually increase weekly mileage by ten percent or less.  My mileage will be lower in the weeks between training schedules.”

Yes, this last one got pretty specific, but there is a reason.  It gives enough specifics to know what to do, when to do it, and how to know if you are accomplishing the goal.  It also allows for time to rest the legs a bit and rekindle the love for running.

Remember This

A resolution that is a burden physically or emotionally is unlikely to be kept.
A resolution kept should improve your quality of life.

 

As for me, here is my very specific resolution for 2014:

I resolve to decrease my running mileage from 40 down to 20 per week while increasing my weekly time spent on cardio exercise and strength training until it reach 10 hours.

  • I will gradually move my cardio time (including running) from 5.5 to 8.5 hours per week increasing the weekly total by 15 minutes each week until it is accomplished.
  • My running time has already dropped due to injury, so the goal will be to gradually increase this time by about 10 minutes per week, until I reach 3 hours again.
  • I will include at least three strength training sessions each week, a minimum of 30 minutes each.
  • The remainder of the cardio time will be achieved through a balance of swimming and cycling.

I could make a resolution about eating more veggies, but this is my constant battle.  Every year.  Every week. Every day.  :)

Final Thoughts…

Make resolutions you are willing to stick with for at least 3 years.
If you are not willing to go 3 years, then you will not last 3 months.

Will power and motivation, as most people understand them,
are emotions that do not stay constant.
Resolve and determination are there no matter how you feel.
Base your fitness decisions on them and you will march on to your goals.

2014 is a new year; 
don’t make the same old resolutions. 
Change your mind.
Change your life.

_____________

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Because Today is Tomorrow

wise running logo 7_25_12

I was going to start eating healthier tomorrow.  I waited so many days and it never was tomorrow until I got sick.  When I became very sick for very long, I went gluten-free and became healthy.  Unfortunately, I wasted 6 months of training as the doctors and I guessed at what might be wrong.  When I went gluten-free, I began eating simple whole foods for a long time.  I went from very sick to very healthy in a matter of weeks.

I knew that eating healthier was good for me, so why did I wait so long?  I was always planning on starting it on the same day, tomorrow.

The problem with tomorrow, is that it never arrives.  Each new day redefines tomorrow as the day after today.  Hence, all of my plans for tomorrow never seem to happen.

I planned to eat healthier and it did not happen until I was forced.

What other plans did I have for tomorrow?

  • I will lift weights for strength-training and health.  It will make me a better runner and a healthier person in general. I will definitely start tomorrow.
  • I will be more organized and get some writing done every day so I never fall behind again.  That is important for both my career and my hobby.  I will definitely start that tomorrow.
  • I will start to practice playing my bass guitar daily so that I can fill in on the worship team at church. I have a guitar.  I have the music.  I can play along with the songs on You-Tube.  All I have to do is get into the habit.  It is just that easy.  Tomorrow is a perfect day for that.

Waiting to start eating better cost me 6 months of training.  A lot of opportunity for progress was lost.  A lot of disappointment was gained.

REMEMBER THIS:

If you wait for the day when you have enough time, energy, and resources,
then you may never start.  The right time to start is now.

That being the case, I hit the gym and did some lifting that I have not done in a long time.  I also added some new lifts that will specifically make me a better runner.  It may not seem like much, but I lifted weights at the gym for an hour today.  I did it not just because it is good for me, but I did it because I said I would.

I also wrote this blog post and worked on my research project.  When I get home, I will practice on my bass guitar as I said I would

 I have decided that today is the tomorrow I was talking about.

Today IS tomorrow.  What are you supposed to be doing?

 _____________________

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!” — P. Mark Taylor

____________________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

My Unreasonable Running Goals for the Next 5 Years (don’t judge me)

These are running goals I would like to accomplish within 5 years.

No, they are not reasonable for my current level of fitness.

This is my dream.

Encourage me or keep it to yourself.

Thanks,

P. Mark Taylor

Distance  

Goal Time

   Why

400 meters

0:54

   Training for the 800

800 meters

1:58

   US record for 50-54 age group

Mile

4:29

   Because it is faster than 4:30  ;)

5K

15:12

   Training for 1/2

10K

31:35

   Training for 1/2

½ Marathon   

1:10:25

   This is my main goal.

Marathon

Sub 3

   At Boston.  Pride mostly.  :)

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life (2nd book)

Wise Running Book 2 is now available via in paperback and e-book. 

Wise Running Book COVER mockup

Wise Running is the follow-up to P. Mark Taylor’s first book on running: The Gift of Running.  While the first book focused more on getting started as a runner, this second book is more about how to move to the next level. P. Mark Taylor tells us how to think about running in ways that will help you be more consistent and improve.

Running is a great metaphor for life. It takes effort. It takes motivation. You have to stay healthy. If you stick with it long
enough and smart enough, you live a more rewarding life. So it is with running.

In Wise Running, P. Mark Taylor shows runners how to train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

The ebook includes:

  • goals, fitness, & health
  • how to think about training
  • designing a race and training schedule
  • aligning your efforts with reality
  • eating for health and fitness
  • a runner’s view on special diets
  • running-specific nutrition, including marathon nutrition
  • the effects of heat and humidity
  • the social aspect of running
  • motivation and encouragement

________________

The Gift of Running, the first book in the Wise Running series by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

 

Wise Running: More on Motivation

I recently posted a blog about motivation, an excerpt from my 2nd book about to be published.

http://wiserunning.com/2013/07/27/wise-running-models-of-motivation/

 

Today’s post adds a little and is a response to the requests of two fledgling runners that are trying to find the motivation to be more consistent.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose and role of running in your life?
  • Why did you start?
  • Why do you continue?

When you have answered these questions, write the answers down and post it on the wall.  When it is time to go for a run, read these before you decide whether you will run or not.

The second thing that I want to share is consistency leads to rewards.

Remember This:

If you run consistently, running will reward you with endorphins, health, the satisfaction of meeting goals, and connections to a network of positive people.

If you only run once in a while, running most often feels like a punishment.

 

The final thing to add is a quick note about runners high.  It is an awesome feeling that is different from a rush of endorphins.  Running becomes easy and you feel very relaxed and happy while you run.

The more consistent you are with your running, the more likely it is that you will experience runners high.

______________________________________

Now it is time for our fellow runners to share!

  • What benefits do you get from running more consistently?
  • What tips would you give to runners to help them become more consistent?

Post your response in the comments below.  Thank you!!

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

wise running logo 7_25_12

Wise Running: Models of Motivation

Note:   This is an excerpt from my second book on running, Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life.  (to be published some time in August 2013)

______________________________________

“A setback is an opportunity for a glorious comeback.”

I rarely meet my ideal goal for a race.  I almost always have some ideas about how I could have run the race a little faster.  I rarely satisfied with my performance.  In an effort to be supportive, my friends will try to cheer me up.  They say things like, “That’s a lot faster than me.”  or “I would love to have a time like that.”  I greatly appreciate their hearts as they are trying to care for me.  The thing is that being not okayunsatisfied on a regular basis does not mean that I am unhappy.  I may not be smiling.  I may be very frustrated.  That does not mean that I am not enjoying the process.  I have a different model for motivation.

This frustration cycle is a part of what makes me successful in running.  Let me explain…

Typical Motivation Model for Runners

With most runners, the key to motivation is a series of small successes.  “Celebrate every victory,” is the mantra that keeps them going.

For beginning runners:

  • each time they run a little farther is a victory to be celebrated
  • each time they complete a race without quitting is a victory to be celebrated

For the most runners:

  • each time they get a personal record for a distance or race, it is a victory to be celebrated
  • each time they have a particularly strong run during training, it is a victory to be celebrated
  • each time they enjoy running with friends, it is a moment to be celebrated  :)

For aging veteran runners:

  • each time they get a personal record for the year or for the decade, it is a victory to be celebrated
  • each time they can run with and mentor younger runners and contribute to their success, it is a big victory to celebrate
  • each time they celebrate another birthday with a training run or race is a huge victory to be celebrated.

Deficit Model of Motivation

While I have some of that type of motivation going on, I tend to be more motivated by the moments when I do not succeed.  How does this makes sense?  Despite how I look and act after a not meeting my goal in a race, I am not disappointed and I am not discouraged.  In the initial moments after the race, I am frustrated.  My frustration develops into anger.  Within a short amount of time, usually less than 30 minutes, my anger morphs into determination.  That determination fuels my training.  It is not like throwing a log on the fire.  If I fall short of one of my big goals, that frustration turns into fuel that is more like the equivalent of refueling a nuclear plant.  I train as hard as I do because I am that motivated.  I get that level of motivation not by meeting my goals, but by falling short of meeting them.

I set high goals for two reasons:

  1. So I can accomplish big things.
  2. So I can experience failures, which sets myself up for motivation of nuclear proportions.  The determination created by not meeting my goals eventually leads me to meeting those huge goals.

It is not my little successes that fuel my fire the most; it is my deficiencies, my failures.

Next time you see me getting frustrated after a race, smile and realize that my frustration will morph into the determination that leads to huge success.  Be happy for me.  It means that I am one step closer to achieving great things.

Everyone is different.  Figure out what drives you to succeed and operate within that framework.  Let your friends know, so they know how to contribute to your success.  Life is a team sport.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

wise running logo 7_25_12

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