Tag Archives: training

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

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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

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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

 

 

The Toughest Days on the Schedule [a rest day]

Is it just me?  Am I the only one that feels this way?  I think rest days are the toughest ones on the schedule.  I mean… well… think about it.  If you think God made us to run, then our bodies should be clamoring to run.  And today, mine is.  It is screaming out with every fiber of its being.  The message is loud and clear:  “Go, Run, Play!”

Maybe the first and last words of that command would be okay, but my schedule says no running today.  My mind says no running today.  I have qualified for Boston three times now with schedules that included at least 1 rest day per week, so I know it works!  We need this day to recuperate before the big Saturday pace run and the long Sunday run.  With no rest, these runs could go flat, or much worse things like injuries and overtraining could sideline me for a while.  So, I faithfully take the day off.

Still, my body cries out: “Go, Run, Play!”

Is it just me?

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Happy Running!

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

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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

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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

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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

Muna’s Fitness Forum: Less Than Perfect Workouts

Things could go wrong, and they sometimes do!

Sometimes I go on training runs, rides, or swims, and everything works out perfectly.  I remember to pack everything, my nutrition was perfect, I’m sufficiently hydrated, and I get done with a strong feeling of peace and accomplishment.  And by sometimes, I mean once in a while….far better

So on Saturday, a new friend messaged me and asked me if I wanted to brick train with him at Melton Hill Dam, the site of our Atomic Man race.  A brick is when do two activities back to back.  In this case, it would be a bike ride and a run.

“Sure! That would be awesome,” I told him.  I wanted to wait until Sunday to confirm, just to make sure no one needed me to sub on Monday.  We discussed where we were both at in our training, and Sunday night I confirmed.

Monday morning I woke up and packed my bags, got my bug (daughter) ready for school, and headed out for the day.

Sign #1 that I should have turned around: two texts to sub Monday morning classes…of course after I waited

Sign #2 traffic was bad causing me to be 10 minutes late

So I’m there, talking to my new friend, getting our gear ready.  We decided that the fog was still too heavy to start with a swim, that we would put it off till the end.

Sign #3,4,5,& 6 – My bike shoes were nowhere to be found.  Flashing back to the night before, I realized they were probably still at the gym where I last taught a cycle class.

But in my stubborn and determined mood (ok all the time) I decided to ride anyway.  So I set off to tackle crybaby hills in tennis shoes and clipless pedals.  I decided one loop would be sufficient for my training, although he had to do 60 miles.  I finished a painful bike ride at 36 miles.  I wasn’t sure how the run was going to go, but was going to get 10 miles before jumping in the lake.

I set off on my run after charging my phone a minute.  It was nearing 85 degrees, but I am good with the heat.  I had my water and visor, so I knew it would be fine.  Then the side stitches began at mile 3….and the foot pain from not having cycle shoes….and the leg pain from the overcompensating of my foot pain….

I kept trudging on….and saw this view on an impromptu turn off the course:

It was literally breathtaking….

breathtaking

After running out of water and finally making it back to camp, my friend was waiting to jump in the lake!

A short swim cooled us off and gave us some practice.  I could feel my speed picking up as my kicks have made improvements!

At the first sign of trouble, I could have headed home.  I could have told my friend that it just wasn’t going to work out.  I could have opted out of the bike and just ran.

Remember This:

You can still learn and grow from workouts even when they do not go as planned.

Every training will not be what you expect or visualize.  You could forget gear, have a bad nutrition day, feel weak or tired, have aches or pains…..its all par for the course.  These inconsistencies help you to become a better competitor on race day.  Race day gives you one shot to get it right, so if something goes wrong its best to be prepared for the unexpected.  When it does go wrong, you can reflect on your training blunders and use that experience to be a stronger athlete!

Happy Training!

Muna  :)

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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

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

 

Running Naked: The Effects of Watchless Running

A fellow runner posted this question to me:

Hi, P. Mark!!

What has been your experience with watchless running and racing? I race without a watch but I want to start training without a watch, just enjoying runs and doing true fartlek runs, don’t care wearing a watch during intervals, I have been obsesses with splits for so long that I want to try something different, I have tried fartlek runs without a watch in the past and I raced decent and I loved the freedom of it!! Do you think that the training and racing suffers training watchless always ( even for hard workouts)?

Cesar

Most runners feel naked without a timing device.  That is why I refer to an untimed run as a Naked Run.

It is not the watch or GPS device that we miss.  What we are missing is data, the opportunity to analyze our running and make informed decisions about our progress and the effectiveness of our workouts.

Well, Cesar, I know exactly what you mean.  We get so caught up in the numbers sometimes that is easy to forget some important things.

  • First, in the attempt to focus on our pace and or form, we sometimes forget the simple joy of getting lost in a run. The act of lacing up your shoes and enjoying the freedom that running brings.  There is joy in movement.  There is joy in enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells on the run.
  • Second, we forget to give ourselves a little latitude.  On hot and humid days, we sometimes forget to adjust our goal times and end up frustrated throughout the run.  Cold and rain can throw us off pace as well.  Too  much focus on a regimented training with exact paces can drive you crazy.

Does a GPS device or a watch do this to us?  No, we do it to ourselves.  The watch is just a tool.  It is not the Garmin’s fault.  The Garmin is innocent.

Say it with me: 

“The loss of the simple joy of running and the negative feelings created by a “bad workout” are the fault of no one or no thing except myself.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let us move on to the other extreme.  What would happen if we all started running naked?

The Effects of Naked Running

The truth is that there is not one answer that fits all.  What is true for all runners is that pace is important.

  • Running too fast can lead to injury; a watch can tell you when to slow down.
  • Running too slow can lead to frustration because you are not making progress as fast as you could.

If you have been watching your pace like a hawk for years, you can probably “run by feel.”  Running by feel simply means that you can tell when you are running at or near the most important benchmarks.  If you are that runner, you do not need a watch to know when you are pressing against the limit of your lactate threshold.  You know when your body has switched from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.  For these experienced runners, the danger of never wearing a timing device is gradually losing your sense of pace.  Without timing periodically, you could venture to far away from your goal paces.

For those runners who are less aware of how these things feel, we need to go by pace and/or heart rate.  For our key workouts of the week, we have to wear our watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS devices.  This includes slow runs!

Striking a Balance

I do not believe that any runner should do all of their runs with a watch or GPS device.  I believe that one or two runs a week should be simple, relaxed runs where you can let go of the pressures of the world AND the pressures of training.  Just go out for a run.

I also believe that the experienced runners still needs to wear the devices at least once or twice a week.  It will allow you to document your runs and show your progress.  You will want this data months or years from now.  Wearing the device periodically can also tell you if your “sense of pace” is a little off.  If you are surprised by how fast or slow you are going, it is time to wear the watch more often for a while.

If you find yourself over-focused on pace and unable to enjoy the run, add some Naked Runs to your week.

Here are some related posts about the importance of pace:

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

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Muna’s Fitness Forum: Start Where You Are

Every BODY is different.  There, I said it.  We are all built differently.  The funny thing is that even though all of our bodies are so different, we want to look like the models or actresses on TV.  I, for example, would love to have the body of Pink.  But here’s something I know….. it is never gonna  happen! That is because my body is built differently.

As I venture further into my journey of becoming an ironwoman, I notice more and more how my body is different.  I don’t have the long, lean physique of so many fast runners.  I don’t have the small stature of so many famous cyclists.  I don’t have the long thick muscles with impeccable shoulders like many great swimmers.  I don’t have the small waist like many group fitness instructors.  But yet I have proven that I can become faster, more efficient, and stronger.  It has taken me many years to appreciate my short, stalky legs and learn to use them to my advantage.  I put heavy weights on them during squats and lunges.  I pile on my resistance during cycle class, and I put my risers up during step class. My motto is “Charge the Hills!” I gain momentum on the hills during runs and races.   I now love my legs! They make me strong and carry me for miles and miles.  They allow me to keep up with my daughter and run when she asks me to run with her (even the day after a marathon or long race).

3 pics

So today, when I got in the pool for my first of many swimming lessons, I found out that my legs were actually slowing me down in the water.  What?!?! My Powerhouse? Slowing me down?  Yes.  Oliver, my new swim coach, pointed it out immediately.  My legs are kicking, but not in the direction they needed to be kicking.  So when he tried to show me how to position my feet, they wouldn’t even go there.  No flexibility.  Then he put flippers on me.  I felt like Scuba Steve!  As I began using the kickboard and doing as he instructed, I went forward then stopped, then backwards.  That’s when he said I was doing it the wrong way again.  My legs had actually been fighting against my swim all this time.  NO WONDER IT TOOK ME 50 MINUTES TO SWIM 1500M!  I was pulling with my arms, but going the other way with my legs.  Sigh…..

I’ve been grounded.  I am not allowed to swim freestyle until he tells me.  This hurts my extremist fashion.  I know what my problem is, so I just wanna jump in the pool and fix it.  Nope.  Not allowed.  I’m only allowed to kick, using a kickboard.  Grrrrr! Coach Oliver had that look when he told me too.  He knew it would kill me.  He told me that we would nail the kick, and then we will get into the arms and rotations.

Ok, I can deal with that.

Remember This:

Every BODY is different, so we start at different levels. 

Start where you are and seek to improve.

I tell my members and clients that it’s ok not to start out being good at something, and that it’s best to learn the basic steps before jumping in to the advanced choreography.  In my step aerobics routines I give breakdowns and levels.  I see it with my steppers, they WANT to do the level 3 right away instead of mastering level 1 and 2 first.  Its instinct and we all want to do it.  This lesson has reinforced to me that level 1 and level 2 are very important!  Learn the proper form before doing any exercise! Otherwise, you are training the muscle or the body incorrectly.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

Muna Rodriguez

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Meet My Personal Trainer: Muna Rodriguez

Why do I have a personal trainer if I am already an expert in my sport of choice?  Good question!

I have made so much progress in the last 4 years.

  • I have gone from an occasional runner, to a racer, to often winning my age group.
  • I have gone from barely finishing a marathon to qualifying for Boston by more than 11 minutes.
  • I have gone from unhealthy eating habits to a very healthy lifestyle.
  • I have published two books on running.  (well, the 2nd one will be out soon!)

Why would I seek help?  Because I am smart.

Michael Jordan had team coaches AND a personal coach even when he was clearly the best player in the game.  He wanted to work on his weaknesses.  He wanted to turn his weaknesses into strengths and elevate the level of his existing strengths.  The same is true with many people at the top of their sports.  Peyton and Eli Manning hired a special coach this summer to sharpen their skills as quarterbacks even though they are proven winners. Top golfers have coaches to improve their swings and caddies to help them to the next level.

Me too.  I want help getting to the next level.

I pay attention to the advice of two particular dieticians because I want my body and mind to be the best they can be.  I read the books of other running experts to gain additional insights, add to my own understanding, and improve myself as a runner and a running expert.

I am now listening to the advice of a personal trainer, Muna Rodriguez.

Muna understands a lot of important things that help people at all levels of fitness.

me and muna 8_18_2013

  • Muna understands what is like to be very out of shape.  She struggled with her weight as well as having a few bad habits that hurt her health.
  • Muna understands what it is like to improve.  Over time, she lost the extra weight and gradually became a competitive athlete as well as a well-respected personal trainer and fitness instructor.
  • Muna understand how to coach others into fitness.  As a personal trainer, she holds many different types of certifications and continues to educate herself.  She has helped many people to improve the next level of fitness.

There is more to say, but the most important thing to know is that I trust her expertise.  She is an excellent personal trainer.  She knows how to find an individuals weaknesses and how to overcome those weaknesses.

I know.  Since I started working with her, Muna has pointed out several weak spots in my overall fitness.  I am just at the beginning of this phase of my journey, but I am looking forward to making it to the next level as a runner because Muna is challenging me in ways that will help me become even stronger and faster.

I have my sights set on several state age-group records.  By identifying my weaknesses, and helping me to turn them into strengths, Muna is going to help me get to that next level.

As always, I will share with you what I have learned and the stories behind my progress.

Muna Rodriguez will also begin to share her stories and advice on this web site. 

Feel free to ask a question of Muna and/or me any time.  We are coaches and fellow runners.  We love this stuff, but we also know what it means to struggle.   We want to help you meet your goals.  :)

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

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