Spice it up

{warning, lots of running mumbo jumbo in this post. proceed with caution}

"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming." - Frank Shorter

Like I said in my last post, I've had an epiphany about running Chicago. I'll be the first to admit I've been very wishy-washy about this marathon; my heart isn't in it like last time, and before we finally hit the 'submit registration' button last week I honestly didn't care one way or the other about our big decision. Nate is the one who took the initiative this time around because he still has yet to experience the amazing-ness of a full marathon. I know he's going to rock it in October and I'm all about being the supportive wife....and running by his side in the process.

Training for a full is just such HUGE time commitment and I don't believe in doing it half-assed. This pretty much means our whole summer is going to revolve around running, yet again, because this goes with the territory of running The Marathon. I think the omnious 26.2 needs to be respected and it demands proper training.....or it will seriously rip you a new one without apologies. Like, 'whoops---you didn't really feel like putting in the time to train? Okay, then. Experience THIS injury/the wall/pure exaustion, fool!" [that was The Marathon talking, in case you were wondering. The Marathon still intimidates the heck out of me, obvi].

I just didn't know if I had another one in me and I guess you could say the newness of it all has worn off. Now that we've committed I've decided I have to spice things up with my training for two reasons: 1. Pounding the pavement over and over again, for a ridiculous amount of miles in an 18 week period gets rather monotonous, and 2. If I'm going to do this thang, I'm going to go big and attempt a big fatty PR. I know I can shave off some minutes from my 4:19....it's just a matter of how many.

In Hal Hidgon's awesome book called "Marathon: The Ultimate Training and Racing Guide" he mentions that there are three goals in marathon running: to finish, to improve, and to win. He says that for your first marathon you should only be concerned with finishing....no time goal, no pressure, but just to finish [whoops!]. Nate has appropriately categorized himself here despite the urge to set a personal time goal for himself. We'll see if that lasts:) But me? I've already finished a marathon. And I'm going to officially say I will NOT win the marathon because I could never imagine running as fast as the elite runners--I honestly thing they might be mutant human beings with special superhero powers. It's in their DNA for sure because I couldn't run ONE mile at a 6 minute pace. It makes me regurgiate just thinking about it.

This means I'm putting myself in the 'improve' category and Hal tells me this won't be easy. He says you have to work at it by increasing your mileage [barf!], adding speedwork [hmmmm], lifting weights [doh!], stretching [I know, I know], and paying closer attention to diet [oh, great]. As a Physical Therapist and a generally healthy person I KNOW these little extras are important in training but I've always gotten by without taking them to heart. I've never tried to vary my speed during a run because all I've cared about is finishing X amount of miles that day. I never lifted weights or stretched during training because quite frankly, I just didn't have energy reserves to do so after running so freaking much. I learned a lot about proper running diets through trial and error last summer but I know I could do better in this aspect, too.

So here's my new game plan:

1. Speedwork: I've started this on the dreaded treadmill and OMG...it kicks my arse but also makes the time go by so much faster. Basically, I'll run every quarter mile at a different pace---either slightly faster or slightly slower than my comfortable speed. So I might start at 7.0, then at 0.25 I'll bump up to 7.7 until 0.50 when I drop down to 6.0, and so on. I'm also going to make a few dates at a local track and attempt some of those 8x400 thingies, or 7x800, or whatever certain programs want me to do. I can't say that I'll like it but I will definitely try all in the name of kicking major A on race day [and hopefully recovering quicker, without so much limpage for the following week].

2. Resistance training: I've forced myself to begin a weight lifting routine at the gym and instead of cancelling my membership during the warm summer months, I think I'm going to keep that sucker just for the weights and classes. I cannot believe how weak I've gotten over the last year of 'pure cardio' indulgement. After just a few reps on my old favorite machines my arms seriously start shaking, as if to protest my new meathead-ism attitude. I know it will take a while but I really think this is going to help with muscle recovery again, and also make me buff. Let's hope I don't turn into a body builder on accident, right?

3. Cross-training: [aka not just running for cardio]. Why is this one so hard for me to do? I think part of me believes riding my bike, or hopping on the elliptical is wasting valuable 'running' time but I know the body needs variety. Actually, I think my mind needs it, too. I have a pimp road bike that is seriously collecting dust in the basement right now and my gym membership includes most classes---so a fun little spinning class, or kickboxing, or something like that would be very beneficial for me. I'm just too chicken to attend a class all by my lonesome, don't ask me why. Maybe I'll talk myself into it on a trial basis.

4. Stretching: It feels so good and yet, I'm too lazy to actually stretch unless I'm sore after a run. One of Nate's new books is a Yoga book [written by someone with the most hilarious name ever---Sage Roundtree] and he's all over it. In fact, we bought little yoga mats from Target and have started to flip the pages of the book in efforts of becoming all Zen and bendy. My first and only experience with organized Yoga left a horrid taste in my mouth back in 2006. Hannah and I naively attended a Bikram Yoga class without understanding one important detail: that type is HOT Yoga and if you show up in long pants and a tee shirt you are about 10 times overdressed. Also, the room is basically a jungle containing sweltering heat and producing buckets of sweat from yourself and very intense strangers. It was not a plesant experience, probably because we were not mentally prepared to endure 90 minutes in actual Hell, but none-the-less....I'm giving Yoga a second chance. But within the confines of my own climate-controlled home, thankyouverymuch.

So those are my new ideas, little tid bits that I'm going to add into my training routine in hopes that my speed picks up and my soreness drops off, all the while avoiding the dreaded injury.

But now the big question is this: which program do I want to use, and how hard core do I want to be with this?

My first thought is to go all out and take on the actual Nike program that Chicago endorses. But holy crap that looks intense. Only one day of rest in whole week and a ridiculous amount of mileage combined with all the variety in the world [speedwork, stretching, cross training, strengthening]. My biggest dilemma with this one, besides whether or not it will kill me, is which level I'd choose---the 'beginner runner' or the 'intermediate runner'. I think I could actually qualify for the intermediate but I'm not sure that will really help me succeed any more than the basic program. Both are so freaking insane, you guys.

But my other thought is the polar opposite: less is more, simplicity is good, and chill out a little bit. I don't know where this one came from but Nate printed it off and it's intriguing to me. Basically, it includes only three running workouts per week: a speed workout on Tuesday, a tempo run on Thursday, and a long run on Saturday. Then they suggest you doing another two days of cross training for 45 minutes each time. Honestly, this sounds much more doable since I'm only working out about 3-4 days each week right now. I love my rest days and I worry that if I do the Nike program 6 days a week I'll burn out quickly.

But then again, isn't the Nike Chicago Marathon logo the freaking bomb? LOVE. It makes me want to do their program for sure, great marketing!

Even though at first glance I though it was 'runshee' which might be an exotic vegetable of some sort.

Whew, that was a long post, huh? Any thoughts on spicing up my training or different programs would be greatly appreciated. And let's always remember what the big O says [she doesn't know I kicked her A last fall, shhhhh!]

"Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it."
- Oprah Winfrey, talk show host and marathon finisher

And with that I'm off to St. Louis to kick off wedding season in style. Of course, it's supposed to rain down there just like last time, while remaining sunny up here. Typical.


  1. I'm in no position to speak on which training program to follow as I'm just doing my first 1/2 in 2 weeks, BUT, I would encourage you to try yoga again. There are so many varieties and so many different teaching styles... The first class I ever took was ridiculous (she told us to roll our eyes in and look at our 3rd eye - what??), some were wayyy too easy, and the one I'm doing now is perfect. The teacher rocks, it's a great workout, and I feel invigorated at the end. So keep trying it!! I think it helps clear my mind and it's nice to change up the workout routine once in a while! Um, and you get to buy really cute yoga outfits :)

  2. I second trying yoga again. I have gone to a few classes but mostly practice a little by myself. Yoga is a great way to get some strength training in as well. While it's not what you typically think of in weight training, I can guarantee you will feel yoga in your shoulders, arms, and legs. Plus, you will get all bendy and zen and stuff. Good luck! I look forward to reading all about it!

  3. Hi Julia. I've been reading your blog for a while now but this is my first comment. I am in no position to suggest a training program. I literally started running a few weeks ago and am running a 5 mile stretch of the Edinburgh marathon in 4 weeks. They let you enter it as a relay team of 4 people and run a stretch each! I would recommend yoga too. Hope the training goes well!

  4. I have been using the 3-run-per-week training schedule for my last few marathons, and it is the bomb. As long as you are consistant with the speedwork (I have learned to love doing this on the treadmill) you will get faster. If you think about it, the program basically throws out all of the "junk" mileage, and every run has a purpose. I also love the variety of cross training, and never feel burned out. It's definately a matter of quality over quantity.
    Also, I really want to start doing yoga too, but I am too chicken to try going to a class by myself. :-)
    I bet it would be really helpful though.

  5. I'm so excited for you (I know I say that everytime). I'm doing three weekday runs and one weekend run (the long one). So far it's been pretty good but I've only been training for two weeks. I'm using Hal Higdon's SUPER novice, lol. It just starts the training with really low mileage at an earlier starting point. I think yoga would be awesome but I don't think there's a place to do it around here. Maybe I'll check out some dvds from netflix.

  6. I think what you're doing is great. It's hard to find the time to do all of this but I think it's awesome that you're taking this marathon for all it's worth, even if you weren't amped for it at first.

    I HATE going to classes alone. Mainly because I always mess something up and want someone to laugh with. That's how you get kicked out though, trust me!

    I can't believe you started yoga, with Bikram. That's hilarious and I think it may deserve its on seperate post.

    And Sage Roundtree sounds like a major tree hugger if you ask me.

  7. I think your plan sounds great. I'm all for the yoga, weight training and cross training. Like you though, I really hate working on my speed. In high school, I ran track and was part of the long distance team. I absolutely despised the day we did sprints. But I have to admit, they DO work. [But I still hated them :) ]

    I have a love/hate relationship with yoga. As cheesy as this sounds, with the right instructor you may walk out of those classes feeling like you just had a massage. I've been there and it's heaven.

    Regardless, you'll do great. No question about it :)

  8. The thought of doing something other than running when I was training for my first marathon was pretty horrifying to me. Like you, hopping on the elliptical or riding bike just seemed like a complete waste of my time so I ran and ran and ran...and two years later I'm still paying for it. I did absolutely no cross-training (stupid I know!!) and eventually developed piriformis syndrome. Sucks!! After the dr told me to take some time off from running, I finally hopped on my bike, got hooked, and now do triathlons. It's been a nice change of pace, but I still miss marathons.
    Soooo...I guess the moral of this story is hop on the bike/elliptical and pedal away every once in a while. Your body will thank you :)

  9. I should have mentioned that I used Hal Higdon's program for the full and both halves I've run, and like it a lot. But I just ignored him when he suggested cross training and other activities besides running.:) I want to switch it up a bit and ole Hal might need a break from me, too.

    And OMG. If a yoga instructor ever told me to look into my third eye I would bust a gut laughing. I'm definitely open to other Yoga experiences but my first one was just so bad....I might stay at home awhile with my new mat and attempt it alone at first.

  10. You were right! That was a lot of running mumbo jumbo! Sorry to say I couldn't make it through the whole post since I'm allergic to running. ;)

    Props to you for your commitment to make lazy folks like me look, well, LAZY! :o}

    Keep up the good work!

  11. That Nike program looks insane! You know how much your body can take, but I'd definitely suggest getting at least one day of other cardio in. I'm too lazy and chicken to make it to the gym for a class but after I ran a half in January I started biking once a week and now I love having a non-running workout. Plus sitting on the bike is good for reading magazines!


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