One of the first things that I started to work on with running was my form. Jason said to "run like you are trying to sneak up on someone." He told me that if I ran that way, I would run lighter on my feet and wouldn't be pounding as much. This is something I still pay attention to. It's harder to do when I get tired. For example at the end of a long run when I am trying to increase my speed but I'm tired from the miles, sometimes I'll start to pound. At that point I have to remind myself to slow down a little and do it right. It feels SO much better to do it right.
The other component that I wasn't paying attention to was getting properly warmed-up and even more important was the warming down and the cooldown. Jason has an EXCELLENT post about this on his site strengthrunning.com. I was a little overwhelmed at first with doing it all the time. I started doing the routines once or twice a week, then a few times. Now I am at the point where I won't run if I'm not sufficiently warmed up and I feel incomplete if I haven't done a cooldown routine. I've notice that the cooldown routines, especially the cannonball cooldown and the ITB Rehab Routine have really helped me with injury prevention. It doesn't add that much more in time to my workout. I started working on my core strength. It never ceases to amaze me how strengthening the core helps with everything else.
I am to the point where I run 30 miles a week. I run 5 times a week. When I first started with Jason, I ran 3 times a week with a total of about 15 miles per week. Essentially I have doubled what I am doing, but it has taken me over a year to double. I could have been more agressive with adding miles, but I wasn't. In May I tore my plantar fascia (this is different from getting plantar fasciitis) doing karate. It took me a few months to rehab it and get back to running on the road. I did a lot of pool running and biking during that time. Luckily Jason was able to help me through it. Looking back, if I hadn't had his encouragement, I think I might have quit running all together. By the way, my injury in karate could have been prevented if I would have warmed up properly! Now that I'm fully recovered, each of my 3 weekly runs are considered "easy" runs. I usually run 4 miles, sometimes 3 or 5 depending on how much time I have. Easy is a loose definition. I had a hard time getting it through my head. I wanted Jason to give me a pace to run. My easy pace changes from day to day, and thank goodness too. Today I am tired. I'm still recovering from my long run on Saturday and I'm getting a head cold. I ran easy and it felt wonderful. I'm not concerned that it was a minute a mile slower than my "easy" run last Thursday. Last Thursday I felt wonderful. Easy is a loose definition. Each easy run is followed by what Jason calls strides. Basically I run as fast as I can for 30 seconds. I catch my breath for a minute or so, sometimes longer. I do this 4 times. I think when I first started doing strides I did them once or twice a week. Now I do them after every easy run. I never pay attention to how fast these are, as again the speed depends on how well I feel. I remember one week I did my long run on Friday instead of Saturday. Jason suggested that on Saturday, I do my easy run with strides. My legs felt so sore from the run on Friday that I decided to skip the strides. Jason said that strides would have help stretch my legs and recover from the run. Now, I never skip strides, even if I have to go a little slower to do them.
Once a week I do an actual speed workout. In the spring I was doing hill repeats. I would run a couple of miles to warm-up then I ran up the hill as hard as I could for a minute. I would then turn around and slowly jog back down to the bottom. I repeated this 6 to 8 times. After that I ran the two miles or so home at an easy pace. Right now the type of speed work I'm doing is called a tempo run. This has been the only time that Jason even suggested a pace for me to run. He told me to run 2 miles to warm-up, try and run one mile at an 8:30 pace, then run two miles to warm-down. I don't remember exactly, but I think I did it faster, so it's good that I didn't stick with what he told me. I was able to run faster than he expected. I ran uncomfortably hard for 1 mile. It was too difficult to keep looking at my garmin to see if I was going "fast" enough. The next week I ran uncomfortably hard for 1.5 miles, then the week after that I did 2 miles. Looking back, if I struggled, it seems like I would spend two weeks until I was comfortable with my fast pace and mileage. Now, if I feel like I got my ass handed to me I am certain to try again the next week. I try very hard to not get obsessed with numbers. Numbers can be very fun, but I try to pay attention to how I feel. When I'm running my tempo, if I start to get comfortable, I run a little harder, if I start to taste blood, I run a little slower. I usually don't have to taste blood to know that I am running way too fast for me!
Again, I want to stress the biggest thing that I have learned is to be patient. I understand that I was pretty much coming from nothing....so it's easy to be happy with every step I take in the right direction. I am, after all better than I've ever been before. I'm not trying to "get back" to that wonderful high school weight, or run as fast as I did when I ran cross country in college. I was never thin and I never ran. It is difficult for people that are working their way back to a certain point in life. I'm not that person. I remember cheating in gym class when we had to run the 1.5 mile run. EVERYONE else in the class had lapped me and I couldn't bear the thought of me running another lap alone while they just sat there in amazement. I ended after lap 5. I lied to my teacher and I told him I had finished. I still finished dead last in the class, I didn't lie to win an award, but I was so out of shape that I couldn't do it. Keep in mind, I was probably 18. It should have been a piece of cake. I literally came from nothing! I have never been lazy. I have an excess amount of energy that can drive the calmest of men to drinking! But, I wasn't doing anything right. Soda pop is not good for you. Plain and simple. I have had the biggest battle with this and guess what.....the battle wages on. It never ends. You don't get skinnier over night. You don't get faster from 2 speed sessions. You don't ever stop wanting the things you are addicted to. But, you can stand up and fight. I'm fighting the fight. I hope this helps you fight too! I like to use the analogy about brushing your teeth. If you went to bed tonight and were too tired to brush your teeth, would you get up in the morning and forgo brushing your teeth? Would you tell everyone that you failed to brush your teeth and are now a non tooth brusher, because you didn't do it once? How about if you went a day without brushing your teeth? What about two days? You would come to your senses, and brush your teeth. You wouldn't stop all together. Being healthy is like brushing your teeth. Just because you had a bad weekend doesn't mean that you can stop trying all together. Get out there. A great man named Gordon B. Hinckley said, "Try a little harder to be a little better." Get up and brush your teeth, keep trying and keep doing better!