Saturday, January 24, 2015

Race Recap: Baltimore Half Maraton: When Training Isn't Adding Up

"It takes a lifetime to prepare for life's greatest moments."
-Meb Keflezighi

View from the Central Park Reservoir during a recent training run
After my June races I ran an additional three races: Bronx 10 miler, Baltimore Half Marathon, and the Race to Deliver 4 Miler.  I was originally supposed to run the Baltimore Marathon, but about 6 weeks prior to the race I decided to scale it back to the half.  At the time I was working full time and nannying at night and on weekends frequently.  I hadn't made it past 14 miles in a training run and while I figured I could make it up to 20 miles before race day I was hesitant to push it.  I've never had that "hitting the wall" moment during any of my previous half marathons and I didn't want to during my first marathon.

My Brother and I after the Baltimore Half
Once I scaled back the race I also ended up scaling back my training.  Not only had I run previous halves I had run more than a half in training so I knew the distance wouldn't be a big deal.  Once the weather started to get colder and work picked up I stopped worrying about keeping up with my usually structured training plan.  While the race still went well, I was a little slow coming in a little over 1:56.

Starting Line
Even though the race was harder than I expected I loved every minute of it...maybe not every minute, but almost.  I had heard Baltimore was hilly, but I didn't realize it was almost all uphill.  I'd estimate it was about 11 miles uphill and 2 miles flat.  Outside of the hills it was a great race.  The weather was perfect- sunny and cool.  The crowd was phenomenal- tons of locals lining the streets.  My favorite sign of the race was "Run Faster- Omar Coming."  

My parents got up with me at 5:30 am and rode the light rail to Baltimore with me to be there at the starting line.  At the finish line my parents, brother, and sister-in-law were waiting for me.  We also received a crab shaped medal, and the crab claw works as a bottle opener.  All participants received an under armour shirt as well.  Since I am doing the NYC Full this year I won't be able to do the Baltimore Full this year either, but I'm hoping to do the half again.  

It's been months since the race so I don't remember a lot of the course outside of the hills.  Somewhere around 7 or 8 miles there is a flat stretch where you run around a lake.  To me I felt like this was almost the most challenging part of the race.  After going uphill for so long flatness didn't seem like much of a break.  There were several times we would get to what was seemingly the top of the hill and there would be an option to turn one way and go down hill and turn the other and continue up hill-- we always went the uphill direction.  While I was running around the lake I had to continuously tell myself not to start walking.  My legs were tired from all the climbing they'd already done, and I knew there was much more to come.  It was at this time that I realized I hadn't trained- and I was eternally grateful I hadn't gone for the full.  

My parents and I at the finish
I hadn't prepared for the hills, I hadn't pushed myself to improve my speed, and I barely strength trained.  With a fresh year and race calendar I am excited to return to training as opposed to working out.  Below I've listed some elements that should be included in a "workout" to make it a training session.
Night Speed Work in Central Park

  1. Take care of your tissues- start with foam rolling, yoga balls, or massage sticks.  This helps release trigger points, improve tissue quality, and maximize blood flow.  I recently took a class that used yoga balls to help loosen muscles that are under the most strain from running.  My hamstrings have never felt better and my mobility improved tremendously.  
  2. Warm up well- Aim for dynamic movements as opposed to static stretching- toe walks, inchworm, butt kicks, etc.  This helps get the blood flowing and prepares the body for movement.
  3. Turn on your core- Placing moves like planks and bridges at the beginning of the workout as opposed to the end activates the core and helps improve posture throughout the workout, protecting your back and improving your workout.
  4. Use multi-joint movements- You rarely move just one joint at a time in life, so don't do it for your workout.  Dumbbell rows work both shoulders and elbows as opposed to biceps curls with just work elbows.
  5. Use multiple planes of movements- Working in one plane creates imbalances.  Try incorporating moves like skater shuffles, crab walks, lateral lunges, etc into workouts.
  6. Pull more than push- We spend the majority of our life working the front of our bodies, so when it comes to our workouts we need to spend more time working our backs.
  7. Alternate heavy, medium, and light- Aim to vary your workouts.  This applies both to lifting and cardio.  Recovery is important and should be built in to workouts.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year, New Fundraiser, Same Blog

“I may have cancer, but cancer doesn't have me.”
-Jen Goodman

Happy New Year!!  Can you believe it’s 2015?!  Judging by the fact that my last blog post was in June 2014 I definitely cannot.  In the beginning of 2014 I was faced with some major decisions as I left my job as a personal trainer in NYC and had to decide whether to pursue training in Connecticut or accept a job more in line with my academic pursuits in the city.  I was quickly offered, and accepted, the job in the city, however, the path through human resources took much longer.  Finally, in June, I began as a Research Assistant on a fitness and nutrition study for pregnant women.  Overall I am extremely happy with my decision, even when I spend days running around the hospital trying to find patients’ placentas (don’t ask) and my phone is going off at 3 a.m. from women in labor.

So I started my job in June and my last blog post was in June, crazy coincidence right?  In one of my last blog posts I spoke about my goals for the blog and my own personal fitness goals as I began my new job. Beginning a new job at a study that was in the process of moving between organizations and office spaces led to a lag in blog posts for obvious reasons.  However, I was also unmotivated and uninspired.  Whenever I sat down to write a blog post I felt like the topics I chose were only interesting to me and no one would want to read them.  I ended up meeting my goals of qualifying for automatic entry for both the NYC Half in March 2015 and the NYC Marathon (ahh!) in November of 2015 by running the remaining NYRR races I needed to qualify in August, September, and November.  I also ran the Baltimore Half Marathon in October.  However, even though I ran those races I was becoming lax with my own personal goals.  I finished the races and I still worked out nearly everyday, but I stopped training.  While I was still getting daily activity I had no set goals to work towards.  As a trainer and someone who has managed to lose and keep off almost 50 pounds I know the importance of training over simply working out, and I let myself fall short.  Without a focused regimen anything I tried to blog about was stale and uninteresting.  Even more disappointing, I stopped seeing results from my workouts.  

After the Baltimore Half Marathon with my brother, David
When I first started thinking about a blog post for New Years I was going to use an article I found on five study proven tips for successful New Years Resolutions.  As I reread the article and began thinking about how to write the post it again felt stale.  Many of the tips were things I had already shared last year when I spoke about setting goals and the studies were not all that interesting either.  However, I realized the five tips-  have a specific goal, be realistic, get social, smile, and if you commit, you won’t quit (find a way to hold yourself accountable)- were things that had all worked for me in the past, and I was no longer utilizing them effectively.  

I realized how effective fundraising for Livestrong and blogging about my training experiences for the 2014 NYC Half Marathon were as training tools.  It kept me focused and invested on my goals, and held me accountable.  Even though I was safe in my goals for my half marathon time, fundraising for Livestrong kept me so invested in my training I beat my goal time, under 2 hours, by almost 15 minutes.  My commitment to fundraising for Livestrong and sharing that experience through this blog gave me a powerful tool for training because every run or cross training workout meant something.  When I felt burnt out from the training I was able to think about friends, family, and even acquaintances that have battled cancer and how the money I was raising might help either end their suffering or save others from experiencing that type of suffering.  

My commitment for this first part of 2015 is to be a Cycle for Survival participant.  Since I have automatic entry for the 2015 Half Marathon I decided not to fund raise for this race, although I still plan to run it, and participate in a different event I have wanted to experience.  Cycle for Survival was started by a former Equinox member to fund raise for money for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a NYC hospital focused solely on cancer research and treatment.  Jennifer Goodman had a rare type of cancer known as sarcoma.  Together rare cancers make up 50% of cancer patients, however, they are drastically underfunded when it comes to research when compared to more well known cancers like breast cancer.  All proceeds from Cycle for Survival go directly to researching rare cancers.  

I’ve been wanting to participate in this event for years for several reasons.  Over the years I’ve personally learned the impact MSKCC has on patients with cancer and am in awe of the work they do.  I also love indoor cycling and am excited to participate in an event that uses it in such a powerful way.  Even better Cycle for Survival incorporates the social aspect of sticking to your goals, and I am thrilled to be participating with one of my best friends.  Finally, with the passing of Stuart Scott yesterday I can think of no better way to sum up the purpose of cycle for survival than Stuart’s own words, “You beat cancer by HOW you live, WHY you live, and the manner in which you live.”  Please watch the video below to learn a little more about Cycle for Survival, and let’s all make a promise in 2015 to beat cancer- whatever that means to you.  Click here if you would like to donate to my Cycle for Survival team.        

Question: What goals are you working towards in 2015?