Monday, 4 February 2013

Less is More.......well for me at least....

......if we're talking about running that is.......if we're talking about cakes and chocolate, I can never get enough!!!

It is interesting to look back on last year, or even a training cycle within the year, and see what worked and what could have worked better. Even though I had suffered with tendonitis in 2011, and not given it the respect it deserved as soon as I felt the initial pain resulting in several weeks of enforced rest from running, I still hadn't really learnt my lesson. I started to get some foot discomfort early on in 2012, but have to admit to putting my head in the sand, ignoring it and carrying on.....and so developed full-blown Plantar Fasciitis, which meant another enforced rest from training and having to pull out of my target races. This time though, I think the frailty of the human body and the reality of the knife-edge we tread between training "niggles" and developing injuries, did start to sink in. Next time I felt foot pain was in a long training run as part of an autumn marathon build-up, and so I visited the physio the very next day for a check ultrasound.  A judicious week away from running meant that the developing tendonitis settled very quickly and I could still make the marathon startline.

Having had the injuries during the year, my training had been more fragmented than it should have been (indeed sometimes it was frankly not possible) and I did not have long to build up in order to run my desired Warsaw marathon. This meant that I had to increase my mileage and running intensity pretty quickly, which in hindsight didn't work that well for me. The race notwithstanding, as anything can happen on the day, and nobody had predicted the strong headwind, I became frustrated with not quite achieving my training goals and just becoming more tired. Having the 50K race so soon after the marathon was another problem, as it was really too soon for me to recover and refocus.

This year has seen me make some changes, which I hope will be of benefit in racing, although that is really a secondary goal, as they have certainly made me feel much happier about my running....and actually enjoy training a lot more!

I am doing a lower mileage, and all my runs have a purpose. That may sound odd, but it means that I don't go for a run without knowing why I'm going...and don't change the reason halfway through. If it's a gentle recovery run, then it will stay as a gentle recovery run whether I feel like I could fly or not; if it's an endurance session, I'll break the session up in my head as I need to so that I can focus all the way through and get on with it without moaning (much); if it's purely for the fun of going out and enjoying the trails, I won't look at a watch and will change the route so that I cannot compare times. I have also realised the necessity of that my favourite past-time of trying and testing the cakes in all the local cafes, or just sitting on the sofa and watching TV.

A "Reformer"

I know that many people cross-train. While I do not doubt that cross-training/gym-work etc has a lot of benefits and really helps many runners, I feel that I do not have enough time to really get into it. Trying to fit training round a busy job and life, I feel that such sessions would be at the expense of runs...and it is the running that I enjoy, and hence why I do it.

On a "Reformer"

I have, however,  swopped a run for a Pilates session every week. Initially I went along to a mat-based Pilates class with Audrey, but when I was over in California on holiday, Clancy took me along to her Pilates session and we used "reformers". These 8 foot long machines are the main pieces of equipment used in Pilates exercise, and have a horizontal carriage that glides forward and backward on rollers. Resistance is provided using springs along with other attachments for a variety of exercises and positions (that is, lying down, seated and standing.) This type of Pilates seemed to suit me much better, as it is designed to restore the natural curves of the spine (and I struggle with an exaggerated lumbar lordosis - curve in the base of my back) and rebalance the muscles around the joints, so I changed classes on my return to Dumfries. Although the instructor still tells me that my core is too weak and my legs are too strong (so they take over doing the work instead of my core), I do feel that I'm gradually improving, and hope it helps my running form....and if nothing else, makes me stretch at least once a week (ie once more than I used to do)!

A snowy off-road run
Another thing I'm trying to do is to look at the bigger picture - by this, I mean not getting bogged down with every run - eg mileage and pace. If I feel a niggle, it is better to take a rest day, or change the terrain of the run, as missing one or two runs won't affect the final goal, but developing an injury could completely jeopardise the whole cycle. The weather in this part of Scotland can be temperamental at this time of year to say the least, and so, although it's important to get out and train even if I'd rather be curled up in front of the fire, it's not worth risking falling over on the snow or ice and damaging myself. Running in snow can be magical and fun, but it can also be hard work, and therefore I can get more out of a short snowy off-road run, than trying to slide around to "get the mileage in" on slushy wet roads.

I'm interested to see the outcome of these changes......but as I said before, at the end of the day, the time I run in a race is just that.....a time, and I almost don't want to race because I don't want to put a figure on it - but I'm loving the process of getting there just now - long may it continue!!

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