Friday, September 11, 2009

Wk 9 running update: Graduation and my worst week ever

Last night, I ran for 30 minutes to complete the Couch-to-5K program. In nine weeks, I've gone from nearly sedentary to a woman who runs. I should be happy, but this was my worst week running yet.

Maybe it was my head

You know how you get close to achieving a thing and your subconscious tries to undermine you? "This isn't that important," your head says. "Aren't you tired?" "Isn't is hot?" "You aren't getting any faster, you know." For some reason, I couldn't get my head in the game this week. I dreaded every run and each run felt like agony. My legs were like lead, my mind was on the clock and my times became progressively slower, with last night being the nadir.

On Tuesday evening, in an attempt to shake myself into a better mindset, I decided to run along the Indianapolis Downtown Canal. I had been jogging the same route around my neighborhood. I figured a scenic, urban run might be an invigorating change of pace. Not so much. I did learn a couple of things, though. Comparing myself to other people impedes my progress and does no good for my self-esteem. I usually pass several runners while chugging around my little burg--mostly middle-aged moms and dads and high schoolers--but that's nothing like the "traffic" along the Canal. Twenty-somethings in hip workout wear, legs kicking high and arms pumping, sliced past me like bullet trains, while I shuffled my nearly-40-year-old ass along in old, two-sizes-too-big workout pants and a Sierra Leone t-shirt with bleach stains on it--an out-dated iron horse. That run made me feel old and out of shape.

I also realized, on Tuesday, that I had been depending on my well-worn neighborhood route to push me forward when running. After nine weeks of gradually increasing time and speed along the same path, I generally know about where I will be mid-run and at the end of my run. That makes it easy to move myself along. "Just one more loop and you're there." "I'm half-way done. Yeah!" My familiar path makes it easy to coach myself with "just a little more" when I need it. There is nothing wrong with that, per se, but I need to find another motivation when running a new route, which I undoubtedly will be doing during races like the Run for Congo Women in October. My Tuesday run felt extra-long because I lacked markers that signaled how far I had come and how much further I had to go.

Maybe it was my body

I've been reading up on how monthly hormone fluctuations affect women's athletic performance. Luckily, gone are the days when folks thought women and girls needed to be sidelined by their menstrual cycles. But the truth is that levels of estrogen may have an impact on how easy or hard a run feels.

Say you've planned your track workouts for every Wednesday. You go to the track during your follicular phase (low estrogen) and hit all your repeats right on. You leave the track with confidence and excitement. A few weeks later, you go to the track but you're now in the luteal phase (high estrogen). You feel sluggish, tired and lethargic. You feel like you have a totally different body. You leave the track doubting your abilities and your training program, despite the fact that your long runs have been successful. Don't feel discouraged, though. It's not for lack of training that you're performing this way, it's the way your body is fueling your workouts. Read more...

I know now not to fret so much if I hit a week that seems particularly physically difficult. I can run through it and know that those good, exhilarating runs will return again. I'm counting on it!

So, what now?

Frankly, it's kinda weird, but I'm more sad about finishing the C25K program than anything. I had this big, structured goal that I was working toward for more than two months and now, just like that, it's gone. I know if I'm going to keep this up (and I do want to continue to run and discover what my body can do), I'm going to need a new set of goals. I've identified a few:

I'm pretty fslow. After 30 minutes of running and 10 minutes of walking, I've barely covered 2.5 miles--that's .7 miles shy of a 5K. My first goal is to be able to run the entire distance of the Run for Congo Women on Oct. 3--no matter how slowly. My second goal is to eventually run a sub 30 min 5K.

Now, that I have completed C25K, I'm going to switch over to the One-Hour Runner program and eventually a half marathon training program. It might be too grand a thought, but I'd really like to complete "The Mini," our local half marathon next spring, even if I have to walk a little.

So, basically, what happens next is that I keep running. In fact, tomorrow morning I'm running in a local 5K, the Race for All Races, sponsored by the Asian Alliance. I just want to get a taste of what a 5K race is like before my Oct. event. I don't have a lot of hope that I will run the full distance tomorrow, but I will finish and have a better gauge of the work I need to do in the coming weeks.

For those of you who have shared that you have started running, how's it going?


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