Today I want to share with you the awesome progress I have been making in my running, just to encourage others of what is possible. Trust me when I say that if I can do this, anybody can do it. Like so many things in life, I believe running is about 90% mental. Nobody starts out jumping off the couch and running a marathon. The hardest part is not even starting, although that's pretty hard. The hardest part is sticking with it, despite a body that rebels against it with soreness and injuries. My body definitely does that, but my brain and soul don't let me give up.
So now that I'm in a training group I've been running or doing some kind of interval workout four times a week. That puts my legs in a perpetual state of soreness as the muscle fibers breakdown and build themselves stronger. I've learned that this state of soreness is a good thing, because I've watched my speed improve a lot. I keep track of all my runs with an iPhone app called Runkeeper. When I'm outside it tracks everything I do by GPS. When I'm inside on the treadmill I have to enter the stats. Outside is best because it shows me an exact breakdown of split times.
Back at Christmas when my sister was here we did 2 minutes running followed by 2 minutes walking. It was hard for me and slow. At the beginning of the 5K training program we did one mile time trials and my time was 12 minutes 56 seconds. That was with zero walking. Right now I'm doing 5 minutes running followed by a minute of walking, repeat indefinitely, usually for about 5k. My last couple runs averaged 12 minutes and 20 seconds per mile, INCLUDING walking.
So a bit about the body rebelling. A couple weeks ago I started having knee pain, something I'm all too familiar with. There are many many blog posts from back in 2005 when I first started running and developed runner's knee in both legs so badly I could hardly walk and ended up in physical therapy for months. Also last year when I began the couch to 5K program I had this happen too. It sidelined me for a week or so but new, custom fit (very expensive) running shoes solved the whole problem. So this year as soon as it flared up again I bought new shoes. Problem solved again.
Next there's the asthma. I hadn't had an attack of my exercise induced asthma in a very long time, so long that when my inhaler ran out I did not refill it. So when I finished a nice outdoor run last week and was left coughing my head off and wheezing for air it was a complete surprise. I let it go thinking maybe it was just a fluke thing, but then after another solo run where I really pushed for speed I got another attack. So I called up the doc's office and found out I had to be seen to get another inhaler. I marched in and explained the situation to my favorite physician's assistant who it turns out is a competitive runner with exercise induced asthma too! She advised me to use the inhaler BEFORE I even start a run.
On my days off from running I often do yoga and use the elliptical machine at the gym. The elliptical is really an excuse to catch up with my friend Kristi (whose blog Baby Food Steps is awesome, btw). Well last week after a not very strenuous half hour on the elliptical I felt a weird pain in the back of my thigh, just above the knee. It twinged only when I stepped a certain way, but especially when climbing the stairs. Frustrated, I decided I'd better ice it and rest it for a few days.
I really really hate injuries that knock me off my training schedule. REALLY. I'm addicted to running now, to the progress I am making and the sweat and the endorphins that leave me full of positive energy for the rest of the day. But I refuse to let injuries stop me. I also refuse to push myself through injuries because I know that only patience and rest can keep them from becoming much worse. Holding myself back is actually pretty hard to do, but I know when it's important.
After several days of no activity I went to yoga class and took it very easy, modifying every pose to never fully stretch my hamstring. That's actually a lot harder than it sounds. When evening came and I had walked around all day with no hamstring pain I decided that the next morning I would resume running and see how it went. So this morning I got up and dressed pretty warm (it was 36 degrees and windy), puffed on my inhaler, and headed out on my usual route. I tried not to push the speed too much so I was surprised when my app kept telling me I was running consistently under 12 minutes a mile. Even after a couple of miles I felt like a million bucks. When I got back to my house after a bit more than 3 miles I really felt like I could have kept going, but decided to stop. I could breathe!! I wasn't even close to gasping for air, my breathing had been slow and steady the entire run. My inhaler worked wonders and my hamstring didn't give me an ounce of trouble.
So next I will kick it up to at least 6 minute intervals and extend my route out to four miles, since the race I'm running in March, Run 4 The Children, is that long. Yay progress!