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An unexpected test and surprising results

I wanted to share a quick post before I take a break for a week, because it is pretty profound. If you have been following my posts for the last year you know I transitioned to a new running coach and gym. It has been almost  a year. What may not seem obvious is that I have almost completely changed the way I go into a training session-both mentally and physically- and running plan. This did not happen overnight, and it did not happen without a lot of kicking and screaming on my part.

I have questioned, argued and pleaded my case for maintaining what I perceived was a pretty successful type of strength and conditioning program, and running program. I successfully learned how to lift weights, run, and get stronger, and show steady improvement. So why change?

My coach for the last year brings a much different attitude and perspective to strength and conditioning, and although when I first started working with him he knew how to coach running as a skill, he was not a “runner.” Since I had become pretty passionate about running, racing and improving as a runner, I spent the first six months not totally convinced he could do much for me. As a matter of fact, there were times I was afraid I would never really run farther than 5-6 miles and I was pretty sure the running thing might be over.

Instead of running a couple easy runs a week with a set of intervals or hills thrown in and 1 long run, I was now running intervals once a week, a tempo run once a week and hill sprints, along with another tempo-ish longer run that wasn’t very long. I had added a day of strength training, and some running skill work, and then just recently added a couple more days of mobility work. My running was hard. There were no easy runs. But in addition to the running, I was doing 3 days of weight training and conditioning at the gym. This included barbell squats, barbell lunges, deadlifts and other things that are not much fun but get you working hard and keep your heart rate elevated.

We had decided to train for a 25K trail race, and with 6 weeks to go, my longest run had been 7-8 miles. To say I was getting nervous was an understatement. To say I was not totally convinced I could do it was the truth. I was not confident. I had doubt. I know how far 13.1 miles is. I had run 7 half marathons in 2 years and was nearly always in training for something with my monthly mileage averaging 80-100 miles during the 10-12 week training periods. But that was the old way of doing things.

My average mileage the last 3 months has been 30-40 miles. The last two weeks my running training has amped up a bit, and I noticed 2 things- even when I am tired, my legs feel strong; and my average heart rate during my runs has come down significantly. I have been pushing myself because I figure it will probably help me in the end and if I don’t achieve my goal I do not want to look back and say I didn’t give it 110%. Even with that, I know I can give it more.

Yesterday was supposed to be my long run day and the plan was to run 7-8 miles or 90 minutes. It was a little cooler and windier than I expected, and I decided to choose a pretty hilly route. I ended up running 8 miles and then another mile to get back to my truck. As I jogged along at a half marathon pace for most of the run, I kept expecting to get tired, or hungry, or for my achilles and calf to start bothering me. I expected my breathing to get labored. There was none of that. As I neared the 2 hour mark I thought, “I could run another few miles if I had to.”

But that isn’t the end. I felt great running, I was super hungry when I got home because I didn’t eat or drink during that 2 hour run which is also pretty unusual for me, so I made myself a ham, egg and avocado sandwich, and then went out and played my first 9 holes of golf for the season.

This may not seem like a big deal, but doing either of those activities in a day is usually an exhausting event, especially the first round of golf in 6 months. But being able to run for 2 hours, and then golf for 2 hours in the same day is pretty rugged. Not only did I run and golf, but I wasn’t tired-my legs felt great. I didn’t walk the course, but golfing still requires a ton of leg and core activation. Other than being super hungry, I honestly could not believe what I had done in a single day.

There really is more to this story, believe it or not. Today, I expected to be really sore and tired, but I was not.  After nearly a year of working hard at Gain and trying to be open minded and accepting a new way of looking at strength and conditioning, and training, I can say now that it works.

You can have someone tell you to trust them and that it will work, but for me, especially since I was already in great shape, it was really hard to have faith in something that went against the status quo. The only real way to know if it works is to test it. So I did. I wasn’t trying to prove or disprove anything, I just needed to experience it to believe it. I thought at the time I was running, the worst thing that could happen was for me to end up walking or feeling really sore. As I headed to the first tee a couple hours after my 9 mile run I thought the same thing. If I ended up sore and tired, that would be pretty typical. I expected to be sore and physically tired. I was not sore at all, and I wasn’t any more tired than a normal day of activity.

This morning when I woke up I expected to feel stiff and sore. I am still waiting. It’s not going to happen. My coach was right. He had faith even when I did not. If I can run 9 miles I can run 10. If I can run for 2 hours I can run for 3. There is no more doubt that what he has been faithfully guiding me toward works. I would like to say, “We’ll wait and see,” and remain skeptical but I can’t.

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