Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Year's Resolutions?

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.

'Which road do I take?' she asked.

'Where do you want to go?' was his response.

'I don't know,' Alice answered.

'Then,' said the cat, 'it doesn't matter'.”
–Lewis Carroll, From Alice in Wonderland

If what you are doing is worth doing, hang in there until it is done.”
–Nido Qubein

"If your goal is worth doing, it's worth starting now."--Alex Gardner (aka, "me")

Here are the six most popular New Year's Resolutions for Americans:

1 Lose Weight
2 Pay Off Debts
3 Save Money
4 Get a Better Job
5 Get Fit
6 Eat Right

But yet, also according to Wikipedia, recent research shows that while 52% of participants in a Resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals! [emphasis mine]

That means that if you make a New Year's Resolution, your goal is likely to be in the area of health and fitness. And, if you are typical, you have about a one in ten chance of success.

That seems just about right. I dread the months of January and February at the gym. I've had many memberships in several regions of the country. And it's always the same. January is the most crowded month, with people fresh and hopeful of their new goals. But as March approaches.. things return to normal, and the load at the gym is the same as it ever was.

Here are my thoughts on increasing your chances of reaching your goal(s):
  1. Set measurable goals. Don't say "lose weight." Say, "Lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks." Or something appropriate like that.
  2. Set something lofty, but achievable. This may mean breaking your goals up into smaller chunks. If you need to lose 50 pounds, make your first goal losing 10 pounds by a certain date. Then, evaluate and celebrate your success and go from there.
  3. Start now. This might be the biggest one. If it's worth doing, it's worth starting now. Abandon the "Fat Tuesday" mentality, and start working on your goals today. Skip pigging out until January 1st--it only makes that goal further out of reach.
  4. Don't give up. If you blow it one day, don't let it derail you. If you have a hard day, remember that no truly worthy goal is going to be easy. I have to tell myself that latter statement several times per month.
  5. Tell someone else to hold you accountable. Incredibly powerful, it's one thing to let yourself down. But, if you know someone else is watching, you're more likely to succeed. And who knows? They might even help you.
On a personal note, here is what I've set out for myself to achieve in the next year, taking each of these above suggestions into account:
  1. Run a 22 minute 5K this Spring. I'm already working on it, and hope to have a baseline when I race on January 25, 2009. This is an extremely exciting and challenging goal, and possibly the hardest thing I've ever attempted personally.
  2. Qualify for Boston '10 this Fall. I tried last year, and just missed. I'm not giving up. I feel stronger than ever, and I will make it. Requires a 3:50 marathon at a qualifying event. Pretty sure that's going to be easier than goal 1, above.
  3. Read through a different translation (Message) of the Bible by December 31, 2009. I started the day after I finished a similar 40 day journey a week ago. No reason to wait until January 1st.
  4. Keep my weight near 110 pounds. For me, this actually requires work in both directions. In the last three months, I've weighed as little as 107, and right now am nearly 115 (I'm 5' 6"). Now is a good time for me to have some buffer, as my mileage and cross training are increasing rapidly, and I tend to drop weight too quickly. Losing weight is helpful to running only if you have it to lose. Not so great if you are too skinny (any ideas what might have contributed to my stress fracture?).
Best wishes to everyone for a prosperous and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Secret to Running Faster!

This is a top secret blog post. Really. You probably shouldn't be reading it right now, it's that secret. Are you still with me? Make sure you look over your shoulder and the coast is clear.

And, shhh! Don't tell anyone I wrote this, OK? I'm about to reveal... (drum roll please).... (are you ready for this?)... "The Secret to Running Faster!"

You probably already know, my current goal is to run a 22 minute 5K. My PR being 23:38, it sounds appreciably hard, but not utterly impossible. On paper anyway. Until I started running again, and realized how uncomfortable 8 minute miles can be. And I need to run a full minute per mile faster. Three times in a row. Yikes! This doesn't seem possible at all. Even with some brutally hard work.

So, as I began daydreaming of my perfect 22 minute 5K (insert harp music here), I began wondering, Is there a secret to running faster? I mean, a whole LOT faster than you've ever run before? One really BIG secret that will get me to my goal?

I Googled "secret to running faster" and received 594,000 hits. And probably 594,000 different answers to that question. Mind boggling.

My running buddy, Rick, who is by far stronger and faster than I am, could run a 22 minute 5K on a moments notice, and could kick my derriere at any time likes hills. Hills, hills and more hills. "Speedwork without the impact!" And he can't be wrong on that, just try to run uphill against him.

What could be easier than a magical pill? What about legal ergogenic aids? If you want to make your head dizzy, go read some of that and try to figure out what you should take. I gave up, and I was still in the "A's." And we're not talking milliseconds or elite speeds I'm seeking either. A 22 minute 5K is rather ordinary. As long as my diet is healthy, and contains what my body needs, there's no supplement that's going to make a huge difference. This was no help.

Plyometrics is awesome. Talk about some great cardio cross training and strength building. Can it make you faster? Absolutely.

Interval training is definitely effective.

And don't forget strength training! Without a doubt, essential to help you avoid injury and get faster.

But really, is there a single secret? I think this blogger might be onto something! Well, I had fun giggling through that. But not without a tad of seriousness here. Think about it, there's some truth to be found.

This past weekend I watched Kung Fu Panda [warning! movie spoiler to follow], a very entertaining animated flick about Po, a hapless, overweight panda who was more likely to trip over a rock than fend off the enemy dragon warrior.

In the final scene Po is fighting the arch enemy dragon warrior Tai Lung over possession of the secret dragon warrior scroll. The scroll is supposed to contain the secret to limitless power. The scroll is seized by Tai Lung, who finds it blank. Po laughs: "There IS no secret ingredient," (recalling his father's recent revelation about the "secret ingredient" in the family's noodle soup) and soundly defeats the evil Tai Lung.

From an article about running faster I found this: "(Psst. I’ll have to keep my voice down so no one can hear this secret except you: muscles don’t care about what they are being used for! They don’t ask if they’re lifting a weight or walking up stairs, or moving down a track. They only want to know about the load placed on them so they can gauge how to respond.)"

And that about sums it up!

It's all too confusing to me, and I can't wade through it. This actually confirmed a decision I made nearly 18 months ago. I hand those decisions over to a trusted expert. I may know a lot about running, but to always be improving my game, I need help. Nothing can replace a good coach who can adapt your program to your specific needs--and figure out what intervals, hills, strength training your body needs for your goals. Because there really IS no single secret to running faster. It's just plain, old-fashioned, sweaty, gut-busting hard work.

And if I want that 22 minute 5K badly enough, I'm going to have to do it the old-fashioned way; I'm going to have to EARN IT.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

If It Weren't So Windy, It'd Be OK

"If it weren't so windy, it'd be ok," I heard a woman mutter as I entered the grocery store post-run.

That was an understatement. The first two-and-a-half miles out in a stiff headwind could be the windiest and one of the toughest runs I've ever done. It felt like running in a wind tunnel. Rick looked like the Easter Bunny, fresh and teasing us by running backwards. He really is too strong. Then Travis left us in the dust for the last mile. Must have been sub-7 and that was mile 17.

This was my first 5 miles since Chicago. Suffered enough to feel nauseated at the end. Good feeling! :-)

Thanks, Rick and Travis for putting up with me!

Route:--Elev. Avg:742 ft
Location:Blue Springs, MOElev. Gain:+26 ft
Date:12/13/08Up/Downhill: [+265/-239]
Time:10:45 AMDifficulty:2.7 / 5.0

Weather:Fair and Breezy

50 F temp; 47% humidity

50 F heat index; winds S 23 G 37

Distance: 5.00 miles

Speed:7.1 mph

Pace:8' 25 /mi


Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)
MilePace (min/mile)Speed (mph)Elevation
actual+/- avgactual+/- avg
18' 32+0' 077.0-0.1+19 ft
28' 43+0' 186.9-0.2+3 ft
38' 37+0' 127.0-0.20 ft
48' 11-0' 147.3+0.2-4 ft
end8' 01-0' 247.5+0.3+7 ft
Versus average of 8' 25 min/mile

Posted from

Thursday, December 4, 2008

True Confessions of a Long Recovery

I climbed on the recumbent bike for a nice 45 minute workout today. In my gym, the bikes are seated behind the treadmills, and mine was in dead center of about 15 treadmills of different sorts, almost all of which were being used.

To my far left, I watched a girl (ok, young woman) in a pair of Nike shorts just like the ones I run in. I watched her long, smooth stride, and estimated her pace somewhere in the low 8's. She couldn't have looked more relaxed and at ease. She ran the entire time I was on the bike. I was jealous; envious; my eyes developed a distinct patina of green.... because I wanted to be running like that. I wondered if I could take her in a race of any distance. I knew I couldn't now... and as she ran, she was getting stronger by the minute. And I was merely pedaling away...

Almost in front of me was another girl (ok, another young woman--see I think of myself as a "girl," it isn't a derogatory term to me) doing a nice workout at a steep incline. She wasn't going very fast, but she had that hill incline cranked up. I watched her shins, wondered how much pressure was on her tibias. When could I do a workout like that? I was sad. I know I can't now.

To my immediate left was another girl (ok, I give up) on an Elliptical. Definitely hate the Elliptical, but I remember how the upstroke, while looking so smooth and easy, was slamming into my tibia in a most unfortunate way. And while I held no jealousy against her for being on the machine (blech!), I was incredibly jealous of her apparently strong, solid tibias. What I would be doing with those! Certainly not spending any time on an Elliptical!

I plopped back into my chair in my office some 40 minutes later, and began to type a request to Vince to reorganize my running this weekend. I wanted my 4-miler on Saturday instead of Sunday. Not something I would normally get excited about. But, it's my first 4-miler in more than 8 weeks. Suffice it to say, it's the highlight of my week. Four. Whole. Miles. Running. I wanted to celebrate!

My plan was to get a sitter, and try to get my training partner, Rick, to run part of his long run with me. But he's already leaps ahead of me now, running his mile repeats deep in the 6s. When I contacted him, he already had plans for an 18-miler with another group on Saturday. I blinked. Would I ever be able to even keep up with him again? It's been over two months since we've run together. He's the fittest he's ever been. I've done nothing but lose fitness for two months.

I nearly laid my head down on my desk and cried. I'm just being honest here. It's so hard to watch everyone pass me by. I'm filled with so much drive and determination, and I can't do anything with it. I want to be working out; I want to be doing 200m repeats; 400m repeats; redefining my fastest mile; running till I puke. I want to explore what it's like to train for my fastest 5K ever. But, I can't. And I know that's weeks and weeks away. I worry that my Spring and even Fall plans are at risk.

So, I'd like to institute a new "week." It's "Be Kind to Your Favorite Injured Runner Week." We're all suffering out here. And we can't WAIT to get back to training hard with you again!