Breaking my body memory by longer runs

30 miles in 4 days.

Honestly, I guess I’ve overdone it a little, but I had good reasoning.

Sunday I went out for a long run at our state park.  I ran 8.8 miles. I didn’t look at my watch, but I ran until I couldn’t run anymore.  It was hilly and the temperature was okay when I started, but had gone up 10 degrees by the time I finished.  I also had negative splits, so that made me feel better.  I really wanted to run long and not stop at 4 miles.

Monday was my hill run day with TJ.  We usually run between 7 – 8 miles and 6 of those miles are large hills.  It was probably the toughest run of the Spring so far.  It was hot (near 90) and I had just run nearly 9 miles the day before with a lot of mountain hills.  I came home from our run and just sat for an hour throwing the stick with the dog and drinking my Gatorade.

Tuesday was an impromptu longer run.  I ended up at 7.3 miles.  I didn’t really go in my normal route of running in the park.  I just ran in different directions, got lost in my thoughts and finished when I thought I should.

Wednesday I tried to see if I could get in another 8 mile run.  I did make 6.2 miles, so it was a good 10K, but my legs were so tired and I was so hot, that I just didn’t think I should push it.

I wrote a few days ago that last year I got into a 4 mile Summer rut (I called it survival mode).  I really want to break free of that this year.  I hate running in the heat, but I also know I can get used to it and I can make it though without crashing and burning like I did at the end of last Summer.

You’re body gets a memory and it will get used to what you give it.  If you eat junk, it wants junk.  If you always run 4 miles, it won’t want to go 5.  It really is amazing.  For instance, I have gotten into the habit of drinking 32 oz of water every morning after I wake up.  Now my body craves it.  I even drank it before my last 5K because I have to have my morning water.  That is one reason I’m running more.  I want my body to get used to running in the heat and deal with it better.  Also I want to get past a weight plateau I’ve had since my last business trip to New Orleans.  This week of longer running has really helped.

Finally, be careful running in the heat.  People die in the Summer by running and not being hydrated.  I usually drink 96 oz of water during the day before my run and another 32 after my run.  I also have slowed down my pace to deal with the increased mileage and the heat.

As my wife says everyday before I head out for my run, “BE WISE” (and yes, she says it with that emphasis).

Tom

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Have you ever tried to retrain your brain?

Have you ever tried to retrain your brain?

It fascinates me as a runner how much the brain is used in running and how much “memory” occurs during a run.

For instance, last summer I got into a rut of running 4 mile runs.  It was hot and I run at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I was in survival mode and just wanted to hang on for cooler weather.  So for 3 months I’d run 4 miles each day.  However, when cooler weather prevailed, I had the hardest time getting past 4 miles.  I was in good shape, but almost exactly at the 4 mile mark, my body would shut down and I’d have to stop.  Finally I ran with TJ on a traditional 7 mile run on Christmas day and was able to begin to break free of the 4 mile blockage – but it was hard.

I blame this rut on my brain.  Of course I could have gone 5 miles or more at any point, but my whole body would just stop when it was trained to stop at 4 miles.

Let me give another example.  Over 3 years and 3,500 miles of running, I kept my cell phone in my right hand to track my runs.  I take it on every run; every 5K and even on my full and half marathons.  I’m used to having it in my hand.  This winter I decided to try and teach myself to switch hands during my run.  This was partly due to a light wrist sprain and partly to see if I could reteach myself to hold my phone in my left hand.  So while running I would suddenly remember to put my phone in my left hand.  After a while, without noticing, it was back in my right hand.  I’d then put it back in my left and then it would reappear in my right.  This went on and on for a month or so.  I would never remember putting my phone in back in my right hand.  Eventually I retrained my brain to notice when I would move it from my left hand to my right hand.  I’d then purposely move it back.  Finally I was successful in moving my phone to my left hand and leaving it there until I decided to move it back.  I know this is a minor example, but it demonstrates how I retained my brain.

Simply put, do the thing your want to do and do it over and over again.  When you fail at it, do it again.  Eventually you will retrain your brain to notice and then you can finally break the habit.

I’m relating this to running, but it works in almost any area of life.  Bad habits can be broken and good habits installed by just doing and failing and doing and failing until you just do it!

Retraining my brain has helped me become a runner, eat better, lose 100 lbs, change my work habits and live a better life.

Just don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is the beginning of success.  Failure means you have tried.  If you never try, you will never fail, but you will also never succeed.

If you try again every time you fail,  get up every time you fall, keep moving forward with your goal, you will see the success you want to obtain.

Never give up.

Tom

Running tired? See how fast you recover!

After 4 months, I have finally finished a major project at work and on Saturday, I ran my first 5K since January.

What is interesting isn’t the 5K, but the short training I did leading up to the 5K.

I have been doing hill runs for about 3 or 4 months with my son.  We go out each week and run 6 – 7 miles of hills in a neighborhood next to ours.  These hills are big and exhausting.  Sometimes (like yesterday) I don’t know how I’m going to make it home.  All in all the runs are about 8 miles.

Rewind to last week.  With our 5K on Saturday I started to really get concerned.  I had increased my mileage a lot over the winter, but had also slowed my pace.  In fact in April of 2014 I averaged just over an 8:30 pace.  This April I was closer to 9:45.  This slow down was intentional.  I really wanted to gain mileage, build my base and stop getting hurt.  I accomplished all three!

However…

With the 5K less then a week away I was concerned that my slow pace would really mess my race up.  Monday last week I ran hills run with TJ.  Tuesday I just ran 4 miles.  I was tired to say the least.  I finished my run and noticed that I ran near a 10:00 pace.  I was so disappointed.  I wondered if my 22 minute 5K were over for good.

Then it dawned on me.  I had just finished my run.  I was breathing heavily and tired.  But in less then a minute my breathing returned to normal and my heart rate slowed right down.  Hmmm, I thought.  If I can recover in less than a minute, maybe I’m in better shape then I thought. So Wednesday I went out for another run.  I started slowly the first mile as I always do, but I ran faster then my normal first mile.  I got into the second mile and picked up my pace.  The last two miles I ran much faster with my last mile under 8:00.  I was tired and breathing heavily, but once again, as soon as I finished I recovered.  By the time I got to my car to go home, I was breathing normally.  Thursday was the same.  I ran, I recovered and I felt fine.

So the hill runs and the distance runs did what I wanted.  They build my base and gave me the ability to run hard and not get hurt and recover quickly.  I simply lacked the confidence and speed work to get me going faster for my 5K.

How’d the 5K go?  I ran it slower then my usual pace a year, but I also ran it 1:13 faster then my 5K in January.  I came in at 23:20, 2nd in my age group and 33rd overall out of 500 runners.  I’m pretty happy about that considering I had only 2 speed workouts and had gained some weight during my 4 month project.

I am going to keep doing what I am doing.  I’m going to add some speed workouts in the mix to train my body (and brain) to run faster.  I’m going to lose the 5 lbs I gained and try to bring my time down below 22:00 this year.

Hopefully this will help someone else in a similar situation.  Listen to your body and your recovery.  It may be telling you something that your brain is not!

Tom