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Category: Running & Exercise

The Journey

I completed the Go! St. Louis Marathon on Sunday, April 10, marking the 4th time I’ve completed this journey and run 26.2 miles.

IMG_0129Statistics say that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has ever run a marathon. So according to the numbers, I’m in a pretty elite group. But I didn’t feel accomplished on Sunday. I was disappointed with the number on the clock as I crossed the finish line.

Instead of going below my best time , I added 37 minutes, taking 5 hours and 7 minutes to cross the finish line. In my mind, it was a failure.

I trained for the last four months with Fleet Feet to prepare for the event, and my dedicated, loyal coach ran 19 of the 26.2 miles with me, including the grueling back half of the race. I began complaining somewhere around mile 15.

“It’s  hard to keep going knowing that this is going to be my slowest marathon time ever. Why bother?” I pouted.

It's all smiles BEFORE the race and the rain, with Coach Lindsey of Fleet Feet.
It’s all smiles BEFORE the race and the rain, with Coach Lindsey of Fleet Feet.

She went all “coach-y” saying,  “I want you to see this as an accomplishment, a win. You’re running with an injured knee. And it’s your first marathon in a long time. Absolutely everything has to come together perfectly to get a PR (best time). That doesn’t happen often,  so it’s better if you focus on the journey.”

Then she told me that the main reason she coaches for Fleet Feet (a volunteer position that requires a LOT of time) is because she gets to spend time with people who have learned to enjoy the journey. The journey that leads up to the race is the fun part. The race is a piece of that journey, but it’s not about the time it takes to finish it.

“I hope you’ll be able to see it that way, even if you can’t right now” she said.

She was sharing these golden nuggets of wisdom during the worst possible miles of the marathon. Even when I’m having a good race (which I wasn’t) and when I’m feeling great (my knee was howling) and when the weather is good (we were getting drenched in rain and whipped by wind), I am not in a happy place between miles 19 and 23 of a marathon.

So, I promptly ignored her Polly Anna pronouncements. Thankfully, I kept all “shrew-like” thoughts to myself, so I don’t have any amends to make, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think them. Sorry Lindsey.

The next day, however, it all started to come together for me in light of another statistic and another journey that is tied to my running. And those things helped change my perspective.

About 16.6 million people suffered from an alcohol use disorder in 2013 according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But only about 1.3 million of those adults received treatment in a specialized facility in the same year —  about 7 percent of those those who have a problem with alcohol.

Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t release much information about its membership — thus the anonymous part — but estimates are that there are about 2 million members worldwide.

I am a sufferer of this diseases, but was blessed with sobriety more than 11 years ago through a 12-step program.  That’s also when I began distance running.

Relapse rates for alcoholism are high — some estimate between 50 and 90 percent. By God’s grace, and the fellowship of others in a 12-step program,  I am NOT part of that statistic.

So again, I’m in a couple of elite groups: the group that got sober and the group that has, thus far, stayed sober without a relapse. Truth in advertising: It’s  not my doing. God and the fellowship get the credit.

Recently, however, instead of being grateful for my blessings, I was feeling sorry for myself.

Jan and I in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Jan and I in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

I was with a dear friend in Italy on an incredible vacation where the wine flowed with most of the meals.  It was social drinking, meal-oriented drinking, perfectly normal drinking that was intertwined with food and culture and festivity. But I couldn’t participate in the drinking part of the festivities.

The trip was so fabulous and I was having so much fun that I really didn’t care one iota about that. In fact, I didn’t even think about it while I was in Italy. I was with one of my closest friends. I was seeing the Amalfi Coast, and Capri, and Positano and Rome! I was laughing and shopping, eating and touring. I jogged on trails cut into stone overlooking the Mediterranean below and Pompei in the distance.

I didn’t have the time or the inclination to feel sorry for myself until I got back home. Then, in the days following my trip and leading up to my oldest daughter’s 21st birthday, I began brood about how I won’t be able to enjoy a glass of wine when I return to Italy in a month with my daughter to celebrate her graduation and birthday. Yes, I will be back in Italy in a month!

Instead of focusing on that — on the fact that my 21-year-old daughter chose a trip with ME to Europe as her college graduation present — I was brooding on how flawed I am, how “less than,” how “left out.” And I was letting the time it took me to complete 26.2 miles diminish the fun I had preparing for the race.

But over the past few days, as friends and family have texted and called to congratulate me on the marathon finish, and posted words of praise on social media, I began to reflect differently on both the race and the gift of sobriety.

I am back to seeing the value in the journey — both the journey leading to my slowest marathon ever and the journey that means I am blessed, or so very blessed, to be among the small percentage of alcoholics who GETS to live a sober life. It doesn’t make me flawed or “less than.” Instead, it means He made me for more.

My daughter and husband asked if this is my last marathon. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Miles 19 to 23 are still too fresh in my memory, so it’s not a good time to decide.

But it wasn’t my last race or the end of my journey.

 

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Running With Others Spices Up Training

Running alone is hard. Choosing to run with others is hard, too, but better. In this way, running is a little bit like life.

Last weekend, before, during and after the Run for the Helmet 7k marathon training runningrace in Cottleville, I was reminded again just how much I am getting out of my marathon training with Fleet Feet. More than just professional training and coaching, quality advice on stretching, injury prevention and nutrition – although those aspects are deeply valued – I am getting true camaraderie, friendship, encouragement and support. And Fun! Did I mention I’m having SO. MUCH. FUN!?

I have always been a bit of a loner when it comes to my running. I like to put my ear buds and lose myself in a good book. It’s my “me” time and, always the multi-tasker, I simultaneously indulge my love of fiction and my fondness for running.

In this way, I’ve done most of my distance training alone.

But I wasn’t getting any better as a runner, and I figured I must be doing something wrong. So I signed up to train with Fleet Feet for the Go! St. Louis Marathon this April.

Turns out I was doing more than “something” wrong – I was doing most everything wrong. But that’s for another post.

Fleet Feet Training Program runningThe biggest thing I was doing wrong had very little to do with the science, athleticism, endurance and mechanics of running. It was the people and the camaraderie that were missing from my training. It was the fun that was missing.

Through Fleet Feet, I’ve discovered these essential ingredients to running — people and fun — that enhance my training like a good spice enhances a recipe.

There is something so powerful, so motivating about:

  • Knowing when I rise to the sound of my alarm in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning, I can’t crawl back under the covers because there are people expecting me to show up in a cold parking lot near a trailhead somewhere.
  • Running alongside people who know and can joke about:
    • The reality of screaming out loud when you did not know you had a chafing issue until the shower water revealed it to you.
    • The masochistic pain delivered by a foam roller
    • The horror you worry you will inflict upon a nail technician if you go for a pedicure
    • A passionate hatred for hills
    • A passionate love of Aquaphore
    • Strassburg socks (and their torturous appearance)
    • The fact that your running shoes are the most expensive item in your wardrobe.
  • Having people alongside me during a long, grueling training run to encourage me to continue – to pass up my car one more time, to push through to the end even if I have to slow down to do so. And they are willing to slow down with me.
  • Having people at the end of a run applauding my effort and my finish time, sharing their finish time with me, and all of celebrating an accomplishment.

Last weekend, I experienced all of these things and more. After the race, I enjoyed the company of other runners at a post-race social gathering. We talked about their challenges with fitting training in with family and work obligations, about run cruises (something I MUST check out) and about previous training seasons that helped forge the friendships I was observing and becoming a part.

All of it made me look forward to next weekend’s 19 miles. Because it’s fun again.


Fleet Feet has multiple running and training programs (some free, some not)  to choose from and many of the participants train with them year round — the group is like a big family. You can learn more here.

 

 

 

CrossFit GBT, Newest Box in Ellisville, Proves CrossFit is For EveryBODY

My husband and I have been trying something new this year and the vocabulary of our new endeavor includes words like thrust, snatch and jerk.

Okay – minds out of the gutter. It’s CrossFit! And we were fortunate enough to discover Ellisville’s newest CrossFit Gym, CrossFit GBT (Got Better Today) and its owner Karla Bennett.

I had been hearing a lot about CrossFit for a couple of years, but I chose to ignore the chatter. I understand the importance of strength training, but I don’t like it. At all.

Plus, some of what I heard or saw regarding CrossFit (CrossFit myths) didn’t look fun. At all.

People:

  • lifting huge weights over their head
  • doing handstands
  • doing push-ups
  • doing squats with weights
  • getting yelled at
  • flipping over tires
  • and worst of all, doing pull-ups!!

CrossFit Is for EveryBODY

Then a friend told he how much CrossFit changed her life. I only met her a few months ago, but she said she used to be in terrible shape and poor health. She said her husband had to drop her off at the entrance to malls and department stores and then go park the car because she was unable to walk. She said she couldn’t even do one sit-up. And she changed all that with CrossFit GBT!

CrossFit
Karla working with a client

She talked about how she and her husband and several of her friends have improved their bodies, but more importantly, improved their quality of life because CrossFit addresses functional movement. I couldn’t believe this woman had ever been anything but the vibrant, energetic, healthy, beautiful person who was standing before me.

Honestly, I didn’t know that someone who couldn’t do a sit-up could or should do CrossFit. I didn’t think of CrossFit as a beginner’s workout. I was intrigued. And I was looking for two things:

  • A cross training program to compliment my marathon training.
  • An exercise program that my husband would enjoy.

This sounded like it might do both. I still didn’t think I would like it, because I don’t like strength training. But I have promised myself about a hundred times that THIS time when I’m training for my marathon, I’m going to do it right. I’m going to cross-train and not just run seven days a week, and I’m going to stretch.

Crossfit GBT is Like Having a Personal Trainer

And Karla has been helping me do just that. She keeps her class size fairly small, and she scales the workouts for each individual. It is not unusual for three or four people in a class to be doing different things based on ability and experience. And she is always right there, watching carefully, making sure your form is perfect and helping you make adjustments if it’s not.

I thought I’d feel intimidated doing this kind of workout, but the environment at CrossFit GBT couldn’t be more welcoming. There have been a few times when I’ve been anxious to do exactly what everyone else is doing, but Karla’s main goal has been to ensure that you are ready and have perfect form before moving to heavier weights and more complicated moves so that YOU DON’T GET HURT. It’s like having a personal trainer right beside you.

For those more competitive types, Karla’s gym is a certified CrossFit gym, which means that members will be able to eventually compete in CrossFit Open events. Although, Karla stresses that the competition factor will not be the main focus of her box (that’s what CrossFitters call their gym).

“It’s all about being the best YOU can be, working as hard as YOU can. Regardless of previous athletic skill or ability, CrossFit GBT can help you out,” Karla says.

Another thing I love about CrossFit GBT is that Karla is a wealth of information on so many other fitness and health-related topics. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree with a Health and Wellness emphasis.  She is a CrossFit certified Level I instructor as well as a US certified Weightlifting Coach. Because of her background, she can assist with understanding the value of sound nutritional eating habits and how to fuel before, during and after workouts.

CrossFit GBT offers group CrossFit classes, individual lessons and nutrition counseling.

“CrossFit GBT is devoted to educating people on how to live a healthy lifestyle,” Karla says. “We want nothing more than to see you succeed at your goals. We will work to help you with whatever we can. We believe fitness is an ongoing process.”

Contact info:

More about Karla:

Karla holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with a Health and Wellness emphasis.  She is a CrossFit certified Level I instructor as well as a US certified Weightlifting Coach. She assists athletes to understand the value of sound nutritional eating habits and how to fuel before, during and after workouts. She consults with a variety of professional trainers as well as athletic trainers. Karla has worked with all levels of athletes from children to older adults.

She designs workouts based on personal fitness level, time of season for athletes and personal strength level.  She has each participant undergo a Functional Movement Screen before beginning training to determine movement patterns that are key to normal function and identify areas of weakness to individualize each athletes goals and workouts.

Karla first started doing CrossFit in 2009, her favorite WOD’s are AMRAP’s and her least favorite WOD’s are those that involve any form of wall balls or Overhead Squats. However, she still programs them anyways because she knows that you will never be able to get better if you do not practice.

 

Training Pace for a Marathon – Slow Down to Speed Up?

I remember the day my neighbor showed me how to properly pit an avocado. I was so glad to find out there was a better, smarter method that rendered much better results than my clumsy approach. I was equally grateful when my Greek friend taught me the best way to seed a pomegranate. Again –more efficient, less messy, much better results.

Now I’m hoping to have similar results with my running. I’ve heard there’s a better, smarter way to train for a marathon than the slipshod training I’ve done in the past, and I’m hoping for more efficiency, less mess (i.e. injury) and much better results.

I recently decided to return to marathon running after a four-year hiatus, and with the help of Fleet Feet’s marathon training program, I plan to run the Go St. Louis Marathon this spring.

That’s where the “I’ve been doing this all wrong” thing comes into play.

Turns out that burn I love while I’m running? Well, that’s probably me doing my distance runs above my anaerobic threshold. And while runners tend to be Type-A, push yourself, pedal to the metal kind of folks, training in that heart rate zone is counterproductive, according to Brandi Barbre, Fleet Feet’s training director.

Based on the results of my VO2 Max test, she wants me to Slow. Way. Down. At least on my long, slow, distance runs. (Not that I was ever fast).

She wants me training in the aerobic zone, or Zone 2. In this heart rate zone, your body uses fat as its energy source, and that’s a good thing, because almost all of us have plenty of stored body fat to sustain us for a long run.

Alternately, when we train in the anaerobic zone, our body has to burn carbohydrates as its energy source, and our bodies cannot store or consume enough carbs to get us through a marathon. Thus, the wall or the bonk, the muscle cramps. Perhaps this explains why I got slower with each of my marathons rather than faster?

Brandi tells me that I’ll enjoy a couple of training adaptations if I keep my heart rate below my anaerobic threshold for my long runs. The first is what I mentioned above – I’ll be burning fat as my energy source, and that’s a good thing. I’m not doing this marathon to lose weight (I’m kind of done with that, as I mentioned here). But she’s seen several runners lose weight when they slowed down their training pace. Truth be told, it will not break my heart to see a reduction in my body fat.

Second, I’ll increase my capillary size, which means more blood flow, which means more oxygen to my working muscles, which means I can run longer. That’s a good thing in marathon training.

Interestingly, Brandi tells me that I might even improve upon my marathon personal record by slowing down my training. And she says the pace I train at will be a lot slower than my race day pace if I do my due diligence during my track/speed workouts each week during the training program. She says trained at an 11-mintue pace one season because she was leading that pace group, but then completed the actual marathon in 3:30, which would be a 8-minute pace.

My best marathon time is 4:30 – I said I wasn’t fast. That means I averaged a 10:30 pace. I suspect I’m going to be put in training group that will be even slower than that, at least to start out. I’ll find out what my pace group is at Fleet Feet’s kickoff meeting this Saturday. This is going to take some getting used to and I have to get out of my own way.

It’s counter-intuitive, but I’m ready to try.

I’m also prepared to be diligent about stretching, foam rolling and cross training. I’m still in the process of deciding what my cross training is going to look like, but I’m considering a CrossFit program and some yoga.

I’m ready to get started. I’ve got some good audio books downloaded to my iPhone, because I love getting lost in a good story while I run. Bring on 2016!

If you have a New Year’s Resolution or Smart Goal to train for a running event  or race in 2016, there’s still time to sign up for one of Fleet Feet’s programs. Go here to learn more.

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Marathon Training — Trust the Process

My family is harassing me – in a loving way, of course — because I announced my plans to run another marathon this spring.

Their reactions?

“But you said . . . . “ and “I specifically remember you stating . . . “ and “What about your hip?” and . . . “Are you crazy?”

I swore off this 26.2-mile event in October 2011 as I crossed the finish line of my third marathon. I was running Chicago, hoping to get a personal record, hoping to maybe even hit that 4-hour marathon goal. Instead, I added time, going 4:38:35. And I was miserable for the entire second half of that race. I said a lot of things, and one of them was “I am never doing this again.”

I kept my promise and haven’t done a full marathon since that time. But I love running, and I’ve done shorter distances – a half, a few 5k’s. I even took 3rd place in my age group in a Make Tracks for the Zoo 5k in 2012. Mostly, though, I’ve gotten slower and my running distance has decreased. Those are hard words for a proud runner to type.

Lately, I have begun to feel the marathon bug again — that itch to go further; do more; challenge myself again. I’m growing bored with my current exercise routine.

When I run errands on a Saturday morning and see someone running, I fondly remember my marathon training days.

marathon trainingI remember the feeling I get in my chest when I’m breathing hard but steady for a long period of time. I remember how much I like the feelings that follow a long run – mentally, a sense of accomplishment and overall well-being; physically, a general heightening of the senses, expanded lungs, strong heart, fatigued muscles that have enabled your body to thoroughly expend all its energy. The mental and physical combine to create a buzz.

I don’t miss the pain, however – the limp when I get up in the morning; the pain in my hip while I drive; the ache that radiates from my glute, down my hamstring and sometimes around to the front of my knee.

I was having doubts about whether I could do it.

Then I happened across Fleet Feet’s training program.

I’ve never had a professional running coach. I ran my first marathon with a charity and trained myself for my second and third. I’ve run most of my life, but never with a coach.

Professional Marathon Coaching

Fleet Feet has professional coaches. And scientific V02 Max assessment “takes the guesswork out of training by analyzing an athlete’s oxygen consumption while they run . . . The collected data defines their heart rate training zones so they can maximize their training efficiency and minimize their risk of overtraining.”

And they have a functional movement test that identifies tightness and weaknesses.

And a training program that includes individualized training, twice-weekly runs with pace groups and speed work, a professional head coach, mentors, classes, support.

So I’m doing it. But this time, I’m going to do it with support. I am over-the-moon excited because I’ve got a program! Being a goal-oriented, project-focused individual, having a program is perfect for me. And having a program backed up with science is even better.

Brandi Barbre, Fleet Feet’s training director, conducted my V02 Max test and went over my results with me. She’s designing a plan that will include a recommendation for the pace group I should start in for my marathon training, which begins in January. She identified my anaerobic threshold and is going to have me train under that threshold. More on that later. It’s all very “science-y.”

Tim Cary, Fleet Feet’s head coach, did my functional movement assessment. Then, he showed me some individualized exercises and foam rolling techniques to improve my movement, reduce my tightness and improve my running. My favorite line from him: “The best foam roller is the one you’ll use.’’

One of the biggest “ah ha” moments of my work with Tim was this: my quads, rather than my hamstrings, are tight. I’ve been stretching my hamstrings for a couple of years now, trying to reduce the pain I feel in them when I run. Tim showed me that my tight quads are pulling my hips forward, putting an arch in my lower back and keeping my hamstrings in constant state of extension. I didn’t really believe him until he had me use the foam roller on my quads – yowza. That lit me up. They are tight, indeed!

Trust the Process

Now the hard part – I have to trust the process. Isn’t that always the hard part!!? Whether it’s a move toward healthier eating like the Whole30, or embarking on a journey to write a novel, or re-learning how to run, it’s hard to let go of what you’ve always done and trust something else.

Brandi wants me to do a couple of “field tests” where I stay within a heart rate zone that is below my anaerobic threshold, and then report back to her what my pace on one of the runs and my distance on another. Staying in this heart rate zone means I have to run really slow. REALLY. SLOW.

I’m not fast, but I’m proud. I’m going to have to ask my ego to get out of the way here and trust that Brandi knows what she’s doing. She explained it all to me and like I said, it’s very “science-y.” When I’m comfortable that I completely understand it myself, I’ll write about it in more detail.

For now, I am going to do what she says. And I’m going to train with the pace group that she recommends. And I’m going to try to find my foam roller, because I think the best foam roller is the one that you pull out of storage and use.

I’m super excited about this training program. If you are looking to start running, return to running or improve your running, Fleet Feet offers a bunch of training programs including:

  • Marathon
  • Half-marathon
  • 5k
  • Boston
  • Trail running
  • Speed School
  • Youth Running

They also offer lots of free running opportunities. You can find out more about those here.

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