October 2013 - Page 2 of 2 - Run for the Thrills

Open water swim

Triathlon Training – Swim Workouts

Posted by | Triathlon Training | 2 Comments

Triathlon Training has begun in earnest.  I am swimming twice per week with the local Masters Swim group at the Kiwanis Aquatics Centre.  Swim workouts are created by an experienced coach, Christine Arsenault,  who challenges us, corrects technique and keeps us motivated.  I started swimming last winter after a twenty year break from any swim training (high school swim team!).  It feels great to be back in the water and my fitness is definitely improving.

My swim technique has improved over the past months, but it is still under construction.  Along with the standard repeats of different intervals in the water (25m sprints, 50m, 100m, 200m, etc.) we do many drills and strengthening exercises that improve our technique and make us overall much better, more efficient swimmers.

Bilateral Breathing:  In the half year that I have been swimming I have learned to do bilateral breathing,  which is especially important for open water swimming when breaths may be determined by the waves.   This week we did an exercise to work on our bilateral breathing and our tolerance to oxygen deprivation.  Each 25m we increased the number of strokes we took before breathing, starting with 3 strokes per breath and moving all the way up to 9 strokes per breath.  At the start of the exercise I could only do 5 – 7 strokes.  By the end of the workout I was able to squeeze out a few 9 strokes for 25m.  A real challenge, but amazing to see how quickly one’s body adjusts and learns.

Sculling (with no kicking) is another excellent drill for improving strength and technique.  Sculling teaches the hands how to propel in every phase of the pull cycle and will improve one’s stroke.  Again, I have found with practice a huge improvement in my sculling and in my swimming technique overall.

Here is a video that describes sculling.

Pulling Buckets (or parachutes):  Adding resistance to our bodies, in the form of buckets attached to stretch cords that we tie around our waists, is a challenging strength workout.  This week we did three sets of 4 x 50m of swimming pulling two buckets. The buckets dragged behind us, forcing us to work much harder in our free style stroke.

Between the bucket exercises we did timed swims of different distances (400, 200, 100).  We felt like we were zipping through the water after those buckets were removed!

Kicking and Pulling are also standard drills, forcing us to target our legs or arms respectively.  These drills can be done in many various ways to keep swimming interesting and the body challenged.  Kicking can be done with or without a kick board.  Pulling can be done with a pull buoy between the legs to aid in floatation, or without the buoy for increased difficulty.  Find swimming equipment pictured below at a specialty swimming or triathlon store.

kick board

It is definitely worth your while to find a master’s swim group to train with.  I am benefiting from having well designed swim workouts, feedback on my stroke technique as well as having the challenge of other stronger swimmers to pace off of and to chase when we do timed intervals.  I am still working on my hand entry into the water – improving my technique is ongoing.

Here are some visuals for proper form in free style.

The new challenge of swimming is a great compliment to my running routine and will benefit my running, overall fitness and aid in keeping me injury free over time.



What to do When Running Injuries Strike

Posted by | Training | 2 Comments

Image by quinn.anya

Training can be going amazingly well, and then from out of nowhere a sudden ache or a sudden pain can strike.  Running injuries are unfortunately very common.  This morning I headed out for my early morning run, only to decide to come back early to ice my sore left knee (which I have noticed for the past few days) and do some yoga instead.  This is disappointing, but I need to take my own advice, and not create a worse injury.  Running injuries are bound to creep up, and knowing how to prevent them and cope with them when they do appear is essential.  Here are some tips on dealing with running injuries:

1.  Build Mileage slowly:  stick to the 10% rule:  increase distance by only 10% weekly and then every fourth week stay at the same mileage as the week before, to allow your body to adjust and recover from the increased workload.

2.  Take Rest Days:  After hard workouts , take a day off from running.  If you want an aerobic workout, swimming and cycling are great complements to running, helping to build muscles that are not worked as much during running.

3. Stretch/Do Yoga:  Muscles become tight and shortened from the repetitive motions of running.  Yoga works to lengthen and stretch out muscles (read previous article: Yoga for Runners)

4. Have Regular Massages:  Sports massage therapists know the needs of runners, and will work out tight muscles that may eventually cause injury if not worked on.  Massage works great to loosen tight muscles and break down scar tissue.  This is therapeutic massage, not relaxation massage!

5.  Ice:  To reduce inflammation, ice, ice and more ice.  Make sure to put a cloth between the ice and your skin, or constantly move the ice around the sore area to prevent freezing the skin (I have sadly learned this the hard way).

6. Epsom Salts Baths:  To relieve inflammation and ease pain, take epsom salts baths.  Epsom salt is not actually salt but a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate.  Epsom salts help release toxins from the body and relax muscles.  Fill your bathtub with warm water, add 2-3 cups of epsom salts and soak for 15 minutes.

7.  Be Flexible:  Be willing to adjust a workout if you are experiencing pain.  If you have a mild ache, relax your hard workout to an easy one, to ensure that you not create a serious injury out of a minor one.  By postponing the workout, you may allow your body enough time to heal and you will still be able to exercise.  Runners definitely have a difficult time with this one.  I took this advice this morning.  I certainly hope to do a hard workout later this week!

8.  Become Educated:  Learn what your own muscle imbalances are (from a massage therapist, chiropractor, physiotherapist or sports medicine doctor) and learn what strengthening and stretching exercises you need to target your own weaknesses.  Overtime, you will discover what your body needs and what things to avoid.  I know for example to avoid wearing high heels too often, as I have had previous problems with plantar fasciitis.  I also know that yoga helps keep me flexible and healthy.  Compression socks have also done wonders for my calves and shins.

A Runner’s World article lists the seven most common running injuries:  Runner’s Knee, Achilles Tendinitis, Hamstring Issues, Plantar Fasciitis, Shinsplints,  Iliotibial Band Syndrome, Stress Fractures; and gives specific advice for dealing with each of these issues.

I hope to quickly overcome my knee pain.  I hope you manage to stay injury free, enjoying pain free running as you train in the weeks and months to come.

nature runner

You know you are a Runner when….

Posted by | Why I Run | 2 Comments

Image by aarmono

Runners are amazing people with some unique abilities and characteristics.  You know you are a runner when you notice some of these special attributes and abilities appearing in your life:

  1. Distance Intuition:  An uncanny ability to know the distances to all the various intersections and landmarks in your neighbourhood.
  2. Love of Nature:  You see the sun rise;   you notice all the wildlife early in the morning (rabbits greet you in the early morning); you have spotted deer and other various wildlife.
  3. Fartlek Runs:  You do weekly fartlek runs and don’t find this to be an odd word or concept.
  4. Hills Excite You:  When you go for a drive you notice all the perfect training hills along your route.
  5. Runners over Heels:  As a woman, you find your closet filling up with running shoes and you are not tempted to buy high heels (they only cause plantar fasciitis)
  6. Run Clothes:  All your new clothing is exercise gear.  Your clothing is always hanging up to dry because you work out so much.
  7. Washroom Breaks in the Woods:  Not a problem, you can deal with this.  (and you know where all the port-a- potties are in the city for those long runs)
  8. PBs:  You know all your personal bests and are striving to break them all.
  9. High Pain Tolerance:  Long runs, speed intervals, deep muscle massages (not the relaxation massages) are part of your common experience.
  10. Running/Triathlon Community:  You get to know other runners in your neighbourhood, share stories, support one another in training….the comradary is amazing.
  11. Run For the Thrill of it:  Running for the sake of running because it feels great and you feel alive.  You feel the joy of running free and enjoying the beautiful world around you.

How do you know you are a runner?  Please comment with your unique running abilties and skills.


Half Marathon Race Pace

Posted by | Training | No Comments

Half Marathon Preparations continue:  Today I ran 5km at an easy pace (4:30 km pace) and then ran 10km at my Half Marathon Race Pace of 3:56 per km.  A solid workout.

My “Half Marathon Race Pace” is the pace which I plan to run the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in two weeks time.  The goal is to become familiar and comfortable running quickly, while remaining in my aerobic zone.  In my workout I ran only a portion of the race distance at the goal race pace;  that way I push myself, without completely exhausting myself and allowing for a quick recovery.

The workout was comfortably hard, which is exactly what it is supposed to feel like. Now the goal will be to sustain that pace for 21.1 km in two weeks time.

How did I determine my “Half Marathon Race Pace”?  Determining training and racing paces I use recent race performances, which give me the associated VDOT values.  These are concepts found in Jack Daniel’s book:  Daniel’s Running Formula.   The VDOT value is based on VO2 max.  (VO2 max is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise.)  Depending on the type of workout, one stresses different systems in the body (aerobic, aerobic threshold, anaerobic) – Interval training for example is done at a higher heart rate and 98 – 100% of VO2 max.

These are all concepts that a coach can assist you with, in determining your own training and racing paces in order to achieve the most out of all your workouts.

My workout today was encouraging. In focusing on maintaining a specific pace I am reminded to approach each of my workouts with a clear goal and objective in mind.


Balancing Act: Family and Training

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Why I Run | 5 Comments

A typical day is full of excitement, stress, hugs from kids, running here and there, getting meals made, laundry done, children driven places or picked up and then also a training workout somewhere in the mix. Why do I do this? Is it all worth it? Am I achieving some sort of healthy balance between family and training?

Take this past Tuesday as an example:
5:10 – woke up, drank some greens plus, pulled on my bathing suit and grabbed my prepacked gym bag and drove to the pool.
5:30 – In the pool for masters swimming. Great workout with super-sets of 100m, 75m, 50m and 25m, until 7am.
7:10 – Home to get my three kids up for school, get breakfast, lunches made and off to school.
8:30 – Work an 8 hour day in the Autism Intervention program as an instructor therapist.
4:45 – Meetings
5:30 – Home for dinner
7:00 – Drive my son to his swim practice at Ridley Pool with his swim group. Great to see him working hard and learning new skills (working on fly stroke – new to him)
8:30 – Homework with kids, some housework –
9:30 – I am very tired!

I love being challenged; I dislike being bored. I am a perfectionist and can get stressed and anxious at times – exercise is the perfect stress release. I train at 5:30am many week days, and on the weekends I “sleep in” and start training by 7am. When I get home, even on the weekends, the family is just starting to rise. They wait for me to make them waffles or pancakes!

1098327_10151622430058661_1438793351_nI see the positive effects of my healthy pursuits, motivating my own children.  Last year, my 12 year old son Caleb tagged along with me several mornings to my 5:30am masters swim group.  This resulted in us finding a swim team for him this year with his peers.  Tonight, I tagged along with Caleb to a spin class for his swim team.  This is a wonderful new stage, where my children and I are starting to participate in sports together.   Had I not been training and Caleb observing, Caleb would never be doing what he is doing now.

I would rather my house be a bit chaotic or a little messy at times and still do the things I love and support my children in the things they love. Three nights a week my daughter dances, my youngest son goes to Cubs. We had “Meet the Teacher” night at the school one evening. There really is never a dull moment.

Most days it works. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

running shoes2

Half Marathon Training: The Long Run

Posted by | Training | No Comments

Time for Half Marathon Training – I love this distance, as it allows for a wide variety of different types of training runs and races. A half marathon is an attainable goal for most people, even for someone who is relatively new to running, if one is able to commit to a weekly long run and has several months to slowly build up the distance, ensuring not to do too much too soon. The long run is essential for both the physiological and mental benefits necessary to complete a half marathon or marathon.

Today was the my LONG RUN day. The Toronto Waterfront half marathon is now three weeks away, and today was my longest run before the half marathon. I have been focusing on shorter trail races this fall, so today was especially important for me mentally. I needed to ensure that I was confident with the half marathon distance after all these shorter races. I had a great run of 27kms along the waterfront trail, at a steady km pace of 4:43 per km. The goal of the long run is distance/duration, rather than speed. The long run is done at slower pace than one’s goal race pace and slower than most other runs done during the week. It is therefore often referred to as the long slow distance run (LSD). Every third or fourth week, I do a portion of my long run at goal half marathon pace to get the feel of the race pace.

What does the long slow run do for you?

1. Improves aerobic fitness: Over time the body will become more efficient at delivering blood to the exercising muscles. Aerobic capacity will increase: this is measured as the maximum amount of oxygen that the body can extract and use in the process of energy production (VO2Max).

2. Strengthens muscles, joints and ligaments as they adapt to the stress of running. Ample recovery time is necessary for muscles to repair between workout sessions, so always allow for recovery days after long runs, and only increase distance by 10% each week.

3. Mental strength and confidence: by increasing your distance slowly, you will be amazed at what your body can do, and you will be ready for that race, as you have done more than the distance in training (as in half marathon training) or close to the full distance (as in marathon training).

4. Long slow runs increase the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel. This is especially important in long events, where the body can use up the glycogen stores in muscles which is the first fuel used.

5. Improved running efficiency. Practice makes perfect, and being out for a long run, the body will learn to become more efficient and use less energy. Focus on smooth running, not wasting energy with twisting or excessive bouncing.