Running Training

Heavy Weights

I’ve done a lot of reading on the inception of running, and while the etymology of the word jog is reportedly unknown, this much I know to be true:

When distance running came into fashion in the 1970s, much conventional wisdom surrounding the sport was misguided, sexist or downright wrong.

Take a quick glance back through the past five decades of casual and competitive road racing—fine, I’ll do it for you—and it becomes painfully clear that in the 70s, sports science related to my favorite pastime was still in its infancy. Also in their infancy in 1970? Current forty-three year olds, if my math serves me, the odds of which, uh, requires more math.

Take, for example, the following popular misconceptions of the early running boom. These since-refuted claims—while not held by everyone—were oft repeated nonetheless in the literature of the time, or so this non-time-traveling 1985 baby has read:

  • Marathon running causes sterility in women.
  • It’s best not to hydrate at all during a 26.2-mile race.
  • Weight lifting has no place in a runner’s training schedule.

The first two have been overwhelmingly refuted in both scientific study and anecdotal evidence in the generation since, but the third—that weight training and running are mutually exclusive—has somehow persisted.

Many runners—including this one—shy away from strength training even in today’s day and age because:

  1. We don’t want to gain bulk that will weigh us down come race day.
  2. We don’t want to injure ourselves or increase muscle and joint soreness.
  3. We don’t want to waste precious time in the weight room when general consensus says the best way to run better is to simply run more.
  4. We can’t do a push-up. Oh? What’s that you say, other runners? Huh. Well, good for you. I guess that’s just me then.

Or in other words, for the last two years of race training, every time my schedule read this:


I saw this:


(I could upgrade to Photoshop, sure, but the rebellious teenager in me would miss Paint’s spray paint tool too much.)

Skipping strength training (and, let’s be honest, stretching as well) didn’t seem to do me much harm as I trained for my first marathon, having little goal in mind except to finish. But with my race times having since plateaued, I’m starting to think running alone isn’t going to cut it for me anymore as I look to improve. Enter strength training.

Although common knowledge used to dictate strength training was detrimental to the distance runner, science now suggests the addition of some lean muscle can actually improve a runner’s VO2 max, strengthen joints and connective tissue, ward off injury and prevent muscle imbalances, particularly when it comes to the smaller stabilizer muscles that are often underutilized when logging flat mile after flat mile. With that in mind, I rolled up to a group strength training class at my gym last week, and while the bicep curls left my forearms screaming, I’m optimistic the net benefit will be well worth the strain.

Weight training scares me, sure, but just like corralling up at the Verrazano Bridge this November 3 isn’t going to make me sterile, I think pumping some light iron on a weekly basis can only serve to improve my overall fitness, making me a better runner at the end of the day. Yes, it might leave me aching, but I think given the reported benefits, I should just grin and bear it.

Grinning and bearing.

Do you supplement your running with weight training? Have you seen improvement and/or been elected California governor as a result? 

Running Training Weight Loss

Spice of Life

I eat oatmeal for breakfast nearly every morning, a home-packed salad for lunch nearly every noon*, greek yogurt for snack every afternoon and some version of the same 10 dishes every evening come suppertime.

*Confession: More like 10:30 a.m. This impatient girl’s lunch has never once survived to see the elusive p.m. hours.

Even when dining out, I tend to gravitate toward the same options over and over again. Salmon, asparagus and lentil puree? Yes, please. Arugula, beet and goat cheese salad? I’ll take two. Multi-grain pancakes with a side of turkey bacon? Your restaurant menu has just made me the happiest bruncher in all of Gotham.

It’s true: When it comes to my culinary decisions, if variety is the spice of life, then I’m not going to be winning a James Beard award any time soon.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although oft-repeated anecdotes recommend diversifying your diet to keep your taste bubs interested during weight loss, actual science suggests quite the opposite. According to the National Weight Control Registry, which studies why it’s calculably harder to maintain weight loss than lose the pounds in the first place (oh, cruel world), those who successfully beat the odds and do, in fact, maintain significant weight loss for an extended period of time have a number of factors in common:

  • They eat breakfast every day.
  • They watch less than 10 hours of television per week.
  • They exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.
  • They consume a diet with less food group variety.

That’s not to say they have to eat the same exact foods day in and day out like some people I know.

People = puppy in my lexicon, but you knew that.
People = puppy in my lexicon, but you knew that.

To be fair, I do mix it up, but only in the details. Today it was oatmeal with banana. Tomorrow, it will be oatmeal with almonds and strawberries. In the future, it might be oatmeal and metallic robot food. Who knows what the future might bring?

But while extreme variety is largely discouraged when it comes to food selection and weight control, the same can’t be said of exercise. Run the same five-mile loop at the same pace every morning and you may be fit and consistent and content. But run the same loop over and over again and there’s one thing you aren’t going to be: improving.

I’ve heard for years that a variety of workouts – intervals, long runs, cross training, hills – is crucial for overcoming fitness plateaus, but as I spent the last year ignoring that advice and logging PR after PR regardless, I couldn’t be bothered to shake up my routine. Fast forward to last Saturday’s brutal performance at the Healthy Kidney 10K that saw me cross the finish line a whopping 5 minutes slower than my distance record and it became painfully clear that a few easy reservoir loops at the same pace each week does not a competitor make.

Funny how much less miserable I looked before the race began.
Funny how much less miserable I looked before the race began.

So in the spirit of overcoming my current fitness stagnation, I’ve decided to do the unthinkable: I’m going to sign up for a sprint triathlon. That’s right: a quarter-mile swim, an 11-mile bike and a 3.1-mile run await me this July in an attempt to break up my routine and push through this athletic plateau. This will be my second sprint triathlon to date, having completed one excruciating attempt during my nonathletic (and non-Saved by the Bell) college years, and I’m definitely out of my comfort zone here.

Fortunately, while the concept of a triathlon is fairly new to me, my race partner and I go way back. In fact, we’ve even swum together in the same open water before.

Thanks for the awesome haircut, Mom, Dad and the 1990s in general.
Thanks for the awesome haircut, Mom, Dad and the 1990s in general.

I’m not going to lie: the notion of lap lanes and weight training and spinning classes scare me more than 1982 classic Poltergeist*, but I think it’s time to get out of my rut and think outside the Bridle Path.

*Just kidding. Nothing scares me more than Poltergeist.

So here goes nothing. Crabman Triathlon or bust!

How are you planning to push yourself this summer?


Welcome Insignificance

After completing my inaugural marathon last fall, you may recall I found myself struggling to generate canine-free copy to fill this space. Following months of long runs and speed work and unbridled excitement, this running blogger suddenly found herself out of the running circuit, giving me all the time in the world to write but few topic ideas of substance and even less motivation to flesh them out. After spending one-third of my year training for and blogging about the lead up to the most exciting 3 hours and 51 minutes of my adult life, nothing in my post-marathon lifestyle seemed big enough to document.

photo 1 (10)
Fact: This actually says “bug” if you only consider my arms.

Fast forward to the weeks following the Boston Marathon and suddenly my ramblings seemed more immaterial than ever.

I certainly haven’t meant to disappear from the blogging world these past few weeks. In fact, I’ve been snapping photos left and right in hopes that something would inspire me to re-engage with the online running community. In recent weeks, I raced a 4-miler, spotted Alec Baldwin and finally met (the always lovely) @DCRunster face to face, but in the wake of Marathon Monday and my subsequent responses, nothing since has felt nearly noteworthy enough to warrant your time or the use of this space.

Hence the radio silence. This is a radio I’m writing on, right? Good, just checking. Technology, amIright?

But the truth is, whether or not I have anything material to say, I miss this (occasionally thought-provoking but more often silly) part of my life. Sure, my recent afternoon with my brother’s goldendoodle may be exponentially less important than Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s ongoing interrogation, but today it hit me: in the aftermath of last month’s events, my small but loyal community of running blog readers could probably use a little lighthearted triviality right about now.

And what better way than via a pictorial re-enactment of Ludwig Bemelmans’ 1939 classic, Madeline? Bring it on.

Last Sunday, Keira and I smiled at the good.

photo 3 (8)

And frowned at the bad.

photo 3 (7)

And sometimes she was very sad.

photo 1 (8)

Insignificant? Sure. But if if my ability to post the above photo series means that nothing so terrible has transpired that I have to forgo my usual buffoonery and blog about fatalities and terror and heartbreak instead, then that’s fine by me. I’ve learned this month that trivality can be a blessing, and it’s one that this re-awakened blogger is very happy for indeed.

What silliness brought a smile to you this week?