Monthly Archives: April 2013

My (Awesome) Running Form

After my eight mile run this morning, I hopped on the treadmill to check my running form for the first time ever.  I’ve read a lot about proper running form and it’s something I keep in mind, but I needed to see what I was actually doing.  Boston Street Running in Baltimore, MD has a sweet treadmill/camera setup (shown in the video) which is fantastic for checking form.  I kept to my usual long distance pace and did my best to replicate how I usually run.  I recorded the playback with my phone so it’s shaky and the quality isn’t great, but it gets the job done.

Overall, I was incredibly happy with what I saw in the video.  Adam was, too.  He went through each of the four screens to comment on specifics:

  • Top right screen:  I’m not overstriding – the ball of my foot lands below my knee rather than in front of it (also seen in bottom left screen).  My ear is in line with my shoulder and my arms are relaxed.
  • Top left screen:  My hips are level, and there is no lateral motion of my knees when I land.
  • Bottom right screen:  I land on the outside of my foot and roll inward.  Adam says this is the natural mechanism for storage of energy and shock absorption (like a spring).
  • Bottom left screen:  (My favorite part:) I have a midfoot strike rather than a heel strike.  In fact, my heel hardly makes any substantial contact with the ground.  Also, my foot is already moving backward when it makes contact with the ground.  In this way it matches the ground speed and keeps my momentum moving forward.

Check out the slow-motion version of the bottom left screen:

I’ve been running in these Skora shoes since February and I think they’re great.  There’s no cushioning, support, or drop (height difference between the heel and toe) so they protect my feet without “getting in the way” of my running.  From hanging around this store, I’ve seen first-hand how shoes can affect a runner’s form.  I highly recommend that anyone interested in running should take a closer look at their form using video, if possible.

To give you an idea of the form I’m trying to imitate, check out the video below from Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.  I’m not interested in barefoot running on the streets of Baltimore, but the biomechanics he describes makes a lot of sense to me.

What do you think?  Do you know what your running form looks like?  If you’re in Baltimore, drop by Boston Street Running to find out!

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Week 17: workouts

First of all, let me say this: I know this week-in-review workout format doesn’t make for the most thrilling blog reading, but it’s helping me stay consistent with my workouts and get stronger in the process.  My run this morning is a case in point: I had a strong eight mile run without wearing myself out.  I was able to enjoy the gorgeous weather and the company in a way that would not have been possible a few months ago.  I know this may sound crazy to those of you who have known me for a while, but I actually had fun on my long run this morning.

Strength training

Monday was my only spinning-lifting workout of the week.  My schedule shifted a bit for work this week, and the lifting workouts were my lowest priority.  I’m glad I got one lifting session in, but looking back on it I should have done more.  Maybe I’ll devise a quick at-home replacement workout for future busy mornings.

Running

Running has been my top priority lately, so I made sure to finish the usual workouts for the week.  On Wednesday I did a 5k run on my own in the morning.  I wanted to take it easy, but as soon as I was on the road my legs set the pace for me.  I have a natural cadence that I like to maintain, so slowing down is a matter of stride length.  The short stride just didn’t feel right that morning, so I ended up pushing through a rather hard 28:35 minute 5k.  I was happy with it, but it definitely wasn’t easy.  I think it was also my fastest 5k on the roads (rather than a treadmill).

The next day, Adam and I were at the track for another interval workout.  My plan was 4x1000m then 4x200m.  We began with a warm up and drills to get the blood flowing.  My legs were sore from the day before, so I resigned myself to a slow workout.  Well, here’s how it went for the 1000m (with 90 seconds rest):

  • 4:58  (7:59 min/mile pace)
  • 5:02  (8:06 min/mile pace)
  • 4:59  (8:01 min/mile pace)
  • 5:01  (8:04 min/mile pace)

I went even faster than last time!  While I was running I felt slow, but apparently I was really moving!  I’m also really happy with the consistency I was able to maintain.  My 200m intervals were a bit slower than last time, but I’m okay with that:

  • 0:48  (6:26 min/mile pace)
  • 0:46  (6:10 min/mile pace)
  • 0:48  (6:26 min/mile pace)
  • 0:46  (6:10 min/mile pace)

My heart rate and pace (vs time) are shown below.  (Click to enlarge)

thurs-run

Sunday’s workout was a gorgeous long run around the harbor.  It was another eight miles, but it felt easy compared to last week.  My total time was 1:18:17 with a couple interruptions – about two minutes worth of rest after the first 5k.  Overall, it was a great run on a beautiful morning and, as always, it was great to have Adam there with me.

Week 16: workouts

There are no big updates for this week except that I set a new PR for my 8 mile long run.  Monday and Wednesday were the usual: 20 minutes on the recumbent bike, stretching, lifting, and abs.  On Friday I was beat and decided to only do the ab workout that morning.

On Tuesday I ran 5k around campus at a relatively easy pace: 31:30 total time.  Now that the weather has warmed a bit, I’m beginning to run outdoors more often – and that can take a little more mental energy some days.  On Thursday I went to the track with Adam so he could “remind his legs how to go fast”.  I decided to test out my 5k pace so I ran one mile in 8:40 which would put me around 27:00 overall.  On a flat course with little wind, I think it’s possible.  We’ll see – I have my first race next month!

On Saturday Adam had his second race of the season – the Sole of the City 10k in downtown Baltimore.  You can read his race report on his blog (here).  I ran around to take pictures of him at the 4, 5, and 6 mile markers.  The rest of the day was packed full of events so I didn’t have time for any more workouts even if I had wanted to do something.

long-runOn Sunday I ran another 8 miles around Baltimore’s harbor.  Adam and I started at the red icon and ran west for 4k before turning around to run back to the store, then finished with the 5k route for the race I plan to run next month.  The east side of the harbor is less than scenic, but it was flat so I didn’t complain too much.  I was pushing it for the last kilometer (8:26 min/mile pace) and my time for the last 5k was 29:06.  If I can run that fast after 5 miles, I should be able to handle 27:00 fresh (assuming nothing goes wrong during the race – like an asthma attack).  The total time for the 8 miles was 1:17:50 which is a new PR by two minutes.  Man, I had to work hard for those two minutes!

Next week will be a hard week, but I have a visitor in town for work so I’ll need to rearrange my schedule a bit.  It’ll be a challenge, but I’ll make it work somehow.  Wish me luck!

Week 15: workouts

The weather was absolutely beautiful this week.  Part of the reason I’m really enjoying my workouts is because they get me outdoors more than usual.  If the weather continues to be nice, I may have to start spending some time on my road bike instead of the recumbent bike at the gym.  We’ll see.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were my strength training days with time on the bike to help my legs recover.  I started with a 25 minute low-resistence, high-speed (90+ rpm) bike workout that broke a sweat and raised my heart rate to near 155 bpm at a few points (but closer to 140 bpm on average).  The purpose of this workout is twofold: (1) get some blood pumping to the muscles to help them recover from running the previous day and (2) warm them up so I can stretch properly afterwards.  I never stretch before a workout or without a proper warm up.  After the bike and stretching, it was time for the weight room.  I did three sets of twenty reps for my chest, back, shoulders, triceps, and biceps.  I did a different exercise for each muscle group over the three days:

Afterwards, I finished with a quick ab workout.

tue-trackTuesday and Thursday are still my running days.  This week – track workouts!  Each day, I began with a warm up: 3/4 mile jog around the track followed by drills:

  • 2 x 100m strides
  • Skips
  • Sideways running
  • Grapevine with high knees
  • High knees
  • Butt kicks
  • Walk on toes
  • Walk on heels
  • 4 x 100m strides

On Tuesday the track workout was 8 x 600m.  The last time I ran 600m intervals on the track was back in February, but that time I only did six of them.  Since those workouts in February, all my intervals have been done on a treadmill at the gym based on time rather than distance.  Needless to say, I didn’t know how I’d do.  Well, here’s how I managed:

  • 2:56  (7:52 min/mile pace)
  • 2:48  (7:31 min/mile pace)
  • 2:51  (7:39 min/mile pace)
  • 2:50  (7:36 min/mile pace)
  • 2:57  (7:55 min/mile pace)
  • 2:57  (7:55 min/mile pace)
  • 3:00  (8:03 min/mile pace)
  • 2:42  (7:14 min/mile pace)

The rest period was 90 seconds between each 600m.  I finished up with a couple barefoot laps around the track to cool down, followed by stretching.

That workout was exhausting.  Honestly, I felt like a zombie for the rest of the day.  Now I’m starting to understand how Adam feels after a particularly hard week: drained.

Thursday was back to the track for 4 x 1000m and 4 x 200m.  The total distance was the same as Tuesday, but it mixed up the distances and speeds.  February was the last time I did a similar workout at the track.  My muscles were still sore from Tuesday’s workout, but they loosened up a bit after the warm up.  For the 1000m:

  • 5:05  (8:11 min/mile pace)
  • 5:14  (8:25 min/mile pace)
  • 5:16  (8:28 min/mile pace)
  • 5:03  (8:08 min/mile pace)

The last time I did this workout, I only did three intervals and my fastest was 5:32!  Woo.  These workouts are paying off and it feels great.  After the four 1000m repeats, I did four 200m:

  • 0:45  (6:02 min/mile pace)
  • 0:44  (5:54 min/mile pace)
  • 0:44  (5:54 min/mile pace)
  • 0:43  (5:46 min/mile pace)

These were also faster than last time (0:50) and I felt strong.  Cool down was a barefoot jog and stretching as usual.  I was tired, but not drained all day like I was on Tuesday.  It was a hard week, but it felt good.

I took Saturday off, and only spent an hour and twenty minutes on an easy bike ride – I was a mobile water station for Adam during his 20k hard run.  In the morning we watched the Hopkins track meet which was great.  It’s fun to watch fast runners and there were a number of very exciting finishes.

Sunday was my long run day.  I like it because it’s an event.  Adam and I drove down to Boston Street Running early in the morning and dropped our stuff at the store.  The weather was beautiful – cool and sunny.  Together we ran 8 miles in 1:20:00, though Adam was having a little trouble keeping up after his 90k bike + 20k run the day before.  Now that was a new experience!  I’m not used to being the fast one.  The run wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t killer either.  Overall, a good long run.  And, of course, it was beautiful running around the harbor.

It was a great week, and I’m feeling strong!

Week 14: workouts

I feel like I’m reaching the point where working out consistently throughout the week is becoming normal.  It’s less exciting to be doing the same thing I’ve been doing over the past few weeks, but it’s fun to feel my fitness improving.

This week was a recovery week, so I took it easy on the running.  I stuck to the usual schedule, but dialed back the intensity.  The strength workouts aren’t as taxing, so I kept the usual intensity there – same Monday-Wednesday-Friday workouts as last week.

Tuesday – 5k on the treadmill – total time 33:15

Thursday – 5k on the treadmill – total time 30:00

On Thursday I started at 5.5 mph and increased by 0.1 mph every two minutes.  It wasn’t exactly a recovery workout, but I was feeling good and it wasn’t more that my usual 5ks.

Saturday was spring cleaning day so I didn’t get the usual workout in, but I did a lot of walking around, moving things, and lots and lots of scrubbing.

Sunday – 8 miles around the harbor – total time 1:20:00.

Adam and I went down to Boston Street Running for my long run on Sunday.  The weather was cool and windy, but I’ve found that I like it cool.  Running around the harbor again was great – not only is it flat, but there’s a lot to see.  Eight miles is the farthest I’ve ever run intentionally (two weeks ago was longer, but also a surprise) so it was a little harder mentally, but not too bad.  I had a couple run-ins with asthma but I just needed to slow down a bit and calm down.  Sometimes my head just gets in the way of my legs.

Well, that’s it for my workouts this week.  I spent Sunday hanging out at Boston Street Running (BSR) and had the pleasure of meeting some really great people.  Minimalist running seems to be something that a lot of people are interested in trying, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.  Until next week ~ run real, run free.

Quinoa deliciousness

I’ve heard so many good things about a plant-based diet, I thought I’d give it a try… just not yet.  At least, not 100% right now.  Training and competing is an important part of Adam’s life, and he’s (rightfully) not excited about making any drastic changes.  I’m also making big strides in my fitness and I’m liking our routine.  As a compromise, we’ve been trying new foods and building up our repertoire of plant-based foods.

The recipe below is from the back of Trader Joe’s red quinoa packaging.  We’ve doubled the recipe (so it’s enough for a lunch, a dinner, and a snack for each of us) and altered some of the proportions to suit our tastes.

quinoa-1quinoa-3quinoa-2

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa, red or white, *thoroughly rinsed*
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 30 oz black beans (if canned: drained and rinsed)
  • 3 cups corn kernels (ours are frozen, so we steam them)
  • 2 avocados, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup cilantro salad dressing (from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped,
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa with the vegetable broth (see package for instructions) – this will take fifteen or twenty minutes.  While the quinoa is on the stove, combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Let the quinoa cool a bit before you mix it with everything else.  That’s it – you’re done!

If you want to make it pretty, mix the salad dressing with the quinoa and spread this in a large glass baking dish.  Top this with the remaining ingredients all mixed together.

This recipe made its local debut during Easter, and it was a bit hit.  I love it because it’s simple, healthy, and tasty.  We only dirty one pot, a cutting board, a knife, and a strainer – and it only takes about twenty minutes.  We keep vegetable scraps in a freezer bag to make our own veggie broth once a week – we just throw everything in the Crock-Pot with water, thyme, oregano, and bay leaves.  The recipe is also low in sugar and low in salt which is great.  Overall, it’s a winner.  And it makes for delicious leftovers.

Week 13: workouts

Strength training

Last week I mentioned that I’ve been unhappy with my lifting routine lately.  Well, this week I decided to combine my strength days with some extra recovery work, namely a low-resistance spin session and lots of stretching.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week I spent 20 minutes on the spinner to help my legs recover from running the day before.  I kept the resistance low and the rpm between 90 and 100.  Afterwards I spent at least twenty minutes stretching out, focusing on my hips which gave me trouble last Sunday and on my calves which always feel tight after a run.  It felt great to warm up a bit and stretch out before my lifting routine – I think it’s what I’ve been missing.

Running intervals

tue-run

Tuesday and Thursday were interval runs.  On Tuesday, Adam and I were back on the treadmills at the gym.  We did the usual 8 minute jog and drills as a warm up.  The workout: 5:00 on and 2:15 off:

  • 7.0 mph  (8:35 min/mile)
  • 7.1 mph  (8:27 min/mile)
  • 7.2 mph  (8:20 min/mile)
  • 7.3 mph  (8:13 min/mile)
  • 7.4 mph  (8:06 min/mile)
  • 7.5 mph  (7:59 min/mile)

During the easy part, though, I was walking at 3.5 mph.  Below is an image showing my heart rate during this workout (click to see large version).  You can see that my heart rate dropped quite a bit (down to 120 bpm) which is way too low for my tastes.  It puts too much stress on my body when I make such a large jump in intensity from slow to fast.  My peak heart rate was 182 bpm and I was pushing it by that point.  Overall, I was very happy with this workout, even if it wasn’t perfect.tue-hr

On Thursday I was on my own since Adam was home with a mild cold.  For once I was going to do intervals based on distance rather than time.  Usually, Adam runs by distance and I match his time.  This workout:  0.75 miles on and 0.25 miles off.

  • 7.0 mph  (8:35 min/mile)
  • 7.4 mph  (8:06 min/mile)
  • 7.4 mph  (8:06 min/mile)

The time was about 6 minutes on and 3 minutes off.  Instead of walking between sets I decided to keep my heart rate up with a jog at 5 mph.  You can see from my heart rate below that this workout was spot on.  During the slow parts my heart rate went back down to a comfortable level (matching where I was for the warm up) and it steadily climbed during the hard parts.  This was a hard workout, without a doubt, but I was proud of myself for having done it on my own.

thurs-hr

Saturday fun on the bike and in the pool

On Saturday I went on an impromptu bike ride in the beautiful weather.  Adam had just returned home from a 90k bike and was preparing for a 20k run (all part of training for a half-Iron distance triathlon).  I could tell he was hurting and could use the extra company, so I volunteered to ride along with him during the run.  It was a good opportunity to take a break from work and enjoy the sunshine.  It was also my first time on the roads aside from the short commute to and from work each day.  I wouldn’t consider that ride a workout, but being out on the roads was certainly good practice for the future.

After all that cycling and running, Adam graciously agreed to join me at the pool for my first swim in many years (since gym in the ninth grade).  I just wanted to test the waters, get the lay of the land, and have Adam critique my technique.  We were only there for twenty minutes or so, but it was enough time for a few uncomfortable laps.  They weren’t really as bad as I thought they would be – I just need to get used to the water in my ears, nose, and mouth.  Also, my technique was surprisingly good, according to Adam.  There are some small things I need to work on, but it’s mostly just building up endurance and becoming comfortable with the breathing.  Having proper goggles and a swim cap (a first for me) definitely helped.

Easter long run

Sunday is now my long run day – to coincide with the group runs at Boston Street – so Adam and I took a break from Easter festivities for a 10k run.  My legs felt like rocks for the first half and the weather was dreary – cold and a little drizzle.  Needless to say, it would have been tough doing this one on my own.  I decided to just buckle down and make the best of it.  When all was said and done, we had run 10k in 1:02 (9:56 min/mile) which I’m very happy about considering I felt very slow.  At the end I even had enough left in me to run the last 400m at 7:48 min/mile pace (which floored Adam).  I certainly could have pushed harder/faster on this run, but I’m in no rush and I certainly don’t want to risk injury.  I’m just here to enjoy the journey.  Now, for a recovery week!