Hey! Happy sunny fall Sunday!
Today was a great day for the Estes Trail Ascent. Rugged, gorgeous, steep ups and downs, and only 4 and 6.75-mile courses: it’s a lovely option for people [like me] who don’t want to commit longer trail racing adventures. I mean, I just like to actually run the entire time!
It was an especially awesome day because my slow-and-steady recovery from surgery is paying off. To re-cap, the operative date was 7/5/17 (happy day after 4th of July!). I was up and walking around the neighborhood by the end of post-op week 3. That took f-ing forever. My first post-operative run was 8/12. Running was suuuuper effortful for the next 3 weeks. I started to add in speed work around 9/1. My first race back was a 4k on 10/1, which was 2.5 miles of remembering what it means and feels like to race. On 10/7 I raced a 10 mile, which wiped the last of the rust out of my knees and kind of achy quads. I realize this is kind of a big jump, 4k to 10 mile, but I am a sturdy runner with a long history of running. Sometimes it’s better to just take the plunge and get it over with! Although today’s race took well over 50 minutes, that’s trail running for you, and I earned 2nd place!
Part of me thinks “ah yes, it is I, the perennial second place finisher.” And then the rest of me is like: “Oh yeeeeah! I’m ba-ack!”
I won a box of off-brand gu. Yay?
So lets talk about how to get back in the game when you’re out of shape and ready to change that.
- Make time to train
- Assess your odds and ends of unstructured time. Pre-dawn? Lunch? Kids’ sport practice? TV after dinner? Where in the puzzle of your life can running possibly fit?
- Find multiple, so if you miss one you can use another. For example, I can’t always haul my butt out of bed at 5am, but when I don’t I can run at lunch. If that fails, I try to go after work. Granted, I don’t have kids, so things are a little more flexible around here.
- Get over making excuses. If you really want to achieve it, you will find the space. Even if that means getting up early, or hitting the pavement after work and making the kids ride their bikes alongside you. At least 4 days a week.
- Make training a habit
- Start off just by creating the space to train. You don’t need to put in the heavy work while also adjusting to your schedule. For example, if you aren’t used to early runs, start by just taking an early morning walk. 15-20 minutes should suffice to begin, and you can start pushing the duration once you’ve proved you can reliably get out of bed. A week or two later, run instead of walking. You can still keep it short.
- Set goals, and reward yourself for sticking to your schedule. A special purchase, permission to be guilt-free on your off day(s). A good book on tape, or music that you’re only allowed to listen to when you’re exercising. Just so long as you’re intentional about exercising as frequently as you’d set your mind to, and equally intentional about treating yourself with kindness and compassion for putting in the effort.
- Vary the routine, routinely
- Now it’s time to push yourself. But start slow: a 5 min up-tempo here, a couple of striders there. Work up to efforts that leave you uncomfortable and breathless, but not every day. We still want you to have the energy and enthusiasm to come back again tomorrow and also to rest and recover from the harder days. Pushing too hard, too soon is a really solid strategy for getting injured!
- Create a framework that keeps you honest: sprints on Monday, jog on Tuesday, Tempo Wednesday, rest Thursday, hills on Friday [or whatever your schedule, you get the picture].
- But seriously! Keep your brain at the wheel. The heart only gets to drive for, like, 5-10 minutes at a time. When you’re coming back from injury or illness, of course you need a little heart. Feel the endorphin rush, find the joy that comes from almost being able to fly again. And then back off. Reign it in.
- Reserve a special type of training as a reward
- This is for when you are feeling on the brink of fitness. Strong enough, now, to not be fragile. Strong enough to deal with the aches and pains of cleaning the cobwebs from the deepest shadows.
- Something to look forward to when you’re slogging through the joyless work.
- Something that does make your heart soar and your brain take backseat.
- Something beautiful, something fun, something social…
- For me that something is racing. My goal is to race at least once a month. This month, about 90 days out from surgery, I’ve raced 3 times already, and it feels like a celebration. Each one has been better than the last!
My lonely little car at the top of the mountain today. I got there early.
Top of the hill.
Cute bandana on my friend’s backpack: