I'm now two weeks into P90X3 and almost a month into my 2014 running training, with a goal of being a stronger faster runner. Overall, I think things are going well. I felt a bit tired at the beginning of this week, as my body adapted to doing two workouts a day again, but I now feel better after having taken it a bit easier for a couple of days. I thought I might give a recap on how P90X3 and my running are going.
I have now completed two weeks of the same seven workouts. I have one more week with these workouts in the same sequence. Then, on week four of the program, I begin a transition week which will take me to month two of the program and a new set of workouts. (To read detailed reviews of all seven of the P90X3 workouts I've done to date, click here.)
- Doing an extra 30 minute P90X3 workout each day has been an excellent suppliment to my other workouts. I would not recommend doing just this workout alone if you're looking to increase fitness, but it would work well for someone getting into exercise.
- We do a lot of balance moves in P90X3. I'm still struggling here, but noticing slight improvements in my form.
- Pull-ups are a key piece of P90X3. When I started, I had to rely on the chair for everything. I can now do a pull-up or two without chair support. I then add the chair in for help during the rest of the set. Seeing gains here in just two weeks feels great!
- P90X3 has a couple of great workouts that are lower intensity and focus on flexability and mobility: X3 Yoga and Dynamix. I do not get enough of this type of exercise. I especially love the Dynamix workout, which focused on dynamix flexability and strength (versus the static stretching you often do in yoga). Since starting P90X3, I have had almost no discomfort in my right hip, where I suffer from tendonitis. My left calf, which had been bothering me since November, has also been feeling a lot stronger. I think that Dynamix is part of this solution along with drinking cherry juice (for inflamation fighting) and concentrating on my running form.
I have been running three days a week. This is the same as what I have done in the past, but I am handling my workouts very differently. I used to do two medium length runs (for me 3 - 5 miles) during the week and, if I was training for a race, a longer run on the weekend in the six plus mile range. (If I wasn't training, I would just do another medium length run.)
I would do all my runs at basically the same pace, 10:00/mile, for the entire run. I'd do my long runs a bit more slowly and take a couple of walk breaks for water and fuel intake, but otherwise, I was running three days a week at the same pace.
Part of plan "Get to be a better runner" was reevaluating my running. I knew going into this that I did not want to spend more than three days a week, or occasionally four, running. I like to run, but I also like to do weight training, HIIT, bootcamp, kickboxing, aerobics class, and my fitness DVD programs, like P90X3. I was not willing to give these things up to become a better runner. Honestly, if it was between giving up all my cross training and knowing I'd stay slow, I'd stay slow. Other runners find that running is their main activity and everything else is just, for lack of a better word, a side dish. For me, giving up my other training is nonnegotiable. Maybe this will mean that I will never be a very strong runner -- in fact likely that's true -- but I still hope to become a better runner.
Knowing I didn't want to run more, I did a bunch of research, including reading an excellent article in Running Times about maximizing training time. The main point was, that yes you can train less, but you have to train hard. To that end, I decided to create a workout schedule with three important workouts in a week: speed/hill workout, tempo run, long run.
As things go, I think this has been working out pretty well. I'm not sure how much faster or stronger I feel on my runs yet, but I do feel that my hard work is getting some results. I definitely feel better on hills. I think this is both a mental and physical change. I've been running more hills, so my body is better prepared to handle hills during my runs. However, I also mentally embrace the hill! In the past, whenever I saw a hill I would mentally groan. I tried to create training runs where hills were minimized. Now that is not the case. When I see a hill I think of it as both a challenge and a chance to become a better and improved runner. "This hill is going help me reach my goals," I think. I've been tackling more hills with this attitute and feeling better and my chances on hilly runs and future races. Hill training is also a form of speed training, in a way (though perhaps purests would disagree), so I feel this will help me do better in races.
I've also been doing weekly tempo runs. I've been doing these as 3.5 to 4 mile runs. I'll do a mile at 10:00 pace and then around two miles at 9:40 pace followed by a mile at 10:00 pace. My best 10K was done at under 9:40 pace on a hilly course. That was a great day, but it makes me know I can do this. I want to have my general running speed, which is now 10:00, be more like 9:30 or 9:40 when the year is done. The tempo runs are letting me practice that skill. Hopefully as time goes on, I can increase the length of those runs and of the time at which I am doing the fast tempo speed. I want to get my body used to feeling what 9:40 feels like and thinking of it as a default pace. I don't want to do too much too soon, so I am easing into this. I already feel like my 10:00 pace is starting to feel easier and slower, which is great news!
I'm also getting into my long runs easily. I had been spending most of the past few months just doing three or four mile runs. As a result, did a five mile long run the first week, a 5.5 mile run the second, and a six mile run the third. This week, I did my longest run of the week on Saturday and decided to do something different. The weather has been brutally cold here in the North East, forcing me to do a lot of my running inside on the treadmill. However, yesterday was a balmy high of 40 degrees.
I had been very much wanting to get a pair of trail shoes for a while now. I love to run in the woods and along the many trails in our area. However, because I have road running shoes only, I usually limit my time along trails to ten minutes max. I tend to slide around and have always been causious of getting hurt. However, with some holiday gift money this year, I finally was able to get myself some shoes, a pair of Altra Lone Peak trail sneakers.
I had been dying to try them out, but situtations outside had been too scary to consider a trail run. However, Saturday was perfect. I decided for my long run to do an hour on the trails instead of a 6.5 to 7 mile run on the road. I had forgotten to charge my GPS watch, so doing a trail run based on milage wasn't an option; hence the decision to run based on time.
I headed out and did a run along the nearby Robert Frost Trail and basically had the best time ever! The shoes were amazing. I absolutely love Altras. They are the only shoes I run in now. I have a pair of the Intuition 1.5 for running outside, the slightly lower profile The One for the treadmill and fitness classes at the gym, and now the Lone Peak 1.5 for trails. I have wide feet and the wide toebox on the Altra sneakers is seriously the best thing. I also like zero drop design because for some reason having a large drop on a sneaker makes my quads hurt -- I think it's because having too much of a heel on a shoe makes my stride funky.
There were so many things about my trail run that were amazing yesterday. First, I had a great time because my shoes were exactly what I needed. The Lone Peak sneakers gripped the trail and meant that there wasn't any sliding around. In my Intuitions I feel great on the road, but when I go off road, I find that my feet slip back as I try to run forward. The Lone Peaks completely fixed this problem.
The other great part about my trail run, was that it was kind of nice to be out in the woods and not worried about my speed or distance. I was just focusing on going as well as I could. You can't run as fast in the woods as on the road because you have to avoid rocks and watch your footing. I could really dial into how I was feeling as I moved and run to effort. I honestly have no idea how far I went during this run. I was out for around 55 minutes and probably covered five miles, which is much less than I would have on the road. Still I got in a great workout because I was using all my stabilizers and tackling some big hills.
Talking about hills leads into the next great part of this run. With my new found enthusiasm and training on hills, I embraced the hills on the Robert Frost Trail. Some of them were quite steep, and there were a few times I was forced to walk, but I did not avoid them. I tried to go up every hill I could find. Since trail running is packed with hills, having a good attitude about them is key.
I also think that my training was very helpful in recovery. As I've said before, I have only done around a mile on trails before. Yesterday I did an hour of trail running. My legs felt quite a bit tired when I exited the trails to do the half mile road run back home. I had been using some different muscles. I was worried that I would be very very sore the next day. However, today my legs feel more or less fine. Sure they are a little tired, so I took the day to just do upper body work, but my legs are not killing me. I think it's all the cross training I do to strengthen my legs and the fact that I now have more experience with hills.
I won't do a trail run for my long run every week, but I sure did love it. I think it's a great alternative and that doing the run based on time instead of distance makes sense. Every once in a while it's nice to forget about all the hard training and go out and run for fun. The woods is a great place to do that. The run was hard, but it was also fun and relaxing and rejuvinating.
To finish up the summary of my running training, in almost all of my runs I've been adding some form of strides at the end, sections where I really pick up the pace. I love doing this sort of fast finish and giving my legs the chance to feel different speeds. It's a push some days, but I try to do it as much as I can!
So to wrap things up, training is going well. I am seeing some small changes and hoping that my hard work will pay off. I have some races scheduled on my calendar for 2014 to look forward to where I hope I will see the results of my work.
The first run of the year will be the SMAC 8 milers on April 6. It's the first race in their race series, and I am eager for it.
The main race I am training for now is one that excites me very much and not even something that was on my original bucket list for the year. It's the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. This will be a 200 mile relay race along the Cape that will take place over two days the first weekend in May. Each runner will be responsible for running three legs at three different times. My total milage looks like it will be around 15 miles from three legs around 5 miles each in length. I'm doing this race with some people that I have met through an obstacle course racing group I'm a member of online. The Ragnar Relay will be very different from anything I have done before and should prove a fun challenge!
I'm also very focused on the Hogsback Half Marathon. This is the race that I really want to PR in this year. I'm doing my running schedule with a hope of really improving my time here. This race isn't until September, giving me months and months to trail. I want to be ready for it, and I think that keeping up with the races in the SMAC race series will prove good preparation for this half.
In terms of obstacle course races, I'm still looking forward to the Tough Mudder on June 1 with Seth. Based on having completed that race before, I am feeling pretty confident about tackling it again with my level of fitness.
Also, on a lark, I signed up for the Merrill Down & Dirty 10K obstacle course race in Hartford. There was a great deal on LivingSocial, and I couldn't resist. By the looks of it, this race shouldn't be too much of a challenge, but it should be a fun time. I'm trying to convince my dad and stepmom to do it with me.
I'm still trying to figure out some dates for other events. For running, I plan to do the races in the SMAC race series, since I want to get involved with the running club as much as I can. Because of this and the fact that I really want to train well for the Hogsback Half Marathon in September, I might be taking some of my bucket list races off the list for 2014. I had on the list the Newburyport half marathon, but I'm going to take that off for 2014. I also have the Runner's World Heart Break Hill half marathon on the list. Honestly, I am still going back and forth on this one. It's the Sunday after Tough Mudder, and I am still trying to decide if that will be too much. At this point, I will probably decide to wait until next year.
For the obstacle course races, of course Tough Mudder is in and the Bone Frog Challenge, which I had been hoping to do, is out because of a scheduling conflict. I am still hoping to do a Spartan Race. Spartan basically still has all the races in the area I'm interested in doing on preregistration. When they announce some actual dates and locations I will figure out what I'm going to do there.
All in all, it looks like 2014 will turn out to be a good year. Hopefully I will be able to balance my race calendar with some excellent training and really improve my running and overall fitness this year!