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The Most Valuable Lessons Learned While Training for My First Half Marathon

12 weeks of training for the Rock & Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon are done. Wow. Seriously? Time flies. I’d be lying if I said it went perfectly. I had a bad cold, a few days of shin trouble, an unplanned business trip, I slacked at cross training… but still, I’m pretty satisfied. I learned a lot training for my first half marathon.

The Most Valuable Lessons I Learned While Training:

  • A training plan is just a plan.  If the plan calls for an 18 mile week and you have a 17 mile week – that’s still a great week!  I’ve caught myself thinking of that week as a failure. It’s not.
  • It is ok to miss workouts when you’re sick, tired, or sore.  Skipping one track workout because your shins ache is much smarter than working yourself into a stress fracture because you don’t want a day off.  Remember, your ultimate goal is to run a race and you can’t do that if you get hurt because you’re being stubborn.
  • Replace your shoes regularly.  Keep track of the miles you put on your shoes (DailyMile is a useful tool for this) and replace them BEFORE they blow out.  Your feet will thank you.
  • Find friends to do your long runs with.  Long runs take a lot of time and they’re a lot more pleasant when you have company.
  • Remember, most of us run because we like it NOT because we’re training to win races.  Go easy on yourself  when you have a bad run.  Loosen up on your time goals.  Most of our running goals are self imposed. We can adjust as necessary!
Week 12 Training Recap:
Monday 8/22: I got my first ever sports massage to try to work out a series of annoying knots in my butt/hamstring.  My legs are still a little sore but they’re feeling a lot better than they were pre-massage.
Tuesday 8/23: I did a 2 mile easy run around my neighborhood. My legs felt great & I kept the run feeling easy – even taking several walk breaks on a really short run.
Wednesday 8/24: My legs were totally dead and I felt totally panicked.  I went to my track workout, which was cancelled because there was a school event on the track, and badgered my coach with questions about how I should alter my last week and a half of training. We had a short hill workout where I ran about 1.5 miles. She made me promise to stretch a lot, ice bathe, and take my runs extra easy until VA Beach.
Thursday 8/25: I totally rested and sat on a tennis ball to work on the butt knot.
Friday 8/26: I went to the gym and rode about 5 miles.  Legs were feeling pretty good and I decided to go out for my long run Saturday, ahead of Irene.  I had 10 miles on the schedule but planned to cut out early if I was having any kind of tired or sore legs.
Saturday 8/27: I met Suze and our friend Suzanne for our long run.  It was so humid but I felt surprisingly good.  After a few miles I decided I’d be in for the full 10 miler.  We had a few detours due to construction and high waters from Irene but we ended up with about 9.4 miles.  We took it really slowly – stopping to walk and stretch pretty much every mile. It was exactly what I needed the week before my first half marathon.

9.4 miles around the nation's capital on a Saturday morning. It never gets old.

Stretching out on the cars after this morning's 9 miler

Today is a stretch and rest day.  I’m planning to take little Fin out for a nice long walk – though for a 7 pound dog that equals about 2 miles.

I hope everyone on the east coast survived Hurricane Irene and is safe today.  Be safe if you’re going out for a bike ride or run this afternoon – it’s still really windy in DC!

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All About Sports Massages

I had an appointment for my first sports massage earlier this week.  I’m about a week away from my first half marathon and my hamstrings and glutes have been feeling a little bit dead.  I decided to let an expert step in too reduce the risk of injury before I get to Virginia Beach and I think it turned out to be a great idea.

Massage can prevent injuries and loss of mobility and flexibility.

Sports massages are great if you have an area you know you want to work on because the therapist can focus on that area instead of providing a full body massage (1).  One session can help restore mobility and motion to the area (2).

Physiological Effects of Massage (via SportsInjuryClinic.net):

  • Pain reduction – Tension and waste products in muscles can often cause pain. Massage helps reduce this in many ways including releasing the bodies endorphins.
  • Relaxation – Muscles relax through heat generated, circulation and stretching. Mechanoreceptors which sense touch, pressure, tissue length and warmth are stimulated causing a reflex relaxation.

Physical Effects of Massage (via SportsInjuryClinic.net):

  • Pumping – The stroking movements in massage suck fluid through blood vessels and lymph vessels. By increasing the pressure in front of the stroke, a vacuum is created behind. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissue as a tight muscle will squeeze blood out like a sponge, depriving the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair.
  • Increased tissue permeability – Deep massage causes the pores in tissue membranes to open, enabling fluids and nutrients to pass through. This helps remove waste products such as lactic acid and encourage the muscles to take up oxygen and nutrients which help them recover quicker.
  • Stretching – Massage can stretch tissues that could not be stretched in the usual methods. Bundles of muscle fibres are stretched lengthwise as well as sideways. Massage can also stretch the sheath or fascia that surrounds the muscle, so releasing any tension or pressure build up.
  • Break down scar tissue – Scar tissue is the result of previous injuries or trauma and can effect muscle, tendons and ligaments. This can lead to inflexible tissues that are prone to injury and pain.
  • Improve tissue elasticity – Hard training can make tissues hard and inelastic. This is one reason why hard training may not result in improvements. Massage helps reverse this by stretching the tissues.
  • Opens micro-circulation – Massage does increase blood flow to tissues, but so does exercise. What massage also does is open or dilate the blood vessels and by stretching them this enables nutrients to pass through more easily.
When To Skip a Massage (source):
  • If you have inflammation: Massage can further irritate an area of inflammation, so you should not administer it. Inflamed conditions include anything that ends in –itis, such as phlebitis (inflammation of a vein), dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), arthritis (inflammation of the joints), and so on. In the case of localized problems, you can still massage around them, however, avoiding the inflammation itself.
  • If you have a fever:  When you have a fever, your body is trying to isolate and expel an invader of some kind. Massage increases overall circulation and could therefore work against your body’s natural defenses.
If you’re not sure if a massage would be helpful you can call a sports masseuse.  If they’re a good business they’ll be happy to answer your questions prior to an appointment.
Have you ever had a sports massage?  What did you think of it?

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Three Things Thursday – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Edition

1) Virginia Beach Half Marathon:

The Good:  I got my bib number.  I’m #12332! Everything seems so real now! I don’t know if there’s online tracking available but if there is I’ll be sure to make good use of it.

The Bad: I’ve had a knot in my left IT band since Tuesday.  This barely qualifies as “bad” because I’ve been rolling the heck out of it (to the point of bruising my leg) and it’s already so much better.  To be extra safe, I skipped my track workout last night and booked a massage for Monday. I’m really thankful this happened 2.5 weeks prior to the race instead of the week before. Nothing is pulling and I know that an extra rest day or two won’t derail my training so I’m trying not to let this cause any stress.

The Ugly: This is my first half marathon and even though I’m not trying to be, I’m nervous!  I keep having dreams that I’ve been running for a long time and feel so good, but then I look at my watch and realize that either I’ve been running for 7 hours and the end is nowhere in sight  or I’ve went to the finish party before actually finishing the race.

2) Healthy Living Summit:

FINALLY!

The Good:There’s so much good, I don’t even know what to write here! I’m beyond excited to meet up with some of my favorite blog and twitter friends for a weekend of fun in, what is now being dubbed, the City of Bloggerly Love.

The Bad: My packing skills are seriously lacking.

How do I have so much stuff to pack for a 2 day trip?!

The Ugly:

Rain, rain go away

I think the great company will more than make up for the bad weather – and really, I know I’m going to have a great weekend if the weather is the only thing that I’m less than excited about!

3) Shopping

The Good:The Mizuno Wave Alchemy 11’s are out!  I blow through running shoes at an alarming rate and I’m looking forward to adding these into my rotation.

I shall call them fluffy and they will be mine.

The Bad: I have been shopping WAY too much lately. I’ve mentioned that I prefer to wear workout clothes to “regular” clothes but I didn’t realize how much I’m lacking in the regular clothes department until I started packing for HLS.  I’ve been buying a lot of clothes – like cocktail dresses (plural).

The Ugly: Of course I got more workout clothes too… I found a really cute jacket for winter that was on mega sale and I had to snag it.  But it’s totally unnecessary for right now when it’s so hot and humid.

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