Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Running with your Dog

Dogs love to run. There is no doubt about it. Now that I am running shorter distances on most of my runs, I am more often able to include one of my favorite running partners, my dog. Yesterday she even did a sprint workout with me. For the first 3 or 4 sprints, she challenged me to keep up. After the first few, however, I had to shout words of encouragement ("Let's go girl, come on!) to keep her motivated. Then on the last sprint (8 total, about 120 yards each), she surprised me and stayed ahead of me. Or maybe I was slowing down more than I thought.

If you have a dog, and he or she is healthy enough to run, give it a shot. Be sure to break her in slowly, and just as you would a new runner, pay attention to her response and know when it is time to quit. Here are some more tips for running with your dog.

  • Have her checked out by a vet first. Make sure there are no conditions that would limit her.
  • Start out slowly and with short distances. I hear of people who take their dogs on very long runs. My Spots is only good for 3 or 4 miles right now.
  • Bring some extra water, a bowl, and some treats/snacks. I find with Spots that if I can take a break and allow her to play in a creek for 2 minutes, she's good for another uninterrupted mile.
  • While your dog might be obedient enough to run unleashed (mine is not), keep her leashed anyway. If is for her (and your) own good. But be mindful of where she is. If you go on one side of a tree, and she goes on another... you get the point.
  • Watch for signs of overuse. Check your dogs foot pads regularly. If they appear torn or raw, stop running and see a vet. There are sprays and even boots that your dog can wear if this is an issue. If your dog appears sore (trouble getting up stairs, etc.), it could be a sign of arthritis or pad wear. Take it easy for a few days, and if it does not improve, see a vet.
  • Watch for signs of overheating. Excessive panting, vomiting, drooling, are all signs that you should stop, rest, and hydrate.

Have fun out there with your dogs!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Myofascial release with a foam roller or massage stick

It's a fact of life with running or any repetitive exercise: things will get sore and tight if we let them. I used to feel how hard and tight my legs were and think that was good. That was until I got hit with my first real case of ITBS. I went for some physical therapy and learned that my thinking was all wrong. If they are too hard and tight, then something ain't right.

Now when I get a bit of pain or tightness, I go straight to my foam roller or The Stick. These tools are great ways to work out the knots via soft tissue massage and Myofascial release.

Here are a few sites I found that show good technique for using these tools:

And a couple books I have found:

I get real good results using these tools and techniques on my ITB and lower legs (front and back). And believe it or not, all it really takes is 10 minutes. You'll feel the difference immediately. The Stick now travels with me to all of my races. It's great for warming up, and post race massage.

Run hard out there...

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Interval Challenge

(photo courtesy ShannonRowbury.com)

Today's workout comes from RossTraining.com, home of Ross Enamait. Ross has trained many athletes, including professional kickboxers, MMA fighters, and even track and field athletes. Middle distance Olympian, Shannon Rowbury (pictured above) has this to say about one of Ross' programs.
Most runners just focus on logging miles. I never feel more tired than when I finish one of your Minute Drills, but I have found that the core and upper body strength, as well as explosiveness, that it has helped me to develop has been instrumental at the end of races, allowing me to maintain form and kick rather than break down.
Ross' methods are what many would consider unorthodox. To quote the subtitle of one of his books, Ross "puts the work back in workout."

The Interval Challenge is a short workout that consists of 6 repeats of the following circuit:
There is no prescribed rest time. Basically, the goal is to complete that circuit 6 times as fast as possible, rest when you need it. Believe me, you will need it if your intensity is where it should be.

My interval buddies and I did this today at lunch. After a short warmup jog to the park, we started our stopwatches, and got started. It occurred to me about halfway through the squats that pacing would be key to even finishing this workout. At some point during the second set, I wondered if I would make it to 6. But I did. We even kicked in the run on the last set and it might have been the fastest circuit. Knowing the end was near helped.

For me, the difficulty in this one came from the squats and the high intensity of the whole workout. Maybe it was because I rode my bike to work today, maybe it was just the cold air, but my knees were barking a little on a few of the deeper squats. On top of that, my cardio system felt like I was running a fast 5k the whole time.

In the end, my time was 15 minutes, 52 seconds. I can't wait to do it again and see improvement. It is a great workout, and I encourage you all to give it a shot.

Run hard out there...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Biking to work

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." -- Albert Einstein.

I've heard that the only time Einstein was photographed smiling was when he was on his bike. I don't know if that is true or not, but I know biking makes me happy.

One of my 2009 goals is to bike to work more. In fact, to meet my goal of 90+ days, I pretty much have to average 2 days per week (due to vacation, holidays, telecommuting, etc.). Eleven days into the year, I've only ridden once. It is supposed to be 27-degrees here in the morning, but I will be biking, and loving every minute of it.

One of the thrills I get from cycling to work are the comments from my co-workers who just don't believe it is possible. Sure, it ain't always easy, but like ultrarunning, sometimes the hardest days are the best.

We all have good excuses... I live too far away, It's too cold, I have to wear a suit, I'm an ultrarunner, not a biker...

They are (almost) all good excuses. But even a good excuse is just an excuse. Here are some sites to help you overcome your excuses for not biking to work. Check out the links and see if any of these help to change your mind. Just be sure to dress smart, put some lights on your bike, and wear a helmet.

US News and World Report article
Wired.com article on bike gadgets
BikeCommuteTips Blog
IceBike.org (you'll never say it is too cold again)
Google "Bicycle Commuting"

Ride your bike. It will make you a better runner and who knows, you might even smile more!

Run hard out there.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Workout with a Dog

In Crossfit terminology, WOD is the workout of the day. But for ultrarunner Catra Corbett (aka Dirt Diva), WOD has a new meaning. Catra regularly writes about her crossfit experiences and her love for her dog Rocky. Now she has found a way to bring the two together.

WOD = Workout of the Dog.

Read her blog post for more pictures and the full details, but here's her workout:

run 10 min. 50 squats with Rocky
run 10 min. 4.0 minute walk carying Rocky
run 10 min. 30 push-ups
run 10 min. 20 lunges carrying Rocky
run 10 min. 10 burpess

If you have more than one dog, I suggest you pick the smallest. An alternative would be to carry a sandbag, a dumbbell, or a big cat.

My workout today was short due to time constraints, so I did a fartlek 5k. That's a 5k with some mile-pace fartleks thrown in. Despite a couple short walking breaks (to recover from the fartleks), I finished just over 20 minutes, averaging 6:30 per mile. I'd have gone a lot faster had I not been carrying that dog.

Not really.

Have fun out there...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ultra Adventures (ncultra.org)

Most of you who follow my blog probably read Mike Day's Ultra Adventures site already. For those of you who don't -- you should. He is doing a series on overtraining. Here is the first post, and the second. It is worth the the few minutes it will take you to read, especially since it could save you from serious injury.

Mike has recovered from Achilles tendon repair surgery and gone on to finish some great races, so he knows a thing or two about overtraining, diagnosis, treatment and recovery. He also writes equipment reviews, race reports, and more.

Mike has assured me that if I run his Sweaty Butt 50K this summer, he will return to Hellgate. I ran the first Sweaty Butt, but due to the extreme heat, most of us cut it short at 22 miles.

Mike is a good friend, a great guy, and an excellent ultrarunner. I look forward to seeing him on the trails in 2009.

Take a look at Ultra Adventures when you can.

Run smart out there...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fitness Goals for 2009 - a work in progress

Not all of my goals for 2009 are ultra-related. In fact, only one is. Here's the list:
  • Sub-18 minute 5K
  • Sub-38 minute 10K
  • 20 consecutive pull-ups
  • 100 consecutive pushups
  • Bike to/from work more than 90 days
  • Run a Hellgate PR (sub 13:48)
I've been wanting to get some speed back into my running for some time. And since 2008 was not a good long distance year for me, I think it's time to turn my attention back to shorter, faster running.

(OK, 2008 was a good long distance year for me, I just did not achieve all of the goals I had set due to injury.)

I will start with a fast 5K. Earlier I joked about running a sub-5-minute mile. I don't see that happening, but with the speed training for a 17-minute 5K, anything can happen. I'm picking an April race for my first attempt at the 5K PR. We'll see what happens.

From there I will progress to a fast 10K, hopefully before the heat of summer sets in. If the spring goes well and I am running fast into summer, then I may train for a fast fall marathon. That's what I did in 2005 when I turned in my fastest ever Hellgate. I might even go for a fast 50K in the fall as well.

Other goals include increasing the number of consecutive push-ups and pull-ups I can do. These two exercises are perhaps the best ever total body exercises. If you don't believe me, do 5 sets of 2 pull-ups (manageable by most, maybe), and see how sore your abs are the next day. I also want to increase the number of days I ride my bike to and from work (10 miles each way).

I read a great post recently about goals. In summary, we need to define reasonable goals, make sure they are measurable or quantifiable, put them in writing, and review them daily. To that end, I am posting my 2009 fitness goals to the right at the top of this blog. I will update them occasionally with my progress.

I encourage all of you to set goals, make them public, and make them happen.

Run hard out there.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My favorite Christmas present

Thanks to my parent-in-laws for my Patagonia Wool 4 Hoody. I usually have to run very long races to get anything from Patagonia. Now, if just the weather would cooperate. It's almost 60-degrees today.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Review of a Crossfit Endurance Interval workout

Today I did the Crossfit Endurance Interval workout posted on the CFE site on 12/31. In general, this workout consists of short time trial (TT) intervals, followed by brief rest. The only instructions are to cover as much distance as possible during the TT intervals. I guess the "rest" is up to us. I prefer to rest in motion (jog or walk), but as you will see, that is sometimes hard to do. Here's the workout:

6 minute TT, 3 minute rest
4 minute TT, 2 minute rest
1 minute TT, 30 second rest
30 second TT, 15 second rest
15 second TT

The recommended warmup is a 800m easy jog followed by a few short sprints to prepare the legs for hard running.

I warmed up as recommended (0.52 miles), then my workout went as follows:

Segment Time Miles Pace
6 min TT 6:02 1.02 5:54
3 min rest 3:01 0.25 12:19
4 min TT 4:01 0.67 6:02
2 min rest 2:01 0.14 14:25
1 min TT 1:00 0.19 5:16
30 sec rest 0:30 0.03 18:11
30 sec TT 0:31 0.11 4:53
15 sec rest 0:16 0.02 18:05
15 sec TT 0:17 0.05 5:21

Total 2.48

After a short cooldown, the total workout was 3.47 miles, just over 27 minutes. Here's how it went:

The first and longest TT (6 minutes) seemed to go on forever. I went out a bit too fast in the first 3 minutes, and struggled to hold on for the duration. I chose to walk the rest period, and recovered enough to allow me to hit the 4 minute TT pretty hard. Or so I thought...

The 4 min TT seemed easier (duh, it is shorter), but when I see my times I see that I did not hit it as hard as I thought I was.

It was much easier to go "all out" on the shorter TT intervals. For the rest periods following these intervals, I pretty much just stopped and tried my best to catch my breath. It's interesting that the 30 second TT was my fastest, because that one was on a slight incline. I think I ran that one so hard that the last TT was tough for me, even though I knew it was the shortest and my last.

It was all I could do to keep walking after my last interval. I stumbled into a short 800m cooldown feeling like I had really given it my all. This was a good workout that left me feeling like a hard workout should.

Give it a shot sometime, and let me know what you think.

Run hard out there...