Friday, October 23, 2009

Trial and Error (Well, Maybe Mostly Error...)

After months and months of trial and error, I finally seem to have settled into a training formula that works for me.  In 2008, when I really started to run seriously (rather than sporadically), I was woefully ignorant of what I should be doing.  I just went out and ran.  That was OK, to a point.  However, as daily and weekly mileage increases, the miles become less forgiving of runner mistakes.   Looking back, I probably made almost every dumb mistake possible.  Dumb Mistake #1: Poor Shoes-  I started out with halfway worn-out running shoes, and put maybe 400 more miles on them before I got new ones.  I didn't get new shoes until my feet really started to hurt, and by then it was too late.  I later found that recommended running shoe replacement is every 300-500 miles.  I had just signed up for my first race in March, 2009, and my feet (especially my left) made me stop running for over two weeks.  I tried to walk my run route instead, and couldn't even do that, just barely limping around the house and office to get where I had to go.  I  thought I was just getting some arthritis around my heel and ankle joints, and that if I just worked through it, the pain would go away.  It didn't.  Closer examination determined that the worst pain came from my left heel area, that I have low arches and overpronation, and the result was plantar fasciitis.   I was fortunate that after 2+ weeks of rest, I was able to run again (with new shoes), with only very slight pain.  I worked on a stationary bike for the 2 weeks to maintain some level of conditioning, and tried to run again 4 days before the race.  I felt OK, so I ran 2 days, took 2 days off, and ran hard on Saturday.  To this date, that race is still my best ever 5K time.  Dumb mistake #2: Ignorance of the 10% Rule- The foot problem scared me, and prompted me to learn about the "right" way of doing things.  I read every thing I could find on the running web sites.  I discovered the "10% rule" -  Don't increase weekly mileage by more than 10 %, and don't increase the distance of the longest weekly run by more than 10%.  At least, I had been smart enough to start a spreadsheet for running stats in 2009.  Looking back, I found that 3 weeks before I had to stop running, I had increased my weekly mileage by 44%.  Plus, I was running 7 days a week, with no recovery days (Dumb mistake #3).   These are the really stupid mistakes.  The rest are probably more in the area of lessons learned and finding what works best for me.  Lesson Learned #1: Hydration- As I started running longer distances in the brutal Texas summer, I had to experiment with how much to drink before and during a long run to avoid coming home 6 ½ pounds lighter due to dehydration.  And I'm a morning runner; I run at the lowest temperature of the day.  Later in the day, the effect is greater.  It's a good idea to know your sweat rate.  Weigh before and after running, add the amount you drank during the run,  and divide by hours run.  The result is the amount of liquid needed during each hour.  Sports drinks have electrolytes.  Too much plain water can be dangerous due to electrolyte dilution.  Lesson Learned #2: Clothing-  I started running in cotton t-shirts, shorts and socks.  After getting overheated and chafed because cotton doesn't wick moisture and doesn't breathe when its wet, and after getting blisters when I started running 10+ miles, I discovered why runners wear polyester shorts and shirts, and poly-acrylic-lycra spandex socks.  Moisture and friction control!   Lesson Learned #3: Managing Plantar Faciitis-   Here's what worked for me:  1. Stretches that stretch the calf and Achilles tendon.  I loosen up a little before I run, but stretch a lot after I run.  2. I found over-the-counter cushioned arch support inserts that help a lot.  I started out wearing them running, but now I wear them all the time, except in the shower and in bed.  3. Ice: After a long run, I soak my feet in a bucket with ice and water for 5-10 minutes.  It makes sore feet feel better quickly.  Some people said that it would not heal unless I quit running for maybe a few months,  but with this combination, it is gradually improving even as I'm adding total mileage. 

There are a million and one training programs out there and a confusing array of possible techniques. Distance?  Speed?  Intervals?  Mile repeats?  Fartlek?  What's a newbie runner to do?  I think the answer is to do what works for you.   I'm training for marathon distance, so the long run is my key workout.  I tried speed work, but sprints aggravated my heel pain, so I quit.  What works for me is the Tempo Run, fast enough to be a push, but without too much extra shock. 

This is the weekly training formula that's working for me:
1. I run 6 days, and rest 1 day; 5 short runs and 1 long run.
2. For 4 days, I run easy pace and tempo pace on alternating days.
3. The day before my long run is for rest or light cross-training.
4. I run one long run per week.  When I add distance, I repeat it several consecutive weeks before adding distance again.
5. The day after my long run is for a short and easy recovery run.

Advice to New Runners:
1. Get a decent pair of shoes.  They don't have to be the most expensive; I look for good mid-range shoes on sale, but I'm a cheapskate.
2. Read articles. Learn.  There's a lot of information out there on the web.  Talk to runners.  There may be a few snobby elite types, but I haven't met any.  I've found runners to be an inclusive group that love to help other runners. 
3. Start out easy and increase gradually.
4. Shake up your routine.  Run easy some days and harder some days, shorter some days and longer on others. Give yourself some rest days.
5. Listen to your body.
6. Don't forget about #5.

1 comment:

Just_because_today said...

Probaly we all have made some or all the mistakes you mentioned here. I know I did and still make some. I have learned to control my impatience and to listen to my body a little bit more than before