Hello friends, A lot has happened since I wrote my last running post. The previous one was written in July, and I've made some progress since then.
The perk of starting my running in the winter time (late January) and continuing to add mileage and speedwork through the summertime means I have made a lot of headway. Progress is relative, to be clear, and I'm happy that I'm able to see evidence of mine. That's kind of the perk with running as a sport; it's a lot easier to measure the stats that go along with it. I might not be the fastest person in the world, but I definitely am consistent with my training. So let's talk about what the training load has looked like, how my goals fluctuate month-by-month, and where I've seen growth. Oh, and if you're starting your running journey, I hope you take inspiration from this post to some degree! I didn't consider myself a runner in the beginning, but it's now something that gives me goals (short term and long term) to work towards, positive self talk, and overall improved health and confidence.
Why I Started and Why I Stayed
I've mentioned this in the past, but it's taken me many tries to actually stick with running. I used to run a bit in high school, not as a sport, but as a way to help improve my mental health when I was too afraid to leave the house. That stuck for a summer, but fizzled out naturally over the months. I tried again in 2020 when I was laid off from my cafe job. I'd go to my local park every day for a walk, and was giving the Sweat app a try (shout out to the girlies I've met through the Sweat instagram account!). I'd test out some interval running, but found it too difficult to keep up. I gave it a few more tries in 2021 and 2022, but didn't feel as confident because I found myself having to walk--which, looking back, I was being so hard on myself. Walking is part of the running journey. Some days I don't need to walk, other days I'll allow myself to walk. Allowing myself to walk and giving myself grace has made this time around a lot more manageable and enjoyable. Energy fluctuates, and I didn't quite understand it until this time around.
This time around, starting last fall, I wanted to dive more deeply into fitness and nutrition (when I stopped taking my antidepressants). I've always tried to walk and keep moving, but I wanted to try even more because I know how much movement can help the mind (movement and therapy, of course). So when I was weening off my medication last year, I was focused on creating a better nutrition plan and a more consistent workout schedule for myself. I knew it would help me transition from being medicated to being without. I attempted my first 5k distance run in January after watching some Mark Lewis videos. I had also been watching the Cody Trains channel, and besides enjoying swimming and occasionally riding the stationery bike, I wanted to find something to work towards more regularly, like how Cody was training for his Iron Man. And running was that missing puzzle piece. I started documenting my 5k times and mile splits in a chart on my phone, and every week I wanted to see how I'd improve. And the excitement for it just grew, to the point where I started increasing my mileage and the total number of runs I would do in a week.
Something I started noticed as I progressed each week is that progress wasn't linear. It was helping me better understand that energy fluctuation thing I mentioned earlier. I also learned more technical stuff, like hearing Natacha Oceane speak about active recovery. So I'd go out on my next run and implement what I learned, and found it easier to keep a pace. I was learning about zones and VO2 max and those sentiments were helping me stay engaged with the sport because I could try new strategies and give myself a different goal for each run. Sometimes it was speed, sometimes it was distance. But the engagement and the feeling running gives me is why I stay.
And besides the physical feeling, the connection with the mind is unbeatable. It's active meditation every time I'm out for a run. I'm typically not thinking about much at all. Sometimes I'm listening to a podcast, but for the most part I feel silent. I'm just focused on moving forward, having positive self talk. Staying connected with my activity. I'm an anxious person, so I'm phenomenal at dwelling over things. But when I'm out on a run, I've got nothing like that going through my mind. My mind is clear and I'm focusing on the task at hand. It sets the stage for a great day, and even if I have a tougher run, I'm always left feeling more confident than before.
Long-Term and Short-Term Goals
My goals change month-to-month. My fellow jock, Cooper, and I have a little chat at the start of each month to actually speak our goals out into the universe. Putting them out there allows us to strategize and take action. And having those goals allows me to experience progress, even if other parts of me aren't seeing quick progress at all. And the headway I do gain when I reach my goals only amplifies my confidence. I'm out here to fight. I'm out here to better myself and to keep being my best advocate.
At the start of the year, I was only aiming to do faster 5ks. I wasn't even thinking about adding mileage for the first few weeks. I didn't try my first 4-miler until March 25th. So that was two whole months of me only aiming for 5ks and shorter runs. I was building an aerobic base, and kept my goals in that arena until I felt like branching out and moving forward. Once I completed the 4-miler, I decided to start aiming to add a mile onto my PR distance every month.
The bigger goals I was aiming for were things like signing up for a true 5k event and being able to run a half marathon by January. Those were my within-a-year goals. But I had to complete the weekly runs, the month-to-month goals before I could aim for the bigger ones. But it's been almost a year of consistency and training, and I'm still reaching for the stars. I'll share my latest achievements a bit later in this post, but those felt like manageable and tangible goals I could hit within the year. It's a matter of taking things step by step.
And my a-few-years-from-now kind of goal would be to complete some sort of trail ultra race(s). Road races I'm sure are fun, but something is so captivating about trail running. I'm wildly inspired by people like Courtney Dauwalter and Sally McRae and would like to challenge myself with something huge like that some day. So for now, I'm building a strong aerobic base with consistency and increasing mileage. Who knows where I'll travel one day. The possibilities keep this whole thing so exciting.
The Training Load
For training, I just stay consistent. I've found a balance between strength training and running that I mentioned in one of my previous fitness posts. It's a practically 50/50 split in my schedule. But when it comes to running, I have different goals for different days. Let me elaborate.
Saturdays are typically always a distance goal. They're usually the big runs. But depending on the PR distance, I teeter my Saturday runs to account for any tapering (lowering my mileage in order for my body to rest and prepare) I'd need to do the week prior to the PR run. So before I did my 8 mile run, I had my first Saturday of the month maybe look like a 10k (6.2) mile distance. Kind of a longer-to-middle ground distance for me. Then the following week might look like a 4 mile Saturday run to prepare to taper for that week. And then finally I'd do the 8 mile distance on that following Saturday.
All other runs outside of the Saturday run stay relatively the same. Tuesdays or Wednesdays usually have a morning run (or potentially an evening group run, since it's about to get super dark with the time change). Those weekday morning runs are always between 3 to 4 miles long. And the focus on those is just completing them as strongly as I can. Not speed-wise, not usually focused on a distance. Just giving myself about 40 minutes of running with the goal to practice active recovery. So I'm staying calm, taking things slow and steady, and the aim is to actively recover using pace and breathing instead of needing to stop and walk. If I absolutely need to walk, I'll give myself the permission. But usually it's just a mental thing. So yep, 40 minute weekday runs typically just happen to land in the 3 to 4 mile range just by chance.
And the third run of the week is usually the wild card. Either I'll do fartlek training (speed intervals) to practice holding a faster pace for longer, or I'll head out for a trail run (helps control balance and allows me to push myself through inclines a lot easier...also just a lot more scenic). This run is sometimes on a random evening after work, or maybe it's on Sunday. That's why this is my more mysterious run. But one of these two options happens each week. The flexibility and chaos makes it extra fun. This is the least structured run but we love balance on this blog.
Other than running, I still do my three different strength training days. Leg day is a lot more important to me these days since my runs are getting pretty long. Building up the muscle around my knees and hips are saving me on the road runs. I used to ache in my knees, and now it's a rare situation. Just stretching and showing up for myself are super huge components in my weekly training.
And P.S. just adding evening walks throughout the week with my sis Angie helps get that mileage up overall. Keeping moving is essential.
This is the part where I brag a bit. I've worked my ass off. I set goals at the start of this year, and I've achieved them. Truly.
5k event? Check. Just completed it last month. Even shaved 4 minutes off my previous PR. Absolute insanity. Doing the longer distances and the speedwork and improving my cardio health helped me understand what pace I could push and manage for that 3.1 mile distance. I felt so connected with myself and I was so grateful to have family support this scary feat!
In order to warm up for the 5k, I spontaneously joined in on my first group run. I've always felt so nervous at the idea of running with other people. I think I was worried I would slow down the pace. But I tagged along with a local running store's group run the week before my 5k just to get a feel for it, and it helped me feel so confident in holding my pace and not worrying about others around me. I'm doing my best and that's what counts!
And time for the big reveal. One of my wildest and proudest moments. Last week, I was going to aim to complete an 11 mile run. Yes, it would've been a distance PR to hit anything over 10 miles. But folks, I was feeling confident around the halfway point. I felt energized. I took it up a notch and just shot for the half marathon (13.1 miles) distance. I ran it slow and steady, and didn't really need to walk at all. Thankful for my buddy Cooper for joining me since the bike trail is less populated with it getting colder. But it's so special celebrating a major achievement with a buddy.
Thank you guys so much for reading. I'm just happy to work toward something and have updates every couple of months to share. What's something you're working towards?