Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Did I Get Here?

There's nothing quite like basking in the afterglow of a goal race that went your way. I've spent all week enjoying the twinges in my quads and reflecting on how I was able to finally nab a new PR after three years of half-heartedly trying.

There's no magic or surprise here - once I got rid of the "half" part and really decided to go for it, it was mine. But I had to really change my mindset in order to get to the point where my priorities shifted. I had to change mentalities from distance to speed. I had to willingly take a step back from certain aspects of training to focus on parts that I usually don't enjoy very much. I had to make each run purposeful, and that meant some of them weren't fun.

But I ended up really enjoying this whole 5k training thing. I liked having new workouts to try; I liked finishing each run totally exhausted. I liked feeling like my workouts had a reason.

I've also noticed this new mindset has helped in my recovery. I wanted to skip my run this Tuesday, but I told myself that this time of year - with the heat and the stress and the crazy schedule - is always when I quit, and then I have to work extra hard to get back to basic fitness. I don't want to lose my progress, and this time around I was able to convince myself to stay on track!

So, besides the shift in my mental faculties, here are a few things that I think really helped me kill the SUP & Run 5k last Saturday.

1. More consistent cross training that worked for me. This is key! I've tried cross training before and it always ends up boring me or injuring me. When I was just doing T25 for cross training, I was always too sore from all the jumping around to really push hard during my runs. This time around, I took aspects of T25 and other circuits that I enjoyed and I created my own HIIT-style workouts.
Oh you know, just pumping iron in a church parking lot...totally normal.
I also added cross training on running days. Once it became habit to lift weights for a few minutes following a run, I didn't think twice about capping off running workouts that way.

2. Sticking to a schedule. Like cross training, scheduling has bored me in the past, too. But this time, I made sure to sprinkle in a variety of stuff, so my schedule never felt old even though it was consistent and predictable. I also made sure that each of my runs was purposeful throughout the week; I don't really believe in "junk miles" but when you have a set goal in mind, each run should contribute to reaching that goal.
Obviously I have to stay flexible, especially because this time of year is nuts. Some weeks I move around which days I rest, and I know that when I'm in DC with students next week my plans will change drastically, but in general, this schedule has made working out second nature and hassle free.

3. Having a training partner. Elizabeth is actually my "accountability partner" at work, and that's a more apt name, really. Even when we don't train together, we keep each other accountable for our workouts. That will come in handy this summer when she's in Nicaragua for a couple weeks.
4. Speed work. This is so obvious it hurts, but you have to run faster to get faster. Again, a dedicated speed work day on my schedule has helped keep me consistent here. I don't follow a specific plan or prescribed workout; I just play around with what feels good and challenging.

5. Smarter eating. I hate that this is true, but there it is. When I eat less junk, my energy is higher and my body feels better. So I guess this is something I need to continue. I'm aiming for an 80/20 mindset right now, but I sure do miss my junk!
Luckily summer makes eating healthy easier. I can't wait for all that fruit!
6. Believing in the plan. This one may be the most important. Once all the cogs were in place, I had to trust that the wheel would turn. Instead of giving up or monitoring progress daily - which is sure to lead to disappointment - I really focused on the long-term goal. I kind of let myself get through workouts and meals without thinking too hard about them or over-analyzing them. I'd celebrate individual workouts that rocked, but then I'd move on. It was the same with workouts that were just kind of blah. I think this mindset is healthier and really helped me trust the process and believe in the eventual outcome.
Looking back on my activity and knowing I'm putting in the time is a huge confidence booster.
I finally feel like I'm on a good, consistent track right now, and I hope that recognizing the different elements that contribute to my success will help me stay on that track. Seeing results is fun, but in a way, I'm more excited about the results I haven't seen yet. I just have a good feeling that if I keep it up, things are only going to get better!

Easier said than done - how do you stay on track when you're on a roll?
What a major change you had to make to reach a goal?



chocolaterunsjudy said...

All great tips! Especially the less junk food, unfortunately.

Because I have no big goal races for a while, I'm trying to get back more into the whole cross training thing.

Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor said...

All such great tips! You really took success into your own hands here!

I'm actually having a coach (a fellow run blogger I follow) put together a training plan for me for my 10K season. It seems ironic that I make my own training plans for marathons but need help with a 10K, but I've never trained for short distances and speed before and I really just don't know the best workouts to do and how to go about it effectively. More than that, though, I think it will really help me stay accountable to the strength and cross training I need to do. I have no problem motivating myself to run all the miles in long distance training, but I just can't hold myself accountable to all the extra stuff, so I finally admitted I might just need outside help with that. I think strength is even more important for shorter distances - we need to rely on strong legs for those bursts of power and speed! I'm excited for us to be 10K buddies this summer and fall!

Ana said...

I love all of this! you are absolutely right, you get the work that you put in!

In an unrelated subject? do you teach Spanish? I saw a Pared de Palabras on your picture in the classroom.

congratulations on the 5K PR! it is so rewarding to complete that goal!!

Staci said...

Ali, this post is great! It really shows your perspective!

For me I just made a major change too...I see it that way anyhow. From January to the end of April, I made my own training plan. Executed my own runs and judge my own success. Now I was able to PR in both the 5k and Half but, I was slacking. I wasn't reaching my true potential. I skipped workouts, ate poorly and just overall was too relaxed in what I was doing.
I started thinking about my 2 marathons this fall and was 99.9% sure I was going to go with Hansons...until one day I skipped a run and realized I needed more. So I searched high and low and ultimately decided I have to have a coach. Since then, I haven't missed a run or cross training workout. Haven't even thought about missing one. Someone is there...watching, always. It helps. So glad you have Elizabeth to do that with!! :)

Jennifer @ Dashing in Style said...

I had no idea that this PR was three years in the making. Reading this post makes me realize my mindset has been wrong. I want a 5K PR but haven't devoted time to make it happen. I just assume that each time I run a 5K I should be able to get a PR and then am disappointed when it doesn't happen. When I look at the pace charts for what I should be able to run at a 5K vs. HM vs. full marathon, it seems like I'm a stronger short-distance runner...though I haven't tried a full yet. I'm thinking it would be worthwhile for me to really devote a training cycle to a 5K and see what I can do. Thanks for the inspiration!

Megan @ Meg Go Run said...

I am glad you found what works for you! And you have stayed very consistent with your plan which is key. I'm excited to watch you PR some more, which I know you are going to do now that you are HEARTEDLY trying. :)

Kristina said...

You're kicking ass training, racing, eating. You're just dominating all aspects of the recreational athlete spectrum!

Montana Ross said...

I'm really glad you posted this. I've struggled with a "not good enough" mentality for years regarding sports and my abilities because I was always told I wasn't good enough to play competitive sports. That has translated into my running for me sometimes because I mentally give up when I could probably physically go longer. I'm working on more consistent speed work and training and cross training with a variety of activities. Hopefully I can get past the mental blocks.

Sarah said...

Such a good and smart post, as usual. The mental piece of this is key. Believing you CAN do it is a huge part of committing to doing it. And I think figuring out cross training that you enjoy and therefore actually do. Those have been key for me as well. I love reading your posts!

Ali K. said...

The off-season is a great time to do more cross training because running isn't as essential. But running is the most FUN to me so sometimes it's till hard to commit to XT!

Ali K. said...

The "extra stuff" is so hard to care about! It doesn't seem to pay off as quickly and measuring your progress isn't as easy as running, IMO. Sometimes that outside accountability is really key. Strength is SUPER important for short distances, and speed in general, and I'm glad I finally found strength workouts that I enjoy. I hope you enjoy your coach! We are going to kick the 10k's butt this fall!

Ali K. said...

It's nice that you really get out of running what you put in.

Elizabeth teaches Spanish; her room is across the hall from mine and is easier to workout in because it's more spacious, so we go there! I teach English :)

Ali K. said...

I'm really glad you've found a coach that you trust and feel confident in! I think that will make a huge difference for you. I know someday I may want a real coach, but for now, at my level, I'm enjoying handling it myself. Having someone to hold you accountable helps SO much!

Ali K. said...

I was seriously the same way for a LONG time. My 2013 PR came without expecting it, so I kept thinking I should be able to PR again, but I haven't run close to it in ages. Actually taking the time to work toward the goal instead of just hoping for it made a huge difference -and it seems obvious of course, but we take the 5k for granted so I think we rarely think about truly TRAINING for one.

I think it would be great to see you devote some time to a 5k training cycle before your marathon!

Ali K. said...

I am always so jealous that you seem to love working out in ALL aspects, not just running. I think I finally may have found a way to enjoy working out in general!

Ali K. said...

And it's been fun to feel so successful!! I almost feel like I've finally earned the "athlete" title.

Ali K. said...

I'm glad this spoke to you! I think the mental aspect of running is just totally important to success, and how we view success in general. I know you can push yourself beyond what you think because when you ran half my 20 with me, I know you were keeping a faster pace than you usually do for long runs. Maybe you need to find a rabbit until you get over the mental blocks, but I think acknowledging that they exist in the first place is the hardest part!

I'm excited to watch your speed work and streak this summer!

Ali K. said...

Thanks Sarah! That means a lot coming from Prof Badass! Watching your progress and how hard you work has been very motivational for me!

Megan Michael said...

It took me YEARS to finally start lifting and of course doing it correctly. When I saw my body changing and my running getting faster, it was easier to love it! Kind of like how you are seeing the benefits now through the changes you made! Plus lifting is when I get to watch trashy TV.