My year began, thankfully not until 11am, at the Resolution Run 5k with family and friends in central New Jersey.
Wow was I stoked to start the year off on this note. For a few reasons:
1. It was my PARENTS idea.
2. My PARENTS (MOM included!) ran in the event.
3. Last year my training/racing did not begin until April. Headstart!
2011 was a breakout year in Mom's desire to workout and see just how much she and her body are capable of. She was an athlete (springboard diver) until 18-years old but that athletic prowess has been overshadowed the last 40 years due to a torn cartilage at 19, 3 kids by 24 and a reconstructed knee from a skiing accident at 32. Her "knees" have always been her limiting factor, or so she'd been told. She's finally realized that it hasn't been her knees, but her mindset, believing she would always be limited due to her knees (thanks in large part to the inherent issues of, and advice from, the medical field.) For nearly 40 years she has limited her activity which resulted in lower body weakness, instablity and a decrease in elasticity. That combo would make running hell for anyone and result in thinking they're not good at it. So why would they ever want to do it? True we're born to run, but running requires a few things. Let those things slip, day to day, year to year, and running becomes as foreign as freestyle swimming for some and not nearly as fun an experience.
Now, 25 years since her major knee surgery, it's been fantastic to see her blossom, thanks in part to my Dad's inspiration and that of a friend, Philomena Loy, who leads a 3-times/week, 1-hour, small group functional training workout that they have attended all year without fail, complete with kettlebells, rope swings, box jumps and more. I was overjoyed to toe the line with her on Sunday and see her finish strong, with a personal best time and hand-in-hand with my 3-year old neice Anna all smiles.
On my end of things, training time has been minimal since XTERRA Maui on October 23rd, and the time I HAVE spent has been primarily on movement correction. I would hit the gym fully determined to spend time on everything: my soft-tissue work, movement prep, strength and a cardio session. I would end up spending my 2+ hours on movement and movement correction. I'd squeeze in a couple strength movements and elastic exercises at the end for all of about 10 minutes just to keep my nervous system in check and continue to connect the dots in my bodyweight plyometrics perfectly. It doesn't take much to maintain once you've got the coordination. A little consistency works wonders. Yes my fitness faultered, but it's well known "you can't put fitness on top of dysfunction." I've corrected quite a few major things, none that would have injured me (I've eliminated chronic pain/injury since January 2004 when I started with Athletes' Performance) but all things that widen my umbrella of injury resistance (as Darcy Norman would call it) and increase my total body efficiency. Examples: better mobility and movement in my feet, a better connection between my foot contact and my gluteMAX activation on my left side and better activation of my right side thoracic extensors.) It becomes much easier to add fitness to a body that's moving well. I'm looking forward to utilizing it all in my swim/bike/run performance in 2012. That said, with minimal strength work and only a couple sessions that have challenged my cardio since October, I knew that this 5k would be a challenge, but was excited to see just how far my movement training alone would get me.
I kicked the morning off with pre-race movement prep. My mom, dad and our friends entertained me (and themselves) by following along. In the midst of the festivities near the starting line, with plenty of on lookers, we did about a 15 minute routine. One that, if not used to it or the mobility/stability/strength/coordination it entails (which is the same required for running) would feel like a workout. It is meant to elongate, activate and coordinate the muscles and movements while increasing body temperature to prepare for the workout. Here's a rundown of what we did:
It was a very warm winter day. Perfect. I know the golden rules of running a 5km: The first mile must feel easier than easy and the race doesn't begin until the last mile. My race didn't quite follow this plan, but so it goes early in the season. My first two miles were around 6:30/mi pace. Early in the third mile I could feel things getting harder. My bowels were looking for an exit strategy for one and I wasn't sure I was going to make it. The other thing I noticed around that time was my breathing, particularly how hard my diaphragm was having to work to help me keep breathing at the rate my muscles and movements were requiring. Thanks to having learned so much about the diaphragm this year, I could tell it was tuckered out! Why? I haven't been breathing that hard for that long in months. The diaphram is an amazing muscle, more amazing than I even know. What I do know is that it contracts on every breath in order to allow the thoracic cavity to widen so air can be drawn in. You can get the basic rundown on Wikipedia if curious. Think about it: breaths can be shallow, weak, slow. They can be hard, fast, strong. The diaphram is working to allow for the depth of those breaths. Mine had been able to chill out for about 3 months and all of a sudden is asked to work hard, fast and strong for a long time (relatively speaking.) You can imagine it would get tuckered out! I was able to tax it that hard because I had so many other elements I had brought to the table. My strength, my movement, and my mind, were all allowing me to work extremely hard, which caused the diaphragm to have to step up. If I wasn't as strong, or moving as well, or capable of getting into the form that would allow me to run 6:30min/mi, my diaphragm wouldn't have had to work so hard on the day. Also, because I was so comfortable running that pace in most of my muscles, it was easy for me to pinpoint that the most uncomfortable part of my last mile was the ache coming from the diaphram, just under my lungs, working so hard every breath. It just wanted to stop moving. Knowing that however, I could use my mind to focus on that one spot, enjoy the challenge and coax it to keep going. Great motivation to get going on my cardio system training ASAP. The other spot that I was having to put a lot of energy toward was my upper back muscles to keep my thoracic spine extended and my posture stacked. This I'll strengthen with movements like the Romanian Dead Lift as well as running intervals.
In that third mile, I thought I really was going to have to stop for a sec. (Stop?? in a 5km? No way. But it did cross my mind.) One way I get over that thought when it happens it is to tell myself to "make it feel easier right now." Going easier doesn't always mean going slower. It can also mean getting more efficient. One example on the run that I often use is to take the effort/tension out of my arms and legs and put it toward the core to get TALLER. Doing so often feels easier and may even allow for an increase speed for the same effort (efficiency.)
Instead of stopping in that third mile I did back off my pace a bit (same cadence but shorter amplitude and length of each stride) to what felt like about 1min/mi slower. It felt MUCH easier and I was able to relax a bit...which is much more fun than stopping all together. Inevitably when I do that, there comes a time when I am able to pick up the pace again, and that's just what happened. I picked up my knees a little higher, put a bit more force into the ground and sped up, probably only about 30 seconds/mile, but feeling great to the finish.
Finish time: 21:15. 6:51/mi pace. 3rd female. 30th overall. Results here.
I'll take it! It's January 1! And I have done about 2 runs since October 23rd.
Movement matters. Majorly.
My mom asked if I was sore later that day. Not at all. The next day yes a bit, but where? In all the right places: around my entire midsection (core/pillar) and my upper back (thoracic extension.) I have great posture and maintained it in the race, but it had to withstand more force than it has in a while (remember my minimal strength/run work?) Just sitting/standing with good posture requires a lot less strength and stability than maintaining it during the forces the body has to deal with in motion during every stride. I'll increase that strength both with my strength workouts and my running interval workouts where I'll run speeds FASTER than my race pace so that my muscles get coordinated and strong at that speed and that force production so that race pace feels easier (and improves.) I was a little sore in my right trapezius and I knew why. I'll be working on relaxing it in my movement/strength/run sessions in near future while making sure the right muscles are doing their work so it CAN relax. It'll be about one or both.
To top the day off, my sister, who was at the race cheering us on and who joined us for brunch afterward, had her third child at 8:27pm that night. Wowza...great day! Onward...