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Posts from the ‘performance’ Category

Running with a Heart Rate Monitor

Per my Google+ friend Otto’s suggestion, I decided to do my long run this weekend with a heart rate monitor.  Another factor in my decision to do this was Brian from my VO2 test on Friday. He suggested I do my long runs at a pace where my heart rate was no more than 155 bpm. In the spirit of learning more about my body, I decided to go for it. Even if the pace seems too slow, it’s all to help me be a better runner. I’ll consider it a learning experience.

Friday I did a really bad job prepping for a Saturday 20 miler. I was uncertain if I would be running that far mainly because my leg was still a little sore. I slept in a little late and didn’t get out the door until 7:30 (and 78 degrees). My heart rate alert was set to 155 bpm and off I went. After only 3 minutes of running, my Garmin was beeping. That was quick. Throughout the entire run, my watch must have beeped no less than 100 times. I really have been overdoing it on my long runs.

My goal was not to look at the pace but only my heart rate. Once I let go of my obsession with the miles per minute, my run became sooo easy. I didn’t care how fast (or slow) I was going, which made the run much more enjoyable. Every time I started up a hill, beep. I had a reason to slow down and my body couldn’t have been more thankful. Everything about the run was less stressful. I didn’t hate the hills because I got to slow down. I wasn’t cursing the 90 degree weather, only thankful that I was getting a tan. My concern was the 155 bpm.

My pace per mile ended up being about a 1 1/2 minutes slower than normal, which according to many running sources, is about right. And thanks to my slower running, I was able to run without any pain in my leg. I only made it 17 miles and that was fine with me. Considering my improper nutrition and the heat, I still considered it a successful run. This morning I got in another 3.5 miles and felt great the entire time.

These past few days have proven to be a very valuable learning experience. First, my VO2 test showed me that I am pretty fit and if I train smarter, I can race better. Second, I came to understand the importance of slower running yesterday. It also helped me to appreciate running without the stress of feeling like I had something to prove.

Thanks Otto and Brian! I think I’ll be using my HR monitor a little more to keep me in check on the easy days.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Photor Source: Johntasdale, Wikimedia Commons

VO2 Max Testing

This past June at a friend’s wedding, I was chatting with a girl who works with Duke University.  She mentioned her lab needed volunteers for a stress test and for a VO2 max test.  I couldn’t give her my phone number fast enough.  This was like a Christmas present, but 6 months earlier and it was free! I’ve always wanted to be hooked up to a machine while running really fast at an incline just so I can learn my VO2 max, max heart rate, and all of the other things those machines can tell you. A few years ago I actually researched where I could get this done in the Raleigh area.  Thankfully I waited because now I’m getting it done free of charge 🙂

This will be a two day process. Tomorrow I’m going to get a stress test. I was told this would be fairly easy and short. Friday is when I get to do the fun stuff. I first have to go through the second part of the stress test and then afterwards, they are going to do my “max test” as Brian told me over the phone this afternoon.  I wasn’t really sure what all this included so I called back to the lab on my way home to clarify.  Basically I was told that once I went through the 8-12 minute test, they could tell me anything I wanted to know.  Max heart rate, VO2 max, aerobic threshold, lactate threshold, heart rate training zones – anything. This is the best back to school present I could have ever asked for!!!  It’s kind of bizarre how excited I am about this.  Maybe because I think this will tell me how “fit” I really am and what I am really capable of accomplishing.  I’ll know and understand exactly what my body can do. Be on the lookout for a recap of how it went after Friday.

I get distracted by my earphones on my iPod. I hope I can deal with this 🙂

Photo Source

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Why I think Minimalist Running is Right for Me

Before I say anything, I want to preface this with the following… my body is my body and what works for me, is not the same as what works for you. Every thing about every individual is different in some way, and my feet are not the same as yours.  That’s why there are so many different types of running shoes – because there are so many different types of running feet.

Now onward…

I have finally come to a very well researched conclusion – minimalist running shoes are right for me. Ever since I tried them for the first time last May, I thought they might be the best shoe for me. However for some reason, I still went between my Minimus and my Newtons.  I never could make up my mind. And even more recently, I was loving my Brooks PureConnects so much, that I put my Minimus aside for 2 weeks, running only in the Brooks. After much trial and error, injuries, and a thorough analysis of my body (weak areas, strong areas, out of whack areas), I have made the decision minimalist running shoes allow me to run my best.

I first tried my New Balance Minimus back in May 2011. I remember the run so clearly… It was a Saturday morning and I only had time for 6 miles because I was translating at 8am.  I decided to head out in my Minimus and put my other shoes by the door so I could come back to change after 1/2 mile or so.  As I waited for my Garmin to connect to the satellite, I was so nervous. It was like I was going on a job interview .  I didn’t know what to expect after those first few steps but I just knew it was going to be painful.  To my surprise, the run was anything but painful. From the moment I started, I couldn’t believe how easy it felt.  I no longer felt off balance and my feet didn’t hurt one bit.  I actually ran over 6 miles in those shoes and my feet, calves, and body never suffered once. The crazy thing is when I got in my car to drive, I literally felt (and heard) my hip and back pop into place. My first thought was Oh my gosh, that feels amazing!  I was on a runner’s cloud nine all day.

And then I got indecisive….

I’m not sure why I can’t accept a good running thing when I have it. Perhaps I was feeling the need to make use of my $150 Newtons. Whatever the reason may have been, I started doing my long runs in the bulkier shoes and before long, I was out of commission for a month.  For some reason, whenever I run in shoes with cushion, it’s like my right foot rolls out and puts a tremendous amount of strain on my peroneal tendon.  It’s sloppy form and because my right side is quite a bit weaker, the effects are amplified. Put me in a pair of Minimus and my form adjusts itself right away.  It’s like I need to feel the ground beneath me.  It gives me a better idea of what the rest of my body is doing, which allows me to make adjustments as necessary.

Last week I hardly ran at all.  My sloppy form had put a little too much stress on my leg and I knew I needed to take it easy.  However, I have been practically dying to get back to my training schedule. Today I decided I was going to attempt my speed workout but call it quits if I was hurting.  I had 8 miles planned with 4 mile repeats. Up until I started stretching, I was still debating what shoes to wear. (I really don’t know why I make this so hard on myself.) I went with the Minimus and the leg that had been bothering me for over a week, felt great. I was so happy and thankful that I was easily able to complete my workout. The pace felt easy, the form felt great, and my leg didn’t bother me one bit. Mentally, those were the fastest 8 miles I had ever run.

I still really like my Brooks PureConnect, and I think they are perfect for a short recovery run. Super light weight with just the right amount of cushion. However, I finally think I understand my body can not run in this type of shoe all the time. I run better in a very minimal shoe. Period. It must run in the family because my super speedy runner cousin is the same way… a former Newton runner turned minimalist.

My last race I ran in the Minimus and won for the females. Like I said, minimalist shoes allow me to run my best:)


Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Slow

Today I went out for my my first run (other than a few miles here and there), in about a week.  As soon as I stepped outside, my Garmin started beeping low battery.  My initial reaction was NOOOO! But then I realized this was a good thing, as I wouldn’t be constantly checking my pace. My leg still doesn’t feel 100% so I needed to take it easy.  I tried going slow and I did a good job at that for the first mile or so. After that, I’m certain I was going about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes too fast. Why can’t I slow down?? I think part of my problem is my pride. I don’t want other people thinking geez, she’s really slow or to get passed by the grandpa behind me. For some reason, I feel like I have something to prove to the random cars driving by because I know judging runners is exactly what I’m doing while driving down the road. (I’m kidding.  The only thing that crosses my mind is to yell Go runner, go!)

Easy runs are good for us and there is nothing wrong with going slow.  I really need to get over myself…

Matt Forsman,

Running slow applies “gentle” stress to the key physiological systems required to run at a high level. Gentle, easy running helps to let the healing begin. Think of it as “active recovery” that helps facilitate blood flow gently to the damaged muscles that need help.

Independent of expediting the healing process, running slow is the most effective way to build a base. There are a million different training philosophies and approaches that you can utilize to get into quality running shape. Virtually all of them include some kind of base building phase comprised largely of easy runs.

This blog entry from The Lola Papers does a great job of summarizing the slow recovery run – it’s for recovery. No race and no competition. The author describes the run as a vacation, a siesta of sorts. Just giving your legs a break while still doing what you love.

Tomorrow is a track workout and Wednesday will be a slow day – I insist. I’m pretty sure if I can master the slow run, my rate of in juries will decrease. Now I’m off to do my alignment exercises and back stretches. I have to keep proactive with the injury prevention 🙂

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


On a side note, today was the first day back for the students. I have 90+ students and I can already tell they’re fabulous. I wholeheartedly believe that when given the opportunity and in the right environment, kids really do want to excel. Here is to a great school year!


Must slow down!
Photo Source: Parutakupiu, Wikimedia Commons

The Spine

When I was doing Bikram Yoga every week a few years ago, one of the quotes that always stuck with me was something along the lines of If you have a healthy spine, the gods will chase you, and you will have a healthy life.  Recently, I’ve been trying to self diagnose myself.  Do I have scoliosis or no? There is definitely a small curvature in my spine and when I saw an Xray of it back in March, you could tell it curved to the left.  However, last night after talking to my mom who says I was never diagnosed as a small child with scoliosis, I decided the years of muscle imbalance are what is causing my spine to go to the left.  That means there’s still hope and I can fix it!

Now, in addition to my meditation every morning, I’m also doing some spine exercises. As I read on a blog post the other day, If it’s important, do it every single day. This is important to so I’m working on it…

The first thing I am including into my day are some alignment exercises.  Here is a link to the exercises I am doing.  I just started these so I don’t really know how it’s working yet.  However, I really think paying attention to my alignment along with continuing to strengthen my right side, will help my spine issues. The other thing I am doing are the yoga poses from the bikram class. Yes, I know you are not suppose to do these out of order from the 26 posture sequence, but I make sure I am completely warmed up before I begin. Also, I go very slow and am careful with my back. The poses that I do are the cobra, locust, full locust, and bow pose. And finally, the last thing I am doing is trying NOT to cross my legs every time I sit down.  That one is probably the hardest and I have to constantly remind myself.  Oh well, I’m sure I can change this habit soon enough.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.  The weather is finally starting to cool down here in NC and it is fabulous! I’m looking forward to some fall running.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Locust Pose
Photo Source: Satheesan, Wikimedia Commons


Yesterday I watched this great TED video thanks to Sharon  on Google+.  In the video, Matt Cutts talks about the power of the 30 day challenge.  Apparently that’s all the time you need to start or stop a habit.  Mr. Cutts encourages us all to think of something that we have always wanted to do and commit to it for 30 days.

A blog post I read last week titled On Becoming Superhuman got me thinking about the importance of meditation and its benefits for athletic performance.  That helped me to decide my 30 day challenge, but my only dilemma is, I don’t know how to meditate. I’m envisioning a monk, a lot of ommmmmmmm noises, and a picturesque background.  I think I need to look into this…

The Mayo Clinic:

Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and can even improve certain medical conditions

Meditation can also improve concentration, help us to detach and live in the present, increase our health, and provide us with a deeper knowledge of our being. The one area that I am interested in most is gaining a deeper knowledge of myself.  I want to know my thoughts, understand my body, and know that I have the mental fortitude to keep going when I most want to quit.

So how does one meditate? One of my favorite motivational/inspirational websites Pick the Brain has a list of six steps to follow while meditating:

Tejvan Pettinger:

  1. Sit with a straight back. Don’t try to meditate lying down because you are likely to fall asleep. Meditation brings relaxation and peace but at the same time this is a dynamic peace. Meditation is quite different than the relaxation of sleep. When we really meditate, we are fully alert and conscious. Our sense of awareness is heightened. Afterwards you’ll have a positive feeling for the world and a renewed sense of dynamism.
  2. Don’t eat before meditating. After a heavy meal your body will be lethargic with digestion.
  3. It is not necessary to mediate in the lotus posture. It is fine to meditate in a chair, as long as the back is straight.
  4. It is helpful to take a shower before meditating.
  5. Burning incense and having a candle are not necessary, but they can add a little extra inspiration.
  6. It is good to meditate early in the morning. It is said the best time is 3am, although, I feel it is more important to be awake and not sleepy, I meditate at 6.30am.

This morning I had my first attempt at meditation.  I started by lying down which I quickly realized was a bad idea. At 5:45am, that just meant going right back to sleep.  However, once I sat up, I kind of got into the groove of things. Just for the record, clearing your mind is hard.  I ended up doing more visualization of me kicking butt at my next race than clearing my mind and meditating. Beneficial? Perhaps, but not what I was suppose to be doing.  I will try again tomorrow and 28 days after that.  Hopefully if I can get the hang of this, it will become a daily habit and not just a 30 day challenge.

Photo Source: Tevaprapas Makklay, Wikimedia Commons

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Single Leg Deadlifts

I have a muscle imbalance and I am very much aware of it.  While sidelined from my last running injury, my sports massage therapist pointed out how much stronger my left side is than my right side.  That includes my back muscles, my abs, quads, and calves.  I immediately started working to try and correct this problem.  Whatever exercise I could do to isolate the right and left side, I always did more on my right side. However, since I’ve been running so much lately, I have been neglecting these exercises and after my run yesterday, I can tell. Read more

Cherry Juice

I’ve been reading about the benefits of beet juice on athletic performance for a long time.  In fact, I bought three bottles to drink the week before my last 5K.  Yes, I got a PR but the taste was just a little too much for me.  This morning I read an article about the benefits of tart cherry juice.  For some reason that just seems a little more appetizing than beet juice.

Gretchen Reynolds:

“In studies by Dr. McHugh and colleagues, tart cherry juice reduced muscle pain and weakness after bouts of intense strength training as well as after a marathon. In a similar experiment by other researchers, racers in the annual Hood to Coast 196-mile relay race in Oregon reported significantly less pain after the race if they drank tart cherry juice in the week beforehand.

The juice has notable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities, Dr. McHugh says, although the particular components of the juice that are most active in that context are still being teased out. When he asked food scientist colleagues to analyze tart cherry juice, he said, “I was given a list of 30-plus compounds” that were likely to contribute to the drink’s benefits.”

Interesting.  I think in addition to my compression socks, tart cherry juice just might be incorporated into my post workout routine.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Photo Source: Cary Bass, Wikimedia Commons

Peak Performance in Women Runners

My cousin is in town for a wedding and we have been having a lot of good running conversations today.  One that I found particularly interesting was about a recent article she had read discussing peak performance in women marathoners.  She had read that women runners peak later in life because over the years, they build more confidence.  After quite a few Google searches, I was unable to find the article, but I did find some other interesting facts.

The average age of the 2008 elite women’s field for the New York City Marathon was 33.

The winner of the 2008 Women’s Olympic Marathon was 38 years old. Sammy Wanjiru was 21 when he won the 2008 Men’s Olympic marathon.

Kara Goucher is 34 and Shalane Flanagan is 31.  Desiree Davila is 29.

Paula Radcliffe who was planning to run the London Olympic Marathon until she had to drop out, is 38 years old.

“The physical peak for most humans, in most sports, is between 25 and 35 years of age; during this peak period, the well-conditioned athlete can create a confluence of muscular strength, peak cardiovascular and oxygen transport, speed and reaction time, and mental capabilities (including the ability to deal with competitive pressures), all bound together by a desire to succeed.”

“For sports  in which strength (both muscular strength and bone density), oxygen uptake, and cardiovascular efficiency are vital to success, the aging process may be slowed, though never halted or reversed. Since 1950, the average age of world champion distance runners in the 3-mi (5,000 m) races through to the 26-mi marathons (42.2 km) ranges between 28 and 32 years of age. From this peak of ability, runners will continue to perform at levels close to their personal best into their late 30s and early 40s; performance then declines at a rate of approximately 2% per year through age 80.”

There is a lot of information out there regarding when runners peak, and in particular when women runners peak.  I am 29 years old and after 11 years of attempting this running thing, I finally feel like I am becoming a smarter and better runner.  Although I will never be where Kara Goucher is at the age of 34, I am hoping that I will continue to get better and faster. Whether it be because of more confidence or better physical abilities, I hope my best running years are yet to come.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Long Run Pace

Long run pace is something I always struggle with.  According to my goal marathon time, I should be doing my long runs anywhere from 8:37 to 9:44 min/mile.  The last time I ran a long run at 8:37 was the 11 miler I did the day after the 5 mile race that I won. 🙂 Other than that, I’m always running faster and I know I need to slow down.  Mentally though, I find it very difficult to slow down that much.

The weekend after my Boston disaster. I decided to tackle my long run a little differently.  I did an easy 11 miles at around 8:35/mile, then 7 miles at 7:25/mile and then 4 miles at 8:40/mile.  It really was the best 22 miler I had ever done.  Having that easy start with those tougher miles in the middle followed by a cool down made it go by so much quicker and I loved it.  In preparation for my 18 miler this weekend, I wanted to look into what other people had to say about the long run pace.  Today, I’m going to focus on what Jack Daniels (not the liquor) has to say…

Jack Daniels:

When you do your long (L) runs, you should run at a pace which is very close to (E) (easy-run) velocity, which is about 70% of V02max. Long runs (L), improve cell adaptation, and lead to glycogen depletion and fluid loss (important considerations for distance runners), but should not be demanding in terms of the intensity (pace) being utilized.

Daniels’ popularized running formula is used to calculate your VDOT and from there, you can determine your pace for certain workouts as well as projected finish times for other races.  I’m more focused on the long run but you can read more about his formula here and here.  Daniels, along with other running experts suggest running the first part of your long run at your easy pace and then gradually accelerate to marathon pace over the last 8-10 miles.  I found this awesome (and very detailed) calculator that uses Daniels’ running formula to plan your long runs.  The long runs include miles at an easy pace, miles at marathon pace, and miles at tempo pace.  Luckily this isn’t for every long run, but instead for every other long run – depending on which plan you follow.  I need something like this to break up the long run.  It helps me so much mentally and I think I would do well following this type of workout.  Assuming that I still stick to doing other long runs at a steady easy pace…

I’d love to know if anyone else has used Daniels’ running formula to train for a race or if you have any other long run pace suggestions.  Until then, I’m looking forward to changing things up this Saturday.

Sending many happy running thoughts your way,


Check out my green smoothie from this morning… it’s so green!! But it was delicious and it helped me to have a fabulous hill workout.