Thursday, September 12, 2013

Double Down!

When did it become mid-September? This year is flying back at wicked speed.  What this truly means is that next month, I officially start "training" for my second half marathon, the PF Changs Half in January.

The reality is, I have been training for this all year.  If there is one thing I learned last year, you truly need to train before you "train."  Especially if you are just starting out as a beginner, or if you have taken a long break in between.

This makes complete sense, if you think of it.  The saying is that it takes 21 days to create/break a habit.  Ever have great success with a nutrition or workout regimen, and then you go on vacation, to find that your momentum seemed to have been left behind on the beach? It is hard to start over, which is why most people have trouble sticking to it.  This spring and summer were a great example of this...when I would get back from vacation, my training partner would leave for hers, and we did this multiple times over the span of several months.  Talk about killing the momentum! 

When we started training for our half last year , we discovered our body wasn't quite ready to handle the grueling schedule, exhaustion, etc (hence the injuries).  This year, we sought out to make this training process easy, strong, and injury free, how it should be.  We are getting smarter. :)  

Here is what I've figured out:
The most important step to a successful training plan is consistency.  I don't know about you, but in the past, when I would take a break from running or working out, and then I got back into workout mode, I would tend to overdo it a bit.  This meant I was exhausted and incredibly sore. Keeping a consistent schedule helps with gradually increasing momentum, speed, distance, and weight.  It's important to not increase too much weight or add too much distance before your body is physically capable of doing so, because this can quickly lead to injury.  

The next step to a successful training plan is dedication.  Believe you me, I get it.  Life is busy.  Always.  But you know what? It always will be.  For me, I am guaranteed to be swamped for the next 5 years while I pursue my PT Doctorate.  But honestly, then what? I bet I'll be just as busy.  Make the time for yourself, you are worth it.  Write your plan in a calendar, and abide by it.  If you struggle with making those commitments, tell someone about your plan, or get a training partner.  This will help make you accountable.  People joke about how often we all post on Facebook when we are at the gym... but seriously, if I am going to post that I am at the track at 4:00 am, I am sure going to complete that run! 

If you struggle with keeping yourself focused and dedicated, a training partner can be a tremendous asset.  It is easier to do something when you have a friend with you.  But while you want a friend there, you want someone who is going to push you, and call you out when you are being lazy (i.e. "drill Sargent").  I would be no where without mine!  I would most definitely not get up at 4:00 am to run if there wasn't someone waiting for me at the track.  I often look at my phone hoping she would have cancelled, realize she didn't, get my ass out of bed and dressed and head over there, and there she is, telling me she had hoped I would have cancelled on her as well! But, since we both had someone waiting for us and making us accountable for the workout, we are successful in our training for that day.  The hardest part about completing the early morning run is getting out of bed, especially if it is dark and cold (or scalding hot, as it can be in Arizona).  But by the time you get running, you eventually wake up and feel happy that you completed the run.  4:00 am will never be "easy."  However, I have never regretted a workout. I always feel better, have a clearer mind, and feel the release of stress and anxiety almost immediately

Likewise, if your training partner is out of town or is sick, you have to take that extra step to go by yourself, and show up. Takes a little extra willpower. :)

Back to scheduling.  This year, as my schedule has continuously gotten more demanding, we have had to get a bit more creative with scheduling.  We were already pretty limited on when we could train together, so we truly had to rack our brains to figure out how to get everything worked in.  This has actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it's meant that we had to focus on dedicating non-negotiable, set times to keep on track.  We have decided that this training season is going to utilize doubles.  That is, working out twice in one day.

You might say you hardly have time for even one work out, let alone two in the same day, but if you break your workouts up into two, that's less time you need to spend in one sitting.  Workout in the morning before work and then complete the second one on your lunch break.  Or do a shorter workout on your lunch break, and then another one that afternoon or after dinner.  This type of planning frees you up for all of the "distractions" that might otherwise hinder your progress.  You can back to work, get home to make dinner, do the laundry, feed the pets, help the kids with homework, etc.  The beauty of this schedule is this is also giving our body some much needed downtime with dedicated rest days.

I think this is going to be the best plan for a dedicated, successful training program leading up to this race.  And honestly, I think it's going to be more effective. To remind you, this is what our half marathon training schedule consists of:

For the 12 weeks leading up to the race, we will complete:
  • 1 long run
  • 1 short pace/tempo run (25-75% of the long run distance)
  • 1 speed work/interval training run (10-30 min total, depending on the race distance that week)
  • 2-3 days of cross-training (weight/resistance training, Zumba, elliptical, stairclimber, yoga, water jogging, etc)
Tentative game plan:
Sunday: Long run
Monday: early am cardio cross-training/weight training, and then a long leg workout that evening
Tuesday: REST
Wednesday: early am run, and then weight training that afternoon 
Thursday: REST
Friday: Speedwork/interval training
Saturday: REST

I really like the three run workout plan, as it really seemed to work best for us, as previous plans we had tried to follow were based around running almost every single day, with no weight/cross-training days included.  It was easy to fall behind schedule if you were sick or tired, which got frustrating and lead to a lack of focus and confidence.  Even following the three run plan last fall, we still didn't give ourselves enough time to rest in between workouts. Performing split workouts (i.e. working separate muscle groups each day) makes it easy to over train and makes it difficult to truly give your muscles, joints, and mind a much needed rest to repair itself.  

As we were formulating our grand plan of double workout days, I started to wonder if there were any fitness professionals who warned against this tactic.  I was happily surprised to find many articles published online that actually promoted this concept! Some benefits listed were:
  • Rest playing a solid role in the workout plan has been proven to give results.  Working a muscle before it's had time to repair itself can actually break it down faster and weaken it.  
  • Working out twice in one day will burn more calories, curb your hunger*, and work your muscles double time.  It also provides added energy and makes you sleep like a baby (Zzzz).
  • Schedule the doubles with enough recovery/downtime in between - i.e. early morning and evening - with plenty of time to rest and consume the right recovery nutrients - i.e. carbohydrates and protein.
  • Schedule the morning workout as cardio and strength training later in the day, if possible.  The strength training will be less caloric burn, however it will be focused and you'll see more results.  
  • Advantage: workouts can be shorter and more focused, meaning you're more likely to push yourself to get the most out of your time.  Another benefit: Everyone has time for 30 minutes! Very few people can justify a several hour workout each day (nor is it physically possible, depending on the schedule).
  • Another advantage: Boost in metabolism! I don't know about you, but I wake up starving at 4 am, even when I ate a lot the night before.  My metabolism gets to a point where it is on fire and I am scrambling to keep up with it.  I would much rather have this problem than the opposite!  
  • Follow a plan of every other day with a full day of rest in between.  

* I actually disagree with this statement: When I have a double, I am actually a lot hungrier as my metabolism speeds up.  I will say this: each workout requires a different fuel and a different amount of recovery food.  I definitely feel and need more protein post weight-lifting than I do when I finish a short run or cross-training.  It's all about figuring out what works. 

What kind of training plan works best for you?


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