Friday, November 28, 2008

Have You Heard of Fartlek?

Does the word 'Fartlek' sound familiar to you or is it totally foreign? I can't blame you if you answered... 'totally foreign' because it is actually a Swedish word. What does it stands for?

If you've heard about intervals for speed then this concept is just related. When you do speed training and you do it in intervals, you follow a more structured course. This means you run as fast as you can at your planned distance, say 200-400 meters then you follow it up with a fixed recovery time, say 1-2km. You do this for a couple of repeats according to your speed training plan.

As for Fartlek, it is a much more flexible and fun way of doing speed training. There is no fixed interval of speed and recovery runs. Instead the speed runs is determined randomly. For instance, if you're running in an oval track, you will decide to run your fast pace whenever you pass by Mr. Grandpa Walker and return to recovery runs when you pass by him again. If you are running in a subdivision, you will decide to run fast whenever you pass by a red gate then proceed to recovery runs when you pass by a brown gate. You create your own rules to determine when to do your speedwork and when to do recovery runs. This adds excitement and variety to your runs. Try it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hill Training

I enjoyed the UNICEF run yesterday though we had quite a panicky start. We left the house rather late, 5:15 a.m. thinking that we would arrive on the site just in time. We did not anticipate that we would miss a road turn thereby spending additional minutes trying to find our way to McKinley Hill. And when we finally arrived in the area, further confusion ensued as we looked for the parking space. And when we finally got into the parking building, we had to run to the start line as this was still a couple of meters from the parking area. It was our first time to run in a race where the start off point is not in the vicinity of high street of The Fort so there was much disorientation for us. As soon as we arrived in the start line, the signal for the 10-km run just went off. I had to push my husband to join the group as he was not sure if he still needs to look for the man with a marker to mark his number off. There was no time to warm up nor to stretch. Five minutes after, the 5-km event started. The challenge was of course the hilly terrain of McKinley Hills. Since I did not really prepare for this, I am feeling a bit sore today though I just covered my usual 5-km run yesterday.

I figured that it is really essential to include uphill/downhill training in your weekly runs not just to prepare yourself for runs to McKinley hill or the flyover at Buendia, but because it is a very effective way of building your leg strength. Consequently leg strength can be transmitted to improvement in endurance and speed. From the Complete Running Manual, the recommended frequency is once or twice a week. However, there must be a day of flat running in between hill trainings in order to allow for recovery.

The way a hill repeat is described, you need to find a hill that is 400-600 meters long or a 100-200 meter steeper incline. You have to warm up for 15 minutes first before you tackle the hill. When tackling the hill, you run uphill in a fast, steady pace then slowly run or walk downhill. You have to maintain a form wherein your body is leaning into the incline and you can use your arms to pump yourself uphill. You do this 5 times then finish your hill training with a slow easy run. And the most important thing, do your stretches after your training because hillwork tends to shorten your muscles.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Keeping a Running Diary

My husband's running diary is his Nike+ kit, a small gadget which he puts on his shoes and is linked to his i-pod. This records his distance and his speed as he runs. He conveniently uploads his mileage to his PC at the end of his run and he is able to maintain a running log. As for me, since I just have an i-pod nuno (my MP4 player which resembles an i-pod nano in appearance) and am still waiting for my Nike+ kit December present, I am currently doing my training logs manually. I have this neat little notebook which serves as my running diary.

Keeping a training log is very helpful because you will be able to see patterns in your running and from there will be able to make adjustments for improvement. So what should be included in your training log so that it will provide you with the most information?

Basic information will include the date, length of the run, time you finished the run, your route and its description (if it is on flat oval track, hilly forest track, urban pavement, etc) , time of day, and weather conditions. The Complete Guide to Endurance Training has record sheets for an entire week and at the end of the week, a weekly summary can be done. The record sheets cover additional information like the feeling after the run, the benefit, nutrition, sleep, aim, intensity and other comments. Other books would also recommend taking note of your morning weight as well as your resting heart rate, average heart rate and maximum heart rate. The latter would require a heart rate monitor while you run. But you can also detect your heart rate manually, though it can be quite challenging while you run. Just feel for your pulse just below the angle of your jaw and count it using your stopwatch. No need to do a entire minute. Six seconds will do and this will provide you with a rough estimate of your heart rate. Multiply the heart rate taken in six seconds by 10 and you get your heart rate in beats per minute. Just a reminder though, do not rub your carotid pulse vigorously as this can lead to the immediate slowing of your heart rate which may cause you to feel dizzy and faint. This is what we call the carotid massage and we only employ this in emergency situations when a patient experiences severe sinus tachycardia.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blister on my Foot!

I recalled my husband complaining about having a blister during the 10-km King of the Road Race which caused him to suffer on his last few kilometers to the finish line. The culprit, his thin socks!

A blister can be pretty nasty and painful. This is caused by pressure and friction which is exacerbated by moisture from water or sweat. How to prevent having a blister? Know which part of your feet is most prone to it so you will know what caused it. If it is thin socks, better invest in thicker once. Some books would advise wearing a thin sock under a thick sock. This would put the friction between the two socks instead of your feet with your socks. If the cause of the blister is an ill-fitting shoe, better buy a new pair which provides a snug fit and does not allow too much sliding of your toes inside your shoes. Others apply band-aid or plaster on the areas most prone to blistering.

What to do with your blisters? If it is small, ignore it. It usually heals by itself. If it is huge and painful, you can ease the pressure by pricking it with a sterile needle. Use alcohol to sterilize the needle, release the fluid from the blister and leave the skin on. Apply an antiseptic and cover it with sterile gauze. Keep the site clean and dry and always observe for any signs of infection like redness and swelling.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Running with a Stitch?

Remember that painful discomfort just under your ribcage? That is what you call the stitch. When we were still kids, I'd often hear adults warn us not to run right after a meal because we would get an "appendix" (a term commonly used to mean appendicitis). Of course, we never heeded the advise of the adults and would still proceed on running and then one of us would suddenly come crouched down with a stitch and he would be shouting, "I have an appendix!" Of course, he has an appendix. All human beings have an appendix unless you've gone through the surgical removal called appendectomy.

Anyway, we all knew that the stitch does fade away with rest and did not warrant any surgical intervention. It is just interesting to note that the actual physiology of a stitch is actually caused by spasm of the diaphragm. I never really encountered that in medical school. Perhaps it was too benign to be included in our discussions. But for a runner, this can be detrimental especially if it hits you when you are crucially competing and nearing the end of the race. So what can you possibly do about it? The Complete Running Manual advises that you take in deep breaths with your chest and stomach and blow it out deeply as well using your abdomen. If this does not work, you can raise your arms above your head and slow down to a walk. If still this does not work, you may press through the stitch with your fingers which may bring temporary relief. But it does go away in time and definitely it is not your appendix that's causing the problem.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fine-tuning Running

I've missed blogging. The business has occupied me the past few weeks, I did not have time to write. Just glad I was still able to run thrice last week. The other week, when I was only able to run once and did an 8-km, I felt lousy. So this time, no more compromises. I will stick to my thrice a week routine and improve from there.

I have also concentrated on reading financial books lately that it was only by sheer chance that I picked up the Complete Running Manual again when I misplaced the financial book I was currently reading. Am so glad I did because I came across the section on Perfecting Running Style.

It is interesting to note that there is a difference between foot strikes of walkers and runners. The walkers hit the ground with the entire heel then rolls from heel to toes as they move whereas the runners, if you want a perfect form should "strike the ground with the outer edge of the heel, roll through the outer midfoot, then gently pronate through the forefoot to the big toe, which pushes off from the ground." I had to lift that out of the page since it was difficult paraphrasing the foot movement. Anyway, though many runners would differ in their movements, such basic principles may improve running performance.

So what are the other recommended stance? An upright posture, with open chest and shoulders at the back and not hunched forward is ideal. There is a slight forward lean and the hands are bent at roughly 90 degrees at the elbow and swinging in a relaxed way. It is also advised that arms should not move across the chest as this is energy-expending.

What about the stride? I always thought I must lengthen my strides in order to move faster ahead. No wonder my training log revealed slower, tiring runs lately. Shorter, lighter steps actually is less traumatic to your body and is more efficient. The way to determine if you are not over-striding is to look at your lower leg which should not extend out in front of your body. Your feet must remain under your body if you want to avoid injuries to your hamstrings and quadriceps. This way, you will also prevent bobbing up and down which also uses too much energy. Just remember, smaller steps close to the ground is the way to go...

Photo courtesy of:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Foot Type?

I wrote something about runners who are pronator, supinator and neutral in one of my previous blogs and a friend of mine still admitted being unable to totally comprehend the whole concept.

Then I got to read about this once again in The Complete Running Manual and learned a more practical way of finding out if you are a pronator, supinator or neutral.

Go to your bathroom, wet your feet and then leave an imprint on your bathmat. I have a bathmat which has the fabric of a bath towel just like those that you find in five-star hotels. Don't think I bought it for a fortune at Rustan's though or somewhere like Bed, Bath and Beyond. I bought these inexpensive bathmats from Puregold for less than P150. Anyway, before I get sidetracked, let me get back to the foot imprint. With your wet feet, leave an imprint on your bathmat and check from the images above which one resembles your imprint the most. The one on the extreme left is a pronator. The one in the middle is a neutral and the one on the extreme right is a supinator. Easy does it!

Now, let me get back to Puregold... my friend recently told me that they sell sports drinks there in packs at a discount. So you might want to drop by that big store one of these days. I have to stop making all these Puregold endorsements though before I get tagged as a discountrunner. But just between us, I don't mind being branded as one. The only thing that you can't make me buy is a P900 Nike-imitation at Greenhills. I am telling you, you may save a lot from that running shoes but getting an injury because of improper footwear will cost you more in rehabilitation or surgery.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Ultramarathon Man

My husband and I went to R.O.X. Tuesday night to register for the UNICEF Walk on the Child's Side 2008. For the first time, we also registered other family members like my 8-year old daughter, my mother-in-law, my aunt and her son for the 2-km Walk. When I went to the Backpacker's area, I once again saw the book The Ultramarathon Man and urged my husband that we pass by Fully Booked to look for this particular book. We were to leave for Cagayan de Oro for a business meeting the next day and I wanted to have a reading material which will occupy me during the plane ride.

Fortunately, I found one copy of this book at Fully Booked. It was a such a lucky find. This is a one-of-a-kind book on running and will really inspire you to do more than what you are doing now. It opens your mind to your vast possibilities and potentials. It is just amazing. The one and a half plane ride passed by so quickly as I was caught up by the adventures of ultramarathonman Dean Karnazes. When we landed in CDO, I spent the short rest time in the hotel covering some more of the pages of this funny, heart-stopping and very inspiring book. After lunch, the business meeting 'interfered' with my reading and I was only able to pick up the book again to cover the final few pages after midnight when our hosts drove us back to the hotel. I still had a couple of minutes left while waiting for my turn to use the bathroom. What I missed in running, being unable to run for these past 3 days, I completely made up for with reading. I was able to finish the 292-paged book in just a few hours which I think, makes me an ultramarathon reader.

One of my favorite part in the book was when Dean participated in the California State Long-Distance Championship in junior high and won the race. When his coach-mentor asked him 'How'd it feel?' and he answered, 'going out hard was the right thing to do. It felt pretty good.' The reply of the coach-mentor was a simple, 'If it felt good, you didn't push hard enough. It's supposed to hurt like hell.' When I read out this part to my husband, he commented, "Sounds more like a tormentor than a mentor to me." ha, ha, ha. I just love the book! Now, my next book stop is the Complete Running Manual by Marielle Renssen. Expect to get some running nuggets from this reference in the next coming days.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How I Have Transformed from a Non-Runner to a Runner

The Isuzu Fun Run last night was one of a kind. Though it was drizzling at the beginning, the skies cleared up to accommodate the racers who were in costumes. It was fun running with angels, fairies, cows and chicken. I just got confused with the number of rounds that I had to do to complete the race. I thought I still needed to do another round and was pleasantly surprised to be informed that I have already completed the race. Though we ran for the 5-km event, my husband told me that the actual distance that we covered with our four rounds was actually 6.4 km. At least that explained in part why my time was much longer compared to that of the Octoberun Fest last Sunday.

I can't help but reminisce and look back on that day when I decided that I will take on running. That was 11 weeks ago. From a non-runner who was only able to run 200 meters of that 10-km Miracle Run event and walked the remaining distance, I can now run a 5-km event without stopping for a drink or a walk. There is something about such an experience that only someone who underwent what I have gone through would understand. I have the Podrunner Interval 1st Day to 5-km program to thank for. Just being patient with myself and closely following the weekly program saw me through the graduation mixes after 9 weeks of training.

When I saw this book, the Ultramarathon Man: The Confessions of an All-Night Runner and read its first two chapters, I realized that a huge transformation has happened in me these past weeks. It was unbelievable that I can now relate to the inner life of a runner. Indeed there are subtle differences between a jogger, a racer and a runner. I am not a jogger because I do not look at running as a form of exercise or a way to lose weight. I am simply a running addict. I race not to win but to evaluate my performance. It is something that breaks the routine of running and a device that helps me plan my next training program. Now I shall start with the Gateway to 8-km and delve more on different training programs to improve ones performance.

Running teaches you not to be satisfied with what you have accomplished but to continue on searching for challenges and overcome your weaknesses. It will teach you to celebrate your personal victories and unravel your potentials. Running is to the human spirit as fire is to gold. It serves to purify and strengthen. It exposes and reveals. In the end, it pushes you to soar beyond your limits. I am no longer quoting from some books I have read because you see, running has unlocked the writer in me.