Yesterday, Trainer Will was around and had me do a few of the exercises I was supposed to have been doing over the last 3 weeks so that he could see if I was doing them correctly. Today, the proof is in the muscles.
When I first started working with Will at D1, he was here in town and I was with a group that worked with him for an hour twice per week. During that time, he taught us a lot that I was able to take away and try to do on my own after he moved out of state.
The first race of my season was the Music City Marathon, at which I ran a personal best (PB) of 6 minutes faster than my previous best and a course PB by 30 minutes. Since I hadn’t really done much different from last year to this year besides going to D1, I attributed most of my success during that race to those workouts. I continued racing well for the first half of the season, but I didn’t keep up with the strength workouts that I had been doing and noticed that I pretty much had plateaued. I hit a peak in late June/early July and then came down, and I wasn’t really able to get back up to the level that I wanted to for the Ironman in late August.
I took the time to think about that during the Olympics hype, and I decided that I wanted to get back into a program that would help me improve. I contacted Will, and he agreed to write a program for me. I waited until after I had recovered from the Ironman and then he sent me the first workouts; I haven’t looked back.
Over the last 3 weeks, I have noticed a marked improvement in my performance, due in large part, if not totally, to the workouts that I have been doing. Although I haven’t done any races in the last month, I know I’ve gotten faster by looking at my times. For instance, I’m running under my 5K race pace for 10K training runs. I don’t think there’s any bad news there. Granted a marathon is 42K, but that pace, if I can hold it, will put me at a 3:45:00 marathon time, which is the Boston Marathon qualifying time for my age group. Qualifying for Boston (even if I don’t race it) is one of my goals this year. That, running a sub-4 marathon at the Ironman, and running a 21-minute 5K are currently my 3 main running goals.
Back to the muscles being all the proof I needed today. So yesterday, while Will was in town, he had me (well, practically forced me) to show him how I’d been doing the last couple weeks. This included running a bit and then doing a few lunges (some day I’ll have to expand on the workouts—they’re intense and crazy).
Running: My running style had been pretty bad. So what I was supposed to be working on was pushing through each step with the balls of my feet, lifting my leg with my hip flexors/quadriceps (which he had to remind me of), and stepping down with my hamstrings/gluts. I’ve really been concentrating on that while I’ve been running, and he said there was a marked improvement over the last time he’d seen me.
I still need to work on it, though, since I know that it’s easier for me if I start on an uphill (when I’m forced to lift my legs to get up it). Not every race will have an uphill start; I have to be able to do it no matter what.
Lunges: These are not your average lunges. As I do these in the prescribed workouts, I should be focusing on lifting my leg with the same muscles I use for running and then lowering quickly, again with the same muscles I would while running. The point of this is to create the same feelings while training that you’re going to have while running. You are, after all, using the same muscles.
Unfortunately, my lunges had probably worsened since he’s last seen me, so we just worked on focusing on using the correct muscles to lift and lower the leg. Those muscles are all the proof I needed today that I hadn’t been doing them correctly. Am I ever sore! (Of course, the 2 hours of tennis yesterday might also have something to do with that soreness, but probably much less than I’d like.)
So I still have a lot to work on. I was encouraged when Will said he’s been doing this now for 22 months, and it took a while to get it all right. It’s not something that you can just mirror; I can’t just watch him do it and then do it correctly. It’s all about focusing and making sure that I’m using the correct muscles all the time. I have a long way to go, but I also have a long off season and a lot of motivation and drive. Fortunately, Will has also moved within the state, so now it will be easier to get a demonstration if necessary.
Today’s workout was not fun. I could feel how sore I was from yesterday while I was riding my bike, because I was really focused on engaging my muscles to both lift and lower my legs.
20-mile bike ride with two 1-mile sprints thrown in: on the first one, I maintained an HR around 165 (for a normal ride, I stay between 120 and 150), and on the second one, I couldn’t get a good read on my HR but my mile time was 2:50. (The mile is from the corner of Belle Reeve and Granny White to the intersection of McGavock and Bliss.)
Isometric extreme stretches: 2–3 sets (depending on how I felt) of 100 seconds (10 reps of 10 seconds; at 10 seconds, pop up quickly then immediately back down).
– Wall squats: 3 sets, downward angle from knee to hip, and pulling down the whole time except for the quick pop-up.
– Right leg lunge: 2 sets, downward angle from knee to hip, and pulling down into the deepest position possible. For the first set, I continued working the whole time but put my back knee down for the last 3 or so (regardless of whether I put my back knee down, I always popped up after 10 seconds). For the second set, I put my back knee down for the last 4 or so, but still popped back up.
– Left leg lunge: 2 sets, downward angle from knee to hip, and pulling down into the deepest position possible. For the first set, I continued working the whole time but put my back knee down for the last 4 or so (regardless of whether I put my back knee down, I always popped up after 10 seconds). For the second set, I put my back knee down for the last 5 or so, but still popped back up.
– Hamstring: 3 sets, legs are completely straight with hips pushed as far to the rear as possible; stretch down the entire time.
– Preacher curl: 4 sets of 5, standing and holding a 5-lb dumbbell in each hand, lengthening the biceps with arm straight (just inside of locked out) and wrists curled in. I think I got this one right, after the demonstration; however, I was unable to do the entire set of 10. My arms kept dropping (but I was in front of a mirror, so I quickly fixed that) and I would have dropped the weights; I absolutely could not hold them any longer.
– Pushup: 2 sets on knees, forearms parallel to the ground, pulling into the deepest position possible. The first set was very hard; my arms were starting to fall asleep and although I started by pushing up all the way, by the last 3 or 4 I was just pushing up maybe inches. The second set was worse; not only could I not push up the whole way, I kept pinching something in my back. I definitely wasn’t doing something right, but I’ll make it right next time.
– Crate crunch: 3 sets, squeezing crate between legs as hard as possible, and crunching up while shortening the abdomen. I probably could not have done 1 sit up after I finished the last set. I really focused on squeezing as hard as possible and crunching up as much as possible after each 10-second interval.
Tomorrow I think I’ll try my eight 1-mile repeat run (thanks to my favorite pro Bree for that one) or my 10K TT run (although I just did that, unplanned, yesterday). Whatever it ends up being, it will be a run, perhaps followed by racquetball depending on the time.