Friday, December 2, 2016

Runners Don't Hibernate

The winter training season is slowly closing in on us. Some people choose to use this season as their down time to focus on taking a break and recovering for the rest of the year and that is a-okay. But, if you're like me and want to keep grinding along during the winter, you might find that this season presents many challenges. From the short days to the winter weather (I live in Chicago and have run in pretty much all weather) to the family holidays, it can be hard to get your training in. Here are some of my best tips for winter training.

Winterfest 5k during a historic Blizzard (2+ feet of snow!)
1. Stay warm. I have invested in so many warm running clothes and don't regret any of the purchases. You don't need a lot of gear and it doesn't have to be top-of-the-line, but a few quality pieces will make a huge difference. Some of my must-haves are wool socks to keep my feet warm and dry, glove/mitten combos to keep my fingers warm (and I can peel back the mitten if they get warm), a waterproof vest, a hat or earband, and a neck gaitor to keep my face warm. Play around with what works best for you. I find that even in the coldest of temps I am warm enough with two pairs of tights, an under armour long sleeve shirt under a jacket, and all the accessories to keep my extremities warm. If it's raining or snowing, I might add a waterproof vest as a outer layer. This varies from person to person so don't be afraid to try new things. Remember that you should be cold when you step outside- you will warm up when you get moving- and it's actually better to be underdressed than overdressed to prevent hypothermia.

2. Create an indoor training space. If you are focusing solely on running, this is probably the dreadmill or an indoor track. If you are training for triathlon or okay doing some cross training, this could be a pool, your trainer, or perhaps even a gym membership. Be flexible with your workouts and know that it's okay to move things around a bit due to the weather. I have my trainer set up in the basement for biking and I will use that as a back up on days that it is not safe to run outside. I like to turn on a documentary on Netflix while I bike to take my mind off boredom. Plus, you can learn things while you get your workout in :)

Frozen eyelashes after a very cold run!
3. Be visible. There is a lot of concern among runners regarding running in the dark, for good reason. However, with the right gear and a little extra consideration, daylight can become a nonissue. Invest in some bright reflective gear, possibly with lights, to make yourself visible to cars and other pedestrians. I often wear so much reflective gear that I feel ridiculous, but I know I can't be missed that way. My must haves are a reflective vest (with flashing lights in the back), a reflective bracelet, and my headlamp but I also have a variety of clothing specially made to be visible. Run without headphones in so you can be extra alert to your surroundings since your sense of vision will be diminished. Bring pepper spray if you have concerns about safety or try to find a running buddy (human or canine) that can help you feel safer. Finally, plan a route that you feel safe on. Try to avoid woods, desserted parks, busy streets, and unsafe neighborhoods when you run in the dark.

4. Make it fun. This one might be easier said than done, but try to find the joy in winter training. Learn to appreciate the quietness of a snow run, the beauty of frozen eyelashes, and the fun in stomping through a snowy trail. Maybe the fun part for you is that hot cup of coffee or warm shower waiting for you when you get back- and that's okay. Remind yourself how tough you are for getting in your workout despite the adverse conditions and think about your competitors who took the day off because they weren't as tough. On Christmas morning, don't think of it as a chore to go out and run, think of it as time for you to reflect alone on the year and all you are grateful for. If you find the positives to focus on, running in sub freezing temps just might become bearable.

Beautiful, isn't it?
Don't forget to exercise caution during the winter. Running through all kinds of weather is possible but there are some days when it's best to just not risk it. Always be careful in the dark, on ice/snow, and when running in dangerously cold temperatures. On these days, move to an indoor workout or try a new type of cross training like yoga or swimming. Just remember: runners don't hibernate.

Do you take it easy or train hard through the winter?
What are some of your favorite ways to stay motivated during the winter?
Craziest weather you've ever ran in?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What I Did Over the Summer

It's been a while since I've posted here... starting a blog is hard work and during my summer vacation I took a lot of time to myself to just run, relax, and enjoy my time off from school but now I am ready to get serious about this blog.

This summer was a huge one for me in terms of running. I upped my mileage to 35-45 miles a week, ending with 55 miles during my preseason week of cross country. I ran two 5ks- and set two new 5k PRs of 21:12 and later, 21:02. Nebby and I ran a half marathon together for the Puppy Run virtual race- her longest run ever! I tried a Duathlon (relay) and ran 2 different legs of 2 miles while J biked 11 in between. It was SO much fun and we ended up placing as the 2nd female relay team. If you've never tried a relay event I definitely recommend it! It was so exciting to share the experience with someone else; handing off the timing chip, cheering for them as they complete their leg and also hearing them cheer for you during yours... so fun.

The main event of my summer was a sprint triathlon. A lot of my time, effort, and money went into multisport this summer. After a few sessions in the pool, I decided I wanted to get a swimming coach to help me get started. I just had four half-hour lessons and they were exactly what I needed. my coach corrected my swimming form and taught me some helpful techniques for distance swimming, as well as some strategies for building my endurance. From there I just practiced regularly and slowly built up to the 400m distance. I am certainly not a fast swimmer but it felt so much better to actually have some tools in my belt (including confidence) when it came to race day. Another huge investment for this race was Trixie. I splurged and finally bought myself a road bike. I had been using a hand-me-down bike that was very old and not comfortable in any way. After some smart shopping, I decided to buy a Trek Lexa C. Having my own, new bike that was fitted to ME made a drastic difference. I immediately felt more confident on the bike- no longer afraid to brake or turn- and also took considerable time off my mile splits. The bike was rather pricey for a college student, but I am so glad I decided to make that change and I know I will get my money's worth from Trixie.

The race went AMAZING. I went in feeling prepared, confident, and excited. I trained hard all summer- physically and mentally- and was totally prepared for anything race day could throw at me (except a flat tire... still need to learn how to fix those...). With my family there to support me, I shaved 22+ minutes off my previous Sprint time, finished 4th overall female, and took 2nd in my age group. I had an absolute blast that morning and I know that my confidence- from having the right bike, taking swim lessons, etc. really played a role in how much I enjoyed the event. I am totally in love with the sport of triathlon but right now I am focusing on collegiate running while I have the chance. I have the rest of my life to do triathlons and that makes me incredibly happy.
adventures in babysitting

Outside of running, I spent a lot of time with my family, babysitting, and eating ice cream. My mom is a teacher so she is also home during the summers and I really enjoyed having her around more often. I got into the habit of biking with her as she walks every morning, which is a time that I think we have both come to treasure. I babysit for my cousins (ages 7 and 2) often, even sleeping at their house and taking a few short trips with them. My summer job was babysitting for a neighbor-- which included a lot of trips to the park, rollerblading accidents, and pool days. J and I broke up in the beginning of July and it was hard on me-even though we both knew it was coming- but I didn't let myself slip away. I focused hard on my running and triathlon-ing, did small things that brought me joy, rekindled a few old friendships, and ate more ice cream than I probably should have ;)

School started last week, along with the official cross country season. Classes are great so far and I have FINALLY decided on a major, which makes everything so much easier. XC has been amazing- so many new friends who share my crazy passion for running. Stay tuned for more about some of our races and workouts this season!