Slowing down is essential to building speed. What I mean again is the importance of recovery, specifically activities like yoga.

This morning, Brittany began class with a twist on the yoga teacher cliché “let go of whatever doesn’t serve you.” Instead, find the grace in what didn’t serve you. (Really, this is the faith-building quality of suffering.) Her class is always active and intense, but today more than usual she called us to focus and hold each posture. Choose form over speed.

My day ended with another form of recovery:  a mani-pedi! Pedicures are though as a runner because I know I put my feet through a lot–and they’ll be right back in running shoes soon–but I also want to wear sandals in summer. Taking these moments to rest help me build up the strength for when I need to push myself.

Speed Preview

I got the first taste tonight at how accomplished I’ll feel at the end of the summer fast track training. We’ve been gradually building up the length of our reps to what feels more like a test of both speed and endurance. 

Single laps are easier to push through because they’re over in less than two minutes and then you get to rest. Tonight was 3×1200, which gets a lot closer to feeling like you sprinted a mile. 

Remembering I only had three reps motivated me, but the distance was still tougher than previous weeks. The goal in track work is to maintain the same pace for each rep, so the first rep is always a gamble of math and intensity. I’m getting better at understanding what paces I can maintain and knowing about how fast I can push myself. 

My first rep came in right about what I expected. The second rep felt like I had lost my energy and slowed down, but then I saw it was 7 seconds faster! My final rep averaged the pace back out by matching the first. Because each rep was close to a mile, I can accurately envision my mile sprint pace. 

Getting close to our goals helps us dream bigger.  Now that I know I’m solidly under seven (something that still seems insane to me), I’m motivated and excited to shave even more time off my pace. 

Pool Time

Hot summer days call for cooling off in the swimming pool. Normally for adults that means laying out by the water then taking a quick dip when it’s too hot, but you can also stay cool by getting your workout in the pool.

Water is easier on muscles (great for runners!) but still builds strength as your body resists the weight of the water. Working out in the pool is not just your mom’s water aerobics class. Stop by the dollar store and grab a pool noodle for the perfect prop.

Tonight I traded yoga for some of my favorite pool exercises:

  • Noodle planks (planking on the noodle–keep your legs straight and your feet from touching the pool floor)
  • Noodle crunches (rest your shoulders on the noodle and crunch your legs in and out)
  • Tricep dips (place your hands on the side of the pool and bend your arms down)
  • Water skaters (80s music video skater exercises forward and backward)
  • Noodle bicycles (sitting on the noodle and moving your legs like riding a bicycle)
  • Noodle butterflies (sitting on the noodle with feet together and pushing your bent legs outward thighmaster-style)
  • Pool jacks (standing and jumping your legs out and in like the lower half of a jumping jack)
  • Pool knee tucks (jumping and tucking your knees with a focus less on jumping high and more on moving through water)
  • Noodle jump rope (swinging your knees back-and-forth over the noodle by tucking them into your abs)

I like to rotate through the different exercises counting down from ten. That lets me know there’s a stopping point but also keeps me in check with balancing each. Of course, regular lap swimming is always a good idea as well.

Meaningful Miles

Watch out for alligators was the running joke (pun intended) during Saturday’s Meaningful Miles 5K. I ran with Lisa as she accomplished her first 5K (and first race ever!). More accurately, we swam together through torrential downpour. 

When I woke up and saw the weather report, I knew I would’ve stayed in bed on any other day. When the rain came pouring down, I knew how badly I wanted to sprint to the finish and just be done. But running is never all about me. 

I am so proud of everyone who ran in Meaningful Miles this year, especially our Back on My Feet members. We were completely drenched and running through puddles but Lisa stayed smiling and laughing the whole time. She told me stories about growing up in Florida and putting 150K miles on her truck in six months. I’m so grateful to have run these 3.1 miles with her. 

The weather cleared up and was a beautiful day by the afternoon, including the Dallas Running Club picnic. It was a wonderful Saturday bookended by two great running organizations. 

Cycle Bar

Temperatures hit 100 for the first time of the year today. Ironically, it was also pumpkin preview day at White Rock Coffee.  I got a pumpkin spiced latte (iced!) on the hottest day of the year so far.

To be on the safe side, I took my workout indoors today. My local Cycle Bar hosted their first ever live DJ ride, and it was like a nonstop party–where I also burned over 500 calories. There was champagne and cake afterward, so not the worst way to spend a Friday evening.

Spin class is one of my favorite ways to recover from running while still getting in cardio. It works many different muscles and the included arm series are good for a full body workout. Building variety into my training cycle keeps it fun.

Hill Sprints

Tonight was my first night actually making it to the hill workout. I wasn’t sure what hill sprints meant before now, but I know I like them better than track laps. 

We did a timed workout and had the option/encouragement to walk on the downhill, another great equalizer to remember we’re all pushing our hardest together. Of course, the hill’s distance seemed to get longer each time. 

I started by trying to count my reps but soon lost count probably because I was distracted by the beautiful view. My next plan was to pay attention to my time and make each sprint as fast or faster than the last. I stayed pretty consistent but then started to slow down by about a second each time. For the very last sprint, I gave it my all and shaved off four seconds!

Racing Yourself

My legs felt like jelly tonight. Temperatures continue to climb, I didn’t hydrate early enough in the day and I just didn’t want to run. So many times I felt like giving up. 

We ran 5×800, which doesn’t sound so bad until you complete one lap and realize you still have to go again before you recover. The track starts to feel a lot longer at that point. 

I wanted to be faster tonight. I wanted to keep pushing myself and see quantifiable progress. I didn’t have it in me, but I did fight myself and make it to the end. 

Every lap, I just wanted to run into the field and lay down. Every lap, I told myself it was about how fast I wanted to go. How hard did I want to push myself? As I saw people lap me and saw myself lap others, it reminded me that every run is only about racing yourself. We are all going our own pace and fighting for the best we’ve got every chance we get. 

Recovery for Runners

Healthy training plans also include purposeful recovery. For me, this means a monthly massage. I treat it like a doctors appointment or a scheduled long run (but better because there’s chocolate and I get to almost nap).

More rigorous training requires more recovery. Most people cannot afford massages regularly but there are a few tricks to extend the life of each massage.

Epsom salt baths are a must for sore muscles (sometimes to even relax enough to sleep after a race). I like to add in a few drops of essential oils like eucalyptus or lavender.

Foam rolling or using a massage stick after every workout also helps your body heal. Making it a pattern and mandatory is the hard point. If you want to run again and without injury, you must make time for recovery.

Pint Striders

My training plan called for hills but I opted for Pint Striders instead, a social run with happy hour specials at the end. The heat index was over 100 degrees and temperatures were in the mid-90s

Running can easily be a solo sport so it’s important to build friendships with other runs. We are more successful with a support system, and it gives us more reason  to celebrate our successes. 

When running in the heat, the most important factors are hydration and humility. Drink water throughout the day beforehand and replenish promptly. Also listen to your body and be aware that it’s dangerous to push yourself as hard or expect to go as fast. 

Always remember that simply running in tough conditions (especially heat) will make you a stronger runner. If you’re running in the heat, you’re already pushing yourself. It’s important to stay safe. 

Track Work

It’s important to soak in the days that you just have a really good workout. That was tonight’s track work for me. I was faster than last week, the laps flew by and I felt great the whole time. 

I ran 6×600 with a 200 walking rest in between. I stayed pretty consistent with each lap, which meant forcing myself to back off during the early laps and pushing myself harder at the end. 

The weather felt great (for being in the low 90s) and my energy was at the highest it’d been all day. I know not every run–and especially not every track workout–will feel that way, but I’m savoring this moment for now.