How I Stayed Sane While Not Running.

While I have always been very active, it hasn’t been until very recently that I have relied on exercise for my sanity. Four or five years ago when I had a serious knee injury and couldn’t run it was definitely hard on me, but that was the months of inactivity. These days, even one changes my entire outlook on life.

Since starting university, my days have been jamFREAKINGpacked. As in, I literally don’t have time to breathe until 6pm, at which point I feel guilty for breathing/eating instead of studying. It’s quite the sad situation. And it is for that reason that I have come to genuinely love waking up at 5:30am to sweat every day. Yes I am sometimes a little bit tired, but I so crave that “me” time that I actually have no problem getting up and going.

stunning-mountain-sunrise-2560x1600Because waking up to scenes like this = WORTH. IT. 

Enter: Emma turns into an overconfident, overtraining runner and her knee slaps her in the face.

Translation: I increased my running mileage WAY too fast and as a result the knee recovered from said severe injury above started to hurt any time I put weight on it. NOT. COOL.

It wasn’t possible for me to just stop exercising. It’s not about weight/fitness/burning X. Truly, my morning workouts are simply the only thing keeping me sane. (And, okay, they do make me feel a little bit better about my nut butter spoonful habit. ;)) So last week, instead of being all depressed that I couldn’t run, I took the time to fall back in love with weight lifting and discovered a new love, spinning!

Monday: OFF

Tuesday: 6 mile run with 3 @ 7:50 pace. (this was the run that started it all….. 😦 )

Wednesday: easy elliptical / spin

Thursday: DESTROYED my entire upper body + abs

Friday: easy elliptical / spin + glutes + abs

Saturday: Re-destroyed said unrecovered upper body + abs

Sunday: First leg day in weeks! Still at 95lb squat…

bambi-walking

I started my time off (Wednesday) with doing absolutely nothing that irritated my knee. I worked glutes because I knew of a couple exercises (donkey kicks, glute bridges, side leg raises) that would not affect it whatsoever. So I gave my knee four FULL days of complete and total rest. Then on Sunday I gave it a little bit of stress, but didn’t do things like lunges that still caused me pain.

AND YESTERDAY I RAN!!! 15 minutes easy, 5 x 1 minute @ 8:00 with the last 2 minutes increasing to 7:30 pace for a total of 3.1 miles. I had planned to just run 3 easy miles but got sooooooooo bored on the treadmill that I had to switch it up a teensy bit. Result was a success! I foam rolled after and have absolutely zero pain. 🙂

walking-out-of-the-gym-500x492

Now to attack this Monday – I have been up since 5:30am, and my “scheduled” day lasts from 9am-6pm with basically no breaks. Wish me luck!

My Running & Fitness Goals

Taking this past week off of running has forced me to focus on what I want from running long-term. I may be super jealous of all the people I see out running in the gorgeous fall weather / sprinting on the treadmill while I am on the spin bike, but I simply ask myself the same question every time I want to run:

“Would I rather run for an hour today or the rest of my life?”

Seriously – if I was lucky enough that my knee didn’t hurt during a run, I am quite sure I would be in pain 0.02 seconds after finishing and then be in CONSTANT pain for much much longer than  a week. I’m writing this post on Sunday evening, my fifth full day run-free. And guess what? My knee is 90% better. As if I needed affirmation that resting it was the right thing to do. This morning was the first time I put ANY stress on it (hello squats), but I still couldn’t do lunges without pain so I know I am not 100% yet.

Like I started off with – I have spent my time off thinking and dreaming about all the things I want to accomplish when I get back into running! Here is the list so far:

1. Run a sub 1:45 half marathon. This is nothing new – it is my HUGE, MAIN goal for running and my overarching focus with anything else I try to do. I am hoping to achieve this on June 7 in Calgary! 5 months of steady base training + 3 months of speedwork = goal achieved. We hope.

Calgary Marathon

2. Run a 10k in 45 minutes. In my mind, I need to be able to do this before I can run my goal time for a half. Ideally I will be able to run this on November 16, as that is the only 10k I am currently registered for! But that might be way too ambitious so we shall see I suppose.

3. Squat my bodyweight. I’ve sort of stalled at 95lbs and have been nervous to increase because I’m not confident about my form. I’ve never been taught so I’m hoping that I can get someone to check me out before continuing!

4. Become a personal trainer! This is happening summer 2015! It randomly occurred to me on my walk to the gym this morning as I was thinking about how much I genuinely LOVE the atmosphere there. It would be such a perfect side job for right now while I am in school and for the rest of my life! Until, you know, I am a millionaire. 😉

Tell me your biggest goal right now! 

The Danger in Increasing Mileage + Runner’s Knee

Well, isn’t this awkward.

In Monday’s post I was going on and on about how wonderful running is for me lately and how I ran more than peak half marathon mileage and just felt AMAZING!

Annnd, now I am sitting here on Friday, not having run since Tuesday because I get severe pain above my kneecap any time I put pressure on my right leg.

I’m upset about this little setback partly because running was going SO well (hello random 5k PR on a treadmill), but mostly I am annoyed with myself for being so delusional. I have a history of chronic knee injuries and jumping from a few 5 mile runs per week to 5 runs including a long and two tempos. I am NOT invincible, it appears.

invincibleIf only…(sidenote: HOW PERFECT is this for this Canadian?!)

And even if this jump (which truly was not ENTIRELY ridiculous -> 17 miles to 24 miles) there is nothing about my lifestyle right now that is even remotely conducive to recovery! I’m not sleeping, stressed out 24/7, sick, and pumping my body full of chemicals/nitrates/aspartame (WAS -> day 2 100% clean so far!). The point is, that kind of jump in training had a chance of being successful if I was doing all the right extra things. But I wasn’t, and don’t see myself being able to in the near future, so my training needs to increase VERY very gradually.

Lesson learned.

I’ve basically self-diagnosed myself with Patellofemoral Syndrome / “Runners Knee”, a minor injury that (obviously) plagues many runners. Thanks to it being so common amongst our kind, Runner’s World has an AWESOME page on it full of diagnostic tests, treatments, recovery plans and prevention tips (the most important!).

Here is my experience with the situation:

REMEMBER: I am a university student studying Media -> although I hope to have my personal training certification soon, I do NOT at this moment and therefore please take all advice with a grain of salt / your own common knowledge about your body. 🙂 

top-of-the-rock#teenagerselfie. 

Patellofemoral Syndrome: What is it: The cartilage underneath the patella (kneecap) becomes more and more aggravated by the femur due to misalignment / tight muscles.

What causes it:

  • Overtraining
  • Sudden training increase
  • Weak quad muscles
  • Foot issues (over/underpronating, flat arches, improper shoes, etc.)
  • Direct knee trauma: less common for runners –> if you got whacked in the kneecap with a hammer

What it feels like:

  • Kneecap pain –> can sometimes be hard to pinpoint an exact position; a general feeling of achiness
  • If you can pinpoint it, it is usually behind the kneecap and/or where the femur (thigh bone) and kneecap meet
  • Pain when bending the knee
  • Swelling

What to do about it:

  • REST! I understand…it’s the last thing you want to do when training is going well! But would you rather take a week off now, or a month off right before your big race? Sometimes it is simply a mind over matter situation.
  • Cross-train (if it doesn’t aggravate the issue): Going hard on the elliptical is great to maintain your endurance while recovering, IF IT ALLOWS YOU TO RECOVER. Otherwise you may as well be running and worsening the issue.
  • Foam roll: this will loosen the muscles around your kneecap and help it to not get so aggravated by the femur bone.
  • Icing can also help decrease inflammation
  • And then…don’t make the same mistake twice! Even if you are feeling fantastic, moderate your training and try to follow the 10% rule of mileage increase/week.

As for me, I feel like my knee pain is improving. I did a couple of cross-training sessions this week as well as DESTROYED my arms/shoulders yesterday -> taking notes today will be a joy. I don’t have access to ice, but have been foam rolling like  a champ and will NOT run until I have absolutely zero pain. It’s quite fun doing random squat tests in public and seeing people’s reactions!

Have you ever had runner’s knee?

Do you cross train while injured or completely rest? 

Source.

Powering Through Fatigue / Stress Management Tips

It’s not exactly a surprise that university life is BUSY. Between classes, assignments, work, trekking around campus, running/fitness and friends, sometimes most of the time it feels like I don’t even have space to breathe. Take yesterday, for example:

  • Work from 8am-10:30am
  • Class from 11am-1pm
  • Study from 1pm-3pm
  • Class from 4pm-6pm

And that doesn’t include writing the paper I have due, completing my computer science problem set, grocery shopping, blogging, or having ANY social interaction whatsoever. And it was a rest day!

yikes-gif

I admit I started the day with a mini-breakdown. With my extremely long day (and a French quiz!) looming ahead, I felt hopelessly overwhelmed and like I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day. Obviously, though, I (somehow) did, and felt like I learned enough to tell you! So without further ado, these are my tips for making those unbearably long days bearable and keeping your sanity while at it.

1. Talk to someone you love. I have zero shame in admitting this – when I was suffering said mini-breakdown yesterday morning, the first thing I did was call my mom! Sometimes all you need is someone with an objective viewpoint to remind you that things are not actually as bad as they seem, and how capable you truly are! It always helps to take a step back and re-evaluate where you are in your day/week, and break things down into manageable chunks.

2. Focus on the present. Going off that last sentence – don’t think about the fact that it’s Monday and you have 14 hour days all. Week. Long. Instead, focus on whatever you are doing right NOW. So yesterday, I only thought about accomplishing work-related things from 8-10:30. I then only thought about taking notes, then French, etc. By working on making it through just one small block of time the day goes by MUCH faster and feels way easier to handle.

3. Prioritize. Just writing a MASSIVE to-do list isn’t going to increase anything but your stress levels. Instead, thing about the things that MUST happen on one particular day and write a list of those – it will most likely be far smaller and feel much more manageable! And after that, you can spread out the remaining items over a few days, feeling relaxed and confident about accomplishing them.

todo-listIf only…

4. Treat yourself well. This is a healthy living blog, so there was no way I was going to forget this! Admittedly, I’ve been slacking on it a ton and I know it’s why I’ve been feeling so awful. Drinking tonnes of water, avoiding chemicals, eating nourishing foods along with sleeping well and exercising will increase your ability to handle stress tenfold. Like I said, I haven’t been doing my best – running is the only thing I’ve kept up with well while at college and I 100% credit it with whatever of my sanity is remaining.

5. Remember me time! It’s easy to GOGOGOGOGOGO nonstop – but that only leads to burnout and resentment. For me, that means taking time to journal and blog regularly, as well as allow myself to read blogs guilt-free. Do what works for you to feel relaxed and like yourself.

Now it’s time for the hard part – actually putting those words into practice!

What is your #1 tip for dealing with overly stressful times? 

My Running Breakthrough.

AND WE ARE BACK.

Or, more specifically, I am back, I suppose. I know that I completely disappeared last week after Tuesday and I feel awful! I definitely do not want to be that blogger that posts sporadically/unpredictably and so I am really going to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Last week was literally INSANITY, though, you guys. I seriously do not have words to describe it. Expect an update (many updates) because holy man alive is there a LOT going on right now.

I’m not talking about that today though, because it is MARATHON MONDAY! Thanks for hosting, Christina. 🙂

MarathonMonday-700x265

I am so extremely excited for this linkup this week because last’s week running was spectacular, off-the-charts wonderfully magnificent. I feel like I have spent so many weeks struggling to get back into running and even hitting 15mpw felt forced. Last week, though, I woke up in the mornings EXCITED to run. I was sad when my runs were over even when my legs weren’t. And I ran more than I ran during peak half marathon training, without even trying.

Monday: 2 miles + total body strength. 1 mile run to the gym, ~35 minute weights, 1 mile run back. I have no clue on pace but it was probably around ~9:00. I was NOT pushing it, especially on the way home after heavy squats!

dont-skip-legsWorth it…we can’t turn into a minion now can we?! [source.]

Tuesday: 4 miles @ 9:00. 6am morning friend run! I planned to use my Garmin but forgot to start it soooo again not too sure on pace. We ran for about 35 minutes and it felt extremely easy so it very well could have been slower / less miles but we are just going to go with this.

Wednesday: 6 mile tempo: 2 mile w/u, 2 @ 7:50, 2 mile c/d. I mostly wanted to do this run because it felt SO much shorter mentally. But I ended up loving it! I woke up like a clinically insane person at 5:30am and ran on the treadmill alternating between music and the Carrie Diaries (#guiltypleasure). Aside from a minor snafu of the treadmill stopping 400m before my tempo ended (RAGE!) this went off without a hitch and I was able to go faster than my planned 8:00 pace without even trying! I have been looking forward to doing this run again all week…just gotta make it until tomorrow. 😉

the-carrie-diaries-caughtEssential.

Thursday: 4 miles @ 8:17. Just some easy miles with a fast finish! Felt like hitting the pavement.

Friday: OFF

Saturday: 8 miles @ 8:41. Woohoo for increasing long run distance! I’m not training for anything in particular but I had done 7 a few times and decided I felt like going for 8. Things got a little tough around mile 4 (tired legs, bored mind) but I just changed my headspace and finished strong! I listed to “Marathon Training with Bart Yasso” the ENTIRE time and loved how it distracted me while not making me run too fast! I will definitely be listening to podcasts on all long runs from here on out.

long-run-8-miles

Sunday: strength + spin + yoga. Surprisingly, I wasn’t sore AT ALL after Saturday’s run and frankly was super bored so I wanted to go to the gym for a second round of strength training. I just walked there, did some weights(squats were too easy – time for an increase!), abs, ~25 minutes of easy/moderate spinning and then walked back home. I signed up for a 7pm hatha yoga class for the month so that happened in the evening. It’s mainly stretching with a teensy bit of legs/abs and a really wonderful way to end the weekend.

YAY RUNNING! I feel SO so so motivated to continue base building this fall/winter, especially since I won’t have to run through a winter wonderland! I’ll probably stick with only one tough(er) workout per week because I don’t want to get burned out before I start really training for the Calgary Half in March. I’m just excited to be running happy!

What was the best thing about your week? (workout or otherwise!)

How to be the Master of Crosstraining.

So, I have to say, from a workout perspective, I am kind of in love with last week. The student recreation group at my school put on a huge open house where you could go to ANY and ALL group classes for 100% free. Um, as a university student, anything with “free” attached to it is up my alley. So off I went! I was really outside of my comfort zone, which I loved. Isn’t that the point of university anyway?

scaryThe usual goal.

Monday: ZUMBA. So, I FINALLY tried Zumba. After it being extremely popular for 9000 years and me wanting to try it for the same length of time, I finally got around to it. The funny story behind this one is that I was planning to go to a yoga class at 7am. Well, geographically-challenged Emma walked around campus for an hour and a half before giving up and going back to her dorm room. I really wanted to do some sort of activity that day (I was writing an article about it!) so I made myself go to Zumba right after my class ended at 6pm. I am not even CLOSE to being called a dancer, but no one there cared! We were all just jamming out to the music and it was SO much fun. I definitely left sweaty – not in a “puke-your-brains-out workout” way, just a really nice, relaxing effort.

Tuesday: Cycle Boot Camp. This was definitely the week of firsts – first zumba class and first spin class! This was a combo of 25 minute spin + 25 minute bootcamp. I loved it! Spinning was a great way to switch up the cardio from running and I loved that you could alternate between hills/sprints for different “feelings” while still maintaining a hard effort. Occupied brain = happy workout. The bootcamp portion focused on shoulders/triceps/back, but honestly anything that gets me to do weights these days is a godsend. The gym is just so farrrrrrr. #lazystudent

Students

Wednesday: Early Riser Boot Camp. What it sounds like – a bunch of crazies getting together at 7am to sweat out the sleep. The instructor said he took it easy on us, but honestly this was the perfect level for me. It was a full-body circuit style workout and I felt like the not-so-challenging exercises helped get me through the super tough ones. I would be scared to go to a “real” version of it!

Thursday: 3 miles @ 8:33. My legs were PRETTY DARN SORE from the last 3 workouts (zumba = all the squats) and so I wanted to do a short run + stretch/foam rolling to get them ready for my hoped-for 7 mile run on Friday.

Friday: OFF. My alarm went off at 6am and after answering to it all week (after 5 hours of sleep!) I said “nope!” and promptly rolled over. It turned out to be a good decision because the legs were still hurting and I was just generally wiped. Rest is best. 🙂

Saturday: 7 miles @ 8:19. So this is the problem that sometimes arises when not looking at your watch. You THINK you are taking it easy when in fact you are running far far too fast and will pay for it sincerely during the last mile. 7 miles is still a somewhat uncomfortable distance for me (both mentally and physically) so it really needs to be run at an 8:30+ pace. I had splits all the way down to 8:00! The kicker came when I saw 5.88 on my Garmin (first time I checked), thought I was almost done, and then realized that 5 did not come before 7. BUMMER. Anyway I finished this run feeling like I had to throw up all the quivering muscles in my legs, but I also felt like a total freaking badass.

Sunday: Hatha yoga. I went back and forth with working out and after deciding to take a rest day, remembered that there was a free hatha yoga class at the studio close to my residence! I knew hatha was supposed to be just really gentle, relaxing stretching, so I hit that up to end my weekend on a good note and prepare for the week ahead.

I don’t love the fact that I barely ran this week, but I did have a kickass long run so I’m okay with it! I’m happy to have a crosstraining week before really zoning in on running again. The gym is about 2 miles away so realistically I don’t see myself going there a ton. I think my goal will be to run there, lift full-body weights and run back twice per week, with two other runs being one long and one workout. But only time will tell.

Tell me something different you did this week! 

Half Marathon-ing: My Offseason Plan

Happy Monday! I’m linking up with Christina for the FIRST TIME to join in on the Marathon Monday fun! I always forget that this is going on and publish my running posts on Tuesdays – but look who is on the ball today!

MarathonMonday-700x265

I have a dream.

My dream is to be a Half Marathoner. Call me crazy, but I don’t feel like I can run one and claim the title. It’s not like being a Marathoner, where I don’t care if you run, hop, skip or crawl 26.2 miles – you do it, you get the name. To me, I want to run halfs aaaawl the time! Once I feel really comfortable with the distance, then I think I will feel comfortable with the title.

HALF MARATHON

Or so I tell myself. 😉

So, since this summer after my first half marathon was spent as a typical “running off-season” (focusing on weights, strength, mental break from pounding out the miles), I don’t particularly want to take one right as I’m getting into the groove again. What I really want to do is very slowly increase my mileage so that longer distances become a piece of cake. This way, when I start training for the Calgary Half Marathon in March, the focus can be on speed, since the distance will already be taken care of.

Right now, I’m hovering around 7 miles. It’s not a particularly long run, but I’ve given it “long run status” in my mind (can any runners out there relate?) and I need to change that! I think that instead of trying to run it every weekend as my long run, I am going to wake up on a random day each week and just knock it out. Not put too much thought into it, just run for an hour until it feels commonplace. That being said, I want to increase my all-around weekly mileage as well as NOT forgetting about strength/crosstraining. I worked hard for my muscles and I want to keep some of them, dammit!

7-miles

In an ideal, perfect world, this is going to be my workout schedule for the next few months. Since I’m a university student in Vancouver, I

a) Will probably get sick of running in the rain. Things may shuffle.

b) Will DEFINITELY sleep through my alarm once in a while. Things may shuffle.

Flexibility here will be key! But I do want to stay true to the plan about 80-90%. I am DETERMINED to go sub-1:45 in Calgary this June, and that is a BIG goal. I know I can do it – the work just needs to be done.

Monday: Tempo 6 miles: 2 mile warmup, 2 miles @ rp (8:00), 2 mile cooldown. Obviously the numbers will change as I progress but this is what I am starting with so as to not intimidate myself!

Tuesday: Easy 4 miles + strength. Run 2 miles to the gym, work out, run 2 miles home.

Wednesday: OFF

Thursday: Easy 4 miles + strength. Run 2 miles to the gym, work out, run 2 miles home.

Friday: OFF

Saturday: Long run 7-13 miles. I don’t have a schedule for increasing my long run, I’m just going to do what feels good. Ideally I’ll be able to run 13 again before training starts though!

tired-halfAnd then maybe I won’t look like death at the finish line next year. 😉

Sunday: Hatha yoga. I registered for the Sunday evening class and am really looking forward to having a designated hour each week to simply stretching and relaxing. This will pretty much be an off day, with the added bonus of forcing me to work on my flexibility.

This plan has three off days instead of my usual two, but I think it will be better considering how much I am walking here and my general desire to stay rested/fueled/injury-free (sort of a reasonable request dontcha think?)

What do you do to stay fit during the off-season? Or do you even try?