30 Apr 2014

April and May Training Goals: To Simply Enjoy Running

Over the last couple of weeks, I admit that I have not come up with a new training plan or set of training goals.  At first, this was somewhat due to me not committing to a single course of action or even being somewhat lazy.  However, it has now become the result of a very deliberate choice.

When I started running back in September 2013, I had a clear goal in mind: to be able to run 10km (see my Introduction post for some background there).  I ran until my body screamed at me to take a rest.  In January 2014 when I started back up again, I had a very deliberate goal in mind again: run 10km without injuring myself (see my initial January training goal post).  So over the last eight months, I have always run with a very clear goal in mind.  During that time, I have clocked intervals, run to improve my time, and run to build muscle in targeted areas.

But now I feel like my body is at a point where I am able to relax and enjoy my runs a little bit more.  I am not worried about injuring myself from pushing hard on short run or extending my distance in modest amounts.  I feel like I have enough muscle built up around my knees to sustain three runs per week of moderate distance.

Over the last couple of weeks, since I posted about defining new goals (see post here), I have run simply for the pure enjoyment of running.  With the spring weather warming up, the grass, leaves, and flowers coming in, I have simply been running to enjoy the outdoors, listening to the sounds of birds, leaves, and my runners hitting the gravel.  Part of this decision has also stemmed from my recent thoughts about whether to listen to music or not (see post here) - I have left my headphones at home and just listened to the sounds around me instead.

While this is not necessarily the way things will always go for me, for the next little while, I am running simply for the enjoyment of it.  It has now become a deliberate choice to not set any goals and to simply let my body guide me.

Here are a couple of pictures I've taken recently on my relaxed runs.

9 Apr 2014

To Listen to Music or Not to Listen to Music

There have been several debates online recently in regards to whether we should be listening to music while running (or cycling) or not.  One of the more recent debates is in this article from Runner's World.  So I thought I'd weigh in with my own thoughts.

The arguments for either side are fairly straightforward.

The arguments against listening to music include the fact that headphones can block other noises, such as cars, trains, etc., thereby increasing risks to the runner because they are unable to react to warning sounds, such as a honking horn or oncoming vehicle.  While headphones are no more insulating than being inside a car listening to music (and cars these days are very well insulated from the sounds of the outside world), a runner or cyclist is obviously much more vulnerable than someone in a car.

Another argument against is that we, as humans, typically set our pace according to the beat of the music we're listening to.  Therefore, your performance is somewhat determined by the pace of the music.  This can either be a good thing (if it's pushing your pace a little bit faster) or a bad thing (if it's slowing you down).  Either way, the purists will tell you that you should let your body set its own pace.

The arguments for listening to music are more personal.  Some people are simply not engaged without music.  I admit, sometimes I need music or something upbeat to keep me focused.  Listening to music also provides a way to escape.  If you run or ride for a release or escape, then music might be exactly what you need.

So ultimately, it comes down to what motivates you and keeps you going.

For me, I am mostly indifferent.  Sometimes I love my music during my runs.  I often run on trails where my risk of being run over by a vehicle are incredibly low.  I often choose upbeat playlists for my runs so I think it helps me push my pace a little bit, or at least keeps me from slowing towards the latter part of my runs.  Without music, sometimes my mind wanders and I don't get to clear my head in the same way as I do with music.

Other times however, I love leaving my headphones at home and simply listening to the sound of my feet hitting the gravel, the birds chirping around me, and the wind rustling the leaves.  When I run at night, I like to hear what's around me so the time of day definitely factors into my decisions.

Mostly, I go with my gut in the moments before I head out on a run.

7 Apr 2014

Maintaining My Motivation and Setting New Goals

At this stage, I have completed the training goals I set out to achieve.  I have increased my runs up to around an 8km average and can comfortably complete a 10km run in under an hour.  The problems with my knee that I experienced at the end of 2013 are nearly non-existent.  Granted, I still stretch and exercise those muscles to make sure that the issues do not come back (click here to read more about that, which I included in my Week 4 update).  I completed a 15 week training program, which I began in January (view my original post here).  Subsequently, after 13 weeks, I diverged into my own training plan (view my post here).  I completed a few more weeks using the same formula but defining my own intervals and time/distance goals.

Last week, I took as a rest week with only one moderate run.  I wanted to allow my legs adequate time to rest and heal before beginning on my next venture.

Which brings me to today.  I feel rested and healed.  My legs are strong and I know I can achieve the fitness goals that I set out to achieve.  So what next...  I am at a crossroads where I need to decide what my next fitness goals are.  Given my time constraints between family, work, and school, I have limited my activities to under an hour and three times per week.  I will continue with this same restraint.

I am leaning towards sticking along the same trajectory that I started out on with a goal of decreasing my 10km run time.  And also with a little side goal of getting my 5km time under 20 minutes.  However, I want to try to incorporate a bit more bike riding into my training rather than just three runs per week.

I find, personally, that I need to set clear goals for myself in order to stay on track.  Without clear goals, I lose some motivation and my determination fades.  So, this week I am allowing myself time to explore options and define my goals.  Look for my update later this week where I will reveal my defined goals.