January through April proved to be probably the most successful training period I’ve had in years, I mean it, years. I have had to reflect on what made it work out so well, rather than end up in the flames like previous attempts at training for races. This list is as much for me as for anyone who has struggled with training blow-ups.
I’m not the strongest runner. I’m usually nursing some injury or other. I’m not the fastest (although I suspect lack of speed has more to do with lack of consistency rather than lack of ability — see above about being injury-prone). I’m remarkably average. But I desperately wanted to train and finish something. Anything.
This is what I think worked.
Going shorter. I usually would try to train for full marathons. I mean I’ve ran one before, so there is no reason why I should not be able to do a full one now — or so my irrational reason would try to persuade me. Wrong. My body does not handle stress the best, as I learned in March and early April. Running causes stress. Dissertation causes stress. None of these are the bad kinds of stress, but making sure that they are not compartmentalized, but seen more as a pieces of a pie helps (pie!). Dissertation gets the most stress because it is the highest priority, running after. That is probably is a weird way to think of it, but so be it.
Kelly Starrett’s Ready to Run. I bought this book about a week into training. And I learned a ton. Previously I did plenty of strength. I would strength train twice a week. And still, blow-up. This book led me to quit sitting at my desk (she wrote as she sat at a table in the library) and add ten minutes of mobility almost every single day post-shower. Initially I did not think these things would be a big deal, but they were. I mean my left hip-flexor is much kinder to me now than it ever used to be…now to fix my right hamstring…
Massages. Between January to March I got a massage every single Friday afternoon. Then I started tapering off to every other week and now every three weeks. My massage therapist is a total miracle worker. I also think it helped with the stress problem because my Friday massages helped me transition into the weekend much better aka work time is over.
Not drinking. Post-half I’ve been drinking a bit more, but I really, really, really did not want to have any sort of inflammation that would trigger an injury (avoiding inflammation later included no sugar, no gluten, no coffee, etc. all of which I’ve enjoyed post-race), mess up my already precarious sleep (insomnia problems), being sick in March and early April, and just generally wanted to make sure I felt really amazing. I know that some people would probably think this is overkill. I mean it isn’t like I was trying to qualify for anything or get a PR, I just wanted to finish. But I really did not want anything to mess it up. I’m a two beer hangover kind of person (unfortunately) and if I was going to do this and continue being productive at my dissertation, I wanted to feel mentally and physically my best and be very present and deliberate every single day. And I tell you what, it worked.
Clamshells. This goes along with the mobility section, but I did clamshells every single damn day. Every. Single. Day. With a resistance band. Without a resistance band. When I woke up. When I went to bed. I know they work, because I haven’t been doing them as consistently the last couple of weeks, and well, I can feel certain twinges starting to come back.
I will continue to try new things. I do want to go longer. I should probably start to do more bridges, instead of just clamshells all the time. But for now, this is the list of what I know works, what I know will get me there.