Running has been extremely frustrating lately. Mentally, it’s been trying because I just don’t feel like a runner. I know… I run, therefore I am a runner. But, it’s the physical part that’s making me feel, well, not like my normal running self.
When I planned out how I was going to get back in to running shape, I took a very conservative approach. I waited until 6 weeks postpartum to really get back in to running (I had been running very little before that point) and made sure I was taking my time increasing my mileage. Some of my runs have been easy, but there have been a lot of discouraging runs as well.
Yesterday, for example, was just not my day. Because I’m on spring break this week, I’ve been getting up early to get my run in (usually after I feed Miles). Monday’s run was flawless. I felt strong and running felt easy. I ended up running my fastest 3 miles yet, with an average pace of 8:18/mile. It’s still far from where I was at this point last year, but seeing that pace gave me hope that I was making progress.
Then yesterday happened. I planned on running my first 5 miler, but once I started, I knew it just wasn’t going to be my day. It definitely didn’t help that it was really windy, but I just felt horrible. It was the first run postpartum where I actually felt like I needed to walk. But, I told myself that I needed to push through it. That everyone has a bad run and that it’d be over before I knew it. I ended up only doing 4 but with close to a 9-minute mile pace. So frustrating. Ugh.
My goal in the next few months is to get my speed back. I miss running sub-8 minute miles on a regular basis – and it feeling EASY. I specifically chose to wait until April to start incorporating speed work as well as putting off racing until well after then (well, that’s mostly because I HATE racing in the cold) to avoid overtraining and injury. But, as April is approaching (I’ll be about 14 weeks postpartum then), I’m starting to think more and more about how I can get my speed back.
March last year I ran my 3rd sub-20 5K, which was completely unexpected at the time because I wasn’t really training for it (knowing that we were trying to get pregnant) and had changed up my training, with many weeks doing less speed work than I had in the past. This time around, I decided to take that same approach with the workouts I am incorporating.
1. Leg Speed. I’m realizing more and more how vital these workouts are, especially coming back after a long time off from doing speed work (or just starting out for beginners). Leg speed workouts are meant to increase your leg turn over, or how fast your legs move. These are done in short intervals just to get your legs used to moving fast. These are definitely going to be key to getting my speed back because my legs certainly don’t know what it feels like to run fast!
2. Repeats. These are going to be done in the form of 200- to 800-meter sprints as well as running hills. My entire pregnancy, I would walk up every hill because my body just couldn’t handle them (I’d be totally out of breath about 2 steps in), and with as hilly as some of my upcoming races are, I know I’m going to need to work on some speedy hills. But, those repeats are going to be more important come crunch time as I get closer to my bigger races, like Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago. And, I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I’ve actually missed running repeats. *gasp*
3. Tempos. I’m planning on not only doing some basic tempo runs at close to my current 5K pace (which is much slower than it used to be) but also adding in some tempo intervals, which are more like longer versions of repeats. These are my favorite runs as they really allow me to see how fast I can run for a long period of time.
4. Easy runs + fueling properly. While these really won’t help me increase my speed per se, they are going to be vital to each and every run. I tend to take my easy runs as fast as I possibly can, which is not good for muscles recovering from hard workouts. So, I am really going to focus on those recovery/easy run paces and make sure I am staying within them. But, I also need to make sure that I’m eating properly. Part of the reason my run was so horrible yesterday was because we ate dinner at 6 PM and then I didn’t eat again until after my run, which I finished at 7:30 AM. So, I had gone more than 12 hours without anything in my system. Not good. It’s something I will definitely have to figure out as I go, but I know once I can eat desserts again (after Easter) will help.
5. Squats, squats, and more squats. I haven’t always been as fast as I am now even. When I was in college, 9 and 10 minute miles were my norm. It wasn’t until I really started building my legs and glutes up that I saw my paces really start to drop. It’s not just squats though. One of the things that really helped was actually the spinning classes I was taking 3-4x each week (I was actually teaching them at the time). I’ve noticed that my butt is really lacking muscles, which I also know is affecting my paces. I plan on doing heavy deadlifts and squats each week as a norm, as well as CrossFit workouts to help get back my strength. (Unfortunately, time is not on my side and spinning classes aren’t an option.)
I know I need to have patience (which I totally lack – ask my daughter) and that my speed will come back with time. I’ll get there. I just have to be prepared for some bumps along the way. I’m attempting a do-over today for that 5-miler I missed yesterday. Hopefully it goes much better!