Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On Running

I’ve known for a while that just riding alone is not quite enough of an activity level to make me as fit as I need to be. And I’m not even talking about weight loss here, at this point, thoughts of weight loss are a pie-in-the-sky fantasy for me and if I seriously sit down and think about it as more than a passing idea, I get very, very depressed and start to feel very hopeless, complete with all those wonderful feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness and whatever. Believe me, I have a lifetime of experience with this and would rather not go there, if I can avoid it. So, I’m really right now just thinking about better overall fitness, what I can do to improve my ability to ride and for better stress relief in general. I’ve always felt that running is a high return activity in this regard. A lot of bang for your buck, if you will. You can go out there, throw out a few miles in under an hour for a maximum physical result. Riding probably would be adequate if I could somehow manage to ride five horses a day, six days a week and do a lot of barn chores. But riding only one horse requires that I do something else outside of the horse stuff. Although, I DO feel that I am more riding fit at this point in the season. I’ve noticed that I can do a 10-12 fence jump course and feel just as good and fresh at fence #12 as I did at #1. This was not the case over the Winter. Still, I need work.

The problem has mostly been time. When you work 9-12 hours a day, and when plans to ride require about three hours round-trip, where does one sneak in the time to also add a run or something else? Lately what I’ve been doing is squeaking in a lunch-time run. It requires some planning and some willingness to be flexible and to change plans at the last minute, but so far I’ve managed to eek out a little bit of a run schedule. Luckily at work we have lovely, lovely trails just outside the door. I change in the locker room and have been rediscovering them all over again over the past couple of weeks. Of course running during working hours does have its challenges, like yesterday while standing out on the trail during my run and responding by BlackBerry to a volley of emails that had come in about a customer issue. But that keeps things exciting anyway, and this is the reason why we have modern technology! Of course, my colleague may not have appreciated my showing up at his desk immediately post run dripping with sweat to discuss said issue, but what can you do? (They don’t even notice when I cut off all of my hair, nor when I walk through the office in riding breeches and chaps, so it’s unlikely a bit of sweat registered either anyway).

Let me just say, though, that running is HARD. So, so, freaking hard. I’ve never been a natural runner, I know I whine about this from time-to-time, but it’s true. I am just not one of those people who can go out and bang out a couple of miles at the drop of a hat. It takes a long time to get myself to where I can even run a mile relatively comfortably, even with a walk break or two. So I’m trying not to be too disgusted with myself. Right now I’m just trying to get out there and cover some ground. I run, I walk. I walk, I run. I try to run some past the point where I desperately want to slow to a walk. I pick out landmarks, but once I reach them, I try to run a bit farther (even if it’s only the tiniest bit). I particularly like running on the single track trails. For some reason I find myself running for the longest stretches on those. I think it’s partially because it’s a bit of a mental game, picking through the footing so I don’t fall, plotting my path, etc. As much as possible, I try to run where the terrain allows it and to walk when the tricky footing forces me to be more careful. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that is my goal on most of my trail runs these days.

The other night I even did a run on the treadmill. I have to say, compared to riding and running on trails, running on a treadmill is some kind of mental (as well as physical) torture. I managed to squeak out two miles of intervals. It went something like this:

• 2 minute walk warm-up (16 minute mile).
• 2 minute running interval (12 minute mile).
• Continue walk/run intervals until I hit 1 mile (intervals consisted of 1 minute walk @ 16 minute mile alternated with 1 minute run @ 12 minute mile).
• After the 1 mile mark, I alternated 30 seconds run @ 10 minute mile with 1 minute walk @ 16 minute mile.
• At the 1.5 mile mark I just walked for the last .5 mile (16 minute mile).

I know that all sounds like a completely sad effort, but that is where I am in running ability at the moment. I can barely run a 12 minute mile for one minute. And I can only keep the intervals up for a short time. Still, I ended the session feeling like I had had a really good workout, so I think that my body definitely got something out of it, and I was sore the next day.

I think that if I can get myself outside to run/walk in some fashion three times a week and then do a TM interval session like the above one time a week, that I could see some decent improvement in my fitness. Since I am not really training for any kind of running event and because I don’t want to make myself crazy, I’m trying not to concentrate on distance or speed in any way right now (although, I think speed & distance is something I have to target for an interval work out). I’m mostly focusing on how long I want each running session to be (40 minutes, 1 hour, whatever).

Now if I could also just carve out a little time to include some yoga or pilates during the week …

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