Sunday, 23 November 2014

How not running has made me a better runner


Back in June, I fell out of love with running.
Almost a year to the day since I started Couch to 5K with the goal of being able to run a 10K.
Instead, I ran three 10Ks and a half marathon.
But running had become a chore.
I was running the same runs methodically. I wasn't getting any faster, I was getting better. I was bored.
In June I decided to take a two-month break from running in order to finally complete the Insanity programme which I had received for Christmas but hadn't had time to commit to with a half marathon looming.
I absolutely loved it and didn't miss running for a second.
However, in the last week of the programme I sprained my foot.
It was tough.
I was excited to finally finish the programme after eight weeks. And I was finally ready to start running again.
For weeks, I could hardly walk.
After about a month, I slowly started exercising again.
Pilates, then weights, then slowly into cardio with T25.
I wanted to start running again in October, but with a holiday coming up that was bound to be heavy on walking I decided to wait.
I stuck to T25 and weights with Chalean Extreme, exercising 5-6 times a week. I persevered and counted down the days to being able to run again.
Four weeks ago I went on my first run in 6 months.
I decided not to put pressure on myself and just do two miles, as slow as I needed.
It was a breeze. It was 20 seconds faster than my average pace. But importantly, it reminded me why I loved to run.
I decided weeks ago that with the dark nights I was only going to run at the weekends. I don't like running in the dark, and I also really enjoy my early morning workouts when I don't need to leave the house. So I decided to do two days of Chalean Extreme a week, and two days of T25 per week. Which meant, unfortunately, weekends were my only time for run. 
Two weeks after my first run I decided to try three miles. The first mile was okay, but half way through the second mile I was tired. But then something clicked. I started to reduce my stride into shorter, faster steps. Suddenly I was running faster, but it didn't feel more effort. By the time I finished my third mile I had run it a minute faster than my second. It was a revelation.
Yesterday I went to park run for the first time in 6 months. I was nervous but also excited given my recent experiences.
The first mile felt great. Usually my plan is to keep up with "the red flag man" (who paces the race just under a 10-minute-mile for people who want to run the race in 30 minutes) as much as possible. After half a mile I hadn't seen him. But then as I ran past the announcer I heard him say "oh and here is the red flag man." Confused, I looked around me. Where is he? Then it clicked, he was behind me. I kept ahead of him for nearly the entire first mile (he overtook me just before the mile point) and clocked my first mile at 10:43. My third fastest mile ever. I was tired after this exertion and slowed down for my second mile. But then my watch flashed up, 11:07. I hadn't slowed down at all. I pushed through for my third mile. My PB is 32:28 and that was over a year ago. I had only gotten below 35 minutes a few times in over a year of park run (I average about a 12-minute-mile and have been stuck at that pace for a long time). I was going to have one of my best ever times! I was tired but I kept pushing. I moved my feet faster, not longer. I was tired but I felt fitter. I could push through. I crossed the finish line in 33:28. My third fastest park run.

Today I was still high on my park run success and didn't want to wait a week to run again. My plan for the winter is Saturday park run and a long, slow run on a Sunday of 4-6 miles, so I decided to give four miles a go. I was in a grumpy mood and it was a real push to get myself out. But I decided this was a "bonus run" so if it sucked it didn't count. What mattered was that I was giving it a go.
I did four miles. In 44 minutes. My last mile was in 10:30 and I averaged as pace of 10:57. That's a minute faster than my usual average. 
I've turned a corner, by not running.
By doing Insanity for 2 months. By swapping my mid-week runs for two days of HIIT and two days of strength training.
My fitness is better. My cardio is better. My turnover is better.
I'm a better runner.
A much better runner than I was when I was half marathon training. A much better runner than when I was running three or four times a week.
I am so excited to reach my speed goals and beyond. By running twice a week, but focusing on cross training the rest of the time.
Running isn't just about running.

1 comment: