Category Archives: strength training

How I Finally Got Consistent with Strength Training

When I look back over all my notes over all my training cycles for the past decade (I came back to racing in 2007), there is always a note somewhere about being more consistent with strength training and core work. And yet, as the miles climb and workouts get harder, it would drop off and my prerace reflection and post race recap would inevitably mention a need for more strength work the next time around. In many ways, I’m lucky that I’ve gotten away without a serious running injury in that time. It’s not that I do NO strength training, it’s just in fits and starts rather than a consistent, careful approach. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done a little core routine every night before bed since college and I think this has made a huge difference for me. Still, I feel the repercussions of my inconsistency during long workouts as my form collapses or late in races when certain muscles fail faster than others.

Anyway, in an effort to prepare for intern year and acknowledge that even more than usual, time will be at a premium for the next five years, I downloaded a free version of the Daily Workouts app for abs and arms. Each of these had a 5, 8 or 10 minute option. Within a couple of days, I was hooked and bought the full app ($10). This added levels 2 and 3 as well as kettle bell, cardio, pilates and exercise ball routines. Since buying this app in April, I haven’t missed a single strength workout. A single one. Through moves and graduations and everything else, I’ve done at least 5 minutes of core daily and 5 to 10 minutes of other strength workouts on the appropriate days.

Here’s why I think this app works for me (I am in no way sponsored, by the way): when I normally did strength workouts, I would plan to do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps for a variety of exercises focused on a body part. Inevitably, I’d finish a set or two, then open my phone. And answer a text. Or scroll Instagram for a second. Or answer an email. Then I’d half-heartedly go back to lifting. Not only did this take way more time than it needed to, but half the time I wouldn’t finish the workout I’d planned in my head. This app doesn’t allow me to get distracted and it doesn’t allow for excuses either. I have 5 minutes to do arms or abs or glutes, no matter what. Once the app starts, it is counting and showing you the exercises. No exiting to check Instagram, no distractions.

I share this story not only to be as real as I can about a training struggle that I face but also in case others have a similar experience with strength training or schedule restrictions and want another possible solution. As I said, I ended up purchasing the full app but the free version was excellent too, just with ads and more limited range of exercise options.

How do you get your strength training in? Does anyone else use an app or online software?

Running During Intern Year***

***Caveat: This is a plan. The shit may hit the fan a month from now and this may all be a pipe dream. That said, I went into medical school planning for the worst and it never really happened, so I’m doing the same for Residency.

One of the benefits (??) of Residency is that we know our schedules way, way, way in advance. It takes an inordinate amount of organization to cover a hospital and our schedules are done almost before we Match. Because my program is new, ours will be a little less set as we work out kinks in coverage but we still have a full year schedule to work from which is amazing from a running perspective. Our schedule is unique because we do three month blocks from the beginning rather than one month blocks. From a professional perspective, this allows us to actually get our feet under us and build proficiency. From a lifestyle perspective, this allows us to adjust to a schedule for a longer period of time and supports more normal sleep cycles. The other big change for this year is that the work hour restrictions, a huge controversy in all residencies but especially in surgery, have been loosened. We still can’t work more than 80 hours a week (averaged over 4 weeks), but we are able to take 24 hour call as interns. I know some people hate call because they have to be up for 24 hours but I find it immensely preferable to night float where you work 7 pm to 7 am for a month at a time. With 24 hour call, you take a big nap when you get home, get a half day off and go to bed early the night before the reset.

From the 40,000 foot view, my schedule looks like this:

  • July, August, September on Acute Care Surgery (Tuesday Call)
  • October, November, December on Pediatric Surgery (Sunday night call)
  • January, February, March on Trauma Surgery (Thursday call)
  • April, May, June on Wound/Ambulatory Surgery (Saturday call)

What this means is that I have a guaranteed post-call day off as well as a weekend day off most weekends. Occasionally, I’ll have both days of the weekend off (known as the “Golden Weekend.”) From a training perspective, this means that I have two and occasionally three days for quality workouts. One of the big hurdles that I’ve already experienced in medical school and expect to experience even more as a resident is a lack of recovery. We work about 12 hours a day and much of that is standing. Even with almost no additional social life, this doesn’t leave a ton of time for quality sleep. Planning for my recovery, then, is almost as important as planning my runs. My general plan is to take my call day as my off day, which will allow me to sleep in a bit. On my post-call day, I’ll aim to be in bed early and on a full day off, sleep in as late as I can even if it means my run happens at a warmer time of day. Finally, I’m working on giving myself permission to take an extra rest day to prioritize sleep if I’m feeling exhausted.

For the first three months of intern year, then, this is the basic mockup of my schedule with strength training in italics and a presumption that my weekend day off will be Sunday which isn’t necessarily true. Because we’re easily the luckiest residents ever, we work 7 am to 7 pm (instead of 5 am to 5 pm), which means I can get my runs in before work without having to get up at 3 am. My hope is to keep my mileage between 50 and 60 miles a week but I will reassess this after the first couple of months and see if 40 to 50 might be more appropriate/improve recovery.

  • Monday: Interval Effort. Short hills or time based interval paced effort. Legs and Core.
  • Tuesday: Call Day. Off.
  • Wednesday: Post-Call Day. Long Run with/without steady state or tempo miles. Legs and Core.
  • Thursday: Recovery run. Arms and core.
  • Friday: Regular run. Core. 
  • Saturday: Regular run with striders. Core. 
  • Sunday: Workout with tempo and turnover work.

One of the biggest challenges for me is going to be being flexible in my training. I get stressed out when I deviate from my schedule or miss a workout but I’m working on accepting that this is a given with my current life. There will certainly be days when I can’t get a run in but there will also be days with surprise opportunities to get an extra mile or even an extra run in. A training cycle isn’t made or broken with one workout or even one week, and I will need to remind myself of this regularly.

I’ll cover my strength training approach in a post for tomorrow (I have a new app and I want to give it appropriate attention) but I’ve recently gotten in a great routine of getting some aspect of strength building in daily and want to continue that trend. Thankfully, this is the easiest piece to keep in my routine. Squats when I brush my teeth, crunches and pushups in the charting room, stairs at work etc…

 

Week in Review 4.24.17 to 4.30.17

MEDICAL SCHOOL IS OVER!!!!!!! Finished up my last shift in the SICU on Friday and when it was done, wasn’t sure if I was supposed to spike my badge, fist pump through the halls or run out of the building. Med school was never as bad as I expected it to be but I would never, ever want to do it again. Sorry, not running related but good riddance!

Monday: Tested out the ankle with a 30 minute trail run. All good, although I was being a wimp on the more technical portions. Legs after.

Tuesday: Simple treadmill fartlek with 10 by 1 minute on, 1 minute off. On pace was somewhere between MP and tempo.

Wednesday: Got out of the unit early and snuck in a 13 mile long run. Did a couple of miles alternating between regular pace and MP to shake out lazy legs.

Thursday: Rest Day, prorated at 4. Much needed after three days that were harder than easy in a row.

Friday: 7.6 miles easy. 82 degrees out so I felt terrible! Arms afterward.

Saturday: 3 mile shakeout. Ran to the track and back, then a mile of ins/outs.

Sunday: Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race.  Remember the last time I ran a trail race? My only goal for this morning was to use some of my lessons from last year’s Rivah. My biggest goal was to keep both shoes on, which I did! I’ll recap the rest in a Race Report tomorrow but I had a blast, stayed upright and finished somewhere around 1:01:50, although I don’t know what place I was.

Total Miles: 44 miles, 2 strength workouts

Total April Miles: 153

Going up…

Now that school is done and I have a couple of months off, I’m looking forward to getting in some more consistent training. I’ll slowly be increasing my mileage towards 55 and working on fitting three explicit strength workouts in weekly (plus my daily toothbrush squats/core etc). My next race focus is the Asheville Half Marathon. I haven’t honed in on goals yet but as I get back into workouts, I’ll be setting my A, B and C goals. I also spent a lot of time putting all sorts of possible races on my calendar for the next year. Although I don’t have my call schedule, I’m hoping that I can just keep myself in good enough shape to jump in races as I can!

 

Weeks in Review: 4.10.17 to 4.23.17

When time is short, write up two weeks of training at once!

4/10/17 to 4/16/17

Monday: 5 mile recovery run. Feeling Unplugged now!

Tuesday: 7 mile run at the crack of dawn.

Wednesday: Planned off day.*

Thursday: Fartlek workout, 5 miles.

Friday: 2.5 mile early morning run.

Saturday: 12 mile long run.

Sunday: 4 mile trail run, most of which was spent sideways in mud.**

Total Miles: 35.5

4/17/17 to 4/23/17

Monday: 4.5 mile run plus striders.

Tuesday: 7.5 mile fartlek. 2 by mile uphill at t pace. 5 by 45 seconds hard uphill.

Wednesday: 2.5 mile early am run.

Thursday: Planned off day. Arm routine. 

Friday: 2.25 shake out run with 4 by minute at tempo pace, 2 by 30 seconds at interval pace.

Saturday: Off. Ankle. ***

Sunday: Off. Ankle.***

Total Miles 20.5

1 decent week, 1 not so decent week. I have 1 (how?!!?!??!) week of medical school left now and am so excited for a few weeks where all I have to do is pack, move and train.

* As I mentioned on my Instagram earlier this week, I have decided to schedule an off day every week. My recovery has been really poor over the past year and as much as I want to pretend my life is set up for optimal training, it’s not and I have to do what I can to maximize my training impact. As such, I’ll be taking a day off each week instead of a day every other week.

** This run was absurdly muddy and my ankles were sore after which I think set me up for an ankle twist later in the week.

*** I wear clogs in the SICU and usually, they + compression socks are the most comfortable thing going. On Friday, however, I was a little overzealous when wandering around in them and tweaked my ankle. It didn’t swell too badly but was sore bearing weight on Friday night so I decided to forego the Rollin Irish Half Marathon and rest instead.

The weather is beautiful, I’m ready to train again and I’m so looking forward to getting back in a groove and looking forward to the Asheville Half!

Week in Review: 3.20.17 to 3.26.17

Monday: 5 mile workout, half power of my usual 5-4-3-2-1 fartlek. Legs felt pretty clunky. Lifted legs afterward.

Tuesday: 3.8 mile recovery run with the dogs.

Wednesday: 7 mile workout, 4 by 5 at tempo pace with 60 seconds between. Felt pretty good.

Thursday: 4.3 miles. Legs tired!

Friday: Hour of cross country skiing with the dogs; new snow and leaving for the weekend? Needed exhausted dogs.

Saturday: Travel to Asheville. Lots of walking but no run.

Sunday: 3 mile Asheville hill classic. Great to be back. Tons of walking as well.

Total Miles: 23.1

Lots of good news this week. First, I found a house!!!!!! My mom and I spent a busy 36 hours in Asheville looking for houses and by Sunday night, I found an amazing one. Interestingly, it was the smallest one I looked at but it used the space well, has a perfect location and is a great setup for dogs. One of other parameters I used to evaluate places was ability to run. Although the new house sits on top of a hill (it’s Ridge Street, after all), it has great access to all sorts of running and even a greenway that is under construction.

Second, I’m cleared to lift and workout fully (as tolerated). I saw my fabulous breast surgeon yesterday and she cleared me for all exercise AND the surgical pathology confirmed that I had a sclerosing papilloma which means that it was a benign tumor. All great news.

This week, I’m back to reality. As I said last week, Unplugged has gone from a race to a supported workout for me so I’m training through it. I have a combination workout on the schedule for tonight and a long run planned for Saturday. In between will be easy workouts, just trying to get a base underneath me.

 

Week in Review: 2.6.17 to 2.12.17

Monday: First day back in the hospital. 6 mile early morning workout with 10 by 1 on, 1 off.

Tuesday: 3.25 easy run in the early morning snow.

Wednesday: 5 mile treadmill hill run.

Thursday: 7 mile progression run, starting at 6.1 and ending at 9.1.

Friday: Post-call, prorated off day. 4 miles.

Saturday: Nordic skied in the morning, downhill in the afternoon.

Sunday: 6 mile run plus arms and core.

Total Miles: 31.3

First week back on service! The good news is that I did a good job of getting up and getting my run done. The bad news is that I didn’t get a lot of lifting in and I missed my long run this week. I had intended to do it on Friday when I was post-call because I expected to be done around 1 but didn’t leave the hospital until 5. I coached on Saturday and I am back at work today. I got up early to fit a run in but felt miserable so just did an easy run and lifted.

We’re heading into a big storm cycle today which is going to be GREAT for skiing and snowshoeing but less good for running. I’ll be on the treadmill for my workouts this week but hoping to get outside for my easy runs and hopefully by next weekend, there will be enough clear roads for a long run.

In general, it’s working well for me to have workouts scheduled without prescribed mileage because it changes my perspective to be grateful for any effort. I am of course frustrated that I can’t seem to string together any real training but I’m working on being grateful for the running I can get in.

Finally, I got to try my new Lumo Run  this week and will admit to being a little nervous to see what it said but my initial run was very positive. The pace was off because I was on the treadmill but all of my markers looked good except for braking. I’m so excited to see how this project goes and how I can tweak my running form.

Week in Review 9.5.16 to 9.11.16

Monday: 7 mile run with 3.5 at tempo-ish with the team then mini-legs.

Tuesday: 6 mile recovery run around the home course. The heat is really hanging around!

Wednesday am: 8.2 mile run on the Causeway.

Wednesday pm: 5 mile run with the team. Both runs SO hot and humid.

Thursday: 4.5 mile normal run and Body Pump!!

Friday: 13 mile long run with Erin.

Saturday: 5 mile easy run with Will in Maine on the Eastern Trail

Sunday: 8 mile regular run around Old Orchard Beach with striders at the end.

Total Miles: 56.7

Another decent week of training. One would think that after 6 years of coaching, I would know the best way to get my own workout or run in around the team, but it’s still a struggle. I occasionally trip myself up because I think “well if the team is running 7 and I only need 8, I can just add on.” If I’m organized and no one needs anything, it works well. If I’m less organized or an athlete needs something, I wind up short on miles.

I am SO excited that I got to Body Pump this week. I forgot how much I love that class and am going to keep working on going to as many as I can fit in a week. My next hurdle is convincing myself to 1) try a yoga class at Campus Rec and 2) try a totally out of my comfort zone class to mix things up.

It’s still incredibly hot for September in Vermont up here; our home race last Friday was 86 degrees and humid. It’s finally starting to cool off in the forecast so I’m looking forward to feeling better as that happens. Still looking for some fall races to test fitness and have some experiences but it seems like most races are falling on Saturdays which makes it hard with Invitationals.

Spring 2016 Inventory

Vermont has many beautiful moments but we don’t usually get a Spring, jumping instead from mud season to summer. Fairfield County on the other hand, exemplifies Spring. It is incredible here right now, with everything in bloom (and everyone coming in for allergies) with warm but not hot days and cool nights. I’m in heaven. Spring is a time of rebirth and of renewal and as I approach May, I’ve been thinking about how my training has been going for the first part of 2016. Here are the goals I set out at the beginning of the year. 

The Good

  • Consistency: It’s not easy to run every day when your schedule changes almost every day but I am proud of the consistency I’ve managed this Spring despite having much lower mileage than I’d hoped
  • Hard Efforts: I’ve done a good job of getting in maintenance workouts each week, usually in the form of a tempo effort and a faster R paced effort.
  • Race Experience: A trail run and a track race back to back with smiles all around? Huge success for me
  • Core: I’ve been doing some iteration of core almost every night which is helping (a little) with my constant back pain

The Not So Good

  • Low Mileage: I’ve been in the 40s for most of this year, far below my goal of 55 to 60. I have to make medical school my priority but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t frustrate me to not be getting my mileage in
  • Striders: I don’t know what my problem is with striders. During coaching season, it’s easy to get these done on the grass at the end of my run but in Burlington and Norwalk, it’s hard to find a flat place to get these in. That being said, I have to keep making these a priority to work on efficiency
  • Strength Training: I’ve been getting in two days a week of strength training but that’s the extent of it. I really need to find more hours in the day to get this in!

So where does this leave me? I’m actually in decent shape right now but my fitness is totally non-specific. It will be very interesting to see how the Plattsburgh Half goes with this approach. Once I get through Plattsburgh and get back to Vermont, I need to figure out my approach to the summer and if I’m going to put any goal races on for the fall.

How are you doing on your goals for 2016?

Week in Review 3.21.16 to 3.27.16

Monday: 7.5 date run with Joey! Windy but nice out.

Tuesday: 9.5 mile workout. 2 mile tempo on the track plus 4 by 200. Felt really clunky during the 200s, so definitely need to be really intentional about getting striders in.

Wednesday: Travel day to Norwalk. Always a much longer trip than I anticipate. 8.1 miles around Norwalk, trying to get my bearings.

Thursday: 5.7 miles plus 4 striders.

Friday: 5 mile progression run on the treadmill. It’s dark when I wake up here and this is not a town where you run in the dark. Wanted to make sure I got legs in so cut my run a bit short.

Saturday: HEAVEN! 7.5 miles in Mianus River Park, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever run. Amazing trails, well marked and technical enough to be fun without having to concentrate intently. Arms after.

Sunday: Less heavenly…11.4 miles around town. Hard to find a place to run safely and long here but I did find a decent, almost car free loop for tempo Tuesdays.

Total Miles: 54.7

It’s always tricky to find places to run in a new town. Luckily, I think I’m going to be able to make Norwalk work with the carrot of Mianus River Trails on off days. The biggest challenge is going to be finding a place to do speed work. It’s track season which makes high school tracks difficult to find and there aren’t any colleges with tracks close by.

Overall, I’m extremely grateful for this week of training. My mileage was solid for recent weeks, I felt good on my runs and I actually had a few moments of total zen on my Saturday run. Can’t ask for much more! This will be my last up week before a mini-taper for the trail championships so I’m hoping for similar mileage and workouts with one of those workouts being more speed focused if I can figure it out.

Week in Review 2.29.16 to 3.6.16

It’s always easier to accept a low mileage week when you anticipate it. With the State Championships this week, plus a full week on the wards and a rapidly approaching shelf exam, my frame of mind this week was that any run was a good run. Plus, the boys won the State Championship with an incredible 49 points (40 points is a perfect score) and I got to announce my big shoe news so it’s hard to be disappointed with anything else this week.

Monday: 5 mile recovery run. Chest and back for lifting. (154 miles for February)

Tuesday: 6 mile steady state run. Warmed up for 10 minutes, then 30 minutes at steady state (effectively marathon pace), cool down to 6 minutes.

Wednesday: Off day. Running around trying to prep for the second half of the State Meet.

Thursday: 4 miles early before leaving for States. Biceps and triceps.

Friday: 100% wiped. Survived the day then went to bed at 7 pm.

Saturday: 7 mile interval workout with 5 by 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy. Legs after.

Sunday: 7 mile recovery run plus striders. Wanted to run long but was wiped and sluggish and didn’t think I would get a lot out of struggling for 5 more miles.

Total Miles 29.2

Now that I’ve (almost) survived my medicine rotation, it’s time to get my butt in gear training wise. I’ve done some good early season workouts but want to start looking forward to my week in California and my half in early May. I won’t be going for a PR (obviously), but would like to compete for the win and in my optimal world, run around 6:25 pace. I also need to start getting in more time on the trails as I prepare for the New England Championships in April. Unfortunately, the snowshoe race next weekend looks like it will be a scratch as weather will be in the 60s this week and we didn’t have much snow to begin with.

For the coming week, I’ll be aiming for 45 miles with a wave tempo and hill workout plus a 12 mile long run. Then it’s off to San Diego, where I’ll alternate between workouts on the Silver Strand and lots of minutes in Balboa Park and hopefully Miramar Reservoir if I can swing it.