Running In A Group

At the start of April, I started running with a group. We’ve got a program to follow that is geared to take a 5k runner to 10k, or improve 5k time/performance.

I’m glad to be following a structured program. I’ve come out against training in groups before, mainly because I feel hampered in my ability to make ‘appointments’ to train, and I wouldn’t want to keep anyone waiting, but in this case, the group heads out at lunchtime on Mondays and Wednesdays so that fits into my regular schedule just fine.

There are a lot of benefits to running woth others (either a partner or two, or a group):

  • Making a date. When they’re expecting you, you’re less likely to make excuses and skip a training session.
  • Socializing. Birds of a feather flock together, after all. Meeting with other runners gives us a chance to trade tips, share goals, commiserate about our aches and pains, and achieve human connections that may be hard to come by in today’s world. That’s something your iPod can’t do (on the other hand there’s probably an app for that…). Speaking of iPods, it’s a good idea to practice running without music if you’re doing an event that doesn’t allow headphones like a triathlon or some trail runs. You don’t want to be dependent on the music…
  • Staying on target. That 8k you’re supposed to run today? With a group, you’ll not only show up to do it, but run the amount you’re supposed to. No more, no less. Not slacking off, not overdoing it just because today, you think you can.
  • Safety. If you get hurt or something else happens that interferes in your ability to complete your run, your buddies have your back.

And yet, for all this, I’m noticing a few drawbacks…

  • Pacing. If the pace you want to hit doesn’t match at least one other person, you’re pretty much running by yourself again, and wishing you had your iPod on you after all…
  • Whiners. I guess some people just like to complain, but listen: we’re all doing the same run in the same weather and voluntarily. No one’s got a gun to your head… Though the way some people carry on I’m not as sure. I actually like to think I could be held at gunpoint with greater stoicism than some people show when going out for a jog.
  • Lack of flexibility. Every group run is customized to the needs of an imaginary person: the aggregate/average of every member of the group. And that’s the best case scenario. You might not be getting the workout you need on this particular day, for your particular needs/goals/level. This is the flip-side to ‘Staying On Target’, I suppose.

Still with group sessions twice a week, I still have opportunities to run solo and therefore get the best of both worlds. What about you? Do you prefer running solo, or with company?

Last Week’s Links

Just checking in to share some of the better links I came across last week.

  • A Brick workout without a bike, courtesy of Trifreaks:
  • Healthy Tipping Point takes a good look at Obstacle Races (please don’t call them Adventure Races, that’s something else).  Very thoughtful analysis, as usual.  
  • Better with Veggies put up a great post about breaking into triathlon from starting as a runner.  It’s how I got involved; I was already using swim and bike as cross-training, I loved pushing the envelope endurance-wise, but it was just too much running all the time, until I found a way to make it all work for me.
  • Speaking of breaking into triathlon, I was thumbing through my wife’s Chatelaine magazine when I saw this article.  Yay for triathlon in the mainstream!

Have a great day!

EDIT: Fixed the link to Healthy Tipping Point.

When Your Partner Wants to Train

I hope everyone had a good Easter weekend! I was lucky to run into this blog post from Outside magazine, about how parents can train. Having a family makes training for running races or triathlons hard, but when your partner or spouse has their own goals, it can add yet another wrinkle.

My wife is training for her first race since the birth if the Lightning Kid, the Yonge Street 10k in April (maybe I can get her to guest write a race recap) followed by the Sporting Life 10k in May. Meanwhile, looking at the Race Calendar, I’ve got the 5 Peaks Rattlesnake Point trail run on the 28th.

Even though it’s my first trail run, this race doesn’t present an enormous challenge for me in terms of distance, while for her it’s really pushing the envelope for her current running ability.  Due to my longer legs I am the faster runner of the two of us, but in the years since we had kids, the difference in our running fitness has grown.  While parenting is tiring for dads, there’s no denying there’s a more direct physical toll on the moms.  So when we finally got a chance to run together like we used to, how did we handle it?

We did this run together; it is only a little over 4k – so it doesn’t represent a long run for her, nor me, really. Our paces would be much different considering distance alone. What we ended up doing is she kept up a pace suitable for a recovery run (or even over-distance/endurance pace) while I did a mixture of extras to spike my heart rate from time to time.  One trick was to stop for squats, push-ups or whatever Burbathlon-style.  The problem became that my wife wasn’t quite slow enough for me to do too many reps without her catching up to me even when I had sprinted ahead.  Which brings me to the other trick I used: Fartlek sprints, combined with either jogging back again or even backwards running, which uses opposing muscle groups to your run, and can be a way to cross-train and injury-proof your muscles.  So to sum up, sprint ahead, stop for strength exercises till she catches up.

To me, this run together was some of the most fun I’ve had on a run in a long time; I missed my running buddy, and I kept myself highly amused with the extra exercises.  To her, I bet it was a lot like taking a dog for a run… SQUIRREL!

Gear Corner: Forerunner 910XT Part 1 (Swim)

After losing my Forerunner 305, I was this close to buying a Bluetooth capable HR strap and using my Blackberry for tracking permanently, but darn it if those Garmin people didn’t hook me back in with the Forerunner 910XT.  After previous models that were called ‘waterproof’ (which in GPS language means “can get drops of water on it” unlike watch language where it means “submersible”), this one can really be used for swimming.  It is in fact, useful as a swim computer.

Once I got to the pool, the first thing I did was turn the watch on, and turn of the GPS.  They’ve made the menus more accessible than previously in my opinion, and GPS has its own menu so I can turn it off for indoor use quickly.  Then, I had to switch modes to ‘Swim’ (from ‘Run’) if I recall; this was found under the Training menu, rather than Settings where I expected it, but I still found that an improvement – it keeps any one menu from getting too dense with choices.  I programmed in a 25m pool, and started swimming.

I was a little pressed for time and stressed besides that, so I opted for a straight swim of 750m.  By the time I had done 100m, I checked the distance tracker and it reported only 50m and I was thinking:”This will never work.”  Still, by the time as I finished up my 30th length, sure enough, the readout showed 750m.

I was really interested to see what the data would show when I synched it, which it does wirelessly through a USB device the size of a thumb drive that you stick into your computer’s port.  The sync happens automatically when you turn the watch back on near the computer, but the small delay before it happens always makes me wonder if I’m doing it right before I notice the transfer has started.  The plugin software doesn’t have much in the way of dialog windows to let you know what’s happening.

Let me preface by saying I have no idea what happened toward the end there.  I do, however, love how it recorded my number of strokes for each length.  I always thought strokes should be counted with both arms but mechanically, it makes more sense for the watch to sense each time my left arm goes around.  The numbers add up, since I’d put my 25m stroke count around 25-26 (counting both left and right), and this workout shows an average of 13 (counting only the left).  It also shows my pace per 100m throughout the workout; might be very interesting during more structured workouts.

The last graph is about efficiency; there’s a metric called SWOLF which wasn’t easy to find the definition for (Google let me down for specifics), but ultimately, the websites help buttons defined it as stroke count+time to complete 25m.  I’m really interested in this one, as every time I’ve tried to reduced the number of strokes, I’ve used more power on each stroke to absolutely no effect; though I’m probably completing the 25m in less time.  Playing with SWOLF will let me optimize my swim for energy spent and how fast I can complete the distance.

So far so good for the Garmin Forerunner 910XT.  I should mention that the HR monitor (while waterproof) does not work in the water, which is a shame.  Though meaningful benchmarks for what heart-rate should be while swimming are hard to come by due to the difference the water pressure and cooling make on your cardiovascular system, I wouldn’t mind being able to compare workouts as the season progresses and knowing how my perceived exertion on a workout maps to the relative heart-rate actually produced.

I’ll be reviewing the 910XT’s features for biking and running in future posts.  Stay tuned!  Feel free to take a better look at the data by clicking the image below.

Cross-Training? Cross Posting!

I just wanted to highlight that I wrote an article for Heidi Murphy’s Balance Project Blog’s Canadian Blogger Series.  The series has had weekly articles from healthy living/fitness bloggers across our fair country, and yours truly signed up to represent Ontario (though not exclusively).  Check the series out, there’s some great posts about what other provinces are like for the active/healthy/outdoorsy types.

Also, if you haven`t checked out my other blog The Adventures of the Lightning Kid I`d love it if you gave it a read.  I don`t talk about it that much online, but I am a father to a baby born with Trisomy 21 also known as Down Syndrome.  In the blog I use a fairy tale setting to talk about the emotional truths of life with a child with Down Syndrome (DS for short), if not the literal truths.  As I’m fond of saying: the stories aren`t real, but they are true.

I’ll be back soon with regularly scheduled programming 😉