Too Much Blood in My Head

Can headstand practice help my running? Some say yes. Others are more skeptical.

image

Benefits of headstands:

  • improves core strength,
  • works on balance,
  • improves mental focus,
  • more oxygen in the brain for brief periods (better decision making?)
  • see the world from a different vantage point

I would think that headstands as cross-training is a bit of a stretch but I’m sure there must be real benefits because holding good headstands is hard. Anything that is hard must be beneficial, right?

Either way, I’m looking forward to a headstand photo on a mountain peak.

Swimming Improves Running?

I am wondering if and how my swimming is improving my running. It is not immediately obvious to me that swimming is doing much, but it must be helping, right?

image

I took up triathlon about 8 years ago and subsequently had to start doing a lot of swimming. I have since stopped the tri’s and have focused a lot more on the running. But I have been swimming once per week quite regularly for the last 3 years. The swims end up being mostly long slow distance with some other strokes and speed work thrown in to keep it interesting, but I don’t really have a goal with it. I guess my goal is to keep up with and spend time with my teen daughter who joins me weekly. (The keeping up is getting harder each week.) But any speed or distance goal is not really there.

Benefits I see with the swimming:

1) I would think that swimming promotes regular steady breathing which is important for long distance running. Awareness of your breathing and the ability to control it is a definite asset in running.

2) Swimming works your core (and arms) which apparently is vital for running to keep you injury free and able to just go longer. The stronger your core is, the less work your legs have to do to compensate for a weak core. At least that’s the theory. This core work might be able to replace other gym work or cross training I might otherwise have to do.

3) Swimming slows down the resting heart rate. I think this is the case. If it does that is good for running. Ultra marathoners (and triathletes) always talk about resting heart rate. Efficient hearts make mighty engines.

4) Swimming lengths is inherently interval work which is good mental work. Runners should do more intervals to train their brain for mental toughness. But no one likes interval work.

5) Swim coaches are always talking about form, efficiency, stroke improvement, and being able to “feel” the water. These concepts translate to running. Our form breaks down when we get tired and so we must keep practicing it or keep mindful of it while running to ensure to keep the form as long as possible. Efficient running takes you further and faster than just stumbling along. And being able to “float” along the ground is something to aspire to.

6) Swimming builds discipline. Not just from the swimming part but the fact that you need to go somewhere regularly at a specific time to get in the workout. It is much easier to get your run in sometime in the day even if your regular run time gets booked with other life events. But discipline in your run workouts of important too.

My daughter’s swim competitions are mostly all out effort for 2 minutes or so. This would equate to sprinting half way around a track, multiple times at an event. Do all those sprint practices for her improve her long distance running? Or would it be better to just put in slow long distance swimming to improve long distance running?

Maybe I would say that any cross training is great for any runner. But if I were to focus on something in my swimming what should it be? Breathing, heart rate, efficiency, mental toughness? Where do you get the most bang?

Any swim experts out there?

Cross Training at the Drop of a Hat

On a whim, my 14 year old daughter and I signed up for an open water 500m race. We had one day to prepare. We had been swimming weekly in April but not much since. She has never swum much in a lake and was freaked out about the fish and weeds. We got out twice the day before to calm out fears but it didn’t help much.

image
Last minute warmup swim the night before

The lake was choppy and it was chilly water. But in the excitement and the mass start we forgot our fears and ran in and joined the throng.

image
Mass start of 100 people or so. Crazy!

She is a great swimmer and was confident in the length. She was ahead of me in no time. I was struggling to get in the swing of things and took a long time to get my stroke dialed in. She beat me by several minutes. Probably not the last time I will get beat by her, I’m afraid.

image
We are out there somewhere

Her fears propelled her to finish with a great time. She conquered her fears and is ready to go even longer next year.

I had signed up to swim with her and talk her through it but I sure got my workout too. I was exhausted for the rest of the morning but she recovered quickly.

image
My amazing daughter

I love being able to just jump in and join in whatever cross training presents itself. Even if I am not fully prepared. And hopefully my kids are learning that it isn’t all about winning but doing your best. And trying something new even if you know you aren’t that great at it.

Keeping my Feet Inspired All Day Long

I love a work place where you can wear your running shoes all day and no one even looks twice or comments on it. Everyone here knows I might jump up at any time and go for a run at lunch, late lunch, coffee break, or just run home.

My most comfortable shoes are running shoes. Why not wear them as much as possible? Why not keep my feet inspired all day to run?

Thinking about it, I don’t have many shoes that are not running shoes. Hmm, maybe I should diversify my footwear. But no, I have enough shoes already. I don’t need more (unless it is another pair of runners).

runningshoesatwork

Not forgetting the core

This last month I have been fairly consistent with the stretching and core workouts. Two to three times per week for 20 minutes seems to be about enough for me. I could definitely do more but it is hard to make it a priority.

My current routine is 4 or 5 upper leg and hip stretches, 2 sets of situps and pushups, and shallow knee bends. This routine definitely changes as I have more or less time and as the “event” gets closer. My Sunday swimming and bike commuting are adding to the core so I feel I should be in fairly good core shape by May 3rd – my upcoming marathon.

My daughter just got a new bike so the family bike rides should be a good excuse for some casual leg stretching over the next few weeks.

For me, keeping that core strong is nearly as important as speed work.

image

Swim a lot, Bike a little, Run the rest

On a whim, I challenged my 14 year old daughter to a swim, bike, run, training session. We had been swimming weekly 2000m sessions and we had been running together a couple times per week. So I had said, how about a 3000m swim, 3000m bike, and a 3000m run. I knew the swim would be tough, but the bike would be easy. And after the other two, the run would be on tired legs.

Well this morning we did it. Not only did we do a 3000m swim, but 500m of that was legs only, and 750m was arms only. And we both set 50m speed records. All very exhausting. The worst part for me was my back – very odd. At the end of the session it was quite stiff. She could have kept going. Got to love youthful endurance.

The weather turned pretty nice, so after the pool, we jumped on our bikes taking the long way home and then ran to a local park. We were back home within 2 hours of starting the swim. 3000m, 3000m, 3000m. Odd distances for a triathlon, but it worked for us today.

Then we both aimed for the couch. Great way to start a “Good” Saturday.

My daughter has amazing endurance and tenacity. And it is fun to have a training partner who joins me occasionally, even if she doesn’t enjoy it quite as much as I do.

IMG_20150322_154210050

Defeated But Not Out

It was going to be one of those epic hikes. A 5 hour top of a mountain type hike. A cross-training hike for my running addiction. The weather has been beautiful all week and we were itching to get outside.

The googling was done, the packing was done, and a last minute weather check was done. It was overcast when we got up but that wasn’t unusual since it usually takes a couple hours for the sun to really come out. The hint of bad weather came as we were putting our shoes on. It had started to sprinkle. “Don’t worry it never rains in Calgary and if it does it doesn’t last long.”

Well the rain only got stronger as we drove the 45 minutes to the trail head. We turned off the main road only to discover that the winter gates were still closed. It sure didn’t feel like winter.

So we drove on looking for another epic hike eventually getting to another well known trail but we wouldn’t have the views on this hike. We realized by this time that it was going to be a wet hike so we took out our jackets, hats and gloves out of our packs. We started down the trail for a km or so before we really couldn’t go on because of the rain on the icy trail had made it very treacherous.

So we slid back toward the car where we had seen one more trail we thought we could try out that was deeper in the trees and might have less ice. We were still quite determined to get a hike in but the “epic” quality of the available hikes was diminishing quickly. Well this new trail had a little less ice but much more mud so our feet got wet. We were really soaked now. Eventually after about a km we realized there was a geocache in the area so we went a little further to go log it. Having quickly found it we headed back to the car once again. Just before the car it started snowing very heavily – very wet snow. So as we piled into the car and peeled off our wet layers, the consensus was that this time we were defeated. We needed to go warm up. What was going to be an epic 5 hour hike to the top of a mountain with amazing views, turned into a soggy one hour slog in the valley.

There’s always next weekend. Maybe it really will be spring next week.

#1 – Epic hike choice #1: Moose mountain
I had to steal this photo since we didn’t actually get there
image

#2 – Less epic but would be an amazing hike in the summer: Powderface trail
image

#3 – Cool hike but far from epic: unnamed trail along Prairie Creek

image

Wet, wet, wet
image

As far as considering this hike as cross-training, I am training for the Vancouver marathon which is bound to be wet and humid. Since we don’t get much of that here in Calgary, I can considering spending time in this dampness as environment conditioning for this race.

P.S. And of course, as we got home, the sky cleared up and it was a beautfiul afternoon.

But we will be back for more mountain epic-ness.

Places to run – Haiti?

Can I? Should I? Does anyone run in Haiti? It is too hot. There are no trails.  The traffic is too crazy. Can’t go out alone. Can’t speak the language if I get lost.

Last time I was in Haiti I ran 400m up and down the beach repeatedly just so I could stay in sight of the hotel. This time it doesn’t seem like running is much of a possibility. The highway is too busy to run on and the beach is only 50m long. Maybe I will have to get creative and just do core work.

If it’s not the traffic which makes it tough to run…

IMG_20150222_095824304

… It’s the livestock that can be frightening.

wpid-rps20150220_115416.jpg

Stay tuned. This trip is 2 weeks long and I can’t go that long without running.

No Swimming! (This Week Only)

We couldn’t make our swimming date this week and probably that was a good thing. After an epic swim last week and the necessary 2 days of recovery, I am glad for a week off.  When you are only swimming once per week those muscles sure can complain.

But the running continues without a break…

image

Firing up my core

Besides all the very fun and sometimes extreme cross training my family does that I wrote about yesterday, I do have a more set round of “boring” cross training that fits into my routine. Maybe it is better just called “exercise” but the purpose is to make my running stronger so in many definitions this would be called cross training.

Sunday mornings is my swim date with my daughter. We have been doing 2000 meters in an hour and it has been wiping me out so it is definitely working. But she is getting so much stronger in swimming and is aiming for a minimum of 3000 meters and maybe much more in one workout. It’s not fair that she refuses to do this alone and so I am forced to do the whole distance too. But my swimming is getting stronger and I am using muscles that have been dormant for a long while. This is especially good for my core and arms which receive minimal attention otherwise.

image
Weekly Swimming

 

One of my more dull and painful routines is pushups or burpees several times per week. I don’t do a whole workout, just a bunch of those horrible exercises. It is not fun but it works for core strength.

image
One too many pushups!

 

I have always done a lot of biking, and in the last couple years I have biked to work for probably half the year. The winter weather is not conducive to that right now but come March I will be back at it.

And then there is the regular stretching of mostly my quads and hamstrings after most of my runs.

The goal of all this is to improve my running. If this age thing is going to catch up with me it is going to have to work very hard for it.

But if you’re into much more fun cross-training ideas, read yesterday’s post here