In my recent post “A little reminder from my knees” I talked about pushing myself a little too hard on my long run and that this was part of a group of 3 things that could derail me. I decided I would write a post detailing those things to bolster my resolve that I will not let them derail me and perhaps to provide some suggestions to others who may have the same risk factors.
1) Not managing my work schedule — I have a job with global scope. While I am based in the US midwest, I have colleagues and partners on the east and west coast of the US, colleagues in the major European markets and in Asia. I travel approximately 25-33% of the time which may mean a 3-day trip to either coast once per month or an entire month without travel followed by one where I’m out of the office 15 out of 20 days. It also means that while I try to maintain reasonable business hours 8am — 6pm, that I do have 7am conference calls and 10pm conference calls, especially when I’m traveling. This can be a bit of a challenge in terms of getting my workout done — but, candidly, it’s just an easy way for me to explain away missing a run. I know that the busier I am, the more likely I am to say that I can’t or didn’t train because of time. Because of that, I’ve taken a very simple approach to making sure my workouts get done — they’re on the calendar. When I’m not traveling, it’s on my calendar in the early morning. While traveling, I block time to train, shower and any necessary travel from meetings. For me, I’ve found this is the only way that I can ensure that I do train and avoid having work schedule derail me.
2) Not sleeping enough — Between a crazy work schedule, spending time with my wife, playing with my dog, practicing guitar and just other activities of daily life, I sometimes end up not getting enough sleep. I know that particularly while training for athletic activities lack of good sleep means lack of appropriate recovery. So I’m doing simple thing to make sure I get enough sleep — cutting out caffeine after dinner, going to bed a little earlier, etc.
3) Over Training – This is my biggest risk and I suspect it is for many of you who are new to running and are in the 200+ lb running category. Unfortunately, it is also the trickiest to manage. In my mind, over training and “taking it easy” are on the opposite end of the spectrum and are both unacceptable. As someone firmly inside the 200+ lb running club, and someone who hasn’t run in a while, slowly ramping up the time and distance isn’t a matter of not pushing myself to excel, it is, in fact, key to it. Let me explain further..
If I were to push myself, I could run 5 miles today — without a doubt. I’d be slow and it would be painful…but I could do it. The consequences, however, would be significant — I would almost certainly have swollen knees, shin splints and be unable to train for a week if not more. The reasons to build up slowly are rather simple. First, there is a need to improve cardiovascular fitness — literally to make your lungs and heart able to handle the stress — this is the case for everyone who is not in exceptional shape and is beginning a training program. The second reason is perhaps the more important of the two for those of us in the 200+ lb club — we need to get our joints used to the impact. Repetitive use injuries such as shin splints or a badly swollen knee aren’t ones that will get better while doing increasingly harder training. They will require weeks of reduced training at best if not weeks of interrupted training. I have built one week of wiggle room into me training. A two-week delay would mean that I can’t make the half-marathon that I’ve planned. I’ve defined completing the half-marathon as my goal — I can’t let self-indulgent activities like skipping workouts or over-training get in my way.
The key, I imagine, is knowing when one is over-training and when you’re just pushing yourself hard. There are a couple of different methodologies, I suppose. One is using a HR monitor which has been covered extensively in a number of books. This is one of the methodologies that I’m using. The other is listening to people who know more about this than I do — namely my wife and Jeff Galloway’s training schedule. My wife reminds me that shin splints and painful knees are repetitive use impact injuries and that they don’t get better with more training — they get better when training stops — so it’s best to avoid them. I’m also committed to following Jeff Galloway’s training schedule to the tee. The conditioning part is written expressly for people who haven’t been running recently. While I might be able to do more in a given week for the long run than the program calls for, I need to remain patient and let my body get used to the impact.
So these are the three things that can derail me unless I’m careful — and I’m committed to being careful and avoiding these pitfalls. Hopefully these will resonate with some of you. At the least, putting it writing should help me.
Keep on running!