Monday, August 29, 2011

Running On Empty

As I sit at soccer practice and type this post on my iPhone I feel that saying these past few weeks have been insane in the Bitecofer household is an understatement. Recently my days have started between six and six-thirty a.m. and I have not been stopping until midnight, sometimes one in the morning. To make matters worse, today marks the fifth day in a row that my day will have been that long and not have included a run. And aside from a fourteen mile trail race that Chanda and I have registered and lined up babysitting for I don't currently see any runs in my near future.

Most of you are aware that Chanda and I serve as the kids pastors at our church but what many of you are not aware of is that I am also an entrepreneur. Being self employed has had tremendous benefits but recently I landed some very physical work that will occupy me all day, five and six days a week for a couple of months. This has been a substantial change from what I am used to. Not that I'm not used to working long hours. I am. But my long hours are typically spent behind a desk and this job is extremely physical, leaving me exhausted and wanting nothing more at the end of the day than to go to bed.

Please don't think I'm complaining! I'm not. I am incredibly grateful to have this work at a normally very slow time of year for me. But what I am is struggling.

See, Chanda and I are about five weeks out from the race we have been training for all summer. I feel stronger than ever right now and I am confident that if I ran the race tomorrow I would PR. But if my training comes to a screeching hault now...what will happen? On top of that, I miss running! I miss that almost meditative time of gliding through the woods with no distractions. It's therapeutic.

But at the end of the day, after soccer pracitce and dinner, after the kids are showered and in bed, after the house is cleaned up, when the dishwasher is loaded and we have finally reached a point where I feel like I can run guilt free, when I look at the clock and realize that I have five, maybe six hours until I have to get up and do it all again and I feel like I just don't have any gas left in the tank...What would you do?

At this point I'm still not sure how to handle this predicament but I plan to (try) to keep you posted on what I do end up doing over the weeks leading up to the race. In the mean time I'd love to hear from you! What do you do when life's responsibilities interfere with your love of running? Do you skip, slack on or let something slide? Do you give up runs? Or do you suck it up and muscle through? I'd love to hear what get you through the busiest times of your life! So leave a comment! Maybe your methods will help someone else.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Learning to Let Go!

When it comes to training I have a bit of a problem. I HATE to let go of a run. See, I don't mind being flexible, reworking my plan so that it fits into the combined schedules of our family and most of the time I have no problem postponing my run until 11 or 12am, even doing it on the treadmill if that's what it takes. But what I hate (I mean HATE!) is to miss out on a workout altogether.

When I first started training I would squeeze in a missed workout on a rest day. I justified it by telling myself that I was still getting in the same number of workouts per week, just reworking how the week went down. That was, until the missed workouts had piled up so much that in one week I did two long runs...and speed work...twice...without  any rest days. Fortunately I didn't get injured but I wasn't able to complete the second long run either.

My legs were entirely too fatigued from all that running and I swore that I had learned my lesson. And for about a month I kept only two workouts sacred. Speed work and the long run. But old habits die hard and it wasn't long before I started piling on missed workouts again. Soon I started to see signs of over training. What does over training look like?

You might be over training if:
  • You regularly feel tired all day.
  • Your legs feel heavy at normal training pace and you can't seem to put together a "strong" training run.
  • You experience an elevated resting pulse for more than a few days.
  • You have persistent aches, pains, and injuries.  If you're struggling with pain more often than not, you are probably on the edge of a major injury which could leave you sidelined for the rest of the season! 
  • You seem to be getting sick more than usual.

Letting go of runs is hard for me. I don't know if it's hard for you too but if it is let me encourage you. Life gets in the way of running. If you have a family, a job, a pet or any combination of the three, things come up that hinder your ability to train. Let it go.

There are only two runs a week that I consider sacred. First and foremost for any distance runner is the long run. It is what builds your endurance and teaches your body to go the distance. It is a confidence builder and a key component to every training plan. The second sacred run is speed work. Speed work teaches your body to run more efficiently, builds aerobic capacity and increases muscle mass in your entire body.

If life gets in the way and you miss a run. Let it go. If it is a "sacred" run then accept that you need to replace another, less important run for that one. Will your weekly mileage be reduced? Yes. But it is the only way to avoid over training and possibly injury.

I know it's hard but you can do it! Just think of it as a new dimension of the flexibility you have had to exercise to be able to train in the first place. It's a learning process and there are bound to be occasional relapses but don't be discouraged. Join me and together we can learn to let go! 

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Kids - Running & Racing

At races we hear the chatter, "He's way too young for that." "Why would they push her like that?" "That can't be healthy." We see people whispering to each other, pointing and even staring. Some try to use the concerned angle, "Is that good for them?" or "What if they get hurt?" Our children are typically the youngest participants at any given 5k by five or more years yet still frequently place in their age group. It's obvious that we are forcing our children to do what we love! Or are we?

Several years ago when Chanda started running I would take the kids to the trail, load them up in a wagon & a stroller, hand them snacks & drinks and follow down the trail after her. Obviously we couldn't keep up but I thought it was important that we show our support. (Plus it was nice to be out in the woods most evenings).

It wasn't long before the kids wanted to run with mommy. Chanda was very accommodating and would occasionally let them tag along for the first mile or so, slowing her pace to about a twelve minute mile and then waiting with the kids until I caught up with the babies, the wagon and the stroller. The first time they ran with her we were amazed. They didn't want to stop at the mile marker. After a few times of one mile runs we decided to let them add a second, and then a third mile. Soon they were asking when they could run a 5k.

At first we were a little hesitant. We had always allowed the kids to participate in the "kids fun runs" but running in an actual race...with adults? Don't races have age requirements? We did a little research and it turns out that most 5k's do not have a minimum age. Lilli ran her first 5k labor day of 2010 and took second in the 14 and under age group. At five years old she was less than half the age of the kid that beat her. Since then our two oldest children have run a combined total of nearly a dozen races, we've completed a race together as a family (babies in strollers) and Faith, our two year old has completed several one mile runs.

Along the way we have been approached by both concerned people and intrigued parents. Below are some of the most common questions we field and our answers to them. 

Is that good for them?

To our knowledge there is no evidence to say that running is bad for children. It comes naturally to them. Don't believe me? Try this experiment: take a five year old to the playground and tell them not to run, then release them to play. Time how long it takes until they break down and disobey you. I guarantee they won't last ten minutes. Kids run...and they love it! It's not until we get older and lazier we they learn to love being sedentary. A recent study followed several children's hospitals keeping an eye out for running related injuries in children. To their astonishment all of the running related injuries they saw were actually connected to the act of falling rather than running. Scrapes, cuts and the occasional broken bone were the primary injuries. Pulled muscles and over-use injuries were practically non existent. It seems that children really were born to run!

What about training?

My kids do very little training. It is my belief that any moderately fit five year old can complete a 5k so there is no need to push them. Occasionally one of my older children might say, "Dad, I need to get a couple miles in today" or "I need to get in some hill training before this next race." When they say that I do everything possible to make sure that we fit their workout into our schedule either the same or the following day because I want them to know that I support them. While we are on our run I try to encourage them to push through discomfort and guide them to maintain their naturally good form but more importantly I keep it light and fun. Nothing is a bigger turnoff to a child then being pushed too hard.

What is the best way to get my child into running?

I suggest signing up for races that also have kids fun runs. They are usually only a mile, most kids can complete them with relative ease and in many cases, every participant gets an award. Then ask another adult to wait with them at the finish line of your race so they can cheer for people (and you!) as they come into the finish. This is a great way to get your child pumped up about races and introduce them to running as a sport.

Finally, I thought the best advice would be advice direct from a child who runs so I have asked my 5 year old son to offer you some tips on how you can help your child run:

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