Technique, technique, technique. I'm focused on improving my running form now, specifically in minimizing my tendency to heel-strike. I've been reading articles, watching videos with slow-motion analyses of the form, and just generally learning what I can about the theory.
I resolved to tailor my run today into something hinging on proper form instead of brute distance or weight. I went out with my hydration pack and my Vibram TrekSports so I felt light. I've run with my Five Fingers before, but never at quite the distance I did today; my previous bouts were short-distance (~1 mile) on the indoor track at school.
Here are the data from the run:
Lap 1 was the first half of the run, Lap 2 my trip back, and Lap 3 was my walking and stretching after the run. I maintained what I believe to be proper form for about 3/4 of the run, but ended up finishing the route still running, but with poorer form.
As I said, distance wasn't my main focus here, and I did stop occasionally - as you can see from the spikes in Pace - to stretch or get a feel for how my calves were holding up. This particular muscle group troubles me as I am running this way. I consciously critique and adjust my form as I run, trying with each step to land on the ideal and seemingly imaginary "midfoot" and roll into the toes. This seems to put undue strain on my calves. This might just be a result of my muscles not being used to this kind of movement.
In addition to the foot placement I am also meant to make a pedaling movement with my legs as if on a bike while bringing my heels up to my backside after each stride. It's a complicated motion and I found myself thinking while I was running: "I wish my track coach had done some work with the team to establish proper running form". Admittedly, as I was a pole-vaulter, I didn't do much running then and the running I did was all toe-striking long fast strides anyway. Still, I think any athlete whose sport involves running would benefit enormously from developing proper running form early on.
I'm looking into a Personal Trainer who might help me to correct my form. Strength training is still taking the back seat, and might have to remain there until after Goruck. The coming weeks will see TrekSport runs focusing on form, long unweighted runs focusing on endurance and distance, and long weighted runs focusing on mental grit and stamina.
I am still registered for Tough Mudder PA on April 10th. As of right now I have only one other team member; all the others I had hoped to recruit were too apprehensive or otherwise constrained to register in time (the event recently sold out). I expect Tough Mudder to now be more of a fun romp than a serious competition, but I know I'm going to love it anyway - and perhaps even more so.
I have a few new toys, thanks to the holiday.
My favorite: myVibram TrekSportshoes. I've been wearing these shoes almost non-stop since I got them. All the rave reviews I had heard (especially at events like Shawnee and Ruckus) are well-founded, and I find myself now an enthusiastic proponent of the brand. My feet are considerably stronger and I've even developed a considerable level of prehensility with my toes, although moving them independently is physiologically impossible. The Vibram shoes improve posture and practically force proper running form. I've used them for travel (almost exclusively during a recent family vacation) and I'm working my way up to running in them.
Next on the list is the weight vest. After some deliberation I settled on one from Dick's Sporting Goods called theFitness Gear Weighted Vest. I've been wearing it for daily use here and there, but its most profound impact has been on my workouts. I wore it during normal workouts at home (of which I did very little, I'm sorry to say, while I was on break) and it made a huge difference. Though I'm scaffolding the added weight, and only currently using 20lbs (of the possible 40), the impact on my endurance and strength in a routine, which was previously quite manageable, was considerable. I would do a set with the vest and the second set without. More recently, since coming back to Boston, I've been using it with a newer workout routine: it's essentially listed on the Tough Mudder site. I admit I didn't finish the full 60 seconds of some of the exercises at the end, but I think I did really well, especially considering I was wearing the weight vest at 20lbs the whole time and using two 20lb kettlebells for their respective sections. I'm going to use this workout instead of my old one because I want to change it up for my body and work some previously untrained aspects of my strength. Since it makes you switch between exercises so quickly with so little rest it also includes a considerably cardiovascular strain.
Finally, I'm impatiently awaiting the arrival of myGarmin Forerunner 305(GPS Heart Rate Monitor doodad). I'm pretty excited about having this gadget. I'm a techno-geek to begin with, and adding the tech to my fitness aspirations is just wonderful. Check out the specs and the user-submitted pictures on Amazon to see some of the capabilities. I expect to wear this during every workout to optimize my gains and keep track of my progress in a more objective way. I’ll likely upload some if not all of this information to my blog for some added cohesion (especially from big events like Tough Mudder and Goruck).
I'm proud to say that I'm holding strong to the vegan diet, and it's working out quite well. It's considerably easier now and I feel great about it. I'm going to be making an active effort to learn more recipes this semester and do more cooking for myself. I also got aJack LaLanne Power Juicer Express, which I use often. I love the convenience of it. I admit to not noticing a significant difference in my performance since switching to a plant-based diet, but I was basically in top shape beforehand.
As far as the supplements are concerned, it's all vegan or nothing. I’ve been supporting a product called Vega, and I use the Whole Food Health Optimizer as my post-workout recovery drink. It’s pretty ridiculous as a dietary supplement; it’s got 100% or more of basically everything you need daily. The taste is acceptable, even good sometimes (reminds me of Carnation Instant Breakfast), and it mixes rather well. I know that without this supplement I would be extremely sore after my intense workouts, so it seems to be doing its job. It’s expensive even when it’s on sale, but I feel that it’s worth the extra money, especially since I know I wouldn’t be properly nourished without it considering my relatively poor culinary ability.
Besides the gadgets my sights are set on bigger and more challenging events. The Goruck Challenge, as outlined here on the Tough Mudder site, is intimidating to say the least. I’m considering running the Tough Mudder PA with my weight vest on, effectively using the event itself as training for the Goruck Challenge. One of my friends, whom I met at Shawnee and with whom I competed at Ruckus, said he would be interested in doing the Goruck Challenge. We are going to get together and punish ourselves regularly (wearing weighted equipment and running in snow, randomly doing pushups in the mud/slush/highway, etc.) in preparation for Goruck. The distance concerns me (~17 miles I believe), but their pace seems far slower than my natural pace which I imagine might help.
I went running in the snow a few days ago and it was awful. Granted it was my first run since coming back to Boston, the snow was deep, it was a dry, bitter cold and I felt like I might die, but it’s a path I’ve run many times before so I felt like it would be manageable. I walked the last half of the run shamefully after having willed myself that far. I made it to the gym complex and proceeded to punish myself for my weakness in the elements. I did interval running (which is fantastic and will comprise a greater portion of my aerobic workouts henceforth), weighted jump rope sets (each handle weighted at 1lb – it’s a lot harder than it sounds), 30 minutes on the elliptical with medium-high resistance while randomly sprinting, more jump rope and finish with some isometric stretching. It was a great session but I’m worried about my poor performance outside. The Goruck and Tough Mudder runs will be significantly different just for the fact that it will be a different (more forgiving) season, but I expect more out of myself. Soon I will start doing my runs with the weighted vest.