Pardon the kind of insane look on my face. I know, it’s kind of creepy, and me not having a shirt on only makes it creepier, but I had a good excuse: I had just gotten done with a run that turned out to be far faster than I thought I was capable of this soon after getting back into running, and I was also in a hurry to get showered and changed to go out to dinner with my wife, Sherry.
I had taken nearly a month off from running in December. I hadn’t realized that the break was that long until I wanted to look at my run times and to see how far back I’d slipped during the holidays and I found my last run was December 8th. Wow. That’s crazy stupid of me to have taken a break that long, but there were reasons (that, in retrospect, sounded good at the time, and while they may have been valid, sound like excuses to me now). I was sick for a few of those days, I had injuries for a few of those days, a good number of those days were very cold and raining, and then there was the trip to Toronto. Of course, normally, these sorts of things aren’t all back-to-back, but they were in December. The cumulative effect was that I didn’t run for four straight weeks.
When I ran for the first time after that four-week hiatus, I did okay. My mile times were acceptable, though admittedly, slow. I was over a minute slower per mile than my previous runs, and I felt it. My legs ached, and I felt like I was running through wet sand. The following two days, my legs burned. I ran again on Monday, and my legs were sore, but I pushed through and completed three miles. By the end of the run, my legs were still sore, but oddly, not nearly as much. My times were horrible; a 10:36/mile average over the three miles which is a solid two minutes slower per mile than my average. I figured that it would take me some time to get back down into the low 9’s, let alone the 8’s again.
I had two friends from the National Guard over to my house on Tuesday night, and while we were talking, I told them that I was going to be running again on Wednesday after work. They both asked if they could join me, and I figured, “Sure; why not!” I know that exercise with other people is better than doing it alone because of the motivation most people get from being in a group environment. I’m not immune to it, either.
When I got home on Wednesday, I changed out of my work clothes and with both of the guys there, I hit my push-ups and got 60 done. We then had a quick talk about our track: laps around the lake in front of my house. Each lap is just under a quarter of a mile, so my plan was to do 13 laps for 3 miles. I told them my pace would be under 10 minutes/mile, but I wouldn’t be going fast. They all said that sounded good, and we took off.
Boy did we take off.
The first quarter mile pace was something around 6:40/mile (WHAT?!?). We settled down into an 7:40/mile pace for the second quarter of a mile, and I stuck at an 8:15/mile pace for the rest of the first mile. I slowed a bit to an 8:36/mile pace for the second mile, and then pulled it back in for an 8:18/mile average pace for the third and final mile.
WHAT THE HELL.
I am certain I would have sandbagged it if I had ran alone. I thought I was still too far out of shape to be able to run that fast, let alone to do it comfortably. I wasn’t racing the guys, and I wasn’t trying to prove anything. What’s more interesting to me is that I wasn’t struggling. Sure, I was working, and it was a conscious effort to keep the pace going, but my breathing was steady and full, and I felt really good through the run. My lungs were giving me the air I needed, and my legs actually felt good.
I learned that I need to run with others more often, and that I need to push myself a little harder on my runs. There are some days when I’ve got longer runs planned, and those runs are supposed to be run at 80% effort, which for me will be in the 9’s. But when I’m doing my shorter runs, I need to put more effort into it. When I do my sprints, I should be in the 6’s for those quarter miles.
Why did I go into so much detail about running on a healthy lifestyle/diet blog? Because there are a lot of parallels to eating right. When I started my healthy lifestyle, I did so with the help and support of my wife. When I say I couldn’t have done it without her, it’s not a cliche, and I’m not saying it to be nice. It’s a fact. She was the rock I needed at times to get past some emotional hurdles (and admittedly, I provided the same service for her at key moments throughout our journey). As recently as two days ago, Sherry was the one motivating me when I was feeling like I wasn’t making progress fast enough.
Sherry also took on the lion’s share of food prep. I try to help her as much as I can, but the fact remains that she is the one who comes up with the recipes, makes the shopping lists, and does most of the prep. I go to the grocery with her as often as I can (way more often than not), and I try to do food prep with her as her sous chef. I leave the finesse with the recipes to her (thankfully; she’s an amazing cook!).
Even with our own exercise, although we run separately, we try to do as much as we can together: hiking, bike riding, and other physical activities. We are competitive, and when we do workouts together, we end up really pushing ourselves to the limit. I’ve come back from all of our bike rides worn out!
Teamwork will get you through. Whether it’s a run, a bike ride, or a diet; working together will make you more successful.