I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas. Over here in SLC it was pretty low key – lots of food, drinks and snow.

This was Christmas morning.

This was Christmas morning.

Waiting for the bus to work this morning.

Waiting for the bus to work this morning.

Winter has definitely arrived. I even made it skiing on the day after Christmas. The morning was perfect. Not too cold. Beautifully soft snow and some ungroomed runs with some floaty powder. But by the afternoon the chill had set in, 11F with a real feel of -1F. That was it – when you get brain freeze from skiing (on the one little sliver of my face that was actually exposed to the elements) you know it’s time to call it a day. It helped that the ski lodge was serving hot cocktails – I had an apple pie (rum, butterscotch flavor and apple cider – and it tasted awesome).

On Saturday, J and I headed out for a long run. But where to go? The one thing I hate about winter running is the slippery sidewalks (I feel 3 times last year) so I wanted to run on some packed down snow. So we headed up to Park City and ran on East Canyon Road. Normally, it’s a low traffic dirt road and in winter it gets taken over by cross-country skiers. The conditions were pretty good. I only slid down one little hill (although I like to think I was surfing gracefully down) and no falls. But it was COLD. It took almost 2 miles for my fingers to warm up. I managed just under 9.5 miles. A couple of rolling hills. Not so great traction. But pretty views and it felt great.

And I finally made it back to the climbing gym. Now, that is a fun cross-training activity! Unfortunately, having not gone in months it was pretty messy – easy things felt hard and there was no elegant climbing flow – more like grunting and roughly launching myself from hold to hold. The climbing gym also has some treadmills that meant I could do a short run and get my weekly mileage up to 22. My last few weeks have been 15, 17, 20.5 and 22 so it seems as if this recovery thing is going pretty well.

Sometimes it’s hard to gauge progress. This is especially true for me when recovering from an injury. I want to be where I was in September. That is obviously not going to happen. So what I’ve been concentrating on is getting miles in and forgetting about pace. J (who qualified for Boston this year and who is super speedy) reminded me on our long run that the important thing is to build my miles and worry about speed later. This is after I asked him if he minded running with someone who is much slower than him. Speed doesn’t matter right now.

And looking at my mileage for the month – I’m pretty sure I’ll break 80 for December – which is amazing to me considering I’m coming back from injury, and compared to December 2013 where I ran 13 miles total for the whole month. These 80ish miles of running have come with a little under 7000 ft of elevation gain. So whatever about my speed right now – I am a much stronger runner than I was 12 months ago. 9.5 mile runs are no big deal. Trail runs (which I only started in April) are a regular part of my routine. My legs look and feel strong and lean. This is really exciting for my 2015. I’m starting from a much better place and I’m excited to see where I can go.

This was really clear to me after our ski day. The limiting factor for how many runs I get in on a day is my quads. After a while they start to burn (gravity can only do soΒ  much to get you down that mountain). This year I was able to ski for longer, and on more challenging terrain (hello powdery, non-groomed runs) and still have fresh legs. This is huge. My injury might have pushed back my running fitness, but my leg strength is still there. I think one of the key improvements I’ve made is to do a short leg strengthening routine 3-4 times a week. This originally came from exercises prescribed to me by my physiotherapist but I’ve kept it up. And to be honest I usually do it in front of the television before I go to bed. It’s pretty simple and it’s hard to feel as if it’s really doing anything, but I know that this time last year I couldn’t run 22 miles a week, I couldn’t ski all day without wrecking my quads and those trail runs would be a big deal. I guess sometimes progress happens so slow that you don’t notice how far you’ve come until you look back at where you started.

Strength routine:

Leg extensions with resistance band: Stand on one leg. Extend your leg directly behind you ten times. Then out at a 45 degree angle ten times. Then to the side by 10. And finally directly in front of you x 10. Switch legs. Repeat 3 times on each leg. You should feel this in your glutes.

Squat with resistance band: Start with knees over ankles. Move knees out to each side (not a big movement – just slightly out). Keep feet fully on ground. Repeat 30 times. Hold out for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. When my physiotherapist analyzed my running form she saw that my knees would fall inwards and occasionally rub off each other (I think this is common for women) and this exercise was designed to get my body used to keeping my knees away from each other.

Bridge: I will usually hold bridge pose for 3 x 1 minute.

Lateral leg raises: Lying on my side, one leg on top of the other. I will do a set of 90 of lifting my top foot up and down. Then 90 reps making a circle with your top foot – clockwise and then anti clockwise. Followed by 90 clamshells. Make sure you engage your glutes. It doesn’t matter how high you lift – just that you feel it when you move. Then I’ll repeat the whole set on the same leg before switching for two sets on the other side. This burns your legs – and works your glutes (min and max).

I also like to go reclining pigeon pose. And to do plenty of calf stretches. I usually will include a foot stretch where I’ll sit back on my heels.

And lately I’ve been adding single legs squats to my routine – just 3 x 5 on each leg to start.


Have you ever had progress sneak up on you?


25 thoughts on “Progress

  1. Ha, great minds think alike. Loving your strength workout and so glad to hear you are feeling stronger and running a bit more. I have never skied and am afraid I would be a total klutz. But it does look like an absolute blast. I am so with you about running with snow. I hate feeling like I am going to slip everywhere. I also find that it kills my calves the next day!

    • Ha! It must be a Sarah thing. I didn’t ski until I moved out here. And now I’m just OK – nothing like the little kids who are flying down the mountains. Also, both my Mom and my aunt have broken their legs in skiing accidents so I’m sure that those clumsy genes are going to come up sometime. Looking forward to seeing your strength workouts!

  2. Snow and elevation certainly take no prisoners. I always say anyone can be in good shape, but people in good shape at elevation are superheros! I definitely have some things that I need to work on, but largely it involves getting back to certain exercises that I got really lazy on. Lesson learned!

    • Sometimes I wish I had a flat lakeshore path to run around but then I see those mountains and quickly change my mind. For me I can’t ever slack off – in fact my doctor told me that I’ll probably have to do these exercises for ever. Which is kind of depressing…….

  3. It’s always nice to feel and see progress! I’m definitely feeling the opposite right now, but I’m just barely coming back, so I’m trying to be patient. Here’s hoping 2015 is a great year for both of us!

    • Thank you! I hope it’s useful to somebody out there. I think clamshells were the number one exercise for glutes (my medius is what was acting up way back in February this year). I’m hoping it’ll all pay off next year.

  4. FLRunnerBoy says:

    That strength workout Irish … pure genius!!! I think I might have to steal some of that routine for myself haha and you need to share some of that snow with this snow lover lol πŸ˜›

  5. i definitely experienced the progress sneak when i started doing more strength training/boot camps with a trainer 2+ years ago…not only did my body change, but my whole mentality about working out (ie, more than just running) changed, and it helped my running over time SO MUCH.

    • That is so awesome! Your gym pics look pretty hardcore. I think being patient (and consistent) enough to finally see some progress is the key. I remember seeing a lump on my leg and thinking “what the hell is that?”. It turned out to be my quad muscle making its first appearance ever!

  6. charissarunning says:

    You are making tremendous progress. I really like the way you’ve started to think of it as comparing it to where you were last year at this time instead of to where you were at the peak of training. That’s actually how I’ve been trying to think of it too. Even with recovering from my minor foot issue, I’m way ahead of where I was at the end of last year πŸ™‚

    And great leg work! I may have to add some of those into my routine (which I definitely don’t do often enough lol)

    • Definitely! Comparing myself to who I was a year or even two years ago is pretty mind-blowing. Those minor set-backs can really get you down (at least my first couple of running injuries were particularly depressing) so looking at the big picture helps me. And yes my leg muscles are so imbalanced that I need to work on them all the time.

  7. Kudos to you for running 80 miles this month in THAT weather! There is a climbing gym just 2 blocks away from my house, I really want to give it a try! Glad the healing process is still going strong for you!

    • Luckily winter decided to arrive exactly on Christmas Day! But it’s been so cold for the last week – I’ve had to hit the treadmill. I really enjoy indoor climbing – I think it’s like solving a puzzle with your body. It’s all technique and you forget you’re working out. I would totally recommend a intro class to see how you like it.

  8. Oooo pretty snow. I wish we had some of that.
    Congrats on the 80 miles and I like the sound of that strength routine. πŸ™‚
    I hope you had a marvelous New Year! You’ve inspired me to check out a new climbing place near my house. I’ve been wanting to add in a new cross train!

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