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