It has now been eight weeks since fitness was reintroduced into my world. I can still remember that first run and first time back on the bike, huffing and puffing and doubting my existence as an athlete. It’s crazy to see how well the human body remembers things, and how much progress I have already made. I admit I was a little disheartened after that first run eight weeks ago, and extremely afraid that I would not progress in my training the way I have. But with patience and hard work I’ve come a lot further than I thought possible. I know several of you (including my husband) are nodding your head thinking, “I told you so.”
A lot has changed now that I am scheduling workouts around the care of my son. I used to be one of those people who would start my day with a trip to the pool, time on the bike, or a run somewhere around Central Oregon. Time was never an issue. Now my mornings revolve around meeting Axel’s needs first, and then scheduling time for my mom or Justin to step in while I quickly steal an hour or two for myself. I have become A LOT more efficient when it comes to working out, and do most of my runs from the house and around the neighborhood to avoid the additional time it takes to drive anywhere. At least I have a little more flexibility on the weekends!
As mentioned in a previous post, I started working with my coach, Mike Larsen at Larsen Performance Coaching, again. I know it is very early in the season, okay technically it’s the off-season, but I wanted (needed) his help developing specific weekly workouts that would target my current level of fitness and help me progress gradually in a healthy way. I am now training again six days a week, focusing on running, cycling, core strength, and my PT exercises. I have plans to get back in the pool in January when I can focus on consistency and devote time on a weekly basis.
Running has been going really well, despite the cold temps, lots of snow, and generally wintry weather (even though today is officially the first day of winter) we’ve been having for the past four weeks. I actually quite enjoy running in the snow, and find that it challenges me in different ways including my balance and core strength.
Lately, it seems as though every time I go out for a run I surprise myself with a faster time, longer mileage, and less overall effort to meet my goals. I attribute this to a number of things:
- I am adding a little more mileage each week, but in small increments so I progress slowly and safely. My long runs, often done on the weekends, have been 5, 6, 6.5, 7, and 7.5 miles. Taking baby steps is working well for me.
- I put in a little extra effort during most of my runs, especially when I am running by myself. Whether it is inserting my best effort for one minute, allowing my route to take me up a large hill, or finishing with a sprint to the finish, I try to push myself out of the comfort zone without going overboard. Over time, these little individual efforts and accomplishments add up to make a big difference.
- I am running more with other people, and try to meet up with a friend or two at least once a week. I like to call this my running “happy hour” and “adult time” because I truly enjoy running with others.
- I am more forgiving of myself. If I am having an off day, have to slow my pace due to fatigue or a side stitch, or am braving the elements that slow me down (aka snow, ice, and wind), I don’t fret. More than anything, I am just glad to be out there doing what I love, whether it is at an 8min pace or 11min pace, it doesn’t matter.
Here are some fun stats as to where I am at right now with my running:
My longest run postpartum → 7.5 miles (I will be doing an 8 mile run this weekend)
My best average pace → 8:04min/mile for 4 miles
My fastest mile → 7:48min/mile (It’s crazy that I once ran a marathon at this pace)
Average miles per week → 15-20 miles
I am also riding on the trainer three times a week in an effort to build my cycling strength and endurance gradually. Last year for Christmas, Justin got me a SRAM Quarq power crank so I could start training with power. After it sat in a box throughout my pregnancy, we finally got it all set up on my bike a few weeks ago once I was ready to get more serious about training. This changes everything for the year to come, as I can train in very specific zones that coincide with my fitness levels as they improve gradually over time. It also doesn’t allow me to “cheat” during my workouts, and take it easy when I should be pushing greater watts. My coach sees the data from every workout, and the numbers don’t lie…cheating = busted! Lastly, this information will be invaluable to me on race days, as I have a tendency to go out too hard and being able to stay in my correct zones will help maximize my performance on the bike.
In order to start training with power, I met up with my coach a couple weeks ago and did a FTP (functional threshold power) test to gauge my current level of fitness. For those unfamiliar with a FTP test, it measures the maximum power a cyclist is able maintain for one hour. The test itself requires you to go all out for 20 minutes, with the goal of finishing the final minutes of the test stronger than you began. Personally, I believe this test is more challenging than a 5k run at race pace, but the two are fairly comparable.
I have a love hate relationship with the FTP test. I love the challenge of testing my limits, as well as those final minutes when I get to push through the pain and see what I am made of. But I hate the time between minutes 5 and 15, when the end seems out of sight. I joked with my coach that it was the hardest thing I have physically done since labor, and it felt really good to push myself again after taking so much time off!
It has been two weeks since Vela (my bike) and I were reunited on the trainer, and I am already enjoy training with power for several reasons:
- It keeps me from overtraining or undertraining. I tend to be an over-trainer, so it helps keep me in check, which is critical to avoiding fatigue or injury.
- Accountability. My coach gives me very structured workouts according to my power and zones. He can also see these workouts and check to make sure I have done them correctly. No cheating (not that I would).
- It makes time fly on the bike. Being on a trainer for 1+hours is not the most exciting thing in the world, even with Netflix. Training with power and doing intervals at least passes the time and keeps things fun/interesting.
- I get to measure my progress objectively. Being the data geek that I am, I like to see my progress laid out numerically.
More than anything, I have so much gratitude toward the people in my life who have been a part of my journey back to fitness, and who have helped and continue to help make all of this possible. I feel like I am in a really good place as I jump into 2016 and begin working toward a handful of BIG goals. A special thanks to:
My coach for his encouragement and belief in me… and for not going easy on me. It would be so easy for him to fill my schedule with simplistic workouts, but instead he knows the type of athlete I want to become and doesn’t hold me back. He challenges me and creates workouts that target long-term goals, not just short-term goals.
My mom for taking time out of her week to watch Axel so I can hop on the trainer or scramble out the door for a run.
My physical therapist, Ellie, for aiding in the healing of my body and teaching me a lot about postpartum recovery – both mental and physical.
My husband for always supporting my dreams and facilitating my growth as an athlete. He understands my passions and goals more than anyone, gives me reassurance, and helps me thrive. And feeds me.
All of my friends, and all of YOU, who support and encourage me, sympathize and empathize with me, share your own experiences, and motivate and inspire me on a daily basis.