It’s hard for high-strung ultrarunners to let go and rest (See, I’m not the only one). I’ve been anxious about running and not running, and waiting to rest and recover and find out about the Team USA selection. There’s too much time for negative self-talk to creep in, about what I could have done better and how I should have trained smarter. I’m tired of my own excuses and want to get started on something fierce. But not yet. First, I have a few more new things to try.
The cycling class taught by Sue Hitzmann at the JCC was definitely more my style than the SoulCycle class I took last week. For one thing, the bikes had computers! And for another, I was able to get my feet in and out of the clips easily.
But seriously, the computer display was a big thing for me, and the class was structured around RPMs and power output, which made it easier to figure out what I was doing. There were no weird oblique crunches or weights to lift until my forearms wanted to fall off, just straight up riding with intervals of hills and speed. It was 45-minutes, just right, and afterwards I went for Sue’s MELT Strength class to cool down.
Revolution in Motion
My personal training session at RevInMo got me to do some of the weirdest and most uncomfortable moves ever. But I mean that in a good way.
Now, I am not the private gym/personal trainer type at all, because it’s expensive, yo. But once again, my running team got me into this. After reading about my teammate Kelsey’s experience at RevInMo, which she credited with getting her out of orthotics and into speedier and stronger running, I thought I should find out more. Over the past year, I’ve gotten away with an awful lot of running on a bad hip, but the nagging aches are a real downer in my training, and I feel it’s only a matter of time before it leads to potentially more serious injury. Chiro, massage and acupuncture have kept me going so far, but I really need to stop being lazy and get this sorted out from the inside.
I chatted with Kelsey, who also works at RevInMo, and she suggested that I meet with a trainer before enrolling in any classes, and offered a discount for the first session. Okay, I’m in! I showed up at their sparkling clean new studio in running shoes and with a pair of shorts in my bag in case there would be any running involved, but there wasn’t. Instead, my friendly trainer Alex assessed my walking and left-right coordination with a series of fast finger exercises. Then it was on to the fun stuff.
I have zero coordination. I’ve never played any kind of sport and suck at anything that involves more than repeating a single movement over and over again (like running, walking, swimming or riding a stationary bike). If I have to vary that movement a bit, like in trail running or riding an actual bike outside, then I will suck some more.
RevInMo is laid bare all of my weaknesses in this area while making them feel surmountable. It could have been like the junior high gym classes where we played volleyball and I’d get conked in the head, except instead of wanting to cry, I could feel myself getting just a tiny bit stronger with each exercise.
RevInMo uses some very specific exercises to strengthen the mind-body connection and the neurological pathways that keep us moving efficiently. While hard for me to describe in words, the exercises all incorporated aspects of balance, stability, coordination and stretching, using equipment such as the stability ball, Bosu ball, twisty plate boards, slanted board, small medicine balls and kettlebells—sometimes two pieces were used in one exercise. There were times when it felt like torture (hello, kettlebell strapped to my foot as I lean way back in a bridge over the stability ball), there were times when I wondered, “who comes up with this crazy sh*t?!,” and there were times when I went from falling on my face to finally grasping a move and thinking there may be some hope for me after all. Despite my lack of coordination, I managed to catch most of the medicine balls that Alex tossed my way while I was doing other things like twisting on plates or balancing on the Bosu. RevInMo felt really really hard yet empowering, and I’m looking forward to taking some of the classes to further strengthen my weak spots.
Mile High Run Club
After pacing the NYC Marathon last month, I stopped by the Lululemon recovery party in Bryant Park, where I got stretched by Debora Warner, the founder of Mile High, who gave me a card with a code for a free class trial. In addition, Mile High offered a free first class to the members of my running team, so quite a few people I know have been already and gave good reviews. They also hosted a charity day last month featuring classes with Scott Jurek last month, which was popular with the NYC ultra crowd.
Now I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the treadmill, because –like track practice or cross-country for some– it’s really where I got my start as a runner. Maybe the pollution in New York City was much worse when I was in my late teens, but I distinctly remember trying to run outside and barely making a mile before my lungs burned up and face turned red. So I took it inside, where I still couldn’t really run and mostly walked at a fast pace on treadmills. A dozen or so years later, when I decided to start running for real and signed up for my first race, the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Half Marathon, I began my training on a treadmill, and running outside was what was novel and full of surprises, like the lack of a steady water supply and a towel to wipe the sweat with! Since then, the treadmill has kept me going whenever I couldn’t run outside: during the incredibly hot and humid summers of Hong Kong, during the Polar Vortex of 2014, and all the time when I lived in ultra-polluted Beijing.
So naturally I was keen to check out Mile High, but I had a dilemma: I wanted to get the most out of the class and haven’t been up for any type of hard training over the last 6+ weeks. The combined efforts of pacing NYCM, running my first 24-hour race a week later, and running the Quad Dipsea and North Face 50-Miler on consecutive weekends at the end of a long year of racing, plus a few sniffles along the way, have left time for a handful of easy recovery runs in between.
Finally this week, after running only 5 easy miles on Monday, I felt ready to push a little for an hour: to remember what training feels like, to see where I’m at, and to get some motivation for the coming year. Post-California, I’ve designated the month up until January 5 as my “off-season,” with no real races or even any running unless I absolutely feel like it Still, there are times when I really miss being on a plan, and not running has left me with too much energy to fret over whether or not I will make the US team for the World 24-Hour Championships.
So on Thursday I finally made my way downtown to try a class, wound up delayed by the subways and getting a bit of an unplanned warm-up to as I ran to make it to the class on time. I got in and there was no fuss to the set up—peel off my layers, stash my stuff in a locker, and hop on my reserved treadmill, push start.
The studio houses 30 Woodway 4Front treadmills, which are like normal treadmills but with an improved running surface of rubberized slats instead of a flat belt. I had actually been somewhat stressed about the treadmills because I’d heard they were Woodways and that company was best known to me as the maker of those curved-belt, non-motorized, eco-friendly and entirely self-propelled machines that make running really hard. I don’t think I’ve every lasted more than 10 minutes on one of those. Phew.
Mile High currently offers two types of classes: Dash 28, an all-levels class that combines 28 minutes of running with some strength training, and The Distance, an hour-long running-only class for more advanced runners. I’m an ultrarunner, so guess which one I picked?
We started with a five minute warm-up, and then moved on to some meaty interval work: two to three minutes of effort with two to three minute recovery in between. We did a few hills early in the class but mostly focused on speed as we worked our way up the various levels through an ever changing light show on the walls. Each treadmill had a handy laminated card on it, outlining the recommended speeds for each level (i.e. “Level 1: 5.5-7.5” and so on). I started at the lower end of each level, feeling a bit like a blob after not really running for a while, and ended up topping out at “10”-speed for our final one-minute all-out interval, feeling like a lean mean running machine again! With mirrors on the studio walls, I could literally see my body perception changing over the course of the hour, from flabby to fit, it’s all in the mind.
During class, the instructor, Luke, said a lot of the kinds of things I tell myself when I’m on a treadmill, including plenty of countdowns, which was reassuring to hear out loud, and the music was the kind of sporty Top 40 hits that make up some of my running playlists, so even when I was pushing hard, dripping sweat, it felt oddly comfortable and made me nostalgic for the old training habits. Exactly what I needed!
Now, I want to go and spend all weekend running and playing with friends, but I have to stick to my guns and my promise to take it easy. I will go out, for fun, but I need to keep it comfortable and not wear myself out for no good reason.
Week in Review (M-F)
Monday: Easy 5-mile run
Tuesday: 5-mile walk, acupuncture
Wednesday: 45-minute spin class, 1-hour MELT Strength class, 1-hour Revolution in Motion training session, 3-mile walk
Thursday: 1-hour Distance class at Mile High Run Club, 2-mile walk
Friday: Rest and stretch