Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Running Pyramid: Runners Who Want to Improve

Crossing the the threshold from a "Wannabe Runner" to a "Runner Who Wants to Improve" is a small, often undetectable shift in one's running. Many people start running for reasons other than becoming a better runner. Often, they simply want to get in better shape, lose weight, or have an excuse to buy skin-tight three-quarter length running tights to show off their legs on a treadmill.

Wannabe Runners will improve unless they do everything in their power to not improve, like running as fast as they can on every run, subsisting on a diet of chocolate milk and protein bars, or running the same distance at the same pace every time they run. While going from running a little bit to running a little bit more will lead to improvement whether they're trying or not, it doesn't make a "Wannabe Runner" a "Runner Who Wants to Improve."

This natural improvement, however, can lead to a "Wannabe Runner" becoming a "Runner Who Wants to Improve." Sometimes it starts on accident. Our hypothetical runner is scrolling mindlessly down Facebook and comes across someone's link to a Runner's World article about how you can "Run Your Fastest 5k on Fewer Miles." She clicks the link and before she realizes what's happened she's got a 13 month subscription to Runner's World with a free running log and a copy of "Run Less, Run Faster."

When her log comes in the mail along with her copy of "Run Less, Run Faster," the madness begins. She starts doing speedwork, tempo runs, long runs, and writing her workouts in her training log. She signs up for a 5k, and after breaking thirty minutes, sets her sights on another 5k to break 25 minutes. She casually mentions to a coworker that she's trying to break 25 minutes in the 5k by running three days a week and doing two cross training sessions.

Her coworker, who runs marathons, tells her that he's tried the "Run Less, Run Faster" program, and that if she really wants to improve, she should try the "Daniels' Running Formula." The next day he brings her his dog-eared copy and when she gets home she throws her "Run Less, Run Faster" copy in the trash (it was free for goodness sake), and starts using the tables to calculate her optimal training paces.

She then realizes that unless she's running on the treadmill, she doesn't know what pace she's running, so she goes out and buys a Garmin 110--the one with the cool pink stripe.

But then tragedy strikes. Her knee starts hurting. After self-diagnosing IT-band syndrome, she buys a foam roller and starts doing core exercises. It's not helping, however, and pretty soon she's thinking that running isn't for her. Her knee hurts too much to run, and she has to eat the cost of her 5k registration.

After a month of trying to rehabilitate her knee, she sees a physical therapist. She does all the exercises, but she can't run without pain, and decides that maybe she's not meant to be a runner.

She piles her running tights, tops, shorts, sweatbands, Garmin, her copies of "Runner's World," and her training log in the backyard. In the heat of her anger, she throws her coworker's copy of "Daniels' Running Formula" on top of the pile, soaks it with gasoline, stands back and tosses a match from what she thinks is a safe distance.

She was too close, however, and loses her eyebrows, arm hair, and singes her bangs. She takes it as further proof that the Running gods are angry with her, and goes from being a "Runner Who Wants to Improve," to not being a runner at all.

So, be careful with your quest to improve as a runner, as it can lead you down the path to injury and lost body hair.

Happy Running!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Running Pyramid: Wannabe Runners

Pyramids are popular. Image Credit.
After spending a solid 14 seconds debating whether or not the title of the bottom tier of the pyramid sounded too negative, I decided to just run with it. I don't think there's anything wrong with being a wannabe runner. I don't think there's anything wrong with being a wannabe anything. I'm a wannabe writer and will probably continue to think of myself as a wannabe writer until I have something significant published. Wannabe runners often consider themselves to be wannabe runners until they, "run a race," or, "run without stopping," or, "take the running shoes they bought out of the box."

My pyramid's much uglier than Stephan Pastis's pyramid.

OK, so if you bought a pair of running shoes on a champagne-hangover-charged New Year's resolution shopping binge, you might be a wannabe runner, but most "wannabe" runners are not actually wannabes. They're usually in the invisible section of the running pyramid between "Wannabe Runners" and "Runners Who Want to Improve."

A lot of people I've met will say something like, "I'm not really a runner--I just run three miles a few times a week."

"Really?" I reply. "I think by definition that would make you a runner. You run, don't you?"

Then I start hearing the yeah buts.

"Yeah but:

"I can't run more than a few minutes before I have to walk."

"I've never run a race before--I just run for fun."

"I only run 5ks, so I'm not really a runner."

I think that if you get out the door a few times a week or climb on a treadmill and run, then you're a runner. Even people who consider themselves "Wannabe Runners," are actually "Runners Who Want to Improve." Although they say things like, "I'm not really a runner," often I find out they're training for their first 5k, or trying to work themselves up to running a mile without stopping.

Unfortunately, as is the human condition, they compare themselves to people who run everyday, or run marathons, or have a full array of cute running attire while they're left with just "running for fun," or, "only running 5ks," or, "having to run in basketball shorts."

I think if you just run for fun, you're most definitely a runner--even if you call your running the awful "j" word. And, if you're satisfied with your running, there's no need to push yourself to the next tier of the pyramid.

"What?" you may ask. "How can you write this blasphemy? Every runner should want to improve." Here's the problem with that attitude: "Runners Who Want to Improve" sometimes fall off the pyramid altogether. But I'll talk about those guys next time.

Happy Running!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Levels of Running

I love meeting passionate people--people who have a purpose, who are driven. Sure, sometimes they can get a little annoying, especially if they're passionate about fruit salad design or the stock market. People who are passionate about helping other people, however, seem more rare and are generally fascinating to listen to.

In a series of blog posts, I'll explore the tiers of the running passion pyramid--don't get too excited, it doesn't end in anything romantic. In this post, I'll briefly describe each tier today. I'm so excited about the running passion pyramid, I spent an inordinate amount of time on Microsoft Word making a graphic.

Next time: pie chart

At the bottom of the pyramid are people who want to be runners, and have taken some steps toward becoming runners. On the next tier are people who want to improve, followed by those who are passionate to improve. Finally, at the top of the pyramid, are people who are passionate to help others improve as runners.

Like any model, there are obviously limitations and imperfections to its descriptive capability. Everyone is different, and not everyone who becomes passionate about helping others to improve as runners climbs the pyramid in this manner. Also, this is not a value chart--the people at the top of the pyramid are not "better" than the people at the bottom. There are, however, a lot fewer of them.

If you can identify with this model, feel free to leave a comment. I've already got some people in mind for some of the tiers and might ask them some questions before writing the post about their tiers.

Coming soon:
People who want to be runners.

Happy Running!

Friday, January 4, 2013

2013: It's Goal Time

I love social media. Reading people's comments about how they hate it that people use January 1 to make resolutions, when they could do it any other day, makes me smile. I got news for the New Year's Resolution Haters: some people like to make resolutions on January 1. There's something nice about a new year. It feels like a fresh start, a do-over, a time to kick bad habits and start good ones.

Does it annoy me that it's harder to find a treadmill at the YMCA this time of year? Sure. Is it unfortunate that many people's resolutions don't last? Of course. Anyone who wants to make some positive changes and finds the replacing of the wall calendar a good time to make changes, great! New Year's Resolutions haters gonna hate, I'm gonna set some goals.

Last year I did 12 goals for 2012, making it much easier to write my year-in-review post. This year I'm just going to go with an arbitrary number. Also, this year I'd like to go out on a limb and ask people to comment with one or more of their goals. I've never asked for comments on this blog before, mainly because I wasn't sure my ego could withstand how few comments there would be. Now, however, I'm OK if only a few people read this blog--I mainly write it to clear things out of my head, and I appreciate anyone who does take the time to read it.

Goal 1:
Rehab the heck out of my left leg. Yesterday I got to run for the first time in two months. I saw the doctor and the physical therapist and they gave me the go ahead, but it's going to be slow. I'm starting with 30 minutes at 9 minutes walk, 1 minute run, three times. I'm also doing lots of glute and core strength, which brings me to:

Goal 2:
Do at least 3 sessions of core and balance work a week until April, then maintain at 2 sessions a week. I'll be doing the laundry on my abs by May.

Goal 3:
PR in the 5k. This one might be tough, depending how the rehab goes, but it should be doable by the fall if I can't get it done in the spring.

Goal 4:
PR in the 10 mile. This one'll be tougher, but why not?

Goal 5:
Break 1 hour in the Rochesterfest Sprint Triathlon. I didn't drown last year, so why not PR by 4+ minutes this year?

Goal 6:
Successfully help several runners meet their goals. I like writing training plans, reading about running, researching, and answering questions, so I hope some of these things can be helpful to others this year.

Goal 7:
Publish at least two more articles, and submit two to a major publication. Hang rejection letters on the wall.  

That should do it for 2013 goals. It's not as many as last year, but it should be enough. If you'd like to leave a comment with one of your goals, I'd appreciate it. It doesn't have to be a running or workout goal. Feel free to put your goal on the Facebook link if you came from there.

Happy Running!