Friday, March 13, 2015

Reading, Running and 'rithmetic

Centennial Trail last weekend 

My major accomplishment last week was finishing three books. Two were running books my friend Janet lent me. The other was a book recommended by another friend, who said it helped her deal with some difficult work colleagues. For very different reasons, all three were worth the read.

Effortless Exercise by Grant Molyneux starts from two premises - that most people only exercise consistently when they find it enjoyable, and that most runners (and other athletes) push themselves too far too fast, compromising both enjoyment and performance. His solution is to encourage "effortless exercise", which involves listening carefully to your body and increasing intensity as and when you body is ready to do so. Most of what Molyneux says makes intuitive sense and is consistent with the Chi Running techniques I've practiced in recent years. However, I found one suggestion particularly intriguing - that is, to breathe through your nose and let intensity build only to the point where you're forced to breathe through you mouth.

For my long run last weekend, I decided to give the technique a try. I'm not sure I was entirely persuaded. Of course, conditions weren't great. There were still heaps of snow and ice around (see photo above), which made running more challenging than usual and Husband and I had done 8k the day before so my legs weren't entirely fresh. Taking time to work my way into the run gradually felt okay, but my inner Type A wasn't happy with how slowly I had to run to avoid breathing through my mouth and the slow pace left my legs feeling wonky. 

To be fair, it may have been the footing as much as the nose breathing that slowed me down. The treacherous conditions were bound to make my legs feel tight and sore after 11k. Molyneux promises that exercise will feel effortless and my performance levels will improve if I follow his suggestions so I'm motivated to keep trying but I hope my next few runs feel a bit easier.

The other running book on the list, The Non-Runners Marathon Guide for Women, isn't really a running book at all, though it is pretty entertaining. I can imagine recommending it to someone like my sister, who's always been very fit but never trained to run distance. She'd enjoy it for its entertainment value but have the sense to seek better advice on prepping for a marathon. I wouldn't recommend it for a genuine newbie. It seemed to me the author, Dawn Dais, hadn't really listened to her coaches' advice. Her account of running her first (and presumably only) marathon is truly harrowing. I've run 7 marathons and a 50k race and none of them came close to the pain-fest Dais describes. Clearly, she was nowhere near ready to tackle a marathon. 

The third book added to the list this week, Emotional Vampires, is one I'd recommend to anyone seeking strategies for dealing with difficult people. Emotional vampires, Bernstein explains, come in many shapes and sizes (antisocial, histrionic, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, and paranoid) but, there are practical things you can do to protect yourself so they don't drain you dry. I was particularly intrigued with the chapters on obsessive-compulsive vampires since, for many years, I've suspected I fall into that category myself. Bernstein provided a checklist that confirmed my suspicions, together with a list of strategies for mitigating the worst of my OCD tendencies, which I hope will be helpful. The book also contains some great advice for dealing with bullies and narcissists, who are far too common unfortunately. 

I hasten to add that I've been reading fiction as well as non-fiction over the past few weeks. In fact, I've got three books on the go at the moment. I wonder if other people read the way I do - four or five books at a time. I sometimes find it frustrating because it takes so long to finish anything. On the other hand, I like having a variety of books to choose from depending on my mood. There's another snowstorm in the forecast for this weekend so, with luck, I'll finish one or two.

In light of the forecast, I'm only planning one run this weekend - a 13k long slow run tomorrow morning. Husband and I are still on track to run a half marathon in early May though we haven't registered for a race yet, and I'm still hoping to tackle a marathon in July. However, I have yet to work out a detailed training schedule, and my total weekly mileage has been nothing to brag about so it's time to break out my calendar and do a little arithmetic.

I'm really proud of Husband for taking on the challenge. He's nearly 63 and has had a number of serious health issues in recent years but he seems more determined than ever to "use it or lose it". The galling thing is how easily he runs. Though he hadn't hit the road in ages, he joined me for a 5k training session a month ago and barely broke a sweat, and he's already ready to tackle 9k this weekend. Impressive!

Time to sign off and hit the road. I've got another post half-written, which I'll try to finish over the weekend. Until then, happy running and writing, friends. 

1 comment:

  1. The breathe through your nose thing is a good test during your long slow runs. If you can't, you're going too fast. Or, if you're me, the frost on the 'stache has built up to dangerous levels. Did I ever tell you I took a running class from Grant a few years ago? Good for Husband! I'm not sure I'm up for 5 k, though I might try tomorrow.