Being Optimistic Before A Run

Why you should go into each run with an optimistic mindset

Ever have a run planned where you’re dreading getting out the door?

That you know is going to suck.

That your muscles will not be happy that you’re doing..

 

I thought my easy run yesterday was going to be rough.

The previous day (Tuesday) I put in 12 miles with some track intervals, and then at night played tennis for almost 2 hours. Oh, and it also hit 90 degrees and was humid. Needless to say, I was pretty beat up by the time I got to bed.

So I was not looking forward to my scheduled easy Wednesday run.

 

Finally Wednesday afternoon comes, time for the dreaded run.

I lace up the shoes and get out the door, and after a little while I start wondering where the pain I was expecting is. Where’s the stiffness? Where are the random aches all over my legs? Why are these hills so easy to climb?

I felt great. I felt fast. I finished my easy 8 miles with a quick one to close it out. As much as I wanted to keep pushing, I thought it best to still leave it as an easy day, there will be other runs to push hard, and that wasn’t the purpose of this run.

 

Maybe I just got a really good night of rest, maybe I hydrated perfectly, or maybe that late night mac and cheese dinner was just the antidote I needed to recover from the post-workout day aches.

I have no idea why I felt so good.

What I learned from this, and what I hope to remember in the future, is you never know when any given day can be your day to feel good and feel fast. I’ve definitely been guilty plenty of times of going into a run expecting the worst. Expecting my body to rebel.

But that defeated mindset is pointless.

Sure, you really might be sore, and the run really might be uncomfortable and painful. It’s totally possible your run will suck and you’ll have to tough it out to get through it.

Or

You could feel amazing and rejuvenated, and have the ultimate pick-me-up; a good run.

 

Only one way to find out.

 

Purpose Of A Run VS Plan Of A Run

Why being unable to run at the pace you planned to does not make that run a failure.

As we all know, weekends were invented to give runners time for our long runs. Some people prefer Saturdays, others prefer Sundays. I’ve used both and like them equally, but this week my long run was slated for Sunday.

So today I had a 20 mile run planned, and I wanted to have 2 sets of 4 miles at my projected marathon pace (MP) in that run, hopefully somewhere under 6:25/mi. I’m a proponent of some long and medium long runs having race pace miles worked into the mix. The purpose of this workout was to run long with a couple sections of fast miles, in order to exhaust me while also allowing me to complete that long distance.

I started out with 5 comfortable miles, then crushed the next 4 in about a 6:22 average as planned. It was tough, (and hot), but I spent the next 7 miles recovering, fueling (raisins YUM), and hydrating, and got started on my second set of 4 miles at MP. The first went alright, but the next two I just couldn’t get myself to keep the pace up, and about halfway through the final mile I gave up on trying to and settled into a slower pace for a bit, before pushing hard at the very end. I wanted to average around 6:22 again for these last 4 miles, but instead my mile splits at the end were 6:18, 6:48, 6:42, and 6:56.

So I failed… I couldn’t complete the workout as planned.

Just as I was starting to feel down on myself, sitting on a bench trying to catch my breath, exhausted, I thought about the purpose of this workout. The purpose was to go on a long run, with a couple of sections pushing the pace hard. I had a plan for what that pace should be, but in the grand scheme of things the purpose wasn’t to run those exact splits. I ran a long run, and there were two sections where I pushed the pace and was left exhausted, and that was the real goal of this workout.

There’s no way to know for sure what your body will be capable of on any given day. You can plan to run X miles at Y pace, but behind the scenes your body may have other plans.

Every workout should have a purpose, and you should do all you can to run with that purpose in mind. You can and should have a plan for your workout as well, but when things don’t go to plan, it’s not the end of the world. Your run wasn’t a failure just because you couldn’t do what you planned to do. You still went out there and ran, and that in and of itself is something you should be proud of. And if you ran with purpose, your run was a success.

Apple Watch Series 1 With Strava: A Runner’s Review

Review of the Apple Watch Series 1 with Strava

The Apple Watch Series 1 is Apple’s second attempt in the smartwatch category. This review will be focusing on its capabilities as a run tracking watch when paired with Strava (as of Strava’s August 7th update, version 16.0.0). After owning this device for about a year now, I think I’m ready to give a thorough review of it in this regard.

As a quick disclaimer, this was my first activity tracker besides my phone, so I can’t compare it to other, more dedicated running watches like the ones Garmin and Tom Tom make. I do however understand that the Apple Watch has its limitations when compared to higher end fitness focused watches and trackers. That seems like a good place to start, let’s talk limitations.

The most obvious limitation of the Series 1 is its lack of built-in GPS. This means that you need to have it tethered to your iPhone to track your runs if you want it to track your distance and where you go. That right there can be a major deal breaker for some. Personally I like to keep my phone with me at all times so it hasn’t been an issue, but I can imagine the benefits and freedom of being able to go out for a run with nothing but a watch. The Apple Watch Series 2 added GPS, so if you’re interested in being able to use GPS without your phone then that device would be better suited for you.

The next major limitation when using this device as a run tracker is its battery life. Usually I can comfortably make it through a day without needing to charge, unless I went on a particularly long run that day. I estimate that if starting with a full charge, you’d be able to get about 6 hours of running in before it dies. Fortunately I haven’t gone on a run of that length. Combined with the battery drain from normal daily use though, if I go on a 2 or so hour run I might need to juice it up for a few minutes at some point during the day to ensure it can last me to the end of the day.

The Strava Apple Watch app has its own limitations. First of all, you can either start a run from the watch, or from your iPhone. If you start it from your phone you can’t track the progress on your watch, and the same goes for if you start it on your watch. They basically act completely independently from each other, except for the fact that you need your phone with you regardless of how you want to interact with Strava for GPS purposes. I always start my runs from the Watch app, but that comes with some drawbacks. My biggest complaint is the lack of audio feedback. That’s a feature you can only get if tracking the run from your phone instead of from the watch. Want a voice telling you how fast that last mile was? Too bad, for some reason that’s not possible. I’ve also had issues with non-voice split notifications. You can get notifications on your wrist after each mile, but half the time they never come through.

Apple Watch on Wrist Strava App
Strava interface on the Apple Watch

Another drawback of the Strava Apple Watch app is the touch interface. While this isn’t the fault of Strava, it is very difficult to interact with the app with sweaty fingers. Likewise, in rainy weather it’s virtually impossible to interact with the watch; better get used to bringing a rag with you (and have a way to keep it dry) if you want to run in the rain.

Wow, this post unintentionally turned into an airing of grievances. Based on what I’ve said so far you may think the Apple Watch isn’t useful at all as a run tracker. It does have a couple of redeeming qualities though (again, I’m specifically focusing on running related features).

The screen is beautiful, bright, and easy to read. Seeing the data it displays is a breeze, I have no problem glancing at my wrist to check my split pace or average pace (you can choose which it displays), total elapsed time, total distance, and current heart rate. And speaking of heart rate, the sensor has proven to be accurate, with only occasional glitches and misreadings.

The Apple Watch paired with the sport band is also very comfortable. I have nothing to compare it to, but I’ve had no discomfort and it’s very easy to put on and take off. Being able to rinse it off to clean it when it gets salty from sweat is handy as well.

Ultimately the Apple Watch Series 1 is useful as a run tracker, but most of its upside comes from its abilities as a smartwatch. I purposely didn’t talk about that side of it since this post is focused on running, but I may make a separate review of the watch if there’s any interest in that. So while there are a few aspects of the watch that make it good for running, there are more downsides. If you are looking for a device to be a dedicated run / fitness tracker and don’t really care about smartwatch features, you’re probably better off passing on the Apple Watch for now until they make some improvements in later iterations.

 

OFFICIAL ARBITRARY RATING:

6/10

(this rating was made of the Apple Watch as a running watch and not as a device as a whole)

Nathan SpeedMax Plus Handheld Flask Review

Review of the Nathan SpeedMax Plus Handheld Flask

I recently purchased the Nathan SpeedMax Plus Handheld Flask (after searching the internet to see what handheld ultra running stud Jim Walmsley uses like a total fanboy). I needed a way to carry a significant amount of water without adding significant heft like a vest or backpack would, and this handheld system sounded like it would be up to the task.

22oz of water is proving to be an ideal amount for my 10-20 mile runs. Nathan makes a smaller but similar model, the SpeedDraw Plus Flask, but that has 4oz less capacity. The SpeedMax is the highest capacity handheld they make, which makes it their best option as an alternative to bigger, heftier hydration solutions. For shorter distances I like to go hands free with the Running Buddy H20 Magnetic Water Bottle Pouch (which I reviewed here), but for anything more than 10 or so miles, the Nathan SpeedMax has been doing the job.

Let’s go over some of the pros and cons of the SpeedMax Plus.

PROS:

  • 22oz capacity, enough for medium to long runs (depending on the individual).
  • The mouth of the bottle is large enough to easily add ice.
  • The shape of the bottle conforms to the hand comfortably.
  • It’s easy to put on and take off, with a small strap you can tighten for extra snugness and security.
  • It has a slot for your thumb for a comfortable, natural grip.
  • The design of the nozzle is clever. You can have it closed (pushed in) to prevent water from escaping, but even if you have it open it does a pretty good job of keeping water in due to its special “push-pull blast valve cap”.

CONS:

  • Main pocket with zipper is just barely big enough to fit an iPhone 7 without a case. I have to take my case off before runs, a minor inconvenience but an inconvenience nonetheless. Would have loved for that pocket to be just a tad bigger.
  • The small tightening strap seems pretty flimsy. It’s held up so far but I can see it easily snapping in the future.
  • COLD HANDS. This is probably an issue for all non-insulated handhelds, but when I pack this thing with ice and water and head out for a run, my hand freezes and basically goes numb until it gets used to the cold surface of the bottle.
  • Slippery when wet. On extra hot, steamy days, sweaty palms makes squeezing the bottle a bit of a problem.

NEUTRAL:

  • There is one main zipper pocket, but another smaller kangaroo-like pouch which is just big enough to fit a car key, but not really substantial enough for much fuel. A GU might fit in it, but nothing bigger than that.
  • While I do like the fancy nozzle / valve, it makes getting a heavy flow of water more difficult than normal. As long as you drink with your mouth on the bottle and suck the water out it’s not much of an issue, but trying to squirt water into your mouth or onto yourself isn’t as easy as other water bottles.

So there you have it, a solid option for a handheld especially for someone who wants a lot of water but doesn’t want to wear something on their back, chest, or waist.

OFFICIAL ARBITRARY RATING:

8.5/10

How To Prevent Side Stitches While Running

2 step method for preventing a side stitch during a run.

Here’s a tip I discovered somewhat accidentally when trying to cure a recurring case of side stitches (or stomach cramps, side cramps, whatever you want to call them). It’s a two step process:

Step 1- On a normal run when you don’t get them, take note of your breathing pattern. Track how many steps you inhale vs how many steps you exhale. A common pattern is 2×2, meaning you inhale for 2 steps, and exhale for 2 steps. My pattern is 3×1. I found that I’m most comfortable inhaling for 3 steps, and exhaling hard for one. Your rate can change depending on your speed, but find out what your comfortable breathing pattern is and stick to it!

Step 2- If you feel a stitch coming on, adjust your breathing pattern to do the majority of your exhaling on your foot on the opposite side of the stitch. Not sure why this works, but it does. You might feel constantly on the brink of getting one, but sticking to your comfortable breathing pattern and exhaling on the correct step should stop it from becoming a full on stitch.

That should hopefully be enough to help you fend off a side stitch, but if you can’t seem to get rid of it you may need to take an extended break from the run you’re on, or even cut it short. Running through that pain is a grueling experience and stumbling along in agony is not going to make you a better runner.

I have a theory that getting a bad case of side stitches one day leaves you more susceptible to getting them again the next day, which is all the more reason why if you feel it coming on, stopping and choosing to live to run another day might be wise.

So there you have it, my two steps to preventing side stitches. If you have any tips drop me a comment and I’ll test them out next time the need arises (which hopefully won’t be for a long, long time).