Racing & Training

Trail Running, Cross Training for the Road

Y’all, I’m running my first 50k on Sunday!! I’ve had this trip to Big Bend planned in my head for the last 4 years but for one reason or another (mainly Boston) I couldn’t get the timing to work out. This year it is finally happening! This is only my second trail race (Brazos Bend was my first) but I’m not new to trail running.

I started trail running a year and a half ago after stumbling across a group who met at our local trails every Saturday morning.

It’s fun. We run through the woods, in the dark, by the light of headlamps, dodging spiders, snakes, armadillos, and other unknown creatures. It’s very Blair Witch Project. After we’re done we eat snacks and drink beer…all before 8 am.

While we run we joke with each other, and talk about both the serious and not-so-serious aspects of life. I had no idea that first morning I showed up that I would meet some of my best friends that day. Running friends are like that, trail friends even more so.

There’s something about watching someone dive head first into a bush, do ninja moves to avoid a spider or slide down an embankment that bonds you in a way that’s hard to duplicate. My trail friends have seen me at my best – and undoubtedly my worst.

Every now and then I miss my Saturday morning trail runs due to training for a race (last week I missed because of the flu) but other than that I’m there. Ready for the spiders, snakes, random tree roots and attack armadillos.

But why bother? I’m not a trail runner. As much as I like to deny it, road running is what I do. It’s what I’m good at. Why waste training time doing something I don’t focus on?

Variety is the spice of life, y’all. Trail running keeps me healthy.

Our trails run through the flood zone of a local creek. They’re rooty and though flat (we live in Houston where everything is flat) the local mountain bikers have designed them to run through every creek bed they could find. Most of the climbs/drops are less than 20 feet but they’re steep and FUN.

That first day I was shocked at how much more difficult trail running was. I was surprised at how tired I felt and how SORE I was the next day.

It’s running, it’s what I do! Why am I so sore?!

If you think about it, trail running is a completely different animal than road running.

On the road every foot fall is the same. You work the same muscles over and over and over. 800 times per mile your body catches itself in the exact same way. You have the same cadence, the same footstrike, the same movement pattern for hours and hours and hours.

But on the trails no footfall is the same. The trails challenge your balance, agility, and mental focus. Your cadence is faster, you’re constantly changing your footfalls as you avoid tree roots, rocks and logs. Your body uses stabilizing muscles it doesn’t utilize on the road, including the oft over looked muscles in your feet and ankles. The varying terrain forces you to slow down and the softer dirt lessens impact forces.

What does this mean for you?

Trail runners have fewer repetitive stress injuries than road runners (though acute injury rates like sprained ankles are higher). Fewer IT band problems. Fewer shin splints. Fewer cases of runner’s knee. If you can keep yourself from face planting, trail running will keep you healthy.

Do you want to be a stronger road runner? Run trails.
Do you want to be less injury prone? Run trails.
Do you want to run happier? Run trails.

Trail running is cross training for the road.

Since I began trail running I’m more coordinated, stronger, more nimble, more agile and my ankles have become larger. Like noticeably larger.

Even during marathon training I never stop running trails. I do all my long runs on asphalt and speedwork on the treadmill but easy/recovery runs are done on the trails where the softer surface, curving paths and tree roots force me to slow down, allow my body rebuild, and help me remember why I run.

You don’t have to be an exclusive trail runner to run trails. You can be like me with one foot on the pavement and one foot in the dirt. I do road races because I’m good at it but I run trails because I love it.

Ironman Texas Training – It begins…

Today marks the official start of Ironman Training. Not gonna lie, after BCS I have was having a bit of buyer’s remorse regarding Ironman Texas. A part of me wished I’d never registered so I could go run happily on the trails everyday and enjoy my race-less freedom.

But now that it’s time, I’m kinda excited about it. As odd as this sounds, I need a break.

Being that I’ve only ever completed one triathlon, it seems like a HUGE undertaking but everyone I know seems think I’m crazy I can do it. So it’s time to put on my big girl panties and get this party started.

Everyone says the hardest part about Ironman is making it through the training; training for three separate sports makes it a bit of a scheduling and time management challenge. So, I made it my goal last week to get everything together so I could start training in earnest this week.

Step #1 – Set up the trainer

I bought a used trainer from a friend several months ago and I have played with it in the back yard several times but haven’t done much with it since then. I’d originally planned on setting up the trainer outside but immediately figured out that wasn’t going to work. Riding needed to be convenient and inside the house is as convenient as it gets. I bought a cheap yoga mat from Target, got a TV tray from Wal-Mart, dragged a fan in from the garage, and hauled my bike up the stairs to our game room. Then I did a 10 minute test ride. Good to go.

Step #2: Set a schedule

I need three workouts per week in each of the three disciplines. That’s NINE workouts per week with one day completely off which equals two-a-days three days a week.

Day AM PM
Monday Swim Easy Run
Tuesday Interval Trainer Ride Interval/Tempo Run
Wednesday Interval Swim Strength/Stretching/Rest
Thursday Interval Trainer Ride  Swim
Friday Endurance Trainer Ride
Saturday Long Run
Sunday Rest Day

I made a weekly hourly schedule in Excel (yes, I’m a dork) and wrote in all my standing commitments. I added in my planned workout times for each of the three disciplines, then I blocked off time to get all the other stuff in my life done. (I am homeschooling Evelyn, so that made it on the schedule first, then I added in time to work, and time to get other stuff done.)

I sat down with my hubby and we worked through the schedule together. (For some reason, he seems to think this is a good idea, so I’m gonna go with it.) He looked it over, and he blocked off time for his stuff – he’s currently working from home, so making sure he has undisturbed time is paramount.

Step #3: Write a training plan

Once I knew what I was working with time-wise I sat down and wrote myself a training plan.

Yes, I wrote a training plan…because that’s what I do.

I’ve gone back and forth about hiring a coach. I’m indecisive like that. I’ve even contacted several coaches to get an idea of what training would be like but holy moly they’re expensive.

This sport ain’t cheap people.

I’ve already sunk $700 into IMTX registration, $1,000 on a bike, $50 on a trainer, $50 on a hydration system, $60 on a speed/cadence sensor, $400 on shorter distance triathlons (one of which I didn’t get to do because of Harvey), $100 on tri shorts/top, $200 on bike shoes/pedals…annnd I still haven’t bought a wetsuit, which I need desperately (another $200). That’s $2,800 and goodness knows how much more I’ll spend on stuff I don’t even know I need yet. I’d rather not throw another $600 on the fire by hiring a coach.

I think since my only goal is to finish before the cutoff, I can handle it myself. And honestly I’d rather spend the money on swimming lessons – I need those more than anything. I really don’t wanna drown in Lake Woodlands.

The same friend who sold me the trainer also sent me several Ironman training plans that he has used (he’s done 4 full IM without a coach). I looked at those, along with the free beginner plan from beginnertriahlete.com, the Ironman 101 plan from the Ironman website and made myself a Frankenstein’s monster of a plan.

If after a month I feel like I’m having accountability trouble or I don’t think the plan I wrote is working, I will hire a coach. That’s my agreement with myself. Hopefully, the motivation to save money will help me drag my lazy butt to the pool or upstairs to the trainer.

Step #4: Actually follow the plan

This morning after I got out of bed and drank a cup of coffee, I excitedly went upstairs to the trainer rig and spent 40 minutes torturing my poor quads then I went outside and ran for 10 minutes in a cold drizzle. Workout #1 of 159, DONE.

BCS Marathon Race Recap

I haven’t said anything about BCS. I know this. I needed some time to process the race before I talked about it. BCS was supposed to be my BQ for 2019. The weather looked good. I was well trained. All signs pointed to a great race.

Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t a great race.

My kids gave me a cold a couple of days prior and I’d been in frantic immune boosting mode ever since. Thankfully, the worst of it was a runny nose and a sinus headache, which was mostly gone by race day.

With the stuffy nose, I didn’t quite know what to expect but I didn’t feel bad, so I was hopeful. It was COLD that morning. 35 degrees. I was excited for the cold weather. Cold races are fast races, or so I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong, at least this time.

The lesson of the day is: 26.2 miles is a LONG way under the best circumstances, and a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LONG WAY under the worst.

BCS was the latter.

Miles 1-8 were great. I was staying close to the 3:20 pace group. My heart rate was slightly high but not significant, and not enough to be worried about. My legs felt GREAT. Loose. Light. Happy. The hills were noticeable but manageable. I got so excited. Today was finally my day!

Mile 1 – 7:43
Mile 2 – 7:46
Mile 3 – 7:33
Mile 4 – 8:03
Mile 5 – 8:02
Mile 6 – 8:19
Mile 7 – 7:57
Mile 8 – 8:01

The first sign of trouble came around mile 8, I started to notice some pain developing on the inside of both my ankles. Posterior Tibiliais Tendonitis. I know this pain and I get it occasionally after a tough speed session. I’ve never had it during a run though. It was still early in the race and definitely cause for concern. I kept pushing myself but was keenly aware of my ankles.

Mile 9 – 8:35
Mile 10 – 8:02

At mile 11, my pace slowed slightly and I began to struggle. The fronts of both of my ankles stretching from the middle of the top of my foot to about 2 inches above my ankle began to stiffen and BURN like the fire from 1,000 suns.

Mile 11 – 8:44
Mile 12 – 8:52

By mile 13, the reality that maybe this wasn’t my race began to sink in. My hip flexors on my right leg started to burn, the outside of both of my hips cramped. But I hadn’t lost hope. If only I could maintain that pace, I just might still BQ – barely.

Mile 13 – 9:06
Mile 14 – 8:55
Mile 15 – 8:42

But the further I ran the more things hurt. By mile 16, I was audibly groaning. My left calf was one giant knot, my hamstrings were frozen. My feet turned into concrete blocks. All I wanted to do was stop but I surrendered myself to a jog instead.

Mile 16 felt something like this…

I think he don’t know what a dead end is.

That’s when I wrote off the race. I spent the next three miles feeling sorry for myself. I questioned everything I did during training, everything I ate, every little run, every day of speed work. I questioned my ability to coach other people. It wasn’t pretty.

Mile 16 – 9:47
Mile 17 – 10:10
Mile 18 – 10:47

Sometime during mile 19, the outside of my left knee started burning. I knew that pain. IT band. My jog turned into a walk/jog.

Mile 19 – 12:33

But something good happened during mile 19, too. I realized that feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to help any, and I needed to do what I could to make the best of a crappy situation.

It was a beautiful morning and the race route was nice. I took some time to look around and enjoy the scenery. Then I saw these two guys dressed as bananas and decided a selfie was necessity.

I mean, who doesn’t want a selfie with these guys?!

Mile 20 – 12:08

Then I saw Santa.

Shortly after I took this picture, I was walking through the A&M campus and came across a guy who was also walking and looking just as defeated as I felt. We had actually been passing each other for several miles, and it was only a matter of time before we both started walking at the same time.

I rarely initiate conversation with strangers (dang intorvert that I am) but I asked him, “Are you gonna make it?”

His repsonse was, “I think so.”

We chatted for a few minutes and decided that we would do the rest of the race together. His name was Ben and he’s a student at Texas A&M. Over the next six miles, we talked about running and I learned a lot about him and his family. What else do you do on a Sunday morning stroll with a stranger, other than talk?

My legs turned into bricks during those last six miles. Running became excruciating.

We did A LOT of walking.

Finishing the race with Ben was probably one of the best things that could have come from the disaster that was BCS. I probably walked quite a bit more than I would have if I’d I been solo and I think that is a good thing.

Mile 21 – 11:06
Mile 22 – 11:48
Mile 23 – 12:52
Mile 24 – 14:09
Mile 25 – 11:08
Mile 26 – 14:02

I have never been more happy to finish a race than I was to finish BCS. Maybe The Woodlands Marathon in 2016, but even that race with all it’s IT band pain wasn’t as bad as this one.

Official Time: 4:22.25

As it turns out, the race that I was SURE was my PR and my third BQ, was my second slowest marathon time ever.

If there’s anything that can be learned from the past two months, it’s that everyone needs bad races to appreciate the good ones. Everyone needs to be reminded how truly wrong things can go to appreciate it when things go right.

Respect the distance. It can be a beast.

When I got home, I was greeted by gigantic hugs from my kids who had been told by my husband that I came home without a trophy and was a little sad.

Alvy immediately asked for my medal which he proudly wore around the house for the next hour and Evelyn produced a trophy that she’d made just for me. They were proud of me anyway.

They reminded me that though running seems like a selfish act most of the time, I don’t just run for myself. I run for them.

I run so that I can be a good example of health and wellness, and show them that exercise should be a priority. When I race, they see that you can work hard to accomplish big goals. When things go as planned, they see that hard work can really pay off; and when they don’t go as planned, they see that you can be proud of yourself even in defeat.

This might be the best trophy I’ve ever won.

Shiner Half & BCS Training Update

Training for Shiner & BCS is coming along nicely. If you remember, back in September, I wrote this awesome training plan for myself and though I’m using it as something of a guideline, it’s not getting followed, exactly. Or at all, really.

About two weeks after I wrote my training plan I left on a 16 mile run and came home 20 miles later. It had been a long week and I needed the alone time. It was more for therapy than training but after that I decided to up my long run volume this training cycle. My body is fully capable of handling the higher mileage and it seemed like a good chance to experiment. I’ve run 6, 20+ milers in the last 8 weeks. Including a 26.2 mile monster that featured 1,500 feet of climbing/decent at the Hockley Community Center. That was fun. Right?

The goal became making the dreaded 20 mile run “no big deal” and I can easily say that I was successful. Running 20 miles is no longer a big deal. BUT I’m tired. Very tired. More so than in past training cycles. I’ve learned some valuable lessons, most notably that I shouldn’t do more than two consecutive weeks of 20+ mile runs. Every three weeks I need a recovery week. Duly noted.

Speed work has been going pretty well. I skipped my last scheduled tempo run due to some emerging achiness in my knees and shins but a couple days of hot baths, targeted massage and cross training did the trick. Other than that the speed sessions have gone according to plan, with one exception…

…since I lost the Y to Harvey, I moved to a new gym. The temperature inside the new gym isn’t nearly as cold as the Y was, and sometimes it’s downright hot in there. As a result my heart rate has been higher and my tempo run paces have been slightly slower than normal by about 10 seconds per mile.

What was a 7:08/mile tempo run at a heart rate of 171 at the Y, is now a 7:19/mile tempo run at the same heart rate…which is slightly frustrating.

At first I thought it was me, as I hadn’t done any tempo runs since training for Boston and I took the summer almost entirely off from structured running. Instead I spent all summer playing with my friends and running a ton of trails.

When picking up speed work up after a layoff, you never really know how those first few speed sessions will go. They’re kinda like sticking your hand into one of those mystery feeling boxes. You never really know what is inside.

It feeeels like an eyeball…but maybe it’s a grape? 

It feels like a tempo run, kinda. From 2 years ago? It left me wondering, what happened?

Maybe my age is finally catching up with me? Maybe I’m paying the price for goofing off all summer? Maybe I’m just not as fast as I was back in April?

Thankfully there have been a couple of times when it’s gotten cooler outside and the temperature inside the gym has followed suit. I’ve had a few runs that resembled my old YMCA-pre-Harvey pace so I’m pretty sure it’s not me.

Which is good. I was getting paranoid.

Because the tempo runs have been slower, I’m slightly concerned that although my heart/lungs are in good enough shape to handle a seven minute mile, my legs may not be.

To supplement the tempo runs and work on my leg turnover I’ve been doing strides at the end of easy runs and have done a series of 2 mile intervals at 10k pace (6:45)  but if it worked remains to be seen.

I was hoping to find out on Saturday because it’s FINALLY time for Shiner! I’ve been looking forward to the Shiner Half Marathon since I finished Boston back in April. After the race I sat at the post-race party in Fenway Park, drank my special Samuel Adams 26.2 Celebration brew, and I switched the countdown timer on my watch. That seems like forever ago but it’s finally here!

Unfortunately, yesterday around 2:30 pm I was moving some firewood and dropped a piece right on my foot. It landed squarely on my big toe. I screamed and yelled a bunch of four letter words and cried a little BECAUSE IT HURT and watched my toenail turn purple – then the rest of my toe decided purple was an awesome color so it decided it wanted to be purple too. Moral of the story, don’t move firewood wearing flip flops.

I’m feeling pretty lucky that I didn’t break my toe.

I was planning on using Shiner as my last tempo run prior to BCS but right now I can barely walk, let alone race. I’m confident that I can complete Shiner on Saturday…it just may not be very fast because this HURTS. Like a lot. Badly enough that, last night, I briefly considered a trip to urgent care for something stronger than ibuprofen.

I’m disappointed. I wanted another stein. Hope isn’t lost entirely but I’m not exactly optimistic.

What is it with me and injuries right before a race? Last night when I was laying in bed with ice on my foot I realized it was the second time in six months that I had been elevating and icing an acute injury. Last time it was the mountain bike incident prior to Boston. At least this time I was doing something productive and not something incredibly stupid.

Next week is supposed to be peak week for BCS training. Peak week may or may not happen depending on how quickly my toe heals. According to the plan (that I wrote but haven’t been following), I’ve got a longer run scheduled for next Tuesday of 13 miles with 7 miles at marathon pace, one last 24 mile run on Saturday and if my body feels good I’ll do a marathon pace run on the following Sunday. Peak week mileage should be in the mid-70s. After that all I have left is a two week taper.

Regardless of what happens with my toe, I’m ready for the taper. I need the taper. I’m both physically and emotionally exhausted. Training for a race does that.

Yes, I can run fast but I don’t like it. The process of getting my body from summer-of-trail-running-fun shape to marathon race shape is uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful. Constantly pushing myself drains me emotionally. By the time I make it to peak week I’m ready to give up running altogether.

But then race day comes. Racing is awesome. It hurts but I’m rewarded emotionally and shortly thereafter I forget about the pain of training and start making plans to do it again. Because that’s what I do.

And because of marathon legs. Marathon legs are my favorite.

15,000 Steps

My watch has a pedometer on it. I like it. It’s not the reason I bought my watch but it was kind of a bonus.

Do I really need a pedometer? No. Running keeps me from being too lazy but it’s kinda fun seeing how many steps I take.

Like other fitness watches mine gives me a step goal to meet. But the goal isn’t static. It changes every day based on how many steps I took the day before. It goes up if I meet/surpass my goal, and down if I don’t.

When I first got my watch I turned the steps goal into a game. How high can I get it? Run, it goes up. Take a day off, it goes down.

Over time I noticed a pattern emerge. When I’m not training for a race the goal is usually around 13,000 steps. When training for a race, the goal creeps up and when it goes over 15,000 I’m almost always forced to take a day off. Either I get sick or I notice an emerging injury.

It happens every time.

It seems 15,000 steps is magic level of stress my body can handle effectively. And it can’t handle much more for long.

Case in point, a couple of weeks ago I came down with a MASSIVE cold.

At first it wasn’t bad. A slight cold usually doesn’t slow me down much and I did some easy runs without an issue. After a few days of coughing and sniffling, I started to get better. My symptoms were going away so I did a tempo run, as it was on my plan. The tempo run went fine. Great actually. No problem.

I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.

I relapsed and spent 3 days laying in bed. After the relapse I just happened to glance down at the steps goal on my watch. 15,981. Oh. And that was after laying in bed for two days.

My body makes me take a break. It doesn’t ask politely, “Joni, will you please take a day off?  You’re pushing me a little too hard.”

Today my steps goal is 15,059. It’s been over 15,000 for two days now. My rest day isn’t until Friday.

 

Yesterday I had some mild tightness in my shins and some pain below and to the outside of my left knee leftover from a very hard weekend. Heating pad. Stretch. Foam Roll. Massage the shins. Repeat. All day yesterday. They felt okay yesterday afternoon so I went on my normal Monday run.

During my run they didn’t hurt at all, not even a little, but afterward everything was worse. Today they feel better but not great.

My last and longest tempo run of the training cycle is scheduled for this afternoon, 10 miles at half marathon pace. If things in my body feel okay later this afternoon, I will go out and get it done. But most likely I’ll be skipping the tempo and doing something else. Maybe I’ll go for a walk…

It happens every time.

That silly steps goal is a reminder that as much as I’d like to think so, I’m not invincible. I’m a ordinary person, albeit a somewhat crazy one, with ordinary limits trying to push myself to do extraordinary things. Apparently my limit is 15,000 steps. What’s yours?

Mind Games & The 40 Percent Rule

We run with our legs, right? Well, technically, yes.

But there’s something else that isn’t talked about much and I argue is the single most important factor in running and racing and that’s training a strong mind.

How many times have you found yourself there? In that place where you have given up. You’re umpteen miles from home, your body is exhausted, your brain is telling you to quit.

You’re so miserable that you’d give anything to have the run finished, you’ve thought about calling someone to come get you but that would be admitting defeat. So you don’t. Instead you slog through what seems like the longest miles of your life. Grumpy, miserable, on the verge of tears. Suddenly, every little discomfort in your body becomes a tiny pebble, turned boulder, in your shoe.

Tired. Hungry. Thirsty. Sweaty. Legs trembling. Armpits chaffed. Make it stop already.

Those are the runs when you do the real training. The real work. It’s not on the easy runs, it’s the hard ones. The ones where you want to quit, but you don’t. That’s when you become an endurance athlete.

There’s science to the mind games. Your brain wants to maintain a state of homeostasis, the happy place where the body can maintain a stable internal environment despite changes in external conditions. In the case of endurance running, our brain wants us to actually finish what we started and not kill ourselves in the process, so it self regulates.

Because it’s awesome, our brains can monitor all of body’s systems to know exactly how far and how fast we can push ourselves while still maintaining that happy, comfortable state. All this is done without our knowledge. It says, “Joni, slow down. You can’t hold this pace for another 7 miles…”

…and it says it with side stitches. Muscle cramps. Fatigue. The list goes on.

Your brain is wanting everything to be a-okay, it’s protecting you. But there’s more in there. There’s more to give.

I recently read an article in Hustle about a millionaire, a navy SEAL and the 40% rule. It’s about how your brain will hold you back from your body’s true potential.

It says, “…when your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40 percent done.”

It’s mentioned again by Steve Magness in the book The Science of Running. I believe it. It’s the reason I can run mile 25, faster than mile 24. The reason I can only do 15 pushups when I’m working alone but can somehow manage 60 when my trainer is watching.

Your brain wants so badly for everything to be comfortable, it will do everything it can to keep you from being uncomfortable. Including telling you to quit. It’s a powerful thing, the mind.

Much like we train our legs and our hearts we have to train our mind, as well.

How do you train your mind? You force your body to recreate the pain of a race during training. We force ourselves into being uncomfortable under controlled conditions so that when we’re uncomfortable during the uncontrolled conditions of a race we know what we can safely push ourselves through.

It’s knowing the difference between challenge pain and warning pain, choosing to listen to the warning pain, and telling the challenge pain to go fly a kite.

We need to know exactly when we can tell our brains to shut up.

That’s the difference between running and racing. It’s also the difference between finishing and winning.

The only way to do that is to purposefully put ourselves in a place where our brains are telling us to quit…and then running 5 more miles. You never make progress while being comfortable, it’s not until we truly push ourselves out of our comfort zones, both mental and physical, that we find growth – this is true in life as it is running.

So, the next time you’re up late with a sick kid and all you want is sleep, do the long run anyway. The next time you’re tempted to cut that tempo run short, don’t. Unless you’re on the verge of injury, by quitting you’re robbing yourself of valuable training, not of your legs but of your mind.

And training your mind might be the most important part.

Not A Morning Runner

I have a confession. I am not a morning runner.

Every productivity and success article I’ve ever read says that to be successful you have to get your exercise done in the morning…to which I say, “Pshaw! Whatever.”

I’ve tried, trust me.

I am a morning person, most days I’m up by 5:30 and in a relatively good mood by 5:45 but for some reason that doesn’t translate to running. I would much rather have my quiet time in the morning on the couch with a cup of coffee than spend it sweating, panting and questioning why I choose to participate in this particular variety of torture.

I spend the hour leading up to most morning runs reminding myself that to be a runner I actually have to go running.

To which I respond, “Ugh. Really? Right now? Can’t it wait ’til later?”

Anytime I’m forced to run in the morning, the workouts are always hard. Just going for an “easy” run is a chore. Forget doing speedwork. Notgonnahappen.

In the evenings, however, it’s a different story. In the evenings my running clothes practically jump onto my body. I leave the house with a level of exuberance that can only be rivaled by a dog who finally escaped the confinement of her backyard – tail wagging, ears flopping, bounding down the street with her mouth open and tongue flapping in the breeze.

Yes, I just likened myself to a dog.

That’s how I feel during my evening runs. I’M FREE! Free from the stress of the day, free from the dirty dishes, free from the washed but not folded laundry, free from the never ending cries for Mom.

My evening runs are so ingrained in my body’s rhythm that on rest days or the days when I’m forced to exercise early due to scheduling conflicts I find myself unsettled, pacing and fidgeting almost uncontrollably from 4-6 PM. I can’t help myself.

I’ve tried to love the morning run but I can’t. I want to love it; it would be so convenient, so easy. I don’t love it, it doesn’t love me. At least we’re both in agreement.

For me, I get my best work done in the morning. If I need to concentrate on something like writing training plans, answering emails, blogging, or doing my volunteer job it needs to be done before lunch.

After lunch I have a hard time sitting still and focusing, so instead I do things like pick up the house, do schoolwork with my daughter, fold laundry, and prep dinner. By 4:00, I’m tired of being at home, and my the kids are tired of me so a trip to the gym is exactly what the doctor ordered. That’s my ideal workout time. My golden two hours of time to myself.

It wasn’t until I figured this out that I began exercising consistently.

Like anything else there are exceptions. I have no problem getting up early on Saturday mornings for a 5 AM trail date with my friends…mainly because they always end like this:

I mean, who doesn’t want an excuse to eat donuts and drink beer before 8 AM?

You too have your own body clock – your own perfect timing and unique schedule.

Maybe a 5 AM run wakes you up and energizes you, or you may be like me and find yourself getting fidgety around 4 PM. Maybe you need a mid-day break and your prime exercise time is lunch.

Once you find that golden hour (or two), don’t schedule anything else! Protect it. Reserve it especially as your exercise time. That is YOUR TIME to take care of YOU.

You’ll find that the more consistent you are with your timing, the easier exercising consistently will become. Your body will get used to the activity and crave it. Not only will your body adjust to the pattern, your family will as well and if you’re like me with little kids in tow getting everyone out of the house will be easier.

Everyone in my house knows what happens at 4 PM.

The kids don’t fight it, my husband doesn’t ask what time I’ll be home. It’s amazing. It’s freeing. It’s something I look forward to all day.

It is finally my time to be me. So I run, tongue flapping in the breeze…