After my not-so-awesome half marathon performance in NYC in March, I was rattled. I even blogged about passing on a fall marathon because of my finishing time of 2:14:09. When I was planning my spring races, I thought it was feasible to run sub 2 in NYC and potentially shoot for a PR, six weeks later in Brookings.
Instead of panicking (other than that blog post, of course) I reassessed my training. I had zero speed work. I had no fast finish long runs, or long runs with pickups in them. Both things I could add that would make my legs speedier and drop some time off my half marathon.
But I was TERRIFIED of speedwork. Anytime I do speedwork I break. And I didn't want to break.
It was around this time that I was reading yet another running book, and there was a whole chapter on running form. Oh yes, let me read on. One of the pictures in the book was identical to my running form, and of course it was a big no-no. Grr. But in reading on, it explained that someone with that form likely has weak glutes causing the hips to collapse, pulling the legs all wonky on their follow through, LEADING TO IT BAND ISSUES, HIP PAIN, AND KNEE ISSUES. Oh yes yes yes, tell me more!
I started searching for glute strengthening exercises. I bookmarked this one from runners world (click here to go straight to the video) on my iPhone. I also bookmarked this hip stretching exercise and had been doing the leg swings before all of my long runs, and it was helping considerably. I also found a "never get injured" set of exercises from runners world that also got bookmarked on my phone. (I also forwarded most of these to every injury prone runner I know, we're in this together, yo!)
The glute exercises were so hard. They still are, but they've gotten easier. My booty was BURNING when I finished them the first time. The guide says to do them 2-3 times, reps of 15 a time, twice a week. I usually end up doing them on my rest days, so 3x a week. I continue to do the hip exercises, particularly the leg swings, and hurdler exercises before long runs and speed sessions.
Before the St. Patty's 5k, I made Jenn hang out with me as I did dynamic stretches that we did in track practice: high skips, low skips, high knees, butt flicks, kick outs, carioka (lolz, up until five seconds ago, I thought this was karaoke, bahahha). She felt dumb, but my legs felt great. Every time we hit the track, we run our warm up mile and then do that same run through before we hit our hard miles. And it's seeming to work! I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me to do these sooner. I did them every day before a run for 6 track seasons. Derp. (these explained here, mostly)
Better late than never, right?
So in six weeks time, I feel like the strongest runner I've been in a really long time. Taking 12 minutes off my half marathon time in six short weeks is the sort of progress that used to come when I was a newbie runner. But I'm confident that if I can keep injuries at bay, continue to do these strengthening exercises, I can get back to speedy Jeri very very soon!