Monday, June 3, 2013

5K Runner

My running history is not very glorious. For someone who appears fairly lean, I am not speedy, and have only recently even felt comfortable calling myself a 'runner'. (I figured a nasty blister and case of athlete's foot was the final gross qualification I needed...)

Almost 3 years ago, I decided that I would uphold the family honor (being married to a marathoner) by trying my first 5K. I trained for a while and nearly gave up, but after some encouragement managed to get 2 miles one day without walking. Momentous. It still took me 26 minutes, but I thought it was reason for hope, so I kept at it and ran that sucker in September 2010. My time was around 35 minutes, which was far faster than I had gone during training -- the public shame of being dead last will do that, I guess. It turned out to be a really dinky 5K, and there was no one slower than me.

I also ran alongside my daughter Sage for her Girls on the Run race the following spring, and was just grateful that she didn't have to wait for me (barely) and that no one was really timing that one.

I've basically pledged never to run in an official, timed race ever again; I run to live longer, not to impress anyone. As a bonus, it occasionally feels good, and I'm spotted from time to time by an acquaintance or kid's teacher who mentions the sighting to me as if I'm bona fide. So, when our ward decided to try a Mile-or-5K Fun Run for Memorial Day, I thought I could train for that among friends and maybe get a little better along the way.

I'm happy to report that I appeared to drastically improve my time -- but was slightly discouraged to be beaten both by a woman who had her second child a month ago, and by one who's older than me and hadn't trained at all. Way to go for them; but how come it's so dang easy for some people? (OK, OK, I know no running counts as 'easy', but the same effort takes them a lot further is all I'm saying.) Then, post-race at home, I discovered that the course my husband had marked out for everyone was just a tad bit shy of a full 5K, which meant my time wasn't quite as much of an improvement as I had hoped -- a little over a minute shaved off of my original 2010 performance. Despite the fact that I had been running four times a week for a month and a half, including some fartlek and speedwork...ah, well. I'm not really complaining, I had just hoped that another miraculous shame-time would put me in a lot faster than that.

But, one thing I do well in this whole deal, is stretch. I often joke that I only run so that I can stretch afterward, it feels amazing. So, I figured I'd go for a fitness magazine-look layout and show you my tried-and-true, honed, favorite stretch series I've evolved over the years. Plus it'll be recorded for my future grandkids to gaze in awe at my middle-aged sleekness, eh?

Runner's lunge -- for the hip flexor

Pigeon-like pose -- for the glute

Quad stretch

Push up to transition

Downward dog -- for calves, back, shoulders
Then you transition back down and start the lunge with the other leg, do the whole series again on that side (6-10)

11 Hanging stretch -- for lower back and hamstrings

12 Leaning wall plank -- for calves
 A little technical stuff about why this particular order and content works so well, hopefully for others besides me:
About 9 or 10 years ago, I was having some lower back pain, something was just a little out of joint. I had used to be able to bend over and crack it and it felt great again, but all of a sudden I couldn't get it to crack and it was bothering me. Long story short, I found out that my crazy tight hamstrings were pulling on my lower back and causing the problem. But, I've always had crazy tight hamstrings, and nothing works to stretch 'em! Ahem. Well, I found out that's because I was attacking the problem too directly. Apparently, the hip flexor is the place to start to give your hamstrings some room to move -- I do that first lunge regularly, and it's been like magic! So good to know, so simple to do, and it feels wonderful. I actually ended up hating the particular chiropractor that taught me that, almost had to take her to small claims court -- but I'm forever grateful that she helped me understand the way my body works as a whole in this particular way.

Yay for stretching! And -sigh- for running. I may not be in the same league as my husband and some of my friends, but I think I'm a runner for life now. And that's good.

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