Monday, December 28, 2009

Treadmill Training Syndrome

As previously mentioned, I've really wimped out this winter when it comes to weather. It seems like the slightest snow, cold or wind is a perfect opportunity (or excuse?) for me to hit the treadmill. Or sometimes skip a run all together.

After a Christmas weekend of seemingly endless piles of food, I knew I had to get out and run. And run and run. I wanted a decent run that I felt good about. In my mind, I was shooting for double-digits.

I had the best intentions of getting up and heading over to practice with the team - another thing I've skipped a lot lately - but I didn't even have to open my eyes when the alarm went off to hear the rain outside my window. No practice for me.

Still, the need to run hung over me. I did a few things around the house and waited for the rain to let up a bit. Eventually, it did.

I headed out for an 8-miler on a similar route that TC and I did on Thanksgiving Day. (I could have bumped it up to 10 miles if I hadn't waited so long. Daylight wouldn't be on my side for this one.)

The first few miles of the route were familiar - and a particular favorite of mine during marathon training. The roads bring me by the airport, have some good-sized inclines that make me work and then wind along some country-ish roads with little traffic. I really do enjoy the quiet of the countryside during my runs - and being able to run without the added worry of dodging cars is always a plus.

As I made my way up the first hill, I found myself breathing harder than I normally word. I was definitely working harder. I struggled to make it to the top of the hill that I used to cruise up without much trouble.

Suddenly, at that moment, I realized I'd fallen victim to treadmill training syndrome.

Running on the treadmill provides me the ability to work on my speed and push myself to be a little faster. But it also provides a super-flat -- and unrealistic -- running surface. When I run outside, after all, the road beneath me is not moving and propelling me forward. I have to rely on my muscles to do that.

And certainly even the flatest of flat courses still have inclines.

I huffed and puffed my way through the next mile or so, telling myself that it would eventually get easier. I'd eventually find my rhythm like I always did.

To some extent, I fell into a rhythm and running did seem more natural after a while. But it didn't feel as easy as it used to - mind you, not that long ago.

I once read that if you train for a marathon and take three weeks off without running, it's like you never trained. Now, I don't know whether that's true - but based on my feelings during yesterday's run, I'd imagine it's pretty accurate.

It's almost like I'm starting over - a hard thing to be facing as we go into the winter months. As much as I didn't like struggling through yesterday's 8-miler, it was a good wake-up call about focusing, at least a little bit, on getting in a few more outdoor runs.

I'll take it easy and slow - just like I'm starting from scratch - building up my miles and pace, while continuing to supplement my training with spin class and some speed workouts on the treadmill.

The good thing is I know I can get there. After all, I've been there before.


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