Monday, August 1, 2011

Running: Are You in the Zone?

Refreshing          Building Block          Over the Line

              The Good Zone

       When it comes to a basic idea for improving your running, there are 3 zones. For this blog I will call them 1) Refreshing 2) Building Block and 3) Over the Line.

       Refreshing runs are important and often beneficial and necessary. These are recovery runs where our bodies are getting a break. They are a mentally beneficial and very enjoyable when run on a lovely day, with a friend who isn’t quite where we are, with the family dog or kids on scooters and tricycles, or just a few easy miles to shake off the cobwebs the day before speed work or the day after. These are great runs that we shouldn’t ignore, but they are for recovery and do little to improve speed, endurance, or strength.

       Building Block is the meat and potatoes. This is where you are pushing, building, gaining, and growing as a runner. It might be a long run, tempo run, speed work, race, or any combination where you take yourself a little farther or faster than you did last week or last month or last year. These runs are mentally and physically draining, but exhilarating at the same time. The sense of accomplishment is great, BUT, it is not something we can do every day.

       Over the Line is when you have crossed the line, pushed too hard and are in the injury zone. Sometimes we cross this line like we have been shot out of a cannon, the sudden loud pop as a bone or tendon gives way, the sharp pain of muscle fibers losing their grip on each other and tearing, the cramp from Hell that stops us in our tracks. Then there are also the slow building injuries that come from crossing the line just a little day after day: the shin splints, plantar fasciitis, IT Band syndrome, runner’s knee, the nagging injuries that start as a twinge that can be ignored or propped up until after the big race. This is the zone to avoid and the trick is to get close and gain maximum benefit, without actually crossing the line.

       Sadly, these zones are not written on the pavement and they change from day to day. They also interact, which can be good or bad depending on how we handle our training. We can push away the start of Over the Line with runs from Refreshing. We can widen Building Block with strength and cross training. We can run right up to the edge of Over the Line with coaches that can spot fatigue or form issues, masseuses to work out the knots, and therapists to keep everything in tip top shape, but few of us have the resources or need for that level of training. The trick is to get out of Refreshing and spend enough time in Building Block to keep moving forward, without crossing the line into Over the Line. Easy-peasy, right? Not so!

       In the early weeks of a full or half marathon training plan, one is generally in their comfort zone distance wise. Having finished the first third of my marathon training I’m feeling good. The pace runs have been tough, largely because of the heat, but the long runs have not exceeded my routine distances so I feel like I have not really left Refreshing. However, week 7 will be very much into my Building Block. My pace run will be 7 miles (that’s a one mile warm up and then 7 miles at 9 mpm, pace runs will peak at 8 miles in this training plan.) My long run will hit 14 miles and take me into new territory with my bare feet. A year ago I ran 15 miles barefoot, but it was on a trail, so from here on out, I’m logging my longest barefoot road runs ever. To cap it off, my easy runs have another mile added to them so my weekly total will exceed 30 miles for the first time. I have had a couple of 28 mile weeks this year and 2 more miles doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but there is something psychological about rolling over to 3-0. All in all, I’m ready. My schedule is based around my runs, my family is supportive, and I have enough strength and stamina to do this. Onward!

This past week:

Mon: 3 easy miles in the morning, 2 crazy miles in the evening.

Tues: Decided to postpone my pace run to recover from being out too late Monday

Wed: 7 miles, one mile warm up and then 6 miles at pace with a break in the middle. It was nearly 80F in the gym, but lightening outside so not a lot of choice.

Fri: 9 miles and then back in to the doctor because my throat is sore again. Turns out I still have bronchitis so I’m on round 2 of antibiotics and hoping this will be the last of it. Now I know why I have felt short of breath!

I’m on my 4th day of antibiotics and feeling much better. No more sore throat and no more gunky cough. Now to get used to the allergy meds so I’m not falling asleep all the time! The flare in my wrist is still driving me nuts, but now slowing my runs. And yes, I’m still putting in all my miles barefoot!

1 comment:

Natalia said...

Hi Wendybird,

My name is Natalia and I’m the Community Coordinator for an online health community called WEGO Health ( I came across your blog, while doing some research into the online RA community. I was so impressed the great resource you have created for the greater RA community.

Just wanted to drop you a quick note because we recently launched a new video platform called and are in the process of building a RA Channel featuring the advice, information and wisdom of Health Activists like yourself. I think you would be an excellent addition to the channel and I would love to chat with you about possibly creating a video with us!

Please check out our site; and get back to me at your convenience if you have any interest.

I know this note it a little out of the blue and I understand if it’s not something you would be interested in, but I didn’t want you to miss out on the opportunity.


Community Coordinator
WEGO Health