Monthly review: exercise routines

This year one of my habits was to establish a new morning routine. In January I didn’t do anything about this as it was school holidays and I was off work, so I revelled in following no particular routine!

In February I made my first change to my morning routine by going to a run group early Tuesday and Thursday mornings at a track. I am both a new comer to running groups and running on a track. After the initial discomfort of rocking up and not knowing anyone (and being much older than most attending the group) and the learning curve I experienced about track etiquette, I am loving it.

I have found though that with two hard sessions at the track, I am having to change what I do on Wednesdays at CrossFit. I do a very easy jog to CrossFit and instead of doing the WOD, I tend to some strength based work which is programmed by the coach and then easy jog home. I found that doing an intense WOD on the Wednesday wasn’t really allowing me to recover. I will stick with this for a while and see how it goes.

This is just a small example of how exercise routines need to change from time to time. In an ideal world I would separate my running and CrossFit sessions on non track days, but I have this year, I don’t get the running in early in the morning, it is really hard to fit it in anywhere else in the day (without it getting too late for my early morning starts).

In the PWK annual survey last year, I received a number of questions about my running routines and other running based questions, so I have compiled them here for you! Some of them have long answers, so you can click on the question below to go directly to the answer you want to read and can come back to the list as needed.

What is your weekly running routine and how has it changed over the years?

I have certainly had different stages with my running over the years. Relatively speaking, I am still a newish runner for my age. My time line is as follows:

  • Early 2012 – started running more than 5km, all on the treadmill at the gym.
  • Mid 2012 – ran my first half marathon. Did one long run a week off the treadmill.
  • Mid to late 2012 – starting training for my first marathon. Made so many newbie runner mistakes – ran my long runs too fast, increased distance too fast and ended up with a stress fracture that actually cracked my inferior pubis ramus. I was running six days a week, but they were all pretty much at the same pace.
  • Late 2012 – while waiting for injury to heal, I started CrossFit in December.
  • 2013 – built up my base of running again and ran my first marathon in October. You can read my recap here. Was running five days a week, most of it which was easy jogging to and from CrossFit, with a longer run in the middle of the week and the big long run on the weekend.
  • 2014 – ran the Great Ocean Road Marathon in May and Melbourne Marathon in October. I trained in a similar manner for both these marathons and in both of them I had pacing issues. Melbourne Marathon 2014 was my slowest marathon time (and still is!).
  • Late 2014 – I was going to be running Boston Marathon in April 2015 and wanted to run it well and enjoy it, so had my coach at CrossFit write me a program I could follow and we worked specifically on getting me to pace myself better.
  • 2015 – my focus was the Boston Marathon, so running became my priority. My coach had built in strength sessions that I could do during CrossFit classes when everyone else was doing the WOD. This meant that I could still see my friends, but I was keeping running as a priority. I was running 5 – 6 times a week at a range of paces and distances. It was a great program and helped me run a time that I was super happy with. You can read my recap of Boston Marathon here.
  • Mid 2015 – when I came back from Boston, I became injured – hip labral tear. The most likely cause of this was a combination of factors. I have a CAM impingement (about 30% of people have this), load from the marathon training and the marathon and getting back into heavy squatting too soon. I had about 3 – 4 months off running which made me very sad.
  • Late 2015 – ran the Melbourne half marathon. When coming back from my injury, I was advised not to run after my CrossFit sessions for a while, as my form may go due to tiredness and that could lead to further damage. To fit running in, I would get up earlier (4.30am some mornings), drive to CrossFit, run first then do the CrossFit session. I had pulled back running to 4 – 5 times a week. I did my first Spartan race in December – a stadium sprint in Geelong and loved it!
  • 2016 – I decided to focus on Spartan races and I ran a number of them throughout the year. If you aren’t familiar with Spartan races, you can read some more about my training for them here. I finished the year running a trifecta at Bright which meant running a 14km Spartan race and then a 7km spartan race on Saturday and followed up with a 21km Spartan race on the Sunday. That Sunday race is still one of the hardest things I have ever done!
  • 2017 – focus was our 20th wedding anniversary marathon – Great Wall of China marathon. This was more of an experience based marathon, so training was less structured than previous marathons. I was running 5 times a week and most weekends, I would do the long run with my husband which was awesome. There were some quicker sessions, but there really wasn’t much thought behind the training plan to be honest!
  • 2018 – was going to be another spartan year, I did three spartan events in three months including the Beast (21km) in Brisbane in April. But soon after that my husband and I signed up for the Two Bays event and to be able to run the event you needed to have a qualifying time. The qualifying times varied depending on the type of event, so the half Iron Man my husband ran earlier in that year qualified him. The event didn’t recognise the Spartan Races I have done, so I needed to run a half marathon to get a qualifying time. This changed my focus from Spartans to running and I changed my mental approach to training which you can read about here. While I never fell out of love with running, I really loved my running in 2018. I set a new PB for my half marathon and had a good run in the Melbourne Marathon in October. I put together my own training plans (based off ones I had read about) and was back to running six days a week. The training plans had plenty of easy runs and a couple of workouts a week. In terms of mileage, I ran the most I ever have last year, with a few 100km weeks thrown in.
  • 2019 – is a running focused year for me. In January my husband and I ran the Two Bays Trail race (28km) which was a great run. Since then my focus has been on improving my 5km time. This has meant two track sessions a week, generally a Vo2 Max type session on Tuesdays and then a threshold session on Thursdays. I have hit two new 5km PBs this year! I will soon start training for another marathon, but it has been great to work on some shorter distance stuff. I am running 6 days a week with plenty of them very slow. On Mon, Wed, Fri (my recovery days) I don’t even look at the pace I am running, rather I work to keep my heart rate low. My long run is usually Saturday, but due to sport and other kids activities, sometimes it is Sunday.
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    I have never enjoyed running or sustained the habit, but I think it is an efficient workout/ cheap / flexible training option etc. Did you ever not enjoy running, and if so, how long did you have to stick at the habit for it to become enjoyable….

    As you can read from my very long answer above, I have only really been running for the last six years. Before that I would go the gym and mainly do aerobic classes. I was never really a runner at school but I didn’t hate it. I didn’t mind cross country, but was never that keen on athletics day as I just didn’t have the speed required for shorter distances (still don’t!).

    I decided to try running in 2012 for one of the reasons you have pointed out – it seemed like a really time efficient way to exercise! It also gave me something cardio based to do, if I couldn’t get to classes I liked.

    For me one of the things that worked at making the habit stick was tuning in to my goal seeking nature. I started small and would just try to get better. For example to be able to run 3km on the treadmill without stopping, then 4km, then 5km. Once at 5km, I then stayed at this distance for some time but worked on trying to get faster.

    But it was really the habits outside of the gym that helped make running stick. It was getting my clothes out the night before and making it not negotiable that I would exercise those 3 days a week. I took a no excuses policy from myself and regardless of how I felt about the prospect of running that day I would do it, I wouldn’t let my emotions rule my morning.

    There was absolutely a turning point for me when I it went from running because I thought I needed to, to running because I wanted to. It took time to get to that point and while I can’t remember exactly how long, it was definitely past the three month mark. So you have to set yourself up for success before you reach that point – get your clothes ready and take no excuses from yourself!

    It is very common to not enjoy an activity until we acquire some proficiency in it. Cal Newport author of the excellent book So Good They Can’t Ignore You says this in the context of work, but I think it can apply equally to most things in life, including running:

    Passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.

    Put in some hard work in the beginning with running to establish the habit and you will find your passion for running will emerge! You can see more of my tips on making exercise happen in this post – My training schedule and tips for making it happen.

    If you feel like you would like some structure and advice to get you started with running, you can check out Zoey’s excellent Learn to Run online program. It has another intake on April 22nd – click here to find out more.

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    Do your kids run?

    Up until recently I would have answered that none of our kids really run as an activity. They may do it as a by product of their sporting activities, but other than that, they are not keen on running.

    I would love them all to run more of course, but I don’t push it on the kids and think this is especially important with the teenagers. I know that myself and my husband are role modelling the behaviour we would like to see in them and we encourage and support the active endeavours they choose.

    The youngest has just started doing a bit of running with a small local group and is really enjoying it. His involvement has been based on him wanting to do it and will continue along this way – hopefully for some time!

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    Nutrition for long runs

    I am completely not qualified to answer this question in terms of advice! It is always a work in progress for me. In terms of what I consume on long runs, I would love to say that I make up my own non processed fuel, but I don’t. I buy commercial gels for the convenience and ease of getting in the carbs I need. I will generally only have gels for my runs over 2 hours.

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    I’d love to know more about how you improved your running

    There are a few key factors which I think have improved my running:

    • CrossFit – it helps in terms of strength training and varied movement. It also assists in terms of injury prevention – when running a lot your body is in the same position for long periods of time and it is good to get it moving in other positions.
    • Training plans – having a well developed training plan makes a huge difference. Knowing that every run on the plan has a purpose even the super easy recovery runs, has been critical in staying injury free and getting faster.
    • Doing running workouts – I focused more on running workouts last year and they were integral in hitting new half marathon PBs.
    • Getting more sleep – I used to get by on way too little sleep and I am honestly surprised that I didn’t get more injuries due to poor recovery. I am almost always first in bed on a Friday night at my house if I have a long run Saturday morning and I prioritise my sleep seriously. You can read more about how I recover here – My running, resting and recovery.
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    March monthly review

    HabitConnection to goal - Nurture new routines to re-energise, re-invigorate and create personal growth.Poem quoteMarch review
    Establish a new work routineI have been working from home for the last 10 years and the last couple I have had less connection with others.

    In 2019 I want to change the way I work to re-energise the way I feel about work.
    “Don't let your life goals fall victim to the allure of comfortable routines.”
    ~ Zero Dean
    As noted last month I am currently theming my work days. This means, for example I am allocating Mondays for content writing, Thursdays is for social media etc.

    There is of course some other activities that occur on those days, but the bulk of my workday (80%) is spent on that key activity.

    March was my second month doing this and I have found that I have been much more productive with this method. I think it is because I have such a strong focus for the day.
    Establish a new morning routineI have had the same morning routine for about the last 5 years. It has served me well, but with the changes in ages of the kids there is now greater flexibility and it is time, I tried some new routines to re-invigorate the start to my day.“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”
    ~ John C. Maxwell
    I have only made changes to my exercise routine in the morning so far. As noted last month I am going to a running group twice a week and the other three days I am up earlier now and run to CrossFit, do the class, then run home.

    I will make further changes to my morning routine through out the year.
    Dedicate two hours a week to learning something newI read, listen to podcasts and audiobooks, but I haven't taken the time to really learn something new for some time.

    This habit may change a little along the way, but the aim is that I learn something that helps me grow or gives me a new skill.
    "Change is the end result of all true learning."
    ~Leo Buscaglia
    March was about strategy and marketing. I set aside time to read books and listen to podcasts on both topics as it is something I wanted to learn more about. I still have much to learn, so have added more books to my list to read this year.
    Create a bimonthly non fiction book clubStarting a book club has been on my list of things to do for years and by making it non fiction, it will support my goal for personal growth. Yes I could read the books on my own, but I always get so much more out of a book if I know I have to discuss it with others.“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
    ~Dr. Seuss
    While the first meeting had a smallish attendance, we had a great discussion and it was so invigorating to talk about contemporary issues in a calm and courteous manner, even if there was differing viewpoints.

    Please note that this post is for information and entertainment purposes only and is not to be considered exercise, running or nutrition advice.