Thursday, October 6, 2011

One Chin-Up and Six Minutes Too Fast

In addition to being a wimp about running as a kid, I was also a wimp about anything strength-related. The ONE year I managed to get the 50th percentile award for physical fitness I barely hung on for the required nine seconds in the cursed flexed arm hang.

But when I started running at age 12 with my dad, we'd do our two miles on one of those 80s-era fitness courses. One of the stations was a chip-up bar. Watching my dad knock some out, I conceived the desire to do just one chin-up. I even put it on a list of goals I wrote down on a piece of pink paper and carried around in my wallet as a teenager. It never happened. And honestly for a long time I thought I just wasn't capable of it. (Some of the other goals on the list did happen! I saw my byline in a national publication; I drove a Porsche; I've seen several shooting stars; and I've skinny-dipped. Ah, the dreams of a teenager!)

I've been back at my weight-training class now for five sessions. One of the things on the list for today was assisted chin-ups on one of those machines that makes the exercise easier by giving you a bit of a counter to your body weight. I found them sort of.....easy...with the extra help. I asked my trainer, Chris, if he ever thought I could do a chin-up on my own. He didn't hesitate: "Yeah, I think you're really close."

So now, without really meaning to, I have another goal: do one unassisted chin-up. Chris gave me a plan for getting there and reassured me that because it's all upper-body, trying for this while training for the Houston Marathon will not be a problem (and Chris is notoriously conservative, so I don't think he'd say that if he didn't mean it).

This is a good thing because it will keep me from wimping out of weight training later when the miles get harder (of course I will still take an intentional break from it a month to six weeks out from my race, whether the fabled chin-up has yet occurred or not). This is a good thing. Weight training is a deadly chore for me. Now it will be something more.

Meanwhile, on the running front, I'm still having trouble with pacing. This morning's hour-long run featured an optional finish of five to ten minutes at what McMillan calls a steady state pace. This pace is faster than easy, but not as hard as tempo. For me, it's supposed to be between 8:40 and 8:55 a mile.

The run felt wonderful (ah, fall!) and exactly 50 minutes into it I sped up as instructed. I chose a hilly course, too, as I need to practice finishing strong when the going gets tough. But my problem, as it was all summer, was that I couldn't keep it steady. Even with the hills, my Garmin pace never got higher than 8:30/mile. So after six minutes and change of this, I cut my losses and slowed back down. My final pace? 8:21. Too fast.

I have work to do on this. It seems like I have three gears: slow, tempo and fast. There's no intermediate speed, or at least not one that I can maintain without either speeding up or slowing down too much. I must learn to feel it!! Practice, practice, practice!! I want my long runs to rock this cycle. Going too fast on Thursday morning runs will NOT help with that.


  1. I am not a big fan of weight training but I have realized that I was a much better runner when I was doing it. So next week I will start again. Blahhh. Oh, and I can't do a chin up either! Maybe someday!

  2. Before I got pregnant I was working (very slowly) towards being able to do one unassisted pull-up. That's out the window for now, but someday I will rock that pull-up bar! It definitely made me a much faster, happier runner when I was lifting.

  3. I wish you the best of luck with that chin-up. I have no idea if I've ever been able to do on or not. I seriously can't remember. I only have two paces super slow and fast (well fast for me - it's hard to call an 11 min pace fast). There's no in between for me either.

  4. It takes a lot of time to "feel" a certain pace. You will master it and at least it's on the fast side instead of the slower side :).

    Yeah, I have been a huge weight training slug lately and really need to hone in on that again. More than my few minutes of core/PT stuff each night. It's a necessary evil. I'm glad you are focused on that...I love your chin-up challenge, too.

  5. Yep another one that doesn't care for strength training. :) Good luck with that chin up I've got no upper body strength.

  6. I have trouble running at a certain pace, too, but with more experience, you'll get better at it. I took a short break from weight work and need to get back at it tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. I have no upper body strength and have no patience for weight training (bad Lisa, bad...) so I commend you for the effort!

    Managing pace is indeed all about practice. You'll get there :)

  8. I made it a point to work on my upper body strength this year. I can finally do "man" push ups instead of girl push ups. Haha! I haven't tried chin ups though. Hmmm

    I still can't manage my pace. The one thing I have started to do is leave my garmin at home and learn what it feels like to run fast and slow.

  9. I'm working on the same things: a chin-up and having more than two paces! I'm doing pole fitness, which is really helping with the progress toward the chin-up. Pole takes a lot of upper body and core strength, but is so fun that you don't notice how hard you're working!