Perils of the work gym and my dream of perfect time management

A while back I mentioned I was going to join a gym to remove at least two of my regular excuses for not running: "It's too late/too dark out," and "It's too hot/rainy/cold."

So, was it worth it?

Cost: At $30 for a one-month membership, my work gym is a steal (although you have to pay at this random office that is very far from the gym, with a PERSONAL CHECK).

Pros: For City of Oaks training, it did exactly what I wanted it to: Eliminate excuses and help me ease into running again. 

Cons: However, there were consequences to working out where I'm likely to run in to people I know professionally.

  • Day 1- Ran into colleague immediately after walking in the door. Had a 10 minute conversation about work, which harshed my workout buzz a little.
  • Day 2- All clear! No familiar faces. 
  • Day 3-  Definitely ran into someone, but I quickly averted my eyes (as is my shy-person habit). Then when I changed my mind and wanted to say hi, I realized he, too, had adverted his eyes. Now it would be far too weird to say hello. Upstairs, halfway through my workout, I noticed someone else I knew (I thought -- but I didn't have my glasses on, so I couldn't tell for sure) on the stationery bike right in front of me. Horrors!!!

More stray gym observations:

  • People wearing long pants to the gym to run on the treadmill. Why.
  • Why is no one ever sweating?
  • Socializing. I can't think of a less fun place to hang out with friends than a stinky gym with fluorescent lights.
  • Why are people walking on the treadmills? Walk outside!

And then there's this:


Despite all of that, it was totally worth it. Thirty bucks gave my training plan more structure and really helped me get running done. The bus home takes me right by the gym; it is very easy to just swing by before heading home. I am much more likely to run if I can do it before I get home and get distracted by a dozen other things.

Winter training: For Tobacco Road training this winter, I'm definitely going to keep up my gym membership to remove the excuse of "it's too dark"/"it's too cold." Last year, when I was training for Kentucky, I relied a lot on the enthusiasm of my friend who always asked me to run after work. Many many nights, I would have not run at all if it weren't for her organizing a post-work run. Sadly, she moved away, so this winter I'm tackling training all by myself.

I feel a little silly, having endured a Chicago winter and learned what dark and cold *really* means, but oh well. It's worth $30 a month to me.

The dream of perfect time management: The other huge benefit to joining a gym near work is that, in theory, I could become one of those people who runs during lunch. This is the dream: that I can manage my time so efficiently, and organize my little work bag so perfectly, that I can get in a 4-5 mile run and a fast shower in the middle of the day. I have only ever done this once, back in New York, and I basked in a glow of ~perfect careerwomanhood~ for a whole week. 

Running in the middle of the workday questions:

  1. Does anyone actually do this?
  2. Do you eat before, or after?
  3. Is it really possible to do this in an hour, or is it more like a 1.5 hour project?
  4. Do you wash your hair?
  5. Do you do a workout (in which case, it makes sense to be at the gym)? It sounds like it would be better to do an easy run outdoors, to avoid getting sweaty. 

Tell me everything!

Choosing a marathon training plan, take 3

After City of Oaks, my immune system totally crashed. I took my first sick day in a year on Tuesday and napped for four hours. I'm starting to feel more like myself this weekend, though not as quickly as I would like. Ready or not, it's time to pick a plan for Tobacco Road. Training starts this week!

I don't, and have never had a running coach, so I've always relied on books and the internet to get me to the starting line. I totally see the appeal of a coach, but I can't really justify the cost of one for what is really just a hobby. So here's how I've picked a plan in the past.

Marathon 1, New York City: Read reviews of marathon books on by people and, on their advice, buy Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning. Never mind that this is my very first marathon, so I am hardly an "advanced" marathoner. Scan the easiest plan, shrug, and plug it into my spreadsheet. After one week into the plan, realize I am WAY in over my head, and dramatically cut back the mileage and workouts. Have a good race anyway!

Marathon 2, Kentucky Derby: Re-attempt the Pfitzinger 18/55 plan, because I paid for that book and I hadn't yet realized that letsrun is not a good place to get advice for such things. But again, I am just am not up to that level of training. I get kind of frustrated, until I realize I should have really taken an entirely different approach to choosing a plan that makes sense for my level of running, instead of just relying on reviews from people on the internet. It's a training plan, not a pair of headphones, yaknow? Shuffle things around, drop down to 3-4 days a week of running, and somehow still PR by 13 minutes. 

Marathon 3, Tobacco Road: Resolve to be "more serious" about training this time around. At the very least I'd like to not make the same training plan mistakes again, so I'm starting by sketching out the things that are important to me. They are:

  1. Running four days a week: Left to my own devices, I would run three days a week, ride twice, and ride my bike some in between. I tend to get burned out running five days/week. If I can find a plan that gives me four days of running with an optional fifth, I'd be happy.
  2. Workouts. When I realized I was in over my head with Pfitzinger, I cut the workouts and just tried to get the mileage in. That is really, really boring. I'd love a plan that has me doing workouts in  a way that doesn't leave me completely exhausted. 
  3. No mid-week long runs: I kind of hate mid-week long runs in the winter. They're too long to do on the treadmill, and I've never thought when leaving work in the evening in the pitch black dark (North Carolina = no streetlamps), "I think I want to put a headlamp on and trip on broken sidewalks for two hours." I mean, I get that they're important and  I could maybe figure out how to run in the morning if I had to, but I'd really rather not...
  4. Lowish mileage. Yeah, there is something awesome about running 50, 60, 70 miles per week. But I feel totally worn out on just 40 miles per week. Maybe someday I can run higher mileage, but it's hard to see how when 1) A regular-person training plan kicks my butt; and 2) I just said I would like to run just four days a week, with no mid-week long runs!

So, I already know Pfitzinger's 18/55 plan is not for me. Hal Higdon's Novice II plan , which I've also sampled from in the past, has four days of running/week, but no workouts (and the next level up, intermediate has five days of running/week.) What else is there?

>>>google search montage<<<

So the best thing I've found comparing marathon plans is this mega guide from Fellnr. Using his typologies of marathon runners, I'd categorize myself as an "Improver" (A runner who has run several marathons and is hoping to improve their performance. An improver will have not trained hard in the past, so may have the ability to improve significantly); or maybe an "Enthusiast" (A runner who has trained hard for marathons in the past and is looking for ways of optimizing their performance). I don't know if my past training can be called "training hard," or not, so I'm including both.

Additionally, I'm certainly a "mid-pack runner," (though I question the utility of a range as big as 3:00 - 4:30 -- surely a woman finishing in 3:00 should not be considered a "mid-pack runner," no?), and I might also be someone with "Limited Training Time," since I can only run about 4 days a week. 

Scored from 0-5, with 5 being most suitable. Total is an aggregate of the 4 categoies to which I might belong.

Scored from 0-5, with 5 being most suitable. Total is an aggregate of the 4 categoies to which I might belong.

After reading up on each of these plans, it does seem that the two plans Fellnr's chart recommends for me, FIRST and Daniels's "Plan A" (which is very similar to the "2Q" plan in the third edition of Daniels' Running Formula), are what I'm looking for.

The difference seems to be in number of days of speedwork (FIRST = 2/week; Daniels = 1/week) and days of running (FIRST = 3 days of running with two days of cross-training; Daniels plan = extra day of running, but no required cross-training.) So, maybe this decision will come down to whether or not I like and would actually do two days of cross-training a week, or not . 

How do you pick a training plan? Does anyone have experience with either of these programs?