Improving Fitness

Last week I posted about my journey with half marathons.  In the past 3 years, I’ve run 17 total and gone from a 1:41 half marathon to 1:24.49.  I was asked how I did it…and to be honest I don’t have a great answer.

I don’t have an answer of how one day I woke up and dropped 10, nearly 20 minutes off my half marathon time.  I don’t have a clear cut answer about how it came to me easy.

I do have an answer though that I consistently worked at it.  I consistently logged runs when I didn’t want too.  I rested when I needed to and most importantly I tried to stay injury free.

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time you can probably guess I don’t follow a training plan.  I never used a couch to 5k and I haven’t had a coach since college.

I haven’t always had linear improvement and I’ve had my fair share of bad races, plateaus and terrible weeks (and months) of running.  I’ve had races that I’ve wanted to hang up the shoes forever.  I’ve had runs that I’ve had to stop early and REGRETTED doing.

I also haven’t stayed injury free (my personal injuries) in the last three years.  I got a tibial stress fracture on my 21st birthday.  I had an overgrown cyst a year and a half ago.  When I am injured I still work hard and cross train.  That is not to say I don’t rest when I need to but I never sat on the couch for 2 months, eating oreos and crying.  I kept living life.  I existed outside of running. I substituted cross training when I was healed enough and got the okay from a doctor.  I continued to work hard.

Part of improving in running is not giving up on yourself.  It’s working hard when you don’t want too.  It’s working hard when you do want too.  Honestly, it’s just working hard for your own personal journey and goals.

The other part of improving in running is knowing your limits. Knowing when you are injuring yourself versus fighting through the pain.  Knowing the difference of endurance pain and injury pain.  I know I didn’t get that lesson until I got my stress fracture and my whole training mentality changed.

There have been multiple days in the last three years that I have decided something felt off and I rested instead.  It plumeted my miles for the week…I didn’t hit my target mileage or goal.  This has been on workout days, on easy run days, and even ON RACE DAYS.  I would rather take a day off or two then take 2 or more months off for injury.  Staying injury free is the most important thing you can do to (in my opinion) to get better.  If you are improving and injured, you don’t have much to showcase for it.

I guess what I’m getting at is running is your own personal journey.  Like anything in life, in order to improve you have to work hard.  You’ll have “bad” moments and you’ll have amazing moments.  Realizing the amazing moments are worth the bad moments is part of the battle.  Realizing that taking a day or week off is not going to hinder your long term fitness is another piece of the puzzle.

These are all just my opinions and how I feel I’ve gotten better and improved.

Question for you:  How do you think you have improved your fitness?

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  1. Wait wait wait. So, your “secret” to improving your half time is…running.

    I’m skeptical.

    Maybe you should give that whole “listen to your body and eat oreos on the couch for 2 months” thing a try.

  2. I definitely agree that consistency is a big part of it- and pushing through on days when you don’t feel like it (but stopping on the days when you feel overtrained or an ache or pain). I think you probably have a good bit of running talent genetics, too! 🙂

  3. My fitness has evolved a lot. Stopping swimming was a hard transition and I feel like I just recently found my drive again. I just wish I had more time to swim. I will always be committed to the pool 🙂

  4. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to rest and pay attention to what my body is saying. Sure there are times where my head just isn’t there, and I have to push through a long/tough run that I don’t want to, but there are other times where I need to stop or not head out at all. Definitely still figuring out my limits and what I can do, but I’m trying to take what I learn and use it as I go, which I think is usually a good way to be 😛

  5. I agree on staying injury free as much as you can. Of course, sh*t happens and sometimes injuries happen and it’s just life. But I agree, why not be proactive and take days off when you need it. While my race times are nowhere near as fast as yours, I truly think that’s what has helped me to improve. So many people get injured and unlike you, they really do sit on the couch and eat oreos and it’s a hard comeback. I do think injured runners can come back to the sport fairly easily if they stay active and do what they can when they’re injured, but the best option is to prevent that from happening, even if it means taking a few days off sometimes. Better a few days than weeks or months! Main goal for any race is to finish injury free if nothing else.

  6. I really love your information here – I know it’s about your personal journey, but it’s such good stuff! I had to learn the hard way that I need to take rest days – I think that has been the best way fir me to stay injury-free. Also, I’m a high-mileage, slow paced runner – I get injured with too much speedwork, and logging the longer runs actually makes me faster for race day. But this isn’t a prescription for everyone – we all have to do what works for us!

  7. I have a hard time reading a lot of running blogs, but what I’ve always loved about yours is a) your determination, b) hard work, and c) the fact that you’re so flexible and [intuitive] about your training. I really love your approach to it, probably because it echoes my own thoughts so closely. As someone who has a tendency to fall into obsessive rigidity, I’m definitely a huge proponent of a relaxed approach and I’m glad to see that it’s been working for you 😀

  8. I’m slowly getting better at being okay with taking a rest day if my body needs it. I have a tendency to second guess myself, but staying injury free is far more important than pushing through just so I can record a certain mileage for the week.

  9. Great post! I think I have improved my overall fitness by crosstraining and taking necessary rest days. You’re such an inspiration, Hollie.

  10. I needed this post today, had a few terrible weeks of running where health has got in my way and was thinking about giving up but you have inspired me to keep going!!!!!!!! Thanks a bunch 🙂

  11. I needed to hear this today. Thank you! I sometimes find myself getting into a funk when I’m injured, but that is completely counterproductive. You deserve those PR’s!

  12. I have improved my half marathon time by almost 15 minutes in the last two years after being stuck at the same finish time for several years. I think there are two things that have really helped me. First, I’ve added strength training and bootcamp to my workout routine. This year especially I’ve also decided to believe that I have the potential to improve and really give it all I have. I’ve always been afraid of not being able to finish a race in the past and I think I’ve short-changed myself by holding back too much. Congrats on all of the success that you’ve had!

  13. Great post! I agree with you that most it takes is hard work. I know that first hand, and although I hopefully have a long way to go still, I wasn’t were I am not long ago. Pushing hard and finding a good balance between hard, easy, and rest, is the way to improve.

  14. I totally agree with you on the importance of staying injury-free. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or maybe it’s because I train with people who are older than me, but I’ve made resting, recovering, foam rolling, all those things priorities this year. Too many of my teammates are battling aches and pains for me *not* to do those preemptive measures.

  15. My fitness is all over the place, but I think that is a good thing! I used to run as my ONLY means of exercise, and started hating it, so I tried something new. New goals each week really help me!

  16. Thank you for this post! 🙂 I really do think consistency is key!

  17. I love this, Hollie- I love how your posts, even though relate to running (something I despise) I can correlate it to other forms of exercise or even life events. Part of lifting (for me) is definitely not giving up on myself- it’s so easy to compare to others or underestimate yourself, but also you can go the other way- Up.

  18. These are great tips.
    Improving your fitness and reaching certain goals, really is about listening to your body and never giving up on yourself. There’s no certain formula to follow, other than continuing to do whatever it is because you love it and not beating yourself up if you need to take a day off to avoid injury or don’t have the race you dreamed of.

  19. I have improved my running speed also pretty significantly and it’s due to consistency. I did the workouts. I ran and did speed workouts. The hard runs sucked but it made me better in the end.. Loved this post!

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