Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Wendy asked yesterday if I ever did any bike riding for cross-training.

In a word, "No."

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times in the past 10 years I've seen anyone riding bikes around here. We don't have bike trails, our main roads have narrow berms and are cut into mountains, our side roads are single-lane with dangerous curves and oh, did I mention the hills?

If Mr. Shrinking Knitter and I ever leave our beautiful-but-isolated mountain paradise, we've agreed we will find someplace flat. He loves to bike, and enjoyed riding on a rails-to-trails route when he lived in Ohio. The last time I was on a bicycle was when I was a girl, I think. I know it had coaster brakes. I'd probably flip myself over the handlebars learning to use hand brakes. But I'd love to try!

So cross-training for me has usually been walking, easier runs [like yesterday's three-miler that I didn't even time], the rowing machine or a yoga session.

Which brings me to the next thing I've been thinking about.

Some of the images of
Haile Gebrselassie running in the New York City Half-Marathon were aerial shots, taken from a helicopter camera. Haile is 5'4" tall – not the typical long, lean, lanky Ethiopian runner. But watching the birds'-eye view of him running was enlightening.

His stride length is impressive for someone of his stature. His legs were straight out in front and behind him; he seemed to float through the air, bounding across the route.

Bounding. That technique is suggested over and over again as a way to increase stride length. I've been trying to bound up the hills when I come to them, although I've yet to dedicate myself to a once-a-week hill-training session.

But I know if I dedicated myself to twice-weekly yoga sessions, I could increase my knee and hip flexibility, which would – in time – lead to a longer stride.

I'm not going to get faster without it.

Do I want to get faster? Sometimes. Honestly, though? I'm more satisfied with endurance than speed. Taking four walking breaks in four miles is a greater disappointment to me than running four slow-but-steady miles.

I don't know where this is leading; I'm thinking out loud here. And that's what blogs are for, right?

P.S. The dog is still here. We thought we found her owner yesterday. You know how when you buy a new car, suddenly you see yourself coming and going every time you drive it? I saw a sign for a lost dog on the very road where I do most of my training. I don't remember seeing that sign before yesterday, but it had obviously been there a while. The man came to look at her and, sadly, said she wasn't his dog. He and his wife might adopt her; theirs has been missing for more than a month. Keep your fingers crossed for all of us!


ws said...

I can't imagine a run without a time. That's like sneakers without laces...

Maybe I have a decent stride length, for my height (63.5in on a good day) people always mention I seem to have long legs. It certainly isn't from running hills. I can't comment on the walk breaks - I'm always taking breaks to drink water, take gu, etc. And, I feel it has improved my running.

Now I'm sure I've ruined your thought process, so I'll move on...

Mary Gee said...

I will watch your blog to see what you do about this, I have the same deal. I know I need to do something, but I am not sure what.

Laura N said...

Gosh, when I want to run faster I just push the up arrow on the treadmill. What's the big deal?

Kidding. I am such a smart a$$ some days.

I want to get faster too, and it is such a mind bender to figure that out. I'm not racing anyone but myself, so what's it matter? Well, I guess that's exactly why it does matter! Plus, just like anything, I compare myself to others and obviously I'm not as fast as this or that person, so there must be something wrong with me and I need to fix it.

It seems like I really need a stronger heart and lungs, and then I can be faster. I get so out of breath and my heart pounds out of my chest when I go fast very long. The better shape I am in, the faster I can run. Plus? I'm guessing getting 20 more pounds off my 5'5'' frame will help me run faster. I'm much faster now than I was 40 pounds ago.

I like the idea of yoga stretching your limbs and making your stride longer. Wonder if that will work? Keep us posted!

Anne M. said...

Bounding - how wonderful! And you could spot it and name it and reflect on how that fits with your own training and running style. If I had to pick between speed and endurance, I'd opt for that one, too, but increased flexibility would benefit you on several fronts. Yoga would be a good way to do gain that flexibility, from what I know about it (which granted isn't a whole lot).

ws said...

btw - I think you commented yesterday about running 1/2 marathons on back to back weekends...if you think you recover well, I'm sure it is possible, especially if you take one easy (i.e. for fun) and treat the other as a race. I think training is a lot of trial and error, but if you did a few 13+ mile training runs leading up to the 1st of the two halfs you'd condition your body to recover faster. I'll let you know how I feel after this weekend since my long one is 18 miles, not much different than last week's 20 miler if you ask me.