Earlier this year, when talking with a friend about her job search plans, I mentioned the idea of a “personal brand.” She asked me what I meant by that, which caused me to do a little soul searching. I realized I had bought into the idea of the value of having a strong personal brand while working with mortgage loan officers and real estate agents—two audiences who are all about getting their face out there to attract business. I took a step back and started thinking about how to better articulate the why and how of a personal brand.
Role of a Brand
As a consumer, a brand is a shortcut that helps me make a buying decision. If I want a good cup of coffee in an unfamiliar city, I find a Starbucks. If I need to buy a book, I typically go to Amazon, and for an audio book, I’ll visit Audible. If I want durable shoes for outdoor activities, I’m looking for a pair of Keens. There are also brands that are so prominent, they have become part of our lexicon. People Google instead of doing an online search, use Kleenex rather than tissue, and pick the version of Coke they want at a restaurant. Those brands mean something whether it’s quality, range of items available, or a predictable experience. Brands help us jump to a quicker answer instead of having to weigh multiple options for every single buying decision we make.
A Personal Brand
A personal brand is a similar idea. Instead of branding a product, though, it’s intended to help shortcut the decision-making process to promote someone’s credibility or value. When I think of the epitome of a personal brand, I think Oprah. Oprah tells us what pop health gurus to listen to, what books to read, who to vote for and more. Oprah has a television network, and a magazine and an empire. Everyone knows who Oprah is and what she’s all about. This is personal branding at its finest.
For the rest of us non-Oprah's, we also have a personal brand. When people meet one another in-person, oftentimes, we check out one another's online presences. In the work world, it's usually LinkedIn and potentially Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (among others). Whether you're looking for a job, or connecting with a professional colleague, having an online presence is nearly a given. Make sure that presence is one you want people to be aware of (because they'll find it one way or another) and that it positions you in a positive light.
My Personal Brand
My personal branding aspirations are not at the level of Oprah. (My television network and magazine are on hold for now.) For me, my personal brand is showcasing my skills as a trusted professional in the learning and development space. I want to be known for sharing industry related information on adult education, conveying lessons learned, and communicating my personal insights. My goal is to position myself as a real life human with day to day challenges who is also someone you’d trust (or hire) when it comes to helping adults learn information to enable them to succeed.
I started to pay attention to my personal brand when I realized I wanted to start sharing my insights in blog entries. For me, a personal brand was an embodiment of what I wanted my blog to be about. In short, my blog is my way of sharing my learnings with others who could benefit from my trials and tribulations. Using the colors in my professional headshot and a fun photo of coffee, my personal brand was born.
When I think of what my brand includes, I think first of how I present myself online as well as in print. For me, that means I have a professional social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. On each site, I used BrendaLearns as my username, my professional photo as my avatar, and a consistent description on each site. I also have a background picture on my social media sites that showcases the same color scheme (shades of red and gray). In addition, this color scheme is included on my blog at (you guessed it) www.BrendaLearns.com. On my resume, I include a red line on the left side, which continues to emphasize my personal brand. In addition, my business cards feature the same color scheme and background image to keep my personal branding consistent.
Have Something to Say
My focus of my blog is sharing my key learnings with others. It’s about helping others navigate life’s trials and tribulations by enabling them to benefit from some of the things I’ve either researched or learned through experience. Whether it’s helping people think through personal finance questions, figure out how to navigate a job loss, train for an inline skating marathon, or just helping people learn in general, I am wired to want to help people learn and grow. I want to share information in a way that is understandable, and even fun.
Likewise, that same spirit is embodied in my social media presence, I want the world to associate my personal brand with someone who is knowledgeable and helpful. This is why I share articles on helping adults learn, leading strong teams of high-performing (and happy) individuals, and other business insights. I also share articles and posts that show that I’m human, too. I have 2 cats (Zippy and Meathook), a daughter who is into roller derby and learning to drive, a strong interest in inline skating, and a love of quotes that are at once funny and thought provoking. Without having something to say, and getting comfortable being human in front of others, having a personal brand is not worth much.
What Do You Think?
What do you think about personal branding in general and the value of having a personal brand? Include your thoughts in the comments.
I Did a Thing!
On Saturday, September 14, 2019, I completed my very first inline marathon! After months and months of planning, training, and intermittent panicking, I successfully completed the Northshore Inline Marathon. Even better, I completed it in my best average per mile time for a long distance, and even snuck in just under the 3-hour mark for event completion.
What Training Entails
Here This is the first time I’ve trained for an athletic event at this level, and it definitely took a lot of time and effort both on and off skates. What may have seemed like many, many social media posts of pictures of my skates and “I just skated 6 miles in this beautiful place” took an amazing amount of time in researching, physical conditioning, recovery activities, mindset training and so much more. Here are a few key components that went into completing this inline marathon:
So Now What?
What started out as a big audacious life goal has become the starting point rather than an ending point. I'm planning on another running 5K, and another inline marathon next summer. I also know where I need to improve, like continuing to improve my stride and get better at navigating hills, and I'm excited to keep getting better.
How To Do This
When I think of things I've wanted to try in life, one of my biggest foundational questions is "how do I even do this?". In this article, I'll give you my answer on the gear aspect of what all the things are you might need to inline skate for a longer distance.
Skating Further = More to Carry
In addition to the general challenges of learning how to inline skate outdoors on trails, as distance becomes longer, there are additional factors to manage. For one, figuring out how to carry a few personal items, some just-in-case supplies, food, and water becomes necessary. There are multiple solutions available to solve these problems from hydration backpacks to fanny packs to vest to hand-held water bottles. There is also the question of what all to where (clothing and gear) and how to go about procuring each of the needed things. As a starting point for your own learning process, here's what clothing and gear I went with to prepare me to skate longer distances.
What I Wear and Why
Clothing choice is tricky since it means balancing many factors. For me, it's addressing sun protection, managing body temperature, keeping safety in mind, and having a way to carry the things one needs when exercising outside for a few hours at a pop. Gear needs to help keep you safe in case of an emergency as well as balance performance and manageability. After a few false starts, here's where I landed.
At first, I wore a Women's Armachillo Cooling Sleeveless T-shirt from one of my favorite stores Duluth Training Company. When was skating under and hour at a shot, and I didn't need to carry a lot with me, this was a great solution to carry my keys and ID. While I liked something sleeveless, I also had to wear sunscreen on my arms. As I researched what other inline skaters do, I realized that short sleeve cycling jerseys were the go to. I needed a way to carry water with me in the least awkward way I could. I looked into hydration backpacks, and other water carrying solutions like fanny packs or hand bottle holders.
I chose a bicycling jersey because, like a lot of longer distance inline skaters, they give you the ability to carry a few thing with you without tying up your hands. In general, I'm not a fan of bags, because off odd weight distribution, awkwardness when accessing items on the go, and increasing body temperature by having one more thing to carry and sweat up. Having pockets in the back of my shirt where things are readily accessible, but not particularly bulky to carry, has been a good solution for me.
I now own 3 long sleeved Terry Cycling Tops since I typically skate 3 or so times per week. I like these particular cycling jerseys because they have three deeper pockets on the lower back instead of 2 larger ones. I also purchased one Fix It Stick Back Bottle which is specially designed to stay put in a jersey, and put it in the middle of the back. I also typically carry a smaller water bottle with me, and in my far left back pocket, I carry a few Picky Bars for on-the-go nutrition, a few single serve size packets of Osmo Nutrition - Active Hydration for Women to add to water handed out at water stations, and a skate tool just in case. I also prefer the long sleeve version because it has sun protection UPF 50+ built in. It's also moisture wicking, and since it's designed "by women and for women", it fits way better than other jerseys I tried. They feel light and are comfortable in addition to being functional. As an extra added bonus, I also like that each of mine have fun designs that include blue (which is my helmet color.)
Down Low: PopFit Stella Leggings w/Pockets
Leggings with pockets are the best thing ever. I tried a number of different brands of leggings, and I like these PopFit leggings the best. I like them because they have fabric rather than mesh pockets, and the pockets are substantial. The deep pockets give me a place to put my key fob and ID (right pocket) and my phone (left pocket, screen in) where both are accessible, but won't fall out. They have sturdy seams, keep their shape, come up high enough at the waist, and the material is sturdy. As needed, I can also carry a small water bottle, or crumpled up cup, in my right pocket, or even a snack as needed.
When inline skating, I've fallen a few different ways. While my knees and wrists are safety geared up, leggings are my barrier between the rest of me and the asphalt. These are also heavy-duty leggings that can take some abuse and last. I have had a few bigger falls this year (stick in my skates, wiped out going down a hill, hit by a boy on a bike) and these leggings helped protect my legs from serious road rash and are still wearable and looking good. As an extra added bonus, I love the body positive message of this company, and the wide range of sizes available.
Until very, very recently, I was skating in K2 Alexis Pro Women's Inline Skates. These were a good place for me to start. They had strong construction, good ventillation, and softer wheels to give me a little more control and a little less speed while I was learning to inline skate. I've also beaten them up a bit, and now that I have put in some mileage skating, I decided that I was ready for an upgrade. I'm in no way ready for elite level skates, but something with a little more speed made sense.
When picking out new skates, I stuck with K2s because I knew they fit my feet well, and they are made for those of use who do not have delicate calves. I picked out K2 VO2 90 Pro Women's Inline Skates because they had 90mm wheels instead of 80mm wheels (bigger wheels = faster) 83A wheel durometer vs 80A durometer (harder = faster, but not so fast that I will do myself great bodily harm), an aluminum frame vs plastic frame (increase durability), and they were more breathable. I'm at the skill level where the grippier wheels were slowing me down and making skating on uneven surfaces more difficult. On a very short skate I did to try out K2 VO2's, I went about 30 seconds per mile faster than I did in my K2 Alexis skates. I also took them out on a recent 16 mile skate and they felt great.
What Do You Think?
What is your go-to inline skating gear? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Life Is What Happens To You While You're Busy Making Other Plans
Last Sunday, I skated 10.4 miles, my longest skate to date. I was where I needed to be in my inline marathon training plan. I was less freaked out about hills, my endurance was improving, I had an ever-improving stride, and I was mostly ready (and productively anxious), about my upcoming inline half- marathon.
On Tuesday, I went to my favorite local lake with a 3ish mile bike trail with the plan of putting in 6 miles. About a half mile into my skate, I slowed down a bit as I went across a driveway, then started to pick up speed again. Suddenly, I felt something in the middle of my back, and I was knocked to the ground trying to figure out what just happened. A moment later, and I was standing up in the grass with a few more dings on my safety pads, looking at a boy on a bike. My best guess is that he was going faster than he should have been and not paying a whole lot of attention to anyone or anything else on the path. The main “anyone” on the path was me—an adult women in an obnoxious cycling jersey and a blue helmet. I stood there, taking personal inventory of where it hurt (which was barely anywhere because of the fun that is an adrenaline dump), and looking at him, and his seemingly disinterested mother, in disbelief.
There is a Fine Line Between Awful and Funny
What followed was an interchange that went something like this:
Me: You hit me with your bike and knocked me down.
Boy’s Mom: What happened?
Me: He hit me with his bike and knocked me down.
Boy: My brakes didn’t work.
Me: You hit me with your bike and knocked me down!
Boy’s Mom to Boy: Oh no! Let’s look at your brakes.
Me, to Boy’s Mom: HE HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN!
[Silence as I waited for the mother or the boy, or really anyone, to ask if I was okay or show any sort of acknowledgement or remorse for the part where the boy HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN.]
Me, to Boy’s Mom: In case you’re wondering, I’m okay.
Boy: My brakes didn’t work.
Me: YOU HIT ME WITH YOUR BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN!
In the end, I got nothing from the mom, and the boy continued to try to explain to me about how his brakes didn’t work. I skated ahead to get away from them, and when they caught up with me as I was waiting to cross the street, the boy stopped--funny how his brakes worked then--and his mom didn’t make eye contact with me and apparently was busy trying to locate her other child (who I think she was also trying to locate when the boy initially HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN).
I decided to skate only 3 miles that night since I was feeling a little off after the boy HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN. I was happy to skate/walk away from the issue, but the interaction bothered me for all of the reasons.
The Day After
I woke up the following day and realized that, although I am durable and tough, getting hit made a real impact on me. (Pun intended.) My back was a little sore, and later in the day, I had a headache and was extremely tired. I went home and slept a bit. The day after that, I noticed neck and back pain, and realized that this is what whiplash feels like. I scheduled a chiropractor appointment for Friday morning, and skipped skating Thursday night.
On Friday, I went to the chiropractor, and told her my situation. She told me it was my call whether or not I wanted to skate in a week, and we could see how it went and make a call later in the week. I have a couple of specific stretches to do, ice to use on my back and neck twice a day, and a directive not to skate or anything equally strenuous until at least Tuesday.
20, and probably even 10 years ago, I may have pushed it and done the race knowing that I could tough my way through it. While I have no doubt in my ability to play hurt and work through pain to achieve a goal, it’s also important to know when that makes sense, and when that is just dumb. I had planned for a week of training to achieve a few more things (a longer skate on rolling hills, an even longer skate on a flat surface to surpass the half marathon distance before the event) that I’m not going to be able to do. There is the pre-race taper, but I’m a little too pre-race to call this a long taper. There is also the pain that you play through (like soreness and aching rather than “I messed up my neck and back because someone HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN.”)
All of the Goals
While one of my goals is to skate an inline half marathon, that was really a sub goal on the way to skating an inline marathon. Knowing myself and my body, I’m going to sit out the half marathon (which kills me a little) and heal up so I can come back strong and do the full marathon in September. Sometimes one goal has to go away to reach another, more important goal. I’ll also skate the half marathon distance, just not with the pomp and circumstance of finishing an event as planned.
Skating is the most recent manifestation of one of my longer term life goals: continued wellness and mobility. One of my other core life goals is to be able to retain mobility and fitness throughout my lifetime. Currently, I’m not willing to put “complete inline half marathon in 2019” over “ability to walk when I’m 80 and live relatively pain-free.” This is one of those cases where adulting sucks. I know enough that I need to give up an interim goal to hit two, larger (and more important) long term goals. I'm still not happy about it.
Recovering and Refocusing
For the next week, my main physical activities will be sleep, yoga, stretching, and walking. It's killing me a little bit already, but better to take a week to really recover than pushing it too soon and hurting myself worse. After that, I'll reassess. Then I may do shorter skates on flat, controlled surfaces (like a local inline skating track that is well-maintained), try out my easy hills trail (which is a mile long), and see how things are looking. I'm also going to take full advantage of the chiropractic arts and have a massage between now and then. I may also walk and put in some elliptical time to keep my fitness level up while I heal.
What Do You Think?
How do you heal from an injury? How to you manage your headspace? Include your thoughts in the comments.
From Plan to Reality
In previous blog articles, I outlined my 3-phase inline marathon training plan. Having a high-level plan is not enough, though. In order to be successful, I must put that plan into action. This means getting from weekly mileage and a list of cross training activities on a page into specific appointments on the calendar. This also means factoring in the weather, work activities, parenting, and spending time with family and friends. I also find that if I don’t think ahead, it’s way too easy to not make training a priority.
The Overarching Detailed Plan
I have a detailed outline of my specific training plan. It plots our week by week how many miles I should be skating, and additional training activities and frequencies. Within a given week, my goal is to skate outside 3 times, have 1 cross training day, incorporate working on hills, maintain flexibility, and do some strength training. I also need to have at least 1 rest/recover day in addition to daily stretching. As I get closer to the inline half marathon, here is what an upcoming training week looks like:
Blame It on the Rain
Growing up on a farm, I was used to having a contentious relationship with the weather. Farmers are always trying to work it out so that they can cut hay, give it a bit to dry, bale it, and then haul it out of the fields and into the barn—ideally without it getting rained on along the way.
As a city dweller, I have not had to care as much about the weather for years. Now, though, since I need to train outside (and skating in the rain is not a thing), I need to pay more attention to the weather. When might it rain this week? If it does rain, how much? Can I sneak in a skate early morning or later evening skate before or after the rain? With that information in my head, and my training plan in front of me, it’s time to do some research and scheduling.
Working Around the Weather
Not only do I need to find 3 days where I can skate outside, but I also would like to have 3 days with at least 1 day off in between. I also need to stay flexible enough that as the weather forecast updates, I can revise my scheduled days as needed. Right now, it looks like Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning have the greatest chance of rain. On the day of my 3-mile skate, I also want to be sure to do some practicing on hills (my stopping downhill skills need some work) and on the longer skate day, I’ll focus more on distance on a relatively flat surface. As weather dictates, I can also possibly work on stopping on hills and going up hills, on a different day.
Also, this past weekend, I did a longer skate on Saturday, and a skating lesson on Sunday, so I need to take Monday off from skating to let my body recover. That means that later in the week, I may need to skate 2 days in a row depending on the weather. I will tentatively push out my longer skate until Sunday so I at least have a day off from skating before that longer, potentially more taxing training day. With all those things in mind, I check out the week's forecast:
Current Working Plan
After looking at the weather, I considered my work schedule, social plans with friends, fitness classes I wanted to go to, and the family calendar. After factoring those items in, here's the schedule I landed on:
Activities for Specific Days
My recovery day can be whatever it needs to be. Sometimes, recovery involves guarding the couch and watching Netflix followed by an Epsom salt bath and a little extra sleep. It could also include a massage or a leisurely hike with a friend. For my next recovery day, I’m planning on foam rolling and a little yoga.
When it comes to flexibility training, I do basic stretching every day. In addition, I like to go to at least one yoga class per week. This helps me to make sure I’m not doing the same exercises all the time and pushing myself to use different muscle groups. As needed, I can also do flexibility training on a day when I’m also doing skating or cross-training.
For Strength training, I have multiple options. I can take a strength class, do circuit training at the gym, or I can do a kettlebell routine at home. This is the most flexible component of my workout since I have the option of doing this at home as schedules permit. As needed, I can also do strength training on a day when I’m also doing skating or cross-training.
Cross training can take multiple formats. My favorites include running outside and running or walking uphill on a treadmill at the gym. As I work on getting better at hills, using the Stairmaster at the gym, or walking around Minnehaha Falls park and doing multiple flights of stairs, helps increase my cardiovascular capability as well as my hill climbing muscles.
Scheduling Each Activity
Once I have my general plan set, I figure out exactly what I’m going to do and make an executable plan. Writing down details helps me to complete each planned activity. It also gives me the specific information to enable me to not have to think through details in the moment and risk not following through. Here are my specific activities for the week:
What Do You Think?
What concrete plans do you make to make sure you'll meet your fitness goals? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Thank You, Safety Gear!
Today, I went on my first skate since my 10K inline skating event. I went on a different route with a few more hills. On one downhill slope, while I was focusing on technique, my front right skate wheel hit the grass, and I went down. Fortunately, I was wearing safety gear. What could have been a broken wrist, a messed up knee, and a lot more blood ended up being way less dire. It was also a good reminder of how quickly something can happen, and how safety gear makes the end result more manageable.
What The Pros Wear
If you see competitive inline skaters, they usually wear a short-sleeved cycling jersey, biking shorts, a bicycle helmet, wrist guards, and their skates. Most inline events require a helmet and wrist guards. Bicycle helmets are popular due to their aerodynamic nature. These are also experienced, pro skaters who place in world-class events. I am definitely not at this level.
What This Instructional Design Manager Wear
My Outdoor Inline Skating Protective Gear
Here is my current safety gear for when I inline skate (or roller skate) outside:
What Do You Think?
What safety gear do you wear or not wear when inline skating outdoors? Include your thoughts in the comments.
I Did a Thing!
On, Saturday, 6/29/2019, I completed my first inline event! Yes, it was a race. For me, finishing is my winning. Not only did I "win", but I got my best time to date for the distance. I completed 6.23 miles in 50:24, which gives me an average pace of 8:05 minutes per mile. Success!
Why I Picked This Event
In previous blog entries, I have outlined my 3 phase inline marathon training plan. To help measure my progress and stay on track, I included 4 key events in my plans. Completing this 10K skate was the second key milestone in my overall plan. Here are those 4 milestone events:
My Goals and Objectives
For this particular event, my primary goal was to finish the event. I estimated that I could finish in about an hour given my times on previous 6-ish mile skates. I exceeded my own expectations by finishing in less time than anticipated.
Above and beyond just plain finishing, I had a few more objectives:
My Preparation: Training
I signed up for this event since it was nearby and fit in well with my overall inline marathon training plan. To get ready, here's what my physical training looked like from the beginning of May through the event:
My Preparation: Planning
As the event drew closer, I thought about logistical planning. The day before, I picked up my bibs (numbers) and t shirt. That same day, I drove the course. In retrospect, I should have done that WAY SOONER to get a handle on the terrain.
I figured out core logistics of parking, getting to the start line, and getting from the finish line to where we parked. I also enlisted my husband to be my road crew. He drove us to the event, kept us on time, got us parked, helped me pin on my numbers, and brought my shoes to the finish line. He executed all of the plans to get us where we needed to be, when we needed to be there that would have stressed me out on the day of the event.
What Went Well
The event itself went well. I achieved my primary goal of finishing, and even made good time through it all. My nutrition and hydration worked and I didn't feel dehydrated or have what I will politely call "gastro-intestinal distress" on the day of the event. I achieved a personal best time, and I felt good after I finished (perhaps partly because I got to stop skating after doing many, many hills). Post event, I ate a good meal, did some yoga, took a power nap, soaked in Epsom salt, and iced my left knee. Now, a day later, I'm only a little bit sore, which is encouraging.
I also realized how supportive people are at these events. There were some professional inline skaters at the front of the pack, then people who were more recreational. Along the whole course, people were encouraging. This included volunteers directing us the right way, police officers directing traffic, people who passed me, the water station helpers, and people not in the event who were just skating or running by. Everyone had words of encouragement to share. As I was struggling up the last, ridiculously long hill, I heard "almost at the top," "only 1 kilometer to go," "looking good," "you got this," and "you can do this!" That type of support in the moment makes all of the difference. While I pride myself of my ability to power through adversity, voices to help cheer on the voice in my head telling me I'm going to make it help. It also gives me faith in the goodness of the world.
What Could Have Gone Better
While I did drive the course, I drove it the day before the event--which didn't give me a lot of time to course correct my training. During that drive, which was almost an afterthought, I realized that there were a fair amount of hills on the course. I was worried about going down the hills and not totally losing control. I knew how to ascend hills, and though I was not very efficient in doing so, I knew I could complete the course as long as I could navigate downhill stretches.
In retrospect, I would have checked out the course earlier and trained accordingly. I definitely made up time from climbing the multiple hills by doing a little faster downhill afterwards. The last hill was very, very ugly. I definitely need to do more, different terrain so that isn't such an effort--or a surprise.
Lessons Learned and Next Steps
My next inline event is the first Saturday in August in St Paul. Here's how I will change my current training plan to be more successful in that event:
What Do You Think?
How have you trained for athletic events? Include your thoughts in the comments.
My 3 Phase Inline Marathon Training Plan
In a recent blog post, I talked about my previous half-baked inline half marathon plan. I learned the hard way that I need a solid training plan to reach my goals. This time around, here is my three-phase training plan to achieve my inline skating marathon related goals:
Phase III: Game On!
Welcome to Phase III of my inline marathon training plan. This is where, to put it plainly, shit gets real. Now I'm skating and getting ready for a crazy long skate and realizing how far I'm going to go between now and mid-September.
Goals: Skate longer distances outside on uneven terrain.
My Overarching Training Plan for Phase III
I’ve done a fair share of research for books or online resources, and there’s not a thorough roadmap for how to train for an inline marathon available. There aren’t many current go-to websites or a book to help guide the way. I dug a bit more and found useful ideas for how to go about this from a variety of disparate sources. From parts, I’ve cobbled together a plan from the huge body of information available on running your first marathon, websites with dribs and drabs on inline marathons, and resources on physical training in general.
From that I put together a personal training plan for myself that incorporates the following:
Skating Longer Distance
The core part of my plan includes skating outside on a regular basis. My starting point is skating 3 miles, partly because I know I can complete that distance (instead of starting at a mile or so of skating). In addition, my very favorite neighborhood lake with a biking trail is about 3 miles long. I have a whole plan plotted out for skating 3 times per week, which includes two shorter skates, and one longer skate per week. It also includes adding mileage weekly and scaling back a bit every three weeks to gradually build up mileage. I’m also incorporating the taper that running marathoners use which involves reducing mileage just before the event.
Improve Skating Technique
I am pretty tough in general, and I know I can power through many obstacles. However, I’m also smart enough to know that white knuckling my way through an event like this should by no means be plan A. I know I need to keep increasing my overall endurance (building on what I accomplished through the running in the last phase of this process.) I also know that my technique needs some serious leveling up. I need to transition from basically walking on inline skates, to having something that is more recognizable as an efficient stride. I need to get more distance from each stride and be more efficient so I can complete an event that is, to date, about 4 times longer than any skate I have ever done. This includes taking inline skating lessons, doing drills, doing sport specific conditioning, and a whole lot of practicing.
Incorporating Cross Training
I also know I can’t just skate to get ready for this event. First off, sometimes the weather won’t cooperate with my plans to skate outside. This is where running (indoors or outdoors) will be one form of cross training, as will biking (including a spinning class that I have committed to going to with a co-worker of mine—who I think may be trying to kill me aka “give me additional cross training options.”) I’m even planning on doing a roller derby class, which will keep me on skates, but focus more on stopping and starting than logging mileage. I’m also lifting weights, including kettlebell, to round out my training plan. Above and beyond cross training in other cardio activities, I'll be doing activities to help with recover. This includes stretching, foam roller, and yoga on a near daily basis.
What Do You Think
How have you prepared for an inline marathon or other longer event? How did you prepare? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The Importance of Recovery
I'm in the swing of inline marathon training. This includes three outdoor skates per week (currently 3-6 miles each with increasing mileage over time), one day of cross-training per week, and strength training once a week. To make all of this possible, recovery is critically important. In addition to sleep, Epsom salt baths, and monthly massages, there are three tools that help with the active part of recovery.
The Obligatory Disclaimer
Before I share my thoughts on tools for active recovery, which could be construed as medical advice, please note that I am not a doctor, lawyer, or certified health care anything. What I am is lifelong learner and a first-time inline marathon participant who's figuring out what works for me and sharing what I learn. Be sure to double check my math with your own doctor, personal trainer, or whoever it might make sense to ask about these sorts of things. Go forth and do your own research!
The Value of Taking a Class
I am a fan of learning as much as I can through research, then taking a class to help me get the bigger picture. I highly recommend a class taught by Angie Fern entitled Muscle Tension Release With Foam Rollers and Tennis Balls Workshop, or a foam roller class for short. This 3-hour class (which I've now taken twice) helped set me right and get me going in the right direction. I highly recommend it. I've included the website to keep an eye on regarding upcoming classes. Angie is definitely the go-to for how to really leverage these tools. This article only scratches the surface.
For Legs: Strap
There are a few areas in dire need of stretching that require a little extra help. While there are a few yoga stretches (pigeon and butterfly pose come to mind) that target the hips and thigh areas, using a strap helps stretch these areas more effectively. Since I'm skating, which uses a lot of quads, calves, and hips, these stretches are mission critical.
I have my fancy strap that I typically use. I also have a plainer travel strap that has the buckle. I love the strap in that it travels well, and also gives me a quick, effective way to stretch important muscle groups.
Check out this YouTube video to see the stretches I do on a near-daily basis. I typically do each stretch for 2 minutes per leg.
For Feet and Back: Two Tennis Balls in a Sock
Two tennis balls in a sock is not to be confused with the following items:
For my feet, I put one foot on the end of the sock, then roll my other foot over the tennis ball to work out knots. It seem to be the right amount of pressure to work out tightness. This also helps with planter fasciitis, that horrible tightness in the bottoms of the feet. I typically do this a minute or so per day, and on an as needed basis, to relieve that tension. As needed, I also will put my foot in between the tennis balls to ease out knots in the sides of my foots.
For my hips and back, I lie on my back, and position one tennis ball on each side of my spine down near my tailbone. Over time, I move it a bit at a time and work it up towards my neck. This is a great way to massage those key points that aren't easy to hit using other methods.
Check out this video on how to make your very own two tennis balls and a sock and a couple of ideas on how to use your creation.
For Nearly Everything: Foam Roller
Foam rollers are starting to gain popularity--and I see why. They offer a great way to do targeted massage on your muscles without having to schedule (and pay for) a massage each time.
During the class I mentioned taking with Angie Fern, I learned strategies for using a foam roller head to toe to address muscle tension and improve everything from planter fasciitis pain to improving breathing capacity to preventing headaches.
I especially love using the foam roller to address multiple areas of my legs. Rolling out my calves and quads are two key areas that help my recovery greatly.
I also have a few key bits of advice to share. First off, roll out each leg independently instead of rolling out both at the same time. This helps give each leg the attention it needs.
When it comes to equipment, I suggest a plain foam roller (instead of those that are textured). Sometimes, the textured rollers put too much pressure on a given area. Second, having a shorter foam roller, 12-18 inches, gives more options for specific exercises and is also easier to store.
Check out this video for a few basic foam roller moves you might want to check out.
What Do You Think?
How do you rest and recover while training for an event? Or just in general? Include your thoughts in the comments.
My 3 Phase Inline Marathon Training Plan
In an earlier blog post, I talked about my previous half-baked inline half marathon plan. I learned the hard way that I need a solid training plan to reach my goals. This time around, here is my three-phase training plan to achieve my inline skating marathon related goals:
Phase II: Increasing Endurance Through Cardio
Once I increased my overall level of activity, it was time to work on my endurance. I went in with the following high-level goals:
The Running (Wo)man
I started out thinking I would totally do three different things in this phase of training. It really ended up being all about the running. For 12 weeks, 3-4 times per week, 30-60 minutes a shot, I focused on running. I used the foam roller, yoga, and walking to recover, and a wee bit of inline skating as cross training, but otherwise, I ran intervals, and then longer distances.
Running a 5K
In order to get myself to focus on running, I committed to running a 5K run at the end of April. I knew I would have to work up to being able to run that long and that far.
To give my training structure, I used RunBet. Like StepBet (which I used in Phase I of my plan), RunBet is and app that organizes 6-week challenges to help individuals improve their running. The starter RunBets focus on getting participants to run 3-4 times per week at a pace of 18 minutes per mile or faster. I used two separate challenges to create a regular running habit and increase my distance. Each RunBet challenge costs $40.00 to enter. As long as you complete the RunBet challenge by meeting your goals for each week, you're guaranteed to earn back your $40.00 and usually a bit more. Holding my $40 hostage pending me completing tasks is enough to motivate me to get the job done.
Building The Running Habit
My first RunBet was a 5K challenge. This involved running 3-4 times per week and increasing mileage systematically to get up to the full 5K (3.2ish) mile distance. I walked a good chunk of this, then, as time went on, alternated running and walking. Since it was still cold and/or rainy during much of this time, I was doing nearly all of my running on a treadmill at the gym. The biggest takeaway from this was running/walking consistently.
My second RunBet was a Weight Loss Challenge. My goal, though, wasn’t weight loss. It was to continue the momentum from my first RunBet so that I would continue to run the 3-4 times per week to do more actual running. (I’m at the point in life where I’m not focusing on weight loss, but overall health and wellness.) This challenge was a little different because it focused on running time rather than mileage. I still needed to hit an 18 minutes or less per mile pace, and each day included 30 minutes of running, but no distance requirement.
RunBet and Couch to 5K
While I had the going-to-the-gym habit down, I needed to get more running into my running. However, my goal was to run—not just walk—3.2 miles without stopping. This meant I needed to have some kind of a system for running. I used the legit Couch to 5K app. (Please note—there are several versions of couch to 5K, and some of them assume you have a way higher fitness level than what I would consider “couch.”)
While the RunBet app got me to the gym and on the treadmill, Couch to 5K helped me use the time when I was there well. The app basically systematically times out intervals of running and walking. This helped me build up my endurance in a systematic way.
Running Mindset: Stop Trying to Go Fast
As I was getting closer to the end of my second RunBet, I started reading the book 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower. This was excellent timing. As I was working on running longer intervals, I found that it was really hard for me to run for very long. I learned that I was making a common mistake that many recreational runners make--I was trying to run too fast and trying to increase my ability to go a longer distance at the same time.
This book gave me permission to slow down and stop trying to run fast right away. Instead, I now know that it is better (because science) to run slow for about 80% of the time I train, and faster for only 20% of my workouts. By finding a running pace that was sustainable for longer, I was able to run for extended periods of time without burning out. It also helped correct my general mindset about exercise. I think I always need to push myself to work harder and stretch myself each and every time I work out. This book reinforced the value of being deliberate and planful rather than always pushing. Had I not read this book, I do not think I would have been able to run the whole 5K.
After my second RunBet was complete, I had one week until my 5K. I was a little concerned because I had not run the full 3.2 miles. In short, I did pretty much all of my running inside, and, well, running on a treadmill is REALLY BORING for going more than about a half hour at a shot. I ran outside to make sure that I was able to run 5K. I went at a reasonable pace and was able to run the entire distance. I also spent most of my time the week before the event taking it slow. I ran one day, walked 3.2 miles another day, did some yoga, and rested. This recovery helped me to do well the day of the event.
I Ran 5K!
The day of the event, my husband and I ran together. He is a big advocate of long slow distance when it comes to running, so I went at his pace. Running with him helped me slow down and find a pace that was sustainable for the whole distance. He and I even had a good conversation during the event, and I enjoyed the crowd, the other runners, and seeing people achieve a their goals whether it was beating a personal record, running a race, or walking with family members. At the end, I got my very first finisher medal. It was a nice milestone to end this part of the training.
What Do You Think?
How have you prepared for a 5K or other athletic event? Share your thoughts in the comments.
I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, health advocate, & skating nerd.