June Q & A: Run with Whitney

Welcome to a new series I’m doing called Run with Whitney! It is a reader Q & A with me, just as if we were going on a run together. Topics can include all things running, or not! Feel free to email me your questions at [email protected] or message me on Instagram. I hope my answers are helpful to you!

Ok, let’s get to the Run with Whitney Q&A!

whitney with her kids and their friend
Welcome to the Summer Edition of the first Run with Whitney Q & A!

Hi! I’ve been a shorter distance (3-6 miles) runner off & on since college (40 now), ran first actual 5k race since college in April. Want to continue doing those w my 7 YO son but also itching for something longer, 10k or maybe a half marathon. How do I start upping mileage in training?

Love your goals! You can approach increasing mileage a number of ways, but there are two most common approaches.

First, the 10 percent rule of increasing volume where you don’t increase more than 10 percent week to week. So, if you run 20, next would be 22, and so forth.

Second, you can also hold volume for 3 weeks and then increase by 30 percent so that would be 20, 20, 20, then 26, then repeat.

Be sure to take a take a down week (a slight reduction of volume of 30 percent about every 4 weeks) to prevent injuries and absorb your training.

Whitney Heins running
I like holding my mileage until I am comfortable with it for about a month before increasing.

You can add volume by tacking miles to make one run longer and/or add another day or running with light mileage (like 3 to start). So, if you typically run 5 miles every day during the week, try 7 miles on Weds. Or, if you run 5 days per week, try adding a day of light and easy mileage (2-4 miles) on a sixth day and see how you feel.

The 10 percent rule is great for lower mileage runners but it can become jarring and aggressive to the body for those who are running 40 miles and above (think, that’s an increase of 16 mpw in just one month!).

Personally,  I like add mileage using the 10 percent rule until I get above 40. Then I like to hold my mileage for about a 4-6 weeks before adding either by making my middle week run 2 miles longer or adding a light shakeout before my long run. Right now, I am holding my mileage at 50 mpw, getting comfortable there, before introducing speedwork. Once my body feels like it is used to the training load, I will start adding more volume.

Littles aches and pains, feeling fatigued, or dead legs on most runs are signs its too much.

More resource that may be helpful:

We just lost our golden. We knew she was sick for about a year and gave her cancer treatments. But almost overnight so became unresponsive. What helped you with your grief?

My heart aches for you. So much. It is immeasurably and unspeakably hard, this loss. If you follow me on Instagram, then you likely know we lost our heartbeat of our family, Rooney, our 11 year-old golden, two months ago. We were/ARE devastated. What helped me/us the most was honestly getting another golden (a 6-month-old named Niki).

Rooney, a golden sleeping on the couch
This is our sweet love, Rooney, who we lost in April.

Everyone processes grief differently, of course, and many people don’t feel ready to get another dog. But everything just felt so empty and sad without her—and our 14-year-old goldendoodle seemed so lonely without her best friend.

Niki is her own “person” but she reminds us of Rooney in a lot of ways and sometimes, it feels like she is still with us in her. Indeed, when my husband Jake and I drove almost 10 hours through storms to get her, we reached the edge of the dark sky and there was a rainbow. A nod from Rooney? Niki was our rainbow puppy…hope after such heartbreaking loss.

I also ran a lot. I was just starting back after my labral tear and doubled my mileage. Not wise. But it was what my mind needed. And, I wrote about the loss to help process.

Her ashes are on my dresser. And we talk to her every day. “Hey there, Bear.” That’s what we would say to her when we saw her. We have paintings and photos all around the house. Jake gets new flowers for her ashes weekly and he planted a Weeping Willow outside her window. The branches sway like her mane did in the win. Having a physical presence to remind us of her has helped.

Niki, our new golden, asleep on the couch
Niki reminds us of Rooney in many ways.

 I am sending you my love during this time.

My daughter is almost 17 months old and we’re still nursing. Do you know or have you tried running in the morning before feeding? I’m struggling to find consistent time to get out without my kids and the mornings would be great! She’s too old to do a “dream feed” because if I wake her- that’s it she’s up! 

My daughter nursed until 2.5 years (never took the bottle!) so I feel this! I suspect your daughter is waking up wanting the comfort of nursing (rather than the calories and nutrition specific to breastmilk) as that is the routine she is used to.

For me, I would try to sneak out and she would always wake up and go ballistic, wanting me. We tried all sorts of things to change up the routine and honestly what worked was an unorthodox tactic—we used those little Horizon Chocolate Milk boxes with the straw!

Eleanor, my fierce red head, realized that this was a pretty good deal (and tasted better than breastmilk) so that helped segue her out of expecting to nurse whenever she woke up. She had tried it before and liked it, so I knew it had a good chance of being accepted.

More resources:

I’m still getting up during the night with my toddler, and struggling to get consistent sleep. On the days when I’m dragging, is it bad for my body to push myself to run? Sometimes it makes me feel better; other times not so much. I was wondering from a health standpoint if it’s better or worse to run or skip.

Every once in a while—or even once a week–it is mostly likely okay to run when you had a bad night of sleep AS LONG AS you feel better after doing it.

But if you are dragging at mile 2, or notice you are still really fatigued later, then you know you should have slept instead (pay attention to how you felt so you know for next time). I like to ask myself the question: does even just the thought of running exhaust me? If so, then I should choose sleep over running. But if running and the feeling it gives me excites me, then I try running.

Whitney with her kids
Sleep was hard to come by for me for many years. I made the mistake of increasing my intensity and doubling my volume at this time, getting injured and sick along the way.

For me, I can run after a bad night’s sleep for one or two nights, but if it is longer than that, I start to fall apart (sick, injured, cranky, and impatient).

If every night is a bad night, can you make time for naps? Can you go back to bed after? You can’t “catch up” on sleep, but you can help keep out of a sleep deficit because when we are regularly sleeping less than 7 hours of solid sleep a night, that is when we approach deprivation.

A word of caution: I advise not to increase training until your sleeping is more consistent. I hope this helps! Please know this is a stage and will not last forever! But it is still SO hard!

More Resources:

How do you keep yourself from stopping or restarting a workout when it feels really hard and you want to stop?

Great question! There are a few strategies I personally like to use. First, I like to “chunk” the workout. I break it into little chunks which makes it much less overwhelming. The only reason you should look at the whole workout in front of you is to ensure you are pacing yourself correctly. This is where the mantra “one mile at a time” or even one minute at a time helps!

If you’re running so fast, going to well, and struggling to complete the workout, you may have gone out too hot. That’s why it is important to be clear on the purpose of the workout and the effort you should be running. I have done this time and again on tempo workouts at the beginning of a training block when I am less fit. I start out at a pace I think I should be able to run only to learn, my body isn’t there yet!

I also like to focus on what is feeling good. I tell myself to stand tall and run strong. If I can’t hold onto the pace, I look at what I can control such as my turnover or my arms swinging by my sides. Sometimes, I disassociate myself from the pain. I let my mind wander so I am not obsessively checking my watch. Having a good mantra (and good music!) can also help!!

More Resources:

What do you suggest for people who run early in the morning and don’t want to eat breakfast at 4 am?

If you are a morning runner, I get it. When I am training hard, I will wake up at 3 a.m. to get my workouts in at least once per week. I surely don’t want to wake up earlier than that to eat. But there are options! You can eat a carb-rich snack before bed to stock up your glycogen stores. I am down for any excuse to eat cereal or graham crackers before bed!

You can also slurp something easy like a high-carb sports drink such as Skratch, have juice, or a fruit pouch.

If I have an intense and long workout that morning, I often eat a plain bagel before getting in the car to head to the track. With this, I have never felt tired, weak, or had tummy troubles. Hope that helps!

Related: Should I Eat Before I Run?

Thanks to everyone who wrote in for the first installment of Run with Whitney! I look forward to next month’s!

See all the posts in my Run with Whitney Q & A series here.



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