Ask a Monican about Running Progress

You know what’s the best part of hanging out at my mom’s?

No, not hanging out with Matt.

Or the dogs…IMG_0146 (800x600)












Cereal. Definitely cereal.IMG_4729

And the fact that our massive refrigerator has tons of delicious food! This was dinner – TJ’s new rice, orange chicken, broccoli and salad.IMG_4730

When I got home from my mom’s last night Ben was hanging out with a container of cookies his mom sent home with him (he just got back from a trip to FL). She sent a huge container of toffee and chocolate chip cookies!IMG_4745 (800x533)

I couldn’t resist and dug in to 2 cookies with milk. (Today I had him take the rest to work so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat all of them as research for my “Best Chocolate Chip Cookie” search.)IMG_4748 (800x533)

This morning I hit up the gym for a strength session and then came home to film a greasy Ask a Monican. You’re welcome.

Reader question:

Hi Monica,

I’m in a running rut and I was hoping maybe you had some advice?  I wrote you back in January about my break up, and I’ve been working on keeping running- still slowly making my way through the Couch to 5k program, after some bumps in the road, I was able to progress more consistently over the past month.  I was having fun, I felt great, and I was moving forward.  But once I hit the mark for the long runs (a 20 minute, which I only made it 17 minutes, but it was like 80* with 80% humidity and I was going all uphill, so yeah, not my fault haha), I feel like a slug.  I went from 11:30/12 minute miles to 14/15 min miles.  It’s totally depressing me.  And on top of that, when I try to go faster I get this annoying side stitch and an annoying pain in my shoulder which makes it really hard to run.  I know I can just go back in the program, but I’m bummed i’m not progressing despite my hard work!  What should I do?  Is there anything I can do?

Got any advice or a story to share?

Have a question for me? Leave it in the comments or email me runeatrepeat at gmail dot com. All questions will be anonymous unless you want me to name ya.


  1. says

    I was going to guess the fridge was your favourite part of going to your parent’s house!
    I think you nailed the advice. I think it’s all true- a plan isn’t specific for individuals. Every single person is different and could alter a plan, factoring in if they’ve run before, their weight, their age, the time they have to dedicate to the program, etc.
    I say just get out and make sure you enjoy it! If you aren’t, switch it up and try to find something you do enjoy. Cycle, swim, take a group class, go for long walks, sign up for yoga.
    Whatever you do, don’t get upset or down on yourself!

  2. says

    I totally read the “It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken” book after my last breakup and I would recommend it, too!

    As for the running, patience is key! Once the summer months roll around it’s really important to try and run in the morning or once the sun sets (if your schedule allows of course) to avoid the heat as much as possible. It’s ok if you get a little slower, it’s hot out there! And I get side stiches sometimes and I know mine are almost always caused by dehydration or shallow breathing. Try drinking at least one large glass of water before setting out for a run and focus on taking deep, even breaths as you go.

  3. says

    Running is tough! One minute everything is going great and the next it feels like your feet are made of lead and you swapped lungs with a smoker. You just gotta hang in there and keep putting on foot in front of the other! I think you gave really good advice! P.S. that orange chicken looks soooo good!! Now i’m craving chinese….:-)

  4. says

    I love Ask a Monican!!!!!! One of my favorite components of your blog!!!

    As for the reader, I totally feel ya. When the summer hits, my speed decreases and I struggled with this last summer. It was a very frustrating summer for me and then when fall hit, my speed was faster and running required less effort so I learned that the heat had a major impact. As we started to move towards summer ’12, I knew how summer ’11 went so I knew I needed to figure out an alternative – cross train during the summer (quit running) or find a way to run indoors. I found an indoor running track for this summer so that’s what I’ve turned to! Quitting running was not an option for me and although I prefer to run outdoors, the indoor track is a good alternative!

    Hang in there, reader!!!!

  5. Suzanne says

    Even great runners have bad days running!
    Monica, I think your advice was spot-on.
    Every person is different, so it’s hard to know what happened here…was this the first time she ever ran up hill or ran in such awful heat/humidity? Maybe next time it will be better. And like you said, there’s nothing wrong with repeating a week in the training program if you didn’t get through one very well.
    Also, maybe you need to mix up your rest days and when you have a longer run come up, rest for the two or three days prior, not just one.
    Keep working towards your goals and don’t let it get you too frustrated!

  6. says

    Great Ask-a-Monican today! I love that you called it “intuitive running”…such a good way of describing it (I, too, am very familiar with Intuitive Eating, so it makes sense to me). Listening to your body is the most important thing! Also, I saw that one of the previous commenters mentioned getting a side stitch from shallow breathing, and that happens to me, too. Whenever I notice that happening, I slow down my running for maybe 30 seconds & make a conscious effort to take deep slower breaths…usually solves the problem quickly!

  7. says

    That’s my e-mail! My goodness I’ve gotten a whole blog post dedicated to one e-mail and now a whole Ask a Monican! I feel special! Lol

    You’re advice was great. The heat has been slowing me down so I’m trying to run at dusk or night, but I’m still pretty sluggish. And I’ve been doing the program since November (albeit with varying consistency), so I definitely repeat weeks. I repeated week 6 like 3 times just to avoid the 20 minute run. I’m still just bummed because I really really want to run a half marathon in the fall and that goal is starting to feel more and more unattainable as the weeks pass by. :-/ I used to run in high school and I loved, loved, loved the longer distances and just miss it.

    I’ve figured out the side stitch is definitely from too shallow breathing and I read an article from runner’s world about how to alleviate it- exhaling on the downstep of the foot opposite the stitch and that totally works. The shoulder pain, not so much. I’ll try the stretching or getting back to the chiropractor. I have sooo many knots in my shoulder blade area.

    I’m in a break-up rut too still :-/ I read another break-up book, but I’m sending your recommendation to my Kindle right now.

  8. says

    Hi! I also get a side stitch and annoying shoulder pain which is from tendinitis, I’ve found that when I eat a running fuel pack it really helps. I think both probably have to do with hydration and using those gels add electrolytes or salts to your body and help you to retain some extra water. Although that could be something brain just decided was true, I have no scientific proof! If you had a gel pack (found at sports supply stores and some grocery stores) right before your run it would probably start to kick in right about the 15 mins mark and help you to the end. They only cost about $1.50 so it’s cheap trick to try! :)

    I tend to get these aches around mile 4 so eat a gel during mile 3 and it really helps.

  9. says

    My advice would be – Don’t worry if it doesn’t come easy at first. Keep trying, switch it up, and find things that work for you. Plus remember everyone has bad days. Also, I know I tend to be a ton slower in the summer when it is hot and humid. I hate it, but it is the truth and I just remind myself to keep pushing and that come fall my times will drop again.

  10. says

    Totally agree a massage sounds like something your reader should do, as well as the upper body stretching and yoga. Also, she can focus on running relaxed and dropping those shoulders down.

  11. Lucy says

    When I first got back on the running wagon this past fall, I remember how much it sucked getting to the point where I wanted to be. Maybe she could find someone to run with (a friend or family member) or because she wants to run a half marathon check her local running store for a running group (I think you pay about $100) or joining a charity like Team in Training- that’s what I ended up doing because I needed that extra support to get me where I wanted to be! Also, I found that hydrating really helped me- I buy the big bottles of water (1 liter or 1.5 liters) and I make sure to drink at least 2 of them throughout the day. The shoulder problem could also be from being so tried when running. If she’s slouching and that’s putting a lot of stress on her back/shoulders- when I feel like I’m doing that I try and focus on my form and it takes my mind off of how tired I am… Good for her for not giving up, I know it’s a tough internal battle! Allow yourself bad days, we all have them!!!

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