“Is good gymnastic!”: My first three weeks of half-marathon training in Greece

While jogging in Rhodes one day this fall, an elderly Greek gentleman called out, “Is good gymnastic!” as I passed by.

This has become my running mantra as I embark on this crazy, 13.1 mile-long adventure. After three weeks of training, I’ve never felt this good in my whole life, physically and mentally. I’m happy to report that settling into a training routine, enjoying every single step, and digging the whole process!

This success has been in large part due to a new technological addition to my running repertoire. After 6 years of running and one failed training attempt, I finally invested in a heart rate monitor. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say it has revolutionized my running. Never before has a piece of technology completely changed my life for the better like this. If you’re a beginning or intermediate runner and don’t use a heart rate monitor, I highly recommend investing in one.

Here’s why. I like running. I love running. But some days, it was just so hard to get myself to do so. I’m normally a hugely self-motivated person, so this was odd for me; but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get myself to lace up my shoes and get out the door.

The first time I put on my heart rate monitor and set out at my normal pace, I was astonished to see that at only five minutes into the run, the display read 98%.

Yep. After six years of serious running, I was trying to run at 98% of my maximum heart rate for the duration of the workout every time I ran.

Suddenly, it all made sense. No wonder I had a tough time getting motivated, and no wonder I got injured the first time I tried; I was killing myself every time I went for a run! It blew my mind. All this time, I had been going about it all wrong. It hadn’t felt like I was pushing it that hard, but in hindsight, the signs were all there: I had to run to only the most ridiculous pump-up songs or I couldn’t get motivated, I could only go for relatively short distances, and yes, I wound up with a knee injury the first time I trained for a half marathon.

Since I learned how to make the most of my heart rate monitor (ie, training at 70-80% of my maximum heart rate), I have had sobering lessons in patience over and over again, but after three weeks I can say without hesitation that it has been completely worth it. The first time I tried to run in this heart rate zone for a full 30 minutes, I was appalled by how slowly I had to go. While going up some of the hills on campus, I was crawling, barely running in what could only be classified as granny-jogging. But I made myself do it, and I’ve slowly gotten faster and faster; and while I have no time goal for this first attempt, and I know I probably won’t even break 10-minute miles during the race, I know I have many more races in my future to improve my time if I want to. I know I’m doing it the right way, and I feel fantastic!

Here’s my routine every week:

  • A basic, time goal run on Tuesday and Friday. These begin with 30 minutes and reach 60 before tapering at the end. For the basic runs, I jog around the AFS campus, which is great because it’s quiet, beautiful, and hilly, so it’s a good challenge; and sometimes I see my students along the way, which makes me smile!
  • Cross-training on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This means anything but running. Most cross-training days, I do yoga, but sometimes I mix it up with kickboxing or, if I happen to be in Kavala, climbing a castle!
  • A long run on Sundays. This began with 3 miles and will peak at 11 before tapering. I did five this past Sunday and it felt great!! For these long runs, I go down to the Thessaloniki waterfront and run right by the sea. The people-watching is fantastic, and it’s nice and flat so I get a break from the hills on campus. Also, the “Asian” restaurant in Thessaloniki is right by the water, so I treat myself to dinner after running; I get takeout curry noodles and eat them right by the White Tower. Can you imagine how I must look to Greeks? I already look strange to them, but when you add the running tights and takeout box with chopsticks, you get a weirdly pale girl with weird hair in weird clothes eating weird food with weird utensils!!

Thessaloniki's most famous landmark, the White Tower. I sit on a bench under it and eat my takeout after my long runs on Sundays!

In addition to getting a heart rate monitor, I also recommend a book I picked up for beginning or intermediate runners. As I’ve been running for a while, parts of it were way too simple for me, but it still gave me a good handle on the basics I never knew!

Lastly, here’s where I need your help. If you have any recommendations for running music, please send them my way! I need all the good tunes I can get for all those hours I’ve got to log in the coming months. I’ll leave you with a few of my new favorites for running:

Με αγάπη,

Kate

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About wrap me in phyllo dough

travel addict. greece-obsessed. grad student. bottomless pit.
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11 Responses to “Is good gymnastic!”: My first three weeks of half-marathon training in Greece

  1. Georgia says:

    Loved this one Kate! Here’s a few song highlights from my last run:

    Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous,
    Four Winds and At the Bottom of Everything, Bright Eyes
    Nothing Like You, Frightened Rabbit
    Laredo and Older, Band of Horses
    Heartbeats, The Knife
    The Suburbs, Arcade Fire
    Invasion, Eisley
    This Tornado Loves You, Neko Case
    Non-Photo Blue, Pinback

    and some U2, Death Cab/Postal Service, Wallflowers, and Frou Frou thrown in for good measure 🙂 It’s a bit softer than what I usually run to, which is kind of refreshing! I’ll be downloading Florence and the Machine immediately. Happy running!

    • k8peterson says:

      Hurray!! Thanks Georgia! I only know the first two songs, but some of my favorite bands are on that list, so I’m psyched to check out the new songs. Enjoy the Florence and the Machine track–it’s one of my favorite warm-up songs! Happy running to you too 🙂 Can you believe we’re only two months out??

  2. Sarah says:

    What a great post Kate! I have started running a little because in Alaska, once the sun comes out, people go CRAZY with running. They have races here almost every weekend, so needless to say, I feel like I should train a little so I can keep up when the snow melts. Miss you!!

    • k8peterson says:

      That’s awesome! I’m so happy to hear it! Keep me posted on how it goes. Any races in summertime? I could be tempted by that… dangerously tempted in fact, since I will probably be broke when I get home… uh oh. I miss you too!!

  3. AJ says:

    Miss Kate! Yes, please read that both ways. 🙂 We miss Miss Kate. On the music front:

    Gogol Bordello- Wonderlust King (along with most of theirs…)
    Tom Petty- Zombie Zoo & Yer So Bad
    The White Stripes- Black Jack Davey
    Gnarls Barkley- Go-Go Gadget Gospel & The Boogie Man
    Shannon McNally- Pale Moon

    I was a big fan of Aussie pop while I was there. 🙂
    Sophie Ellis Bextor- Murder on The Dance Floor
    Anastacia- I’m Outta Love

    Wish you were here to make yummy breakfast with- give you something to run off. 🙂

    • k8peterson says:

      Wonderful!! Thank you so much for the suggestions. I LOVE Gogol Bordello but haven’t heard that one! And what’s not to love about Aussie pop? I wish I was there to make yummy breakfast too… breakfast isn’t big here. That and the lack of good beer are the only two flaws I can find with the place…

    • k8peterson says:

      Also, when I get back, we are going STRAIGHT to Starky’s. I plan to stave off jet lag by camping out in there and putting away as many latkes and reubens as possible.

      • AJ says:

        Sounds like a plan to me. 🙂 I make a breakfast burrito this morning, but it isn’t nearly as much fun without company.

  4. khelm0216 says:

    Dude, Kate, you’re a superstar! I feel motivated and inspired by your posts, and I want to get something as good as, “Is good gymnastic.” So far, I’ve gotten, “You, high school student?”…dude, I’m 2x taller than you are. Anyway, we run to some of the same great songs! As for the heart rate monitor, good idea, and I think I’ll be taking your advice. When I was a swimmer, I often did practices within that upper range. I burned out in high school and stopped getting faster (not to mention the mental block I gave myself with regard to swimming). You’re absolutely right; it takes a lot of time and patience to do it right, but it’s totally worth it.

    Bruises – by Chair Lift
    I Know What I Am – by Band of Skulls
    United States of Pop 2009 – by DJ Earworm

    Just a few suggestions! Looking forward to more on Greece and your adventures there!

    • k8peterson says:

      Awesome!! Thanks, Kyle! I especially love the Band of Skulls tune, and the DJ Earworm mix is great; it makes me think about how much they all say the same thing! 🙂

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