I used to count miles by 10-minute increments. I wasn’t a runner in high school so when I began running (about 10 years ago), I didn’t even wear a watch on a normal basis. I had figured out somewhere along the way that it took me about 10 minutes to run a mile (or so I thought) and I would literally check the time before I left the house, check it when I got home, and subtract the difference. Super technical I know.
After some encouragement from a mentor I signed up for my first half marathon, ran my first 10k, ran a few more half marathons, one full and so on and somewhere in between started running a little faster.
Now I know that for some a 10 minute mile may seem slow, for some that is fast. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that over the past few years, and this past year specifically, I have done a few things that have contributed to change. A change that makes the effort that used to be difficult not that difficult and a pace that used to seem impossible, possible. Here are a few things I blame it on:
There is a concept in training called the “over load principle” that explains how the body has to be challenged to adapt. If you aren’t willing to push a little out of your comfort zone (even for a very short amount of time) you body won’t learn how to supply your body with what it needs to do the harder thing you are asking it to do (aka pump more blood to send more oxygen to your working muscle to convert more glycogen or fat into usable energy).
Hills used to slow me down (significantly), shoulders would cramp as they inched their way up to my ears, and my back would be sore after workouts. These were all signs of muscle weakness causing bad form. Last spring I decided to spend a season concentrating mostly on strength training. I downloaded and completed one full 12-week cycle of Kayla Itsines BBG program and saw significant differences in core, posture, and glute strength. These are all important parts for maintaining form.
Since then, I have maintained a twice a week circuit style strength routine. Focusing on areas that are important for runners: core (including back), glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. I’ll post soon about my favorite exercises.
When I walked onto a small, D3 college cross country team I was working full time, going to school full time, and living 45 minutes away from my school (which is far away when you have 6:00am practice). Sleep was mediocre at best. I was working hard and getting slower. I was pushing harder in practice than I ever had before and crashing at races due to stress and nerves and over exhaustion (I would go as far to say chronic fatigue).
If you are in a season where 7 – 8 hours is impossible, don’t take on something overly challenging or tiring on your body. Your body needs sleep to recover from workouts. Period.
I’m now in a season where I have a full time job (2 minutes from my home), a husband, and dog. Getting adequate sleep after hard workouts is possible. I probably won’t be marathon training when we have our first child!
What does a full time student and athlete, who is paying their way through college and life and trying to avoid as many college loans as possible eat you might ask…rice cakes, peanut butter, and bananas. Literally, that was my staple meal for a few years of my life. There are so many things wrong with that picture. I am not a nutritionist so I will not make specific recommendations, however an iron rich diet is incredibly important for athletes, especially female athletes who are usually lacking the most, and I was not getting enough of it! Just being settled down (married, full time job, full kitchen to work with) and eating at least one meal a day with lean chicken or beef (along with steamed vegetables, Greek yogurt, eggs, real whole wheat bread), has made a large contribution to the way my body carries oxygen (iron), repairs muscles (protein), protects ligaments (good fats), fuels workouts (quality carbohydrates) etc. Bottom line: your body needs quality to run efficiently. If you’re feeling sluggish, slow, or stagnant a good place to start might be what you aren’t putting in your body.
It might seem cliché but boy do I love my yoga class. Not just for the way I feel during (which is usually relaxed) but for the way I feel afterwards. Learning a consistent yoga routine has significantly helped me recover well and maintain balance. Runners shouldn’t be too limber in some areas like hamstrings or calves. You want them to be able to stretch and return during your turn over (think bouncy, like a spring) in order to be efficient. However, imbalances can cause injury and cause us fatigue (think posture on a 10+ mile run). Yoga has helped me identify those imbalances and weaknesses, loosened my hips (and running gate) and given me a solid foundation for recovery which can be just as important as the work you put in.
Anything you’ve done that has made significant changes?
Up next: recipes I’ve used during this marathon training cycle and my favorite interval workouts!