marathon training

5 Things I’ve Changed in My Marathon Training

A peek into my marathon training log

It’s hard to believe that I’m now nearly halfway through my marathon training!

The Marine Corps Marathon is October 25, which may seem like a really, REALLY long way away given it’s barely August, but we are now at the critical part of training.

I’ve experienced injuries on my journey to 26.2 in the past and let me tell you, it is NO fun. I’m determined to stay healthy and safe this training season and so far, I’ve taken the important precautions to keep it that way.

Here’s a peek at my “training log” of a few things I’ve needed to tweak this time around to achieve my goals to stay healthy and strong this season.

5 Things I’ve Changed in My Marathon Training

#1 My Shoe Inserts

I started my training with a brand-new pair of my favorite Asics, the Kayanos. Known as the “Corvette” of Asics running shoes, they’re a pretty penny, but worth every cent in my opinion. This time around, however, it seems that Asics changed the heel cup a bit…they may have lowered it? In any case, I was noticing some of the tell tale signs of plantar fascitis (yup, I’ve had it before!) so I knew the first thing I needed to do was give my feet more support. Fortunately, my Powerstep orthotic inserts have done the trick, providing more support in my arch and heel.

powerstep

#2 My Supplements

Keeping my electrolyte and sodium levels stable are also top priorities for me right now. Having experienced hyponatremia too many times, I knew summer hydration would be kicked up significantly, which meant I had to figure out my supplements fast. On the advice of a running friend, I headed to REI in Tempe, Arizona and picked up Skratch electrolyte and sodium drink mixes, some new Gu Mocha-flavored packets with caffeine (heaven!) and some chews. I’ve never been one to like eating while I run, but the Skratch chews are actually pretty good AND don’t seem to stick in your teeth (bonus!)
skratch

#3 My Hydration Pack

For eight years, I’ve run with the Amphipod hydration belt, which as served its purpose well. However, I began to notice a few problems with it: 1) Not enough storage space even if I added extra pouches. 2) Annoying on my GI tract. A newer addition to the marathon and ultramarathon running community is the hydration pack, which is basically a sleeker Camelbak water dispenser with improved engineering to remove bounce, chaffing and weight. I wanted to make sure that I adjusted to a new way of hydrating early, so I picked up a Camelbak Circuit prior to my eight-mile long run this past weekend and tried it out. I also added a new Camelbak Podium water bottle with a handy twist nozzle and both seriously transformed my run. Bottom line: Change your hydration pack early on in training so you can get used to it!

camelbak-circuit

#4 My Training Schedule

The original training schedule I am basing my running off of requires three middle-distance runs (think: 3-8 miles) during the week followed by a long run on the weekend. My weekend distance runs were supposed to be on Saturdays, but I’ve found myself switching periodically to Sundays. I’ve also reduced the weekday runs to sometimes twice a week if I was experiencing achiness and increased fatigue. I’ll go on a long walk or lift weights instead unless I’m really feeling terrible. Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual when  you’re putting in the miles during the hottest time of the year. I have a feeling things will balance out better in the coming weeks as my body adjusts and I get better with my hydration and supplementation.

calendar

#5 My Thinking About Races During Marathon Training

I decided to commit to the America’s Finest City half-marathon race in San Diego on Sunday, August 16 as my official “halfway point” in training. With cooler weather and no pressure to hit a certain time, I’m looking forward to the change in scenery and seeing how my body is doing in better weather. It’s also a great way to gauge how my body is adjusting to the distance and give myself an extra motivating “halfway point.”

Americas-finest-city-half-marathon-map

So that’s what I’ve learned so far this marathon training season! After doing so many half-marathons and five full marathons, I know one thing for sure: you always learn something new every time you do it.

Happy running, friends! 🙂

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5 Ways to Build Endurance for Long Runs

The most common thing I hear when someone finds out that I run marathons is this:

“How do you do that?! I can’t even run X miles!”

My response is typically this: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Like any huge challenge or goal in life, you have to break it down into small, attainable goals in order to reach the finish line.

So, how do you build your endurance for long runs? Here’s my advice:

1. Focus on time first. Rather than thinking about how far you need to run, switch your perspective to time instead. Let your watch be your guide. For instance, instead of saying you’re going to run three miles today, make it 30 minutes or 20 minutes instead. The next time you run, add 5 minutes to it.

2. Walk-run. People often ask how I can run 26.2 miles straight. The answer is that I don’t. Many notable marathon runners such as former Olympian Jeff Galloway recommend a “walk-run” method. Typically, it means you run for a certain amount of time and walk for a certain amount of time. This builds endurance while also being kinder on your joints, which can also often reduce the likelihood of injury. You can set some watches to chime during specific intervals so you are running for five minutes and walking for two minutes, etc.

3. Be consistent. Starting and stopping or only running once a week for a long time will not produce terrific endurance results (believe me!). The more you run the same distance well in advance of your race, the better you will feel and the more comfortable your body will be at that distance. So, if your goal is to run a 5K, you should be doing a 2-mile run, a 3-mile run and perhaps a 5-mile run every week, consistently, for several weeks. When you finally arrive at your 5K race, it’ll feel like a breeze.

4. Refuel. Sometimes, when you’re growing your endurance, you’re burning more energy than what’s left in the tank. To stabilize your energy during a longer run (whether you’re at 4 or 14 miles), be sure to adjust your replenishment. Lower mileage like 4 miles might mean bringing a small water bottle with an electrolyte drink cut with water to give your body a boost mid-run. Longer runs will usually mean a caffeinated energy gel, electrolyte drink and/or sodium-electrolyte tablets or capsules.

5. Keep your eyes up. It’s easy to look down at the ground as your slogging along, but resist the temptation! Keep your eyes up and focus on a point ahead of you. Set mini goals along the way such as “I’m going to jog to that light pole and then take a breather.” Challenge yourself to go a little farther than what’s comfortable to push your limits.

Happy running, friends! 🙂

5 Reasons You Should Add a Half-Marathon to Your Training Schedule

If you’ve ever run a full marathon, you know what the training can feel like.

Monotonous.

Mostly because you’re running (much of the time) on the same paths, on the same days at the same times.

But, running a full marathon rarely happens on those same paths. It’s important to switch things up.

With that in mind, I recently signed up for the America’s Finest City Half Marathon in San Diego, California this August as a mid-training schedule prep run for the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve run a half marathon while training for a full marathon…and one when I hadn’t even trained (whoops!). It was the race distance I LOVED and did over and over again until I took the plunge into 26.2 miles.

Here’s why I’m adding the half-marathon into my marathon training schedule:

1. It gives you another milestone. Just like marathon training, you’re constantly looking ahead to the next mile marker to keep you going. By giving yourself a race to look forward to within the three- to four-month training slog, you can successfully break things up so the time frame isn’t so daunting

2. It keeps you on track. There’s no cheating your mileage or long runs when you have this run intentionally built into your training calendar. Having a half-marathon smack dab in the middle of your full-marathon training schedule will help you stick with your long runs week after week so you’re prepared for your first race.

3. It gives you a glimpse of your weaknesses. If you time your half-marathon correctly during your training calendar, you’ll begin to notice a few things during the race. Maybe hills were a disaster during the race. Guess what you need to incorporate into your workout regimen prior to your full marathon race? Hills! Maybe you didn’t have any gas left at a certain point or felt off with your hydration. Guess what you need to practice or retool more? Your fluid and electrolyte replenishment!

4. It gets you excited. There’s nothing better than the day of a race! While nerves might kick in initially, the joy you feel as you run in a different area, take in the sights and breathe in the energy of so many other fired up runners will give you the highest runner’s high that you’ve ever experience. Talk about inspiration to take your training to the next level!

5. It’s practice. Practice really doesn’t make “perfect,” but it will certainly help you feel more mentally prepared for racing conditions and what it will be like on race day, especially if you have to travel to get to your full marathon race. (That’s a post for another time!)

So, if you’re ready to incorporate the magical 13.1-mile race into your full marathon training schedule OR you want to try it out for the first time ever, take a peek at this link where you can see upcoming half-marathon races.

You can also search for other races across the country here.

Happy running, friends! 🙂

My Cross Training 101

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

That’s what Jillian Michaels told me tonight while we did yoga together in my living room. (Okay, so it was to her $10 yoga DVD that I got at Target.)

I’ve heard that a few times over the past few weeks and I don’t think it’s by mistake. How often do we shy away from a challenge or miss out on realizing our complete potential because we got “uncomfortable.”

“It was hard.”

“I don’t like to get up early.”

“I’m sore.”

“I don’t feel like it.”

Those self-defeating phrases and thoughts can keep us from truly discovering our dreams and what’s possible!

So back to main topic of the blog: cross training.

Tonight I picked yoga as my “cross training” activity even though I had an easy 5k run this morning. What can I say, even the light Mexican food I had at lunch made me feel a little guilty!

I picked up the Jillian Michaels DVD to do when my son is in bed and my husband is at work. Workout DVDs add a little extra challenge and excitement to my routine, which can get a little too “routine.” It’s dangerous territory for marathon training, too.

If you’re training for anything or simply building up your endurance (albeit with weights, cardio or anything), you need to vary your routine as an injury preventative measure. (It’ also super important to do if you’re going after weight loss as well, I’ve found.)

With marathon training, if you’re always in that constant forward motion without any variance, you’re in danger of creating an imbalance in your muscles, which can throw off your bio-mechanics.

Translation: One set of muscles are strong while others are weak and that means you don’t run right. Hello, injuries!

So here are some things I do and what I’ve learned over the years regarding cross-training to help with injury prevention:

  1. Try Something New. By getting out there and doing a different activity, you’ll challenge muscles that often get neglected by doing your normal routine. If you feel a little soreness (note: not pain!), then you know you’re on the right track. Try rollerblading, running hills, yoga or circuit training with weights.
  2. Resistance = Good. Also a good principle when applied to any junk food, you want to grab a resistance band or use your own body weight to stretch and strengthen your muscles. If you’re a runner like me, you especially want to focus on your hamstrings, hips and glutes, which often are the weakest due to the forward motion runners are used to. Dumbbells are another great tool to have in your arsenal of home equipment. A set of 5 lbs and 10 lbs and you’re good to go.
  3. Get Fast. It’s easy to slip into a routine of going a certain pace, but if you stick with the same pace, you’re not likely to create a whole lot of change. Try a workout at your local track. Figure out what your normal pace is per mile on your 3-mile run or so on and then cut that back by a minute. Do mile repeats (4 laps in a row) with an 800-meter (2 lap) recovery time in between. If you’re marathon training, try doing that four times, which should equal a 6-mile run. Rigorous, but it’ll help those fast-twitch muscles get revved up!
  4. Be Flexible. Stretching and warming up before a run is one of the most important things you can do, but it’s often the first thing to go when you’re in a hurry to get your run in. Take a few minutes before each run or workout to warm up your knee joints and stretch your leg muscles especially. For your knees, stand with your feet together and stretch your arms down to the floor. Then, slightly bend your knees several times while still touching the floor. You can even do a slight circular motion to the left and then to the right to really get your knees warmed up. Try grabbing a yoga DVD, a class at a local Bikram (hot yoga) or yoga studio nearby to really strengthen and stretch.
  5. Repeat Your Non-Running Activities 2-3x Per Week. If you run three times a week, you should ideally be cross training the other three with one full day of rest. Doing something for your body nearly every day will only help it to grow stronger. But remember to listen to your body! If you’re in pain or dealing with an injury, back off and give it a few days before returning to your normal activities.

Ultimately, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” and challenge your body in new ways every day. No one is perfect with their routine and I definitely am not there either. It’s all about “failing forward.”

And I leave you with my final cliché for the night. 🙂

Happy cross training!

Want to support me as I raise money for an organization that aids abused and neglected children? I’m on my way to the Boston Marathon and need to raise $5,000 for Childhelp. Donate if you feel lead by going to my “Donate” page.