running

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 Get Motivated Again

The “plague,” as I lovingly refer to it, came to visit our home three times this winter. Then there were a few big life changes. And the holidays. And fundraising for buildOn as part of my huge commitment to help a bunch of deserving high school kids travel to Africa to build schools.

In short, a lot has happened recently to distract me and harm my motivation when it comes to diligently getting out the door and running. So, what do you do when distraction comes to visit and parks itself on your couch with a bag of potato chips…and you want to join it? Here’s what’s helping me:

1. Fake it ’til you make it. Don’t want to run or exercise? That’s fine, but do it anyway. It’s time to tell distraction to take a hike and kick laziness to the curb. Even if you get out there and have the lamest run or gym workout of your life, guess what–YOU DID IT! Sometimes, you have to take steps to do what you WANT to be doing before the actual motivation, inspiration and excitement arrive at your doorstep.

2. Talk about it. Lack of accountability is often what helps you “get away with it.” Don’t let it happen. Confide in a supportive friend (read: not one who will SUPPORT your laziness) and ask them to encourage you…and be willing to listen when they tell you you’re not committing the way you need to. Talking about it brings about an active awareness of your choice and that alone will help you refocus on what you should be doing that you aren’t.

3. Read about or watch others doing it. Surround yourself with inspiring pictures, videos and friends who are doing what you should be doing or want to be doing. Pick up a running magazine. Watch “Chariots of Fire” or “Without Limits” to get inspired. And, consider your sphere of influence. They say you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with…so, are your “five” eating burgers and watching the boob tube or hitting the gym and talking about Paleo recipes? What (and who) you surround yourself with WILL show up in your daily activities.

4. Schedule your time. Do you find yourself saying “I don’t have time…” a lot? Then make it! I guarantee if you took a sharp inventory of every minute of your day, you could find the 30 minutes to exercise…heck, a lot more than that! Make it a priority by marking the time down. This is time for YOU to take care of yourself. Do not negotiate–it’s like a flight on an airplane with a child. You can’t secure their air mask without starting with your own first.

5. Let it go. Okay, so you’ve slacked off for two weeks…or more. Okay, so your diet hasn’t been the best and you just stock piled several boxes of Girl Scout cookies (guilty). Shake it off, forgive yourself and move on! Make healthier choices today, tomorrow, the next day, the next day and the next day until you have a healthy habit in place. If you slip, pick yourself back up and keep going. Stay positive and remember that you are going after “progress and not perfection.”

Carry on and good luck, friends!

How to Be Radically Different

change picEveryone has an identity. Some people might see you as the person they go to for advice on fixing a car. Or, maybe you’re the pseudo-expert on getting children to behave. Me? My identity has always hinged on running in one facet or another.

That’s why I was slightly shocked and appalled when a friend of mine said this to me recently:

“When you used to marathon…”

…:insert screeching brakes here:…

“Used to?”

Having a baby 7 months ago has definitely changed things. No longer can I just pop right out of bed and go for a run. I’m lucky if I can even get out of bed on time most mornings or simply have enough time to care for the baby and my family, get myself ready and make it out the door to get to work as needed. BUT, (and I was clear to say this to my friend) I will ALWAYS be a marathon runner. A marathoner. I do marathons…you know what I mean.

However, in running, just as with life, if you want better results, you have to change. And, as you’re aware from my previous post, I’m ready for change.

So what does the word “change” actually mean? I came across one definition that said “To make radically different.”

Ya, I’ll take that.

But, how do you become radically different?

1) Evaluate & Reflect. I’m naturally a reflective person; I was the 8-year-old girl with the Little Mermaid diary with the lock on it who filled up pages upon pages every day. Sometimes it was about boys; sometimes it was about how “unfair” life was with my parents. Regardless, if you want to change, or become radically different, you have to sit, be quiet and do some self evaluation. What am I happiest with in my life? Who supports me, encourages me and also calls me to the carpet when I’m dead wrong? What do I want to achieve in my lifetime?

2) Seek Advice. Looking before you leap truly has its advantages. You can watch someone fall flat on their face and decide you aren’t going to follow in those footsteps. Or, if you don’t have the privilege of witnessing it, simply finding a mentor or a wise friend can be immensely helpful. Find the person you really trust and give them permission to speak into your life and be honest with you. Ask for their advice on what you need to work on if you’re having trouble pointing it out within yourself.

3) Identify Uses of Your Energy. We’ve all heard it: If you can’t take care of yourself; you can’t take care of anyone. I’ve also heard it said that we all have a finite amount of energy every day and WE choose how we’re going to spend it. So, if you begin every day with $500 worth of energy, what are you spending it on? Is your energy being used up propelling you forward toward achieving your dreams? Or, are you stuck in an energy-suck (read: parasitic relationship) with someone who is all about themselves and their needs? It has to be a give and take. That’s what healthy relationships are all about.

4) Take the Steps. Once you have identified what is unnecessarily taking up your time and energy, then it’s time to decide and take action on what DOES deserve your time and your energy. And, when you’re trying to achieve change, you’re not always going to be met with cheerleaders, encouragers or people who even understand what you’re doing. Hurt feelings and discomfort are simply in the cards. Why? Change is uncomfortable. If it weren’t, wouldn’t most of us look like super models or at least have a healthier body fat? If change wasn’t uncomfortable, then wouldn’t most of us be debt-free, anxiety-free and truly care-free?

I’m anticipating sore muscles with my increase in running. I’m anticipating stomach pains and grumblings from a body that will no longer get the excessive calories it’s been used to. I’m anticipating friends who won’t understand why I don’t splurge on treats; meet them somewhere late or simply don’t meet them at all. Change takes discipline and while discipline isn’t always fun, it produces results.

I’m ready to be radically different.

Saying “Good-bye” to 40 Pounds by August 4

line in sandThere are moments in your life when it’s time to draw a line in the sand. When it’s time to say “enough” in order to achieve what you’ve always dreamed of.

Now is that moment for me.

Stress, bad habits (i.e. “I’m a runner therefore eating pasta/bread/carbs all the time is fine…”) and having two children have slowly added 40 pounds to my frame. 40 pounds. That’s about the weight of my 4-year-old. I’m trying to run 5Ks, 10Ks and marathons with a 4-year-old on my back. How much sense does THAT make???

I’m done.

I’m drawing my line in the sand as this date: August 4, 2013. I will no longer haul this backpack of 40 pounds around with me on a regular basis. I will no longer run with this 40-pound backpack strapped to me and wear down my knees. I will no longer put food into my body simply because it “tastes good.” I will no longer sleep an hour more every morning and skip running simply because “I’m tired” (exercise is actully one of the best ways to energize you anyway).

So what will I do?

1) Eat Right. I will find a nutritionist/personal trainer and follow a plan that will teach me how to eat properly and reduce calories while still breastfeeding my daughter.

2) Exercise Regularly. I will follow an exercise regimen that will incorporate weights and running; at least 4-6 days a week.

3) Lose the Excuses. A quote by Jim Rohn that recently resonated with me was this: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” I have this posted on my refrigerator, on my bathroom mirror and in my office cubicle. Think about it and repeat it a few times.

4) Get Inspired. There’s a popular saying that goes “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” Your circle of influence can either inspire and fuel your growth positively. I’ll be watching my “influences” closely for sure and reading at least one personal development book every few months to keep me excited and inspired to keep going (and growing!)

So, 40 pounds—can’t say it’s been “nice,” but your time is up. Let’s do this!

How to Spot (and Avoid) Overtraining and Burnout

Photo courtesy kickittraining.wordpress.com

Whether you’re a new runner or a seasoned athlete, you’re bound to encounter overtraining or burnout at some point during your quest to achieving your goals.

But, do you know how to spot (and avoid!) this problem of overtraining and burnout? You might not even recognize the subtle signs that your body is giving up on you.

I loved Runner’s World’s recent article “10 Signs That You Need a Rest Day” because it addresses the many pitfalls of overtraining that even seasoned runners and athletes encounter.

Take Olympic runner and 5-minute-mile marathoner Ryan Hall, whose rise to stardom started as a high school runner. Many runners suffer from emotional burnout way before the physical one hits. For Ryan, pushing his body too hard resulted in taking himself out of the Chicago Marathon in 2011.

Ryan Hall admits in the Runner’s World article “I love to push my body,” he says. “Recovery is the hardest part of training for me.”

To combat the problem, as the article states, Ryan turned to the program Restwise that helped him track his sleep patterns, heart rate and other key stats to measure the impact of his workout routine on his body.

I don’t think many of us have to result to that, but overtraining is a problem that any zealous athlete, gym rat or weekend warrior can prevent before the burnout sets in.

In my cross country days, we ran six days a week, but our training runs varied. We had a medium run on Monday (4-5 miles), a 30-minute to 3-mile tempo run on Tuesdays (the day before a race), race day Wednesday, Thursday medium run (4-5 miles) and Friday sprints or another medium run. Saturday mornings were long runs of up to 6 or 7 miles for the girls.

Sundays were always our “rest” days, but when you’re a competitive athlete and excited about your goal, it’s often hard to stay down and not do anything. And honestly, you don’t have to.

Personally, that’s where I’m a big proponent of cross training. Go rollerblading, do some laps in the pool or practice meditation or yoga. Give your body some rest in a different way if you are absolutely itching to get out there and do something. Just avoid an intense, pavement-pounding activity that will cause more harm than good.

Bottom line, stick with the motto “variety is the spice of life.” By varying up your training and listening to your body, you’ll avoid emotional and physical burnout so you can enjoy a regular exercise or running schedule free of frustrating setbacks.

Give yourself a “rest” day. Your Monday workout (and race!) will thank you.

-JP

5 Ways to Bid Good-Bye to Boring Runs

There are two reactions I always get when someone finds out that I’m a runner.

Reaction 1: “I could never do that.” (Not true, btw; everyone can do this!)

Reaction 2: “Running is so boring. How do you stay entertained?”

Well, let me tell you.

Back in the day, as a cross country runner in high school, we were minimalists when it came to training. You might wear a running watch to keep your time, but other than that, we didn’t rely on Camelpacks for water (and yes, I grew up running every day at 3 p.m. August-November in 100+ degree heat on Arizona canals) or music from iPods. Our running soundtrack included the sounds of our own breath and the crunching of gravel.

College came and I no longer had my training crew. Off on my own, I decided to give music a whirl.

It was amazing what it did for my running.

In the times that I started to drag, a fun song would come on and suddenly I was ready to run a few more miles. I felt more relaxed and less inclined to think about the things in my life that tended to stress me out and drain me (and also derail my run. Running is, after all, 90% mental, right?)

So, what’s the best way to incorporate music into your run? Here are a few fun ideas to get you going:

1. Tailor Your Running Mix. We all know about play lists, especially if we’re i-Whatever fans. Sit down and have some fun by putting together an eclectic mix of your favorite, upbeat songs. Try to keep them at a moderate tempo unless you’re going aiming to rival Speedy Gonzalez.

2. Play the Music Game. While out for a run, use music to add small speed intervals. When an energizing song comes on that perks you up, go with it. Kick up your speed a notch, look for a landmark in front of you (a sign, rock, etc) and run to that point and then revert back to your tempo speed once you reach it.

3. Switch it Up. Eventually we all get bored with the mix of songs we have on our i-Whatevers. Find another running friend or music enthusiast and ask them to put together their favorite mix of songs on a CD for you. Upload it to your i-Whatev and enjoy a fresh hodgepodge to change up your running soundtrack. (I once did this with a friend before a marathon and every mile was a new surprise!)

4. Get into Gear. I’m not a techie and stick with the basics (as you’ve likely noted by the picture above). If you have a bulkier i-Whatever or smarty-pants phone, get a special armband or other holder to keep your music player in line. Be forewarned: Do not add an armband to your routine right before a race or you will likely experience chafe-city, and believe me, it’s not fun.

5. Keep it Safe. If you choose to add music, always keep it to a background level. Not only will your ears thank you later on in life, but you’ll also be able to remain alert. You should still be able to hear small sounds behind you, cars nearby, etc. If you ever find yourself “surprised” by a person or car, odds are good that you need to adjust your volume. Ladies: if you run with music when it’s dark out, take an ear bud out so you can be extra alert.

We all have our preferences when it comes to running. Sometimes we need to take a break from distractions and leave our i-Whatevers at home. Other times, it’s a great thing to incorporate music as a fun distraction to liven up and re-energize your running routine. So jump online and find that old Madonna song or download the latest poppy tune. Your next run might be your best yet!

Warning: This is a Yawner

I’m not sure if I’ve ever divulged this secret. Honestly, it’s not really all that incredible of a secret or anything, but I’ve always found it a little odd. It actually started in high school.

I remember standing at the start line with a large group of girls, waiting for the gun to sound so we could take off across a grassy field for our 5k race. The tension had been building all day and my normally rather serious attitude had become even more focused.

I had been thinking about the race, dreaming about the race and just minutes before the race, as I stood with so many others in eager anticipation…I yawned.

…then yawned again….

I literally could not stop yawning. Watching me, one probably would have wondered if my parents let me sleep at night or even how I could complete a 3.1 mile race when I was *obviously* tired.

But I wasn’t, that’s the thing, and the yawning only continued through my high school years…and then college…and even now.

When I approach a starting line, it’s as if my mind and body try to create an all-encompassing calm and the only way to do that is with a hearty yawn.

That’s the epitome of a focused runner, right?

I did a Google search to try to figure out why I have this little running quirk. A few turned up answers such as “yawning relieves stress,” “yawning helps relax facial muscles,” and “yawning is  a sign of stress in dogs.”

Hmphf.

So, not really an answer to my question, but I guess if it ain’t broke…

*Yawn*

(P.S. This is the only time I will ask this, but did you yawn while reading this? Message me lol.)

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.