Stop Lights & Running- It’s A Love/Hate Relationship

Last week I did one last final long(ish) run in Florida before we headed back north.  I started out feeling great.  I thought this was going to be the one where I took on the world.  Four miles into my 10 planned miles, I knew it was going to be another  struggle.

I spent the past few weeks really looking forward to my time in warm weather.  However, like clockwork, anytime my husband has to go away for work in the winter, we get hit with illness and a storm.  We got nailed with two of each!  With two sick kids and a driveway full of snow, I opted to shovel while they napped.  Unfortunately, the snow banks got so high that I had to kick the shovel up over the drifts to make any progress.  All of this culminated in a doozy of a tight glute/hamstring.

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Repeat picture.  I will continue to whine about it until it is gone!

My first few runs in Florida were frustratingly slow, not only due to the heat, but also because my right leg literally dragged on the ground with each stride.  My shoe was even worn down on the heel!  By the end of the trip I had stretched and worked the muscles out enough that most of my runs were endurable, but they still tightened up as my miles progressed.

On that last run, I was nearing the end when I saw a stop light up ahead.  In the past, I would normally plead with the light to stay green so I could keep going and maintain my pace.  This one was a little different.  I actually spent a quarter of a mile watching the light change, trying to figure out if I would be lucky enough to get the red light.

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I laughed at my whiney, miserable self.  Look at me here, begging my muscles to pound out a few more miles, pleading my sweaty self to go just a little further.  At the same time, I was hoping fate would force me into a break.

This made me think of marathons where courses run across train tracks.  There have been instances where runners have been forced to stop to allow a train to cross.  We have all heard of the runners who were on par for a PR or a BQ who were forced to stop and were furious with the race and their results.   But I had to question, how many runners secretly thought, “Thank goodness.  I’ve been dying for an excuse to stop!”  Then they can also later say they ran a X:XX marathon, but that would have been much faster had they not been forced to stop for a train crossing.

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This may have been more accurate.

Those stop lights can be a funny thing.  You can use them to your advantage, regardless of whether you want to keep going or you need an excuse to stop.  I have a new appreciation for those annoying red lights.  At least for now.

Red lights- nay or yay?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Warm Weather Running After A Cold Winter

Happy Monday!  Please excuse my absence.  We were hit with a nasty stomach bug. We are healthy now and took a 20 hour drive down to Florida to escape the ridiculous amounts of snow that we have been getting in Northern Michigan.  Quite honestly, our family is fed up with winter.

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Hopefully the last time I shovel the driveway this winter.

Last week we had a blizzard (literally) and another snow storm.  Large amounts of snow make running outside difficult.  The snowplows do a great job, but don’t always reach our neighborhood in time for a workout.  Running in heavy snow can be very difficult and can also change your gait, increasing your risk of injury.

On top of this, I have a toddler who still takes naps.  The combination of weather and young children means that I often have to schedule my runs during nap-time.

To be quite honest, I don’t mind the treadmill.  After years spent working outside in Central Park during the winter, I don’t particularly care for cold weather.  I’d much rather spend my time being warm and on a beach.

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That brings us to Florida!  I’ve spring vacationed in this state pretty much my entire life.  We enjoy the St. Augustine area for its history, cultural experiences, and long flat runs on the beach.

Our first few days here were chilly, and running was easy and breezy.  However, when we got our first hot day, I hit the struggle bus.  Every year this happens to me and this was the first year that I gave myself the grace to take walk breaks when necessary.  Because I had done some outside running in the days before, I knew that it was the weather and not me.  My body just needed to get acclimated.

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So what do you do when you visit a warm place after running in the cold for several months?  And what happens if you have been running inside on the treadmill all winter and find yourself on a hot and humid run?

With either scenario, you are going to experience some changes that might present some difficulty.  Both scenarios also present some advantages.

For the cold weather outdoor runner- you are going to be pleasantly pleased to see that your outdoor running has you somewhat acclimated.  Hills, wind, and other obstacles will be familiar territory.  You might also find that running feels easier with fewer layers and unobstructed ground.

On the flip-side, you are definitely going to notice the warm weather quite quickly.  Remember how awful it felt to run in the cold at first?  Then your body adjusted and 20 or 30 degrees suddenly “didn’t feel so bad.”  You will need to acclimate to the warmer temps and that is going to take a little patience.

For the inside treadmill runner- you might be pleasantly surprised to see that running in a warm and humid gym setting might give you an advantage with the weather changes.  While you will still need to adjust, it might not take you quite as long.

You may find that hills, wind, and other terrain changes will present other obstacles for you.  My quads were singing after a few days of running outside.  Muscles that were used less or in different ways were being asked to work again.

Most runners will need to make a few changes at first.  Whether you ran inside or outside during the winter, if you are going to be running somewhere warm and humid soon, you will need to make a few adjustments.

You definitely need to stay on top of hydration.  Warm weather means more sweat.  Excess sweating leads to dehydration.  Keep drinking water and consider adding some electrolytes to your hydration plan.  Nuun and Vitamin Water Zero are great examples that can help keep you hydrated and even retain some of that water when you get started.

Slow everything down!  Don’t worry about your pace.  Just because your body asks you to slow down as you adjust to the weather, doesn’t mean you are losing progress in your training.  Remember that slow running actually has great benefits and your body is just asking for a little help getting used to your new environment.

It’s okay to walk when you need to.  I will admit that this is the hardest rule for me, but when I remember that it’s okay to take walk breaks as my body is adjusting, everything gets a little easier.  Forcing myself to be miserable isn’t making me a better runner and it certainly doesn’t make the run enjoyable.  When you find the need to walk, turn it into a game and use landmarks to help get you through.

Just enjoy the sunshine and your ability to run and remember that in a few days, everything will feel easier.

How do you handle changes in weather and environments when you run?

Legs Feel Like Lead When Running- It’s Normal and Not

After blogging for over five years, the most viewed post on my website is about Legs Feeling Like Lead When Running.  Check out the link if you want to read some of my older content.  Then continue on for some updated information.

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I still remember the inspiration for that initial post.  It was our first winter in Chicago and I was determined to not let the weather get the best of my running.  I spent a few days trapped inside during our first Polar Vortex.  After one snow storm, I headed out for a nice long run.  I had to run through snow hills and many sidewalks that hadn’t been shoveled (shame on you non-shovelers!).  It was miserable.  After a few days of this my legs just felt so heavy.  The extra effort it took to get over hills or through slushy paths, reminded me of marathon training.

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At the same time, I had several runners training for various spring half and full marathons and they were asking me if it was normal for their legs to feel tired.

The answer is Yes.  And No.

The marathon, by nature, is meant to build you up and break you down.  You take your body to places you haven’t been before.  You run more miles than you normally would.  You often do training runs that push paces beyond what you are used to.  All of this will cause your legs to be tired.

Your legs will feel tired and heavy. That is normal at times.  But there are also ways to help combat that constant heavy feeling:

Run your slow runs slowly.  If your training plan calls for slow training runs, do these as planned.  They allow you to run faster and longer on your other training days.

By running faster on your planned slow days, you are not making yourself faster or stronger.  You are delaying recovery and defeating the purpose of your run.  Slow runs train you to become more aerobically efficient and allow your body to recover.  If you ignore these paces, you risk injury.

If you run too fast on your slow days, you also make it harder to run fast on the days when your training requires these paces.  By running slow on required slow pace days, you will be able to run faster on the days where workouts push the pace.

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Treat your body well.  Recovery is essential to training.  Fuel with carbohydrates 30 minutes after a training run.  If your body is aching, pull out the foam roller.  Take a soak with epsom salts.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

What do you do to combat those heavy legs?

Minutes Vs. Mileage In Training

To become better endurance runners, we need to utilize different types of runs.  One of the most important workouts is the long, slow run.  Obviously, if you are going to do a longer race like a half or full marathon, this is important for building up mileage.

However, we often neglect the most important factors of these long runs, that occur at the molecular level within our bodies.  The long run is where our bodies learn to utilize glycogen more efficiently.  We are only capable of holding small amounts of glycogen within our muscles and liver, but through long runs, we teach our bodies how to empty these reserves more efficiently.

The long run trains our bodies to use fat as fuel, which delays the need to use carbohydrates.  This allows you to run longer with less fuel.

Long runs break down muscle fibers and our bodies learn to rebuild, creating stronger and healthier muscles.  This is necessary for the demands of longer endurance races.

Running longer also trains our bodies to become more aerobically efficient.  As we create a greater demand for oxygen to be pumped through our bodies, our hearts become stronger.  Blood begins pumping harder and in larger quantities throughout our body.  Oxygen rich blood reaches our muscles and allows us to run longer, and faster.

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Our bodies comprehend time.  They do not comprehend miles.  Your body knows that you have been running for 60 minutes but it doesn’t recognize that you just ran 5 miles.  This important to understand, because your body needs that 60+ minute run to achieve all of the benefits of aerobic endurance training.  However, 5 miles is quite arbitrary.  Some runners can complete a 5 mile run in 40 minutes, while this might take over an hour for other runners.

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The point here is that it is important not to get caught up in the number of miles or your pace when you are working to become a more efficient endurance runner.  Your body needs time more than miles.  This is why you need to go slowly on your long runs.  When you run slowly, you allow your body to get through those longer miles.  When we try running too fast, we begin asking too much of our muscles and aerobic system, making it more difficult to complete your necessary miles/time.  If the number of miles seems daunting to you, aim for a time goal.  This is what your body is relying on anyway.

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The pace is not what creates these molecular changes.  Time is what creates change.  Allow yourself to slow down so that you can complete your longer runs and reap all the benefits.

Long Slow Runs = Fast Races

Post Race Recovery-Avoid Injury And Sedentary Craziness

Many runners just completed some major races this last weekend.  Others are getting ready to complete their final big races for the year.  What do you do after the race?  When do you come back?  How do you properly recover?  Remember that old rule that said you should take a day off for every mile you ran?  That is now a thing of the past and for many runners that is great news.  Can you imagine taking 26 days off after a marathon? Then again, maybe you can!

While there is quite a bit of science to running, there isn’t a set plan for recovery after an event.  There are several important factors to consider with your recovery:

How Long Was Your Race and Training Cycle:

Did you just complete an 18 week training cycle leading up to your marathon?  Were you running 50-60 miles per week during your plan?  You will likely require more rest than a runner who did a 12 week plan for a 10K.  The longer your training plan and the more miles completed might take a harder toll on your body and mind than a shorter race and mileage.

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How About a 5K to Couch Plan!

How Do You Feel?

This is a two part question.  While you need to consider how your legs and muscles are responding, you also need to assess how you are feeling mentally.  If you are experiencing tiredness and a loss of interest in running, go ahead and give yourself some time to fall back in love.  What is the point of hitting the pavement if it is no longer enjoyable?  This can be a normal feeling as you come off of training and the excitement of your event.  All runners go through this.  We need a break at times from all things we love and running is no different.

Some of the mental symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome are feeling sluggish, emotional, overly tried, sad, and just plain down in the dumps.  We all know that running is 90% mental, so it makes sense that we might need a break in this arena as well.

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Are You Dealing With Any Injuries?:

One of the hardest parts of any training cycle is avoiding injuries.  They are almost inevitable.  Most often, we train through these injuries.  Or perhaps you sustained an injury during the race.  It goes without saying that you need to give your body time to fully heal.  Sure, you can push through an injury to some extent to get through training.  But after the race is over, it would be unwise to continue with this approach.  Now is the time to rest and recover before you return.

There are so many different ways to approach injuries and I recommend you find what is most helpful for you and your needs.  Options range from traditional doctors and physical therapists to massage, acupuncture, yoga, and cupping.  Many facilities offer an array of different recovery techniques.  When you find an approach that you feel most comfortable and confident with, you are more likely to stick to a prescribed plan.

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Take Some Time To Reflect:

How do you feel your training went?  Are there things you would change?  What about the race?  Was it enjoyable?  Did the experience ignite a fire or inspire you to do something else?  Do you feel like this was a negative experience?

All of these questions are important to consider for your future.  Maybe you need a revenge race.  If that is the case you need to consider what went wrong and how you will change things moving forward.  Perhaps something went wrong in training.  The actual race might not have been the right one for you.

If you had a great experience and are ready to repeat or up the ante, you need to think about what went right in your training and how you can repeat that or make it even better.  Will you repeat the race or find another one that is similar?

Is is time to put racing to the side and just run for fun?  That is okay.  Some people love running for the sake of running and don’t need races or events to keep them content.  Think of different ways to help keep things exciting and motivating.

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Races and endurance events can be a great experience.  It can also take a mental and physical toll.  Your first goal should be to take care of you.  Rest and recovery are important.  This doesn’t mean you need to become a couch potato.  Active rest can be a perfect way to get back in the game healthy and happy.  Go for a walk, bike ride, swim, or play with the family.  Keep moving and take care of you!

Did you race this past weekend?  How was your experience?

The Plan Is, There Doesn’t Always Have To Be A Plan

Many people often mention to me that they are interested in getting started with running but don’t know where to start and aren’t quite ready to hire a coach.  This is totally understandable.  There is an abundance of information available on the internet about how to get started, such as Couch to 5k Plans.  While these can be very useful, it is often difficult to read through everything and know what is actually helpful and what might not be such great advice.

The truth is, running doesn’t always have to be a science.  Sure, if you are looking to improve your speed or increase your distance for a longer endurance race, having a set plan or a coach to guide you can make the process much easier.  However, if you are simply looking to begin running, you can make it just that: running simple.

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As I have mentioned in other posts, running isn’t always easy.  It gets easier, but there will always be an element of challenge in nearly every run.  This is what makes you feel so invigorated and accomplished when you finish!

To make the process easier, it is often helpful to start with shorter distances and use run/walk intervals.  Set a goal of doing 10 minutes your first time.  Try running for a minute and walking for two.  You can gradually increase the duration over time, as your body begins to adjust.  If you prefer, the run/walk intervals can also lengthen out.  However, I have many clients and friends who use the run/walk method exclusively for all distances from 5k’s through the marathon.

A helpful tool to decrease your risk of injury is to follow the 10% rule.  When you feel that you have comfortably accomplished a certain amount of time or distance, increase that amount by 10%.  You should also start your run intervals at a shorter amount than your walking intervals.  Follow a 1:3 or 1:2 run/walk at first and lengthen or decrease as necessary.

Remember any amount of running is running.  There is no rule that states how fast, how far, or how often you need to run to be a runner.  If you run, you are a runner!

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Running is your own personal journey.  This is about you feeling good about you and the experience.  Remember that it will be challenging.  It will take time for your body to adjust and become more comfortable.  Give yourself the freedom to make it work for you.

With some time and patience, you might find that you are ready to start looking for an appropriate plan for you or to hire a coach.  Until then, just run as you wish.

How do you like to approach your running?

Stick With It

I love training runners for races.  I also love training runners and athletes in general.  It is common for me to get e-mails from people looking to prepare for an upcoming race and I also have several who train year round.

Lately I have been noticing a trend.  Someone gets super excited about an event they registered for and we sit down and create a plan.  They dive in head first, and often times fall in love with the process.  It can be time consuming, but there are ways to make life work around training and vice versa.

Race day comes and the excitement builds.  Some races go well, others don’t, but most often the person finishes the race feeling really good about what they accomplished.  They celebrate with a necessary post race beer (or a few) and indulge in some delicious food.

Then they kick their feet up and rest for a few days.  I would of course recommend this.  Everyone needs to recover after a race and training cycle.

Sometimes though, that rest and relaxation phase feels a little too good.  We tell ourselves we will get back out there tomorrow and then tomorrow becomes next week.  Time goes by and next thing you know, it has been several weeks or months.  Suddenly, you’ve been gone so long you don’t know how you could possibly return.  You want to, but you feel a bit lost.

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Years ago I remember Oprah discussing her ups and downs with weight.  She said that sometimes as you gain weight you start to look at yourself and you’ve suddenly gained so much, it feels hopeless.  You don’t even know where to start or how it could possibly make a difference at this point.  Stepping away from exercise can feel a bit like this too.

A few months later I will get a desperate e-mail.  “I want to run a race that is coming up, but I don’t even know where to start.”  So we start the process all over again.

However, this time around things feel extremely frustrating.  Running used to be difficult, and then you built up that aerobic base, you learned how to get through the struggles, and it started to feel easier.  This time, you know what that felt like, but it is hard again.  It stinks to know how great it used to feel and be back in that difficult beginning situation again.  It makes getting started even more difficult, not only physically but also mentally.

Sometimes when we dive into a training plan, it can be exciting.  There is an end point and we are striving to reach that goal.  Once that goal has been met, it can feel great to breathe a sigh of relief and sit back for a few.  It can also seem a bit overwhelming.  Where do you go from here?  What is the next goal?

Keep in mind that there doesn’t always have to be a next goal.  There could be a distant goal such as, “Next year I want to do another half marathon.”  But that doesn’t mean you have to start training for a half marathon right now.

At the same time, keep in mind the progress you have made.  You don’t always have to be in marathon shape, or race shape.  That’s practically impossible.  Trying to do so would likely lead to an overuse injury.  On the other hand, you can stay in shape.  You can keep some of that endurance and forward momentum that you have made at a much smaller scale.  Your goal could just simply be to maintain your aerobic base and enjoy some easy mileage each week.

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Maybe you were doing double digit runs for several weekends leading up to an event.  Now you could do a few three mile runs during the week and enjoy a slow and long five mile Saturday.  There’s no set rules as to how far you need to go or even how fast you must be.

Not only will you maintain that ability to run that you gained from your training, you will be keeping your heart and whole body healthy.  Remember how much time you used to have to devote to training.  Now you only need to devote a fraction of that time.

Sometimes the idea of carving out time for a workout can seem overwhelming.  It’s easy to want to push it to the back burner.  But I also know that once you start doing this for a few weeks and make it a routine, that routine becomes a habit and a running habit is hard to break.  You will notice that it becomes easier and you might even start to crave your miles.  Make the time at first and eventually it will become second nature.

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Then the next time you see an event that is calling your name, you can sit down and figure out a plan, and know that you already are prepared to keep going.

One thing I always try to instill in my clients is that once you are a runner, you are always a runner.  It’s always there for you.  Take it and make it yours!  Even if you do end up taking a break from running, it will always be there when you are ready to return.

A Case For The Treadmill

Excuse my absence.  Apparently having two little kids, coaching, and trying to keep life together is a full-time job.  I don’t know how parents of three kids even get out the door of their house!

Spring running is finally in full effect across the country.  After a late April snow dumped 20 inches on our yard, I was starting to feel like winter was never going to leave.  We had a bizarre winter in Michigan.  It was cold at times, but also warm.  It snowed, but it often melted and there were days in February and March where we had green grass in our yard.  Then April turned into a frigid, snowy mess.

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Mary likes watching the turkeys roam in our yard.

Between the crazy winter weather, and being a mom of a now 2 1/2 year old and 8 month old, it can be difficult to fit runs in.  Lucy was too young to run in the stroller, and the weather was too cold to push Mary.  Quite often, my only option was the treadmill when the girls napped or at night when they went to bed.  Thank goodness for Netflix.

A week ago Saturday, I toed the line for my first true race since having Lucy in September.  I felt pretty out of place at the start.  I had no idea what to expect.  I hadn’t run with a GPS in months.  I didn’t know what my pace would be or how it would feel.  I had nothing to base it on.

Plus, it was freezing and the wind was blowing like crazy.  Thanks, April.  Glad to see you go!

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When the gun went off, I just settled in and started running at what felt like a good, but sustainable pace for me.  Imagine my surprise when I looked down after the first mile and I was running well over a minute per mile faster than I expected.  I was running way too fast!  But when I checked in with myself I was feeling relatively good.  I tried slowing a little bit, but as we came to the halfway turnaround of the 10k, I realized I was nearly at the front of the pack of the race and also the first woman.

Mile after mile, I was running paces that were faster than I had ever run.  I felt pretty good until mile 4 when the Pop-Tart that I ate before the race started to make me feel pretty sick.  Who would have thought?!

I was beyond thrilled when I crossed the finish with a 10k PR.  I ended up 6th across the line and in first place overall for the women.  It was a much needed boost for this running mom.

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This was a special race for me, as it was also where I ran my first 5k, 27 years ago in honor of our neighbor who lost his battle with leukemia.  A few years later, his dad passed away and the race now is done in both of their memories.  They were also avid runners.  At my first race, I won 2nd in my age group by default as there were only two of us.

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From my first 5k

It was also the weekend of our town’s yearly festival.  Despite being super chilly, and super windy, the entire family had a great time.  I also need to add a huge congrats to Rock and Lucy who placed third in his age group on Lucy’s first ride in the BOB!  Stroller running is no easy feat.

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Running on the treadmill can be a bit tricky.  It will never truly replicate running outside.  Every treadmill varies.  They all feel and work in different ways that make them unique.  You may have noticed this when some models feel easier or more difficult to use.  There is also no added effect from wind or changes in terrain that challenge our muscles and endurance.

Pace is also a tricky factor with treadmills.  It is virtually impossible to run at your normal speed on the mill.  I always encourage runners to find the pace that feels right on the treadmill.  Don’t let the numbers dictate how fast you must go or frustrate you.  Just know that what feels right for you, is exactly what you need.

While a lot of people will say that the treadmill has little to no place in a training plan, that isn’t always an option.  Personally, I feel that you need to do what works best for you.  That can mean giving yourself permission to get your runs in on the treadmill.  I wouldn’t recommend doing this for 100% of your runs.  But again, you do what is right for you.

I’m finally enjoying warmer weather runs with my girls, and that presents its own set of challenges.  However, I certainly have the treadmill to thank for keeping me sane and fit this winter.  You might even say it made me a better runner.

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What are your thoughts on the treadmill?

 

Waiting For The Wall

Happy Monday!  Excuse my lack of presence. We were away for the past week on a family vacation in somewhat sunny Florida.  The weather was chilly most of the week.  However, yesterday when the time sprung forward one hour, all the kiddos who we were sharing a room with, decided to finally sleep in their own beds through the night.  It felt so good, I stayed in bed until the littlest one finally decided to get up.

Rock took Mary in the jogging stroller for an 8 mile ride to grab donuts (I love the way he thinks) and I met them there with the car to trade off.  As I started my run, it was almost 11:00am and the sun was beating pretty hard. It was only 73º, which would be a pleasant run in the summer.  But I haven’t been running in that heat for a long while and the last half of my run was straight into the sun on an unshaded path.  Curses for sleeping in!

Right from the start, I began preparing myself for this being a harder run compared to my others this past week. Despite some breezy days, the cool weather worked in my favor and I was running sub 8:00min/miles for eight miles a few days before.  However, I also know that you need to keep your pace on the slower side for most runs.  While my pace has been slowly getting faster and those sub 8:00’s felt relatively moderate, even those need to be slowed down from time to time.

I started Sunday’s run out and got it in my head that I would keep the pace at what felt “easy.”  I would ignore my GPS’s pace function and I would just do what I could.  I knew it was going to get hard at some point and I was going to aim for getting to six miles before I opted to walk for a bit.

I broke the run into half mile segments and checked each one off as I went and also checked in to see how I was feeling.  I used my music to push me through and I kept a calm conversation in my head.

Those last few miles were harder but as I approached each one, I was surprised that I was still feeling okay.  They weren’t quite as hard as I made them out to be and I used that as fuel to keep me going.

Isn’t it the worst when you head out for a run and haven’t mentally prepared yourself?  Have you ever started out feeling so great and having the best of intentions, only to get to the halfway point and you begin to struggle?  It is so hard to keep going when you are taken off guard.  It can mentally take the wind out of your sails.

I realized yesterday that I am still a bit traumatized from my last marathon.  There, I admit it.  I really want to run another marathon.  Nine months after I had Mary, I ran the Run For The Red Pocono’s Marathon.  I PR’ed by over 8 minutes and qualified for Boston with a 14 minute buffer.  I felt amazing!

A month later I ran Grandma’s Marathon.  It was supposed to be flat and fast; a welcome change from the final hills of the Poconos.  But the weather had other things in mind as the temps climbed into the 80ºs and black flags lined the course.  My body gave out.  But my mind gave out long before my legs did.

It was a very difficult experience.  It took all of those happy emotions from a month before and dug them in a deep, dark hole.  I knew and I still do know that I am capable of a great race.  But man, that was one painful experience on both a physical and mental level.  The marathon is a beast and when you have been beaten down, it can be hard to get back up.

I’m eyeing races and trying to find the one that is just right for me.  I will be back soon.  It is a great reminder that running is far more than just putting in the miles.  We have to train our brains to handle the highs and the lows.  Preparing for those difficult days is important.

Sure, you don’t want to be a Debby Downer before each run.  I am not recommending that you always prepare for the worst.  But it helps to know what obstacles might be in your way.  Think of how you might handle them.  When difficulties arise, use them as training tools for how you might approach them on race day.

It also never hurts to have donuts waiting for you when you arrive back home!

I didn’t hit the wall yesterday.  It was a pleasant surprise.  But it was also a great reminder that no two runs are alike and sometimes they can really throw you for a loop.

How do you prepare for these tough runs?

Which One? Healthy Eating Or Exercise?

The other day I was watching “The Doctors” and someone asked which was better: exercising or eating well?  Despite being an avid exerciser, I immediately shouted, “Eating well!”  As a certified health coach, personal trainer, and running coach, it has become increasingly clear over the years that what we put into our bodies is far more important than exercise.  Don’t get me wrong, exercise is essential to a healthy life.  But you can’t out exercise a poor diet, and you can’t outrun unhealthy eating.

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Sure, we have all put in an extra hour at the gym before, or run a few extra miles after a less than stellar day of eating.  And while that is a great way to bump things up when we fall behind, you certainly can’t rely on doing that every day.

Truth is, we need to eat well most of the time and exercise too.  There should also be some time for rest and relaxation, along with enjoying some indulgence as well.  I prefer the 80%/20% rule with this.  Keep it healthy 80% of the time and enjoy and indulge the other 20%.

When it comes to diet and exercise, what you put in is what you will get out.  If you eat poorly, you will get poor miles or poor results.  You can’t outrun a bad diet.

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This has been weighing on my mind a lot lately.  While I have been busy Netflixing, I spent a few hours watching documentaries.  Last year I had a client who told me she watched “Food Choices” and it changed her life.  She was focused on a plant based diet.  I watched the documentary and it hit me hard.  But it didn’t completely change my mind.

Earlier this fall I caught a bit of a segment on NPR where a doctor was discussing how Americans eat far too much meat.  He said that if you eat meat every day, you should work to go one day without meat each week.  If you eat meat once a week, you should aim for once a month….and so on.  Basically, he discussed how it causes inflammation in our bodies and Americans consume much more meat than most other countries.  I was intrigued, but still didn’t do much about this.

I don’t recall why, but I ended up watching “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix a few weeks ago.  This documentary emphasized again how we eat too much meat and showed a correlation between weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other issues.  As a health coach, I also know that if any diet can be recommended to clients, the Mediterranean Diet is the heart healthiest.

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DoctorOz.com

This information continues to show up and it was starting to make me consider what might happen if I adopted not a vegetarian lifestyle, but more of a plant based emphasis each day.  So while Rock was out of town for work last week, I set about finding recipes.

Here is what I found:  My grocery bill was so cheap!  I thought it would be much more expensive to just buy fresh fruits and veggies.  But the reality was, between produce and some canned and dried options, I was leaving the grocery store with a lot more money in my pockets.

While this wasn’t my main goal, I ended up dropping a few pounds almost immediately.  It was  a pleasant surprise.  One day I was walking by a mirror and noticed that my face looked a bit more thinned out and my muscles looked more noticeable.

A few days in, I was cruising along on the treadmill and found myself bumping the pace up because it felt good!  I was hesitant to run at this pace because I figured I would hit a wall.  However, I suddenly noticed that I was maintaining this pace and I wasn’t tired.  I really did just feel good.

It didn’t end there either.  I was watching the new season of “Grace and Frankie” and I was having such a fun time that I didn’t want to stop running.  My mileage soared and I felt so good, I didn’t even realize that I forgot to take a day off.  I ran eight days in a row and averaged 8-10 miles each day.  I didn’t have a super long run in there, but there was some really great mileage and my muscles weren’t complaining.  In fact, I made a mistake in an earlier post this week.  I actually ran 58 miles last week!

The Verdict:  I still love meat.  I’m still going to eat meat.  But we as a family have agreed that we are going to focus more on plant based meals.  My body felt good and I enjoyed what I was eating.  I made a delicious Indian curry that warmed my body and had some awesome anti-inflammatory spices added in.  The whole house smelled amazing!

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Chickpeas, Onions, Tomatoes, Spinach, and spices over rice.  So fast and so good!

Everyone needs to do what is best for their own lifestyles.  But there is a lot of evidence that adding more fruits and veggies and enjoying even a little bit less meat can make a big difference in your health.  I highly recommend checking out “Forks Over Knives” and “Food Choices” if you are curious about this.

Do you love a good burger like me?  Any thoughts on eating a little bit less meat?