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?

Why Races Aren’t About Being Competitive (and Why They Are)

Years ago when I got back into running, I signed up for a local 15k.  I “trained” for it and had an absolute blast on race day.  There was no pressure, because I had no idea what to expect.  I was just excited to be out on the course with other runners and to see what the experience would be like.  I got hooked.

I was dating my, now husband, at the time and suggested that we sign up to do a spring race together.  Having been a high school and collegiate athlete, he had no desire to go back to those competitive days.  He just wanted to enjoy his running.

I absolutely understood this sentiment, but tried to explain that races aren’t necessarily about the “racing.”  It took some convincing, but he signed up for his first two races, a 15k road race and a 10k mountain trail run.  Not the best choices to ease him into the sport, but after his first race, he told me to start finding more.

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Our first race together!

My First Race!

Why Racing Isn’t About Being Competitive

It wasn’t the “race” that hooked us.  It was the experience, the opportunity to find that inner athlete we had tucked away after our competitive days in sports.  Being among other runners, pushing ourselves to see what was our very best, and having strangers cheer for us on the side of the road, only made the experience better.

While I have had some varied success in my running, I’m almost always behind many runners who are far faster than me.  More often than not, I am not there trying to win the race, but instead to run for myself.

Part of what makes races exciting is the process.  From choosing which race and event you will be doing, to finding the right plan, it is the total package before the race even starts that makes it so fun.

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When I was competing in track and field, my dad was my coach.  One thing I will never forget was him telling me that I wouldn’t remember most of my races.  Instead, what I would remember most was the training.  He was 100% right and that still holds true today.

The process of preparing for your event, the excitement of the process, and the experience of the race itself is what makes “racing” fun.  People will be cheering you on, and they certainly don’t care what place you finish.  In fact, most people will be far more inspired by the person who finishes last than the speedster that came in first.

Why Running Is About Being Competitive

I’m not talking about coming in first.  The competition is rarely between you and the person who will win.  Instead, it is about setting goals and seeing what you can do.  Maybe you want to simply finish the 5k, or perhaps your goal is to finish without taking walking breaks.   You might have a time goal that you are working for.

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The great thing about races is that you can always set a goal, whether it is something really lofty or a smaller goal to get you through an event.  These goals can be for any distance.  The possibilities are endless, and this is what can help you to find a little competitiveness in your running at any level without taking the fun out of the sport.

Having an event or a goal to look forward to can be an extra motivation for your running.  It’s not always about getting faster.  It can simply be to make your experience better.

Why do you like to race?

Are you hesitant to try a race?  If so, I’d love to hear what holds you back.

Be Kind To Yourself- Running Edition

We have one big rule in our house.  “Be Kind.”  We emphasize this rule with each other, when we are heading to school or the sitters, and even when we watch TV.  As parents, our biggest goal is to raise kind human beings.  I truly believe that the world could use a lot more kindness, and I hope to start by helping my two little ones to learn to treat others with love.

Several of my friends are training for the Boston Marathon and I have been enjoying watching their progress on social media.  One of my friends mentioned how she had been really struggling with her training but on one particular run, she embraced being kind to herself.  She mentioned that she had forgotten this important rule for running and by bringing this back into her training, everything changed.

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I discuss this a lot.  It isn’t something revolutionary.  We all know that running is hard.  Many people don’t run because it can be difficult.  Even seasoned runners have moments of struggle.  This is an essential part of the sport.  To become a distance runner you have to embrace these struggles.

If you choose to be negative, your runs will likely be hard.  Negativity will also impact your perceived exertion.

On the flip side, when we become kind and positive minded runners, everything gets a little better.  Perceived exertion lessens and longer runs can feel less daunting.

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Can you imagine spending a long run beating yourself up?  I certainly would want to quit after a few miles of contemplating all that was going wrong.  But with endorphins from exercise pumping through your body and some kind thoughts about yourself and your activity, time spent running can actually be enjoyable.

Even better, the feeling lasts beyond your run.  When you spend miles thinking positive thoughts and keeping a kind inner dialogue, you will leave the run with a positive outlook.  More endorphins and happy feelings will carry you through the day and even into the night.

It is so great to think that even when the world can be less than kind, you can take positive action and be kind to yourself on a run.  The kindness will pour over into the rest of your day and it might just rub off on those around you.

It’s Contagious- Try This If You Are Struggling With Running

I’m not going to lie, running has been a drag for me lately.  During the two months we were in NYC, I was using running as a means to get back and forth from work.  I often ran four miles home from work in the morning, walked with the stroller back for four miles in the afternoon, and then ran home again each evening while pushing the stroller.  Running became more of a means to get from Point A to Point B and less about exercise or enjoyment.

Once I was home again, I was looking forward to just running.  But I was bummed when I got on the treadmill and realized I had lost my motivation.   It was frustrating.

As a coach, I often discuss with runners how there are times during the year when running will be less appealing.  It is normal to fall in and out of love with the sport.

Winter is often a time when running becomes more difficult.  If you live somewhere like we do, it is freezing outside and at times too dangerous to head outside.  Running on ice and snow can be difficult, scary, and can even change your gait which might cause injury.  Treadmills can be a great alternative, but sometimes monotonous.

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When you find that you go for several days or weeks without motivation to run, it can weigh heavily on your mind.  I have to remind myself that this too shall pass.  It really will.  Often, changes in the weather can bring new light and warmth to push you out the door.  Or perhaps a little break can make things more exciting.

Last weekend we took a trip to Chicago to visit family.  We had been locked inside during the Polar Vortex in Michigan, and Chicago had it even worse.  Fortunately, by the time we arrived in Chicago, temperatures had risen by 60 degrees and we were able to get outside for a run.

Saturday I logged 8 miles on snowy sidewalks.  It was a bit of a struggle, but it also felt so great to be running outside again without dozens of layers.

As I got deeper into my run, more and more runners were flocking to the sidewalks.  It was a lovely scene.  Everyone looked both relieved and so happy to be outside again.  In fact, every time I ran by someone, we locked eyes and smiled.  It felt great!  We were sharing a happy moment with each other, even if we were struggling with our miles.

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With every smile, my feet felt a little lighter.  I noticed that I wasn’t just smiling as I passed by another runner, but instead I was just smiling for the sake of running.  It was contagious and I felt happy!

It makes sense, when we smile we send chemical signals up to our brains that we are happy.  Our muscles relax and endorphins start pouring through our body.  When our muscles relax, our running economy improves.  This actually makes you a better and more efficient runner.  Endorphins make you feel good and can lessen your perceived exertion.

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I find that smiling when pushing the stroller makes things MUCH easier!

Isn’t it crazy to think that all you need to do to become a better runner is put a smile on your face?  Take a few moments to smile during your run and you will likely enjoy your exercise more and even find it to be a bit easier.

I’m (Finally) Back!

Where do I begin?  Happy New Year?!  My apologies for the delayed return.  I had planned to get back to blogging earlier, but as usual there were some unexpected twists.

Our late fall/early winter in New York was absolutely wonderful.  The weather cooperated for the most part and our family had great adventures in the city; a big change from our very rural life in the off season.

Our 3 year old, Mary, figured out how to get up off of the ice on her own and that was a huge game changer.  While I taught lessons every day at the ice rink in Central Park, she was able to skate around and join classes with us.  She decided that she was going to be both a figure skater and a hockey player!

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Helping mom string a hockey net for class.

Lucy, our now 16 month old, even got in on the fun and tried marching around in skates that were much too big for her.  She only wants to do what big sister does and I can’t blame her.

Where Did I Disappear To?

I had big plans to get back to blogging and running adventures in the New Year, but I kept seeing information about a very intriguing certification course for running coaches.  I decided to skip the blogging (and basically anything else) for the next few weeks to pursue a new coaching certification.

Revo2lution Running is a 4 week training course that delves deeply into the science of running.  While I have my RRCA certification along with my ACE Health Coaching Certification, I am always looking to learn more about running and health and wellness.

What I loved about this course was that it combined these two areas of interest on a deeper level that I have been looking for.  Understanding more of the science behind running as well as the differences in training for men and women was exactly what I wanted.  By passing this test, I also received certification to teach treadmill classes in facilities.  I’m really looking forward to starting these classes up soon.

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As a coach, I am always interested in broadening my knowledge of running and coaching.  I enjoy listening to other coaches and experts and bringing these new tools to runners who choose to work with me.  I’m looking forward to sharing some of the information I have learned and posting more in the next few weeks.

What are you goals for 2019?

Training Doesn’t Always Have To Be Perfect + Riding The Wave

This summer has already been a whirlwind for us.  The first half of June was spent preparing for our 2 year old’s first dance recital.  That was a crazy foretaste of what our lives will like be in a few years as our kids grow, and sports and other activities take over.  Rock was in NYC until the end of June and that meant the majority of my runs were on the treadmill while children took naps.

Every summer for the past few years Rock and I have participated in Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival of Races.  I realized this year that of all the races we have done, this is the only one we make a point to sign up for.  The Cherry Festival is a really fun event for all ages and their races are beautiful and well organized.  Despite the fact that Rock had been logging 30,000-40,000 steps each day in NYC but not always having a chance to get in a run and my lack of hitting the pavement, we decided we would do the half marathon again.

We also convinced my brother-in-law to come join us.  He had done his first half marathon in May and finished just under 2 hours.  Shortly after, we discussed his goal of aiming for a 1:50 half and decided that with some smart training, it could be a potential A goal for this particular race.  I created a plan for him and we worked out some game plans to get him through race day.

The week before the race, Rock and I decided that regardless of how little actual training we had done, we needed to get at least 10 miles in before race day.  I had been logging daily 7 mile runs, but hadn’t set foot in the hot summer conditions yet.  Obviously, we picked a day when the temps were to hit the mid 90’s.  By the time we dropped the girls off at daycare and started, the air was already soupy.  I knew it was only a matter of time before things fell apart.

Fell apart they did.  At mile 5 we stopped for a water break and by mile 6, I was down to taking a break every half mile.  I was dehydrated and felt ill.  I made it home, but was left feeling pretty defeated.

Then we left for our annual week in Northern Wisconsin where just about everything I ate was fried and every run was done pushing our double stroller up and down hills in the hot summer heat.  Things were not looking good!

Friday night we arrived home with our bellies full of the only fast food we could find along the interstate, leaving me up at 3:30am with heartburn.  Not exactly the ideal pre-race dinner!

An hour later we were up and fueling again, ready to hit the high school where buses were waiting to ship us out to the Old Mission Peninsula where the race would start at a winery.

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I would be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous.  I was beyond nervous.  I knew that my body could handle 13 miles.  I love double digit runs.  However, that 10 miler the week before was really playing hard in the back of my mind and race day was going to be relatively warm.  While it was 50 degrees when we started, I knew it was going to climb by 20 degrees over the next two hours.

The first two and a half miles wove up and down through dirt paths of local cherry orchards, before spitting us out on the road that runs along West Grand Traverse Bay.  From here we followed the bay for the next several miles.  The view is beautiful and the homes along the water are quite spectacular.

I felt good, but noticed that the heat was getting to me and I was waiting to see when my body would fall apart like before.  I had a mile where I started to feel like I was fading and feared the end was near.  Then I began to feel a renewed strength in my legs and my pace slowly increased.

I kept assessing how I was feeling, but at times I was reading into it too much.  I was trying to find the negativity.  Once I realized this, I worked to clear my head.  I turned my music up and just let my body settle in.  I had done this distance many times.  In the past, I was in better shape or more prepared, but my body and mind knew how to do this.

I forgot that every mile can be so different.  Some miles will feel great.  Other miles, your body will struggle.  There will be miles where your mind tries to fool you into giving up.  And there will be miles where you are ready to tackle just about anything.  The key is, you can’t let any particular mile take over your race.  You have to remember that things will change.  The good will come with bad.  The bad will eventually wash away.

When I remembered this, my mind gave my body renewed strength.  I had no idea where I was in the pack of runners, but I knew I would be okay and I decided to stop worrying about everyone else around me, and just run the rest of that race.

I crossed the finish line surprisingly better than I had expected.  When the results were posted I was walking to the car and happened to look on my phone.  I was shocked to see that I had finished 26th for the women and 3rd in my age group.  What a pleasant surprise!

You never know what might come of your training.  There might be injuries or other setbacks.  Life can get in the way.  The key is to do the best with what you have.  Make it work and then go forward on race day and trust your body.  Let your mind trust you.  Training will rarely be ideal.  That doesn’t mean that your race can’t have great results.  Roll with the wave and you never know where you will come out at the end.

 

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I also have to give a huge congrats to my brother-in-law who finished with a 12 minute PR in his second half marathon ever.  He’s seriously a rockstar!

Holiday Gift Guide: Running Products For Stockings

Keeping with my trend of reviewing running sunglasses, I thought I would share some of my favorite running products to stuff stockings .  Pick up a few of these for yourself or your favorite runner.  I believe these won’t disappoint.

Simple Hydration Bottles: ($19.99)

It’s no secret that I am a fan of this water bottle.  It sits perfectly  in the back of your shorts or sports bra.  No need to wear a hydration belt. There’s no bouncing around or chafing.  The name of this product says it all, simple!  You don’t have to worry about carrying hydration around.  It holds just enough fluid to get through almost any run.  Now the lids also come in a variety of colors and an improved lid.

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Yurbuds: (Starting at $14.99 on Amazon)

I have weird ears, because earbuds don’t stay in for me.  It is so frustrating and up until a few years ago, I had to wear old school over the noggin headphones.  Yep, I was that dork on the run!  I was at a North Face race and saw a Yurbuds booth and their promise that these won’t fall out.  I didn’t try them, but eventually decided to spring for a pair.  Do yourself a favor and get these if you have the same problem as me.  The sound quality is fantastic.  The fit is great and they will replace them if there are issues within the first year.

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Flipbelt: (Starting at $28.99)

I used to use a different type of belt, and while I loved it, we had some major chafing issues and had to break up.  Unlike other belts, this one stays in place and doesn’t bounce around, eliminating any potential rubbing.  It also has multiple pockets so you can carry your phone, fuel, ID, cash, and anything else you might need.  Even when I was pregnant, this remained comfortable on the run thanks to a nice amount of stretch.

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Body Glide: ($7.99 in stores)

Speaking of comfort, chafing is a given in the sport of running.  It happens and it hurts.  Nobody likes to hit the showers after their thighs have rubbed together for several miles.  Ouch!  Lather this on problem areas before your long run and spare yourself that painful singe after a run.

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Nuun Tablets: ($5.99 in stores)

I tore my calf at 20 weeks during my pregnancy in May.  A lack of electrolytes can lead to severe cramping and even muscle tears.  These delicious tablets are a wonderful way to recover after your run.  Hydrating never tasted so delicious and your muscles will thank you later.  I love the variety of flavors that are offered, including energy options, because sometimes long runs start at early o’clock.

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What are your favorite products that you would like to see in your stocking or recommend for others to share the love?

 

Why I Am A Better Runner, Thanks To Pushing A Stroller

There was a time when I didn’t think this post would be a reality.  The first time I pushed Mary in a stroller I couldn’t quite get the hang of it.  I was out of breath and I felt slow.  The truth is that running with a stroller isn’t easy, but it does get better.  You get in a rhythm.  You slow your pace down and you appreciate running for different reasons.

Over the past few months my running has transitioned, thanks to the stroller.  I was afraid it would mean becoming a slower runner.  But the good news is, running with my baby (ahem, toddler) has been an awesome experience in many ways.

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It forces you to slow down.  Sounds like a bad thing, doesn’t it?  Here’s the thing.  Most of us think we need to run fast all of the time to become a faster runner.  Yes, you do need to do some faster runs to get speedy.  That’s what speed work is for.  Ever notice that speed work is usually only on your plan one time per week?  That’s because you only need about 10% of your training to be done at a high intensity/interval pace to reap the benefits of speed work.

Many of us can also benefit from some slower runs.  Pushing a stroller can definitely help with this!

You learn to roll with the punches.  Sun bonnets fall on the ground.  Pacifiers get thrown.  Blankets get tossed.

I used to hate having to stop during my run.  I wasn’t the best running partner.  But having a child requires a completely different kind of patience.  Some runs are stop and go.  You just have to deal with it.  There’s the run where you struggle to keep that sun bonnet.  There’s the run where you realize the pacifier disappeared.  You stop your GPS and desperately search around the stroller.  You contemplate back tracking.  You panic.  And then you just head home, hoping in desperation that you make it there in one piece!

You realize, stopping doesn’t mean that you will be slower.

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With resistance, you become stronger.  Pushing a stroller adds a touch of resistance. Sure it slows you down. But when you get that chance to go for a slower run.  You find that everything is much easier.  You are much stronger.  You appreciate that easy run.

Pushing a stroller up hills is hard.  But when I hit those hills solo, they feel so much easier.  My legs actually feel stronger from that training.

You enjoy running for different reasons.  When I run with Mary, my workouts take a different tone.  She’s on the verge of sharing a bunch of new words.  She babbles in sentences that I can’t quite understand.  But I love listening to her.  I respond by pointing out the sights.

On our new running route there is a dairy farm.  She loves to wave to the cows.  I never thought I would shout “Moo!” on my run.  But I do it almost daily now.  We wave at dogs, and I point out trees.  We chat about which one might become our Christmas tree this winter.

This probably comes as no surprise, but we have a very active little toddler.  If she sits down in your lap for a minute, you savor every second before she takes off running again (sounds like her parents, doesn’t it?!).  The time we share together on a run is very special.  I get to have her nice and close and chat and listen to her sweet little sounds and giggles.

You enjoy your time together and then your time running alone.  Sometimes one of the hardest things about running is avoiding boredom.  Let’s be honest, it isn’t the most exciting sport.  We all tend to fall into a rut and that doesn’t help matters any.

When I run with the stroller, I pick a fun route and I forget about technology.  No headphones, no worrying about my splits.  My goal is to get a workout in and do it with my daughter.  It’s a great way for me to do a little something for myself while still spending time with my little one.

When I switch to a run on my own, I get to throw the headphones on and enjoy some music.  I  can add in some different routes that aren’t as doable with the stroller.  I can pay a little bit more attention to my pace and push myself a bit if I want.  If I am feeling good, I can add on a few extra miles without worrying that I might be stepping into temper tantrum territory.  I can get into my head and problem solve, or think about things going on in my life.  It is a little bit of time for me to just spend with myself and then come home refreshed and ready for whatever the day might throw at me next.

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Both ways of running are special.  I enjoy having the opportunity to run with my family and on my own.  They each have their benefits and it is a great way to mix your training up.  I have learned that doing new things like pushing a stroller might temporarily slow me down, but in the long run I can actually be a stronger runner and still find success in my training.

What do you do to try and fit runs in around your schedule?

Things I Am Loving Right Now

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  We have been enjoying our stay at the lake in Michigan.  I even got a few post marathon runs in and they didn’t feel too bad!

I wanted to step away from the running chat today and share a few things I am absolutely loving right now.  Please note that these are absolutely 100% my own views.  I have not been compensated by any of these companies or products.  But I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to it (wink, wink).

The first is this Boscia Exfoliating Peel Gel.  I have had acne prone skin since I was 4 years old.  I also have sun damage in the form of black spots on my forehead and other areas of my face.  I got a sample of this stuff from Sephora during a recent trip and immediately ordered a 5 ounce bottle for $34.  This stuff is amazing!  You simply apply a small amount to your skin and watch as the dead layer rubs off.

I bought this to clear up my acne, but it has almost completely cleared my sun damage spots.  It works way better than the prescription medicines my dermatologist gave me.

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I then finish it off with the Boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser.  This stuff feels so good, with a slight warming sensation.  It isn’t too harsh and my skin feels so soft when I am done.  I also use my Clarisonic with this.

When I am outside and running I use the Colorescience powder recommended by my dermatologist.  This comes in a convenient and easy to use tube in various shades and SPF levels.  I love this because you can use it over your makeup and it also lasts for up to 2 hours with exercise.  You can easily toss it in your purse or gym bag.

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Since I am post marathon and trying to be healthy while curbing my runger, I have discovered a few delicious treats.  My amazing friend Stephanie gave me a goody bag full of some of my new favorites:

Bare Banana Simply Baked Cinnamon Chips are our new favorite treat in this house.  I first tried the plain flavor and Rock wasn’t a fan.  I was thrilled to find this out because I thought they were delicious and didn’t have to share.  They are crispy like chips and are made of just plain baked bananas.  At 120 calories for 1/2 a cup serving, this is a pretty healthy treat.  But when I pulled the cinnamon flavored chips out, Rock suddenly was intereste.  Now we need to buy these in bulk.  They are the perfect crunchy treat when you need a snack.

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Figs.  I love Fig Newtons but I have never just eaten figs.  Thanks to Stephanie, we finally pulled them out of the pantry last night and gave them a try.  They aren’t pretty, but we both loved them.  We are hooked!  It is like nature made it’s own candy for us.

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What are your most recent new loves?  Have you tried any of these?

“I Feel Like A Runner”

This is going to sound crazy, especially if you have read a lot of my posts and know that my philosophy is, “If you run, you are a runner.”  It doesn’t matter how far or how fast you go.  You are a runner.

As many of you know, I had a baby eight months ago.  Since then I have been on a comeback to get myself back in physical and running shape.  I decided last fall to sign up for two marathons, one in May in the Poconos and the other in June in Duluth, Minnesota.

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When I started my training plan back in February, I was a little nervous.  Would my speed come back?  How would my body handle the miles?  Had I done enough base mileage before starting my training?  I was worried that I was setting myself up for failure.

I have a friend who is a great running coach and a great runner.  In fact, she set up my training plan (yes, running coaches seek out other running coaches for help).  One thing I remembered her telling me years ago was, not to worry about my pace on my runs.  “You will naturally start to get faster during your training.”

The first time I followed her plan, I did worry about my paces.  They didn’t seem to be getting any faster.  Maybe I wasn’t doing the plan correctly.  But it all came together on race day, and I started noticing it before then too…..

This week marked my 12th week of marathon training.  Something awesome started to happen at the end of last week, just like the last time.  I was out for a speed work session, running against the wind, and yet I felt strong.  I felt fast.  I felt like my legs were working just the way they should.

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Feeling like a runner again!

This is exactly what happened to me last time too.  I got to a point in the training where things started to come together and I “felt like a runner.”  Sure I have always been a runner.  Something was just working for me and it felt great.

I truly believe that this is what happens when you listen to your body, follow a solid plan, and take care of yourself.  Don’t worry about your pacing, let the plan do that for you.  Take breaks or rest days when your body is calling for them.  Adjust when needed.  Fuel and hydrate throughout.  And then let the pieces fall into place when they are supposed to.

That isn’t to say that you won’t have days where your body feels like lead, or you won’t feel slow and sluggish.  Training is supposed to make you feel all of those crazy things.  But keep moving along, and you will start to see the puzzle come together.