“Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?”
~ Peter Maher
For the past ten months I’ve been laying the foundation to run Tomoka marathon. With t-minus two weeks, the anxiety is kicking-in, but the excitement and anticipation are more predominant. It’s clear now how much work and time it takes for the body and mind to be ready for it.
As this realization has triggered my awareness for the past weeks, I couldn’t help but to ask my husband for his recollection of our “training” to run the 2010 Disney marathon. It has only been six years since then (make it seven to count a year for training), but his recollection is weak. I re-read my blog entry 26.2 Miles of… but there wasn’t much there to remember. It’s more probable than not that we didn’t train much. I remember a few runs at the West Orange Trail, but do I remember how many miles I (we) ran at___ pace? Hell NO! I probably didn’t even know exactly what this was all about other than covering a distance of 26.2 miles by foot!
However, I remember this: we had a crappy watch (it did tell time), some short of running shoes, no running log, no running apps, no nutrition plan, no injury prevention plan (why bother, we weren’t running that many of miles) but we were stretching a bit, no consistence, and no 4:30 a.m. morning runs. Why plan when you’re just going to “run” through the most magical place on Earth, right? As my coach mentioned during our runs, “most people really don’t take Disney races serious because of the all fun things you do when at Disney.” Running is fun, but if you lack preparation it’s torture.
As it turns out, she is so right! In conversation with my husband, he reminded me that we even forgot our damn WATCH on race day. We asked our friend who planned on cheering for us at half way point to bring some short of a watch from Walgreens. We saw her in the middle of the crowd and she got us a watch. By then, time accuracy didn’t matter. The only thing that matter was not getting slower and being picked up by the pace car. Let me tell you… we were terrified by the sight of the pace car. It felt like we were living a ManTracker episode.
After running six half marathons, investing more time, resources and energy into training, I can say that my body is addicted to the runner’s high. It’s my desire to run more efficient, diminish body trauma, be smarter about it and achieve my ultimate dream. Here’s what I’ve been doing to keep my body running strong.
- Eat well – Just because calories will be burned, it doesn’t mean that you should consume whatever you see and expect a happy run. Selecting what I feed my body has been important to me for the past fourteen years (I stopped consuming red meat and pork) and for the past nine years I gave up meat (every living flesh) for good. I experimented a plant-based diet (vegan) for four years, but since joining MarathonFest in June of last year, by August, my body craved eggs and selective cheeses after runs. These two items are my only exception. Grains, veggies, fruits, coconut water, whole wheat bread or pasta, root vegetables, smoothies, goji berries, chia, nuts, lots of water are a must in my kitchen. During training after my long runs which are done usually by 9:00 a.m., I always crave scrambled eggs with veggies. However, after my races which are usually done by 10:30 a.m. and after enjoying the after-race party festivities, by 11:30 a.m., I crave a huge superfood salad and some yummy soup.
- Sleep well – I make sleep a priority. My body needs meaningful food and quality sleep time. I remember getting up at 3:40 a.m. for a weekday run, and during warm-up, my body totally rejected moving. I felt a sharp pain on my left shin. Despite that, I finished the workout with miles repeat but my performance was poor and I knew it was because of sleep deprivation. I refuse to workout or run if my body is tired due to lack of sleep; it’s just not worth risking injury. Sleeping is a major part of the recovery process between workouts, work and the daily challenges life throws at us. It helps the body recover from damage and protect itself against illness. Make it a priority!
- Do Stretch/Strengthening/Conditioning/Weights – Some runners can get away by skipping this homework; I simply cannot. Even if I were to run three times a week for a total of 9 miles per week, I’d be a miserable runner. I’m fortunate to have a husband who is a sports massage therapist specializing in Active Isolate Stretching. He taught me how to stretch and it helps a lot. I do my best to incorporate stretching in my daily routine. As for conditioning and weigh training, I keep it simple with some upper body, core and lower body workouts. Lunges, squats and single leg deadlift is a must. With the increasing of mileage, I’ve being going to the gym twice a week – always on the days I run in order to really give my body a full rest on the days I don’t run. My pre-day run routines consists of doing a 20-minute Iron Strength Workout created my marathoner and ironman Dr. Jordan D. Metzl. Yes, I’m doing the abbreviated version for now because this is a killer workout – that’s why it’s called Iron Strength! I also allocate 20-minute for foam rolling and 30-minute for stretching. Sundays are rest day, but I either do Pilates or Kundalini Yoga – it’s an amazing practice for breathing and mind-balance.
- Be consistent – Whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, it takes time and adaptation for the body and mind to adjust. In 1960, Dr. Maxwell Maltz published a book called Psycho-Cybernetics and from that emerged a quote “…it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” As years went by, people created their own interpretation by assuming that it takes 21-days for a new habit to form. Further research by Phillipa Lally a health psychology researcher at University College of London, showed that on average it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic. It takes anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit which depends on the person, behavior and circumstances. Bottom line: it’s not easy to initiate or maintain consistency while doing what it takes to train for a marathon. I’m lucky to be part of an amazing group of runners in MarathonFest through Track Shack that supports one another. Our level of integrity, camaraderie and accountability is very special. Join a running group or whatever group supports your interests and pursue your happiness. It’s much easier and fun this way!
- Stop Complaining – Seriously. Stop complaining. I remember going on a few runs with my husband and complaining for every single pain I felt during the process and afterwards. He told me he was in pain too, but he wasn’t telling me so. I noticed that I was dragging him with my complaining, so I learned to keep it to myself. After I listened to the audiobook A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen a few years ago, it became clear that complaining is a tiresome negative energy in all aspects of life. Bowen mentions in his book to either stop complaining, change the situation or complain to who has the power to make a change. This is not to serve as an advice that you should not share the fact that you might be injured. Any lingering discomfort should be addressed to your physical, massage therapist or doctor. There’s a big difference between being concerned about something and being a complainer about something.
- Explore – Running is a journey which is an access to self-empowerment and self-discovery. I know how demanding running can be and I’m learning what my body is asking of me so that my running experience is joyful. With that in mind, I’m open to explore and learn new ways to nourish my body. During the summer, I made ice baths a priority after long runs – anything over 6 miles at the 80’s and 90’s with 90% humidity was a must for a lower body ice bath. I also visited my physical therapist a couple of times to analyze my running form and to focus on strengthening exercises since I was dealing with hamstring/quads injury. He’s a marathoner which gave me enough confidence that he knew exactly what the problem was and what I needed to do to heal and prevent injuries. Weeks before marathon training started at full throttle, I sought Dr. Bradley Golden’s expertise at the Orlando Sports Chiropractic. I got a few adjustments, explored hot, compression, and gastron therapeutic alternatives. Three days before my longest training run – a 20-miler, I had my first cryotherapy session.
Find your passion and go for it. Discover what works for you in order to facilitate the process. The key is preparing to receive it.
“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”
~ Oprah Winfrey