Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Uncomfortable.

“If we're growing, we're always going to be out of our comfort zone.”
― John Maxwell

It's getting hotter, as it does when summer is inching closer. The morning run isn't quite as delicious as it was a few months ago when I didn't break a sweat until mile 2; when I could come home from a 3 miler NOT looking like I went for a swim. I did 8 miles this morning. And I did them faster than typical. I felt a little guilty because I didn't do speed work last week, and I took both Saturday AND Sunday morning off-- no running. (OH, the glory of 2 lazy mornings in a row!)

As I ran, and my legs grew tired and my mind started tipping to that "maybe I should just stop and walk" place, I shifted my thoughts to just how exhausting, uncomfortable, and well, just plain crappy some workouts can be. But training is like so many other things in life-- if we remain in our comfort, we remain the same. Comfort says, "But I've never done that/gone there/thought that before..." Comfort says, "Oh, that's not for me." "I couldn't possibly." "Maybe some other time."

If we want to change, become better, in anything, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable. We have to "get comfortable with being uncomfortable" (a quote that is attributed to Jillian Michaels). If your training doesn't leave you tired, sweaty, and at least a little sore, then you are NOT training.

The trick is knowing that the pain is coming, and pushing into it-- through it, instead of letting it push you down-- defeat you. I read an article somewhere (sorry, it's been awhile) where one professional runner seemed to take offense at the use of the word pain. He preferred the use of the word "discomfort." I think his word choice is probably part of his mental training-- pain means stop; discomfort means push through. And let me clarify-- the pain I'm referring to is the ache in the legs-- the feeling that your legs have suddenly turned into petrified wood, that your lungs simply cannot continue to accept oxygen and push it through your body. If ever you are training, and you feel a sharp pain, then that is a sign of injury--stop!

Chris McCormack, a professional triathlete, just wrote his thoughts about pain in this article on the triathlete side of Competitor Magazine's online edition. He says:
Our biggest challenge in triathlon is overcoming that part of your mind that tells you to slow down or stop. I have found that the best way to achieve this is to accept (or “embrace”) that moment of absolute suffering. Treat pain like an old friend. It’s not that you enjoy suffering, but when you accept it as a moment that signifies that you are pushing yourself and advancing toward your goal, then you have begun to approach pain management from the right direction. 
He uses the phrase, "Embracing the suck," which has now become popular everywhere. But at the heart of the phrase is truth. If you want to avoid pain, you will avoid a chance to better yourself.
 I couldn't resist.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Before You Go Long...

I'm coming up on my 6th year Runniversary, so I'm not an expert by any means, but I've done countless long runs. However, that didn't stop me from making a few rookie mistakes on my long run this morning. That led me to writing this post in my head to help that long run pass.

If you are fairly new to running and are intimidated by the thought of "the long run," then this post is for you. The distance of "the long run" is relative. I didn't consider my run "long" until my first 6 miler. I'm not sure why, but for me that was the magic number. 

The weeks leading up to "the Long Run"
Don't just wake up on a Sunday morning and suddenly decide you will run 10 miles, especially if your longest run is 3. Gradually build up your miles over weeks. The experts say increase your mileage by no more than 10% each week. If you're training for a specific goal race, then find a good training plan to follow. Runnersworld.com has a free "smart coach" feature that will create a plan based on your current fitness level and goal race. Hal Higdon also has free training resources online.

The day before "the Long Run"
Don't go crazy carb loading. You are not going into hibernation, and you are not a camel.  Eat pretty normally. Make sure you get some good quality complex carbs. This is not the time to try strange and wondrous new foods. 

Consider the temperature you will be running in and lay out clothing to match the climate. Also be sure that you have some fuel (a variety of options: gels, GU, bloks, chews, drinks, bars, etc.) to take on your run, especially if it's hot and you will be running for an hour or more. Also plan your hydration; again, there are options: carry a throw-away plastic water bottle, a fancy made-for-runners water bottle (mine has a pouch for gels), a fuel belt, Camelback, etc. or plan a route where you know there will be water fountains.
A sample of my current stash. Yes, I'm still experimenting.
Plan your route and tell someone. Let them know where you are running, when you are heading out and when you expect to return. DO NOT publish your route on facebook. After all, how well do you really know your "friends"? 

Make sure your phone or iPod is completely charged. Update your playlist for some peppy, inspirational songs. 

The morning of "the Long Run"
Pre long run fueling varies to the runner. Having a thyroid that requires me to take medication to keep it moving means that I can't eat for an hour after I take my meds. So, I begin my runs on an empty stomach. When possible, I eat a light snack about 45 minutes before my long run.

Lubricate! I like Body Glide because it comes in an easy to use stick-- like deodorant. But Vaseline works, too. I've even heard of some runners who use a deodorant stick to lube, but not too sure if that works. Rub it on anywhere that you might chafe-- beware of seams on your shorts, shirt sleeves, etc. I have also been known to slather my feet in a thin layer of lube. And don't forget sunscreen!

Empty the tank. Do I really have to elaborate?

Grab your hydration, nutrition, and I always grab a piece of gum and put on Chapstick. 

During "the Long Run"
Don't over-hydrate or under-hydrate. I've been guilty of both. 

Don't forget to "eat." It takes practice to know exactly how often your body needs fuel. For my first two marathons and several halfs, I ate too frequently-- my stomach was often upset, and I always had to find a bathroom along the route. It is generally recommended that you take 1 gel about every 45 minutes. I have also discovered that I need electrolytes, so lately I've looked for gels that are higher in sodium and potassium.

If, in the middle of the run, you find yourself getting extremely annoyed by stoplights, yapping dogs, a particular song, and the next one, and the one after that, the smiling guy that walks past, and, well, everything... then you are bonking! Take a gel, if you haven't already. Don't panic. Wait for the calories and carbs to hit, and you will once again feel like you are loving life or at least you will no longer feel like a crazed lunatic.

After "the Long Run"
Cool down. I like to walk the dog, so that I'm forced to keep moving.

Stretch and foam roll.

Eat. Something with a mix of carbs and protein. I usually save my cheat meal for the long run day because I feel that I deserve it. However, be realistic-- running 8 miles doesn't entitle you to multiple buffet caliber meals.

I also like to put on some compression pants. And chill.

One of my favorite running songs. I can't NOT smile when I hear it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dreams

Delayed hope makes one sick at heart,
    but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 (God's Word translation)

I've always been a doer and not much of a dreamer. I'm checklist oriented. More into the tangible and measurable than the unknown and the possible. Maybe that's why I don't spend much time dreaming. Or maybe it's the pessimist in me. Maybe I'm too cynical. 

I've come to the conclusion that I just don't dream enough. Without a dream, we just seem to stumble along in life, settling for whatever comes our way. Without a dream, we don't have any drive. There is no far away place in the future toward which we are aiming. Dreams build and fuel desire to become better, to do better, to make others better. Dreams help define our goals. 

So, I'm going to work on dreaming more. Sounds like an oxymoron. But as I've become a Mom and gotten older I've found that I have to schedule time for play... and now more dreaming.

Are you a dreamer? Or like me, somewhere along the way have you forgotten to dream?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Why Not Paleo?


“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.” 
 Henry David Thoreau

So, the newest thing in fitness seems to be the Paleo diet. If you don't know what that is, you must live under a rock. Bahahahahaha! (get it, under a rock? Paleo, aka cave man diet?) Ok, seriously, this explanatory picture has been floating around facebook for awhile: 
So, if I may try to sum up the Paleo diet... it's meat and plant based. Certain foods are really off limits. Other foods are kind of off limits. And that was a really poor explanation, so check out this infographic for a clear picture. (I can't stop.)

Tons of people, most of them CrossFitters, love and swear by this diet lifestyle. And the internet is full of before and after pictures of people who have tried and succeeded with the Paleo diet. But...

I will never join the masses of Paleo people. (gasp) Let me explain why...

1. Brown rice. Off limits on the Paleo diet. And it just doesn't make sense to me. It is arguably one of the best complex carbs on the planet. Want more info on brown rice? I'll save you a Google search.  

2. Oatmeal. Ok, this really should be my #1, but since it's mostly a breakfast food, I put it at #2. Again, awesome source of fiber and deliciousness-- you just have to know how to make it. (DO NOT buy those packets of instant-- full of sugar.) More than you ever wanted to know about oatmeal here.

3. Potatoes. White potatoes. (giant gasp) Yes, I love them. They are a great source of potassium. Ok, sweet potatoes are higher in vitamins and fiber, but the vilification of white potatoes must be stopped! (ok, that was cheesy-- I've been grading persuasive essays written by 8th graders)

4. Speaking of cheese... Cheese. I limit my dairy to a few times a week, but it's always in the form of cheese. I'm not even going to pretend there's a great health benefit to cheese. It's just yummy. 

5. Peanut butter. Again, I don't eat it for the health benefits. It's just plain delicious. Especially after mixing in a little vanilla whey protein and spreading it on apples. (I only use peanut butter with peanuts as THE ingredient.) 

If you're Paleo, that's awesome for you! I'm not trying to convince you to quit. I think it's important to eat a variety of clean, real food. 

Paleo or not... I'd love to read your thoughts!