Next Up, Berlin
It seems like ages ago that a colleague and I were chosen for the Berlin Marathon (we entered as a team because you are more likely to get in this way). It was truly crazy and I wasn't prepared to be admitted!
Before the Chicago Marathon last year in 2017, I never ran and in fact hated it. I just wasn't interested. Sure I would work out 6 days a week at the gym or take classes, but running was always very intimidating. When I did try to do a mile or two, I felt weak, winded and out of breath. Fast forward to now, 2018, and you'll find me constantly running. Not only just running but training for marathons, something I thought was NEVER possible. Running has become a form of meditation and therapy for me. It's an activity I can easily lose myself in, where everything falls away. When I first started training for Chicago, I was listening to loud music as a way to help distract me from the pain and time but quite quickly I realized that it took me out of my head and became an intense distraction. As I got closer to the Chicago Marathon I decided to abandon my music and challenge myself to run with nothing. Just me, my body and breath. I remember the first time I tried this and felt extremely liberated. You feel everything, are able to focus on your form (which for me is a challenge) and concentrate on your breath work. It's a challenge, but a good one. I highly recommend running whith no music during your short runs, however, within this last marathon training cycle, I have picked up listening to Podcasts (something I LOVE and highly encourage). Here are some great Podcast recommendations while you run: Ted Radio Hour (my favorite), Invisibilia, Gary Null (warning! he has a very monotonous voice but I dig it), Rich Roll and Ben Greenfield. Listening to podcasts on my long runs help me catch up on the weekly news. It's a win-win!
The last few months, as I have been training for Berlin, my left knee was experiencing massive pain. As I lift the leg to take a step, I felt a pain that pulled from my knee to my hip. My PT discovered I have a massive knot in my quad, which we are trying to lossen but let me tell you, it's insanely painful. Through this injury I have learned a few things. Number one is that I push myself physically too much. Yes, sometimes this is a great thing. For a lot of people, self motivating is half the battle. But I will push and push until I am injured. I cannot just wake up and run 10 miles, like some people. My body is not built that way. I tend to compare myself to others and get competitive...when I am not fast or run long miles, I get really down on myself and take the result too seriously.
Through my last two marathon training cycles I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned to be patient and kind to my body. When I am in pain or something doesn't feel right, I STOP. Listening to your body when you are undergoing major physical stress is by far the best advice. I know A LOT of people that push through for no reason and fall back to injury. Second, PACE YOURSELF. It's not about cramming the most miles in per week!! NO. It's about pacing yourself out so you arrive to the starting line HEALTHY. My goal last year (and this year), is just that. Arrive healthy and do the best I can. Maybe one day I will be able to train for a PR but it's just not the case this year. I want to take my training program seriously but be healthy. Marathon training can take a big psychological toll so I never pressure myself. I just do the best I can each day and train my body to get stronger and endure more.
Some tips for training:
LISTEN TO YOUR PT. Don't try to jump in and just start training, even if you are healthy. You need an expert helping you focus on your weaker muscles so you can become a better, stronger runner.
STRETCH. This is one thing I was horrible at doing last year and I really paid for it. This year, I take days off of working out completely and just stretch or will take yoga classes at home with my favorite app called, SWEAT. Stretching allows you to actually feel what is tight or hurts. As you're running, you can't feel parts of your body. You enter this zone called the runner's high and you honestly cannot feel pain in your body, even if it's there. Stretching helps you take a beat and listen to your muscles.
GET QUALITY SLEEP and A LOT OF IT. These are two of my favorite things about training. First, I do not like drinking while training and try to stop completely about two months out (it's almost July 1st!!) OR I will seriously scale back. Second, I love to be in bed by 9pm because I wake up at 5 am and need about 7-8 hours of good sleep per night. I do NOT go out to late dinners, etc. because I have to BE UP EARLY to miss the heat of the summer. Not to mention, I just absolutely love early mornings, when the rest of the world is asleep. Also, I have a job so need to create a schedule that fits into my work schedule. SLEEP IS KEY. And QUALITY sleep is even more important, especially when you are upping your milage and sweating.
EAT RIGHT. Eating well can be different for many people. Some love meat as their protein and others can fare quite well off of plant based proteins. I have experienced a major shift in my diet over the last few years and have been taking meat/animal products out of my diet because I just don't like the way it makes me feel. I do eat a lot of fish, particularly fresh farmer's market fish and try to avoid frozen fillets whenever possible. My goal is to have an over all plant based diet with fish sprinkled in. Training for a marathon on a plant based diet is 100% POSSIBLE. We do NOT need to get protein from animals and their byproducts. Plant based protein is completely suitable, especially if you are eating lentils, chickpeas, hempseed, spirulina, quinoa, oats, chia seeds, nuts, among others.
HYDRATE. Saving the best for last!! Hydration is key to a successful training program. When your body is dehydrated your muscles spasm, tense and tighten leading to unwanted pain and knots. Staying hydrated is something I certainly struggle with. My bladder cannot handle much so I find myself constantly using the bathroom which I used to find inconvenient. Now, however, I look at bathroom breaks as time to stretch my legs or take a break from work so it's win-win! I suggest using 1 Nuun tablet in 1 liter of water 2 times per day, especially the day before your long run. I ALWAYS have a Hydroflask somewhere near. I keep the large 40 ounce bottle at work and have several others at home (although I think it's time for me to get a 64 ounce for home!). Additionally, at work, I will bring some sliced lemon and mint to add to my Hydroflask. The health benefits of lemon are infinite the surplus of vitamin c, anti-inflammatory agents and aiding in digestion (especially after lunch!!).
I am learning an insane amount about my body and what I an capable of during my marathon training and I can't believe I have come this far. It truly freaks me out sometimes. Going from being hardly able to run two miles, to training for 26.2 has been one of the best things I've done for myself. Know that if you're trying to embark on a similar journey, that this IS possible and our only obsticle is our mind.