There are big changes going on around here for me, as a runner and as a person.
After the Keys100 this summer, I decided to take a look at my training and see where I could improve. I usually hit a slump during the summer where I don't run as much. I tend to slow down on my running and hit the gym to rebalance my body. I tend to get very busy, too. I'm in law school, and usually the summer means that I work full time, plus either take classes on the side or do research for law professors. I'll be honest -- at the end of the day, I don't really feel like running. I feel like drinking good beer and watching Netflix. (You could say I should run early, before all of this, but still -- I feel like drinking good beer and watching Netflix then, too.)
But this summer, I wanted things to be different. I wanted to focus on work and improving my running pace.
And drink good beer and watch Stranger Things on Netflix. So I set a big goal: I want to qualify for Boston. It's too late to do it this year. So I'll have to qualify for 2018.
But that means that the work started in early summer, because I realized that running in the killer Miami heat was going to make me a stronger athlete, at the end of the day, and when fall and winter roll around, I'll be flying like a rabid bunny in Nike Airs.
I have three big strategies for improving my running pace, after some research. The three big strategies are this:
It's a complex and scientific strategy. First, I'm going to breathe more. And second, I'm going to drink more. And at the same time, I'm going to run more. Let me take you through a few things I've learned about each:
I'm learning to breathe through my diaphragm. Or, "belly breathing" as some call it. It's actually phenomenal. I read a great book (pictured above) called Mind, Body, and Sport by John Douillard. Douillard explains that when we take short, shallow breaths from our chest, we don't actually get enough oxygen or release enough carbon dioxide to properly oxygenize our muscles. So, they fatigue faster. Also, when we breathe like that, we increase our stress level (via cortisol) and put ourselves in somewhat of a panicked state, which burns out glycogen the way a car burns through gasoline much faster when you rev the engine again and again. SO, instead, if you breathe longer, fuller breaths by expanding your belly while you run (say, breathe in three strides, breathe out two) then you fill your body with way more oxygen and don't fatigue as quickly.
It is difficult to make this change. I've been working on it for months now, and only recently did I begin to feel the big changes -- running at a decent pace and breathing steadily, without that rushed feeling that it isn't sustainable. Pretty amazing.
What I did to get there: I went out on runs in the morning and breathed through my nose the entire time. Douillard says that by breathing through your nose with a closed mouth, you force yourself to take longer, lower breaths. This teaches you to control your breath, and even though it will slow you down in the short term, the long term benefit will be you running faster, with no real perceived increase of effort, and without cramping because your muscles are starving for oxygen.
Drinking more is hard for me unless we're talking about a 90 minute IPA or a Pinot Grigio. I really don't drink enough water and I get the sense that most humans don't. I don't know why -- we're made of water, and hydration is one of the biggest keys to health. So that's why the great people at Nuun Hydration are my life-savers. Because they MADE WATER GREAT AGAIN. My relationship with Nuun is like this: I carry two tubes in my purse, one tube in my running bag, and one tube in my car. I put one in my water on the way to work in the morning, I put one Nuun Energy in my water before I go running, and I drink Nuun Active again after the run. If I wake up hungover, I pop a Nuun Energy in my water. If a friend or coworker is hungover, I dose their water with Nuun. Because the thing is -- you feel the hydrating effects really fast. And it tastes magnificent.
I am lucky enough to try a few of the new Nuun flavors and formulas, after depleting my stash. The Nuun Team sent me two flavors of Nuun Energy: Mango Orange and Cherry Limeade, along with two flavors of Nuun Active: Tropical and Mixed Berry. My all time favorite Nuun flavor is definitely Cherry Limeade and
I've gone fully vegan this year and feel better than ever. I can't say enough about a plant based diet. It's the easiest, healthiest thing I've ever done for myself and it makes choices so quick and painless. Cooking is a blast. (Check out my instagram account if you want to be bombarded by stir-fry's and potatoes and big ass kale salads.) It really is a dream. But most of all, my body feels so much better: hydrated, light, energetic. I recover quicker from long and hard runs. It only took me a few days to recover from the Keys, and my body felt stronger afterward, not weaker. I also sleep better and have WAY LESS digestive issues. Plant's yall. Plants.
The new Nuun formulas are completely plant-based. Built from the old formula, they add monk fruit extract, beet juice powder, and avocado oil to the recipe, and the Nuun Energy formulas use Green Tea Extract for a longer-lasting, less crashing caffeine effect. All new lines of Nuun are certified vegan, gluten free, dairy free, soy-free, and non-GMO sourced.
Nuun now uses a non-GMO sourced dextrose--a fast release carbohydrate that delivers fluids and electrolytes to working muscles quickly. I believe it, because when I drink Nuun I feel the effects within minutes. This is my go-to stuff for running. I don't look twice anymore at Gatorade, or Powerade, or anything else. I just drop the Nuun in my water and go. It feels good when you find your product and you stick with it.
Finally, the most important part of my big summer plan is the running itself. I'm doing bridge repeats. I went months and months just running on flat, long, road. And, that's great for building endurance but it doesn't challenge the muscles or the core in the way that running hills does. I notice, after about six weeks of doing bridges several times a week, that my core is stronger, my "easy" pace is faster. Plus, it's just way more fun to run up and down the beautiful causeways of Miami than to stay on the flat road for miles and miles. My strategy is this: train in the heat all summer, run hills, start upping mileage, and pick a cold-weather marathon sometime between October and March to run the 3:35:00 minimum standard (which, realistically, I need to cut down a bit to ensure qualification.)
Qualifying for Boston is a really big leap for me. I've been focused on distance ever since I started, and I've never been particularly fast. But, I can imagine myself as a fast runner. I can see myself crossing the finish line at 3:30:00. I can visualize it. So it already exists -- all I have to do is train like a madwoman and get there, this year. Now is the now. Let's get it done.
Have you qualified for Boston? Did you improve your running leaps and bounds to get there? Share with me how you did it. I'll send you a high five. ;)
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