Now that my goal race is over, I’m getting serious again.
About doing nothing.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m getting serious about eating. A lot. And often.
And after not having a single alcoholic drink for the entire month of September, I’m drinking a glass of wine every night with dinner and if I’m feeling overly ambitious, I might even have two! (Shocking, right?)
Ten days after the marathon, I gained over 5 pounds, which is almost 5% of my bodyweight.
And I’m happy about this!
You see, I was very careful about what I consumed during training and while carb-loading before the marathon. I made sure that I ate enough to fuel my training, but not enough to gain weight like I tend to do while marathon training.
So while I recover, I’m making indulging mandatory.
Thankfully, there’s never been a better time in history for vegan junk food!
In the past, I’ve indulged some during the recovery period, but I don’t think I’ve taken it this far before.
So this time, I’m taking the idea of polarized training to its fullest by eating and recovering as much as possible!
I took the first seven days after the race off from running completely. I floated a bit in the pool, and walked some, but no running or cross training.
Week two is just a few short jogs and maybe a swim.
And lots of eating.
Is gaining weight and barely running for two weeks going to make training harder when I start up again? Sure, but that’s the way it should be! It’s impossible to peak year-round so it’s best to embrace the seasons of training as they come by going all in.
Yes, I’m still eating a few healthy things here and there, but my normal off-limits foods are all on the table.
To be honest, I’m starting to get sick of eating family-sized bags of salty potato chips and drinking gallons of wine straight from the box.
But I’m committed and I’ll keep up the indulging for the full two weeks. And maybe a little longer.
Because this too is training!
It will take persistence and dedication, but I know I’ve got it in me somewhere.
Then I remembered that the race planned to have a 3-hour pace group. Those are a bit hard to find in smaller races since you have to be a lot faster than that to be able to lead a group comfortably, so I hoped I could just tuck in behind the pacer and draft.
Turns out there was a big pack of us and we stayed in a tight formation for 23 miles.
I had prepared two bottles of my lemonade starch fuel but this time, I used 60g of tapioca starch instead or corn starch and added 10g of corn syrup for glucose with 5g of powdered fructose. Each 8oz bottle contained 275 calories and 67g of carbohydrate.
But just like Charleston, I ended up only using one.
Miles 1-5: 6:44, 6:42, 6:54, 6:45, 6:52
When I found out that Thomas, our pacer, was a 2:35 marathoner, I decided to ignore my watch and just blindly trust him. I knew I would need a pack to brace against the wind as well as the mental relief of not having to worry about pace. He told me at the start that he planned to run even splits which is what I wanted.
This is a flat course with a slight downhill so aiming for negative splits (second half faster than the first) had a big risk of backfiring. Not to mention, I’ve never, ever run negative splits, so I wasn’t going to start now.
I occasionally checked my watch, but mostly ignored it.
The pack of 20 or so runners was so tight that we occasionally bumped elbows or clipped each other’s heels. As I bumped the guy in the navy singlet next to me for the third time, I said, “I’m just going to apologize now for the whole race!”
This stretch of the race weaved through cornfields with dairy cows mooing at us in the early golden light. We crossed the 10k timing mat and Thomas said we were right on target.
I try to avoid doing any kind of math when I’m running hard, so I took his word for it.
The pace was feeling fine and I was taking sips of my drink every other mile or so. I was sure to grab a cup of water at each aid station and it turned out to be like a well-choreographed dance as each member of our pack held out an arm to grab a cup from a volunteer.
Coming through the half with nearly perfectly even splits was certainly reassuring. As a coach, I so often talk about running negative splits, so there was a little twinge of wondering if the pace was too fast, but I let that thought evaporate as quickly as it popped up.
Looking at it later, wow, mile 15 was fast! Good thing I wasn’t looking at my watch or I would have slowed down!
At this point we were winding through oak-lined neighborhoods of beautiful historic homes. Our pack had grown smaller, but was still about 10 people. The two other women that started in the pack with me had faded.
The pace was still feeling fine for me at this point, but the wind was picking up. I allowed myself to wonder what would happen if I could speed up in the last 10k. But I knew I didn’t want to lose the wind protection and the mental boost of the group so I stayed put.
Miles 21-26.2: 6:52, 6:56, 6:49, 6:44, 7:23, 7:17, 7:10 (pace). Final time 3:00:29
I was really happy that I felt as strong as I did after crossing the 20 mile mark. I warned myself not to get too excited because there was a long way to go.
“If there is any day that you can do this,” I thought, “it’s today.”
At mile 23, I even started wondering if now was the time to leave the pack and speed up. I didn’t want a 3 hour time, I wanted a sub-three! But I knew as we left the protection of the neighborhoods and headed down to the beach, the winds would be in full force and I didn’t want to be alone for that.
Little did I know…
At some point Thomas mentioned there would be a good downhill at mile 24 before the flat beach and that last year he had taken the group 30 seconds too fast through it. I quite liked that idea, but just before we got there, the pack started pulling away.
I thought that I was slowing down, I had no idea that they were speeding up.
I lost contact with them even though I was running a sub-three-hour pace. I just didn’t know it.
So by the time I got down to the lake, I was all alone.
The full force of the 20mph headwinds hit me like a brick wall. One of the bike support volunteers (you can see her shadow in the picture above) told me that I was in third place.
Convinced that the pace group minutes ahead of me was on pace and I had fallen behind, I struggled to run as hard as I could the last two miles. I was not giving up and I do not think I could have run any harder than I did at that point.
I asked the biker if there was any woman behind me.
“Nope,” she replied, “this is all you.”
Oh, how I wish she had said, “Yes! She’s right behind you!!”
As I entered the finishing chute, I gave it everything I had and I was shocked to see how close I actually was to three hours.
When I talked with my coach, Jeff Gaudette, I told him I was worried that not taking in enough fuel played a big factor. He said that probably wasn’t the case.
“80-90% of the time you lost was due to the wind,” he told me. “But more importantly, what slowed you was mental.”
“When the pack pulled away from you,” he said, “you thought your goal was shot.” I subconsciously slowed down, even though consciously I was fighting as hard as I could.
Obviously, had I looked at my watch, I would have seen where I was, but at that point, I felt it didn’t matter. If I was running as hard as I possibly could go, what did the time matter?
Apparently, a lot.
Had I realized that I was not only on pace, but under pace during mile 25, Jeff told me, I would have gotten a shot of confidence and adrenaline that could have taken me to the the finish line just a little faster.
I’m also not in the habit of looking at overall time on a run. I look at pace, mile splits, and distance and ignore everything else.
Heck, if I simply had just the time of day showing, I would have known how close I was! Something to remember for next time.
But overall, I am thrilled with this race. I ended up finishing in 3rd place and I also have the swanky new title of being the 2017 Wisconsin State Female Master’s Champion!
“Don’t cha wish you coulda run 30 seconds faster, Mama?” asked my 8-year-old son the moment I got home.
Yes, of course I do. But this is still pretty good.
While my mileage overall ended up a bit higher than I’ve ever done, I dramatically changed the structure of my training.
Gone were the soul-crushing, almost-guaranteed-to-fail cut down workouts (where even mile is supposed to get progressively faster), as well as some big gear-changing runs that drop down to 5k pace at mile 9 that I was rarely be able to accomplish well.
Instead, I played to my strengths and chose workouts I was good at.
I spent more time at the track doing what most runners would classify as 5k work: repetitions of 200 meters or 400 meters at no faster than 5k pace but with quick jogging recovery periods. This allowed me to spend a good chunk of time at high speed in one workout, but without struggling mentally or physically.
The other thing I did differently is I dropped a workout per week most weeks.
I have been running two workouts a week plus a long run for several cycles now. It just seemed like this was the thing to do. Sure I was beat down trying to run a tempo on a Thursday after a hard day at the track on Tuesday, but this is marathon training, right? You are supposed to be tired and sore!
Actually, no, you are not.
First off, only allowing one easy day in between workouts was not enough time to recover for me. I was not able to run to my full ability on Thursday, but I never connected that it was the lack of recovery time.
I thought it was just me not being “good” enough.
Then one week, I shifted the second workout to Friday to see if I would feel better. And it worked.
For a while.
Later I learned from some of the (much faster!) runners that I look up to that some of them only do one workout a week with the long run instead of two when they are deep into marathon training.
Really? That sounds almost blasphemous! How could you possibly get in all the stimulation that you need for a solid build up on only one hard day a week?
Then I tried it.
Basically, I ran less hard overall, ran the workouts that made me confident instead of defeated, and let the easy miles flow.
Now I’m not saying I just took it easy or did not challenge my limits, however. I worked hard and ran hard when I needed to.
What I didn’t do was buy into the “one-size-fits-all plan for marathon success.”
And I have never felt better or stronger in my life.
My key workouts in the last few weeks have gone really well and I feel fresh and well-rested.
Marathon pace is feeling achievable (yet still a touch scary!).
The other thing that I’ve learned this year is that time goals are like bars of wet soap: the tighter you hold on to them, the easier they slip away.
Of course I’d love to break three hours in the marathon, but that would be just the cherry on the sundae. (Okay, who am I kidding, that would be a huge fu@&ing cherry, but go with me here.)
What I really want to do is run a brave last 10k. After more than two and a quarter hours of running, I want to be able do what I have trained for, no matter what the weather brings or what the clock says.
The time is important to me, but what matters even more is that I show up for those last 6.2 miles with the same determination and hunger that I have now writing these words.
If I am brave and focused and leave everything I’ve got out there then I cannot fail, even if the minutes click past the magical, yet ultimately arbitrary, three hour mark.
Although one small setback happened today that I hope does not affect race day:
I was five miles into a ten mile run and I had to pee. As I slowed to a stop, I wasn’t paying attention to my feet and my right ankle just gave way. Nothing tripped me or got in my way, I just landed wrong and down I went.
I’ve injured my right ankle many times before, so it has been weakened in the past, but it’s been a very long time since it’s given me any issues.
It certainly hurt, but I was hopeful that it was mild. I jogged a bit further and while it wasn’t excruciating, it didn’t make any sense to run 5 more miles home. So I called my mom who lives in the neighborhood and she picked me up.
Five hours later as I write this, it still hurts some, but happily (and weirdly) there is virtually no swelling, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign. I will baby it as much as I can over the next few days and my fingers are crossed that it’s minor and heals quickly.
I guess that’s one way to force rest during taper week!
I’m planning on taking it day by day and staying positive.
Assuming the ankle is good, will my less-is-more approach be successful on race day or should I have worked harder to “conquer” the workouts that I’ve struggled with in the past?
I suppose I will find out in a week, but in a way, it might not matter.
I have already succeeded in creating a way of training that works for me. I feel better, faster, and happier.
And feeling better most of the time seems like a more holistic approach to both training and my life no matter what happens in the few hours of the race.
So maybe the difference this time is not so much about how I changed my training.
An innocent browse through social media and before I know it, I’m reading scientific nutrition papers well past my bedtime.
What caught my attention this time was this paper outlining specific, scientific guidelines on how to fuel vegan athletes.
No more guessing or cobbling together various bits and pieces from all over the internet. This is a comprehensive analysis of what the best science says now about how to fuel a vegan athlete for health and performance.
Written by David Rogerson and published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, this long paper takes all the available data out there and sifts through the good and the bad, the praises and the pitfalls of a plant-based vegan diet and how it specifically applies to athletes.
I’ll give you the highlights and my take on them.
While I like to think that I’m doing everything right when it comes to eating well for my health and for my training (and those can be very different things), I’m always open-minded to learn something new that could make my nutrition just a little bit better.
And it looks like I need to make a couple of changes!
Unfortunately, there is not a lot of scientific research specifically on vegan athletes, so Roberson admits that some of the information has to be extrapolated from non-vegans. Sure, vegan athletes are becoming more visible, but it’s not like there are enough of them yet to conduct widespread, double blind, replicable nutrition studies.
But even without perfect studies, the plant-based movement is becoming popular enough that athletes and sports nutritionists are looking for answers.
One issue is that the word “vegan” can mean a huge range of eating styles. Some believe that if it didn’t come from an animal, it’s fair game, while others, myself included, base their food selections on whole, unprocessed food, free of artificial ingredients. In other words, “junk food vegans” and raw, microbiotic herbivores (not me!) can’t all be lumped together.
So let’s assume that the vegans that are being referred to in this analysis are less the Oreo-cookie-and-French-fry vegans and more the whole-foods variety.
The author does not seem to think that vegan athletes have an easy road. He states that “while little data could be found in the sports nutrition literature specifically, it was revealed elsewhere that veganism creates challenges that need to be accounted for when designing a nutritious diet.”
Well, sure, eating just plants can be challenging in the sense that you do need to make sure that you are getting in beans, greens, seeds, nuts, fruits, whole grains and veggies each and every day, but once you get in that habit, I’d hardly call it a challenge at all.
Nearly all nutrition guidelines seem to claim that just about everyone is missing some kind of nutrient, no matter what diet. Omnivores need to pay attention to their micronutrient needs just as much as plant based eaters so a lot of the information in the paper is fairly universal.
Roberson points out that vegans and vegetarians do need to be mindful of several nutrients, specifically “the sufficiency of energy and protein; the adequacy of vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium, iodine and vitamin D; and the lack of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in most plant-based sources.”
I personally have zero trouble getting all my calories in, so I’m not deficient in energy (aka calories). I love to eat and love to eat big portions, so I rarely ever have the issue of eating too little.
“Achieving a high energy intake is difficult in some instances,” Roberson writes, “owing to plant-based foods promoting satiety.” In other words, plants make you feel full and satisfied! In fact, this is one of the great benefits of eating plants. You get to eat a lot and you get to feel full!
But if you are new to plant-based eating, you might want to track your calories for a little while to be sure you are eating enough.
Let’s take a deeper look into the recommendations that vegans need to pay attention to. Come down the rabbit hole with me!
From the studies cited in the article, many vegan athletes tend to fall short of optimum protein levels. Furthermore, fewer plant proteins contain all of the 8 essential amino acids required by the body. A glass of cow’s milk, for example, will be a complete protein, while a glass of almond milk will fall short.
But this fact is easily rectified by eating a variety of sources of protein throughout the day (it doesn’t have to be the same meal). Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds while provide all the protein needed to support recovery and adaptation from training. Aim for 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for endurance athletes, 1.8-2.7 if you are trying to lose fat. I easily reach this target without protein powders or a ton of soy and tend to come in somewhere around 1.75 and 2g/kg a day.
This is where plant-based athletes shine. “Vegan diets tend to be higher in carbohydrates, fibre, fruits, vegetables, antioxidants and phytochemicals than omnivorous diets,” Robertson concludes. “The consumption of micronutrient and phytochemical-rich foods is an important benefit of any plant-based diet. This might help to mitigate the effects of excess inflammation and promote recovery from training.” Endurance athletes should aim for 4g to up to 12g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight depending on training load. I easily reach 6-8g/kg a day or 55-65% of daily calories.
Roberson notes that fat intake needs to focus on quality intake instead of quantity and admits that the relationship between fat consumption and athletic performance needs additional study. It’s almost too easy to meet the fat guidelines with avocados, nuts and seeds. Endurance athletes should consume 0.5–1.5 g of fat per kilogram of body weight per day (or 30% of daily caloric intake) through avocados, nuts and seeds. I’m generally in the 25-35% range and well over 1g/kg.
ALA, EPA and DHA
Unless you’re eating salads of seaweed and microalgae, vegans are not getting many dietary sources of the omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, EPA, and DHA. You can consume ALA in walnuts and flaxseeds, but as little as 0.5% convert in the body to DHA. This may have important performance implications as omega-3s play an big role in cardiovascular health.
Fish aren’t the only living beings in the ocean that supply omega-3s. Supplementing with microalgae oil combined with whole-food sources of ALA might benefit health as well as performance. The recommendation is 500-1000mg DHA to EPA in a 2:1 ratio or 2-4 commercially available capsules a day. Yep, I need to get some of these! I just ordered this brand.
Vegan diets tend to be higher in micros than omni diets, but attention does need to be paid to a handful of them: B12 (vegans should supplement), iron (get a blood test to determine if you need to supplement), calcium (greens, broccoli, beans and fortified foods are great sources), vitamin D3 (“further research is warranted to determine optimal vitamin D doses for athletes”), zinc (beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds to the rescue again!), and iodine (choose iodized salt over sea salt).
And now the really interesting part, ergogenic (or performance enhancing) aids:
Creatine: The classic bodybuilders’ supplement may actually help endurance athletes and its effect may be more pronounced in vegans and vegetarians who have naturally lower muscle stores of creatine. “Creatine supplementation might also lead to increased plasma volume, improved glycogen storage, improved ventilatory threshold, and reduce oxygen consumption during submaximal exercise.” But before rushing out to your local GNC, creatine has also been shown to lead to weight gain, so be sure to think about how to time that appropriately for your training, if you choose to try it.
Beta alanine: If you are racing at high intensity for longer than 60 seconds, your performance might benefit from this beta amino acid, which is mainly found in meat and poultry. Because vegans’ muscles would be low in this amino acid, supplementation would theoretically help vegans even more dramatically than omnivores who might have larger reserves. (The article was not as clear about whether or not this would apply to the marathon distance which is not at high intensity.)
I’m not sure if I’m ready to experiment with creatine and beta alanine just yet, but it’s certainly something to think about!
The paper ended with the following conclusion:
Through the strategic selection and management of food choices, and with special attention being paid to the achievement of energy, macro and micronutrient recommendations, along with appropriate supplementation, a vegan diet can achieve the needs of most athletes satisfactorily.
All athletes need to pay attention to their diets, just like they pay attention to their training. Perhaps plant-based athletes need to focus on things a little differently than omnis, but it’s great to know that the science is starting to catch up with us!
I usually roll my eyes when I come across salad recipes.
Don’t get me wrong, I love salad and eat one every day, but a recipe for a salad? Don’t you just throw some veggies on top of some greens with maybe a little dressing and call it good? What do you need a recipe for?
As it turns out, a little saladspiration is exactly what I needed to break free from the same old sad salads.
So before a recent dinner party, I opened one of my favorite cookbooks, Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking. Inside was a gorgeous photo of a beet and orange salad that looked perfect for an early fall evening.
This is not that gorgeous photo.
This is a oh-I-just-made-dinner-for-eight-people-I-should-probably-hurry-up-and-take-at-least-one-picture picture.
Roasted beets paired with sliced oranges and toasted walnuts drizzled with a tahini dressing was the perfect accompaniment for the rich and creamy golden broccoli soup I served. Along with Thanksgiving-style sweet potato dinner rolls browned in a cast iron skillet, the humble soup/salad/bread trifecta was elevated to company status.
But as simple as this salad might sound, there’s quite a bit of effort involved in washing, peeling, chopping and roasting the beets let alone toasting the walnuts just right so they don’t burn. If you want to make this salad for a weekday lunch, you’re probably just not.
So I decided to make the weekday lunch version that seriously took less than 5 minutes to put together and tastes just as good.
Admittedly, I do have a love for the rich sweetness of roasted beets that cannot be rushed, but this is close enough for your average Tuesday.
I also found that I prefer honey instead of maple syrup in the lemon tahini dressing. (Honey is not strictly vegan so if you are, you can sub agave or maple syrup.) The combo of honey and tahini is something that I learned from some of the Greek athletes I coach at RunnersConnect who eat it on their toast in the morning. It’s perfect whisked with lemon juice for a light and tangy complement to the beets, oranges, and walnuts.
Using raw walnuts, easy-to-peel mandarins, and economical canned sliced beets, a wow-worthy salad can be ready in minutes!
It was there that my coaching journey began, although I didn’t know it at the time.
It’s hard to believe that a year later, I returned to ZAP this time as a coach for Runners Connect.
Many of the attendees from last year were able to return again this year, which made it seem even more like the summer camp I remember.
Camp friends become forever friends.
I feel incredibly lucky that I get to run and geek out about running as a job. Over the four-day weekend, in addition to lots of beautiful miles with some amazing people, I led exercises on goal setting and strength training and had several one-on-one personal coaching sessions.
I’m learning that it’s not always the technical running training advice that matters the most. More often than not, the athlete already has many of the answers she is looking for and it is a joy to discover how to tease those answers out together.
As the weekend came to a close, there were hugs and exchanges of email addresses.
And just like the last day of summer camp as a kid, it was a bit sad for it all to end, but we knew we’d made memories and friends that are much bigger than a single weekend.
Just one day later, most of us are already looking forward to next year.
We answer just one running or training questions per day in a short daily podcast.
Normally, I don’t post what I talk about there on The Planted Runner, but today’s question was just too perfect not to.
And my answer might just surprise you!
Below is the full transcript.
If you’d prefer to listen instead of read, click here and go to Episode 143. Better yet, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and you can get the latest episodes daily!
Mary Kate sent in her question for the podcast by email:
I’ve been considering trying out a vegan diet for a long time but hesitate as I’m afraid it will affect my running. Any tips on plant-based diets for runners? Should I make the transition during my marathon buildup or wait until I’m taking a break? Thanks!
Great question, Mary Kate, and this is something that is very near and dear to my heart as a 100% plant-based marathon runner myself. Or maybe I should say it’s near and dear to my stomach!
Yes, you absolutely can become vegan during marathon training and it very well could affect your running–for the better. But let’s be sure we are talking about the same thing here.
Vegan simply means that you choose not to consume or use any animal products. This lifestyle can have health benefits, but animal welfare and/or environmental issues are the primary reasons behind the choice.
Being a vegan is defined by what you don’t eat, not what you do eat.
Which means that you can be entirely vegan and subsist on potato chips, margarine, and white bread. Not exactly rocket fuel for a marathoner.
Now if you are talking about a 100% whole foods plant based diet, that also just so happens to be better for the planet and certainly better for the animals, then you are creating an eating pattern that focuses on what you do eat and has very little to do with what you don’t eat. Big difference!
And despite whatever the most militant vegan, plant-based, whole foods advocate out there says, there is simply ZERO evidence that a 90% plant diet is healthier than a 100% plant diet.
Eating more plants is good for everyone and most certainly for your running, so focus on the rich variety of foods that you include on your plate (like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds), and less on the foods that you are trying to eliminate.
Most athletes are afraid of plant diets because they think that they won’t have enough fuel to run well. This can happen to you as you transition to eating just plants, but it is very unlikely to be coming from the food you are eating. It’s far more likely to happen because most people naturally eat fewer calories when they fill up on salad, black beans, and sweet potatoes and instead of cheese and bacon.
So the key to avoid under fueling is to eat more! Sounds awesome, right? For me, this is a huge benefit to eating this way. I have a big appetite and I am much happier with a full belly than constantly trying to eat less. Plants naturally are micro-nutrient dense, full of fiber, and with the exception of nuts, seeds, and oils, have fewer calories by volume than meat and dairy. So you can eat a larger volume of food for fewer calories.
The flip side to that if you are someone who struggles to eat enough while training, you’ll need to be sure that your meals are filling and you eat often. Liquids are great for cramming in a lot of nutrition and calories without your brain realizing it, so a veggie and fruit packed smoothie can be very helpful meeting your recovery needs quickly after a long run.
Once you tell the world that you are no longer eating meat and dairy, be prepared to answer the number one question you’ll face: where do you get your protein?
All whole, unprocessed plants have protein. We eat food, not macronutrients. Nuts, seeds, legumes and grains have lots of protein as well as soy products like tofu and tempeh.
And you don’t need to specifically combine proteins like rice and beans in the same meal to get all your amino acids as long as you are eating a variety throughout the day.
Without much thinking about it, you will naturally consume anywhere for 50-60% unprocessed carbohydrate, 10-20% healthy fats, and 10-20% protein a day, which is well within the US recommended daily allowances as well as what most sports nutritionists recommend for endurance athletes.
For reference, elite Kenyan athletes typically eat a mainly vegetarian diet with only meat a couple times a week and it’s reported that their diets are about 75% carbohydrate, so there’s something to be said for that!
A good snack would be fresh or dried fruit with a small handful of cashews or almonds.
Lunch could be a big salad with lots of veggies, avocado, chickpeas, tahini, and quinoa.
A banana with peanut butter on toast makes a good snack or breakfast and of course the standard veggies and hummus is a classic vegetarian snack for a good reason.
Dinner might be a veggie burrito or chili and cornbread, way too many choices to list here!
The point is when you fill your plate with plants, you are doing more for your body and your running, regardless of whether you choose to go 100% plant based or not.
I personally find it simpler to be a 100% herbivore because it helps me continually make better choices without as much temptation. I’m definitely a black and white person, so going 100% makes the most sense for me.
One thing all vegans need is to supplement with is vitamin B12. In fact, many meat eaters are short on this nutrient as well, but the sources in a plant-only diet are limited to a few fortified foods, so taking a chewable sublingual B12 pill once a day or once a week depending on dosage is essential. But other than that, if you are eating your greens every day as well as all of the rest of the colors, you are most likely doing a great job getting everything your body needs.
Most people find that they recover better and have more energy when they eat this way. I know I do.
I could go on all day on this subject, and I appreciate you sending in the question, Mary Kate. And if you are interested in learning how you can improve your nutrition and your running and you have a question for one of the coaches, go to runnersconnect.net/daily and record your question there. We’d love to hear from you.
I’ve just finished one of the heaviest training weeks I’ve had so far this marathon cycle: just over 80 miles. I’ve reached this barrier before while preparing for other marathons, so I’m not celebrating too much, but it’s time to take a step back.
Yes, instead of continuing to build the quality and quantity of my runs each and every week, I’m purposely cutting back for a week.
It seems so counterintuitive to build, step back, build, step back. Our minds want progress to be linear. We should simply build and grow in a nice smooth arching line upwards.
The logical way to build endurance should be like building a house out of Legos. You start with the foundation, add some walls, then a roof, and you’re done. One step after another. Relentless forward progress until the house is built.
But that’s not how growth in living things work.
We are more like a tree in a windstorm. As our tree sways back and forth in the wind of hard training, intense cellular damage is taking place in the trunk and in the branches. The tree is being pushed farther than it is used to going so it stretches and bends and tears a little.
After the storm passes and the winds become calm, the tree repairs itself, builds stronger cell walls, and becomes even more resilient to withstand the next storm.
Yet, if the wind is unrelenting, blowing day in and day out, the tree has no chance to repair the damage and get stronger.
It will break.
So tomorrow I’ll skip my run and rest. I don’t feel especially tired or worn out, but my long run today was not the quality run it should have been.
Missing splits is often a sign that you need to rest, instead of continuing to push and train harder.
How much should you drop down for an easy week? Well, that’s a bit subjective. Many experienced athletes many only need 10-20%, while those venturing into new territory of distance and/or intensity should probably aim closer to 30%.
I’m planning for about 20%. Maybe I’ll take a bit more than that if I need it.
I admit that dropping that much when I know I can handle another 80 mile week hurts my ego a little. It plays on my fears that I’m not doing absolutely everything I can to get better.
But ironically, there is a freedom in restraint. I know that resting and cutting back on mileage is a training strategy for improvement, not a sign that I’m not fit enough or not working hard enough.
I’m simply taking some time to prepare for a hurricane.
Now, let’s be clear that I still have a loooong way to go (I hope!) before I reach that time in my life, but the majority of my athletes are in that age range and so many of them are simply rocking their health and fitness. I’ve had to learn a lot on their different needs and perspectives and was happy to share what I’ve learned.
What if I told you there was a way to improve your speed, agility, power, endurance, balance and coordination in just five to ten minutes a day, three times a week?
And not only that, it would be fun?
Most runners are always looking for a way to get stronger and faster. More running usually is the best way to do it, but there’s a limit to how much running you can do with your body and your lifestyle.
This is where plyometrics come in. Plyos are high-velocity movements that generate power which translates to more speed and stamina on your runs.
In other words, jumping.
Studies have shown that adding plyos into your weekly routine improves muscle strength and running economy. One study of highly trained athletes showed that after 9 weeks of plyo training 3 times a week, elite runners increased their running economy by 4.1%!
Does that mean that you have to do a million burpees and box jumps to increase your power? Those are great, but there’s a more fun way.
Jumping rope works all the major running muscles (calves, quads, glutes) as well as your stabilizer muscles (core, shoulders, back and chest) used to turn the rope.
As far as calorie burning, jumping rope is roughly equivalent to running, but there’s no way you can keep it up as long!
The first thing you need, obviously, is a jump rope. But don’t get one of those old-school ones that are actually made of rope or covered in plastic rigatoni noodles.
You need a speed rope. They cost less than $10. The thin cable is easy to turn fast so you can spin the rope quickly.
Here are a few pointers to getting the hang of it if you haven’t jumped rope since the fourth grade.
Keep your arms low on your sides and turn the rope with your wrists only, not your whole arms. You want to jump exactly once per rotation and avoid that “double bounce” thing that a lot of people do when they start. In order to do that, it means you need to spin the rope quickly so that it passes under your feet in time.
You’ll need to have great posture with your core tight and your shoulders down and back in order to jump rope smoothly. Just like running!
Be sure that you are landing and taking off on your forefeet. Don’t crash down flatfooted or with your heels.
A great routine to start off with is one I borrowed from pro athlete Sarah Brown. Often sidelined with Achilles injuries, Brown and her coach had to come up with ways for her to get her explosive speedwork in without so many risky sprint sessions on the track.
Her routine is 10 jumps with both feet, 10 with only the left, 10 with only the right, and then 20 jumps alternating feet. Aim for 3 to 5 sets of these allowing for short rests in between sets if you need it. The entire thing takes less than 10 minutes and is perfect right after an easy run.
When you get bored with that, add in some high knees, jacks, front-to-backs, and side to side moves. Have fun and play with it!
There are tons of jump roping videos on YouTube and here’s one that talks about all the benefits from a super fit dude that can do all the tricks! (Or mute it if you just want to watch a buff guy jumping on the beach!)
I keep my jump rope right next to the front door and after I get back from a run, I’ll grab a drink of water, and then jump for a few minutes.
Of course, just like with running, you can get carried away with too much of a good thing. If you go too hard too soon with your new toy, you’re going to end up hurt, so go easy on it at first.
The routine I’ve described is fairly low impact since you are only jumping a few inches off the ground, typically much less than you would running, so you can jump rope several times a week without adding much more stress to your training. But add a heavier rope, throw in some double unders, and you are changing this into a high-impact exercise that requires recovery time, so be sure to factor that in.
For now, I’m just keeping it simple as the marathon miles are starting to add up. But if a few minutes a few times a week are all it takes to make me a stronger, more powerful runner, then I’ll take Van Halen’s advice and jump!