Posts Tagged by rest

After the Race

Post-marathon Blues — that feeling of loss, complete lack of motivation, and even mild depression after a big race (such as a marathon). A crazy condition that seems to make no sense, because instead of celebrating your awesome accomplishment, you actually feel somewhat let-down, and find yourself with a huge empty void where your excitement used to be.

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This feeling is actually very common among runners after a marathon. You spend months preparing for the race — you eat, sleep, and breath marathon training. You obsess over every detail; visualize yourself running the race countless times. And then, after one climactic day, it’s over. Regardless of how you did on race day, the fact remains: that goal you’ve been working toward for so long has been accomplished. As an article on Active.com so aptly puts it:

We have been taught that the attainment of the goal is the reward. Now the goal is attained and you are puzzled by your unanticipated unhappiness. The goal has turned out to be an illusion. The joy was in the dream and the process of moving towards your goal, in mobilizing your physical and mental potentials to their fullest. Once the goal was accomplished, the dream died. The joy ended. And now it’s time to regroup and start over again. (Jack Lesyk, PhD — emphasis added)

Sounds depressing, right? If you’re not a runner, you may now be questioning even more why people put themselves through these things. Between the taper craziness, the pain of the actual race, and now this post-race mini-depression, it doesn’t seem like much fun, does it? ;)

I don’t mean to be painting such an awful picture of marathons. While there are also indescribable feelings of joy and accomplishment that go along with them, that’s a topic for another post. My point in all this is to show that these post-race blues are quite real. And after the Cape Cod Marathon, I was hit with them, hard.

At first I thought I was just being too hard on myself about the way that I raced. And then I thought that these blues were coming from the fact that I felt sick on and off for a long time after the race. My appetite was weird, and I was nauseous and tired most of the time. While I still don’t completely understand all the reasons why I was sick (though I have my suspicions), last week I finally realized that I was deep down in the post-marathon blues. Even though I knew I should be happy with the fact that I ran a Boston Qualifying time, the truth was that I just felt disappointed.

Now before you go assuming I’m a crazy person who doesn’t appreciate her own accomplishments, let me clearly state that I was proud of what I did. But, believe it or not, being proud of something doesn’t necessarily lead to feelings of happiness.

So what’s a person suffering from a little post-marathon sadness to do?

Beating the Post-Race Blues

Acceptance

First of all, I think it’s important to realize that this feeling is normal. You’re not a crazy person for feeling a sense of loss. And the situation isn’t made better if you beat yourself up over the fact that you’re sad when you’re supposed to be happy (like I did!). Surprisingly, being annoyed with yourself because you don’t feel as joyful as you think you should be dosen’t suddenly make you happy!

Once you’ve accepted the fact that you’re in a slump, you can start thinking about getting out of it. After all, the first step in moving on from anything is acceptance, right?

Rest

Secondly, it is important to actually rest. Your body just went through a huge beating – it needs to recover! I think sometimes endurance athletes are too eager to jump right back into training for fear that they’ll lose their fitness. But unless you’re an elite athlete, I don’t think this is something most of us should worry about. When I ran in high school and college, our coaches would make us take a week of complete rest between each season before easing back into training. During that week, we weren’t allowed to do anything strenuous. Easy walks were allowed, but no cross training — and certainly no running.

I really enjoy this period of complete rest. Although I get a little antsy sometimes, I know it’s important for me to have at least one week that’s free of running and scheduled workouts. This gives me a much needed physical and mental break. And let’s face it — I want to be a runner for life, not just for a few good years. My dream is to be 85 years old and still going out for regular runs. In order to avoid burnout and serious injury, I have to take a little break from time to time. Running and I never completely break-up, but we do go through regular trial periods of separation.

Mix it Up

After my week of nothing, I’m usually anxious to start moving again. But I don’t want to push myself into running two quickly. Instead, I focus more on cross training. Whether it be longer walks with the pup or some quality time on the elliptical machine, I try to enjoy exercising just for the sake of moving. In between training cycles, I always try to focus more on other types of exercise that tend to fall to the wayside when marathon training. Like lifting (which I am now trying to add back in).

Have fun!

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For the first couple of weeks, I really don’t care too much about following a set plan. That means if I don’t feel like working out, I don’t. True confession: in the two weeks following my marathon, I ran a total of ONE time. That’s it. The girl who loves to run and can’t even go one day without talking about running simply didn’t feel like it. But seriously, when I plan to be in training for the course of an entire year, I think a couple of weeks of having a more relaxed approach to exercise won’t kill me…and actually makes me a stronger runner in the end.

Plan New Events to Look Forward to

Part of the let-down after a race comes from the fact that you no longer have this huge event to look forward to. To combat this, I try to plan other non-running related things to be excited about in the weeks after the race. For instance, last weekend I took a much-needed mini vacation to surprise my dad for his birthday. Not only did the anticipation and excitement of the surprise help me get through the weeks following CCM, but the change of scenery was hugely beneficial! Not to mention the fact that spending some quality time with my family is always restorative.

Set New Goals

After giving yourself a mini break, it’s important to start thinking about new goals. A post-race slump is okay for a few weeks, but you don’t want to be stuck there forever!

The time away with my family was just what I needed to break through my feelings of apathy. I came back feeling newly excited about training, and yesterday I pushed myself through a hard workout for the first time since my marathon. It felt wonderful. I’m still not ready to get back into full-blown training mode, but I am ready to set new short-term and long-term training goals.

Short-term: My plan for the next several weeks is to concentrate on running for fun and fitting in more cross-training, particularly strength training. I did The Core yesterday for the first time in months, and realized just how out of lifting-shape I am. I plan on doing this workout twice a week.

Long-term: But I can’t be content with cross-training forever. I already have big plans for races this spring, including a half marathon, a full, and another relay. I won’t start actually training for these until December, so have a few more weeks to finalize my new training schedule. Stay tuned for more race announcements in the coming weeks!

As with anything, there’s no magic answer for beating feelings of post-race blues. But if you prepare for them and remind yourself that it’s only temporary, you can help make the slump a little easier on yourself.

If you’re a runner who has gone through this, what are your tricks for keeping the negative feelings at bay and getting yourself out of the funk?

And if you’re a super star who has never felt any sort of post-race sadness, please let me know your secrets!

For a good article about recovery, see this one from the December issue of Runner’s World: The Kick-Back Plan

Today: Go for a run!

Did you know that today a big day in the world of running? In addition to the 2010 ING New York City Marathon, today is World Run Day! This is a new event that was created as a way to celebrate the sport of running all around the world. Official World Run Day activities are being hosted all over to promote running, charitable giving, and mobilize the running community. Although it’s too late to sign up as an official participant, it’s not too late to celebrate!

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Today, I encourage you to join up with other runners from all over the world and go for a run! It doesn’t matter how fast or how far you go, just lace up those shoes, hit the road, and run.

I actually haven’t run one step since the Cape Cod Marathon last weekend. I could feel my body wearing down, and knew that it needed a break. Although it’s felt weird to not be running, I have to say that I’ve enjoyed every minute of this well-deserved rest. Over the course of the week, I’ve felt the energy slowly returning and now I’m itching to run again. I can’t think of a better day to get back into running than World Run Day!

Logging My Workouts

In other running news, I’ve always been really bad about logging my workouts. I’ve tried to keep a running log in the past, but every time I get a few weeks in, I just lose interest. Which is a shame, because recording your workouts can be a great source of motivation. Plus, it’s an easy way to look back and see how far you’ve come.

So, I’ve finally taken the plunge and joined Daily Mile. What could be easier than recording your activities online? I’ve found myself getting more and more interested in joining for awhile now, but still found myself hesitating. Then when Aron described it as being like Facebook but with runners  just talking about running, I was finally sold. I went online, created a quick profile, and logged the one and only workout I’ve done in the past week (unless you count leisurely walks with the pup). I’ll admit I don’t know all that much about it, but if you’re on Daily Mile look me up, I need some friends. :) (My user name is LBontherun).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some errands, run, and then watch the recap of the NYC Marathon on TV. A little lame to be watching the race from my couch hours after it’s over, but it’s about as close to the excitement as I’ll be able to get!

Taper Tantrums

Hot flashes, restlessness, unexplained irritability and random aches and pains — signs of early menopause? The flu? Some crazy disease? Nope — I’ve just got a bad case of the Taper Tantrums.

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Also known as taper madness, this common condition hits marathon runners all over the country several weeks before race day. Though not fatal, potential risks of the madness include: emotional angst, mental anxiety, physical stress, and (of course) driving your loved ones absolutely crazy. ;)

I’ll be honest — before heading into my taper, making it to that rest period was all I could think about. My body was tired and training was beginning to wear on me. I figured I’d welcome tapering with open arms. But this past week, the taper has overstayed it’s welcome. I’ve suddenly been hit with a bad case of the taper tantrums, and it’s not letting up. I have hot flashes at work. I feel feverish even though I don’t have a temperature. My legs are restless and yet yesterday, they felt sluggish and heavy on my 10-mile run. Worst of all, I’ve developed more aches and pains in the past few days than I’ve experienced during my entire time training. Everything hurts, especially my knees!

Logically, I know this is a good sign (well, maybe not the knee pain but I’m optimistically hoping that’s nothing serious). It’s pretty common for your body to go a little crazy when you cut back on mileage. In fact, the achy muscles and tired legs can actually be signs that your body is healing; slowly repairing itself from weeks of abuse. And I know I’m not the only runner out there dealing with these issues during the week(s) leading up to the marathon. But as always, the emotional/irrational side of my brain is often louder than the logical one, leaving me feeling stressed, anxious, and out of shape.

Obviously if I keep this up, I’m going to end up psyching myself out before I even get to that starting line. So during this final week, I’m making a pact with myself: instead of focusing on every little ache, my mysterious fever-like symptoms, and my fear of packing on extra pounds before I get to the starting line because, somehow, even though I’ve cut back on my mileage my appetite is still roaring, I am going to focus on the simple, practical things I can do to make sure I’m feeling rested for Sunday. I’ve talked about my race-week strategy before, but for the next 6 days I plan to:

1.) Drink a lot of water

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My favorite water bottle is going to be by my side at all times. And I’ll just have to think of all those extra trips to the bathroom as opportunities for much-needed stretch breaks.

2.) Eat a lot of carbs, particularly in the form of this:

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Like this delicious dish of gnocchi with pumpkin sauce inspired by this post and based off this recipe (though with a few tweaks).

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Gnocchi w/ pumpkin sauce, spinach, tomatoes, and freshly grated parm

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Carbo-loading at it’s finest

3.) And avoid eating too many sweets.

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As much as I try to convince myself otherwise, candy corn + PB is not good running fuel

4.) Spend a lot of quality time icing

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This week, I’m bringing back the ice massage. I was plagued by shin splints back in my cross country days and often used ice that had been frozen into a Dixie cup to massage them after runs. Though a little painful, this method is pretty effective and really easy. Just fill a little paper cup up with water and stick it in the freezer. When you’re ready to use, peel down the top of the cup and rub it around the sore area, applying a little bit of pressure to gently “massage” it with the ice.

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I’ve currently got an entire arsenal of these things in my freezer, and am going to use them to ice my aching knees and shins as much as possible. I’ll also be using a lot of icy hot and spending time laying on a tennis ball. Ahhh…the many joys of marathon training. ;)

5.) Get a lot of sleep

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What kind of person lets their dog sleep on their furniture?? ;)

I’m not always so great at sticking to a regular bedtime, but this week my goal is to be more vigilant about it than usual. I am aiming to get a solid 8 hours of sleep a night.

These things may not make my taper tantrums disappear, but at least they give me something productive to focus on for the next few days. My hope is that when I get to the starting line on Sunday morning, I’ll know that I’m as ready as I’ll ever be!

On a final note, I’m also putting together my marathon playlist and I’m in need of your suggestions. What are your favorite running/pump up songs? I need something to motivate me through those final miles!

What Does Listening to Your Body Really Mean, Anyway?

I loved reading all of your comments about my Meat-Eater’s Guide to Vegetarians. It was one of those posts that was a lot of fun to write, and I’m glad so many of you could relate. Feel free to print it out and bring it to your next social gathering. It could end up saving you a lot of time. ;)

This past weekend, I was faced with a dilemma. On Sunday, I was scheduled to do my longest training run yet – the longest I will do over the course of marathon training – the dreaded 20-miler. But since Friday afternoon, I had felt a cold taking hold of my body. By Sunday morning, the situation had not improved. I woke up with my head pounding, nose dripping, and shards of glass scraping my throat every time I tried to swallow. Needless to say, running 20 miles was the last thing I felt like doing.

sick guy sneezing (Source)

The standard school of thought about training while sick is to use the neck/chest rule. Symptoms above the neck are typically okay to run through – headache, runny nose, etc. But anything below the neck (like a chest cold) could be made worse by running. You don’t want to mess around with things like bronchitis.

So, according to the rule, one would think I was okay to run. But the fact that I wasn’t doing just any old run made the situation more complicated. Running 20 miles is an intimidating task even under the best of conditions. Your body takes a beating over the course of all those miles. I wasn’t sure how my already sick body would hold up. Would running for 3 hours turn my head cold into something worse?

Not only that, but this weekend I will be running the Reach The Beach Relay in NH. RTB (just like the GMR I did in June) is a 200-mile, 24(ish)-hour adventure race from Franconia Notch to Hampton Beach, NH. I am incredibly excited about it, but terrified of being sick. As it is, it’s going to be a really intense race. I’m running a total of 21 miles in 24 hours with minimal sleep. Being sick wouldn’t exactly make for a fun weekend.

reach the beach Logo

So with all that going through my head, what did I decide to do? After moping around and mulling it over for a couple of hours, I finally decided to heed the advice I so often give others (and the advice others were giving me via Twitter): Listen to my body. I was going to go out easy, do shorter loops close to the house and just see how I felt. A nice, simple plan, right?

Not exactly. I wasn’t really sure listening to my body even meant running in the first place! To be honest, the only thing I really felt like doing was curling up in a snuggie on my couch and watching trashy television all day long.

snuggie Disclaimer: Let it be known that I did not purchase this snuggie. It was a gift ;)

But my training schedule is already tight. And I knew skipping this run would only make things more difficult in the coming weeks. Plus, it’s pretty hard to separate out the nerves that come from facing a 20-miler from the reluctance to do it because I was feeling sick. Which meant I had to at least try.

By the time I got 10 miles into the run, I knew I was going to go for the full thing…even if it meant I had to crawl. I wasn’t feeling wonderful, but I wasn’t feeling completely awful either. To be honest, I’ve had worse runs. Much worse, actually. I figured that as long as I could continued to put one foot in front of the other (and not pass out), I’d be okay.

At this point, I had traded the old “listen to your body” mentality for another, more intense adage — “mind over matter.” I knew I wasn’t feeling great, but I also knew that if I had enough mental strength, I could make it through the run. That’s really a big part of what marathon training is all about, anyway — building up enough mental strength to make it through several grueling hours of running. And as a very wise runner said recently, 20 miles is supposed to be hard. It’s very likely that I could have felt just as bad during the run even if I hadn’t been sick. Should I have quit just because I was tired?

It was a question I battled with for 20 long miles. If I kept repeating “mind over matter” and telling myself I could push through it, was I ignoring the signs from my body? How can we tell when it’s more than just the average fatigue that’s slowing us down? Obviously there are times when you clearly need to rest – puking and collapsing during a training run come to mind as pretty clear signs that your body is trying to tell you something. But what about situations where it’s not that clear-cut? What about those times when you have to weigh the pain (and potential consequences) of pushing through the discomfort with the long-term benefits of endurance and mental strength it could bring?

I don’t have a good answer for that. I think it’s something we runners always grapple with, no matter how long we’ve been running for. And depending on our training schedule and goals, the answer could change every time.

In the end, I finished those 20 miles. And while I can’t say I enjoyed them, I was pretty proud to have made it. My time ended up being much better than I expected, and I proved to myself that I could finish a tough run, even in less-than ideal conditions. But was it worth it?

I’d like to say yes, but at this point, I’m still not so sure. That cold that started off in my head has now moved down into my chest. I’ve spent the last two days wheezing, coughing, and hoping this thing will run its course before Friday. Basically everything that I was afraid would happen as the result of my stubbornness perseverance, did. But in the end, training for this marathon is my ultimate goal. I want to make sure I do the best I can to be prepared for that 26.2 miles. Of course I don’t want the decisions that I make to negatively affect the relay, but it’s not my top priority.

So this week, the plan is to take it easy and get lots of rest. Hopefully I’ll feel as good as new by Friday. But honestly, no matter how awful I’m feeling, this relay is not something I’m missing out on!

puppy sick

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What do you think? Does listening to your body always mean ignoring putting your mind over matter? What would you have done in this situation? (i.e. do you think I’m crazy?? ;))

Back on Track (How to Not Panic When You’ve Skipped a Few Runs)

Training for a marathon is a long-term commitment that requires a lot of planning, flexibility, and sacrifices. Over the course of so many months of training, things are bound to come up — even with the best laid plans.

And I’m not just talking about big things like injury or sickness. Even small day-to-day stuff like having to work late or just feeling run-down can cause you to skip a run here and there. For me, one thing that always seems to get in the way of sticking with my training schedule is travel. When I visit a new place or go to see family or friends, I don’t usually have a hard time being active. Exploring my surroundings on foot or by bike is one of my favorite things to do. But getting in my training runs is a bit more difficult. Because, let’s face it – it’s much easier to convince a friend to join you for a nice long walk than it is to get them to come along on an hour-plus long run.

This past weekend, I struggled with this very dilemma. I took advantage of the holiday to make a trip down to DC to visit 2 of the HOTR-sisters. 16 hours in the car and only a couple of days with my sisters left me with little time (or energy) to fit in all my scheduled runs. So instead of tempo and recovery runs, there was a lot of this:

DSCN0825 Exploring DC

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And this:

DSCN0795 Eating my weight in frozen yogurt at FroZenYo

DSCN07943 kinds of frozen yogurt in one bowl = heaven

DSCN0798As a sidenote: If you’re ever in the DC area, I suggest you hightail it over to FroZenYo – an amazing self-serve frozen yogurt place where you can add all the toppings your heart desires.

And this:

DSCN0802Lots of relaxation

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And sadly — not so much running. I enjoyed every minute of my stay in DC, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little nagging voice in the back of my mind, reminding me of all those miles I should have run. I can’t change the past — so what’s a girl with 2 big running events coming up in the next two months to do?

How to Not Let a Few Skipped Runs Ruin Your Running Mojo

I know I’m not the only one out there who has ever been faced with this dilemma. So if you’re training for a big race (of any distance) and find yourself in a situation where you’ve skipped a few runs, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to get you back on track.

  • Do not panic. Yes, it’s important to run consistently, build up your mileage, and get in your key runs. But skipping a run here and there is not the end of the world! It’s not going to ruin all your efforts, put you back to square one, or cause you to run an awful race. I promise.
  • Do not try to add those missing miles onto other runs. I’ll admit, my first impulse after skipping a couple of days was to add them to my weekly long run. I wanted to get them in somehow, even if that meant doing it all at once. But if I had really done that, a week that should have been a step-back in my training would have turned into another week of heavy distance…which would then have made me more tired and could affect the 20 miles I’m supposed to run this weekend. When I’ve fallen into the trap of running extra or without rest days in the past, I’ve always ended up injured. Don’t let a couple of missed miles make you do something you’ll later regret.

  • Do try to carry on with your schedule as usual. It may be tough to just forget about a run that you’ve missed, but the best thing you can do is to just pick up where the schedule says you should be. If you can make adjustments and safely re-arrange rest days to find room for an extra run, great. If not, don’t stress! Just get right back into training.

  • Do try your best to run your scheduled long run. This is especially important if you’re training for any sort of distance race. Each week’s long run builds off the week prior, so try to get in those miles – even if it means you have to be flexible and do your long run on the first day of the next week.

  • Do make the miles you do run count. I’m a huge advocate for incorporating easy runs into your schedule, but if you have to do less runs in any given week, make sure each of those runs serves a purpose. Even though my weekly mileage was lower than it should have been, I made sure to do several quality runs last week. On Sunday, despite being tired from traveling and bored from running laps around my sister’s hilly neighborhood, I was determined to get in 10 relatively quick miles. Since I had skipped a tempo run earlier in the week, I pushed for several of the middle miles and made sure that I kept my pace quick enough throughout to average a sub-8:00 min/mile pace. This was still technically an “easy” week because the overall distance was less, but running faster than race pace will help increase my speed and endurance (or so I hope!).

And finally,

  • Do start the new week refocused and ready to run. Training plans last a long time. And chances are, you’ve still got many weeks before the big day. Don’t let the runs you skipped in the past affect those you need to do today, or those you will be doing tomorrow. Just chalk it up as a learning experience, and an unplanned opportunity to give your body some extra rest. Then hit the ground running the next week. Literally. :)

Now if you end up missing a week or more due to illness or injury, your approach to getting back on track will be a little different. In that case, you’re going to seriously have to re-examine your plan to see what you can fit in and how you can safely re-build up your mileage to get to where you need to be. But even then – it’s usually not the end of the world! I won’t go into it in this post, but I missed an entire month of running when I was training for my first marathon. I spent that month in the gym, logging many sweaty miles cross-training on different machines. Was it ideal? No. But I made it. And with a little flexibility and smart planning, you will too!

In other news, summer is coming to a close. And that means it’s time to announce the winner of my extremely competitive Shape Up Summer Challenge! (I know you’ve all been waiting for this with eager anticipation).

After my super scientific pick-a-name-out-of-a-hat drawing of the names of those who commented or emailed me, the winner is…… Alex, who got extra entries for doing the challenge right from the start! Congratulations Alex! Please email me your choice (gift certificate or Larabars) and your address and I will get that out to you ASAP. :) Thanks to all of you who participated by trying the workout!

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