Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Importance of Rest and Recovery

Like most runners I know, I find it hard to take time off. Whether it's due to an injury, illness, or recovering after a race; taking time off to rest can be hard. After all, as runners we are always trying to better ourselves. We want to increase our mileage, run faster, and improve our times. We want to get stronger and fitter every week. So, wouldn't it make sense to push our limits and bodies constantly, getting in as many workouts and miles as we can? Absolutely not.

As a running addict, I have been forced to learn the hard way time and time again that rest is just as important to fitness gains and improvement as running more miles or adding in more speed work. The thing a lot of us over-ambitious runners seem to neglect is the importance of rest. Sure, it's great to push ourselves sometimes and increase our workload, but we also have to remember that our bodies need time to recover and adapt so we can actually benefit from our efforts. There are a few different ways that runner overdo it:


I found a quote on that really sunk it, "We train to race, not race to train". This is absolutely right. Time and time again I read more and more evidence proving that constantly pushing your body without adequate rest will only run you into the ground, and more than likely lead to injury and fatigue. None of your workouts should ever cause you to push yourself as much as you do when you are racing. Racing is the only time you should give 100%. Sure, you should include a hard workout once a week, such as a fartlek run, but these runs should still never be executed with as much effort as an actual race.

Along with too many hard-effort workouts, many runners increase their mileage too quickly and don't include cutback weeks. One of the main rules on running is not to increase your mileage more than 10% each week. Increasing your weekly mileage more than that is just asking for trouble. I made the foolish mistake once of increasing my mileage by a little over 20% from one week to another, and ended up with a nasty case of runners knee by the end of the week that caused me to have to take two weeks off. Not giving your body time to adapt to more miles will only lead to injury, so always be sure to follow the 10% rule when it comes to mileage. That being said, this doesn't mean for the next 6 months straight you should increase you mileage by 10% each week. Your body needs breaks and cutback weeks that allow your muscles to fully heal and become stronger. A good rule of thumb is to include a cutback week once every three weeks. A good example of this would be a week with 20 miles, followed by a week of 22 miles, followed by a week of 16 miles. Then, after your cutback week of 16, you could start back at 22, and build, then cutback again. By slowly increasing your mileage and including time for rest, you will reduce your changes for injury and increase your fitness gains.


Another common issue with overuse is racing. Some runners want to run a race nearly every weekend. However, since racing causes you to really push your body, it's recommended that racing is done sparingly. Plus, the longer distance you are racing, the more time you should take between races. For example, it might be okay to run 3 5K's in one month, but you should never run more than 3-4 marathons a year. While we all enjoy racing and trying to reach new PR's, not taking a break from constantly racing is not only hard on your body, but is hard on you mentally as well. Races take a lot of planning, time, preparation, travel, money, etc. Constantly trying to schedule your life around races is going to drain you mentally and physically. This could possibly lead to feeling burnt out, and could turn something you used to love doing into a stressful chore. Part of the fun of racing is that it's an occasional experience. If you do them all of the time, they start to lose their magic.

Another issue with racing is not allowing your body time to heal afterwards, and the longer the race, the more time you need off. Experts say that it takes your body about a month to fully recover from running a marathon. Now, does that mean you shouldn't run for an entire month? Of course not. However, taking the first 7-10 days after the race off to let your body bounce back is recommended. For most runners this many seem silly, especially if your muscles don't feel very sore afterwards. However, running 26.2 miles is very hard on the body, and it takes a toll on a lot more than you think. After a marathon, the immune system is compromised, muscles are torn, and cells are damaged. (Yes, that's right, the cells in your body are damaged!) So even if you have the energy to run a 10K the following week, you still shouldn't. Many professional and Olympic marathoners take up to two whole weeks off after a race to fully recover before easing back into running. Taking some time off isn't going to cause you to lose all of your fitness or set you back a bunch. Taking a whole week off on running will only cause the average runner to lose 3% of their overall VO2 max, which can easily be gained back in a week or two of regular running.


Lastly, when it comes to injury, most runners are pretty stubborn. I know, I'm one of them. When an injury happens during training, it can be difficult to allow yourself to take time off and fall behind. I have foolishly ran through injuries before in order to keep training, only to end up making it worse and eventually taking even more time off. It's always better to opt to take a day or two off of training than to try and keep running on it, eventually forcing you to take weeks off. I've learned that it's always better to be safe than end up making matters worse. listen to your body, and know when to say when.

Running can,(and should)be a lifelong activity. As long as you approach it the right way, it will do more good for your body than bad. As long as you let your body rest, heal, and adapt accordingly, you can build a strong base for running throughout you lifetime. So next time you overdo it, or are forced to take some time off, don't look at it as getting behind on your fitness, or falling behind on your training; think of it as helping your body build a stronger athletic base that will benefit you in the future!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Prairie Fire Marathon 2013

Well, it's all over. My first marathon, done and over. If you would have asked me while I was running it, I would have said that I couldn't wait for it to be over. However, now that it's all said and done, it's kind of depressing. Sure I plan on running many, many more marathons, but after all of the training, anticipation, carbo-loading, tapering, money, and time I put in, I just can't believe it's all over.

It was an amazing experience, and while I didn't finish with the time I would have liked to, I still finished. So, without further adieu, here is my highly detailed and illustrated race recap.

My alarm goes off at 4:45, and for the first time I'm actually excited to hear my alarm. I hop out of bed and waste no time getting ready. To my surprise, I managed to get about 5 hours of sleep that night. Not sure how, but 5 hours has never seemed like such a great night's sleep. First things first, I grab a huge hunk of my homemade banana bread, which I eat before every long run (yes, I'm one of those kinds of people... once I find a system that works, I never change it). I wash it down with my vega pre-workout energizer, and then start getting ready. I foam roll, tape me knee, and dress according to weather forecast for the next 6 hours. Lastly, I check to make sure I have everything: Ipod, Garmin, hydration backpack, gels, phone, race bib, coconut water, snacks for after the race, and my camera. I head out the door around 6:30, into the cold 45 degree air. I arrive and get parked around 6:45. Only 45 more minutes.

The first thing I do when I get there is head to the port-o-johns. Once I get closer, I'm glad I got there early, because there's about a 10 minute wait. After that, I meet up with my parents around 7:10 and head over to the corral. Luckily, I was able to wear my warm fleece and gloves until right before the start since I could just hand them over the gate to my mom.

My mom and I before the race start (you can see where I get my good looks from)

The clock starts working it's way down to 5 minutes, so I get my ipod set up and rip myself from the warm comfort of my jacket. The national anthem is sung, and before I know it we are off!

Miles 1-3 Everything is surreal and I am so distracted by so many things it's like I'm not even running. We pass through downtown Wichita and I just enjoy the scenery and the energy. I am behind the 4:15 pacer, but I don't try to keep up with her as she pulls further away. After mile 3 I can't see her anymore, but I'm not planning on chasing her.

Miles 4-5 Starting to become a little more aware of the fact that I'm running. Still no sign of the 4:30 pacer though, so I feel good. I take my first gel at mile 5, and gulp down some electrolytes

Miles 6-8 Really settling into my pace now and feeling really good. The 4:30 pacer catches up to me, and I make sure I stick with him or stay in front, trying not to let him get away. I get a side stitch around mile 7 that lasts for about 10 minutes. I just breathe deeply and keep going. After it passes I feel even tougher for fighting through it and holding my pace.

Miles 9-13 Still feeling really good. My heart rate and breathing increase, and for the first time in the race I have to start pushing myself a little bit to keep up with the pacer. I take my second gel at mile 10, which instantly makes my legs feel better, so I speed up a bit taking the opportunity to get ahead while I feel good.

Around mile 11. You can see the pacer on the corner right next to me in the green vest.

Miles 14-19 This was when it started getting hard. I was struggling to keep up with the pacer, who seemed to just keep getting faster and faster (looking back at my splits, he did increase the pace about 10 seconds per mile). I kept pushing myself though, telling myself to just focus on making it to the 20 mile mark and keep up with them.

Miles 20-22 My legs are killing me and I finally can't keep up with the pacer. Plus, my hydration backpack ran out of water at mile 19.5, and I'm so thirsty. I give in and let myself slowly fall back, still running, but going slower as they fade away. I remind myself that I can still make 4:30, if I keep running and really push it the last two miles.

Miles 23-26 My plan doesn't work, as I find it harder and harder to keep a good pace. My legs feel like bags full of jello. It's almost like I'm not running on them at all. I know my legs are running, but I feel extremely slow. I keep pushing, trying to pick up the pace. My heart rate and breathing are fine, but I'm so frustrated that my legs just can't go any faster. My finishing time keeps getting larger and larger as I chug along like the little engine that could. I move my goal to 4:37, then to 4:45. Finally, I decide I just want to finish under 5 hours.

26.2- I use everything I have left. It still feels like I'm hardly moving, but for the first time in miles I'm not thinking about how much my legs hurt, just focusing on the finish line and trying to get there as soon as I can. Finally I cross the mat, and I can't help but smile. The lady gives me my finishers medal, and I head over to the food area. My father greets me as I quickly stuff my face with the first banana I can get my hands on and takes a video of me doing it (I'm sure it's a really charming video)

Right after the race

All in all, I ended up with 4:54:04. Not bad for a first marathon. Sure, I was aiming for sub 4:30, but all in all I'm just glad I made it across that finish line. Plus, I'm only 20 years old. I saw runners qualify for Boston today in their 50's! I still have decades to race and run a sub 4:30 marathon. Not to mention time to run a sub 4:00 marathon, or a 3:45 marathon. Who really knows? One thing is for sure though, there will be plenty more marathons in my future.

Finishers swag

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Gluten Free Cornbread Muffins

These gluten free vegan cornbread muffins were awesome! They were really easy to make, didn't require too many ingredients, and had a really great moist texture. This is a recipe I will have to add to my list of favorites, as I know I will be making them with my pumpkin chili in the fall.

I made these to go along with my lentil stew, and they did not disappoint!

-1 cup buckwheat flour
-1 cup corn meal
-1 TBSP baking powder
-2 TBSP flax seeds
-1 tsp salt
-1 cup unsweetened almond milk
-1/4 cup applesauce
-1/4 cup organic agave nectar

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients and mix well, then add in wet ingredients. Bake for 15 minutes, then let cool and enjoy!

This recipe made me 12 muffins.

Vegetable Lentil Stew

I love making things in my crock pot. It gives me a chance to get rid of excess food I have sitting around, makes enough food for 8 or so meals at once, and is extremely easy. Using my crock pot allows me to get creative, and try new combinations of foods I haven't tried.

Technically, this recipe isn't really a "recipe". I mean, sure you can follow it, but let's be honest... stews and soups aren't really a science. I tend to just kind of throw anything I have in my kitchen that I think will go together into a pot, and to this day it has yet to let me down. So, while you can certainly follow the recipe I used, feel free to just kind of use it as a base and make your own version.

-4 cups vegetable broth
-1/2 cup brown rice
-1/2 cup quinoa
-1/2 cup green lentils
-1 small bag broccoli and cauliflower florets
-1 cup diced carrots
-1 large potato diced
-two cups of chopped kale
-1/2 cup nutritional yeast
-any seasonings you want to add

I just threw all of this into my crock pot and turned it on high for about 5 hours. That's all you need to do! I also made some cornbread muffins to go along with this stew.