1/2 Marathon/Full Marathon Tips: basically… don’t do what I did the first time

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The Asics LA Marathon registration opened this week so I thought it would be appropriate to give all you first time-marathoners some tips on how to prepare for one of the most mentally and physically challenging days of your life.

Before I give you the life-saving tips that you absolutely MUST listen to… let me tell you a little story about my first time training for the LA marathon…

It all started almost exactly two years ago when one day I was watching a movie and for some reason the thought popped into my head that I wanted to do the marathon. This may or may not be how most of you decided to run your first marathon, but I digress…

So up to this point I had done countless 5ks and sprint triathlons. I hadn’t really ever done long distance running but for some reason in that moment watching “Shawn of the Dead” I decided that running a marathon might or might not change my life.

With only a max of 8 miles under my belt as of that moment, I signed up for the LA marathon and started doing research on exactly how to go about this thing. I also signed up for a 1/2 marathon in my hometown at the same time that was the day after Christmas. I read three books, followed around 12 blogs about running and subscribed to runners world magazine. I knew pretty much all you could possibly know about running a marathon-in theory. I also worked my butt off during my 6 months of training. I never missed a single long run and I stuck to the schedule that I had laid out for myself. I even completely changed my diet to adhere to a more long distance running friendly workout schedule. I was 100% committed.

Then the first 1/2 marathon rolled around. I had done about 16 miles up to this point so I knew that I could do the 1/2 no problem. The race took place about 4 miles away from my house, so the morning of the race I got up at 5 am and did exactly what any other sane person wouldn’t do–I rode my bike with my parents to the race before running 13.1 miles. THANKFULLY the ride was mostly downhill so it didn’t tire me out before I had to run. I was so excited for my first long distance race and to put my training to the test.

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(The final 5k stretch of the half marathon. It was a really small race with only a couple hundred people, but you can’t beat that scenery!)

I ended up doing better than I expected on this race! I finished with a time of 2:01 (which isn’t remarkable, but I’m not a fast runner so I was proud). The one bad thing about this amazing race… it put my expectations up way too high for the marathon. And you’ll read this all over the internet when searching for tips on marathon training– run slower than you think you can; just focus on finishing for your first race; it’s a marathon not a sprint. And yet for some reason, we all seem to think that we’re different and that the advice doesn’t pertain to us. It does. It always does. Really. Trust me. Don’t make the mistake that I did.

So… what was my mistake?

I got cocky. The week before the marathon, I dropped my nutrition plan that I had been adhering to for the past 6 months and instead ate way more protein and way less carbs. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. They call the week before the big race the “carbo loading” week for a reason. So yeah, that was stupid mistake number 1.

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(At the LA marathon expo to get my number for the race. That’s my dad with me too. He’s a ridiculously proud dad and I love him! Quick side story- my dad flew out to Tucson-where I go to school- to be with me during my longest long run before the race. He biked 20 miles with me while I ran to keep my company. He’s amazing.)

Anyway, the night before the race, instead of eating my typical meal of sweet potatoes, tons of veggies and quinoa, I ate at a brand new restaurant that I had never eaten at before. Mistake number 2. Why is that a mistake you ask? Well the portions were tiny. And I was about to run 26.2 miles the next day… while burning about 2600 calories during one workout. I needed big portions. I also have a pretty sensitive stomach when it comes to being nervous. I can’t eat when I’m nervous. At all. So needless to say, the next morning at 3:30am when I woke up for the race, I was nervous and bailed on my normal breakfast. I was scared that I would throw up or something because my stomach was so upset. Mistake number 3. ALWAYS EAT BEFORE YOU RUN 26.2 MILES!!! Now that’s just common sense.

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(Me at the very start of the race. Just before everything went to sh*t)

Mistake number 5: Obviously I knew that not eating before this huge workout was a bad idea. So at the start of the race, I tried to force some bagels and bananas that they had available for us down my throat. I don’t eat bagels. I haven’t eaten a bagel in years. And yet I ate one before the biggest workout of my life. Don’t do that. DON’T CHANGE YOUR DIET AT ALL RIGHT BEFORE THE RACE!!

So that was dumb.

You might be asking, what other POSSIBLE mistakes could you have made?

Well, you know those GUs that long distance runners are supposed to eat in order to give them glucose to refill their glycogen stores? I made my own because I didn’t like all the junk that was in the premade ones. That isn’t the bad idea part. The bad idea is that I had never practiced holding onto them while running to make sure nothing bad could happen. Well it turns out something bad can happen. All of my GUs that I had prepared exploded in my little runners belt. I was running on almost no food other than a few bites of bagel before a 26.2 mile run. You know those days when you try to run and it feels like your legs are made of lead and you can barely get them to leave the ground? That’s what I felt like for 26.2 miles. I had been expecting to finish with a time of around 4 hours and 20 minutes (because of my first time during the half). I ended up finishing at 5 hours and 11 minutes. I have never experienced such agonizing pain in my life. I was running so slow that even this little man wearing mini shorts and power-walking was beating me! I’m still so amazed that I was even able to finish in the first place. As soon as I stopped running after I crossed the finish line, it felt like tiny daggers were piercing each and every section of my legs. The full WEEK I could barely walk. The part that’s absolutely absurd is that when I did my 20 mile run, I felt great! That means I could’ve had a way more incredible experience my first time if I had just followed a few SIMPLE tips…

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(Right after I finished the race. You might be able to tell that my nose and eyes are red from trying to hold back tears of absolute pain)

PLEASE FOLLOW THESE TIPS IF YOU PLAN ON RUNNING A MARATHON!!!

1. Don’t change your diet!!

Once you’ve found a way of eating that works with your body and allows you to do long runs with full energy, DON’T SWITCH IT UP!!! Trust me. You don’t want tiny daggers piercing your leg muscles from a lack of glycogen stores.

2. Practice eating and running with your GUs during the long runs.

You really don’t want to have any explosion issues like I did. The race does provide you with GUs, but not until mile 20 or 21, so trust me, you’ll want your own.

3. You’re running a MARATHON. Not a sprint.

Even if you felt great during your 20 mile practice run and you think you can push yourself, just don’t do it. Running 26.2 miles is pushing yourself. At least for the first one, run waaaaay slower than you think you can run. You’re legs will thank you at the end. Nobody really cares what your time is anyway. When you say you ran a marathon, people are already amazed at that ridiculous accomplishment.

4. Even if you don’t feel like eating the night before or the morning of… EAT.

You read my horror story of not eating. Don’t let that be you. It’s terrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

5. You’re running a marathon… have some fun!

The ONLY reason I was able to complete my marathon is because I had family members riding their bikes next to me while I was running to keep me going. That, and I ran with “Marathon Man” (if you don’t know who he is, look him up. He’s one amazing man.) for about 3 miles and he really pushed me to keep going even though I wanted to just lay down on the ground and melt away. Talk to other people around you. Everyone is excited to be running the race and most people are doing it on their own, so find someone to be your race buddy. The miles go by a lot faster when you have someone distracting you.

Running the LA marathon was one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of my life. I didn’t expect myself to get emotional when I crossed the finish line, but as I rounded the corner for the last 1/4 mile stretch and saw that the end was in sight, I broke down and cried the rest of the way. I was crying because I was in pain, yeah, but mostly I was crying because my six months of dedication and training had paid off. I was about to cross the finish line and be a “marathoner”. I did it and no one could ever take that away from me. To all of you who are starting your months of grueling training know this: It’s all so worth it.

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Workout Wednesday: ladies, stop fearing the weight room!!

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I know that really big buff guys with their equally enormous weights can be really intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that it causes you to avoid the weight room all together and modify your workout to use lesser amounts of weights that can be found in the “stretching” area. But it’s time to overcome this fear. In order to get an awesome and diverse workout, you’ve got to start hitting up that heavy weight area.

NOTE: lifting weights or doing exercises with weights will NOT make you big and bulky. That seems to be every woman’s number 1 fear but it will just make you more defined. Women don’t have the testosterone to build up muscle the way men do. Also, you would have to be lifting REALLY heavy weight to see results even close to that. So don’t be afraid of the bulk. It won’t happen.

Anyway, yes I realize the weight room is intimidating. I go to University of Arizona and we were just rated the number 1 campus recreation in the nation. Aaaaand cue all the really large meat heads and weight lifters… So trust me, I know it’s intimidating. But once you get over that fear, it’s a piece of cake and you see that most of those “meat heads” are large freshmen who don’t really even know what they’re doing anyway.

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I recommend starting off with the smith machine. It’s a guided bar that allows you to do squats with the extra weight and form but without the instability of a free bar. It’s a good first step. It looks like the picture above (with me performing a squat on it). I would recommend adding ten pounds to each side first and then do one set of ten reps of squats. If you feel like you can, add five more to each side and do two more sets.

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The benefits of the extra weight of the squat rack are immense. It’s a totally different workout and you’ll start feeling yourself getting more toned, faster!

Don’t be afraid. If you need support, take a guy friend and have him show you how it works. Go during a time when it isn’t busy and that’ll help your nerves also. Maybe go when your school has chapter for the Greek life because that seems to eliminate a lot of the surrounding gym go-ers.

Good luck and have a happy workout Wednesday!

Labor day plans? Here’s some tips for eating well on the go!

I’m in my last semester of college which means that this weekend is my last Vegas trip as a college student. I’ve been to Vegas and plenty of other mini vacations with frats and friends, and if you have ever been on one of these too… you understand just how difficult it is to eat well while booze cruising. It’s actually especially important to eat healthy the day after drinking a lot because your body goes into repair mode after all of the hurt that you put it through the previous night. If you don’t give it some healthy food to work with, you’ll fall weeks behind in your diet and training schedule and all that working out will be reversed in a matter of days.
Yeah, sounds sh*tty huh? I personally don’t like to keep starting from square one whenever I go on vacation, so I’ve developed some strategies for how to maintain a healthy diet while out drinking for a weekend with your friends. If the de-training doesn’t scare you, then at the very least these are awesome tips for not spending too much money going out to eat while on vacation.

The number one theme you’ll notice throughout these tips is be prepared. When you’re hungover, it’s going to take a lot of effort to just get out of bed, let alone go through the extra effort of finding healthy food. So you have to be prepared to make things as easy as possible for your little hungover future self.

Do this BEFORE you leave…
Buy breakfast and snack items
This is the easiest thing you can do. It’s easier to make healthier choices when you’re out to eat at dinner and lunch because for the most part you’re over your hangover and not craving crappy food anymore. But you MUST have breakfast and snack items that are healthy and readily available so that you don’t opt for that McDonalds Hashbrowns or McFlurry.
Here are some of my favorite items..
Breakfast:
Vigilant Eats Super Food Oat-Based Cereal

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*This is one that I always bring to Vegas. It’s under 400 calories, it fills you up until lunch AND it’s packed with organic, gluten free superfoods. Plus it requires cold water and it has it’s own spoon so that you don’t have to worry about bring your own spoon and heating up water! Plus it tastes great!

Snacks:
-Fruit. Preferably ones that aren’t easily squished.
*I mean apples, oranges and bananas. Don’t even try bringing pears, plums or kiwi. They will get squished and it will be gross and smelly.
-Hummus and baby carrots.
*Super easy. Just buy a pack of baby carrots and hummus and you’ve got yourself a protein and fiber packed snack on the go! You just may want to opt out of the garlic flavored hummus. You are on vacation after all and you won’t want to scare away the other people you’re with.
-Mixed nuts.
*Another great item. You just might want to pre-portion them out into baggies so you don’t go ham stuffing your face with cashews and almonds. Mixed nuts have a lot of great things in them, but you don’t want to accidentally eat 1000 calories of them in one sitting. It’s a lot easier to do than you think.
-Water.
*This is an easy one to forget about. However, you really can’t forget this one. Especially if you’re going to someplace like Vegas. I have one very terrible memory of being a freshman in college and going to Vegas for my first time without my parents. I woke up feeling so ill and dehydrated, like most people do in Vegas and went on a search for water. I didn’t have any cash and the vending machines weren’t accepting my card. It wasn’t until an hour later of excruciating hungover pain that I was finally able to obtain water. And it cost me $6 for a 16 oz bottle. Just bring water. Don’t make that mistake.

**Lastly, bring a cooler. It can either be a throw away plastic one or a legit nice cooler that you borrowed from your parents. Just don’t forget to bring a cooler.

Do this WHEN YOU ARRIVE
If you didn’t bring a cooler, then empty out a clean trash can and use that as one. It may seem gross, but just make sure to use it before anyone has vomited in it and you’ll be fine. If you were prepared enough to bring a cooler then good job-a gold star for you! Either way, fill your cooler/trash can up with ice from your hotels ice machine and put any perishable items and your waters into it. You’ll want cold water when you wake up the next morning with a throbbing head ache. It would be a shame if you went through all the effort of bringing food up if it just went bad by lunch time.

Now you’re all prepared for your holiday weekend. Go enjoy it with your friends and maybe even fit in a workout while you’re there!

Try my 22 minute full body workout that you can do anywhere without any equipment! You could even do it in your hotel room!

Have a fantastic labor day weekend everybody!

Fit Tip Friday: Do a group fitness class!

Today was the first day for my “Spring Break Shape Up” event! My friend and I ran a fitness class for girls to get in shape before spring break! A lot of girls freak out before spring break and try crash diets or don’t eat in order to get skinny for Cabo. We wanted to provide a fun outlet for girls to get in shape and become healthier without having to crash diet. Our first class was a complete success and all of the girls loved the workouts!

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We also had Oakley, Perfect Bars, and Garden of Life (protein powder) sponsor our event with goodie bags!

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Fitness classes are fun because you get to work out with a group which can help motivate you to push yourself just a little bit harder. Plus, you can try out new types of workouts without having to put together your own routine. If you are apart of a gym, check into the weekly workout schedules and try a new one out next week! Who knows, maybe you’ll find something you really like!

And if you’re a University of Arizona student… make sure to go to the next Spring Break Shape Up on March 7th and March 14th from 12 pm -1 pm!!!