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adventures of a plant-based athlete

Drop and give me 20!

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Sorry I’ve been M.I.A. – I got my wisdom teeth out last Thursday and have been kind of loopy. Other than not being able to eat any food that wasn’t pre-mushed or liquified, I’ve been bummed that I had to postpone my insanity workout schedule. I’m hoping I’ll be able to bounce back into the groove of things pretty quickly!

All this got me thinking: it’s really quite a recent development that I actually want to sweat and push myself to exhaustion. I was never really the “work-out” kind of girl. I played sports and stayed fit through activities, no gym in my routine. In fact, the typical things I associate with working out (push-ups, jumping jacks, running, etc.) were used as punishments by coaches.

“Drop and give me 20” something I’m sure many young athletes have been told while participating in their high school sport’s teams. I still remember running laps around the track when our softball team did something wrong. Unfortunately, I think it’s engraved in people’s minds at a young age that physical exhaustion is a negative thing, a form of punishment. When in reality, it can offer some of the best satisfaction, both physically and mentally.

Luckily, nowadays it seems the running world has embraced this concept, “My sport is your sport’s punishment.” It seems there is a certain pride that goes along with running. Maybe it’s the sense of awe you experience when people question you about your training and distance races. Or maybe it’s that feeling you get at the end of your new longest or fastest run. Either way… it’s an awesome feeling to be able to call yourself a runner, an athlete.

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After I ran my first half-marathon I was so incredibly proud of myself. At that point I had developed a willingness to “work-out.” I was skipping Saturday night parties with friends for early Sunday morning runs alone, and really I couldn’t have been happier. I was running in the cold, running in the heat, running in between class. I didn’t want to skip a training run because I had a goal that I wanted to accomplish… finish my very first half-marathon. The best part is that with all this training I also started to get into great shape. I lost some weight, built muscle in my legs, and would later-on incorporate weight training to tone my upper body. Then as a I got healthier through physical activity, I started to eat better so that I could fuel my body for runs (which eventually transitioned to a vegan diet). It also lead to me training for my first full marathon and a 2:02:18 half-marathon in my future.

Now, what I didn’t mention earlier was that not only did I not “work-out,” but I despised running. When I first started the half training I could barely run a mile without walking. It was miserable. I would never choose running as my first option to get into shape. I think what made the difference was running to accomplish a goal. When you change running from a work out to a sport you will unlock the key to success.

So my number one tip on getting yourself into shape is to make it fun! Find an activity you enjoy like yoga, boxing, cycling, running, etc. For me the best activities are those that have some kind of culminating event, like a race, for which I can train. But find out what works for you and stick with it.

If you want to start running, here are some tips I either would have or did, find useful when I started out as an endurance runner:

Start smart, start small - So we’ve all heard of “go big or go home” but that’s the wrong advice when it comes to distance running. Running a marathon is an incredible accomplishment, one I will always encourage. However, while your ultimate goal may be to finish a marathon you may want to consider adding smaller goals in between to help you attain your main goal. If you can’t run 3 miles, you may want to make a goal to finish a 5K or two before that first marathon. And I would strongly encourage a half-marathon before attempting a full. Not only is this a good way to build up your endurance, but competing in 5Ks and shorter races will help you get used to the running community!

Follow a training plan - If you’re not a schedule-follower, now is the time to change. If you’re a more advanced runner you may know your body and abilities enough to create your own training schedule (you’re also not likely reading this post, hehe). But as a new runner it’s probably best to use someone else’s “tried and true” plan. For both my half and full marathons I used Hal Higdon’s training schedule. A training schedule helps to ensure that you’ll be prepared for your race, as well as keep you motivated.

Know the difference No pain, no gain, right? Well… sometimes. Be prepared, training will be tough. Sometimes even hell. It’s not easy to train for a 26.2 mile run (especially with that thing called life in the way). You’ll want to quit and skip runs, but you need to push through and stay motivated. But what you shouldn’t do is push through injury. It might be difficult, but try to learn the difference between true pain and just extreme discomfort. Forcing yourself to run with an injury will do more harm than good, possibly preventing you from finishing (or even starting) your race.

Fuel Right - When you start distance running you’ll find that there’s more to it than just lacing up sneakers and heading out the door (although sometimes those are the best runs). During marathon training there will be some long distance runs that will take more than an hour to finish. This is when you need to start thinking about fueling and hydrating. There are many different energy gels on the market: Hammer Gel, Clif Shot, Powerbar and Gu. You can get more information on energy gels here. But in my opinion the best option is a bag of raisins. I swear by it! It gives you energy without the upset stomach! Whatever you choose it’s important to fuel and hydrate your body!

Learn the lingo - So you want to run a 13.1 mile marathon? WRONG! When you use the term “marathon” incorrectly you’ll find that some people are very sensitive about it, myself included. It’s not that the 5K/10K/Half you ran (or are planning to run) isn’t impressive, I’m proud and happy for you (sincerely). But I worked my damn ass off to run those 26.2 miles, it’s a badge I’ve earned to be able to say that I finished a marathon.

And just a side note: if you don’t know the distance of a marathon, you most likely aren’t ready to start training for one… But that doesn’t mean you CAN’T start to get ready!!!!

So that last one might be just a little pet peeve of mine… hehe. Hopefully you’ve been inspired to run your first race! If you’re interested in finding a race in your area you can find a good list here, at Active.com.

Happy racing!

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