How to Train for an Endurance Event

 

For the longest time, I was running 5Ks and going to the same circuits classes at the gym. I would work up a sweat but after a few months of training, I plateaued. Training was fun but I reached a point where I no longer felt challenged. It was time to shake things up.

I am a Type A personality. I f***ing thrive on achievement and my favourite person to compete with is myself. In July 2012, my sister introduced me to endurance events when she persuaded me to sign up for the Tough Mudder. For those of you unfamiliar with this event, it is 12 miles of running interspersed with mud pits, lakes, rivers, electric wires, ice water, fire, gravel tunnels and other obstacles designed by the military. It took us over three hours to complete and as we crossed the finish line, I burst into tears out of sheer pride (that I actually finished it) and relief (that I didn’t die). We were fed a protein shot, water, a burger and a beer. That evening, we continued re-feeding ourselves with an indian meal and some cocktails. The next day, I could barely walk. My body felt broken! But I was hooked.

The Tough Mudder was fantastic but I wanted to try something new. In 2013, I signed up for the Belfast Half Marathon. This was new to me. I had never run more than 10-15 Km so I had to educate myself about training and supplementation. Thankfully, I worked with a girl who was an avid, competitive runner and she gave me some great advice. The training was great and I love running so it was really fun trying new routes and incorporating uphill runs to build my strength. I completed it in 1:48 and crossed the finish line with a rush of adrenaline and emotion.

This spring, I completed the Clapham Common Half Marathon in London and it was a very special event. Shortly after signing up for this event I tore a muscle in my lower back and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to participate. I didn’t run for 4-5 weeks and stuck to the cross trainer and some strength training. With the help and advice of a physiotherapist, I managed to recover and rebuild my strength. Things happening in my personal life messed with my emotions and I had gained a bit of weight, which made me even more nervous about running. Nobody wants to feel heavy when they run! You want to feel light and speedy! I focused on strengthening my muscles. This was all I knew how to do. I decided I would strengthen my hamstrings, glutes, hip abductors, core and just run 5-10K a couple of times a week during the weeks prior to the event. It worked. I ran the half marathon in 1:42 and finished 2nd. And I may have collapsed on the grass afterwards and cried (or sobbed) happy tears before phoning my mum to tell her the news.

My preparation for each event was entirely different. Each time, I was armed with more knowledge and experience. I had done my research, spoken to other athletes and tried and tested my own methods. After this most recent event, I felt fantastic. Of course my body was fatigued but I had zero pain, I still went for a long walk afterwards and I didn’t feel ravenously hungry during the hours following. I was tired but not exhausted. This is how I knew I had found a strategy that worked for me. And I want to share it!

One Week Prior:

During the week prior to the Clapham Common Half Marathon, I ran two 10Ks, two 5Ks, did two full-body strength sessions and two days of rest with plenty of walking. My eating was low to medium carb but with lots of protein. I wanted to feed my muscles and make sure they were fighting fit for the run.

One Day Before: 

On the day before the Clapham Common Half Marathon, I ran approximately 5-6 kilometres on the treadmill (easy on the knees) and did some core and upper body work. I took BCAAs for recovery and that night, I CARBED UP. I had chicken with tons of colourful veggies and some rice for dinner. I had a lot of pic n’ mix (mostly chocolate) at the movie theatre. Oops! And before I went to bed, I ate 4 rice cakes with some peanut butter and apple sauce. It was A LOT of food! I was stuffed.

The Morning Of: 

Prior to the Tough Mudder, I snacked on trail mix slowly and steadily until 30 minutes before the event. Banana, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, m&ms and raisins. It was pure energy food and the mixture of sugars and fats meant it would slow-release. Halfway through the event, they handed out half-bananas to us. This worked really well and I didn’t lack energy during the event at all. During the first half marathon, I took the advice of a nutritionist friend and had a paleo breakfast (avocado, bacon, egg, butter, black coffee). It was the WORST decision ever! Zero carbs meant zero energy. And I had an upset stomach prior to the event, which meant I was extremely dehydrated before even starting the run. As a result, I had a cramp in my side for the first 8km. This time, for the Clapham Common Half Marathon, I knew exactly what to have. Porridge! All you need before a run is carbs. I had already fuelled up the night before so I didn’t need a huge breakfast. Two cups of green tea, lemon water, a swig of BCAAs and 40g of oats with a scoop of Diet Whey protein, and I was ready to go.

30 minutes Post-Event:

Immediately after the event, I swigged some water and grabbed a tall black Americano. I ate some dried mango and headed home to get a hot shower. After my shower, I had another cup of green tea. Caffeine = energy. I also ate a small granola bar. I was feeling peckish at this point.

60-120 minutes Post-Event:

By this time, I was ready for a meal. I had begun to feel tired and knew that I needed a good feed! I went to a lovely restaurant called Brasserie Zedel and had a salmon filet with a small portion of wild rice, two small slices of crusty baguette with real butter and a huge portion of sautéed spinach. Then, a cup of black tea for a perk-me-up. This hit THE spot and filled me with nutrients, starches and omega-3s.

Please know that I am not an expert! I have never done an Iron Man or a Triathlon or a Marathon. But I have done a LOT of running, a lot of strength training and I am a bit of a “fitness freak”. I spend a lot of time doing it, reading about it, researching it and constantly learning so that I can try new things and share my experiences and knowledge with other fitness-lovers. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and if you have anything you’d like to add, please leave it in the comments! You can see photos from these events on my Facebook and Instagram pages. Happy Exercising!

Welcome to Green Food and Running Shoes

This is a blog about how I completely transformed my body and my lifestyle without any diets, personal trainers, nutritionists, or surgery. I want to inspire other people who are on a pursuit of happiness and healthiness in their own lives, as well as offering some ‘foodspiration’ and ‘fitspiration’ to anyone who is interested. This first post is a brief history of my weight loss journey and a bit about how I got here.

The Beginning: A few years ago, I was a fat, sick, binge-drinking smoker who ate junk food and hated what she saw in the mirror. In the summer of 2009, my weight peaked at 210 lbs and I was buying size XXL clothes to try and hide how big I was. I made up excuses and did what every overweight person does and found ways to blame my situation rather than accepting the fact that it was completely my fault. You see, when you are overweight, the scariest part is facing reality and looking at yourself in the mirror for who you really are. When you admit that you have control over your body and what you eat, you then feel this sense of fear but also this great sense of empowerment. Once I admitted and accepted that I had control over my body and my weight, I began to make some changes. My moment of clarity was when I tried to go out for a run and couldn’t even make it to the end of the street and back. This was when I knew, I had to change.

One Step at a Time: Start Small. I started by increasing the amount of fibre in my diet and going to the gym to do about 30-45 minutes on the cross trainer about five days a week. I also started drinking more water and less soda and curbed my consumption of fast food. Through making these three simple, small changes, I was able to drop about 25 lbs in about two months.

Vegetables: One simple concept was a moment of complete enlightenment for me; there is an actual guide for your dietary needs. There are many diets and lifestyles out there; Atkins, Paleo, Primal, Vegan, Vegetarian, Raw Foods, Juicing, and the list goes on. All of these diets have one thing in common: eat more vegetables. Vegetables and nutrient-dense foods should make up the majority of your diet. It took me a long time to achieve this, and to be honest, I’m still working at it, but if you remember one thing, remember this. Green food is good food!

Clean Living: I quit smoking in 2010. I quit drinking soda and artificial drinks in 2013. I quit drinking coffee in 2014. Clean living is a lifestyle where you treat your body with respect and feed it things that are not filled with chemicals and damaging ingredients. Let me be very clear about something. I just ate Reese’s Pieces (my guilty pleasure)! I am not 100% clean but I hope that I can get as close to this goal as possible. I am so much closer to this goal than I was when I first started. My objective is not to buy any food in tins, cans, packets, tubes, or boxes. Most of my groceries are fresh produce, meat, eggs, fish, and foods that have not been processed.

Staying Active: When I started out, I couldn’t run a mile without stopping and gasping for breath. My first few trips to the gym in 2009 involved only the cross-trainer because that is all I could manage. When I took my first circuits class in 2010, I had to leave halfway through. In July 2012, I did my first Tough Mudder and in September 2014, I ran my first half marathon in 1:48. I had ZERO personal training. I figured it out on my own and I stayed committed and focused on my goal. I also walked everywhere and used minimal public transport. I try to exercise at least four times a week. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Today: Today, I am experimenting with the paleo and primal lifestyles because they are all about completely clean, unprocessed foods. I like trying new things but NOT “diets”! I do not believe in restricting myself. Restriction only leads to binging and guilt. I like a diet or lifestyle that I believe I can maintain in the long-term. I tried Crossfit last year but found it to be too risky in terms of injury. Right now, I am happy with Circuits, Spin Classes, weight lifting and running. I am considering employing a personal trainer to show me how to use weights properly and to help me rehabilitate my right shoulder injury. I am still working on curbing my treats (there are far too many…) and I am not ready to put on a bikini this summer. But hopefully, this blog will help me get to where I want to be.

You: I hope that you, the reader, enjoy reading this but most of all, I hope this blog helps you realise that you can achieve your own lifestyle goal if you want it badly enough. You all have a fire inside of you; a fierce determination waiting to be released. When you decide on a goal and you commit to it, amazing things can happen. Everybody has strength and courage inside, it is just a matter of finding them. This journey is not a straight path from point A to point B. This is a roller coaster of triumphs, failures, emotions, and challenges. There is no finish line but there are milestones along the way. This is a journey that we can continue for the rest of our lives. Let’s have fun while we are doing it.