My training has stepped up a lot in the last few weeks, with me at the exact half way point between the marathon and when I made the decision to run it. And with that comes the need for better nutrition and looking after myself. This new mentality is especially fitting given my past history with injuries and my competitive nature – I often push myself past my boundaries and find it hard to recognize when I need to stop. However, I have been doing a lot of reading lately and among other things I have discovered that nutrition is so key to recovery and prevention of injuries.
Not only do you need to give your body the fuel it needs right before and right after you exercise – be that running, weightlifting or any kind of intense sport or activity – you need to focus on nutrition with everything you eat and drink. By consuming the right balance of nutrients at all times, you can minimize the amount of muscle degradation and optimize your body’s rate of recovery and muscle rebuild.
So how do I fuel my body and make sure I get the right nutrients? I don’t follow a conventional diet by any means, I am a 90% vegan. I say 90% because in New Zealand, it is just far too difficult to eat out as a vegan. It is difficult enough to eat out as a vegetarian, let alone cutting out eggs, dairy and cheese. I turned vegan as a bit of an experiment and a challenge as a New Year resolution. My plan was to be vegan for one week a month. I found it hard at first, getting used to soy milk and almond milk, to give up yoghurt (I used to LOVE yoghurt and muesli for breakfast), feta and butter. But after my first two vegan weeks, I stopped reverting back to non-vegan foods during my weeks off. I stopped buying cheese, I learned to bake with egg substitutes, I began to find the taste of normal cows milk offputting and I avoided milk chocolate. And I sustained the vegan week for approximately 6 months, then decided to stop being so stringent with one week, and instead focus on it holistically. Maintain veganism on a day to day basis, with exceptions – special occasions and celebrations, travel, work functions and other times where it is impossible to be vegan.
And I feel stronger, fitter and healthier than ever before. Sure, some of that is to do with my personal training, focusing on my goals and running half marathons, but I believe that my diet has had a lot to do with it.
And now with 35 days to go….the pressure is on. I have totally radicalized my diet even more than it was before, introducing a smoothie each day as a way to get lots of nutrients, and cutting out processed carbs. No pasta, rice, noodles, bread, I only have bagels on the weekend before my long Sunday run. Salads for lunch, lots of protein and lots of extra good fats in my diet – avocados, nuts, coconut oil. And lots of food. Lots of it. My trainer has told me to eat, just eat. Healthy food of course, but lots of it. It has been hard getting used to, the idea of making myself eat, when I’ve always been conscious of what I eat to watch my weight, as girls do!
But on a long Sunday run like today, I burn around 2000 calories. That is a lot of energy to replenish in order for my body and my muscles to recover! I have to eat immediately after, and make sure I continue eating throughout the day. Otherwise my body hurts, it hurts the next day, and for 12-24 hours my brain stops working. I can’t make decisions, so I quite often plan my Sunday and Monday meals in advance, otherwise I just don’t know what to eat, and I get really emotional. It’s interesting the effect of that much exercise on the body, so that’s why I’m focusing on my diet so much to make sure I can maintain somewhat sane during the next 5 weeks!
So, talking about my training – Today I hit a great milestone in my training. I ran 27km and felt like I could continue going forever. I only stopped because I had to get ready for my choir concert. And I did the 27km in 2 hours 28, averaging around 5:30 per km (compared to 6 min per km on my last long run). And what’s more, I hit my peak in terms of kms for the week.
Looking ahead, this coming week is going to be the most intense yet, and then it’s time to taper. Which is exciting but will be hard. I’m still loving running, I haven’t burnt out, but it will be hard not running as much and forcing myself to rest. Till then, I have another 70 odd km to do this week, and am experimenting with more recipes, including chia seed coconut water gels (for energy on long runs) and a delicious almond, goji berry and chia seed protein bar….yum!