How Important is Nutrition for Running Anyway?

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If I said that when training for a marathon, or anything in any sport, that nutrition was an imperative part of the programme, I think there would be a resounding, ‘duh!’. I even say it to myself in my head, yet over these past few weeks I have learned that nutrition during training has even more of an impact on training and ability to complete training runs. It turns out that diet is as important as the running itself.

I am starting to realise that training for a marathon is about many more things than I originally thought: often it is my mind I have to work on more than I do my legs; my nutrition is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week project; and planning when I will realistically do my runs via planning is proving to be quite the steep learning curve too. These are all things that are proving to be bigger factors than whether my legs can physically carry me for 26.2 miles in one go.

The answer to that is yes, my legs could definitely carry my that far if they had to – in fact, I think they could carry me very much farther if they had to. The trick is, planning the training when I’m not too tired, or too pressed for time; fuelling my body with quality nutrition on the days when I’m not even on rest days; keeping my muscles stretched and rolled out to avoid tightness and the risk of injury; convincing myself that even though TV and chocolate feels more appealing when I’ve come on my period and my bones ache that I’ll probably feel less cramps and aches after a run. This running a marathon malarkey is turning out to be very little to do with my legs and a lot to do with a lot of other things that didn’t even cross my mind when I signed up.

Having a strong nutrition game feels like a very obvious component of this journey. However, I didn’t pay enough attention to it a few weeks ago. I didn’t budget accordingly in order to allow me to eat well. This left me eating chocolate and biscuits because they’re cheap. I missed meals because I hadn’t saved enough money aside to do so. The result was that I missed some training runs because I felt drained, and it wasn’t a mental ‘I can’t be bothered’. It was a ‘my nutrition has been terrible and my body hates me for it, and therefore won’t comply with running 10K’ situation.

Then there are the days when eating pastries, cakes and chocolate in front of the TV on an off evening. I didn’t even consider that what I eat the night before will affect me for the next 24-36 hours as what I have consumed has an effect for far longer than the time it takes for me to eat it, McVities and Cadbury have a lot to answer for.

Don’t feel sorry for me that I couldn’t eat well for a few days. I had done it to myself. I hadn’t put enough importance on the longer term when I bought a few coffees too many, and an extra piece of cake for £3.50 here and there. It doesn’t seem like much because coffee and cake is very little for your money in London and added up, well, I could have eaten well for a few days on 2 coffee shop visits alone.

It comes down to priority, budgeting, and really enabling my body to function at its optimum ability. Having given this some thought, by pushing my body to its max and potentially breaking myself by running 26.2 miles I have to treat it like a temple and feed it well. If I don’t, my body will just not run efficiently or as well as it could do – and I will feel the consequences. This doesn’t mean no cake, this means proper nutritional intake before cake because damn, I am not going through this journey without some tea and cake along the way – I am British after all.

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Running Through a Low Mood Swing

I’ve been quiet lately. I have been running, although not as much as I would have liked to. I haven’t been doing my conditioning as much as I would have liked to either. I said it. I’ve started to drag my feet, and it feels like, I’ve already started to drag my feet.

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The biggest hurdle for me with achieving my goals and training as much and hard as I would like to is my mental health. I have mood swings and I’m on a low swing – although a mild one. This means a number of things, but most importantly in relation to my training, this means that I’m quite unmotivated. It means I’m anxious about lacing up and going out of my front door because you never know, I may collapse and die from severe sudden onset dehydration. I could collapse from hyperventilating because I’m all of a sudden unfit. It’s a slight possibility that I could die if I lace up. You just never know.

I feel like all of these concerns flood me every time I consider going out. Then I also consider the potential heckles, the likelihood of my not meeting my expectations, or maybe the off chance I’m going to shit myself whilst running having not seen it coming at all. Just, out the blue, shit myself.

With all that in mind, it is absolutely no wonder that I am anxious about going out. I have a 0% rate of any of these things happening to me. I have a 100% success rate at finishing a run and feeling better than when I started out the door. Yet somehow, every, single, bloody time… there is a pit of dread in my stomach that is screaming at me to, no, don’t do this to me again, like a child throwing a tantrum about not getting that lego set they asked for in Tesco that costs £60 again. Nooooo! Don’t say no to me agaiinnnnnn!!!!! and all the kicks, screams and hollers that that entails in an average 2-5 year old, or spoilt any-year-old.

When I manage to subside the anxiety down with rationalisations, there’s the real lack of energy to motivate myself any further that sets in around about then too. This is a heavy weight amongst my limbs and body that makes me feel like moving is an impossible feat. I KNOW it’s not, but it FEELS like it is.

Living with mental health issues is annoying for getting in the way of my running goals and plans. The things is though, that I have a choice. I can let it win over me again. When I say again, I really mean again because so many times in my life does my mental illness batter and destroy me. The other choice is to embrace it and to use this as my chance to really really fight it. I can use this opportunity to put my brilliant personality trait of being a stubborn little shit into good use. So instead of being stubborn in being right about something, or not listening to someone, or refusing to do something I don’t want to do I’m going to throw a new idea out there for myself: I could be stubborn about doing something. That something being running the marathon. I’m not going to defer it. I’m making the whole hearted decision to be as stubborn as fuck about training and meeting my goals.

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I know everyone has days when they don’t want to. I know a lot of people manage to do anyway, even when they don’t want to. I want to be one of those people, regardless of my mental illness when it comes to running. At the moment, the longest length of time I’ll have to endure training and running for is 1 1/2 hours. I’ve sulked through longer time commitments, I’m quite sure I can make myself sulk through a run or training session. I’m a pro sulker, so why not expand my horizons of activities to do whilst sulking?

This is a particular challenge I face in training for a marathon. We are all going to have our own particular challenges, and instead of letting them loom over me and defeat me I’m going to do my damned hardest at knuckling through.

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One saying I’ve lived by since I was at school is that if I try my best, even if I fail, I’m not letting myself down. I can only try my best, and I can only fail knowing I tried my best. If I don’t try my best, I’m only letting myself down – and that’s a much more bitter pill to swallow. I can blame. I can wallow in self pity. I can also scowl, clench my teeth and give it a bloody good shot of what I’ve got.

 

Hello Park Run!

I recently started going to Park Run. I have been officially twice and unofficially three times (bar code issues). I have since ordered the keyring printed codes from the website, so now I have 4 or so all made to last – which hopefully in a small way signifies the journey I have embarked upon with park run, and running in general. I am here for the long haul, and the experiences along the way. This is no summertime fling.

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Dear running, I am here for the journey. I’ll even send you snail mail and catch you with my charm because baby, we’re in for a ride of a lifetime.

Flirting aside, this year I spent 5 months building confidence and consistency in order to embark on the 9 month journey ahead of me that leads me to the London Marathon start line. It was 5 months of small distance targets to overcome the anxiety I had about running, fainting, getting lost, collapsing, anything you could imagine that is quite irrational to believe, I would believe it would happen to me. Many times this exact anxiety has kept me housebound on race day and bed bound on a planned run day.

For me, this is the first major hurdle and mile stone to crack. 5 months later, and I feel like I’m moving on to the next chapter in my journey. I no longer get as anxious, and often I can overcome the anxiety and just go out and run anyway – and every time so far I have been absolutely fine. This first hurdle make the process of building up to running 5km regularly.

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By focusing on form and starting a conditioning routine I hope to avoid the overtraining injuries that have plagued me before in the knee, or the shin splints that had me hobbling after a 2km jog. It has taken me 2 bouts of over-training injuries for me to respect my body for what it can and can’t do as well as realising my limits. It also taught me that training is a multifaceted journey not to be dominated by junk miles.

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I am currently in Devon visiting family, so the Park Run surroundings were pretty tranquil, the air felt extremely fresh from the woodland and trees and the scenery was serene. I love the rivers and woodland of Devon, there’s no such thing as junk miles with surroundings such as this.

So here’s to Park Run. Here’s to the long journey ahead. Here’s to realising, respecting and learning when to push our limits and when to chill.

Peace, Love and DOMS,
Mon