Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Cliché or not, a new year is beginning, and that means it’s time for resolutions. After looking back on 2016 and analyzing my training (the good, the bad, and the ugly!), I have come up with my four running-related New Year’s resolutions for 2017:
Make time for recovery
Live and eat more healthily
Get more sleep
Don’t fight the taper!
1. Make time for recovery
This one is going first because it is by far the area of my training in which I am most serious lacking. Their are two main reasons for this, one which is largely out of my control and one which is entirely my fault. The first, the one I like to put all the blame on, is my hectic schedule. Now, it is true that having a full time job as an engineer and trying to run at an elite level doesn’t leave me gobs of extra time. It’s tough to roll out before a workout when that workout starts at 6:00am, or to have a 20 minute post-run stretch session when that run doubled as a commute to work and you’re standing in your office at the end of it. But other people with similarly hectic schedules (like my husband John) find time to take care of these things, so there really is no excuse.
The second one, the one that likely accounts for the majority of my lack of recovery efforts, ironically, is the fact that I’ve been relatively healthy throughout my running career. Yes, being able to consistently handle a high volume and intensity of training without getting hurt has been a good thing, but it has also caused me to grow complacent and remiss in my duty to take care of my body. Just because I’m not getting injured and taking tangible steps back in my training doesn’t mean that I’m not slowing my progress forward.
In this upcoming year, I am going to make a conscious effort to engage in the recovery activities I have been neglecting these last few years. Just as I currently schedule time for running and lifting and doing core, I am going to carve time out of my day for stretching and rolling out and taking icebaths. I’m also going to invest in getting monthly massages as well as taking part in some yoga classes. Even if I’m feeling good, even if my legs feel super fresh and springy after a hard workout, I’m going to take the time to ensure I’m fully recovering and getting the absolute most out of the effort I just put forth.
2. Live and eat more healthily
For a while there in college, I ate and lived so ‘healthily’, that I wasn’t actually eating or living healthily anymore. The strict diet and lifestyle that I imposed on myself in those days was not enjoyable in the slightest, and eventually led to a massive breakdown of my body which featured an extreme hormonal deficiency, chronic GI problems, and, last but not least, a pelvic stress reaction! Clearly then I was not acting in a way to optimize my training or my life.
Fast forward to today: I’m happy to say those days are long behind me – I am now far more more relaxed and flexible with my diet and lifestyle and am infinitely happier as a result. However, I think perhaps the pendulum has swung a bit too far in the other direction. Although I do consciously and actively try to make healthy choices in my everyday life, I am somewhat guilty of carrying on under a common runner’s delusion, one which John L. Parker Jr. so eloquently summarized in his novel Once a Runner: “if the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn”. While this manta may be true in the superficial sense – technically my body is more adept at utilizing the foods I eat due to the high volume and intensity of my training – on a deeper level, it also does not optimize my training or my life.
So in 2017, I am going to focus on bringing the pendulum back to the center. To kick off my journey towards accomplishing this goal, I am going to be teaming up with Inside Tracker. This Cambridge, MA-based company provides personalized plans for increased health, wellness, and performance by analyzing and tracking key biochemical and physiological markers in your blood over time. After determining optimal zones for each user’s markers, Inside Tracker provides science-driven lifestyle and nutrition interventions that empower people to optimize their markers. With Inside Tracker, I will see specifically which areas I can improve in – sleep, vitamin and mineral consumption, stress, etc. – and then get the guidance needed to fine-tune my diet and lifestyle in order to make those improvements. The goal here won’t be to simply restrict as I once did, rather it will be to discover what additional foods and health/fitness elements I can incorporate into my life and then to find the balance between everything that works best for me.
3. Get more sleep
I’m one of those people who, once I’m up, I’m up. There’s no rolling over and going back to sleep. The second my eyes open, my body and mind think it’s time to start the day. Furthermore, I am someone who naturally tends to wake up relatively early regardless of whether or not I’ve set an alarm. This ability to simply get up and go is one that I am usually pretty thankful for; it makes it infinitely easier to train at 6:00am before work and helps me be super productive on the weekends. But occasionally this blessing is also a curse. Sometimes, despite how exhausting a week I had and how much I desperately need to catch up on sleep, I still find myself awake and alert at 7:00am on a Saturday.
Assuming that being a ‘morning person’ is something that is hardwired into me and therefore can’t be changed, I’m going to have to tackle this sleep thing from the other side: bedtime. Usually John and I try to be in bed by 10:00pm every night, but occasionally we get side-tracked with an extra episode on Netflix. But even when we do physically get into our bed by our 10:00pm cutoff, I have a bad habit of staying up a little later looking at random, meaningless thing on my phone. Add on top of that my somewhat frequent bouts of insomnia, and I’ve got a recipe for disaster.
My plan to address this issue in 2017 is pretty simple: have a hard stop at 9:30pm where we drop what we’re doing (even if it’s mid-episode!) and start getting ready for bed and put the phone away once I get into bed. The insomnia piece will be a bit trickier to address, but I’m hoping that if I can relax more in the hour leading up to bed – perhaps by swapping screen time for reading a book – I can decrease the frequency and the severity of those bouts.
4. Don’t fight the taper!
Although I’ve come a long way since my days of constantly hammering (i.e. long run at sub 6:00 pace one day, an “easy” 8 miles at 6:20 pace the next), I still have a ways to go in the tapering department. The idea that recovering is as equally important as working out is one that I finally came to understand, accept and embrace in 2016 (only took me 8 years), and this revelation had a profoundly positive impact on the quality of my training and racing as well as my overall happiness in regards to running in general. If I was tired or sore or sick, I took an extra day or two to get feeling good again. I listened to my body. I didn’t push. And I was the better for it.
In 2017, I would like to take this revelation a step further by making sure I deliberately and adequately taper as I head into the handful of big races I’ve got planned for myself. If I’ve done the work and put in the time, I owe it to myself to ensure that, come race day, I am rested, recovered, and truly ready to achieve the goals I set out to achieve.
So there you have it, my goals for 2017 and how I plan on achieving them. I’d love to hear about everyone else’s resolutions and their plans for attack! Feel free to drop me a comment 🙂